How Do You Make a Hormone?

Friday, July 27, 2018

Talking about hormones and hormone balance today, and it isn't just for menopausal women. It's for everyone. Hormones weigh into all aspects of our health and well-being, from the mental to the sports performance, to weight loss, and of course, to the reproductive. It's not talked about a lot in the States because our westernized medicine, unfortunately, often focuses on treating symptoms rather than finding underlying causes, and many times at considerable expense. Hello invitro fertilization (IVF). So let's dive in. 

This is the book that got me started down the hormone trail and researching, researching, researching. If you are dealing with endometriosis, PCOS, or unexplained infertility, I highly recommend it. 

Click to buy at Amazon

It has taken me years to realize that my hormones have probably been unbalanced since I got my first period at age 12. You know the typical PMS symptoms: mood swings, hormonal acne, painful cramps that feel like you uterus is being wrung out like a wash cloth, sore, tender breasts, bleeding for 4+ days, an overall short cycle (23-25 days)...I thought that those PMS symptoms were just my lot in life. I just thought it was all part of being a woman. Turns out, these are all symptoms of being progesterone deficient. When progesterone is low and fails to counterbalance your estrogen levels, this leads to estrogen dominance and produces various PMS symptoms like the ones I've described and more. And because I've been monitoring all this stuff as of late, I've realized that my shorter cycle with a late ovulation in the mix, is not long enough to support a pregnancy. So guess what? That means my unexplained infertility suddenly has an explanation, and I have some homework to do at getting my hormones balanced. It sounds totally woo woo and crunchy, doesn't it? I'm probably the third farthest thing from crunchy, but I'm beginning to understand that hormone balance and living your best life go hand in hand. While prime fertility is my goal at the moment, that is only one of the benefits of balanced hormones. But believe me, I will gladly take shorter periods, no menstrual cramps, breasts that don't get sore, and clearer skin. Especially no hormonal chin and jawline acne. Box that up, I'm taking clear skin home.

So what does this mean? How do we get there? This is even grayer than the already gray area of hormone balance. The reasons behind our unbalance, or the root of the problem, can be environmental, lifestyle choices, genetics, age, stress..., a little of column a, and potentially a little of column b, c, d,e, f....

Here are the hidden things that contribute to estrogen dominance and hormone imbalance.

-alcohol consumption
-caffeine consumption
-dairy consumption
-soy consumption
-wheat consumption
-conventional meat consumption
-synthetic fragrances, phthalates, and chemicals in personal products, cleaning products, laundry detergents and dryer sheets.
-unmanaged stress

Unfortunately, many of the bullet points on the above list have estrogen like properties that add to our troubles when they are either consumed or simply in and on our face everyday. So while pollution is something we kinda have no control over, the rest of the stuff we do. Look, I HATE to admit that I'm not tough, that I actually don't eat deck screws and whiskey for breakfast and can't survive on sheer will. I HATE that I am in fact, a fragile canary in a coal mine that is having trouble conceiving. I hate it, hate it, hate it,  but there it is and it is what it is.

So why are there other women that can do or eat whatever they want and have perfect skin and get pregnant when they want (or don't want)? The short answer is because they're very lucky. That's not fair! you say. You're right, That's not fair at all. I'm sorry friend, but you and I, we're sensitive creatures, environmental sponges that greedily suck up pollution, estrogen, and the free radical emotions around us. If we want optimal health, balance, and thus, fertile bodies...we have to be the ones to bring about the change we want to see in our worlds. 

Where to start: 


 When women hit the tender, young age of 35, our body's ability to make progesterone plummets. Progesterone is the hormone that counters estrogen and when our body is no longer making enough to counter our own estrogen production (as well as the estrogen mimickers in our environment), we start feeling out of wack and our skin may freak out too.

-Cut Wheat and Soy out of your diet.

