Wednesday, May 8, 2013

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Could Your Phone's CAMERA Help You Lose Weight?

One study seems to suggest so!

When people in a small study snapped a picture of everything they ate for 1 week, something interesting happened.  They took better stock of their meals -- and ate less or ate more healthfully because of it.

Worth 1000 Words (and Calories) 
Just think of it as a digital version of a food diary -- but it forces you to think about what you are eating before you put it in your mouth, instead of after.

In the study, the simple act of taking a picture caused people to pay closer attention to how much they were eating, how diverse their food choices were, or how healthful the food was.  And that extra thought and attention actually helped them eat better.  Here are some more slim-down tricks to try:

  • Pace yourself ::  Speedy eaters in one study who typically noshed until they felt full were 3 times more likely to be overweight than people who ate at a more leisurely pace. Speed demons also consistently consume more calories overall.
  • Be regular ::  Research shows that people who eat meals regularly throughout the day tend to have smaller waists than people who sometimes skip breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Not only do they weigh less and have smaller waists, but they are also less likely to develop metabolic syndrome or experience insulin resistance -- conditions that can pave the way for heart disease and diabetes.
  • Learn to decode labels ::  In a study of NYC fast food patrons, customers who looked at posted nutrition information while waiting in line tended to make more calorie-conscious purchases when they stepped up to order. When calorie counts for select menu items were posted, customers who reported seeing the information ended up eating 52 fewer calories.

So next time you start to eat, take out your phone. . . and start snapping your way to slimmer hips and a flatter belly!

References ::
Think before you eat: photographic food diaries as intervention tools to change dietary decision making and attitudes. Zepeda, L., Deal, D., International Journal of Consumer Studies 2008 Aug 27;32(6):692-698.
The joint impact on being overweight of self reported behaviours of eating quickly and eating until full: cross sectional survey. Maruyama, K. et al., BMJ 2008 Oct 21;337:a2002.
Eating meals irregularly: a novel environmental risk factor for the metabolic syndrome. Sierra-Johnson, J. et al., Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.) 2008 Jun;16(6):1302-1307.
Purchasing behavior and calorie information at fast-food chains in New York City, 2007. Bassett, M. T. et al., American Journal of Public Health 2008 Aug;98(8):1457-1459.
:: Information in this post can be found on Check out their site for more great information!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Happiness and the Meaningful Life

According to the founding father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, a happy life is one that is pleasurable, engaging, and meaningful. And the more engaging and meaningful, the better. Seligman suggests that people who focus their energies on leading an engaged and meaningful life are more successful at achieving lifelong happiness than those who focus on the transitory feel-goods of pleasure.

Research appears to support his theories. A recent study revealed that participants' subjective well-being was directly affected by the fulfillment they derived from the activities they spent most of their energy on, whether that was raising children, working, or volunteering. Research on aging shows that being actively involved in life is linked to increased levels of happiness.

What You Can Do
Spend more time doing what you love. Engaging in activities that are in line with your values and interests can improve your sense of well-being. If you feel as though you have lost touch with what those activities might be, think about what captivates you so entirely that you lose yourself in the moment and forget about your stress.

It is likely to be something you're good at that also provides you with a bit of a challenge or some kind of emotional reward. Some examples might be gardening, writing, painting, surfing, cycling, volunteering, or playing a musical instrument.

If you can make your activities social, all the better. Whereas personal hobbies, such as knitting, have been linked to an increase in happiness, social activities have been associated with an increase in both happiness and life expectancy.

As you focus on bringing meaning to your life, be sure to set realistic, attainable goals. People who do so report being happier than people who focus on grandiose long-term goals. Being able to realize goals that reflect your personal values and interests can help reinforce your sense of autonomy, purpose, and achievement. This has been shown to contribute significantly to overall well-being.

3 More Ways to Get Happy

1. Forget the Joneses
Social comparison is a natural part of human behavior, and it can be a healthy source of both motivation and affirmation. But taken to the extreme, social comparison can become an unhealthy, unhappy competition. Try not to compare your successes to others. Happiness researchers identify this as a key detractor to life satisfaction.

It can be especially harmful if you are making material comparisons. Some studies show that placing too much importance on material wealth can make people very unhappy.

Just as people adapt to bad situations, they also adapt to good ones. With each new pay raise or purchase, aspirations also increase. People get used to the good life. Once the initial thrill of extra income and the latest luxuries wears off, they want more. Another raise, a faster car, a bigger house.

It becomes a never-ending cycle that leaves people feeling perpetually unsatisfied.

2. Share Your Skills
Giving back to the community and helping others is linked to greater levels of happiness, particularly for people who are retired or not employed. Volunteering in your community can provide a valuable social interaction, increase your sense of purpose, and, yes, make you happier.

Check out the Network for Good Web site to search a database of volunteer organizations by zip code and area of interest.

3. Do Your Happiness Homework
Seligman and his happiness colleagues have devised and tested a number of exercises to help boost well-being. Here are several activities that have been found to be most effective:
  • Take note of what is good in your life :: Literally. Studies show that people who spend a few minutes every evening writing down what went well each day show a significant increase in well-being.
  • Tone-up your signature strengths :: Signature strengths are the things you're really good at. Discover your signature strengths at Once you know what your strengths are, try using one of them in a new way every day for a week.
  • Give gratitude :: Write a letter of thanks to someone who has been particularly good to you or has had a profound impact on your life. Once the letter is written, deliver it personally to the recipient. If your gratitude letter has a long distance to travel, call the recipient to make sure it was received and tell the person on the phone how much you appreciate his or her presence in your life.

No More Mystery

There is no mysterious magical formula that you have to follow exactly in order to achieve happiness. Happiness is a personal journey of self-discovery. What makes you happy is not necessarily the same as what makes your friend, your partner, or your son or daughter happy.

Experimenting with key happiness factors will help you find the combination that works for you. Just be sure to take stock now and then to see how your emotional health is doing. It's worth your time and attention. Not only does your health benefit from it, but there's nothing like a contented smile, a look of ease, and a few sexy laugh lines to make you look -- and feel -- years younger.

:: Information in this post is from Check out their site for more great information!

Monday, May 3, 2010

How Much Life Insurance Is Enough?

Your life insurance needs often depend on a number of factors, including whether you are married, the size of your family, the nature of your financial obligations, your career stage, and your goals.

There are a number of approaches you can use to figure out how much insurance you should have. One method, called the "family needs approach," focuses on the amount of life insurance it would take to allow your family to meet its various financial obligations and expenses in the event of your death.

