Top 10 Essential Oils for Brain Fog

Have you ever had one of those days when you just couldn’t concentrate? You had a mountain of things to do but just couldn’t focus? It is literally like we are in a fog and we can see to the other side but can’t get out. The good news is we can do something about it. Recently my colleague and friend, Krista Strayer of Flourish Yoga, wrote a fabulous piece on the Top 10 Essential Oils that can be used to clear brain fog. Read on below to discover how you can get focused and get the job done quicker! And comment below with your favorite essential oil to lift the brain fog.

brain fog

Essential oils support brain function on many levels from oils that stimulate the brain, calm the nervous system to relieve the fight or flight response, to oils that help reduce inflammation throughout the the body which can also lead to brain fog.

The Powerful Sense of Smell

sense of smellEssential Oils directly access the brain through the olfactory bulb which is strongly linked to emotional state and memory function. The olfactory system is connected to the hippocampus, brain stem, auditory cortex and many other areas of the amygdala. This means that through our sense of smell we are able to positively influence thought processing. Going beyond the scent of Lavender reminding you of your Grandma it will also help to calm the brain stem and assist with auditory learning.

Crossing the Barrier

Another way that essential oils assist with brain health is through the blood-brain barrier. The brain has a unique built-in protective system that prevents toxins and harmful substances from affecting the brain. The blood vessels are lined with endothelial cells that create a barrier between the blood system of the brain and the rest of the body. Many drugs are not able to cross this barrier to help heal the brain. Essential Oils have this ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and act quickly to reduce inflammation and assist cellular regeneration.

My top 10 Essential Oils for Brain Fog to keep the brain healthy, reduce stress and focus better.  Mix and match these essential oils together to create a brain and focus blend to use in your diffuser and roller-bottles with the oils you have in your cupboard. Don’t use oils internally unless they are CSPG Certified such as Doterra Oils.

The Top 10 Essential Oils for Brain Fog

 

1. Peppermint – Invigorating and Stimulating

brain fogPeppermint is a versatile oil that helps with everything from indigestion, bug repellent, and improved athletic performance. It’s most widely known though for its ability to perk us up and keep you alert. Spritz peppermint on your child’s shirt, sip it in water or inhale from the palms of your hands with a drop of wild orange and frankincense to improve mental clarity and focus.

2. Rosemary – Refreshing and Clearing

brain fogUsed in ancient times by scholars to increase focus but wearing rosemary leaves around the neck. Rosemary contains the chemical carnosol which  reduces inflammation and helps nerve tissue growth. Apply diluted rosemary to the back of the neck or bottoms of the feet to boost memory and brain function. Or diffuse with frankincense and peppermint and while studying.

3. Vetiver – Exotic and Grounding

This grass root harvested in Haiti is known for its ability to ground and soothe emotions. brain fogDiffuse or apply topically with Lavender to the feet, spine or back of the neck to improve focus and concentration. Combine with Melissa and diffuse or apply to pulse points to decrease anxiety and severe stress.

Click here for full article and the other 7 brain fog essential oils…

8 Tips for Gardening with Kids

gardening with kids

I love getting outside with the kids and digging in the garden. They love getting out there and putting their hands in the dirt, planting their seeds and then watching attentively each day waiting for that first bit of green to come up.

They get so excited when it peeks through and though I sometimes have to tell them things like not to overwater their plants, they love the experience and enjoy the success of producing their own flowers or food.

Benefits of Gardening with Kids

mud activitiesGardening with children provides many benefits and learning and you can start involving them at a very young age. It builds upon their innate curiosity to learn and ask why, learning by doing and of course nurturing their love of playing in the dirt (playing in the dirt is actually good for you!)

It teaches them responsibility, environmental awareness, patience and developmental benefits such as fine motor skills and planning and organizing. There’s even scientific and math concepts that you can teach through gardening which I always find so amazing how nature can teach us just by being involved with it. Plus it’s a fabulous bonding experience and it’s fun! Not to mention that your outside getting exercise and soaking up the sunshine.

Gardening with kids can be super easy and with these tips you’ll have success in no time.

Tips for Gardening with Kids

Give them their own spot – this is the most important thing. The kids need to feel like they have their own spot that they can garden in and that you are ok to relinquish control over! You should certainly work with them and guide them on what to do, but you really want to allow them to do it and try a few things as that is how they learn. It’s ok for them to plant a seed too deep and have it not come up or to over water an area. Yes you want them to experience success but it’s also ok for them to experience something not working. Then there’s the opportunity to discuss and explore why. And if you don’t have a lot of space try container or pallet gardening.

