This blog chronicles my life as I try to balance healthy lifestyle habits with my husband's penchant for pizza rolls and my daughter's desire to watch iCarly 8 hours a day. It contains a mostly humorous, kind, and somewhat spiritual look at everyday life and the people who live it.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Room with a View

How well are you feeling right now?  Any lethargy?  Congestion?  Depression?  Do you have a headache?  The fact is it can be hard to feel consistently well during the winter months and it may have little to do with germs.  Depending on where you live, you may go days, or even weeks without adequate sunshine.  Even on sunny days the cold temperatures, snowy conditions, or job requirements may keep you from really getting to benefit from the sun.

That's why surrounding yourself with beauty is so important.  How beautiful is the room you are in right now?  Do you feel uplifted?  Inspired?  Peaceful?  Are you making it a priority to surround yourself with abundant natural light, colors that relax and inspire you, and objects that are useful, beautiful, and comforting?

I didn't realize how critical this was until I moved from a home I loved in Cincinnati: a home that was flooded with sunlight thanks to its southern exposure, plethora of windows, and high ceilings, to a home in Toledo that was deeply shaded by beautiful trees but had dark stained window and wall trim, low ceilings, fewer windows, and a western exposure.  I frequently felt depressed in that home.  I felt restless.  After the discovery of my brain tumor I felt like the low ceilings pressed down on me and the dark woodwork sucked out all the light.  If that house hadn't had a sunroom I wonder if I would have had the mental strength to bounce back after brain surgery.

I began a quest to improve that house.  You can imagine how thrilled Steve was with the endless list of home improvement projects, but even he had to admit that as the days and weeks went by and I painstakingly painted every inch of that dark woodwork a fresh white, removed any heavy window coverings and improved the lighting to lighten and brighten each room that the house began to feel happier.  It wasn't just my perception, though perception is very important, it was a feeling shared by friends and neighbors who visited too.  In fact when we went to sell that house every realtor who came through remarked upon how unusual it was to find such a light, bright house in such a heavily wooded neighborhood.

I love the home I am in now.  Once again I have a southern exposure, many windows, high ceilings, and now the addition of a magnificent view.  I make it a priority to surround myself with things I truly love and I continually feel uplifted when at home.  It has taken me many years and a lot of trial and error to get to this point and I know it's a continual evolution but it's worth it.  My mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing are worth it.

What inspires you?  Are there any simple changes you can make to your home, office, car, or view that will make it more uplifting for you?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Bad Naked

There was a Seinfeld episode in which Jerry's girlfriend loved to walk around naked.  At first this seemed like a really good thing until Jerry saw her performing such tasks as opening a pickle jar or coughing -- then he realized that there could actually be Bad Naked.

I didn't need an old sitcom to tell me what I already knew from spending a little time in my gym's locker room.  There's a lot of Bad Naked going on there.  It seems the over 70 bunch is most inclined to stroll around naked in the locker room.  There are a few sightings burned in my brain that I would like to share:

Sighting 1: Bad Naked in the Shower
Okay, legitimate question: how did I happen to see another woman in the shower?  Well, while searching for an empty shower I usually go by the old standbys: sight and sound.  If the shower looks empty and I don't hear any water running I think, okay, this shower is empty.  Not so with this particular woman.  For reasons unknown to me the outer changing room curtain was left open.  No items were in the outer area.  No water was running.  So when I entered the outer area, humming a little tune for courage ('cause you know I hate showering at the gym) and then yanked open the inner curtain I was shocked to see one of the over 70 crowd plastered up against the shower stall wall (actually letting her skin touch that wall!) and gaping back at me.  "Oh!  Excuse me!"  I stammered as I fled the area, the image of a lot of loose skin and veins spread eagled up against the wall burned in my brain.  Bad Naked, I was thinking.  Looking horrified definitely makes for Bad Naked.

Sighting 2: Bad Naked at Eye Level
Like the good-little-gym-rule-follower-that-I-am I always change my shoes before entering the gym proper.  This means sitting down on the little benches provided in the locker room.  This means that anyone standing up has the potential for a lot of Bad Naked right at eye level.  One day whilst I innocently was lacing up my shoes unbeknownst to me a woman, about my age, had walked from the showers, completely naked, and had decided to put on lotion.  Right next to me.  Bent over.  I glanced up from my shoes when I sensed someone close by only to be greeted with a rectum about 4 inches from my face.  I shot off that bench and out of the locker room like I was being shot out of a cannon.  Bad Naked!  What the heck?  What kind of twisted person do you have to be to bend over like that?  Bad, Bad, Naked!

Sighting 3: Bad Naked with a Towel
This was another 40 something woman, in good shape, but still Bad Naked.  On the day in question this woman walked back from the shower with one towel around her body and one towel around her head, turban style.  Completely reasonable, right?  Unfortunately she didn't get dressed before deciding to vigorously towel dry her hair.  She's standing, again right next to me (in her defense it is a small locker room), when she wips the towel off her head, flips her head down, and begins to vigorously dry her hair with the towel.  Too bad the towel around her body wasn't secured better because it immediately falls down leaving me with an up-close view of vigorous-hunched-over-naked-shaking.  It's Bad Naked folks, no matter how toned you are, it's Bad Naked.