Family needs approach

With the family needs approach, you divide your family's financial needs into three main categories:
  • Immediate needs at death, such as cash needed for estate taxes and settlement costs, credit card and other debts including mortgages (unless you choose to include mortgage payments as part of ongoing family needs), an emergency fund for unexpected costs, and college education expenses.
  • Ongoing income needs for expenses related to food, clothing, shelter, and transportation, among other things. These income needs will vary in amount and duration, depending on a number of factors, such as your spouse's age, your children's ages, your surviving spouse's capacity to earn income, your debt (including mortgages), and whether you'll provide funds for your surviving spouse's retirement.
  • Special funding needs, such as college funding, charitable bequests, funding a buy/sell agreement, or business succession planning.
Once you determine the total amount of your family's financial needs, you subtract from this total the available assets that your family could use to defray some or all of their expenses. The difference, if any, represents an amount that life insurance proceeds, and the income from future investment of those proceeds, can cover.

Example: John and his wife, Wendy, are estimating the appropriate amount of life insurance to buy on John's life. They first estimate their immediate needs as follows:
  • Final medical expenses: $5,000
  • Estate settlement costs including funeral and burial expenses: $37,500
  • Debts, including credit cards and mortgages: $317,000
  • Emergency fund: $100,000
Subtotal: $459,500

Next, they estimate ongoing income needs, such as:
  • Providing for their dependent children's needs for a period of time: $500,000
  • Wendy's income needs until her retirement: $450,000
  • Wendy's retirement income needs: $380,000
Subtotal: $1,330,000

Adding the sub totals together, John and Wendy estimate that, should John die, their family would need $1,789,500. They then determine that assets available to offset their needs include:
  • Bank savings: $40,000
  • Investments: $220,000
  • Retirement assets: $250,000
  • Existing life insurance on John's life: $300,000
Subtotal: $810,000

The difference between their family needs ($1,789,500) and their available assets ($810,000) equals their life insurance need ($979,500).

Review your coverage

Trying to figure out how much life insurance is enough isn't always easy, and that amount will likely change with your changing circumstances. By examining your family's anticipated expenses during various periods after your death, you get a more realistic estimate of your life insurance needs.

Unfortunately, many people underestimate their insurance needs and are underinsured. Often, the purchase of life insurance is based on cost instead of what's needed. By the same token, it's possible to have more insurance than you need. You may have purchased a large policy during a particular point in your life, and then didn't adjust your coverage when your insurance need was reduced. Both of these circumstances are reasons to review your insurance coverage periodically with your financial professional. Doing so can reveal opportunities to change your levels of coverage to match your current and projected life insurance needs.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Spice Up Your Knees

Can herbs and spices be good medicine for your joints? Possibly. One new contender for soothing creaky knees is ginger.

When people with stiff, sore, osteoarthritic knees took a ginger extract for 6 weeks, they felt significantly better than their placebo-dosed pals who got fake ginger.

Anti-Inflammatory Action

Long used in Eastern medicine to treat musculoskeletal problems, ginger contains a complex mix of compounds that researchers suspect helps thwart inflammation in several ways. And in the study, side effects (stomach upset) were mild.

Ginger Goodness

Along with its inflammation-cooling properties, ginger may have anticancer powers, too. And the ginger ale your mom dispensed when your stomach was upset? There is science behind that as well. Ginger is a well-known nausea reliever. Find out about the special anticancer compounds in ginger.

Recipe Corner

You can find fresh ginger root in the produce section of grocery stores. Not sure how to use it? Try one of these quick and fresh recipes from
Find more ways to use ginger as a home remedy.

References ::
Effects of a ginger extract on knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis. Altman, R. D., Marcussen K. C., Arthritis and Rheumatism 2001 Nov;44(11):2531-2538.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Outdoor Fitness

Spring is here and the weather is has been beautiful! Time to start exercising alfresco! Taking your routine outside is also a good way to break out of a workout rut and challenge yourself in a new environment.

Get off the pavement

Take advantage of the varied terrain nature has to offer. While most cardio machines will only let you go forward and up, outside you can also tackle downhills, test your lateral movement skills and more.

Look for props

Even if you do not have access to hiking trails or a body of water, it is usually easy to find a park or playground. Try using benches for dips and push-ups. Think monkey bars are only for kids? They are also good for stretching and practicing pull-ups. Put your legs to work doing step-ups and calve raises on curbs.

Keep changing

If you do the same workout over and over, not only will your mind lose interest, your body will get bored and you will plateau. Lucky for you, no two workouts are the same outdoors. Either the wind is different or the temperature has changed or you just pick a different route, so your body has to adapt. You have no excuse for doing the same workout in the same place two days in a row.

Be prepared

Using nature as your gym can save you money, but there is one piece of gear you should not skimp on: shoes! Make sure they fit well and are made for outdoor terrain. You want grippy, lugged soles that bite into dirt and a wider outsole for more stability on rocks and other uneven surfaces; you may want added ankle support too. Sunscreen and water are must-haves year round. Also, check the weather report and plan your workout accordingly. In order to beat the heat, pollution, and damaging UV rays, exercise first thing in the morning.

Enjoy yourself

You are more likely to get in a sweat session when it does not seem like a chore. Try to recapture that sense of fun you had when you were a kid playing on the jungle gym or frolicking outside. It does not have to be drudgery... make it up as you go.


Three reasons why outdoor exercise is so healthy:

  1. Fresh air is so good for us :: You have heard the news about the quality of indoor air, right? In short, the air in our homes is a lot dirtier than we think. So if you cannot get outside for a fresh-air workout, at least open a window while you are on the treadmill.
  2. Sunlight gives us a dose of Vitamin D :: Vitamin D is super good for you. It is credited with a long list of health benefits, including boosting your mood.
  3. It is calming to be near nature :: Past studies have confirmed the link between nature and happiness and well-being... so this is a two-for-one deal: you get physical AND mental exercise!

Source :: Shape Magazine

Monday, April 26, 2010

Back to Basics :: Reviewing Your Budget

Do you ever wonder where your money goes each month? Does it seem like you have gotten sidetracked when it comes to reaching your financial goals? If so, you may want to review and perhaps revise your budget. Doing so can help you determine how you are spending your money, and that might show you what you need to do to get back on track.

"Oh, we don't need a budget," you might be saying. "We have plenty of money." If that is true, great! But if you are not reaching your financial goals, there is a reason for that. Reviewing (or simply creating) your budget might help you find out what that reason is.

Examine your financial goals

The first part of reviewing your budget should be an examination of your financial goals. After all, planning any trip's itinerary depends in part on knowing where you want to go! Make a list of both your short-term and your long-term goals, and prioritize them. How much will you need to save for each one, and how long will you have to reach them? Should you forestall some of lower priority to reach others of higher priority?