IMG_0900Give them their own gardening tools – set them up with their own kids size gardening gloves, garden shovel, knee pad, etc. which are easily found at your local garden center or online sites like Amazon. When they have their own tools to work with it makes them feel more important and that they have more control. Also make sure their tools are durable and strong, invest in the metal ones, not plastic that can break easily.

Start from seed – one of the best learning experiences in the garden is to start right from the beginning. I know in some climates the growing season is short and it’s easier to buy seedlings and plant those. Children will learn more by seeing the growing process right from the beginning – plus they get so excited when they see that first shoot of green peeking through.

In those situations start your seeds earlier inside and then transplanting them to the outdoor garden once it’s warmed up (here in Calgary rule of thumb is nothing until after May long weekend). You could do a combination, some from seed and a few of seedlings, which is what I tend to do, which provides both experiences.

Let them pick what they want to plant – if they get to choose what plants they want then this not only empowers them it gives them a more vested interest in what’s happening. As the parent give them choices that would work in your garden space and that will provide the kids with the most success. Choose from this Top 10 list of Crops for Children which are easy to grow, have short growing seasons and are fun to harvest.

gardening with kidsLet them decorate their garden – let the kids add a little bit of their own flare to the garden by making their own garden stake or scarecrow. Adding a fairy house or some other decorative item to a corner of their garden. Let them be creative!

Show off their work – when showing off the garden – either physically or through pictures – make sure to highlight the kids garden. This will ensue a sense of pride and accomplishment and creates a motivator for them to continue.

Encourage them to work it right to the end – work with the kids to see the garden season all the way through. Get them to help care for the garden even after the fruit has been harvested and teach them how to prep it for the winter and next growing season. This is a valuable lesson in teaching them the importance of all the steps and how each step supports the fruit that they produced and enjoyed. As well as all about the circle of life.

gardening with kidsModel what you want them to do – the easiest way to get them started is to be gardening yourself. Kids watch and learn from the adults in their lives so if they see you doing it they are going to want to do it to. Encourage them when they come over and ask questions, give them small tasks to get them involved and take time to answer their questions.

When I was little my aunt had a huge beautiful garden (and still does) that she worked and enjoyed every year. I loved going to her place and helping her, asking questions. Even as a family we had a small garden plot – and as a result all 3 of us girls love gardening and do so in our adult lives.

Starting with these simple tips will ensure the most success for gardening with kids. As you get going and the kids get older, with more experience you can then introduce concepts like rain barrels and why they’re beneficial, planting specific plants to attract pollinators like bees, humming birds and why that’s helpful to the earth. It doesn’t mean you can’t talk about them now (as you are likely doing some of those things in your garden already) but you can use them as ways to expand and build on their knowledge as they go and so as not to overwhelm them with a lot of information at once.

The best tip though is to enjoy yourself! Get out there and have fun with the kids and reap the benefits as a bonus!

gardening with kids

Have some great tips for gardening with kids? Share in the comments below.

DIY Mother’s Day Gifts with Essential Oils

diy essential oil gifts

Pamper Mom this Mother’s Day with these easy DIY Essential Oil gifts. These gifts will not only relax and pamper her but she’ll appreciate the love that was put into them when they were made specially by you.

Mother’s Day is another holiday where we can go a little crazy with the spending and the gifts (average spending in Canada is about $100) because we want to show Mom how much we love and appreciate her. Of course as we Mom’s deserve it! We do a lot and we work hard. But if you’re looking for a loving gift for Mom that shows you appreciate her and that’s easy and affordable then try one of these DIY Essential Oil gifts that she’s sure to love!

Not only are these gifts a great way to pamper Mom and tell her that you love her, the essential oils in them provide many benefits that will support her physical and emotional health, naturally.

DIY Essential Oil Gifts for Mom

Gardener Hand Soap

If Mom loves to putz in the garden then this is the perfect gift for her. This easy-to-make Gardener’s Hand Soap exfoliates, cleanses, and moisturizes all in one use! Clary Sage is an oil that has relaxing and soothing properties that help with rejuvenation and calming of the skin. While Melaleuca known for its purifying qualities, is also good for cleansing the skin and promoting healthy immune function.

diy essential oil gifts

Lavender Myrrh Cuticle Cream

A homemade cuticle cream is a great way to bring moisture and health back to your nails. Add a little extra to your gift for Mom and help her apply it with a mini hand massage! This cream can also be used on your hands, lips, or anywhere you have dry spots. If you choose Lavender to add in be ready for calming and relaxing benefits, if you choose Myrrh it’s soothing to the skin and promotes emotional balance and well being.

