Be a ‘Cool’ Mom: Entertain Your Kids with Eco-Friendly Outdoor Activities, Water Sports, and Games

Perhaps you’ve realized that the family vacation, summer camp, and vacation bible school are over, but you’ve still got a lot of summer left, and the kids are whining, “What can we do now…we’re so bored?” Be the cool Mom and entertain them with eco-friendly outdoor activities, water sports, and games!

1. Traditional Outdoor Activities and Water Sports Can’t be Beat.

• Spend the day ‘camping’ by a mountain stream. Take your tent and all of your basic camping equipment, and visit a national park, or watering hole. If hard core camping isn’t for you…gather up blankets or sleeping bags, and ‘camp’ out in the park, for the day. Take plenty of water and snacks. If you’re near a brook or stream get out the water shoes and search for turtles and tadpoles.

• For suburbanites, check with your local fire station to see if firefighters will open up a hydrant. If not, head to your local recreational area, college campus, or park, and play a round of Frisbee golf.

• Don’t forget kayaking, tubing, rafting, or wading. This free activity will keep everyone cool and refreshed. Announce that you are ‘going on an adventure.’

2. Make a Hit with Geo Caching.

• Geo Caching is a modern day scavenger hunt/treasure hunt. Go to the geo caching website, and enter your zip code. The website directs you to geo caching in your area.

• Use this official Geo Caching link: http://www.geocaching.com/

• To download a smart phone app go to : http://www.geocaching.com/live/default.aspx

• The fun for your kids is in the ‘search.’ The benefit for you is that your kids may use logic, science, sleuthing, math, reading, and perhaps even GPS technology, to locate the geo cache. If your kids enjoy this activity, help them write the clues and hide their own geo cache. This is good, clean, addicting family fun for all ages!

3. If You’re Stuck at Home, Try These Cool Water Sports and Games:

• Go Fishin’: Get a large bucket or tub. Put marbles or smooth rocks in the bottom of the bucket. Partially fill the tub with water. Add ice cubes for a cool refreshing treat! Form teams or run a stop watch for a set time period, and see who can pick up the most marbles or rocks with their toes!

• Balance the Bucket: Have two or more kids, who are wearing water shoes, lie on their backs, with their feet up in the air, so that they are touching and making a ‘platform.’ Place a plastic bucket, containing water, on top of the ‘shoe platform.’ See how the kids work together as a team to try to remove their shoes, without upsetting the bucket of water.

• Sponge Tag or Sponge Dodge: Go to the Dollar Store and buy big car washing sponges. Wet the sponges and play ‘tag’ with the wet sponges, or play sponge dodge, like ‘dodge ball’, exchanging balls, for sponges. After the games, recycle the sponges by using them when doing chores.

• Ice Cube Architecture: Freeze water in ice cube trays and grab a salt shaker. Allow your kids to make castles, buildings, bridges, or other art forms, by shaking a small amount of salt on an ice cube which will cause it to melt slightly, and re-freeze when pressed onto another ice cube.

Enjoy the outdoors while you can, when winter arrives, you’ll think back on all the fun you had this summer with eco-friendly outdoor activities, water sports, and games!

About the Author

Susan Cobb Singleton is a freelance writer and mom. She is also a staff writer for rangehoodhq.com, a site with advice on ACH (air changes per hour) and make-up air.

* Image: think4photop / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*

Spice things up in the kitchen with this mouthwatering recipe for tender Mojito Chicken!

