chinese-dates

Poor Circulation?…..Try Some Water with Dried Longan Fruit

The other day I went for a massage. It was MUCH needed after 6 weeks of traveling with my kids and lots of lifting, sitting and flying. My body was full of aches and pains. The therapist I saw was an interesting guy from China who, upon noticing that my hands and feet felt cold, and my neck and shoulders very tense, had some recommendations for me. He suggested a warm morning drink made with water, dried longan fruit, red date and ginger, explaining that it’s a common drink for Chinese women to improve circulation and help with relaxation. I’m game to trying anything that is natural and helps with relaxation! Since I was already in the Inner Richmond district of San Francisco, home to a large Chinese community and many great Asian markets, I decided to pick up the ingredients straight away and give the concoction a try.

At the market, I discovered that dried longan fruit is also known as Long Yan Rou and is closely related to the lychee. And, Red Dates are actually just another name for jujubes. This new drink was sounding better and better! Adding ginger to my water is something I already enjoy (more on that in a future post) but the other two ingredients were new to me and I really had no idea how to prep them for water. Both the dried fruits are the consistency of Medjool dates….so, I assumed that some soaking was in order but was certainly open to more guidance on this.

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The three (and hopefully magical) ingredients for my warm water beverage

A Google search for ideas on how to make this enticing drink, as well as more information on the properties of each ingredient was in order. First, I researched each ingredient on Wikipedia to find out more about the medicinal properties. Here’s what I learned:

Red Dates: Commonly called jujubes, Chinese dates, Korean dates, or Indian dates are a species of Ziziphus in the buckthorn family (Rhamnaceae). The fruit and its seeds are used in Chinese and Korean traditional medicine, where they are believed to alleviate stress. In addition to this they are used for many other purposes, including anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory and their wound healing properties.

Longan Fruit: One of the better-known tropical members of the soapberry family (Sapindaceae), to which the lychee also belongs. In Chinese food therapy and herbal medicine, the longan is believed to have an effect on relaxation. The longan, much like the lychee, it’s thought to give internal “heat”.

Ginger: A flowering plant (Zingiber officinale) whose rhizome, ginger root or simply ginger, is widely used as a spice or a folk medicine. Ginger is one of the oldest and most versatile medicinal foods and in China it’s been used by healers for thousands of years. Traditional Chinese medicine holds that ginger “restores devastated yang” and “expels cold”. Ginger has many believed uses including reducing muscle soreness and inflammation, alleviating nausea and helping digestion. 

Now that I better understood the ingredients, I was ready to use them! I didn’t find much when I Googled this exact combination, but I did find many recipes with ginger and red dates, many of which included goji berries. The closest recipe I found was on a lovely blog called A Beautiful Day and I used this recipe as my reference, omitting the pear and pine nuts.

Here is what I added to 10 cups of filtered water:

25 dried red dates, pitted and sliced

10 dried longans

2 inch chunk of peeled ginger, sliced thinly

After prepping, boiling, simmering for an hour, and finally straining, my drink remedy was ready! I let it cool to a lukewarm temperature and then gave it a try.

It was quite interesting and, based on the profile of the ingredients, more medicinal tasting than I expected, . Right away, I could see why the recipe on A Beautiful Day called for pear because the drink had a bit of a bitter quality and needed something a little sweet to offset this. I added a tiny bit of honey and it became much more enjoyable to drink. I found it very soothing and cozy. It reminded me of Traditional Medicinals Throat Coat Tea, which for years has been a favorite product of mine and something I always have on hand.

I’ve now been enjoying this medicinal water for a few days and have tried it both warm and cold (the batch I made yielded enough for at least one cup daily for a week). I definitely prefer it more as a warm tea-type beverage. And, while I don’t know if it has had any true efficacy on my health, it’s something I’m glad I tried and will make again. It was fun to experiment with new-to-me ingredients that have so many believed healing properties.

