Better Than Botox: Study Backs Up Benefits of Niacin for Better Skin

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Skincare products make up a staggering $20 billion dollar a year industry in America alone. It seems that there is always some new miracle lotion or cream on the market that promises drastic results. Scientists and doctors devote huge amounts of time to developing these products because they are so lucrative. Every so often an ingredient really does have an amazing effect on skin. Niacin and niacinamide (a form of the vitamin B3) is one such ingredient, with plenty of studies and research to back up the benefits.

What is Niacin?

You’ve probably heard of niacin before, but perhaps in a nutritional context. Niacin is found in milk, eggs, green leafy vegetables, beans, cereals, yeast, and in some types of fish. It’s required by the body in order to properly metabolize fats and sugars and in the maintenance of cells and a lack of niacin can lead to indigestion, fatigue, depression, and a serious deficiency called Pellagra. Though niacin is found in food, research has shown that to achieve increased benefits for the skin, it takes more than what we typically receive in our diets.

Benefits of Niacin on the Skin

For skincare, niacin is best used topically. When used in creams, lotions, or sprays directly on the skin, it leads to increased cell turnover, wrinkle reduction, boosts moisture, protects against certain forms of skin cancer, and treats a wide variety of other skin issues including:

  • Rosacea
  • Acne
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Flaking
  • Peeling
  • Inflammation

Risks or Side Effects

One thing to be aware of is the “Niacin Flush” when using products containing niacin. Tingling and redness is very common immediately upon application to the skin, often resulting in a deep red flush and warmth on the cheeks of some individuals who use it. Niacin is a vasodilator (it expands the vessels to bring blood and nutrients to the surface of the skin) so the flush is actually one indication that the vitamin is working its magic on you. The redness and tingling typically only last for a few minutes, but for this reason, many people may choose to apply niacin-based skincare products at night. Being sufficiently hydrated can also prevent or lessen the niacin flush. For many people, the tingling sensation and redness will lessen over extended weeks of use. Some individuals may find they never get the flush at all.

Where to Find Niacin

Because it is water-soluble and stable in the presence of heat and light, niacin works well for topical use in a variety of different types of skincare products. It is now being formulated in a variety of serums, creams, sprays and lotions, but unfortunately, like most products, a majority of the cost to the consumer is not for the ingredients themselves but for the marketing and packaging. Instead of spending a lot of money on pre-formulated products, niacin can be purchased in bulk online or from your local vitamin shop.

There are several DIY products you can make on your own to save quite a lot of money. See the video below for information about how to make a naicinamide face spray for incorporation into your beauty routine.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

New Study: Running Instantly Increases Brainpower

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 We know that exercise is great for our bodies, but did you know it’s also great for your brain? A new study shows that running, even more than other aerobic or high-intensity exercises increases the development of neurons in the parts of the brain we use for learning and retaining information. Researchers saw that the hippocampus lights up on imaging scans during running (indicating growth and new connections) but stays dark during exercises like weight lifting.

I practice high-intensity interval training myself (with exercises like weight lifting or rope jumping) because studies show that exercising in this way burns more calories; however, the effects of neurogenesis only occur during sustained running (i.e., at a steady pace for 20 minutes or more). And compared to those who are sedentary, subjects who ran three times a week had 2-3 times more hippocampal neurons at the end of the study. While researchers are not exactly sure why these results are the case, there are theories about how sustained increased respiration (and therefore oxygen) and blood flow contribute to this brain activity. Running has even been shown to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in known patients and researchers believe there may soon be evidence that running can prevent the disease altogether.

This is all well and good, but what if, like me, you don’t currently run? Or what if you don’t work out at all? Starting a running routine can seem overwhelming, but there’s an app that can help.

Couch to 5K

The Couch to 5K app is exactly what it sounds like a program to get absolute beginners off of the couch and running 5K in just 9 weeks. 5K is 3.1 miles, which should take anywhere from 20-30 minutes to run at a good pace (i.e., just the right amount of sustained time to get those brain-boosting benefits). While the many benefits of running are extremely convincing, embarking on a run incorrectly is a surefire way to get injured (or at the very least, to overdo it and decide running is not worth it after all).

You can download the app to your smartphone and plug in your headphones. The program includes three detailed, timed runs per week with rest/recovery days built in between. The program tells you when it is time to walk, when to jog, and when to run. Each week has a slightly different routine to help you get accustomed to your routine. Alert texts let you keep track of your goals and stay motivated even in between runs.

Becoming a Runner

I started my Couch to 5K program last week. I was surprised at how simple it was to follow. The affable voice of Laura, the C25K coach, comes in over my music to tell me what I should be doing and when (I have an iPhone 5 but I’ve heard that those with earlier versions of the iPhone may have trouble listening to music while using the app—for me this would be a really big deal since I depend on my music to motivate me to work out. There is also a version for Android phones). The basic app is free, but an advanced app with GPS locator and other features is $1.99.

I was surprised by how quickly the first six routines flew by and honestly it was difficult to not keep running beyond the allotted times by the end of week two (but this may be because I’m used to exercising regularly, albeit not running). As with any exercise program, make sure you have approval from your doctor before you begin. You’ll also need appropriate running shoes and a safe surface on which to train (if you have access to a track that’s great, but I find running on natural trails to be far more engaging). Happy running/neuron growing!

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

How to Avoid a Sprained Ankle

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In an emergency situation, it is imperative that you are healthy and strong enough to remain alert, prepared, and most of all, mobile. You have no way of knowing if your home base will be compromised or not and/or if a natural disaster or other circumstance will have you on the run. Something as seemingly innocuous as a sprained ankle can mean the difference between making a getaway or getting stuck.

History Repeats Itself

Many people will tell you that they have suffered from a sprained or twisted ankle at some point in their lifetime. However, more than half of those people who have done so never seek professional medical treatment because it is “just a sprain” and they don’t see how a doctor can help them. This is risky because the majority of ankle sprains will occur again at some point later in life. A sprained ankle that does not receive the appropriate physical therapy during and after healing often results in a weaker joint. This can lead to a myriad of issues, including problems maintaining proper balance, developing a slight limp or altered gait, and having a joint that is unstable and more likely to twist or collapse again. In very serious cases, a sprained ankle left untreated can result in a lifetime of pain and immobility.

Bad Advice Following a Sprain

There is a lot of really bad advice out there about what to do following a sprained ankle. The worst of all is the adage to “walk it off” or ignore a sprain. You must immediately stop doing whatever exercise or activity caused the sprain and take all weight off of the ankle. The moments following a sprain are the most critical when inflammation and swelling put the joint at risk. If possible, head to the ER for a medical consultation, especially if the pain is severe and lasts for more than a few days. Although in most cases, an X-ray or M.R.I. is not needed to make an accurate diagnosis, you need to rule out the possibility of a more severe injury. A doctor can give you a plan for therapy to strengthen and heal the joint.

Prevention is the Best Plan

Your best bet is to not get an ankle injury in the first place. This means wearing appropriate shoes for your activity, protecting your joints, and making sure that the ground surfaces you are using are level and clear of all debris. A majority of ankle sprains occur not during intensive sports or activities, but in everyday walking situations. Don’t put your health at risk for fashion trends—keep your shoes low-heeled with sufficient tread. Hold onto handrails when walking up or down stairs, and limit walking in icy or very wet conditions if possible.

The stronger your ankles are, the more you can avoid getting an ankle injury in the first place. The muscles around your joint help to protect and stabilize, so building up those muscles with the following exercises can be very beneficial.

Three Exercised that Strengthen the Ankle

Ankle Alphabet

Sit on the ground with your knees up and your legs bent in front of you. Cross one leg over the other and “trace” the shape of each letter of the alphabet with your ankle. This will feel very easy at first but by the end of the alphabet, you might have trouble remaining steady or completing the shapes. This means it’s working! Switch to the other leg and repeat.

Calf Raises

This exercise is the single most important strengthening exercise you can do to build up the muscles around your ankles. Simply stand with your feet apart, and shift weight off of your heels and onto your toes (like you are on tiptoe with both feet). Do 25 reps and work your way up to 50 (do not exceed 50 reps without consulting your doctor first–you want to build strength but not over-fatigue the muscles, which can lead to injury)

Tree Pose

This balancing yoga pose is simply standing on one leg with the other one bent and placed on the knee. Beginners might have trouble getting the bent leg up to knee height, so simply lifting it off the floor will suffice. This is a balancing pose that requires core strength, so beginners might also want to have a wall or rail nearby in case they begin to fall. Your body will shake as it stabilizes itself—this is a sign that the muscles are working.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Three Kid-Friendly Brussels Sprouts Recipes

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 Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of protein, iron, and potassium. In addition, they contain immune-boosting and bioprotective ingredients including Vitamin C (which prevents cellular damage), fiber (for lowering risk of heart disease and stroke and maintaining the digestive system), folate (which reduces your risk of heart disease), and antioxidants. Unfortunately though, Brussels sprouts aren’t the most appealing or glamorous vegetable, probably because when they are overcooked they become a slimy, bitter mess.

I didn’t enjoy Brussels sprouts until college and even then only after coming across a restaurant that served them in a rich bacon butter. Studies show that it’s not uncommon for certain complex flavors to slowly be acquired over time. It may take up to eight times tasting a food or drink before you begin to like it. (Think about kids’ reactions when they first encounter coffee, beer, or sushi and you’ve got a pretty good idea about this phenomenon.) But kids who are exposed to and try a wide variety of vegetables on their plates (even if they don’t always finish them!) have better lifetime eating habits, as they will acquire those difficult/unusual tastes earlier.

We regularly cook Brussels sprouts at our house. My kids don’t always clean their plates, but the following recipes are pretty great at getting them to eat a few bites of this highly nutritious veggie. As an added bonus, two of these dishes will take you less than 15 minutes to make from start to finish.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH BACON AND RAISINS

Remember what I said about the bacon trick? This dish makes use of a little bit of bacon and a handful of raisins to add a rich, complex. Kids who love a little sweetness will appreciate the flavor balancing that happens in this hearty side dish. Goes great with a steak.

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1 pound trimmed, halved Brussels sprouts
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Instructions:

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain and let cool.

While bacon cools, add Brussels sprouts to drippings in skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often until sprouts are golden brown spots and getting soften, (about 5–7 minutes—be sure not to overcook as they will start to get slimy). While sprouts are cooking, crumble bacon.

Reduce heat to low and add raisins and butter. Cook for a minute of two until flavors combine. Add broth to skillet; increase heat and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until broth has evaporated, 1–2 minutes. Stir in vinegar and crumbled bacon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS CHIPS

Kids like to eat chips because they are salty and easy to eat (and if they’re prepared correctly you can’t tell a vegetable is involved at all). Like kale chips, Brussels sprouts chips are just as yummy and easy to make. They’re also a great way to repurpose the outer leaves of the sprouts that tend to fall off when cutting off the stems.

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil to coat
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 loosely packed cups of Brussels sprouts leaves (outer leaves work best, but so long as you separate each leaf these will crisp up nicely)

Instructions:

Toss outer leaves of sprouts in olive oil and salt. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet (honestly, I’ve done this directly on a cookie sheet when we’re out of parchment—they are a little less crispy but still very good). Roast for 5 minutes at 400 degrees (check often because they brown quickly!). And that’s it! My kids inhale these without even making the connection that they are a healthy veggie.

CHERRY & ALMOND BRUSSELS SPROUTS SALAD

As I mentioned before, one of the biggest issues with Brussels sprouts is overcooking—this recipe serves them raw, thereby completely avoiding that pitfall. It’s also a complete meal when necessary and most ingredients can be customized with whatever you have in your kitchen.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • ¼ cup dried cherries
  • ¼ cup slivered almonds (or other nuts)
  • Parmesan cheese sprinkled to taste (or other cheese)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Instructions:

For the salad: First, shred the Brussels sprouts. You can do this with a mandoline, a knife, or even your fingers (in a pinch). Just make sure the pieces are tiny. Next, add whatever nut you prefer–my kids love almonds, but pecans, walnuts, or pistachios can also work. Now add in dried fruit. We prefer cherries, but chopped apples or raisins would also be great.

For the dressing: Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, garlic, mustard and honey and drizzle over the salad. Stir to coat and finally sprinkle some Parmesan cheese over the top to add some complex saltiness. You can even use shredded cheddar or Gruyere (or really any cheese you have on hand that your family enjoys).

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Full Spectrum Health Gadget Gives Whole Picture of Your Well Being

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spireNearly 40 million people used wearable devices to track their fitness and movement this year. Devices like the fitbit make it easy to determine calories expended and help you maintain or reach your fitness goals. If you are one of those people who does not find the idea of tracking your every move paranoia inducing (and storing it in the cloud, no less!), you might want to consider Spire, a new product meant to address the mental side of your health.

The makers of Spire believe fitness is comprised of both mind and body and that being healthy is about more than exercising and eating well. True health, according to those at Spire, means having clarity, control, and inner peace.

What is Spire?

Spire is a wearable device (it clips onto your pants or bra) that offers the same movement features as other activity trackers on the market but with the addition of sensors that monitor how you react to stress. Our bodies are constantly giving physical cues that indicate our mental state, such as increased or shallow breathing, rapid heart rate, and perspiration. Spire picks up on these cues and alerts you in real time so that you can adjust your behavior and reduce the effects of stress.

For example, if you are in a meeting with your boss and things are not going well, you might feel a little vibration from your Spire. A notification on your phone (which synchs to Spire) will indicate that your heart rate is increasing and that you need to breathe deeply. It sounds almost too simple, but researchers say correcting the physical effects of stress allows us to better tackle the mental effects, even in the heat of the moment.

And this goes for situations that you don’t even know are stressful, like driving on highways or talking with certain people. The creators of Spire hope that by becoming aware of how our bodies are reacting at any given moment, we can create a positive feedback loop and get relief from stress. Breathing is literally the only automatic function in our bodies that we also have control over. How you breathe sets up how you feel, and vice versa.

How does it relieve stress?

The main way that Spire works, like other fitness wearables, is by tracking and accumulating information that we are too busy or unable to track ourselves. Sensors detect your breathing and respiratory movement, including the depth of each individual breath. Advanced algorithms allow the device to make sense of your breathing patterns based on multiple laboratory studies that show links between respiration patterns and emotional states. In addition, Spire is customizable and able to tweak and reinterpret the data it receives over time (“stressed” for you is different than “stressed” for someone else).

Because Spire is always tuned in to your behavior, it also serves as a monitor during times of calm and focus. Looking at your data and recalling moments of peace, contentment, and clarity can allow you to reproduce these results at a later time.

How much is it?

I was very surprised to see that Spire costs just $99, considerably less than many other wearable fitness trackers. Considering the fact that Spire still tracks steps and calories expended in addition to the other respiration tracking capabilities, it seems that people in the market for this type of device might benefit from having a look at Spire. It may not be an overnight cure-all for stress, but those interested in “body hacking” may find it’s a welcome tool for providing a more complete picture of the whole self.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

How A “Drop-Everything” Day Can Revolutionize Your Productivity

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 We live in a heavily connected world and most of us are skilled multi-taskers. The advent of the smart phone means I’ve ordered groceries while waiting in line at the DMV and I’ve made a voice memo while driving a car full of kids to little league. Most of us do more than one thing at a time, so the idea of doing nothing at all seems downright lazy. But some of the most productive and creative thinkers of our generation have one thing in common: they regularly drop everything to do nothing at all.

Stress is on the Rise

According to the American Institute of Stress, absences from work due to burnout are rising, with large corporations losing as much as $3.5 million per year due to this. From Steve Jobs to Albert Einstein to Marie Curie, scheduling solitary “do-nothing” days has proven to be exceedingly beneficial. Not only is dropping everything good for business, there is a wealth of medical and emotional advantages to this type of relaxation. It sounds crazy, but having a “drop-everything” day once a month or so can make a huge difference in your quality of life and your productivity.

How to Drop Everything

This isn’t about scheduling a trip to Tahiti or a yoga class. If you’ve ever felt stressed or overworked, it can be tempting to make your “me-time” a drink, a television show, or a formal vacation. But dropping everything means exactly what it sounds like. It’s a day where you do absolutely nothing. It sounds counterintuitive to “plan” for nothing, but here’s how you do it:

Step 1

Put it in the calendar: It’s much harder to be protective of your time when you’re dropping everything, but you need to make this activity known as an event—to yourself, and to others around you. If an entire “drop-everything” day isn’t possible for you, try setting aside at least 4 hours.

Step 2

Disconnect: No phones, no friends, no computer, no television, no work, no play, no sleeping. This day is about reflecting, thinking, hoping, and planning (but no to-do lists!). It’s amazing how removing your go-to distractions can change the way your mind works.

Step 3

Pay attention: You might choose to wander around somewhere outside. You might sit in a comfortable chair. Wherever you end up, make it a point to observe and notice your environment. We spend so much time rushing from one thing to the next we often forget to truly see the world around us.

Step 4

Note your desires: Once you’ve quieted the noise of your commitments and obligations, see where your thoughts go. Often, breakthroughs and new insights occur when we have solitude. See what themes keep cropping up and follow the trails of thought. This phase can be extremely uncomfortable for some people who are not used to being alone with their thoughts, but clearing the mind is like working out a muscle—it gets easier over time.

Step 5

Don’t rush it: You might think you’ve had enough nothing at an hour or two and you might start to feel guilty. Fight this! The biggest revelations often occur long after we’ve grown tired of “practicing” nothing.

Of course, the thing about doing nothing is that it eventually turns into something very meaningful. Some might call the above exercise “mindfulness” or meditation, but it helps me to think about simply clearing my mind. Successful people everywhere have engaged in these types of habits for years, so why not give it a try? You literally have nothing to lose!

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

6 ‘Gateway Veggies’ Kids Will Love!

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 Anybody with kids can tell you that getting them to develop healthy eating habits is no easy feat. We know that children in the US are in the midst of an obesity epidemic—that they are eating processed foods and drinking sugary drinks and sodas at an alarming rate. But studies now show that children are hardwired to like sweet, high-caloric foods (the theory is that this preference gives them an evolutionary advantage for growth, particularly in circumstances when calories are scarce).  So how can we counteract these biological impulses in our kids and also make sure they are eating plenty of fresh vegetables?

Kids may not gravitate naturally toward vegetables, but when they are responsible for growing them and harvesting them from their own gardens, they are much more likely to taste their efforts. In addition, there are a few very sweet things you can grow in your garden that acts as introductory veggies, a kind of “gateway” to the world of vegetables. Once you win kids over with a few known favorites, you can sneak in the less sugary veggies and open them up to a lifetime of flavorful, healthy choices.

6 ‘Gateway Veggies’ Kids Will Love!

Carrots

You can thank Bugs Bunny for making carrots appealing to young kids. Carrots are often the only vegetable picky eaters will agree to, but it’s not a bad starting point. Kids are great at pulling these up from the garden by themselves and leaving the leafy green tops on makes the act of eating them more like the cartoons. The sweet flavor comes in at about 6 grams per cup (for comparison, a typical candy bar has more than 25 grams of sugar) and they are a handy snack that almost every kid loves to crunch on.

Cherry Tomatoes

Tomatoes are technically a fruit, of course, but the sweet, flavorful garden favorite has just 3.9 grams of sugar for a cup serving. A single cherry tomato plant can provide a huge harvest and kids love that they can be popped right into their mouths for a treat. Even if you have a big garden, you might want to plant tomatoes in planters on your patio so that they are always readily available to add to salads or snacks. Once kids are sold on the cherry variety, you can introduce them to the various other types of tomatoes available to them.

Sugar Snap Peas

These veggies have “sugar” in their name for a reason, and kids love to help pick and pop out these sweet, healthy peas. They taste great raw and are fast growing so kids can quickly see their progress in the garden. A cup has just 2.5 grams of sugar

Sweet Corn

It isn’t the easiest vegetable to grow, but if you are able to, sweet corn is a huge favorite for kids. It can be used in salads and soups and is a great side dish, but perhaps the best way to enjoy corn is to eat it straight from the garden. Adding this more difficult plant to your garden will help kids to see how their hard work and effort pays off. Corn has 6.8 grams of sugar per cup, though it is a higher glycemic food that raises blood sugar levels a bit more than the other veggies in this list.

Rutabagas

Though it is not the prettiest veggie in town, the rutabaga is a sweet treat that is often overlooked. It is a hardy, cool-weather biennial grown as an annual and it’s easy to maintain. It has a sweet woody flavor and can be cut into sticks and eaten raw (at our house we call them rutabaga fries). Rutabagas have 6 grams of sugar per cup, the same amount as a carrot.

Beets

People think of beets as an adult vegetable that you have to trick kids into eating, something along the lines of Brussels sprouts. In reality, kids are naturally attracted to the bright red color and the unusual shape and, if your kids fascinated with bodily functions like mine are, they will be all too excited to see the “result” (i.e., bright red poop!) that comes from eating a meal of beets. Like other root veggies, beets are easy for kids to pull out of the ground themselves. The beet is actually sweeter than any other vegetable in this list, coming in at 9 grams per cup, but the fiber and other nutrients make it a very healthy choice.

 

 

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

5 Exciting Ways to Use Cranberries

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cranberryCranberries are a beautiful addition to any dinner plate. Their rich color dresses everything up and adds a touch of complex sweetness. Cranberries are also extremely healthy—they are chockfull of antioxidants and proanthocyanidins (or PACs) that help to prevent the adhesion of certain of bacteria (these anti-adhesion properties inhibit the bacteria associated with E. coli, and potentially those associated with gum disease and stomach ulcers as well). Cranberries are also rich in phytonutrients, giving you an upper hand at combatting various illnesses. Women have long-been using cranberry juices and extract to treat and avoid urinary tract infections.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, you might find yourself with an abundance of cranberries on hand. Resist the urge to make typical cranberry sauce and call it a day–the following recipes show a few exciting ways to change things up. And don’t limit yourself to the holidays! These dishes taste great year round.

Cranberry Red Wine Relish

This recipe is a kind of adult version of the classic cranberry sauce. Tasty and colorful, if you make big batches you can put them in mason jars for beautiful holiday gifts for your friends and neighbors.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups dry red wine (this is a fancy one I use during the holidays)
  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries, rinsed and sorted
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest, cut into slivers

Directions:

  1. Combine sugar and red wine in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the cranberries, cinnamon stick and orange peel. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often until most of the cranberries have burst (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat and chill before serving.

