Butternut Squash Soup

Source: https://healthylittlepeach.com/2018/01/24/butternut-squash-soup/

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 3 large carrots ((dice in big chunks))
  • 1 medium onion ((quarter the onion, big chunks))
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup chicken bone broth
  • 2 slices bacon, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pumpkin seeds or just plain seeds will work
  • cilantro

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425º. Line a large roasting sheet with parchment paper. Place the butternut squash cut in half lengthwise (removing seeds), carrots, onion, and garlic on a roasting sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add to the top shelf of your oven.
  2. After 20 minutes of roasting, remove the onions and garlic. After 45 minutes, remove the squash and carrots. Make sure it is fork-tender and allow it to cool before scooping out the squash.
  3. Once cool, start scooping out the inside and transfer the squash and carrots to your blender with your onions and garlic. Add 2 cups of compliant chicken stock and 1/2 cup bone broth to the mix (If you don’t have bone broth, just use regular broth). Depending on desired consistency, add more broth for thinner soup and less for a thicker consistency.
  4. Add in your ghee and coconut milk and blend until all ingredients are smooth.
  5. Add more seasoning to taste and top with bacon, pumpkin seeds, and cilantro. Drizzle everything with fresh coconut milk to make the
    flavors explode.

10 Survival Tips For Holiday Travel

Wherever you’re heading, if you’re traveling during the holiday season, you need to realize that everyone else in the world is, too. But don’t let invasive security scanners, terrible drivers and long lines at the airports get you down. We’re giving you tips to survive the holiday travel season without a Frosty the Snowman-size meltdown.

  1. Do your research.
    Plan alternative trips if traffic makes your way home too overwhelming. Is there a scenic drive that might be longer but has less traffic? Break up a long drive by finding a few places to stop that will get the kids more excited than a truck rest stop. When flying, make sure you check the airline’s restrictions ahead of time on carry-on luggage and fees for checked bags.
  2. Stay connected.
    Stock up on the latest travel apps before you leave home. GateGuru gives you approximate times you’ll spend in the security line. Heading out on the road? Find the cheapest gas with GasBuddy.
  3. Pack light.
    Avoid checking bags altogether if you can. You won’t have to wait for your luggage on the conveyor belt, and you won’t have to worry about your mom’s Christmas present getting lost in an Airport. If you do check luggage, make sure you have all your medications,
    important documents and a change of clothes in your carry-on luggage, just in case your checked luggage gets lost.
  4. Pack earplugs.
    Short of doing yoga in the airport, the best way to mentally escape your stressful surroundings is to turn the volume down. The easiest way to do that is with earplugs. Is there a crying baby in the next seat over on the plane? Earplugs. Sister’s music in the car driving you mad? Earplugs. If you really want to check out for a bit, bring an eye mask (as long as you aren’t driving)!
  5. Don’t get hangry.
    When your tummy growls, your mind can’t think straight, and you could unknowingly get in the wrong line, take the wrong turn, or worse, upset an innocent flight attendant. Pack snacks and drinks, so you and your family will be fueled up for a road trip. If you’re flying, definitely get some grub before you board the plane so you won’t have to rely on airline food if you’re sitting on the tarmac for hours.
  6. Ship gifts or give gift cards.
    TSA suggests to ship wrapped gifts or wait until you reach your destination to wrap them, as they might have to unwrap a present to inspect it. Ship gifts ahead of time or bring the gift that can’t go wrong: gift cards!
  7. Travel on off-peak days.
    The day before the holidays is always the busiest time to travel and can also cause you the biggest meltdown. A better option is to leave early on the day of the holiday and avoid the traffic the night before. Same goes with flying: If you fly on the actual holiday itself you’ll be avoiding the long lines and hoards of travelers.
  8. Travel early or late in the day.
    Flight statistics show that planes traveling earlier in the day have a better on-time performance. If your flight is canceled, you will have the option of taking a flight later in the day and, there will be fewer lines at security. When is the best time to hit the road? When everyone else is asleep — early morning or late at night. You can always take a nap when you arrive at your destination or on the ride there (if you aren’t the driver, of course).
  9. Plan for the unexpected.
    Have only a half-hour before connecting to another flight? Traveling to Rochester, N.Y., during snow season? Think ahead and plan accordingly. Leave extra time before flights to deal with security, extra time between connections and, for road trips, pack tire chains for snowy conditions, flashlights, and of course, a few bandages.
  10. Inhale. Exhale.
    The overly friendly person next to you on the plane, the canceled flights, the luggage that fell off in the middle of the highway? All of it will make for great stories over dinner when you finally make it to your destination.