There's no judging here.  Bad Naked is Bad Naked.  When I sneezed yesterday just as I was about to get into the shower, I knew even without the bathroom mirror telling me so: it was Bad Naked.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

You'd be blown away if you saw me do yoga!

Yesterday I was feeling so much better in the afternoon that I decided I would do a little yoga.  Thanks to tips from Anonymous (impromptu Vicks vaporizer) and Chellie (take guafenasin) I was no longer nearly as congested and I thought it might help with the achiness.  Things were going pretty good until I went into downward dog pose.

Once my head turned upside down my sinuses let go in a continuous stream that extended from my nose to the mat.  It was pretty gross, but wait!  there's more!  Then a sudden and violent sneeze finished the job causing me to have to change my shirt, wash my hands and arms up to the elbow, wash my entire face, and sterilize my yoga mat.  "Well," I thought to myself, "at least there wasn't anyone here to witness this."

If only that had always been the case.  I don't take yoga classes anymore.  Nope, I've learned the hard way that for me, yoga is more of a solitary pursuit.

When I lived in Ohio the local combined YMCA/JCC began offering a yoga class on Saturday mornings.  It cost extra and was fairly early in the morning so while it was well attended in the beginning, attendance began to drop off significantly after a few weeks until one day it was just me and the instructor.  "I won't use any music this morning since it's just the two of us," said the still-innocent instructor.  "We'll just talk and breathe our way through the poses."  At the time I didn't really think very much about this decision.  About how quiet it would be.

Things were going along well.  It was nearing the end of class when my instructor suggested we move into plough pose:

I went into the pose with no problem.  It was when I was to slowly, oh so slowly bring my legs back over my head that things went wrong.  Terribly wrong.   The first emissions were a series of staccato bursts.  The compressed air in my bowels just burst out rat-a-tat-tat but then it was over.  Noisy but mercifully brief.  I froze in place my legs just a few inches off the ground above my head.  Embarassed, but trying to remind myself that this is a normal body function, this woman is a professional instructor, at least its over, I took a deep breath in and began to slowly lift my legs again.

Big mistake.  HUGE mistake.

As soon as I started to move I began to pass gas continuously.  I was helpless to stop it!  I had to get my legs down, but with every move I made every ounce of air in my body was being expelled out of my butt.  In sheer humiliation I began to silently laugh.  My shoulders were shaking, my face was flaming, tears were streaming down my face and as I laughed my stomach muscles were contracting and with each contraction, another burst.  It went on and on until finally my legs were on the ground. 

Then silence.

I didn't know what to say and I was too ashamed to look at my instructor.  Inside I'm begging her to just laugh, yell, leave, do anything, but no, the silence just dragged on.  Do I dare laugh?  Is that rude?  Do I apologize?  What is the etiquette for passing gas for 2 minutes?  I wasn't even sure if I could speak, let alone what I would say!

After a few moments of silence (during which I am convinced my instructor was fighting for control like she had never fought before) she resumed the class as if nothing had happened.  We didn't do anymore legs-over-the-head poses (no surprise there) and when it was over she thanked me for coming as usual.  I, of course, couldn't meet her eyes.  A few days later I received notice that the class had been cancelled due to lack of attendance.  Lack of attendance my Aunt Fanny!  I think we all know why that class isn't offered anymore at the YMCA/JCC.

I just wonder if that poor woman quit being an instructor for good.  Traumatizing it must have been.  For both of us.  A few months later I moved almost 1000 miles away.  Coincidence?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Green Tip Tuesday: Donating to charity

I hate clutter.  One of the good things about having moved 6 times in the almost-19-years Steve and I have been married is that I get the opportunity to continually purge.  Sometimes this is not such a good thing.  There have definitely been times when I regretted giving away something in one of my why-do-we-have-all-this-stuff-I-can't-stand-this-clutter moods.  Those regrets only occur when I impulse purge, something I don't recommend, so when we moved to this house last summer I decided to try "box purging."  The concept is simple: take a box, put it someplace it won't be in the way but is accessible (for me this was the basement storage room), and fill it.  All of the blinds we removed from this house went into the box.  Over the past 7 months I have added clothes we don't want, miscellaneous household items, Christmas decorations I have decided I don't like anymore, etc.  Last week a postcard came in the mail advertising that the Epilepsy Foundation truck would be in my neighborhood and if I just attached this postcard to my donation they would take it right off my front porch and leave me a receipt. 


I quickly sifted through the items in the box (okay boxes, I did have 2), decided I still didn't want any of them, had Steve carry them to the front porch and this morning POOF! they're gone.

They will recycle all my clutter.  I don't have the clutter.  It took no effort on my part (especially since Steve was the one who carried the boxes!).  It's being Green at its best.

Monday, February 22, 2010

It's all in my head (or at least my sinuses)

All weekend long I have been asking myself the same question:  how can I possibly produce this much mucus?  How is it possible that sinus cavities that are measured in millimeters can become this swollen and blocked?  And how am I getting any oxygen at all?  My nose is plugged, my tonsils are so swollen they are clearly blocking my airway.  I am probably breathing through my skin like a lizard.

