Need an Idea for an Original & Easy Holiday Gift?

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.

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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!

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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!

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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:

There Is More You Can Do to Help America Recycle and I’m a “Personal” Water Bottle Addict – Here Are My 5 Faves

featured post image: Superfactice via Pixabay

 

 

 

 

Make Your Water Go Further: The Best Times of Day to Hydrate

If you’re reading this post, then you already know that drinking enough water is an important component to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. BUT, it may surprise you to learn that when you drink water is almost equally important. This is especially true for those of us who aren’t disciplined enough to consistently drink water at regular intervals throughout the day.

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So, if you’re like me and not always or on top of your water intake, here are some simple guidelines to follow to help ensure that you hydrate at the most important times.

1. Drink Water After Waking Up
Make this the first thing you do after getting up……before a cup of coffee. Try adding lemon for even more benefit. One or two glasses of water first thing in the morning activates internal organs and remove any toxins before your first meal of the day. You’ll feel more awake and refreshed too!

2. Drink Water 30 Minutes Before Meals
One glass of water 30 minutes before a meal helps regulate digestion, curb your appetite and moisturize the stomach lining to better handle brittle and acidic foods.

3. Drink Water 1 Hour After Meals
One glass of water an hour after the meal HELPS the body to absorb the nutrients you just ate, drinking water too soon after a meal will dilute the body’s digestive juices.

4. Drink Water When You’re Hungry
If you’re hungry between meals, drink a glass of water first to see if you’re dehydrated. Sometimes people think they’re hungry when they’re really just thirsty.

5. Drink Water Before, During and After Exercise
Hydrating before a workout will keep your body from drying out and feeling thirsty. Drink at least 12 ounces before a workout. Depending on the temperature, humidity and your body’s weight and fluid levels, you’ll need one to several servings of water to protect against dehydration during and after workouts. Following vigorous exercise, be mindful to drink enough water to replace fluids lost through perspiration.

6. Drink Water 30 Minutes Before a Shower or Bath
Showering or bathing is relaxing and helps lower blood pressure. Drinking water before will help to further thin your blood and dilate blood vessels.

7. Drink Water 30 Minutes Before Going to Bed
A glass of water before going to bed has many health benefits, including helping to avoid the thickening of the blood which can cause stroke or heart attack. Hydrating before bed also helps balance hormones, replenishes any fluid loss that can occur during the night, and reduces nighttime leg cramping.

8. Drink Water When You Feel Tired
A glass of water when you feel tired will help the brain to regain focus and the body feel energized.  If you’ve gotten a good night’s sleep but still feel tired, you may be dehydrated; fatigue can be a sign of dehydration.

9. Drink Water When You’re Exposed to Germs
If you find yourself around someone who may be ill, drink more water than usual to help wash away germs and viruses that your body may have picked up. A well-hydrated body encourages bacterial and viral invaders to move along so they don’t settle and multiply in your system. The same holds true for when you’re sick, you need to drink plenty of fluids, including water, to get better.

10. Drink Water With Medicine
Water helps your kidneys flush out medicines so they go down smoothly. Do ensure you never take medicines with liquids other than water. Only water is safe with medicines as it doesn’t contain anything that can negatively affect how medicines are absorbed.

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Keeping My Family’s Reusable Water Bottles Clean and Yucky Free

I’m on a quest to be as eco-friendly as possible and as I discussed last week, keeping my family hydrated is always top of mind. So, it’s a given that refillable water bottles are a part of our everyday lives. However, as awesome as our reusable bottles are, it’s no secret that they’re also a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. As I work hard to keep my family as well nourished as possible, I’ve become aware of not only the healthful foods I’m intintionally giving them but also the unintentional yucky “germs” that sneak in when I take certain shortcuts….like just giving bottles a quick rinse. Thus, part of my routine involves keeping our stash of refillable bottles in spit spot shape. In this week’s blog post I’m sharing a small bit about what causes bacteria and details on my method to prevent it.

First, a quick blurb about what causes bacteria in water bottles.  According to Wikipedia, (http://bit.ly/1oltrGA) reusing bottles could develop bacteria in the bottle between uses. Mouth contact to the bottle openings can easily transfer bacteria to the water content which can subsequently contaminate both bottle and water. Contamination will cause bacterial and fungal growth in the water while kept in storage; if the user cleans the bottle very well before reuse, the risk is much less.

So how can you keep your water bottles clean and free of contamination? Here’s what I do:

1.) I have a designated water-only bottle for each member of my family. Occasionally I offer other beverages to take on-the-go, such as milk, but I always use a different canteen for this (the old water bottles become designated for other beverages). There are mixed thoughts on plastic bottles and leaching so to be on the safe side I always go with stainless steel or glass and prefer ones with a flip-up or pop-up spout rather than a threaded mouthpiece.

