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Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year and Thank You

                                  HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

A sincere thank you to all of you who showed interest in Meadow Muffin Gardens, from the blog posts to the Facebook page to your support of my shops. I sincerely appreciate all the feedback, which has not only given me confidence in why I'm doing this, but has planted the seeds for new ideas and direction.

Please let me know of any areas of interests you would enjoy reading about with the blog posts. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and Blogger are all intertwined as a wonderful and powerful means of branching out to people, like tendrils on a vine reaching in every direction. Thank you for your part in my gaining exposure, either by word of mouth or sources such as these.

Enjoy whatever plans you may have for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
Wishing 2016 to be an exciting year full of opportunity, fulfillment and good health.

Have a blessed 2016


Friday, December 21, 2012

Don't Get Your Tinsel in a Tangle

When to Know to Let It Go

The holiday months have to be some of the most exciting, stressful and sleep deprived times of the entire year.  Baking, shopping, wrapping, cleaning, decorating, cooking, entertaining, and probably more last minute shopping, all somehow accomplished on top of all the normal everyday activities.  Add a few over excited children to the mix and many adults just may think about asking Santa if they can hitch a ride to fly away from it all.

Interesting how some people can let things sail right over them, and others have to do the count to 10 trick before daring to even speak. Since we usually let our guard down around those whom we are most comfortable, it is very easy to fly off the handle and say things we may regret.

Murphy's Law says, "If something is bound to go wrong, it will, at the most inconvenient time."
Sounds like a very negative way to view life but we have to admit things usually don't go easy, at least not the first time around.  Maybe it is like that to force us to develop a sense of humor. Laughter is the best medicine and usually once a crisis is past it does become a great story.

If the Christmas lights you so meticulously arranged decide to quit mid-season and it is too cold or there just isn't time to tackle it again, let it go.
If the cat or dog knocks the tree over and delicate ornaments get broken, anchor the tree and let it go.
If you trek from one store to another and just cannot find that ooh aah gift,  or it's out of stock, again, let it go.
If sending cards has become nothing more than a chore, cut back or let it go. Send a note, e-mail, or phone call after the holiday commotion dies down.
If you have to decide on homemade iced cut-out cookies for the cookie exchange or a quick batch of rice krispee treats, make the latter, top with red and green sprinkles, and don't worry about it.
If wrapping is just too time consuming, stock up on tissue paper and gift bags.
If one more party invitation is pushing your tight schedule over the top, learn to politely decline.
Give yourself permission to turn off the phone, close the door and take a nap, bath or start a good book.
Fear you'll miss the good deals if you aren't running ragged on Black Friday? Wait till Cyber Monday and shop online.
Tired of going into credit card debt every year just to get it all over with and please everyone? 
Encourage name exchanges for family gatherings or else set price limits. 
There is nothing wrong with handmade, homemade type gifts, either crafty or from the kitchen.
Stop stressing over expectations, either from yourself or others.
Let it go or maybe Let them go.

Tension affects not only your mental state but ever notice how when you are all key up your back starts to hurt or that headache starts to pound?
Break down the word disease and it becomes 'dis' 'ease'.  Approximately 70% of disorders can be related to stress and nervous tension.  Since every part of the body receives its nerve supply from the spine, abnormal tension causes tightening of the muscles of the spine, causing pain as the nerves are affected and blood vessels are constricted.  Stress in life is unavoidable, but long-term fatigue and anxiety drains the immune system, resulting in the body being vulnerable to illness.

Attitude is the difference between fighting everything and just accepting "what is". There is a saying that goes: "We may not be able to change someone or a situation, but we can change our attitude about that person or situation." Try it and you really will discover a sense of freedom from the grip of frustration and worry.

Learning what is worth a raise in blood pressure and when to take things in stride is definitely a life lesson in not only maturity and wisdom, but your health.

Just about every culture has a version of the Serenity Prayer:

More information and a bit of humor about the Serenity Prayer:

The Serenity Prayer is most commonly attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, a famous Protestant theologian known for his concern for social justice back in the 1940's.

God give us grace, to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

Longer version:
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

Funny Versions: 
God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change

Courage to change the one I can change,
And wisdom to know it's me.
author unknown

God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway,
the good fortune to run into the ones I do,
and the eyesight to tell the difference.
-author unknown

When you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, keep in mind that a lot of our pressure is from expectations we put on ourselves. Family members would much rather have you relaxed and smiling rather than irritable and on the verge of getting sick. All easier said than done, but we can try.
The true meaning of the holidays has to do with cherishing that which we already have, not letting commercialism plant the seed of dissatisfaction and the never enough syndrome. Best gifts are those given from the heart, which may or may not be a purchased item.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Satisfy Your Skin's Thirst for Moisture

Our skin takes quite a beating no matter what the season. Regardless of how we choose to heat our homes in the winter, most likely the result will be a lack of humidity and dry indoor air. Get in the car and the blast of the heater seems to aim right for the face. Get out of the car and the wind whips around and further dries out our skin. In the summer, we have the glaring down of the hot summer sun in addition to the effects of the chlorine in swimming pools.

 Normal water weight in the human body varies with age, gender and body composition. The more muscle mass you have, the higher the percentage of water weight you'll have. Water constitutes 65 - 75 percent of muscle and 10 percent of fat.

Water is the key to healthy skin, and in order to function properly our bodies require 2 - 3 liters of water per day to replenish normal water loss. Our lungs expel up to 4 cups of water a day just by normal breathing. Water, called "the blood of life", makes up 95% of a skin cell, therefore for supple, beautiful skin, you need to stay hydrated by drinking enough and through topical moisturizers.

Help your body maintain a beautiful, healthy skin in three ways:
The environmental atmosphere in which you live, the amount of water you drink, and drawing water to the skin by way of moisturizers.

Depending on where you live you can help your skin maintain that 20% level from the atmosphere. A climate with 60% humidity is ideal.