Cranberry Chutney

Again, this is a bit of a more festive take on classic cranberry sauce. Perfect with turkey and other holiday dinners.

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces (or 1 package) fresh cranberries
  • 1 orange, peeled, tough membrane removed, chopped or 1 small can pineapple tidbits, drained
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 8 minutes, or until cranberries are bursting.
  2. Chill until serving time; freeze surplus in small containers.

Sweet Wheat Berry Cranberry Salad

Wheat berries are a versatile whole grain. Learn more about how to use them here.

Ingredients:

Makes 8 servings

  • 2 cups wheat berries
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
  • 1/4 cup apples, diced
  • 1/2 cup carrots, shredded
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

For Dressing:

  • 1 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • salt to taste

Directions:

  1. For salad: In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients.
  2. For dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients for dressing. Pour the dressing over the salad and gently toss. Refrigerate the dressed salad to allow the flavors to meld before serving. Serve it cold or heat it up for a breakfast cereal.

Cranberry Quinoa with Cilantro

The stronger cranberry flavor plus cilantro in this dish is a real compliment to the quinoa, which can be a bit bland. Note that the cranberries used in this recipe are dried.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup minced carrots
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Pour the water into a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Pour in the quinoa, cover with a lid, and continue to simmer over low heat until the water has been absorbed (about 20 minutes). Scrape into a mixing bowl and chill in the refrigerator until cold.
  2. Once cold, stir in the red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, red onion, curry powder, cilantro, lime juice, sliced almonds, carrots, and cranberries. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill before serving.

Crockpot Cranberry Chicken

This is a delicious and easy way to prepare chicken breasts. The cranberries add a welcome change to our regular chicken dinner, and I love using the crockpot to prepare meals during the week.

Ingredients:

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 (16 ounce) bottle Catalina salad dressing
  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 1 envelope onion soup mix

Directions:

  1. Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of a slow cooker. Pour the salad dressing, cranberries, and onion soup mix over the chicken. Cook on Low 4 to 6 hours.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

How to Save the Conversation at Your Post-Election Thanksgiving Dinner

dysfunctional holidaysSometimes going home for the holidays is hard (there’s a reason liquor sales swell during these occasions!). Often, Thanksgiving dinners bring far-flung family members together at a single table under one roof, and that, even in the best of circumstances, can lead to stress and awkward conversations. Add in the fact that this is an election year and you’re bound to encounter some strain while you pass those mashed potatoes across vastly different ideologies. I’ve heard from more than one friend or family member that they won’t be attending holiday dinners this year, and I think that’s really a shame.

I’d encourage anyone thinking about going that route to reconsider; the following tips can help to make your Thanksgiving dinner manageable and enjoyable and can help you focus on your families’ similarities, rather than differences.

Remember the Golden Rule of Polite Conversation

If you’re an activist of any sort this may be difficult to adhere to, but the two topics that are best to leave on the coat hook are your religious and political views. Remember last year when Uncle Joe successfully convinced everyone at the table to convert to his exact religious and political beliefs? Yeah, that didn’t happen. No matter how zealous your convictions, if you truly want to make the two hours of Thanksgiving dinner comfortable, you need to skip that kind of talk. Now is no time to be passive-aggressive either: leave the political-themed hats and t-shirts at home. Focus instead on the personal: how people are doing in their jobs, what hobbies they are participating in, how their kids are doing.

If someone tries to bait or lead you into a conversation that approaches one of the two danger zones, be nice but don’t engage. I once escaped a horrible conversation with a distant cousin by complimenting her earrings.  Really, this is no different than abstaining from talk about your digestive issues or the road kill you saw on the drive over—it’s just plain rude to go there. And if your family happens to all hold the exact same beliefs and convictions, well, how nice for you! (Though you should know that for years my family assumed I shared their same political opinions when I absolutely did not—consider this might be the case for the person next to you at the table.)

Thankful for Place Settings

 When I host Thanksgiving dinner at my house, each place setting has a little piece of paper with the subject heading “I am thankful for:” and 5 blank lines. I also give out fountain pens like these as a little gift to my guests. As everyone is seated, they fill out their lists. We take turns over the course of the dinner reading our lists. This is a great way to focus on what really matters to us and to help us share in our gratitude.

Do Your Part

Preparation is key in all situations, so having a couple of talking points in your conversation arsenal is smart. Avoid lulls in conversation by contributing. Think about something positive or meaningful that happened to you recently—a beautiful place that you visited or a great (non-political!) book or movie that you saw—and have an anecdote ready.

When all else fails, you can always talk about the food:  what your favorite part of the meal is, how certain dishes were prepared, and how good the wine is (but go easy on the wine!).

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

How to Save the Conversation at Your Post-Election Thanksgiving Dinner

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dysfunctional holidaysSometimes going home for the holidays is hard (there’s a reason liquor sales swell during these occasions!). Often, Thanksgiving dinners bring far-flung family members together at a single table under one roof, and that, even in the best of circumstances, can lead to stress and awkward conversations. Add in the fact that this is an election year and you’re bound to encounter some strain while you pass those mashed potatoes across vastly different ideologies. I’ve heard from more than one friend or family member that they won’t be attending holiday dinners this year, and I think that’s really a shame.

I’d encourage anyone thinking about going that route to reconsider; the following tips can help to make your Thanksgiving dinner manageable and enjoyable and can help you focus on your families’ similarities, rather than differences.

Remember the Golden Rule of Polite Conversation

If you’re an activist of any sort this may be difficult to adhere to, but the two topics that are best to leave on the coat hook are your religious and political views. Remember last year when Uncle Joe successfully convinced everyone at the table to convert to his exact religious and political beliefs? Yeah, that didn’t happen. No matter how zealous your convictions, if you truly want to make the two hours of Thanksgiving dinner comfortable, you need to skip that kind of talk. Now is no time to be passive-aggressive either: leave the political-themed hats and t-shirts at home. Focus instead on the personal: how people are doing in their jobs, what hobbies they are participating in, how their kids are doing.

If someone tries to bait or lead you into a conversation that approaches one of the two danger zones, be nice but don’t engage. I once escaped a horrible conversation with a distant cousin by complimenting her earrings.  Really, this is no different than abstaining from talk about your digestive issues or the road kill you saw on the drive over—it’s just plain rude to go there. And if your family happens to all hold the exact same beliefs and convictions, well, how nice for you! (Though you should know that for years my family assumed I shared their same political opinions when I absolutely did not—consider this might be the case for the person next to you at the table.)

Thankful for Place Settings

 When I host Thanksgiving dinner at my house, each place setting has a little piece of paper with the subject heading “I am thankful for:” and 5 blank lines. I also give out fountain pens like these as a little gift to my guests. As everyone is seated, they fill out their lists. We take turns over the course of the dinner reading our lists. This is a great way to focus on what really matters to us and to help us share in our gratitude.

Do Your Part

Preparation is key in all situations, so having a couple of talking points in your conversation arsenal is smart. Avoid lulls in conversation by contributing. Think about something positive or meaningful that happened to you recently—a beautiful place that you visited or a great (non-political!) book or movie that you saw—and have an anecdote ready.

When all else fails, you can always talk about the food:  what your favorite part of the meal is, how certain dishes were prepared, and how good the wine is (but go easy on the wine!).

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Prepping on a Budget: 4 Food Dehydrators under $75

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 Many believe dehydrating food is the safest, most affordable and best way to preserve flavors of foods. Having a dehydrator available allows you to make fruit leathers, dried fruits, beef jerky, nuts, seeds, and even meals. They cut down on wasted food, save money on pre-packaged snacks, and allow your family to eat healthily on the go. Dried foods are a life-saving staple and one of the most affordable ways to create an emergency food supply or preserve food that would otherwise go to waste. The Prepper’s Cookbook hails this culinary tool as a must-have for creating a stocked pantry.

If you have thought about buying a dehydrator, chances are you’ve heard of the Excalibur Food Dehydrator. It is the gold standard in food dehydration: it is reviewed highly by users, performs well and has a great guarantee package, and the customer service team has a great reputation. Many feel it is worth the upfront investment, especially if you plan on using your dehydrator often, but for some people, the $250 price tag is too much to bear.

That said, you have options! Below are some alternatives to the upper-end models and come highly recommended.

Four budget-friendly food dehydrators that get the job done!

1) Presto 06300

This no-frills dehydrator is as affordable as you can get. Selling for under $40, this four-tray system is compact and still powerful enough to dehydrate a good amount of fruits, veggies, jerky, and leathers. The clear cover allows you to keep watch over your snacks and the trays and cover are all dishwasher safe. It is quiet and lightweight, therefore easy to carry into various rooms for different purposes (such as making potpourri or drying herbs from your garden). One drawback is a lack of temperature control, but satisfied users agree that the general setting is sufficient for most tasks. This would make a great purchase or gift for someone new to food dehydration.

2) Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro

At around $60, the Nesco Snackmaster Pro is one of the newest dehydrators in the Nesco product line. It has 700 watts of drying power and comes with 5 drying trays (up to 12 trays can be used in the unit but those additional trays need to be purchased separately). The adjustable thermostat ranges from 95-160 degrees. It is lightweight and compact and includes added goodies like 2 fruit roll up sheets, 3 packets of beef jerky spice, and a detailed recipe and instruction book. There isn’t a timer or an on/off switch on this unit, though users seem happy with the other features at this price point.

3) NutriChef Kitchen Electric Countertop Food Dehydrator

This dehydrator is around $50 and incredibly user-friendly. It comes with 5 trays, each of which has 6 stacking tabs that allow you to change the height between each tray so you can place thicker food on the tray and still get good results. There is space for up to 20 trays in this unit (additional trays sold separately). The trays are clear and dishwasher safe, though some users complain that the base of the unit can be difficult to clean. It is fairly quiet and has an on/off switch; it comes with a detailed user guide.

4) Cuisinart DHR-20 Food Dehydrator

The Cuisinart Food Dehydrator is the priciest in this list, though at $65 it still comes in at a much more affordable rate than the Excalibur. It has a 620-watt motorized fan with a top vent. It can hold 9 trays total and jerky lovers seem to love this dehydrator: it dehydrates up to 4 pounds of meat in 4-5 hours, depending on the cut. Replacement and additional trays are a bit pricey at around $14 a piece; otherwise, the reviews for this product are very satisfactory.

In planning for a long-term disaster, people are always trying to find foods they can look forward to that will give them optimum nutrition. These budget-friendly food dehydrators will help you do just that. Happy dehydrating!

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

How Cycling Helps Save the World (and Save Your A*@ when the SHTF)

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shtf bikeWe recently moved from NYC to Portland, Oregon, and I have to say the biggest change (besides all of the trees and so much more living space!) is the cycling culture. Portland is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country. There are bikes everywhere you look (I just bought this one and I love it). Not only are there safe bike lanes leading everywhere—including all the way to the airport—there’s also a bike shop on every corner and even a bike assembly area within the airport terminal itself. The bike culture also flourishes in Portland because cyclists and drivers both follow the rules (and, let me tell you, that’s a HUGE change from NYC as well).

Cycling is great for your body and great for the environment. People who ride their bicycles regularly have better cardiovascular fitness, less body fat, increased energy, and they experience less depression. These are all ideal characteristics for being conditioned in a SHTF situation. Cycling to work instead of driving saves close to 10% of your household emissions and biking combats noise pollution, traffic, and uses far less rubber than what is needed for car tires. It makes sense that anyone who is interested in having a sustainable lifestyle would also be interested in traveling by bicycle as much as they can.

Why Cycling Matters in a SHTF Situation

In addition to health benefits, knowing how to cycle and having the necessary gear can come in handy in a dire SHTF situation. I recently read an article about how traveling by bike is your best bet for surviving the zombie apocalypse—the article was a bit of a joke, but it got me thinking seriously about bugging out and how to travel safely in a potentially dangerous situation.

Riding a Bicycle Lets You Avoid Traffic: First of all, anytime there is an emergency, from a severe weather event to a terrorist threat to a fire, traffic becomes an immense and literal roadblock. You won’t be limited to roads at all if you have a bicycle. Being able to take alternate routes means getting the heck out of Dodge faster—of course, you’ll have issues with covering long distances, but people stuck in hours of traffic will too.

Riding a Bicycle Does Not Require Fuel: There’s also the issue of getting gas and maintaining your energy source for your car. Sure, if you’re prepared, you’ll have a few extra tanks on hand, but what happens when that dries up? In a national or worldwide SHTF situation, gasoline will be among the first resources to go scarce. When the gas is gone, even if drivers are able to power through traffic and use their preps, it’s only a matter of time before they have to abandon their cars and continue their travels on foot.

Bikes are Easy to Repair: A bicycle is a straightforward machine that requires only a slight bit of research to repair. You don’t want to be worrying about your engine or oil changes when you’re on the run.

You Can Still Carry Cargo: If you’ve traveled to Indonesian countries you’ve seen how much gear (or how many people!) can be packed onto a single bicycle. Having a basket or rack is an easy and affordable way to make your bike more emergency friendly. Even just having a simple set up for your bug-out bag and some of your preps will make a huge difference.

You Can Accommodate Children on a Bicycle: If forced to abandon your car, having smaller children means that they slow you down, and if they aren’t willing to walk you will find yourself in a terrible situation indeed. Carriers or trailers like this one mean your child can be sleeping soundly while you travel.

Riding a Bike is Better for Your OPSEC Situation: Bicycles are stealth and silent when you are riding them and are reliable in an off-grid situation. They are small and easy to camouflage–they can even be pulled up into a tree or stashed behind some bushes at a moment’s notice.

At the very least, understand that you cannot rely on your vehicle in a true SHTF situation if you have to flee your home. Loading up your trunk with preps could potentially be a waste of time—instead, you might do well to learn how to ride a bike and be sure one is packed in that trunk of yours.

 

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

5 Classic Fall Recipes That Can Be Made Healthier

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favorite fall recipes made healthyThere’s something about the cooler fall weather that makes my family want to huddle up indoors and eat sweets. Humans are likely programmed to do just this, but let’s not let a change of seasons derail our healthy eating. Here are 5 modified classic fall recipes that will still make your house smell amazing and satisfy your sweet tooth—all without packing on the pounds.

5 Favorite Fall Recipes – the Healthy Way!

1. Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie defines the Thanksgiving holiday in my household—we eat it as a dessert, but we also eat the leftovers for breakfast. This version adds in rolled oats for fiber and has healthy ground flax, but the full-fat coconut milk means a rich, creamy pie that satisfies.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (15oz) pumpkin puree
  • 1 (13.5oz) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free rolled oats
  • 2 tbsp ground flax
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix the above ingredients together, then pour into a prepared pie crust in a 10-inch round pan.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes (it might still appear undercooked—don’t worry!).
  4. Let your pie cool, then refrigerate for at least 5 hours.

2. Apple Cider

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups of organic apple juice
  • 1/4 cups of real maple syrup (you can use even less – let’s face it, apple juice is sweet on its own)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 6 whole allspice berries (optional)*
  • 1 orange peel, cut into strips (optional)*
  • 1 lemon peel, cut into strips (optional)*

*Remember, the richness of flavor makes up for a lack of sugar—I’d rather have a spicier cider than one that is too syrupy sweet…

Instructions:

  1. Pour the apple juice and maple syrup into a large stainless steel saucepan.
  2. Place the cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice berries, orange peel and lemon peel in the center of a washed square of cheesecloth; fold up the sides of the cheesecloth to enclose the bundle, then tie it up with a length of kitchen string. Drop the spice bundle into the cider mixture. I’m not that concerned if it all sits in the broth loose – just be careful not to pour it into your mugs when you serve it.
  3. Place the saucepan over moderate heat for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cider is very hot but not boiling. You can leave it on the lowest simmer during a party.
  4. Remove the cider from the heat. Discard the spice bundle. Ladle the cider into big cups or mugs, adding a fresh cinnamon stick to each serving if desired.

3. Slow Cooker Baked Apples

I love using my slow cooker, especially during autumn. It’s so nice to throw some ingredients in during the morning and then to come home to a house that smells amazing. This simple dessert makes use of the natural sweetness of apples and leaves out much of the sugar.

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups sliced peeled Granny Smith apples (4 medium)
  • 5 cups sliced peeled Braeburn apples (4 medium)
  • ¼ cup margarine (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar (you can even use less or leave it out entirely—experiment to see what works the best for you)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup apple cider

Instructions:

  1. Simply mix all ingredients and cook on low for 3-4 hours. If you’re going to be out all day make sure to set the timer on your slow cooker so the apples don’t get mushy.

4. Spiced Pear Cake

 This spiced pear cake is a crowd pleaser and a great way to use up your canned pears. We’re leaving off the icing in order to make this a healthier choice, but see this recipe for a richer, more decadent version.

 Ingredients

For cake:

  • 1 quart-size jar of canned spiced pears, drained (about 3 cups)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups of maple syrup
  • 1 1⁄4 cups coconut oil
  • 3 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, 2 cups sugar, and oil until blended.
  3. Combine flour, salt, and baking soda, and add to egg mixture, stir slowly until blended.
  4. Fold in pears, chopped nuts, and vanilla extract.
  5. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch Bundt pan.
  6. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

5. Pumpkin Spice Waffles

Adding a little pumpkin spice is a surefire way to savor the fall weather (just ask Starbucks!). Working pumpkin into this traditional waffle recipe (and then tweaking to make it healthier) is a great way to make your breakfasts festive for the fall.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1-1/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and warm

Instructions:

  1. Lightly oil and preheat waffle iron.
  2. In a large bowl, combine brown sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Whisk together to break apart the cornstarch and blend. Add the remaining dry ingredients, and whisk to blend.
  3. Separate eggs: yolks go in a medium sized bowl and whites get set aside in a smaller bowl.
  4. In a medium bowl, add pumpkin, milk and egg yolks. Whisk to blend.
  5. In a small bowl, whip egg whites with a hand mixer on high until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  6. Pour melted butter into pumpkin mixture. As you pour, whisk to combine.
  7. Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients, and mix together until just combined.
  8. Slide the whipped egg whites out of the bowl and onto the mixture you just prepared. Gently fold them in until completely mixed.
  9. Once the waffle iron is heated, pour batter and press down until ready – about 3 minutes.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Three Underrated Alternative Energy Options You Can Find in Your Home

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Green Home
Sure, there are plenty of alternatives to fossil fuels:  most people have heard of solar cells, wind and battery power, but there are other energy options as well. Some of them are a few years away from being viable in the US, but many of them could be excellent candidates if a little more research and funds are invested now. Here are three of the most familiar, yet underrated, energy options.

Cooking Oil

There are reports of cooking oil being used as a fuel source as far back as 1896, and peanut oil was used to power diesel engines throughout the turn of the century. But there hasn’t been much of a desire to move further into the realm of using cooking oil for fuel; the issue that makes vegetable oil a less popular or likely choice is largely availability. Though the US alone produces more than 2.5 billion pounds of grease through restaurants and other industries, there are some regions where the byproduct is simply not available. Shipping drives up the cost and makes other resources more attractive. However, for those who DO have a readily available supply (such as farmers or restaurant owners), cooking oil can provide up to 25% of the energy needed to run these establishments. An investment in a special generator up front can allow these businesses to turn their used oils into energy and also cut down the cost of oil disposal (which can cost upwards of $75 a month) in the process. Best of all, cooking oil is completely renewable and burns cleaner than fossil fuels.

Garbage

Incineration, or the burning of garbage, has been around for centuries; however, the process is not as simple as merely torching trash and being done with it. Incineration produces pollutants such as dioxin and releases them into the air. One way around this issue is to create special waste-to-energy plants that control the release of hazardous air pollutants.

Estonia has facilities that meet these requirements and they recently made headlines when they imported 62,000 tons of garbage from other European nations for use in their power plant in Iru. Sweden also produces more than 60% of their energy using renewable resources (primarily a combination of wind power and waste-to-energy). Currently, the United States has 87 waste-to-energy plants that generate approximately 2,720 megawatts, or about 0.4 percent of total US power generation. In European countries there are more government incentives and business benefits to utilizing alternative energy resources, but in the US we’re still much more reliant on our traditional sources. We don’t yet have the infrastructure to make the strides that Estonia or Sweden have, but as these and other European countries continue to develop these methods, they can serve as a model for future areas of exploration.

Poop!

Yes, that’s right: human and animal feces can be used as a source of energy. When processed through bioreactors that are equipped at removing the natural gas from waste, this method is efficient and (after initial startup costs) affordable.

The specialized bioreactors work by feeding solid human and animal waste into chambers full of bacteria. The bacteria eat any remaining nutrients in the waste and release natural gas that we can use as fuel. It’s also possible to convert solid waste into hydrogen and other gasses for various uses. Toyota’s Fukuoka plant in Japan has been experimenting with biogas-turned-hydrogen for fueling a new fleet of vehicles. Hydrogen vehicles are currently available in the United States as well, but they are expensive and the filling stations are rare at this point. Scientists at UCLA are hoping that “brown energy” continues to develop in the US because the benefits are so great and the source material is, ahem, endlessly available.

 

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Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Why Your Backyard Chickens Could be Giving You Salmonella

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backyardhomesteadThe concept of owning backyard homesteading has been steadily increasing in popularity over the last decade. As people–particularly those in urban areas–have become more knowledgeable about sustainability and ecological living, backyard chickens in particular have become a kind of mascot for the particular lifestyle. It’s affordable, funky, and fun to raise chickens, but this practice is not without some risks.

Live poultry, such as chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys, often carry harmful germs. This year there have been several reported cases of Salmonella spreading via backyard chickens by the CDC. Eight different states are reporting Salmonella outbreaks linked to backyard chickens.

These germs naturally live in the intestines of poultry (and many other animals). Salmonella germs therefore exist in their droppings and on their bodies (feathers, feet, and beaks) even when the birds appear healthy and clean. The germs can then easily get on cages, coops, food dishes, hay, plants, and soil in the area where the birds live and roam. Germs can then pass onto the hands, shoes, and clothes of people who handle the birds or their eggs. While it usually doesn’t cause the birds to be sick or show signs of infection, Salmonella causes serious issues when it is passed on to people. It’s not a matter of keeping your chicken coops clean or purchasing “healthy” chickens. Even organically fed poultry in spotless coops can have Salmonella and there is really no way of knowing which birds have it.

