Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude.

May Reader’s Challenge of the Month

Posted May 3rd, 2012 by Salina with No Comments

So, I’m a little late on the Challenge of the Month this time, but I suppose that’s what I get for trusting myself to write it; that’ll teach me! In my defense, I have not written the challenge yet because I was mostly doing it (that is, avoiding my computer and work).

This month we are challenging you to disconnect, unplug, and take a break from your electronic devices. As someone who is on the computer nearly everyday, with Facebook as my main source of world news, I know that you are thinking “Yeah right”, or something along those lines. Relax! Obviously we cannot all shutoff our computers and cell phones for a week expect our worlds to keep spinning. What we CAN do is choose at least one day (or even a half day) each week to shut off our phones, stay off the computer (games, facebook, work, etc), shut off your TV, iPod, gaming systems, ALL of it!

Tell your friends and family that on Fridays, for example, you will not be checking email or texting on your phone.
If you have a job that has you tied to your electronics all day everyday, thing about where you maybe able to cut back.
If you have to be available on your phone, try not to spend the day texting or reading news.

What can you do without your electronic devices?!
~ Get outside: hiking, biking, walking, chalk the sidewalks, kick a can
~ Spend time making crafts
~ Read a book
~ Write a book (or a poem, whatev!)
~ Take class
~ Go to the gym
~ Bake
~ Cook a fancy meal
~ Organize that closet (or room, or bookshelf) that you “have not had time for”

The possibilities are endless! Disconnect at least one day each week for the month of May; do it more often if you are able. When you plug back in, tell us what you did in your down time. Tell us how it felt for you – was it easy or difficult to be disconnected? What device is the most difficult for you to give up?

Spring Cleaning: A More Natural Approach

Posted April 5th, 2012 by Linda with No Comments

Ah, the smell of a clean house. Smells like…nothing? In my house, that’s pretty much the case except maybe a hint of lemon or vinegar. I make most of my own cleaners and the few I don’t make don’t really have much of an odor. With an overly sensitive sense of smell (me) and allergies to just about everything (the kids and hubs), I like to keep the stink down, even if its a “good” stink.

So what do I use to clean up around here? My homemade cleaning arsenal consists of microfiber cloths, vinegar, baking soda, borax, washing soda, lemons, soap, and hydrogen peroxide (and I’m not going to lie – I still use some things that aren’t the best eco option, but I’m getting there).

Here’s what I use around my house:

Microfiber cloths: I use these for all kinds of things – wiping down the counters, dry dusting, soaking up spills, and as reusable floor sweeper pads. You can save some money by finding them in the automotive care aisle in bulk.

Vinegar: This is a very versatile cleaning tool. It’s a natural deodorizer and don’t worry, the smell disappears when it dries!

Undiluted, I use it to clear out hard water that clogs my shower heads and faucets. I just take a baggie, pour in some vinegar, put it over the faucet or shower head and hold it on with a rubber band. I let it sit overnight and then in the morning take off the baggie and run some hot water through. It works well in my dishwasher as a rinse aid and I also use it in my laundry as a natural fabric softener. I pour it into the little softener dispenser in my machine, but you can also just use a cup in the rinse cycle as well.

Mixed with water, its a great all-purpose spray for just about everything in the kitchen and bathroom. I use a 1/3 vinegar to 2/3 water mix in a spray bottle to clean my counters, stove, cabinets, sink, fridge, and floors. In the bathroom I use it as a daily spray to keep the hard water and soap scum to a minimum. I also use it on the mirrors and windows.

Baking soda: This is another multi-tasker in the cleaning arsenal. I’m sure most people know its a great deodorizer for the fridge and freezer, but its also great for gentle scouring, clearing drains, and cleaning the toilet. Clean your oven by making a paste of baking soda and water to use instead of the harsh, smelly oven cleaners. If the oven’s really dirty, leave the paste on overnight and wipe it off in the morning with a sponge.

Remember science class? Ever make an erupting volcano? If not, here’s your chance – pour some baking soda into the toilet, scrub around the bowl with your toilet brush and then pour in some vinegar and watch the fizz! Let it sit for about 5 minutes, do a final swish with the brush, and flush. You can use the same process to clear your drains as well – pour in baking soda, let it sit, follow with a few cups of hot water, then vinegar, and a few more cups of hot water. I will admit it’s not as quick and easy as the chemical-laden stuff – sometimes it takes repeating the process a few times.

