Monthly Archives: January 2012

Tea is the New Coffee

“The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family…”  How beautiful and timeless.  The above quote is a Balti proverb and it is also in the book Three Cups of Tea.  What is it about tea that gives it transcendent properties?  Tea has taken on a noticeable presence in the United States recently, but what have other cultures known for centuries that we are only beginning to tap into?

Tea has been known to be called, “liquid wisdom,” and perhaps that is because of the amazing benefits it has on the mind, body, and soul.  Of course, not all teas are created equal, so you need to be crafty consumer and do your homework first.

But first, let’s talk about why tea may be a wonderful replacement to coffee.  While coffee has been shown to have some health benefits, they are often overshadowed by the caffeine addiction that comes along with drinking it. The caffeine in coffee is absorbed into the blood stream quickly and can cause you to feel jumpy and shaky, I think many of us know the feeling!  Coffee is also acidic and causes dehydration… what do you think was happening during all those trips to the bathroom?!  To quote one of my favorite authors, Kris Carr, in her book Crazy Sexy Diet, “It’s kinda obvious that this stuff isn’t good for you.  The fact that you get the jitters when you drink it, and migraines when you don’t should tell you something… You are sharp enough. Your natural, holy state is more than enough.  You just think you need that extra boost.  But your body knows exactly how to create it naturally.”  And it’s so true!  You just need to focus on bringing your body back into a state of health.  We can talk more about that in another post!

Tea brings you numerous health benefits without the problem of caffeine addiction. While most teas do contain some caffeine, it is significantly less than coffee.  I have found a list of the top ten benefits of tea that I would love to share with you!

1. Fights Cancer

2. Fights Heart Disease

3. Lowers Cholesterol

4. Burns Fat

5. Prevents Diabetes

6. Prevents Stroke

7. Staves off Dementia

8. Improves Heart Health

9. Relieves Stress                                                  Tea should be taken in solitude.  ~C.S. Lewis

10. Improves Digestion (1 & 2)

Alright, so now that you have some information on why tea is fabulous for you, let’s talk about which type is the best choice.  White and Green Tea have the most health benefits because they have undergone the least amount of processing.  White tea leaves are actually picked before the buds even open and are covered in fine white hairs.  White tea has the least amount of caffeine with only 15mg, and green tea only has about 20mg.  White tea tends to be a little more expensive, but it also has a less grassy taste than green tea.  White tea is light, sweet, and absolutely delicious in my opinion!

Ok, so in addition to health benefits and knowing which teas are the best for you, what else makes tea so special?  Tea happens to play a significant role in many cultures around the world, specifically in the East, and it has been around since 2700 B.C.  Tea is used commonly as a way to greet guests, newcomers, and friends.  An appreciation for tea culture can help you get past language or cultural barriers when traveling abroad.  And after water, tea is the most widely-consumed beverage in the world.(2)

You may be wondering if I have been drinking tea while writing this blog… of course!  The tea I am drinking right now is called Pomegranate White Tea and I bought it at my local Trader’s Joe’s grocery shop.  It is probably the best tea I have ever had and I just can’t get enough of it!  You should definitely give it a try if you are looking for a new tea to taste!

“If you are cold, tea will warm you. If you are too heated,

it will cool you. If you are depressed, it will cheer you. 

If you are excited, it will calm you.”  – Gladstone

fear less.

1. WebMd: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/health-benefits-of-green-tea

2. Tea Views: http://www.teaviews.com/2009/03/24/10-reasons-why-tea-is-better-than-coffee/

3. Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr

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Energy Tax Credit

It’s that time of year again, and I know everyone is so looking forward to doing their taxes!  Well, maybe not actually doing our taxes, but we sure are excited for that big check to come in the mail!

If you have been adopting a greener lifestyle, get ready to reap the benefits!  There are several different energy tax credits that you may be eligible for!  I am going to lay them out for you in a “nutshell,” but please click on the link below to find out more details!  And if you are not eligible this year, check them out so you can find out what you can do in 2012 to get in on this cashbox!

Products Eligible for Tax Credits Through 2011

Biomass Stoves

HVAC

Insulation

Roofing

Water Heaters (Non Solar)

Windows, Doors, and Skylights

Products Eligible for Tax Credits Through 2016

Geothermal Heat Pump

Solar Energy Systems

Wind Energy Systems

Fuel Cells

Vehicle Tax Credits

Plug-In Electric Vehicles

The credits I have listed below are only the federal tax credits.  To learn more about state specific incentives, check out the link below!

http://www.energysavers.gov/financial/70010.html

Happy Tax Filing!

