I’m trying to have the holiday spirit, despite my constantly growing to-do list. This is, after all, the busiest time of year for many moms (and dads) and everyone else for that matter! From planning fun holiday activities and school vacation fillers, to thinking of appreciation gifts for teachers, the mailman and other people that we want to take an opportunity to thank and recognize. Then of course there’s figuring out the “Santa” gifts, planning the holiday meals, sending holiday cards, putting up a Christmas tree and decorating, fitting in at least one visit to Santa, baking sugar cookies, wrapping (I loathe wrapping), getting the house ready to host my parents,…….oh and did I mention work and all the other typical day-to-day activities that still need to get done? There’s just a lot to do, no matter how you cut it, and it’s really hard not to feel stressed.
For hostess, teacher and other appreciation gifts, I had big plans to make chocolate bark and gift this along with some nice hand lotion or wine. However, as you can probably guess from my first paragraph, this just isn’t going to happen. I always have great ideas and the best of intentions, but I just can’t find a way to get it all done (especially with a smile on my face). So, big kudos to all of you out there that have this in you……you must be far better planners than I can ever dream of being. I’m 43, and finally realize that there are just some things that I can’t change about myself; it’s time to accept my flaws and learn to work with them. Part of this means accepting the fact that I’m not, and never will be, anything close to Martha Stewart. I will never be a super-mom who can pull it all off….sigh. But the creative part of me still feels dissatisfied with gifting something that feels completely unoriginal – like Starbucks, iTunes, or Amazon gift cards (even though I’m sure these are very well-received and appreciated gifts). Note, this is another part of me that I can’t seem to change – I have a knack for making things way more complicated than they need to be.
Well, now that you know more than you want to about what makes me tick, here’s what I came up with for this year’s teacher, hostess (and even some family) gifts. Obviously I have a personal affiliation with H2wOw, so I understand if you feel this post is biased, but really it’s not…….this is a gift that I would love to give, even if I’d never heard of H2wOw, and it’s also a gift I’d love to receive, truly.
For appreciation or hostess gifts, around $20
I’m giving a 4-pack of H2wOw Water Enhancer Drops. I live in San Francisco and am surrounded by people who like to live a healthy lifestyle. This feels like a perfect gift in the sense that it’s natural and healthy, somewhat obscure (since it’s only sold on Amazon and there’s nothing else like it), and is small and looks cute in a little gift bag. The 4-pack sells for around $21 on Amazon and ships for free if you have Prime.
For appreciation or hostess gifts (and friends and family), $50 – $60
There are a few dinner parties of good friends that my husband and I will go to this year. I’m usually unorganized and last minute enough that I end up bringing a nice bottle of wine or candle, however this basically feels like the completely unoriginal “hostess gift” version of the gift cards mentioned above. So, this year, I’m bringing a 4-pack of H2wOw along with a really cool water bottle. I love the beautiful, simplistic yet sophisticated design of this Soma glass bottle, and that for every bottle purchased, Soma makes a donation to charity. By the way, one Soma bottle and a 4-pack of H2wOw fit perfectly inside a wine bag. For our special set of really good friends, we’ll gift two Soma bottles, plus the H2wOw 4-pack. If you’ve read some of my other posts, then you know I have a bit of a refillable water bottle obsession! By the way, this also makes for a great Secret Santa or White Elephant gift!
Another option, in this same price range, is to gift the Soma Sustainable Water Pitcher and Filter with the H2wOw 4-pack. I’m actually gifting this to my father this year because I keep catching him with bottled water and he says it’s because the water at his office tastes horrible. This should be the perfect solution for him and will help the environment too!
There are lots of ways to get creative with these gifts. Pick your favorite water bottle and “enhance” it with H2wOw. Or pair H2wOw with some other healthy snacks, like a selection of energy bars, roasted almonds and beef jerky. You can always buy a 4-pack and divide it up as well……make four mini gourmet food “survival” kits for teachers with one bottle of H2wOw, a small package of nuts, your favorite energy bar and a piece of dark chocolate (this could be done for $10 or less)! I might do this for some of the teaching assistants and support staff – if I can find the time 🙂
For more refillable bottle ideas, see these posts:
featured post image: Superfactice via Pixabay
Did you end up in a food coma like me on Thanksgiving? The holiday season is upon us when opportunities to overindulge seem frequent and plentiful – from parties with endless treats to munch on to family dinner gatherings with feasts that offer seconds, thirds and more of our favorite dishes. Despite the immediate satisfaction, overeating can lead to hours of discomfort and lethargy.
Here are three easy tips to practice in an effort to stop a food coma before it strikes.
1. HYDRATE: Drink water before, during and after indulging. Drinking water at optimal times will help avoid indigestion and keep the body hydrated. Water may also help you to eat less, since our bodies often mistake thirst for hunger. Start by drinking a full glass of water before you even leave your house and then make sure to drink up (water that is) while socializing.Image: PredragKezic via pixabay
2. FRUITS AND VEGGIES: Whether you’re cruising the appetizer table or victim to a full dinner buffet, aim to fill most of your plate with fruits and veggies (go heavier on the veggies to avoid too much fructose). Fruits and veggies are not only hydrating foods but they also tend to be fiber-rich, which will fill you up faster and thus help to prevent overeating.Image: Kechn via pixabay
3. HERBAL TEA: When you return home with a full belly, treat yourself to a cup of of herbal tea or better yet, make a cup of warm water with lemon and honey to help ease bloating and stimulate the digestive system. After you finish your warm drink, do a few yoga poses to improve digestion, and you’ll be in even better shape!
Image: Jarmoluk via pixabay
In addition to keeping these three hydrating tips in mind while you mingle, you should also be sure to stay clear of too many sweets (easier said than done). Large quantities of any food can cause a food coma, however, sugar, or sucrose, found in desserts tends to be the main culprit. When we consume sugar, our bodies produce extra insulin to help absorb the spike of glucose. In turn, the extra insulin causes our brains to produce more serotonin and melatonin, two neurochemicals that can make us feel drowsy and lethargic.
featured post image: PublicDomainPictures via pixabay
Each year, on November 15th, millions of people across the country participate in America Recycles Day, a Keep America Beautiful initiative. This nationally recognized day is dedicated to encouraging Americans to recycle and buy recycled products.
America Recycles Day aims to educate people about the importance of recycling to both our economy and the environment, and helps motivate occasional recyclers to become “everyday” recyclers. The recycling rate in our country has increased every year, for the past 30 years, however it’s still only at 34%.
America Recycles asks people to pledge to the following:
- LEARN about what materials are collected and recycled in your community
- ACT in the next month to reduce the amount of waste you produce, recycle more, and buy more products made with recycled content
- SHARE in the next month and encourage one family member or one friend to take the #BeRecycled pledge.
It seems simple enough for everyone to take this pledge. For me, the LEARNING part is easy, I live in San Francisco, which has a Waste Zero goal and has programs in place to recycle literally everything from bulky things, like mattresses and appliances, to hazardous waste, like old paints and batteries. In fact, San Francisco Recology has a vision to create a world without waste by developing and discovering sustainable resource recovery practices that can be implemented globally.
Living in a city that is a world-leader with its Waste Zero mission means that, between composting and recycling, I already produce virtually no “trash”. However I know I can still do better and there are additional ACTIONS I can take. For me this involves two main areas,
- Making a stronger commitment to buy more products that are made with recycled content and to really pay attention to this.
- Making consistent smart decisions around packaging and reducing the amount of recycled material that I produce. From choosing reusable containers over ziplocs every single time (even when I’m in a rush and all of the containers are dirty) to making a conscious choice to choose Tap Versus Bottled Water and always remembering to bring my refillable container.
In the past, I’ve recommended my favorite refillable water bottles, but today, in honor of my America Recycles Pledge, I want to take this one step further by recommending the best refillable bottles that are made with recycled materials. Here are three awesome companies that are using sustainable practices to make really cool refillable bottles:
- Liberty Bottles: I can’t say enough positive things about this company. Liberty Bottleworks is 100% dedicated to preserving the environment and truly cares! The company’s unique aluminum bottles are made with recyclable material, are entirely recyclable, AND are made in the USA at a manufacturing facility that strives to be zero waste. The Washington-based company offers several collections of distinctly unique bottles, including its “Karma Collection“, by which it supports great organizations, like Keep America Beautiful and the National Parks Conservation Association, by selling uniquely designed bottles and then contributing 5% of its net sales to the applicable charity. Liberty Bottleworks offers so many fun and artistically designed bottles and even has a Build-a-Bottle program, enabling customers to design their own bottle all the way through the process. I love this company’s products, and what they’re all about, and can’t wait to buy some of their bottles to give as holiday gifts.
