How to Pack a BIt Lighter and a Lot Smarter

Packing can be a daunting task. Learn tips on how to pack lighter and smarter.

I despise packing for a trip.  To be precise, I despise it immensely.  I loathe every last detail so much I am ashamed to admit, a few times, I considered canceling my trip just because I didn't want to pack for it. And if you knew how much I enjoy seeing new places you would understand that I have a problem.

And, to make it even more tragic, I think I passed my "hate packing gene" to one of my daughters. One time before we left for a trip when we had an early flight to catch, I opened her bedroom door to remind her of the time. There, I found her throwing her entire closet in a suit case just because - you guessed it - she hates to pack and had procrastinated and left the task to the very last possible moment!

5 Natural Beauty & Health Multitaskers To Pack On Your Next Trip

Despite my shuddering at the thought of packing, I know travel is necessary to connect with those I care about and to stimulate my mind (all part of a healthy lifestyle!).

One trick I implement is creating travel size containers of items that can multi-task. And I always refill them each time upon my return from my trip so that they are ready for the next dreaded packing task. (Check! One less thing to pack!) And, believe it or not and as strange as it sounds, five of them are food items. Here they are and how and why I use them:

1.   Baking soda: It is inexpensive, and I can use it as a facial skin exfoliator, toothpaste, bee sting remedy and more. Here are some 31 other uses.

2.  Coconut oil: I use it as a body moisturizer, eye makeup remover, hair conditioner (on the tips if needed on the beach), and lip moisturizer before bed. I use this on my carry-on for long flights too, which I wrote about here.

3.  Raw honey:  Raw honey is best over the processed variety and here's why. You can sweeten your tea and wash your face. This is the method I have used.

4.  Lemon: I throw wedges in to make my morning lemon waterand if I am going to the beach, sometimes my daughters and I rub it in our hair to lighten.

5.  Pink salt: I wrote about how this is the preferable salt to use for cooking but I can also use it as a body scrub and a sore throat elixir.

packing for a trip can be a daunting task. Learn great tips on how to do it smarter.

7 Other Packing Hints, Travel Links and Tips

I am not the one to offer you major packing methods - indeed not! But, I present you with others that can (as well as a few other words I have about travel) below:

1.  Oh my! This guy is a packing ninja and takes 15 minutes to do it.

2.   International traveling takes a bit more thought. Here are things to consider.

3.   Squeeze the most out of your travel adventure with these methods.

4.  You can't miss this fun and fantastic video on packing tips!

5.   I think these make the best souvenirs.

6.  I don't think I could manage this, but I sure do admire those that do: pack for a month in a carry-on.

7.  Get every last detail here on packing lightly.

Please share any packing suggestions, tips or let us in on your secret on how you psyche yourself to do it! After all, I need all the help I can get.

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photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/frauboeb/6055572354/">Frau Böb (buuusyyyy)</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>


3 Things More Important To Give Someone Than That "Perfect Gift"

I have been thinking a lot about this Maya Angelou quote lately:

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Perhaps it is on my mind more now because of the time of year. As much as I love the beauty and excitement of the holidays, they can bring on a lot of extra demands - parties to attend or give, gifts to think of and make or buy, decor to create, along with plenty of food preparations.  But, that quote helps me. I say it to myself when I begin to worry or stress if that wreath looks just right, or if that recipe tastes just so or my outfit is festive enough.  Are the efforts I give to those type of things better spent?  Should I ditch the perfectionism and check the attitude? Maybe.

Certainly nothing is wrong with wanting to do something well like making a great sauce or decorating your house for the holidays to be the most festive on record, but at what expense?  It could be that the energy spent on it could have been better used.  In my efforts to create a "perfect holiday" did I disregard someone's feelings or put off something I shouldn't have?

3 Things to Give Freely

So, if Maya is right, and people really remember more about how you make them feel, I am trying to focus more of my holiday efforts on giving this. How about you?


