Category Archives: Health

Sensible Tips for Getting and Staying Healthy in the New Year

Yeah, no this isn’t a New Year’s resolution post.  It’s simply a post about how to improve your health that can be applied at any time.  I’m just simply writing about getting healthy on January third.  That, in no way, associates this post with the new year…just go with it, OK?

So why get healthier?  Oh, I don’t know, maybe to live longer, fend off obesity related diseases, feel better, have more energy, spend more time with friends and family, enjoy life more, or gain super powers like being able to run a 5K, bike 20 miles or hike to the highest point in your state.

Interested? If so, then here are some specific things to keep in mind as you begin your healthier 2018:

Be sensible – As the title suggests.  Don’t go frickin’ crazy and suddenly declare this is the year you run your first ultra-marathon or lose 100 pounds or get on American Ninja Warrior.  For if you do set frickin’ crazy goals you’re just setting yourself up for failure…and then depression…and then binge eating…and then you’ve just done the opposite of what you set out to do.

Establish reasonable and sensible goals – As Socrates was found of saying, “Know thy self,” although I think he said it in Greek.  Look in the mirror.  You know that person looking back at you better than anyone.  That being the case, set a challenging, yet achievable goal that you are more likely to achieve rather than not.

Set specific goals – rather than general ones.  For example: lose 20 pounds rather than lose weight; run an entire 10K rather than start running; eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day rather than eat better; be physically active for one hour each day rather than exercise more.  Notice anything about the specific goals listed above?  They are all quantifiable.  They all have numbers associated with them that can be monitored and if you achieve them in July then set new ones.

Start slow – You have an entire year after all.  Don’t suddenly start fasting in an attempt to lose weight.  Don’t spend three hours in the gym on day one.  Don’t cut out sugar cold turkey.  Don’t go vegan on a whim.  Do gradually cut out junk food.  Do go to the gym for 30 minutes or so for two weeks or so to start.  Do track your sugar intake and then slowly cut it back without entirely eliminating it.  Do stop eating red meat for a week and see how it goes.

Be consistent – Come hell or high water, keep chasing your goal.  If you plan on exercising an hour each day, then, like Nike says, just damn well do it.  Yes, I know life intrudes on goal attainment, but if you’re sporadic in your efforts, failure soon will follow (Hell, now I sound like Confucius).

Go public – Shout your specific goal from the rooftops.  Tell anyone that will listen what your goal is and then tell them again.  Request that they ask you how close you are to your goal on a regular basis.  It’s amazing how sharing your goal with others serves as motivation.

Get help – In the form of others who have a similar goal and use them to help you achieve that goal.  Use them to get your lazy ass out of bed and/or out of the house.  Use them to slap that Snickers bar out of your hand.  Use them to forcefully tell you to back away from that massive piece of cake.  Use them to lace up your jogging shoes.  Use them to make you feel guilty if you backslide.  Use them to give you healthy recipes.  And finally, use them to cheer you on when you hit a significant milestone.

There you have it.  Your blueprint for a healthier 2018.  I’m not saying that if you follow all seven you’re guaranteed success, but it will sure increase your chances.  Happy New Year, good luck and stay strong!

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MagicKitchen: The Perfect Gift for the Seniors in Your Life

Lemon Rosemary Pork

It’s really no secret that many seniors do not eat they way they should and there are many reasons for that.  Despite the fact that we become less active and our metabolism slows down as we age, seniors still have basic nutritional needs, as do we all.  That being the case, sometimes it’s up to us to make it as convenient as possible for seniors to meet their nutritional needs with food that’s as delicious as it is healthy.  Of course, this is the primary reason why MagicKitchen.com exists.

So let’s explore the reasons why many seniors do not eat properly in order to better understand how to solve the problem.  One reason is because our senses of smell, taste and sight diminish with age.  Like everything else on us, as we get old it breaks and our senses are no different.  Yes, one of the main reasons we eat is to provide energy for our bodies, but Imagine not being able to properly taste or smell the food you’re eating…it would be like eating unseasoned and unadorned gnocchi all the time.

We also like to see what we’re eating even if it’s not a piece of culinary art from an overpriced restaurant.  The ways to combat this issue are, I’m sure, readily apparent…colorful foods prepared with flavorful herbs and spices, such as our buffalo chicken artisan flatbread or fire roasted vegetables en croûte.

