Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wellness Wednesday: Chocolate

For a long time, we were told that chocolate was bad for us, but in recent times, we have learned that dark chocolate may be good for us. That is because chocolate that is made from at least 70% cocoa solids contain flavonoids (antioxidants) and essential trace minerals and vitamins. The higher the percentage of cocoa solids, the darker the chocolate and the more flavonoids it has. Flavonoids are also found in milk chocolate, but not in such concentrated levels. Studies have also shown that milk prevents the body from absorbing much of the "good stuff" found in chocolate, so as much as I would like to tell you milk chocolate is healthy too, it just is not so. It also means that to get the goodness out of dark chocolate, it is best to NOT eat it with a glass of milk. This is because milk binds to the antioxidants and therefore prevents them from binding to the cells in our bodies. Also, when adding chocolate to our diet, be sure to subtract an equal number of calories elsewhere in your diet, preferably by eliminating some other sweet and not a healthy food, like fruits or vegetables.

So now you are asking yourself, how exactly does chocolate help me? Here are some of the ways:
- Flavonoids raise the levels of HDL (good) cholesterol in the blood and help lower the LDL(Bad) cholesterol.

- Since flavonoids are antioxidants, they also help protect our bodies from certain cancers.

- Flavonoids help to improve vascular walls and the function of blood vessels. This can help reduce the formation of blood clots which will reduce the risk of stroke.

- Cocoa is the highest natural source of magnesium. Magnesium helps to protect the body from hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, joint problems and pre-menstrual tension. Dark chocolate also contains iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and the vitamins A. B1, C, D, and E.

- Chocolate contains small amounts of phenylethylamine (PEA), a mild mood improving chemical. It is naturally produced by the brain when responding to feelings such as joy and love. Chocolate has also been found to increase seratonin and endorphin levels in the brain as well.

So go ahead and indulge in a bit of dark chocolate, but as with everything, remember moderation is the key to living healthy.

Burdick Chocolate
(As of 5/6/2010- The CocoaPro page is currently under renovation and is inaccessible)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Family Friday: Snow Fun

For those of you who live where the snow is abundant (which this year seems like is much of the country), why not take advantage of it and turn it into a family fun day.

Here are just a few ideas:
-Go sledding (the picture above is me and my older girls back in 2004/2005). Sledding is great fun and climbing the hill is a heck of a workout.

-Build a snow fort together. For some inspiration check out this story from my local news. It was aired back at Christmas so I doubt the castle is actually still standing, but if you watch the video of it (on the right side of the story) you can see just how great it was.

-Have a playful snow fight. Instead of forming snowballs, just throw handfulls of snow at each other. This is especially good if the snow is "icy" as it is less likely to hurt others. The picture below is my husband and oldest daughter during a family snow day.

-Build a snowman together.

-Fill spray bottles with colored water and make snow "paintings"

-Make snow sculptures

-Make snow angels

-Perform a service project together and shovel drive/walkways for those who may have trouble doing it themselves or dig out fire hydrants.

After playing out in the snow together, come in for some warm soup made in the crock-pot and some hot chocolate. Then have everyone snuggle in together and watch some fun snow-themed movies.

Here are a few movie ideas:
- Raymond Briggs' The Snowman

- Snow Buddies

- Snow Dogs

- Snow Day

This Week Thursday

I am going to attempt to post for the days I missed (at least some of them), but no promises. I apparently have some ongoing medical issues right now so my blogging may be a bit more sporadic, but I am working on it. I love blogging and I love hearing from all of you. Thank you for your heartfelt concern and thoughts and most of all, thank you for your continued support.

-Quaker Dark Chocolate Raspberry Almond True Delights granola bar

-Hansens's Junior Juice

-Boost Kid Essentials

-Another sample of Rachel Ray's Nutrish dog food

On the Web
-If you missed President Obama's Inaugural Address, you can view it (or read it) on the Inaugural Blog.

-Amber, from Because Babies Grow Up, has a guest post on Operation Playtime today. she shares a recipe and helpful tips for cooking with little ones (her daughter is 2 1/2, so it includes really little ones).

-Mummy Deals shares her tips for getting the best deals at thrift stores.

-Thrifty and Chic Mom is giving away a cute Lunch Tote from Spring.

-Cutting Coupons in KC is giving away a subscription to All You magazine

Friday, January 16, 2009

Family Friday: Achieving Family Goals

Last time I posted I asked you to discuss some family goals for the new year. Now that the goals are set, how will you go about achieving them? Start by writing your goals out for everyone to see on a daily basis. This will serve as a daily reminder of what you are trying to achieve.

