Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

The New Year is right around the corner! If you haven't already rethought the way you were living your life when the world was rumored to end, then you're probably busy making a resolution list.

The winter solstice has come and gone and the days are beginning to get longer again. The symbolic change from the old year to new is a great time for reflection and for looking ahead to what will be. The tradition of resolution-making is thousands of years old. The types of resolutions have changed over the years, but often focus on some kind of self-improvement.

The problem with setting resolutions is that people often think of their future self as a separate person, often vastly different than their present self. This future self is more attractive, more organized, more generous, has more time and less bad habits. This future self is someone who has it together and will pick up the slack that you left behind. Planning ahead is a great practice, and it's fun to think about being fabulously charming, giving and successful, but we tend to be far too optimistic and goal-focused rather than thinking about the journey we must take to become that future person.

This year, write down everything you want to do and then pick out your number one goal. What drives you to  do this one thing? Is it fulfilling, life-changing? Are you doing it to look good for other people, or is it something that will help you be a better person? How can other people help you with your goal? Can you read a book or take a class, or is there a community group that can support and guide you? If no community exists, can you commit to creating one? How much time each week can you dedicate to your goal? Each day? What prevented you from achieving your goal last year?

Here are a few things to focus on that make you more likely to achieve your goal. Keep these in mind when picking out your resolution and creating your plan for the new year.

  • Mix it up by doing new and unusual things. If exercise is your goal, don't run around your block every day. Try throwing in runs for charity, group classes, going to a park, planning a hiking trip, etc.
  • Get a support group. Find people who are genuinely interested in what you're doing and have been doing it for a while. Close friends are great, but meeting new people is great motivation too because you want to impress them! Having a role model or mentor to guide you is even better.
  • Make it easy for yourself. If you have other things that always seem to interfere, try streamlining them or getting them out of the way at the beginning of the week so you can focus on your resolution. If that's too hard, delegate the tasks in the way to someone else.
  • Pick something close to your core values. You're more likely to do something and feel fulfilled doing it if it's meaningful to you. If you're trying to eat healthier and are also passionate about protecting the environment, try adopting a vegetarian diet.
  • Take note of your pitfalls. Don't focus on failing, but do take note of when you're making excuses for yourself. If you make it to the end of the day and find you're no closer to doing what you intended, think back on what you reasoned was more important than your goal. This will help you plan ahead to succeed.

Resolutions are often surface-level changes, like losing weight or improving your wardrobe. When you think about what it will take to achieve your goal, and the different options available to achieve it, you may rethink what it is that you really want and why you're doing it. Take the time to look inside, and then put that good person on the inside to work on the outside. You may know that you're a good person, but good thoughts are no good to anyone else unless you do something with them! Until next time, keep it clean!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

December 21, 2012 - Is The End Nearing?

     With December 21st upon us, there has been a lot of talk regarding the end of the world. There are countless numbers of prophecies regarding what is going to happen tomorrow. With that upon us, I thought it would be fun to discuss some of those possibilities!

     The Solstice on December 21, 2012 - precisely at 11:11 AM Universal Time - marks the completion of the 5,125 year Great Cycle of the Ancient Maya Long Count Calendar. Rather than being a linear end-point, this cycle that is closing is naturally followed by the start of a new cycle. What this new cycle has in store for humanity is a mystery that has yet to unfold... 2012 is also considered the completion of the 26,000 year Precession of the Equinoxes cycle, and some say it also signifies the end of a 104,000 year cycle. There are many theories why this date ends the Mayan Calendar. Many feel that this date is the day of end times and the world will be destroyed. Others feel this will be a time of major earth disasters, space changes, and mythical planets invading our galaxy along with strange Milky Way alignments.
     While some people are set in their beliefs that the world is actually ending, I think it is a very interesting topic. I personally had the opportunity of visiting the city of Tulum (which is a Mayan ruin) over the summer. Tulum not only was a beauitful place (picture to the right), but we also were able to have a tour guide educating us on the different structures, as well as an insight on the Mayan's translation on December 21, 2012.
     The mind set that was explained to my while visiting Tulum, is significantly different from the end of the world doomsday-ers. When we contemplate the expression "end of the world" let us all realize the term "world" can refer to a cycle; a period of time; a world age era. Therefore some like to believe that 2012 is signaling the completion of one World Age Cycle, transitioning into an emerging New World Age to come. Some rumors say that the world we are ending is the one that is dominated by materialism and ego consciousness, therefore it may be that the world to follow will be founded on different values that honor the spirit of the interdependence of all of life.
     Carlos Barrios, from the Eagle Clan of the Mam Maya of Guatemala has bee quoted stating:
"The world will not end. It will be transformed... Everything will change...Change is accelerating now, and it will continue to accelerate...If the people of the earth can get to this 2012 date in good shape, without having destroyed too much of the Earth, we will rise to a new, higher level. But to get there we must transform enormously powerful forces that seek to block the way...Humanity will continue, but in a different way. Material structures will change. From this we will have the opportunity to be more human..."
     While there is no certain way of knowing what will happen tomorrow, I have enjoyed sharing with you a few ideologies I have come across! We'd love to hear what you think about 12/21/2012! Until next time (may there be a next time ;) from us here at Azuma, keep it clean!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Father Christmas: A History!

     With Christmas nearing in on all of is with only 6 days left, I felt it appropriate to talk about holiday related topics! Today I'd like to talk about Christmas, and everyone's favorite: SANTA CLAUS! Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nickolas, Father Christmas and also "Santa", is a figure with legend, myth, history, and even magical origins! Santa is rumored to bring presents to the homes of all the good children during the late evenings and over night hours of December 24th, also known as Christmas Eve.
     Santa Claus is generally portrayed as a hefty, joyful, white bearded man - sometimes with glasses - wearing a red coat with white collar cuffs, white cuffed red trousers, and a black leather belt and boots. According to tradition, which can be traced to the 1820's, Santa lives at the North Pole, with a large number of elves and nine flying reindeer to pull his sleigh named Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer leading the pack!
     Santa has been believed to make a list of children throughout the world categorizing them according to their behavior ranging from naughty to nice. Santa is rumored to deliver presents of toys and candy to the good children of the world, and coal to the naughty children.
     The tradition of Santa Claus entering ones home through the chimney is shared by many European seasonal gift-givers. In the tale of Saint Nicholas, the saint tossed coins through a window, and, in a later version of the tale, down a chimney when he finds the window locked. Santa's entrance into homes on Christmas Eve via the chimney was made part of American tradition through Moore's A Visit from Saint Nicholas where the author described him as an elf. The North American traditions associated with Santa Claus are derived from a number of Christmas traditions from various countries. Some rituals (such as visiting a department store Santa) occur in the weeks and days before Christmas while others, such as preparing snacks for Santa, are specific to Christmas Eve. Some rituals, such as setting out stockings to be filled with gifts, are age-old traditions.
     Santa Claus appears in the weeks before Christmas in department stores or shopping malls, or at parties. The practice of this has been credited to James Edgar, as he started doing this in 1890 in his Brockton, Massachusetts department store. He is played by an actor, usually helped by other actors (often mall employees) dressed as elves or other creatures of folklore associated with Santa. Santa's function is either to promote the store's image by distributing small gifts to children, or to provide a seasonal experience to children by listening to their wishlist while having them sit on his knee. Sometimes a photograph of the child and Santa are taken. Having a Santa set up to take pictures with children is a ritual that dates back at least to 1918. 
    Writing letters to Santa Claus has been a Christmas tradition for children for many years. These letters normally contain a wishlist of toys and assertions of good behavior. Girls generally write longer but more polite lists and express the nature of Christmas more in their letters than in letters written by boys. Girls also more often request gifts for other people.
     Santa isn't the only one who loves Christmas! Here at Azuma we love the holiday season and recognize as many different holidays and traditions as we can! Until next time, keep it clean, and ha-ha-ha-happy holidays!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Getting Things Done