Wheat germ and soybeans have phytoestrogen compounds (plant estrogens) that mimic the estrogens in our bodies and these estrogens can be stored in our body fat sites because that is where excess estrogen lurks (belly, thighs, butt, upper arms...). Livestrong says, "Estrogen levels have a direct impact on fat cell storage, especially abdominal fat. Fat cells produce extra estrogen, then the excess estrogen signals your body to store more fat cells. This exchange often creates a vicious cycle of estrogen imbalance and weight gain around the midsection." The benefit of eliminating wheat from your diet, your fat sites will start shrinking, as will your excess estrogen stores, this = healthier you. I have been wheat free, except for a few special times a year, since about 2011. The first two weeks are hard, but eventually you will just feel much, much better that you don't even miss it. Another interesting study showed that nearly 6% of women with unexplained infertility had celiac disease, where your body creates an immune response when gluten is consumed. So, something as simple as eliminating a food can have a tremendous impact on your health and hormone balance. As for soy, the only thing I think I regularly consume that is soy, is the condiment tamari (soy sauce w/o wheat) when we eat Asian food. As a part Asian (Hapa) who is an absolute nut for all things salty, I'm working on eating less of this condiment, and exploring other food cultures so I don't stray back to my soy-saucey comfort food too much. But we all should definitely watch out for soy in salad dressings, prepared foods, baked goods, cereals, and condiments; it's often snuck in there! I just found soy in our Earth Balance butter substitute (wth). So start checking the list of ingredients on labels. Not only does soy have estrogen mimicking properties, but it also is one of the US's largest production crops, i.e. GMO and liberally sprayed with pesticides (known carcinogens and hormone disrupters.) So think twice about reaching for that edame or using tofu as a meat substitute. If you have to indulge in soy sometimes, absolutely make sure it is organic.

-Cut dairy down to one serving a day, then a few times a week, then eliminate it entirely or to just special, infrequent occasions. 

Other living creatures have hormones, especially ones that give birth and milk feed their young. Especially cowish ones in America that also feast on an unnatural GMO diet of soybeans and wheat grain (which we already know are full of phytoestrogens and potentially pesticides), so yes, dairy is definitely a source of extra estrogen that should be eliminated from diets. Things that were/are difficult to give up for me: cheese. Whole milk in my coffee or tea. 
There is no delicious substitute for cheese, and I've read that if we absolutely must have a piece of cheese, make it goat's milk as opposed to cow. For reason's I can't get into for a succinct and short(er) blog post, goat milk just has SIGNIFICANTLY less estrogen than cow. Read more here.  
I have found a really delicious substitute for milk though, Elmhurst cashew milk. I haven't tried all of their products, (hazelnut milk?) but I hope too one day. If you have nut allergies, I've even seen them do a peanut (a legume) milk in stores too. (Also, if you're eliminating dairy, be sure to supplement with calcium! (or better yet, eat more whole, calcium rich foods that aren't dairy listed here)
Click to buy at Amazon

-Cut alcohol consumption waaay down, and out of your life/ reserve only for infrequent, special occasions.

Doctors always say drinking increases the risk of breast cancer, but they never say why it does. Here's why: Alcohol makes estrogen rise and progesterone fall, and left unchecked, too much estrogen can cause infertility and at worst, feed cancerous tumors, like breast cancer. Consuming alcohol changes the way our body metabolizes estrogen, ie. our livers are preoccupied breaking down the alcohol and not the estrogen. Further, the substances which wine, beer, and bourbon are made from, contain phytoestrogens, so double whammy. That NIH research can be found here. I read a medical study where women consuming just two drinks per day upped their estrogen levels by 32%. Come on....NOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Not my bourbon and red wine! F#@%!! 
The sad truth is, yes. Someone once said, "The change we resist the most is often the change we need the most." I have nothing but middle fingers for that person, that saying, and the misogynistic fact that I can't drink like a man.  So boogers. 
No drinks per week is best, no more than 3 drinks per week is recommended. (And believe me, this was YUGE for me.) I associate wine with family and friends and good meals and pleasant, moonlit evenings on our deck. Then there's bourbon. Bourbon is New Orleans and straight up vice for me. This was the biggest lifestyle change for me. When I initially cut it out for my treatments, I craved all aspects of it. The taste, the post-work ritual, the socializing. Still kind of do, but I've taken to drinking sparkling water in a champagne flute when Josh and I have our daily post work happy hour, and I've actually come to crave that now. My favorite is lemon flavored Bubly. I've found I really don't like sugary drinks, so this unsweetened sparkling water is perfect for me. And always remember, alcohol isn't the life of the party, you are. 
click to buy at Amazon

-Cut your caffeine consumption dooooown. Manage your stress.