Drinking more water is a must for proper overall health. Water plays an essential role in almost all bodily functions and without it you can only expect to live a few days. Water acts to transport nutrients and gases throughout the body, and also enables cellular reactions to take place. Water carries waste products out of your body, helps lubricate your joints, and helps maintain body temperature. Many times when people suffer from headaches, fatigue and fuzzy thinking, they need to drink more water.  With our blood being about 83%  water, we must daily replace 2.4 litres of water, some through drinking and the rest taken by the body from the foods we eat.

Last, draw or apply more water to your skin by way of oils, creams and lotions. 
Oils can provide rich nourishment, lubrication and protection for your skin. By themselves oils do not hydrate, so technically they are not moisturizers. Yet at times, when hydration is not the issue or when skin is damaged or not producing enough sedum a little oil may be all that is needed. Oils can act as moisture barriers when applied to a damp face that has been cleansed and rinsed.
Olive oil is good for most skin types, with the exception of very oily skin.
Almond oil is good for most skin types.
Grapeseed oil is drying, so good for oily skin
Jojoba oil is good for most skin types, especially for dry, aging or damaged skin.

Creams and lotions combine the hydrating effects of water and the nourishing lubricating effects of oil into one product. The difference between a cream and a lotion is the oil to water ratio. A lotion is lighter due to the higher water content. Look for natural ingredients that include emollients, humectants and reduce water loss by way of occlusion.

Emollients immediately relieve the discomfort of dry skin and include plant oils, lanolin and butters such as cocoa and shea. They penetrate the outer layers of the stratum corneum and function as moisturizers.
Humectants draw water from the atmosphere to your skin and include vegetable glycerin, aloe vera, alpha hydroxy acids, and olive oil.
Occlusion prevents water loss from the skin by trapping in the water, and forms a barrier to prevent evaporation. Desired barrier ingredients to look for in your creams are cocoa butter, shea butter, and coconut oil.

Normal skin is healthy and needs no extensive special care. It can be treated simply with a mild cleansing formula and a day and/or night moisturizing cream or lotion. Essential oils often seen in formulas for normal skin are roman chamomile, lavender, geranium, rose and rosewood.

Oily skin is thicker and tends to form blackheads and pimples. The sebaceous glands produce too much sebum, and the fatty tissue under the epidermis is thick. Sebaceous glands are found next to each hair shaft, providing the hair with sedum, making it smooth and protected from drying out. An overproduction can result in oily looking skin and pores that tend to clog. Although it may sound like a contradiction, oily skin can be treated with vegetable oils.

Cleaning your face with oil may sound unappealing but contrary to popular belief, oil does not contribute to oily skin or breakouts. The sedum that the skin creates is there to protect the skin. When we use commercial cleansers to remove this natural oil, the body reacts by producing more oil.
In washing our faces we want to remove the dirt and bacteria which builds up in our pores but we have to think about the chemistry behind it. Oil dissolves oil, like dissolves like. Water and oil do not mix; commercial cleansers contain ingredients to break up the oils but in doing so may strip away the natural protective layer. Bergamot and lavender help reduce and balance the production of sedum. For breakouts,  anti-inflammatory oils such as geranium, chamomile, lavender, rose, peppermint, myrrh are beneficial. Frankincense, lemon, ylang-ylang, rosemary and sandalwood are also seen in oily skin lotions.

Dry skin is characterized by a lack of fat or moisture caused by inadequate production of the sebaceous glands. Over washing or over use of astringents containing alcohol can strip away this natural barrier which can alter the balance of skin chemistry. It is the same as how our hair adjusts to constant shampooing.The acid equilibrium is off kilter and cannot be restored simply by splashing water on your face. Water cannot penetrate the skin, and in actuality even more moisture is taken from the surface of the skin through evaporation when water is applied. The best way to cleanse dry skin is with a cleansing oil such as almond, olive, hazelnut, a bit of wheat germ oil and a few drops of essential oils that stimulate the sebaceous glands such as geranium, carrot seed, frankincense and ylang-ylang. Add a bit of the oil blend to a cotton square and wipe over your face to cleanse away dirt and make-up. Dry skin is more prone to forming wrinkles so it is imperative the take care of it on a regular basis. Lavender, orange, rose, rosewood, sandalwood, frankincense, ylang-ylang and cedarwood are all wonderful for dry skin care.

Reduction of stress is sure to bring an improvement in the condition of the skin. Stress, fear and life's frustrations are expressed in the skin as a mirror of our inner lives. Various skin disturbances can indicate that the emotional world is not in balance. Remember that our skin is the largest detox organ in the human body. Advancing age, environmental toxins, poor nutrition, hormonal changes all catch up with you and contribute to the aging of the skin. Over time the skin has an increased need for additional moisture and oxygen. Many factors are involved, but for example, as the collagen hardens the skin is less able to take up moisture, thus shrinks and wrinkles. Almond, apricot and hazelnut oils are all beneficial for mature skin. Great skin cell rejuvenating essential oils are carrot seed, frankincense, fennel, geranium, rosewood, lavender, patchouli, myrrh, sage, cypress and neroli.

A few last tips to remember:
Apply moisturizer to damp skin to help trap needed moisture.
It has been shown that permeability is greater at night than in the morning. Applying moisturizers before bed is ideal to allow time for the skin to fully absorb the benefits.
Don't forget to moisturize your neck as well.
Smile! Laugh lines are a lot better than those furrows between the eyebrows. Worry and stress eventually do show up on your face.

Our skin changes constantly, from infancy to our senior years. Take care of it at every stage and enjoy one of the secrets to the fountain of youth.

 Good article on skin care and the effects of the sun.