Mojito Chicken

Ingredients

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken substitute
2 tablespoons wheat flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup white rum
3 tablespoons honey
Garnish: fresh lime slices and red chili peppers

Preparation

Pound chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap to even thickness; if necessary. In large zippered plastic bag, combine flour, ground ginger, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Add chicken, one piece at a time, seal bag and shake to coat with flour-spice mixture. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and brown on all sides until just cooked through, ABOUT 8 TO 10 MINUTES. Transfer chicken to serving plate; keep warm. Add fresh ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes to skillet; cook, stirring, about 30 seconds. Stir in lime juice, rum and honey; BOIL 2 MINUTES or until slightly reduced. Spoon mojito sauce over chicken. Garnish if serving immediately.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Dr. Kathleen Hartford, author of Fit, Fun, & Fabulous.*

Healthy Living Tips You Can Share with the Whole Family

Dr. Kathleen A. Hartford, DC, has treated and nurtured thousands of individuals, showing them how to take responsibility of their long-term health with guidance on nutrition, exercise, and chiropractic methods. Visit www.fitfunandfabulous.com to learn about her 12-week plan to jumpstart anyone on the road to health and youthful vitality or to purchase Fit, Fun and Fabulous Food: Health Meals Your Body Will Love and the coordinating book Fit, Fun and Fabulous at Any Age.

1. DRINK MORE WATER!

Be certain to adequately hydrate your body. Just as you cleanse the outside of your body you must also clean the inside. To ensure you are getting adequate amounts of water calculate 2/3rds of your body weight in ounces or .66 X your weight. Not everybody can reach this goal overnight however make it your target number and you will be rewarded with increased energy, vitality and health! Be certain to utilize filtered water; our tap water is filled with pollutants from industrial chemicals to pharmaceutical drugs which our purification facilities cannot remove.

2. MAKE HEALTHY CHOICES WHEN EATING OUT

Healthy eating in a restaurant can sometimes be a challenge, to ensure the healthiest meal follow these guidelines:

• Order a double order of vegetables or salad rather than the potatoes, pasta or bread that is offered.
• If having a soup stick to clear broth soups and avoid the hidden fats of cream based soups
• If having a large salad either bring a light dressing from home or have the dressing on the side. Simply dip each bite lightly into the dressing and you will be amazed how little you actually consume. Lemon squeezed onto a salad is often times enough flavoring to substitute as a dressing
• If out for Chinese opt for the vegetable stir-fries, when adding a protein, turkey, chicken or seafood is your best choice.

3. STUCK IN THE MIDDLE…

Be aware of subtle weight gain around your mid section for both yourself and your children. This could be an indicator that you and your children are experiencing accelerated aging due to metabolic syndrome.

People with metabolic syndrome are at increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. Metabolic syndrome has become increasingly common in the United States; an estimated 80 million Americans have it. This syndrome is characterized by a group of metabolic risk factors that occur in a person. They include:
• Abdominal obesity (fat tissue in and around the abdomen)
• High blood fats, high triglycerides and high LDL cholesterol
• Low HDL cholesterol
• Elevated blood pressure

To ensure that you and your loved ones do not fall prey to this health destroying syndrome be certain to avoid simple sugars and processed carbohydrates. Follow this guidelines for a healthy plate; have your protein portion be the size of the palm of your hand and allow the rest of your plate to be filled with vegetables and low glycemic complex carbohydrates.

Rather than having sugar laden sweets after dinner enjoy a warm cup of caffeine free tea or a small serving of fruit or nuts, in fact dates combined with pecans are wonderful and quickly filling. They taste just like pecan pie without the calories and excess sugar!

4. TAP INTO THE REAL FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH WITH EXERCISE!

Regular Exercise is the true fountain of youth. It is the one activity that will positively affect ALL of the Biomarkers of Aging. Biomarkers of aging are measurements that indicate how quickly your body is aging of the cellular level. As we age typically lose 6.2 pounds of muscle each decade this rate of loss accelerates after the age of 45. We also lose about 30 percent of our muscle cells between the ages of 20 and 70. The loss of both muscle cells and muscle mass adversely affects so many areas of our health, including:
• Decreased blood sugar tolerance
• Declining metabolism
• Increased body fat
• Reduced aerobic capacity
• Loss of bone mineral density

Sounds like a bit of a bummer, right? Well only if you are a committed couch potato. Studies prove that with the right exercise, individuals in their sixth, seventh, eighth and even ninth decade of life can expect improvements in strength and muscle cell size comparable to younger people doing the same amount of exercise. For women, this is especially good news in the area of osteoporosis (Bone Health is assessed in Biomarker 10). This is why so much emphasis is given to physical activity and strength training when we are committed to reversing the accelerated aging process!

