Thursday, April 26, 2012

Simplifying Your Commute

Want a good way to wake up in the morning without the coffee? Enjoy a cool morning breeze and the wind in your face? Want to save a little dough, be kind to the environment and stay in shape too? Try biking to work! It may seem far-fetched, but you'd be surprised how fast and easy it is to bike to most places. Here are a few tips on learning to get around.

Get your ride
This may seem obvious, but picking your bike is important. Will you be riding greenbelt trails, or urban streets? Are you a speed demon or a cruiser? There are lots of good places to find bicycles, including craigslist and freecycle. Buying a brand new bike can be very expensive, but can pay for itself in the gas you save in a few months in most cases. If buying a brand new bike isn't an option, remember that bike specialty shops can also do upgrades and repairs for relatively cheap. Updating gears, changing tires, outfitting the saddle or adjusting the handlebars to your liking are just a few of many things they can do. But mainly, be sure that everything functions tightly and smoothly, the body of the bike fits your height and posture, it's easy to shift (if you don't have a fixed gear) and that your butt is comfy in the saddle! I do recommend getting a bike with gears for your first ride, especially if there are hills in your area. You'll go a lot faster and expend less energy to get there.

Outfit yourself
Be sure to fit your bike with all the gear you'll need. The basics are reflectors (required by law in most places), headlamp (for riding when it's dark), bike lock and basket (or backpack). Be sure your bike lock is secure and that you always use it. It's handy to have a backpack or basket that is waterproof for anything you may carry, such as groceries or a briefcase. Extras you'll want to consider are reusable water bottle, change of clothes if you sweat a lot, and windbreaker that doubles as a raincoat. However keep in mind that every item you carry has the potential to weigh you down, so don't pack too much.

Find your route
Many cities provide bike trail routes and bikeable hiking trails on their local government homepage. Google now has bike routes in beta. Pick your start and end point and adjust the lines to what works for you. The best routes are ones that follow bike paths, steer clear of overcrowded streets and can cut straight through neighborhoods with few turns.

Get riding
Remember that bicyclists have to follow the same road rules as cars! Stay with the flow of traffic, stop at lights, and learn your hand signals (Stick your arm straight out to the right for a right turn, hold up your arm in an L shape for a left turn. Pointing works too.) Be extra watchful of your surroundings for cars making turns and people stepping into your path. And most importantly, OWN your space in the road! Some drivers may get cranky, but it is essential to your safety and visibility to ride in the lane and not squished against the curb where you could be sideswiped. If at all possible, make sure you can see the driver in their rearview or side mirrors. That way you know they can see you. When you're first starting out, try doing trial runs to the market or just to work and back in the evenings to get a feel for what you'll be dealing with, how sweaty you get, how fast you go and how long your ride will be. Remember that bikes shift up and down depending on speed, just like a car. If you're sailing along, shift up a gear to go even faster!

Depending on rush hour traffic, sometimes riding a bike is just as fast as riding in your car, and it is far more rewarding. With a little practice and preparation, pedaling to where you're going is fun and exhilarating. Enjoy the ride!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Simplifying Your Stuff

A lot of our current culture revolves around the easily accessible, the cheap, the replaceable and the disposable. Even with discount items and big box super stores, all of that stuff adds up and costs money. Today I'd like to challenge you to swap quantity for quality and change your idea of what you "need" to get by.

Disposable Items
There are a lot of disposable, packaged goods that people purchase every week, but mankind thrived for thousands of years before these were invented. Think about each packaged thing you purchase and replace at least one of those each week with something you can keep instead. Do you have allergies and need to blow your nose twice a day? Instead of tissues, try a handkerchief. Having 2 or 3 on hand, one to use while one is in the wash, is usually plenty for most people. Handkerchiefs are sturdier and easier on your face. Save tissues for when you have a terrible case of the flu. Do you use plastic bags and foil to wrap up leftovers? Try glass jars or cheesecloth. There are even companies that make reusable bags that mimic sandwich bags that can be thrown in the dishwasher after a few uses.

Clothes and Fashion
When was the last time you wore that dress, and why do you need 20 pairs of jeans? You shouldn't be hanging on to clothes you might grow into or eventually lose weight and can wear again. And it could be years before you need to reuse those baby clothes. Pare down your closet to what you can wear for a week, plus a couple of seasonal or special occasion items like sweaters, swimsuits or something you'd wear to a fancy gathering. When you have less to choose from, you have less to worry about, less space to fill with stuff, and you get more creative with mixing and matching what you have. Give the extra stuff to those who need and can use it today.