diy essential oil gifts

Essential Oil Body Wash

Help Mom wake up her senses in the morning or calm them down at night with a scented body wash. Using essential oils can provide valuable nourishment to your skin, if it contains the right ingredients. For an energizing body wash choose oils such as Peppermint, Grapefruit or Lime. For a calming body wash choose Lavender, Bergamot or Roman Chamomile.

diy essential oil gifts

Ginger Lime Brown Sugar Scrub

Mom can exfoliate and soften her skin with this easy to make body scrub. The Ginger essential oil creates a balanced, grounded and feeling of empowerment, as well as supporting healthy joint function. While Lime purifies the skin and positively effects mood.

diy essential oil gifts

Strawberry Lime Sugar Scrub

If Mom likes to smell like dessert than this is the body scrub for her. Super easy to make and with all the uplifting benefits of Lime essential oil.

diy essential oil gifts

Essential Neck Wrap

Help Mom relax and soothe sore muscles with this easy to make neck wrap. When used with essential oils, they can provide additional relief and benefits. Incredibly easy and affordable, just add in your favorite essential oil.

diy essential oil gifts

Fizzy Bath Bombs

Bath bombs are a fun gift as they add excitement to your senses and a little entertain as you watch it fizz as it dissolves in the water. Add your favorite essential oil to invigorate – like Wild Orange and Spearmint or relax like my favorite Lavender, Cedarwood or Frankincense.

diy essential oil gifts

Lavender Bath Salts

These bath salts may be the easiest of our do it yourself gifts for Mom. Simply take 2 cups of Epsom salts and add 10-15 drops of Lavender essential oil – mixing them together in a glass jar or bowl. If you want to get fancy add some dried lavender pieces (I’ve seen them at the Bulk Barn) for a little added color. Store in an airtight container, wrap a bow around it and give it to Mom! Have her add it to her bath to soothe the skin and relaxation.

diy essential oil gifts

Lime & Mint Foot Soak

This easy to make foot soak will energize, uplift and refresh. Let Mom soak her feet and take it easy for a bit. Maybe even bring her a nice glass of wine or coffee to sip while she soaks.

diy essential oil gifts

Orange Creamsicle Lip Balm

No list of pampering for Mom would be complete without a moisturizing lip balm. A common must have this natural lip balm is full of health benefits and yummy flavor! The fresh, sweet scent of Wild Orange is energizing and provides immune support.

diy essential oil gifts

No matter what gift you choose to make for Mom this Mother’s Day, she’ll definitely know that you love and appreciate her! Whether you make one or two I’d recommend you make enough for yourself to either join in with her or enjoy yourself later, might as well. I know for myself that I love the scents of essential oils and when I’m working with one of my favorites I can’t get enough! Plus it’s a great excuse to go take some me time later – can’t waste what I’ve made. May you enjoy your day as a Mother or spending time with yours in some way. Happy Mother’s Day!

Interested in learning more about essential oils or have a question? Drop me a line I’d love to chat with you.

 

5 Easy at Home Workouts

easy at home workoutsIf one of your New Year’s resolutions is getting in better shape but the time and expense of a gym just doesn’t appeal to you – I have the solution for you with these 5 Easy at Home Workouts.

I get it, you’re a busy mom/ parent on the go. There are days when you are just happy you’ve had time for a shower and something to eat, let alone a little exercise. It’s also winter – and I don’t know about where you live, but right now it’s freezing and snowy outside! So though I love being outdoors and enjoying winter when I can – the reality is we tend to hibernate in winter. We don’t get out as much, and we tend to be less active in general.

easy at home workoutsFor me, I love things that I can do at home. Because though I do go to a gym and enjoy it, I also love the option of being able to get a workout in without having to go anywhere. Cause honestly sometimes you just don’t have the time to pack your bag, get in the car, drive to the gym… you get the idea. But you do have 10-15 minutes.

And truly 10-15 minutes can do wonders for your overall health, well being and exercise plan. You do not need a lot of fancy equipment to get the blood moving and the heart pumping or to notice the results of your efforts. Plus it’s easy, and I don’t know about you but I love easy. If it’s easy it makes it more of a reality that it is going to happen.

I also like variety. I don’t always want to do the same thing everyday so I like to have options to choose from when I want to switch it up. These 5 Easy at Home Workouts offer a variety of options that are more than just weights and constant repetitions. They are short and great for getting up and moving. They are also easy to do with or involve the kids if you want to. It can even be contagious! My daughter does my 5 minute yoga routine with me most mornings and now does her own periodically throughout the day!