5. TRY MEDICAL FOODS FOR ACCELERATED HEALTH BENEFITS

Consider utilizing a Medical Food and specific formulations of targeted nutrients:
Imagine new generations of Medical foods that are scientifically-based for the management of specific health conditions associated with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), chronic fatigue syndrome, and more.

These medical foods along with an anti-inflammatory diet were shown in clinical studies to reduce Total Cholesterol by 16%, triglycerides by 45%, increase good cholesterol by 6%, improved fasting insulin by 25%. It lowered body fat by an average of 15 pounds and supported a 5 pound increase in lean muscle mass. And best of all there were NO side effects except, of course, a measurable increase in health!

Consider starting your day with one of these medical foods as your breakfast. It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s a great start toward rejuvenating your health! For more information on Medical foods visit www.drkathleenhartford.com.

6. MEDITATE AT LEAST 15 MINUTES FIRST THING EVERY MORNING

We have been hearing for decades about the power and importance of meditation. Studies have shown that meditation not only lowers blood pressure but can also enhance your immune response, while improving your ability to concentrate.

The process of meditation to support balance and bring harmony to your life is actually a health enhancing function just like flossing your teeth, eating correctly and exercising. Think of it as exercise for you mind and spirit to bring health, happiness and energetic balance to your body.

We are integrated beings, the second we think a thought it changes our body’s chemistry, our body’s chemistry affects our immune system and the ability of our organs to function. The second we eat a bite of food our body springs into reaction to digest and manage that food, that food will change the chemistry of our body as well as the function of our organs and the emotions of our mind. Everything from the thoughts we think, to the foods we eat, to the company we keep leaves our body responding to its environment. This response from our body physically and emotionally truly creates our lives.

Meditation simply provides for us an intimate moment to spend with our deepest self, to quietly release any negativity of our day while bringing forth and magnifying the goodness and profound energies that are innately ours to enjoy and to play in each day! It will not change what has happened to you but it will profoundly change your ability to stay grounded and peaceful in response to these occurrences.

For more information or to download your MP3 of Meditation For Conscious Living please visit www.drkathleenhartford.com.

*Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*

Veggies, beans, spices, and cheese – what could be better wrapped in a warm flour tortilla?!

Addictive Sweet Potato Burritos

Ingredients

3 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups canned kidney beans, drained
2 cups water
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
4 teaspoons prepared mustard
Pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
3 tablespoons soy sauce
4 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
12 (10 inch) flour tortillas, warmed
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat oil in medium skillet; saute onion and garlic until soft. Stir in beans; mash. Gradually stir in water; heat until warm. Remove from heat. Stir in chili powder, cumin, mustard, cayenne pepper and soy sauce. Divide bean mixture and mashed sweet potatoes evenly between the warm flour tortillas. Top with cheese. Fold up tortillas burrito style.

BAKE 12 MINUTES – READY TO SERVE!

*Recipe and image courtesy of Dr. Kathleen Hartford, author of Fit, Fun, & Fabulous.*

Modern-Twist Kidz Placemats

New from Modern-twist! This ABC’s inspired Kidz Placemat is perfectly packable, roll-up-able and folds out flat in seconds – ideal for keeping little hands busy while waiting for their meal! Why not make mealtime a learning experience!? Each mat is made from silky food-grade, hand silk-screened silicone, which means that they will not rip or crease when being used. “Mom” loves how easy they are to wipe clean – whether your child is eating or simply coloring on them, they wipe off with ease. For little ones who are just learning their ABC’s, the new design is sure to spark creativity and keep those wiggles at bay at mealtime if needed! Modern-twist offers a variety of playful designs that were made to be colored over and over again, which is great for use by siblings. Each mat comes ready for action with a set of 6 markers.

