Thursday, November 28, 2013

Your Gifts Make a Difference This Holiday Season

When the holidays come around it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.  You want to show your appreciation to your clients and business associates, but the commercialism and potential for waste can leave you with a sense of guilt.  There’s a solution!  You can give gifts that make a difference in the world. 

Giving gifts that make a difference is a great way to not only feel good about what you’re giving, but also to spread awareness for your cause and potentially earn more respect in the eyes of your associates and clients. 

Here are just a few ideas on how to make a difference with holiday gifts - keep these in mind for Black Friday tomorrow, and the rest of your holiday shopping this year!

WFTO Fair Trade Organization Mark
WFTO Fair Trade Organization Mark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Give Fair Trade Gifts

Fair trade is a global initiative that works to ensure all people, artisans, farmers and locally-owned businesses around the world are treated fairly. That means pricing and production are fair as well as environmentally sustainable.  Fair trade products are labeled by the Fair Trade organization and can include items like:

* Coffee
* Chocolate
* Wine
* Artwork
* Textiles and things made from textiles including bags, blankets and so on

Give Recycled Gifts

No, we don’t mean re-gifting!  Recycled gifts are gifts made from recycled materials.  Some examples include:

* Desk accessories
* Bags, totes and portfolios
* Artwork

Give Environmentally-Conscious Gifts

Many products are now created with the environment in mind, for example solar lights, bags and accessories.  Plants are also a great environmentally-conscious gift to give, or shares in a farm or CSA program.

Christmas gifts.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Give Gifts that Give Back

If you have a charity that you strongly believe in or a cause you promote, sometimes giving a gift that supports that cause or charity is a great way to share your passion.  Additionally, if your client or business associate is passionate about something, then contributing to that charity or participating in the cause may also be a great way to give a gift that makes a difference.

Giving a gift that makes a difference is a little more complicated than simply ordering a bunch of pens from the local marketing business.  However, you’ll feel good about your efforts and you’ll make a great impression.  Spend a little time, thought, and effort this holiday season and find a gift that makes everyone feel good! 

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

5 Tips For An Eco-Concious Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of the most celebrated holidays in the United States.  Food, family and fun - it doesn’t get much better than that!  Well, actually it can get better than that.  You can have that same food, family and fun while also having a positive, or at least a neutral, effect on the environment.  Here are five tips to have an eco-conscious Thanksgiving:

English: Oven roasted turkey, common fare for ...
Oven roasted turkey is common fare for Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
#1.  If turkey is on your menu, and for many families it’s just not Thanksgiving without a turkey, then consider buying a free-range, organic turkey.  These healthy birds are better for the environment because raising them doesn’t put harmful pesticides into the environment.  And they don’t contain any added hormones or other items which can be bad for the environment and your health.

#2.  Buy whole foods.  This means you buy foods that aren’t prepared already and sitting in a box or package at the store.  This is an environmentally-conscious way to celebrate because you’re not putting all the packaging into landfills. 

Additionally, processed foods are less healthy for you, contribute to emissions, and take tremendous energy to make.  If you buy organic, whole foods then you’re also ensuring that no harmful chemicals were used to grow your food.  If you buy locally grown foods then you’re also contributing to your local economy.  And the food didn’t have to travel thousands of miles, and use natural resources, to get to your table. It's a win-win all around!

#3.  Use your own dishes.  When serving a large group of people it’s tempting to use paper or disposable dishware.  Even serving dishes are sometimes easier if they’re made from aluminum or plastic.  However, this material goes right into landfills.  Instead, use your own dishes and recruit everyone to help clean up. With many helping hands, it'll be done in a jiffy.

English: Photo showing some of the aspects of ...
Thanksgiving day dinner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
#4.  Stay within 100 miles from home.  Many people travel great distances to be with family on this holiday.  However, that mass travel is harmful on the environment, contributing to global emissions.  If you can stay closer to home then you’re saving natural resources.  One solution, if everyone is spread out, is to create a new tradition – perhaps get together with friends nearby or volunteer to help others on this special day. Family is important, but so is taking care of the planet so that your descendants can enjoy it as well!

