Category Archives: wellness

Nature’s Bounty: Fresh from the Farmer’s Market

“All my hurts my garden spade can heal.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

A dream of mine is to grow a lot of my own food and flowers.  Alas, a garden is a demanding avocation.  So, I must set aside that dream for now as my schedule does not permit.  In the meanwhile, thankfully, there is the farmer’s market.

I go to the farmer’s market usually every other week.  To me, it is an almost magical place.  The veggies and fruit seem more ravishing than jewels.  It makes me happy to gaze upon them, nestled in their display cases, practically bursting with delicious ripeness.  I was so excited by the first Long Island tomatoes, you would have thought it was my birthday.

One of the greatest pleasures is eating, fresh, ripe fruit and veggies in season!  I buy almost all organic produce when I shop at the supermarket but not even that tastes quite as delicious as food that was picked within a day of when I purchased it.  That first bite of tomato was like eating sunshine, the rain and the rich earth all in the form of a juicy, delectable, plump, meaty red tomato!  There is something very satisfying and right about eating tomatoes or corn, grown in the same environment you live in.

The farm I buy from is about 90 miles from my home or just shy of a two hour drive.  (The farmer’s market is about five miles away.  I really appreciate the farmers doing the lion’s share of the driving!)  While there is no universal agreement on what makes food local for a consumer.  100 miles has become the standard for many.  So, let’s go with that, shall we?

I think eating food that is grown locally is important for several reasons.  Taste is number one, as you probably already surmised by the way I went on and on in the previous paragraphs.  A close second is that you are buying the food from the people who grew it.  So, they can tell you in detail what their practices are and you can decide if they meet your standards.  Also, you are supporting people in your community by purchasing from them.  The last one I am going to mention is freshness.  Much of the produce you buy in the supermarket is not picked at maximum ripeness.  It is picked early to keep it from rotting in transit.  So, you are not getting the maximum flavor and nutrition, you would have enjoyed had it been allowed to ripen on the vine.

Do you go to your local farmer’s market?  What is your favorite part about going there? Please leave me a reply and let me know in the comments section.

Many blessings to all,

 

Cynthia

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Unnatural Necessity: Making the Daily Commute Delightful!

Delightful Commuting? Okay, that may always be a bit of stretch but there are ways to make the daily crawl better. Trust me, I’m an expert! I’ve been driving on average three hours a day, five days a week for two years and 10 months. The first year really sucked but I have learned a few tips and tricks that I will now pass onto you.

Tip #1: Be prepared

Shit happens sometimes. When you have over 30 miles to cover each way like I do, you’re going to be late from time to time. I live on an island. So, when there’s an accident (or two or three) you just sit at a total standstill for a half hour, utterly trapped. However, if you’re already running late when you encounter a mess like that… you’re going to be massively late and you don’t want that to happen. So, make sure you are out the door in enough time to reasonably make it to work.

Tip #2: Get as much as you can done before you leave

This is something I just learned recently. The morning is when you will have the most energy. If you are like me and spend easily half the day at work or going to and from it, you’re going to be tired at night. I usually come home, shower, eat dinner, relax a little and go to sleep. Exercise is not going to happen at night for me. I would also recommend that you do something every day that makes you happy before you leave. So, you’ll have something to smile about on your way to work.

Tip #3 Make your nose happy

I am a fan of aromatherapy. I have an arsenal of essential oils that I use daily on me, around me and sometimes in me. I diffuse scent in my car as well as my home. You can too. All it takes is a little diffuser that you can plug into your car’s cigarette lighter socket. I can change the scent in the car to suit my mood (or improve it.) Stuck in traffic, I might go with lavender. If I feel sluggish, I might reach for grapefruit or peppermint. Peppermint, by the way, is really great for motion sickness!

