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Enjoying Summer’s Bounty

Enjoying Summer’s Bounty

After the renewal of spring comes the warmer and longer days of summer. As the sun stretches its arms across the sky the bountiful offers of summer’s harvest come into their own. The familiar summer tapestry of colors and flavors comes to life. Farmer’s markets are filled with the scent of ripe fruits and vegetables as the stalls overflow with nature’s treasures. 

Only during the height of summer can we enjoy so many fresh fruits and vegetables as they are the stars of many recipes. From succulent berries bursting with sweetness to crisp cucumbers and peppers and the juiciest tomatoes, the options are as abundant as they are diverse. 

One of the best gifts of the summer is watermelon. Click here to find 28 watermelon recipes you can serve this summer. From ice cream to pie, to salads, drinks and soups, you can’t go wrong with any of these options. Peaches are another favorite summer staple. Click here to find 60 different peach recipes you can experiment with this summer. There are options here for breakfast, lunch, and dinner so there are plenty to try all summer long.

Just type tomato salad recipe into Google and see what happens! Clicking on just one link can get you more than 150 recipes to enjoy this summer. The Editors of Food and Wine magazine have curated 31 summer vegetable recipes to try. There really is no shortage of options!

How about a strawberry spinach salad filled with juicy strawberries, spinach leaves, creamy goat cheese and a drizzle of your favorite balsamic vinaigrette. Or maybe a fresh Caprese salad piled high with ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, and creamy mozzarella. 

But summer’s bounty isn’t limited to just fruits and vegetables. You may also notice an array of herbs like basil, cilantro, and dill ready to add a burst of freshness and flavor to your summer soups, salads, and main dishes. What tastes more like summer than taking a bunch of freshly-picked basil and blending it with toasted pine nuts, garlic and Parmesan cheese to create a vibrant pesto for that al dente pasta.

And let’s not forget about the zucchini, a versatile vegetable that can be spiralized into noodles and tossed with cherry tomatoes and fresh feta cheese to a light and refreshing summer “pasta” or grill thick slices and layer them with creamy ricotta cheese and marinara sauce for a vegetarian twist on a classic lasagna. 

As you explore the endless possibilities of summer produce, you’ll find new and creative ways to integrate your favorites into breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert! As the days grow longer and the temperatures rise, let your creativity flourish in the kitchen. So, what summertime delights will you surprise your friends and family with this summer?

Your Summer Garden Checklist

Your Summer Garden Checklist

Whether you are a seasoned gardening expert, or this is your first attempt, follow these tips to stay on top of your summer gardening. There is a lot to consider when deciding to plant a summer garden. If you are an expert, you begin preparations long before the season is here. However, if this is your inaugural garden, here are a few things to keep in mind so you can enjoy a successful harvest this year. As you check each of these off your list, you will maximize the beauty of your garden and support the health of your plants.

First on the checklist: mulch. It’s important to spread a two inch thick layer of mulch over your soil. The mulch will shield the soil from the sun and keep it cooler. This can put less stress on the roots of the plants and slows the moisture loss due to evaporation. As it decomposes, the mulch will help to improve the structure of the soil and add much needed nutrients. 

Second, make sure you have eliminated the weeds that thrive in the summer. If you aren’t vigilant, they can go from a small patch to taking over your garden! Remove them immediately so they don’t steal the moisture and nutrients from your plants. Moistening the soil can also help in their removal. 

Summer provides lots of colorful options so the third thing to keep in mind is to enjoy this color and plant heat-loving annuals like Angelonia, lantana, ageratum, sweet potato vine and zinnia just to name a few. These types of annuals grow quickly in warm weather and will give you a great burst of color! Add some additional variety by planting summer bulbs like calla, canna, and dahlia. Again, this adds even more color to your garden and will thrive all summer long. 

If you have late blooming perennials (think mums, sedums and asters), keep them in check by pinching the top inch or two of new growth. This often results in more compact, sturdy growth. Another item on the list is to remove any faded flowers. If you remove the spent blooms from the annuals and perennials you have, you just might see more blooms. 

And perhaps the most important item on the list: watch out for pests and diseases. As vigilant as you are with weeding, keep an eye out for pests and disease during the entire growing season. Midsummer is an important checkpoint as many bug populations are in full force and you don’t want all your hard work to go to waste because of unwanted bugs and the diseases they bring. Some problematic species include grasshoppers, tomato hornworms, and cucumber and Japanese beetles. 

And finally, make sure you water appropriately, especially during the warmer months! Experts advise that most common plants require an inch of water per week and it’s best to apply it all at once to encourage the roots to sink deeply into the soil. Drip irrigation and soaker hoses are perfect for this job.