Borax and washing soda: I make my own laundry detergent. It’s a whole lot easier than you’d think – really. I use Borax and washing soda (not baking soda), which can both be found in the laundry section of your store, in equal amounts combined with a bar of Fels Naptha or Ivory Soap. I haven’t really seen a difference in the cleaning power between the different soap brands, it was just what I had available at the time. I’ve also haven’t noticed any big differences in the cleanliness of my laundry after switching from the conventional brands. If the laundry needs an extra boost of deodorizing, I also sprinkle in some baking soda.

I’ve also tried using borax and washing soda in to make dishwasher detergent, but I wasn’t thrilled with the results. I may have my ratios off – I did 50/50, but my dishes felt gritty and looked hazy. I still haven’t found an alternative detergent for the dishwasher that cleans my dishes well enough, so I’m using a conventional product at the moment.

Lemons: These little citrus fruits not only make tasty beverages, they also make great cleaning tools! I use a salted lemon to clean the copper items I have in my home. I also use it in my shower to clean the spots that build up on the faucet and knobs. Although I’ve never tried it personally, I know people who have had luck getting stains out of their whites by soaking the stain in lemon juice and putting it out in the sun to dry.

This last one might be a “duh” one, but its something that people often overlook just because there are so many cleaning options out there – how about soap? Just make sure to check the kind that you use to make sure it doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals.

So, now that you know what I use – what do you use? Have any tips or tricks to share? Please leave a comment below!

April Reader’s Challenge of the Month

Posted April 2nd, 2012 by Linda with No Comments

Spring has sprung! Time to throw open the windows, clear out the clutter, and clean house. For this month’s challenge, we want to know: what cleaning methods do you use? Do you make your own or purchase them? What are your favorite brands? Do you have any tips or tricks?

Send us a comment below and fill us in on your spring cleaning routine and the products you use!

What’s in Your Basket?

Posted March 30th, 2012 by Salina with No Comments

My son was 6 months old on his first Easter. When I expressed my desire to create a basket for him that was not filled with sugar and chocolate many people thought I was crazy. I heard comments like: “It’s Easter, you have to put candy in his basket!” The boy was 6 months old, he did not need a basket full of candy; he couldn’t even eat candy (I found myself saying the same thing on his first few Halloweens)!

Everyone has their own traditions and boy, do they like to share their opinions if your ideas vary greatly from theirs (much like me in this post)! When I was growing up my mom did not like us to have a lot of sugar. She was not a health nut by any means, but she was afraid that my sisters and I would become diabetics if we had too much sugar. She would fill our baskets with fruit, snack-sized bags of chips, peanut butter-filled crackers, little coloring books, etc. We would also have jelly beans in the bottom of the basket and a family member would bring us each a chocolate bunny.

I loved Easter and have fond memories of the smells of fresh fruit mingling with the scent of Easter grass and jelly beans. The smell of oranges and bananas can still spark a memory of Easter morning. However, fresh fruit is not a novelty to my son like is was to four daughters of a single mom (fresh fruit can be expensive in mass quantities). So, I needed ideas that were different from my memories. I also have issues with buying little useless toys that are cheap but more of a choking hazard (and a break your ankle on it hazard) then entertainment for anyone. So, at 6 months old, the little guy’s first Easter basket was not a basket at all but a big stuffed bunny holding a book (or 2) and a DVD. The following year was probably something similar, I can’t really remember.

Last year was exciting, because he was 2 and a half and he could understand more what was happening. We dyed eggs for the first time, went on many egg hunts with friends, and his basket was over-flowing with coolness! Every year he gets a stuffed animal of some kind and a movie, last year he also got gardening tools, seeds, plant kits, a game, and some bubbles. The movie that he got was one that we had borrowed from the library several times, but is was all scratched up so we were never able to see the whole thing. His face lit up at the sight of it! I love that he can get so excited without having to be loaded-up with sugar and me being loaded with guilt for supplying it! That’s not to say he doesn’t have candy and other treats – he does. I just like to limit him from ingesting mass quantities all at once. I did give him a few jelly beans last year (not in his basket, just one day) and he was insane, almost literally bouncing off the walls! So we will still be avoiding the jelly beans. This year the bunny will be bringing craft supplies!

So, I am curious, what are your Easter traditions? What do you put in your child’s or your own basket that says “Easter” to you? Do you do candy or toys or something else all together?

Broccoli and Chickpea Pasta Salad

Posted March 21st, 2012 by Linda with No Comments

Need a quick meatless meal? With just a few ingredients you can make this tasty, healthy pasta salad!