Is Salmonella Serious?

Salmonella infection is no joke:  it can cause serious intestinal distress with symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramping. If the symptoms are severe enough, an infected person will require hospitalization. Babies and children under the age of five, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with immune deficiencies are more likely to have serious symptoms. If the infection goes untreated, Salmonella can even spread from the intestines to the bloodstream, which leads to the infection traveling rapidly to other places in the body. A course of strong antibiotics and observation by a doctor is then necessary. In rare cases, if left untreated Salmonella can even lead to death.

How To Avoid Salmonella infection

The number one way to avoid Salmonella infection is to always wash your hands with soap and warm water after handling a chicken or anything that may have been in contact with chicken droppings. You should also cook any collected eggs thoroughly and be present when small children are around poultry to ensure they do not touch their hands to their mouths without hand washing, etc. In fact, if your children are under five years of age, they should not handle chickens or their eggs at all (the same goes for anyone over 65 or anyone with a compromised immune system).

It should go without saying, but never let the chickens into your home, especially not into your kitchen or areas where food is prepared. You also don’t want to eat or drink anything near the areas where you are minding your chicken coop. And chickens are adorable, but limit cuddling and never kiss them.

How to Treat Salmonella

If you do contract Salmonella and you are an adult with an otherwise healthy immune system, you should be fine in a week or two, though you will feel pretty miserable while the infection runs its course. (If you are in the compromised immune system category, your doctor might prescribe antibiotics and keep you in the hospital where you can be observed.) Make sure to contact your doctor if your symptoms seem to be worsening or if you have a high fever.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

There’s Toxic Air In Your Home and This Is How to Get Rid of It Naturally

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 Did you know that poor air quality in the home can cause a condition called “Sick Building Syndrome”? This is caused by an accumulation of toxic gases known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which are released from common household goods, including everything from your cleaners to appliances and even the food you eat.

In addition to being carcinogenic and neurotoxic, long-term exposure to VOCs can lead to other serious health implications including, respiratory dysfunction, genetic abnormalities, and dermatitis. It begs the question, what are we subjecting ourselves to, doesn’t it?

NASA’s Clean Air Study reports how certain houseplants help to filter and remove toxins from the air. Houseplants have long been known to clean the air in small spaces, but some of these plants are more beneficial—and prettier to look at—than others. For those of you who prefer the bright colors of flowering plants, the following list shows the best beauties for filtering the air in your home.

5 Indoor Plants That Will Improve Air Quality

Succulents

Everyone loves the ease in caring for succulents and some of these create delicate flowers too. Here’s a quick fact: when photosynthesis stops at night, most plants absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide? But, there are a few plants – like orchids, succulents and epiphytic bromeliads that will take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen at night time. Meaning, these would be ideal plants to have in bedrooms to keep the oxygen flowing at night.

Flamingo Lilly

AKA Flamingo Flowers, these are durable and fairly easy to grow in low light, low water situations. They can thrive for many years under ideal conditions but are hearty enough to maintain growth for up to two years in even the most adverse situations (i.e., this is a perfect flowering plant for those lacking a green thumb!) . They have large, deep green, heart-shaped leaves and produce long lasting, bright red or hot pink flowers.

The Flamingo Lilly is great at removing the toxins formaldehyde (found in many paper products), xylene (found in tobacco smoke and vehicle exhaust), and ammonia (found in cleaning products) from the air.

*Beware that the Flamingo Lilly (like a lot of flowering plants) is toxic to dogs and cats, so be sure to keep them away from your family pets.

Barberton Daisy

The Barberton daisy is available in many colors ranging from white to bright red. The hybrids sold in garden centers typically produce two or more single stemmed stalks with a single flower sprouting from each one. These flowers are up to four inches wide and are quite impressive to look at. The Barberton Daisy can be grown indoors in medium-levels of sunlight, with moist soil. They can flower at any time of the year and each flower blooms for approximately six weeks.

Barberton Daisies filter out trichloroethylene (found in ink, paint, rubber products, lacquers and varnishes), formaldehyde, and xylene.

Peace Lilly

The Peace Lilly is easy to care for and gives a telltale droop when it is in need of water. They flourish in shade and low light and you can expect your Peace Lilly to bloom with dozens of striking white flowers in the springtime.

Peace Lillies are extremely effective at filtering multiple toxins from the air. They work on trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, xylene, benzene (used in plastics, detergents, dyes, and glue), and carbon monoxide. If you can only have one flowering plant in your home, the Peace Lilly might be a good bet.

*Like the Flamingo Lilly, this one is toxic to pets as well, so beware.

Florist Chrysanthemum

The Florist Chrysanthemum requires bright light and moist, high-quality soil, so it needs a bit more care and upkeep than the other flowers listed here so far. But with the proper maintenance and right kind of soil, the Florist Chrysanthemum will produce lots of big, beautiful blooms (typically in the red and pink color family, though occasionally you will see bright purples and yellows) that will last for up to 8 weeks.

Like the Peace Lilly, the Florist Chrysnthemum filters out multiple toxins including trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, xylene, and benzene (used in plastics, detergents, dyes, and glue).

*This plant is also mildly poisonous to dogs and cats (if the stems are ingested they will cause stomach upset and disorientation) so again, use caution.

If you feel that your home suffers from poor air quality or quite possibly sick building syndrome, start adding some indoor plants to frequented rooms and see if your health improves.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

4 Ways to Cut the Duration of Your Cold

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cold-and-fluAt our house, back to school means back to kids bringing home germs. When the leaves start turning, I start reaching for my cough drops, feeling that all too familiar tickle in my throat. If I can, I try to drink tons of water, wash my hands like crazy, and keep the bug from taking hold. But once I know I’m past the point of no return, the following things can help cut the duration of my cold and get me back to my busy life.

Do you know how to tell the difference between a cold and a flu virus?

Sleep Helps You Heal

You probably know this already: one of you body’s first ways of signaling that all is not right internally is to make you very tired and sluggish. Don’t fight this feeling! Take a day or two off of work, if need be. Sleeping early and often during a cold can significantly cut the duration and intensity of a common cold. Sleeping allows your body to rest and recuperate—taking 10 hours of rest now could save you days down the line. Chances are you’ll pass out right away, but if you have trouble getting good sleep (particularly if your cold symptoms include coughing and congestion) put yourself in a dark, cool room with a white noise machine and a high-quality humidifier.

Avoid catchall cold medications that are high in alcohol. Even though these drugs might seem like they’re helping you pass out, what you need is good quality, REM sleep. Alcohol can disrupt your natural, restorative sleep patterns and leave you feeling groggy. If you’re certain you need some assistance with sleeping, some people swear by melatonin as a natural sleep aid.

Exercise (Even If You Don’t Feel Like It)

So, you’ve succumbed to a cold, you’ve slept a solid 8 hours and you’re still feeling under the weather. You should definitely skip your workout today, right? Wrong! Even though the LAST thing you probably feel like doing is slogging through your exercise routine, you don’t want to flake out altogether. Movement and respiration actually speed up the healing process (doctors believe working out causes immune cells to respond to and attack viruses at a faster rate). But instead of doing your normal intensity workout, try doing light cardio such as walking or even speed walking. Listen to your body—if it feels like you can do more, push yourself a little. If you fell like you want to die, dial it back. And of course, it’s not polite to spread germs at the gym, so taking a walk outdoors or at least avoiding a community treadmill is much appreciated.

Give Zinc a Chance

Zinc, which helps boost the immune system, can shorten the duration of the common cold by nearly 50 percent. Studies have not been able to show exactly how Zinc fights the common cold, but research shows that it does work. Zinc has antiviral properties and provides relief from some common cold symptoms such as sore throat. Zinc in lozenge form is the most convenient to use while you have a cold, and it’s available online or at most drugstores.

Studies show that Zinc supplements could also help keep your immune system strong while you’re healthy, potentially staving off more colds. You might think about incorporating these supplements into your everyday vitamin routine.

Remember, Time Heals All

Though it can sometimes feel like your cold will last forever, remember that even if none of the above seems to be helping, your cold will eventually go away. If your symptoms persist for more than 10 days or seem to be intensifying, you should visit your doctor to get a professional assessment.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

How To Make Essential Oils at Home

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 Essential oils have been used for centuries to heal and treat ailments. There are essential oils for medical care, essential oils that can help to naturally clean your home or even make natural repellents. There are essential oils that can soothe symptoms to cold and flu viruses, or you even make your own beauty creams and lotions. In most cases, purchasing essential oils is simple and fairly inexpensive; however, certain oils can be pricey or difficult to come by in some regions, and there is always the chance that you might find yourself in a situation without traditional purchasing options. With a little know-how and some trial and error, you can make your own essential oils at home.

Choosing the Correct Source Biomass

Keep in mind that the process of making your own essential oils is somewhat involved and requires pounds and pounds of the intended biomass (i.e. flower petals, leaves, or other plant material) in order to produce a significant amount of oil. For this reason, some types of oils are better suited to make at home than others. Mint tends to overrun gardens in great hoards, and it is a plant that is strong and resilient, which makes it a good choice for use as an essential oil. If you find yourself with rotting citrus fruit all over your yard, you might want to consider making a lemon or orange extract from the peels. Both mint and citrus oils have multiple uses (you can add them to cleansers, use them in beauty routines, and incorporate them with other oils for use in aromatherapies, or use them to treat medical issues or prevent infection).

Because the elements that are present in the original biomass becomes condensed into the essential oil, you must make certain no pesticides or poisons have been used in the cultivation of your biomass source plant. You need to know exactly where the plant was grown and how it has been cared for before using it as a source material. This likely means using something that grows on your property or on the property of a trusted friend. You might consider setting up a biomass swap with a like-minded person who has different plant material options on their premises.

The Extraction Process

There are many methods for making essential oils. Most of them are complicated and some of them require expensive equipment or a lot of technical training. The following video below details the extraction process, which is the simplest option for making essential oils at home.

Gather up your pesticide-free plant biomass, a glass jar with a lid, vodka, a porcelain-coated strainer, cheesecloth, a dropper and a small storage container. Now you are ready to begin. Understand that this process will take many days or even weeks to achieve the quantity and potency of the essential oil you desire. Though extraction is the easiest home method, it still requires research, time and a concerted effort. If your first attempts do not yield the results you had hoped for, give it another shot. It may take a few tries to get the hang of it, but it is certainly worth the effort.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

6 Non-Lethal Weapons to Carry Instead of a Gun

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Many of you have heard the saying, “Your freedom ends where mine begins.” A majority of us prefer to live in a peaceful, non-threatening lifestyle. That said, there might come a time when you will need to defend yourself. Self-defense can range from having a small defense weapon such as a tactical pen in your pocket to concealing a firearm for safety. For those who feel strongly about using non-lethal defense, consider the 5 following non-lethal alternatives.

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5 Non-Lethal Ways to Protect Yourself

While it is important to know how to defend yourself, it is equally important to remember not to make yourself a target, always engage in being aware of your surroundings, avoiding dangerous circumstances and be ready to act at a moment’s notice. To said, there may come a time where you will find yourself in a serious situation and self-defense is the only recourse. The following items are ideal to carry in a purse and should be easily accessible at all times. Check with your state laws to make sure you can carry these items freely.

  1. A quick, convenient method for protection is carrying pepper spray. The small size makes it ideal for walkers and joggers and you can’t really find a more simple method of protecting yourself. Even children and the elderly should have no problem simply pointing and pulling the trigger. Assailants will immediately experience temporary blindness, have difficulty breathing and go into severe distress. Brands like this one have a non-abrasive sleeve that stretches to fit your palm and a formula that delivers a stream with minimal blowback on the person doing the spraying.

  1. To take pepper spray to an even greater level, you might be interested in a pepper spray gun. The concept is the same as the hand-held variety, but a pepper spray gun is shaped like a traditional handgun and it is filled with several rounds of spray to create a chemical cloud. This allows you to be 10 times the safe distance (150+ feet versus 6-10 feet) away from danger while still being incredibly effective. Rounds on a pepper spray gun are powered by a CO2 cylinder, which is activated when a trigger is pulled. In addition, pepper spray guns have a kinetic impact with a round traveling approximately 320 feet per second (the equivalent of getting kit with a 50 mph fastball). Be sure to check the laws in your state, as pepper spray guns are not legal everywhere.

  1. A stun gun is another non-lethal method of defense you might want to consider. This one is small and attaches to your car keys to protect you when you are in vulnerable situations (such as a parking garage late at night). Stun guns use high electrical voltage to stun attackers, but because the amperage is low, no permanent damage is caused. Most are powered by regular 9-volt batteries and are usually the size of a small flashlight or smaller.

  1. self-defense keychain is a small, portable stick that is highly effective at channeling the force of a blow and causing pain or shock to the attacker (it’s something similar to brass knuckles in that it strengthens your force). It may not be the ideal tool if you are uncertain or unwilling to hit someone and it potentially requires more skill than mace or a stun gun. Still, it’s affordable, discreet, and can be used in close quarters if necessary and unlike mace it will never expire or malfunction.

  1. Tactical Handcuffs can come in handy if an assailant can be confined or detained by surprise. These can be especially helpful in situations of theft or assault where you are certain no weapons are involved. If you want to press charges for something such as vandalism or trespassing and you are waiting for police to arrive, you might want to consider using these. *Remember that in most circumstances, your best bet is to get out of harm’s way before resorting to the use of handcuffs.
  2. Kuba Kickz are the only non-lethal self defense tool available for your shoes and will deliver a strong “don’t mess with me” message. If you are strong on self-defense basics, these covert and lightweight weapons will be a great addition to your everyday carry items.

Knowing How to Defend Yourself is the Last Line of Defense

I am a large advocate for having security layers in place to prevent criminals from making your home their next mark. These items listed above are ones that you can carry and help you when you are out and about. Above all, know that self-defense is your absolute last line of defense and it’s important for you to know how to handle the situation. If you’re caught without any of the above non-lethal implements, it’s important for you to know (at the very least) a few basic self-defense moves. Here are a few articles on the subject.

In a split second anything can become a weapon when you need to defend yourself. Here are some great ideas for finding items in your home to use for self-defense. What kinds of non-lethal self defense items do you have to protect yourself with?

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

MeWe:  A Safer Alternative for Social Media

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meweSure, even your grandmother may be on Facebook these days, but those in the know understand that social networks are tracking our every move. From purchases to cookies to data sharing to outright spying, social media poses a threat some of us aren’t comfortable with. MeWe is a new communication network that’s turning the tables on social media services like FaceBook because of its safe sharing. There are no ads, no tracking, and your privacy is always respected. Best of all, it’s free!

What’s wrong with Facebook?

If you’re like the average American you’re probably monitored by half a dozen companies from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep (and if you wear a sleep tracker, it doesn’t stop even when you’re getting some shuteye.)  Facebook share buttons and comments, tie directly into the company’s servers to provide their own features. It’s a give-and-take relationship: the price you pay for being able to interact with Facebook even without going to their website is that they can see all of the other websites you’ve visited, and they’re following you around the internet and using that information to better target ads and content to you when you visit your FB account.

How can MeWe help?

Built by the company Sgrouples Inc., MeWe is a mobile and desktop innovation for one-on-one and group communication. It’s a safe, private platform that allows you to freely communicate online in the same manner that you do offline: with people you actually know and like. With new state-of-the-art features such as an innovative mobile chat app, disappearing content, voice messaging, group controls, photo tags, albums, cloud storage, private mail and customizable news feeds, MeWe has more features than Facebook but is also a fun and safe way to share and connect.

Who is MeWe for?

According to a January 2016 Pew Research Report, millennials are the demographic most concerned about their online privacy and not being monetized. They’ve grown up entirely online and they’re a bit more savvy about what social media is taking from them. MeWe turns the table on Facebook with a revolutionary integrated social network and chat app that emphasizes social sharing with privacy-by-design (something the company calls “PbD”). It’s the only social network with a Privacy Bill Of Rights for its members.

MeWe is the brainchild of social media tech entrepreneur and leading privacy advocate Mark Weinstein—a visionary social networking pioneer and award-winning author of the Habitually Great book seriesThe MeWe platform comes with the full backing and support of major technology innovators such as Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and a key member of the MeWe Advisory board.

Find out if your social media is stalking you by taking the MeWe Challenge: https://mewe.com/challenge and the watch the MeWe Video here:

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

6 Fall Plants to Get Planted Now

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fall-gardenThe weather is getting colder, but that doesn’t mean your gardening plans are thwarted. There are distinct benefits to planting some things in the autumn months: the temperature is cooler, the soil is still quite warm, there is more moisture in the soil and there are more good weather days for planting (as compared to the spring when sudden thunderstorms threaten your gardening days and wet the soil too much). In addition, you can cash in on discounts at your local gardening center as they try to move the last of their merchandise before winter. The ideal time to plant in the fall ends about 6 weeks before the first frost, usually in mid-to-late October.

The following are the ideal plants to get into the ground during the fall months:

Spring Bulbs

Spring bulbs actually require a period of cold in order to bloom. Plant bulbs in the fall in order to guarantee blooms for spring. If you have issues with deer in the autumn months, try planting allium, English bluebell, dog’s-tooth violet, or snowdrop bulbs.

Pansies

Pansies are ideal for planting in the autumn months because their roots thrive in the still-warm soil. You’ll get to enjoy them for two seasons if you plant them in September/October. Keep the soil wet and remove spent flowers so the pansy doesn’t use any effort to set its seeds. Once the soil freezes, mulch to prevent alternating freezing and thawing cycles that can eject plants from the soil.

Turfgrass

Cool-season turfgrass is most successful when soil temperature is between 50 and 65 degrees. Planting in September/October ensures that the roots will take adequate hold before the first frost, when growth slows dramatically. Cool-season turfgrass includes Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, and fine fescue.

Cool Season Veggies

Many vegetables thrive in cooler months (namely broccoli Brussels sprouts, cabbage, radishes and carrots), but they must be planted by late August. Veggies that perform the best when planted during the fall include lettuce, spinach, and other greens with a short harvesting time such as collards and swiss chard. Another benefit of growing these vegetables is that they don’t need a whole lot of space and can be crowded into smaller areas with partial shade.

Trees and Shrubs

Planting from early September to late-October offers many advantages to certain trees and shrubs. Transpiration is low and root generation is at an all-time high during these months. Typically, plants with shallow, fibrous root systems can be planted easier in the fall than those with fewer, larger roots. Trees that can be successfully planted in the autumn months include alder, crabapple, ash, buckeye, catalpa, hackberry, hawthorn, honey locust, elm, Kentucky coffee tree, linden, maple, sycamore, pines, and spruces. Most deciduous shrubs can easily be planted in fall.

Cover Crops

Even though it is Fall, it does not mean you should neglect your garden. Now is the perfect time to get your garden cleaned up and ready for the Spring. Master gardeners like to plant cover crops to help add nutrients to the soil during the winter months. Cover crops such as fall rye, crimson clover, buckwheat and others are easy to grow. Here’s how they work: when they are digested by soil microorganisms they restore organic matter and nutrient levels in the soil. Because they are sown thickly, they also help to outcompete weeds. Cover crops also control erosion from heavy winter rains, and help prevent the soil from compacting over winter. Depending on your growing region, some cover crops will die during the coldest weather. The crop residue is still a valued supplement in the spring. Check with your favorite gardening website to see if they carry these organic cover crops.

Take advantage of the nice fall temperatures and get your garden growing! For more information about gardening in general, check out the 7 Laws of Gardening: Time-Tested Tips For Growing a Successful Garden.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

How to Select the Best Grow Light for Your Indoor Garden

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plantWith the price of food on a steady incline, more people are making an effort to grow their own food sources at home. While having a functioning garden is easy during the warm summer months, when the days get shorter in the fall, gardeners have to get creative in helping plants grow. Many turn to grow lights to provide plants additional light and time to establish themselves. This indoor gardening trick allows you to bring the benefits of sunshine indoors to make the most of your garden. Here is a list of which plants to grow during each month of the year.

There are, however, a lot of different options when it comes to these lights and it can be overwhelming to pick the right one. The following list will help you identify which grow light will work the best for your needs.

The Best Grow Lights for Your Indoor Garden

Fluorescents

Fluorescent lamps are great because they are inexpensive and readily available. Fluorescent tubes are great for installation under counters or on ledges and shelves. They provide enough light for seedlings, herbs, vegetables and some small house plants like African violets; however, they fluorescent tubes may not provide enough light for larger flowering plants or buds.

Compact Fluorescent Systems, on the other hand, are quite bright and can be used for growing most plants. Though the initial investment is a bit more up front, CFSs last up to 10 times as long as incandescent bulbs while only using a third of the electricity.

Incandescent Lamps

Incandescent lamps are affordable and can be bought at most hardware stores. They are sufficient for growing herbs or small houseplants, but they are not always a strong enough light source for growing vegetables.

High Intensity Discharge Bulbs

HID Bulbs are very bright and very efficient, but they are also quite expensive. There are a few different types of HID bulbs available, including High Pressure Sodium, Low Pressure Sodium, Metal Halide, and Mercury Vapor bulbs, though for an indoor garden, you’ll want either the High Pressure Sodium or Metal Halide bulbs (any of the other choices are overkill for what you’re trying to accomplish).

Bulbs aren’t the only things to consider when purchasing an indoor growing system. You’ll also need to acquire a ballast, cord, and reflector, though there is less variety in these components. You can buy each of these parts separately or as a complete kit. It’s best to price these systems and see what works best for your budget and your needs.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Store Your Child’s Baby Teeth for Later Medical Use

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 A new study has shown that children’s baby teeth are a rich source of stem cells. Stem cells, as you may know, are important because they are a kind of “blank” cell that can be grown into multiple kinds of cells as necessary. This comes in handy when cells are lost or damaged due to illness or disease. Though it’s not without controversy, doctors are excited about the growing role of stem cells to treat injury, illness, and tissue deterioration due to age.