Do you ever have difficulty managing all the things you have to do, sometimes not even knowing where to begin? You have a huge project you need to work on, but somehow find yourself organizing your books or sweeping the floor while you worry? You might want to try a method of organization called Getting Things Done (GTD), by David Allen. It's the organizational method for the scatter-brained and overwhelmed.

GTD is based on a simple principle: If a task you need to do pops into your head while you're working on something else, write it down and manage it (at a predetermined time) later. That way you don't have to waste time and energy worrying about it. Once it's out of your mind, you can focus on other things. This sounds like an easy way to procrastinate, but you'd be surprised what a relief it is and how simply it breaks down how to manage your day.

It's not required to use a smartphone or computer program to use this method. You can easily use a notebook to make your to-do lists. However, if you do have a smartphone, I recommend checking out different apps that support it. Evernote is a popular free app for most phones, while Omnifocus is an incredibly useful tool for iPhone and Mac users.

Here's how to do it:

  • Get rid of your thoughts. Sit down and immediately dump out everything in your head that you need to do by writing a giant list. It doesn't matter if it's cleaning the cat box or making a presentation for your boss.
  • Make projects. Once you feel you've sufficiently cleared your mind, begin organizing the tasks into groups, or projects. If you have chores you need to do, make a chore list. If they're clients you need to call, make a phone call list. Whatever clearly divides them for you.
  • Decide what's important. Sometimes you can delegate smaller tasks to other people, and somethings are downright not your responsibility. Put those on the bottom of your list. Bigger things that you need to take care of sooner go towards the top. If the big projects are too big, break those down with actionable items (a small to-do list) to complete in a timely manner.
  • Decide when to complete the task. Once you have your lists going, put down on your calendar a reasonable time to do each task. For the big stuff, try to put down one or two items you feel you can do rather than planning on doing the whole project in one day.
  • Cross it off. When it's done, cross it out! Didn't that feel good? Out of your head forever.
  • Set aside a time to do it again regularly. Any time you feel yourself balancing tasks in your head, keep a notebook or scrap of paper with you so you can scrawl it out and then organize it later. At the end of the day, or week, or whenever works for you, organize it into your projects again. Wash, rinse, repeat. :)
The advantage of having a computer program is that a lot of the organizational work is done for you. You can just write down categories next to each item and it automatically sorts it. You can browse your to do's by where you are, what you're doing, when it needs to be done, or what it's related to. You can also link documents, save pictures, make voice notes and connect web URL's to different tasks. I save lists of everything from what I'd like to fix in my home, what clothes I'd like to buy in the future, bands whose albums I want to listen to, and down to regular projects like organizing my closet.

The other advantage of a program is you can figure out which organizational style you use most. I tend to work best with arranging my to-do's on a calendar and seeing what's next because I work day-by-day. Other people with more flexible schedules may work better by taking one project at a time, or by chipping away by completing a task here and there based on where they're located (for example, a research project would be categorized to do when you're at or nearby the library; shopping for a better shampoo would be categorized for when you're at the drug store).

The best thing about this method is that it's flexible and customizable to your needs, versatile enough to be complex or simple. Enjoy your peace of mind. And until next time, keep it clean!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Exercising Backwards

If you don't have a lot of time to work out, or just aren't very motivated to do it, there's a way to squeeze in a full body workout in 10 minutes once or twice per week. It's actually just as effective as running 30 minutes a day and more effective than regular daily workouts to help you lose weight and get toned. It's called Eccentric Exercising. Most exercise, like lifting weights, is concentric exercise. This means that the work out focuses on contracting or shortening the muscles. Eccentric exercises focus on lengthening the muscle. So for example, rather than working on lifting the weight, you're working on lowering it down after you lift it. The idea is that lengthening the muscle requires more force which requires more effort for your body. More effort means that you're working every layer of muscle tissue, not just the superficial layers. In turn you build and repair more muscle more quickly and boost your metabolism by having denser muscle mass. Here are a few simple exercises to get started, based on the compiled research of Jonathan Bailor.

Negative Pull-Ups
Start by raising yourself on a chin-up bar so that your chin is level with the bar. You can use a chair to get up there if needed. Slowly lower yourself from the bar for a full 10 seconds. Repeat until you've done this 6 times.

Negative Push-Ups
Start in a fully extended push-up position or "plank" pose. Bend your elbows slowly for ten full counts until your nose touches the ground. You may start on your knees if you can't hold yourself up that long. Perform exercise 6 times.

Negative Squats
Stand next to a bar, railing, or anything firmly anchored that is about waist-height.  Place a chair behind you. Hold on to the rail and lean back until your arms are fully extended. Put your weight on one leg and slowly lower yourself 10 seconds until your butt touches the chair. Perform 6 times for each leg. Be sure that your knees don't extend past your toes. Use your other leg to support you if you cannot lower for a full 10 counts.

These exercises are short but very difficult, and you will feel sore for several days after completing them. If you feel sore, you're doing it right! Enjoy the time you save, and until next time, keep it clean!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The History of Hanukkah

It’s the season of celebrations, and, for many people, Hanukkah is at hand! This traditional Jewish holiday, also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated by millions around the world, and it’s a great way to teach your child about celebrations in other cultures.

