Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bedtime Relaxation Tips for Busy Moms

Who is busier than moms? With careers, children and homes to care for, it’s no wonder so many of us are tired all the time. But you can still relax and get the sleep you need with these helpful tips.

A mom’s work is never done. We care for everyone else but who takes care of us? For now, we will have to help ourselves. The first thing to do is get some sleep.

Sleep is important. It is during sleep that the body shuts down all non-vital systems and repairs itself. When we slack on sleep, we are doing ourselves a disservice. It is hard to make up lost sleep, and most adults need at least eight hours a night.

For moms, the trick is often getting to sleep. Our minds reel with the day’s activities and what we have to do tomorrow.

To quiet the mind, relaxation tips are needed. It is not just a matter of getting rest but preparing so that sleep is restful and not just a bunch of tossing and turning.

Bedtime Relaxation Tips

* Yoga – Usually exercise is discouraged before bed. Vigorous exercise gives you energy a bit like caffeine, and can prevent sleep. But, yoga is a stretching exercise that relaxes the body one muscle at a time. Practicing yoga an hour or so before bedtime can prepare you to rest when you need to.

Massage for Relaxation
Massage for Relaxation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* Massage – Enlist your loving partner to help. Try a warming oil to help make the experience that much more relaxing. A simple ten or fifteen minute kneading of the muscles that carry the most tension during the day (neck, back, shoulders, head and arms) can help drain away stress.

* Warm bath – Very seldom do most moms get the time to take a bath. If your children are small, prepare them for bed at a regular time each night so that you can have your relaxation time before you sleep. Turn your bath into a spa experience. Light candles around and use scented oils in the bath. Soak and allow the oils to relax you. Try lavender or chamomile.

* Have a cup of tea – Herbal tea at bedtime can help get the ball rolling towards a restful night. Drink slowly and allow the fluid to warm your belly.

* Practice deep breathing techniques – First, concentrate on your breathing. Practice slowing your breathing down and making it deeper - breathe deeply into your belly, then fill your rib cage and upper chest. Hold a moment, then slowly release in the opposite order - out of the upper chest and ribs, and finally exhale all the way so that your belly pulls in towards the spine. Hold a moment, then repeat. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. You can sit in a comfortable chair or lie in your bed to practice this. Before you know it, you’ll be sleepy and ready to take a snooze.

If you're a busy mom, chances are you don’t get enough restful sleep or time to relax your mind each day. Use these tips to take the time you need to de-stress from your day, and have a great night's sleep.
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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Having Trouble Sleeping? Try These Deep Sleep Snoozing Tips

This time of year I often seem to struggle with getting a good night's sleep. I'm not alone - with the long daylight hours, lots of activities going on, and hot muggy nights, summer is one of the times when many have problems getting enough rest. If you're like me, this week I'll share some tips on getting a proper night's sleep - naturally and without resorting to drugs that are potentially addictive or have harmful side effects.

 (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)
Sleep is an important part of the body’s repair cycle. If you are not getting the right type of sleep, then you may not be resting as you should. This can lead to increased stress and health issues like a lowered immune system. Here are some tips to help you snooze better.

People don’t realize how much sleep they need. If you miss a few hours during the week then you can make it up on the weekend, right? Wrong! Catching up on sleep is a hard thing to do. Because we are often neglecting sleep for other activities, your deficit can be so large at the end of the week that you’d have to sleep all weekend to make it up.

The better idea is to get the sleep you need each night. There are different levels of sleep. The deepest level is REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This is when you begin to dream. It takes about an hour and a half for you to reach this stage. If you are tossing and turning it can be hard to get to this level.

During this stage, the eyes move back and forth. Muscles get most of the blood flow (besides the brain) for repair. All unneeded systems are shut down or kept to a minimum. Breathing is shallow.

But, reaching this level is hard for many people. You can help yourself out with a few tips.

Falling into Deep Sleep

* Eat nuts before bed – We have all heard about tryptophan and its effects. You don’t have to have a turkey dinner to get tryptophan - eating walnuts has the same effect. They are a healthy superfood. One serving can help you to begin to feel sleepy.

* Use natural scents – Essential oils like lavender and chamomile can help get you in the mood to sleep. Try misting your pillow with an essential oil spray, or just spraying the air so the scent lingers. This can help you get ready for bed each night.