Another reason why seniors don’t eat the way they should are the side effects from medications and those side effects can be a straight loss of appetite or constipation.  Loss of appetite is self explanatory, but constipation can cause a feeling of fullness due to slower digestion.  Either way, the results are the same: reduced food intake.  For the loss of appetite side effect, a talk with a doctor might be required to either change the med or reduce the dosage.  As for constipation, increased fiber, fluids and physical activity usually provide the answer.  So try our chicken artichoke with spinach, fresh cut corn medley, or spinach and orzo with caponata sauce.

Soups

Yet another reason could be oral health issues related to gums, teeth or dentures.  The solution here is to provide seniors with this issue soft and moist food or food cut into small pieces.  Offer cooked veggies over raw or fish instead of steak.  Also, check out our “soup for the soul” soup bundle or meals like our salmon and vegetable linguini.

Lastly, and perhaps most common, seniors tend to reduce the proper type and amount of food they consume because they do not enjoy dining alone or are simply unwilling or unable to cook.  Dining, especially for the older generation, is meant to be a shared experience when the family gathers to discuss…well, family things.

However, if the family’s gone, for whatever reason, then that shared experience is gone as well.  For these reasons, MagicKitchen.com makes, by far, the most sense, especially if you live away from your senior parents or other family members.  Look, you know the deal…the food arrives fully cooked and just requires a few minutes in the nuclear microwave machine to create a healthy, hot, and delicious meal!  And as Forrest Gump said, “That’s one less thing [to worry about].”

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The Secret Behind Your Cravings for Unhealthy Snacks

Most people associate cravings with pregnant women…you know, pickles dipped in peanut butter or cookie dough and mustard.  However, we all tend to have cravings from time to time and research suggests that these cravings are caused by a mineral or vitamin deficiency within our bodies.  In other words, it’s your body “talking” to you like this, “Hey Lucy, I just checked our magnesium level and it’s awfully low, so why don’t you go scarf about 300 M & Ms because, you know, M & Ms are chocolate and chocolate is chock full of magnesium and never mind all those empty calories that come along with 300 M & Ms because we’re getting the magnesium that we’re lacking so it’s all good.” (our bodies tend to talk to us in long, run-on sentences…a little known fact).

Well, guess what?  There are other sources of magnesium aside from high calorie chocolate.  Wait, hold up, why do we need magnesium in the first place?  I’ll tell you…we need it as it helps with blood pressure regulation, blood sugar control, and protein synthesis and a prolonged deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, tension, migraine headaches and anxiety and depression.  So the next time you find yourself craving chocolate, it could be your body telling you something.  In that case, reach for some almonds, a banana, black beans, spinach or chard rather than the high calorie chocolate.

Your cravings for sugary snacks follow the same rule as above with the only difference being what your body is lacking and hence, craving.  This time it could be low levels of chromium, phosphorus, sulfur and/or tryptophan.  Chromium supports insulin function which helps regulate blood sugar levels and a lack of it has been linked to glucose intolerance which can lead to type 2 diabetes.  Instead of feeding your chromium craving with jelly beans, keep some pears or Brazil nuts on hand, or hit up a raw bar for some mussels or oysters.

Phosphorus is essential for skeletal and organ health and a deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, joint and muscle aches and anxiety.  So put away the Skittles and instead nosh on some sunflower seeds, almonds, brown rice or tuna.

As for sulfur, it’s essential for liver metabolism, anti-oxidant defense and joint health and a shortage is linked to fatigue, depression and degenerative diseases.  As good as Mikes and Ikes are, put ‘em away and grab an avocado or make a salad with tomatoes, cabbage and onions.

Lastly, tryptophan is an amino acid that assists in the production of niacin and serotonin which is tied to healthy sleep and stable mood.  And yes, turkey is a good source of tryptophan as explored in episode six, season nine of Seinfeld in which Jerry drugs his girlfriend with turkey, heavy gravy and wine to induce sleep so that he can play with her vintage toy collection.  Anyway, lack of tryptophan is, as one would expect, tied to sleep and mood disorders.  That being the case, lose the Sweet Tarts and enjoy some pumpkin and chia seeds, pistachios, eggs, or tuna instead.