Most moms and dads store their child’s baby teeth as a keepsake, but merely throwing these tiny teeth in a box isn’t going to cut it for later medical use.  Like the stem cells that can be found in cord blood samples, the cells in baby teeth must be collected and preserved in a particular way.

A new company called Store-a-Tooth offers state-of-the-art storage and maintenance for these baby teeth. Using a solution of liquid nitrogen, these teeth are securely frozen in a laboratory where they are monitored and maintained until use. Though it isn’t cheap, for a little under $2000, Store-a-Tooth will set up and maintain your samples for you. It’s important to collect stem cells while a person is still young, because our cells become compromised by environmental pollutants and normal degeneration with age. Storing teeth may be potentially beneficial for parents who did not bank their children’s cord blood for whatever reason.

Learn more about the process of harvesting dental pulp stem cells here:

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

New ReGen Villages Redefining Off-Grid Living

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 By 2050 there will be nearly 10 billion people living on planet Earth. Clean water, healthy food, and arable land will begin to grow scarce and only those well versed in a self-sustainable lifestyle will be safe from a great negative impact. With the skyrocketing population also comes an increase in the aspiring class (the approximately 4 billion people who can afford to buy their way to sustainability). For those who can afford it, there is a recent boom in integrated neighborhood concepts: luxury off-grid communities that have power positive homes, private renewable energy sources, water management, high-yield organic food production, and waste-to-resource systems. The first of these communities is calledReGen Village, and it’s currently under construction in Almere, Netherlands.

A Look Inside a Luxury Off-Grid Community

ReGen Village will make use of all available technology to build what its creators are calling the “Tesla of Eco Villages.” The creators want to redefine off-grid living from being merely a way to sustain the basics of life into a culture of luxury and comfort. The developments will use their own technology to meet their everyday needs but, because of cutting-edge advancements, they will not have the same restraints and conservation rules that typically define off-grid communities.

Who Gravitates to the ReGen Concept?

In June of 2016, the concept of ReGen Village was introduced at the Venice Biennale, an arts organization and annual exhibition of architects and designers. The concept went viral with more than 20 million page views of the ReGen website and over 10 thousand emails expressing interest.

The pilot community is being built now but plans are in the works for developments in Sweden, Norway, Germany, and Belgium. CEO James Ehrlich says their goal is to expand at a global scale and to create regenerative neighborhoods for an elite group of residents. A center with 100 units should be ready for move-in in about a year, though the exact price to secure a position inside is not yet available. A smaller scale, 35-condo version is also being planned nearby in order to prefect the model before it is scaled.

Time will tell if this concept will be the new norm in off-grid living, but it’s certainly an interesting development.

 

 

 

 

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Are New Parenting Trends Enabling Children and Keeping them Dependent?

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 I grew up in the late 80s and I was obsessed with The Babysitter’s Club books. My best friend and I started a booming neighborhood business based on this popular young adult series. We each took care of different kids after school, on weekends, and even late nights while neighborhood parents went out to dinner or a movie. We got great reviews from everyone, and we made a lot of money, too.  The most “unusual” part? We were 11 years old.

Nobody batted an eye back in 1990 when my friend and I started our business. Besides taking care of other people’s kids, I used to stay home from the age of 9 when my parents worked out at a local health club. I also remember sitting in the car while my mom ran errands from about the age of 6. I used to spend long summer days wandering my suburban neighborhood with the directive to “be home before dinner.” I was a responsible and confident kid—I had common sense and wasn’t afraid to ask for directions or to talk to adults. I felt like I was a part of my community and my parents trusted me to make smart decisions. But in the last decade or so, the concept of “no child left alone” (check out this book by the same title) has become not only the social norm, but a legal one in the United States. There are many reasons for this, but a recent study is shedding light on why these attitudes have changed in recent years.

An alarmist media may be one likely cause.

While a child abduction by a stranger occurs just .00007 per cent of the time (or one in a 1.4 million chance annually) news coverage of these highly improbable and unlikely situations is shown on a massive loop and given a disproportionate amount of air time, amping up parents’ and children’s fears alike. Even if you are not influenced by media coverage, the completely sound choice to leave your 11, 12, or 13-year old child alone at a local park or even in a well-ventilated car on a mild day, can still get you arrested. In fact, the fears the media purports spreads to judges, police officers, and juries as well. I absolutely do not feel comfortable letting my kids play alone outside in a public place, even for short periods of time. This has nothing to do with a fear of abduction or with the fact that I don’t trust them to make sound decisions—it has everything to do with a fear of legal ramifications.

There are major repercussions for never letting our children out of our sight.

Childhood obesity rates are soaring because kids must remain indoors unless they are closely supervised by adults. Screentime has replaced sending your kids out to play and an overall “failure to launch” can be seen in college students (see the book How to Raise an Adult for shocking examples of college freshmen behaving like babies). Meanwhile, the number of young adults living at home beyond age 30 is growing every year.

One simple way to remedy this is to start raising your children to be more self-reliant. Simply allowing them to figure out issues for themselves and not intervening is a great way to put them on the road to being more reliant on themselves. This gives them time to know what their capabilities are. In addition, explaining to children at an early age that they have responsibilities and chores teaches them they need to participate in keeping the family unit functioning. As well, talking to them about the importance of being prepared for situations when parents cannot be present (i.e., emergencies at schools, field trips or overnight camping) helps them feel more secure in their environment. Along those lines, teaching children basic survival skills, could save their life if they find themselves lost.

Experts agree that alone-time helps kids navigate the world and make more responsible decisions later in life, but what are we to make of these recent trends? Have you noticed a change in the way you raise your children vs. how you were raised?

 

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Upcoming Health Crisis? 4th Incident of Superbug Gene Found in the United State

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 This week a toddler in Connecticut was found to have the superbug gene MCR-1, which makes E. coli resistant to most antibiotics. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have been closely monitoring cases like this one since the superbug gene first appeared in China. The toddler had been traveling to the Caribbean with her family when she first became ill. She was treated for E. coli once she returned to her home in Connecticut and that’s when the superbug gene was detected after her condition worsened.

The superbug is primarily spread through the consumption of food (the first case of the bacteria was discovered on a Chinese pig in 2015). Analysis of the child’s diet while in the Caribbean showed that she had eaten chicken and goat meat from a live animal market and also that she interacted closely with a pet dog and cat.

MCR-1 has been found in 30 countries on all 5 continents and it spreads rapidly in various types of bacteria. We’ve long known that taking antibiotics when you aren’t really ill is a leading cause for “growing” superbugs. There may also be a connection between antibacterial soaps and gels. Scientists warn that if the superbug is not discovered early enough, it could make humans resistant to multiple drugs. In May, a woman showed antibiotic resistance in Pennsylvania but was eventually successfully treated after much trial and error. The source of that woman’s infection was never identified, but experts were able to determine that contamination due to exposure from colonized patients was extremely rare (since this woman had the superbug for some time and did not infect even her close family members living in her home).

Still, researchers wonder if at some point, a superbug will be resistant to all modern antibiotics. If this were to happen, medicine as we know it would degrade beyond recognition. Antibiotics are the basis for most medical advancements—cancer treatment, surgeries, and childbirth become extremely risky when there is no way to treat infection. The CDC is watching and waiting and hopefully they will be able to stay one step ahead of the bacteria. This is one SHTF scenario we certainly do not want to happen.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Wash you hands with soap and water: Experts recommend singing the “Happy Birthday” song as you lather. Traditional soap mechanically removes germs from your skin, so time and motion and your friends.
  • Avoid antibacterial soaps: they aren’t more effective than regular soaps, and many of them have also been recently banned by the FDA. They also tend to be drying, which leads to small cuts in the skin, which is how germs get into your body.
  • Moisturize your hands: see number 2. Well moisturized hands offer more protection against germs.
  • Avoid hospitals: Hospitals are breeding grounds for germs. Malingerers and those who use the emergency room for general treatment are at extremely high risk.
  • Avoid taking unnecessary antibiotics: studies show that those who are most at risk for contracting a superbug are people with compromised immune systems (the elderly, children, and pregnant women) and people who routinely take antibiotics.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

How These Online Courses are Revolutionizing Higher Education

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elearningWe’ve seen it over and over again—the traditional college degree is becoming less valuable with each passing year – along with a more expensive price tag. More and more entrepreneurs are either completely self-taught or structuring their careers around specific skills and coursework.  One of the largest factors in this shifting dynamic is the advent of online learning such as MOOCs (or Massive Open Online Courses) where you can take courses from Business 101 to Cell Biology (provided by Harvard University) to Basic Website Design, all for free and from the comfort of your own home.

For the right person, MOOCs could advance your career, provide credentials, or allow you to pursue a hobby or craft you might never have thought possible.

MOOCs do require a few specific traits or conditions to be successful

  1. Internet connection: Obviously, having an adequate Internet connection is crucial to succeeding in MOOCs. You’ll be streaming videos of lectures and downloading course packs, so make sure your connection is stable and strong. If you don’t have a personal internet connection, visit your local library and explain that you are undertaking MOOC course work. If there is a time limit restriction on Internet use, they might wave it for you (this happened for me at a library in Queens, New York when I was dealing with an Internet outage for a few weeks).
  2. Self-motivation:  It’s very easy to get excited about the MOOC course offerings. You might scroll through and decide you want to learn Portuguese and HTML and how to operate a loom, but registering for a course does not mean you will complete it. After all, you could go to any library and find relevant information with a little digging. The lack of accountability that studying online offers makes it easy to give up, so a bit of self-motivation is necessary. It’s probably best to sign up for a single course, complete all of the work, and then reevaluate to see if you’d like to pursue another area of study. Signing up for too many courses (like taking too many hours as an incoming college freshman) is a surefire way to feel overwhelmed.
  3. Remember it’s a real class: MOOCs have an introductory period where you will become acquainted with your professors and peers. Take this time to make connections when you can. Participation is also very beneficial for you. Perhaps you’re taking courses online because you don’t like face-to-face learning. That’s fine, but know that asking questions is one of the most crucial aspects of assimilating information. Besides, you might also find it easier to ask questions while shrouded in the protective anonymity of the Internet.
  4. Place to study: Just because you’re taking courses from the comfort of your own home doesn’t mean you don’t need a proper place to study. Having a desk or spot on the couch where you religiously participate in your courses will make you more likely to succeed. And remember that while a little multi-tasking is okay, you want to be paying attention to the course work instead of chasing after your kids or scrubbing floors. Try to treat the time you devote to your courses seriously and you’ll have greater results.
  5. Is this the right MOOC for me?: Make sure that the courses you’ve chosen are appropriate for your skill level. Pay attention to prerequisites so you won’t start off behind (or enroll in a course that is too basic and therefore boring).
  6. Consider time: MOOCs make it easier and more convenient to learn, but learning takes time. This isn’t The Matrix where you can simply plug in and download information into your brain without trying. You’ll have to watch lectures, do readings offline, and stay on top of your work.

MOOCs require users to be more proactive, but following the above tips can make the experience more rewarding for you. There is no reason at all to feel like learning a new skill is out of your reach. Mobile learning opportunities are increasing literally every day and there is something exciting for everyone.

 

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

The Best Way to Store Coffee for the Long Haul

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coffee1A world without coffee is not a world most people would want to live in. It makes sense, then, that figuring out how to properly store your coffee should be high on your list for your emergency food supply.  After all, a steaming hot cup of Joe is a great moral booster while you are sitting out an emergency. Like everything else, a little planning goes a long way; there are a few things to consider when prepping coffee beans for long-term storage.

Storing Pre-roasted Beans

Pre-roasted coffee beans are readily available almost everywhere—from coffee shops to grocery stores to gas stations, and they can easily be purchased online as well. They are more affordable when purchased in bulk and easy to grind for your personal use immediately. Like most foods that you want to store for a long period of time, you need to remove them from their sale packaging and keep your beans in airtight containers away from light, air, and moisture.

It’s important to remember though, that pre-roasted coffee beans immediately begin losing their freshness upon roasting. Even in airtight containers or mylar storage bags (see the proper techniques for food storage here) roasted beans will only last around 6 weeks in storage. If using pre-roasted beans is important to you, you’ll need to replenish/rotate your storage every few weeks. To me this seems like a hassle, because I’d rather have a bulk quantity ready to go for the long haul. The solution is storing green coffee beans and roasting them on your own when you’re ready to use them, but many people shy away from roasting their own beans (though they shouldn’t, as I’ll explain below).

Storing Green Coffee Beans

Purchasing green coffee beans is far cheaper than purchasing roasted coffee beans. To compare, a 25-pound bag goes for around $105 dollars—that’s close to the price of a 12-pound bag of roasted beans! Besides, green coffee beans maintain freshness for several years (you might want to rotate your supply after 2 years just to be on the safe side). But how do you go about roasting your own beans? Do you need a bunch of fancy equipment and a barista’s knowledge of coffee? Not at all–a cheap popcorn popper or a frying pan and you’ll be good to go.

The Popcorn Popper Method

The Frying Pan Method

In a catastrophic situation where electricity is unavailable, all you need to remember are the tenants of the above videos: use a soft, indirect heat, keep the beans moving, and don’t let them roast for too long.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

How the Fish Industry is Defrauding Millions and Should Be Avoided At All Costs

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 Eating fish is synonymous with health. We think of the excellent nutrient profile: the high protein, beneficial fish oils, and healthy fats. But what if the fish you’ve been eating has been misleading you?

According to a new report on seafood fraud, one in five seafood samples turn out to be completely different fish than what the menu or packaging might lead you to believe. The group analyzed more than 25,000 seafood samples and a little more than 20% were mislabeled. The biggest faux fish was farmed Asian catfish, which was sold as perch, cod, grouper, and 15 other more expensive fish.

This isn’t just alarming because you might be paying top dollar for a bottom-dwelling fish; 58% of the mislabeled fish were varieties that could potentially pose health risks, particularly for children and pregnant women. A grocery store in New York City was selling blueline tilefish in the place of many more expensive types. Tilefish is on the FDA’s “Do Not Eat” list because it is extremely high in mercury.

Beware of these Fish

  • Red Snapper is the most commonly mislabeled fish: of the 120 red snapper samples purchased for the study, only 7 of them actually turned out to be genuine red snapper.
  • White tuna came in as the second most commonly mislabeled fish. More than 80% of the samples taken for the study were actually a species of snake mackerel called escolar, a fish that can cause serious stomach issues for some consumers.
  • Sashimi-style fatty tuna was often replaced with whale meat, a serious offense because whales are an endangered species.

It is unclear whether the organizations and businesses selling these fish knew about the fraud or if they too are victims of a much larger problem with fish regulations. Either way, here’s how to avoid the most likely situations where misrepresentation arises.

How to Avoid Eating Mislabeled Fish

  • Avoid sushi bars. Sushi restaurants were particularly misleading. According to the study, in New York City and Chicago, every sushi restaurant visited sold at least one misrepresented fish. Down in Austin Texas, one sushi restaurant mislabeled every single sample. Use common sense—if that sushi bar in the landlocked Midwest is selling amazing exotic fish at low prices—beware!
  • Buy Local. If you live on the coast, consider yourself lucky. Visit your local fishmonger or find a seafood-buying club that allows you direct access to fishermen. They can tell you exactly what you’re buying, fresh from the water. Or better yet, learn to fish and take out the middleman altogether.
  • Buy online. If you are landlocked, don’t give up on delicious fish. Fresh seafood is available from ethical, certified online stores like I Love Blue Sea or Vital Choice.
  • Avoid eating Fish in Restaurants. It’s a lot easier to disguise a fish in a sauce or fish stew. Until the regulations on fish peddling become more vigilant, it’s your best bet to only eat what you’ve cooked and handled yourself.

 

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

FDA Bans 40% of Antibacterial Soaps Due to Presence of “Dangerous Chemicals”

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 Step into any grocery store and you’ll see shelves upon shelves of antibacterial soaps. Dishwashing liquid, hand soaps, wipes, and gels with this distinction have become extremely common in the United States, with many people using these products several times a day. Marketers have long been capitalizing on our fear of germs to make a buck, but it turns out you’re far better off not using those products, many of which contain chemicals that were banned by the FDA this week. The FDA says that the risks outweigh the benefits, and that serious harm may come from continued and prolonged use of these soaps.

19 Dangerous Chemicals 

All in all there were 19 chemicals that the FDA said must be removed from soap products within one year. About 40 percent of all soaps on the market contain triclosan (mainly used in liquid soaps) and triclocarban (mainly used in bar/solid soaps) two of the primary chemicals the FDA has banned for human use. Public health experts agree that this ruling is a long time coming; for years they have expressed concern that antibacterial soaps promote drug-resistant infections and potentially cause problems in the hormonal development of children. These compounds build up in the bloodstream; they are present in breast milk and in newborn babies, as well as in dust and soil samples taken from in and around households that frequently use them.

These chemicals are endocrine disruptors, meaning they can affect critical hormone functions along with brain activity, the immune system, and reproductive systems. These chemicals are so disruptive to children’s hormones that they can lead to early puberty, infertility, obesity, and even cancer. Studies also show that triclosan and triclocarban impair learning and brain development in young children, and prolonged exposure in vitro can cause major issues in fetal development. Concerns were first expressed about the use of these chemicals in 1976, but it’s taken this long for the FDA to make a move. This has consumers and health experts asking, why the delay?

Antibacterial Boom

The antibacterial market makes a staggering billion dollars a year. The United States is particularly preoccupied with cleanliness, and millions of Americans choose antibacterial soaps over “regular” soap because they believe they will keep their families safer and healthier. But after 40 years of lawsuits and extensive scientific studies, the FDA has finally made a sensible decision about the matter.

What to Use Instead

Health experts agree that using regular soap and water is safer for your family. Castille soap can be used as a base and adding essential oils like tea tree and coconut oil can give the soap anti-bacterial or anti-microbial properties without risking your safety.

It will take some time for the FDA to properly take action—in the meantime, go through your house and remove any items that may contain triclosan or triclocarban. Any soap marked “anti-bacterial” should be discarded. If you’ve been a devout user of antibacterial soaps, don’t panic. Realize that up to 75% of the population already has traces of these chemicals in their system. It will take many years to eradicate and correct the damage these chemicals may have done (once antibacterial soaps get washed down the sink, they can seep into the water supply—this is a huge ongoing issue that will eventually need to be addressed on a much larger scale). In the meantime, try to change your thinking about cleanliness and understand that soap doesn’t need to be marked antibacterial to be effective. Also beware that these chemicals may also be present in products, including mouthwash, laundry detergent, fabrics and baby pacifiers. Check ingredient labels and use your best judgment.

 

 

 

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Keep Your Kitchen Like Julia Child

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julia_child1Maybe you remember watching Julia Child cook in her television kitchen. She would always be positioned behind an island, surrounded by hanging rows of gorgeous pots and pans, cooking the most intricate and amazing dishes.  But Child’s home kitchen was a little bit different than the glamorous sets from her many television shows.

There’s a lot to learn from how Child arranged her own personal kitchen and how to bring out the master chef in your humble household.

  • Customize it: Besides cooking (and her voice) Julia Child might be best remembered for her size. She was over 6 feet tall and had her kitchen counters raised two inches to meet her height. That may feel extravagant for those of us who aren’t celebrity chefs, but the lesson can be taken to heart. My grandma said a good kitchen has everything “at arm’s length”–this could mean adding a step stool or shifting your most frequently used items to the front of your cabinets. A memory foam mat underfoot also does wonders while you prep and helps to keep back pain at bay.
  • Dress like Julia: Mrs. Child always looked her best, but in almost every cooking show she was wearing an apron: an essential tool for all serious chefs. Having an apron on hand will protect your clothing and if you are dressed to the 9’s like Julia usually was, you will want a barrier to protect your clothes when simmering all of those amazing sauces.
  • Buy gadgets you like—and forget about the rest: Julia Child was fond of most kitchen gadgets and an early adopter for nearly every kind of appliance she could get her hands on. But she acknowledged that not everyone has such an affinity for kitchen gear. She said that you shouldn’t feel pressured to buy the latest technological breakthrough in kitchen gear just because it’s available. Sometimes a set of good knives will outdo any combination of newfangled equipment. Stick with what you like and ignore the rest.
  • Make a bookshelf a priority: Books don’t only belong in the library or at your bedside–Julia always had an area in her kitchen for her recipe books. Set aside a cabinet or drawer for yours, or at least some counter space where you can keep your favorites.
  • The table is an extension of the kitchen: Cooking requires a lot of standing, but Julia would often sit at her kitchen table to do some of her prep work. She used a simple tablecloth and would take breaks to prepare or taste food as she went along. The table is also a great place for companionship—invite friends to sit and enjoy a cocktail and conversation while you cook.
  • Clean with lemon when you can: Child often used lemon to clean knives between various parts of her prep work. Lemon can also be used to clean counters and glass surfaces as well (be sure to use an appropriate disinfectant if you are handling uncooked meat or raw eggs).

What are some trick or tips you use to make your kitchen superstar chef-worthy?

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Big Pharma and the ADHD Industrial Complex: A Review of ADHD Nation

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Approximately 11% of children 4-17 years of age (6.4 million) have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011 and continues to increase every year. Many believe our children are facing an unprecedented epidemic in regards to ADHD.

bookAlan Schwartz’s new book  ADHD Nation: Children, Doctors, Big Pharma and the Making of an American Epidemic should be required reading for parents, teachers, and doctors everywhere. This book manages to be informative both historically and scientifically, while also being entertaining. Schwartz dismantles the ADHD “epidemic” by showing how the creation of a drug spurred a medical condition, not the other way around.

Anyone who has taken an ADHD survey for themselves or their children knows how tricky these assessments can be. With questions like “Does your child have difficulty listening?” and “Does your child misplace or lose items (i.e. homework or school supplies)?” absolutely every child (or adult!) will fall into that category. While reputable doctors agree that ADHD is a legitimate condition in a small percentage of the population, Schwartz shows how more than 1 in 7 people will test “positive” for ADHD in their lifetime. Some estimates show that more than 50% of people who visit a psychiatrist will be prompted to take some form of medication to treat the symptoms of ADHD.

Schwartz’s book presents a detailed look at the “father of ADHD,” Dr. Keith Conners, a man who was at first thrilled to see such amazing results in his child patients who were treated with Ritalin. Many years later, however, Conners calls the overprescription “a national disaster of dangerous proportions.”