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A Father’s Forgiveness

Greetings my lovely blog followers!  For the next few posts in the faith section I am going to be sharing with you some papers I wrote in my theology course, freshmen year of college at St. Benedict’s.  I really enjoyed that class and would love to share some of it with all of you!

The following piece was written, October 24th, 2005.

A Father’s Forgiveness

     “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance”(Luke 15.7).  This quote, taken directly from the scripture written by Luke, is a foreshadowing of the story of the prodigal son previewed in the following section.  It speaks of the great joy God receives when a person finds their faith, is able to truly believe in God and seeks forgiveness of their sins.  That person now has hope in a sometimes hopeless world, and purpose, in a world that questions the purpose of humankind daily.

     Luke 15.11 – 15.32 is a story displaying God’s compassion and grace for those who will repent and return to God.  While the father in this parable is very appreciative of his older son’s obedience, the younger son’s return to life must be celebrated.  His son could have been lost forever, but he found the strength to return and admit his mistakes.  It is a humbling experience to admit you were wrong to anyone, especially your family.  The older son is essentially being celebrated everyday because everything that belongs to his father belongs to him as well.  The younger son may have fallen into temptation, but the father understands that he has already received his punishment from shame and starvation.  It is a fatherly duty to welcome him back into his home and rejoice.

     The father in the parable is a parallel to our Father, God.  God is all-knowing, and will forgive us when we repent.  His patience and understating is unfathomable to the human race, but greatly appreciated.  To those in dire need of redemption, this story is a light, a beacon of hope.

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Watch Out Gatorade, Here Comes Coconut Water!

I am sure many of you have heard of Coconut Water, as it seems to be the latest craze in the natural health world.  If you haven’t, this is definitely something you need to try!
While Coconut Water seems to be relatively new to the United States, people in Latin America and Southeast Asia have been enjoying the benefits of this amazing Mother Nature Cocktail for hundreds of years.  The list below shows just a few of the health benefits from drinking coconut water.

  • 569mg Potassium: This is greater than one banana and equal to 15 regular sports drinks.
  • 5 Essential Electrolytes:  Sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, phosphorus.
  • Helps you lose fat:  ZERO fat, ZERO cholesterol and ZERO added sugar.
  • The Ultimate Hydration Drink:  Supports rapid hydration.
  • Natural: Coconut water has been used as an intravenous fluid and saved lives
  • Low Acid: Lower acidity than sports drinks and juices, with a pH of just 5.
  • Is great for healthy skin: It helps hydrate your skin but can also be used topically to cure acne scars and other types of blemishes.(1)
There are several different brands of coconut water, but my favorite is Zico.  We purchase Zico at our local Trader Joe’s grocery shop.  Regular coconut water tastes pretty good, but I usually get chocolate flavored because it is absolutely to die for!
The ingredients for ZICO Pure Premium Coconut Water Chocolate Flavor includes: 100% natural coconut water from concentrate, cane sugar, coconut cream, cocoa, vanilla, Carrageenan.  It contains 110 calories, 160mg sodium, 680mg potassium and 18g sugar with Vitamin A, Iron, Phosphorus, and Magnesium. I usually drink this after working out to replenish my electrolytes.  It is a fantastic alternative to other sports drinks such as Gatorade or Propel.
If you drink pure coconut water without any flavoring, you can expect the ingredients and breakdown to be a little different.  Zico Natural ingredients include 100% natural coconut water from concentrate and natural flavors.  It contains 60 calories, 160mg sodium, 569mg potassium, and 12g sugar.  So, if you don’t have a sweet tooth like me, this option is definitely a bit more healthy for you!
Other brands on the market include:
Vita Coco 
     –>  http://vitacoco.com/
O.N.E. 
Zico 
     –>  http://zico.com/
Harvest Bay
If anyone has tried any of the other brands I would love to hear feedback on what you thought of them!  As far as flavors go, I have only tried Natural, Chocolate, and Mango.  I thought Mango tasted absolutely terrible, but I can’t remember which brand I was drinking, although I know it wasn’t Zico.
This is definitely a drink you should consider swapping your sports drink or pop out for.  Your body will thank you for it, and you will begin to feel the benefits very quickly.
Happy Coconut Drinking!

