Nature’s Sleep Aids

Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? One of the easiest ways to combat insomnia and sleeplessness is to utilize the benefits of natural essential oils. Whether you apply the oils topically, add them to a warm bath, diffuse them, or spritz* them onto your pillowcase or eyemask, certain essential oils provide relief for insomnia and aid in falling and staying asleep.

Lavender

lavender By now, many people know that lavender helps to soothe and relax tired minds and muscles. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “Scientific evidence suggests that aromatherapy with lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system, improve sleep quality, promote relaxation, and lift mood in people suffering from sleep disorders.” It is also beneficial as a bug repellent and antibiotic, for all you avid campers.

 Ylang Ylang

imagesThis essential oil is one of my favorites for relaxation, probably because of its fragrant floral notes. It reduces stress and relaxes the nerves. I like to mix a couple drops of this with lavender or chamomile for added benefits.

 Roman Chamomile

chamomile-401490_640Roman Chamomile has a sweet, fruity aroma. It has a calming effect, and is great to diffuse for a soothing and peaceful environment, i.e., one that promotes and supports sleep.

 Bergamot

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Bergamot is a good choice for someone who loves citrus scents, but it is much more calming than the more stimulating oils of grapefruit or tangerine. It is great for “clearing your head” in preparation for a peaceful night’s rest.

Vetiver

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This essential oil is extracted from the root of the vetiver plant. It has a warm, earthy scent, and promotes sleep while also relieving stress and muscle tension.

* I recommend adding a couple drops of essential oil to a water-based spritzer so the oil does not stain your bed linens.

Fried Greens Meatlessballs, a Delicious and Healthy Summer Snack

Photo Courtesy of food52.com
Photo Courtesy of food52.com

Summer is a fantastic time to visit the farmer’s market and buy all fresh and in-season produce! When I go to the farmer’s market, I will leave with armloads of delicious, fresh produce. Sometimes, I purchase more than I can use. To fix the problem of excess produce, I have taken to the internet in my search for recipes as to not let them go to waste. I stumbled upon a fantastic recipe from Food52, Fried Greens Meatlessballs. This recipe is great for using any leftover greens and turning them into a yummy snack or appetizer.

Serves 3 to 4 as an appetizer

  • 1 bunch greens
  • 3
 tablespoons olive oil or grapeseed oil
  • 1
small yellow onion, diced
  • salt, to taste
  • 2
 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 
cup cilantro
  • 1 
tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1
 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 
cup crumbled feta
  • 1 or 2
eggs
  • oil for frying

Pulse greens in a food processor or finely chop with a knife—they should be small but not puréed or mushy. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the oil, onion, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, cilantro, and cumin seeds. Stir for 30 seconds.

Add greens to pan and sauté for a 1-2 minutes, until they have wilted. Turn the mixture into a large bowl.

Let cool for five minutes, then add the breadcrumbs and feta. Mix well, then taste for seasoning. Add more salt if necessary. Crack one egg into the bowl and mix. Squeeze a small ball of the mixture and if it holds together, begin portioning out the remaining mixture into small balls. If the balls do not hold together well, add another egg.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add balls to pan—they should sizzle when they hit the oil—then turn heat down to medium or medium-low. Cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Use a fork to flip the balls to the other side and cook for another 2 minutes or so.

Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Is Sunscreen Really Protecting You?

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Many people think that exposing their skin to the sun will give them skin cancer. So to combat it, they either slather on sunscreen when going outdoors or try to avoid the sun as much as possible. Sadly, neither of these is a good solution.

Smaller amounts of sunlight can be healthy, but overexposure is what can be harmful. In modern times, most people do not get enough sun as a result of spending large amounts of time indoors. Many people actually become Vitamin D deficient, which can cause more problems than having too much sun exposure. Vitamin D deficiencies have been connected to several types of cancers and problems during pregnancy.

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As for covering yourself in sunscreen for protection, what people don’t realize is that most sunscreens contain toxic and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which can actually promote skin cancer and free-radical production in the body. They may protect against sunburn, but do very little to prevent skin cancer and signs of aging.

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The best solution is to get limited daily sunshine to ensure that you are producing enough Vitamin D, but no so much that you risk getting sunburned. If you are planning on being outdoors for the entire day, you should consider loose clothing, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses, as well as locating shady spots to minimize the amount of time you’re in direct sunlight.

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If you are in a situation where you feel it is necessary to use sunscreen (rather than get burned), the best thing to do is try a natural recipe for homemade sunscreen. Below I’ve listed a recipe by Wellness Mama, as well as her personal notes for preparation.

Next time you go out in the sun, be prepared and informed about the proper ways to protect your skin.

Natural Homemade Sunscreen

Homemade natural sunscreen with beneficial oils, zinc oxide and beeswax for water protection.

Author: Wellness Mama

Recipe type: Remedy

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Combine ingredients except zinc oxide in a pint sized or larger glass jar. I have a mason jar that I keep just for making lotions and lotion bars, or you can even reuse a glass jar from pickles, olives, or other foods.
  2. Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and place over medium heat.
  3. Put a lid on the jar loosely and place in the pan with the water.
  4. As the water heats, the ingredients in the jar will start to melt. Shake or stir occasionally to incorporate. When all ingredients are completely melted, add the zinc oxide, stir in well and pour into whatever jar or tin you will use for storage. Small mason jars (pint size) are great for this. It will not pump well in a lotion pump!
  5. Stir a few times as it cools to make sure zinc oxide is incorporated.
  6. Use as you would regular sunscreen. Best if used within six months.