The common cold has come to visit and my immune system has let it in.  I don't blame my immune system for failing.  I have been exposed a lot lately to so many different sick people that my living room began to resemble a doctor's office waiting room.   Every child that came to play was hacking and sneezing.  Every adult was pale, sweating, and blowing their nose.  Steve has been sick continuously since Christmas.  My daughter has spent more time at home lately than she has in school.  My immune system valiantly fought it all until this past weekend when a combination of too many germs, too little handwashing, too much sugar (ah yes, the sugar addiction haunts me still), and too little exercise all combined to create the perfect storm.  I have consumed so many liquids since Saturday evening that I feel like I'm floating.  I don't want to even look at another smoothie.  The thought of salt water makes me gag.  I've run so much saline through my nose that my eyes are floating.  Still I suffer.  Soon I will take another steamy shower with Olba's eucalyptus oil sprinkled liberally around the tub.  I walk around the house with eau du Vick's and a box of tissues.  And a water bottle.  Or cup of tea.  I have apologized profusely to my immune system for the sugar intake (I knew it was a mistake to make caramel corn and chocolate pretzel sticks for the kids last week...), taken Evening Primrose supplements to try to metabolize all that sugar, and now I wait.

See it's never my immune system failing me.  It's always me failing my immune system.  Our bodies are meant to work so perfectly that if we don't gunk them up they can fight off almost anything with little or no impact on our daily lives.  The caramel popcorn and chocolate dipped pretzels?  Well, they qualify as gunk.  The lack of exercise?  Well, that lymph fluid has to get around my body somehow and the only way it does is if I move.

So I'll just keep blowing my nose, thanking my body for producing all that mucus to trap bacteria.  And drinking fluids to keep hydrated and keep my lymph fluid from getting too sticky.  And walking around the house or even outside if the sun continues to shine to move that fluid around. 

I really am in awe of my body's amazing response to a viral threat.  I just wish it wasn't so messy and painful.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My toothpaste is controlling my mind...

Bad guy: "Sorry officer, but I just had a big glass of water and so my judgement was really impaired!"

Mom: "Son, go brush your teeth, then go get a job!"
Son: "Okay Mom, but once I brush my teeth I'll have no motivation and will lack the mental faculties to handle basic decision making."

On this very blog I frequently promote ingesting one of the most toxic and damaging chemicals found in our world today.  I can't help it, it's essential to life, will clear your skin, heal your headaches, and without it you are probably going to die within 3-5 days.

I promote drinking water.

But is there fluoride in your drinking water?  In your toothpaste?  In your canned soup?  In every product that has 'water' listed as an ingredient?  If I was asked to estimate my vitamin C intake I could do a pretty good job.  If asked to estimate my sugar intake I could come within a gram or two of my daily consumption.  If asked to estimate my fluoride intake I wouldn't have any idea.  Was the water in my shampoo fluoridated?  Was the water used to wash my 'washed and ready to eat' salad fluoridated?  How can I quantify my exposure to a toxin that is put directly into the drinking water in most places in the United States, added to my toothpaste, and has been approved as a pesticide in organic farming!

This is the scoop on fluoride: the Germans  used fluoride during World War II when they placed it in the drinking water of their prisoners of war because fluoride made the prisoners so docile.  Now there are different types of fluoride.  Pharmaceutical grade fluoride is what appears in our toothpastes.  This type of fluoride does have a good track record in reducing tooth decay when applied topically to the teeth.  There is no evidence that fluoride taken internally does anything but harm the body.  Another type of fluoride is what is put into the drinking water.  You don't really want to know where this comes from, but I'll tell you anyway so sit down because this is going to be gross: the fluoride in our drinking water is a by-product of pesticide manufacturing.  They scrape the fluoride "sludge" from the inside of the smokestacks and truck it to the nearest water treatment plant where they dump that sludge right on in and call it public health practices.  I kid you not, you can look it up here (type fluoride in the search bar).

So here are my suggestions: I try to limit my exposure to fluoride on a couple of levels.  First I am lucky because my part of Massachusetts does not have fluoride in the water.  I have a fluoridated toothpaste and a toothpaste without fluoride and I alternate between the two.  I like the Tom's of Maine mint toothpaste without fluoride and the Burt's Bees toothpaste with fluoride. In both cases you get good taste without high fructose corn syrup and/or silica which is in a lot of other toothpastes.  I take Calcium and Magnesium supplements to counter the effects of fluoride in my body.  I don't use fluoride rinses or allow the dentist to give them to my daughter.  I buy vitamins that do not contain a fluoride supplement (many do, you have to read the ingredients). 

There are filters you can buy that filter the fluoride out of drinking water.  There are letters you can write to city officials petitioning to get the fluoride out of your city's drinking water.  There are panic attacks you can have wondering what all this fluoride is doing to your body.  You could mix up your own batch of baking soda and salt with a little peppermint extract thrown in for flavor.  I think the most important thing is to be aware of what fluoride is and how it may be affecting you.  Baby steps, always baby steps.