#5.  Decorate naturally.  Autumn is a beautiful time of the year and nature provides some amazing decorations.  Pine cones, leaves, dried flowers and vines make wonderful holiday decorations.  Skip the paper and plastic ones and enjoy what nature provides.

Being eco-conscious on Thanksgiving is as easy as following the basic principles of reduce, reuse and recycle.  Stay close to home, take advantage of your local resources and shop for whole, organic, and locally grown foods.  Happy Thanksgiving!!

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Think Zinc: Why Your Body Needs It for Good Health

The body is a complex machine that needs lots of different nutrients to perform its daily functions. One of those nutrients is zinc. You may only think of it in relation to keeping you from getting sunburned, but it serves an even greater purpose than that.

Why should we be thinking about zinc? It is an important mineral in the body. Each day, the body performs thousands of reactions that can happen in the blink of an eye. From the foods we eat, the body filters out what it needs and directs it to the right places for use. What we don’t need is eliminated as waste. Each day the process begins again.

The Importance of Zinc

English: Zinc
Zinc supplements. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the body, zinc is responsible for helping with hundreds of reactions in a variety of cells. For one, it plays a very important role in immune function. Zinc is instrumental in stimulating the formation of T-lymphocytes or helper T-cells. These are the white blood cells that rush to the sight of an invading infection to stop the onslaught on the body. It plays a role in wound healing as well.

Zinc stimulates enzyme activity. Enzymes are catalysts for hundreds of reactions, from secreting hormones from glands to stimulating the creation of reproductive cells.

It supports normal growth and development throughout your life. In the womb, it helps to ensure that the neurological systems develop as they should during each trimester of pregnancy. After birth it still functions to support brain development.

Basically the body couldn’t do without zinc and yet, many people are deficient in this mineral. It may not be noticed at first, but over time it can show up in decreased immunity or greater susceptibility to colds and other illnesses. You often see people taking Echinacea and zinc as natural remedies to fight these conditions.

Foodstuff containing zinc
Foods containing zinc. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Foods that Contain Zinc

The best way to get zinc into your system is through your food. This is always a preferable choice to supplements as it is the natural form of the mineral, and is more easily absorbed and utilized by the body. Check your diet. If you are not eating any of these foods, you could be zinc-deficient.

* Oysters
* Wheat germ
* Bran
* Cheese
* Beef
* Lamb
* Other dairy products
* Walnuts

The highest concentrations of zinc come from beef. Eating a few servings a week can boost your zinc levels. On a daily note, try adding nuts or cheese to your dishes. Wheat germ can be added to cereals and yogurt without changing the taste much. If that doesn’t do it, try fortified cereals that contain added zinc.

The average person over the age of fourteen needs eight to eleven milligrams a day. Children need between two and five milligrams depending on age, and pregnant women need eleven or more milligrams.

Zinc is an important mineral used in every cell in the body. Make sure you are getting enough to keep your body healthy and free of illness this winter.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How Stress Affects your Immune System

This time of year is when colds and flu start to run rampant. The decreasing daylight and Vitamin D levels, plus being stuck inside where germs can accumulate and circulate, make fall and winter the hardest seasons on your immune system. But there are things you can do to help keep your immune function high this winter. Eating right, exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep, and taking supplements when needed can all help you stay healthy this winter. But one of the most detrimental things for your immune system is also one of the things we often ignore or don't think about when trying remedies to boost immunity.

Have you ever noticed that you tend to get sick more often when you’re stressed out?  Scientists have noticed this connection for a long time, but until recently they couldn’t explain it.  While a big project at work or the loss of a loved one isn’t going to give you the flu, it can decrease the functioning of your immune system and make you more susceptible to colds, the flu and other infections. 