Additional Notes:

  • This sunscreen is somewhat, but not completely, waterproof and will need to be reapplied after sweating or swimming.
  • Make sure not to inhale the Zinc Oxide- use a mask if necessary!
  • This recipe has an SPF of about 15, though adding more Zinc Oxide will increase the SPF.
  • Add more beeswax to make thicker sunscreen, less to make smooth sunscreen.
  • I recommend coconut or vanilla extract or lavender essential oils for fragrance.
  • Store in a cool, dry place or in the fridge.
  • I prefer to store in a small canning jar and apply like body butter. It will be thicker, especially if you use coconut oil in the recipe.
  • Remove the Zinc Oxide and this makes an excellent lotion recipe!

Grow Your Own Vegetable Garden In Limited Space

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With Summer approaching and fresh vegetables coming into season, we begin to plan yummy veggie dishes to share with our family and friends. Farmer’s markets begin to open, and many people will venture there to pick up their produce. However, there is another option available: growing your own vegetables. There are many ways to grow your own veggies, even if you do not have a large yard for a garden. Here are several great places you can start a garden with limited space:

Walls 

outdoor-pallet-furniture-28Hanging organizers or up-cycling pallets can create vertical garden planters that can be hung on exterior walls or fences. These hanging gardens can help keep your outdoor area clear, and can also brighten up your outdoor space with a lush look.

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Patios or Steps

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If you have a small outdoor space such as a patio, terrace, porch, or steps, you can use the space by planting your vegetables in pots. Almost any vegetable can be planted in a pot. Some even do particularly well in pots, such as tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, beans, cucumbers, and herbs. There are even varieties of berries that thrive in pots.

Indoors

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Vegetable gardens don’t need to be planted outside. Many vegetables will grow happily in a sunny window. Use long plant boxes that fit in the window to create a small veggie garden. When doing an indoor garden, stay away from vegetables like squash, since they spread as they grow and they can take over the planter. Vegetables that work best in small planters are vertically growing veggies, such as tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, and herbs.

Community Garden

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Many people want to grow their own vegetables, but don’t have the space to do so. To accommodate the growing demand for fresh produce, community gardens have been created. These gardens are typically on public plots of land, and you can rent a plot in the garden to plant and care for yourself. To find a community garden near you, visit the American Community Garden Association.

Enjoy all of the yummy produce, whether it’s home-grown or from a local farmer’s market!

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26 Eco-Conscious Ideas for Earth Day

With Earth Day fast approaching, now is the time to start incorporating some eco-friendly ideas into your everyday life. In my search for fun ideas I came across several great ways to not only celebrate Earth Day, but keep the eco-friendly ideas going throughout the year.

  1. Plant a tree
  2. Clean up a park, lake, trail, river, beach, or other natural site 
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  3. Go for a walk
  4. Plant a garden 12035372145_d495f33afc_z
  5. Start a compost pile
  6. Make an indoor herb garden
  7. Implement a recycling system, or ensure that your current system is the best it can be 6881231757_3cb80f7652_b
  8. Pay bills online
  9. Stop paper bills and bank statements
  10. Limit your water usage
  11. Reduce energy consumption
  12. Lower your water-heater temperature to save energy
  13. Visit a farmers’ market vegetables-353926_640
  14. When shopping, bring your own reusable bags
  15. Ditch the plastic water bottles and use a reusable bottle instead
  16. Bring your own coffee mug when visiting a coffee shop DSC_0741
  17. Check your home for water leaks
  18. Plan a vegetarian meal once a week pizza-442058_640
  19. Skip the baths and take a shower
  20. Take a shorter shower
  21. Adjust your thermostat one degree higher in the summer and one degree lower in the winter to save energy
  22. Eliminate excess junk mail by removing yourself from unnecessary lists Pile_of_junk_mail
  23. Use rechargeable batteries
  24. Unplug appliances when not in use
  25. Wash laundry in cold or warm water
  26. Have a picnic

However you decide to spend Earth Day, be sure to try to lessen your impact on the planet by changing one thing you do. Be sure to get outside and enjoy the beauty of nature!

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Warm Up with an Organic Soup

Bean and Barley Soup

Take the chill off this winter with a nice warm bowl of soup for dinner! Here is a great recipe for a healthy and organic soup that will please the whole family.

Bean and Barely Soup

Yield: 4 (serving size: 1¼ cups soup and 1½ teaspoons cheese)

Ingredients

1 cup organic pinto beans

1 tablespoon organic olive oil

2 cups finely chopped organic red onion

1 cup finely chopped fresh organic flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup finely chopped organic celery

1/2 cup finely chopped organic carrot

1/2 cup chopped fresh organic basil

9 cups water

2 cups organic vegetable broth

2 organic bay leaves

1/3 cup uncooked organic pearl barley

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon of your favorite hot sauce

2 tablespoons grated fresh organic Parmesan cheese

Directions

Sort and wash beans; place in a large saucepan. Cover with water to 2” above beans; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes; remove from heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour. Drain beans. Wipe pan dry with a paper towel.

Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add onion, parsley, celery, carrot, and basil; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add beans, 9 cups water, vegetable broth, and bay leaves; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 hour and 15 minutes or until beans are tender. Discard bay leaves.

Place 3/4 cup beans and 3/4 cup cooking liquid in a blender; process until smooth. Return pureed bean mixture to pan. Stir in barley, salt, pepper, and hot sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes or until barley is done. Ladle soup into individual bowls; sprinkle with cheese.  

Enjoy!