2.) I wash each bottle at the end of the day with a bottle brush and warm, soapy water. A bottle brush works wonders at getting out anything that might be “growing” on the sides. If your bottle has a straw, use a straw brush to quickly get inside (especially the portion that touches your mouth). For bottle and straw brushes, you don’t need anything fancy and you should replace them about as often as a sponge so I go for whatever has the best price point (Amazon and Target both have plenty of options). Some people put their bottles in the dishwasher but I prefer the old fashioned way and always hand wash my bottles, I find it preserves any decals that are on the stainless steel bottles and gets the bottles just as clean (especially if very hot water is used). On a separate note, it’s also important to keep the bottle brushes clean and bacteria-free and for this I put the brushes in the dishwasher at least once each week.

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I always start with hot water and dish soap

3.) After washing the bottles, I leave them (and their parts) in a place where they can get plenty of air to dry overnight — don’t ever put the top back on a damp water bottle and put it in the cabinet for future use. This is the ultimate invitation to bacteria! For drying, I use the Boon Grass Countertop Bottle Drying Rack (http://amzn.to/1mzINM8), it keeps bottles raised and sanitary and provides great circulation for faster drying  OXO also makes a great drying rack (http://amzn.to/1vo0zCL)

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I love my Boon Drying Rack for keeping bottles ventilated while drying

4.) Approximately once per week I give the bottles a deeper clean. I put around one tablespoon of baking soda in the bottle, fill it with hot water and cup my hand over the top to give it a quick shake. Meanwhile, I put another few tablespoons in a glass bowl, fill it with hot water and add all the bottle components for their own “bath” (lids, straws etc). After a few hours of soaking time, I rinse the bottles and parts thouroughly, being careful to get rid of any baking soda residue.  White Vinegar also works well for a deeper clean and when I’m mistakingly out of baking soda this is my go to. With vinegar, I add around a 1/4 cup, fill the rest of the way with water and let the bottles stand this way overnight.

5.) And, finally my favorite step! After my bottles are clean and dry, I love to add a few drops of food-grade lemon or orange essential oil to the bottom before filling with water. Essential oils are known for their antibacterial properties and by just adding a few drops of a citrus oil, I get a nice refreshing hint of taste along with some great aromatherapy all day!

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essential oils, my last step to keeping reusable bottles fresh

Please come back and visit next week, I’ll be writing about the water bottle refilling stations that are popping up EVERYWHERE (at least all over San Francisco).

 

 

Keeping My Kids Hydrated with Water-Packed Foods

My older daughter Cypress had to be taken to the emergency room last year with severe neck pain and a host of other symptoms. She was just over 5 at the time. Luckily, it turned out to be just a scare and basically “nothing”, however the doctor told me that her symptoms could have been caused in part by dehydration. I was shocked by this……I thought to myself “I’m a good mom”, I send her to school everyday with a full water bottle, I always have water with me, how could this be? But as my initial defensiveness subsided and I began to review the previous few weeks in my head, I realized there were many days that the water bottle I packed for school came back home full and that although I offered water throughout the day there really was no guarantee that she was drinking enough. So, I did what any parent would do and began monitoring her water intake much more closely and really tried to encourage her to drink more, explaining in layman’s terms why water is so important for our bodies. Her water intake definitely improved but I was still feeling like she wasn’t drinking enough.

I decided that I needed to get more creative and tried a range of things. I don’t generally allow juice, however I found if I put a small splash of some sort of organic juice (apple, blueberry, grape) in her water, she did tend to drink more. I also discovered that she liked tea and in the morning and evening began making various teas like hibiscus, berry and mint, sweetened with just a tiny drop of stevia. However, one of my favorite ways that I began to “sneak” water into her was by packing a lunch full of hydrating foods. Hydrating through foods has been a change that has stuck for our entire family, becoming a healthy habit that I no longer need to try to remember to do.

Her lunch today included half of a turkey sandwich, along with a side of fruits and veggies that all toll added up to more than 1 cup of water!

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I fill the lunchbox with as many hydrating foods as possible

It’s a fact, eating foods, such as cucumbers or strawberries, contribute to your overall fluid intake and help you stay hydrated. And, there are so many water-packed foods that I can constantly rotate to keep lunch interesting. What’s more, her lunches are filled with a lot more nutrition. There’s Vitamin C in everything pictured, not to mention the lycopene in watermelon and peppers, fiber in cucumbers, thiamine, vitamin B6, beta carotene and folic acid in red pepper and my favorite….celery, which contains the highest percent of water along with the longest list of nutrients, including vitamins B1, B2, B6 and C potassium, folate, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, sodium and plenty essential amino acids.

And, if extra hydration and nutrition isn’t enough to convince you, adults may be interested to learn that research shows that eating foods that are full of water will also help keep you satisfied on fewer calories.

Here’s a table of some of my lunchbox favorites, including water content percent and some of the added nutritional benefits of each food:

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A table of some of my lunchbox favorites along with some of their other benefits

And for those of you that need even more evidence in order to start integrating hydrating foods into your diet, I will leave you with this……A 2009 study at the University of Aberdeen Medical School found that the combination of salts, minerals and natural sugars in some fruits and vegetables can actually hydrate people more effectively than water or even sports drinks. Watermelon was on top of the list, thanks to its 92 percent water content and essential rehydration salts calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium.