Wednesday, October 29, 2014

EASY 15 Minute Halloween Popcorn Balls

Halloween Popcorn Balls
  • 3 Tbsp melted butter
  • 10 oz package mini marshmallows
  • 10 cups air popped popcorn
  • 1/2-3/4 cup candy corn, cut into smaller pieces 

Let air popped popcorn cool five minutes. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and mini marshmallows. Spray large non-stick baking bowl and spatula with cooking spray to prevent sticking. Pour melted marshmallows into bowl and fold in popcorn. With wet hands, form popcorn balls and place on waxed paper. Press candy corn pieces into popcorn balls, and enjoy a tasty Halloween treat! 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

DIY Relaxation: 18 Ways to De-Stress

Guest Post By

Stress is often seen as a negative effect on the body, but it is very essential to life. It is the “fight or flight” system that is naturally part of our survival system. Stress is bad when it overwhelmingly impacts our health equilibrium. Everyone deals with stress in one way or another. It is associated with higher levels of cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Accumulated unmanaged stress can lead to major physical and psychological illness, including depression, overeating, excessive sleep, and irritability. While it is impossible to avoid stress completely, it is possible to manage your stress. Here are a few ways:

1. Get a massage. 
Massage has been shown to be effective in reducing mental and physical stress. In one study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, massage helped lessen stress and pain in patients who have chronic pain. Another study in the Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing suggested that 15 minute massages helped reduce the psychological stress of their test subjects. Massage lowers the level of cortisol and increases the levels of serotonin and dopamine.

2. Go for a walk. 
Going for a walk can clear your mind and keep your body healthy. Walking helps increase your endorphins which can give you a euphoric feeling and it reduces the levels of cortisol. It will give you a boost of energy while reducing your fatigue. On top of that, simply being outside also helps reduce stress and helps increase memory and attention span.

3. Stress relief with a pet. 
Studies have shown that pet therapy helps reduce anxiety and stress for many people. One study showed that it helped students during exam times. Another study showed that patients experienced a 37% deduction in anxiety if they spend time with animals before their medical operations. Having an animal around distracts them from their worries. Pets lower blood pressure and cortisol. While dogs and cats are usually the choice of pet for stress relief, other animals can also help. Watching fish in an aquarium has also been shown to reduce your blood pressure.

4. Drink tea. 
Green tea lowers your blood pressure and is full of antioxidants that is beneficial for your health. In one study, black tea helped lower cortisol and reduced stress after six weeks verses subjects who were drinking placebo drinks.

5. Get proper sleep. 
A study in children showed that disruptive sleep shows a higher level of cortisol. By having a restful and high quality sleep and occasional naps, one’s cortisol levels will decrease. Another study tested on healthy young men has shown that taking a nap throughout the day will lower one’s cortisol levels.

6. Work out. 
Hit the gym or go for a run. This allows your body and mind to focus on something that is healthy for your well-being. While it distracts you from the cause of your stress, it also increases your endorphins and decreases your levels of cortisol. Endorphins are the natural “feel good” hormone that are released when you exercise. The more aerobic your workout is, the more endorphins your body release.

7. Breathe deeply. 
By taking deep, slow breaths, your blood pressure and heart rate also slow down, which counteracts the effects of stress. This allows you to relax and clear your mind and is largely used in meditation. Deep breathing has been shown to reduce anxiety and help folks with depression.

8. Use guided visualizations. 
This is a technique that many people use to relax, control their stress, and help them achieve their goals. One study shows that subjects reported less perceived and dyadic stress after using this stress managing tool. Guided visualization allows people to imagine and consciously think about certain issues and helps people get in touch with their intuition. This usually leads to rejuvenation and has helped many attain a higher self-esteem.

9. Enjoy aromatherapy. 
Certain plant oils have been found to relieve nervous tension or anxiety. The scents of certain plants, such as lavender, can ease our stress and relax us. These scents can create a mood for us, and some may even bring us memories or thoughts associated with the smell. Aromatherapy is often used with massages, meditations, and hot baths. It is a wonderful calming experience for those who have tried it.