 

 

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Make a Small Change That You Can Maintain: Start Each Day With a Glass of Water

I recently read an article in the New York Times, Rise and Shine, about what kids around the world eat and drink for breakfast. As a mom of two young daughters, I’m always looking for new ideas and inspiration. I wasn’t overly inspired by the food, much of it sugary and carb-filled, like the typical American breakfast (i.e. bread with butter and sweet sprinkles, Oatmeal with sugar, baguette with butter and jam and sweet cake). However, I was even less inspired by the beverages that children around the globe begin their days with, and surprised that only one of the 11 breakfasts featured in the article included a glass of water! Almost all of the children began their day with milk, chocolate milk or juice, which is probably similar to what happens in the US. Clearly this is just a small sampling but I still find it striking that less than 10% of these children have a glass of water in the morning.  After reading this article, I had to pause and give myself quick kudos for having at least one healthy habit that I’ve managed to pass on to my children🙂

At my house, we all start the day with a glass of water. I’ve always enjoyed warm water with lemon (or sometimes lemon and honey) first thing in the morning and I make sure my girls have at least one glass of water before they leave the house because I know that they’re not always drinking enough during the day and I try to stay ahead with their hydration. I find that our little ritual of drinking our water together first thing helps us start the day off on the right foot – I am hopeful that doing something good for our bodies in the morning makes us more mindful of making healthy choices and drinking more throughout the day.

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I start my day with a tall glass of lemon water and my girls each chug a short glass of plain H2O. It’s a healthy way to start each day.

Most people know it’s healthy to start the day with a glass of water, but not everyone knows why or remembers to do it. Hydrating in the morning can make you feel more energetic by keeping your metabolism in check, helps remove toxins from your system, improves digestion and stimulates elimination. Having a glass of water first thing and then drinking more throughout the day will help you avoid health issues that may be related to dehydration.

If you don’t like to drink plain water, then try squeezing some lemon, lime or orange into your water. Not only does lemon give water a nice burst of citrus taste but it also provides many health benefits. For a really fast and convenient way to switch up the taste of your water but still keep it super healthy and natural you can also add a few drops of essential oil or try a natural water enhancer like H2wOw.

I know that it may not be a common practice to begin each day with a glass of water but it really should be. It’s such a small and easy change to make and keep but it is also a habit that can make a big difference. My girls and I toast our water glasses each morning — give it a try with your kids too.

Finding the Perfect Water Bottle

I’m a “Personal” Water Bottle Addict – Here Are My 5 Faves

In Search of the Perfect Water Bottle

I’m always on the search for a great water bottle. I take my water bottle with me everywhere. I love leaving home with my bottle full of Hetch Hetchy water and a few squirts of H2wOw. Since I am usually carrying some kind of purse or bag, it’s really no big deal to throw my bottle in there. When I say I take it everywhere, I really mean it…..I’m not just talking about the obvious places like the gym. Last week I flew to Boston and so did my water bottle — I emptied it out before I went through security and then filled it, as soon as I was on the other side, at one of SFO’s awesome filling stations. It really does come everywhere with me and I honestly can’t remember the last time I paid for a bottle of water. Since my water bottle is such an important accessory to me, I’m always on the search for the newest and best one — and I insist on having different bottles for different types of occasions (which I always remind my husband is much better than a shoe fetish). When searching for a new bottle, the criteria that matter most to me include:

  • Size — I don’t want it to be too big but it also can’t be too small. A bottle that can hold around 20 – 24 ounces is generally the best size for me. This is equal to 2.5 – 3 cups of water and is big enough to get me through a workout at the gym or a few hours out and about.  A shape that is narrow enough to fit in car upholders is also important.
  • Materials — While I love the designs and ease of some plastic bottles, I worry too much about the chemicals in plastic and it just isn’t for me. I only use bottles that are high quality stainless steel or glass (I like them to be labeled BPA and toxin free). I also make sure whatever other materials are included (straw, spout etc) are made out of high quality materials, like silicone. For the stainless steel bottles, I want them to be double walled and vacuum insulated with a sweat-free (no condensation) surface.
  • Weight — I do love glass bottles but they’re just not practical to go very far with. I have a Lifefactory bottle that I often use at home but, beyond a car-only trip, I’ve stopped bringing it out of the house. Glass is much heavier and by the time it’s filled with water it’s just not something I want to lug around. That said, drinking out of glass (either a water bottle or a cup) is my favorite way to go and if it wasn’t for the weight I would always choose glass.
  • Drinking Valve — I like drinking valves that are easily accessible but that don’t come in contact with anything when they’re closed — meaning, I don’t ever want to touch the drinking valve or spout to open or close it and I don’t want it coming in contact with other items in my bag or wherever else my water bottle travels (like the back pocket of an airplane seat — ewwww). So, ideally, I like valves or covers that pop up with the press of a button and are designed so I don’t have to touch the spout (at all) to get it closed.
  • Leakage — I can’t believe it still happens but it does. I won’t name the bottles that are on my list of least favorites, but most of them have made the list because they leak (as in all over my purse and other places that don’t mix well with water). Leaky water bottles are the worst……weather it’s because the valves are not completely leak proof when turned sideways or because the top has threading that isn’t great quality and sometimes causes the lid to go on crooked, I have had my fair share of bad experiences with leaky water bottles, and leakage should in fact  be at the top of my criteria list.
  • Ease to Clean — I like a wide mouth top so that I can easily fit a bottle brush inside. As I mentioned in my post Keeping My Family’s Reusable Water Bottles Clean and Yucky Free, as awesome as reusable bottles are, it’s no secret that they’re also a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. I clean my bottles daily and want it to be a simple task. And, if you’re a cold water person, a wide mouth bottle also makes it easy to add ice to your water.

So in summary (because it sounds much less high maintenance this way), I prefer a 20 – 24 ounce stainless steel bottle that has a protected drinking valve, wide mouth and doesn’t leak! Trust me, it’s harder than you think to find such a bottle, but fear not it is possible, and I’ve found some that do make the cut. Here are my current five favorites:

  1. Under Armour Dominate 24 Oz – This is a great bottle that is actually made by Thermos. I love the Locking flip top lid with one hand push button operation and the flip up carrying loop. I also love the silicone grip for a comfortable hold. It’s a bit on the pricey side and too wide for some car cup holders. This is my favorite bottle to bring to the beach as the lid really keeps the sand out and the water stays very cold for hours, even in the hot sun.41GUzi0WjnL._SL1024_
  2. WaterVault Sports Tumbler 20 Oz This is a straight-forward wall vacuum insulated stainless steel bottle at a great price point. I like it’s slender design and protected “sipper” style top. There’s something about the sipper that just works for me — it doesn’t dribble all over my cheeks when I tip it back for a big gulp, it feels more dainty than some of the wide mouth spouts. I like bringing this bottle to yoga class.

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  3. Fliptop Aquatix 27 Oz This is a really great bottle that meets all of my criteria, except for the fact that it’s a tad big at 27 ounces. The pop up top functions similarly to the Under Armour bottle above and feels very sturdy. I do wish it came in other fun colors – I’ve only found it in boring black. This is my go to bottle for SPIN class, as it’s easy to get a big gulp quickly and I find I need and go through the extra volume it holds.Screenshot 2015-05-08 at 12.29.23 PM
  4. Contigo Autospout 20 Oz This is my go-to gym bottle. I love the convenience and functionality of the pop up silicone spout (yet it’s still very protected and covered when not in use). It’s much easier to drink water at the gym by sucking out of a spout versus tipping — trust me, tipping a bottle on the elliptical may not end well (it certainly didn’t for me). The only down side to this bottle is that it’s much harder to clean the straw and spout than it is to clean any of the drinking areas of the first three above.contigo
  5. Thermos Pop of Pink 18 Oz My favorite bottle for throwing in my purse for a day of errands. A great pop up lid with a silicone straw. At 18 oz. this bottle is slightly smaller than my usual but that’s perfect for days, with a lot of walking, when I want to lighten my load. With a the straw spout, it’s still slightly more time consuming to clean but still way easier than my Contigo. Thermos makes many great designs that are similar to this and also has awesome kid-sized stainless steel bottles. All-in-all they’re my number one brand.thermos
San Francisco's Public Works encourages residents to reduce outdoor watering and display this sign

California is in a drought and I’m making changes everyday

In response to California’s severe drought, Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order on April 1st calling for a mandatory statewide 25% reduction in urban water use.The California drought situation is on my mind several times a day and has shifted my behavior in countless ways.