- BottlesUp: Made with a minimum of 75% recycled glass, food-grade silicone caps and rings, and no plastic in the product or the packaging, this company believes that it has the lowest carbon footprint in the industry. BottlesUp’s glass water bottles are sourced and made in North America and available in 2 sizes and eight colors. The company is dedicated to offering customers a truly green product and also aims to be the healthiest option, stating that glass is the purest material to drink from.
- ECOVESSEL: While not all of the company’s bottles are made with recycled materials, the company does have an overarching respect for the planet. Part of its mission is to support organizations that work to provide clean drinking water around the world, like Water for People. ECOVESSEL’s SURF Recycled Glass Water Bottle contains up to 60% Recycled Glass and is available in five colors and two styles.
There’s always more that we can each do. Small individual changes can lead collectively to huge change. I’ve SHARED with you the actions I will take and have included three companies that I feel proud to support in an effort to help me fulfill these ACTIONS (although I must say that Liberty Bottles is my personal favorite).
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I’m a fan of health, wellness and HYDRATION. And, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that I’m not much of a social drinker. For the past several years, I’ve veered away from cocktails. Since having kids, there just isn’t much room in my life for even the smallest glimpse of a hangover. Waking up early, with a headache, isn’t worth the tradeoff. Sure, I enjoy a glass of wine here and there but don’t go much beyond that.
Lately though, even wine hasn’t been sitting well with me – in spite of my efforts to stay very hydrated, especially when consuming alcohol. I’m not sure if I’m more bummed about not being able to enjoy a glass of wine or by the reality behind it….I’m getting older, I’m often sleep deprived and my body is more sensitive to many things that, in my “youth”, never fazed me. Recently, I was out to dinner with a friend, analyzing and agonizing over which varietal of wine would be least likely to produce a headache. My friend suggested that, instead of wine, I try a cocktail and that it would likely have less of an impact since I must be reacting to the tannins in wine not the alcohol itself. Ordering a cocktail hadn’t crossed my mind in many years (honestly, I’m that boring) but her explanation seemed reasonable and I figured I had nothing to lose. However, as perused the cocktail menu, I was disappointed by the choices – if I wanted to order one of the “signature mixologist” concoctions it seemed I had to chose between very strong, as in “that’ll put hair on your chest”, or very sweet, as in sweetened with trendily disguised sugar, like elderberry syrup, crème de violette, cherry cordial, and citrus honey. Since I’ve never gone for either very strong or very sweet, I found myself in yet another predicament. By this point, my companion was over my exhaustive analysis, first of the wine menu, and then the cocktail menu, so in an effort to get on with it, I finally ordered a simple vodka and soda with extra lime. BUT, I was determined to revisit my cocktail quest at a later time — convinced that I could create something tasty, interesting and most importantly without all of the calories and sugar.
This past weekend I found myself home, after a long week, with a hankering for an alcoholic beverage…..and so, my cocktail experimentation began. Having gone through a similar quest to create a healthy and natural water enhancer, I had some experience under my belt and once again brought out the fresh fruit, essential oils and stevia. I played around on Friday night and served my husband and me up some decent drinks, but truth be told I didn’t make anything noteworthy and couldn’t even make it all the way through my one drink. Luckily, I truly enjoy a challenge, and with even more determination, I continued to experiment on Saturday night and achieved much greater success. With the simplest combination I made a delicious and healthy (it’s all relative) cocktail! I created a delicious and healthy version of a Moscow Mule, replacing the high-sugar ginger beer with Ginger Lime H2wOw. I can’t believe I didn’t think of using H2wOw sooner; sure it’s a completely off-label use, but it makes so much sense for cocktails! I’ve been calling my cocktail the Moscow Wow and I’m so excited to have a fun drink to share with our next house guests.
Order some Ginger-Lime H2wOw, break out your copper mug (if you have one), and give this very simple recipe a try.
- Add ice to your glass or use a copper mug for an authentic taste
- Pour a shot of vodka over the ice (I used Tito’s)
- Add three squirts of Ginger Lime H2wOw (if you’re confused about how much a squirt is say the word squirt while squirting)
- Fill up the rest of the mug with sparkling water or club soda (I used Fever Tree)
- Garnish with a slice of lime
P.S. And for those of you that are wondering if any of these cocktails have left me with a headache, the answer is NO. I’m surprised and happy to report that I’ve (at least temporarily) converted from a tepid wine-drinker to a blooming healthy-cocktail connoisseur 🙂
The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) holds all public sources of drinking water to strict safety standards, ensuring that the vast majority of U.S. citizens can trust the water that comes straight from their tap. However, in spite of this, many Americans choose to pass over free and clean water in favor of paying for bottled water. “There are many attributes that contribute to bottled water’s undeniable appeal to U.S. consumers,” said said Chris Hogan, vice president of communications for the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA). “Among them are bottled water’s healthfulness, convenience, reliability, and safety.”