Like Christmas, Hanukkah celebrates and commemorates events which happened a long time ago in Jerusalem. Around 200 BCE, Jews in the land of Israel were under the rule of the Syrian king, but were still allowed to follow their own religious beliefs. However, a new king named Antiochus IV came to power. Antiochus forbade the Jews from practicing their religion, killed many of them, and desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem by placing an altar to the Greek god Zeus inside it.
Mattathias, a Jewish priest, objected to the cruel edicts of Antiochus, and along with his five sons Jochanan, Simeon, Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judah, he decided to fight back. Led by Judah (known as “The Hammer”), they led the Jewish people in a revolt, using clever strategy and guerrilla-style warfare to defeat Antiochus’ much larger army.
Flush with victory, the Jews returned to find their Temple dirty and desecrated, with pots of consecrated olive oil broken everywhere. Working together, they cleaned and rededicated the Temple (“Hanukkah” means “dedication” in Hebrew). They lit the holy fire in the Temple menorah (a many-branched candelabrum and symbol of Judaism). However, although the flame was supposed to burn continuously, they were dismayed to find that there was only enough oil to fuel the flame for one day! Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight full days, and gave the Jews time to properly prepare more oil. This is often referred to as the miracle of Hanukkah.
Since then, Jews the world over have celebrated this occasion by lighting the Hanukkah candles in a menorah over the course of eight days. Starting with one candle on the first night, and ending with eight on the eighth, the ceremony involves the saying or singing of a blessing while the candles are lit by the helper candle, or “shamash.” Traditionally, the illuminated menorah is placed in windows so that passerby may be reminded of the Hanukkah story.
Since the holiday is, in some way, a celebration of oil, the practice of eating food fried in oil, such as potato latkes and jelly donuts, is a major part of the holiday. Also included in the festivities is the traditional game of dreidel and the giving of “gelt,” or money, to children.
No matter what holidays you and your family celebrate, there’s always room for learning. So introduce your child to new customs and cultures this holiday season by frying up a few latkes, spinning the dreidel, or just talking and learning  about the meaning behind the holiday! Until next time, keep it clean! :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Practicing Thanks on Black Friday

Thanksgiving represents a time in our nation's history when the first European settlers feared they would not have enough food to survive through the winter. The Native Americans taught the new settlers how to grow and reap local foods and to protect themselves against the impending cold. As a result, they were able to survive, and feasted with the Native Americans as a symbol of brotherhood. On Thanksgiving Day, we remember to be grateful for the abundance that we have, and look for abundance in places where it seems we have none.

Thanksgiving Day is right around the corner, and with it comes the infamous Black Friday. One of the busiest shopping days of the year in the US, Black Friday arrives with deep discounts at many major retail stores to kick off the holiday shopping season.

We live in a country where we have so much food we throw 40 million tons of it away each year. Much of our culture now revolves around things that are single-use or disposable. We buy and throw away and buy again. We have more abundance than could have been fathomed on the first Thanksgiving.

The past few years have been economically challenging for many Americans, and to many of us the ability to buy presents for our friends and family is loaded with the symbolic weight of our ability to provide. But studies show that the satisfaction of obtaining material possessions is dwarfed by spending quality time with family and friends. Abstaining from overindulgence or even just not purchasing things regularly helps you to appreciate those things more when you do need to buy it. Many shoppers find that the experience of shopping and finding the deal is far more thrilling than having the things that they bought. That high disappears once they get home with all their stuff, sometimes with hundreds of dollars of added debt.

Rather than dropping your hard earned money on deals that you may not need, let your appreciation for abundance from Thanksgiving Day carry over into Black Friday and into the Holiday Season. Talk to your family about celebrating the holidays by doing something fulfilling together. Go on a camping trip, teach someone a family recipe, donate to a charity they feel strongly about, make a playlist of your favorite songs for someone, volunteer together. Thanksgiving is about sharing the wealth, and even with our recession, we have more than enough wealth to give. Like the name implies, it's not just about Thanks, it's about being Giving too! Remember to share the love. And until next time, keep it clean!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Apple Bundt Cake With a Twist!

With the holidays upon us I have been looking all over the place for the perfect recipe for our families thanksgiving get together! I always love pie, but its very traditional for thanksgiving and I wanted to try bringing something a bit different. I opted for a cake! I found this fabulous recipe online and wanted to share! :)

Apple Bundt with Brown-Butter Vanilla Bean Glaze

for the apple bundt:
1 T. butter and some flour for preparing the pan
4 medium apples – peeled, cored, & shredded (use the big holes on your grater), to make about 3-1/2 cups shredded apples – I used 2 Granny Smith, 1 Gala, and 1 McIntosh
1 T. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1-1/3 c. white sugar, divided
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1 T. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. mace
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. applesauce
4 large eggs
1/2 c. apple cider
2 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare a 12-cup bundt pan by smearing butter over every little nook and cranny of its interior. Then add some flour and tilt your pan so flour sticks to all of the buttery surface. Set pan aside.
Stir the shredded apple with lemon juice and 1/3 cup of the white sugar. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the remaining 1 cup white sugar, brown sugar, oil, applesauce, eggs, apple cider, and vanilla. Mix to combine. Then add the flour mixture and combine once again. Add the apples and mix until the apples are evenly distributed. Pour into prepared Bundt pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out of the cake clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto your serving platter.

**If you are going to top the cake with the glaze, start making the glaze immediately, while the cake is still warm!

Another option for serving this cake would be to finish it with a simple dusting of powdered sugar once it is cool. A dollop of slightly sweetened whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream would also be very good.

for the brown-butter vanilla bean glaze:
2 to 3 T. half and half
2 c. sifted powdered sugar
vanilla bean seeds scraped from 1/2 a vanilla bean (split bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds)
4 oz. butter
2 tsp. vanilla
First, pour 3 tablespoons of half and half into a small bowl and set aside. This is just to take the chill off, while you prepare the rest of the glaze.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the sifted (don’t skip the sifting!) powdered sugar and vanilla bean seeds. Set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the butter until golden brown. It should smell delicious and toasty. If it smells burnt, you went too far! This should take about 6 to 8 minutes. Carefully pour browned butter into the powdered sugar and vanilla bean seeds, leaving the darkened butter sediment behind. Add 2 tablespoons of the half and half, then add the vanilla. Stir vigorously until smooth. You want the glaze to be somewhat thick, but easily pourable. If it seems too thick, add the remaining tablespoon of half and half.  
Pour the glaze over the cake while both the glaze and cake are still warm. The glaze cools quickly, so don’t delay! Let the glaze set. Then slice and enjoy!

