Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Is TV Holding Your Children Back?

The way we consume media is way different now than it was even just 10 years ago. We communicate constantly through phones, text, social networks, chat, tablets, apps, and gaming consoles. It's essential to use computers at work and school, and we use them to decompress on our down time. We watch more TV and movies than ever. Spending a huge chunk of time with a screen in front of you has become a way of life. If you choose not to participate, you risk not connecting as much with friends and family and missing out on topics and discussions that are relevant today. Kids are curious and smart, and pick up on using these new technologies quickly, which puts them in the precarious position of being caught up in a cacophony of media and advertisements. But how do you avoid letting them get consumed by what they're consuming? Below, we've offered up some ideas on putting things back into perspective.

The Impact on Self-Esteem
Unless you're a white boy, if you watch a lot of television as a child, chances are you're not going to come out thinking too highly of yourself. Girls and African-Americans come away from TV viewing feeling like they're lacking the position, skills and worth required to obtain the success that white males seem to hold with ease. More than 90% of protagonists in TV and movies are white men, and minorities and women are usually relegated to the background, practically used as props. This can make your children feel that their inherent value is based on what other people think of them or how they look.

Even if your child is "fortunate" enough to be white and male, consider this: if other children are struggling with their place of importance, what does that say about the child that's always put at center stage? Your child may discover "privileges" he feels he's entitled to. He may view other people less as human beings with drive, flaws, talents and dimension, and think more about how they make him look and feel great. He may miss out on rich, strong relationships because he doesn't know how to recognize all of the great things everyone has to offer.

Put things in perspective.
Talking to your children is the most powerful counterpoint to messages in media you can provide. Rather than banning media from your children altogether, watch TV with your children, and ask them lots of questions. Ask them how they feel about the different scenarios they're watching, ask who they would want to be friends with on the show and why. Ask them if they were in charge of the situation, what would they do? Talk to them about how in stories, things are exaggerated and simplified to make things easy to understand and entertaining, and how in real life things take time to happen and develop. Ask them how they want to be treated, and how they would earn the respect of their friends in healthy ways.

Cultivate and encourage other hobbies.
Children are going to be interested in tons of different things throughout their childhood and young adulthood, because everything is a new discovery. It's okay to try a bunch of different things, but encourage and steer your child to find something they love and stick with it. Discuss with her how when you love something, it's not always easy and fun. Sometimes she will struggle with getting better at what she wants to do, and it will probably take a very long time. But if she's consistent and works on it regularly, she will feel like she accomplished something great. She will have something cool about herself she can share to impress her friends, sure. But more rewarding is knowing that she has strength in herself to do great things. She won't need other people to validate her strength because she already knows it for herself!

Create a Sense of Community
Surround yourself with people who will support how you want to raise your children, and give them role models. If your daughter is learning electric guitar, find a great female guitarist to teach her, and introduce her to bands with female leads and strong female members. Make sure your family understands the kind of positive language and goals you want to encourage in your kids. Connect with other parents who want to raise their children the same way, and attend church functions with a congregation that fosters positive parenting. The more people that your child can connect with in the real world who represent who they want to become, the more they'll know they can aspire to and meet those goals. If they feel like they are people of value and know what it looks like when others love and respect them, they won't seek validation from people in unhealthy ways.

Choose your media wisely.
Rather than just finding something G rated and plopping your kid in front of it, seek out and consume those shows that have strong role models that match what your child is aspiring to. Shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Adventure Time have lots of strong female characters. Avatar the Last Airbender features lots leading characters of different races and strong female characters. TV shows like Community for young adults feature men and women of different races and age groups interacting as friends rather than getting caught up in romantic entanglements. There are more options out there that feature life more realistically than ever before.

The bottom line is, the more involved you are with shaping your children's experience and expectations, the less likely they are to give in to believing stereotypes and diminishing their self-worth. Get interested in what your children are interested in, and you'll discover amazing realms of potential within them. Until next time, keep it clean!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Easy! Make Your Own Salad Dressing

Summer is the perfect time for cool, crisp salad. As convenient as bottled dressing is, why waste those lovely greens on plain old ranch? All you need is a blender and a few ingredients to bypass the bottled for chef-approved, easy dressings.

Spicy Tomato Salsa
3 roma tomatoes
2 tomatillos
1/4 white or yellow onion
2 jalapenos
1/2 habanero
juice from 1/2 a lime
handful cilantro

Wash and roughly chop all ingredients, put in a blender and pulse for 20 seconds, less if you want it a bit more chunky.

Savory Tahini Dressing
1/4 cup tahini
1 tablespoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 clove garlic
water to thin it out, if desired

Put all ingredients in a blender and mix, or whisk with a fork until combined. Tahini is sesame seed butter, found in the international aisle or peanut butter aisle at the grocer. It's used mainly in middle eastern food like hummus, or to top falafel. It has a light and earthy flavor. This dressing is super rich and almost cheesy, and works great on heavier greens like kale and collards.

