Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Now You'll Know: The History of Memorial Day

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, "Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping" by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication "To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead" (Source: Duke University's Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920). While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it's difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 - 363) to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis' birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.

In 1915, inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields," Moina Michael conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Later a Madam Guerin from France was visiting the United States and learned of this new custom started by Ms.Michael and when she returned to France, made artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women. This tradition spread to other countries. In 1921, the Franco-American Children's League sold poppies nationally to benefit war orphans of France and Belgium. The League disbanded a year later and Madam Guerin approached the VFW for help. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans' organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their "Buddy" Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans. In 1948 the US Post Office honored Ms Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement by issuing a red 3 cent postage stamp with her likeness on it.
Traditional observance of Memorial day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How To Have a Healthier Memorial Day

   Memorial Day is just around the corner, and like many of you I am looking forward to my extended weekend! Memorial Day is a time to reflect on the sacrifices of our brothers, sisters, and neighbors. It is also a time to gather family and friends near the most accessible body of water and have one heck of a cook out! For most Americans this means hamburgers and hotdogs, chips and ranch dip, and a whole lot of soda or beer! I am going to offer a few tips so you can toss these old standbys and have a more healthful Memorial Day! :)

Snacks are essential to any type of outdoor activity. Lots of people will stick with the old Fritos/bean dip, Lays/french onion dip, tortilla chip/queso route. Why not do something different for a change? Try a roasted red pepper hummus with some warm, soft pita bread. Toss some pico de gallo and a couple of avocados with a squirt of lime for a fresh homemade guacamole, served with veggie sticks! Still hankering for something salty? Try kale chips!

For the Grill
There are lots of options when it comes to grilling that don't always involve tubed meat. Try some veggie shish-kebabs or add a lean, organic protein if you prefer! Grilled corn, portabellos, and "baked" potatoes are always delicious and wholesome choices as well. Something I've been aching to try, grilled pizza!

Most people flock to fizzy and sugary beverages to quench their thirst. The actual fact is that these drinks are not really satisfying that thirst and creating more dehydration. The only way to beat dehydration (which is very important when you are out in the sun all day!) is to drink water! Don't like water? Try adding lemon or lime, berries and other fruits, herbs, and various other goodies to spruce it up! Cucumber lime mint water sounds so much more appetizing than just water, don't you think?

   There are so many options when trying to cut back on the processed, fatty foods of our culture. Keep an open mind and eat things that have life force! I can guarantee you, you will enjoy that day at the lake so much more! Not to mention your swim suit will look better! ;)

Stay clean and have a safe, healthful holiday weekend!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

DIY: Body Scrub for Summer Skin

   It's summertime in Texas. Time for BBQs, swimming holes, and a whole lot more skin. Why not get yours summer ready with a homemade body scrub?! Just a few ingredients are all that you need for a wonderfully scented, luxurious exfoliating scrub that rivals the chemical laden store bought varieties.

   First gather your ingredients:
  • 2 cups salt or sugar (epsom or sea salt/brown or regular sugar)
  • 1 cup oil (grapeseed, avocado, almond, or jojoba work nicely)
  • 8-10 drops of essential oil (Your favorite scent! I recommend lavender, peppermint, or lime! Or mix and match for a scent that is all your own!!)
   This recipe couldn't be more simple. Just pour the above ingredients into a bowl, stir to evenly distribute the oils, and then store in a jar or tupperware container. This should last for a couple of months without any problems. That is to say that you don't use it all before then. :)

   Sugar or salt scrubs also make great birthday and holiday gifts. I usually upcycle old spaghetti sauce jars, tie a bow or fancy ribbon around the top, and fill with my lovely scented concoctions! This scrub will also not only exfoliate your skin to perfection, it also leaves behind a moisturizing layer of oil and slight fragrance. I like it because the scent is not overbearing and harsh like most commercial brands. Plus, you made it yourself! Doesn't get much better than that! :)
  So say goodbye to winter scales and say hello to glowing, radiant, vacation ready skin!  Stay clean until we meet again!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Healthy Routines

When you start exercising, it's easy to either be really soft on yourself or to push too hard. Here's a few basic tips for setting the right balance.

Make a Habit
It takes 60 days to turn a daily activity into a habit. If you're having trouble getting into the routine of exercising, just put a calendar on the wall and X-off 60 days in a row for every day you work out. As long as you create the habit and get your body used to being active, it doesn't matter what you do. This could mean a 15 minute jog around the block, a sun salutation of yoga poses or doing a few sets of push-ups. The idea is to make it not feel weird or like a chore to lace up those sneakers every day.