Bottled water drinkers are part of a large and growing trend. In this decade alone, Americans have increased their annual consumption of bottled water by more than 11 gallons per person, from 25.4 gallons in 2005 to 36.5 gallons in 2015. In fact, bottled water is expected to overtake soft drinks as America’s largest beverage category by volume by 2017, if not by the end of 2016.
While it’s good news that Americans are choosing bottled water as a healthy alternative to other bottled beverages, including soft drinks, it seems that we’ve taken this health-conscious beverage swap to an “unhealthy” extreme. Sure, it’s great to buy water instead of soda, but our careless over-consumption of bottled water has a huge and growing impact on the environment.
I’d like to start by debunking the attributes of the ubiquitous bottled water that, according to the IBWA, have “undeniable appeal” to U.S. consumers.
- Healthfullness: While bottled water is healthier than soft drinks and other bottled beverages, it is by no means healthier than tap water. Pick yourself up a refillable water bottle and make a habit out of visiting the many refillable water stations that are popping up around the world. If you live somewhere that hasn’t quite caught up with the refillable trend, consider buying a refillable bottle with a built-in filter so that you’ll feel good about filling up with tap while on the go. There’s a wide range of filter bottles from this simple Brita to the extreme Lifesaver bottle, which can also get you through an emergency.
- Convenience: Americans love the convenience of a portable plastic bottle but does it really need to be disposable? Again, invest in a refillable container and make a habit out of keeping it full. In no time this solution will feel more convenient than anything else. Especially when you factor in the option to customize your water by adding booster drops, such as these Alkaline Drops with Antioxidants or natural flavor, such as H2wOw. There are small portable enhancers to meet just about any supplement or flavor boost you want, giving you the ability to completely personalize your water and have some fun with your hydration.
- Reliability: Is bottled water really any more reliable than tap? I would argue that tap water is one of the most accessible things in the U.S. We are so fortunate to basically be guaranteed clean and safe tap water, this is a luxury that should be appreciated!
- Safety: Many people choose bottled water because of concerns about the safety of their tap water, in some cases, these fears are reasonable however for the vast majority of people in the U.S. tap water is just as safe, if not safer. And, according to several blind taste tests, such as this one, tap is just as tasty as well. In the U.S. tap water is held to higher safety standards than bottled water. Tap water is regulated, often screened for dangerous pollutants and city government offices are required to share water information with their residents. Bottled water isn’t subject to the same reporting standards and doesn’t usually have to state what source it comes from or what methods were used to treat it. In addition, some microorganisms, that are normally of little or no public health significance, may grow to higher levels in bottled water. For example, Food Safety News reports that in June 2015, 14 different brands of bottled water had to be recalled because of possible contamination with E. coli bacteria. What’s more, the plastic used in single-use bottles can pose more of a contamination threat than the water itself.
When you look closely, IBWA’s attributes of so-called appeal aren’t valid, and are quite “deniable”. These claims are fueled in part by the huge marketing effort of the major water companies and bottling industry and in part by consumers, who need to justify their frivolous purchase of water. In general, bottled water is no more pristine, tasty or healthy than water straight from the tap.
However, there are, in fact, real attributes to consider the next time you think about paying $1.50 or more for a bottle of water. The cost bottled water has on the environment and your wallet is very real. Bottled water is far more expensive than tap water, and it also uses many more resources to package, ship, and dispose of when the bottles are empty.
- Price: A Business Insider column noted that two-thirds of the bottled water sold in the United States is in individual 16.9-ounce bottles, which comes out to roughly $7.50 per gallon. That’s about 2,000 times higher than the cost of a gallon of tap water. Not only does bottled water contribute to excessive waste, but it costs us a thousand times more than water from the faucet. Furthermore, when you pay a price premium for bottled water, what you’re getting is often just tap water that’s been filtered or purified in some way. Both Dasani, bottled by the Coca-Cola company, and Aquafina, bottled by PepsiCo, start out with public water sources.