Tip #4 Make your ears happy

I used to listen to news throughout my whole commute. Big mistake! I often felt crabby and irritable or sad by the time I got to work, about all the miserable things being reported that I felt helpless to change. Now, I mostly listen to audiobooks. A long commute is a great time to indulge in your favorite genre, finally “read” the classics you never seem to get to or take time for self-improvement. Of course, there is always music. Just make sure you’re paying attention and not playing a big air guitar or dashboard drum solo!

Tip#5 Stretch when you get out of the car

When you are stuck, seated, in your car for a long time, you tend to want to jump out of the car and run into your destination. Try slowly making your way out of your vehicle. Stretch your legs and rotate your feet before standing. Then stretch your arms overhead, shifting your weight to both sides and stretching up from center. Rotate your shoulders. Twist from side to side. Have you ever noticed your dog or cat doing this when they have been curled up for a while? It’s natural for them. Try it. You’ll like it!

Tip #6 Change up your route from time to time

Familiarity breeds contempt. Taking the same route five days a week, every week, year after year, can feel relentless, repetitive… boring! Change it up sometimes. Every once in a while, I’ll go a little out of my way and drive home along the water. Seeing the water always makes me happy. Instead of stopping for gas when you get home, pull off the parkway where the traffic backs up and get it early. You’ll get a little break and ensure you won’t leave it off until tomorrow because you were too tired when you got home. Also, it’s good for your brain! (More on this in another post.)

I hope you found some of these tips helpful. What do you do to make your commute bearable? Please leave a reply in the comments section. I would love to hear from you!

Blessings to all,

 

Cynthia

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Natural Way to Start the Day: Summertime Smoothie

Summer is the season of the green smoothie! You can get all your ingredients fresh from the Farmer’s Market. The best foods for our bodies are the ones that are available in season. Getting fruit and veggies from the Farmer’s market ensures that they were grown locally and that they were picked when ripe.

I start every morning with a green smoothie. (When I didn’t get to make it yesterday. I really REALLY missed it!)  Here is what I have been putting in my blender lately:

Summertime Green Smoothie Recipe

Two big handfuls of Kale

The juice of a quarter slice of lemon

One peach, stone removed but skin intact

One cup of almond milk

One banana

Two tablespoons of Chia Seeds (These are rich in protein and fiber!)

I usually just throw it all in the blender and whirl it up. If I remember I will soak the chia seeds in the almond milk first. (Soaking seeds speeds up the time in which you digest them.) Most of the time, I just toss them in the blender with everything else. They still get the job done!

Another variation on this recipe that I like is to replace the peach with a few slices of melon. I try not to go overboard on the fruit. Although it is healthy, spiking your sugar first thing in the morning might have you crashing soon after you get to work.

Do you drink green smoothies in the morning? What do you put in yours? Please let me know in the comments section. I would love to hear from you.

Many blessings to All,

 

Cynthia

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Natural Lady: Red Raspberry Leaf to the Rescue!

Any woman who has ever suffered from PMS and menstrual symptoms knows it feels like torture just to get through the day. Cramps, fatigue, headaches, bloating, food cravings, irritability… the list of crappy things that make life a trial for a week to two weeks every single month seems endless! It’s embarrassing to me that I didn’t know before this year, there is a natural remedy that helps mightily with all these symptoms, Red Raspberry Leaf!

I endured bad menstrual symptoms for decades. Although I always prefer to use natural remedies when I am ailing, it was hard to get through a really bad period without popping Advil or Pamprin. I would do my best to avoid it. I found some relief from cramps with Lemon Balm tea (an anti-spasmodic) but if I got a headache, it was all over, I reached for the over-the-counter meds. Then a few months ago, I was researching some other herb and came across Red Raspberry Leaf. It was a total coincidence that I am forever grateful for!

I was skeptical that one herb would help relieve all my symptoms but I was willing to try anything.  Unbelievably, it worked right away. My cramps were gone within 40 minutes of taking it and stayed gone for many hours afterward. The fatigue and foggy head feeling lifted. I felt more like myself.   You know how when you have when you have a bad period; you don’t even feel quite human? Gone! Mood swings- gone! Cravings- gone! (This is a big deal for me. When I have my period, I usually can’t get enough salt which, of course, didn’t help with the bloating.) Red Raspberry Leaf thankfully does help with the bloating too!