A few moisturizing options found within the Meadow Muffin Gardens Shop.
Etsy shop
Zibbet shop

Serenity Facial Moisturizer

Vanilla Massage or Body Oil

Shea & Coconut Oil Body Butter Fluff

Heavy Duty Body Butter

Cocoa Butter Hand Cream
SPF Facial CreamSummer sun, Wiinter wind

Saturday, December 8, 2012

One With The Sea

'We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came. "
By John F. Kennedy

Neil Shubin, a paleontologist, wrote the book "Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into A 3.5 Billion Year History Of The Human Body".

A paleontologist is a scientist who studies prehistoric life. He claims that the bodies of sea creatures are just simpler versions of our own and to understand their anatomy will cause us to rethink what it means to be human. His mother was a surgeon who had always told him that our own anatomy is unintelligible without a knowledge of its evolutionary origins. She believed all creatures are linked.
One of his discoveries was the unearthing of a fish with elbows and a neck, a long-sought evolutionary "missing link" between creatures of the sea and land-dwellers.
He explains what evolutionary science, i.e. paleontology, comparative anatomy, genetics, embryology and developmental biology have to tell us about the human body, and how it came to be the way it is.
He is careful to say that he see's science and religion in two different spheres, that he is involved in the study of DNA, not getting into the discussion of evolution vs. creation.

Interesting is the fact that the water content of our bodies is a salty water solution very similar to seawater.
Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, discovered the therapeutic qualities of seawater by noticing the healing affects it had on the injured hands of fishermen. The seawater not only restricted infection risks, but patients who followed treatments involving the use of seawater found that it also promoted pain relief. It is now known that sea salt therapy is an effective treatment that assists in the rejuvenation of the cells and also induces a healthy exchange of minerals and toxins between the blood and the water.

Benefits of Sea Water Therapy
1) Immune system: immunity refers to the natural healing power and defense power that is inherent to human beings. It refers to resistance against virus and bacteria, or the resistance against malignant neoplasms.

2) Endocrine system: The endocrine system refers to adjustment of bodily functions that are critical for sustaining life. Thalassotherapy sea water therapy has a potential to recover a low responsiveness of hypothalamic-adrenal endocrine system, which is caused by stress.

3) Relaxation: It appears that mental  changes brought by a stay in a marine environment for the thalassotherapy showed positive psychological effects were noted such as peace of mind, regain of self confidence, improvement of response behavior against stress, and improvement in the quality of sleep.

4) Metabolism: Seaweed helps to balance circulation that improves oxygenation and nutrition of the connective tissues.  Seaweed speeds up metabolism allowing the body's own lipolytic (fat-burning) enzymes to access fat in hard to reach places such as with cellulite.

5) Skin allergies: Sea-bathing gives an antiseptic effect to the skin and reduces histamine that causes inflammation and itching sensation.

6) Anti-inflammatory: Seaweed such as White Algae, flushes out toxins and by-products of metabolism via the lymph system. This is valuable in the elimination of trapped fluids around the thighs, knees and ankles.

SeaAloe is a reputable source of a natural, whole-food, plant based supplementation for those interested in a liquid form of vitamins and minerals.

Salt baths are so common that we often forget the fact that "the simpler the better". A soak in warm salt water has long been used for achy joints and muscles as well as periodic detoxification. The addition of essential oils add their own therapeutic value as well as the pleasure of the aroma.

Epsom salts are not the same as regular table salt. Epsom salts are known as magnesium sulfate.
Magnesium and sulfur are naturally present in sea water. Modern diets consisting of primarily processed foods are often deficient in these minerals. When you soak in a salt bath containing epsom salts your body will benefit as these minerals are absorbed through your skin.

Magnesium is important for combating stress by producing serotonin, which is a mood-elevating chemical that creates a sense of calm. By lowering the effects of adrenaline, blood pressure comes down, sleep is improved and basically the nerves and muscles function properly.

Sea salt is also different from table salt in that rather than being pure sodium chloride which is refined from mined rock salt(halite), sea salt is evaporated sea water. It still contains natural minerals. Examples of the minerals in salt are calcium, potassium, bromides and magnesium. Calcium increases circulation and combats fluid retention. Potassium energizes the body, and bromides ease stiff muscles.

Dead sea salts originate from the Dead Sea, which is a salt lake located in the Middle East. The saline and mineral rich marshes have been used since ancient times for therapeutic and beautifying purposes.
Adding these luxurious salts to your bathing experience will help you understand why even the beautiful Cleopatra demanded rights to these mineral rich natural salts.

Tranquil Lavender Bath Salts

Peppermint Bath & Foot Soak Salts

Soak & Sweat Mineral Mustard Bath Salts


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Grace and Gratitude this Thanksgiving

Jared Whalen, Fort Jackson S.C. Basic Training Graduation
3rd Battalion, 60 Infantry Regiment " River Raiders"

Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American) by Toby Keith

Upon completion of the U.S. Army Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina after a grueling ten weeks of unrelenting demands, another group of young men and women have earned the respect of  becoming part of the United States Army. Challenged physically, mentally, and emotionally, these soldiers have learned  the true meaning of perseverance, self-control and pride not only in themselves but in their country.

Fort Jackson trains more soldiers than any other Initial Entry Training Center in the U.S. Army.   
Their mission is to transform volunteer civilians into Soldiers in order to enable them to successfully complete Advanced Individual Training and contribute to their first units of assignment.  The Drill Sergeants ensure that every Soldier has the opportunity to not only change their lives, but to succeed at making this change. 

Only about 2% of the American people are serving in the military and about 3% of living Americans have served in the military. To think in this great country full of blessings and opportunity, such a small percentage actually volunteer a portion of their own lives to help guarantee such freedom and safety for the rest of us. What a blessing to be born amidst a land where the majority can feel secure within the safety of their homes. To wake each new day in control of its opportunity, with food on the table, clean water from the tap and warmth from the cold. Let us never take for granted the sacrifices of those responsible for where we as a people are today.

This Holiday Season, let us not only count our blessings, but include in our prayers all of those who cannot be at the dinner table with their loved ones. Take a moment to remember those who believe in the importance of making a contribution, to be a "leaver rather than a taker".