What’s great about ADHD Nation is that it sends up a red flag without being alarmist—Schwartz acknowledges how and when drugs like Ritalin can be beneficial. He shows case studies where the drug is extremely valuable. He’s not claiming that the government is trying to exercise mind control over the most vulnerable members of our society. What he is saying is that overprescription of ADHD drugs is a serious problem indicative of larger societal issues with money, the medical community, and our approaches to raising children. Even for readers without children, this book provides an excellent in-depth look at how prescription medications shape and change our society.

book1a

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Get The Kids To Do Their Laundry With These Easy Tips!

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 Doing the laundry is never exactly fun, but having my kids pitch in and help makes the job easier and it also teaches them independence and self-reliance. By planning/organizing a few things in advance, I’ve made the process of doing our laundry much easier for my little helpers.

Teach Kids How to be Independent with these Easy Tips!

Tip #1 Make sure clothes are really dirty:

This one may sound like a no-brainer, but in our consumerist/disposable society it’s easy to waste time, energy, and resources washing clothes that are still clean. In our house the rule is that aside from socks and underwear, we wear everything twice unless there is a stain on it (and here’s another tip–when we do art projects my kids wear their father’s old button down shirts over their clothes to avoid getting messy). A flannel shirt that has been worn over a t-shirt may be worn up to three times—and the same goes for jeans. There is simply no reason to wash clothes that are still clean. The less laundry you have overall, the less time you’ll spend doing it.

Aside from that, I also stick to a laundry schedule. We wash clothes two days a week at the same time in the morning. My kids know that if they need something washed, they’d better get it into the laundry room on time. Long gone are the days where I would run a load (or two!) every day of the week, often washing clothes that were still completely clean.

Tip #2 Use a dry erase marker to write out instructions on the washer lid:

I sometimes forget that when kids are learning new things (in this case doing the laundry) they need to be reminded of each step of the process. I keep a dry erase marker in the laundry room so I can write out steps directly on the washing machine (it easily wipes off with no residue).  This way, my older son knows what order the steps are in and will never forget to add the soap or what temperature he needs to set the dial. I can also remind him of special instructions such as which things should not be dried by leaving him a note directly on the dryer:

Tip #3 Don’t waste time matching socks (and never worry about losing a sock again!)

This one requires a little investment up front, but once it’s done you’ll be so happy with the results. In my family, each of us has a different assigned type/brand of sock. Mine are white with gray toes, my younger sons are light gray, my older sons are dark gray and my husbands are solid white. We ONLY have these socks and have gotten rid of the myriad patterns and styles that used to clog our drawers. When we do laundry, we just take all of the socks that belong to us and we put them in our drawers. No matching, no pairing, no worrying about lost socks. My kids are able to clearly see which socks belong to which people and the sorting is super simple. It’s been great!

Tip #4 Assign characters/styles to kids underwear:

This one is in the same camp as #3. Since we do wash a lot of underwear each week, and since my sons are close in age, it can often be difficult to tell whose underwear is whose. We’ve assigned each of my sons a character (Batman for my older son and Spiderman for my younger son). Again, these are the ONLY underwear they wear. They love digging through the basket looking for their characters and there is never any squinting to read labels for sizing.

Tip#5 Label drawers so kids can put clothes away on their own:

The worst part about doing the laundry, in my opinion, is putting the clothes away. But I’ve found that my kids actually enjoy doing this part when they are given a little guidance. Printing out picture labels and taping them to the drawers allows kids to get involved and truly help.

My kids aren’t that great at folding clothes yet, but I find that when they do the actual washing and drying (running the machines), the sorting of underwear and socks, and then put all of the folded clothes away, I cut the time I actually spend doing laundry in half. Besides that, my kids actually enjoy these tasks and they get a sense of accomplishment when they help our family.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Be More Productive: 5 Books To Improve This Life Skill Today!

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 It’s been said that the two factors that have the greatest impact on a person during adulthood are the people they meet and the books they read. As we get older, it becomes more and more difficult to make new, lasting connections with other people, but there’s no excuse not to be always be reading a book. I make reading a mandatory, non-negotiable hour of every day (I sometimes have to schedule it in like a doctor’s appointment, but it always gets done!) and it’s proven to be invaluable to me.

Reading books about productivity instantly makes me feel more productive—it’s definitely easier to motivate and plan for success with a guidebook. Whether they are about organizations, tips for time management, or methods for organizing clutter, this list contains some of my all-time favorite books for jumpstarting my productivity.

5 Books To Improve Your Productivity Today!

1. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

This book came out in 2002, though I didn’t read it until around 2008, after a new job required me to become familiar with these methods. From managing your inbox to overcoming writer’s block, this book is full of helpful hints and tips for accomplishing your goals.

2. The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Jay Papasan

 The basic tenant of The ONE Thing is kind of a no-brainer: in order to accomplish anything, you have to focus your priorities and be protective of your time and effort. You have to be relentlessly devote yourself to a single task. It’s so very easy to be distracted in this day and age, and Papasan’s book touches on effective methods for getting larger projects finished and quieting the “noise” of our modern world.

3. Oblique Strategies by Brian Eno

Yes, this is THAT Brian Eno, immensely talented glitter rocker and musician who has collaborated with David Bowie and endless other artists and performers over the years. The original Oblique Strategies are a deck of cards   that can be flipped through during a project. Now, you can access these tips and tricks for free online (although I still prefer the physicality of shuffling through a deck). With advice like “Don’t stress one thing more than another” or “Make what’s perfect more human” this advice is sometimes odd, sometimes obvious, and always helpful–especially for your more artistic endeavors.

4. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

In the vein of Oblique Strategies, at first glance The Artist’s Way seems to be most helpful for artists and creative, but the strategies really lend themselves to any project that requires intense though (i.e. ALL OF THEM!). It’s the seminal book about creativity and the 12-week program will help you to map out ideas and kickstart new ways of thinking.

5. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

I’ve written about this book a ton and I’ve talked about it even more. Kondo realizes that in order to be productive or successful in any endeavor, we have to get our personal space in order first. I’ve applied these principles not only to my work-space, but to my life in general. There’s a reason this book is on everyone’s list this year.

What are your go-to books or websites when you’re trying to get amped up for a project?

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

5 Reasons Why Some Are More Prone To Mosquito Bites Than Others

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mosquitoMy husband always jokes that mosquitos like him because he’s so sweet (thereby implying that I am mean because I almost never get bit). It’s a joke, but there’s definitely something to it. We can go outside and I’m completely fine while he’s covered in bites.

This begs the questions, why are some people more prone to mosquito bites than others? It turns out there are reasons why and knowing what they are could prevent future bites. In this time of the Zika virus and other serious mosquito-borne illnesses, it pays to understand a little about what make someone a mosquito magnet.

5 Reasons Why Some Are More Prone To Mosquito Bites Than Others

Clothing

Mosquitos are visual insects and they are drawn toward the color red, along with darker colors like black, navy, and brown. It may be to your advantage to wear light colors, especially during dusk and other times when mosquitoes are more active.

Blood Type

Research shows that people with Type O blood attract more than twice as many mosquitos as those with Type A blood (Type B blood attracted a med-range of these two).  I’m type A- and my husband is O, so this definitely explains some of his popularity with mosquitos.

Beer

In one study researchers found that significantly more mosquitoes landed on people who had recently imbibed a beer than on those who did not. Maybe choose a glass of wine or refrain altogether at that next BBQ if your goal is to avoid mosquitos.

Warm Bodies

Mosquitos are attracted to warm bodies. They are drawn to the heat and also the scent of sweat, so if you tend to run hot, beware.

Pregnancy

Mosquitos love pregnant women. Researchers believe this is largely due to the fact that pregnant women secrete more carbon dioxide that non-pregnant people and the mosquitos use CO2 as a way to determine the location of their hosts. Pregnant women also tend to have higher temperatures, which goes along with the warm body point above. This is particularly alarming since the recent Zika virus outbreak. Pregnant women are encouraged to wear long sleeves, bug repellent, and to avoid being outdoors in areas where mosquitoes congregate.

So my husband may be sweet, but it’s more a matter of these particulars that make people mosquito magnets. Stay safe and exercise caution at that late summer BBQ. It’s not just annoying—mosquitos could seriously affect your health

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Create Your Own Butterfly Kingdom with this Child-Friendly Project

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butterflyAs part of my ongoing summer effort to get my kids outside and keep them there, we recently constructed a butterfly haven. Butterflies are an excellent addition to any backyard or garden and attracting them is easy and doesn’t require much space. They gravitate toward bright colors and like to congregate in moist spots because they search for salt and other minerals in damp environs. Kids of all ages will get a kick out of building a haven and observing all of the butterflies that stop by to visit.

To build your own butterfly haven you will need:

  • A pie plate
  • Potting soil
  • Some flat rocks (these will weigh down the pie plate)
  • A few sponges in various bright colors
  • A pair of scissors
  • Water

How to Construct Your Butterfly Haven

Step one: Spread potting soil all in the bottom of the pie plate.

Step two: Arrange the rocks in the pie plate, making sure the entire plate is weighted.

Step three: Use the scissors to cut the sponges into shapes of all different sizes. Place the sponges between the rocks, so that all of the soil is covered.

Step four: Wet the sponges all the way through so the water seeps down into the potting soil. There shouldn’t be any standing water in the pie plate, but the sponges should be very wet.

Step five: Place your butterfly haven in the sun near other brightly colored flowers. Make sure your haven stays moist by watering it every other day or so.

That’s all there is to it! Once butterflies start to visit your haven, a book like this will provide a handy reference for determining which types of butterflies are visiting you. This is a great way to teach your kiddos the importance that butterflies and moths bring to the garden and world around them.

You can sit with your children and take photographs of the butterflies for them or you can give your child crayons and paper and have them sketch the different butterflies they see. Older kids might make a grid to record information such as the time of day when most butterflies frequent the haven and how long they stick around.

 

 

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Make Sure Your Kids are Getting Enough Sleep with ‘The Sleepy Three’

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sleepAsk any parent what happens when their kids don’t get enough sleep and they will likely regale you with stories of tantrums and tears, bad attitudes and arguments. We know that sleep is extremely important, but recent medical guidelines have shown just how critical quality sleep is for babies, kids, and young adults.

So how much sleep do kids really need at each stage of development?

Babies up to a year – 12-16 hours (including naps).

Children 1-2 years – 11-14 hours (including naps).

Children 3 to 5 years – 10-13 hours (including naps).

Children 6 to 12 years – 9-12 hours.

Teens 13 to 18 years – 8-10 hours.

Now that school has started back up, now is the time to get your kids on the right sleep schedule; otherwise, they could develop some unhealthy habits. According to one article, some symptoms, like constant yawning or droopy eyes, are easy to recognize in a child. But others aren’t as obvious. Check out these common signs, which change as your little one gets older.

 Young Children (Babies, Toddlers)

  • Is cranky, whiny, or fussy, especially in the late afternoon on a regular basis
  • Acts especially clingy, needy
  • Displays fidgety, antsy, or hyperactive behavior
  • Has trouble sharing, taking turns
  • Is not talkative, taciturn
  • Wakes up groggy; falls asleep after being woken up and needs to be woken again
  • Wants to lie down or nap during the day
  • Falls asleep during short car rides
  • Has difficulty changing from two naps to one nap a day
  • Snores

Kids In Elementary School

  • Is hyperactive
  • Falls asleep at inappropriate times
  • Needs to be woken in the morning, sometimes multiple times
  • Lacks interest, alertness, motivation, and/or an attention span
  • Seems drowsy at school or at home during homework
  • Has academic struggles
  • Has trouble falling asleep
  • Falls asleep during short car rides
  • Experiences night terrors/sleepwalking for the first time
  • Needs regular naps
  • Exhibits loud snoring, breaks in breathing, or extreme restlessness at night
  • Has anxiety about being separated from you during the day and night

Preteens/Teens

  • Has extreme difficulty waking in the morning
  • Is chronically late for school
  • Experiences mood swings
  • Has trouble concentrating
  • Feels unmotivated
  • Acts irritable in the early afternoon
  • Falls asleep easily during the day
  • Has academic troubles
  • Sleeps for long periods on the weekends
  • Is hyperactive or aggressive
  • Acts nervous
  • Consumes excessive amounts of caffeine
  • Uses drugs
  • Seems “Out of it” or confused

Source

The Sleepy Three

If you see big gaps between how much sleep is recommended and what your children are actually getting, you might want to take stock of what I call the “sleepy three”—or how light, sound, and temperature are helping or hurting your child’s sleep habits.

Limit Light

It’s nothing new to say that a dim room is best for sleeping, but what you may not be aware of is how exposure to light even hours before bedtime can have a lasting negative effect on sleep. Blue light from television, iPads and computer screens is particularly damaging. It’s best to discontinue screen time about 4-5 hours before bedtime (i.e., if you want your kids asleep by 8pm, stop screens at 4); however, this might be difficult to enforce with older children and teens. For them, you can install blue light blocking apps such as f.lux or Twilight on their computers and devices.

In addition, blackout shades ensure that seasonal changes in light will not have your kids up at the crack of dawn. Blackouts are also beneficial when you want to get little kids to sleep when it is still light outside (it’s amazing how bright it is at 7pm in June in the Northeast!).

Sound of Silence

Limiting ambient noise in any environment—whether it’s a busy city or a croaking bullfrog outside your window—is easy with a sound conditioner.  Simply plug in on your child’s bedside table and make it a habit to turn on as you turn off the lights. You’ll obscure any sounds outdoors and mask sounds coming from the house as well. This is particularly helpful for use with younger children who are still taking naps when the rest of the household is awake. (If, like me, you’ve read studies/worried about the effects of white noise on the ears of babies and small children, this article may put your mind at ease).

Cooler is Better

Parents often worry about making sure their kids are warm enough at night but studies show that a cooler sleeping space is optimal. The ideal room temperature should be between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s quite chilly, but sleeping in cool rooms increases the production of melatonin, helps you fall asleep quicker, and can bring about increased incidences of REM cycle sleep.

Try using one or all three of the above tips to get your kids better quality sleep. Remember that sleep is critical for kids’ brain development, healthy metabolism, and mood regulation.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Spice Up Your Vacation With These 7 Spices

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imageWhen we go on vacation, my family almost always chooses to stay in a house or apartment rental instead of a hotel room. We like having additional space, the cost is usually more reasonable, and most of all, we like to cook our own meals. Buying groceries and using someone else’s kitchen is a great alternative to ordering room service or eating in expensive restaurants, but because you can never be sure how fully stocked your vacation kitchen will be, we always make sure to travel with our own spices. This may sound extravagant or difficult but it makes a huge difference and is extremely easy.

Spice Up Your Travels With These 7 Spices

I’ve found that the best way to travel with spices is to use a weekly pill dispenser—each day holds about two tablespoons of spice. This is the perfect amount for a weeklong trip and the seven compartments means we can bring along seven of the most versatile seasonings with us. These are the ones we get the most mileage out of:

  1. Garlic powder: When fresh garlic is a scarcity or if your vacation kitchen is lacking in a garlic press or a sharp knife, garlic powder can really save the day. We use it in everything from tomato sauce (spaghetti is a cheap go-to travel meal my whole family can agree on) to seasoning meat to sprinkling on our popcorn.
  2. Lawry’s Season Salt: Lawry’s is a perfect blended salt for use on any potato dish (from fries to mashed to hash browns)
  3. Cayenne pepper: we like a little heat in our food and cayenne is perfect for savory dishes of all kinds. My kids also love a little dash mixed into their hot chocolate.
  4. Cinnamon: we use cinnamon on toast, pancakes, oatmeal and my husband and I use it in our coffee.
  5. Coleman’s Mustard Powder: mustard powder is great for eating on the go. Simply mix a little with cold water until the desired condiment consistency is achieved. I also mix it with olive oil and use it to dress salads.
  6. Taco seasoning: tacos, burritos, and fajitas are another quick and easy meal to make when traveling. We marinate chicken breasts, cook them, and cut them into strips for the week. It’s nice to be able to grab a tortilla, some chicken, and a little cheese and wrap up and go!
  7. Sugar: You’d be surprised how many people no longer have standard sugar in their kitchens. My husband can’t handle his coffee without a little sweet stuff and the kids like to add some to their oatmeal in the mornings. Sugar is also critical in our tomato sauce.

Before you go on your next trip, take stock of the spices in your cabinet with the lowest levels. These are your seven traveling spices! Bring them along to add some variety and flavor to your vacation.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

FDA Approves Mutant Mosquitos for the Suppression of the Zika Virus

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Recently, federal officials approved a plan to release millions of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys with the hopes of suppressing Zika-carrying mosquitos.

As you’ve probably heard by now, Zika fever (also known as Zika virus disease and simply Zika) is an infectious disease caused by the Zika virus. Many people will not present symptoms, but some will develop a rash, fever, bone and joint pain, and severe headaches upon exposure. Infection during pregnancy is particularly dangerous because the Zika Virus has been linked to microcephaly and other brain damages in babies. The virus is passed through the blood, via mosquito bites as well as sexual contact.

There are more than 45 different species of mosquitoes living in the humid Florida Keys area and with recent transmissions of the virus in the US, the pressure is on to contain the spread of Zika immediately. The company Oxitec has been genetically modifying mosquitoes in a lab for many years now. These mutant mosquitos contain a protein that kills their young before they can emerge from larvae as adults and transmit Zika or other diseases. When wild female mosquitoes meet with the sterile males, the population dies off rapidly.

The idea for genetically modified mosquitoes came in 2009 as a means to counteract Dengue fever. The Food and Drug Association chose to do a trial in a suburb of Key West because this area is contained and results could be easily monitored. Oxitex has already released millions of these modified mosquitoes in Brazil, Panama, and the Cayman Islands. The results in these places have been positive and they have reduced some local mosquito populations by more than 90%.

But not everyone is thrilled about this trial. Community members are nervous about what genetically modified mosquitoes will mean for the ecosystem. Though there is no known evidence of any risk to being stung by a genetically modified mosquito, the idea of coexisting with these creatures is understandably upsetting for some people. This plan has caused a rift between mosquito researchers and many Key West residents. Besides that, since Zika is also sexually transmitted, there is no guarantee that reducing the mosquito population will be able to undo the damage now that Zika is on US soil.

What do you think about genetically modified mosquitos? Are the benefits worth the risk?

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Grow Your Own Lemon Tree

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 Lemons are such a versatile fruit—especially for summer time foods. They’re great squeezed over fresh fish, mixed into iced tea, or as an accompaniment to your favorite cocktail. Lemon trees are very pretty to look at and they are among the easiest citrus fruits to grow yourself—though you should note that lemon trees thrive in temperatures around 70 degrees—if it’s much hotter or cooler than that in your backyard, you might want to tackle a different planting project!

Lemon trees make wonderful potted plants to have on your patio garden and will be easy to access from the kitchen! With a little bit of effort, you could be using homegrown lemons in your drinks and recipes in just a few months.

Start a Lemon Tree in Seconds

Before you start, you’ll want to make sure that you are using a seed from an organic lemon as non-organic lemons typically have non-germinating seeds that will not grow. You’ll also need a seed pot, a larger planter pot, some plastic wrap, and fertile soil.

Step 1: Work With Damp Soil

Lemons need very moist soil so before planting, you’ll need to properly and thoroughly moisten the potting soil. Because lemon trees have a tendency to dry out, make sure you don’t skip this step (but also don’t overdo it—keep the soil damp but not watery).

Step 2: Add the Soil to Your Seedling Pot

Fill your smaller seedling pot with soil, leaving a small gap (1-2 inches) at the top

Step 3: Pick and Plant Your Seed

Take your organic lemon and squeeze out the juice and seeds into a bowl. Pick the seed that looks the largest and heartiest. Plant your seed a half an inch below the surface of the soil in your seedling pot. Water the soil immediately afterward.

Step 4: Put Plastic Over the Pot (or not!)

Like all citrus plants, lemon trees flourish in warm climates. You’ll want to cover your pot with plastic (regular cling wrap will work but you’ll need to poke several tiny holes in it so that it air can circulate). Be careful that you do not overheat or dry out the soil—if you believe that it is warm enough in the space where your seedling is planted, you might not need the plastic cover.

Step 5: Transfer the Seedling to a Larger Pot

Once the seedling sprouts, you can transfer the seedling into the larger pot that will become your lemon tree’s permanent home. If you’ve been using the plastic cover on your seeding, you can continue to do so once the transfer is made. Once your tree starts to really gain height, you can place the planter outside for a few hours each day so that the tree gets proper sunlight. You’ll know your conditions are ideal when your fruit starts to grow! Also, remember to give your new lemon tree some citrus fertilizer to give it the best growing conditions.

If you want to bypass the seed process, there lemon trees are usually readily available at commercial garden stores and you can even order them online, but you won’t have as much control over what growing medium will be used. Do some research to find out which lemon tree variety grows best in your neck of the woods.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

5 Common Medications That May be Disturbing Your Sleep

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We all know how critical sleep is in our lives and we’ve all suffered from the occasional restless night. You’re probably aware that caffeine and alcohol can affect your ability to get a good night’s sleep, but there are also several other medications you might not be aware of that can lead to sleep disturbances. When it comes to fitful sleep and bad dreams, the monster may be in your medicine cabinet!

5 Common Medicines That Cause Sleeplessness

  • Cipro: This commonly prescribed antibiotic (full name ciprofloxacin) belongs to the category of fluoroquinolones, which are used to treat urinary tract infections and gastroenteritis. Cipro is extremely effective as an antibiotic, but it has also been linked to vivid, violent dreams in adults and agitated sleep walking in young children.
  • Smoking-cessation drugs (Chantix, nicotine patches, Zyban): Many people are not aware that medications meant to help them quit smoking can cause disturbances in sleep. Stressful, seemingly endless dreams as well as frequent waking has been reported by those using these medications.
  • Glucosamine and Chondroitin: These are highly regarded dietary supplements used for relieving pain in the joints, as well as improving joint function and lessening inflammation. Both components are found naturally in the human body and have been proven to be beneficial for those suffering from arthritis; however, people who take this supplement at night often note difficulty falling and staying asleep. Other complaints include muscle cramps and sleep talking.
  • ACE Inhibitors: are used to treat high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and other conditions. ACE inhibitors relax blood vessels and keep blood pressure low. Some people who take these drugs develop a dry, hacking cough that can disrupt sleep. These medications can also cause potassium to build up in the body, which leads to muscle cramps and diarrhea—two things that may have you up out of bed frequently.
  • High Doses of B Vitamins: B vitamins such as niacin (aka B3) are often used to help you sleep; however, when taken in large quantities (daily doses higher than 5,000 mg) the opposite can occur. People taking higher doses reported insomnia, vivid, disturbing dreams, and frequent waking overnight.