Until next time, keep it clean! :)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Easy Weeknight (Dessert) Recipe: Pineapple Crumble

   I love a dessert that is easy to throw together with ingredients I already have on hand. Nothing pleases me more than transforming a few simple items into something extraordinarily delicious. The other night I found myself craving something sweet, but it being the day before grocery day, I was left with little options to choose from. So I grabbed a few ingredients from the pantry and fridge, mixed them up together and tossed it into the oven. The results were nothing short of amazing. ;)

   Simple Pineapple Crumble
You will need:
  • Pineapple, sliced and diced (I used one whole pineapple but in a pinch you could use canned, just drain the liquid first. Also, feel free to substitute ANY fruit in place of the pineapple. :))
  • 1-2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 1 Cup + 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 1 Cup Flour 
  • 1/4 Cup + 2-4 Teaspoons Butter, diced small
To Make:
   First you want to preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Next, "grease" your oven-safe dish or ramekins (I used two ramekins for single serving desserts) with butter. Toss your diced pineapple (or other fruit) with the 2 tbs brown sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon. Pour into the dish or separate equally  into each ramekin. For the topping, mix together equal parts brown sugar and flour. Then add the diced, cold butter and cinnamon. Using a fork or your hands, mash the butter into the dried mixture. You will want to do this until all of the topping has some butter and is crumbly. I used my hands and just "massaged" the butter into the dry ingredients until it was all incorporated. Spoon the topping over each ramekin or the entire baking dish. Top with a few teaspoons of sliced butter and bake for about 30-35 minutes, until topping is brown and the sides are bubbling. Let cool slightly and enjoy with vanilla ice cream!

   I hope you enjoy this weeks' recipe and let us know if you try it with any other fruit in the comments section below! Thank you and have a great week! Like always, keep it clean!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dia de los Muertos

Today is the start of the Dia de los Muertos holiday. Dia de los Muertos is a traditionally Mexican holiday to pay homage to family and ancestors who have died. Many historians date the celebration back almost 3,000 years. Though the holiday used to be celebrated in August, it has been moved to coincide with All Saints Day on the Catholic calendar. November the First is often dedicated to children who have passed, while November the Second is usually extended to adults.

During the celebration, families come together and clean and decorate the graves of those who have passed with flowers and offerings, called ofrendas. Altars are often set up in the home for the souls of the dead to participate in the celebration. Families will find and leave small gifts they think those who have passed would have enjoyed in life, such as their favorite candy. Toys are left for children and infants, while drinks such as tequila are often left for adults. Food is also set out for the dead to enjoy. Pillows and blankets are sometimes left for the souls to rest after their journey.

The most distinguishing symbol of Dia de los Muertos are the calaveras or calacas, the decorated skulls and sugar skulls.   The skulls are often brightly colored and feature flowers around the eyes. Calaveras appear on candy, bread, figurines and are sometimes painted on the faces of the people who participate in street festivals. The street festivals are an Austin staple, with many to choose from this year.

The changing season from Fall to Winter holds in many cultures the symbolic passing from mid-life to old age, or from life to death. Even if you do not traditionally recognize Dia de los Muertos, it seems a fitting time of the year for remembrance and reflection on those who have brought us here, where we have come from and where we are going. Take time today to remember a loved one and be grateful for the life that you have. And until next time, keep it clean!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Breakfast is for Champions

Many Americans usually skip breakfast or have something small like a cup of coffee, a cup of juice or a piece of toast first thing in the morning. We then have a medium sized meal at lunch and a huge dinner. However, this routine has a way of unbalancing your appetite and your energy throughout the day. Studies show that people who eat breakfast regularly are at much lower risk for obesity. Dieters who take up the habit of eating breakfast keep weight off for the long term. What makes breakfast so essential?

When you think about it, when you've first woken up is the longest time you've gone without eating (the word "breakfast" is short for "breaking the fast", or eating after abstaining from food for a long period). There are usually 6 to 12 hours that have passed between dinner and when you first wake up in the morning. You may not be initially very hungry because you are not fully awake or because you are dehydrated. But by mid-morning you start snacking. This also sets you up to make unhealthy lunch choices and overeat at dinner. Having a heavy meal late at night makes it difficult to sleep soundly. A bad night's sleep leaves you with less energy throughout the next day, making you eat sweet foods or drink caffeine to keep your energy up.

It seems like we've got it all backwards. Rather than skipping breakfast and then continually increasing our food intake throughout the day, having a hearty, nutrient rich breakfast sets you up for success. A decent sized breakfast keeps you full, awake and focused, helps you choose a healthier midday lunch, and then at dinner a small meal keeps you satiated while you wind down for a deep sleep.

Of course, what you eat also has a lot to do with how well changing your meal sizes works for you. But doctors and nutritionists agree that some breakfast, even sugary cereal or a pastry, is better than no breakfast at all. But it's best to eat a high volume of nutrient rich foods. 50% or more of your meal should be fruit or vegetables and the remaining portion should be protein, whole grain or a combination of the two. Some good meal ideas are:

  • Peanut butter on gluten free waffle with a banana
  • Warmed up plums with real maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice, and oatmeal
  • Smoothie made with frozen strawberries and OJ or milk
  • Half of a whole grain bagel with egg, arugula and a slice of cheese
  • Make quick soup by reheating leftover brown rice, frozen spinach and vegetable broth
  • Granola over non-dairy yogurt with blueberries
  • Sliced fruit with milk, walnuts, almonds and a sprinkle of cinnamon and honey
  • Leftover steamed veggies with eggs or tofu, spoonful of salsa in a whole grain wrap

Try it out for a week and feel the difference in your day. Until next time, keep it clean!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Roller Derby: A History!

     Here at Azuma, we don't just support healthy living, being active, and laundry - we also support all things local! Roller Derby was brought back to life by a group of ladies in Austin. I personally, have a newfound obsession with Roller Derby and want to get involved, so I felt the need to post about it today! Here goes :) 
     Roller Derby history beings in the 1880s, though the official term "roller derby" wasn't used until 1922, when the Chicago Tribune used the term to describe flat-track roller skating races held at Chicago's Broadway Armory. "Roller Derby" became trademarked by Leo Seltzer, the man credited with revolutionizing roller derby and securing its place as a legitimate sport.
     Although roller skating and roller skating races were taking place well before Leo Seltzer came onto the scene, he took a sport with fledgling popularity and turned it into a nationwide phenomenon. In 1935 Seltzer, the owner of several Oregon cinemas, was tired of losing business to dance marathons, which were quite popular at the time. Reading an article that stated that 93% of Americans had tried roller skating, he created the Transcontinental Roller Derby, which featured teams racing the equivalent of the distance from New York to California, or 3,000 miles-all over a flat track. Roller derby history demonstrates that each team had to have at least on member on the track at all times. Following the success of his first race, Seltzer took the troupe on the road and eventually selected teams that would compete in Chicago, Miami, Louisville and Detroit.
     It was at one of these races in roller derby history, in Miami, that sportswriter Damon Runyon saw the marketing potential in the large collisions and other physical contact that occurred as teams tried to pass each other. He approached Seltzer and suggested he change the rules of the game to maximize the physical contact between the skaters, which included elbowing, "whipping" and slamming each other into the track's outer rail. Though Seltzer resisted the idea at first, he decided to experiment with the changes and found that the fans loved them.
     Seltzer trademarked the name Roller Derby and took his troupe on the road. After a brief lull in popularity during World War II when many competitors joined the Armed Forces and the fans had other things on their mind, Roller Derby received a huge boost when it began being broadcast on CBS. Roller Derby saw many highs and lows over the next 30 years, but by the mid-1970s, it had collapsed. Roller Derby history then underwent several professional, on-and-off TV revivals which were spearheaded by veteran skaters, including a 10-year International Roller Skating League (IRSL), and a few short-lived, TV-only spectacles.
     Today Roller Derby has been revived by a group of women who have returned the sport to its original athletic roots. In 2001 Bad Girl Good Woman Productions (BGGW) was formed and creates the first all-girl roller derby game of the new generation. Founders form four teams and, a year later, stage their first bout during the summer of 2002 in Austin, Texas. Shortly after, the league later suffers a split over business plans. In 2002 The Texas Rollergirls are formed from members of the first BGGW teams. The BGGW league (also known as the Lonestar Rollergirls or Texas Roller Derby) go on to skate banked-track roller derby, while the new Texas Rollergirls embrace the flat-track format. It is now an international sport that provides equal amounts of entertainment and athleticism to its viewers. Until next time, keep it clean! :)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fall Into Heathly Routines