2019 Holiday Gift Guide

This year’s top gifts are all about gadgets, comfort, retro comebacks and products they’ll love and never realize they needed. Check out the hot gift items on everyone’s wishlist in 2019.

1. Polaroid Camera 

A modern twist on a retro camera, Polaroids are making a come back and are all the rage. It features simple operations for instant print pictures, plus automatic functions that pick the best camera settings. It comes in multiple colors, as well as gift packages that include film packs!

2. Smart Phone Portable Theater Projector

For the person who makes you huddle around all the time to show you videos on their phone, turn their smartphone into a portable theater projector! It’s not just for smartphones, you can connect a laptop, USB Drive or video game console as well. Depending on the model, most offer full HD resolution and up to a 100” screen size. What’s better than receiving a gift that allows you to watch your favorite shows and movies anywhere you like?

3. Wireless Mini Mobile Photo Printer

For the one who loves taking photos! With this photo printer, they can skip the hassle of ordering pictures, and instantly print photos at home via wifi or the free mobile app. Its small size makes it portable, perfect for taking it along on adventures to give photos to friends!

4. New Nintendo Mini Game Console

This gift is perfect for the gamer or retro-loving person in your life! Bring back memories with the 2019 Mini Nintendo Game Console that features 620 built-in games! Some of the pre-installed games include Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, PAC-MAN, Dr. Mario, Mega Man, Final Fantasy and dozens more.

5. Bamboo Bath Caddy Tray 

This versatile gift is perfect for someone who would love getting away to enjoy a good book, movie, or glass of wine while taking a relaxing soak. It features a wine holder, cup holder, soap dish, phone slot, and book/tablet space.

6. Monthly Subscription Box

Monthly subscription boxes are a great gift choice because there are so many different kinds of subscriptions to choose from! It can be anything from makeup, clothes, wine and cheese, craft beer, food, books, candy, pet products, and more! Subscriptions can be delivered weekly, monthly or quarterly depending on the brand and what they offer.

Some popular ones include My Coffee and Book Club, Ipsy (makeup), My Craft Beer Club, FabFitFun (women’s beauty, wellness and health), HelloFresh (weekly ingredients and recipes for healthy meals), Vinebox (wine), Barkbox/Kitnipbox (toys, treats and more for dog or cat in your family) and the list goes on.

This is a gift that keeps on giving all year long, that they will be excited to receive every month. Because it is delivered right to their door, there is no wrapping or hassle involved for you! Because of the huge variety of choices, you’re bound to find a box that perfectly fits each person on your list, right down to the family pet.

7. Weighted Blanket

Who doesn’t love getting plush fluffy blankets? But add in the feeling of a weighted blanket and you’ve got the ultimate comfort gift. These blankets are filled with weighted materials that create a calming effect and improve relaxation. They come in a wide variety of sizes and weights (from 5 – 30 lbs) and can be used by any age group. They can help improve sleep and can help with many different things such as stress, anxiety, restless leg syndrome, and more.

8. Bottleloft by Uncommon Goods

Make his bottle of beer float in mid-air! OK, not really. He’ll be magnetized by this set of two strips that help him save some serious space in his fridge (and it looks cool, too!). If you want to get him something he’ll actually want to show off to his buddies, this is the real deal. These super-strong magnetic strips will display three beers, making room for those drunken eats (or more beer). It’s the one product he’ll love and never realize he needed.

