With warmer weather now hitting the midwest and seeing my first crocus blooming this morning I'm ready to get outdoors and begin planting!
Eating healthy doesn't mean depriving yourself of any particular food group or flavor. A healthy diet for me, that is sustainable long term, includes all the foods that I enjoy, but being mindful of portion sizes, number of calories needed per day and getting plenty of exercise and rest.
Cooking with herbs adds a fresh and flavorful addition to your favorite recipes. However buying herbs from the market or grocery can be so expensive and sometimes hard to find when you need them. In addition, once you open the package from the store the shelf life is greatly reduced. Growing fresh herbs guarantees a steady supply throughout the summer and well into the fall and even winter if you properly care for them.
I use herbs in a variety of ways and am sure there are so many more ideas. I'd love to hear from you, please feel free to share:
I also have a vegetable garden that is located behind my garage and when I first started planting herbs it made sense to put them alongside my vegetables. The problem I found was that they weren't handy and I tended to forget about them.
The solution I thought was to have the herbs right outside my back door where the kitchen is located. But the next step was to figure out what to grow them in so that my patio wasn't cluttered with individual pots yet was easy to water.
Enter....a very old ready for the trash wheelbarrow. This particular wheelbarrow was all beat up, kind of lumpy inside from mixing cement and not getting it completely cleaned out before the cement residue dried, but for some reason I had saved it. I thought this would not only make one easy pot to house all my herbs but it would look fun on my patio which is right outside my kitchen door, and next to the grill, for easy access as I prepared each meal. I painted the wheelbarrow inside and out with black paint and stained the handles a dark oak.
To be honest having the herbs so handy makes it easy to think of creative dishes since I have to walk past them to/from the garage and can easily cut fresh what I need for each meal. It's also great for being creative with my dishes!
So how do you make a fragrant and abundant herb garden?
First, find the right space in your yard/patio/balcony. You'll want a spot that gets plenty of sun and is easy to access.
Second, decide if you want one pot for all your herbs or several small ones. Be creative and consider that some herbs can be brought in for the winter and still thrive. Below are several ideas, but use what you already have at home, ex) do you have a favorite coffee mug with a broken handle, instead of tossing it, use it for herbs. If you have a big yard or a nice corner that is unused, you don't actually need a container, just plant directly into the bare ground or into raised beds.
It seems everyone has their own preferred method that works for them so I'm writing only to share what works for me, not to discount what may work great for you. Depending on the composition of your soil and where you decide to plant your herbs, you may prefer to plant in fresh dirt, topsoil, garden soil or compost. I like to use a combination of compost that I've 'made' plus dirt from the season before to fill out the pot. Compost is rich in nutrients, improves the fertility of soil, requires less watering and can reduce/eliminate plant diseases. It's made a huge difference in the quality and size of my all my gardens (flowers, herbs and vegetable) plus it's a great way for me to recycle food and yard waste. More on composting in another post.
Fertilizer- depending on the amount and quality of your soil you may need to use a fertilizer. Scott's is my favorite. Preparing your soil is critical, I like to mix dirt with compost for a rich soil plus mix in Scott's continuous release plant food.
Seeds versus plants- I prefer seeds for most of my herbs with the exception of Rosemary which I like to start with an actual plant rather than starting from seeds. These seeds or these are easy to grow. Most garden stores and home improvement type stores carry seed packets too and each year I start looking at seeds and planning my garden on paper around February hoping that will somehow make a difference for when warmer weather will return!
Whether you choose to use one large pot, several small ones, raised garden beds or right in the ground for your herb garden I strongly suggest marking each herb so that you can gauge which ones are growing, and to be honest, a few of the herbs look very similar when fully grown, so make it easier on yourself and consider adding markers, There are so many fun ones to try, like this one, this one, this one or this one.
Herbs are best freshly cut for each meal, but if you choose to cut a small bunch (they do make the home smell nice) place them in a jar or glass of water for short term storage or use an herb keeper like this one which will allow them to remain fresh for several days to weeks.
Lastly, is my herb bible so to speak, this is a great guide for learning about herbs and how to use them in everyday meals.
Seeds normally are planted just below the surface and will begin to sprout within a few days. Water gently and if you don't see growth within the time frame on the seed packet, plant again! Sometimes if you have a huge rainfall when the seeds are newly planted it can wash them out, so don't be discouraged just replant!