   Depending on where you are in the country, fall is well underway. With the cooling temperatures, comes a sense of change and newness. Fall is a time of transformation, the temperature drops and the leaves start to turn color, before ascending to the ground below. With this seasonal shift, however, it is important to remain grounded to ensure you get the most out of this time of change.
   Ayurveda is the ancient "science of life" that defines and separates people into three main categories, called doshas. The dosha most prevalent in the fall is vata. This dosha corresponds with the elements air and space, and is associated with the nervous system. Therefore, if a vata imbalance is to occur, it can greatly affect your mental state - that is why it is so important to stay grounded! Here are a few ways to help keep your vata balanced this season:


   Yoga is recommended for each type of dosha, but especially when a vata balance is at stake. During this season, you want to choose asanas that focus on the lungs and large intestine. Also, you'll want to keep a routine and try to do yoga for the same amount of time (at the same time) each day. A few poses that are very beneficial this season are: Twists (twisted sage pose), Side Stretches (head-to-knee forward bend), Backbends (camel pose), Warrior poses, and Sun Salutations (to keep your body warm)!


   During the fall, you want to focus on warming foods to keep vata balanced. Hot teas and warm soups are extremely beneficial during these cooling months. Avoid raw, uncooked food as it has a tendency to cause vata imbalance. Eat foods that are warm, moist, and cooked in oil, butter, or ghee. Eating root vegetables helps to ground and connects you to the earth, so focus on these in your stews and soups. Keep in mind that salty, sweet, and sour tastes are calming to vata, so plan your meals accordingly.


   Routines are always helpful, but more so when vata is present. You'll want to keep strict on your waking and sleeping schedules, aim to be in bed before midnight if you can. It is recommended you be asleep by 10pm, which some might be able to do but with most people's work/life schedules I think it's a bit unlikely these days. Regardless, you want to make sure you get the minimum 6 hours of sleep to ensure proper rest. Aim to meditate for at least 10 minutes upon waking and just before going to sleep. I like to YouTube guided meditations like this one. During the colder months, you want to use body oils to keep the skin moist and supple. This also reduces the vata emotions of anxiety, depression, fear, and nervousness.

   These are just a few of the beneficial practices you can use to keep yourself grounded and balanced this season.  I hope you have learned something new and encourage you to look further into Ayurvedic living. Think warm, happy thoughts and have a wonderful fall day! :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Easy Weeknight Recipe: Spaghetti Bread

   I love to cook Italian food, especially the old fallback, spaghetti. It was the first dish I ever made on my own and it's always a good stand-by for nights when you don't feel like "cooking." However, if you're anything like me, you are TERRIBLE at measuring those tall, thin, spaghetti noodles. I always over-think the amount that goes into the pot, add more at the last minute, and then end up with a huge pile of cooked pasta. What's a girl (or guy!) to do with all of the left overs? Two words: Spaghetti Bread.
   I came across a pin for this recipe on Pinterest and have been wanting to make my own version for quite awhile. With leftover spaghetti from the lazy night before, I created a next day meal that you won't want to wait for! Here's what you need to get started:

  • cooked spaghetti noodles (though I imagine this would work with any pasta)
  • marinara or spaghetti sauce
  • mozzarella cheese (cubed or shredded)
  • pizza dough (store-bought or you can use my recipe here. :))
  • optional: garlic powder, dried basil, coconut milk/eggwash, mixed veggies, meats, ect.
   Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the pasta and marinara together with any veggies or other additions. Like I said, mine was leftover so it was already mixed and had cooked red onion/pepper as well. Now you want to roll your pre-made pizza dough out on the counter, or onto some parchment paper, into a large rectangle. Then, pile the spaghetti in the center of the dough. Next add a layer of cheese, cubed or shredded, onto the spaghetti. You will then cut along the dough so there is an even amount of flaps on both sides. Then braid the flaps together, tucking in both ends. Next you can brush the top with either an eggwash (egg + water) or a little coconut milk. I then sprinkled with garlic powder, basil, and a little salt and pepper. Parmesan cheese would have been delightful on top as well, but I was lacking that. Now you will bake in the oven for 35 minutes until nicely brown. Let cool as long as you can and then serve!
   This makes a lot of food and would pair nicely with a light salad for your next dinner party! It's like French bread and spaghetti that you can eat in one bite! Until next time, stay hungry and let us know how your spaghetti bread turns out in the comments section below! :)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Green Tea Alternative: Yerba Mate

If you're like me, your day hasn't really begun until you've had a hot cup of tea or coffee. I don't know if what I drink has so much to do with waking me up as it does with bringing a little comfort and calm to my morning ritual. Sometimes I'll have espresso, chai tea, black tea, green tea, or even dandelion "coffee". My new favorite addition to my pantry has been yerba mate.

Yerba mate (pronounced yur-ba mah-tay) is a common tea drink found in South America made from a variety of the holly tree. The aroma is earthy and the flavor is similar to green tea but has an added richness and a bold, almost smoky flavor.

Similarly to green tea, yerba mate both energizes and calms. It contains caffeine and has been shown to stimulate your heart, waking you up and making you more alert. It also contains compounds which relax smooth muscle tissue, making it a great alternative to coffee which makes some people feel anxious and jittery. Regular drinking of mate, like green tea, can boost your metabolism, making it easier for your body to burn and use fat stores. It also amazingly contains theobromine, the compound in cacao that attracts chocolate addicts. You can get a bit of your chocolate fix without eating a candy bar!

