Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holiday Giveaway Results

Okay! Finally - let's announce the winners of our Skoy Cloth and Zkano socks giveaways! Thank you so much for all the great comments - we got some fun ones, including a song about socks! I laughed so hard! Thanks Jayne G!

For the Skoy Cloths we have two winners - they are Kstrange and mom2rian. I will email both of you to get more information.

For the Zkano socks, although I would love for all of you to win, I could only pick one. Jayne G you are our winner! Congratulations!

If you weren't one of our lucky winners - don't forget to check out the Skoy and Zkano websites where you can purchase their great products for yourself.

I'm planning to take the rest of this week off from blogging. I will be back next week with some new and exciting posts and can't wait to start the New Year. I hope that you will all have a very Happy New Year celebration with your friends and family!


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Frankincense and Myrrh

Here is a post I wrote last year around Christmas time and thought you might enjoy reading again. Enjoy!

"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi (a caste of wise men specializing in astology, medicine and natural science) from the east arrived in Jerusalem saying 'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him. And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh." Matthew 2:1, 11

Just out of curiousity I took a look at the significance of frankincense and myrrh. I always wonder about things and I wondered why those might have been the gift of the Magi. It turns out frankincense and myrrh are very significant both historically and for our benefit today.

They are considered herbal remedies and are both derived from the resin (sap) of two different trees found mostly on the Arabian peninsula. Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) is derived from resin found in the stems of this bushy shrub. Frankincense is a resin from the tree Boswellia. The tree is cut and the sap runs for several weeks and then hardens into "tears" which are harvested and sold. At the time of Jesus birth the Roman Empire imported these two spices and they were actually worth their weight in gold.

Historical Uses of Myrrh
  • In Moses time, Myrrh was used in the Tabernacle and as an ingredient of a holy annointing oil and incense.
  • Additive to wine. Pliny the Elder refers to myrrh as being used to fumigate wine jars before bottling.
  • Embalming ointment - In ancient times, myrrh was used in Egypt for embalming the dead. Myrrh was also used to prepare the body of Jesus for burial after the crucifixion. John 19:39-40
  • Penitential incense in funerals and cremations.
  • For many of the ancients myrrh was a favorite perfume which would keep it's fragrance for years if kept in an alabaster pot.
Historical Uses of Frankincense
  • Used as an incense
  • Egyptians ground the charred resin into a powder called kohl which they then used as a black eyeliner.
  • Frankincense was first introduced to Europe by Frankish crusaders which is where our name for it is derived from...Frankish Incense - Frankincense.
  • The main use of frankincense was in embalming the dead because it would preserve the body from putrefaction until burial or cremation. The emperor Nero at the funeral of his second wife Poppaea, burnt in excess of the total annual production of Arabia.
  • Clumps of frankincense were discovered among the treasures buried in the tomb of Tutankhamen who died in 1339 BC
Natural Healing Properties of Myrrh

  1. Acts as an antiseptic and disinfectant making it useful for abscesses, boils, sores and wounds. Interestingly, myrrh is a bacteriostatic inhibitor which stops the production of Staph and E. Coli bacteria.
  2. Acts as an expectorant making it usesful for asthma, bronchitis, colds, flu, sinusitis, and sore throats. Myrrh mixed with red raspberry leaves makes an excellent mouth wash and gargle for relief of sore throats.
  3. Acts as a deoderizer and works well as a mouth rinse for bad breath and periodontal disease. Powdered myrrh will strengthen the gums and naturally whiten teeth.
  4. Stimulates the immune system and can help with auto-immune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and osteoarthritis.
  5. Stimulates gastric secretions
  6. It's blood moving properties can purge stagnant blood out of the uterus making it useful in treating amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, menopause, and uterine tumors.

Natural Healing Properties of Frankincense

  1. In Chinese medicine, frankincense is used orally for digestion and healthy skin.
  2. Certain types of frankincense can be chewed as a gum. Used in this way it elimintates bad breath and the juice derived from the gum is thought to benefit the kidneys and the liver.

You can still enjoy the healing and aromatherapy benefits of these products today. Check out our affiliate Mountain Rose Herbs for Frankinsense powder and essential oil; and Myrrh resin, powder and oil.

Shannan and I wish all of you a very merry Christmas!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Another Holiday Giveaway: Warm, Snuggly, Zkano Organic Socks

Awhile back I got a wonderful little care package full of the most wonderful socks from the makers of Zkano Organic Socks. They are a small, family owned company situated in Alabama that make their socks from 100% certified organic ring-spun cotton, grown without the use of pesticides, chemicals or toxins. All of their products are made here in the states. They are committed to providing a high quality, durable, comfortable, organic sock for consumers.