10. Turn your phone off. 
Your smart phone allows you to access the rest of the world. According to one study, work-related emails through smart phone causes higher stress in people. By silencing or turning off your phone, you shut out the external stress, and this allows you to focus on yourself and your immediate surroundings. Escaping technology can be a very relaxing experience that everyone should try, whether it is on a certain day of the week or during vacation.

11. Meditate. 
Meditation has been used for thousands of years to help with mindfulness and has sometimes been used as part of religious purposes. It is an inexpensive technique used to release stress and allows you to clear your mind. Pairing it up with breathing exercises can further lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Meditation can help you find tranquility and clarify your thoughts.

12. Take a hot bath. 
A hot bath can help relieve the tension on your muscles, lessen the pain on your body, and provide a comfortable environment that surrounds your body. It also promotes blood circulation and calms the nervous system. Water can be infused with minerals and other products such as Dead Sea salt or oil for an aroma and a soothing feeling.

13. Practice Yoga. 
Yoga is an excellent weight and stress management tool. It helps your balance, flexibility, and strengthens your core. Studies have shown that yoga reduces anxiety and stress. While yoga should not completely replace pharmacological medication to help with anxiety and stress, it is highly recommended to supplement medicine with yoga. Yoga originated in India and has been around for more than 5,000 years. It also helps with bronchitis, chronic pain, and some symptoms of menopause.

14. Listen to music. 
Certain music gets people in better moods or thoughts. A study has shown that patients in post surgery who listened to music had lower stress levels than those who did not listen to music. Another study also shows that people from different cultural backgrounds preferred different types of music for pain and stress relief. While everyone’s preference is different, find music that is soothing or uplifting for you.

15. Laugh more. 
Going to a comedy show or watching a funny movie will help manage your stress. One study showed that there are lower levels of the salivary endocrinological stress marker chromogranin A (CgA) in those who watched a humorous movie. Along with less stress, these subjects also reported a feeling of being uplifted and fulfilled.

16. Try a craft. 
Finding a hobby and keeping your hands busy will distract your mind from stressors. Studies have shown that doing a craft enhances relaxation, especially for children and seniors. It is used quite often as a therapeutic healing method. Crafting is helpful because it allows you to express yourself in an artistic way.

17. Write down your thoughts. 
Keeping a journal or diary of your thoughts and activities allows you to express yourself and your feelings. Journaling helps you to understand your feeling, organize your thoughts, and reflect on your choices. Your journal is also a place for you to let your emotions out that you would not let out otherwise. One of the best part of journaling is that you can write down your negative emotions so that you move on with the positive emotions.

18. Avoid caffeine. 
Try to avoid coffee, energy drinks, and other drinks that are heavy in caffeine. Caffeine increases catecholamines and cortisol, which are both stress hormones, while increasing dopamine for a quick “feel good” response that will wear off quickly and make you feel low. Try substituting coffee with green tea instead.

While stress is needed for survival, it is important to manage your stress. If left unmanaged, it can build up and cause psychological and physical harm. Stress works differently for everyone; therefore, how one manages his or his stress may not necessarily work as well for another. It is good to explore different paths to handle your stress.

About LabDoor
LabDoor is a web and mobile app that provides product safety grading for dietary supplements. LabDoor lets customers easily browse rankings of best-selling supplements and energy drinks, including brands like GNC, Centrum, Muscle Milk, Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy, Optimum, and Shakeology. LabDoor helps people get the facts about the purity and efficacy of your multivitamins, fish oil, probiotics, vitamin D, and protein supplements. To learn more about how LabDoor works, click here.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Less Spooky Alternatives for Halloween

With news reports of contaminated candy, neighborhood safety issues, and dietary concerns varying from child to child, Halloween is becoming more problematic these days. Health-conscious single parents do not want their kids to have access to an endless supply of candy. Besides, any elementary school teacher will attest to the alarming number of sore throat cases that occur the week after Halloween due to excessive sugar consumption breaking down little immune systems across America. Furthermore, many negative connotations are associated with Halloween, and other single parents simply do not want to teach their children to celebrate evil or glorify death. Finally, most neighborhoods are going dark these days due to fewer trick-or-treaters coming around each year, so why waste money on candy and time waiting around for the doorbell to ring? Why not try a less spooky alternative?