Kitchen Items
There are 3 of you in your house, yet you have enough dishes and place settings for Thanksgiving. You don't have to have all that stuff just for that one day out of the year. Limiting your use to one or two dishes of each kind per person cuts down on dishes to do, provides incentive to keep things clean, and limits clutter.  Think about gadgets, too: a frying pan and a knife work just as well as a grill and a slicer-dicer. Have items that do multiple things and learn to use them instead of specialized items that just do one thing.

Storage and Someday Items
When was the last time you went camping? Do you really need a treadmill, or can you run outside? Are you still hanging on to your 16 year old's tricycle? Remember that what you use daily is often not a lot. Get to know your neighbors, make friends in your community and learn to share. You're not going to mow your lawn or cut down a tree every day, but there are rental programs and free community sharing programs that make it easy to access convenience items when you do need them. You don't need your own personal item for each activity you do a few times a year.

100 Items
There are likely tons of other things in your home that I haven't listed. Hobbies and abandoned crafts, things stuffed under the bed, 4 different shampoos in the shower, 5 different cleaners under the sink. Decluttering your life extends to all sorts of places in your home, and the benefits include more space, less money spent and peace of mind. If there are other items you need to factor in, it helps creative thinking to limit yourself to a number. Often minimalists limit to 100 personal items (5 shirts, one toothbrush, one pen, one pad of paper, etc.). If something breaks and can't be fixed or needs to be replaced, you remove the one thing and replace it with one thing so the number stays constant. The number is arbitrary, your number can be whatever you're comfortable with. But having a number helps to keep focus and control and a mental image of what you can expect to have in your home at any given time.

It may be hard to let go of things that you have, especially if it's something of nostalgic value. But what matters most is not the things themselves but the memories and the people in them and what you share with them. If you let go of a thing, you are not letting go of that person or that experience. If you have less physical items to hang on to, you have less to worry about insuring, replacing, or losing. When you pick and choose what you keep and use, you also give yourself the freedom to worry less about the stuff you have and the stuff you're going to buy and the ability to do more.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Easy Grow Spring Gardening

     We all know it's that time of year again, and several of us say "next spring I'll plant a garden!" and next spring comes, and we're always too busy to make it happen! This year, I actually will have a garden! I am going this weekend to visit my mother and help her plant a garden, that I too, will reap the benefits of. :) It's already mid April, so we're cutting it pretty close on time, but it isn't too late for you to grow a garden of your own, too! Today I just want to provide you with a few easy to grow veggies and a little bit about them! 
Bush Beans : Green beans are a healthy summer favorite! Green beans provide a bounty of nutrients: vitamins A, C and K, manganese, potassium, folate and iron, as well as fiber. Plant your bean seeds in well-drained soil where they’ll receive full sun. Sow seeds every few weeks to enjoy a continual harvest through the summer.
Beets : Beets are an earthy, sweet treat. 1/2 cup of cooked beets has a mere 29 calories but boasts 2 grams of fiber and provides 19 percent of the daily value for folate, a B vitamin needed for the growth of healthy new cells. Beets’ beautiful color comes from betanin, a phytochemical that’s thought to bolster immunity. You can plant your beets as soon as your soil can be worked in the spring.
Carrots : Carrots can be prepared in a variety of ways. The pigment that makes carrots orange—beta carotene—is the same compound the body converts to vitamin A, a vitamin essential for vision, healthy skin and the immune system. Plant carrots as soon as the soil can be worked. They thrive in fertile sandy loam.
Cucumbers : Cucumbers are a tasty addition to salads! While the cucumber isn’t known as a nutrition powerhouse, it does provide refreshment: at 95 percent water content, a cup of cucumber slices is nearly as thirst-quenching as a glass of water. Give your cucumber plants generous amounts of organic matter and good fertilization and they will respond with lots of crunchy cucumbers; harvest them regularly to increase production. 
Gourmet Lettuce Mix : Lettuce is easy to grow, making it a great choice for container gardening. Although nutrients differ with each variety of lettuce, leafy greens are a great start to any meal, supplying vitamins A, C, K and folate. Lettuce thrives in cooler weather so plant it in the spring and fall, sowing every few weeks for a continuous harvest.
Snap Peas : These sweet peas with edible pods make a great snack on their own, and are just as welcome cooked up into a satisfying side dish! With one-third of your daily value of vitamin C and 3 grams of fiber in every cup, these vegetables are a healthy choice. Snap peas don't do so well in hot and dry weather. Plant your peas so that they can mature as early as your planting schedule allows and sow more seeds when cooler fall days return.