Natural Remedies Could be the Answer

Prolonged bouts of sleeplessness can have an impact on your health. Sleep deprivation carries numerous health and safety implications, and some are serious:

  • Poor work performance
  • Car accidents
  • Relationship problems
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Mood problems like anger and depression
  • Increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, hypertension, cancer, and increased mortality

Any sudden and persistent disruption in your sleep should be discussed with your doctor, but a little analyzing of your medicine chest can arm you with more information before your visit. Alternatively, consider some natural ways to improve your quality of sleep. For instance, natural herbs and essential oils have proven to have a positive effect on restfulness. As well, banana tea have been making the headlines lately as a popular way to catch some zzz’s. If you plan on using these natural remedies, check with your healthcare provider to ensure these natural remedies are safe to take with your medications.

It’s easy to forget that the supplements and medications we take, even infrequently, can impact our sleep cycles. In some cases your doctor may be able to provide an alternative medication or supplement, or they may be able to tweak the dosage or time of day when the medication is administered to give you benefits without disrupting your sleep.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Is Minimalism the True Secret to Happiness?

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 A few years ago my family of four packed up our household and moved across the country. We made the drive in our car while our belongings were hauled in a moving truck. We arrived to our new house with little more than some clothes in our suitcases, the kids’ favorite toys, and whatever necessities (some dishes, our coffee maker) we could fit in the trunk. Soon we found out that our moving truck was running late. A few days turned into what was ultimately more than 4 weeks as our belongings toured the country in a bizarre series of missteps on the part of the moving company. You might think this sounds extremely inconvenient, and of course in many ways it was; however, as a family we quickly became accustomed to having less. Now, when I think back about that month without our things, I think of it fondly, almost longingly.

What Brings Joy?

Marie Kondo has built an empire out of minimalism—her primary rule is to only keep material things that “spark joy” in the owner. I can tell you that after a week or so in our near-empty new house, it was difficult to even remember what we’d packed in that truck. I sometimes felt a pang for a particular book or record but the moment would pass. And suddenly life was about noticing moments, something I never seemed to do in our house full of things. So many things! Did we really need any of it?

Kondo believes that material things produce a kind of noise in a space, that having too much clutter creates stress in our lives. I tend to agree. Like most American families, we used to buy something almost every day (from clothes to toys to small kitchen appliances). It seems that we sometimes bought things simply out of boredom or on impulse at the grocery store. I’d been aware of this for some time, but it wasn’t until we were without our possessions that I began to realize how much “noise” those things created in our day-to-day life.

A Month Without Stuff

Without our truck full of things, there was less clothing to put away, fewer dishes to wash, fewer toys to clean up. No television to watch, no computer to fight over. My sons immediately got creative. They pretended their soccer ball was a pet dog and they spent days and days using a few pieces of colored chalk to decorate our patio floor in an intricate mural. There was no couch to sit on, so we spent more time outside or built blanket forts together. I did very little housework and I didn’t get too worried about the kids breaking things (there was nothing to break!) or messing up the floors because cleaning up was so much simpler without clutter. We eventually bought a few folding chairs and a neighbor let us borrow a card table so we could eat dinner together. That was when I realized it: we were happier than we’d been in months. We were better off this way, with just the bare minimum.

I’m not saying everyone should live out of a suitcase in an empty house, but I believe there is a happy medium. Once your house is comfortably furnished with necessities, why keep adding to it? Why not only buy the things we really need or things that “spark joy”? Why not keep furniture and knick-knacks and toys to a minimum? Or see how long you can go without buying anything at all?

Don’t get me wrong, I was excited when I saw our moving truck pull up, but the lesson stayed with me. When I was unpacking, I left maybe 40% of the items in their boxes. I put those boxes on a shelf in the garage. After a few months of disuse, I donated the contents: mainly toys and games we didn’t play, books I had meant to read for years, clothes we didn’t need. My grandma used to say no matter how much you think you want some material thing, one day you’ll be begging somebody to take it off your hands. Minimalism, she insisted, is the key to a peaceful life. I never really understood what she meant until the moving truck incident, but now I think she had the right idea.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

The Synergistic Effects of Meditation + Exercise on Depression

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meditateYou’ve definitely heard of endorphins, the feel-good hormones that are released during physical activity. And you’ve probably heard about the head-clearing benefits of meditation, how being mindful can help to combat stress and anxiety. But what you may not have heard about is how combining these two activities (exercise + meditation) has an effect greater than the sum of each part. A new study shows that MAP training (mental and physical training combined) allows for increased results from both types of activities. These findings could drastically improve the quality of life for people with mild to moderate depression. Some even say the results are so good that certain individuals may find MAP training as beneficial as drug therapy.

Sitting Before You Sweat

Professional athletes have long known that meditation can improve performance. Sports rely heavily on mindfulness, the moment-by-moment awareness of a person’s feelings, thoughts, and physical sensations. Legendary Bulls coach Phil Jackson told Oprah in a 2013 interview, “As much as we pump iron and we run to build our strength up, we build our mental strength up so we can focus … and so we can be in concert with one another in times of need.” It turns out that even the most casual exerciser can experience improved performance after meditation.

Depression and anxiety are often fraught with ruminating thoughts—feelings of worry or anxiety that a person can’t see to get out from under. Both meditation and exercise can help with breaking these thought patterns, but when used in conjunction, the results are magnified.

In the aforementioned study, subjects (half with depression and half without) were taught a form of meditation called focused attention. This is a simple, entry-level form that involves counting your breaths up to 10 and then counting backwards. Participants engaged in this for 20 minutes and then moved on to a walking type of meditation for 10 minutes. After the 30 minutes of meditation, they participated in the aerobic exercise of their choice for 30 minutes. Not only did participants find that they could keep doing their aerobic activity for linger than they thought, they found the exercises easier to complete and felt positive about the process.

Synergistic Results

Subjects completed this hour-long routine twice a week for 8 weeks and were tested at various points along the way. The mental health results were significant: of those with depression, a 40 percent reduction in anxiety was reported. Those subjects said they felt free from anxious thoughts and felt more positive about their lives in general. These benefits peaked immediately following the exercise, but the gains were measurable even on the days when the MAP training was not done. The non-depressed subjects also noted a significant increase in their mood, concentration and attention.

No Reason Not to Try MAP

This study focused only on the mental health and well being of the subjects, but we of course know that exercise provides numerous physical health benefits as well (from endurance, improved heart rates, to the burning of calories). At only a 2-hour a week commitment, there’s really no reason NOT to try a MAP program, whether you want to improve your symptoms of depression or just improve your outlook (and your body).

Have you incorporated meditation into your workout? Comment and let us know!

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Which Oil is Best for Your Diet: MCT vs. Coconut Oil

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  There’s a lot of hype surrounding medium chain triglycerides (or MCT). In fact, there are claims that MCT oil feeds your brain and jumpstarts your metabolism, but there’s no getting around the fact that MCT oil is a man-made supplement. Medium chain fatty acids no doubt have tremendous health benefits, but can you find all of those benefits in MCT oil? Is coconut oil, which contains naturally occurring medium chain triglycerides, a better alternative?

The Importance of Lauric Acid

Lauric acid is the most well known medium chain triglyceride. It is prized as a strong microbial that kills harmful pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Coconut oil is 50% lauric acid (as a reference, breast milk–the gold standard in nutrition–is generally 6-10% lauric acid).

In MCT oil the lauric acid is generally removed during the manufacturing process–tests on MCT oils show negligible or zero percentage remaining.  Lauric acid is what makes coconut oil solid at room temperature. MCT oil is by contrast liquid, even when cold. Though MCT oil is sometimes marketed as “liquid coconut oil” this is certainly not the case. With the lauric acid removed, the composition of the oil has changed dramatically.

Side Effects

Naturally occurring MCTs are great for loosening bowels and keeping your digestion regular. Manufactured MCT oils, on the other hand, frequently cause intestinal distress. Even coconut oil, in large quantities, has been known to cause a tummy ache, but because of the concentrated composition of MCT oil, these effects are intensified. It’s also easier to take too much MCT oil because the serving size is generally much smaller than that of coconut oil (a typical starting dose of 1 teaspoon of MCT oil vs. 1 tablespoon of coconut oil).

Purity

Another issue is that MCT oil means different things to different manufacturers. Some contain the chains C6, C8, C10, C12 (the numeral indicates the length of the chain)—or any combination of these. Using C6 alone has been linked to side effects such as a burning sensation in the throat and mouth upon drinking. There can also be large discrepancies between the quality of each brand of MCT oil, depending upon how and where it’s processed. Some MCT oils may contain chemicals, solvents or other byproducts that occur during processing.

Cost

I expected MCT oil to be much more costly than coconut oil, but a 32-ounce jar of virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil costs $20, about the same price for the same amount of MCT oil. Still, since MCT oil is (as we’ve now learned) of lesser nutrition, potentially lower purity, and puts you at risk for more side effects, you’re better off with reaching for straight coconut oil! Get those same metabolism-boosting benefits, the nutritionally-dense lauric acid, and never worry about manufacturing by-products getting into your body.

This is simply another case where real, whole food wins!

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Black Gold: Add Nutrients to the Garden – The Easy Way!

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 Black gold is a nitrogen and potassium-rich product that improves soil structure, increases plant yield, and has even been known to improve the taste of fruits and vegetables grown with it. It doesn’t require wasteful packaging and it’s made without chemicals or other harmful industrial additives. So where do you purchase this miracle product for your own garden?  The answer may surprise you.

Black gold is the product of vermicomposting—or, in simple terms, it’s the rich, black stuff that comes out the back end of a worm. This so-called “super soil” has many benefits and it only takes a little bit of work to build your own worm farm and start getting a constant supply. Soon you’ll have thousands of tiny employees helping your garden to grow—they are humble and work hard, twenty-four hours a day. Best of all—worms do their work for free!

To build your own worm farm you’ll need:

– A drill

– Two plastic storage bins with snap on lids (make sure they are opaque)

 – A small flowerpot or a brick

– Some old newspapers and household food waste (aka worm food)

And don’t forget the critical ingredient:

– Worms! Eisenia fetida are common earthworms sold by the pound at most gardening centers. If you have trouble finding them, your local bait shop is your next best bet. You don’t need a ton of worms to start a home worm farm. A pound will yield approximately 1,000 worms. They reproduce quickly and are hearty and adaptable to many environments.

  • Drill out holes on one of the bins. Mark some holes around all four sides of the top of one bin with a pencil. Then mark out about 20 holes in the bottom and the top of the bin. Once you’re happy with the placement of the holed, drill them out. A 3/32” drip bit works best for the lid and sides while a larger bit (3/16or so) works best for the bottom. Leave the other bin free of holes.
  • Stack the bins. Put a flowerpot or brick in the undrilled bin and stack the drilled bin on top of it. This allows some space for the liquid to drain out of the top bin into the one below.
  • Prepare the bedding. Shredded newspapers work very well, as do pieces of corrugated cardboard—make sure to avoid any pages/sheets with glossy color or tons of ink. Once your bedding is laid out, moisten it with water until it resembles a wet sponge. Don’t overdo it—the bedding should be moist, but still a bit fluffy.
  • Add worm food. There’s no need to buy special worm cuisine. Non-animal, non-dairy table scraps work best. Keep the scraps diverse. Here’s a great article on how to use your food scraps for vermicompost.
  • Add your worm friends! Now that your bin is made up, bury a small amount of food scraps in the newspaper and let your worms loose on it. Worms like the dark, so they’ll likely cover themselves entirely in the table scraps.
  • Cover and protect your worms. Place a few layers of slightly damp newspaper over the top of your worms. Roll up a few more sheets of paper and place them around the edges. This will keep fruit flies from infesting your worm farm and will keep your worms from wandering off. The newspaper cover mimics earth and the worms will fee safe and secure underneath it.

Worms can consume their own weight in food in just one day, so soon enough your worms will be flourishing. You can feed them every day or every couple of weeks, just make sure that there is always food available. Once the worms begin digesting the food scraps, you’ll begin to see black gold in the bin. Being careful of your worm friends, gently scoop out the vermicompost for use in your garden. Over time, some dark liquid will accumulate in the lower bin—this is also an excellent nutrient for your garden and can be diluted with water and sprinkled over houseplants for an extra boost.

Your worms should thrive with little effort from you, aside from feeding them and keeping them in a shady location. Enjoy your new little buddies!

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

How To Grow Pineapples Like a Pro!

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pineapple 1Pineapples are delicious and nutritious—they’re great when used in smoothies, muffins, or baked goods (find even more recipes here). They provide 105% of your daily value of Vitamin C, they’re high in Manganese and Thiamin, and studies have shown that three servings per day can prevent age-related macular degeneration.

Pineapples are also hearty, hard-to-kill additions to your garden. If you plant them in the right place they need virtually no care and will thrive.

Grow Pineapples Like a Pro!

Besides the tasty fruit, the flowering plant itself is also very beautiful. Here are the steps for adding pineapples to your garden:

  1. Cut the stem from a store-bought pineapple (be sure to remove all of the fruit flesh as well as the lower leaves). Let the stem cure for a day or two.
  2. Make a small hole in your garden and drop the stem in, pushing the soil around it so that it stays upright and will not tip over. Pineapples don’t need a lot of soil and the soil itself does not have to be high quality. Pineapples are part of the bromeliad family, and like all bromeliads they do not have large root networks. Because of this, you don’t need to worry about having a large space underground; however, beware that pineapples are large and spiky and give them enough room to spread out without bothering your other plants. Pineapples are even content to grow in pots or tubs, so it’s really whatever location you prefer.
  3. Pineapples don’t need a lot of water and they have very tough leaves that don’t lose moisture through evaporation.
  4. Pineapples grow in direct sun, even in extremely hot climates, but they also do well in shaded areas.
  5. Pineapples rely on their leaves for nutrition. If you apply concentrated/artificial fertilizers they will harm your plant. Instead, mix a little compost into the soil if the leaves of your pineapple take on a purple or reddish tinge. Otherwise, your plant is healthy and has all of the nutrients it needs.
  6. Once the pineapple plant flowers you’ll have to wait about 5 months for the fruit to grow and mature. When it’s yellow, it’s ready to pick.

And that’s all there is to it! Pineapples really are ridiculously easy plants to grow and they make an exotic and beautiful addition to any garden.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

5 Ways Coconut Oil Can Bring Out Your Natural Beauty

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coconutCoconut oil is everywhere—you’ve probably read about its uses in lifestyle magazines, in recipes and in holistic medicine articles. You might already know that coconut oil is an antifungal great for curing athlete’s foot and for use in treating head lice, but what you might not be aware of is how many of your most expensive luxury products can be completely replaced with this miracle oil. The Beauty Industry spends billions in advertising dollars to promote products they want you to believe are specially formulated and scientifically proven. In fact, coconut oil is not only an affordable alternative, it’s better for your health and safety than most chemical-laden beauty products.

6 Ways to Achieve Natural Beauty with Coconut Oil

Not all coconut oils are created equally. Since you’re putting this directly on your skin, you want to look for an organic coconut oil like this one that will nourish and protect. Make sure your coconut oil comes from a reputable source. Don’t accept anything that is not organic and non-GMO, and make sure that it is cold-pressed and unrefined. Refined coconut oil may have been bleached or deodorized and processed with chemicals, while unrefined, cold-pressed coconut oil (also called virgin oil) is mechanically pressed immediately after picking, without any additives. Remember that what you put on your body goes in your body!

 Eye Cream and Nighttime Moisturizer

Because it is quick-absorbing and rich, virgin organic coconut oil is an excellent deep moisturizer for dry, delicate skin.

Simply use your ring finger to smooth around your eyes after your cleansing routine. It might be too heavy to spread over your entire face, but feel free to dab a little over those rough patches on your cheeks and forehead. It’s also a great lip balm!

Shaving cream

Drugstore shaving cream can be irritating and drying to skin. Coconut oil is much more hydrating and won’t clog your razor the way some shaving creams can.

To use, wet the area to be shaved, rub coconut oil over the area in circles, and shave as usual.

Bath oil

 Adding coconut oil directly to your bath is better than bubbles or bath salts. Skip bubble bath and salts, and try adding coconut oil to your bath.

Since coconut oil is a solid at room temperature, simply run hot water over the jar for a few minutes to melt it down. Add a few tablespoons to soak up the moisture.

Hair mask

Coconut oil is one of the few oils molecularly small enough to be absorbed by the hair shaft. Many of the expensive hair masks and leave-in conditioners for sale merely sit on top of the hair and coat it. This can lead to buildup over time and dull, lank hair. Coconut oil actually infuses your strands and repairs damage.

To use, at night, wet the hair and comb a few tablespoons of coconut oil from root to tips. Wrap your hair in plastic or use a shower cap. Get some beauty sleep. In the morning, you may have to wash your hair twice to remove the excess oil, but what you’ll have afterwards is manageable, shiny hair that feels silky and soft.

Makeup remover

Makeup removers are often expensive and they sometimes have harsh chemicals that can burn or sting your eyes. It makes no sense that something meant to remove eye makeup can be dangerous to your sight! Coconut oil is a non-irritating alternative.

To use, apply a small amount to your face with your fingers. Massage the coconut oil on the makeup you’d like to remove, then wipe off with a light-colored cloth (so you can see when all of the makeup is off).

Lip balm

Your lips are one of the most exposed areas of the body. With only a thin layer of skin to protect them, the cold, dry air can wreak havoc. When every ounce of moisture counts, we have to take steps to protect them.

To make an easy lip balm, check out this recipe for step-by-step instructions.

Is it safe to say that coconut could be the miracle beauty we have all been looking for? Bring out your natural beauty and start using these coconut oil products today!

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

The Keto Diet: Health Benefits Beyond Weight Loss

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keto dietLow-carb, higher fat/protein diets are nothing new in mainstream culture–chances are you’ve heard of the Atkins Diet or Protein Power or some other version of these weight loss plans. These diets are at their core high-fat, low-carb Keto Diets or KDs, so called because they put your body into a state where it runs on ketones, rather than glucose or glycogen (you can read more about the science behind the process here). But what you might not be aware of are the myriad medical studies that show how Keto Diets go far beyond weight loss. In all reality,the Keto Diet is common sense eating.

KETO-food-pyramidThe following is a list of health issues and the way that the Keto Diet brings about positive effects in each of them. As always, speak to your doctor before beginning any new diet or exercise plan—I’m not a scientist or a doctor, but this list was compiled based on studies from the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.

  1. Keto Diet for a better brain: One of the most common issues people have with cutting carbohydrates from their diet is the “brain fog” that occurs in the first few days or weeks of a Keto Diet. Many times, people give up during this phase, but if you can hold out a little longer, there are many benefits including enhanced focus, clarity, and long-term neuroprotection. Several days into a Keto Diet there is a rise of ketones in the liver and an overall lowering of blood glucose levels. Fatty acids are better oxidized, leading to enhanced biogenesis, or the creation of brain cells. Synaptic energy (meaning the connections between existing brain cells) is increased and strengthened, while there is a decrease in oxidative stress (the process by which brain cells corrode and die). These findings are not speculative—they are based on human studies. Basically, your brain is running at its best when in a keto zone.
  2. Keto Diet in Alzheimer’s patients: Because of the neuroprotective properties of a KD, scientists believe there may be some benefit for Alzheimer’s patients to adhere to a Keto Diet. Patients with certain mutations of the disease have shown improved cognitive functioning in double-blind studies. More research needs to be done to conclude whether all variations of the disease may benefit from a KD, but the research is promising.
  3. Keto Diet to slow aging: General aging is caused by a gradual decline in neurons and neural circuit functions. We, of course, don’t know how to stop this process, but research shows that altering the energy metabolism of the brain can slow this process. Rodent studies have conclusive evidence that a KD implemented in older rats leads to slower overall cell degradation and the results for humans is currently underway.
  4. Keto Diet for Parkinson’s Disease: Clinical studies are currently underway to determine the effects of a KD on Parkinson’s sufferers, though an initial small study showed promising results.
  5. Keto Diet for Epilepsy: There is now conclusive evidence that a KD reduces the frequency of seizures in epilepsy patients, particularly in children. A Keto Diet is the first or second line of defense against seizure along with anti-convulsant drugs. Many patients prefer a KD as the first treatment because of the side-effects that can occur with anti-convulsants. Children or others who have difficulty swallowing pills or remembering to take medication every day often choose a Keto Diet. As well, some children who had no response at all to oral medication showed excellent results with a KD.
  6. Keto Diet on cancer cells: Of course there’s no known cure for cancer at this point, but because cancer cells exhibit high metabolic rates, they are also the most sensitive to a lack of glucose fuel (this is known as the Warburg effect). Pioneering work in animals has shown that a KD greatly slows the rate of tumor growth. While clinical proof in humans is still underway, a pilot trial of 16 patients with highly metastatic cancer showed improved functioning and decreased insomnia in patients, indicating that there are benefits that need to be explored further.

The Keto Diet is also being considered in the treatment of migraine, autism, stroke, traumatic brain injury, psychiatric disorders, and many other diseases. I find it very easy to maintain a KD. All of these medical results are promising, plus, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the main reason for me is that it keeps me thin. I’m very interested to see the results of further scientific research as they develop.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Ancient Secrets to Relieving Back Pain

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backBack pain is a big deal. It will affect almost every American over the course of their lifetime, and in many cases, it goes on to become chronic and untreatable. Back pain drives up the dependency of painkillers, it causes loss of sleep, loss of work, and it leads to a sedentary lifestyle (which can in turn lead to obesity, heart attack, or even death).