On a day where I've had adequate sleep, a 1/4 cup of coffee is more than enough. On super subpar sleep, 1 1/2  cups at most. I just can't consume a lot of caffeine before I feel like I'm going to have a heart attack on the toilet, but I know a lot of my friends chug it like it's going out of style tomorrow. Caffeine gets the cortisol flowing. There is is two pronged problemo. Your body has ingredients to make either a progesterone cake or cortisol cake, but not both. So if you give yourself a reason, your body will make the cortisol cake. We all know cortisol as the stress hormone. Feeling a little buzz is great to get the daily momentum going, so you can get your stuff done, but in high doses, cortisol triggers the fight-or-flight response, which shuts down functions that will not help us kick someone's ass or run away from a lion, like digestion and reproduction. If you are constantly in fight-or-flight mode, your body is going to assume you are fleeing lions instead of road raging at the jackass that cut you off on the freeway. Therefore your bod will go ahead and make the executive decision that now is probably a bad time to create another life, or digest your last meal, leaving you with an upset stomach. Further, your liver metabolizes caffeine, so when it's doing that, it's not metabolizing, you've guessed it, your rising estrogen levels. I'm learning to manage my anger over the stupid things: basically name your modern day stressor and insert it here. One meditation guru on my Insight Timer meditation app, pointed out to us grudge holders, that holding onto anger is like holding onto a burning coal. It's only going to hurt you, so throw that burning coal away as fast as you can! (really puts things in perspective, huh?) So all in all, I'm trying to be a zen cow. I've been meditating and sipping green tea (three times less caffeine than drip coffee). One day I hope to make it to hot water with lemon level. (*I can't really believe I just wrote that. smh. you gotta do what you gotta do.)

-Stop buying conventional, commercially raised Cattle and Poultry Meats.

These American animals are fed diets of estrogen-like hormones as well as actual growth hormones to make them bigger, better, and ready for the meat market quicker, and all those hormones are passed onto us unsuspecting humans. There are some atrocious living conditions for animals that become mass market meat, so to keep them disease free, they are also fed millions of pounds of anti-biotics every year and that further disrupts the human endocrine system. Look, I hate paying so much money for grass-fed meat too. When I look over and see meat that appears to be the same, but for dollars and dollars cheaper, it's crazy. I love meat, I'm a total carnivore. Cheap protein used to make me happy because ignorance was bliss. Now that I know better, I can't look back. Our household will be substituting more and more wild fish and, gulp, vegetarian meals into the mix and any meat we do get will be responsible and relished to the point of near fetish. 

*Also watch out for other products that come from meat, like when you buy soup stock (meat bones are boiled in water to flavor that) so make sure it's organic and grassfed! 

*Also if you're a skincare enthusiast, you may be on the collagen peptides train, so know that all supplemental collagen absolutely comes from animal parts, so again, make sure the collagen is obtained from organic and grass fed animals. There are no vegan or vegetarian collagen peptides.

Click to buy at Amazon

-Get as much plastic out of your food and life as possible.

BPA and phthalates in plastics mimic human hormones and that is not good. Throw out your plastic food containers, and get a set of glass containers with the snap off lids.
Click to purchase at Amazon

NEVER microwave food in plastic, ever. Not even, and especially not melamine because it contains BPA. Please, please, PLEASE stop using the crock pot or slow cooker plastic liners. While you may save a few minutes scrubbing dishes, you are doing yourself and your families an incredible health disservice. Josh and I are going to ditch plastic wrap and try these Etee beeswax reuseable wraps. 

Click to purchase on Amazon

Here's a nod about plastics from Harvard Health publishing, here, but I have to admit that I still find this article too trusting of the FDA, which I believe doesn't do enough to protect American consumers. Think I'm a paranoid kook? My disappointment in the FDA was further confirmed by another Harvard study calling the FDA's ethics out because of big pharma corruption, that here . If Big pharma money has corrupted the FDA, who's to say Plastic manufacturers haven't? And geez, who would've thought there'd be so much drama and intrigue about food, beauty, medicine, and public welfare? Segue to the next topic...