Finally, if you’re craving salty snacks like chips or pretzels your chloride tank might be a little low usually from excessive sweating, vomiting or diarrhea or from the consumption of diuretics like caffeine.  We usually get plenty of chloride in our diet as it’s present in salt and most processed foods contain plenty of sodium chloride…aka salt.  However, that doesn’t preclude our salty snack cravings.  That being the case, hide the chips and enjoy some lettuce and tomatoes or slather some celery with peanut butter and then pop some olives.

If you’re anything like me, if unhealthy snacks are in the house I WILL eat them.  Therefore, the solution is easy, I keep them out of the house despite the eternal and vocal complaints of my family.  As Socrates liked to say, “know thyself,” and I know if it’s in the house it will get eaten.  I now consistently snack on nuts, seeds, and just about every type of fruit I can find and if my boys come home with excessive amounts of Halloween candy…well, you know the rest of the story.

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MagicKitchen.com: The Ultimate Holiday Stress Reliever.

Let’s begin this post by discussing the primary causes of stress for most people during the upcoming holiday season.  After researching these causes on numerous and varied sites on the internet machine, from women’s magazines (apparently, men do not suffer from holiday induced stress as none of the articles I read were located on men’s magazine sites) to health sites, I think I can sum them up in one word…”too.”  That one short word that is often confused with its even shorter homophonic buddy, “to,” was the most common word I encountered during my virtual travels.

When Americans are asked why they feel increased levels of stress during the period from Halloween through New Year’s Day, invariably, the word “too” is used multiple times in their responses.  Too much shopping to do, too much travel, I spend too much money, too many parties, too much entertaining, too much cooking, too much work, too much time with family, stores are too crowded, I eat and drink too much, I’m too exhausted, I’m too hungover, I gain too much weight, my expectations are too high…you get the point.  Well, we here at MagicKitchen.com have a way to keep your stress at a manageable level.

For those of you out there who claim the holidays involve too much shopping, too much entertaining and too much cooking, let us take the all those “toos” out of your world (for some reason, spell check wanted to change “toos” into “toes” and that would totally change the meaning, don’t you think?).  MagicKitchen.com allows you to shop for your holiday meals from the comfort of your own home, in your pajamas while enjoying your favorite latte (and avoid those crowds at the mall and grocery store that are way too big.) Simply peruse our special Thanksgiving meal section or visit our a la carte or complete meal menus and make your selections for whatever holiday shindig (how, exactly, is “shindig” a synonym for “party?” The English language is weird.) you’re hosting or attending.

Our certified chefs will then do all the cooking for you using the freshest ingredients…so much for too much cooking.  Next, your meal will be flash frozen to lock in freshness and taste, packed in dry ice and then delivered right to your door.  Imagine, an entire meal of a whole turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, rolls, veggies and desert delivered to your front door…one less thing to be stressed out about.

All that’s required of you is to then place our (now your) delicious food in your freezer until the big day and then simply heat it up and serve it to your guests…no mess, no stress.  You have now freed up time in your busy holiday schedule to spend as you desire.  We would suggest you use that time to relax, binge watch your favorite show (Stranger Things seems to be the series du jour right now), spend time with family, learn a new language (ok, that might be a stretch), get outside, grab a movie, tell your friends about MagicKitchen.com (see how I slipped that in there?), read, or engage in your favorite stress reliever.  So there you go, we’ve just removed a couple “toos” from your holidays.

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10 Foods That are High in Iron

Iron is a healthy part of a balanced diet.  Iron helps to move oxygen around the body,  and plays a part in muscle function and building DNA. Of course, for women of a certain age, making sure we get enough iron is important.

Most of us think we get iron from red meat, and that’s true, but it’s not the only source.  Here are some other sources for those of us who aren’t crazy about eating meat.

Keep in mind- plant based iron is harder for the body to absorb. Vitamin C helps that process, so eating a plant high in vitamin C at the same time will aid in absorption.