And if you're ever in Massachusetts, stop by!  I'll give you a glass of filtered, refreshing, unfluoridated water.  I'll even throw in an organic lemon so you can lose a few pounds...but that's another post...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Just Massage it Right into Your Brain

When I lived in Toledo, Ohio I faithfully had my hair cut by Bill at Creative Headlines.  Having Bill cut my hair meant having Bill wash my hair and believe me when I say: you will never regret nor forget having Bill wash your hair.  First he would ever so gently recline your chair and put up the footrest.  Then he would work the warm water all through your hair.  Already you are feeling 5 years younger and kind of forgetting you ever had troubles.  Just when you're thinking "could this get better?" It does.  Bill lathers up with some wonderful smelling salon shampoo and begins to massage your head.   Your neck.  Your temples.  He works the lather all through your hair, kneading, massaging...whooo, is it getting hot in here?  Then he would rinse.  Then he would take conditioner and start the whole sensual process over again.  By the time he was finally done you are 10 years younger and in love with the world.  Don't worry if you are too relaxed and limp to walk under your own power to Bill's chair, he's very strong and will carry you to his station if need be.  He's used to that response.  Finally he will place a fresh towel around your neck, cover you with a cape and he's ready to begin the cut.  He gives a good haircut, but really?  Who cares?  Just let him wash your hair and you'd forgive him a terrible cut.  If you're ever in the greater Toledo area give yourself a treat, book a haircut with Bill.

I tell you all this to emphasize the importance of a fantastic hair washing experience.  Though I frequently practice Speed Bathing, I do make sure that once or twice a week I really take time to pamper myself and that means warm water, yummy smelling shampoo, and fluffy towels.  I do love me a good lather, and that used to mean sodium lauryl sulfate which irritates the skin, reduces the skin's immune system capabilities, and can enhance tumor growth.  Do any of those things sound good?  Then I found Nature's Gate Organics.
This shampoo smells fantastic, lathers beautifully, contains no harmful, irritating, or carcinogenic ingredients, is not tested on animals, and can be bought at almost any grocery or drug store.  Buy it at the grocery store and you may feel a little sticker shock (it costs $7.99 here in Massachusetts) or save a little money and buy it from here  for $4.91. 

I don't use this shampoo all the time.  When I shower at the gym I carry plain ol' Pantene 2-in-1 shampoo+conditioner in my bag.  If I run out of organic shampoo I keep an emergency bottle of Pantene in the linen closet, just in case.  (Pantene doesn't have any health benefits to my knowledge, I just like it.) 

I try to reduce my exposure to chemicals and acknowledge that I will still have some exposure, sometimes a lot.  Sometimes I use Pantene, Secret deodorant, and eat Doritos all on the same day.

Just not every day. 

My challenge to you: perhaps you could occasionally use an organic shampoo or conditioner.  Maybe you could try using a baking soda paste as a remedy to product buildup instead of a harsh clarifying shampoo.  If you don't want to switch your shampoo then try turning down the temperature of your water.  The cooler the water temperature the more 'closed' the hair shaft and the pores in your scalp, the more protected you are from chemicals.  Bonus: your hair will be shinier and you reduce your carbon footprint.

Oh, eat some Omega-3s and green leafy veggies too.  And have a great hair day.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Would you rub that on your kidney?

As a teenager in the '80s I never met a tanning booth I didn't love.  I religiously went outside every day during the summer between the hours of 11a.m. and 2p.m. with my bottle of baby oil and my Walkman.  I chose sunscreen by its smell, not by SPF (Mmmm, Hawaiian Tropics Coconut Oil....yumm!).  I thought Secret deodorant (baby powder scent) was THE underarm scent to have.   My skin was always broken out so I used anything I could find that promised to reduce breakouts.

As a young adult in the '90s I had less time for sun and tanning because I was working full time.  Instead to abuse my skin I slathered on foundation, pressed powder, and blush.  I was still breaking out so I used harsh benzoyl peroxide and alcohol based products to reduce breakouts.  I loved the new lines of body gels and liquid soaps and used them all liberally.

As a young mother in the '00s I had no time for make up or sunscreen so my skin was always exposed to something, though very little was rubbed into it.

As an almost forty-something looking in her new 10x optical mirror in the '10s I can see the thirty years of abuse, even without my glasses on.  Ooops, looks like somehow I forgot to take care of my skin.

Luckily I am smarter now, and have been for a few years.  Gone are the tanning beds, the lack of sunscreen, and the harsh chemicals.  I now read skin product labels as if I were going to eat them because guess what?  Everything you slather on the outside actually ends up on the inside.  I guess I knew this on some level, I mean after all the nicotine patches and birth control patches have been around for years and they all rely on putting something on the skin and getting it into the bloodstream.  What I didn't realize for 25 years was that products designed to go on the skin could be so...dangerous!

The first culprits are the parabens.  These chemicals are used as a preservative to extend the shelf-life of the product.  They are cheap to make but dangerous because our bodies can't properly metabolize them so they get stored in fat deposits.  Breast cancer tumors frequently contain parabens. 

Next are the sulfates.  We all love the sulfates because of the rich, foamy lather they create in shampoos and soaps.  Unfortunately all that lather comes with a cost:  our poor livers weren't made to handle this chemical so a lot of it is stored in the liver and that causes liver toxicity, or it ends up roaming around the body and causing all sorts of cancers.

Our next contenders are the perfumes and dyes that make our shampoos, lotions, toothpastes, and soaps look so pretty and smell so good.  The problem is that a lot of different dyes and perfumes are usually used to create that 'ocean breeze' smell and that means dangerous levels and combinations can occur.

The truth is that one little paraben never hurt anyone.  It's massaging them daily into your scalp in the form of shampoos, rubbing them into your gums in the form of toothpastes, layering them onto your skin in the form of deodorants, lotions, and make up that causes the problem.    We don't get exposed to one chemical one time, we get exposed to hundreds of different chemicals in thousands of combinations over a lifetime.  The good news is that there are alternatives, they are cheap, they are easy to buy or make, and they work just as well or better.  The even better news is that our bodies are so amazing at detoxing themselves that they'll get rid of all the junk we put in them if we just stop putting it in.