5 Easy at Home Workouts

Easy 10 Minute Workout – Simply using your body and a chair, this workout routine provides 8 strength training exercises to strengthen and tone.

easy at home workouts

Mini Trampoline Workout – Move to your favorite tunes with this low impact workout. I love this idea as you just cue up enough music for the length of time you want – 5 minutes, 10 minutes, etc. and then you jump and move and play. That’s it! Easy. Yes you need a mini trampoline but they are inexpensive. They are also portable and fit just about anywhere.

easy at home workouts

Fun Hoola Hoop Exercise Routine – I think this my favorite one. Even though I am terrible at using one, the laughter and joy from doing this would be beneficial in itself. Besides they say practice makes perfect and if no one is watching you (another benefit of doing it at home) then there’s no need to be self conscious. Give it your all!

easy at home workouts

 

5 Minute Yoga Routine – This has become my cornerstone in my daily routine. I do it each morning and I love it because it is only 5 minutes. It’s easy, it gets me moving and if on the odd occassion I don’t do it first thing like usual, I can easily fit it into my day somewhere else. Because it’s only 5 minutes! Don’t worry if you haven’t done yoga before. Krista takes you through all the moves in the video.

easy at home workouts

 

Easy at-home Exercises – 10 minutes, your body and a couple of soup cans. Voila! Easiest at home workout ever.

easy at home workouts

So before you decide to throw out the idea of getting more exercise this year pick one of these workouts and give it a try. If one doesn’t appeal to you try a different one. It’s only a few minutes, it’s easy and you’ll be thanking yourself later.

Regardless of which one you choose, and you could even do a combination, you’ll easily reap the benefits of regular exercise in the comfort of your own home. Tone, strengthen and relieve stress.

Plus there’s no financial investment. You don’t even need workout gear, you could simply do them in your pyjamas (seriously I do it – who’s watching). The biggest thing is to be consistent, even if you only do it once a week but do it consistently it’ll make a difference. So go for it! Make exercise easy and have fun with it. I’m off to play with my hula hoop…

Sogo for a Run

Sogo SquirtsMy son completes his last lap around the designated loop in Fish Creek, completing 10 laps easily without losing breath or stamina. Nine weeks ago he could barely do 3 without being short of breath and collapsing on the ground. Endurance, which he has definitely built up over the past 10 weeks, is only one of 4 components in the Sogo Adventure Running Program for Youth.

A little tentative when we began, my son was unsure if he even wanted to participate in this program. “It’s running Mum, that’s boring.” But I suggested we go and check it out as there was more than that, not committing him one way or the other so he agreed.

After the first night watching the other kids zoom through the forest, jumping over obstacles and balancing clothes pegs, he was in and couldn’t wait to get started.

Sogo Adventure RunningSogo Adventure Running is an outdoor running program for youth ages 3-18, that runs each Spring and Fall, offering 4 levels of skill and age based programming. It is based on the Canadian Sport of Life Long Term Athlete Development model and is a great way to get kids out there and active!

It has four components, endurance, speed/power, strength/agility and navigation, 2 of which are done each week on a rotating basis. I was so impressed the first night with the obstacle course the kids did I wanted them to set up an adult program for me!

I loved the fact that my son was getting outside each week on a regular basis, rain or shine, and playing in the outdoors (as he spends far too much time on electronics). He was active, with his peers and really challenging himself. I also loved that we got to enjoy and explore different natural areas in Calgary, as the locations rotated every few weeks.

Sogo Adventure RunningHe looked so vibrant and alive after each class. We would often leave in a rush to get there; he would say he was tired and didn’t want to go, but once we got there he got right into it, literally glowing and happy afterwards.

I was also pleased to be part of Sogo Squirts (3-5 year olds) pilot program last spring with my younger son and daughter, as I am a strong believer that when you introduce things to kids at a young agethat it sticks with them. An active foundation is so important for children. This program had the same components but was set up through games and activities for their age. Both my younger children loved looking for the orange and white flags and punching their cards on their navigation course.

This unique program is part of the Foothills Wanderers Orienteering Club and with registration allows youth to participate in their Family Fun nights on Wednesdays, where kids get to put their skills to work!

I was so pleased that this low cost, active program (all you need is a pair of running shoes) was available to all my children and I look forward to participating again! It is an experience like no other!Sogo Adventure Running

For more information on Sogo and registration go to their website sogoadventurerunning.com

Kids Healthy Cooking – How to get your Kids Eating Vegetables

get kids eating vegetablesIt is amazing how many kids do not like vegetables. Or if they do, they like only one, like carrots, or cucumbers, but otherwise that’s it. I know many parents experience this struggle of expanding their children’s vegetable palate. That’s why getting creative to get kids eating vegetables is key.