What is Savasana? (Shah-vah-sah-nah)
Savasana or Corpse Pose is the final pose of your yoga practice and
while it may be one of the most important poses it can, for many, be
one of the most challenging.
All poses done in your asana practice prepare you for this final
pose which can range in length from 10-20 minutes, however even
5 minutes of Savasana can bring positive benefits. Its Sanskrit
name translates to Corpse Pose as Sava means Corpse. In traditional mat yoga, you are lying on your back on your mat in a very still, resting pose with your legs/arms spread out comfortably. It is the time where you close your eyes, shut your mind down and relax, unwind and be still in the moment. When you lay motionless while keeping your mind still,
it forces you to relax. The more you practice this pose the easier it gets.
Common Challenges of Savasana
By the end of your practice your body and mind should be ‘tired’ enough to sufficiently relax for Savasana. While it may not seem like it, you do exert quite a bit of energy moving from pose to pose. However, even with the best intentions it can be difficult to shut out the day’s events or responsibilities on your mind for the rest of the week. Some common challenges of getting the most out of Savasana include:
It’s normal for the mind to wander, but with practice and a little patience with yourself you can begin to quiet the mind in order to gain the full benefits of Savasana.
What are the Benefits?
The intention of Savasana is to rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit.
How Should I Prepare for Savasana?
Give your Savasana the same attention you give to your other poses and notice the benefits. If you are consistent with your practice it will become easier as you add more minutes to your Savasana.
Recently I had one of those very early morning starts to my day and wouldn't you know it I woke to a strong pain between my shoulder blades that I knew would be a problem if I didn't treat it right away.
On this particular day I had a 2 1/2 hour drive to my destination, then 5 hours of sitting in a meeting, then a return drive home. So what this meant is that I had to wake at 4:00 a.m. and If you're anything like me instead of getting a good nights sleep for this long day, I tossed and turned all night because I was afraid I wouldn't wake up in time! I'm pretty sure this was the culprit of my pain that morning.
Granted over the years my body has absorbed a bit of punishment, from major back surgery to my fill of nasty falls from my early days of off road mountain biking, my body is reminding me that I'm just not as young as I used to be and it doesn't take as much for those aches and pains to make their appearance.
A quick fix to my recent morning was a few yoga moves.
Eagle Pose: whether you do this sitting down or standing up this is a great exercise to open up the shoulders and feels really good, especially when, like me that day, I woke to a piercing pain in that area. I try to hold this pose for 1-3 minutes. Make sure you do both sides.
Supported Fish Pose: this is great for the spine. To support your back use a block, ball or pillow. Again I try to hold this pose for 1-3 minutes and it's actually very relaxing.
When I have more time and want to get an all over massage or want to loosen my muscles before or after exercise, especially after completing a few challenge poses, I pull out my foam roller.
More specific uses of my foam roller:
Whether I feel tightness right after I workout or it creeps up the following day, the massage foam roller has been a great addition to my routine to loosen specific tight areas and it's a way to give myself an inexpensive massage to head into a good nights sleep.
While there are numerous options for selecting a foam roller and at various price points, I urge you to consider what you want to gain from using one and do your research and purchase (if you choose to do so) the best one for you needs.
As with any purchase of health/workout equipment or engaging in a new exercise routine it's always best to check with your physician especially if you have certain conditions that may be adversely affected by a new routine.
Do you sit or stand in one place for hours with little movement?
Whether you sit at a desk working at the computer for hours or are you a gardner kneeling or sitting on your knees, body hunched over while tending your vegetable or flower garden? The aches, strains and sometimes pain can result from doing even things you love.
Heart / Chest Opener is a great yoga pose that is easily done that will give you a feel good stretch. It opens your heart and stretches your back, something necessary after those longs hours in one place.
Stand with your feet hip width apart, feet planted firmly on the floor. Keeping your shoulders square, shoulder blades back, reach your hands behind your back keeping arms straight & clasping your hands together at the base of your back. Slowly, and only as comfortably as you feel, raise your clasped hands as high as you can behind you while you are pulling your shoulder blades together.
Feel the stretch, inhale and exhale as you feel the breathe enter and leave your body. Maintain the pose for 2-3 breathe cycles**.