I don’t know if results are the same for every woman but I will share with you what I do. I take one herbal capsule each day, starting a few days before I expect my period to arrive. When I get my period, usually I can get by with one capsule in the morning and one before I go to bed.   However, I carry the bottle with me and if I begin to get crampy, I will take another one, similar to how I used to take Advil, as needed. So far, so good! This has been working for me for my last three cycles. I have read other women prefer to drink Red Raspberry Leaf tea daily and that works for them. I like the sound of that but prefer the convenience of capsules.

So, if you experience painful, tortuous periods, you may want to give Red Raspberry Leaf a try. Please let me know what natural remedies you have used when you have your period in the comments section. I would love to hear from you!

Many blessings to all,

Cynthia

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Being (a) Patient: Progress Isn’t Always Pretty!

Five days from now,  I will go to my uber-talented prosthodontic clinician who will once again rebuild my much abused flipper.

What’s a flipper?  A flipper is a dental prosthesis that simulates teeth that are missing.  It’s used by damaged people like me and pint-sized beauty queens  who are in between their baby teeth and adult teeth.

I have not been able to wear my flipper for over a month, due to a complication with the augmentation bone graft, I had done in  September to restore the bone I lost when I fell.  Originally, my periodontist cut my flipper back to keep it away from the graft.  However, it was still cutting off the circulation to my gum.  So, I had to lose it to ensure the best possible result.

I have mixed feelings about wearing it again.  Physically, I am more comfortable without it.  It tastes like plastic.  It presses against my gum and hard palate all day.  It makes me gag.  It make me cough.  It makes me angry.  It reminds me to hold the handrail on stairs.  Emotionally though, it makes me feel safe.  It makes me feel like maybe people will think I just have adult braces.  It makes me feel less… vulnerable.  I don’t like to feel vulnerable.

I keep my top lip pulled down when talking to people.  When I laugh or even smile, my hand flies up to cover the gap left behind by my two missing front teeth.  I’ve realized since this has happened that a toothy grin can compensate for more than just physical insecurities though.  When you can’t flash a smile, tilt your head and toss your hair, your personality flaws become glaringly obvious.  When it comes to conversation, I’m not an artist.

I think, perhaps, writers are writers because it gives us a chance to express what we would have liked to have said in any given moment, if only we could have thought of it at the time.  If only…

I am determined to learn from this experience and be better for having gone through it.  I don’t know exactly what that looks like yet.  Habits form over decades; not all at once.  Change doesn’t happen all at once.  I hope that by the time this is all over that I can look back and see that I have taken one step at a time in the right direction.

Love and Many blessings to All,

Cynthia

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Naturally Fit: Keep It Moving… So, You CAN Keep It Moving!

“Get up off that thang!  And make yourself feel better!”  Okay, I know the lyric is really “…shake ‘til you feel better.”  Either way, studies are proving that James Brown had it right.  Sitting is BAD for you! And I mean bad; not, you know, like bad means good.  Sitting apparently is awful for you.

Just do a Google search on “sitting is bad” and everyone from Huff Post to ABC to the Washington Post etc. will tell you all about it.  Sitting has even been called, “the new smoking.” I heard about it on Leonard Lopate.  The gist is you need to move! We are not built to spend nine hours a day in front of a computer or tv.  When we sit around, we’re not burning fat and our circulation gets sluggish.  This creates all sorts of problems that can shorten our lives, like obesity, metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease, increased blood pressure, high cholesterol levels etc. etc., etc.!

“Cynthia, I go to the gym 5 days a work. This isn’t a problem for me,” you say. Congrats on the commitment you’ve made to exercise.  Unfortunately, it’s not enough.  Prolonged daily sitting is still risky even if you do exercise regularly. When we sit our muscles get stiff and shorten and circulation slows down.  One hour of daily exercise isn’t going to compensate for 9 to 13 hours of being sedentary.

