A Gluten- & Dairy-Free Snack You’ll Love!

Written by: on Monday, March 12th, 2018

I’m always looking for grab n’ go snacks that aren’t too high in calories or sugar, are gluten- and dairy-free & taste good. Enter Be In Your Element Organic Dipped Rice Cakes, which I picked up today in my local grocery store. While they have a lot of flavors (Strawberry ‘N’ Cream, Sweet Vanilla Orange, Sweet Mint Dipped Corn & Chia, and Milk Chocolate), I fell in love today with their Dark Chocolate cakes because they’re the only ones that are gluten- and dairy-free. With just the right amount of dark chocolate spread on a rice cake, each cake has only 80 calories, 4 grams of fat (including 2.5 grams of saturated fat—which comes from the dark chocolate), and 5 grams of added sugars. Overall, each rice cake does have 10 grams of carbohydrates, if you’re counting carbs (which I don’t). The only downside for me: you really can’t stop after eating just one (they’re too yummy for that!), but even if you eat three like I did, you’ve only eaten 240 calories and 15 grams of sugar—which should just about cover your sugar quota for the day. I’ll definitely be buying these again!

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Chocolate Hearts … Good for Your Heart

Written by: on Wednesday, January 24th, 2018
dark chocolate

Look for dark chocolate with a high cocoa content of 70% to 100% for best health benefits.

I love chocolate. There’s nothing more satisfying than sitting down on a cold winter’s day with a cup of hot tea and some chocolate (preferably no kids around, making demands…sorry, I love my kids but this is me time). But the big problem with milk chocolate is…you can’t stop after just a little bit. It’s like one bite makes you want, no eat, even more. (Why I’ve had a hard time resisting the chocolates in my kids’ Halloween bins — and Christmas stockings.) Enter dark chocolate—and particularly these dark chocolates from Enjou Chocolates.*

 

dark chocolate hearts

Each of these hearts has 44 calories and loads of good-for-you antioxidants.

These have 72% cocoa content, which is what you want to look for in dark chocolate. (A cocoa content of 70% to 100% is ideal.) This dark chocolate has more fiber, more minerals (like calcium and iron), and more good-for-you antioxidants. It’s also been shown in studies to help improve risk factors for heart disease, helping to decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol—due to the powerful antioxidants it contains. But the best thing about these dark chocolate hearts: I can sit down and eat just two of them—and not crave any more. At 88 calories for two, this is a snack me—and my heart—have come to love.

* Products have been purchased by me. No products have been accepted for free or at a discount to write this piece.

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Sanity-Saving Rainy Day Craft

Written by: on Sunday, June 18th, 2017
Craft for Kids

Try this cute educational project for young kids—to keep their minds occupied, without using the computers or iPads!

Summer vacation is around the corner, which—if you’re like me—inspires a bit of panic in parents everywhere. If you’re thinking of ways to occupy your kids (in my case, three of them!) during the long summer months ahead, try this rainy day craft from education.com. (My kids love it when I ring the doorbell and call myself “Miss V”, a summertime teacher whom their “mom” [aka me!] hired to come teach them for the summer. This craft will be on “Miss V’s” summertime to-do list.)

Phonics Eel

Learning the double “ee” is a big project. It’s pretty strange, if you think about it: double a “t” or an “l” and the sound doesn’t change … but doubling an “e” is a bit more difficult. I’ll be doing this with my kindergartener and my fourth grader; they can work together on this.