1. http://www.coconutwaterlife.com & http://zico.com/

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Green Chic: Saving the Earth in Style – Book Review

Review

If the idea of creating a more green lifestyle seems like a scary and overwhelming task, I definitely recommend that you read, Green Chic- Saving the Earth in Style by Christie Matheson.  The book has oodles of easy ways to start living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle through simple and manageable tips and tricks.  A caution to all the men out there; this book is definitely catered towards a female audience… in case you couldn’t tell.

Christie is extremely easy for the average gal to relate to because she is not a veteran environmentalist.  She has no desire to make radical changes like only taking cold showers or moving into a house made out of tires.  (Although those are pretty sweet!)  She is a writer that usually deals specifically with writing pieces on food, wine and fashion.  When she had her “ah-ha” moment of why living green was so important, she incorporated her vast knowledge of food, wine, and fashion and combined them with a green lifestyle.  The result is an extremely successful approach at making the first small steps towards contributing to preserving our amazing planet.

The book covers the following topics:

  • Green Living Baby Steps
  • Green Living in the Home
  • Food, Wine and More
  • Beauty and Personal Care
  • Fashion
  • Transportation and Travel
  • Parties and Celebrations

Praise for Green Chic

” Appealing to readers’ sense of style, Matheson slyly steers us toward consumer good and services that minimize our earth-stomping human footprint.  She’s brave enough to say ‘buy less of everything,’ and even the politically fraught ‘buy nothing.’  Matheson’s genius is to make this seem not only doable, but fun.”

– Elizabeth Royte, author of Garbage Lane: On the Secret Trail of Trash and Bottlemania: How Water Went On Sale and Why We Bought It

“Green Chic is a bible for any environmentally conscious fashionphile – from a green dry clean to a pure pedicure, Matheson serves up style in a life guide to saving the planet and looking good doing it!”

-Jill Kargman, author of Momzillas

This is definitely a book that I would recommend purchasing because you will want to highlight and tab all the fabulous information she has to offer.  I will post a link below where you can get the book on Amazon for about $5!!

Happy Reading!

Link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Green+Chic+Saving+the+earth+in+style&x=0&y=0

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Short & Sweet

Let’s keep tonight’s post short and sweet and simply look at an awesome Bible verse from Roman’s.

Romans 12:9-19

   “Your love must be real.  Hate what is evil, and hold on to what is good.  Love each other like brothers and sisters.  Give each other more honor than you want for yourselves.  Do not be lazy but work hard, serving the Lord with all your heart.  Be joyful because you have hope.  Be patient when trouble comes and pray at all times.  Share with God’s people who need help.  Bring strangers in need into your homes.

     Wish good for those who harm you; wish them well and do not curse them.  Be happy with those who are happy, and be sad with those who are sad.  Live in peace with each other.  Do not be proud, but make friends with those who seem unimportant.  Do not think how smart you are.

     If someone does wrong to you, do not pay him back by doing wrong to him.  Try to do what everyone thinks is right.  Do your best to live in peace with everyone.  My friends, do not try to punish others when they wrong you, but wait for God to punish them with his anger.”

Happy Bible Reading!

Photo: http://lissetteflores.com/2011/04/19/hope/

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Why Go Organic?

Here I am again, backtracking a bit.  Before we start diving into topics surrounding living an organic lifestyle, we should probably do an overview of why I think “going organic” is important enough to write about.  There are several steps you can take to decide if you think eating organic is going to be right for you.

I think the first thing someone should do to find out if they want to eat organic foods or not, is to learn a bit more about where their food comes from.  While consumers are becoming more aware and concerned of what is actually in their food, the average individual usually has little or no idea what they are truly eating.  Quick, go take a look at the list of ingredients on some food you have lying around the house!  If you find things that you cannot pronounce, that is your first clue that it is probably not going to be good for your body.  Kinda makes sense, right!

If you find any of the following ten ingredients in your food you should just toss it.  Seriously folks, chuck the junk!  Or as they say in Texas, chunk it!  Below is a list of the top ten worst ingredients out there and should be avoided at all costs.