Keep It Simple
Your workout should be a basic game plan. The more you add to it, the easier it is to over think what you're doing and talk yourself out of it or over-do it. If you plan on doing more than one or two activities per day, memorize your circuit so you can flow directly from one activity into the next. If that's too difficult, try taking a class for a while. The peer pressure of having an instructor, a friend or even strangers watching you work out is a motivator, and if someone is telling you what to do next, you can't tell yourself to do more or less than what was planned. If you're by yourself, wear a heart-rate monitor  and stay in your zone so you know when you're over-working or under-working. Force yourself not to change that routine once you set it for at least 2 months. That way you'll get the most benefit out of your current routine and see realistic results from what you're doing.

Stay Alert
Get a good night's sleep each night and lay off the caffeine. The best way to stay awake is to get plenty of rest and eat foods that are easy to digest and don't weigh you down. Eating seems like a very sedentary activity, but digestion takes a lot of energy! When you eat less, your body expends less energy throughout the day. Start your morning with hot water with lemon, herbal tea, a smoothie or a probiotic drink such as kombucha. Easing yourself into eating throughout the day allows your body to rehydrate itself and reenergize itself for the long day ahead. If you still have trouble staying alert, try elevating your workstation so that you have to stand at your desk. When you stand you move and shift your weight more, your blood flows more and it's easier to think clearly.

Don't Make Excuses
If you worked too hard yesterday, don't automatically give yourself a pass for today. Likewise, if you missed yesterday's workout, it won't do you any good to run twice as far today. If you make a mistake or didn't do your routine quite right, learn from it and move on. You can always try again today with what you learned yesterday. It's more important to keep the healthy habit than to vary your routine to try and balance it out. And if something is always stopping you from working out or doing your plan like you planned, treat your time like an appointment. What you do for yourself is important too and shouldn't be blown off or pushed aside for extenuating circumstances.

Take an Off Day
All of that said, it helps to close out the week and have a fresh start by taking one off day. Usually people choose Sunday or Friday, but it can be any day you like. It also helps your muscles to recover and get ready to be pushed further for the coming week. Try not to overdo your time off either: Taking more than two weeks off from working out will set back any previous gains you have made.

Forming healthy, balanced habits is not always easy, which is why not everyone has them. However with great patience, the willingness to keep trying again and again, a forgiving mindset for your mistakes and healthy pats on the back when you reach your milestones, before you realize it you'll already be in great shape. Until next time!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cooking with the Right Materials

The most important place to start making your home healthy is in the kitchen. We all know about healthy foods, but what about what you use to cook with? Here are a few tips on the best materials to use.

Cleaning and Disinfecting
Of course, clean surfaces are a must when cooking and preparing food. However, soaps and sprays can leave residue on dishes and cutting boards and can seep into your food while you're making it. For washing your dishes, use food-safe and natural soaps. Dr. Bronner's is a good example of a very simple natural soap that is safe for food contact. Borax and baking soda are also great when mixed as a powder for dishwashers. For cutting boards and countertops, spray first with vinegar and then again with hydrogen peroxide and wipe dry for a cleanser that is as effective as bleach at killing germs but completely pet and child safe.

Plastics, Teflon and Aluminum, Oh My!
Each of these materials, when heated, have extremely harmful side effects. That is, microwaving leftovers in a plastic container, making pancakes in a non-stick skillet and using baking powder with aluminum all increase your risk of cancer. The chemicals that each of these materials release when heated are absorbed into your body and stay there. Non-stick surfaces emit gases when heated that are harmful when inhaled and are known to be dangerous and even fatal to pets, especially pet birds. Aluminum is a known neurotoxin that has been linked to Alzheimer's and breast cancer. Bisphenol-A, or BPA, found in plastics is an endocrine disrupting toxin. This means that it mimics hormones naturally found in your body and throws them off balance, which can cause neurological problems, cancer and surprisingly, obesity. BPA is also often found in items like canned beans and shower curtains. Cook your canned foods the old fashioned way to save a little money and a lot of exposure.

The Right Materials
Sticking with natural materials is the surest way to eschew any potential chemicals in your food and home, and is also much better for the environment. Reuse spaghetti sauce and pickle jars for storage. Use ceramic or stoneware dishes, and if you microwave your food put a plate or a towel on top to prevent splatter instead of plastic wrap or plastic storage containers. Look for cast iron cookware (the iron that is released into your food from iron skillets is actually akin to taking an iron supplement) and use glass, ceramic or stoneware dishes for baking. Glass cooks evenly and similarly to aluminum, and cast iron is great for baked goods as it heats evenly to create breads that are crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. Non-stick surfaces seem helpful, but it is far better for you to eat a little healthy fat from greasing a pan (use olive, sesame, coconut or safflower oils) than to be exposed to a chemical. And remember to always use new grease when cooking. Reusing and reheating fats can break them down and turn them into hydrogenated and trans fats, which are very bad for your heart and your waistline.