In our Mini Chefs class last week we created vegetable flowers. This is a great way to get kids eating vegetables – it is fun, offers them diverse food colors and creates a pattern, which are all proven ways to get them eating. The ‘flower’ was a combination of celery, radish, carrot, cucumber, spinach, and grape tomato (lots of colors).

veggie flowerWhen we were creating our vegetable flowers, many of the kids told me right away which vegetables they did not like. Though I acknowledged it, I encouraged them to make the flower anyway and then they could eat the parts they did like and leave the rest (not forcing the kids to eat what they don’t like, but acknowledging and encouraging is another way to get kids eating vegetables, and a variety). I praised and encouraged them as they were creating, telling them how much I liked the ‘grass’ they had made or the ‘petals’ on the flower. When we were done, all the ‘flowers’ were unique. Similar to the example but with their own creative flare!

Then of course we ate them and some of the kids not only ate the parts they liked but branched out and tried something new. I had to laugh when I watched two girls each try a spinach leaf and heard them exclaim “oh this is so yummy!”

This is why cooking with your kids is such a great benefit! It gets them involved, creative and gives them opportunities to try something new. Making food fun, will encourage them to try it out and maybe, hopefully expand their palates. It also is an opportunity to teach them about nutrition and why we need balance in what we eat.

IMG_6922Also that day we made Tuna Melts, which is one of my favorites! It is a simple quick recipe and great to do with kids. All you need is bread, tuna, Veganaise (or your favorite mayonaise) and cheddar cheese. This recipe is a great one for kids to practice stirring and spreading (the tuna). Parents of course should do the opening of the can, cutting and using the oven as these tasks need to be closely supervised with small children.

Again we had a few kids who said they didn’t like tuna, but I encouraged them to at least try it. For some kids, it could simply be the Veganaise (mayo) that they don’t actually like. I remember when I was little I did not care for mayonaise at all. It wasn’t until I was much older that I actually liked it. If you think this may be the case, you can either change your mayo choice (not all mayos are created equal) or you could leave it out and not mix it in your tuna – though this would leave the tuna a little dry the melted cheese on top could help with this. Experiment, let your child taste the items separately to determine what part they don’t care for and then adjust from there.

Cooking with kids is always an adventure and getting kids to eat vegetables just makes it that much more interesting! But recognizing and praising them for what they do and trying new things definitely puts them on a path to enjoying their food and exploring new recipes!

Tuna Meltstuna melt with Daiya cheddar

Ingredients:

Slices of bread

1 can of tuna

Veganaise (or choose your favorite mayonaise)

Slices of Daiya cheddar (or regular cheddar)

Mix tuna with Veganaise. Start with one to two spoonfuls of Veganaise and mix. Add more if needed to taste, you do not want the tuna to be dry, but you don’t want it sopping wet. Spread tuna on slice of bread. Place cheddar slices on top of tuna.

Place on a cookie sheet in oven on broil. When cheese has melted it is ready to eat! this only takes one or two minutes so make sure you keep an eye on it. Take out of oven and let cool slightly, then eat and enjoy!

Vegetable Flower

Ingredients:IMG_6930

Cucumber slices

Celery

1 grape or cherry tomato

1 radish

2 spinach leaves

8 baby carrots

Wash all vegetables. Slice cucumbers, radish and 2 pieces of celery (one big and one small) to make stems of flowers. On a plate place 2 pieces of celery. At the top of the big piece arrange cucumber slices into a flower shape. At the top of the small piece of celery arrange the radish to make petals of flower. Place grape or cherry tomato in middle of the cucumbers to form center of big flower. Place two pieces of spinach on either side of big piece of celery to make leaves. Line the bottom of flowers with baby carrots to create ground/ grass. Take a picture of your creation! Enjoy plain or with your favorite dip.IMG_6925

Missed last week’s kids healthy eating recipe? Click for Yogurt Parfaits and more great tips on cooking with kids

Looking for more creative fun ideas to get kids eating vegetables? Check out these great ideas 

Next week Kids Smoothies – 3 delicious recipes, one with chocolate! how can you go wrong?

Orange Cranberry Smoothie

IMG_6830I woke up Christmas morning this year feeling very excited! I felt like a kid all over again, the magic and anticipation of Santa and Christmas morning were very present. I didn’t sleep much, and by 5 am I was literally ready to get up and open presents. I seriously considered going and getting my parents up ‘for old times sake’ like when we were kids and getting up at 3 being told to go back to bed, then 4 then 5 and finally my parents would give up about 6.