* Take a bath – If it works for your baby, it will work for you. A warm bath can help the body to relax and the muscles to unknot from the day.

* Adjust the temperature in your bedroom – Some people sleep better when the room is a bit warm. If needed, open the window if it's warm outside, or place your comforter or blanket in the dryer for a few minutes to warm it up. I am the opposite, and I don't sleep well when it's hot - I sleep best in a cool room with a light blanket. Listen to your body, and experiment to find out what temperature you sleep best at.

Camomile herbal tea by Twinings
Camomile herbal tea by Twinings (Photo credit: clifico)
* Drink tea – If you don’t like warm milk, try a hot cup of tea. Be sure it is decaffeinated or you will be up instead of feeling sleepy. Try an herbal tea like chamomile or lavender.

* If none of these tips work, you may wish to try taking melatonin. It's cheap, and available over the counter in supplement form. Take it 1/2 to 1 hour before bedtime, and make sure you have at least 7 to 8 hours before you need to get up, as it will make you very groggy. If your problem is waking up in the middle of the night, try a dual release formula. Melatonin is a hormone, so you may wish to consult with your physician before taking, and try not to take it all the time -  only when you really need it.

Are you having a hard time snoozing? Deep restorative sleep is needed to stay healthy each day. Use the tips above to regain your nightly rest.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Superfoods for a Super Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a wonderful time in your life. It can also be very taxing and exhausting for your body, mind and spirit at times. But by nourishing your body with these great superfoods, you’ll be energized, strong, and sharp, and ready to welcome your pending bundle of joy!

Red beans
Red beans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Beans and legumes are good sources of protein, fiber, calcium, iron, thiamine, and niacin. Make a big batch of beans when you have time and freeze them in small containers. Be careful with canned varieties, as they’re usually higher in sodium and their nutritional value is a bit lower since they’re processed using high temperatures.

Include plenty of whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, millet, and oats as they’re a great source of fiber, minerals, protein and B complex vitamins. Buy the least processed grain types you can find, since many of the commercially prepared grains have had the nutritional and beneficial germ and bran removed.

Dark green leafy vegetables like kale, collard greens, watercress, and spinach are especially important while pregnant or lactating because they supply so many vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron, and folate. Dark leafy green vegetables also are rich in phytochemicals like beta carotene and lutein which protect against many forms of cancer.
Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vegetables from the cabbage family such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage are wonderful sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium. They are also rich in phytochemicals that have anticancer properties. Dark green leafy vegetables and cabbage family vegetables provide important nutrients that help to promote a plentiful milk supply for your baby.

Nuts and seeds are good sources of fiber, protein, minerals, and essential fatty acids. Be sure to eat flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds and walnuts to get omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for baby’s brain and nervous system development as well as your own health. Nuts and seeds can be eaten raw or toasted, and work great in a salad made of dark leafy green vegetables.

Lastly, it’s important to drink plenty of water, and make sure you’re getting plenty of rest during this time. A well-hydrated, well-rested body recovers more quickly, and ready to take on the challenges that life with a newborn baby brings with it!
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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Superfoods for Healthy and Natural Conception

If you're having problems getting pregnant, you know how frustrating it can be, and if you're concerned about the effects of fertility drugs on the body, you may be wondering what are some natural methods that can help. In both the female and male body, the balance of hormones has to be just right for conception to occur and for pregnancy to proceed. Nutrients that are in excess or that are at a deficiency in the body can throw off balance and disrupt the whole process.

When we can choose fresh whole foods for our diet, we are increasing our chances of obtaining the nutrients we need. Whole foods include fruits, fresh vegetables, unrefined grains, beans, nuts, seeds, eggs, and small whole fish. It’s important to make sure you’re choosing healthy whole superfoods that have an abundant supply of each of the following vitamins and minerals - and it's not just important for women, but for men as well.

en: Eggs
Eggs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
B Vitamins: B-complex vitamins need to be replenished all the time, as they are water soluble and passed out of the body with urination. Vitamins B6 and B12 are particularly important for fertility and hormonal function. Fortified cereals, baked potatoes with skin, bananas, light-meat chicken and turkey, eggs, and spinach are all great sources of B6, and beef, clams, mussels, crabs, salmon, poultry, soybeans, and some fortified foods have healthy amounts of B12.