This image plainly shows the severe drought in California

This image plainly shows the severe drought in California

The phrase “We’re in a drought” gets thrown around countless times each day in our home……”We’re in a drought, don’t leave the water running while you brush your teeth”; “We’re in a drought, please finish the water you asked for”; “We’re in a drought, don’t just dump that water down the sink, use it to water a plant”; “We’re in a drought, the shower isn’t a place to relax”; “We’re in a drought, pick your towel up off the floor it doesn’t need to be washed after one use”.

To me and my people, “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” should clearly be the state’s motto (there may be a shortage of water but we haven’t lost our sense of humor). Although I’ve installed high efficiency toilets in my home (as has most of San Francisco), I still don’t flush for “just” pee and my children know to do the same. After all, the average person uses 80-100 gallons of water per day and flushing the toilet takes up the largest amount of this water.

I literally don’t pour any water down the drain.  Whether it’s water from boiling eggs or a few swigs left in the bottom of a glass, I collect it in  a watering can, that I keep next to the kitchen sink, and use the water for my house plants or garden. I felt guilty leaving the water on for 20 seconds to splash and wash my face each night so instead I switched to using a face cloth that I wet for just a few seconds…..and I definitely don’t wait for the water to get hot anymore. And you should see my car, clearly going to the car wash is not an errand that’s been in my rotation for a very long time.

My mind is always working and wondering about ways to conserve. When I’m doing the dishes, I ponder if it uses more water to wash the dishes by hand or to load them in the dishwasher. When I’m gardening, I think that I should really put down new mulch in my vegetable bed to help retain moisture. When it rains (which is seldom) I think about how I really need to build a rain barrel to collect the drainage. When my kids spill a container of nuts, I think about how much water it took to grow those nuts and how horrible it is to throw them out. And, I wonder about bigger things too like, what happens to our groundwater and the water that goes down the drain…..if all of San Francisco’s water comes from Hetch Hetchy (read more about San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy water in my post here), is there a water purification system to recycle the drainage like in other cities (I researched this while writing this post and will cover it soon in another post)?

It irks me to no end when I see water being wasted……walking into a public bathroom where the sink is running or driving by a fire hydrant that is gushing water for an unknown reason, or, the one that infuriates me most of all – home and business owners that hose down the sidewalk in front of their property daily. It’s also made me judgmental when I’m a guest at other homes – I get annoyed when people leave the water running at the kitchen faucet, while they’re busy with another task, or bathe their children every night in separate baths.

My kids, ages 4 and 6, are also very aware, and taught at school about the water crisis and how to conserve. My oldest keeps a pan under the tub faucet to catch drips after it’s shut off and my youngest tells me that she doesn’t need fresh water in her container that she brings to school everyday and that every other day is just fine. 

I also see the changes on a city-level. Our beautiful playgrounds with water-play areas stand dry. Restaurants are not allowed to serve patrons water unless it is requested. Medians on streets are no longer part of the city’s watering schedule and often look sad. Parks have put in grass that doesn’t require watering or mowing. City street cleaning happens significantly less frequently. Several water-saving incentive programs are in place, including large rebates for replacing regular flow toilets with efficient flush models, and replacing residential clothes washers with efficient models. And my personal favorite is the city sponsored signage for residents to display, touting “brown is the new green”.

San Francisco's Public Works encourages residents to reduce outdoor watering and display this sign

San Francisco’s Public Works encourages residents to reduce outdoor watering and display this sign

I feel like I’m doing my part to conserve and I’m proud of my kids for what they know and their respect for the earth. The changes we’ve made have now become habit and will be part of us no matter where we live, with or without a drought. And for the most part, I’m impressed with the awareness and actions of the people around me and the city I live in. San Francisco has one of the lowest per capita water usage numbers in the state, averaging less than half the state average for gallons per capita per day.