How do they feel? Really great! I've been wearing my Zkano socks around for a couple of weeks now, and they are very soft and comfortable. They also wash very well and don't lose their size, shape, or elasticity. I would highly recommend these wonderful socks!

Check out their nice selection of men's and women's socks today. They have a nice variety of crew, mini-crew and sports socks. They offer shades of natural or white.

Gina at Zkano has kindly offered a 7 pair starter pack of Zkano Organic Socks to one of our lucky readers. Just leave me a comment in the comments section below and include your email address so we can contact you if you win. (If you don't want to leave your email address just make sure you check back later this week when I post the winner).


Friday, December 18, 2009

Handling Holiday Stress

I will admit it. I have been absolutely crazy feeling the past couple of weeks trying to get all of the holiday stuff done. I am running from place to place, forgetting things, feeling a bit overwhelmed and not taking the time to enjoy the season. Oh ya, and feeling guilty that my kids haven't visited Santa yet. Sound familiar?

If so, I think it is time for us all to take a deep breath and think about what we are doing and why we are doing it. Are you doing all of these holiday things because you feel obligated or are you doing them because you want to? Here are just some of my own suggestions (to myself) for making this time more enjoyable and fulfilling.

  • Make a list and check it twice. Take a little extra time, when you are feeling calm(ish) to make a list of all of the gifts you need to buy (even the tiniest things like a bottle of wine for someone) and put it all on one list. Keep it in your handbag and cross things off as you go. Then you are not always running around racking your brain trying to remember whatever it is you know you are forgetting.

  • Commit to the events you really want to be a part of. We just can't be in all places at all times.

  • Put off the things that can wait until after the holidays. Here in Michigan we all have a long winter ahead of us, save something for January.

  • If you want to make cookies, make cookies. If you don't, don't. This is a hard one for me. I want to do all the things I think the holidays should be about, but it is really more of a chore than anything else. This year my husband wants to make cookies with the girls. I think I will give them the gift of time together without mommy hovering. :)

  • Send cards if you want to send cards. I have a good friend that decided not to do Christmas cards this year because it was all getting to be too much. She is going to do a Valentine card with photos of her kids instead.

  • Make a stranger's Christmas bright. Pay for the car behind you in the drive-thru at Starbucks or do what my mom did. Go to a store that has layaway and pay it off for someone. What a great surprise it is for someone to get a phone call to come and pick up their stuff because it is all paid for by a stranger. Or help an old lady cross the street - whatever your good deed, you will feel good and so will someone else.

  • And, don't forget to take care of yourself...try to exercise, eat right 80% of the time, and enjoy this special time of year.

I truly believe that 'living a whole life' means more than eating organic or buying eco-friendly products. It means taking care of the whole you and your family.

I feel better now. I hope you do too,


P.S. Don't forget to comment on Karla's Skoy Cloth Giveaway while you are here. Maybe we can make your day next week with a great gift.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Skoy Cloth Giveaway

Speaking of eco-friendly is one from one of my new favorite eco-friendly companies. Skoy cloths have offered to give two of our readers a free package of their awesome absorbable, bio-degradeable, and natural multi-use cloths.

Skoy cloths are made from a natural cotton and wood based cellulose pulp. When tested they broke down completely within 5 weeks making them an incredibly green-bio-degradable product. Using these cloths to clean up around the house replaces the equivalent of 15 rolls of paper towels. They can be used with your favorite cleaners or with just water. As Skoy points out on their website, with paper towels averaging around $2.00 a roll, they are also much more economical!

These towels will last months and can be washed in the dishwasher or washing machine. You can also zap them in the microwave (make sure they are wet) to prevent bacterial growth.

To win a 4 pack of these for yourself, leave a comment in the comments section by Friday, December 18th and be sure to include your email if you want us to contact you if you win. Otherwise, check back later next week and I will announce the winner. Good Luck!!
By the way, don't you just love the adorable flower design on them - so cute!


Monday, December 14, 2009

Eco-Friendly Gift Ideas

Well if you are anything like me, you are still scrambling to find a few more great gifts for the special people on your shopping list. So here are some of my picks from the website, The Ultimate Green Store, to check out for the eco-conscious folks in your life...or maybe they aren't eco-conscious, but you are!

Fun gift ideas...