As a new Army Mom, I am proud to support my son's optimistic belief in career possibilities of his own choosing, and paths of opportunity made more realistic by being one of the Army Strong. 


Monday, November 5, 2012

National Caregivers Month

A handshake and/or a hug to all those who can relate to this proclamation. This recognition is wonderful for those wondering where their source of strength will come from with each new day.

November is National Caregivers Month

Presidential Proclamation -- National Family Caregivers Month, 2012

- - - - - - -

Our Nation's health care professionals provide essential medical services to millions of Americans, yet they do not shoulder their responsibilities alone. Family members, friends, and neighbors devote countless hours to providing care to their relatives or loved ones. During National Family Caregivers Month, we recognize and thank the humble heroes who do so much to keep our families and communities strong.

Across America, daughters and sons balance the work of caring for aging parents with the demands of their careers and raising their own children. Spouses and partners become caregivers to the ones they love even as they navigate their own health challenges. Mothers and fathers resume care for children returning home as wounded warriors. Friends and relatives form networks to support loved ones with disabilities. All of them give selflessly to bring comfort, social engagement, and stability to those they love.

Family caregivers have an immeasurable impact on the lives of those they assist, but their hours are long and their work is hard. Many put their own lives on hold to lift up someone close to them. That is why my Administration continues to support these committed individuals through programs like the National Family Caregiver Support Program and the Lifespan Respite Care Program, and through new initiatives like the National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease. These efforts help caregivers access services, provide quality support, and reinforce their support through respite care options. Additionally, my Administration has pursued workplace flexibility initiatives that help caregivers balance their responsibilities to their employers with their responsibilities to their loved ones. I was also proud to sign the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, which has helped our most seriously injured post-9/11 veterans and their family caregivers through financial support; access to health insurance, mental health services, and counseling; and comprehensive caregiver training and respite care.

National Family Caregivers Month is a time to reflect on the compassion and dedication that family caregivers embody every day. As we offer our appreciation and admiration for their difficult work, let us also extend our own offers of support to them and their loved ones.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2012 as National Family Caregivers Month. I encourage all Americans to pay tribute to those who provide for the health and well-being of their family members, friends, and neighbors.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.


Below are two collections of shops featuring items to give caregivers needed  support. Click on any box to enter that seller's shop.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Go With The Flow..In Yoga and Life


Tired of going through your days "feeling like crap", feeling older than your years? Do you feel you are constantly pushing off your work-out program because other obligations of seemingly higher priority keep popping up and by the end of the day you are too tired to care?

For years I had been a faithful follower of Vinyasa yoga and swore by it for helping me cope not only with Lupus aches and pains but also for the "me" time I needed in dealing with stress. Life itself can be stressful, so the best thing is to not let things that bother you build to the point you are a tightly wound knot. Use the gentle movements of yoga to stretch out those knots. Lengthen the spine, relax the  muscles, rotate the joints, free the mind. All of these will help release tension, physically and mentally, and you may notice a reduction in back pain and headaches. The hardest part may be to carve out a private hour at least twice a week to be left alone. Consistency is the key to yoga. Everyone starts with baby steps but if you stick with it you'll be amazed how your body just seems to open up. Once on that mat, something magical happens.

Vinyasa means "breath-synchronized movement," and Vinyasa yoga is a series of poses that will move you through the power of inhaling and exhaling. Vinyasa movements are smoothly flowing and almost dance-like, which explains why it is sometimes referred to as Vinyasa Flow or just Flow.
Vinyasa Flow began as Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga by a Yogi named Sri Tirumala Krishnamacharya. He was given a place to teach yoga and eventually taught a young boy named Parrabhi Jois his learnings on the power of breathing. Jois then established an institute for practicing the specific form of Vinyasa yoga. Like all styles of yoga, Vinyasa has both mental and physical benefits. Physically, sweat expels toxins and re-energizes your body. Mentally, the synchronized breathing relaxes your mind and helps to release any blockage of energy flow throughout your body.

No matter what your age or physical fitness level, yoga is a wonderful and rewarding addition to your routine. Make it not only a form of exercise but a lifestyle. The point of yoga is not to contort yourself into positions you fear will cause injury, or mean you are somehow now associated with a particular religion. It is meant to move the body and breath so you learn to calm the mind, release tension, stretch your spine, and overall, better handle stress.Yoga is a program you can do in the privacy of your own home, year round, at your own convenience, as well as offered at many locations for those of you who enjoy the company of others to keep you motivated. Ideal for beginners because you can adjust the movements and build on them to eventually reach more of a personal challenge.

Those of you suffering from an autoimmune condition such as Systemic Lupus or Rheumatoid Arthritis may find it more of a challenge than ever because more likely than not, you are dealing with pain on top of just the lack of energy and time to stick with a program.

The first misconception you have to get past is that yoga involves pretzel like motions impossible for people who already have difficulty with flexibility.  One of the most important things all of us, whether you have a chronic condition or not, is to realize the importance of movement and proper breathing techniques. You have to work through the stiffness or like any machine you'll lock up altogether.  It may take everything you've got to start and then actually finish the session, but once done you'll realize it is a good hurt. Learning about the importance of better posture, proper breathing, and a stretched out back will greatly benefit you in dealing with pain management. Many people don't breathe properly. The tendency is to shallow breathe, especially when upset. Learn to deeply inhale, lifting the diaphragm as you fill those lungs to capacity and exhale slowly.

"Challenge your limitations while remaining sensitive to them."  That is a statement by expert and teacher of Ashtanga Yoga, Baron Baptiste.  His methods utilize the 'flowing of postures' which create heat and energy.  His techniques help our minds and bodies release accumulated tensions and open pathways of blocked energy, allowing life's energy to flow freely through every part of our being.  For improved health it is paramount to open up those pathways which will increase the flow of oxygenated blood to our organs.  The opening up of the spine helps release those everyday stresses we soak up like a sponge. Discover the relief found with what is called "meditation in motion". Baron Baptiste stresses the importance of taking care of what he calls fragile creatures... the knees, neck, and back. Ask any physical therapist and it is very likely they will tell you those areas are very often the ones needing treatment.

