It’s Time To Start Tanning

sun coming through treesIt’s finally past April 15th and it’s time for a little excitement. No, I’m not talking about the deadline for filing taxes and the relief completing that can sometimes bring.

I’m referring to the fact that it’s now possible to make Vitamin D in the United States again.

So, it’s time to start thinking about going out and getting some of that sunshine and making Vitamin D. Here are few of our tips to make tanning a little easier and more fun. We’ve also written a few tanning tips for men you might like from our other website.

First, try to find fun places to tan. It could be the beach, parks, or anywhere you can relax and meditate while tanning. However, sometimes people prefer a more private setting. I find that a trampoline is a good place to tan. It’s away from bugs and with the netting is somewhat private.

Second, make sure to not overdo it. Tanning can actually be addictive for some people. But, don’t fall into that trap because tanning too much is really bad for the skin. You can always tell people who tan way too much. Their faces have a leathery look and they wrinkle prematurely.

Finally, keep your face protected. You face receives a lot more sun typically than the rest of your body. In other words, during your official tanning times you’re exposing your face to more harm than good. So, even when you’re out tanning, try to use sunblock or at least screen.

Now that it’s time to start tanning, I hope these tips were helpful.

The Dating Game Can Be Tough

heartThe dating game certainly isn’t easy for those of you actively involved in it. This is true at whatever age. While humans don’t have a mating ritual like animals (a dance, etc.), we still do have our fair share of rituals that confuse and frustrate people.

It’s why dating tips for men is a highly searched term on Google! But, women have similar problems. It’s a problem that plagues the majority of people.

The dating game can be very tough, let me tell you. When I was younger, I found it very frustrating because I watched as other guys “had all the luck.” Granted, they behaved differently than I did. But, it obviously had to be luck. The reality of course is different.

Just like star athletes are better at their sports than the rest of us, so others are better at the dating game. For a guy, succeeding typically involves being powerful, strong, and confident. For a woman, it involves being open to interaction, flirty, and feminine.

Some people try to get around these rules by trying online dating. However, there are lots of problems with online dating too that many people don’t even realize. Online dating is a great way to meet other people. But, it can’t change your ability, or lack of it, to get dates and keep relationships.

So, my best advice to succeed at the dating game is to follow the gender specific advice above, but also to keep trying. Approach lots of new people. Don’t be afraid to take risks. If you like someone ask for her number. And, finally, don’t be attached. Relax and take it easy. Life’s too short to turn something great (love) into something miserable.

Frugal, But Not Cheap

Before I went to graduate school, I never thought much about buying groceries and other everyday items. During high school, my parents took care of that for the most part, and in college, we had the dining hall and dorms to basically provide our needs (hardly for free, but I didn’t notice it). However, when I arrived at graduate school, suddenly I was responsible for buying groceries and having some money left over at the end of the week to do the things I wanted to do.

Some people call me cheap, and others tight. I prefer to look at myself as frugal, or perhaps thrifty, and my beliefs about money do not render me stingy, although I do like to save money. I tend to look at having and spending money like this: I like to save money on things I don’t really care about, so I can have money to spend on things I do. So, for example, there is no difference between buying eggs at Aldi, or eggs at Meijer. However, I save about 40 cents/dozen by getting the eggs for 79 cents a dozen at Aldi. At a dozen per week, I save over $20.00 a year. Twenty dollars buys a few books, which I do enjoy. Another example is generic pop. How much is a 2-liter of Pepsi? Somewhere around $1.25. The generic is $.75. Savings per week if I buy 2? $1.00 a week. In a year, that is $52.00. Chicken noodle soup is basically chicken stock, noodles, and a few chunks of chicken. I can get Campbell’s for $1.00 or Aldi for 50 cents. If I buy 4 a week, in the course of a year I have saved $104.00. I don’t really care enough about pop, eggs, or chicken noodle soup to readily distinguish between generic and name brand, but I do enjoy having an extra $176.00 at the end of the year.

Like I said, I don’t think I am cheap. I like to buy people gifts, and I always try to tip 20-25% when I go out to eat. I also make sure I give a fair percentage of my income to charity, including my church. In fact, one thing I save money for is to share it with others. However, I would much rather “share” my money with others than with the electric company, gas company, or grocery store. This is one main reason I also go to extremes to save energy, and this is reflected by the fact that our air-conditioning has kicked on probably 10 times this whole summer (it has been unseasonably cool, so we don’t usually save as much energy as we have this summer).