For the rest of this week I'll focus on the natural product alternatives to some of my favorite products.  Today I'll start with deodorant.  First things first: I currently do own and occasionally use Secret deodorant/antipersperant.  It works, it smells good, and there are times when I know I'm going to be nervous or sweating a lot and I want the extra chemicals to stop the sweat.

For daily use I use Tom's Of Maine Natural Deodorant.  I like the calendula scent.  Steve is more of a woodspice man.  Our daughter occasionally uses the lavender.  It is not an anti-persperant.  If you are sweating a lot, you will have wet marks on your underarms.  It is a good deodorant, you may smell your deodorant, but you won't smell sweat.  For most days I am not doing something so strenuous that I need an antipersperant.  When I work out I use the deodorant, but I figure I'm supposed to sweat so wetness isn't a concern.  Another alternative: use a powder puff to apply baking soda directly to your underarms.  Then spray on some tea tree oil (about a TBSP) diluted with 1/4 c. water.  Tea tree oil contains antibacterial properties and it's the bacteria that makes sweat smell bad.

Tomorrow I'll focus on shampoos and conditioners.  Friday I'll blog about lotions and toothpaste.  We'll all be so healthy we won't be able to stand ourselves!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Green Tip Tuesday: Online Bill Pay

As I've mentioned before, I'm not a big fan of mailing stuff.  Like most people prone to procrastination having to do something that takes effort, planning, and stamps, all of which are in short supply in my household, is to be avoided at all costs.   Online bill pay was designed for people like me.  Bonus: it's Green too!

I do all my online bill paying through my bank's website.  I've been doing this for about 10 years, though I will admit that when we moved to Massachusetts and had to switch banks and get a new email address it was a little daunting to set up all the bill paying details again.  Still, it was worth it because it really does make my life so easy.  

A lot of companies with whom I do business have graciously offered to simply suck the money they need right out of my checking account with no effort from me at all.  This method is great for all your super-organized-and-have-a-lot-of-money-in-your-checking-account people, but it would never work for me.  I need to see in one place all the money that is going to be paid out versus the current balance.  I like to move pay dates around sometimes to match up with Steve's every-other-week pay cycle.  I like to move whatever money is "left over" to savings as soon as possible.  Inevitably I would forget about that one little car payment and have no money in the account when they went to make the online transfer.  It's good to know your personality type when choosing a bill-paying method.  Especially if you've decided to live "paycheck to paycheck."

Did you know that most banks will even write a check and mail it for you at no charge?  I don't know how or why they do it, I am just glad they do.  Clearly bankers either 1. always have stamps on hand or 2. don't mind mailing stuff.

I like not having to find an envelope, line up the mailing address in the little window, find a stamp, get my bills out in time for delivery, remember my federal holidays when no mail is delivered, and wait for a check to clear.  I like the simplicity of clicking my mouse a few times and BAM, the bill is paid. 

No environmental impacts from mail trucks, envelopes, checks, or stamps.  And good credit because your bills are always on time.  What could be simpler?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Things that are good for your heart (Diet Coke is not one of them)

Happy Valentine's Day!  On a day devoted to wearing red, exchanging heart shaped boxes of chocolates, and receiving glittery heart cards I thought I'd mention a few things that really are good for your heart.  (And just like Pepsi, Diet Coke will not escape my wrath for their latest marketing trick).

Take a deep breath.  Let all that oxygen fill your lungs and enrich your blood.  Cancer cannot live in an oxygenated environment, so get as much oxygen into your body as possible.  Take a walk outside.  Breathe deeply and turn your face toward the sun.  Soak in some vitamin D for about 20 minutes because a vitamin D deficiency raises your risk for heart disease.

Tell someone you love them.  Connect with friends or family.  Join a club.  Be active in your community.  Studies show that isolated people have a higher rate of heart attacks than those who are connected.

Eat a piece rf two of that dark chocolate from the heart-shaped box.  Dark chocolate contains antioxidants that can lower blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide.  Better yet, dip an organic strawberry into dark chocolate and your whole body will smile.

Drink plenty of water.  Being dehydrated causes the heart to have to pump harder due to decreased blood volume, which increases your risk of heart attack.

Read a good book (or blog!) the relaxed state you enter while reading lowers your blood pressure.  Watch a funny movie because laughing is a fantastic abdominal workout and causes you to breathe harder, thus taking in more oxygen.  Take a nap, just 20 minutes can lower your blood pressure and reduce stress.  Have great you really need a reason to have great sex???

Your heart will thank you.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Pepsi Refresh? Shame on you!

You may remember my Pink Ribbon Rant where I expressed my frustration with products that contain carcinogens on the inside yet bear a pink ribbon on the outside packaging.  Pepsi's new Refresh campaign is inspiring the same frustration.  At its core, Pepsi's idea to give money to support ideas that will "Refresh" the planet, ideas such as recycling T-shirts into reusable bags, sending Girl Scout cookies to overseas troops, improving living conditions for children living in poverty -- are all good ideas.  I don't have any problem with the ideas put forth to fulfill the campaign. 

My problem is with the campaign.