All Modern-twist products are free of BPA, latex, and toxic chemicals, which is important for any eco-friendly home. See all of the creative styles, such as City Transportation, Animal Blocks (pictured above) and Cat in the City at www.modern-twist.com, just in time for back-to-school!

*Company generously provided samples and images for this review.*

Make Your Relocation a Family “Staycation”

Relocating to a new home and city is often an unsettling experience for adults. But for children, a move can sometimes be downright traumatic. Rather than approach a new residence and community as a worrisome situation, families can approach a relocation as a fun-filled “staycation” that allows everyone to enjoy themselves and explore their new surroundings. Here are a few ideas to get the party started:

Neighborhood Exploration: Sit down with your child and draw a map detailing the focal points of your new neighborhood. Highlight areas within walking distance such as parks, schools, museums, stores or the local library. Spend some time with your child by exploring the neighborhood on foot and getting to know your way around together.

Treasure Hunt: Help your child create fond memories of your new home by throwing a treasure hunt. Pick up some trinkets at the local dollar store and then hide them throughout your new house. Give your child a “treasure map” and then have him or her search the house to collect the hidden booty.

Check out the Local Library: Local libraries often have extensive information about your community and offer a variety of programs specifically geared to children. Pay your local library a visit to check out some books. Don’t forget to ask the librarian about activities or events that might be of special interest to children.

Clothing Put-Away Game: Overwhelmed by the number of boxes in your new house? Turn the daunting task of putting away clothing into a game. Open a box of clothing and give your child a set amount of time (use a timer with a bell) to move the contents from the box to the dresser drawers or closet. Set award “prizes” for completing the task before the bell rings.

Unpacking Scavenger Hunt: Make unpacking a fun activity by adding entertaining toys or games into a few boxes prior to your move. Once you are in your new home let your kids unpack the boxes to discover the new items. The new items are certain to brighten your child’s spirits.

Meet the Neighbors: It’s natural to be apprehensive when being introduced to new people, but some children are extremely shy when it comes to meeting new kids. Make introductions easier by throwing a small “move-in” party and create homemade invitations for a few neighborhood children who live on the same block. It’s a good time to meet parents as well.

Origami Fun: Unpacking moving boxes usually results in an abundance of newspaper. Take a break and spend some time as a family learning how to create simple origami animals and figures. Origami instructions can be found in books you can check out from the library by visiting online websites like YouTube.

Check out the Chamber: Curious to discover any local shops, attractions or other areas of interest? Pay your local chamber of commerce a visit for complimentary maps, booklets and flyers about your new community. Lay out the information with your family and let each member pick their favorite place; then plan a day trip where you can discover all your new community has to offer together.

Visit Local Clubs: Tell your child about all of the different activities that might be available in your new community and then ask him or her to think about some of the clubs they might like to join. Once some ideas have been gathered you can spend some time learning about local clubs, and then visit them to get a better sense of what they may have to offer.

Museum Fun: Find out which local attractions offer special activities for children and families. Your local botanical garden may offer gardening programs about local plants, birds or butterflies while the art museum may have an upcoming drawing, ceramics or sculpting class for kids. Contact local museums or nonprofit organizations and ask if they have any upcoming family activities.

Savor Old Memories: Moving can be hard on a child who longs for his or her old neighborhood, familiar surroundings and friends. Help your child get through this by crafting a scrapbook and filling it with photos and mementos from your old home and community. Show them how valuable those times were and give those friends a special place in your hearts by creating a memory book to be enjoyed by all.

While there is no doubt that relocating can sometimes be a bit stressful, think of it as starting a new chapter in your life. Keep in mind that bit of advance planning and an optimistic attitude can work wonders in helping your family adjust to a new home, a new neighborhood and a new, exciting life together.

Photo credits: Checking Out Venice by jayneandd/flickr; Across the Fence by Chris D. Scott/flickr; Museum Caboose by Vicki Watkins/flickr.

About the Author

As the daughter of a cross-country truck driver, Tammy Sutherland has many moves under her belt, and lots of fond memories of exploring new neighborhoods as a child. Now she contributes content to trucking blogs that sell used trucks and provide all types of information to OTR truckers.

Mom” is joining the Gardein™ Party and taking the Meatless Monday challenge, which has been a ton of fun! Finding a solution to “what’s for dinner” has never been easier, thanks to the many options offered by Gardein™ (garden + protein)! Try this flavor-filled wrap that made its’ debut over the weekend in “Mom’s” kitchen, and make this your “Meatless Monday!”

Chipotle Lime Wrap

Ingredients

1 pkg gardein chipotle lime crispy fingers
1/2 cup mayonnaise (vegan options available)
1 tbsp lime juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp cilantro
3 tortillas (“Mom” used whole wheat)
2 cups romaine, thinly sliced
1 cup cabbage, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, diced
1 tomato, sliced
1 lime, wedges

Preparation

Cook chipotle lime crispy fingers according to cooking instructions on package.

for the lime aioli…

Place mayonnaise, lime juice, salt, pepper and cilantro in food processor and pulse until combined.

for the wrap…

In a non stick fry pan over medium heat cook tortilla for 30-45 seconds on each side until just hot.

Lay hot tortilla on cutting board, top with romaine, cabbage, cilantro, avocado, tomato and hot crispy chipotle lime fingers and roll.

serve with lime wedges and lime aioli.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Gardein™.*

Keep Your Family Safe with a Green Home Security System

When it comes to keeping your family safe, you’ll go to almost any length to ensure their health and happiness, especially when it comes to creating a carefree home environment. But a large part of protecting your family that you take very seriously concerns doing less harm to the planet in the course of living your life, so that the Earth remains clean and green for future generations. So when you begin sifting through home security system reviews you may be somewhat disappointed to discover that there are few eco-friendly options on the market. But don’t despair; there are ways that you can lessen the impact of home security so that there is less energy consumption and waste involved in the process. Here are just a few things to think about when it comes to the safety of your home and family.

One option is to install a fence (with locking gates) around the perimeter. This is especially important if you have a pool area (and may be required by law). You can easily find reclaimed fencing or sustainably harvested planks to use and by installing yourself (or hiring a local company that shares your eco-sensibilities) you can probably cut down on a lot of the waste and pollution that might otherwise accompany such a project. And another low-tech option is to get a guard dog. Some people are wary of having this type of animal around small children, and unfortunately this bias is not without merit. But that’s just one way you could go.

You may also be keen to try security systems that use alternative energy sources. Flood lights provide for an easy an inexpensive solution in this regard. Many companies have begun offering motion-sensor lights that mount on your home and come with solar panels for energy-gathering purposes. No batteries and no electricity means your security is completely self-contained and waste-free. But did you know that you can also have an alarm system that uses no electricity?

You can install your own battery-operated system or contract out to companies that offer wireless systems. Of course, batteries may be wasted in the process, but depending on what type of cell your alarm circuit runs on, you may be able to use rechargeable batteries. In addition, some companies are now heeding the growing demand for environmentally sound options by implementing green initiatives. ADT, for example, now uses recycled materials whenever possible (both on new system installations and upgrades). They have reportedly kept more than 50 tons of waste (per year) out of the landfill in this manner (including precious metals and electrical components).

So while keeping your family safe is of paramount importance, you don’t need to compromise your eco-friendly lifestyle in order to install the level of home protection you desire. There are options available for every budget that will allow you to reduce your carbon footprint even as you see to the security of your home and family. You may have to dig a little deeper to find a product or company that suits your needs, but the extra legwork will provide for the ongoing safety of your family now and in the future.

Let the berries of the season drench these homemade buttermilk thyme biscuits! A truly decadent breakfast choice!