On top of just being a pleasant beverage that wakes you up, yerba mate also acts similarly to herbal tisanes in that it contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It contains A, C, E, B1, B2, Niacin (B3), B5, B Complex, Calcium, Manganese, Iron, Selenium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Zinc. The minerals and antioxidants help your body to repair itself, helping you look younger longer and helping to stave off cancer.

There are lots of delicious, healthy and accessible alternatives to foods you regularly eat. I hope you try mate and love it! Look for it in the tea section of your grocery store. Until next time, keep it clean!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Death by Optimism

When I first read about studies that optimism derails people from reaching their goals, I thought it could not possibly apply to me. I think of myself as a pragmatist and don't tend to have an overly sunny outlook on life. However, this particular brand of optimism that scientists were researching is quiet and insidious, and has a way of influencing you when you're thinking about it the least. The more I read, the more I realized the study put words and description to something to which many of us fall prey but have difficulty describing or understanding. Here are a few more tips on understanding optimism and how it effects your willpower from the collected research of Dr. Kelly McGonigal.

Have you ever set a goal for yourself that seemed simple enough, but even after working at it for months you seemed to barely make any progress? You may be slipping up to a mind game your brain is naturally inclined to play called moral licensing. When you find yourself doing a good deed, or even thinking about something that you consider virtuous (such as picking a salad over a hamburger, saving money at the store, donating to charity, switching to energy efficient light bulbs, etc.) you are far more likely to give yourself a "pass" on doing something you consider bad because you feel like you earned it. You may not even realize you're doing it, and the bad thing you do doesn't even have to be related to what you've just done. Doing or thinking about doing something good makes you more likely to do a range of "bad" things, from cheating on tests to lying or stealing.

With this kind of mentality, it's easy to understand where procrastination comes from and why it persists, or why some people have an especially difficult time with goals such as losing weight. Even thinking about doing something good for yourself or others, or making a list to complete a project you consider good, gives you the same high as actually doing it. It's enough of a high that you are just as likely to reward yourself today with a piece of chocolate cake for working out tomorrow, or with an extra half hour of TV for the extra studying you'll be doing tonight. You're already giving yourself a reward for a job you haven't done!

It doesn't make sense to have cake when you're trying to get healthy or to spend more time on the couch when you are trying to make time for homework because it obviously doesn't line up with your long-term goal at all. You're taking one step forward by working out and feel so great about it and the progress you see yourself making in the future that exercising somehow negates the act of eating cake completely in your mind. You're allowing your feelings about your progress to cloud your judgment, ultimately getting you nowhere nearer to where you need to be.

It is, however, necessary to see ourselves as able to make progress in the future, otherwise we would never pursue our goals. So how do you escape these cycles of reasoning? The easiest way is to not allow yourself to have the opportunity to "reason" with yourself or talk yourself into or out of something. Rather than seeing working towards your goals as a choice, make rules and stick with them. Don't say to yourself "I could read an extra hour tonight," instead say "I always read an extra hour each night."

Rules cut out a lot of harmful "reasoning" with yourself. But when rules fail, the most important step seems to be in changing how you look at yourself. Rather than seeing yourself as a good person who earns rewards or a bad person that earns punishment and constantly testing yourself, see yourself as being a person in line with the values that are the best for yourself, others and the world around you. When you are playing both parent and child to yourself and constantly debating about right and wrong, you tend to choose and reason for what will serve you best in the moment. Write down your long term goal that you're trying to reach and focus on that, and keep it with you. If knowing that finishing school with great grades will lead to better pay and more independence, studying that extra hour no longer seems like such a chore, but a necessity for the type of person you want to be. If you are at risk of heart disease and know that running a little longer will improve your overall health and energy and increase your lifespan so you can be there for your kids, debating over that cake as a reward when you're done seems silly and insignificant in comparison.

Knowledge and understanding are the first steps to progress. Be more self-aware and more paths for opportunity and change will open up to you. Until next time, keep it clean!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Essential Nutrient: Water!

     Today I want to talk about something real simple, that the majority of us clearly don't get enough of: Water! Studies have shown that 2/3rds of Americans don't drink enough water! We can go without food for weeks but without water we die of dehydration in a few days. Over two-thirds of our body is water yet most of us don’t clearly understand the importance of drinking plain water. Water is the most abundant compound in the human body and is necessary for the digestion of food, for the transport of food to the tissues, for the elimination of body wastes, for the circulation of body fluids, for a lubricant in the joints and internal organs - keeping them moist permitting the passage of substances between the cells and blood vessels - and for the regulation of body temperature. Water Is part of the blood system holding dissolved minerals, like calcium and magnesium in solution, making them available to the body tissues when they an required for proper health.
     Most of us have heard or read about these many functions of water yet ironically most of us are suffering from dehydration. We have been lead to believe that only when we experience a "dry mouth" must we be lacking adequate water. This medical misunderstanding has resulted in pervasive, chronic dehydration with subsequent health problems.
    Some of the problems treated and alleviated with adequate water intake are asthma, allergies, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, headaches, migraines, low back pain, rheumatoid arthritic joint pain, angina pain and intermittent pains (cramp like pain in the legs due to insufficient blood supply). As people age, they lose their thirst sensation and become gradually, chronically - dehydrated. All too frequently we tend to confuse thirst with hunger and instead of drinking water we eat, leading to weight gain.
    The physiological effects of drinking plain water is not the same as drinking beverages that contain water like: juices, sodas, coffee and tea. In fact, some of these liquids, coffee and tea, contain dehydrating agents (caffeine and theophylline) which stimulate the central nervous system which at the same time creating a strong diuretic action on the kidneys.
     Your body needs a minimum of 6 to 8 ounce glasses of water each day. Remember, alcohol, juice, sodas, coffee, and tea don’t count as water.  Most of us will find that we are drinking no more than 3 to 4 glasses per day, not 6 to 8. Thirst should be satisfied at all times with water. The more we pay attention to the body’s constant need of water the healthier we will be. Having a "dry mouth" is the last outward sign of extreme dehydration. Which can easily be avoided by drinking the proper amounts of water. Many medications actually dehydrate the body leading to more severe problems.
     Keep in min, the human body is roughly composed of 25 percent solid matter and 75 percent water. Brain tissue is said to consist of 85 percent water and the blood is 90 percent water.
Water - plain, properly filtered water - is an overlooked and essential nutrient and may be your missing ingredient to a healthier, more vibrant, and longer life. Did you know that an American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the average person in a developing country slum uses for an entire day? Not only that, but a typical individual in the United States uses 500 liters of water each day! Lets all take advantage of the fact that we have water accessible at every hour of the day! Drink up, it's good for your health! Until next time readers, keep it clean! :)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Gentle and Rejuvenating Ginger!