The Magical Omega 3s: The Best Ways to Ensure You Are Getting Enough

The magic of omega 3s for your health and how to find the best ways to get them for your health

Omega 3s -- we all hear about how they are supposed to create so much magic for our health. The studies keep showing up touting their benefits, but it can be confusing on how to get them, how much and which source is best. It is something you should discuss with your doctor, but perhaps I can shed a bit of light on the topic so that you can have that doctor talk and make the best decision for you.

What Omega 3 Fatty Acids Can Do For You

Ok. So why are they so great - these fatty acids? Omega-3 benefits do offer a lot for our bodies including giving a boost to our mental and behavioral health, too.  Here are just some of what studies say they can do:

They can lower your heart disease risk.  Omega 3s can lower elevated triglyceride levels and lower is better for heart health.

You may be able to move about easier. Omega 3s can curb stiffness and joint pain and may increase the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs.

They may lessen the blues. Some researchers have found that cultures that eat foods with high levels of omega-3s have lower levels of depression.

Babies need 'em.  DHA (one of the three of  the omegas talked about below) appears to be important for visual and neurological development in infants.


5 Last-Minute (But Thoughtful) Gifts That You Can Get Anywhere

5 last-minute but thoughtful gifts you can get anywhere

Need a gift for someone with no time in the schedule to go about finding it?  Ah, yes, I have been there, too! With hectic work schedules, family demands, and holiday functions, these things can slip our mind or at least go to the bottom of the "to do" list.

Allow me to save you the sweat, the guilt and the embarrassment of looking and feeling a bit thoughtless.  I offer five solutions to your potential problem. Five last-minute, thoughtful and health-minded gift ideas that you can get anywhere.  In fact, these are all from Walmart, which is everywhere (in the US anyway, except, ironically enough, not in my area, until very recently). For readers outside the US, these gift ideas could be found at many superstore type of retailers as well.

Keep this post handy, because if your schedule is tight and you are racking your brain for ideas, save yourself and make a quick trip for a thoughtful gift for a health-minded one  . . . just like you!

5 last minute but thoughtful gifts you can get anywhere

Five Quick, Thoughtful Gifts For The Health-Minded

Consider one of these gift ideas if you find yourself in the eleventh hour empty-handed:

1. Delight with a trendy but healthy dinner idea.  Place the spiral slicer in the center of the four stacked colorful bowls and tie (like a cross) with a hefty thick ribbon.  These could work:
Why it is a health choice: For those wanting a lower-calorie, lower carb, higher vitamin profile for their pasta meals, zucchini noodles may be a good choice.


Is Concierge Medicine For You and How to Find It

A new way of seeing your doctor has emerged: concierge medicine. Find out if it is right for you.

Familiar with the term concierge medicine? I wasn't until two of our regular family doctors transformed their practices using the approach. We were forced into learning about it quickly and assess whether this type of practice could work for our family. Here is what I found out about how this approach to medicine works.

A small but growing number of doctors are making the switch to a practice incorporating the concierge method of practicing medicine in the hopes of offering more-personalized patient care. Patients may look to concierge care because they seek a doctor who is more available and will actively manage a serious illness or serve as an advocate within the system. Some consider the convenience of it a huge plus and need help with prevention and wellness that many practices build into their practices.

Others say it is a solution to the concerns regarding the Affordable Care Act pulling more patients into the health care system resulting in more-crowded waiting rooms and longer waits to get an appointment to see a doctor. But, whatever the reason, it is something that is gaining traction in the United States. Let's take a closer look and see if it may be something for you to consider.