Organize a block party. Keep it simple and plan the block party potluck style where participating neighbors can bring fall treats like popcorn balls (see recipe below), apple butter, or pumpkin bread. The little ones can bob for apples, play pin the spider on the ghost, and make caramel apples. Of course, the party would not be complete without a costume contest to inspire a little neighborly competition and comradery at the same time. Another benefit of the get-together is getting to know the neighbors and establishing a support system so essential for single parents.

Volunteer at a church harvest party or trunk-or-treat. For single parents of teenage kids who already have plans with their friends, Halloween is a great opportunity to help out the community and potentially meet new people. Don a favorite costume and help pass out candy at a harvest party, direct traffic in the parking lot, or run a game booth. Younger children can partake of the trunk-or-treat celebration and older children can volunteer along with parents.

Visit a local pumpkin patch. Going to see a community pumpkin patch and snapping pictures of the little ones in costume is a fun activity that creates lasting memories for the family. Many pumpkin patches now provide rides, games, and entertainment for everyone. Another benefit is taking home a giant pumpkin to carve with the kids.

We discovered that the larger apples are at the top of the tree!

My daughter with
the apple picker 
Plan a family outing that celebrates the autumn season. Enjoy a true autumn treat by spending the day in the countryside before the apple season ends. Relish in a myriad of activities like apple picking, making apple cider, and creating fall crafts. Top off the day with a slice of homemade apple pie, sure to delight both parents and children. If that is not enough satisfaction for the sweet tooth, come home and make Halloween popcorn balls with the kids!!! (Stay tuned for the recipe) 
A beautiful day in the country

Linking to: Pink SaturdayWeekend Retreat Blog Party

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Little Something to Make You Hungry for Breakfast ...

This semester I offered to bring breakfast for my sweet friend and co-worker every Friday morning since she is pregnant with her fourth child and also teaching a Thursday night class. I knew she would be more tired than usual on Friday mornings, so I thought I could help out a little. We've had some scrumptious breakfasts the past few weeks, but my favorite was the Spinach and Canadian Bacon Quiche. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who like it because I purposely hid a big piece in our office fridge to eat the next day prior to teaching my Saturday class, but to my shock, all that was left was my round baking dish! I took it as a complement.

Spinach and Canadian Bacon Quiche 

  • one unbaked pie shell
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms
  • 1 chopped green onion
  • 6 slices diced Canadian Bacon  
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place pie shell into round baking dish and allow to thaw a little if frozen.
  3. Beat the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper together. 
  4. Place spinach, mushroom, and Canadian bacon into the pie shell and top with the cheese.
  5. Pour milk and egg mixture into the pie shell, evenly covering the other ingredients. 
  6. Bake for 45-55 minutes, covering the crust with foil to avoid burning the edges. (Note: I ripped off the top crust edge prior to baking since it usually burns, and I am following a low-carb diet, so I do not eat the crust). 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Thrifty Chicks Take on the Rose Bowl Flea Market

My philosophy on budgeting is basically that one can be as frugal as possible while also living in a cute home and dressing with style. Even struggling college students, moms who stay at home and help stretch out their husband's income, and single moms who carry their financial responsibilities alone have NO EXCUSES not to decorate their homes and wear flattering clothes. Why? Because with a little creativity, you can fix up your home and makeover your personal style on a tight budget if you take the time to be smart about shopping. That means frequenting thrift stores, vintage shops, flea markets, and discount stores for frugal finds.

Any opportunity to discover a thrifty deal gives me a little thrill. When two of my co-workers told me about their side businesses of selling vintage items at flea markets on the weekends, of course I got inspired to check out the creme-de-la-creme of all flea markets, the larger than life Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena. My mom, the queen of thrift, took the adventure with me. Despite the heat, we toured about 75% of the market, came across my co-worker's delightfully shabby chic booth (where I bought a vintage handkerchief), and scored some deals (like a 1970's dress) among the rows of clothing booths. You never know what you might find. Sometimes you don't even need to try very hard because the deals find you.