-Toxic Beauty

I always assumed that everything on store shelves was safe, because we live in America, but I've spent a lifetime with eczema and dermatitis and other allergies caused by awful chemicals that are put into personal care products. Once I realized that we live in America, a country that favors the fiscal health of companies over the actual health of the individual, I suddenly knew where I stood. I had to start taking my preventive care and maintenance into my own hands. Once I finally stopped using even the 'sensitive skin' personal care products that are readily available in drugstores and supermarkets, most of my skin and allergy problems abated. A lot of people aren't a sensitive as I am, but that doesn't make these chemicals any less awful. Read this Huffpost article on the the top 10 toxic beauty ingredients to avoid. There are ways for companies to hide these awful chemicals in their products due to a legal loophole in the form of the antiquated "Fragrance trade secret." Because a fragrance is the thing most likely to be a product's "trade secret" companies don't have to disclose what goes into their "fragrance." So even though a product ingredient list looks relatively harmless, those offensive chemicals (that are most often used to prolong the product's shelf life) can be hidden in the "fragrance" ingredient listing. So in summation, always be wary of the generic, Fragrance, on an ingredients list. Want a free Environmental Working Group (EWG) pdf on how to make better choices regarding beauty products? It's here. There's a lot to avoid, but parabens and phthalates are among the worst for us. EWG has a database where you can look up how toxic some of your favorite products are. I have to say it is eye-opening. My favorite NARS blush was a 7 (on a scale of 1-10, 10 being most toxic). I have been scanning product ingredient lists for years now, but clean beauty is becoming more and more of a thing, and businesses like GOOP, Credo Beauty and local gem, Rad Ritual, are doing the research for you and only offering safe products. I highly recommend them. Even Sephora is getting into clean beauty and marking their clean beauty items with this logo.

-Are you working out a lot? Or doing the trendy "Intermittent Fasting"?

More than the average woman? Be honest.Triathalons? Marathon prepping? HIIT cardio and Weight Training 4x week or more? *Raises hand.* Yeah. I love a rigorous workout. I love the way I feel in the head when I'm done working out and for many years I have been really fit, really happy with what my body could DO, and really happy with the strength I portrayed in my physique. My BMI was at the lower end of normal, I would never describe myself as skinny, because I have too much muscle, but I was very lean. One shocking body fat test from my gym said I had 16% body fat. That's quite low for a woman. I've come to understand that there is a vestigial reproductive switch within us, if your body is super lean, food must be scarce, therefore, not a good time for making another life, reproductive switch toggled off. Same thing for intermittent fasting, which is famine mode according to your body. Just don't do IF if your goal is take the train to Babyland. I know, I know. It is so annoying to be told to lower the intensity of your work outs and fatten up if you're lean. As a woman, it is a terrifying. Anyway, hormone harmony and fertility are apparently best in the sweet spot of not skinny or too lean, and not overweight...but even medical research indicates that overweight women have an easier time reproducing than lightweight. So, yuh know. If you're a skinny/lean machine, sleep in more, do lower intensity exercises instead, and love the curves you may need to acquire. Think of it as baby fat.

Ok. So there's plenty of stuff not to do and to stop consuming, but there's also plenty of stuff you can proactively do, or at least talk to your health care professional about how to help balance your hormones. 

+Pre-Natal Vitamins

Just take them. I like these because they include probiotics to make these easy to digest, as we all know that many prenatal vitamins often make for an unpleasant experience. These also contain sprirulina and kale and aren't full of corn syrup like the gummy ones. (Don't get me wrong, I love the gummy ones, but high fructose corn syrup is super processed and there are chemical contaminants from the manufacturing process, like friggin mercury, which builds up in your body. I think we're all aware of how toxic mercury is).

click to purchase on Amazon


 Acupuncture is the ancient technique of Chinese medicine. By placing needles at key channels of energy, certain organs (including glands) can be stimulated and a person’s qi redirected. A skilled, licensed acupuncturist will evaluate an individual’s condition and qi flow, then select the appropriate meridians and points for the imbalances uncovered. Sounds weird, but there are medical studies that show the benefits of acupuncture when combined with IVF rates. IVF on it's own has about a 35% success rate, but when combined with acupuncture therapy, the success rate raises to about 50% -so Qi, or whatever the hell it is,is definitely something. But it's not something I can tangibly see. So I'm still on the fence. I've had about 4 acupuncture sessions at $100/pop. Needles don't frighten me. Most of the needles felt like a mosquito going in and then were quickly forgotten about. But there was one needle that was stuck in the hard cartilage of my ear that throbbed. THERE'S. A. NEEDLE. IN. YOUR. EAR. REPEAT. THERE'S. A....the entire session. It was tolerable, but not exactly pleasant.