What You Need

  • 4-5 cardboard toilet paper tubes
  • Tempera glitter paint and paintbrush
  • 2 wiggly eyes
  • 2 cardboard egg cups, cut from an egg carton
  • 1 24″ strip of elastic, 1/2″ wide
  • Black sharpie pen
  • Small strip of red felt
  • Craft glue
  • Round stickers in a coordinating color (optional; available at office supply stores)

What You Do

  1. Start by painting the toilet paper tubes and egg cups with the glitter paint. If you want to go with a “realistic” look, you might try black, brown, or green paint, but feel free to branch out, perhaps even to hot pink, or purple, or both. While you’re at it, your child might even choose a name for this eel creature.
  2. While the toilet paper tubes are drying, cut a “tongue” from red felt, about ½” x 2” long. If the felt seems thin, go ahead and make two layers, and glue them securely onto the end of the elastic.
  3. Put a small hole in the bottom of each egg cup, large enough so that the elastic can fit through it.
  4. Once the tubes are dry, cut each one in half, leaving 8-10 tubes, each about 3” long. Explain that these are your “ee” tubes, and brainstorm these words with your child. Help him write a different “ee” word on each tube, making sure that one of the tubes, which will go in the front, says “eel.” (Hint: try green, keep, deep, seep, creep, feel, reel, heel, wheel, tree…) If you also want to add stickers, now is a good time, too.
  5. Now it’s time to string your eel together. Start by running the elastic through the bottom of one egg cup until it hits the edge of the red tongue, facing out. This will be the eel’s head; glue on two googly eyes to complete the effect.
  6. Then string the tubes, starting with the one that says “eel.” Go all the way to the end of the tubes, and then poke the elastic through the other egg cup. Keep it straight but not taut, and knot it off or staple it securely.
  7. Want to make the eel “slither”? Grab the tongue, pull the elastic to tighten the eel, and then let go…

Good luck! And Happy Summer!

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Recognizing the Humanity in Each of Us

Written by: on Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

No matter what Higher Power you recognize or what religion you celebrate (or not), we all share a common thread of humanity—why I love this video:

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A Prayer for our Children & for Our Country

Written by: on Sunday, November 6th, 2016

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-child-prayer-image4455925The U.S. election is driving us all crazy. Everyone is on edge. Everyone—no matter what their political affiliation—is anxious. But what’s even more disturbing: there’s an undercurrent of anger and hate rising to the surface of our American society that is pervading our hearts, our families, and our country.

As a mother of three young children, this anger and hate scares me. It’s keeping me up at night as I worry for my children and for our country. Churches are being burned. People are screaming insults at others who are different from them, in looks and in beliefs. Political signs are being stolen and being booby trapped. Children are yelling offensive words at other children who are different from them. Swastikas are showing up around the country with increased frequency.

A culture of hate is rearing its ugly head. This hate has been spewed throughout this election; it feeds on anger, spawns violence and disrespect, and breeds intolerance. It is in opposition to the very values upon which America was created, that “all men are created equal”.

Of course, racist, bigoted, misogynistic, violent tendencies have always simmered beneath the surface of society. But, during this election, it has become acceptable to speak and act like this. And this culture of hate is spreading as it gains acceptance—like a contagious virus—among more and more people.

The Scottish journalist/poet Charles Mackey famously concluded that “men…go mad in herds.” And no wonder. It’s easy to absorb the negativity when we’re among others who are angry and shouting, but at some point, we need to take a step back and reflect on what our own hearts are saying. We need to stop and understand what this hate and anger is doing to the very fabric of our society. And most important, we need to stop and understand what it is doing to our children.

Our children hear and our children see hateful words and actions—and they process it as being okay.

Bullying is on the rise in schools around the country. One mother shared with me that, while watching a soccer game, she overheard one child calling an opposing teammate a “stupid Muslim”. “You’re getting shipped back to Mexico” is what some kids shouted to a group of Latino children.

No matter how much we reassure children that this hate won’t affect them, this is what is keeping them up at night. My own Guatemalan nephew—an American citizen and middle schooler—worries that he’s not a true American and is going to get shipped back to Guatemala without his family.

We are a country built on immigrants. We are all descended from immigrants yet THIS. How quickly we forget.

Even the latest Starbucks coffee cup—a drawing of different people all connected with a single line to show that, as humans, we are all connected—is being angrily criticized as being “political brainwashing”.

Since when has humanity—and the realization that we are all humans, together, in this thing called life—become politics?