Keeping track

Budgeting is largely about tracking your income and expenses. You can do this with a pen and paper, or you can use one of the many software programs or web-based applications designed for this purpose. The most important element of this process is to do it consistently.

Should you count every penny? Not necessarily, although to some extent you cannot control the dollars if you do not track the cents. But focus primarily on meeting the basic expenses of life and then allocating what it will take to meet your goals.

Income and expenses

Much of your income may come from your regular paycheck or (if you are retired) from government benefits such as Social Security, a pension, or retirement account distributions. But do not forget to include all forms of income, such as child support and/or alimony, and even irregular or seasonal income, such as tax refunds, dividends, or interest.

Expenses generally fall into two categories. Fixed expenses are the "have-to" basics: housing, utilities, food, clothing, and transportation. Discretionary expenses are "want-to" items: eating out, entertainment, vacations, and hobbies.

Irregular expenses cannot be predicted, but they always occur: car repairs and home maintenance are good examples. Remember to include these types of expenses in your accounting. For example, if you buy tires for your car every 3 years, one-third of the total is your annual expense.

Caution: While you may find it easy to use your credit card for irregular expenses, do so only as a convenience. Be prepared to pay off the credit card charge with funds you have set aside in your budget for these expenses.

Finally, prioritize the funds you will need to meet both your short- and long-term goals as regular expenses in your budget.

And the answer is...

Once you have added up your income and expenses, you will need to compare the totals. Are you spending exactly what you are making? Congratulations, your budget is perfectly balanced! Even better, if you are spending less than you are making, you have a surplus. If that is the case, you can allocate that surplus to either reaching your goals faster or funding new investment opportunities.

But if you are spending more than you are making, you are running a deficit. You might not feel the pinch if you are very good at juggling or funding it with increasing credit card debt or a home equity line of credit. But even the best of jugglers drop the balls sometimes, and increasing your debt can be dangerous. If that is what you are doing, you are sidetracking your budget into a dead-end spur.

So, to balance your budget and get back on track toward meeting your goals, you will have to either increase your income or reduce your expenses--or both. As you may have seen while tracking your expenses, it is often your discretionary spending that leads to a derailment when it comes to meeting your goals. Rather than shortchange your goals (you will only be shortchanging yourself if you do), work on reducing discretionary expenses.

Staying on track

You will need to monitor your budget to keep it on track. Remember that, like life itself, you will need to keep your budget as flexible as your changing circumstances may demand.

Friday, April 23, 2010

2 Keys to Eating Better

Getting more goodness into your meals could be as easy as these two steps: Plan ahead, and eat at the dinner table.

If you are like many people, you have no idea what you are going to eat for dinner until you rummage around the kitchen at 5 p.m. But you will eat more fruit and veggies if you are a planner. That is exactly what happened in a recent study when women decided in advance what they were going to eat and shopped for meals ahead of time.

When a Plan Comes Together

Planning was key to healthful eating. But it also helped if the women ate dinner at the table and enjoyed cooking. So make a plan, hit the store, and stick with it! Bonus: Adding more fruits and veggies to your diet could help you lose those stubborn pounds in time for bathing suit season!

It is Easy Being Green

Need help planning meals that fulfill your daily veggie quota? These easy and delicious veggie-crammed recipes make it a snap to plan ahead:
  • Make a quick main dish using a delicious combination of mashed eggplant and shallots: Eggplant-Shallot Stew.
  • Turn Saturday morning brunch into veggie time with this satisfying vegetarian tart: Leek and Gruyere Quiche.
  • When you are in a bind and need to turn freezer food into dinner fast, try this side dish: Vegetable Stir-Fry.

References ::
Which food-related behaviours are associated with healthier intakes of fruits and vegetables among women? Crawford, D. et al., Public Health Nutrition 2007 March;10(3):256-265.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Make EARTH DAY Significant!

Tomorrow is Earth Day... and you probably have a handful of options in your community for what you can do on this Earth Day. I am sure each of them will be beneficial to the planet and to yourself.

Most environmental organizations or activists will tell you that “every little thing counts” in order to try to get you to make enough little changes that they add up to something big. Earth Day is an especially popular time for such a motto. On Earth Day, enough people are looking to make some small effort to help the environment that it really CAN add up to something big.

The question you should ask yourself on Earth Day is:  Will I do something so spectacular on Earth Day that I can consider myself an environmentally caring person for the whole rest of the year?

The truth is, what you do on the other 364 is much more powerful than what you do on Earth Day.

If you really want to be an environmentally caring person, Earth Day should be sort of like New Year’s Day. Approaching it, you can take a good look at where your life is, you can set goals or resolutions for what you are going to change, and you can start living your life in a new "green" way on that day.

Habits are the drivers of many of our environmental problems. It takes about 30 days to change a habit... and you have to start somewhere. Here are some habits that you could change starting on Earth Day in order to make a spectacular difference for others, yourself, and the planet as a whole.

10 ACTIONS to Reduce your Impact on the Environment

1.  Smart Shopping
  • “Buy what you need, not what you want”
  • Consider renting and borrowing things that are seldom needed
  • Buy used items from garage sales and second-hand stores
2.  Simple Savers
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact uorescent bulbs
  • Use aerators on faucets and shower heads
  • Weatherstrip windows and doors
3.  Transportation Alternatives
  • Walk, cycle, car pool and use public transportation
  • When driving, reduce idling and maintain correct tire pressure
  • Consider car sharing programs or renting
4.  Food Choices
  • Choose local and organic foods that are in season, and support local food producers
  • Eat less meat
5.  Washing and Drying
  • Wash full loads of clothes in cold water and hang to air dry
6.  Heating and cooling
  • For summer air conditioning, set your thermostat to 75°F to 77°F
  • For winter heating, set your thermostat to 66°F or 68°F
  • Install ceiling fans and programmable thermostats
7.  Close to Home
  • Vacation, travel and work as close to home as possible
8.  Bathroom Basics
  • Take short showers instead of baths
  • Close water taps while brushing your teeth
9.  Careful Cleaning
  • Choose natural, non-toxic cleaning products
  • Make simple, natural cleaners with ingredients like vinegar, baking soda and water (Click Here  for formulas to make your own cleaning products!)
10.  Do Not Discard
  • Donate, reuse and recycle items before throwing them into the trash
  • Harmful materials like chemicals, batteries, electronics, etc. should be taken to local hazardous waste depots or recyclers
Remember, every day is Earth Day. Find a way to make it so in your life.

"Live simply, that others may simply live"

:: Any other suggestions? Leave a comment to let me know! And definitely share this with your friends — social change happens when people share with and encourage others.