Ingredient

Negative Effects

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) May stimulate appetite & cause headaches, nausea, weakness, wheezing, edema, change in heart rate, burning sensations and difficulty in breathing
Artificial Sweeteners Can negatively impact metabolism. Linked to cancer, headaches, dizziness, & hallucinations.
High Fructose Corn Syrup May predispose the body to turn fructose into fat.  Increases risk for type-2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer.  Isn’t easily metabolized by the liver.
Artificial Food Coloring Linked to allergic reactions, fatigue, asthma, skin rashes, hyperactivity, and headaches.
Benzoate Preservatives (BHT, BHA, TBHQ) May result in hyperactivity, angiodema, asthma, rhinitis, dermatitis, tumors, and urticaria.  Can affect estrogen balance and levels.
Sodium Nitrite and Nitrate Can combine with chemicals in stomach to form nitrosamines – a carcinogen.
Refined Vegetable Oil Increases triglycerides and cholesterol.  Can damage liver, testicles, thyroid, heart and kidneys.
Artificial Flavorings Linked to allergic reactions, dermatitis, eczema, hyperactivity and asthma.  Can affect enzymes, RNA, and thyroid.
Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) “rBGH milk” contains high levels of insulin – like growth factor (IGF-1), excess levels of which have been implicated as a major cause of breast, colon , and prostate cancers.  Giving cows rBGH has been shown to increase the incidence of mastitis.  When a cow has mastitis, pus and blood are secreted into the milk.
Potassium Bromate Has been shown to cause cancer in animals, is banned in EU, Canada and several other countries.  Bromide is considered to be an endocrine disruptor.

(1)

Now that you know what to avoid, you should also be aware of the living conditions of the animals that you consume.  Some of the conditions are downright horrifying, and we can no longer be ignorant of this situation.  The pictures below give me the shudders and I cannot actually believe we are treating animals in this way.  Imagine being penned in an enclosure just barely bigger than the size of your body for your whole life.  This is not only unsanitary, but simply unacceptable.

If you purchase free range USDA Organic Meat you can be assured that you are not supporting the pictures above.  Free Range Organic Meat means the producer of an organic livestock operation must establish and maintain year-round livestock living conditions which accommodate the health and natural behavior of animals.(2)  The requirements are extremely strict, and they should be.  If we, as consumers, stop supporting factory farms, then they will be forced to either go out of business or adopt the Free Range principles.  Please consider paying a few extra dollars to ensure that this type of treatment comes to an end.

To wrap up this post on a lighter note please check out the video below.  You can also find it on Chipotle’s website, but I feel like it sums up this blog post rather well.

Happy Label Reading!

1. http://www.healthiertalk.com/10-worst-food-ingredients-you-should-avoid-plague-4066

1. http://life.gaiam.com/article/10-worst-food-additives-where-they-lurk

2. http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop

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Why Go Green?

Alright, so this probably should have been my first post under Green Living.  But, better late than never!  In this post I will show you the vast number of environmental issues happening right now that should intrigue you to want to figure out you how you can go green. The following posts in Green Living will look further into these issues and explain what you can do to make choices that are more environmentally friendly in the future.

Why go green you ask?  There are three main reasons to consider living a more “green” lifestyle.

1. To preserve biodiversity/species.

2. To protect our environment.

3. To ensure generations to follow will have a place to call home.

Going green has been getting a lot of attention lately, but unfortunately we are still doing much more to hurt our Earth than to help her.  Species are going extinct and natural habitats are being destroyed because of the lifestyles that we choose to live.  The word cloud below just shows a few of the serious issues that we are facing in regards to the environment.

While the problems may seem too big to tackle, that is definitely not the case. Don’t get me wrong, they are BIG problems, but small changes made by a large group of people can help to solve those problems.  I think the key to solving the issues is really going to be looking outside of yourself.  We need to look at how our actions are effecting the world as a whole. The small changes are easier to make when you can see the impact they will have.

Nature really is just absolutely fabulous when you take the time to look closer and drink in all the lovely details that make up Earth.  Please join me on this journey to explore the issues and find ways we can help.

Happy Tree Hugging!

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Substance Church & My Faith Story

Substance Church.  No, this is not a church that focuses on substance abuse.  It is about living a life with substance, with God at the center.  It is a life filled with purpose, love, balance, adventure, and most importantly, God.  I figured that if I am going to be writing about faith, I should probably mention my faith background.

While I was raised Catholic, I would now simply consider myself a Christian.  Growing up,  I went to mass every Sunday with my family.  We even went when we were on vacation in Hawaii, and anywhere else for that matter!  There were parts that I loved, parts I did not understand, and other parts that were just painfully boring.  I would have to say that it wasn’t until I was in college at the University of Minnesota that I started to question why I was even going to Sunday mass in the first place.  I had always had a personal relationship with God, but for the most part He seemed pretty distant in relation to my everyday life.  The only reason that I could come up with for why I was going to church every Sunday was because I wanted to uphold my good Catholic reputation.  When I came to that ephipany, I realized that was probably one of the worst reasons for going to Church; status, reputation, and my ego.  I immediately stopped going to church until I could come up with a better reason.  I still prayed and thought about God a lot, I just wasn’t making it to church on Sundays.