Folic Acid: Folic Acid, also known as folate, is essential for the production of genetic material in conjunction with vitamin B12, and is particularly important for women as it helps prevent birth defects in utero. The body cannot store Folic Acid so it must be replenished regularly. It is found naturally in dark green leafy vegetables, apricots, avocados, oranges, carrots, egg yolks, liver, melons, whole grains, and yeast's.

Zinc: Zinc is an essential component of genetic material and plays an important role in the fertility of men (affecting sperm count) and women. Zinc is vital to healthy cell division, so healthy zinc levels are essential at conception. Zinc occurs naturally in oats, rye, almonds, pumpkin seeds and peas.

EFAs: Essential Fatty Acids (EFA's) work on every system of the body and are essential for healthy hormone production. EFA's can prevent blood from clotting inappropriately which can be helpful to women who have suffered from recurrent miscarriages (if clotting was an issue). They are primarily found in fish oils.

Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an antioxidant. Low vitamin E levels can be a cause for subfertility in men and women. It is found in wheat germ cereal, avocados, sunflower seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, brown rice, eggs, milk, organ meats, soy beans and sweet potatoes.

Wedges of pink grapefruit, lime, and lemon, an...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an antioxidant which is helpful to sperm production and may play a role in healthy ovulation. Vitamin C is essential to the normal healthy functioning of many systems in the human body. Excellent sources include blackcurrants, raw red peppers, guavas and citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits. Other good sources include strawberries, kiwifruit, broccoli and Brussel sprouts.

Iron: Iron aids in the production of red blood cells and carries oxygen around our bodies. The female body can lose iron through periods, childbirth or blood loss (including blood donation). Leafy green vegetables, beans, shellfish, red meat, poultry, and soy food products are all good sources of iron.

Vitamin A: Vitamin A is an antioxidant essential at conception for the developing embryo. Natural sources include carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, and spinach.

You will want to consult with your personal physician and/or a fertility specialist, but including these superfoods in your diet on a regular basis can help naturally improve your overall health and fertility, and possibly your chances of conception and a healthy pregnancy.
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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Plug-in Hybrid Cars – What Are They and How Do They Work

A plug-in hybrid is a car that combines the internal combustion engine and a battery-powered, electric motor. When the electric motor runs out of "fuel," it is recharged via a "clean energy grid," or plug-in. A plug-in hybrid can be recharged using an average home's electrical current (110 volts). At this time, there are few plug-in hybrids that are widely available to the public, but Chevrolet's Volt was one of the first examples available to consumers, and others are in the works from several different auto manufacturers.

English: Chevrolet Volt at the Ride, Drive & C...
Chevrolet Volt at the Ride, Drive & Charge event organized by the EDTA, downtown Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Not all hybrid vehicles are of the plug-in variety. For example, a "full hybrid" is a car like the Toyota Prius - at low speeds, it runs on only the electric motor. When the vehicle goes over a certain speed, the internal combustion engine kicks in. A full hybrid never uses electricity from the grid.

A plug-in uses the internal combustion engine only as a back-up in case the electric motor runs out of battery power, regardless of the speed. And it uses electricity from the grid when it is charged.

Most plug-ins have a range of about 30+ miles before the battery runs out and the combustion engine kicks in. Some of the newer offerings will be able to go up to 70 or 80 miles before they require charging.

How Do They Work?

As noted above, a plug-in hybrid has two means of propelling it forward - an internal combustion engine (like a regular car) and an electric motor that runs on a battery. After each use, the car is plugged into a household current and charged. If you forget to plug it in or end up with a dying battery while on the road, the internal combustion engine will kick in. You can keep driving and the internal combustion engine will charge the battery. At this point, the plug-in hybrid is acting like a standard or full hybrid.

Plug in hybrid
Plug in hybrid from Toyota. (Photo credit: Tom Raftery)
Because they reduce emissions and gasoline use so drastically, many people are hoping for plug-in hybrids to become more widely available. But the enormous cost of the lithium-ion batteries required to run the plug-ins makes them somewhat cost prohibitive. The Chevrolet Volt (a small car) requires approximately a 400-pound battery.