Radishes : Radishes are more versatile than you may think: add them to a salad or temper their heat by cooking them in your favorite veggie stir-fry. One radish has just 1 calorie! Even if you don't have a green thumb, radishes are easy to grow in containers and gardens; spring radish varieties are often ready in just three weeks and are more mild in flavor - hotter summer soil produces spicier radishes.

Basil : No other herb epitomizes the taste of summer like basil. Whirl up a batch of pesto or sprinkle basil on your favorite pasta dish. Plant basil in rich, moist soil where it can enjoy full sun. Sow your basil every few weeks for continual harvest. 
Cilantro  : Cilantro is a flavorful herb prominent in Mexican and Southeast Asian cookery. Try it as an alternative to basil in pesto to top fish or stir it into your favorite salsa recipe. The stems are as flavorful as the leaves—just discard any that are tough. Plant cilantro early in the season and sow seeds regularly for a continued harvest.
 Parsley : Often parsley is used as a garnish, leaving its delicious flavor under appreciated. Not only does it have a great aromatic quality, but parsley also contains vitamins A and C. Plant parsley in fertile soil with good amounts of organic matter and moisture.

From us health nuts here at Azuma Leasing, good luck with your new garden! There is nothing better than fresh, home grown, organic fruits and veggies. Not only are they delicious, but they are jam packed full of nutrients! Until next time, keep it clean with your washer and dryer rentals! :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Now You Know: Antioxidants

     We all hear about all these different things that we need in order to be healthy. We all hear about super foods, organics, you know the list goes on! As a person who is currently making a lot of life changes, and trying to live healthier, in general; I often find myself more curious about how things work. I've even been tempted on taking a few nutrition classes to better educate myself! I found myself browsing the internet for some information, and stumbled across something about antioxidants, so today I'd like to share with you my findings! :)
     In short, antioxidants are substances that are capable of counteracting the damaging, but normal, effects of the physiological process of oxidation in animal tissue. Antioxidants are nutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well as enzymes (proteins in your body that assist in chemical reactions). They are believed to play a role in preventing the development of such chronic diseases as cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, and cataracts. 
     I know this is long, and overwhelming, but in short, antioxidants contribute in our fight against life long diseases. At least, that's the only thing about antioxidants I need to know along with how they benefit us, and the best ways to intake them. A Free radicals can be bad for your health. Quite simply, free radicals are the bad guys that harm you, and antioxidants are the good guys that pro­tect you.

There are three different types of Antioxidants:
Carotenoids -
special antioxidants that give fruits and veggies thier color. 
  • over 600 kinds.
  • prevent the formation of free radicals in the first place.
  • starve cancers by preventing blood vessels from growing up to feed the cancer.
The top 3 ways to get Carotenoids are:
  1. yellow squash, in taking 1 1/2 cups per week helps prevent lung cancer
  2. carrots, in taking 1cup per day helps prevent kidney cancer
  3. persimmons in taking 2 per day prevents stomach cancer
  • protects the body indirectly; creating uric acid that neutralizes free radicals.
  • prevents lung cancer.
The top 3 ways to get Flavonoids are: 
  1. Red Cabbage - in taking 1/2 cup per day
  2. Kumquats - in taking 2-3 per day
  3. Raspberries - in taking 1/2 cup per day
  • activate a self defense mechanism in our body; help cells produce more antioxidant enzymes that go out directly and intercept and help destroy free radicals.
  • most are found in leafy green vegetables.
  • help prevent ovarian cancer.
The top 3 ways to get Isothiocyanates are: 1 cup of raw veggies per day
  1. Chicory
  2. Swiss Chard
  3. Parsley
      There are a few other small tips that are worth mentioning! Something as simple as how you make your tea can make a difference! By dunking your tea bag, instead of letting it sit, you actually release more antioxidants, than leaving it sitting in the bottom of the cup! Also, by adding lemon to your tea makes antioxidants more stable. Another thing you might be surprised to hear, roasting your peanuts is better for you than raw, for antioxidants, because roasting increases the antioxidant levels by 20% or more! We all know that eating veggies is good for us, but did you know that by combining tomatoes and broccoli you get more cancer fighting activity than either food alone! Additionally, boiling veggies destroys nutrients in veggies, always steam them instead! 

