Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Say Bye-Bye to Work Blues

Stress levels at work lately have been skyrocketing all around—and at least for me, stress comes with work blues. By the time Friday hits, I’m ready to run out and never return, and when bedtime arrives on Sunday, I’m never quite ready to finish up the weekend.

happy, relaxed, sunshine
This is how I want to feel ALL the time: happy, relaxed, content.
Image: Shutterstock
Don’t get me wrong—I like my job quite a bit. I am constantly learning and there is always something to do. I work with some really awesome people, and I’m happier in this career than I have ever been before. But some mornings, I wake up and wish I could just roll over and forget about work.

Unfortunately, work’s not going to go away—and that means I’ve got to come up with a way to deal with these dang work blues when they come around. I don’t have a perfect solution to workweek blues, but I do have a few suggestions that have helped me in the past:

Resisting the urge to stay up late on Sunday night. As much as I want to get a few more hours of weekend in, it’s usually not a good idea to stay up late and not get enough sleep for Monday. My ideal sleep time is 9 hours, so getting only 6 is a recipe for disaster. Try getting at least 7 hours of sleep on work nights—you’ll be surprised at how much it helps!

Cutting down on binge TV-watching and video games. Don’t get me wrong, I’d LOVE to sit down and watch four episodes of House of Cards in a row, but honestly it’s not worth it. Whenever I use up my entire evening playing video games or watching TV, the time slips by too quickly and I often end up staying up too late. I limit myself to one hour per night.

Make plans during the week. This one is hard for me. The last thing I want to do during the week is add more to my plate, but it really does help give me something to look forward to. It can be a solitary activity (like going to exercise classes or club meetings) or it can be dinner with friends—you choose.

Slow down. As much as I want to get to work, get done, and come home as early as possible, those mornings when I rush myself out of the house and don’t let myself enjoy a good lunch are the worst. Allow yourself even a 15 minute lunch break—away from your workstation—and you’ll be rewarded with less stress and a refreshed mind and body.

What do you do to kick work blues to the curb? I’d love to hear some of your suggestions, tips, and tricks!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spring Clean the Homemade Way – 5 Recipes for DIY Cleaning Supplies

lemon homemade cleaner
Use lemon essential oil and other natural ingredients to make nontoxic, homemade household cleaners.
Image: Shutterstock
It’s time for a little spring cleaning—the nontoxic way. Have you ever noticed how cleaning with many store-bought products can leave the entire house smelling chemically? I accepted this for a long time as “just the way it is,” but as I’ve gotten a little older, I’ve also gotten a little wiser.

That nasty chemical smell smells bad because, well, it’s bad for you! As well as chemical compounds made wit bleach, ammonia, and other solvents might get the house clean, they can also be toxic for us to breathe in.

Luckily, there are some super easy and super natural (see what I did there?) homemade cleaning supplies that can get rid of the dirt, grime, and germs just as well as those toxic mixes. I borrowed the following 5 recipes from this Yahoo! Shine article, which also has recipes for three additional cleaning mixes, so be sure to check it out!

Surface Spray

Instead of Lysol, mix up this disinfecting solution for all your home’s hard surfaces. It even smells good!
7 oz. distilled white vinegar
7 oz. water
7 drops tea tree essential oil
7 drops lavender essential oil
7 drops lemon essential oil

Soft Scrub

Clean grimy surfaces with this simple scrub and they’ll be shining in a jiffy! Keep it in a glass mason jar.
½ cup baking soda
½ cup castile soap
15 drops antimicrobial essential oil (rosemary or sage both work well)
* If you don’t use it all, add about a teaspoon of vegetable glycerin to hold in the moisture. Don’t forget to seal it up tight!

Antibacterial Soap Spray

Ditch the bleach. Instead, use this mix to get the bathroom back in order. Castile soap may leave a little residue, so follow up with some surface spray (above).
14 oz. water or rosemary hydrosol
3 Tablespoons castile soap
15 drops tea tree essential oil
15 drops oregano essential oil

Wood-Floor Mop Formula

Wood floors can be tricky, and harsh chemicals can often damage the wood and finish. Spray down the floor with this gentle mix, mop, and buff dry to keep floors clean and healthy.
½ cup distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin
20 drops lemon essential oil
Water (enough to fill a 20 oz spray bottle with the previous ingredients)

Linoleum and Tile Floor Mop Formula

Have tile or linoleum floors? Mix these ingredients up with 2 gallons of hot water and you’re all set.
¼ cup castile soap
½ cup distilled white vinegar
20 drops tea tree essential oil
20 drops sweet orange essential oil

I dare you to check the back of your cleaning supplies for the ingredients list—are any of them as short as these (barring just plain old “bleach”)? Likely the answer is no. It’s certainly possible to get “green” cleaning supplies that are far less toxic and more natural, but those are often expensive. Stock up on a few basic ingredients at home instead, and you can make your own cleaner for far less money in the long run.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Heart Disease: The Numbers

Back in December 2013, I wrote a post on heart disease and how it's very quietly killing millions of people every year. It's the number one cause of death in the United States and in the world... and yet, it tends to get overlooked frequently. And it's not just in the United States; in fact, about 80% of the deaths caused by heart disease each year occur in low- and middle-income countries.

About half of all adults have at least one risk factor for heart disease, which approximately doubles your risk--do you know if you are in danger?

The good news about heart disease is that it's largely preventable. We can reduce our risk of heart attack or stroke by up to 80% if we choose to.

I had the honor of being contacted by Healthline with this beautiful infographic about heart disease--check it out to see heart disease by the numbers, see where in the world heart disease is most prevalent, find out if you are at risk, and learn how to drastically reduce your chance of heart attack or stroke.

Heart Infographic

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Soil Safety When Urban Gardening

Homegrown strawberries.
Homegrown strawberries.
One thing I love about living in Seattle is the number of urban gardens I see every day. I love that I can see rooftop gardens on top of high rises in downtown. I adore going to restaurants whose back patio is brimming with homegrown fruits and veggies that will later be served up on a patron’s plate. I can’t resist the temptation to try and grow my own food—strawberries, tomatoes, herbs, onion, and garlic are a few of the forays I’ve taken (not all successful). I’m proud to live in a city that’s the home of a 7-acre food forest, Beacon Food Forest (still in development).

The culture of growing your own food is intoxicating, and once you’re around it, it’s hard to put away the notion of jumping on the DIY gardening bandwagon. And that’s certainly an attitude that I can’t disagree with—I’ve been there. I’m there now. I love it, but I’m still learning a lot—and there are a lot of important things to learn.

Urban gardening increased a whopping 29 percent between 2008 and 2013, with 9 million Americans now saying they grow food in urban areas. The sentiment is fantastic, and one that I stand by absolutely. I think that we’ve allowed ourselves to lose touch with food, where it comes from, and what it takes to grow—and it would be to everyone’s benefit for more people to reconnect.

However, growing food in an urban area has its fair share of hazards, which aren’t always immediately apparent. See, soil has a legacy. One of the reasons it’s great for growing plants is because it absorbs water, which the plant’s roots can slowly absorb. Unfortunately, it also absorbs other things, dangerous things: lead, asbestos, heavy metals, cadmium, arsenic, petrochemicals, and more. Cities take their toll on nature in many ways, and growing produce in contaminated soil means we’re bringing those chemicals right into our bodies.

If you’re planning on doing some urban gardening, it needs to be done the right way. If you’re planting straight into the ground, you’re most at risk (but that doesn’t mean raised beds or pots are safe from hazard). The first thing you should do is get your soil tested to see whether or not it has been contaminated by lead, cadmium, or arsenic. Unfortunately, those tests don’t check for petrochemicals and some other really hazardous chemicals that may have seeped into the soil from car exhaust, cleaning solvents, old Laundromats, or even demolished buildings.

The best solution is to research your plot of land and learn its history—if any buildings were demolished nearby, whether it used to be a parking lot or a gas station or something else, and if there is any other cause for concern. Since you can never be completely sure whether the soil is 100% free of contaminants, wearing gardening gloves and washing all produce thoroughly is always a good idea.

If you’re using raised beds, be sure to think about what they are made out of (or what you’re using to build them). Reclaimed wood can be hazardous since you won’t know its history or whether it was ever treated with chemicals. The point: better safe than sorry.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to safely urban garden, check out this urban soil safety guide from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Do you urban garden? I’d love to hear about your successful and unsuccessful gardening endeavors!

Image from Shutterstock.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Definitive Guide to Spring Fruits and Vegetables

Spring produce guide
Spring already! Use this spring produce guide to get the freshest fruits and veggies of the season.
Image: Shutterstock
Happy Spring! I’m sure there are others out there that are just as excited as I am about the prospect of warmer weather and more sunshine. Winter in Seattle isn’t too harsh, but it does get a bit dreary after a while.

I’ve written before about how eating in-season produce makes a huge difference in both price and taste, and last October I shared with you a list of fall foods. I guess I missed my chance to post a winter list, but now that spring has sprung, there’s no looking back.

If you want to get the best produce at the store or market, here are the items you should keep a weather eye out for:

Cherries in spring
Pick up from fresh, in-season cherries this spring!
Image: Shutterstock


Navel Oranges


Pan Roasted Chicken with Lemon-Garlic Green Beans
Pan Roasted Chicken with Lemon-Garlic Green Beans... YUM!
Image: Shutterstock
Fava Beans
Garlic Scapes / Green Garlic
Green Onions / Scallions
New Potatoes
Pea Greens
Spring Onions
Sweet Onions

Did I miss any? Share in the comments below which recipes you plan to make with these spring ingredients! Last night, we made this Pan Roasted Chicken with Lemon-Garlic Green Beans… and it was divine. We used Sweet Meyer Lemons (and oh man were they sweet!), boneless skinless chicken breasts, and then followed the recipe to a T. There’s nothing like a simple spring dinner to get the season started right!