 

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Avoid it Like the Plague…Fast Food that is

Yeah, I know, we’re all pressed for time in our hectic, supersonic lives.  We’ve got work, hobbies, kids to chauffeur around, Netflix series to watch and two world leaders caught up in a middle school insult fight to monitor.  Who has time to cook?  And look, the place with the giant burger, or golden arches, or cute red-headed girl, or bucket of chicken out front has a drive-thru!  What could be more convenient?

People seem to think that eating fast food is inevitable for the harried and harassed American. There are, in fact, viable, healthy alternatives if you just plan ahead and are willing to spend a few extra minutes in pursuit of fewer calories, less fat and more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  Since this post deals with those alternatives, I won’t overwhelm you with caloric fast food horror stories.  If you’re interested in the nutritional info for various fats…oops, I mean fast food chains, they all now provide it online.  Now, on to those fast food alternatives previously mentioned.

  • Fast casual dining at places that offer numerous healthy alternatives such as Panera Bread, Chipotle and Pei Wei Asian Diner. All three offer wholesome, non-GMO ingredients in their salads, soups, and entrees and ordering and receiving your food takes about as long as a backed-up fast food drive thru.  Heck, go nuts and actually sit down with family and friends and enjoy both a healthy meal and healthy conversation.
  • The supermarket prepared foods area/deli. Enter any large grocery store, find their prepared foods area, buffet, deli, smorgasbord, or whatever that particular store calls it and prepare to be amazed at the selection.  Most offer fresh salads, soups, sandwiches, cooked veggies, and grilled meats and fish.  Hell, the one by my house even offers sushi!  You’re sure to find healthy foods that are enjoyed by every/all members of your family.  Just load up the prepared packaging, check out, drive home, serve and enjoy.  Gives new meaning to the notion of fast food.
  • Purchased or home made frozen meals. Yes, of course MagicKitchen.com can help out immensely here.  Have an especially hectic week coming up?  With a little pre-planning you can have a wide selection of nutritious and delicious frozen entrees, sides and desserts chillin’ in your freezer to be used whenever needed.  And as I’m sure you already know, we here at MagicKitchen.com offer dishes that meet just about any nutritional need, from diabetic friendly to gluten free.  Of course, you could prepare, cook and freeze your own dishes, but who has time for that?  I mean, really.
  • Breakfast smoothies. Just ensure that each one has good carbs, lean protein, and healthy fat (of the unsaturated variety).  One of my favorites includes fresh berries, a few leafy greens, almond milk and butter, pea protein, rolled oats and just a smidge of cinnamon and ginger.  Voilá!  Breakfast is served.
  • Pack your own. Get an insulated lunch satchel and a few refreezeable (is that a word?) ice packs and you’re ready to take your healthy foods on the road.  And if you have access to a magical microwave machine, you’ve just expanded your food options exponentially.
  • Local farmer’s markets. Aside from locally grown veggies, many farmer’s markets now include prepared dishes, such as pasta, salads, soups and breads and cheeses.  Check out one near you and see what they have to offer.  You can grab some beets, kale, spaghetti squash and a prepared dinner all at one stop.

So the next time you or someone in your orbit is seduced by the sights and smells of a fast food joint, resist the urge and get yourself to one of the alternatives listed above as fast as humanly possible.  How many times it takes to break the fast food addiction varies by individual, but like any addiction, once it’s defeated you’re a better person for it.  Stay strong!

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What Are Your Kids in College Eating?

What Are Your Kids in College Eating? Couch pizza, convenience store chili dogs, and every kind of fast food imaginable, such as fried chicken that’s more “fried” than chicken, roast beef sandwiches with enough beef to choke a starving tiger, and 1,000 calorie milk shakes…that’s the most likely answer.

But wait!  There’s more.  A recent survey found the most common dorm foods included: instant Ramen noodles, candy, instant mac & cheese, cereal, chips and microwave popcorn…and that doesn’t even include the beverages consumed like soda, those ubiquitous energy drinks and potent potables (I’m a huge Jeopardy! Fan…I’m geeky that way).

Needless to say, the above paragraph does not convey an image of nutritious eating.  But let’s take a closer look at the nutritional content of some of the above- mentioned items.