+Self Pelvic massage

There are lots of (not necessarily scientific claims of) the benefits of massage, but ask anyone that has ever had a massage - Is massage a good thing?- and I'll bet they'll tell you it is. Massage is a great thing, in theory and in practice, ergo a self pelvic massage to inspire hormone balance and fertility, can't be that much more of stretch, right? right? (I suppose there is a slippery slope to all of this crunchy self-care stuff isn't there? And I've sipped the kombucha kool-aid to a degree haven't I?) While the benefits aren't exactly quantitative, I can say giving yourself a daily abdominal and pelvic massage with a little castor oil is nice. Of the plausible benefits, bringing more circulation to your reproductive organs and gastro intestinal tract, it really can't be bad. So why not? You can read more on the manifold benefits here, or watch this quick video on how (and when) to do it yourself.


+essentail oils 

Clary Sage, Rose Otto, Geranium, and Sweet Fennel are all excellent oils that are known for their hormone balancing properties. I don't know if they do anything, but I love to put them in a room diffuser because they smell nice. Maybe smelling nice things reduces stress, maybe not. Anyway, nice smelling placebos are cool in my book. However, if you should become pregnant, you should discontinue use of these essential oils, as many of them can cause uterine contractions. 

room diffuser, click to purchase on Amazon.

+/-Supplement with Maca Root 

Maca has been touted as an ancient Peruvian miracle root for infertility - it just naturally and magically adapts (it's called an Adaptogen) in your body to produce more of what you need, progesterone or estrogen. It can be found everywhere, even at Trader Joe's. Ok, so I don't completely believe or trust the recent hype of this supplement. The trouble with just buying a bag of this from Trader Joe's for medicinal fertility purposes, is you don't know how to correctly dose yourself for your desired outcome. Guesswork can be dangerous.  And be forewarned, Do not take this while undergoing any hormonal fertility treatments or if you are on hormonal birth control as it will interfere. Do your research on possible drug or health condition interactions before taking any and all supplements. If you really want to try this, it is probably best to work under the guidance of a herbalist/naturopath to understand when and how much you should take (if at all). Estrogen levels spike and fall depending on the particular days of your cycle, so if you take Maca at a low estrogen level time (during your period, among others) it could actually raise your estrogen levels, which if you are estrogen dominant/progesterone deficient, is not at all what you want. I recommend not doing this.

+/-Supplement with Vitex/Chaste Berry

Vitex,Chasteberry, monk’s pepper, or Agnus Castus is the fruit of the chaste tree. It is native to the Mediterranean and has been used for gynecological and fertility issues for over 2,500 years. If you are not pregnant, not on hormonal birth control, not currently doing fertility treatments (i.e. IVF or aggressive clomid/femara/letrozole treatments), are progesterone deficient, and have a luteal phase defect, this supplement could help. It can take up to 6-12 months for an observable difference in your condition, but I've been taking Vitex for a month (alongside a few months of the above mentioned diet and lifestyle changes) and have noticed that my cycle is getting longer, my periods shorter, my skin is clearer, and I'm ovulating a few days sooner than I was several months ago. Herbalists recommend that 2,000mg of Vitex be taken first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach from the day you ovulate (roughly day 12-15 of your cycle) until you get your period, then stop until you next ovulate and repeat. But again, Do your research on possible drug or health condition interactions before taking any and all supplements.

I prefer this brand of Vitex. Click to purchase on Amazon.