      I know that is alot of information to take in at once! Something as small as adding a few of these to your diet, is all I ask! We hope that as you do your laundry in your Azuma washer and dryer rental, or unload your groceries into your refrigerator rental, that you take these tips to heart. A healthier you means a happier life! :) Until next time, keep it clean!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Peanut Butter Jelly Time!

Okay, maybe just the peanut butter part. But jelly would go great with the recipe I'm about to show you. Do you love that fresh ground peanut butter they sell at Central Market and other fancier grocery stores? I know I do, but I don't like paying the huge price tag!!! I discovered a few months ago, however, an easy way to make this glorious condiment at home! All you need is a blender. :)

                               Honey Cinnamon Peanut Butter
  • 1/2 oz Peanuts (I used half of a 1 oz can of salted party peanuts. If not using pre-salted, add salt to taste.)
  • 1-2 tbsp Grapeseed Oil
  • 1 tbsp Honey
  • A few dashes of Cinnamon (I used around 2 tsp)
Place all ingredients in your blender of choice (a food processor would work too!) and let 'er rip! In a few minutes you will have the creamiest, most delicious fresh peanut butter you've ever tasted! And it's super cheap and easy!!!

Feel free to experiment with all kinds of nuts and flavors! Brazil nuts, cashews, almonds, and even sunflower seeds make yummy and nutritious butters that go great on sandwiches or with fruits and veggies. You can also add vanilla, ginger, or even cayenne for a spicy nut butter! Even better, make your own Nutella at home with chocolate and hazelnuts!! Have fun creating all kinds of delicious options and remember to stay clean while you're at it!!! :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Om Sweet Om

   Meditation is a thousand year old practice that still has numerous benefits for modern day man. The word "meditation" most likely brings to mind a picture of a skinny, dark, scantily clad man sitting cross-legged with hands in the 'OK' formation. Maybe he's chanting a familiar "Om" or similar soothing phrase. Regardless of what you may see or believe, that is not all meditation is about.
   I like to think of meditation as a "time-out" from reality. For a few moments a day, you get to sit in complete peace and allow every thought to drift through and out of your consciousness. The easiest way to start a meditation practice is to set aside a few minutes a day, find a quiet area you enjoy, and just sit and breathe. Focusing on your breath will really help you to let go of the other thoughts that may arise during the practice. A lot of people will get frustrated when they first start meditating because they think it's impossible to turn off all of the inner chatter. I thought this as well, but believe me, you CAN shut off the voices in your head.. eventually!!!
   When beginning a meditation practice, it's best to start with smaller time frames and work your way up. Start with 1 minute sessions, then up that to 3 minutes.. then 5 minutes and so on. Soon you'll be busting through a 30 minute session like a meditation master!!! You can sit cross-legged on the floor or lay down with your head supported by a pillow, any way that is most comfortable. Then you want to focus on your breathing. Feel your stomach expand as you inhale through your nose and then deflate when you sigh out an exhale. Try to keep your breaths even and as deep as possible. Soon you'll get into a rhythm and it will feel very natural to you. Most people have a tendency to breathe too shallow (also called chest breathing,) so breathing this deeply feels a bit awkward at first. One of the benefits of meditation is that it teaches you the proper way to breathe so that you get the most oxygen into your bloodstream, which makes for the happiest cells! :)
   More benefits of meditation include:
  • Deeper levels of relaxation
  • Decreased muscle tension
  • Enhanced energy
  • Cures headaches and migraines
  • Increased creativity
  • Improved relationships
  • Less aggression and road rage 
  • Can help to cure addictions to alcohol, cigarettes, ect. 
  • Develops emotional maturity 
  • Increases the synchronicity in your life 
That is just a handful of the amazing things meditation can assist you with! Click here for a more comprehensive list with 100 total benefits!!! :)
   Meditation is a life-changing tool that I encourage you to try! There is no risk, and the benefits are outstanding.. what do you have to lose?! Why not take a few minutes out of your day to practice something that can help your mind, body, and soul?! To help you get started, here's a free guided meditation from YouTube that I enjoy! Stay clean everybody!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Getting Fit on the Cheap

Fitness has become a growing market in the United States. With all the advertisements for weight loss plans, equipment, gym memberships, TV shows about getting thin fast and celebrities selling shakes and "superfoods", on top of advertisements for regular supermarket foods touting their supposed health benefits, it's no wonder that most people are confused. Some of the information we're getting is downright contradictory. Here's a few quick and easy tips to bypass all of that, and save a few bucks too!