Baron Baptiste wrote a book, "Journey Into Power" which came out in 2002. This inspiring program helps you to lose weight, increase your physical and mental strength and stamina, and develop an inner sense of calm composure. Known as 'The yoga master for the stars', his gentle approach is as apparent on his DVD workouts as is evident from the book. Power Vinyasa yoga is described as meditation in motion. Poses are not the complicated twists often associated with yoga. His gentle, encouraging voice guides you along every step of the way, with alternatives for the harder moves.

 There is the website with an abundant source of activities and information, but if all you want is the exercise dvds, they can be found on shopping sites such as amazon, ebay or google, Available are a number of great dvds and even vhs tapes from back in the 1990's that are from beginner to intermediate. Below are a few of my personal favorites.

Baron Baptiste Foundations of Power Vinyasa Yoga
Baron Baptiste Soul of Strength
Power Yoga level 2 The Next Challenge

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Nature's Fury

"Mom, people say when bad weather hits it is "God's fury". Does that mean He is mad at us?"

Oh, from the mouths of babes. A classic moment when the child becomes the teacher in that such questions make us adults think enough to perhaps learn something.

In 2011 we had Hurricane Irene and now we have Hurricane Sandy to contend with as she makes her way up the east coast of the United States. As we prepare for the likelihood of damage and power outages, that question from years back popped into my head. I'm not sure what exactly I had said in response at that time, but with seemingly one natural disaster after another, it does make one ponder life in general.

 The human race has always interpreted such life events with various explanations:
Have we always had such catastrophic weather but now with the media we are notified and caught up in every bit of news about climate changes all over the world?
Are we humans the cause of the chaos by upsetting our ecosystem?
Has God had enough of our messing up His creation and sending us a clear message of the consequences?

Out of curiosity I looked up man's history of thinking about such events.

Prior to 1500 BC world events were governed by the gods of a particular religion or mythology. Everything in nature contains a spirit and the earth is like a Great Mother. Prayer and sacrifices were made in efforts to make life a bit easier.

Classical Greece (400 - 100 BC) brought us Aristotle and Plato who established the foundation for the development of science and the traditions of the western world.

By Medieveal times (400 - 1400 AD) a Christian God reigned over everything. Life was a strict hierarchy where God ruled at the top with children and animals at the very bottom. The "Will of God" was paramount; what the Church dictated was how life was or the person suffered the consequences. Human actions were not explained, only judged as good or evil. God was feared in the literal sense. When bad things happened people felt somehow they deserved to be punished.

During the Renaissance (1500 - 1850 AD), God was still to be behind everything and set things in motion, but science provided an objective view of the universe. By the late 19th century all spiritual forces were removed from the universe and everything was explained objectively through science.
Since nature was thought to have no meaning, it was common thought to exploit it for whatever it was worth to enhance the life of humans. It was thought that technology could solve all of our problems.
As people became more literate and had access to reading material they began to think for themselves about matters of spirituality and behavior.

So as our population has grown to nearly seven billion people, we can now deal with the consequences of our actions and try to clean things up and find alternative sources of energy to fuel our modern wants and needs.

Christians today feel they can have a personal relationship with God and the term 'fearful' not to be interpreted literally, but rather a matter of respect and awe.

To interpret our weather patterns as God's way of punishing us is not the mainstream thought in today's modern thinking. We may jokingly kid about "God's fury" but few of us really believe we humans are a central focus to the point that even the weather revolves around us.

It makes more sense that the weather patterns are along Newton's thinking. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The goal of mother nature is to survive and if at all possible she will amidst consequence and change. How we as a species have to adapt to survive that change, only time will tell.

Life is what it is. Take the advice of Harold Kushner, the Conservative rabbi who wrote the book, "When Bad Things Happen To Good People". Stuff happens.
The trick to not getting down is to not expect life to be smooth sailing, things just happen and we have to deal with them.

Ecclesiastes 3:1
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven

One thing we as a society should learn is not to put ourselves in the position to be totally helpless should the system break down. We as a culture are so intertwined that our daily lives seem to come to an absolute halt when the power goes out. We are so dependent on electricity to power our lights, water pumps, phone chargers, internet service, etc. that many feel helpless and cut off when suddenly without these services.

 Throughout history man has known how to survive by making do, doing without and utilizing skills of survival so they can be self-sustaining when need be.  Plan ahead for emergencies. Use a generator for back up power or have a place to go for a few days. Have a secondary heat source such as a wood, coal or pellet stove. In the event you can't get to the grocery store, know how to prepare your own meals from scratch, bake your own bread, stock up on things like bottled water, dry milk, canned goods, dry goods, batteries and candles. If you garden, learn how put up the surplus fruits and vegetables by canning, freezing or drying.

Remember the Boy Scout motto..."Be Prepared"
And also remember my mother's motto..."This too shall pass."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween GMOs, Sugar..Try a Healthier Treat

My kids still remind me the most likely reason we didn't get many trick or treaters wasn't because we lived in a rural area, it was because I usually had "healthy" goody bags.Yea well, too bad. When my kids were preschool I had full control over the quality of food to which they were exposed. By first grade I didn't exactly give up but waged my battles carefully, hoping to at least set the foundation of good eating habits. And now that they are both young adults they, without my nagging, are realizing that how they physically feel, how clearly they can think, and of course their appearance all depends on their lifestyle and eating habits.

Only a few years back we were concerned about the amount of fat, sugar and salt added to candy and snacks but we didn't hear about the concerns with GMO modified food. Not wanting to be just one more voice spoiling  the fun of the holidays, we should at least be aware of what is going on.