  The root of the ginger plant was used by ancient healers in Southeast Asia who utilized it's healing properties to cure indigestion and joint pain nearly 5,000 years ago. Today, many of the same benefits are being procured by this magical plant. It is top on my list of medicinal herbs because of the vast array of ailments it is proven to treat or cure. I'd like to show you a few of these marvelous benefits and give you some ideas on how to incorporate ginger into your daily life!
Ginger for Inflammation

   Ginger root contains powerful anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols. These substances can cause a reduction of pain and increased mobility for people who suffer from rheumatoid and osteo-arthritis when they consume the plant regularly. Other anti-inflammatory benefits (if you aren't quite to the arthritis stage in life) include helping to clear skin of acne and other related outbreaks. I personally have found a few slices of ginger added to green tea and drank daily can help clear your skin almost completely! I have also experimented with using ginger as a topical acne treatment by rubbing the cut end of the root directly on a blemish, which was noticeably lessened the next morning.

Ginger as Cancer Treatment/Prevention

   Those very same gingerols that help to reduce inflammation may also be cancer fighting and killing machines! Studies have shown that the compounds, which also give ginger it's distinct spicy flavor, could inhibit the growth of human colorectal cancer cells and even induce death in ovarian cancer cells! A pro-inflammatory state is thought to be a contributing factor in the development of ovarian cancer, therefore, by reducing inflammation you are greatly reducing your risk! Ways to incorporate these cancer-fighting benefits including drinking ginger tea and eating foods spiced with ginger.

Ginger for Increased Immunity

   You may have heard that drinking ginger tea can help fight off a cold or flu. That is entirely true and I have used this many times to beat or prevent illness. Ginger is extremely warming and can even cause you to produce sweat on a cold day. By causing your body to sweat, you are increasing detoxification, which is exactly what you want when you are sick! Also, ginger can help an upset stomach and is a natural pain-killer. I find that drinking several cups of fresh ginger root tea with lots of lemon and local honey helps to kick illness faster than any commercial medicine I've ever tried. Give it a shot next time you're under the weather!!

   I hope you have learned a little bit about my favorite medicinal herb ginger. Not only is it delicious (especially combined with cinnamon in tea), but it has many disease fighting properties as well. I encourage you to try it out and see what ginger can do for you! Until next time, stay clean and healthy!!! :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins

   I love when I stumble upon a recipe that is so completely satisfying I can't help but share it as soon as my tongue gets a taste. This recipe definitely meets those standards. I am also enamored with fall, everything about it. From the cooler breeze to the changing colors in the trees, I adore it all. My absolute favorite thing about fall? It's pumpkin season. :) 
   Upon purchasing a small, organic "sugar pie" pumpkin from Whole Foods, I had a hard time deciding what to actually do with it. I flirted with the idea of making cupcakes with a nice cream cheese frosting. Or should I, upon the boyfriend's request, go all out and make a delicious (albeit time consuming) pumpkin cheesecake? With these ideas in mind, I scoured the internet in hopes to find the perfect fall treat. And boy, did I find it! The perfect combination of the two, I present to you:

Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins
For the filling: 
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsps cinnamon 
  • 1 tsp almond extract (optional but delicious)
For the muffins: 
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 large eggs (or egg substitute - I used 4 chia/flaxseed "eggs")
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree (you can purchase this pre-made or make your own - details below)
  • 1¼ cups grapeseed oil (or any oil you have on hand. I used a combination of grapeseed and coconut.) 
For the topping: 
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
   If you're like me and prefer to avoid pre-processed foods, you might consider making your own pumpkin puree for this recipe. It's very simple to do and a small "sugar pie" pumpkin provided me with the exact amount I needed for this recipe. To make pumpkin puree, there's a variety of different ways you can go about it. All ways begin with you cutting the pumpkin in half, de-seeding it (Save for a later date! Pumpkin seeds are very nutritious and spectacular toasted with some cumin and chili powder.), and then chopping small and removing the skin. I chose the quickest method which involves placing the diced pumpkin into a pot of boiling water and letting it cook for about half an hour. Alternatively, you could roast the pumpkin or steam it. Both take a bit longer to do, however, and I was very impatient last night. ;) After you cook the pumpkin using whichever method you choose, you simply place the bits in a food processor or blender and let 'er rip! In seconds, you have freshly cooked pumpkin puree! (This also freezes exceptionally well if you end up with more than the needed 2 cups!)

   Now for the ACTUAL recipe. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine your ingredients for the filling. Simply whisk together until nice and creamy, and then store in the fridge until ready to use. You'll want to make the topping next. To do so combine the dry ingredients and then add your cubes of butter. Then you'll want to use a fork to mash the butter into the dry mixture until it is crumbly. Also set this in the fridge until you're ready to assemble. Now you can make the muffin batter. Simply add all ingredients and mix until incorporated. (I used an electric hand mixer but with a little man power you can easily do this by hand.) You want to line a cupcake pan (or two if you have them!) and then fill the paper 3/4 of the way full with the muffin batter. Then you will add a dollop (about 1 tbs) of the cream cheese filling on top. Finally, sprinkle generously with the topping. Bake for about 20 minutes and then remove when a toothpick (or other sharp kitchen device) comes out clean. Let cool for as long as you can manage. I don't recommend eating directly out of the oven - the cream cheese filling is molten, trust me! 

   These muffins are the perfect fall treat and taste even better the next day for breakfast. I hope you enjoy this recipe and the beginning of your fall/holiday season! Until next time, stay hungry delicious clean!!!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Increasing Your Willpower

Is there a goal you've set or a change that you'd like to make that you just can't seem to make yourself do? Whether it's losing weight, quitting smoking or even just making more time for your family, we all have challenges overcoming what we want to do in the short term for what we know will be good for us in the long term. Here are a few tips gleaned from Kelly McGonigal's book The Willpower Instinct on how to increase your own willpower and do the things you always find yourself wishing you could do.

Track the choices you make related to your challenge.
Before you start tackling your goal head-on, go about your week like you normally would and be conscious of what choices you make throughout the day. What derails you when you're about to do something you need to do? Are you stressed, hungry or tired? Do you get a sense of comfort and security when you spend an extra hour at work? When you constantly check Facebook, are you even aware that you're doing it before you find yourself commenting on a status? Being aware of what motivates you lets you know what's preventing your success. You may be surprised by what you discover!

Willpower is finite.
Just like any muscle in your body, your brain can handle only so much resistance before it finally gives out. This includes minor daily tasks, like remembering a phone number. Don't ask your brain to run a marathon right away. Anything worth doing takes time, so if you're struggling just remember to keep trying. Don't overburden yourself with too much too fast, and don't beat yourself up if you don't get it right. Try to remove any obstacles that make it more difficult for you to reach your goal daily, and use the following techniques to boost your willpower over time. Remember too that many stressors can drain your willpower throughout the day, so be aware that if you've had a rough day at work you'll be more likely to slip up.