Plug-in hybrids are laid out like other hybrids in that they have a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that makes the transition from combustion engine to electric motor smooth. Plug-ins, like other hybrids, also shut off automatically at stop lights and start again when the driver takes his or her foot off the brake pedal. This reduces energy loss during idling. Overall, plug-in hybrids can be a great choice of alternative vehicle, and hopefully as demand increases and costs come down, limitations will improve and these cars will become widely available to the public.
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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Hybrid Car Comparison: Which Hybrid Car Should You Choose?

Hybrid cars are getting more and more popular today. In fact, more and more people are now purchasing hybrid cars for a number of reasons. One is that they will enjoy tax incentives as a buyer of a hybrid car, two is that they can save a lot of money from the rising cost of precious, expensive and limited fossil-based fuels and three, it will enable them to generate less pollution in the environment because of lower toxic emissions generated by hybrid cars.

English: Solon, Swedish hybrid car. Svenska: S...
Solon, Swedish hybrid car.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Because of the growing popularity of hybrid cars, more and more car manufacturers are now competing to produce the best hybrid cars. Many hybrid cars are now integrated with state-of-the-art technology that will enable consumers to save more on fuel, and also lower toxic emissions.

However, because of the growing market for hybrid cars, and also because of more and more car manufacturers that are now integrating hybrid technology in their cars, many people tend to get confused on which hybrid car to purchase. After all, if you listen to the car manufacturers, they all claim to have the best hybrid car!

In order to know which hybrid car to purchase, you have to compare them closely to know which hybrid car is for you and which hybrid car you can benefit from the most. You have to compare some factors of hybrid cars in order to determine which hybrid car is better than the others for your particular situation.

However, before you go on and compare hybrid cars, you first have to know a little something about how hybrid cars work and how you can benefit from them. First of all, hybrid cars use a clean and efficient source of energy - electricity - coupled with gasoline. Hybrid cars are what you can describe as a cross between a conventional gasoline-powered car and an electric-powered car.

This allows you to save fuel and emit lower volumes of toxic fumes because hybrid cars run on electricity when idling. What this means is that when you are stuck in traffic, and the hybrid car is running idle, or not in motion, it will automatically switch of the gasoline engine. Therefore, the hybrid car will run purely on electricity. Once you step on the accelerator pedal, it will automatically switch on the gasoline engine again to run the car.

English: Toyota Prius C concept hybrid car exh...
Toyota Prius C concept hybrid car exhibited at the 2011 Washington Auto Show (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So, now that you know how hybrid cars work, you now have to know how to compare hybrid cars in order to get the right kind of hybrid car for your everyday use.

First of all, you need to determine how you will use the car. If you have a family, you may want to get an SUV hybrid vehicle. This will enable you to carry more passengers. However, you also have to consider that SUV hybrid vehicles can cost a little more than other hybrid cars, and they are also less fuel efficient than smaller hybrid cars. Also, if you do a lot of long-distance highway driving, and don't sit in much traffic, your car will not save you as much money on gasoline costs as someone who does more city driving, so that's also a consideration.

The main advantage of a hybrid car is that it is fuel efficient. You have to choose a hybrid car that is the most fuel efficient for your needs in order for you to maximize its benefits. You can ask your dealer about the fuel efficiency of the car. They will be able to tell you how many miles a gallon it can save compared to conventional cars and other hybrid cars.

You will want to balance fuel efficiency with your own space and travel needs in order to choose the best option for you. But to start your search, Honda and Toyota are two of the leading companies today that produce affordable and efficient hybrid cars in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit your needs.
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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Six Fun Green Outdoor Activities for the Kids

Remember when you were young and played outside all day?  Most children don’t do that anymore and they’re missing out.  Not just on exercise and fresh air but also on a true appreciation for nature and our environment.  Here are six fun and green outdoor activities to encourage more time outdoors and help your kids enjoy the earth and all it can provide.

bug passion
 (Photo credit: nonperturbative)
#1.  Host a scavenger nature hunt.  Give children a digital camera and send them on a hunt for all things nature.  For example, your list can contain items like dandelions, worms, a maple leaf, and a ladybug and so on.  You can adjust the list of items to hunt for to the age of your children.  If digital camera skills are beyond your little ones, then give them a pad of paper and a pencil so they can check off the items they find.

#2.  Bird watching or stargazing.  Looking up at the sky can fill hours of time and when you make it active, by looking for specific birds, bird habitats, constellations or planets, children learn and have fun.  Both activities can be enhanced with a telescope or binoculars, but they can also be accomplished with the naked eye.  Head to the library to pick up a book on birds or constellations and watch the fun.