Now that you know the basics, your summer garden can thrive as you work your way through this checklist!

A Guide to Summer Self-Care

A Guide to Summer Self-Care

As those vibrant summer sunsets paint the sky and the longer days and warmer temperatures beckon us outside to spend more time with friends and family, it’s easy to picture relaxing days filled with laughter and fun. Yet, for many people, this warmer season can lead some to struggle with their mental health. Despite this idyllic time for many, others can find themselves overwhelmed by stress and anxiety, struggling to maintain a sense of equilibrium.  

And this isn’t an uncommon scenario. While summer can offer a reprieve from our routine and often mundane winter habits and schedules, it can also pose mental health challenges. But, if we arm ourselves with the right strategies, we can cultivate a season of resilience and thrive in the bright summer sun. 

According to recent studies conducted by the leading mental health organizations such as the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the summer season can impact mental wellbeing in a variety of ways. Research indicates a notable increase in mood disorders during summer months. These disorders are attributed to factors such as heightened expectations, disrupted routines, and the prevalence of increased social events. Additionally, the rise in temperature can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression for some, thus underscoring the importance of proactive self-care strategies.

Prioritizing mental health becomes paramount. Let’s look at some evidence-based tips to help nurture wellbeing and savor the joy that summer brings.

One of the first things we can do in these warmer months is to embrace nature and spend time outdoors, enjoying your surroundings whether you are surrounded by lush greenery or turquoise waters. Research suggests that exposure to sunlight and nature can boost your mood and reduce stress levels.

As you are out enjoying nature, stay active by engaging in regular physical activity, whether it’s a leisurely stroll after dinner or an invigorating hike in the mountains and foothills. Exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural mood elevators, promoting feelings of happiness. 

Incorporate mindfulness techniques into your daily routine to help cultivate inner peace and resilience. It might be through regular meditation, deep breathing exercises, or walking, but it can help alleviate stress and enhance overall mental clarity.

Stay connected with loved ones and friends and make sure to foster meaningful relationships in your life. Summer provides ample opportunities to maintain social connections through various types of gatherings which serve as invaluable sources of support and camaraderie. 

And perhaps most importantly, prioritize your self-care. Set aside time for activities that rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit. Whether it’s indulging in a soothing bubble bath, enjoying a glass of wine after dinner, reading a good book or pursuing your favorite hobby, prioritize activities that bring you joy as well as relaxation. 

Nurturing our mental well-being is a journey of self-discovery and resilience. By implementing these strategies and fostering a compassionate self-attitude, we can navigate the summer with grace. As you plan your summer vacation and other adventures with friends and family, how will you prioritize your mental health as well?

Spring Clean Your Way to Better Health

Spring Clean Your Way to Better Health

With warm temperatures starting to become more common, it’s time to open the windows and doors and let the fresh air and fresh start into your home. Spring is a great time to “Marie Kondo” your closets and drawers and decide what brings you joy and can stay, and what needs to be put in the donation box.

Spring cleaning is a bit of a right of passage each year, just like setting those New Year’s resolutions. The Spring season is known as a time of rebirth and renewal and as the days get longer and lighter, it really is an ideal time to renew your living space. But, did you know that Spring cleaning can not only be good for organizing your house, but it can lift your mood as well. 

One of the main benefits of Spring cleaning is that it gives you a feeling of accomplishment, to finish a task you have started. Our brains feel good when we can check this off the list which can then reduce tension and stress since the task is no longer hanging over your head. Not to mention the fact that you can see and feel how good a space feels to you once it has been cleaned and/or organized.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, Spring cleaning can also be a form of therapy that helps you reduce stress. There are some people who find that cleaning can help them organize their thoughts and reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed. It can restore a sense of control and help you organize your thoughts as you organize and clean your space!

And just think about the peaceful feeling that comes when you can sit back, relax and admire a clean and aesthetically pleasing space. If your bedroom is a hot mess, it is literally the first and last thing you look at when you wake up and fall asleep. Think about how much better you will feel waking up and going to bed when you have a peaceful and clean space to start and end your day in 

 Another way that Spring cleaning can improve your mental health is that it can actually improve your focus. And if you suffer from ADHD, then you know you already have issues with trying to stay focused so keeping your space clean and organized is going to keep you free of unnecessary distractions. And we all know how important this is now that so many people work from home. The last thing you want to be doing is hiding those dirty dishes on your desk before your morning Zoom call. 