Raspberry Dressing
1 cup fresh or frozen berries
1 packet stevia
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
juice from 1/2 an orange or one clementine

Put all ingredients into a blender and mix until smooth. This sweet and tart dressing is great with spinach, red onions and blue cheese.

Basic ingredients can combine in hundreds of ways to make new enjoyable dressings. Mix and match a fruit or vegetable with fat (oil, nut butter, avocado) and an acid (vinegar, lemon or lime juice) and blend. Salad dressing is really that simple. See what you come up with, you may surprise yourself with a new favorite! Enjoy your summer lunches, and until next time, keep it clean!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Homemade Hair Conditioner

Making your own spa-quality treatments at home is easy and surprisingly cheap once you know which ingredients matter the most. Because of my thick, curly and long hair, conditioner had long been something I allowed myself to splurge on to keep my hair healthy. Most conditioner recipes are one-time treatments or masks. Here's a quick and easy recipe you can use daily to save your scalp from chemicals and save your wallet some dinero.

Homemade Hair Conditioner
Old shampoo bottle
2 cups warm filtered water
4 tsp olive, avocado or coconut oil
2 tsp jojoba, grapeseed or sweet almond oil
5 drops essential oil of your choice

Combine all ingredients of choice and pour into the old shampoo bottle using a funnel or a measuring cup with a spout. 
TO USE: Wet your hair with warm water in the shower. Shake up your bottle of conditioner to mix and apply liberally to scalp, massaging it in. Flip your hair over and apply from the base of the scalp upwards. Finally, apply directly to the ends of your hair. Let sit for 1-2 minutes then wash out with moisturizing shampoo or baking soda rinse.

The coconut and/or olive oil are the real moisturizers in this recipe. Coconut, avocado and olive oil all have the same amino acid chains that the human body naturally creates to moisturize your skin, so they are exactly right to penetrate your hair. The more moisture in your hair, the less brittle it is and the more elasticity it gains.

The jojoba, grapeseed and sweet almond oil are lighter oils, known as carrier oils. These keep the heavier oils from sitting limply on your hair.

The essential oils are good for scent or for medicinal properties. If you have a sensitive or itchy scalp, add tea tree, peppermint or neem essential oils. If you're just looking to smell good, you might want to check out lavender, orange oil or patchouli. Cherry, vanilla and almond extracts also smell wonderful.

Enjoy your naturally luscious hair! And until next time, keep it clean!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Growing an Avocado Tree at Home

A great way to save money and brighten up your home is sprout your own plants. One of the easiest things you can do is use the seeds and pits you would normally toss out. Avocados make beautiful indoor plants, and if you live in a warm climate, in a few years you can plant it outside to grow a tree! Fruit bearing-trees take many years before they start to give fruit, but are still lovely and rewarding to grow at home. Below are instructions on sprouting an avocado.

1) Cut open a fresh, ripe avocado length-wise and scoop out the pit. Eat the fruit! Yum yum yum.

2) Wash off the pit, removing any traces of fruit.

3) Press 4 toothpicks into the pit, half-way up and around the middle. Use them to balance the pit in a glass of water. The pointy side should be up, and the bottom quarter of the pit should sit in the water.

4) Let the pit rest in the water, keeping it at room temperature or warmer, for a few weeks. If you live in a colder climate or are doing this in the winter, you might want to use a heating pad or a grow lamp.

5) Refill the water as needed to keep the pit moist.

The pit will sprout roots, and eventually will crack in half with a sprout coming out at the top. This will probably take a few months. Once it sprouts, you can transplant it to a pot, gently covering the roots with soil and putting it in a place with plenty of sun.

Sprouting is the hard part, so once you have the sprout you can sit back and enjoy! Until next time, keep it clean!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Independence Day!

The Fourth of July is coming up quickly! Independence Day, more commonly known as The Fourth of July, is the celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The Declaration (you guessed it!) declared our independence from Great Britain as a free and sovereign nation. 

Fun Facts: 
  • Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on the same day, which happened to be the 4th of July.
  • James Monroe also died on a later 4th of July, making the 3rd President in a row to die on the 4th.
  • Calvin Coolidge is our only President to have been born on the 4th of July.
  • Congress actually approved the resolution for independence on July 2nd
  • Though the Declaration of Independence is dated July 4th, it's thought by historians that many of the signatures weren't added until August

Here's a fun traditional alternative to regular barbecue sauce for your picnics on Thursday:

Southern Mustard Barbecue Sauce
  • 3/4 cup yellow mustard
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce (to taste)
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and whisk. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool and store in the fridge.

And because it's inevitable:

How to Remove Barbecue Sauce Stains
  • Apply detergent to the affected area and soak in warm water for 15 minutes
  • Rinse out the detergent and scrub the area with white vinegar
  • Run through the wash like normal
And until next time, keep it clean!