So what is my basic philosophy and challenge to you? Well, it could be summarized as “tighten your finances where it doesn’t really matter, so you can have more money where it does.” There are many creative ways to save money, and the way I look at it is that if you can put effort into whatever it is you put effort into (school, job, hobby, etc), you can put effort into saving money, since it will likely benefit you and those that matter to you!

Want a Smart Kid? Exercise

Research from psychologists has indicated that mothers who exercise 30 minutes a day during pregnancy increase their child’s IQ by as much as eight percentage points. The study  also noted an increase in IQ associated with breast feeding and other positive factors.

We have been discovering over the years that having healthy children is more than just early childhood parental decisions, but even the woman’s behavior while pregnant. While we have known that drugs, alcohol, and smoking were bad, it’s nice to find positive things we can do to help our children while even in the womb. Fortunately my wife exercised and took DHA while our baby was in utero and breastfeeding. I hope it makes a difference.

Preventing a Cytokine Storm, or, Surviving the Swine Flu

The reason the Spanish Flu of 1918 was so deadly to young people was that it probably caused what is known as a cytokine storm, a potentially fatal immune reaction that is strongest in those with healthy immune systems. While this current swine flu scare is nothing compared to the Spanish Flu outbreak (yet), it has currently killed people in Mexico, many who apparently are in the 25-45 year old range, which, according to experts, makes it look like a pandemic flu strain much like the 1918 Spanish flu. Normally, the flu is only a serious concern for the very young and the very old, not people in the prime of life.

If the swine flu breaking out in Mexico (and in Texas and California) is indeed similar to the Spanish flu, then immune boosting treatments may actually hasten death. I went looking online to see which nutrients, herbs, foods, vitamins, and drugs actually increase, or inhibit, a cytokine storm. Some of the substances that may hasten death in infections that trigger a cytokine storm may actually be helpful in treating the regular, seasonal, flu, so it is important to understand what type of flu you have. Below I have divided them by category, and included a few natural substances that may act as anti-viral agents. Bear in mind, that while I link to sources for every one, sometimes the rationale is hypothetical, as opposed to based on actual research, and often the research is at the cellular level, or in animals, which means it may or may not work the same with in an actual human body. Also, remember that I am not a medical doctor, and I am presenting my personal research here for everybody to see. If you think you have the swine flu, bird flu, etc, see a doctor and/or follow the instructions of your local health department. It looks like there are currently effective anti-viral treatments for this type of swine flu, so there is no need to treat yourself.

Possibly Lessen/Inhibit a Cytokine Storm:

Vitamin C

Green Tea

Saint John’s Wort

Quercetin

Vitamin D (.pdf) (I should note that Dr. John Cannell observes that in the 1918 pandemic, generally those with the lowest Vitamin D levels lived [blacks, the elderly], while those with presumably the highest levels [young people] died. The pandemic was around in the summer, when Vitamin D blood levels would have been generally elevated anyway, but it definitely was weaker in the summer, and started getting juiced up at the end of the summer and beginning of the fall when Vitamin D levels were falling off. Cannell believes that either very low, or very high, levels of Vitamin D are protective against an influenza-caused cytokine storm. If I am reading him correctly, perhaps a moderate level of Vitamin D is the most dangerous in this case. It would be nice if Cannell would address this.)

Vitamin E

N-Acetyl L-Cysteine (and here)

Turmeric

Aspirin

Prednisone

Possibly Increase Cytokine Storm

Bromelain
(Papain? Pancreatin?)

Cocoa

Echinacea

Elderberry

Possible Natural Anti-Viral Agents

Lauric Acid

Emodin

Resveratrol

Scullcap

Lauric Acid is a saturated fat and medium-chain fatty acid found in abundance in coconut products. It has been found to hinder the entry of some viruses into cells. The last three may work similar to Tamiflu, based on research at the cellular-level. Emodin and Resveratrol are both available in Japanese Knotweed, commonly used as a Resveratrol supplement. Emodin is a laxative, which is why taking a lot of Japanese Knotweed has a laxative effect.