Concierge Medicine: Benefits and Costs

Concierge medicine is probably how all medicine should be practiced in a perfect world if there were enough talented health practitioners and other medical resources to go around.  Doctors creating practices using the concierge outline see fewer patients. Seeing fewer patients allows these benefits:
  • Much more time spent with the patient at the appointment
  • An especially thorough yearly exam
  • Access to your doctor 24 hours a day and same day appointments
  • Better patient/doctor ratio which equates to earlier appointment scheduling and less time in the waiting room
  • More individualized care 
  • Wellness programs and classes for free that emphasize prevention
  • More job satisfaction for the doctor as he or she is able to give the time needed to get the patient better
It all sounds great, doesn't it? But, it comes with a price - a hefty one at that.  But, I bet you knew that was coming. Depending on where you live, a typical yearly (usually) out-of-pocket membership could begin at $1,500 for an individual to $3,000 for a couple. But, some of those membership fees could include some services that you may have paid for anyway.

Some call the concierge model "elitist" with those only "in the club" and able to pay the fee are allowed to be seen, but many doctors find they practice medicine more effectively. It also may attract more talented individuals to the field of medicine giving more job satisfaction. In addition, many doctors do keep space for lower income patients in their practices that they will see as well without the fee.


No Gym? No Problem! Create Your Own With Little Money or Space

How to create a home gym with little money and space.

Over the weekend it occurred to me that the "gym" that I belong to does not take up much real estate or put much of a dent in my wallet. No, it does not. No monthly fees or elaborate rooms with all mirrors and state-of-the-art treadmills and exercise machines.  Rather, I'd say, my gym is small, rather modest and low key.  In fact, so small, it just about fits in a mid-size box . . . under my sofa. Really! Come take a look!

Why I Don't Belong to a Gym

I am in the midst of restarting my regular exercise program and spoke about how important it is to fit in a regular fitness routine and why I am trying to get back on track with it, but it does not mean I spend a lot of time at a gym or driving to one either. Although gym memberships can offer great incentive and be an effective tool for many, here is why, at this time, I do not belong to a gym:
  • Gym memberships in my area are expensive.  
  • It takes gas and more time to drive to it and back.
  • You have to wait to use equipment adding to the time to exercise.
  • Sometimes the vibe can be sort of "meat marketish."

How to create a home gym with little money or space.

My Home Gym and What's In It

I am not an exercise fanatic by any means, but I try to move in some fashion most days of the week.  I prefer to get exercise doing an activity (discussed here), but when I do not have time for that, my goal is to keep to a fitness routine that is generally short (so that I can get on with the other parts of my day) but more intense (so that I get the health benefits of exercise).

Here are the inexpensive tools I keep in that "gym" under the sofa to do just that and why. I simply choose a routine (I try to switch it up) and usually complete it in 30 minutes or so.

Choose your weight.  I have various weights for the various type of exercises I may be doing. Dumbbells allow you to do upper-body exercises as well as adding to lower body challenges like lunges or squats.

Swing your way to a great workout.  A kettlebell can serve as another dumbbell for strength training and used for a kettlebell exercise program (many of which you may find on-line). They offer a high-intensity, interval training cardio workout.


Why I Hate Exercise

Why I hate exercise and what to do about it

I am a health blogger, and I hate the word exercise.  I could be shunned and promptly escorted out the door of the healthy health bloggers' club for admitting such a thing. Perhaps you could deem me a fraud and I would understand.  Regular movement is a rather important part of this whole health bit, after all.  And, besides, how can I write asking you to try this strategy and this tool to improve your health and that of people you care about after such a proclamation?

But, allow me to back up a bit.  I said I hate the WORD exercise. It just feels like work, that word. And, frankly, I can get a bit bored with that word, too. I would much prefer to move my body and get my heart pumping in natural ways where my mind is occupied as well.  Occupied perhaps on the beauty of nature,  a great conversation or an athletic skill I am working on. Not, climbing a fake stair machine, bicycling in place or running while staring at a wall.

But despite hating the word exercise, I know I still have to do it.  Our bodies (and minds) require it. And, really, that includes yours, too!

How to Hit Restart in Your Exercise Routine

I do enjoy exercising so much more through an activity like hiking, skiing or kayaking for example, however, most days I don't have the luxury of being able to set that much time in my day to devote to that.  So, I do have to work in an exercise routine that can be fit into a busy week to stay fit.