And call me naïve, but why does the very essence of who we are as humans—no matter what color our skin, what person we decide to marry, what language we speak, or what religion we worship—have to become embroiled in politics?

Our differences now define us more than our similarities.

It is time to take a moment to stop, step away from the mob mentality, put our political affiliation “badge” aside, and follow our conscience and our hearts. As I say to my young daughter: “Always do what feels good to you on your inside.”

Under the hate, anger, and violence, I do optimistically believe that we can all respect each other—again. But we must work hard at cultivating it. And we must have leaders that cultivate it.

Every night, I say a prayer with my daughter and my sons before bed: “May truth, honesty, integrity, morality, justice, and kindness prevail.” I say the same prayer for our children, for our country, and for this election. May we banish the culture of anger, violence, intolerance, and disrespect from our hearts—for us, for our children, and for this country: “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.

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A Common Sense Approach to Guns (from a Gun Owner)

Written by: on Friday, December 4th, 2015

I’m tired of hearing how there’s nothing that can be done about guns—that we have a right to “bear arms”. Well, one guy: a legal gun owner, at that, had some pretty common sense things to say about it. Take a look:

 

 

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No, Chipotle Doesn’t Make You Chubby

Written by: on Thursday, September 3rd, 2015
ChubbyChipotle

When you see a full-page ad attacking a business that’s been doing extremely well, become very suspicious.

So, I was catching up on the New York Post this morning—and was amazed to come across this full page ad basically bashing Chipotle. Hmm…I thought. Chipotle has been doing extremely well and businesses like McDonald’s have been doing poorly, shutting down restaurants around the country and laying off employees. “Could McDonald’s be behind this?” I thought. “Why else would anyone spend this kind of money to bash Chipotle in a way-too-obvious attempt to negate all the positive feedback Chipotle has been getting.” Or it might be Monsanto: king of the push for GMO’s that’s not doing too well either (Chipotle has vowed to go non-GMO). Some big money group is definitely behind a full-page ad, which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars…if not more.

Turns out my suspicions are justified: This ChubbyChipotle ad is the work of a seemingly innocuous and “helpful” group called The Center for Consumer Freedom, a “nonprofit coalition which opposes activist interference with and legal restrictions on the sale of food and drink, etc…” (according to their website). The only problem: this group is one of many created by Washington, D.C. Public Relations (PR) executive and lawyer, Rick Berman, who heads up a PR group called Berman and Company.

No surprise as I dug deeper, Rick Berman is paid for by big money; while you would never get hold of his client list (most companies have their clients front and center on their websites; this guy supposedly firewalls his list so no one knows whom he represents). This is the same guy behind other websites opposing PETA, GreenPeace, unions, raising the minimum wage, and regulation of trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Click on this independent website to get a bit more background information on this guy (warning: it ain’t pretty).

Chipotle burrito

Burritos can be healthy for you—but don’t load them up with high-calorie cheese and sour cream.

First of all, when it comes to weight gain—eating too much of ANYTHING can make you fat. But choosing Chipotle for your meals definitely won’t make you chubby unless you’re eating 2 giant burritos, plus chips, plus a giant soda at every meal. Moderation is the key to healthy eating and keeping your weight stable. And beans, rice, avocados, tomatoes, lettuce, and a variety of other healthy ingredients that make up Chipotle’s delicious menu are good for you. (Yes, I’m a Chipotle fan—as well as being an advocate for the truth when it comes to your health and wellbeing).

And when it comes to ads like this, dig deeper because there’s some spinmaster at work behind the ad, trying to make you believe something other than what your gut is telling you is right.

Bottom line: when it comes to your health, always, always trust your gut. If you believe, for example, that organic food is healthiest for your family—don’t listen to the cacophony of negatives against organic food saying that organics are no better than foods sprayed with pesticides. If you believe that genetically modified (GMO) foods aren’t good for your health, stick to your guns because there will be plenty of these ads—and even research studies paid for by these companies not telling the entire truth—based on spinning the truth to make you believe that companies like Monsanto are good and are actually there to feed the world and help prevent hunger. (Not)

Your gut is all you have to rely on because where there’s big money, there are big lobbying groups like Berman and Company working to spin the information so they can all make big money (and you’re left with a host of diseases 10/15 years from now).