Ditch the gym. Depending on what membership you get, fitness clubs can range from as little as $20 bucks a month to upwards from $100 or more. That's a lot of dough! If you have a pair of running shoes and a sidewalk or a not-too-busy road, just walk out your front door and start jogging. Cardiovascular activity is the surest way to lose weight fast (and show off muscle tone!). Check out free programs such as Walk to Run or Couch to 5k if you're new to running for tips on building stamina. Ideally, running 45 minutes to 1 hour consecutively in your heart rate zone will burn the most calories, build the best heart health, strengthen your memory, boost your creativity and improve your mood. Yep, exercise does all of that, even after just one run! If you're new to working out and having trouble figuring out how hard your working, invest in a basic heart rate monitor and learn what your heart rate zone is. Continually running in your zone will get you used to the difference between feeling the burn and hurting yourself by working too hard. It takes 21 consecutive days to build a habit, so put a calendar on your wall, sleep in your gym clothes, roll out of bed and put on your sneaks and get out the door. It's much easier than packing a bag and driving, then working out in front of a bunch of strangers.

You don't need fancy gear to sweat. I admit, it's tantalizing to try out moisture-wicking technology and compression gear that's supposed to make you more aerodynamic and your muscles recover faster. But actually, scientific studies show that a lot of that gear doesn't help by much. Unless you're a professional athlete, shaving 0.12 seconds off your race time isn't going to do you a lot of good. If it helps you get over your embarrassment to work out by wearing good looking clothes, check out a local thrift store, browse a big box store for comfortable pajama pants, and dig out those rock band t-shirts from the back of your closet. Get the most basic sports bra that will support you if you need it, even the expensive ones will warp and stretch out quickly with daily use. Pajamas are basically the same drawstring pants but $5 or $10 cheaper. Get clothes made from natural fibers such as cotton and wash them on cold to keep the smell out and keep them lasting longer. The only thing you should spend your money on is a good pair of shoes, especially if you're running in an urban area. Shoes should be replaced every 500 miles or about 6 months to a year. Bad shoes or bad running form can result in shin splints, which will set back your running routine fast.

Stick to simple foods. Though sometimes convenient, the calorie content and ingredients in sports foods are usually more harmful than helpful. Some sports bars have just as much sugar and calories as a big cookie. Companies will try to sell you on the sciencey superiority of their formulation, but in actuality this is just another thing that really only benefits hardcore athletes who are working out 3 hours or more per day. Electrolytes are amazingly found in fresh fruits and vegetables, fruit juices, coconut water, and good old pickle juice. Pickle juice is even more hydrating than the average sports beverage! Save your dough for a good salad with lemon juice and oil for dressing, or a fresh fruit smoothie. Packaged foods are usually at least 3 times more expensive than making something yourself. If you like having something to grab and go, don't underestimate the power of your refrigerator. Baking whole grain breakfast bars, or meal additions like brown rice and saving them in your freezer will save you time during the week and money that might have been misspent on frozen dinners or boxed and processed foods. Cut up fruits and veggies and store them in water or lemon juice in the fridge to keep them fresh and easy to snack on. Stick to the outer perimeter of the grocery store and get veggies, fruit and bulk grains and nuts before you venture down the aisles. If you commit to picking up the healthy food first, you'll be less likely to spend your remainder on a bunch of junk food.

Use your surroundings creatively. You don't need weights or machines to build muscle and stretch. Use the curb, a wall or a table to press against to get the maximum stretch. If you can't touch your toes, wrap a belt or a towel around your feet and pull yourself forward. Chin ups can be done on stable supported surfaces, like door jams, stairs or monkey bars. Put your feet on the bed and your hands on the ground for an assisted push-up, or flip on your back in the same position for a greater range of motion sit-up that will work your back muscles as well as your abdominals. And you certainly don't need assistance to do yoga poses. In time, everything will start to look like something you can work with.

Working out is a part of life and a part of maintaining balance and a healthy body, just like brushing your teeth and getting a good night's sleep. Hopefully these tips will help you to treat it like an easy, normal part of your daily routine. Until next time!