Pepsi, how dare you spend money on this campaign while saving money by using inferior, unhealthy,and carcinogenic sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup as the main ingredient in your product?  You want to Refresh the Planet?  Start with your own product.  You want to make a sweetened cola?  Fantastic, make it with organic cane sugar.  Bottle it in recyclable glass bottles, not cans made with aluminum that 1. leach toxic aluminum into our soil when they are not recycled, and 2.  are made from bauxite which is not mined responsibly and is devastating lives in India and the rainforests in Brazil.

How does contributing to obesity, heavy metal poisoning, and environmental destruction Refresh our world?  But the slogan is catchy, it gets celebrities behind it, people feel good buying Pepsi and sales go up.  So it's all good, right?

No.  Pepsi, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Census 2010: Are you represented in your house?

A couple of years ago I was reading a feng shui book that mentioned the placement of photographs in your home.  According to the book there are certain areas in the Chinese Ba Gua, such as Family, Children, Helpful People, or Relationships/Marriage, that naturally invite photos of those people.  The book also talked about balance: making sure that all people living in the house were represented equally in number or proportion.  For example you may have four 5x7 photos of your children in small frames and only one 10x13 wedding photo that is matted and framed.  The photos are still in balance because proportionally you are represented equal to your children because of your bigger picture and more elaborate frame.

I started looking around my house to see how balanced we were.  I was shocked to discover that no picture of me existed in the house!  There were plenty of pictures of my daughter, many of them with my husband too, but none of me.  I knew I was responsible for this absence because I am the one who makes 99% of the decorating decisions and 100% of the photo placement decisions.  I also knew how it happened: over the years as my taste in frames changed and we moved and our daughter was born and pictures were put up and taken down and frames reused and I'm usually the one who takes the pictures which means I'm not in a lot of them so the next thing you know: I've disappeared from the displayed photos.

I immediately went through a box of photos, picked out 3 that I was in and re-did the photo display.  There!  Problem solved.  But then when we moved to our current house and I was putting out the family pictures I noticed something else.  There was not a single picture of Steve and me together.  We've been married for almost 19 years and yet there was no photographic evidence that we had ever been in the same room together!  I remedied that situation as well.

Look around your house.  Are you represented?  Is it a priority for there to be beautifully framed pictures of you as well as the spouse, children, even pets?  If not, why not?  For your inspiration, here are some of the photos that now reside in my house:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Speed Bathing

  This may come as a surprise to some of you, but I will not be featured as an Olympic athlete in the 2010 Winter Games.  I should be though, because my friends, I could take the Gold in Speed Bathing.

I have been training for 11 years.  Ever since my darling infant baby girl first began going into apoplectic shock the second I stepped foot into the shower, I took up the art of Speed Bathing.  And I'm finding that it's a hard habit to break.

What began as a sanity-saving-get-in-and-get-out-before-that-child-bursts-a-blood-vessel necessity has morphed into a reckless-do-I-really-need-to-shave-those-legs-today race that is fueled primarily by procrastination with a healthy dose of poor planning thrown in for good measure.

I don't tend to leisurely enjoy my toilette.

I intend to.  I really do.  I have purchased fluffy towels, yummy-smelling-soaps, a PVC-free shower curtain liner, decadent shampoos, and expensive razors.  I have my Burt's Bees Royal Jelly Body Lotion strategically positioned on the counter so after my shower I can take a moment and moisturize.  I have my razor blade suction-cupped to the shower stall where it won't get wet.  I even bought the girlie shaving cream.  I go into the shower with all good intentions to pamper, primp, exfoliate, shave, and condition.  That is, I go into the shower with those intentions oh, about once a week.  The problem is that the rest of the week I go into the shower with T minus 31 minutes until I have to: 1. pick up my daughter from school or 2.  be at an appointment that why I didn't just schedule it 15 minutes later I don't know, but that's poor planning for you or 3.  Steve is about to burst a blood vessel because instead of showering (like he thought I was doing) I was reading blogs and/or searching for Google Images, so now I have to get showered, blown dry, and dressed before he finishes eating toast.

Here is how it usually happens: I get home from the gym.  I intend to immediately shower so my back doesn't break out from contact with my sweaty sports bra.  I turn on the water.  The phone rings.  I have to look to see who is calling because it could be my daughter's school and therefore an emergency.  It's Debbie.  Or Chellie.  I decide to talk for a minute while the water heats up.  (These are very interesting women and if you talked to them you wouldn't be able to talk for a minute either, so no judging please).  I realize bathroom is filled with steam.  I feel guilty and turn water off.  I decide to unload/reload dishwasher while chatting, thus being productive.  I fold laundry.  I make beds.  I hang up coats.  I straighten cushions and throw pillows.  Conversation ends.  I really need to shower but look, there is my computer!  I'll just quickly check to see if I have any comments on my blog then I'll take my shower.  Hey, someone commented!  I'll write back so they know I appreciate them.  Oh look, one of the blogs I follow has a new entry. I read.  I follow links.  I find funny youtube video.  I email funny youtube video to friends and family.  I remember I haven't sent any e-cards lately.  I begin perusing e-cards.  I send some out.  Wait, don't I have a new bill in my email?  I read emails.  I pay bills.  I glance at clock on computer: 2:15!!!  I have to pick up my daughter at 2:45!!!  I race upstairs, turn on water while pulling off now-stiff-with-dried-sweat sports bra.  I jump in shower with water still cold.  I shampoo quickly.  No time to rinse and repeat!!  I mash some conditioner around and soap up.  Yes I really need to shave my legs but I don't have time!!!  I dry off.  Yes I really need to moisturize my alligator skin but I don't have time!!!  I blast my hair with a blow dryer while brushing my teeth.  I slap mineral make-up on with one hand while pulling out clean clothes with the other.  I throw on clothes, grab keys, phone, and coat and run out the door with 2 minutes to spare.