Updating your kitchen and avoiding harmful materials is easy and one of the best steps you can take to a healthy happy home. With these simple basic tips, you'll be well on your way to a simpler and healthier meal time. Until next time!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Summer Travel Talk!

Summer is right around the corner! If you have decided to take a summer vacation then  it is likely that you are now wondering where exactly you should go and how you should go about planning it. Today, that is what we're going to discuss!

There are a number of things which you really need to think about when it comes to planning your summer vacation. The climate is definitely one of the main things that you need to consider. Obviously if you are going to the beach then you will need to pack appropriate clothing. You do not want anything too hot and so bathing suits, shorts and t-shirts should all be packed. However, even if you are traveling somewhere really warm, it is still a good idea to ensure that you have warmer clothing packed too just in case.

Another thing that many people do not consider carrying around with them is identification. It is always a really good idea to keep identification on you at all times. You never know when you might need it and if you are in a foreign country and you cannot produce identification it could easily get you into all kinds of trouble. Tourists to any country should always have identification so if you don't have your drivers licence then at least make sure that you have an ID card.

Planning your summer vacation should take time and effort as it is the one time of the year when you finally get to relax and forget about everything. However, it is not always easy to plan everything and that is why often people do tend to need advice from deciding where to stay to how get a car rental.

If you have decided to take the family camping then you will need to make sure that you plan everything thoroughly. Usually you are camping in the middle of nowhere and so it is vital that you pack absolutely everything that you will need. It is not like taking a break at a local beach, there will often not be any stores around for miles and so it is always better to be safe rather than sorry. So pack plenty of food and if you are camping out in a tent then ensure that you have all of the pieces that are needed to put it together. It may sound obvious but it is always worth checking out!

Overall it is incredibly important to plan your summer vacation properly. No matter where you are going, if you do not plan properly then you could end up having a really miserable vacation. So as long as you take the time to think about your destination and what you will be doing, you should be able to enjoy your summer vacation to the maximu! From all of us here at Azuma Leasing, happy vacation! Don't forget to wash all those clothes before heading out, in your leased washer and dryer rental! Until next time, keep it clean!

AZUMA Superstar Scott saves the day!

Feeding time for these rescued little ones :)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Now You Know: The History of Cinco De Mayo

Archduke Ferdinand MaximilianThe holiday of Cinco De Mayo, The 5th Of May, commemorates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at The Battle Of Puebla in 1862. It is primarily a regional holiday celebrated in the Mexican state capital city of Puebla and throughout the state of Puebla, with some limited recognition in other parts of Mexico, and especially in U.S. cities with a significant Mexican population. It is not, as many people think, Mexico's Independence Day, which is actually September 16.
The battle at Puebla in 1862 happened at a violent and chaotic time in Mexico's history. Mexico had finally gained independence from Spain in 1821 after a difficult and bloody struggle, and a number of internal political takeovers and wars, including the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) and the Mexican Civil War of 1858, had ruined the national economy.

During this period of struggle Mexico had accumulated heavy debts to several nations, including Spain, England and France, who were demanding repayment. 
Siimilar debt to the U.S. was previously settled after the Mexican-American War. France was eager to expand its empire at that time, and used the debt issue to move forward with goals of establishing its own leadership in Mexico. Realizing France's intent of empire expansion, Spain and England withdrew their support. When Mexico finally stopped making any loan payments, France took action on its own to install Napoleon III's relative, Archduke Maximilian of Austria, as ruler of Mexico.

France invaded at the gulf coast of Mexico along the state of Veracruz (see map) and began to march toward Mexico City, a distance today of less than 600 miles. Although American President Abraham Lincoln was sympathetic to Mexico's cause, and for which he is honored in Mexico, the U.S. was involved in its own Civil War at the time and was unable to provide any direct assistance.
Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza

Marching on toward Mexico City, the French army encountered strong resistance near Puebla at the Mexican forts of Loreto and Guadalupe. Lead by Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin, a smaller, poorly armed militia estimated at 4,500 men were able to stop and defeat a well outfitted French army of 6,500 soldiers, which stopped the invasion of the country. The victory was a glorious moment for Mexican patriots, which at the time helped to develop a needed sense of national unity, and is the cause for the historical date's celebration.