Choose a firm chair* and sit squarely with your feet firmly planted on the floor, slightly farther than hip width apart. Press down with both feet and sitting bones as you lift your heart (chest) to the sky while keeping your head balanced on top of your pelvis ( think keeping strong posture with head in alignment with pelvis). Take both hands and grab the outside edge of each side of the back of your chair to help lift your chest and feel the stretch.
Inhale and exhale as you feel the breathe enter and leave your body. Maintain the pose for 2-3 breathe cycles**.
*Chair = I like to use a simple sturdy metal chair without arms, but whatever type chair that you choose make sure it doesn't have wheels and sits sturdy on the floor)
**Breath cycle= one inhale and exhale, making sure you're inhaling slow and deeply and the same with your exhale.
As we age we naturally loose a certain amount of strength and flexibility, especially as we also begin to move less. With our senior population enjoying a longer and more active lifestyle well into their retirement years, the desire to remain physically and mentally active has become more important.
Chair Yoga is one of the gentlest forms of yoga available. Poses are done seated on the chair or the chair is used for support during standing and balance poses. At times the wall may also be used for support. Use of the chair allows for greater stability to help participants feel supported and safe as they move in/out of each pose.
Poses are modified so that even those with health restrictions, decreased range of motion and physical limitations can perform versions of twists, hip stretches, forward bends and mild backbends that will provide the same benefits from a traditional yoga practice including improved muscle tone, better breathing habits, reduction of stress and improved sleep.
Benefits for starting or continuing a yoga practice for seniors:
It's never too early, or too late, to start! Not sure if yoga is for you, or how to start your practice, contact me and we can chat!
Seems every magazine or fitness article that I read touts drinking eight glasses of water each day as water provides so many benefits for your health, skin, mental clarity and weight loss.
And for a yoga practioner, it's important to make sure that you rehydrate yourself after you practice. The negative effects of dehydrating include fatigue, headaches and body aches and unfortunately by the time you realize you're thirsty you're by then dehydrated, which means it's critical to keep up with your water intake throughout the day ~ in all seasons, even moreso in very hot/humid weather or if you're activity has you sweating, you'll need to replenish the body.
A few of these specific benefits include:
As your day gets busy it can be hard to track how much water you have actually drank. Granted a water bottle, and there are many to choose from, can work, just the idea of having to leave your work area to refill your water bottle can be troublesome, especially if you're having a busy day and, trust me, it's easy for time to slip away and then realize you haven't left your desk for hours!
On a day where I know I'll be trapped at my desk for the better part of the day, a trick I use to help me keep track of how much water I intake is that I start each day with a full pitcher of water at my desk and pour glasses from there. As the pitcher begins to empty I know I've done good for that day! There are also a number of apps and/or journals that help you to track your water intake.
Flavoring your water:
While we all may know that drinking water is good for you, plain water can get pretty boring after a while and for some it just lacks the taste they prefer from those other less than healthy beverages.
Years ago when a family member was hospitalized out of town, the hotel we stayed at for long stretches of time had a very large glass jar filled with water and cucumbers. I wasn't sure at first but once I tried that first glass I was intrigued and began experimenting myself with fruits and vegetables to add another dimension to plain water. I found through experimentation it can make a big difference in making it easier to get those eight glasses in.
Whether you purchase an infuser pitcher, repurpose a milk or water container or something you have from home, adding fruit (fresh or frozen) or vegetables can make a difference and make it easier to meet your goals for the day.
A few of my favorites are:
Other combinations that are delicious:
Here I used:
Once frozen pop a few (be creative with your combinations) into a glass of water and as the ice cube melts the fruit remains and tastes just as fresh as if you bought it fresh that day. Plus the cubes look pretty in your glass!
Either pop out a cube when needed or remove all cubes at once and store in a tightly sealed bag.
Whether you make your own fruit infused ice cubes or slice fresh fruit/vegetables/herbs into your water, both options can turn ordinary water into something extraordinary!
If you know you'll be on the go, make sure to have a full water bottle handy in your car or bag. This is my favorite bottle that keeps my water cold for hours, a great way to have water on the go that is kept fresh all day, especially as the outside temperatures rise; I have bottles in all three sizes and can attest to the ease in using and keeping water fresh and the just right temperature.
If you have fruit/herb combinations that you've tried and enjoyed please share!