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The funny thing is, it’s when I travel outside of California people seem concerned on an entirely different level. The minute I say I’m from California, they say “wow how’s the drought”……”it sounds really scary”…….or, “it seems really bad”………or, “what is California going to do?” It’s strange because these are feelings I don’t have and questions that don’t cross my mind. I don’t feel scared or desolate about the situation, instead, I feel like there’s been a lot of positive small changes around me and with me. Although the drought has impacted my daily behavior in meaningful ways, I don’t actually think about the scale of the drought and how it may impact the future of my family, city and state very often. Maybe it’s because it would depress me and I work hard to see the positives; maybe it’s because I’m too busy with the small changes and I’m choosing to focus on a minuscule part of an issue that’s so much bigger than me, my family or my city — residential water use accounts for only 12 percent of the total water used in the state; maybe it’s because global warming is causing all kinds of shifts and there are opportunities for change everywhere. So I choose to focus on change and setting the best example I can for my children and this next generation.  Although I sometimes find myself feeling ignorant to the larger issues when outsiders quiz me, I also know that I truly care, I’m living it every day and the changes I’ve made feel completely OK. 

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Do You Know How Much Water You Drink in a Lifetime?

I love fun facts……like how much water the average person drinks in a lifetime. I know it’s a bit dorky but I can’t help myself🙂 Somehow these random facts tend to stick with me and become ingrained in my head. And, they actually do make a difference in my actions, for example if I knew the total amount of water I would drink in a lifetime, perhaps I would become more cognizant of the quality of the water I was drinking or in how I can help make more of a difference to conserve water in CA, where our drought situation has become alarming. I believe “fun facts” can make an impact……they can surprise people and in turn get them to think about something differently, sometimes even producing microscopic (or greater) shifts in behavior.

The other night I was up way too late and feeling very guilty because:

  1. As some of you may recall, one of my 2015 New Year resolutions was to go to bed earlier and get more sleep (more on that another time), and
  2. I have not done a blog post in a very long time (long enough to be embarrassing).  I have so many great ideas for posts and so many drafts that I’ve started but time keeps slipping away and (without too many excuses) I’ve just fallen off track

So, to channel my guilt I decided to come up with a “fun fact” infographic to blog about and get myself back on track with writing regular posts. With my fun facts theme in mind, I went off on a tangent collecting random in-a-lifetime facts that for one reason or another interest me.

In addition to learning that the average person consumes 14,600 gallons of water, I learned many other things…….some will stay with me and some I will forget by tomorrow. On a side note, I’m always fascinated by what sticks in my brain and what I easily forget….. I learn a lot about myself by just observing what interests me at a subconscious level. I think the other fact that will stay with me is that the average person has 150 friends. At first this seemed like a very low number……I mean many people have friends in the thousands on social media. But this number really made me stop and think and when you start to count the true friendships in a lifetime that really shape a person 150 sounds on target and, at least for me, indicates that I have more amazing friendships to look forward to.

So, in an effort to keep this post very light and to not over think the content too much…..here is the infographic. Hopefully you will find at least one “fun fact” that will move you.

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DIY Sparkling Chia “Soda”: A New Way to Wow Your Water

My two young daughters love to drink kombucha. We are a household without soda or juice so kombucha is a very tasty treat for them. Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage that contains a high concentration of b-vitamins, enzymes, probiotics and good acids including lactic acids. Although I make or buy locally brewed, high-quality kombucha, and I believe in it’s many health benefits, I also am very careful to only let my girls drink it in moderation. While, the fermentation process does get rid of most of the sugar and caffeine from the tea, some does remain. In addition, kombucha usually contains a small amount of alcohol, depending on the length of fermentation, that ranges from .5% and 3%. So, despite all the great benefits of kombucha, the sugar, caffeine and alcohol do make me think twice before giving it to my kids. Read more about the health benefits of kombucha here: 18 Healthy Reasons to Sip Kombucha

pictured above are three varieties of kombucha (Green Tea Nettle, White Tea Hibiscus and Green Tea Grape) from one of my favorite bay area businesses: Threestone Hearth, a Community Supported Kitchen.