It will also help to break your goals down into small steps and then into even smaller steps if necessary. This will help make the goal more manageable. Here are two different types of examples:

Goal- Add $10,000 to savings account this year
Mini-goals: Reduce weekly spending by $85, Increase monthly income by $500
Smaller mini-goals: Reduce weekly spending by increasing use of coupons, consolidating driving, eating out less, using up leftovers and buying in season/on sale as much as possible; Increase income by babysitting 3 days a week, monetizing my blog, and performing 10 mystery shops per month

Goal- Take a family vacation to Seattle
Mini-goals: Plan out transportation, Plan out lodging, Plan activities while in Seattle, Pack

The first goal, adding $10,000 to savings, is a bit daunting at first,but as you break down how you are going to do it, it becomes easier to see that it is possible. You may have other things you can do to reduce spending (for some it may be cutting out/reducing the cable bill, going down to one vehicle, etc) or to increase income. It all depends on your family and personal goals and circumstances. Breaking down the second goal, the vacation, allows for tasks to be delegated, at least for information gathering purposes. For example, your (older)children can research airline costs or driving time/mileage and/or local lodging options. They can also research what activities are available and give their input as to what they would like to do.

Another tip for achieving goals is to not give up if you falter a bit. Again using the $10,000 in savings goal, if I am only able to reduce my weekly spending by $50 and/or increase monthly income by $300, I am not going to give up the goal. As the year goes on, I will try to find other ways that will work for us to try and reach that goal. Goals can also be re-evaluated and altered throughout the year. Come the end of June if we have only been able to increase our savings account by $3500 and we are doing all we are comfortable doing to decrease spending and increase income, we may change our goal to $7000.

So to reiterate:
1) Write your goals out
2) Break the goals down into small steps
3) Stick with your goals, but be flexible
4) Believe in yourself and your family

The goals I listed above are not actually goals we have set ourselves, but could be. Whatever goals you have decided on, believe you can do it and it can be achieved.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

This Week Thursday

- Orville Redenbacher Natural Gourmet Popping Corn from Kroger's (Kroger Plus membership is optional)

- A packet of Cream of Wheat cereal (your choice of flavor: original, maple brown sugar, cinnamon swirl, apples & cinnamon, or strawberries & cream)

- is offering samples of Rachel Ray's Delish Dog Food and Soy Joy bars. (Side note- Soy Joy bars are free this week at CVS. You buy a 6 pack for $6 and get $6 back in Extra Care Bucks. Use a Soy Joy coupon and you "make" money.)

Interesting Things to Read (from the past few weeks)
-Cooking on a budget(winter edition) at

-Safely Gathered In shares their adaptation of an English Muffin recipe that is made entirely from food storage (non-perishable) items and also a great pesto recipe.

-Amy from Let's Explore shares how to make file folder games over at Blissfully Domestic.

-The Thrifty Mama shows how to get 2 packs of Huggies diapers and 2 packs of Huggies wipes for $4.36 this week at Rite Aid.

-Are you interested in learning how to weave or make your own loom? Unplug Your Kids shows how to make your own loom for less than $5 and teaches some weaving vocabulary along with it.

-A Wrestling Addicted Mommy is giving away a mini-baking kit from Sassafrass. These kits are so cute and they have them geared for boys and girls.

-My Little Patch of Sunshine has a Superbowl party package from Pepsi valued at over $250 to give away.

-STL Mommy is giving away a makeup bag from Bagladymomma. Bagladymomma has some very cute purses at reasonable prices.

-Mummy Deals has a $50 gift card to e.l.f. They have decent make-up that is really well-priced (several items for $1 each).

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wellness Wednesday: Cold Weather Safety

With the extreme cold weather that is being forecast for much of the country, I have chosen to write today about things you can do to keep yourself and your families safe while in the cold.

First, there are two major ailments that can be caused by the cold weather: frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite is the literal freezing of the body, or parts of the body. It most commonly occurs in the fingers, toes, ears, nose, cheeks, and/or chin. Frostbite can cause permanent damage and may result in amputation. Hypothermia is an abnormally low body temperature. It can affect the brain causing the person to become unable to think clearly and/or move slowly. This can make it so the person is unaware of what is happening and/or they are unable to do anything about it.

So how do we avoid frostbite and hypothermia when we have to go out in the cold? The most important way is to dress properly for the weather. First, dress in several loose-fitting layers of clothing. It is important to remove any wet clothing since wet clothing will chill the body quicker than dry clothing. Also, if you start to get too warm, be sure to remove extra layers so that you do not perspire and get the inner layers of clothing wet. It is easier to add them back on when you get cold again than it is to change out the inside layers of clothes. Choosing inner layers of clothing made from wool, silk, or polypropylene will do a better job of retaining body heat than cotton will. Outer lays should be made from a tightly-woven fabric, preferably wind and water resistant and with sleeves that are snug at the wrist. Finish off the layered ensemble with a warm hat, a scarf or mask that covers your face and mouth, mittens (which are warmer than gloves), and waterproof shoes.

Other important things to remember is to limit the time outdoors, especially during periods of extreme cold and/or wind. When you are out in the cold, keep moving. If you start to feel numb in any part of your body or you start having excessive shivering, return to a warm area and drink something warm, but avoid caffeine and alcohol. Be sure to take these "warming up" breaks regularly if you have something to do that keeps you outside for an extended period of time.