I had the pleasure of sharing Christmas this year with both my parents and only me. No kids, no siblings, no in laws, just us, which is a rare and special occasion. It is not often that such an opportunity occurs and I felt that this in itself was a gift. Christmas Eve we watched a movie and my Mum and I sat up late talking and sipping gingerbread martinis. At midnight we toasted and wished each other Merry Christmas. We peeked outside, and experienced a calm beautiful evening. The snow gently falling and a peacefulness in the air, truly a unique energy that was not present earlier that day (or on Christmas morning when I popped outside either). It really was like in the movies, that magical energy, and presence there.

IMG_4491One of the things I love to do over the holidays is experiment with different festive recipes and on Christmas Eve I had already been thinking about trying a Cranberry smoothie of some kind Christmas morning. I googled a number of recipes and found some good ones, though undecided which one to try.

When I woke in the morning (or should I say finally got up around 8) I bounced out of the spare room wishing a Merry Christmas! Mum was at the sink, Dad dressing in red and I was moving towards the tree. Quickly with coffees or waters in hand we began a lovely ritual of opening gifts and sharing. After gifts Mum went to the kitchen to make brunch – a fabulous Impossible Quiche with Daiya smoked gouda, spinach and mushrooms and I proceeded to make the smoothies. I had decided to take the elements of some of the recipes I found that I liked and combine them, adding some of my own ingredients and creating my own. The result was fantastic! A smooth creamy, flavorful smoothie that we all socked back quickly, expressing how much we enjoyed it. I loved the added greens myself, which darkens the pink looking smoothie slightly but gets those greens in there without even tasting it! The added benefit is that cranberries themselves are considered a super food and are high in vitamin C, E, fiber as well as providing benefits such as improved immune system, antioxidant and decreased blood pressure.

When I arrived home after Christmas I made it again for the kids and they all loved it! Matthew who hasn’t been drinking many smoothies these days, tasted it said ‘Oh that’s good’ and drank the rest quickly. Chloe asks me every day since she tried it for one and has expressed that it’s her new favorite. Even my ex husband tried it the other day and said it was good (this is a big thing btw, as he is not really a smoothie guy and particular about tastes). I was quite pleased with the results and I think I drove my parents a little crazy that first day I made it when I kept saying throughout the day how good it was and how impressed with myself for creating it. Well it was good!

So if you’ve got a festive theme going over the holidays or simply want to try out a great new smoothie recipe, give this one a go! If you find it a little tart for your tastes just add more stevia when making it. Then come back here and comment telling me how you like it!

Orange Cranberry Smoothie

2 bananasIMG_6831

1 c. frozen cranberries

1 c. un sweetened almond-cashew yogurt

1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. orange juice

1/2 of 1 g packet of stevia

handful of spinach* (optional)

Put all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth. Garnish with slice of orange and a few cranberries if desired. Pour into 8 oz glasses and serve.

*if you would like a bright pink smoothie do not add spinach as it will darken it. I love tossing in that bit of green as it is a great way to get those greens in a quick and easy way. And you don’t even notice it’s there!

Serves 3 (makes 3 – 8 oz servings)

A Coffee Smoothie…yes!

warm capuccino-saidaonlineThere’s nothing like a good cup of coffee. That fragrant aroma wafting through the air, the warmth of your mug as you gently lift it up and breathe, pause, then take a sip. Ahhh…I love coffee. And lately I have been drinking a lot of it. Well a lot for me, comparatively to other people I really don’t drink much at all. I drink maybe a cup a day, and there are some days none at all, but for a girl who used to drink one cup of decaf maybe once a week, a full caffeinated brew every day is a lot!

It’s all those fantastic flavored coffees that have done me in, toasted coconut, cinnamon pastry. But they don’t come in decaf and it is the caffeine that sends me flying, high on energy and sometimes a little shaky, probably not so good for me. Yet when the german chocolate cake is calling…

IMG_4721Luckily there’s a smoothie for that 🙂 Yes a way to still get my coffee fix, cause really I think what I am looking for is the flavor, and make it a more healthy choice and experience. It consists of all kinds of good things, like flax seed, cacao, honey and almond milk, with that little splash of coffee to finish it off.

It is quite yummy and satisfying. In fact, I made it for a friend of mine a couple of years ago, an avid coffee drinker and an avid smoothie avoider, and he loved it! He now enjoys them regularly. I also shared it with my mother this past weekend who is very much a smoothie drinker and loves her coffee, so it wasn’t really a hard sell, but she loved it and immediately asked for the recipe.

The recipe is quite simple, combining all the ingredients in the blender, mix and ready to serve. It can easily be made ahead and drunk later in the day, or right away, as I am sure you will not be able to wait.