Three varieties of kombucha (Green Tea Nettle, White Tea Hibiscus and Green Tea Grape) from one of my favorite Bay Area businesses: Three stone Hearth, a Community Supported Kitchen

Over the holidays, my girls had a two-week vacation from school so there were lots of extra snacks and meals together, as well as more time for them to ask for “treats”. I found myself giving them more kombucha than I was comfortable with and decided to try to come up with an alternative that would satisfy them and make me feel at ease. This was also right after the official launch of my all natural water enhancer, H2wOw, which proved to come in handy for my new concoction. The girls and I have been loving our new drink so much that I decided to dedicate this post to what it is and how to make it.

Here's Clover enjoying our homemade, kid-safe effervescent "treat" drink

Here’s Clover enjoying our homemade, kid-safe effervescent “treat” drink

Our Yummy Effervescent and Kid-Friendly Drink Recipe:

We always soak Chia seeds to include in our kombucha, I knew this would need to be part of the mix. Chia seeds have more omega3’s than salmon, more calcium than milk and lots of antioxidants, they’re also fun to eat – similar to a gelatinous tapioca drink. In addition to including chia seeds, I knew our concoction would need to have an effervescent quality — since this is what makes kombucha such a “special” drink to them. Finally, there would need to be some sweetness and flavor to turn it in to an actual “treat” and not just sparkling water with chia seeds.

So for step #1, we prepared our chia seeds, which is really easy to do and I highly recommend adding this superfood to almost any drink, even if it’s just to plain water (my kids even like chia seeds in milk).  They add so many nutrients and can really help to take the edge off hunger for hours. We use high-quality organic seeds, such as Nutiva or Navitas, which are also raw. To make your chia seeds gelatinous and yummy, you will need to soak them first (preferably overnight). Soaking your seeds will work best if your water is hot but room temperature will also get you good results. I start by adding around three tablespoons of seeds to a 16oz. Mason Ball jar, then I add approximately one cup of hot water.

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To make glutinous chia seeds, simply soak 3TB of seeds in one cup of water in the fridge overnight.

Once the seeds and water are added, I cover the jar and give it a good shake. I allow it to cool a bit and then put it into the fridge to soak overnight. After a night in the fridge, your chia seeds will be blown up and completely gelatinous and the “water” mixture should be more like a gel. Depending on how much chia you like in your beverage will determine how much this yields, I usually add a couple of tablespoons of “gel” to each drink so one jar’s worth is enough for several drinks and will stay fresh in the fridge for about a week.  A jar of chia “gel” is a staple in our fridge and I am usually making a new batch every other day or so.

So now you know how to make yummy seeds, like the ones you find in drinks that costs upwards of $5.00 each, such as like Mama Chia and Synergy Kombucha. Even if you stop reading here, you should have enough to play with to make your own nutritious and delicious drink recipes. However, hopefully you’ll keep reading and try our recipe too!

One of our most used kitchen appliances is the Soda Stream. We use it multiple times everyday and go through lots of sparkling water at our house. So, for step #2 we prepared our sparkling water. Of course, you can also used plain store-bought sparkling water but it’s certainly less expensive and less wasteful to carbonate water yourself. There are lots of ways to carbonate water, you can check out comparisons of some of the best choices here: The Best Soda Maker

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After making our sparkling water, we were ready to bring the pieces together and flavor it. I added a couple of tablespoons of our chia gel to a glass and filled it the rest of the way with our freshly made sparkling water. This brought us to step #3 adding our flavor. I wanted to make this part fun and “experimental” for the kids, so we played around with trying different combinations of stevia and essential oils before we brought out the big guns….H2wOw. As I mentioned in my last post, New Year, New Goals, I recently (or should I say finally) launched my product that I’ve been working to develop for three years. H2wOw is an all-natural water enhancer — and I do mean truly all-natural, it’s made with NOTHING ARTIFICIAL and is the first all-natural water enhancer made from the essential oils and extracts of real fruit and botanicals.  I know it’s a product I created so you might take this with a grain of salt, but I must say, H2wOw tastes absolutely fabulous in our chia seed drink! We played around with all the flavors. My favorite is the Ginger Lime, but, with the chia seeds, the kids love the Mandarin Grapefruit the most.