12 oz. of pasta – penne, ditalini, rotini, bowtie, etc.
Broccoli, fresh or frozen, cut into florets
15 oz. can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 tbls. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of two lemons, about 1/4 cup
20 baby tomatoes, sliced into halves
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)
Parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Boil a large pot of salted water to a boil. If using fresh broccoli, add it to the water first. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the pot with a spoon and place into a separate bowl. Add the pasta into the pot and cook according to package directions.
2. In a large skillet, heat oil. Add in garlic and crushed red pepper, if desired. Saute for 1-2 minutes. If you are using frozen broccoli, follow package directions, making sure not to over cook. Add broccoli and chickpeas, salt to taste. Cook for 3-4 minutes.
3. Drain pasta and return it to the pot. Add in the chickpea and broccoli mixture, tomatoes, and lemon juice and combine.
4. Spoon the pasta salad into bowls and top with shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired.

This pasta salad is light and fresh, thanks to minimal ingredients and the tart flavor of the lemon juice. Store the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. This is a tasty meal served warm or cold – warm it up for a quick lunch or serve it cold on a hot summer night!

My Baby’s Eyes

Posted March 6th, 2012 by Salina with No Comments

On March 5th , 2010, the President declared that the first week of March each year would be Save Your Vision Week, during which time people are encouraged to raise awareness regarding eye and vision care. So, I feel that this is a good week to share my personal experience on the subject.

My son is 3 years old and he started wearing glasses one year ago this month. The question that everyone asked me when they saw his new glasses or when meeting him for the first time was, “How did you know he needed glasses”? He was so young, even people who were not parents yet were curious. What were the signs? How did we know? This is what I tell them about how we discovered he needed glasses and how lucky we were to catch it so early.
Within the first week of my son’s life I noticed that he was waking in the mornings with green “crusties” in his left eye and when he was awake, tears pooled in his eye and ran down his cheek. Having had conjunctivitis (pink eye) a couple of times in my life I immediately thought that’s what he might have. We took him to the doctor and I was relieved to find out that my week-old baby had not contracted pink eye. Instead, he had what the doctor called a clogged tear duct. He told us that sometimes when babies are born their ducts have not opened, but that it may open on its own in time. He said that we would give it a year and if it did not open up on its own he would refer us to an ophthalmologist.

That first year came and went in a flash and at his one year check-up that left eye was still leaking. Our doctor scheduled an appointment with a pediatric ophthalmologist and told me that the duct would likely have to be opened surgically.

About a week later I packed him (my son, not the doctor) into the car and drove an hour to see this specialist. After another hour in a hot, crowded waiting area with a restless one-year-old, who’d missed nap time, we were finally called into see the doctor. Then we had another 15 minutes of waiting in a room full of things requiring repetitive use of the phrase, “No, no, don’t touch!”

When the doctor finally came in, there was barely an introduction before she squeezed some drops in his eyes and left us for another 10 minutes to allow the tears to drain (or something like that). When she returned she looked at his eyes with a special light. The pooling tears glowed yellow in the left eye confirming that they were not draining from his eye. (Did I mention how the eye was always dripping with tears?) Anyway, she took a minute to show me a pamphlet and explain how tear ducts function, which was actually pretty neat:

Tears drain from your eye through a tiny hole in the inside corner of each eye, these ducts run through your nasal passages and drain into your throat. When you blink, excess tears drain from your eyes through these ducts. When you cry, more tears are produced faster then they can flow through the ducts which causes tears to spill from your eyes and run down your face, and also causes your nose to run because they overflow into there too!

She told me that I needed to schedule a surgery where they would stick a tube into the duct to open it up and leave it there for a number of weeks. She said time was of the essence because the older he got the less likely it was that the surgery would take (the duct could build scar tissue and close again). She warned that he would be super upset and cranky when he first woke up from the anesthesia, and she gave me directions to the hospital for the surgery. Then she sent us out to the receptionist to schedule the surgery and get a quote for the cost of the surgery – $800.

I left the office feeling frustrated, scared, and unsure. I just did not have a great feeling about this doctor or her office. Although I learned in detail how tear ducts work, I felt like she told me very little about the surgery and what exactly she was going to do to my baby. Her bedside manner was cold in the way that some doctors get when they do the same thing day in and day out, as if they forget that some of us have never done this before. I was way too nervous and unsettled about the whole thing. Now if this had been about me, I would have just shrugged off my bad feeling and went ahead with the planned surgery, but this was my baby and if I wasn’t going to make sure that he was getting the best treatment, who would? I could not send him into a surgery with someone I didn’t feel comfortable with. So after talking about it with my husband and my best friend, I called my family physician and asked them to find me another pediatric specialist because I wanted a second opinion.