+/- Progesterone Cream

This is a mad scientist hack for those that don't produce enough of their own progesterone and need to in order to hold onto a potential pregnancy. You can buy an over-the-counter cream with progesterone synthesized from wild yams to supplement your own, but as always talk to your health care professional first. I like progestacare because one pump gives you a measured dose, 20 mg of Progesterone (important because I believe mad science experiments should be controlled). Progesterone creams are typically rubbed onto your face, chest, abdomen, inner arms or inner thighs (rotate to different part each day), once or twice a day from ovulation until about 15 days later (or until your period comes or you test for pregnancy). If pregnant, don't stop the progesterone until you talk to a medical professional (they'll probably advise you continue it for the next 10 weeks (or may want to put you on different form of progesterone in a pill, shot, or suppository form).) If not pregnant, stop taking progesterone until you ovulate again. I'm going to be honest, unless you are looking to get knocked up and become with child, I wouldn't go this route. Progesterone creams (and the suppositories I was prescribed during my failed clomid treatments) all have the same side effects that I'm not at all crazy about (constipated pooping several times a day, tired all the time, sleep you do get is not restful, indigestion, depression...) In fact, taking progesterone can be pretty disruptive to your life  and it is the thing I hate the most about trying to conceive because it really messes with my head and all the stuff I want to accomplish. But it could also be the thing that is needed, so for now I'm continuing it, but I don't know how long I can keep it up. I buy my progesterone cream through Amazon.

Click to purchase at Amazon

General Disclaimer: I have provided links to products that I am using in my fertility journey, if you click or make a purchase, there's a small chance I might earn a commission (but after four years of blogging, I haven't yet!) So if you are inclined, click away, but please know that I am no expert, just another weary traveler trying to figure out my body, but still clinging to the tried and true safety net of western medicine. Please consult the advice of your health care professional and make the most informed choices for yourself, your health, and your family. That includes doing your own research on possible drug or health condition interactions before taking any and all supplements, procedures, and remaining a healthy skeptic about everything, except vaccines. That shit works for real. If you have any questions, or have something you think I should try, holler at me in the comments. Be well. Be vigilant.

Your Bosom Friend in Pittsburgh,


Thursday, July 5, 2018

Meryl Franzos, drop crotch pants
photo: Joshua Franzos

The quality of my writing here hasn't been great, or even good...for awhile. I apologize. It seems that it's most interesting when I invite you into the dark corners of mind and we both shed a little light in there. With facebook, twitter, instagram, instagram stories, youtube, and our personal blogs as outlets it's easy to live in this oily era of over-sharing. It's become so ingrained in our lives that it's actually hard not to just lay it all out there and let the chips fall where they may. Quite often there is relief when we unload something tough (or slightly annoying) from our chest and the rallying cries of support further lift us up. It is a habit that supports itself over and over. But sometimes, in this over-sharing world, I think privacy is undervalued. 

photo: Joshua Franzos

Ok, cryptic words, so what's eating you Gilbert Grape? Well, I'm still quietly editing and revising my novel. It is some hard, unsexy slog, which means I have nothing exciting to report on that front. Then there's 'Merica and this craaaazzy direction we seem to be headed and the systemic racism and misogyny is at a fever pitch. But there's some other stuff I'm not ready to drag out into the light too. It's largely un-formatted, un-packed emotions, and feelings that I haven't made sense of. Raw stuff that I'm trying to steer clear of here, and in my own head, if we're being honest. I truly hate to be enigmatic, but there are times that we don't need any outside pressure or perceived accountability to the world at large, we're probably putting enough pressure on ourselves as it is. I don't want you to worry reader. I'm fine. I only bring this up to remind us all that it is perfectly okay to not to be an open book. The real sacrifice is that my writing as of late has been scraping the surface of pleasantries, small talk, and merely leaves me talking about fashion on a fashion blog. How jejune of me, but I know you'll understand.  

photo: Joshua Franzos
photo: Joshua Franzos

Meryl Franzos, pearl studded sunglasses
photo: Joshua Franzos

So let's get into the pleasantries and how I've always wanted to use the word, jejune in a sentence. High Five. And how I never thought I'd type the word crotch here on this blog...(as in "Drop Crotch" pants.) Not that "Harem" pants are any better, (they're not.) As you probably know a harem is a separate part of polygamous household where the women, wives, and female slaves live separate from the single man they revolve around. It makes my inner feminist bristle. So drop CROTCH it is. (Sorry, crotch in all caps wasn't exactly a pleasantry, was it?) But let me assure you that drop crotch pants are

Meryl Franzos, red sunglasses
photo: Joshua Franzos
Meryl Franzos, gucci knock-off sunglasses
photo: Joshua Franzos

Balenciaga ceinture boots
photo: Joshua Franzos
Carlos Falchi butterfly purse
photo: Joshua Franzos

Not only do they hide some extra lbs, not only can you most decorously 'Hammer Time' in them, but I also think they look pretty darn cool. Like you've been to so many gallery openings in SoHo that all the gallerists know you by name and kiss both of your cheeks. Yeah, that kind of cool.