“I can’t quit my job or make my commute shorter, Cynthia! What am I supposed to do?” Oh, don’t I know it!  You CAN move your muscles every 15 minutes or so. Make it a habit to get up and walk around. Go for a lap around the block or just around the building.  Can’t spare the time? Walk to the bathroom and back.  Can’t get away from office at all? Just get up, stretch, walk in place… stand, just stand up and wiggle a little! The point is to move your body.

I found a few videos on youtube.com that I’ve found helpful to keep moving at work. They take just a couple of minutes. Here’s one to check out by Denise Austin. She has a bunch of these targeting different parts of the body.

Denise Austin Total Body Toning Office Workout

The benefits are not just physical either. Getting up and moving is also helpful for mental capacity. People who make the effort to move throughout the day have reported feeling more creative and having greater mental clarity. And that should make everyone at work happy!

How do you keep it moving at work? I would love to hear from you.

Love and Blessings to All,

 

Cynthia

 

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Natural Hair Care: Are You Caring for Your Hair or Just Styling It?

I stopped coloring my hair sometime in the spring of 2012.  I figured at a certain point in life, you just have to be good enough the way you are.  And I figured if my hair is more brown than blonde these days, well, I’m still loveable.

When I moved in with my folks after Hurricane Sandy, Mom threatened for a while to highlight my hair while I was sleeping… “Come on, just a few to frame your face, Cindy.”  She realized though that I was serious about going natural and eventually gave up.

My natural hair care has since gone even wilder than putting a halt on chemical color.  I noticed that although my hair wasn’t breaking off as much when I stopped, it still seemed to break more than I felt it should.  A little investigation revealed that harsh chemicals aren’t just in hair color and lighteners; they are in nearly every mass-market, commercial hair product we use.   I’m not just talking about mousse, hairspray and gel; they are in your shampoo and conditioner too.  Grab a bottle of anything you use on your hair (or face or body) and see how many of the ingredients you can pronounce.

In the interest of keeping your interest and this blog post a considerate length, I will not be explaining the perils of every ingredient.  (You’re welcome!) One of the biggest culprits in shampoo and body washes is Sodium Laureth (Lauryl) Sulfate, a foaming agent.  Ohhhh, I like a rich foamy lather!  The problem is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a known skin and eye irritant.  It’s kind of funny that we would choose to slather our skin with something that irritates it.  Are we all a bunch of masochists?  The other big concern with SLS is the manufacturing process, know as ethoxylation, produces 1,4 dioxane contamination, a known carcinogen.  Products with SLS contain traces of these 1,4 dioxanes.

It’s easy to dismiss it and say “weeeeelllll, if it is only trace amounts… is it really going to cause cancer?”  Well, I don’t know but when you consider how often most people wash their hair and skin… you are putting this stuff all over your body every day!  That’s a pretty significant environmental toxin if you ask me.

Sulfates are not just potentially poisonous; they also damage your hair and skin.  Ironic, right?  Harsh chemicals in all types of hair care products are dehydrating your hair and stripping off the natural oils that make your hair naturally soft and shiny.  The more products you use, the more you damage your hair.  Then the more you damage your hair, you use even MORE products to make it look shiny and healthy again.  The crazy part is that if we didn’t use these products (or heated styling tools) our hair would be shiny and healthy!  Even more ironic, right?!

Americans never used to wash or style their hair this much.  I remember my Nana would get her hair washed and set once a week.  That shellac-ed masterpiece looked about the same going into the salon, as it did coming out.  I don’t want my hair to look like a helmet but it does show, you can go a week without shampooing and your hair won’t smell or look greasy.