The new doctor, Dr. Brown, was also an hour away, but the experience was like night and day. For starters, the office was not crowded and they had a play room for kids! The doctor was friendly, she talked to my son as well as to me, but most importantly she did a complete eye exam on him. It had not occurred to me at the other office, but the other doctor never checked his eyes past the tears!

Dr. Brown asked if we had been massaging the tear duct to encourage it to open. Umm, what? We had not been doing that, no one had even mentioned that. I am a massage therapist, I’m all about trying massage to help anything! She showed me how to do it and suggested that we massage the eye three times a day. Then, because he was over a year old (I think 15 months at that time) and his duct had not opened on it’s own she also recommended surgery. She explained the entire procedure, showed me photos of children who’d had the surgery and what exactly it looked like to have a tube in his tear duct, how long it would be in there, how to take care of it, and even how to deal with other people who might try to help me “get something off the baby’s face”. The earliest she could to the surgery was about a month away and in the meantime we should be doing the massage three times a day. Even better the cost of the surgery was going to be $80 versus the $800 the first doctor quoted!

During the vision exam, she asked me (because I wear glasses) if I had ever been told that an astigmatism was my main issue. I explained that I have one but had never been told that it was the main problem with my vision. She explained that she’d noticed a significant astigmatism in my son’s eye and that we should watch him because it could lead to a condition called amblyopia which is unequal focus in the eyes and can lead to a “lazy eye” or “wandering eye”. She asked if anyone in the family had this issue because it can be genetic. Turns out that this condition is on both my and my husband’s side of the family.

I left Dr. Brown’s office quite glad I got another opinion. I was still a little nervous about the idea of my baby having surgery, but I was glad that this woman was going to be the one doing it. Later that day I told my husband the doctor’s recommendation to massage the duct three times a day and we started doing the massage at least once a day – do you have any idea how difficult it is to get a baby to let you stick your finger in the corner of his eye and rub around in there for 30 seconds?!

About 3 weeks later, almost exactly 1 week before the scheduled surgery, I realized at breakfast one day that his eye was dry. When I thought about it I had not cleaned any “crusties” from his eyes that morning either. How long had it been dry? I couldn’t say. We watched the eye closely for a few more days and discovered that the massage had worked! His eye was no longer crusty or drippy! When I called the office to share the news, the doctor got on the phone with me personally and confirmed that we should cancel the surgery. She also scheduled an appointment for one year to check on that astigmatism she had noticed.

The following year we took him back to the doctor. His condition had not improved so she hooked him up with some sweet glasses – red like Mommy’s. Which reminds me of the second question everyone asked, “How do you get him to keep them on?”

We found three things that worked for us. First, I tried to get him really excited about having glasses. He helped pick out his frames, decided what color, and for the week it took to have his glasses made we talked endlessly about people who wear glasses, friends and family, people on TV, cartoon characters, anyone we saw, etc. Second, I wear glasses. As soon as I told him he needed glasses he asked if they would be red like mine. So, we got him red glasses and I made a big deal about how cool our glasses were and I made sure to wear my glasses. Third, I just have a really good kid. The doctor had told us that we should try to get him to wear the glasses 50% of the time that he spent indoors (he didn’t have to wear them to run around outside). He wore them 90-100% of the time that he was awake.

Since then we have been going back every six weeks (sometimes a little longer) to check the progress, see if his vision is improving, make sure the prescription is correct, and do what we can to prevent his dominant eye from taking over and the weak one from shutting down and weakening the muscles in the eye causing a “lazy eye”. Right now he wears his glasses all the time and we patch his good eye for two hours a day to strengthen the weaker eye.

If he had not had that clogged duct that lead us through this process we might not have known that he had any issue with his vision until the eye began to wander. I don’t think I would have thought to take him to the eye doctor at such a young age and I had no idea that this was a genetic condition.

Children should be given general vision checks by their pediatrician or physician within the first year and if the doctor suspects an issue they will recommend a more in-depth exam. According to, your child’s eyes should be checked around 6 months, 3 years, 5 years and at least every two years after that. However, you can always have your child’s eyes checked sooner or more often if you suspect a problem or if there are genetic conditions that run in your family.

March Reader’s Challenge of the Month

Posted March 5th, 2012 by Linda with No Comments

I hope last month’s love meditation left you feeling all warm and fuzzy. This month marks the beginning of Daylight Savings, St. Patrick’s Day, and spring! Depending on where you are, maybe you’re seeing the signs already.

This is the perfect time to start planning your garden! Here are some of the basics to consider in your planning:

  • How big will your garden be? Containers? Raised bed? Small plot of land?
  • What are you going to plant? Flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables, or maybe a mix?
  • Will you start from seed, bulb, transplant?
  • Annuals or perennials?