Shainsware Recycled Bracelets ($16)
Shains are recycled accessories that encourage and empower people to make their own statements and change them whenever they want! Shainsware, the company, is dedicated to producing eco-friendly products that are useful and empowering. They donate a percentage of net profits to environmental organizations. Shains products are made of recycled and recyclable parts and everything Shains produces is certified lead free. Shains packaging is also recycled and recyclable.

Fair Trade Sports (prices vary)
Fair Trade Sports, Inc is the first sports equipment company in the US to launch a full line of eco-certified Fair Trade sports balls, ensuring fair wages and healthy working conditions for their adult employees.

Aon Squared Portable Speakers ($14.99)

AON BOX™ Speaker Boxes is what Green Sounds Like!

AON BOX™ speakers come conveniently packaged to travel in a durable polypropylene box that can be easily packed away in a backpack, carry-on bag or suitcase. They are compatible with all iPod®, Mp3 players, multimedia cell phones, portable DVD players and portable gaming devices that use a standard 3.5mm audio frequency jack. Each speaker provides 1 watt of quality sound without the need for batteries.

Good luck and enjoy the rest of your shopping!
- Shannan

Friday, December 11, 2009

Guilt Free Christmas Cookies (Well...Sort Of)

I participated in my first Christmas Cookie Exchange this week and it was such a wonderful experience. Getting together with girlfriends and taking a little time out of the crazy Christmas rush was really fun and therapeutic. I have to admit that I stressed a bit about what kind of cookies to make. I really hate refined sugar and flour, but I have yet to taste a sugar cookie or cinnamon roll that tasted right without them. I had this discussion with some friends the other day and decided that perhaps eating healthy whole foods doesn't include cakes, cookies, and rolls and we shouldn't try so hard to make them healthy. Maybe those are just occasional indulgences? As I was reading through some online recipe books, I was thrilled to find a couple of Christmas cookie recipes made from whole food ingredients and decided to try them and take them to the Cookie Exchange. They are yummy and with ingredients like almonds, oats, cranberries, maple syrup and pecans, I can still enjoy some Christmas treats and know they were made with whole food ingredients. Try these and you won't be disappointed!

Jam Thumbprints

Makes about 30 cookies


1 cup almonds or pecans
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup olive or coconut oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
Favorite organic fruit juice sweetened jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put almonds and oats into a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Transfer to a large bowl and add flour, oil, syrup and salt. Stir to combine well.

Roll walnut-sized balls of the dough in the palm of your hand to form each cookie, then arrange on 2 large baking sheets, spacing cookies 2 inches apart. Press your thumb gently down into the center of each cookie to make an indentation. Spoon a scant teaspoon of jam into each indentation. Bake cookies until golden brown and just firm around the edges, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to let cool completely, then serve immediately or store between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container.

Cranberry Pecan Shortbread

Makes 30 to 40 cookies


3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar ( I used succanat)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup pecans, chopped well in food processor

Mix together butter, sugar and maple syrup with a wooden spoon or in an electric mixer. Add the vanilla and stir to combine. Add flour one cup at a time, mixing well after each cup is added. stir in the salt, cranberries and pecans.

Shape dough into two logs and chill until firm for 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut dough into 1/2 inch slices and arrange on baking sheet. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Cookies will keep for several days in an airtight container.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More on Vitamin D

A couple months ago I wrote a short post on the virtues of Vitamin D. I would like to add to that a bit.

I was at a party this past weekend and my friend who went through breast cancer treatment (surgery, chemo and radiation) about a year ago mentioned that her doctors attribute her breast cancer to a Vitamin D deficiency. My first reaction was to pass along more information on the Vitamin D/Breast Cancer link to our readers.

Here is a good article on the breast cancer/Vitamin D connection...

There's a paradigm shift going on in medicine as new research reveals a far greater role for vitamin D. Vitamin D is not just for kids—or the prevention of rickets. Optimal levels of Vitamin D (40–80 ng/ml) enhance the creation and functioning of healthy cells throughout the body. In addition to protecting the bones and boosting the immune system, studies show that Vitamin D helps prevent certain cancers, including breast, ovarian, prostate and colorectal. Exciting new research shows that, in the United States alone, thousands of new cases of breast cancer could be prevented every year if more women had optimal levels of vitamin D.

A study conducted by Cedric Garland and other prominent vitamin D researchers determined that women with vitamin D levels above 52 ng/ml have half the risk of developing breast cancer as those with 13 ng/ml! Garland (et al) estimates that 58,000 new cases of breast cancer in the United States could be prevented per year by raising vitamin D levels to 52 ng/ml. Imagine what the global impact could be!