- Environment: Bottled water is a drain on the environment. The bottled water industry uses 1.5 million tons of plastic annually to package water, and the manufacturing and disposal of the plastic sends toxic chemicals into the environment. Transporting the bottles and keeping them cold also burns fossil fuels, which give off greenhouse gases. And, according to some estimates, it takes up to three liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water! In addition, groundwater pumping by bottled-water companies draws heavily on underground aquifers and harms watersheds. Some major bottled water companies are making the drought in places like California worse, and violating local communities, by taking water for bottling on expired (and potentially illegal) permits.
Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that bottled water has a place and plays a vital role when public water supplies are compromised, such as in the aftermath of a natural disaster. So much so that I even wrote a post just last week urging readers to purchase bottled water to have on hand in case of an emergency. When clean tap water is unavailable, I appreciate that the bottled water industry is instrumental and has been (and will continue to be) there to ensure that people have access to safe, quality water. In developing countries where there is not a safe source of tap water, bottled water is necessary. And sure, even with our access to clean, safe tap water, there will always be times when buying a bottle of water is justified, such as on days of travel or when forgetting your refillable container. It’s not an all or nothing situation but it is an opportunity to be mindful of times of careless over-consumption. Bottled water clearly comes with a cost, both for consumers and the environment. We can each make a difference individually by choosing tap water more often.
Experts agree: Drop, Cover and Hold is the best way to protect yourself during earthquake shaking
Yesterday was the annual Great ShakeOut Day, a unified worldwide effort to practice how to be safer during earthquakes. From California to Japan, (and in hundreds of cities, states and countries in between), millions of people practiced the Drop, Cover and Hold drill, at 10:20 am on October 20th. The ShakeOut, which began in California in 2008, is not only an opportunity for communities, schools and other organizations to practice safety drills, it’s also a time to review and update emergency preparedness plans and supplies.
And, since emergency preparedness goes well beyond just being ready for the next big earthquake, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to write about what is likely the most important part of everyone’s emergency kit: WATER.
The body can go without food for upwards of 30 days but will last less than one week without water. So if you’re going to do just one thing to prepare for an emergency, store water!
A supply of one gallon per person per day for 3-days, is the minimum that you should keep on-hand. At least a 7-day supply is optimal. So, if you have four people in your household, you should have at least 12 gallons of water stored at all times.
Whatever size bottle you choose, water stored should equal at least one gallon per person per day for 3-days; a 7-day supply is optimal
If you’ve read some of my other posts, like What’s On Tap? It’s Hetch Hetchy For Me! and I’m a “Personal” Water Bottle Addict – Here Are My 5 Faves, then you know that I’m not an advocate of buying bottled water. However, in this case, I urge you to give yourself peace of mind by buying, at least a 3-day supply, of bottled water for your family today! Mark the date on the water bottles, find a place to store them, and make a note on your calendar to replace them after one-year.
It’s important to be prepared as possible, however even a stored water supply may be exhausted during a true emergency. In this case, there are several alternative emergency sources to keep in mind. If you’re in your home, water stored in your hot water tank, melted ice cubes from the freezer and water from unsalted canned vegetables are all potential sources. If you’re in a situation where you have questions about the quality of the water, purify it before drinking. To purify water, you can heat water to boiling or use commercial purification tablets, such as Potable Aqua. You can also use household liquid bleach if it’s pure and unscented; the label should say that it contains 8.25% of sodium hypochlorite and indicate that it’s suitable for disinfection and sanitation. Do not use scented, color safe, or bleaches with added cleaners. To purify water with bleach, use the following table as a guide:
After adding bleach, shake or stir the water container and let it stand for 30 minutes before drinking. Visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website for additional guidance on preparing and storing an emergency water supply. I also recommend printing and keeping handy this Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water fact sheet.
Organizing an emergency supply kit for my family is something that I’m always putting off. It seems to continually be on my “to-do list”, but never quite makes it to the top or gets priority. There’s always something else that seems more “urgent” or worthy of my time. However, I do always keep water on hand in my garage; this is something that is easy to do and, in my opinion, the minimum that anyone should do…..especially since I live in California. In researching for this post I printed the checklists and fact sheets that are linked, as the start to finally getting a full emergency kit and plan together. Alongside our regular kid-centric activities for this weekend, which include a birthday party, gardening at my daughter’s elementary school, and gymnastics class, I blocked several hours to make a full emergency kit. Now that my kids are old enough to help, I figure making the kit together can be both an educational and fun activity to do with them. Hopefully moving this item from the status of a “to-do” on a never ending list, to a “scheduled activity with kids” will finally make it happen!