My vintage hanky, only $4
My 1970's dress, only $10
Shabby Chic . . . I love it!!!
Vintage bottle and jars
Look, a daisy and cherry dress that I would totally wear!
The Rose Bowl Flea Market is held on the 2nd Sunday each month in Pasadena.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Protecting Kids from the Internet

Kids and the internet. What was once a novelty is now commonplace, and there are some serious issues that need to be addressed.  Not only are there many sites that kids should not be accessing, there are also many unsavory people waiting for the opportunity to exploit them. 
Here is a list of ways you can protect your children without shielding them. The reason I believe shielding is not an effective approach is because it rarely works. For example, there are many parents that just completely block internet access at home, but when a child goes to a friend’s house, a whole new world is opened. It is usually a much better idea to educate your child and properly introduce him or her to safe internet use. Of course, this is not an exclusive list, and I welcome comments and other ideas.
 1)      Know which devices have internet access. We all know about the computer, iPad and smart phones, but how about the TV? Some of the newer electronic games have internet access also.
 2)      Make sure that all computers are located and used in a centralized location--no corners or bedrooms!
 3)      Establish time limits for how long the child is allowed online per day.
 4)      Make joint surfing times. Go online together and practice internet safety.
 5)      Talk to your kids. Explain that it’s like driving. You might be a careful driver, but you need to watch out for others.
6)      Install internet protection and/or supervision for younger kids.
7)      Do a little background work before letting your kids go to a friend’s house. Is there parental supervision when the kids go online?  You do not need to be obsessive; just do a little homework first. 
 8)      Keep an eye out for recently deleted history or weird pop ups.
 9)      Make sure your kids understand that people might not be who they say they are, and they are not to share information, or even chat, with strangers.
 10)   Educate your kids about hyperlinks and the dangers they pose. Disable them if possible.

Guest Post By: Aaron Ross/Internet Security Expert & CEO of RossBackup

About the Author: 

Aaron decided to create a backup program that would be simple, fast, and inexpensive.  A few investors joined in, and RossBackup was born. After working with a few different developers,  Aaron  was ready to launch in BETA at the end of 2012. As the years have passed and the company has grown tremendously, Aaron has stayed very involved in the day-to-day operations. He loves taking support calls, and still believes that the customer is always right.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Why I Broke up with Facebook

Tired of checking my phone umpteen times per day to see who’s doing what, going where, and with whom (and why does she always get more likes than me?), I took a rather bold step and deleted the all too familiar AND time consuming Facebook app from my phone.

Truth be told, Facebook was like an addition. It temporarily brought me up when I got likes or comments, but then left me down in the dumps when no one noticed my blog posts. Yep, my self-esteem actually suffered because I know I will never have as many friends or likes as so-and-so and—let’s face it—I’ll never be popular. Never have been, never will be. I just turned forty, and I’ll be damned if I waste the next forty years trying so hard to get you to like me. Besides, I’d rather not resurrect my high school feelings of angst and insecurity that come with the constant obsession of comparing of myself to others via Facebook on a daily basis. Down with that.

Besides, is it so wrong to have a little privacy? Does everyone need to know where I checked in today, what I ate for dinner, who was with me, what I was wearing, what I was thinking at any given moment of the day? Must I do selfies for a little attention these days? Can I have a real face-to-face relationship with you, or must I resign myself to checking your Facebook status to know what’s new in your life? Is it a sin to want to meet the old-fashioned way, in person over coffee, to catch up rather than chat on Facebook?

I may never know. But I do know this. In the last month or so since I deleted the app, officially broke up with Facebook, and carried on with life thinking less about likes and more about what I like, less about the number of my Facebook friends and more about who my real friend are, less about checking statuses and more about having a contented state-of-mind, my self-esteem found its way back.

The deed is done. I raised the white flag. I surrendered and left Facebook to the popular people of this world. 


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