A simple blood test is all that's needed to find out your vitamin D level. Five years ago, a range of 20–100 ng/ml was considered normal. Just recently, this range was raised to 32–100 ng/ml. Make sure to ask your healthcare provider what your actual vitamin D level is. Too often women are told that their levels are normal, which is not the same as optimal.

If you're deficient, the best way to boost your vitamin D quickly is to supplement with vitamin D3. Initially, you may need to take 5,000 IUs per day. After establishing a healthy level, I recommend supplementing with 1,000 to 2,000 IUs per day—it's hard to get all you need from food. Some healthy fish provides 300 to 700 IUs, but milk only provides 100 IUs per glass.

In Michigan we don't get much sun in the winter, so personally, I take a supplement. This one is yummy...

- Shannan


Friday, December 4, 2009

Prenatal Massage

Last week I had a wonderful little treat! I was offered a complimentary hour long prenatal massage by a very skilled local masseuse. (See more about her below). With my crazy schedule right now and holiday season preparations in full swing, it was a little slice of heaven!

Shannan recently posted about the many benefits of massage so take a moment and read those if you have a chance. I thought I would take a minute to outline a few more benefits to having massages during pregnancy. We tend to think of massage as a treat or special indulgence and for most of us it is; but there are also so many great health benefits to be realized from a regular massage. Here are a few for us pregnant ladies...

  • Carrying a baby inside you changes your center of gravity and puts a lot of stress on your back, neck, abdominal muscles, and shoulders. Pregnancy also relaxes your ligaments, so that your pelvic joints are less stable, and changes your posture, pulling your pelvis forward. Add to that the extra weight you're carrying and you've got yourself an aching lower back. Massage can actually relieve the stress on your joints and promote proper posture.

  • A study conducted by Dr. Tiffany Field at the University of Miami School of Medicine showed that massage actually reduces stress hormones in the body. Other studies done in the past 10 years have shown that hormone levels associated with relaxation and stress are significantly altered, leading to mood regulation and improved cardiovascular health, when massage therapy was introduced to women’s prenatal care. Hormones such as norepinephrine and cortisol (“stress hormones”) were reduced and dopamine and serotonin levels (low levels of these hormones are associated with depression) were increased in women who received bi-weekly massages for only five weeks. These changes in hormone levels also led to fewer complications during birth and fewer instances of newborn complications, such as low birth weight. The evidence points strongly to maternal and newborn health benefits when relaxing, therapeutic massage is incorporated into regular prenatal care.

  • Massage provides emotional support and a nurturing touch for stressed out mothers-to-be. Studies show that massage therapy performed during pregnancy can reduce anxiety and decrease symptoms of depression.

  • Massage promotes relaxation and decreased insomnia.

  • Massage can help prepare the muscles used during childbirth.

  • Massage can reduce swelling in hands and feet. Edema, or swelling of the joints during pregnancy, is often caused by reduced circulation and increased pressure on the major blood vessels by the heavy uterus. Massage helps to stimulate soft tissues to reduce collection of fluids in swollen joints, which also improves the removal of tissue waste, carried by the body’s lymph system.

Important Note: Certified prenatal massage therapists are trained to avoid very specific and intentional pressure to these areas during pregnancy. Any woman who has experienced pre-term contractions or consistent Braxton-Hicks contractions should alert her therapist to that fact so that pressure points can be avoided completely.

If you live in Michigan in the Metro Detroit or Ann Arbor area let me recommend a wonderful massage therapist for prenatal or any other massage. Her name is Seva Aston. Seva has 15 years of experience in massage therapy and has studied and practiced in such areas as Swedish massage, Neuromuscular Modalities (pain relief specialization), Hot Stone Massage, Thai Yoga Massage, Thai Herbal Massage, Thai Foot Reflexology, Deep Tissue Massage, Geriatric Massage, and etc.

All that being said, you know when you are getting a good massage by a skilled professional and Seva gave me the best massage I have probably ever had! She has the touch for sure. You can also tell right away that she is very passionate about her practice of massage. Pregnant or not, give her a call and set up your own wonderful massage (indulgent, yet great for your health remember!) or better yet this Christmas give your friends or family the gift of an hour of relaxation and rejuvenation. You can reach Seva at (734) 660-3372.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Foods That Boost Immunity

I just ran across this article on Healthy Eats and thought it was worth passing on.

This winter, protect yourself from those cold or flu bugs going around. Eat more of these fresh foods to build up your immunity.

1) Nuts
Snack on almonds, cashews or walnuts, which are packed with vitamin E. This antioxidant helps kick those pesky free-radicals out of your body. Vitamin E also helps create antibodies that fight bacteria that make you sick. Other healthy vitamin E-rich foods are seeds and whole grains.