A physical benefit to Spring cleaning is the fact that it gets you moving. Cleaning your windows or vacuuming a large space can help you break a sweat and get some endorphins pumping. While cleaning your house isn’t a substitute for exercise, it is still great for your body to get up and move and might help you hit your daily step goal! 

So, quit procrastinating and get that Spring cleaning list started! Choose just one area at a time, make a plan for one room at a time and get moving. Give yourself some grace as you won’t finish everything at once, but stick to the plan, finish one room at a time, and in no time your space will be organized, and you will feel so much better.

5 Healthy Ways to Embrace the Spring Season

Before the sweltering temps of summer arrive, it’s time to enjoy the renewal of Spring and all the beauty that it brings. Spring is a great time to shake off the cold and dreariness of Winter and embrace the beauty and warmth that can nourish us from the inside out. 

While Spring brings a bounty of fresh fruits and veggies (which we all should be taking full advantage of), there might be a few gaps in your nutrition and diet routine. Make sure you also load up on helpful supplements like Vitamin C, probiotics for gut health and Omega 3 fatty acids.

And now that warmer temperatures are around the corner, it’s time to look at some outdoor cardio and other fitness activities so you can get out in the fresh air and sunshine. Now that it’s lighter later, add in a longer evening or morning walk, organize after dinner bike rides with your kids, or walk with a neighborhood group to get some social time in while you move. 

For some, one of the down sides to Spring is the allergies it can bring. And Spring cleaning just might push some over the edge of the allergen cliff. Think about investing in quality air purifiers with an HEPA filter to reduce allergens and improve your indoor air quality. It’s important to make your home a haven from allergies if this is an issue for you. 

For your mental well-being, consider starting a daily meditation practice to help calm your mind, reduce stress, and increase self-awareness. Just 15 minutes a day can make a huge impact on your mental and emotional well-being. You also might try starting a gratitude journal to help you reflect on at least three things you are grateful for each day to foster a more positive mindset. 

As the temperatures rise, your skin might require a bit more attention. Skin health experts advise exfoliating regularly with a gentle cleanser to keep your skin radiant and smooth. You also might want to switch to a lighter moisturizer to provide hydration but keep your skin feeling light. And don’t forget to finish with sunscreen for an extra layer of protection!

With these five tips at the top of your mind, you will be ready to embrace all that Spring has to offer with a healthy mindset, improving your physical health and enjoying the great outdoors once again with family and friends. Beauty begins from the inside out so focusing on all the aspects of your health and well-being (physical, emotional, mental) will help you put your best foot forward and spring into a new and improved you!

Fun Things to do this Spring

Fun Things to Do This Spring

The dawn of Spring is a glorious time of year as the air is warmer and the days are longer. Fresh food and fresh flowers are all around us and now that it’s more comfortable to be outside again, there are several fun activities to enjoy both indoors and outdoors this Spring. Which one(s) will you and your family enjoy?

If you really sit down and think about it, your Spring activity list could include just about any adventure you can think of. Here’s an initial batch of ideas if you absolutely can’t wait to get back outdoors. If you live in the right part of the country, go see the cherry blossoms! It really is a remarkable site so if you can do this you definitely should. It’s also the perfect time to:

  • Plant a Spring garden.
  • Have a picnic at the park.
  • Join that hiking club you’ve been thinking about since last year.
  • Join a running club or a softball league.
  • Join the craze and hit the pickle ball court.
  • Take up golf (or mini golf if that’s more your speed).

While not an exhaustive list, the one above can get you started. Here’s another list of ideas for some Spring activities if you have kids…or even if you are simply a kid at heart.

  • Go fly a kite (for real, not just an expression).
  • Find a playground and play on the swings or the merry go round.
  • Feed the ducks at the local pond. 
  • Wade in a creek and climb a tree.
  • Blow bubbles.
  • Draw pictures on the sidewalk with colored chalk.

Now that we have a few activities to consider, what to eat is also a big topic come Spring. The possibilities for fresh fruits and vegetables are amazing at this time of year. Enjoy some roasted asparagus, artichokes, new potatoes, spinach, sugar snap peas, and carrots. It’s also the perfect time of year for fresh strawberries and apricots. If you live on the East Coast, it’s also soft-shell crab season. And, with Easter around the corner, don’t forget to enjoy jellybeans and Peeps! 

And there are just some activities that we can really appreciate more in the Spring after a long and harsh winter. For example, open the windows and let the fresh, clean air in and listen to the rain on a Saturday morning. Look for rainbows and head outside in your bare feet to enjoy the sun on your face. Decorate your house with fresh flowers and break out the Spring wardrobe of vibrant colors and open toed shoes! 

The cold and dark days of winter are behind us, and the bright days of Spring are here. Get off the couch and get back outside; it’s great for your mental and physical health. Spring is a beautiful time of year when the earth wakes up from its winter slumber. Get outside and enjoy all this glorious season has to offer…before it’s too hot to be outside!

5 Ways to Stay Fit This Winter

5 Ways to Stay Fit This Winter

As the weather worsens and the colder months are upon us, it’s important to make sure we don’t continue the overindulgence of the holidays. While there is nothing better than comfort food when it’s cold outside, we can’t let that lead to gaining winter weight and letting our health slide. With just a little planning and some accountability, you can maintain your fitness (and maybe even improve it!) this winter. Just follow these five tips to get you going in the right direction.

Challenge Yourself

There are fitness apps galore with any number of winter fitness challenges (some free) you can sign up for, no matter what your fitness level. These challenges give you a sense of accountability and accomplishment as you stick with it for 30 days to reach a predetermined goal. Whatever your interest (walking, swimming, squats, lunges, etc.) you can find something of interest to keep motivated. And better yet, grab a friend or two to join in. Making it a social occasion means you are more likely to stick with it and the extra accountability helps, too! 

Get Outside

Even with the colder temps, it’s important to get some outside exercise time, even if it’s just a simple walk in the neighborhood. If you developed a habit of taking an evening walk in the summer, you might need to adjust that as the days are shorter and it might be too cold at night. Outside exercise helps you get fresh air and exposure to natural light which helps to regulate your circadian rhythm. 

Track Your Steps

If the kids were out of school and your family took some time off your normal routine, it can sometimes be difficult to get back on track. An easy way to get yourself going again is to track your activity levels. Most cell phones and smart watches and fitness bands can help track everything from your steps to flights of stairs, to miles walked/biked/swam, to your sleeping habits. Tracking your activity level can help you be more conscious of how much physical movement you are doing during the day and keep you on track to make sure you are hitting your fitness goals.

Use What You Have

Warm blankets and your couch might have a greater pull in the cold winter months. However, don’t succumb to the temptation! And you can use what you have in your home to help you stay active. When watching your favorite television show, use the commercial breaks to squeeze in some cardio or stretches. Grab a band or hand weights and do some arm exercises while you wait for the show to resume. You can also try some yoga right from your couch! Or use a kitchen chair to get some light exercise in after dinner. Again, there are fitness apps to help with ideas and proper positioning. 

Enjoy Winter’s Bounty & Stay Hydrated

Another easy addition to your winter routine is to change up your diet to include the winter harvest of vegetables and fruit. Peruse your farmer’s market and take advantage of the apples, pears, sweet potatoes, and varieties of squash that are plentiful this time of year. Staying hydrated also needs to be a priority. Winter air can be dry and if it’s cold, water might not be your first choice. Don’t be afraid to mix it up with herbal teas, coconut water, hot chocolate or kombucha. Try to limit your caffeine intake as that can dehydrate you, but if you need a pick-me-up, try green tea or white tea instead. 

Don’t let the winter months take you down the wrong path! Keep those good habits going to get back on track in the new year and enjoy a healthy and active winter season!

4 Budget Friendly Family Activities

4 Budget Friendly Family Activities

Depending on where you live and the weather you experience, winter can be a challenging time for families. It can be equally hard for kids and adults to be cooped up inside during the winter. Below are five budget friendly and even kid friendly activities you can do during the winter to keep boredom at bay and connect with each other.

Enjoy the Holiday Lights

In almost every town in America there is “the Christmas Street.” You know, it’s the one where it seems that the whole block decorates in coordinating themes for Christmas. Some towns even have elaborate displays in the downtown area or in a local park. Ask around to find the best place to view holiday lights. Bundle up the kids, grab some hot chocolate and take a drive around your neighborhood or town to see all the brilliant light displays. It costs little money, and you might just find yourself establishing a new family tradition!

Game Night

If the weather is just too frightful, set up regular game nights. Let a different member of the family pick the game each week, make an easy dinner (or order in), turn off the electronics and enjoy! You might just find out some mild-mannered members of the family are actually very competitive. And if you have kids, you can easily use these opportunities to teach problem solving skills or improve their vocabulary or teach them teamwork. In addition to board and card games, puzzles are also a great activity and if you really like the finished product, have it framed and hung on your wall.

Cook Together

Another great family activity is to cook together if it’s just too cold to be outside. Let each family member pick a meal to help prepare during the week or on the weekend. Each family member can make their list of ingredients, help with the shopping, and then prepare the meal (with the proper supervision if the kids are little, of course). Those who do not help to prepare the meal can be on clean-up duty, so everyone is helping, and one person isn’t stuck doing all the work!