#3.  Watching bugs.  Ants, bees, fireflies and praying mantises are fantastic to watch and children, for some crazy reason, like bugs.  Children can learn about what bugs eat, how they interact and communicate with each other and how they benefit nature.  They’re the bottom and the top of the circle of life.

#4.  Go fly a kite!  Flying a kite is 100% green and you can easily add a bit of a Benjamin Franklin lesson into the playtime.  It takes zero energy, other than the energy you need to keep up with the kite, and if you add making a kite from household items into the outing then it’s a super environmentally-friendly outdoor activity - and a great way to get outside for the whole family!

#5.  Remember pet rocks?  Those goofy items sold back in the 70s are actually a great outdoor activity.  Using non-toxic and environmentally safe paint, children can paint their favorite rock to look like a dog, cow, pig, monkey or whatever their favorite animal is.  They can gather a collection of rocks and paint a whole zoo or barnyard.  To keep mess at bay, lay out a piece of newspaper on the ground and let children create their masterpieces outside where it doesn’t matter as much if they spill the paint.

Leaf Rubbing Card
Leaf Rubbing Card (Photo credit: cproppe)
#6.  Nature rubbings are one way for children to combine their artistic voice and an exploration of nature.  All you need are some non-toxic crayons with the paper peeled off so children can use them sideways, paper, a hard surface and a bit of nature.  Place the item to be explored, like a leaf or a flower, under the paper and on top of the hard, smooth, surface; then rub the crayon over the top of the paper.  The image will come through.  Children can create amazing masterpieces by rubbing a number of items on one page or they can add their own personal touches. 

There are so many amazing things for children to enjoy and explore outside and most of them are completely environmentally friendly.  Teach your children to love nature and being outdoors and they’ll grow up with an appreciation for the planet we live on - and maybe someday develop great environmental and planet-saving technologies - who knows?

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

3 Tips for Teaching Your Kids To Help Save Our Earth

You've probably heard about practical things we can do to help the environment, but have you thought about how our state of mind can affect the earth? One of the most important ways to help the planet is to teach the next generation to appreciate it.

While teaching our children about practical methods such as recycling is important, promoting a humble state of mind can have a deeper and more lasting effect. If you plant the seed of environmental humility in your children, perhaps those children will recognize the quiet importance of nature and grow up to develop innovative ways to preserve the planet.

English: Heart and Earth
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What are some ways to elicit a humble attitude and a love of nature in your kids? How does self-reflection and humility lead to a greater respect for the environment? And what can our children learn from nature that will help them develop a love for it?

1. Treat your children with respect

Most parents know that children will do what their parents do more than what their parents say. Children are going to treat others the way they are treated. If children are treated respectfully, they will develop a respectful and compassionate attitude which is one of the building blocks of environmental awareness. They are then more likely to treat the planet and other things in their lives with respect, and not exploit the earth's resources.

2. Strive for a "natural" lifestyle

Children who are not connected to nature will have a hard time loving and appreciating it. Breastfeeding, babywearing, natural childbirth, and other natural parenting approaches are a child's first connection to nature.

Consider natural foods as well. Children love to forage for edible plants and fruits. A trip to the library will reveal many excellent books on the recognition and harvesting of wild foods. Children will see nature as a provider if they participate in this way. Just be sure you know what you are picking!

Alternatively, you could grow your own food or visit a neighbor's farm or garden in order to show them where food comes from. Once again, your kids will see that the earth is a provider of sustenance. Point out to your children that without good soil, air, and water, there would be no food. 

English: Hopetoun Falls, Beech Forest, near Ot...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
3. Get away from TV and computer screens and out into nature

Experiencing nature through a screen is more likely to elicit a love of technology than a love of nature (not that a love of technology is necessarily bad; but it's a good idea to balance it with an appreciation of the natural world). Take your kids outside on a starry night and show them the enormity of the night sky. Show them large, sweeping spaces, high mountains, deep woods and ancient, massive trees. They will begin to see their respective smallness, and the seeds of humility are sown.

Go hiking or camping, and encourage your children to write, draw and discuss the experience and how it made them feel. This will encourage self-reflection and a personal identification with nature.

The future of the planet begins with teaching our children to love it. And in doing so, we'll come to love and appreciate it more ourselves as well.

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