It may surprise you, but very short term stress actually boosts the immune system.  Increased immune functioning is associated with the “fight or flight” response related to short term stress you know will end.  This is because our body is still trying to adapt to beat the stressor.  The problem with this is that a majority of our stress is continual over a long period of time - and this is where things get dicey and a number of health problems can result.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.
Regions of the brain affected by stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Long term stress is what actually decreases our immune functioning.  The worst kind of stress is not only long-term, but stress we think we can’t control or see an end to.  For example, while meeting a deadline at work may cause a decrease in our immune functioning; it’s probably not as bad as stress caused by a debilitating accident.  When we think the stressor is beyond our control and may never stop, our body feels it can’t cope with the stress and it begins to take its toll.  This kind of stress causes a drop in almost all immune functioning. 

For regular, long term stressors, the decrease in immune functioning becomes greater with time.  This means even if you feel you are in a position of control, long-term stress such as a job with high levels of responsibility and not enough help, can build up and gradually decrease your disease-fighting abilities.

Another important factor to consider when looking at the immune system and stress is that the decrease in immune system functioning is greater for people who are elderly or already sick.  This is likely why older people who are severely injured or have recently lost a loved one are much more likely to die within a year than those who haven’t had these circumstances. 

You may think, “Well, I’ll drop my stress level and I’ll be fine”.  However, studies have show that traumatic events can stick with us and affect our immune system long after the stressor is gone.  If a person was in an accident, was attacked, or experienced a traumatic loss, they can show decreased immunity even years later.  The best way to increase immunity in this case is to undergo treatment for the trauma. 

In addition to causing a decrease in immune system functioning, stress can also make you more susceptible to other long term diseases, such as cardiovascular disease.  If you want to maintain a healthy body, you should include activities and a proper diet that promote a less stressful lifestyle.

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Using Natural Autumn Scents to Reduce Stress

Stress seems to be an all too common theme in today’s households - there’s simply no way to completely avoid it. After a busy summer, you may be looking forward to a chance to slow down and recuperate a bit. Tapping into your sense of smell using natural ingredients instead of bringing chemicals into your home is a great way to reduce stress.

Apple pie
Apple pie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
How often does a certain smell bring back fond memories of a place or time; the smell of warm baked cookies or a scent that reminds you of a loving home? The science of using scents to promote good health is called aromatherapy and it’s a much safer option than using caffeine or drugs. Here are some autumn scents to you reduce stress.

Cinnamon – With the temperatures dropping, you may think more about baking. One scent that is often used in fall baking is cinnamon. The smell of a fresh baked apple pie does more than get your mouth watering. Cinnamon has been proven in scientific studies to improve attention and memory.

Peppermint – Along with cinnamon, peppermint is another aroma that has been proven to increase alertness. It helps maintain mental performance when doing the same activity for a long period of time. Peppermint has also been shown to reduce road rage and therefore may be good to keep in your vehicle if you travel a lot.

English: Two types of vanilla extract
Vanilla extract (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Vanilla – Another baking scent that is believed to relieve stress is vanilla. Pour a little vanilla extract into a small pan filled with water. Place it on the stove and allow it to simmer for a while. The scent of vanilla will spread throughout the home leaving everyone a little less stressed. Keep an eye on the water level to ensure it doesn’t go dry.

Lavender – One of the most often used scents in aromatherapy, particularly to handle stress, is lavender. This is due to the relaxing properties in the essential oil. Lavender can be used as an additive to bathwater, used dry in bowls on end tables and even spritzed on sheets for a restful night’s sleep.

Sandalwood – Sandalwood oil has a long history of being used as a traditional medicine. Its sweet, rich woody smell is known for reducing stress and soothing the mind and body. While sandalwood can be found in many products such as cosmetics and perfumes, a few drops of this great smelling essential oil can instill a sense of peace like nothing else.

One of the great things about these scents is you can create your own massage oil. Simply add a drop or two of the essential oil into non-scented carrying oil such as almond oil. Gently shake the bottle to blend and then set it aside in a cool, dark place until you’re ready for a massage. What could be better than a soothing scent and a nice massage?

And of course, as we discussed Tuesday, the smell of fresh air in the fall is not only healthy, but is also a great stress reliever!  Get outside and smell the lovely autumn leaves, the scent of the rain, and the health-giving freshness of the fall air.