Black-Out Curtains: Save Sleep and Save Money Making Them

It seems like every house, apartment, or dorm I’ve lived in during these past 10 years has had some type of light right outside the bedroom window.  Right outside!?!  While they do make me feel more secure, they also make it harder for me to get quality sleep. I am not totally off-base, as studies show that sleeping in a room with some light is associated with higher levels of some cancers. In fact, just last week, Science News announced a new study has linked artificial light at night to a higher risk of prostate cancer. The studies are clear: artificial light leaking into our bedrooms at night cause health problems due to a lack of sleep. However, as I explain below, the solution need not be expensive (or involve you wearing one of those strange-looking sleep masks).

I’ve tried every solution, from taping up garbage bags to buying fancy curtains.  Yet, nothing seemed to work as well as the high-end brand black out shades my mom installed in her house.  I commented about this to her one day.  Her response was for me to go get some black out material at the fabric store.  Obviously I’ve never made curtains before, and I didn’t even know they had this “stuff”!  But for around $6 (after using the 40% off coupon in the paper), I got 2 yards of fabric.   I sewed a pocket for a tension rod and I was done.  Instant dark! Even in the day time it’s really dark in the room. It makes for a world of difference in our room.   I can’t tell you how great this material is.  You do not need to hem it.  Even if you don’t sew very well, you can make these.  As a matter of fact you don’t have to sew it either if you get a tube of liquid stitch.  Or if you’d like to take it one step further Martha Stewart has a How to Make Your Own Roman Shade tutorial here.

Baking With Stevia For Valentine’s Day

It’s Valentine’s Day this weekend, in case you didn’t already know. :) Some would rather avoid this holiday, and quite frankly I’ve never been into all the hype. I’d also rather receive something more useful then flowers and chocolate… not to say that flowers in the dead of winter aren’t a nice. And really, what girl is going to refuse chocolate!?! But I digress. Even though it does come with a lot of hype, there are opportunities to turn the holiday into something wonderful for those around you. You can have a friends night out, spend time with your family, or just give yourself a little you time.

I’ve been trying to think of something special to do for David this year. As a SAHW this can be quite the challenge. Fortunately, we will be able to spend Valentine’s Day with family. So instead of one, big, celebration, I decided to give him a week of small surprises. My first surprise (and fourth) were Scones with Stevia.

We have been trying to cut down on white sugar for quite some time, and for a few years we have been content to use suclarose instead (Splenda).  After reading about some negative side effects of sucralose, we started looking into alternatives.  We tried to find one that was economical, natural, and preferably low in calories.  Enter Stevia.  We’ve been using this almost as long as Splenda, but until recently our Stevia usage has been confined to drinks.  We like the undiluted Stevia,  because it was more economical.  However it is also very difficult to measure (25 milligrams of Stevia extract is equal to about 4 grams of sugar), and too much becomes bitter.

I’d first thought about baking with Stevia this summer, but hadn’t gotten around to figuring out the proper ratio of sugar-to-Stevia.  And then there is the risk of making it too bitter.  But this weekend I braved the unknown, and decided to try it in a scones recipe.  This recipe only calls for 1/4 cup of sugar, making it very easy to figure out just how many of those tiny scoops I need. One tiny scoop of pure Stevia extract is the equivalent to 1 teaspoon sugar. Yep it is *that* powerful!

First I had to find the perfect recipe. I ended up merging two scones recipes, one from Allrecipe.com and the other from America’s Test Kitchen (video clip).

whole wheat orange cranberry scones

Cranberry-Orange Scones

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
12 scoops Stevia (use the one that came with it)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon orange or lemon zest (optional)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup milk (I used rice milk)
1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt

For Wash
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. Grate frozen butter, using the largest hole on your grater.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, Stevia, zest, and salt into a large bowl.
  4. Add frozen butter, gently toss till covered.
  5. Mix together 1/2 cup milk and sour cream in a measuring cup. Pour all at once into the dry ingredients, and fold with spatula until just combined. With rubber spatula, transfer dough to liberally floured work surface. Dust surface of dough with flour; with floured hands, knead dough 6 to 8 times, until it just holds together in ragged ball, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking.
  6. Roll dough into approximate 12-inch square. Following illustrations, fold dough into thirds like a business letter, using bench scraper or metal spatula to release dough if it sticks to countertop. Lift short ends of dough and fold into thirds again to form approximate 4-inch square. Transfer dough to plate lightly dusted with flour and chill in freezer 5 minutes.
  7. Transfer dough to floured work surface and roll into approximate 12-inch square again. Sprinkle cranberries evenly over surface of dough, then press down so they are slightly embedded in dough. Using bench scraper or thin metal spatula, loosen dough from work surface. Roll dough, pressing to form tight log. Lay seam-side down and press log into 12 by 4-inch rectangle. Using sharp, floured knife, cut rectangle crosswise into 4 equal rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally to form 2 triangles and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet.
  8. Whisk together large egg and 1 tbsp milk.  Brush tops with mixture. Bake until tops and bottoms are golden brown, 18 to 25 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool 10 minutes before serving.

I promise this only looks complex.  I highly recommend watching the ATK video to get an idea of just how easy this really is. These come out quite light and fluffy.

Whole Wheat chocolate scones

To create Chocolate Scones (my fourth surprise) I added:

  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder & 1/2 teaspoon more baking soda to step 3
  • I also stirred in 3 tablespoons honey into the milk before mixing it with the sour cream.  You will need something to help sweeten the cocoa powder. I just couldn’t bring myself to use 24 scoops of Stevia…not yet anyways.
  • You can keep the cranberries or add nuts in their place.  Or both!

Have a taste for something chocolate now?  I know I do.  Check out the Nourishing Chocolate Recipes Carnival over at The Nourishing Gourmet.

***Note: There are 48 teaspoons in a cup.  Check your stevia for proper conversion.

Merry Christmas 2008

I absolutely love Christmas. Ever since I was young, I have enjoyed everything about Christmas: late-night Church services, Christmas lights, Christmas presents, family gatherings, Christmas carols, Christmas cards, etc. This year is no different. Tonight we went to Christmas Eve Mass (not midnight as usual…but my brother has a baby now) and a lessons-and-carols service at my dad’s church. Tomorrow, on Christmas Day, we will get up early, have some nice peppermint coffee, and have a big lunch with the family. After that we will open presents, and maybe if the weather is nice, Jonathan and I will go out and toss some football. Tomorrow night, we will travel the area, looking for nice Christmas light displays. We usually hit a few big displays. One is so big you can drive through it, and a little bit down the road is a business building that has no outside lights, but in two rooms on the second floor are old fashioned Santa and Frosty light-up figurines. We call it the “eerie Santa” display.

We are eating well, but trying to keep our calories and activities in check so as not to gain any weight during the holiday break.

I hope everyone has a blessed Christmas!

eerie santa

Image of my parents’ Christmas tree above. Bottom image is a photo of the “eerie santa” (and an eerie Frosty) building

Yeah, But Boy Was it Good!

I hope all of our readers had a blessed and restful Thanksgiving. I have been spending my break (which started Tuesday evening) with my wife, my parents, grandma, and my brother and his family. We had a nice big meal, and I had plenty of turkey, stuffing, cranberry dessert, mashed potatoes, and of course, pumpkin pie. Jonathan and I began the day by running at the school I graduated from. There are nice rolling hills surrounding the track, so we ran a few “country miles” as our old football coach would call them. I overate quite a bit, but the extra activity made me closer to breaking even, although I still consumed more than I burned. I suppose if there is one day of the year that is allowed, it is Thanksgiving. So yeah, I consumed too much, but boy was it good!

I have a lot to be thankful for, and in the end, I am always more thankful for people than I am for stuff, so it was nice to spend time with my family.

Image of Pumpkin Pie taken by me

Going All Pumpkin Like

This past weekend, the stores seemed to be getting ready for autumn, so naturally we obliged and bought a few pumpkin flavored products that we usually buy this time of year: Edy’s Pumpkin Ice Cream, Pumpkin Spice Coffee, and canned pumpkin (to make Jennifer’s super lite, sugar free, Pumpkin muffins). It has been cold enough in the mornings that it really does feel like Fall! Nothing beats enjoying a cool breeze while drinking Pumpkin Spice coffee.