What I Wore:
Asymmetric top: old BCBG
Red jacket: old Rock & Republic for Kohl's
Pants: past season ASOS White pinstripe drop crotch pants
Boots: Balenciaga here.
Gucci Dupe Sunnies: $16.99 from Amazon, here.
Bag: vintage Carlos Falchi butterfly bag

photo: Joshua Franzos

I'd also like to take this moment to point out a really awesome podcast that my husband has been producing for the Heinz Endowments, called We Can Be. It is local to Pittsburgh, but has many reknowned out-of-town guests that help host Grant Oliphant tackle some national issues. It is enlightening and beautifully produced (much in the same manner as a radio lab/love and radio episode). I am very proud that it is coming from Pittsburgh (and my hubby). I've embedded one of my favorite episodes below, but truly they're all good, especially including Mona Hanna-Attisha on the Flint water crisis and Illah Nourbakhsh on AI robotics and ethics. I learn so much from this podcast. I hope you do too.

Your Bosom Friend in Pittsburgh, 

White Summer Dress Round-up

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

White dresses have a matrimonial reputation, and I'd like to stomp that into the ground. A white dress is the coolest thing you can wear in the summer, and this summer is already off to a hot start, so we should get at it. True, there are times you shouldn't wear a white dress, exhibit A: when you're going to consume spaghetti and meatballs. Exhibit B: at someone else's wedding. But I swear, all other times are up for grabs. 

I don't know about you, but white dresses put me into two style moods. They're kinda polar opposites, but here they are.

1. Romantic
photo of  Alix of The Cherry Blossom Girl blog

Romantic as in, what I dream about wearing to visit Provence, France and having my ingenue moment walking through cobblestone alleys and lavender fields.You know what I'm saying... a feminine and casual (but not too casual) white dress that is so classic and feminine that it looks like it could've been plucked from a 70 year old photograph. 

The romantic white dress is best at the-slightly-above-the-knee to midi length. Anything shorter looks like a nightie and anything longer tends to get into wedding dress territory.

In the summer, these kind of dresses look great with nude sandals, espadrilles, and a French market bag. Extend the wear of this dress into the fall by adding black or red tights and oxfords, or throwing a biker jacket over your shoulders. Tres chic!

2. Urban Vampire

Photo of Mercury the most stylishVampire in the movie Blade

The movie Blade came out in 1998 and I've been obsessed with the Mercury, the lady vampire's wardrobe ever since. It blew my mind, a bad character wearing white??? It was so opposite of Vampira/Elvira/Morticia Adam's cliched black goth bad girl wardrobe that it seemed even more evil, albeit shockingly impractical for the urbane vampire. (Naturally I was intrigued as my personal style has bad gal tendencies, well, that and I have two white dogs that shed constantly). 

The urban vampire white dress tends to look like sleek, modern, minimalism. It looks best with gladiator style sandals in the summer and leather leggings and a matching fur topper in the winter.

So without further ado, let's get to the round-up. There are a ton of white dresses out there. I know, because I've looked at them all, and have nearly gone blind from looking at white dresses on white backgrounds. (why do retailers DO this? smh) I've found white dresses for practically every price point...even the day dream price point, because why not?

And if you shy away from white because you're stain prone, this shout spray is a laundry saver (I've been successfully using it and saving my clothes with it for over 20 years). 

$30 - $100

$100 - $200

$200 - $500

$500 - $1,000


As with most other blogs, I provide some links for your convenience. If you click on or buy something from the links, there's a small chance I might earn some money, but after four years in this racket, I haven't. It might take another 4+ years for that to happen, so feel free to click away! Lots of cool dresses to oggle and put in your shopping cart for reals and for pretendsies. Please tell me you do that too.