Sources :: and

Monday, April 19, 2010

How you can BENEFIT from New Credit Card Rules

If you have ever faced an unexpected rate hike on your credit card, a change to your monthly due date that came without notice or an excessive fee for a payment you made one day late, the new Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act may deliver welcome relief.

Through this legislation, the federal government is trying to make the relationship between card issuer and user more balanced and fair for the consumer.  For one, this means credit card issuers can no longer raise interest rates at any time or for any reason after providing minimal notice.  In addition, they can no longer make other changes that unfairly penalize consumers.

The CARD Act curtails a number of unjust practices that have been troubling card users for years.  Some of the highlights include:
  • More time to pay your bill :: Your credit card issuers must give you at least 21 days to submit your monthly payments.
  • Clearer due dates :: Late-fee traps, such as weekend deadlines, due dates that change each month and payment deadlines that fall in the middle of the day, are no longer allowed.
  • Limited interest rate increases :: Your interest rate cannot increase within the first 12 months of opening your credit card account.  In addition, card issuers generally cannot apply a rate increase retroactively to your existing balances, unless the increase is due to the expiration of a promotional rate, the stated rate is a variable rate or you make a late payment.
  • Advance notice of rate increases :: Your card issuers must notify you at least 45 days (rather than the previous 15 days) in advance of any changes to the interest rate or other terms for your card.
  • Elimination of double-cycle billing :: Credit card companies no longer can use your balance from the previous month to calculate interest charges for the current month.  Previously, even if you paid off your balance monthly, you could have been hit with finance charges computed from the previous cycle.
  • Higher-interest balances paid first :: If you have balances subject to different interest rates (e.g., cash advances vs. regular purchases), your credit card company must now first apply any extra payments you make toward the highest-interest balance.  Previously, card companies typically applied amounts exceeding the minimum monthly payments to the lowest-interest balances first, thereby extending the time it would take to pay off higher-rate balances.
  • Improved communication :: The new legislation requires credit card issuers to display on your statement how long it would take you to pay off your existing balance, and the total interest you would end up being charged, if you only pay the minimum amount due.  Your statement also must provide the payment required, including the interest component, to pay off your balance in 36 months.
  • Limits on students :: The days of easy credit for college students are over.  Consumers under the age of 21 must have an adult cosigner to obtain a credit card or be able to show they can repay the debt. In addition, college students must receive permission from parents or guardians to increase the credit limit on their joint accounts.
Some unintended consequences
Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks to the new CARD Act — many of which were experienced by consumers in 2009 as companies tried to offset the impending legislation by changing their credit card terms. And industry analysts and credit card companies warn of additional potential drawbacks as providers attempt to recoup some of the revenue they expect to lose as a result of the new credit card rules.

In particular, most card issuers have already begun to:
  • Charge annual fees or raise other fees, such as balance transfer charges
  • Cut back on rewards and perks, such as cash back, airline miles and hotel points
  • Raise interest rates
  • Reduce or eliminate interest-free grace periods
  • Tighten their credit standards
  • Lower credit limits
Actions you can take
Most of the provisions of the CARD legislation were in place by Feb. 22, 2010, while credit card companies must implement the entire set of changes by July 2010.  Now may be a good time to review the cards you currently hold and evaluate your options.  Consider cashing in any credit-card rewards and perks you have been accumulating — particularly if those benefits will be reduced or eliminated.

Also, watch for letters from your credit card companies — and do not just throw them away like you may have in the past.  These may be notifications of rate increases or other changes to the terms and conditions of your card.

If you find out that your benefits are diminishing and your fees and rates are going up, consider other credit options.  First, compare your card’s annual fee (if any), ongoing annual percentage rate, rewards and additional benefits to those of other credit cards.  Then select the more competitive card option.  Keep in mind that some issuers have already been following the more responsible practices set by the CARD legislation, which means they may offer rates and terms you can rely on.

Your financial advisor can help you prepare for these changes and discuss how responsibly managed credit card debt can fit into your financial picture.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Greek-Style Quinoa Salad

Serves: 6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
3 tbsp. olive oil
¾ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed in a garlic press
¼ cup kalamata olives
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
7 ounces sheep's milk feta cheese, cubed
¼ cup diced red onion
Salt and pepper to taste

Place quinoa in a strainer and rinse under cold running water. Add water and quinoa to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook 15 minutes until quinoa is almost translucent.

Spread cooked quinoa on a large dinner plate and place in freezer for 15 minutes to chill. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, and garlic. Toss with quinoa.

Add olives, scallions, grape tomatoes, feta cheese, and red onion; gently mix ingredients. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Feta cheese may be too salty for some. To lower the sodium count, soak it in water overnight.

Nutrition Score per serving:
(1 ½ cups): 331 calories, 19 g fat (52% of calories), 6 g saturated fat, 31 g carbs, 11 g protein, 10 g fiber, 233 mg calcium, 3 mg iron, 488 mg sodium

Health Benefits of Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah):
Although not a common item in most North American kitchens today, quinoa is an amino acid-rich (protein) seed that has a fluffy, creamy, slightly crunchy texture and a somewhat nutty flavor when cooked.

A recently rediscovered ancient "grain" native to South America, quinoa was once called "the gold of the Incas," who recognized its value in increasing the stamina of their warriors.  Quinoa is high in protein, but more importantly, the protein it supplies is complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids.  Not only is quinoa's amino acid profile well balanced, but quinoa is especially well-endowed with the amino acid lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair.

In addition to protein, quinoa features a host of other health-building nutrients.  Because quinoa is a very good source of manganese as well as a good source of magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus, this "grain" may be especially valuable for persons with migraine headaches, diabetes and atherosclerosis.
Eden Quinoa, Organic Imported, 16-Ounce Pouch (Pack of 6)

:: This is one of my favorite salads to make!  It is fun to watch a person's face contort into skeptical confusion when I mention Quinoa... and then melt into blissful delight once they take their first bite!  Oh yeah... and it is DELICIOUS, too! 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Happiness and Your Health

It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and lose sight of what makes you happy. Really happy. But making sure your happiness meter is giving optimal readings can provide many health benefits.

Happy people have younger hearts, younger arteries, and a younger "real age". Happy people recover more quickly from surgery, cope better with pain, have lower blood pressure, and have longer life expectancy than unhappy people.

Studies also suggest that happy people may have stronger immune systems -- they are less likely to get colds and flu viruses. And when they do, their symptoms tend to be mild.

Not surprisingly, happy people are better at looking after their health, too. When people's happiness levels improve, so do their health behaviors. They exercise more, wear sunscreen, and go for regular checkups.

How to Get There

Everyone wants to be happy, and the benefits are clearly plentiful. But the fact is that people are not always great at predicting what will make them happy. If it is long-term happiness you are after, you may need to learn a few new tricks.