But acupuncturist and author Esther Gokhale turned to an unlikely source to investigate back pain in her bestselling new book: 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back. Gokhale spent an immense amount of time investigating indigenous populations (from those in Portugal to Ecuador to West Africa and elsewhere). This is because, in these populations, the instance of back pain is extremely rare and is often even unheard of, despite the fact that these people use their backs for hard labor every single day. So how do they avoid back pain? Gokhale says it all comes down to spine shape.

J versus S

Most Americans have a spine that is shaped like the letter S. It curves at the top, goes inward at mid-back, and curves out again at the base. In indigenous populations however, the spine is shaped like the letter J. It is mainly flat from the top downward, until it curves out at the base (where the back meets the buttocks). This is also the spine shape of young children. Gokhale, herself a long-time sufferer of back pain, wondered if the shape of the spine had anything to do with pain. Over the course of her studies, she determined that getting back to a J-shaped spine could prove to be extremely beneficial to everyone, especially those already dealing with pain.

Lifestyle

We know that as children our spines have that J shape. So what happens over time to cause the S curve? It’s largely because of lifestyle choices. Americans spend massive amounts of time hunched over computer screens. Unlike indigenous populations, we often sit in chairs for 8+ hours a day and we almost never squat or sit on the floor while working. Our core muscles are likely not as strong as they could be, leading to sagging bellies and sloping spines. Besides this, Americans are much more likely to be overweigh than indigenous populations, and this weight leads to stress and curvature of the spine.

How to Get Back to J

So how do we get back to that ideal J spine shape? Gokhale says there are a series of exercises and postures in her book that can help people reform their spines. These exercises aren’t unlike those found in yoga and pilates programs, but Gokhale says they are specifically targeted to restructure the spine. Core muscle strength, lifestyle choices, and weight are all factors in her program, but the benefits of having a healthy back are not to be understated, and the results (spine shape that you can see evolving over time) are less abstract than a diet or exercise program alone. Even those of us with no back trouble at all should shoot for the J spine—and prevention may prove to be critical as we age over time. Better to stave off pain entirely than to have to go through the work of rehabilitation.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

What Miniature Cows Mean for Your Homestead

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jersey cowI recently returned from a month-long trip to Iceland. While there, besides the amazing natural beauty and the wonderfully kind locals, I also noticed something interesting and unique about their livestock. In Iceland, there is only one dairy breed: the Icelandic cow. These cows are descended from Scandinavian ancestors and they are small and compact in stature with vivid, exotic coats (including brindle, stripes, and a vast array of colors–over 100 possible combinations!). Their small size, coupled with their ability to produce rich, copious milk, got me thinking about miniature dairy breeds and how they could be useful on smaller farms in the United States. Of course, getting a cow from Iceland might be a difficult prospect, but there are there are more than 25 breed categories recognized by the International Miniature Cattle Breeders in the states. Some of the most popular miniature cow breeds are:

  • Belted Galloway
  • Dexter
  • Jersey
  • Panda Cow
  • Hereford
  • Lowline angus
  • Texas Longhorn
  • Miniature Highland
  • Holstein

As well, this book goes over some of the benefits of miniatures of all types and how they can be beneficial to your homestead.

  • Space: Okay, so it’s abundantly clear that dairy cows are big, but let’s talk about the size difference between a mini and a traditional cow. Minis range in size at three years of age from 36″ in height to a maximum of 48″. This is one-half to one-third the size of normal cattle. A traditional dairy cow can weigh over 1300 pounds and stands close to 5 feet tall. A mini-Jersey breed, on the other hand, weighs about 400-500 pounds and is about 3 feet tall. A smaller cow means a smaller space commitment (for both housing and grazing) overall—suddenly, the idea of having a dairy cow becomes feasible even for people with small homesteads.
  • Feed Conversion: These petite cows need only half an acre for grazing and a third of a ton of feed per year (as opposed to full-sized counterparts who need more than a ton of feed per year), yet minis still produce 50-75% as much milk as the bigger cows. This makes the feed conversion rate outstanding and efficient for a smaller farm or homestead.
  • Safer for families: The sheer size of a typical dairy cow means many precautions need to be taken to handle the animals. Younger kids who might otherwise be intimidated by a regular-sized cow can help with the daily care/maintenance of a mini. Children should, of course, always be supervised around livestock, but a cow the size of a large dog is definitely a safer bet for those with families.
  • Gentle nature: It’s more than only size that makes mini cows so easy to handle and get along with—they are particularly docile and gentle. They do less damage to pastures/fences when they walk, and many owners compare them in nature to golden retrievers.

Initial cost may be the only downside to owning mini cows—they can be $1,000-$2,000 more than a traditional dairy cow; however, when you do the math, the investment into feed + dairy output + accommodations over time likely still make minis worth it for your family. Adding another layer of self-reliance to your homestead is always beneficial, as we never know what the future holds, and for those nervous about making the leap to “farmer,” the mini cow could be a great first step.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Are Bat Houses the Solution to Controlling the Spread of Zika?

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 Where I live in New York, aid against mosquitos is coming from an unlikely source: bats. This isn’t only because mosquitos are annoying–we now know these pests are spreading the Zika virus, along with West Nile, and who knows what additional blood-borne diseases may come to light in the future. But dousing large areas with pesticides is potentially damaging to humans and plant life, so the Long Island town of North Hempstead is turning to their local bat friends to help control the mosquitos.  By building bat houses that offer safety and shelter, Long Island residents are encouraging growth in bat populations while naturally limiting the spread of diseases.

Bats have gotten a bad rep, but of the nine species based in New York State, none of those are blood drinkers. Less than half of one percent of them have rabies and they are shy animals who avoid contact with humans whenever possible. Bats are more effective than even the most potent pesticide—a single bat can eat more than 1,000 mosquitos per hour, and many species hunt for 6-8 hours per day. North Hempstead has been building bat houses since 2007, but with West Nile and now Zika, they have redoubled their efforts recently.

Make Your Own Bat House

Learn about the bats of your region by doing some research. If bats live in your area, you can support your bat population by building or buying a simple bat house or bat box to offer shelter to these helpful creatures. This kit or this pre-built model will come in handy if you want something effortless. A bat house is simply a wooden box with an entrance mounted somewhere high up, away from predators. Bats like the dark, so you’ll want to stain both the inside and outside of the box. They like heat as well, so make sure your box is in direct sunlight for at least 8 hours of the day. Mounting on a building or a high pole is ideal, since bats tend to avoid trees (too many predators hang out in trees, there’s too much shade, and bent branches disrupt the bat’s flight patterns upon exiting). Make sure there is a nearby water source. You can attract bats to your property with bat scent.

An Outdoor Bat is a Happy Bat

Bats can get hurt or even killed if they end up indoors. Keep them from accidentally getting into your house by ensuring that window screens are not ripped or torn (some bats can fit through even a tiny tear in a screen) and that doors stay closed when not in use.

If a bat does get inside your house, don’t panic. Remember that they are gentle creatures that are afraid of humans.  Place a soft cloth in a shoebox and gently scoop the bat into the box (you might want to wear an oven mitt to avoid touching the bat with your bare hand—this protects you from bat germs and the bat from your germs as well). The bat will cling to the cloth and you can place then place it into the bat house (or at the base of the bat house if it is hung too high to reach) and the bat will crawl off and up into the house (bats can’t take flight directly from the ground but they are good climbers).

If you think your bat population is growing too rapidly, you can get in touch with the humane society in your area and they can help relocate some of the bats. You can also reach out to friends or family who may be dealing with mosquito issues and spread some bat love their direction!

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Identify Nature With These Cool Apps

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appIf you have an iPhone, chances are you’ve used a recognition app like Shazam if you’ve ever heard a song you liked and wanted to identify the artist. These recognition apps seem like magic, giving you a definitive answer in just seconds and providing a link to purchase the music you’ve just heard.

Once, while on a hike in the Hudson Valley with a friend, we joked that there should be a Shazam app for nature. At the time we were both living in NYC and we felt a big disconnect from the plants and animals we were seeing around us. Wouldn’t it be great, we thought, to have an app that would tell us which berries were dangerous and what kind of bird has a bright red chest? After doing a little research, it turns out that there are a few apps meant to do exactly this.

  • Bird Song ID is basically Shazam for birdsong. The app allows you to record birds’ singing and then a processor will let you know what species you’re listening to. Like Shazam, the clearer the recording, the better your chances are of getting a match. An added bonus is that don’t need an Internet connection to use this app, so it’s perfect for those remote hikes.
  • Merlin Bird ID is fast and simple to use while birdwatching. You’ll answer 5 quick questions to narrowdown a list of potential species. Millions of recorded observations help the app to make educated guesses.
  • Leafsnap allows you to take a photo of a leaf against a light-colored background and identify the plant or tree from which it came. The catalogue is extensive and it’s a free app—a downside is that you’ll need an Internet connection to use it.
  • IdentiPlant is an app for identifying flowers and plants. Like Leafsnap, this app works by using an image your snapped of the plant and cross-referencing it with a large database. There’s no need to take a photo against a light-colored background for this one, and the app provides extensive information about each plant.
  • Audubon’s Field Guide to North American Mammals can help you identify what animal just darted across your path. You’ll narrow down possibilities by size, shape, location, and habitat and you can even analyze the droppings or tracks the critter left behind.
  • For more advanced nature lovers, the What’s Invasive app lets people track invasive species they might encounter. A list of invasive plants or animals is provided by the National Park Service based on your GPS location. Look through the list before your hike and then keep your eyes open for species that threaten native plants and animals. Report what you see to do your part in keeping indigenous species safe. More advanced nature nerds will love this, plus, if you have small children, this app can give them something to watch out for and therefore hold their interest on longer trails. Also available for Android.

All of these apps are under $5 and most of them are free. Take advantage and download the ones that interest you before your next brush with nature!

 

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Packing for Family Vacations is a Breeze With These Organizng Tips

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 It’s that time of year again:  weekend trips, destination weddings, and family vacations are calling. Traveling with kids has a ton of challenges, but with these handy tips, packing their clothes won’t be one of them.

  • Use packable shelf stackers to keep kids’ clothing separated. I have boys who are all two sizes apart. This means it’s sometimes not easy to tell whose clothes belong to whom, and the last thing I want to do when I’m packing on vacation is spend time reading tags and having to sort through clothes. Simply pack these shelves with clothing, and when you arrive at your destination, just unpack and by hanging up the entire shelf. We color code with different colors for each kid and everything stays separate and organized.
  • Packing cubes work similarly, but they are also great for maximizing space. Once clothes are packed, excess air is release to get the most out of your suitcase space. These are also great for traveling with babies or young infants who have tiny, little clothing. Cubes keep everything together and color coordinated as well.
  • Roll with it. The world is full of roll devotees, those who say that folding is time consuming and ineffective. Rolling keeps clothes wrinkle free and it’s also easy to recognize each item at a glance. This technique might come in handy for a wedding, photo session, or event where your kids need to look wrinkle-free and put together.
  • Use Ziplock bags. Separate older kid’s outfits for each day (underwear, shirt, shorts, etc.) into a different gallon Ziplock bag. This may be a little labor-intensive on the home side, but it will make it easy for them to simply grab a bag and get themselves dressed once you’ve arrived at your destination. Pack PJs separately so they can get themselves ready for bed after their bath or showers. Again, this is probably best for smaller clothing—by the time your kids clothes are too big to fit into gallon bags, they should maybe be ready to pack their own clothes!
  • Skip whites. This tip might not exactly be a luggage hack, but you’ll thank me, I swear! Whenever possible, pack the darkest colors/patterns possible when traveling with children. White and light-colored clothing gets stained easily and having to trek to a bathroom to change on an airplane or stop on a car trip is never fun. This goes for fancy fabrics or complicated outfits too—save those for home. And parents should wear dark colors as well! The last thing anybody wants to do on vacation is arrived looking ragged.

What do you think? Have you tried any of these packing hacks? Do you have your own system for packing your family’s clothes for a trip? Share in the comments!

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Age Appropriate Chores for Young Children + Chore Chart

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   Getting your kids to clean up after themselves is possibly an on-going battle at your house (it is at mine, anyway). Even my naturally orderly older kid won’t always clean up without being asked first, and my younger child simply doesn’t understand the need for a chore like making the bed (“I’m just going to sleep in it again anyway!” he objects.) Most days I pick my battles, and more often than not I end up running after them like their own personal maid. This book makes a pretty convincing argument to stop with the cleaning business altogether (the author advocates for simply cutting down on clutter and toys in the home in general and says that we need to be doing less nagging and handholding and more enjoying our kids). After all, we want our children to grow up to be independent and self-reliant. To do so, we must begin teaching them about responsibilities at an early age. That said, I also want to instill in my children respect for their surroundings and get them ready for life on their own.

By the time their bedrooms become a disaster area I’m often confused about where to start. My sons claim they don’t know how to clean or that they are overwhelmed and need help. Do I clean with them? Stand over them and direct them? Let them figure it out? The following list of age-appropriate chores was very helpful for me to set the tone for my kids. I don’t want to be asking too much too soon, but I do want to show them that chores are a necessary part of life and to help the family unit stay organized. I also set up this chore chart that would help them stay focused.

chore chartLet me stress that all kids are different and have different attention spans. So, what is an easy chore for one at a certain age, may not be the case with other siblings. Keep a watchful eye out to ensure the kids are able to do the task appropriately. Kids chores are a great way to teach responsibility and help them see how much work goes into running a family. Those living the homestead life can have children help, as well.

Age 2-3

Individual chores

  • Pick up toys and put them in the toy box

Family chores

  • Dust (let’s be honest, you might have to do a but of a follow up after they’ve finished)
  • Put dirty laundry in the laundry basket
  • Fill a pet’s water and food dish (with supervision)

Homesteading chores

  • Gather eggs from chickens
  • Help pull weeds or harvest vegetables and fruits

 

Age 4-5

Individual chores

  • Get dressed on their own (to avoid zany clothing combinations I give my boys a few choices that all match well)
  • Make their bed
  • Put away shoes and backpacks after school

Family chores

  • Set the table
  • Clear the table (may require supervision with heavy plates)
  • Help prepare food
  • Help carry groceries
  • Sweep patios and walkways
  • Add laundry detergent to the washer and dryer sheets to the dryer
  • Match socks in the laundry
  • Be responsible for a pet’s food and water bowl
  • Hang up bathroom towels
  • Brush teeth with supervision

Homesteading chores

  • Gather eggs
  • Help plant seeds in pots or in the garden
  • Pick berries
  • Water garden
  • Help feed livestock
  • Milk goats with parental supervision

 

Age 6-7

Individual chores

  • Make their beds every day
  • Brush teeth
  • Comb hair
  • Choose the day’s outfit and get dressed without supervision
  • Write thank you notes

Family chores

  • Be responsible for a pet’s food, water and cleaning cages, cat’s litter box or walking the dog
  • Vacuuming
  • Put their laundry away
  • Make some of their own snacks (sandwiches, fruit bowls, etc.)
  • Unload the dishwasher

Homesteading chores

  • Help in garden (weeding, planting, watering, harvesting)
  • Feed livestock
  • Milk goats
  • Help clean out stalls and barns

Age 8-10

Individual chores

  • Take care of all personal hygiene
  • Keep bedroom clean
  • Wake up on their own using an alarm clock

Family chores

  • Clean the bathroom with supervision
  • Wash dishes/load dishwasher
  • Feed pets
  • Prepare a few easy meals on their own
  • Learn to use the washer and dryer on their own
  • Empty trash/take the trash can to the curb for pick up

Homesteading chores

  • Turn the compost
  • Help in garden
  • Feed livestock
  • Help clean out barns and change animal bedding

 

Age 11-13

Individual chores

  • Keep bedrooms tidy
  • Take care of personal hygiene, belongings and homework
  • Write invitations and thank you notes
  • Change bed linens and maintain clean towels in bathrooms

Family chores

  • Change light bulbs
  • Dust, vacuum, clean bathrooms and do dishes
  • Clean mirrors
  • Baby sit younger siblings (check age requirements in your state)
  • Prepare an occasional family meal (spaghetti or other simple dishes work best)

Homesteading chores

  • Feed and water livestock
  • Clean barn and stalls
  • Help load and unload hay and feed.
  • Make a more active role in garden
  • Assist and help younger siblings and direct them with chores that they have passed down.

Keeping these guidelines lets me know if I’m asking too much of my kids. It’s also helpful to see which areas I’ve been too lax on them! Good luck with your little helpers!

 

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

6 Natural Remedies for Sunburn That Aren’t Aloe Vera

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sunburnAs proactive as some of us are at trying to mitigate the harmful effects of the sun, sometimes those warm rays are just too much for our skin, and sunburns occur. While aloe vera is our first go-to product to start the healing process, there are a few other remedies to consider.

The best defense against sunburned skin is prevention—try to avoid being outdoors between the hours of 10am and 2pm, when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Make sure you wear at least an SPF 30 sunscreen and a large hat for shading your face. But when it’s too late and you come home looking like a lobster, there are some home remedies beyond aloe vera that you might want to try.

6 Natural Remedies for Sunburn

  1. Oatmeal: soaking in an oatmeal bath (whole oatmeal, not instant) can take the sting out of sunburned skin. Oatmeal has anti-inflammatory properties and is also a skin soother. Run a cool bath and add a couple handfuls of oats to the water. Soak for 30 minutes or until your skin feels cool to the touch. Pat yourself to dry off, making sure not to rub your skin too vigorously with your towel.
  1. Black Tea: soak a few teabags of black tea in a pitcher or bowl of warm water and then apply to your skin with gauze or a wash cloth. The tea will ease the itch of the sunburn and should provide immediate relief. Make sure to use a washcloth that you don’t care about and you might want to do this in the nude (black tea will stain your clothing).
  1. Witch Hazel: witch hazel provides an instant burst of cool to your skin and has been shown to prevent peeling and flaking while speeding up healing time. Simply saturate a few cotton balls with a 1:1 solution of witch hazel and water and apply to your sunburn.
  1. Yogurt: For sunburns on your face, the solution might be in your refrigerator. Applying yogurt to your skin like a facial mask for a few minutes can ease the sting and hydrate to prevent peeling. After a few minutes, rinse off with cool water.
  1. Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is another one that soothes and prevents blistering and peeling. Be sure to mix 1 part vinegar with 2 parts cold water because vinegar is highly acidic. Soak a washcloth or towel in the mixture and swab over your sunburn. There’s no need to rinse it off.
  1. Coconut oil: You’ve no doubt heard about the myriad uses of coconut oil—well, now you can add sunburn soother to the list! Coconut oil is tremendously moisturizing and when mixed with a few drops of essential peppermint oil, it will cool burned skin. Slather on as much as possible and continue to do so for several days after sun exposure. It will help heal and relieve discomfort.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Beauty Tip: Eat Fat for Fabulous Skin

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 Sometimes it’s not what you put on your body that makes the most difference, it’s what you put inside it. Fat has gotten a bad reputation, but it’s time to reconsider. Fats help keep your skin supple and soft, they ward off fine lines and wrinkles, and they give you a glow. Of course, you can’t just eat a box of Krispy Kremes and call it a day—when it comes to having great skin, not all fats are created equally.

All About Avocados

Avocados are high in omega-9 fats and they have a high oleic content. This type of monounsaturated fat maintains moisture in the epidermis and keeps skin hydrated and supple. Omega-9 supplements are even prescribed by dermatologists to help patients with irritation and dryness—but, if you can, it’s always better to eat your vitamins. This skin-moisturizing fat does you more good from the inside out (eating an avocado is more beneficial that moisturizing your skin with avocado oil) and eating an avocado every other day will help to keep your skin soft.

Fatty Fish

The omega-3 fats in oily fish like salmon are also very moisturizing. Omega-3 fats cause the body to produce anti-inflammatory compounds that help counter skin issues such as eczema and psoriasis. An added bonus is that oily fish also contain Vitamin E, a vitamin many of us are deficient in. Vitamin E protects the skin against free radicals.

Egg Yolks are no Joke

Egg, particularly the yolks, provide heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The monounsaturated fats help maintain the water level in the epidermis while the polyunsaturated fats supply ceramides (the building blocks of skin cells) which keep skin looking youthful. In addition, eggs provide biotin, Vitamin D, and Vitamin A—all essentials to having glowing skin.

Nuts for Nuts (and Coconuts)

Nuts and seeds, like eggs, are loaded with poly and monounsaturated fats that make skin supple and smooth. Coconuts contain saturated fats (solid at room temperature) which are full of lauric and capric acid—key ingredients for glowing skin.

You’ll note that all of the fats on this list come from whole, natural foods. Keep this in mind when searching for your fatty skin-fix: when you’re eating real food, you don’t have to feel bad about the fat!

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Back to Nature: 5 Tips for Getting Your Kids Outdoors

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 With so much time spent in front of screens, it’s no surprise that our attention spans are getting shorter, our sleep is getting fitful, and our anxiety is climbing. What’s worse, our children are suffering from obesity, they are losing valuable life/preparedness skills, and they are out of touch with the rhythms of nature.

We all know there is more to life than sitting inside. It is time to consider getting back to the very core of what family time is about – reconnecting with one another by doing activities together. Summer is the perfect time to disconnect from Netflixing and our computers and get outside. Author Richard Louv’s groundbreaking book Last Child in the Woods touches on all of the benefits that come from getting kids off of the couch and outside.

But how do you compete with electronics and entice a kid to spend time outdoors? Here are 5 tips to get your kids back to nature.