Unfortunately, the victory was short lived. Upon hearing the bad news, Napoleon III had found an excuse to send more troops overseas to try and invade Mexico again, even against the wishes of the French populace. 30,000 more troops and a full year later, the French were eventually able to depose the Mexican army, take over Mexico City and install Maximilian as the ruler of Mexico.

Maximilian's rule of Mexico was also short lived, from 1864 to 1867. With the American Civil War now over, the U.S. began to provide more political and military assistance to Mexico to expel the French, after which Maximilian was executed by the Mexicans - his bullet riddled shirt is kept at the museum at Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City. So despite the eventual French invasion of Mexico City, Cinco de Mayo honors the bravery and victory of General Zaragoza's smaller, outnumbered militia at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Until next time, keep it clean with that Azuma Leasing washer and dryer :)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Recipe: Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies!

   It's almost the weekend! Congratulations, you've made it through another week of emails, computer screens, and co-workers! Isn't it time to reward yourself? ;)
   During this two-day holiday, why not whip up a batch of delicious, ooey-gooey, chocolate chip cookies?! This is my favorite recipe, and it's easily adaptable to meet your diet needs. Feel free to throw in some chopped nuts, shredded coconut flakes, dried cranberries, or whatever else your heart desires!!
   Here's what you'll need:
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup butter (or substitute)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 sugar
  • 2 eggs (or chia/flax eggs - recipe below)
  • 1 tsp vanilla pure extract
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • whatever other goodies you want to throw in! 
   For vegans and other people who do not eat eggs, I have a substitute you will LOVE. It works like a charm in baked goods such as breads, cakes, and cookies! :) Here it is:

  • 1 tbs flax or chia seeds
  • 3 tbs water
   This recipe calls for two eggs, so to get the maximum nutritional benefit I use 1 tbs chia and 1 tbs flax seeds. Grind seeds to a fine powder using a coffee grinder or other such device. (Magic Bullets have this option with the flat blade and small container.) Once they are ground, add 6 tbs water and stir. Let mixture set for about 1-3 minutes. It will become gooey and thick, much like the consistency of eggs! Plus it's full of omega 3s, protein, and fiber!

   Okay, on to the really good stuff. Cream the butter and sugars together in a large bowl. Add the vanilla extract and eggs (or substitute!). Then you will add the dry ingredients: salt, baking soda, and flour. Mix well to combine. Finally, add the chocolate chips and other goodies. You really can't have too many. Put desired size of cookie on a parchment-paper-covered cookie sheet with plenty of room for them to spread. Bake in the oven, preheated to 350 degrees, for 10-12 minutes.
   Lastly, try to let the cookies cool long enough before eating straight out of the oven. Cookie burns can be dangerous too! ;) Hope you have a wonderful, cookie-filled weekend!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Yoga for Every Body!

   Yoga is a century old practice that originated in ancient India. Nowadays, you can find a yoga studio on almost every corner! What is it about this archaic discipline that is so attractive to modern day yogis?
   Yoga is not only a fitness practice, rather a discipline of the body, mind, and soul. By doing yoga, you are learning to control your breath, body movements, and your thoughts. There are numerous other benefits of yoga such as:
  • Increased flexibility and balance
  • Dramatic mood improvement
  • Decrease in pulse, respiratory rate, and heart rate
  • Pain relief
  • Improves concentration, memory, and learning efficiency
  • Decreases bad cholesterol! 
    That's just a few of the bigger benefits! I use yoga daily to help control my anxiety without medication. A lot of people, however, might get anxious just thinking about trying yoga! I'll admit, some of the more advanced poses still make me a little uneasy (are you sure you're supposed to bend that way?). I assure you though, the benefits of even a light yoga practice are enough to get you hooked for life!
   Here are a few of my favorite beginner asanas to get you started!

                       Tree Pose:
Stand with both feet facing front and your hands at your sides. Slowly place your right foot on your left knee (or as far as you can). Bring both arms up and stand for 5-8 breaths. Repeat with other leg. Tree pose creates balance and stability.

                Forward Bend:
Stand straight and inhale. On the exhale, bend forward as far as you can. Stay for several breaths. (Don't fret if you can't touch your toes or even your ankles.. the more you practice, the more flexible you will become!) Pose helps to relieve stress and depression.

                  Childs Pose:
Kneel and inhale. On the exhale, bend forward and reach your arms behind you (shown). A variation I prefer is to reach both arms out in front of you. Hold for several deep breaths. This pose helps calm the brain and reduce fatigue.

   Yoga is a very therapeutic practice that I encourage you to try. The benefits are great and I guarantee it will add meaning and bliss to your life. So the next time you are waiting for your laundry to dry, try a few asanas, breathe, and relax. Namaste'!!!