Local Events

Another great way to add a little variety is to keep an eye on any winter festivals or local events in your area. For many of these events, kids can go for free, keeping costs down for the whole family. Free sleigh rides to face painting to rides and games, you never know what you might find and it’s a great way to keep up with what’s happening in your community. You may even make some new friends while out and about! 

Bonus Tip

Think about volunteering in your community, which typically only costs your time and is a great way to model giving back to any kids in your orbit. Depending on where you live and your interests, you might volunteer at a soup kitchen, food bank, animal shelter, library, etc. Check with the city where you live and see what opportunities might be available.

Staying Healthy This Winter

Staying Healthy This Winter

The winter months can be a challenge if you just can’t stay healthy. Staying indoors and being near people can allow for the spread of unwanted germs. This can increase your chances of catching a variety of illnesses including flu, colds, or even the dreaded Covid-19 and its variations. Following just a few important steps can help keep you and your family healthy so nobody misses out on the fun the season can bring. 

Just by washing your hands frequently you can protect yourself and prevent the spread of various illnesses. Regularly wiping down surfaces with a sanitizing cleanser and keeping your distance from those you know are sick also helps. Additional tips include staying hydrated and flushing toxins out of your system, getting enough sleep to keep your immune system in good shape and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth to avoid catching anything that might be going around.

Make Good Choices

Don’t fall into the “comfort food” trap of eating for comfort all the time and foregoing proper nutrition. Indulging occasionally is not a problem but getting into a spiral of unhealthy eating can only lead to bad choices and health consequences. Make sure you enjoy a diet of winter’s best vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and whole grains. Keep an eye on portion size as well. 

Active in Mind & Body

Shorter days and cold temperatures can make it hard to get moving. The temptation to stay in and stay warm is strong! Make sure you engage in regular physical activity and keep an eye on your mental health as well. It’s important to engage in regular physical activity to reduce anxiety, lower your blood pressure, improve your sleep quality, and maintain or lose weight, depending on your goals. Regular exercise also helps keep your mental health in check. Incorporating regular breathing exercises and meditation is also a great idea.

 

Winter months can be difficult for some but having a plan to keep your body moving and your mind strong is a great way to thrive this winter and set yourself up for a fabulous Spring! 

 

Seven Healthy Fall Habits

Seven Healthy Fall Habits

Fall is a great time to reset after a busy summer season. If you established some healthy habits this summer, you definitely want to keep them going to keep your immunity strong as the season changes. 

Habit 1: Make sure you moisturize to keep your skin healthy as the weather gets colder and dryer. If you aren’t careful, your skin can crack and chafe which can lead to infection if not treated properly and early on. Anytime after a shower and throughout the day, make sure you use a moisturizing lotion to keep your skin healthy and glowing.

Habit 2: As we head into the holiday season, focus on your financial wellness so you can maintain financial stability and keep your spending habits under control. It could be as simple as a quick check of your accounts but if you are unsure of your financial health, seek out a financial planner or advisor. There are also free tools online that can help you set up a budget and track your spending and your savings.

Habit 3: It’s easy to fall into a trap of gravitating to only those rich and sometimes unhealthy comfort foods as the weather gets cooler. Make sure you are consuming healthy food by taking advantage of all the fall produce available. 

Habit 4: Self-care is a must! Make yourself a priority so you can stay refreshed and ready to give your best to your friends and family. This looks different for everyone so give yourself the space to find what works for you. It could be an evening or morning walk, journaling, or having time to read or enjoy another hobby. Whatever it is, carve out the time to do it.

Habit 5: The lack of sunshine that can come in cooler climates can make our Vitamin D levels plummet. Consider adding a supplement to your diet if you find yourself running low. Talk to your health care provider about ways to incorporate more Vitamin D into your diet. 

Habit 6: The cooler temperatures that come with fall can open up a wide variety of activities that you just couldn’t fully enjoy during the hot and steamy summer months. Hiking, apple picking, biking, or even just yard work can all get you outside and get your heart rate up. Stay active to boost not just your physical but your mental health as well! 

Habit 7: Another great way to get yourself on track heading into the fall is to get those health appointments scheduled. Make sure you get that eye exam and those physicals scheduled so you can keep yourself on track heading to the holidays and you aren’t waiting until something is wrong or trying to squeeze in a visit during the busy holiday season. 

Start with one habit and then begin to incorporate the rest and you will feel better than ever this fall!

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