What Is Happiness?

We all know when we are happy and when we are not. But ask a roomful of people what makes them happy and you are likely to get a wide range of responses, from "watching the sunset" or "spending time with good friends" to "finding a great shoe sale" or "winning the office football pool."

Defining happiness is no simple feat.

In an effort to narrow the definition, researchers have devised a series of questionnaires to measure life satisfaction, positive mood, and subjective well-being. Some scientists are even beginning to use brain imaging to better understand the physiology of happiness. And economists have jumped on the happiness bandwagon, too, hoping to calculate the value of happiness within a sociopolitical context.

So what have they discovered? What makes for a happy life?

It is Partly Your Genes

Your level of happiness is not entirely predetermined by your genes, but genes do play a part, just as they play a part in your general health. Some researchers estimate that as much as 40% to 50% of a person's capacity for happiness may be genetically predetermined. And although that means some lucky people may start off with a greater propensity for happiness, it is no guarantee they will lead a charmed life. Fortunately, evidence suggests that even the gloomiest of us can learn to be happier.

And learn we must. Left to our own devices, we tend to focus our energies on things that will give us the greatest instant pleasure. Even when we know better.

Health and Happiness

Studies show that a person's health is one of the strongest predictors of happiness. But the link between health and happiness is complex. Research shows little correlation between a person's objective health -- as defined by medical assessment -- and happiness. It is our subjective health -- how we view our health -- that affects our well-being. So is happiness all in your head?

Not necessarily. For example, adverse changes in health do have a negative impact on happiness levels, at least temporarily. Poor health has the potential to significantly affect almost every aspect of your life: your independence, your self-image, your personal relationships, your ability to work and carry out basic daily activities. So it is no surprise that when your health takes a hit, your happiness does as well.

But people are resilient. We become accustomed to new life circumstances, good or bad. We adapt. Within a month or two of an adverse health event, most people have gravitated back toward the level of happiness they enjoyed before their health took a turn for the worse.

When the change in health status is severe, however -- for example, involving chronic pain or multiple disabilities -- the impact on happiness can be long lasting.

And both physical health and emotional health influence happiness. Mood disorders diminish quality of life even more than chronic physical ailments, such as arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes.

What You Can Do
Do all that you can to maintain a healthy lifestyle and you will be well on your way to a long life rich in happiness. Be your healthiest and happiest by eating a balanced diet with lots of fruit and veggies, keeping stress levels to a minimum, getting regular checkups, wearing sunscreen, laughing often, moderating alcohol intake, getting plenty of exercise, and not smoking.

Exercise not only helps keep you healthy but also keeps you happy. In general, increasing the amount of physical activity in your life increases well-being, whether it is yoga, weight training, or daily walks around the neighborhood. One study of nearly 7,000 men and women revealed that walking, jogging, or running between 11 and 19 miles per week was optimal for improving emotional well-being. But do not overdo it or underdo it. Moderate exercise offers the biggest boost in happiness.

And if you think you may be living with a mood disorder, get it treated. Appropriate treatment can help reduce your symptoms, increase your sense of well-being, and get you back on track to a happy life.

Social Side Up

Developing your social side is crucial for well-being. Studies show that people who are socially active, who are compassionate, and who are emotionally generous have higher levels of happiness and live longer than people who lead a more solitary life.

Research also shows that people who have strong interpersonal skills rank in the highest levels of happiness, and those who are socially isolated have substantially lower levels of well-being.

Social skills are just one part of this happiness factor, though. People who maintain good personal relationships also fare better than people who are socially inactive. Open, trusting, intimate relationships are essential building blocks for a happy life.

And it is not only receiving support that makes us happy; it is being able to give support to others as well.

What You Can Do
When important personal relationships come to an end, it can have a lasting negative impact on happiness. So use your energies to nurture the relationships that mean the most to you. Not all relationships are meant to be, of course, and getting out of a destructive relationship can do more for your health and happiness than staying in it. But if it is within your power to make a good relationship work, you have every reason to try.

Keep all of your other personal relationships healthy, vibrant, and strong by spending quality time with friends and family. Make a standing date with the people you love -- it will give you something to look forward to and help relieve stress levels.

And while you are appreciating the people who are already near and dear, do not forget to welcome new friendships into your life. :)

Source :: Please check out their site for more great information!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Overhaul of Federal Student Loan Program

With the nuances of health care reform getting all the attention, you may be surprised to learn that the recently passed health care legislation—the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010—includes several provisions related to college. The most noteworthy of these provisions involve:
  • The distribution of federal student loans
  • Pell Grants
  • Income based repayment for federal student loans
The distribution of federal student loans

Currently, there are two ways to obtain a federal student loan—borrow directly from the federal government under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (“Direct Loan”) program or borrow from a private lender who participates in the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program. The FFEL program has been in existence since 1965 (the Direct Loan program since 1994), and private lenders in the FFEL program receive government subsidies to encourage them to loan money to students.

Under the new legislation, private lenders will no longer receive government subsidies to make federal student loans, and the FFEL program will be eliminated. Starting July 1, 2010, all federal student loans will be made directly from the federal government to borrowers under the Direct Loan program.

Generally, student borrowers shouldn't notice much of a difference with this change. If anything, the new system should be simpler and less confusing, because borrowers won't have to "shop around" for a private lender to obtain their federal student loans.

Parents who wish to take out a federal PLUS Loan might find themselves better off because the interest rate on a federal PLUS Loan obtained through the Direct Loan program is capped at 7.9%, compared to the interest rate on a federal PLUS Loan obtained through the FFEL program, which is capped at 8.5%.

Pell Grants

The Pell Grant is the federal government’s largest financial aid grant program. It is available to undergraduate students with exceptional financial need (typically students from families who earn less than about $45,000 per year). Graduate students aren’t eligible.

The new legislation provides for automatic annual inflation-adjusted increases to the Pell Grant beginning in 2013. For the current academic year 2009/2010 (which runs from July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010), the maximum Pell Grant is $5,350. It is scheduled to increase to $5,550 in 2010/2011, and will remain at that level for the following two years. It will then increase by the rate of inflation (via the consumer price index) in each of the next five years, reaching approximately $5,900 in 2019/2020.

Income based repayment

On July 1, 2009, the federal government's new Income Based Repayment (IBR) program went into effect. The IBR program was created to help college graduates manage their increasingly large student loan payment obligations. Under the program, a borrower’s monthly student loan payment is calculated based on income and family size. A borrower is allowed to pay 15% of his or her discretionary income to student loan payments, with any remaining debt forgiven after 25 years. The program is open to graduates with a federal Stafford Loan, Graduate PLUS Loan, or Consolidation Loan made under either the Direct Loan program or the FFEL program.