Gold medal caliber I tell you, Gold medal...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Green Tip Tuesday - Shopping Bags

Reusable shopping bags are everywhere!  Look near the checkout counter of almost any store and there will be a shopping bag for sale.  It used to be that I would get paper bags and bring them with me to the grocery store.  I would usually get about a year's worth of use out of a paper bag before it was too thin to be reliably used again.  Now, the options for reusuable bags are endless.  Here are some of my favorites:

My great-grandmother carried a string bag with her when she walked to the neighborhood market to buy Lorna Doone cookies.  I remember walking with her, though I couldn't have been more than 4 years old, because it was the first time I had ever walked to the grocery store and because she let me choose the cookies.  String bags are nice because they can be stuffed in your coat pocket, purse, or another bag and they don't take up much room.  Warning: small items like lipsticks can sometimes slip out of string bags (I learned this the hard way after losing my brand new $4.99 Burt's Bees Lip Shimmer).

This bag from target is a classic.  Easily found at every Target checkout, inexpensive, sturdy, and you get to go to Target to pick it up -- what could be better?  (Mmmmm, Target...)

A good example of the very stylish bags you can find nowadays.  Reusable bags don't have to have store logos, be plastic, or even be big.  Any bag is a good candidate, as long as it has sturdy handles, strong seams, and you'll remember to carry it.  I like these bags because they are so cute to carry that you don't feel like it's a chore being environmentally responsible.

This is the bag I carry in my purse.  I am great at remembering to bring my bags to the grocery store, but I was always forgetting to bring bags to every other store so I was forever growing my collection of plastic bags.  Once I found this canvas bag that zips up into a small carrying case ($10 Whole Foods Market), I slipped it in my purse and now I always have a reusable bag with me.  Bonus: the $10 cost is donated to feeding children in need.

I don't always have a reusable bag with me.  I try.  I succeed about 90% of the time.  I find it is actually easier for me to find things quickly because my bags are different and I can think "oh I remember putting that in my flowered bag" as opposed to sifting through a mountain of plastic-look-alikes.  I like the sturdiness of my bags.  I like reducing my dependance on petroleum whilst reducing waste.  Look around the house, chances are good you have all the reusable shopping bags you need without spending a penny.  Tuck one in your purse or in the pocket in your car door.

Breathe easy, you're part of the solution, not the problem.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

There's no way I'm touching that...

Is there any household chore that you just hate to do?  Anything you put off doing until the board of health your conscience tells you that you must do it?

For me it's cleaning the bathrooms.  It's my dirty little secret (ha ha ha) how much I hate cleaning bathrooms.  I'm sure it's a holdover from my childhood when I responsible for cleaning the "kids" bath every Saturday before I could watch cartoons.  Plagued by 2 brothers with bad aim, a sister with a penchant for bubble baths, hard water, and a very picky mother, I would procrastinate, cry, and try to bargain to get out of that chore.  It didn't work.  Every Saturday, armed with Comet and Lysol, I cleaned the bathroom.

I have tried everything to make the chore more enjoyable:  I have a steamer that blasts steam, sprays steam, or mists steam.  I like it, but it's noisy and has to be refilled a lot.  I tried using all natural cleaners thinking that perhaps my smug "well aren't I just a Nobel-prize-winning-friend-of-Al-Gore-planet-saving-little-housewife?" attitude would make the chore more bearable.  It didn't.  I tried using the harshest-but-allegedly-fastest-working-chemicals on the market thinking if all I had to do was spray some toxins around and walk away that perhaps it would be worth sacrificing a little ozone.  I don't know how well the ozone faired, but they didn't really work without scrubbing despite what the bottle says.  I tried just swiping around with a Clorox wipe a couple of times a week thinking that if I didn't really clean then maybe I wouldn't feel like I was cleaning.  After a few weeks of sticky sinks, toilet handles, and faucets I decided that the germs were just sticking to the Clorox residue and besides the guilt from creating all that waste was getting to me, so I stopped.

After living on my own for over 20 years I have finally found the two items necessary to make bathroom cleaning bearable: rubber gloves and my apron with the big center pocket. 

It turns out that I'm not adverse to the cleaning part, it's touching what needs to be cleaned that grossed me out.  I can clean anything if I just don't have to touch it with my bare hands.  Also having spare rags, baking soda, vinegar, and borax (yes, I really am that 'out there') stuffed in my big center pocket means that I have all my supplies readily at hand.  And I don't get burned from the steam as much.  And my hands are no longer scary-dry and cracked.

Am I alone in this bathroom-touching-aversion?  What do you do to make it bearable?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Green Tip Tuesday: Using Vinegar in the Laundry

I really like doing the laundry.  I like sorting the clothing by colors, it appeals to my sense of order.  I like remembering to rescue all of my favorite fitted T's or comfy sweaters from the dryer because it makes me feel like I am top of my chores.  I love the warm, clean smell of clothes fresh from the dryer.  My laundry "room" is really just a closet in my daughter's bathroom.  I don't have any fancy shelving or cabinets.  My washer and dryer are serviceable 11 year old Maytags.  I have absolutely no lighting in the closet, and almost no storage.  I always say that someday my laundry room will look this one, but right now, not so much.  I even love putting away all the fresh laundry because we (finally) bought a dresser last year and there is enough room to put everything away properly.