A good article on the subject of what are GMOs and why we should be leery of their use in our food supply is found here from the Non-GMO Project. In the absence of mandatory labeling, the Non-GMO Project was created to give consumers the informed choice they deserve. In the U.S., the government has approved GMOs based on studies conducted by the same corporations that created them and profit from their sale. Not knowing who to believe or even trust with the health of our loved ones, more and more Americans are taking matters into their own hands by trying not to purchase foods containing GMOs. The hope is that if people stop buying GMOs, companies will stop using them and farmers will stop growing them.

Now let's be more aware of what those labels mean in terms of sugar intake. How many grams in a tsp. of sugar is there anyway? As you can see from the chart below, the typical candy bar has 20 or more grams of sugar. Five teaspoons is 21 grams of sugar, six teaspoons is 26 grams of sugar, seven teaspoons is 31 grams, and my favorite Milky Way bar came in at 35 with 9 teaspoons being 36 grams of sugar!

As disturbing as it is to actually know that, we don't want to take all the fun out of our kids' Halloween loot. My way of handling the indulgence was to put most of the candy in the freezer and ration it out over a few weeks. Some parents let their kids have their gorge fest to get it over with and accept the sugar highs and sugar crashes as all part of the holiday. Below is the candy bar chart but for the full candy comparison refer to the following site:

Chocolate Bars Compared
Chocolate Bar Serving Size Calories Total Fat
Saturated Fat
Contains Trans Fat Sugar
Hershey's Milk Chocolate
1 bar 270 16 10 NO 31
Hershey's Milk Chocolate With Almonds
1 bar 210 14 6 NO 19
1 bar 210 10 6 NO 24
1 bar 230 13 10 NO 21
Almond Joy
1 package 220 13 8 YES 20
Kit Kat Bar
1 bar 210 11 7 NO 22
REESE'S Fast Break
1 bar 260 13 4.5 YES 30
5TH Avenue
1 bar 280 14 5 NO 27
Mr. Goodbar
1 bar 260 17 7 NO 22
YORK Peppermint Pattie
1 piece 140 2.5 1.5 NO 25
Take 5
1 package 210 11 5 YES 18
Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate
1 bar 218 12 8 NO 21
REESE'S Peanut Butter Cups
1 package 260 15 6 NO 25
HEATH Toffee Bar
1 bar 210 13 7 NO 23
PAYDAY Peanut Caramel Bar
1 bar 240 13 2.5 NO 21
1 bar 210 12 7 NO 24
SYMPHONY Milk Chocolate
1 bar 210 13 8 NO 23
1 package 280 14 5 YES 30
Snickers Cruncher
1 package 220 11 6 YES 21
Snickers Almond Bar
1 package 230 11 4 YES 26
Milky Way
1 package 260 10 7 YES 35
TWIX Caramel Cookie Bars
1 package 280 14 11 YES 27
3 Musketeers
1 bar 260 8 5 YES 40
1 bar 190 11 5 NO 21
Baby Ruth
1 bar 280 14 8 YES 33
1 bar 270 11 6 NO 29
100 Grand
1 package 180 8 5 NO 21
Nestle Crunch
1 bar 220 12 7 NO 24


If you want an easy, chocolate lover's snack that is delicious and simple to put into gift bags, here are two no-cook recipes:

This recipe is an adaptation of a peanut butter ball recipe from an old Rodale cookbook.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Coated Sesame Balls

3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Combine these three ingredients in a medium sized bowl.

3/4 cup skim milk powder
1 cup oatmeal
Combine these two ingredients in another bowl.

Gradually add the oatmeal/milk powder mixture to the peanut butter mixture, blend thoroughly, mix will be stiff, may need your hands.

1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds (toast seeds in a preheated 200 degree oven for 20 minutes)
2 tbsp. boiling water
Blend the seeds and the hot water into the mixture.

Using your hands, shape into 1-inch balls. (The mix will be sticky so wet your hands periodically with cold water.)
Roll the balls around in a bowl containing finely chopped nuts, almond meal, wheat germ or ground flax seeds.
Place the balls onto wax paper lined baking sheets. 
Place the baking sheets in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Place a pound of chocolate coating wafers or a 12 oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips along with 1 tbsp. shortening into a small microwave safe bowl (or melt using a double boiler).
Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes, stir, another 30 seconds, stir till smooth.
Dip the balls into the melted chocolate using a strong sandwich pick. Place onto the wax paper lined baking sheets to harden.
This batch makes about 3 dozen.

From the Taste of Home cooking magazine, this recipe is a bit easier and uses only four ingredients. You can use your own granola mix or purchase a store brand.
Granola Fudge Clusters
1 cup (6 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup (6 oz) butterscotch chips
1 1/4 cup granola
1 cup chopped walnuts

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate and butterscotch chips, stir until smooth.
Stir in the granola and walnuts.
Drop by tablespoonfuls onto waxed paper lined baking sheets.
Refrigerate about 30 minutes or until firm.
This batch makes about 2 1/2 dozen.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Great Halloween Pumpkin, What does the story really mean?

Charles Schulz' views of American customs and life in general have been teaching and entertaining us for over fifty years. Take the time to ponder what Schulz is saying and you will soon realize there is a lot more to these cartoon strips than entertainment.

I can remember as a child reading the cartoon strips and at times I thought, "I don't get it.", though knowing full well there is a bit of wisdom right in front of me.  The 'something' that is outside of each of the characters would be obvious once I understood. 

"It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" portrays the struggle between existentialism and religious determinism. The Western fear of Paganism has always reached its height on October 31, originally the closing date on the pre-Christian Celtic calendar and marked be Druid harvest practices.  All Saints' Day was introduced by the pope in the 7th century as a way to counter the effects of the pagan festival.  Brought to the United States in the 1800's by Irish immigrants, Halloween is mainly regarded as a social gathering, a holiday for children, with little thought to its being connected to the restless afterlife.  The Great Pumpkin attempts to find the spiritual in the mundane and to locate the divine in the pagan.