5 Tips for Getting Your Kids Outdoors

  • Plant a seed: If you already have a garden, this one is easy, but all you need is a little piece of dirt to get started. Simply allow your child to pick out a flower, fruit, or vegetable of their very own and plant it in a suitable location. Encourage children to do their own research about which plants will do the best in their region and at this time of year. Try not to intervene too much—put your child in charge of planting, watering, marking, and watching their seed sprout and grow. Kids will take pride in knowing that they’ve succeeded in growing something and checking on their plants every day will give them a reason to get outside.
  • Photograph wildlife: older kids who are obsessed with their iPhones can put those selfie skills to good use—give them photography assignments to capture the creatures that live in your neck of the woods. You can even make it a kind of photographic scavenger hunt by assigning certain points to certain animals (a Bigfoot sighting gets them 1000 points!)
  • Sleep outside: have kids take their bedtime routine to the great outdoors. Set up a tent, gather some flashlights, and maybe even pack some fun snacks. Younger kids will of course need mom or dad to stick around while older kids can feel a sense of pride for staying outside all night (obviously a fenced yard is preferable if you’re going to be letting them try this solo).
  • Build a fort or shelter: all it takes is a trip to the hardware store for some plywood and 2x4s (or get creative and recycle an old bookshelf or other piece of furniture) and a little imagination and your kids will have a secret lair or fairy fort. Let the littles create a blueprint and then watch them bring it to life. Younger kids will need help wielding tools but in a pinch even a cardboard structure can be a fun (and temporary) feature in your backyard.
  • Start a collection: a leaf, flower, or rock collection is a great way to encourage kids to forage in the yard. Press leaves and flowers between the pages of a book before pinning them in an album. Rocks can be painted or polished and featured in a shadow box or glass jar.

Remember that kids look to adults to learn how to regard the natural world. If they see you enjoying your coffee out on the porch swing or spending time decompressing on a walk around the neighborhood, they will look to nature as well.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Mix and Match: Using Essential Oils to Create Personalized Insect Repellent

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 If you’re one of the unlucky ones who get eaten alive by bugs during the summer months, you’ve probably spent a small fortune on stinky, chemical-laden insect repellents. A custom blended essential oil is a great way to save money, avoid harsh reactions to unknown ingredients or known allergens, and customize for the particular pests in your area.

Choosing your perfect potion

You may want to focus your insect repellent oil blend based upon your geographical region.

Mosquitos hate citronella, lemon, thyme, clove, eucalyptus, peppermint, catnip, basil, lemongrass, geranium, and lavender.

Grapefruit, juniper, rose geranium, thyme, and oregano are your best bets for repelling ticks.

Citronella, tea tree oil, lemongrass, lavender, orange and pine work best to deter fleas.

If you’re dealing with multiple bugs, feel free to choose an oil that works double duty. Go by what smells good to you and do a little trial and error to see which scents smell the best together and which seem to be the most effective.

Making your mixture

  • Once you’ve decided which oils to use, fill a clean 4 oz spray bottle with 2 ounces of boiled or distilled water.
  • Add an ounce of witch hazel or vodka (vodka has also been proven to be an effective insect repellent on its own)
  • Next use a dropper to add a total of 50 to 75 drops of any combination of the essential oils you’ve chosen.

This recipe will make a standard-strength mixture—simply add a few drop more or less to tweak until you get the strength you prefer. Even if you need a very strong formulation, be sure to keep the percentage of oils under 15% of the total volume for safety. Leave a little bit of room in the bottle so you can shake the mixture before every application (separation of oils is normal and to be expected—shake before every use for best results). Adding a little bit of jojoba or coconut oil can turn your bug spray into a skin moisturizer as well.

Keep a bottle in your diaper bag, your purse, out on your patio and/or in your car. If, for some reason, you forget to spray on your mixture or you already have bug bites, a drop or two of lavender or tea tree oil directly on the bite will relieve itching and speed up the healing process.

A few warnings about essential oils

Make sure your oils come from a reputable source and be aware about what products you’re already wearing on your skin, as some interactions can occur. It’s also always a good idea to test for skin sensitivity and allergic reactions before dousing yourself with any new oils. Children and pregnant or nursing women can have serious adverse reactions to certain oils so use caution. This natural bug spray is perfect for spritzing your dog around the collar, but avoid putting essential oils on your feline friends, as many of them can be poisonous to cats.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Summer Checklist for a Safe and Happy Home

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summer checklistSummer comes with a season-specific checklist for household safety. Take advantage of the longer days and a less intense schedule and go through these 6 tips to keep your household organized, safe, and de-cluttered in the summer months.

  1. Update emergency contact info in your preparedness manuals and for babysitters: Because most kids are out of school, summer brings more opportunities for having babysitters in your home. You probably already have a list of emergency contact information on your fridge (if not, this one is very handy) but summer is a great time to update relevant phone numbers and addresses, medical information, heights and weights for kids, any changes in doctors or medications, and anything else that might be helpful in an emergency. It’s easy to forget that this information is useless if it is not up-to-date. Be sure to write the home address on the list in the event that a babysitter might need to call for help.
  2. CPR Certification: Now is a great to get certified in CPR or to renew your certificate (certificates are typically valid for two years from date of issue). If you’re currently CPR certified, it may be good to take an online refresher course, just in case. See if older children in your household are willing and eligible to receive certification (check age requirements in your area). Even pre-teens can become valuable members of your home safety team.
  3. Sunscreen stockpile: Go through your sunscreen and check the expiration dates. Throw out anything that is expired or has cancer-causing chemicals as a main ingredient. Check contents to see if there has been any separation, change in consistency, or if the product has developed an unusual smell. If so, toss and replace. Make sure to inspect the sunscreens you carry around in beach or diaper bags as well.
  4. First Aid: While you’re going through your bathroom cabinet to check out sunscreens, now is a great time to make sure your first-aid kit is fully stocked and that you have all necessary components. In summer months, pay particular attention to skin issues that may arise. Make sure there is ample calamine lotion, and aloe vera in the event of a bug bite or rash from chafing or a poisonous plant. Remember that summer means grilling and fireworks and therefore there is more potential for burns. If you aren’t sure what to include in a first aid kit, this is a great one to get you started.
  5. Insure that the pool area is safe: Now is a crucial time to make sure that the doors, gates, or pool cover you use to keep children safe around your swimming pool or hot tub is in proper working order. Replace any locks or latches that may be old or defective and be sure that all pool chemicals are also stored properly and safely out of reach of young children. Even if you don’t have children or if yours are expert swimmers, always be aware that visiting family and friends need to be protected as well.
  6. Inspect outdoor play areas: If you have any playground or sport equipment (such as a basketball hoop) now is a great time to make sure everything is in working order. Check that all bolts and screws are tightened and make sure that no rust or other safety hazards developed over months of disuse. Check that there are no holes or cracks in the ground where children run. Also check for any insect infestations that may have occurred—my family learned this the hard way after yellow jackets built a nest under our sons’ playground slide!

This is a great time to attempt to see your household through the eyes of any guests you might host over the summer. You want this to be a time for fun and relaxation—it only takes a few steps to get greater peace of mind and to ensure that your family and friends are safe and protected in your home.

 

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Overcome Your Coffee Addiction With This Healthy Alternative

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  Yerba Mate (yer-bah mah-tay) is my new saving grace. I love coffee as much as the next person, but recently I noticed I was having trouble sleeping at night on the days I drank it. I was also getting the jitters after my second or third cup, even though I wasn’t feeling fully awake. I have small children, so the idea of giving up caffeine entirely is unfathomable, but tea never really gets me going and energy drinks (especially those with mythical creatures in their titles) make my heart race and my palms sweat.

What is Yerba Mate?

I first heard of Yerba Mate from a friend of mine who visited Paraguay, where everyone from university students to the elderly to children have been known to sip it (this is the brand she saw people drink the most often and is consequently what I now drink). Yerba Mate is made from the leaves of a South American holly tree that grows in the rainforest. It has approximately the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee (around 75 mg) but the way the body processes it is very different. While it has energizing properties, Yerba Mate doesn’t result in the same jittery quality caffeine sometimes does. People tend to drink it all day long, not only in the morning, and it’s been said to actually aid in sleep. In Central and South American cultures people often drink from traditional gourds, but I found a travel gourd that is super cute and works just as well (and you won’t get strange looks from your coworkers when you show up to work with a hollowed-out coconut). You suck Yerba Mate through a metal straw with a filter (called a bombilla) but you can also run it through a coffee machine or use a tea ball or French press and get basically the same effects.

Energy without the Jitters

As soon as I switched from coffee to Yerba Mate I noticed an immediate difference in my ability to concentrate. Besides that, I didn’t have the anxiety I sometimes get from coffee. I’m not going to lie, the taste is very different—closer to a very strong, almost oaky, black tea—but I drink coffee for the pick-me-up, not the flavor. On the first day that I switched, I opened a very long, tedious document I was to copyedit. It usually takes me well into my second cup of coffee to get into the flow with this type of work, but before I had finished one gourd of Mate, I was in the zone. I drank two gourds full over 4 hours and easily completed my assignment. I didn’t drink any more Mate that day because I didn’t need it.

Sweet Dreams

I’ve never been the type to drink coffee after noon, but even still, I was finding it difficult to turn off my brain at night to sleep. Once I switched to Yerba Mate I had no problems sleeping—in fact, these days I’m often able to sleep when my baby takes his nap—something I always try to do but find difficult. In addition, I’ve begun having vivid, cinematic dreams, both during naps and at night. I’m also able to remember these dreams after I wake up, which is unusual for me.

Other Benefits

Besides simply being a great, energizing drink, Yerba Mate contains several antioxidants, 24 vitamins and minerals, and 15 amino acids. Because it is lower in tannins, it is not as acidic as coffee, so people with stomach issues might find it easier to tolerate.

It’s been about 6 weeks and I’m still extremely happy with my switch to Yerba Mate. I still drink the occasional cup of coffee just for the ritual of it—plus I like to work in coffee shops and I have to buy something to “rent” my table—but these days I choose decaf instead of regular.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Cleaning Hack: 9 Surprising Items You Can Clean Using a Dishwasher

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legosIf you have a dishwasher and kids, chances are you don’t take that bad boy for granted. We do at least one load of dishes at our house every day, sometimes as many as three. I love that washing dishes in an efficient dishwasher is much more eco-friendly than hand washing, and green detergents like this and this mean I can have sparkling dishes without worrying about synthetic fragrances, phthalates, dyes, and chlorine bleach coming into my household. You can also make your own dish detergent using these ingredients.

But what you may not be aware of are the many things that aren’t dishes that you can wash in your dishwasher. Having kids means dealing with sticky messes and germy fingers—it’s great to be able to throw these things into the dishwasher and forget about them while they are sterilizing. Here’s a list of non-traditional things you can clean in your washer to get the most out of your appliance:

  1. Legos or other hard plastic toys: we have a zillion Lego pieces and they are constantly getting dropped on the floor, sneezed on, or worse. Put Legos or other hard plastic toys on the top rack of the dishwasher in a delicates laundry bag.
  2. Nail clippers/tweezers: I don’t even want to know what that black stuff is under our kids’ fingernails, but I’m certain it contaminates our nail clippers every time we use them. Tweezers come in handy to pull out splinters or the odd small toy lodged in a child’s nose (I wish I was kidding!). This means both of these tools are pretty gross, so I try to remember to throw them into the utensil basket whenever there’s room.
  3. Hair brushes/combs: Placing brushes/combs on the top rack keeps them clean and also potentially prevents the spread of lice. My kids aren’t always the greatest at washing the soap out of their hair and this also ensures that buildup doesn’t coat the bristles.
  4. Hair ties: Same idea as #3. I also run barrettes and sweat bands through the dishwasher.
  5. Toothbrushes: pediatricians recommend replacing tooth brushes every two months, but if the bristles are still in good shape, you can simply throw toothbrushes in with the silverware.
  6. Light switch covers: I hope I’m not the only one with grimy black handprints on my light switch covers. This one doesn’t need to be done that often, but every three months or so I do a deep clean and take off all covers and even some particularly dirty door pulls/hardware get a bath too.
  7. Mouth guards: If your kids play sports that require mouth guards, you definitely want to be sterilizing those after every use to prevent the spread of illness. Instead of scouring them by hand, toss them onto the top shelf.
  8. Keys: This one doesn’t seem to be kid related, but anybody with a teething baby has probably had to fish their car or house keys out of their child’s mouth. Metal keys, key ring and all, can be thrown into the utensil basket and thoroughly sterilized. This is particularly appealing when you think about all of the germs that we pick up carrying our key around with us every day.
  9. Cell phone cover/case: Again, this might not seem to pertain to kids, but we use our cell phones to entertain our boys in restaurants, while we wait in line, or even to Face Time with their grandparents. A recent study showed that one in six cell phones is contaminated with fecal matter and, let’s face it, in homes with small children that number may be much higher! If your case is rubber or hard plastic, simply place it on the top shelf of the dishwasher.

The possibilities are endless—just make sure you’re using the top rack if you’re concerned about something melting and never wash bronze or other heat-sensitive, rust-prone metals in the dishwasher. If you wash something really disgusting—say a pair of plastic shoes or a potty seat—you can always run an empty load if you’re worried about putting dishes into the washer immediately afterward.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

3 Tips to Plan Your Summer and Save Your Sanity

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plan your summer and save your sanity
It’s that time of year that kids love and parents fear: summer vacation! Study after study has shown that kids need unstructured playtime (be that outside exploring or playing with imaginative toys like these). In my household we take a break from extracurricular classes and sports during the summer months and we find ways to make our own fun (for as little money as possible).

Self-guided play guarantees that kids are resilient, resourceful, and never, ever bored, but how can you let your kids play freely without finding them still in PJs, eating cereal and watching TV at 5pm? A little planning on the parent-side of things will keep your days running smooth all summer long.

Full disclosure: Much of this article is inspired by the book and concept of TinkerLab—I highly recommend this resource for parents/caregivers.**

Make a Schedule

Budgeting time is like budgeting money—if you don’t do it, you’ll wind up feeling like you’ve wasted the day without anything to show for it. Creating a schedule you can post somewhere in your home (we have a “base station” where we keep our calendar and other important information) sets the tone for the day. This isn’t meant to be strictly adhered to; instead, this schedule sets intentions for the day. We try to keep our bigger activities to two per day—one in the morning and in the afternoon.

A sample schedule might look something like this:

Start of day-10am Wake up, breakfast, get dressed

Hint: Getting dressed soon after wake up is super important for setting the tone to a fun, productive day.

10-11 Outdoor activity (free play, Summer Mural, etc.)

In the case of the Summer Mural Activity, kids gather outdoor materials (shells, sand, leaves, feathers, etc.) from the backyard to add to a seasonal mural that they work on slowly over many days, but you can plan any type of outdoor activity. The point is to get them in the fresh air and guide them into their own play.

Hint: having kids collect particular things gives them a goal and will keep them busy and outside longer. They might also be given a directive to look for a specific plant or animal/insect to observe.

11-12 Self-guided Crafting Time

In this example the main activity would be to add collected materials to the summer mural with glue, but I also make sure to have lots of paper/crayons/paints set up to entice a variety of independent crafts.

Hint: We buy butcher paper and spread it over our dining table every morning to keep cleanup easier. I make sure to provide crafts that avoid glitter, beads or other tiny, messy items that require a ton of clean up.

12-1 Lunch followed by quiet time (reading or resting)

Hint: I continue to pack/plan lunches for my kids the night before, even when they’re out of school. It’s so much easier to just hand them their lunch bags instead of planning/preparing in the moment and we can always bring our lunches with us if we decide to stay outside.

1-2 Self-directed playroom time (board games, blocks, toy of choice.)

Hint: set up a few stations at the dining room table to entice kids who have trouble getting started with self-guided play.

2-4:00 Field trip! (rotates between several activities: library, swimming, park, movie in a theatre, farmer’s market, library, museum, etc.

Hint: We try to only pay for 1-2 activities per week—the rest are free in our community.

4:00-5:30 Quiet time reading/resting/TV/helping while I make dinner

Hint: use crockpot recipes while kids are doing their “wake up” routine to have dinner cooking as you’re enjoying your day. I try to cook enough so that I’m heating leftovers every other night. We also stick to simple salads with chicken or salmon to make prep easier.

Hint: I’m not opposed, nor do I feel guilty about letting my kids watch a little bit of television at the end of a fun, active day. I think downtime is great and my kids tend to get cranky/whiney in the early evening, so I like to keep them absorbed in something (be it in a book, TV, or helping me make dinner). Do what’s best for your family!

5:30-End of Day Dinner, bath, story, bedtime

Again, this schedule isn’t meant to be confining—you might discover that your kids don’t have the attention span to craft for an hour, or you might find that they’re content to stay outside running around all day. The point is to have a plan you can refer to if necessary.

Stock up on Supplies

 In order to keep the summer machine running smoothly, you need to plan it out well in advance. Have an idea of dates for local day camps, kid’s day at the movies, activities at local restaurants where kids eat free, etc. As well, stock up on crafting supplies, books, games and toys. I like to use trips to the craft store as one of the field trips we take in the afternoons. I let the kids pick out an assortment of things they want to try working with. Try to purchase crafting items that are open-ended and multi-use so you can get the most bang for your buck.

Keep the activities age appropriate. If your kiddos like to walk, take them on a small hike, but make sure the hike isn’t too much for them. Pay attention their cues of when they are tired and ready for a break.

The Mother of Invention

I try to make the things that can sometimes be a parental drag (grocery shopping, cooking, doing laundry) into activities for the kids. Organizing a trip to the farmer’s market for a field trip serves as an activity as well as a necessary errand. Washing the car can be lots of fun and even emptying the dishwasher can be turned into something exciting for little kids.

I want to be clear that I’m not a hyper-organized, helicopter mother by any means. I plan my days out to ensure that my kids have fun but also to make things as easy as possible for me. I think independence is crucial and I also want my kids to see me enjoying my summer right alongside them (whether I’m engaged with them or just reading a book or sipping my coffee while they do their activities). Once the kids are off and running on their own play or crafts, take that time to relax a little and have your own fun.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

You’ll Go Bananas Over This Natural Sleep Remedy!

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SLEEPWe live in a world of constant stimulation: light from laptops and iPhones, noise pollution, and the stress of being so very connected all of the time. As well, insomnia could be caused by environmental influences. Luckily, there are lots of natural remedies, and if you are anything like myself, you have tried all of them. I’ve had success with melatonin, chamomile tea, valerian root, and even just a cup of nice, warm milk. But I’m always happy to add to my sleep remedy arsenal, so when I read about a banana and cinnamon tea meant to help you sleep, it sounded right up my alley.

Making the Natural Sleep-Aid is a Breeze

teaBananas are rich in magnesium and potassium, both components known to aid in sleep, so the science checks out. But was it possible that something so common in a household could be the cure for insomnia? I decided to find out.

The recipe is simple enough. You’ll need:

  1. 1 organic banana with the peel still on
  2. 1 small pot of boiling water
  3. a little dash of cinnamon

The first thing you do is cut off both ends of the banana. Next, put the banana into a pot of boiling water. Boil for 10 minutes to allow the magnesium and potassium to leech into the water. Finally, sprinkle some cinnamon into the water and let it simmer for two additional minutes. Use a slotted spoon to fish the banana out of the water or pour the water through a coffee filter or tea strainer and into a mug. If you’d like to add some sugar or honey, that’s fine too, though remember that sweeteners can spike your blood-sugar levels before bed.

What to Expect When Drinking Banana Tea

On the night I tried the banana tea, I was surprised at how easy it was to make it. It tasted a little bit bitter, but not at all unpleasant. Almost immediately after drinking the tea, I started to feel drowsy. I’m not sure if that was actually the tea at work or if I was just particularly tired, but I slept very soundly. I woke up around 3 AM, which is normal for me, but I was able to go back to sleep rather quickly. When I woke up in the morning, I felt very well rested.

Sometimes with sleep aids like melatonin or Tylenol PM I wake up feeling a little groggy, but that wasn’t the case this time. I think I’ll need to do a few more experiments to see if the banana tea truly works, though I have to say I’m very impressed so far. Since most people have bananas and cinnamon and their homes already, it’s a pretty low-risk option to try. And even the most challenged chefs among us know how to boil water.

Why not give it a chance? Worst-case you’ll get a little dose of potassium and magnesium and you’ll use up some of those old bananas!

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Contemplating the Kombucha Craze

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 I’ve started to notice a new beverage being offered on tap in bars and restaurants where I live in NYC. My husband, who travels to Portland, Oregon regularly for work, has noticed the same thing:  kombucha, a tea made from bacteria and yeast cultures, is now being sold alongside micro-brews and house-fermented liquors all over the country.

What is kombucha?

While kombucha has been used for centuries in Asian countries, it has only been flowing into mainstream American culture for about the last 10 years or so. In fact, it is such a popular health craze, you can buy your own starter kit and make your own versions and flavors.

Made by adding cultures of bacteria and yeast to a mixture of tea, sugar, and sometimes fruit juices, kombucha is often called a “mushroom-tea” because of the large mushroom cap that emerges during the fermentation process. Kombucha is slightly carbonated, with a mildly tart flavor. It’s very acidic and contains B vitamins, antioxidants, and sugar. A bit of sediment at the bottom of your glass is normal, as these are the beneficial bits of bacteria in the mix. It contains about 30 calories per serving, is typically served cold, and is extremely refreshing.

Can you catch a buzz?

Don’t let the fact that kombucha is now being sold in bars fool you:  there is typically very little alcohol content (usually less that 0.5 percent) that occurs during the fermentation process. Some home brewers have been known to ramp up the alcohol until it approaches that of a very weak beer, but check with your bartender or brewer to determine the exact percentage of alcohol content in the kombucha being offered.  It’s potentially a great drink for the designated driver or others who are abstaining.

Is it a miracle elixir?

Kombucha has been hailed as a miracle drink. It’s been rumored to aid in digestion, elevate the immune system, and some fans even believe it prevents cancer and cures arthritis. There have been very few studies regarding the conclusive benefits of drinking kombucha, although proponents of the drink swear they reap benefits. As with any holistic health trend, it’s probably best to exercise prudence and not expect a health overhaul. Kombucha is certainly a great alternative to sugary soda, and the fact that it’s sold in bars now means another, much healthier, offering for teetotalers.

As with all things alterna-health, it’s best not to overdo it:  the Mayo clinic has shown side effects including upset stomach and allergic reactions in those who consume very large quantities. A bigger concern is that kombucha tea is sometimes brewed in homes under nonsterile conditions, making contamination and infection an issue. Be very wary of any brewing process that involves ceramic pots—because kombucha is highly acidic, the acids in the tea can potentially leach lead and other contaminants from the ceramic glaze. If a bar is serving kombucha on tap, they will be able to fill you in on the entire in-house process so you can ensure you are drinking a high-quality, delicious tea.

Bottoms up!

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition