Saturday, November 28, 2009

Home Gyms: Save Time, Space and Money

You don't need an expensive gym membership or fancy exercise equipment to get a great workout, not according to Consumer Reports magazine. This got my attention because after dinner I ate two hefty slices of pumpkin praline pie; and frankly I've never managed to survive a trial, one-week gym membership.  I'm serious! -- nor do I have room in my home for a treadmill.

All you need to set up a complete fitness routine at home are the following:

1) An exercise mat – To cushion your joints on hard floors. Use it for sit ups, push ups, Yoga or Pilates. Expect to pay $15.
2) Dumbbells – They improve and maintain muscle tone. Consumer Reports suggests buying two pairs -- one for regular use and the other, a heavier, more challenging set. Costs: $15 a set.
3) Elastic bands – For resistance training and strengthening muscles. Again, buy two pairs with different levels of resistance, one tougher than the other. Costs: $15 a set.
4) A stability ball – Allows you to add a variety of moves to strengthen your core muscles. Consumer Reports says use a 45-cm ball if you're under 5 feet tall, a 55-cm ball if you're 5 foot 1 inch to 5 foot 7 inches, and a 65-cm if you're taller. Costs: $15 - $40.
5) Workout DVDs – Look for ones with a combination of strength, flexibility and cardio routines. Costs: $15 - $20 each. Or, find a public library where you can check out a large selection for free. The change will keep you from getting bored.

I also walk at least 10,000 steps a day. Some dollar stores stock cheap pedometers to keep track of steps. My friend, Cara, got me two for $2.00 to replace a $30 model. They all break, so go cheap.

With a few pieces of inexpensive equipment, you can get into shape and work off your Thanksgiving dinner. Who are we kidding? It wasn't just dinner, was it?  Ready, Set, Work it off!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Organic And Eco-Friendly Gifts

As the holidays approach I'm starting to think about great gifts to buy for family and friends. I do my best to select special items that are useful and will make relatives and buds happy. This year I'm adding beautifully wrapped gift sets of organic bath and body products to my list.

One reason I like to give organic products is for their purity. All natural soaps and moisturizers, made with essential oils like lavender and jojoba, are good for you and the environment. I look for toiletries with no unnecessary chemicals and artificial emollients to dry out the skin as we move into a colder climate. Another consideration is, they are not gender specific and can be enjoyed by the entire family. Ingredients like olive oil and aloe vera have been used for centuries to care for the skin and scalp. Even people who are allergic to perfume can appreciate the clean scents and soothing properties of herbs and essential oils like eucalyptus, sweet almond or calendula flowers. [Personally, I prefer the scent of botanicals like peppermint oil over a strong perfume.]

The trick is to find organic products, which work as well as and better than conventional goods. I narrow it down to companies who use the finest natural ingredients, whose products are non-greasy and long lasting.

Here are a few of my favorite eco-friendly companies for bath and body products:

Skinnyskinny – Located in Brooklyn, it offers premium ingredients and pretty packaging at reasonable prices. [I want the organic buckwheat hull pillow.]
Aveda – Where you'll find top-notch organic skin care and make-up, knowledgeable sales associates and a spot of herb tea while you shop.
LaLicious – A Los Angeles company selling luxury all natural products. The peppermint body butter is a favorite. I keep it at my desk as a hand cream.
Whole Foods Market – They carry a wide selection of nourishing soaps, lotions, body butters and hair care, all made from botanicals.

And don't forget about the presentation. Look for eye-catching, recycled materials to wrap gifts. Be kind to the environment while making everyone on your list feel pampered and special.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Fruits of Fall, Is It Time For A Change?

When selecting food, most of us prefer the familiar. Too often we resist new dishes and taste sensations. What are we afraid of exactly? If we stick to the tired same old fare, time and again, we'll never expand our horizons, right? So this week while at the fruit market, I bought a pomegranate and an eggplant. I bought them partly because I did not grow up eating them. Not only are they fresh, they are exotic, colorful and at $1.00 each, a very good value this time of year. And the owner of the fruit market gave me a surprisingly easy eggplant recipe to try.

Though commonly thought of as a vegetable, an eggplant is actually a fruit. Specifically, it's a gigantic berry that has folic acid, potassium and the ability to block the formation of free radicals.

Pomegranates are rich in antioxidants and vitamin B5. They block free radicals too. To eat one, simply cut it in half and pull or pound out the kernel-like seeds. {Watch to learn how.}

Here is the recipe for the deep purple fruit that you eat like a vegetable:
Eggplant Medley
1 large eggplant
14 oz can whole tomatoes
1 medium red or yellow onion
Season to taste: salt, pepper, garlic, basil, bay leaf, bullion cube

Dice the first three ingredients into large cubes, and threw everything into a pot. Season to taste, cover and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender (approximately 10 minutes). I refrigerate the eggplant medley. It's delicious cold. Bon app├ętite!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Keep Colds And The Flu Away

Although it's impossible to avoid all germs, many doctors agree there are measures you can take to keep from catching every virus that goes around. Start by getting enough rest -- at least 7 - 8 hours of sleep each night -- and eating balanced meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Here are a few extra precautions to lessen your chances of getting sick:

1} Wash your hands often, especially after touching public areas like doorknobs and shaking hands with other people. As you lather up, mentally sing “Happy Birthday” twice before you rinse with warm water -- that's the length of time you should spend washing your hands.  Extra tip: Carry your own ink pens to use in public places like banks and grocery stores.

2} When you can't get to a sink, use an alcohol hand sanitizer. – I used to think it was overkill for a normal person with a functioning immune system, but with both seasonal and swine flu, plus the usual cold viruses floating around this year, I plan on being more vigilant and buying packets of alcohol-based-moist towelettes to carry in my purse.

3} Reduce stress in your life. – Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day and plan your time wisely. Not only will you lower stress, you'll pace yourself and get more done in the long run. [My mother, who is a pistol, once said, “You can live without food or money if you have to, but stress will bring you down, make you old and kill you faster than anything else in the world.”  This is the same woman who warned me to stay away from the knives because I could poke my eyes out and to hand over the scissors because I could cut my fingers off, but she's right about stress.]

4} Enjoy a social life that makes you happy – First of all, you need some exposure to germs to build up immunities. And studies show, happy people are healthier people.

5} Winterize your diet with these 4 foods: a) 100% fruit juice – According to "You, The Owner's Manual," we need 500 mg of Vitamin C a day. In Winter, I drink orange, pineapple and mango juices and buy oranges and grapefruit. Taking Vitamin C pills work too; b) Eat yogurt – Yogurt, containing Lactobacillus acidophilus, fights off fungus infections, say Drs. Roizen and Oz, authors of the "You" books; c) As it turns out, an apple a day really does keep the doctor away. That's because apples have flavonoids. Flavonoids help the body kill germs more efficiently. Other foods rich in flavonoids, include cranberries, black, green and white teas, oatmeal, broccoli, chili peppers and red wine; d) Consume ginger and turmeric. – Both have properties that boost the immune system and help ward off infections. So eat curries and oriental dishes in Winter to stay healthy.

Why not start Autumn with healthy habits? It's better to prevent a cold than to nurse one. So take good care of yourself.