Now that you know what can happen and how to prevent it, what do you do if it happens anyway? First, bring the person (or yourself) into a warm place and remove any wet, frozen, or tight clothing and replace them with warm clothes and/or blankets. Take their temperature and if it is below 95 degrees, or if they are unconscious, call 911 immediately and follow their directions. Otherwise, give them something warm, but uncaffeinated and non-alcoholic, to drink. Quickly, but gently get the affected body parts warm again using warm blankets and warm (not hot) water. Do not rub any frostbitten areas. Avoid hot water bottles, heat lamps, electric blankets and hot stoves. Do not break any blisters. Seek medical attention for serious cases of frostbite as soon as possible.

Hopefully, none of us will experience hypothermia or frostbite, but if you do, I hope this information will be helpful to you.

Free Suave product Today only

I will be back later to post again, but I wanted to make sure you all know that Suave is giving away coupons for 1 free Suave hair care, body wash or body lotion product today only. I do not see a limit to the number they are giving away, just one for "every woman in America". The offer ends at 11:59PM EST on 1/14/2009 so hurry on over and get your free coupon. The coupons will be mailed so you can do this even if you cannot use internet coupons.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Try It Tuesday: No Sew Fleece Blankets

Back in October of last year, I was shopping at Joann Etc. (formerly Joann Fabrics) and saw some really cute No-Sew Fleece Blanket Sets on sale for 1/2 off. There was a large one that I knew my dad would love and a smaller one I knew my niece would like. I bought them both and made them. The "making" of one of these blankets was laying the two pieces of fleece on top of each other, cutting out 7" squares from the corners, cutting the remaining fleece in 1" strips (7" long) and then tying the two layers together. The most difficult part was the cutting, but if I had a rotary cutter or better scissors, it probably would have been much easier. The blanket itself is very forgiving of mistakes and makes a lovely gift in the end. I also used the fabric that was left over from the corners to make bean bags for the littler ones and doll pillows for my girls. I gave my niece hers for her November birthday and every one loved it. I decided then that if I found the sets or even just fleece on sale for a good price, I would make these for all my nephews. On Black Friday, Joann's again had the sets AND fleece on sale. I compared the prices and the sets worked out to be a little bit more than just buying the fleece, BUT I would not have to wait in line to get the fleece cut and the two fabrics were already matched for me, so I went with the sets. I ended up buying another 2 blankets for Christmas and those who got them loved them. Now, all the adults AND the other kids all want their own. I was glad to see Joann's is still regularly running the sale on the sets ($9.99 for the 48" throw and $14.99 for the 72" throw), including this week. I am picking up a set tomorrow for my nephew's birthday and another for another nephew's birthday in March. Hopefully, they will continue this sale through out the year so I can get them made for everyone who wants one. I love being able to give a useful gift that will last for years.

I am sure other places offer items like this, I just have found that Joann's had the best price. I have been buying mine in the store, but see they have an even wider selection online, so I may consider buying a few sets online (if I can find a free shipping code). Anyway, I loved this product due to it's simplicity and the fact that others really enjoyed the gift. The blankets are warm (and we need that here in western NY, especially in the winter) and look really nice in the end. The designs are so varied that you are bound to find one that suits each person you know.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Money Monday: Rotisserie Chickens cooked at the store

I know this is not my typical Money Monday post, but I thought it was worth sharing as it can be both a money and a time saver.

Our local grocery offers hot, rotisserie-cooked chickens for $4.99. Occasionally, I will find a cold rotisserie-cooked chicken marked down to $3.99. On sale, at $0.79/lb, an uncooked whole chicken (5 lbs) costs me about $3.95. When it is not on sale, it costs even more. Last week, I decided to buy both a hot chicken and a raw chicken. The hot chicken was carved up for dinner that night, plus I had enough chicken left over for my husband to bring lunch the next day and for a casserole the next night. I also made broth by boiling the bones with some chopped onions, celery, and carrots. It made about 8 cups of broth which I will use as a soup base or in recipes as necessary. I got about the same amount of chicken and broth from my raw chicken. The difference is I had to prepare and cook the raw chicken, taking up my time and using more ingredients and energy. Typically, I avoid prepared foods at the store due to the fact that they tend to cost much more than just preparing the recipe from scratch. I have decided I will no longer immediately write them off though. When I can buy a rotisserie-cooked chicken for about the same price, or even a dollar more, than a raw one, it is worth that $1 for the time I will save. On those days when I have very little time to prepare dinner (and I failed to have anything prepared ahead of time), it is nice to know that there is an affordable alternative to restaurant dining.

MIA: MY apologies, once again

I apologize once again for going missing unannounced. I have had some medical issues that led to some minor depression. The issues are being taken care of and I am hoping I am back on track for good now. Look for today's posting later tonight.