You might think your hair is especially oily and needs to be shampooed every day.  I did.  However, the truth is that is how you trained your scalp.  When you constantly strip your natural oils away, your scalp makes more oil to compensate.  When you stop shampooing all the time, your scalp will slow down the oil production.  At this point, I wash my hair twice a week: on Wednesdays, I shampoo and condition it (with a low hazard, organic shampoo and conditioner); over the weekend, I do a baking soda wash and apple cider vinegar rinse (acv).  I have fine hair.  So, if it looks a touch oily in between washes, I sprinkle a little arrow root powder on it to absorb the oil.  I find this also creates volume at the roots.  How nifty is that?  No mousse or hairspray.  All natural, you can even eat it.

A good rule of thumb in general… if you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, you probably want to at least limit how much you put on your skin.

So, tell me, how often do you shampoo?

Love and Blessings to all,

Cynthia

Resources:

Are you intrigued by washing your hair with baking soda and rinsing it with apple cider vinegar?  Crunchy Betty has already laid it out brilliantly http://www.crunchybetty.com/no-poo-to-you-too

Would you like to know the hazard level on the products you use?  Then you might want to check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database,  http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/  There is an app you can download to your smartphone or apple mobile device to scan bar codes.  So, you can be informed before you purchase.

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Balancing Through the Holidays: Am I Grinch?

How we doing?  Are all you turkey-eaters wandering around Black Friday-Shop Small Saturday-and whatever marketers have deemed today is-sales in a tryptophan haze?  Did ya drink, eat and party a little too much this week?  Exercise a little too little? Okay, take three nice, slow, easy breathes.  Pour yourself a big glass of water, squeeze a little lemon in it (if you have it… ) and read on.

Every year from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, I kind of feel like I am holding my breath.  Then on New Year’s Day, I exhale with relief that it is all over.  I know there are people that wait all year long for just this time and revel in it (probably in the same way I feel about late Spring and Summer) but I imagine that I am not alone in finding all the trappings, over-indulgence and pressure of the Season a bit OVERWHELMING (if I could make that word blink like a neon sign I would.)

I gave away my Christmas decorations in 2010 and opted for just a fresh wreath on my front door ever since.  I lived alone and didn’t celebrate the holidays at home.  So what was I buying a tree and hanging pine boughs and lights every year for?  My mom thinks it makes me a bit of a Grinch but it’s been one of my better decisions.  We are all bombarded with holiday images and music everywhere we go from now until New Year’s.  For me, it was really nice to pass that wreath and be at home where I can control the stimuli I am influenced by.

It is really easy to get knocked off balance by brilliant marketers who want us to consume more, our own sense of guilt and obligation to make sure other people are happy and just the sheer volume of temptation that is available this time of year.  It is REALLY easy to overdo everything: spending, eating and drinking…

So, this is my suggestion:  Take a pause.  Before buying holiday gifts, pause and remind yourself what you can afford to spend.  Before grabbing that decadent, beautiful oh-so-tempting red velvet cupcake, pause and say to yourself, “I am going to enjoy this because I make healthy choices at least 80% of the time and I exercise regularly.” (If you don’t eat healthfully and exercise regularly, pause and ask yourself, “when I am I going to determine that I am worthy of being healthy and feeling good?”)  Before you grab that cocktail, pause and remind yourself what your limit is for the evening and determine to drink a full glass of water in between each drink.

Since we’re doing all this pausin’, the end of the year is a really good time to pause and reflect back on everything that has happened over the last eleven months and determine what we are grateful for.  And really isn’t that Thanksgiving is all about?

By the way, I am very grateful for all the people who take time to read my blog.  Thank you so much!  I also really appreciate the comments, wisdom and kind words readers have shared.  You guys rock!

Love and Blessings to All,

Cynthia

 

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Vitamin D: Have you drunk the Kool-Aid?

I may have mentioned this once or two dozen times before: I am not a fan of supplements.  I have tried them over the years with various results but on the on the whole, I don’t think people should take them if they don’t need them.  So, when all the hoopla started over Vitamin D supplements, I found myself cynically noting how many of these Vitamin D pushing doctors were associated with supplement companies.