The new legislation enhances the IBR program. Under the legislation, borrowers who take out new federal student loans after July 1, 2014, will pay 10% of their discretionary income to student loan payments, with any remaining debt forgiven after 20 years.

:: Consult with your financial professional to see how these changes may affect you.

Friday, April 9, 2010

An Easy, Tasty Way to Cut Calories and Fat

Here is a simple way to slash major calories from some of your favorite comfort foods -- and you will not miss a thing.

When you are making lasagna, sloppy joes, chili, and other ground beef dishes, use chopped mushrooms instead of meat. If you are like the people in a recent study, you will naturally eat about 420 fewer calories with these mushroom-enriched meals.

People in the study also said the mushroom makeovers tasted just as good and kept them feeling full just as long as the beef versions did. And not only did the mushroom-based dishes mean a lower-calorie meal, but the mushroom eaters also ate fewer calories and less fat throughout the day than the beef eaters did.

Savory Substitutions
Switching beef for mushrooms is just one way to cut calories and fat. Here are some other easy substitutions that can help your health and tame your appetite:
  • Cheese pleaser :: Skip the whole-fat cheddar and try these healthier -- but just as creamy -- cheese options:
1. Boursin Light:
A home run for cheese fans and garlic lovers alike. Just a schmear of this creamy spread goes a long way on a whole-wheat cracker or slice of baguette.
2. Trader Joe's Fat-Free Feta:
These moist, cheesy crumbles make a perfect final flourish for a spinach salad tossed with berries, walnuts, and balsamic vinaigrette.
3. Treasure Cave Reduced Fat Crumbled Blue Cheese:
Great on salads and burgers, yet it has roughly half the fat of regular blue cheese. As with all blues, you must be a fan of salty and stinky to enjoy this one.
4. Mini Babybel Light:
These rounds of creamy, semisoft cheese are perfect with a handful of grapes and a couple of almonds.
5. Jarlsberg Lite:
Replace your usual Swiss slices with these thin, deli-style slices -- they have a mild, slightly nutty flavor and an almost sweet aftertaste.
6. Sargento Reduced Fat Provolone:
This mild Italian favorite maintains a nice buttery taste with a minimal amount of fat.
  • Sausage saver :: Switch to these guilt-free supermarket sausages:
1. Jimmy Dean D-Lights Turkey Sausage
This comes already assembled, breakfast-sandwich style, complete with a whole-grain muffin, egg white, and cheese. It tastes so good, and even though the patty is small, the sandwich is plenty filling. Plus, the bread cooks up nice and fluffy in the microwave. Admittedly, it has more sodium and saturated fat, but it is a major improvement over a Sausage & Egg McMuffin, which is just 0.7 ounces bigger but has almost four times the fat!
2. Trader Joe's Sweet Bell Pepper & Onion Chicken Sausage
TJ's chicken sausage mixture tastes different from pork sausage -- but good different -- because it is full of flavor, not grease. One hefty all-natural link is enough to satisfy anyone with a good-sized appetite on Sunday morning. Boiled, broiled, or lightly sauteed in a nonstick skillet and plopped on a bun or sliced into pasta sauce, it makes a great lunch or dinner, too.
3. MorningStar Farms Sausage Links
These veggie links are too crumbly to mistake for real sausage, but they have a mildly spicy flavor with a hint of sweetness that is yummy -- and flavor is what it is all about. Your taste buds will not remotely realize that the links are made mainly of textured vegetable protein, egg whites, and corn oil.
  • Smart snack :: Just say no to Cheese Nips and Oreo Thins, and grab one of these wonderful 100-calorie treats instead:
Ø 5 Hershey's dark chocolate Kisses or 2 Dove Promise dark chocolate miniatures
Ø Mini pita bread with a quarter of avocado
Ø Two rice cakes with one wedge light cheese
Ø 1/2 cup nonfat cottage cheese with 1/2 cup blueberries
Ø 10 soy crisps with a small peach
Ø Toasted whole-grain waffle with a sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar
Ø 1 heaping cup of cherries or 12 dried apricot halves
Ø 12 almonds
Ø 1 Dannon Light & Fit Raspberry Smoothie
Ø 1 Klondike Slim-a-Bear fudge bar or 2 Dole frozen fruit juice bars
Ø 48 Rold Gold pretzel sticks
Ø 3 hard-cooked egg whites with a little Dijon mustard and a sliced tomato
Ø And if you crave nothing but pickles (for whatever the reason!), you can happily munch and crunch through 8 medium dills

Source ::
References :: Lack of energy compensation over 4 days when white button mushrooms are substituted for beef. Cheskin, L. J. et al., Appetite 2008 Jul;51(1):50-57.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

4 Daily To-Dos to Stay Young

For years the assumption of the medical community has been that you could live maybe 50 percent longer if you avoid the big killers like cancer and heart disease. As it turns out, this is not what happens. To add serious years to your life -- and life to your years -- you have to lower your risk for all diseases. And the only way to do that is to slow your rate of aging at the cellular level.

By slowing the aging of our cells while simultaneously preventing disease, we can enjoy not only a higher quality of life but a much longer one as well.

It All Adds Up to a Younger YOU

If you have made a decision to stay young... smart choice. Now you need a plan to make it happen. Not some rigid, hard-to-follow manifesto, but simple steps that, when combined, add up to a more vibrant and healthier YOU. But you have to commit to doing these things every day. Yes, that includes weekends. Below is a rundown of four daily to-dos.

30 Minutes
... of walking, every day. Do it by yourself, with a friend, or with your dog, but do not even think about skipping it. From an antiaging perspective, that is as bad as pulling an all-nighter. Why? A daily walk builds both the stamina and the mental discipline you need to stick with the rest of your staying-young plan. Let it slip and you will probably abandon other healthy habits, too.

A Few Cups
... of green tea, every day. Because the leaves are young and have not been oxidized, green tea has up to 40% polyphenols -- natural chemicals with potent antioxidant properties that are greater than even vitamin C. But do not add milk: The casein in milk cancels out the beneficial effects. For a delicious instant tea with the antioxidant and thermogenic benefits of green tea and fast-acting botanicals for energy and weight support, click here.

5 Minutes
... of meditation, every day... AT LEAST. Focused quiet time and nose breathing each day can help you manage chronic stress and its aging effects. How? When air flows through your nostrils, Nitric Oxide -- the feel-good substance that is found in your nasal cavity -- gets fuel-injected into your system. This helps dilate your arteries so that your blood keeps moving as if it is on an empty country road rather than on an L.A. freeway. To help with Nitric Oxide production at night when levels are lowest and support energy, circulatory and vascular health, click here.