Ramen Noodles: Each package of this dried soup stock and noodles contains about, depending upon your delicious flavor selection, 380 calories, 7 grams of fat, 790 milligrams of sodium (or 33% of your recommended daily allowance), 26 grams of carbs and two flavor enhancers known as disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate.  On the bright side it does contain 8% of your rda of iron.

Microwave popcorn: A standard bag of inflatable popcorn…sidebar (I was pre-law in college for a month): remember jiffy pop and watching that silver foil magically expand on your stove top, in the era before microwaves, as the popcorn, well, popped?…and then being heartbroken when you realized it was burned?  Good times.  Anyway, a bag of nukeable popcorn has roughly 465 calories, 26 grams of fat (or 40% of your rda and some bags contain trans fat which is terrible for you), 665 milligrams of sodium (28% of your rda), and 50 grams of carbs.  The positive: 342 milligrams of potassium, 9 grams of fiber (it is corn, alter all) and 10% of your rda for iron.

Arby’s Classic Roast Beef Sandwich: Yeah, this place has the meat alright.  I decided to list the “classic” rather than the ginormous Half Pound Beef and Cheddar or the Mount Italy Sandwich to be kind.  So, this average-sized sandwich has 370 calories, 14 grams of fat (to include 5 grams of saturated fat and .5 gram of trans fat), 50 milligrams of cholesterol, and a whopping 1,150 milligrams of sodium.  And if you’re looking for protein, this is for you as it contains 23 grams.

Three pieces of KFC original recipe chicken: Ok, I’ve got to admit that this one even surprised me and I tend to pride myself about knowing nutritional information.  One breast, thigh, and drumstick combines for 800 calories, 48 grams of fat, a massive 275 grams of cholesterol (92% of your rda), and an even more massive 2,530 milligrams of sodium (or 105% of your rda).

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the items listed above are the nutritional items they lack.  Where are the vitamins and minerals?  Where are the antioxidants?  Where are the things that grow on trees, vines or in the ground?  You know where you can get those things for your nutritionally starved college student?  Yeah, you saw this one coming…MagicKitchen.com of course.  Wouldn’t it be nice if your kids in college ate healthy once a week or so?  Damn straight, it would be nice, for them and you!  And the food is so good, they’d totally forget that it’s good for them as well.  As always, we’ll deliver to just about any address, be it a dorm, apartment, frat, sorority or commune.   After all, a parent’s job never ends, even after they leave the nest.

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12 Foods that are High in Potassium

If you’re having leg cramps, people will say, “Eat a banana!”. Why? Bananas are widely thought to have a lot of potassium, and leg cramps can come from a lack of that mineral. Leg cramps can come from a variety of sources, including dehydration, overuse of muscles, magnesium deficiency, abnormal nerve activity, sudden loss of blood to the muscle, or, as with most things, getting older.  (Tendons tend to shorten with age, which can cause nighttime cramping.)

So the wisdom of eating a banana for cramps is suspect. However, potassium is a very important mineral. It regulates heart electrical activity and controls fluid balances in the body. And yes, it regulates muscle electrical activity as well.

Know what foods have the most potassium is also important to those who have diabetes or kidney disease. People with diabetes often have decreased kidney function, and can’t excrete potassium as we normally do. So people with diabetes and/or kidney disease need to eat foods that are NOT high in potassium.

So what 12 foods are highest in that important mineral? Here they are, with mg of potassium per serving.

 

 

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Senior Rules for a Safe and Happy Summer

Of course, the seniors to which I refer in the title are those of the “well-aged” variety rather than those who are about to enter their last year of high school or college.  As discussed in too much detail in my last post, summer in the northern hemisphere begins in the wee hours of the morning on June 21 and it is, by all accounts, the most joyous of seasons for most.  However, summer can pose a few heat-related dangers, especially for seniors.

As we age, our bodies become less efficient at regulating body temperature.  That’s why many older people tend to enjoy being in a warmer climate than younger folks.  As anecdotal evidence, I refer you, once again, to Seinfeld.  In episode three of season three (“The Pen”), Elaine is forced to beg Jerry’s elderly parents to turn on the air conditioning in their Florida condo as the previous night she complained to Jerry, “I’m sweating here.  I’m in bed…sweating.”