Because I have gotten off track these last few months with sticking to that type of exercise routine, I have gathered some tips.   Here are a few ways I have found help me in the past when I got away from a routine and that others use to help them stay on top of their exercise game that I plan to borrow as well:

Don’t stop.  The easiest way to keep any good habit going is not to break it.  Although, sometimes that can't be helped.  I had a foot injury that started this whole "stopping the exercise routine" and I just have not gotten back into it as much as I should.  Try your best though to avoid long breaks in exercising as rebuilding the habit is more painful and takes more effort. I know!

Go steady and start easy.  Keep to it but don't start a program too intensely or you will be too sore to move or hate it so much, you will find an excuse to not keep to it.


Easy, Free Ways to Bring More Music Into Your Life

Music is a powerful tool for your health and there are plenty of free ways to access it.

I wrote about the numerous ways music can play a role in benefiting our health over here.  Besides clocking those hours at the gym and creating nutritious meals, studies are showing us how simply listening to beautiful sounds can improve so many aspects of our health, too!

Many have music storage devices filled to the maximum with their favorite tunes, while others need to expand their repertoire a bit or just don't have the time to create playlists or the money to download them.  

Playlists for Almost Every Mood

So, if your cell phone isn't jammed with latest musical trends, but, incorporating more music in your life is something you are more interested in doing after you have learned how many ways music can benefit you, here is a nudge.  Below are a few ways to do just that.  First, a few suggested playlists you may enjoy based on whatever you may be doing or what kind mood you find yourself in:

A playlist to deflect a bad mood It's pretty much impossible to be in a lousy mood and listen to this at the same time! Some real toe-tapping. mood elevating oldies here!

A playlist for a fun night ahead:  This one could do the trick and is pretty fun, too!

A playlist to get the job done:  Ah, the not-so-fun: final exams. They are coming up for many right before winter break! So, these are for you, my dear daughters, who will be hitting the books extra hard soon! I hope this or maybe this can make it a bit more bearable!  

Or, perhaps you may prefer background noise to help you concentrate and get your work done. This cracked me up but I must say, it is really authentic!


Take Note: Why Music Is Good For Your Health

Music is a powerful tool to improve your health.

My father had a very successful jazz band in college, played the saxophone and had a wonderful baritone voice.  My mother played the piano by ear and could magically harmonize almost any song, but, the musical gene sorta skipped me.

I did sing soprano in a pretty popular singing group way back when, but when I tried to learn to read music, the nuns told me it was hopeless. I dreaded my weekly piano lesson when I was 8.  But, I figured out if I just watched Sister Frances play the songs on the piano and listen to the tune she was assigning me during my weekly lesson, then I could go back and not have to practice at all and just play the tune by ear at my next lesson.  It worked for a while, but, Sister Frances wised up. She caught on when she kept pointing to notes and I could not recall them. Busted!

But, whether you are a musician, singer or a listener, you probably feel how powerful music can be. It has the ability to set the mood instantly, does it not? It can bring up emotions and intensity the moment.  Yes, it is a real game changer!

Music and Its Powerful Effects On Your Health

I am rather sure you have felt how music can change your mood, but did you know it actually can affect your body in other ways as well? Here are some other fascinating effects it may have on your health:

Play tunes an hour day to keep that doctor away.  Listening to music that pleases you may increase your immunity, which in turn helps fight disease. It lowers stress hormones that harm our body. What a deal!

Pounding headache? Music may help.  And, I have the playlist right here for you! There may be a tendency to search for quiet when your head is pounding, but this says otherwise.  Next time, I feel a migraine coming on, should I reach for that playlist rather than the aspirin? Apparently! Studies say music can help sufferers reduce the intensity, frequency, and duration of headaches.

Music makes for a great entrance.  Incorporating music therapy during childbirth decreases post-natal anxiety and pain, increases the satisfaction with childbirth and reduces the likelihood of postpartum depression.  I'd day that's a great way to bring a child into the world!