Let me be clear that I do I think there are times when supplements may be necessary.  Like so many other things I normally avoid but have had to embrace this year: conventional medicine, prescription pain-killers and protein shakes, I’ve begun using some supplements again for various lengths of time.  The only one that I take regularly is a Vitamin B-12.  I take it because my diet is essentially vegan and provides no opportunities for me to consume the bacterial by-product we like to call Vitamin B12.

By the way, there are serious doubts as to whether or not meat-eaters are getting proper amounts of B12 either.  Some studies have shown that meat-eaters are as deficient in B12 as strict vegetarians.  Other studies indicate that the amount of B12 required to avoid deficiency is so small that it is usually a non-issue for most people.  I like science, especially when it helps me win an argument, but at the end of the day, my best indicator of whether I need something or not is how I feel.  I know that when I go too long without a B12 supplement, I feel off.

I’d been taking B12 regularly.  So, I knew that wasn’t the reason I felt out of sorts in early September this year.  It was like winter came early.  I felt like I was dragging and had the blues.  As someone with a history of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), I don’t take this feeling lightly.  I had been feeling like this for a while when I went outside and laid in the sun with shorts and bikini top on and soaked in the September afternoon sun for an hour.  I felt significantly better and began to wonder if I was deficient in Vitamin D.

The sun is the best source for Vitamin D and I knew I wasn’t getting enough.  I have a long work day with a long commute.  Getting outside seems next to impossible most of the time.  Mushrooms and almonds contain Vitamin D; many soy products are also fortified with Vitamin D (as is cow’s milk) but it seemed doubtful that I would consume enough to make up for the lack of sunshine in my life.  Determined to avoid a wrestling with a bout of CFS (atop my current dental issues), I gave in and bought the vitamins.  About a week later, I started feeling better.  The blues subsided and my energy became unstuck.  You could probably make an argument for a placebo effect but either way, it worked.  I felt better and have been taking them ever since.

What are your thoughts and/or experiences with Vitamin D?  Please leave a comment.  I would love to hear from you.

Love and Blessings to All,

Cynthia

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What is a Quick, Easy, Natural Way to Chase the Blahs Away?

What is the quickest easiest way to chase the blahs away?  Buy new underwear!

I am not kidding.  Go look at your underwear drawer right now.  Pull out at least three pairs of panties that are ready for retirement.  Go ahead, I’ll wait… It’ll only take two seconds if you are anything like I used to be.

I have a confession to make.   I was something of an underwear hoarder.  My drawer was filled to the brim with old underpants.  If they didn’t fall off when I put them on, they were keepers.  Then one day while I was folding the laundry, I noticed the sorry, motley lot of undies that had been covering my tushy (Never know whether I am spelling that correctly,) in some cases for more than a decade.  Yikes!

You found more than three; didn’t you?  Why do we do this?  Why do we hold onto things that are ripped, frayed, old and faded?  Think about this for a minute.  Your underwear is the first item of clothing you put on every morning.  Look at the three pathetic has-beens you just pulled out of your dresser; is that really how you want to start your day?   Do you feel confident going out into the world with those on!?!  Please throw them out right now and go pick up new ones in the next 24 hours.  Don’t tell me you can’t afford it.  If you can read this blog right now, you can afford to treat yourself to some new underwear.

I am not talking about anything fancy.  They don’t have to be silk, satin, mink (please don’t buy mink!) or certainly not diamond-encrusted, but for Goodness’ sake, they better not have a safety-pin holding them together either!  (Yep, you know who you are!) Do yourself a favor; toss those three pairs right now and go buy yourself three, new, all-cotton panties… briefs, bikinis…whatever makes you happy but dammit they should be cute!  And you should feel cute when you put them on in the morning.

On a naturally healthy note, all cotton is a really good idea. Synthetic fabrics can be irritating to delicate skin. It’s also important to keep it breezy down there.  Cotton allows for more airflow and less moisture.  Moisture can lead to infections and unpleasant odor.  That’s not cute!

Okay, you have your orders, now go!  You’ll be glad you did.

Love and Blessings to All,

Cynthia

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