A Couple Handfuls
... of walnuts, every day. Have six before lunch and another six before dinner to provide the omega-3 fats you need to strike the best nutritional ratio -- not only to boost your immunity but also to keep inflammation in check. Other ideas: Buy omega-3-enriched eggs; try chia seeds; eat fish such as cod, halibut, trout... or if you do not like those options, try this!

Start making these life-lengthening habits part of your staying-young routine today.

Source :: Herbalife and RealAge.

Monday, April 5, 2010

New Health Care Reform Law

Recently, two pieces of legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 were signed into law. Together, these pieces of legislation make the most significant reform to health care in the United States since the enactment of Medicare.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2019, approximately 32 million currently uninsured Americans will have health insurance, at a cost of about $940 billion. A major component of the reform legislation is the creation of state-based American Health Benefit Exchanges and Small Business Health Options Program Exchanges to provide health insurance for low-income individuals and small businesses.

The following is a brief description of some of the most important provisions of the health care reform legislation.

For individuals
  • U.S. citizens and legal residents will be required to have health insurance by 2014, with some exceptions. Those without insurance will face a tax penalty of as much as 2.5% of taxable income.
  • Existing employer-sponsored health insurance plans will be allowed to remain essentially the same except the plans will be required to extend dependent coverage to qualifying children through age 26, lifetime limits (and eventually, annual dollar limits) on coverage must be eliminated, waiting periods for coverage cannot extend beyond 90 days, and insurers will not be able to deny coverage or charge higher premiums to people based on their health status and gender.
  • Medicaid eligibility will be expanded to include individuals under age 65 whose income is less than 133% of the Federal Poverty Level.
  • For families with incomes up to 400% of the Federal Poverty Level, tax credits and subsidies will be available to purchase health insurance through state-run exchanges, and to offset out-of-pocket costs.
  • Contributions to a health flexible spending account will be limited to $2,500 per year. Reimbursements from health FSAs and HRAs for over-the-counter drugs will be restricted, and tax-free reimbursements from HSAs and Archer MSAs for over-the-counter drugs will not be allowed, while the tax on HSAs and Archer MSAs increases for distributions not used for qualified medical expenses.
  • A rebate of $250 will be available to Medicare Part D (drug coverage) beneficiaries who reach the coverage gap (donut hole) and the coinsurance rate for costs within this gap are gradually reduced to 25%.
  • Adults with pre-existing conditions will be able to purchase coverage from temporary high-risk pools until 2014, when coverage cannot otherwise be denied for pre-existing conditions.
  • A national program will be established to provide limited reimbursement for long-term care expenses for individuals who participate by contributing to the program's cost through voluntary payroll deductions.
For employers
  • Employers with 50 or more employees that do not offer health insurance coverage will generally have to pay a premium tax of up to $2,000 per full-time employee.
  • Employers with more than 200 employees must automatically enroll employees in health insurance plans from which employees may opt out.
  • Employers providing health insurance must offer a voucher to qualifying employees to purchase insurance through an exchange.
  • Qualifying small employers may receive a tax credit for providing health insurance to employees.
Tax changes
  • The threshold for itemized deductions for qualified medical expenses will be increased from 7.5% of adjusted gross income (AGI) to 10% of AGI, though a temporary exception will be maintained for those 65 and older. 
  • The tax for Medicare Part A (hospitalization coverage) is increased 0.9% for individuals with earnings exceeding $200,000, and for couples with joint earnings greater than $250,000. Also, high-income taxpayers will be subject to a surtax of 3.8% on unearned income, such as capital gains, dividends, annuities, and rental income.
  • The law imposes a 10% tax on the amount paid for indoor tanning services.
Some of these provisions are effective immediately while others will be implemented over the next several years.

:: Consult with your financial professional to see how these laws may affect you.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Deluxe Deviled Eggs

Just in time for Easter! Have you thought about what you are going to do with all of those eggs the Easter Bunny is going to bring? Devil them up... deluxe-style!  This recipe is a true hit at Easter dinner... or any occasion!  Super delicious!

Prep Time: 20 Min
Cook Time: 15 Min
Ready In: 45 Min


12 eggs
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
salt to taste
4 dashes hot pepper sauce... more or less, to taste
dijon mustard to taste
paprika, for garnish

  1. Place eggs in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Cover and let eggs stand in hot water for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from hot water, cool and peel.
  2. Cut eggs in half. Remove yolks and place in a medium bowl. Mash together with celery, onion, mayonnaise, salt, dijon mustard, and hot pepper sauce.
  3. Stuff the egg white halves with the egg yolk mixture. Sprinkle eggs with paprika. Chill covered in the refrigerator until serving.
Nutritional Information
Amount Per Serving ::  Calories: 70 | Total Fat: 6.1g | Cholesterol: 107mg

Monday, March 29, 2010

Simplify and Thrive!

"Simplicity is an acquired taste.
Mankind, left free, instinctively complicates life."

Katherine Gerould (1879 - 1944)

In our efforts to live the 'good life', we can easily find ourselves overwhelmed by seemingly endless choices, decisions and activities.

Here are a few ways to help slow down, and give ourselves time to remember who we are and what is really important in our lives.

And as we simplify, the environment also benefits.

Start... by Stopping
Each new day is a blank canvas which we fill with a checklist of tasks. But every minute need not be structured and scheduled. Try stopping from time to time, and make conscious contact with your inner self. Let go of the need for maximum daily achievement and become comfortable doing nothing, if only for a short while. Take the time to lay down on a blanket outside and watch the clouds. Bring some crumbs for the birds and watch them enjoy. Or check out the stars for a few minutes before going to sleep. An occasional dose of non-doing lets you slow down to appreciate the pleasures of the moment, however simple, and gain a fresh perspective on how your time is spent each day.

Daily Meditation
A brief daily meditation, even for just 15 minutes, is your chance to turn off the rest of the world and listen to yourself. Our fast-paced modern lifestyle delivers a steady barrage of information, obligation and responsibility. Meditation clears the mind and relaxes the body.

Meditation does not require incense, mandalas, mantras or the perfect lotus position. It only requires you to be comfortable, quiet and to try to clear your mind. A few tips:
  • Consistency :: Try to meditate every day, even if only for a few minutes. The benefits are cumulative.
  • Location :: Choose a quiet space where you will not be disturbed. Turn off the phone. If possible, meditate in the same spot every day.
  • Breathe :: Focus on your breathing to help clear your mind and relax your body.
  • Try not to think :: Listen to your heart, feel the energy in your body, let an empty breeze flow through your mind. Above all, try not to organize your day or problem solve.
  • Lower your expectations :: The benefits of meditation are substantial, but subtle. Do not look for results - they will find you.
  • Make it last :: As you leave your meditation space, try to extend the relaxed, focused feeling into your day. Every few hours, if you think of it, take a slow deep breath and envision your meditation space. Meditation can help you feel more relaxed and focused throughout the day.
“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!  I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.” 
Henry David Thoreau

Reduce Clutter :: De-Consume
The best things in life are not things. Clutter fills more than our shelves and closets - it permeates our lives. We work hard to be able to afford things, many of which require care, cleaning, storing, insuring, protecting... and the media and the merchants are constantly offering us the next "must have".