For the Peanuts gang, the world is an inhospitable place.  Narrow-minded and gullible, Charlie Brown sees the world as cruel and unforgiving.  Day in and day out he falls into the same patterns of behavior resulting in the failure once again.  Many of us can relate to Charlie Brown because we often find ourselves going through life repeating patterns of behavior or expectations and then wondering why things don't work out any differently.

Violet's Halloween party with all its temptations of fun and frolic pulls the rest of the gang into the excitement of 'the now', while Linus is mocked for missing out and choosing to separate himself and wait for the unknown rather than enjoy the obvious.  Even Sally loses interest and joins the festivities, portraying the message of how often the chasm of beliefs can put a wedge within a relationship.

Linus seeks religion and philosophy as the key to understanding his universe.  Rather than letting Charlie Brown's self-pity in why things are the way they are, Linus believes there must be something beyond the ordinary everyday happenings, a divine purpose.  He doesn't give an air of superiority over his peers but his perceptions set him apart from the rest of the gang, similar to the way those of us with strong convictions feel so alone among the majority in our society.  Linus clings to his thumb and blanket for security and comfort.  The Great Pumpkin is symbolic as the 'sign' that there may be something greater in which to believe even if we must continue to wait.  We need to keep firm in whatever foundation of faith we have and to understand that some things in life are just a mystery.

Charles Schulz' writings reflect his own personal search for understanding and meaning.  He portrayed very well the message that for those who keep on searching, the world can be an unforgiving and perhaps lonely place.  But life is what it is and though an unpredictable blend of tears of joy as well as grief, we mustn't give up on the fascination of this mysterious journey.

The complete article "The Book of Linus" by Michael Koresky

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Quip and a Quote


Seasonal Reflection

"Our gardens are tired, they've given their all,
The bounty is gathered, we're ready for Fall.
Herbs cut and dried, seeds stored away,
Swallows have flown, mice hide in the hay.
Take time to listen, the message is there,
Blessings abound, our work now to share.
Give what you can, but take a moment to rest
Take care of yourself and you'll give back your best."

We often feel like squirrels bustling around multitasking, trying to get everything done, always feeling as though there is a race against the clock.

The months just seem to blend one into another and it is easy to let these beautiful days slip away as we focus more on the day to day schedule of demands than on taking advantage of the moment.

Our daily work is what it is and does need to get done, but remember Lao Tzu's wisdom and remember to look up from our tasks so we don't miss something we can't get back.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Power of Peppermint For Pest Control

No one likes being cold, and that includes unwelcome guests entering our homes such as spiders and rodents. With the arrival of cold weather, keep this in mind as you prepare your home for the chill of winter.

Take action at the first sign of mouse droppings because if there is one there are more. Mice breed at an incredible rate and with each litter consisting of six to twelve young it only takes a few weeks of ignoring the signs to find yourself with a real problem. The spots we have had the most trouble are under the kitchen sink, the cabinets nearest the vent for the stove and in our unfinished basement. All areas where there are most likely gaps in construction and should be remedied. 

Killing with mouse traps, glue traps or poison works in the short run but in the long run they only open up space for another mouse to move in.
Should you want to avoid dealing with the smell of death but unable to find the source, or disposing of the dead or dying caught in traps, a humane method of pest control is best. 

Peppermint essential oil is the essence of peppermint leaves. These oils are obtained by steam distillation and contain the volatile oils within the plant itself.  It is strong and offensive to the sensitive noses of our little rodent pests and being they find it repulsive they avoid it and the hope is that they move out or don't enter our homes in the first place. Don't buy the type of peppermint oil used for flavoring in the cooking section of your store. Purchase at a reputable health food store where you'll find 100% pure, therapeutic essential oils. Synthetics may smell the same but it is more than the smell that does the trick. You want the real thing. 

Add a few drops to cotton balls and leave them at the points of suspected entry or activity. Add fresh oil to the cotton balls on a weekly basis as a preventative measure. Or use the spray bottle method of 10 - 15 drops peppermint essential oil to 8 - 12 oz. of water. Spray around doorways, counter tops, baseboards, garage doors, basements, etc. 

Spiders are more common in our homes than we think. If we leave them alone, usually they try in earnest to leave us alone. According to David Bodanis in his book, "Secret House", the typical clean and tidy home still houses many, many spiders. These beneficials prefer to stay hidden in dark corners and quietly give us a hand in keeping those insects at bay who can do us harm. While we don't want visible spider webs we also don't want to contribute toxins to our home by spraying with pesticides.

As with rodents, spiders and ants also hate peppermint. Ants can be a problem in any home but those with mortar and brick seem to be more susceptible for entry points. Be sure to keep your kitchen counters and cabinets free from open food and crumbs. Ants follow a trail so take notice of where they are coming in and block the trail with undiluted peppermint oil or spray the peppermint oil/water mixture.
Use the spray bottle method of adding 10 to 15 drops of peppermint essential oil to 8 to 12 ounces of water. Spray wherever you suspect ants and spiders are entering your home.
Planting peppermint outside near your doorways can help deter pests. Just be sure to plant in tubs or pots since mints spread rapidly and can easily take over a flowerbed or garden area.

Aside from spiders and mice, peppermint oil also is a natural insect repellent for fleas and mosquitoes. To use as a bug repellent spray for yourselves or your dogs (not to be used on cats) add a bit of vodka to distilled water at the ratio of 10 - 15 drops peppermint essential oil to 8 - 12 oz of the distilled water/vodka mixture. Rubbing alcohol can be used in place of the distilled water/vodka mixture. Peppermint is strong and though known to be safe test first on a small area of skin to check for any skin sensitivity.