  • I know for me, I never know what to plant when, so this year I’m going to try using SproutRobot, a website that tells you when to plant and, if you sign up for a subscription, sends you the seeds. I’ve opted to go with just the email route, since I’m cheap, and I prefer to buy my own seeds and transplants locally.

    So, our challenge this month – let us know what your gardening plans are this year! Comment below and tell us about your garden and we’ll update you on our progress as well!

    Tilapia Corn Chowder

    Posted February 24th, 2012 by Linda with No Comments

    Here’s a healthy, delicious fish chowder for those observing Lent or just for those of you who enjoy tasty soups!

    1 teaspoon canola oil
    2 stalk celery, diced
    2 carrots, diced
    1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
    ½ yellow onion, finely chopped
    1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1-2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
    2 tbls. fresh parsley, minced or 1 tbls. dried parsley
    2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, diced into half-inch pieces
    2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
    1 pound tilapia fillets, cut into bite-size pieces
    1 cup half-and-half
    2 teaspoons lemon juice
    4 cups of chicken broth, 2 cans
    Parmesan cheese (optional)

    1. Add oil to your stock pot and heat to medium-high. Add celery, carrots, pepper, onion, salt and black pepper and cook until the vegetables just begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook another 3 minutes.
    2. Add broth, potatoes, and corn. Bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until the potatoes are just tender and the corn is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.
    3. Stir in tilapia and parsley; return to a gentle simmer. Cook until the tilapia is cooked through, about 4-6 minutes more. Remove from the heat.
    4. Stir in half-and-half and lemon juice. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese.

    Tip:For more flavor try adding cooked, chopped turkey bacon or using herb-infused broths.

    Warm Up This Winter with a Healthy Soup

    Posted January 24th, 2012 by Linda with No Comments

    January is National Soup month – a perfect meal for the colder winter months! Try this yummy recipe:

    Chickpea and Cauliflower Soup

    1 tbsp. olive oil
    3-6 cloves garlic; chopped
    1 small head or ½ large head cauliflower; chopped
    3-4 cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas); drained (and rinsed if desired)
    4 cups vegetable broth
    Herbamare to taste (if you can’t find Herbamare, use a mix of Sea Salt, onion, chive, parsley, garlic, basil, marjoram, rosemary, and thyme)

    In a large pot, warm olive oil over medium heat and add chopped garlic. Sauté garlic until it just starts to brown. Do NOT burn.

    Add beans, cauliflower and some Herbamare to pot, stir.

    Add vegetable broth. Bring to a boil over medium high heat.

    Reduce heat to medium/low. Cover and simmer 30 minutes or until cauliflower is tender.

    Remove soup from heat. Puree with hand blender until smooth.

    Serve hot.


    ~ If you do not have a hand blender soup can be pureed with a regular blender. Carefully add the soup to a blender a little bit at a time. Puree.

    ~ Try adding sautéed squash or vegetables to the soup just before serving.

    Healthy After-Party Breakfast

    Posted January 1st, 2012 by Salina with No Comments

    If you didn’t see our suggestion on Facebook for a “Mocktail” or chose to party it up anyway you might be ringing in the New Year With a hangover. So if your head is pounding and your stomach feels less then settled fight the urge to skip breakfast and try this recipe from Whole Living Magazine (Dec. 2010) that might just help you feel like yourself again.

    Oatmeal with Blueberries, Walnuts, and Bananas

    Serves 1
    Per Serving: 544 Calories; 2g saturated fat; 12g unsaturated fat; 0mg cholesterol; 91g carb; 87mg sodium; 14g protein

    1 1/2 cups water
    3/4 cup rolled oats
    1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    Pinch kosher salt
    1/4 cup frozen blueberries
    1/2 banana, sliced
    2 tablespoons toasted walnuts, chopped
    1 tablespoon maple syrup, or to taste

    Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan.
    Add oats, cinnamon, and salt.
    Reduce to a steady simmer and cook,
    stirring occasionally, until oats are
    tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in
    frozen blueberries. Top with banana,
    walnuts, maple syrup, and skim milk,
    if desired.

    According to the article the omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts will help reduce inflammation and the blueberries are packed with vitamin C and antioxidants. Potassium rich bananas can help balance electrolytes that are lost from dehydration.

    Cinnamon also has anti-inflammatory properties and, according to, adding it to high carb foods may reduce the impact the carbs have on your blood sugar levels. Adding maple syrup rather than refined table sugar will also help keep your blood sugar in check.

    Make sure that throughout the day you drink plenty of water. Staying active can also help shake the horrible hangover feeling, so get out of bed and do something.

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