The cost of consumer goods goes beyond the price tag. Environmental costs come from resource extraction, manufacture, shipping, and waste management. Consumer demand drives industrial pollution. Here are a few tips to simplify and help "de-consume":
  • Teach your children :: Let your children know about the direct link between consumer goods and environmental costs, then let them make their own decisions. Show them that when you make a purchase, it is for the inherent value of the item and not for social status. Remember the hidden costs of the things you consume. Sooner or later you or your children will pay those costs.
  • Enjoy non-material pleasures :: Whether alone or enjoyed with others, non-material pursuits offer lasting and immeasurable benefits - music, sports, hobbies, crafts, and games contribute to personal development with little cost to you or the environment .
  • Give sustainably :: Birthday and holiday gifts do not have to be the latest consumer goods. In future posts, I will offer tips for sustainable giving for non-commercial gift ideas... be sure to check back soon!
  • Share, swap, trade :: Start a tool share with neighbors or family for tools which may not be used too often - lawn mower, power saw, compressor, ladder, paint sprayer, etc. Fewer things to buy and store, for everyone. Swap or trade for goods and services if possible, to save on the manufacture of new goods and packaging.. and, of course, the taxes.
  • Reduce visual clutter :: Try putting things you can live without in boxes and put the boxes in the attic or basement for six months. Then re-open the boxes and keep what you missed... give the rest away as gifts, hold a garage sale, or donate to charity. Then try this formula - for every new thing that comes in, one old thing goes out.
"Don't confuse your net worth with your self-worth"

Simplify Meals
Prepare dishes which will provide several meals. Stews, casseroles, and many recipes are just as easy to prepare in large portions. Make enough for two or three meals, and freeze the extra meals to cut your cooking chores in half. Become the master of "one-pot cooking" to simplify preparation and reduce clean-up time.

Instead of thinking about dinner in terms of what you want to eat, try to be creative with what you have in the refrigerator and cupboards. Resist the urge to run out to the store for more cooking ingredients. Go to for some great meal ideas... you can even search for meals by the ingredients you have (or do not have)!

Cut TV Time
TV time is not as relaxing as it may appear - our senses are being bombarded constantly and the underlying commercial message is always the same: you need more and more "things" to be happy. We are at the mercy of the marketers.

Statistics have shown that children get very little time of direct interaction with their parents, especially with their fathers. In contrast, the average child spends hours each day in front of the television. TV makes children and adults, want "more" to feel good about themselves.

Try reducing TV time and replace it with books, music, or educational videos which are commercial-free. If you have children, try replacing an hour of TV each evening with a parent/child activity. At first it may seem like more for you to do... after all, TV is a convenient babysitter! Having an on-going project is good, as it is easier to start and stop the activity in short blocks of time. For more ideas, check out

Reduce Housecleaning
Most of the dirt in your home is brought in on shoes. Save time and cleaning expenses by starting a no-shoes policy in your home. Keep slippers at the door for guests to use.

Next time you are at the library, look for "Confessions of an Organized Homemaker" by Denice Schofield. This book offers ways to simplify, organize, and schedule household systems in order to help reduce the need for housecleaning. Another great resource is they make housecleaning simple with 15 minute daily cleaning tasks!

“Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and the labors of life reduce themselves.”
Edwin Way Teale

Consolidate Trips to the Store
Approximately 50% of car use is for trips within 3 miles of the home. This distance is within the range for easy biking, so it makes sense to try to use your bike for some of these short hops. You will be saving fuel and reducing pollution... and you can also save on trips to the gym with this added exercise.

Whether you live in the heart of the city or have to drive to town or the mall to shop, try consolidating your trips. With a little organization, you can group your "town tasks" into fewer trips, saving you time and fuel expense. The environment also benefits from the fuel and energy savings.

Online Shopping
Buying goods online can be an environmentally friendly and time-saving way to shop. Online shopping is also a nice contrast to the over-stimulation one often feels at the mall. As the trend to online shopping grows, more and more goods become available with a wider range of choices than you may find locally. Here are a few environmental tips to consider when shopping online:
  • Do not choose overnight delivery :: Shipping by air freight generates up to five times the fuel emissions as ground delivery.
  • Combine orders :: You can reduce packaging and deliveries by consolidating your orders when shopping online. Wait until you have a full list of items you will need from an online store, then put in just one order. You can also combine orders with a friend or co-worker shopping for similar products, as a way of further reducing the environmental (and actual) costs of shipping.
  • Ship orders to your place of work :: If courier services regularly ship to your place of work, your order will be combined with others. This saves individual home deliveries.
  • Save order information on your computer :: Print-outs of order information use paper and ink, and require filing and storing. Save the information on your computer and delete when you have received the products in good order.

" all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Reduce Cell Phone Use
The cell phone has become an integral part of our fast-paced culture. It is almost a symbol of self-importance:  unless our schedules are as busy as the person next to us, we are less important or somehow not living up to the norm. As long as we carry along our cell phones, we are always "on task"... especially for those of us with SmartPhones!

There is another side to ubiquitous cell phone use. It distracts our focus from other activities, at home, shopping, driving, and even during movies or meetings.  It adds another level of complexity to our daily living and is often an unwelcome interruption to our time spent with others.

Get to know the "off" switch of your cell phone, especially when enjoying quality time with your family, friends or by yourself.

Try to put some silence into each day. Our ears are not designed for the constant stimulation of noise, which is an unfortunate by-product of modern life. There are very few loud sounds in nature. Studies have shown that stress hormones rise in response to noise. Concentration and energy levels are reduced, and the rates of hearing loss among young people has risen dramatically in recent years.

Simply being aware of the effects of noise is a good start. Small foam ear protectors cost just pennies apiece and screen out the high decibal aspects of noise. Wear ear protectors at home when operating loud equipment such as lawn mowers, leaf blowers, blenders and vacuum cleaners. Turn off the TV and stereo if you're not paying full attention to them.

Silence helps us stay focused and centered, and provides a welcome oasis in a sea of overstimulation. (Related article: The Death of Stillness by Richard Mahler).

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
Leonardo da Vinci

:: Please share any ideas or suggestions you have to simplify a hectic lifestyle!