It wasn’t until the Spring of my Sophomore year at the U of M in 2007 that I started going to church again.  I was in a public speaking class and one of my classmates, we can call him John, was doing his presentations on the history of Christianity.  I was talking with John after class and I asked him where he was currently going to church.  He explained that he was going to a church called Substance and he asked me if I would want to try it out sometime.  At this point in time I was feeling pretty lost, and I knew I needed to get myself back on track.  I remember thinking that the name sounded a little silly, but he was really cute so of course I said yes! (I just love it that God used whatever it took to get me back into a church!)

                         Pastor Peter

At this point in time, Substance was a teeny tiny church that held its services at the University of Minnesota – St. Paul campus.  We went to the 8am service, and I think there was about 20 of us in the room.  Pastor Peter not only led the message, but I also think I remember him playing guitar in the worship band as well!  (Now the church is at 4 different locations and has 7 different services you can attend.)  This service was completely different than any Catholic mass that I had been to.  There are three things in particular that I remember about my first time visiting Substance church.

1. It didn’t feel like “church” to me, but I really liked it.

2. The band was absolutely amazing, and they played Stand by Hillsong, a song that I immediately fell in love with.

3. I had never talked more about a message the following week in my entire life.

It wasn’t until Thursday of the following week, when I was telling someone about the message for the 10th time, that it suddenly dawned on me.  Wow.  In my entire life of attending church, I had never shared anything about the messages I had heard at church, let alone several times throughout the week.  This was something different.  This was about to change my life forever.

I began to attend Substance church regularly and started to realize they were saying pretty much the same thing my Catholic church had been teaching.  They just taught it in a way that I could understand and relate to.  The most important thing that Substance church, and specifically Pastor Peter helped me to realize, was that God was present in my life right now.  He cared about the life that I was living, and He was alongside me every minute of every day.  All I had to do was draw close to Him, because He was already there for me, all that time.  It is so funny how such a simple truth can completely change the way you look at everything in life.  Now, God is a part of my day, all day and everyday.

That pretty much concludes the beginning portion of my faith story.  Of course I still have my ups and downs in my relationship with God, but now I recognize more quickly if I am started to drift from God.  Substance church just happens to be the catalyst that helps me to connect with God on a deeper level.  I have an extreme passion for music, and that is something they put a lot of work into for their services.  I also love the amount of time they spend on the messages.  I get a huge chunk of new material every week to lead me, challenge me, and steer me onto the path of Life.

Every denomination worships and learns in a different way, but the important thing is to find the one that helps you to grow with God the most.  At the end of the day we all hear and should extend the same message of the Christian church and that is LOVE.  Leave all the judging up to God, and love your brothers and sisters.

Happy Loving!

Substance Church: http://www.substancechurch.com/

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Natural vs. Organic

I am sure many of you have seen food in your local grocery store with the labels, natural, all natural, or organic.  One of the most important things to know about these terms is that they do not mean the same thing.  While the manufactures would love for you to believe that, it is simply not true.

The term “natural” has been defined by the USDA that the product must not contain any artificial ingredients or added colors and that it is minimally processed.  However, the term “natural” does not truly have any regulatory meaning; which means it can get slapped on just about anything.

The USDA ensures that products labeled as “100 percent organic” must contain (excluding water and salt) only organically produced ingredients and processing aids.  They also ensure that agricultural products labeled as 100 percent organic and organic cannot be produced using excluded methods such as sewage sludge or ionizing radiation.

Sewage sludge is the mix of water and any domestic and industrial wastes that got put down the drain, flushed down the toilet, or sent directly into the sewer.  This waste was previously dumped into the ocean after being fed through a cleansing process, before the Ocean Dumping Ban went into effect in 1987.  Now, sewage sludge is dumped onto farmland.  Yum.

Ionizing radiation creates free radicals which are a big no-no for your body.  I will probably need to do an entirely different post just about free radicals.  For now, you can google it if you want more information right away.

Basically, if you want to make sure you are eating completely organic and unaltered food, you need to make sure it has the USDA Organic seal on the product.  I think the most important foods that should be organic in your diet are meats, fruits, vegetables, and any dairy products.

Be a smart and savvy consumer and show those corporations that you do care about what is in your food!  Your body will thank you for it!

Happy Smart Shopping!

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