As a matter of record, I have received no money from Chipotle to write this post—and in fact, have never received anything free from Chipotle. I choose to eat there with my family because I know it’s healthy food—and the ingredients are fresh. My kids love it. And what’s more: none of us are chubby.

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Best. Sunscreen. Ever.

Written by: on Thursday, July 30th, 2015
Sunscreen Application

You need to apply—and reapply—sunscreen all over the body…to prevent skin damage.

Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays is just about the worst thing for your skin (besides smoking). The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are essentially radiation that’s penetrating your skin, right down to the deeper layers. Not only can this mess with your DNA (your genetic mapping that determines how your cells should act)—which can trigger mutations and even skin cancer—it also depletes collagen and elastin in the skin. These are the skin-firming proteins that make skin look more youthful looking. (It’s when collagen and elastin get depleted that skin starts to sag and lose its youthful fullness.) The sun’s UV rays also cause hyperpigmentation (age spots and freckles), rough skin, fine lines and wrinkles, and more.

While not going out in the skin ever is probably the best thing for your skin, it’s just about impossible to do that—particularly if you’ve got kids in swim lessons (outdoors) and in other various activities (like me) that necessitates being out in the sun.

I don’t use chemical sunscreens on my skin or on my kids’ skin. There are just too many questions about the chemicals being absorbed into the skin and showing up in urine. (It begs the question: what could those harmful chemicals be doing to your body—or to a child’s body—over time.)

Enter Raw Elements.

 

Organic, natural sunscreen

When it comes to the beach and the pool and being outdoors, this sunscreen delivers serious protection.

Raw Elements simply makes the best sunscreen. This is a physical, not chemical, sunblock. I swear by this stuff. It’s organic, cruelty-free, non GMO certified, has non nano particles (so nothing penetrates the skin), offers UVA and UVB protection, and not one member of my family has gotten a sunburn yet despite plenty of time spent in the pool (it’s super water resistant) and playing tennis. (I used this last year as well with the same results.) You can find it lots of places online, including amazon.com—where a 3-ounce tube (which lasts about a month or maybe a little less for my entire family) costs $13.74. Another favorite natural skin-care website where I buy this is carenonline (they often have 20% off sales, which brings the prices down).

What’s even better: I can slather this ALL over my kids’ faces … and it never irritates eyes. Have I said how much I love this stuff? (A side note: my 11-year-old son just wants a “spray” sunscreen like all the other kids…and wants me to say he thinks this stuff is too white on the skin. If you rub it in well, this whiteness tones down. But doesn’t bother me—or my younger kids. No chemical sprays in this house!)

Update: I got a call from the Raw Elements people after my post; they suggested that my son try their Raw Elements Eco Tint Stick 30+ tinted sunscreen. I purchased it (see note below) and my son loves this! I have to say I love it too…it’s not white but matches up pretty well to skin tone (it still needs to be rubbed in, though). It’s perfect for the face.

Another Raw Elements fave that I just tried: Eco Formula 30+ Lotion in a recyclable tin (plastic-free packaging); it’s beyond easy to apply and you can use up every last bit. I’m buying some more to finish out the summer (this—and the Eco Tint Stick 30+—will be perfect sunscreens for skiing too!).

(Note: I have bought all these sunscreen products, and have received nothing free—and no discounts—to say I love this stuff!)

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Watch This, Get Motivated

Written by: on Thursday, April 9th, 2015

I love watching this video…and have watched it (and shared it) numerous times. When you’re feeling down about your life—or anything—this woman’s words can lift you up!

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Follow Your Heart…and Your Dreams

Written by: on Friday, January 30th, 2015

Follow your passion…and you’ll never regret it, why I love this video!

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