Your Bosom Friend in Pittsburgh,

When Fashion Laps You

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Meryl Franzos, Harrisburg
photo: Joshua Franzos

The Mom jean trend has been around for a few years. I scoffed at it initially because I came of age when everyone wore mom jeans, even if we were barely fifteen and not even moms. Girl's and women's jeans were not flattering in the 80's and 90's. So I always stole my Dad's jeans; he wore Levi's 501's. I fell in love with the 501 stone wash, the button fly, and how artfully they hung off my hips. I wore 501's well into the early ots, but only in the studio or while doing house renovations, because by then I'd found a new favorite pair of designer bootcut jeans (Seven for All Mankind). My denim polyamory continued with boyfriend jeans. Let's see, then in 2014 I got my first pair of skinny jeans, and ever since skinny and moto jeans have slowly been displacing the Seven bootcuts in my closet. Still, I held on to my last pair of 501's. They were in the basement, ready for our next diy home project. During the last couple months I've had this inexplicable urge to revisit 501's, probably from being bombarded with images of stylish Instagram blogger babes wearing them. I don't really do trends anymore and I didn't want to shell out hundreds of dollars on a new pair when I already had some from a former life. I marched down the steps of our basement, grabbed my 501's off the shelf, and I diy doctored them up a bit with a step-crop hem and deconstructed them by ripping a back pocket off.

photo: Joshua Franzos

They have holes in the knees and paint splatters, but here they are in the flesh (barely) and they are the last piece of clothing leftover from my high school days. I opted to dress them up with a frilly blouse and another 90's hark back, a double-breasted blazer (sans shoulder pads). But still, I couldn't get past the fact that I was wearing jeans that I'd painted several houses, rentals, perhaps even a few high school theatre stage sets in, so even though I was in a blazer, I still felt schlubby. The outfit needed more. I added my favorite Balenciaga boots. Not even close. Then my Alexander McQueen scull scarf. still no. Then my graffiti Chanel bag. Almost, so close, but no. It was these $13.99 sunglasses from Amazon that finally sealed the deal for me. (Get them here). I get compliments on them everywhere I go. From across streets even. From the young to the old, black to the white. They are the hit of the summer. But back to my jeans and the fact that I have officially been lapped by fashion. It's a weird feeling I must admit, seeing young women march a trend past you that you wore  back in the day. Really, there are only two courses of action; scoff or join 'em. Say what you want about me, call me old, call me extra, but you can't say I'm not a team player. 

photo: Joshua Franzos
Meryl Franzos, balenciaga ceinture boots
photo: Joshua Franzos

What I Wore:
Jacket: old, White House/Black Market.
Blouse: old J.Crew
Scarf: Alexander McQueen, here.
Jeans: Levi's 501's. (visit your local vintage shop)
Bag: Chanel
Boots: Balenciaga

photo: Joshua Franzos
P.S. I offer links in case you are interested in adding something you see me wearing to your life. Sometimes they are the exact same thing I'm wearing, sometimes they are the best approximations I can find on the internet. Sometimes, if you click on links that I provide or buy something from the links I provide, I might earn something. Though, I have to admit to you, after nearly 4 years of blogging, I haven't yet earned a penny, but hopefully one day I will. So if you have ever ordered or clicked on links I've provided or would consider doing so in the future, thank you for supporting this blog. It means so much to me that you are reading and trust my opinions enough to look. Thank you. 

photo: Joshua Franzos
Meryl Franzos, 501's
photo: Joshua Franzos

P.P.S These photos were taken at the capital in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I was assisting my husband who was on assignment to document the good work of a Pittsburgh organization called Casa San Jose. Casa San Jose helps the under-served Latino community in the Pittsburgh region. From advocacy, to helping immigrants navigate a labyrinthine legal system, social services, and DACA enrollment, to learning new skills, and job placement...that's really just the tip of the iceberg of what they do. While in Harrisburg, my husband documented and I witnessed many immigrants, volunteers, and volunteer interpreters going from state representative to representative to senators in the capital building as they pled their cases for the vote on the DREAM act. In the wake of an empowered ICE and the deplorable Trump administration policy of separating immigrant children from their families, even though we don't live in a border state, I find it especially important to point out the awesome human rights work that is being done locally by Casa San Jose. If you are interested in doing more than just objecting  on facebook to the recent human rights violations, please continue to pester your representatives, and further, you can volunteer or donate to Casa San Jose here. I know I did.This needs to stop.

Your Bosom Friend in Pittsburgh, 

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