Meditate at least 5 minutes daily.
Research shows that daily meditation, even in short increments, can boost your attention, focus, stress management, impulse control and self-awareness. Effects can be seen immediately, but the best part is the more regularly you meditate, the more adept you are with all of these skills.

Slow your breathing down and take deep breaths.
Just twenty minutes daily of being conscious of your breath, and even just taking a few deep breaths before a big challenge for one to two minutes greatly increases your willpower reserve. Try to take 10 to 15 seconds for each breath.

Get a full night of sleep.
Being tired drains your brain of energy too, not just your body. When your brain isn't functioning at its best, it's difficult to balance tough decisions. Do yourself a favor and make sure you get the 8 hours you need. You'll work more efficiently in the long run than if you stay up late and work an extra hour.

Exercise at least 5 minutes daily.
That's all it takes to boost your mood and your resistance to temptation!

Relax your muscles.
When your body is relaxed, you recover some of your willpower. Unfortunately, watching TV doesn't count. Lay on your back with your knees bent in a quiet place. Tense up your muscles and then release them to feel full relaxation. You may be scowling, slouching, or clenching your fists and not even realize it.

Hopefully you'll find these tips helpful as you set out to reach your goals. Start small and dream big! And until next time, keep it clean!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Streamlining Your Workout

We all have high demands on our time during the day, making it difficult to fit in everything we need to do -- much less the things we would like to do for ourselves. Unfortunately, exercise is one of the number one things we put off or put on the back burner because we don't have a free moment to do it. Here's a few tips to make fitting in a workout a little faster.

Workout where you are.
Driving to the gym, packing a gym bag, trying to arrange your keys and water bottle and headphones in your shorts, waiting for a treadmill... Sometimes going to the gym can really sap your day away! You can easily spend an hour preparing for and cleaning up after a 20 minute work out. Try finding places nearby you (a nearby park or just your own neighborhood) that offer the same perks. If you like the stair-stepper, use the nearby high school stadium and run up and down the bleachers, or find a steep hill in your neighborhood. Carry weights to make it more challenging. Running around the block is usually more physically demanding and a better workout than running on a machine. Bonus points: Research shows that spending just 5 minutes a day outside among greenery boosts your willpower and focus throughout the day. So get out there!

Resist the urge to shower every time you sweat.
I know it sounds a little icky, but you can still be clean and fresh (and save an extra 30 minutes in your mornings) without always washing. If you have access to a shower, give your body a quick rinse. If you're not so lucky, go with a French shower and wipe off extra sweat and dirt with a clean wet washcloth. Deodorizing wipes and body sprays can also help freshen you up.

You can still have gorgeous hair without washing it.
Keep mousse, light hairspray or shine enhancing balm (whatever hair finishing product you prefer) on hand. Spritz on a little, work it through your hair and then blow dry it in sections with a round brush to dry out the sweat. Flip your head over and dry underneath, and finish by blowing cool air at the nape of your neck to help you cool off faster. If your hair gets oily, you can sprinkle cornstarch on your scalp, let it sit for a few minutes and then brush it out with a bristly brush over the sink. Voila! No more oil. It's a super cheap dry shampoo that quickly gives your hair life again. This routine takes all of 5 minutes, smells great and no one will be the wiser.

Find training that works multiple areas.

To cut down on time, try multitasking with your body! You can do a cardio circuit without the machines by just varying the speed and intensity of your runs, or by picking hilly terrain. If it's strength training you're interested in, there are literally hundreds of options for working multiple muscle groups. Fitness MagazineNike Training Club, and Beachbody are all excellent (and mostly free) resources for short and effective workouts.

Sleep in your gym clothes.
My sweats double as my PJ's. This way I can just roll out of bed, put on my shoes and go. If you work out during your lunch or after you get off work, lay out your stuff the night before. This way if you have other things on your mind as you're getting ready for the day, you won't be distracted by trying to remember where your favorite pants are.

Keep in mind what prevents you from working out.
Everyone's schedules and lives are different. Take a hard look back on the times you've skipped workouts and be honest with yourself. When you start making excuses, be conscious of it and step outside of yourself and say "What is really preventing me from going? Am I really that tired or hungry? Do I really have to clean the kitchen right now? Can I check my emails when I'm back at work, or does work really demand my time right now?" Only you can talk yourself in or out of doing something, and only you know what's at the heart of what's stopping you. The only workout you regret is the one you don't do. So spend less time lying in bed, dragging your feet and debating about what you want to do or should do and just do it!

The less barriers you have, the more likely you are to get things done. Make it easy on yourself to achieve what you want and you'll be more likely to succeed. Until next time, keep it clean!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hey There Honey!

   Honey has been utilized as a natural sweetener for centuries, dating back as far as 2100 B.C. Mead, which is made from honey, was once referred to as the "nectar of the gods." Honey has also been honored as a form of currency, tribute, and offering throughout history. It's even been used to make cement, varnishes for furniture, and also has many medicinal purposes. Let me show you a few! 

Anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral: 

   Honey has all of the above qualities making it a powerhouse against disease and infection. You can take honey to prevent and help cure illness, treat athletes food and other fungal infections, and even use it directly on a wound or burn to help increase healing! It's gentle and tastes delicious too! 

Honey helps soothe and heal sore throats and upper-respiratory infection:

   Due to honey's antimicrobial properties, it makes it the perfect antidote for a sore throat. Not only will the sweet, viscous liquid coat and soothe the throat, but it will help fight off infection naturally too! There have also been reports that honey will reduce the frequency and severity of coughs due to upper-respiratory congestion. 

                                             Honey as cancer prevention: 

    While honey will not cure cancer, there is significant evidence that it can help to prevent it. Honey has carcinogen-preventing, anti-tumor properties due to large amounts of flavonoids. These are antioxidants which can help reduce the risk of some cancers and even heart disease.

Bonus - Honey for hangovers:

   If you sometimes indulge a little too much on the weekend, you may end up with the dreaded hangover the following morning (or afternoon as the case may be). Well, here comes honey to the rescue! Honey is super gentle on your tummy and also contains a mix of natural sugars, including fructose. Fructose has been known to speed up the oxidation of alcohol by the liver, acting as a sort of 'sobering' agent. This will help speed up your recovery and increase overall well-being. 

   I hope you have learned some new things about this old standby sweetener. Honey is one of my favorite foods, and I always have a large supply. When using honey for medicinal purposes, it's best to use local, raw honey as it has the most healing powers. Happy health and as always, stay clean!