It is amazing how scents can affect us. When you’re feeling stressed and need to relax, consider using one of these common natural scents during the fall or any time of the year.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Why You Need Fresh Air Daily

In today's technological world, most people spend a lot of time indoors every day - especially during the colder months. Kids spend at least six hours a day in school. Many adults spend at least eight hours inside of the buildings where they work. We spend all night in our homes: eating, playing, and sleeping. When do we take the time to enjoy the “great outdoors”? Fresh air is highly underrated - and highly important for your health. Getting out of doors on a regular basis can improve one’s health and sense of well-being.

The air that we breathe on the inside is not as fresh as we need it to be. Dust is a fact of every day life. It collects on every surface. As we try to get rid of it, the dust swirls around us and makes its way into our respiratory system via nose and mouth. In your homes, if you cook and occasionally burn a meal or two, those fumes get inhaled also. We need a break from the indoor air. Companies try to sell us products to clean our home or office air, but really there is just no substitute for fresh air.

Especially oxygen
Get fresh air even in winter! (Photo credit: tonynetone)
Fresh air cleans our lungs. Especially when it's cold outside, we may cough a bit at first as our lungs are getting rid of the impurities and toxins that we suck up on a weekly basis. But, after a while we’ll begin to breathe deeper and deeper which brings more oxygen to our cells, which helps them cleanse and detoxify. The increased oxygen also brings with it increased energy to do the things we need to do. More oxygen brings greater clarity to the brain, which needs twenty percent of our body’s oxygen to function. We can think better than we could before.

Exercises performed outdoors in fresh air offer increased aerobic benefits. More clean air in, helps improve our breathing technique. Better technique increases stamina. More oxygen to the muscles reduces that lactic acid build-up in the muscles which leads to cramping.

Fresh air cannot be found everywhere outdoors. In large cities where factories operate day and night, spewing smoke and particles into the air, fresh, clean air is at a premium. For these people, getting out of the city and into nature as often as possible will bring their bodies the detoxifying and energizing benefits of fresh air.

The Fresh Air Fund
The Fresh Air Fund (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A program called The Fresh Air Fund was started in 1877 by a non-profit organization. Their goal was to introduce disadvantaged children living in the inner cities to the “great outdoors”. The program was started in New York to benefit the city’s youth. A man, by the name of Reverend Parsons asked his parishioners to volunteer to host inner city youth for a time away in the country. They agreed and The Fresh Air Fund was born. The program still flourishes today, offering a choice of five camps in upstate New York for the city’s children to enjoy time away and learn about country life. Look for a program like this in your area if you live in a large city, and get your kids involved.

Fresh air produces a healthy mind and body, cleaner lungs, and a calmer constitution when we actively breathe it. Getting outdoors should not be a chore, but a privilege. Enjoy the earth and get your dose of fresh air today!

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Making Homemade Spa Treatments with Citrus Fruit

Citrus fruits, like oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit, offer a number of benefits for the skin.  The alpha hydroxyl acids naturally exfoliate our skin and citrus has astringent, antiseptic and detoxifying effects on the skin.  Additionally citrus scents can be relaxing and refreshing, leaving you feeling quite pampered.  Here are three homemade spa treatments with citrus fruit that you can do at home.

This image shows a whole and a cut lemon. It i...
Lemons. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Relaxing Citrus Spa Bath

Grab two oranges and two lemons, dim the lights and if you choose, light a few beeswax or soy candles - it’s time to pamper yourself.  Slice the oranges and lemons into ¼ inch or smaller thick slices.  Run a warm bath and drop the slices into it just before you settle in for a refreshing and cleansing soak.

Citrus Mask

Combine one medium-sized papaya, the juice from one lemon, and a teaspoon of honey in a blender on low speed until you have a smooth cream or paste.  Transfer to a small container.  Wash your face and dry it.  Apply the mask, leave on for thirty minutes and rinse clean.  The natural fruit acids will exfoliate your skin and leave your face feeling smooth and radiant.

Milk Cleanser and Lemon Toner

In a small bowl, combine one teaspoon of powdered milk and one teaspoon of water, then mix until you have a smooth paste.  Apply to your face and neck.  Apply the mixture to your face in small massaging circles.  Rinse, dry and squeeze one small lemon into a clean container.  Apply lemon juice to a cotton ball and apply to your clean skin.  The lemon juice serves as the perfect toner to your clean, non-oily milk cleanser. 