Check out the many uses for using peppermint oil as a body spray

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Choose Food Bearing Trees and Shrubs for your Landscape Planting

Planting for wildlife, Native Plants as a Food Source


Attracting more wildlife to your yard is as simple as providing their basic needs: shelter, food, water, and nesting sites. In the wild you'll find sources for these survival needs from the tallest trees down to the forest floor. It is important to plant diciduous and evergreen trees as well as the many perennial and annual herbaceous plants.

We mustn't forget the importance of what makes up the hedgerows. These areas are much more than unkept wild areas of stickers, vines and weeds.
Shrubs and bushes are what is called the understory trees in a mixed forest. They not only provide additional food and cover for wildlife but they help nourish and cool the forest floor for the health of the larger trees. The larger trees give them the necessary dappled protection they need from the full sun.

Fall is the perfect time to plant since the plants are not in an active growth stage therefore require less water. Getting them in the ground before a hard frost gives them enough time to get established before winter and then in the Spring the roots are ready to uptake water and nutrients for the demands of new growth.
Below are a glimpse of a few ideal berry producing shrubs for feeding birds and many forms of wildlife when other food sources start to dwindle. Here you can get an idea of not only their autumn color display but the general shape of the tree. To see what some of these shrubs look like in the spring check out this post, The Marvels of May.

Eastern Redbud
The Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis). This eastern native is a fascinating little tree with its heart shaped leaves, angled growth pattern in its branches and one of the first flowering trees in the spring. Its pink blossoms are such a welcome sight for those needing a bit of color after a long winter.

Washington Hawthorn
The Washington Hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum). Growing in zones 4-8 this tree can reach 25-30 feet tall. Beautiful and very beneficial to the birds with its fruit as long as you don't mind the 2-3 inch thorns.

Pyracantha Firethorn
A spikey, evergreen, the Firethorn is a low maintenance shrub that can be pruned and shaped to go up against a wall or around doorways. If left alone they make a good hedgerow shrub that can reach 10 ft. tall. Great food and shelter source for wildlife.

Barberry bushes come in several varieties and serve several functions. They are very decorative throughout the seasons, offering not only a food source to birds and small animals but also safety within its thorny branches. I have yet to see a cat go after anything once it is safely within a barberry bush.

Flowering Dogwood

 The always popular Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)  thrives in zones 5-8
It is a short-trunked tree growing to about 15 - 25 ft. tall. A beautiful display of white flowers in the spring turn to shiny red clusters of berrylike fruits. As seen above the foliage turns a brilliant red in the Fall.

Pagoda Dogwood
A beautifully shaped small tree, the Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) can easily become a favorite front yard specimen tree. It has distinctive layered branches which when given enough space and sun, will spread out like the roof of a pagoda. With its creamy white flowers in the spring, purple-red leaves in the fall followed by blue-purple berries, this tree is very appealing

American cranberrybush Viburnum
 The American cranberrybush Viburnum (Viburnum trilobum) zones 2-8
If this shrub likes its location it can grow 12-15 ft tall with an 8-10 ft. spread. The month of May brings clusters of small white flowers with become bright red fruits by late summer. These fruits are edible though very sour and can remain on the bush all winter. Usually around March the cedar waxwings, traveling in groups, visit just long enough to strip the bushes clean. It is so neat to witness their short stay and know there was a food source available when food sources still appear so bleak. The maple like leaves turn a beautiful shade of red before they drop and leave behind the decorative berry display/


Very pretty and easy to fit in a smaller landscape, Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) zones 3-9.
Smaller than the Common Chokecherry, this shrub only gets about 6 feet tall. By fall it is loaded in dark berries. Red in color it is just such an attractive little tree.

Winterberry Holly
Great for holiday decorating, the Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata) or sometimes called Black Alder. Zones 4-9
This shrub may reach 15 ft if grown in wetlands though it seems to do just fine in a garden setting. Once the leaves turn yellow and fall the bare, dark gray branches look so pretty with its abundant red berries.

The Nannyberry, another type of Viburnum, grows to a small tree size of about 30 ft. and doesn't seem to spread in width as does the American cranberrybush. Its foliage turns more of a purple red color in the fall and its berries are small bluish-black that hang onto the bush late into the winter. This shrub also like moist soil but as long as is in full sun to partial shade and good soil it does fine.


The flowering crabapple (Malus) is a spring-blooming tree in the Rosaceae family. While crabapple trees are closely related to apple trees, they typically bear smaller fruit and have slightly different blooms, leaves and growth habits.The tree pictured has white, pink tinged flowers in the spring and small red fruit in the autumn.  An attractive little tree, these trees have an average height of about 10 - 15 feet.

Filbert trees (also called Hazelnut trees) are ideal nut trees for either your own harvest or left for the wildlife. If left alone in a naturalized setting, they become large shrubs with many trunks. But with pruning they can be shaped into a single small tree.  Leaves of the filbert or hazelnut tree are a valued food source for wildlife, including several species of butterfly. Once mature, the clusters of nuts will drop to the ground and can either be left for the wildlife or gathered and dried for human consumption.

When it comes to planting trees and shrubs we have to keep in mind that we're planting for the future and we must have patience. It is easy to see these plants in catalogs and visualize that same beautiful addition in your landscaping. It takes a few years for trees to really get established, take form and become a specimen plant.

However, once they are planted, the hardest work is done. You may have to protect them from deer damage while young but being native to North America they should flourish.
The exceptions are: Barberry is a native of Europe and the Firethorn is a native of China.

Should you have trouble finding these natives at your local nurseries check with the Cooperative Extension Office for your county. They are a great source for all types of gardening, landscaping, agricultural and livestock questions but can also tell you where to find the native plant sales in your area. They are usually in the spring and/or the fall season.

Cedar Waxwings

Insect and fruit eating Cedar Waxwings made a brief appearance in March when they passed through searching for those last berries still clinging to our American Cranberry Bushes. (However in this photo they are perched in a Willow tree). Native trees and shrubs are very important food sources for insect eating birds arriving before it is warm enough for the bugs to be out and about.