Buttermilk Thyme Biscuits with Blackberry Balsamic Jam

Biscuits

Ingredients

3 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 Sticks of cold unsalted Butter diced
1 tsp of salt
1/2 tbsp of sugar
1 1/2 tbsp of Baking Powder
½ tsp of baking Soda
1 1/2 tbsp of Fresh Thyme
1/2 cup of Buttermilk
¼ Cup of melted butter

Blackberry Balsamic Jam

Ingredients

1 Carton of Fresh Blackberries Crushed (12 oz) *
½ cup of Peach Schnapps
1/2 Cup of Sugar
2 Tbsp of Balsamic syrup
1 Cinnamon Stick
¼ tsp of Lemon Zest

Preparation

Biscuit Dough

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

In a bowl combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar and mix until everything is incorporated. Add the fresh thyme to the flour mixture. Then cut cold diced butter into the flour mixture. To do this, add butter to the flour, and with your hands or a pastry blender, combine cold butter into the flour by squeezing the mixture through your fingers. As the butter starts to combine with the flour, the mixture will start to resemble a course cornmeal texture. Once this texture has been achieved, add the buttermilk and combine until a sticky dough forms. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead 4 times. It is important that you only need the dough 4 times, because over kneading will cause a tough textured biscuit. Once the dough has been kneaded 4 times, using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into 1 ½ thick sheet. Using a biscuit cutter cut out biscuits and place them on a non-stick baking sheet. Before putting them in the oven, brush with melted butter. Bake for 8 -10 minutes until they have risen and the tops begin to brown. Once they are done remove from the oven and place on a baking rack to cool.

Balsamic Jam

In a sauce Pan combine crushed blackberries, peach schnapps, sugar, cinnamon stick, and lemon zest. Cook for about 15 minutes on medium high heat until the jam reduces by a third. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Once it has reduced, add Balsamic Vinegar and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes and then remove the jam from the heat. Remove cinnamon stick and serve.

To Serve: Slice a biscuit in half and then spoon on the Balsamic Blackberry Jam.

*To crush blackberries, place in a bowl and then use a smaller bowl to crush the blackberries.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Chef Troy Ellis. Visit him at www.troystaste.com.*

A purely natural, paraben-free sunscreen has just made its’ debut from Alba Botanica™ this summer – Pure Lavender SPF 45 Sunblock. This lightweight & fast-absorbing formula has quickly become “Mom’s” favorite, who has a secret love affair with all things lavender inspired! Made with organically grown lavender, this extremely emollient & moisturizing sunblock glides on without leaving a white film on the skin, and offers both UVA & UVB sun protection. Did we mention it smells incredible?

Chemical-free and infused with the health benefits of green tea, Skinfo’s Pure Protection SPF 30 protects you from both UVA & UVB sun damage while on-the-move outside this summer. What “Mom” loves about this sun protective lotion is its’ packaging – its slender size makes it easy to pop into a purse, beach bag or gym bag without bulk! Created by board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Amy Taub, Skinfo’s Pure Protection SPF 30 includes green tea and vitamins to provide antioxidants in a broad spectrum protective lotion formulated with 17% zinc oxide that protects you from the sun’s damaging rays.

Who says one cream can’t do it all? Moisturize? Check! Reduce fine lines and wrinkles? Check! Added sun protection? Check! First Aid Beauty 5 in 1 Face Cream is a daily moisturizer that also acts as a powerful sunblock with SPF 30 for UVA/UVB protection. Plus, it works to prevent and reduce visible fine lines and wrinkles. Infused with the First Aid Beauty Antioxidant Booster, this powerful cream does not contain parabens or harsh chemicals, either!

Integrity in skin care and sun protection! The new All-Natural Moisturizing Body Protection SPF 30 by Suntegrity ™ is a top Vegan, planet-friendly find this summer! It was featured in this year’s EWG 2011 Sunscreen Guide under “Best Sunscreens.” Eco-conscious gals will love that it comes packaged in a recyclable tube, is non-toxic and paraben-free, and does not contain any UV chemical blockers.

*Companies generously provided samples and images for this article.*