Citrus/Almond Scrub

Scrubs are a great way to exfoliate dead skin from your face, elbows, knees and other rough areas of your skin.  The lemon juice and zest in this recipe adds a nice invigorating scent and helps exfoliate. 

You’ll need:
* 3 almonds
* The zest from 1 lemon
* 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
* 1 teaspoon honey

Return to Beauty the vook
Beauty mask ingredients (Photo credit: Vook tv)

Grab a clean coffee grinder or food processor and grind up your three almonds.  Zest a lemon and add that to the food processor or coffee grinder. Pour ground mixture into a small bowl and add lemon juice and honey.  Mix until combined and you have a lemony, yet coarse cream.  Apply the mixture to your clean and dry face, massaging in a circular motion to lift and remove dirt and dead skin.  Rinse clean with warm water.

Citrus is often used to lighten hair during the summer by taking advantage of a chemical reaction with the sun that lightens the hair.  It’s also used to exfoliate rough elbows and knees by simply halving a lemon and rubbing on the rough spots. 

Citrus, in short, offers a number of beauty benefits naturally.  It invigorates with its natural and appealing aroma and enhances any home beauty regimen. 

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Naturally Gentle Cures for Skin Problems

Every year, millions of dollars are spent trying to cure skin conditions like acne, eczema, and rosacea.  For many people, these conditions are simply embarrassing and often temporary, but they can also be painful, and for some never go away.

While doctors may treat your condition with pills and creams, they are often very expensive and even more often, they do little to help your issues - and sometimes their chemical ingredients can even irritate the skin and make things worse.  Before you try another expensive treatment, why not try treating your skin problems naturally. 

Acne vulgaris
Acne vulgaris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
While you may be skeptical, some of these treatments have been used for hundreds of years and cost a lot less than prescriptions.

There are many myths about skin issues involving food that just aren’t true.  Eating chocolate or other oily foods isn’t going to give you a breakout, but that doesn’t mean that diet isn’t a factor in the health of your skin.  We are what we eat, so if you want to look good, you have to eat right with a diet rich in nutrients, many of which can be found in fruits and vegetables.

One of the best natural cures doesn’t require you eating anything, or applying anything to your skin at all.  In fact, you may need to do the opposite.  Many skin problems like acne are actually allergic reactions to foods or skin creams.  You just need to figure out what you’re allergic to and avoid it and you’ll likely see your skin issues clear up quickly.

To determine if you have an allergy, you’ll need to keep a food and skin journal.  Record everything you eat, everything you put on your skin, and your skin symptoms.  After a few weeks you can review it.  You may notice that a specific food or product is triggering your symptoms.  While it might be hard to cut out a food, if it's something you're sensitive or allergic to, your body and your skin will thank you.

English: Food types likely to cause allergic r...
Food types likely to cause allergic reactions in adults. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
To keep skin healthy, it needs to be cleansed twice a day.  Using natural cleansers can help keep your pores clear without irritating them with harsh chemicals.  Many products claim to be natural, but really only contain a few natural ingredients.  You can look for certification seals on products, check the ingredients carefully, or simply use products you make yourself. (For guidance on purchasing natural skin care products, visit

For a great at-home blemish mask, try mixing a tablespoon of flour, ¼ teaspoon of orange peel powder, 1 tablespoon beaten yogurt, and 1 teaspoon of olive oil.  Apply and dry, just like a regular mask, then rinse with hot then cold water.  Other natural things shown to cut down on skin problems include tomatoes, watermelon juice, cucumber, and mint juice.

You may also find a detox diet beneficial for clearing up acne, eczema, and other skin issues.  Toxic chemicals from our food and other things we’re exposed to can build up in our system.  Your skin problems could simply be a reaction to these chemicals in your system.  To rid yourself of them, you can try a quick detox or simply switch to a diet with cleansing herbs and less processed food, such as the Total Wellness Cleanse.

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