Chocolate Mocha Smoothie

3/4 c. unsweetend almond milk

2 tbsp. cacao powder

1-2 oz. coffee (you can use decaf if you prefer, or any flavored coffee that you feel goes well with chocolate)

1 tbsp. flax seed oil

1 tbsp. vegan protein powder

1 tsp. honey

optional: 2 ice cubes (this thickens up your smoothie if prefered)

Put all ingredients into a Vitamix blender. Mix until smooth. Enjoy!

The Benefits of Human Touch

benefits of human touchYears ago I was writing for a site called Suite 101, it was a great site with a variety of articles on a wide range of topics. I penned many articles there, of which my absolute favorite has always been the one on the Benefits of Human Touch. How we it is essential in our lives and how important good touch is to our health and survival.

Lately I have heard a lot in the news about touch, from the girls hockey teams in Ontario creating new rules for coaches around touch, to the things that are acceptable in classrooms as well as in our homes. It has reminded me how important this topic is. With the continued use and growth of electronics we continue to become a ‘touch phobic’ society, where the most innocent touch can be misinterpreted and looked upon as bad.

In today’s world, we need to teach our kids the difference between good and bad touch, as well as to not be afraid to hug and touch our children. As people in general, we need hugs, or pats on the back, because some of us are very very lonely; and gestures like those can really make all the difference.

My original article is below, to learn, to share, to teach, to recognize how important this sense is to us and how to nurture it appropriately.benefits of human touch

The Need for Touch in the Development of Healthy Adults and Children

Scientists have shown that the amount of body contact (touch) plays a vital role in people’s mental and physical development as infants and in our happiness as adults.

Touch is the first sense to develop in the womb and the last sense to leave in old age. It is essential to the health and well being of human’s emotional, physical and mental development. It is so vital in fact that therapist and author, Virginia Satir, stated that human beings need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 hugs a day for maintenance and 12 hugs a day for growth.

A “Touch Phobic” Society

benefits of human touchIn today’s world, technology has reduced the amount of physical contact that people have with each other on a daily basis. With automatic bank machines, online shopping, internet, email and voice mail people can make appointments, dates or decisions without ever actually talking to or seeing another person. Those subtle contacts with others, once common on a daily basis are gone.

In addition, it is more common to hear about situations where touch has been used negatively or inappropriately. The news reports on child abuse cases, sexual harassment suits, and rapes. Parents are teaching children to be wary of strangers, and to be selective in how and what to touch. Though this is beneficial to keep children safe; this has created a society that has become “touch phobic” where the simplest and most innocent touch can be easily misconstrued as sexual, or inappropriate.

Dr. Barnaby Barratt from Santa Barbara Consulting and Healing highlights in his article on Nurturing Touch that “affectional touch is highly beneficial so long as it is experienced as “appropriate” to the situation, and does not impose greater intimacy than is desired, or is not part of some interpersonal “power play.” Touching should neither be coercive nor manipulative. It should be purely giving, and never used as a means to an ends, for example as a maneuver to get someone into unwanted sexual relations.”

Due to the overload of negative touch, society has become very guarded. When people are touched in any form it is often perceived as bad, or inappropriate. Unfortunately this change in perspective has denied people the simple opportunities to enhance their development and one of the key elements needed to thrive and grow.

Children and Touch

benefits of human touchA child’s first and most important teacher is his sense of touch. It is the first sense he develops in the womb at only 8 weeks. Babies need it to survive and grow, and this need remains with us throughout our lives.

In the 1940’s, Doctor Fritz Talbot discovered on a visit to a children’s clinic, the connection between touch and babies ability to thrive. Babies that were being held, touched, and mothered were thriving when all other medical possibilities had been exhausted.

This need for touch is especially true with premature babies. In one study, premature babies who received gentle daily massage thrived better and had a 50% more daily weight gains than those that were untouched. In addition, these babies had a more efficient metabolism and were released from the hospital six days earlier.

For young infants and toddlers touch is a main source of learning about the world around them. They use their mouth and hands to explore and learn what things are and how things work. It is a key factor in their development as a child.

Benefits of Human Touch

benefits of human touchThe benefits of human touch to a person’s health are phenomenal. Touch can reassure, relax and comfort. It reduces depression, anxiety, stress and physical pain; and can be healing. It increases the number of immune cells in the body, and has powerful affects on behaviour and moods. Touch can be used as a form of alternative healing in the form of touch therapy.

In the video Touch the Forgotten Sense produced by Max Films, a study was conducted where women who had been sexually abused were introduced to a good form of touch by receiving massage therapy. A masseuse of the same sex gave the massage, and this helped the women perceive touch as more positive. They also found that the massage reduced their stress level and depressed mood. This introduction of “safe touch” helped these women begin to become comfortable again with being touched.