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Finally, we added the flavor. We used H2wOw for a natural and healthy alternative.

With only three natural calories and less than one gram of sugar per serving (H2wOw is sweetened with a hint of Organic Agave and a touch of Organic Stevia), I feel good about my kids drinking it, especially in this “treat” drink which is really more of a “trick” drink since it is also sooo healthy. Between the awesome health benefits of the chia seeds and the natural electrolytes in H2wOw, which  help them stay better hydrated, I even let them have seconds – but only on vacation🙂

If you don’t have any H2wOw, you can still make a yummy effervescent drink that’s completely natural (although it doesn’t taste quite as good). Play around with different essential oils and stevia to find a combination that works for you. Or, simply order your H2wOw today from Amazon to make this chia drink and add to your water all day long.

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New Year, New Goals

I have been so busy launching my company, H2wOw , that I’ve barely had time to blog. Between the business of the holiday season and the demands of starting a company, I’ve been a bit frazzled to say the least. From hosting family for Thanksgiving to the non-stop festivities that Hanukkah and Christmas brought (our family celebrates both), November and December felt like an iron man race to me……getting out holiday cards, baking cookies, bringing the kids to a slew of fun events, attending holiday parties and school events, making and buying the “perfect” gifts, staying up until the wee hours wrapping the gifts, recognizing the people in our lives that we appreciate (from the mailman to the kids’ teachers), traveling to see family, packing and unpacking, cooking special feasts, putting the tree and decorations up and taking them down, trying to capture it all, doing too much, staying up too late, remembering and appreciating the true meaning of it all and not getting caught up in the flurry, oh and trying to fit in the launch of H2wOw during any and every spare moment. The last two months have been exhausting and hectic but luckily the drudgery was also full of merriment, thankfulness, abundance and blessings. Nonetheless, as the December 31st finish line approached so did a sense of relief in knowing that the whirlwind was coming to (at least) a pause and that there would soon be a reprieve from the crazy pace, a chance to slowdown, reflect and set new intentions.

Waking up on January 1st always feels marvelous to me and 2015 was no exception. Although much carries over to this new day and new year, it still somehow feels like a clean slate, even if the slate is only a representation of my own attitude and outlook on life.

For the new year I was away with my family at a beach house we rented on Silver Strand Beach in Southern California. The beach is definitely my happy place. I love the smell of the air, sand between my toes, soothing sound of the ocean waves and beautiful ocean sunsets. I started each day of our getaway combing the beach for sea glass, an activity that I’ve always loved and has become incredibly cathartic in recent years. My husband and daughters enjoy it too and it’s become one of our sacred family rituals. At home we have a large glass jar that we collect all of our sea glass in. I know it’s a little hokey but this jar is full of fond memories and favorite places and brings me such joy.

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Our family sea glass collection – one of my favorite possessions.

On New Year’s Day morning I went out for my daily beach walk and immediately spotted a big chunk of blue sea glass. I had been looking unsuccessfully for a blue piece for days so finding my first blue on this beautiful morning felt like a sign and a glorious way to start 2015. For those of you who collect sea glass, you know how special it is to find blue. To me it represented the start of a great year and the hope that my stars would align and all of my effort and hard work would begin to be rewarded. When I returned back to the house I grabbed my journal and headed to the deck to contemplate the things I wanted to work on in the coming year. I set the blue glass on the table in front of me and began to write.