2) Citrus Fruits The famous vitamin C helps fight infection and a good antioxidant to have — along with vitamin E. But there is more to citrus than just oranges — grapefruits, clementines, lemons, limes and tangerines are all part of this family, and they’re in season in winter so you can enjoy them at their juiciest. Citrus not your thing? Try bell peppers — they have more vitamin C than an orange! Potatoes, tomatoes and kiwi are also great sources.

3) Shrimp So you’ve heard shrimp has cholesterol, but it’s also extremely low in fat and contains the antioxidant selenium. Many foods have a combination of nutrients, and you need to weigh the “bad” with the “good.” Selenium is a mineral needed in small amounts and works to support a healthy immune system. Seafood and meat are great sources for it.

4) Yogurt The probiotics — or “good bacteria” found in yogurt and other foods — keep your digestive system up and running. According to research from the Journal of the American Dietetics Association, consuming foods with probiotics regularly may also help boost your immune system. Sauerkraut, miso and tempeh are other food sources to try.

5) Green Tea The polyphenols in green tea act as potent antioxidants. Research suggests that catechins, a specific type of polyphenol, may stimulate the immune system cells and hinder disease-promoting compounds. Although you may detect a bitter taste, you can disguise it with a bit of honey. Adding milk is a no-no as it will bind to the polyphenols and stop their immunity benefits. (See some of Dana’s ideas on enjoying tea.)

Immunity Downers Eating tons of high-fat foods and forgoing your daily fruits and veggies can also weaken the immune system. Smokers have an added disadvantage as smoking increases free-radicals, which definitely takes a toll on the immune system (another good reason to quit).

- Shannan

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My Baby is Stealing My Iron

I had a check-up with my OB last week - I'm now 28 weeks along in my pregnancy. I was shocked to find out that my iron is low and that I'm technically anemic. I've felt so good this last trimester and starting into my third that I wouldn't have imagined that my labs would show anemia.

I did a little research on iron deficiency and surprise - surprise, infants in the womb begin to stock pile all the iron in their liver that they will need their first year of life prior to birth as breast milk is fairly low in iron. The little thief! :) I did a little research on iron's purpose in the body and how to supplement naturally with foods as that is always my first line of defense.

Functions in the Body

  • Primary ingredient in the formation of hemoglobin the oxygen carrying component of blood.
  • Iron attracts oxygen. Without an iron reserve, oxygen cannot be attracted to the body. With iron deficiency naturally comes oxygen deficiency.
  • Increases vitality and energy.Improves circulation, digestion, elimination, respiration, and augments tissue oxidation.
  • Helps prevent colds.

Signs of deficiency

  • Depression and melancholy
  • Low oxygenation and oxidation
  • Susceptibility to colds
  • Low blood pressure
  • Anemia
  • Slow speech
  • Poor memory
  • Poor respiration with shortness of breath

Women tend to need more iron anyway...

  • Women also require more iron than men due to their menstrual cycles and consequent loss of blood.
  • Interesting pregnancy and iron fact: Newborn infants and animals have four times the supply of iron in the body than adults. The mother supplies the offspring with enough iron, stored in the liver, for the entire first year of life. Milk lacks iron, therefore, newborns would suffer from anemia otherwise.

Highest Iron Foods: Agar, almonds, apricots, bananas (red are best), beet greens, blackberries, *black cherries, black strap molasses, black walnuts, butternuts, cashew nuts, dandelion greens, dates, *dried fruits, *dulse, eggs, English walnuts, fennel, figs, goat milk, *greens, Irish moss, kale, *kelp, lentils dried, lima beans dried, millet, mung beans dried, mustard greens, parsley, peaches dried, peas dried, pinto beans dried, prunes, pumpkin squash seeds, radishes, raisins, red beans, red peppers, *rice and bran polishings, rye, sesame seeds, sorrel, soybeans, spinach, sprouted seeds, sunflower seeds, Swiss chard, wheat bran and germ, and white beans.

*These are the foods highest in iron.

So I need to get busy increasing my iron intake. I'm thinking a bag of frozen black cherries or a spinach salad with sunflower seeds and dried cherries - Yum! I'm also going to start seasoning everything with a little dulse. I've kind of forgotten to do that lately.


This blog is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this blog is intended to replace the advice of a physician. We recommend consulting a physician before embarking on diet changes or a fitness routine. In addition, we recommend that you thoroughly research alternate points of view and make your own decisions as an informed consumer. You are ultimately responsible for your health.