In the same video, another study was conducted where researchers asked people who had spent no longer than fifteen minutes in a library how they rated their experience in the library. People who had brushed hands ‘accidentally’, with the planted librarian reported a more enjoyable time. In a similar study, people who were touched by their waitress, a brush of the hand, or a gentle touch on the shoulder, said they had a more enjoyable dining experience and left larger tips for the waitress as compared with those people who had no contact.

These studies also demonstrate that we don’t need to consciously notice the touch in order to reap the benefits. Of those that were touched in the library study, not all of the people remembered being touched, but still reported a more pleasant experience than those that weren’t touched at all. People use their sense of touch automatically and may take it for granted on a daily basis. Yet people really notice when there is a lack of it.

Positive Touch Benefits Everyone

benefits of human touchTouch is vital to the positive health and development of all human beings, regardless of age. Humans need to touch and be touched, just like they need food and water. It is a way of communicating, lifting their spirits, and experiencing happiness in their lives. Without it people experience sadness, loneliness and isolation. It is important to have this physical contact in people’s lives, yet in today’s society many people are removed from benefiting from it due to negative associations with touch or lack of someone to share touch with.

This is why people have started seeking other forms of human touch in their lives such as attending a Cuddle Party, going for a regular massage, or experiencing other forms of healthy touch.

Everything Chocolate

IMG_4653Rich dark chocolate melting in your mouth, delighting the palate as it brings your tastebuds to life and activates natural soothing in the brain, making us feel oh so good.

Chocolate dating back to the Aztecs and Romans, has long since been considered an aphrodisiac, a treat associated with love and romance. Women love it, men crave it. Not only is it a popular gift, but a popular treat as well.

It’s no wonder that during the week of Valentine’s Day, a holiday long associated with love and romance, 58 million pounds of chocolates are sold, being the third largest holiday in sales of this popular treat (Halloween being first with Easter as the second).

The good news is that chocolate is actually good for you, as it contains fat, produces natural opiates which soothe nerves and make us feel good, as well as natural chemicals that lower your risk of cancer and heart disease (sounding pretty good doesn’t it?) Chocolate provides even more health benefits when made with cacao instead of cocoa, both derived from the same bean but processed differently, creating a superfood (cacao) that is rich in vitamins and minerals (getting better and better all the time).

IMG_4647Chocolate is also one of those things that goes with and can be used in just about anything, creating a myriad of delights for the palate to enjoy, a sensation of pleasure and joy in our human experience.

Since I have discovered how to make my own chocolate at home, (ready in about 10 minutes this really is a quick simple and easy way to make chocolate), we have not only been able to enjoy more chocolate in our home, but also enjoy lots of great things around the holidays.

For instance, this Valentine’s Day, we will enjoy heart shaped chocolates, Chocolate Dream Pie, Chocolate Truffles and if the spirit moves me, I may even make Chocolate Cupcakes with chocolate icing of course (even better these recipes are sugar free and dairy free). I love doing it up around the holidays and seeing what kind of fun things I can create; and the kids look forward to it!

Making your own chocolate is very easy, all you need is cacao butter, cacao powder, vanilla and natural sweetener of your choice (such as honey, pure maple syrup, etc.) I have a detailed post on how to make chocolate, as well as one on possible additions or variations you could use to flavor or fill your yummy chocolates.

IMG_4655This chocolate mix is also great for making Chocolate Dipped Strawberries (simply dip fresh strawberries in warm melted chocolate before it sets) or using it for Chocolate Fondue.

Other chocolate delights I have discovered, whether it be for Valentine’s Day or other, are Chocolate Macaroons (could shape them into little hearts for Valentine’s), Chocolate Pudding (one with chia seeds, one simple chocolate), Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Waffles, Hot Chocolate, Chocolate Smoothies and even Chocolate Marshmallows! And I love that they are all dairy free and naturally sweetened! On holidays, like Valentines, I often have a hard time picking only a few things to make 🙂

IMG_4658So now you know, you can live guilt free this Valentine’s Day and enjoy your chocolate; or you can venture out and make your own for yourself or to share with others (but you may not want to). Of course with anything, regardless of how good it is for you, everything in moderation (I know I just took all the fun out of it – but here’s the thing you can make MORE or try a new chocolate recipe, another version of chocolate).

So enjoy your chocolate with a great big smile this Valentine’s Day, and if no one gives you any, go get your own, it’s ok 🙂

*The majority of these recipes can be found on my blog or I have linked them to the appropriate site for you. Just click on the name and it will take you to the recipe. Enjoy!