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My “Find Your Happy” Journal and first piece of sea glass in 2015

Each year I try to be realistic with my resolutions, taking time to really consider what’s important, to question why it’s important and then to decide if it’s something I can truly commit to. I already prioritize a healthy lifestyle so the forever popular resolutions of new exercise routines and healthier diets are already habit for me — sure I could do better but there are other areas that need way more of a self commitment. I would love to resolve to make time each day for art or writing but I’m also nearly certain that after a few weeks I would fail at this. Time is already way too limited and any extra moments I have will be spent with my family or on my other passions of running, yoga, clean eating and cooking. After much thought I came up with the following three:

1.) A commitment to going to bed earlier and getting more sleep. For the past several years it seems my sleep has been slowly deteriorating (it’s no coincidence that this cycle began a little over six years ago when my first daughter was born). It has nothing to do with being restless or not being able to fall asleep — as soon as I allow my head to hit the pillow and my eyes to close I am down for the count. My issue is that there simply are not enough hours in the day and after dinner is done and the kids are in bed I get a second wind and feel as if I have been given a gift of uninterrupted time to get stuff done. Whether it’s editing photos, my Pinterest addiction, an episode of Orange is the New Black or work, one thing inevitably leads to another and before I know it it’s well after midnight before I’m even thinking about bed. I wake up at 6:00 AM feeling completely exhausted and then spend most of the day in a daze, whether it’s trying to be a patient mother, getting the most out of my workout or attempting to get quality work done, I’m unable to put my best self forward. Although the hours between 8:00 PM and my too-late bedtime feel wonderful and indulgent and like a free gift of time, the practical side of me knows that these late night hours are making my regular waking hours way less productive. So, my first goal for the new year is to get more sleep and to be in my bed by 10:00 PM and asleep by 10:30. In the short-term I expect to feel like I have way less time but my hope is that after a few weeks of an extra two hours of sleep, I will be able to function way better during the day and be much more focused and productive.

2.) Renew and Establish Deeper Connections Another thing that has deteriorated for me since having children but feels attainable to work on are my relationships outside of my immediate family. This includes both friendships and my larger extended family. I used to pride myself at being great at nurturing friendships and family. I was the planner who organized great trips to visit friends who had moved faraway and planned great holiday vacations with family. I was always thoughtful, calling my parents and grandparents regularly and sending nice notes and photos. I knew what was going on in my loved ones lives and felt connected. However, this has all changed so much over recent years and I am really ashamed at how I’ve put my friendships on the back burner. I haven’t made myself accessible to anyone beyond my immediate family. Once I got married and started my own family, I began to pour all of my love into these three people. And, while I believe these three amazing people do deserve most of me, I know that there is room to spread my wings a bit. This feels like a great year to make a concerted effort to rebuild deeper connections — my children are growing a bit older and not as reliant on me and the product I have been working on for three years has finally launched. Although I am still an extremely busy person, I can certainly find ways to fit in more regular phone calls, emails and texts. The face-to-face time and  fabulous vacations may still need to wait but this shouldn’t stop me from connecting.

3.) Keeping Myself and My Family Hydrated, because this is something that I’m completely passionate about and I just launched a business around it!! As some of you may recall from my first blog post, https://momloveswater.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/keeping-my-kids-hydrated-with-water-packed-foods/, I once had to take my daughter, who was five at the time, to the emergency room because she was dehydrated. I had already noticed that she wasn’t drinking enough and had been doing my best to change this but being told by the ER doctor that her severe illness and immobility was due to dehydration gave me a fright and caused me to take this effort much more seriously. This wake up call was a big catalyst to my product launch and the reason I decided to center my blog around hydration and all things related to water. I too need to constantly stay aware of my fluid intake, if I don’t stay conscious of drinking, I can easily go a whole day with just my coffee in the morning, wondering why I have no energy (beyond lack of sleep). So, hydration is always on my mind and I track my water intake and love to add natural things like lemon and honey or H2wOw to make my water yummy and more interesting. Adding a little natural flavor to my water has really helped my whole family to enjoy water and drink much more of it. This year I plan to continue my hydration efforts and hope to help others along the way. One of my hopes for 2015 is to partner H2wOw with at least one refillable canteen company and launch a hydration campaign (even if it starts small).

So there you have it, after much contemplation (at least for the first two), these are the three things I want to work on in 2015. In a few months I will write a check-in post to let you know if I’m sticking with it and what kind of progress I’ve made. Happy New Year! I’ll be blogging later this week about adding Chia Seeds to still and sparkling water and how yummy it is with essential oils or H2wOw.