The next day, Jerry’s mom relents, but isn’t even sure she knows how to work the air conditioning.  As a result of this lessened ability to regulate temperature, many seniors fail to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat stroke and/or heat exhaustion.  So here are a few tips to keep in mind as the mercury (I figure most people reading this post can remember mercury thermometers) begins to rise this summer.

  • Use the frickin’ air conditioning if you have it. Electric bill be damned.  If you don’t have A/C, then on extremely hot and humid days go someplace that has it and isn’t afraid to crank it.  It matters not where you go…a friend’s place, the mall, a museum, the movies, a library are all good choices.  You’ll be amazed what a few hours out of the heat can do for your overworked body.
  • Avoid too much time in the sun especially if you’re engaged in strenuous activity like yard work or exercise. And if you’re just lounging in the glorious sun, don’t forget to slather on plenty of sunscreen with an SPF of at least 759, or those cool, box-like sunglasses that offer UV protection.
  • Get the heat out of a hot kitchen, or if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen…choose whatever cliché you like, just avoid cooking on hot days and simply pop a delicious meal from MagicKitchen.com into the microwave machine which generates no heat at all. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to keep a few MagicKitchen.com meals in your freezer for those scorchers that you know are coming if they haven’t arrived already.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate BEFORE you get thirsty, because if you wait until the thirst arrives, you’re already dehydrated. And try to avoid “hydrating’ with alcohol or caffeinated drinks as they work as diuretics and serve to hasten dehydration.
  • Don’t just drink cool water, get in some, whether it’s a cool bath, shower, lake, pool, ocean, river…whatever. The cool water will help cool your blood which circulates throughout your body.  Another quick cooling off method is to run cold water over the inside of your wrists.  This area has a large number of blood vessels that run close to the surface and that cold water will cool all that blood as it circulates through your body.
  • Communicate often with friends and family to let them know you’re doing fine and staying cool on hot days. Use whatever method you, and they, are comfortable with, telephone, cell phone, Twitter, Snapchat…you get that idea.
  • Watch the humidity level. I’ve heard Arizona is hot, but it’s a dry heat.  That, however, is not the case in many places within our country.  High humidity levels are dangerous to us due to the fact that it causes our body’s cooling mechanism, sweating, not to work effectively.  The reason we perspire is to send liquid to the surface so that it can evaporate, thus, cooling our bodies.  When it’s excessively humid, that sweat on our skin’s surface doesn’t evaporate due to the high-water content in the atmosphere.  As a result, our bodies work harder to try and stay cool, placing more stress on our bodies, primarily on the heart.  So when the humidity’s up, keep your activity level down.

I’m not implying that you should cloister yourself in an air conditioned room for the entire summer.  I’m just giving you the same warning that Sergeant Esterhaus gave his officers after briefings on Hill Street Blues, “Hey, let’s be careful out there.”

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Foods that are Low in Carbs

A low carb diet is a good lifestyle choice. Studies show it is a healthy way to lose weight, and for many it is a great way to keep weight off. Diet and exercise together are the best way to keep yourself fit and ward off disease. Here are many low carb food choices you can make.

 

Most low-carb diets suggest limiting carbohydrate intake to between 50 to 150 grams per day, depending on the diet. Most low carb diets for weight loss start with extremely low carbohydrate intake,  in the range of 20-25 grams per day. That lasts for a couple of weeks, then rises to 60 to 90 grams per day for continued weight loss.

Things to be aware of with low carb diets

Especially if you are used to eating a lot of high-carb items and sugary foods. Your body will crave them like crazy for the first three weeks or so. Your body is going into a state called ketosis, which starts to use your fat for energy. This can cause bad breath, so stock up on sugar-and-carb-free mints.

You may experience… how can we put it delicately… trouble with your digestive tract. Drink lots of water. Lots and lots of water.

If your body is used to a lot of carbs, you may experience something called the “Keto flu”. You might feel fatigued, and have muscle weakness. It will go away within a week or so.

If you do eat a lot of carbs and sweets, it will be easier on your body and will power to do a pre-diet slowdown. Start eating fewer carbs every day for a week or so, to get your body used to fewer carbs. Then the first two weeks won’t be potentially painful.

We wish you luck on your low carb lifestyle. For many people, it’s the key to taking weight off and keeping it off!

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