I began investigating "greener" laundry detergents about  5 years ago when my friend Chellie bought her new front-load washer and dryer.  The purchase came with a few years of free servicing and Chellie, who is good at remembering that kind of stuff, scheduled the visits.  The woman (!) who came to service the appliances complimented her on how clean her machine was after a year of constant usage.  The technician attributed the condition of the appliances to Chellie's commitment to not using petroleum-based detergents.  I am embarrassed to say that I honestly didn't realize that my old favorite Tide was a petroleum-based detergent!  I like to reduce our exposure to (and dependency upon) petroleum so I started using the Seventh Generation line of laundry products.   I still do use the laundry detergent, but let's face it, those products are
expensive and not always widely available, so I searched for something else to use as a fabric softener.  That's when I discovered vinegar. 

Vinegar is the perfect fabric softener.  It removes soap residue, freshens the load, brightens colors, whitens whites, and causes no harm to the environment.  My washing machine has a large center cup for adding fabric softener so I add 1/2 cup of white vinegar and about 8-10 drops of lavendar essential oil to each load.   The clothes smell great, they are soft (even the towels and jeans) and it costs about half of what Downy costs.  I buy Heinz white vinegar at the warehouse club in a 1.32 gallon jug for $3.99 and it lasts about 36 loads of laundry. 

The great thing about vinegar is it's versatility.  I can spray it directly on my workout clothes to remove sweat stains and odors.  I can run it through my machine with hot water to remove any musty smells in the washer.  I can spray it on stains to help them dissolve.  I can combine it with baking soda and really whiten socks. 

Perhaps if you have some vinegar in your pantry you could try adding it to just one rinse cycle, just to see if you like it?  Or put some in a small spray bottle and very lightly mist shirts you are about to iron.   I like using products with which I can create dressing for salad, scour my coffee pot, and clean my clothes.

Be green, your socks will get whiter.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Orange Julius: revisiting a classic

Last week Steve was home from work feeling tired, achey, with a sore throat and a stuffy nose.  Today it's my daughter's turn to lay on the couch moaning a bit and unable to get comfortable.  The trajectory of my day is certainly going in a different direction than planned: my gym workout will have to be squeezed in at home in between bringing cups of crushed ice and washing bed linens.  My chats with friends will have to be shorter and edited due to the presence of an audience.  The television will be on at times that would ordinarily be marked by blessed silence or my song choices.  The reverberations of today will be felt for the next few days as homework is made up, undone errands are caught up, and missed workouts are doubled up or left behind.  With all this change you wouldn't think I'd be very happy, would you?

I am happy.  Our lives have been busy lately: extra band practices get ready for a big multi-school concert, sleepovers, dinner parties, and all of the hustle and bustle that accompanies a new year, burgeoning tax season, and the 2nd half of the school year.   I decided this morning that I would take today to (briefly) air out the house, wash all the bedding, and make an Orange Julius smoothie for my daughter.  She's never had an Orange Julius because I've never purchased concentrated  orange juice and didn't know you could make one without it.  Last night when Steve made an emergency run for more children's medicine he brought home orange juice concentrate and the idea was born.  I loved an Orange Julius when I was a child, a rare treat at a time when smoothies were unknown and "wasting" 6 ounces of orange juice concentrate was unheard of!  Today when I searched online for the recipe I found that I could make substitutions that would make the drink healthier and still maintain that yummy taste.  Here is what I did:

Recipe online which I believe is the one used by my mom (found on this blog)

6 oz. frozen orange juice concentrate
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8-9  ice cubes

1. Combine all ingredients except ice cubes in blender.
2. Blend for about 1-2 minutes, adding ice cubes one at a time.

I know, that’s a lot of sugar, right? Yeah, no wonder it’s so good
Update: A reader emailed me a suggestion to use powdered sugar to make the drink a bit creamier. I’ve been using 1/4 cup regular sugar and 1/4 powdered sugar and it’s fantastic!

My changes:

6 oz. frozen orange juice concentrate

1 cup soy milk
1 cup water
1 TBSP organic pure cane sugar
2 TBSP vanilla whey protein
1 TBSP psyllium husk
2 TBSP orange-flavored Omega-3 supplement

1 tsp. vanilla extract
8-9 ice cubes

1. Combine all ingredients except ice cubes in blender.
2. Blend for about 1-2 minutes, adding ice cubes one at a time.

I am pretty sure I don't even need the orange juice concentrate.  I am thinking I will try it again this afternoon or tomorrow with fresh squeezed orange juice and perhaps add more whey protein or perhaps some kefir for probiotics and bulk.

My daughter loved the drink and I loved giving her something packed with vitamins, protein, Omega-3, and fiber that didn't contain 1/2 cup of sugar (although keep in mind that any kind of fruit juice concentrate is concentrated sugar!)  I love smoothies but unfortunately my daughter doesn't like most of them, so this was a good find for me.

Do you have any recipe makeovers that you like?  I'd love to read about them.