 

Must Do Fall Activities

1. Go to a haunted house
2. Go through a corn maze
3. Go on a hayrack ride
4. Go to a football game
5. Watch Halloween movies
6. Bake something pumpkin-flavored
7. Make homemade apple cider
8. Make a hearty homemade soup in a crockpot
9. Roast marshmallows over a campfire
10. Pick fresh apples
11. Go on a scenic fall hike
12. Eat a caramel apple
13. Celebrate Octoberfest
14. Try a fall seasonal beer
15. Make/try a new fall seasonal cocktail
16. Go to a pumpkin patch
17. Go to a fall festival
18. Go to a vineyard
19. Attend a wine tasting
20. Read a book outside
21. Read a scary story
22. Have a picnic
23. Drink hot chocolate
24. Make your home smell like fall
25. Decorate for Halloween
26. Decorate your home for fall
27. Do a DIY fall decor project
28. Do a DIY Halloween decor project
29. Make your own Halloween costume
30. Carve a Jack O Lantern or Paint a pumpkin
31. Bake pumpkin seeds
32. Bake a pie
33. Go for a walk on a foggy morning
34. Go to the farmers market
35. Try a new kind of fall produce
36. Visit a sunflower farm/pick sunflowers
37. Plant some flower bulbs for spring
38. Buy/plant fall seasonal flowers
39. Host a Friendsgiving
40. Tailgate for a football game
41. Make a fall floral arrangement

 

Patriotic Firecracker Centerpiece Craft

Supplies:

  • Pool noodle (preferably blue)
  • Glitter scrapbook paper (one sheet in red, silver or blue)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Red tissue paper
  • Decorative stems w/ red, white, & blue stars

Instructions: 

  1. Cut pool noodle to the desired size.
  2. Measure scrapbook paper to pool noodle and cut to size.
  3. Apply hot glue to one end of the scrapbook paper. Do not apply the hot glue directly to the pool noodle!
  4. Wrap scrapbook paper around the noodle and apply glue to the other end of the paper.
  5. Press the paper down to secure to the back of the noodle.
  6. Cut a small piece of tissue paper approximately 6 inches wide.
  7. Gather tissue paper and press in the center of the top of the pool noodle.
  8. Insert decorative stem into the center of tissue paper/noodle.
  9. Celebrate!
*Reminder for Richdale Residents: No real fireworks or firecrackers are allowed in the community.

 

Meditation 101 – Techniques, Benefits, and A Beginners How-To

Why Practice Meditation? 

Meditation is an approach to training the mind, similar to the way that fitness is an approach to training the body. But many meditation techniques exist — so how do you learn how to meditate?

“In the Buddhist tradition, the word ‘meditation’ is equivalent to a word like ‘sports’ in the U.S. It’s a family of activities, not a single thing”. University of Wisconsin neuroscience lab director Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D., told The New York Times. And different meditation practices require different mental skills.

It’s extremely difficult for a beginner to sit for hours and think of nothing or have an “empty mind.” We recommend using tools such as beginner mediation Apps or brain-sensing headbands to help you through this process when you are starting out. In general, the easiest way to begin meditating is by focusing on the breath — an example of one of the most common approaches to meditation: concentration.

Concentration Meditation

Concentration meditation involves focusing on a single point. This could entail following the breath, repeating a single word or mantra, staring at a candle flame, listening to a repetitive gong, or counting beads on a mala. Since focusing the mind is challenging, a beginner might meditate for only a few minutes and then work up to longer durations.

In this form of meditation, you simply refocus your awareness on the chosen object of attention each time you notice your mind wandering. Rather than pursuing random thoughts, you simply let them go. Through this process, your ability to concentrate improves.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation encourages the practitioner to observe wandering thoughts as they drift through the mind. The intention is not to get involved with the thoughts or to judge them, but simply to be aware of each mental note as it arises.

Through mindfulness meditation, you can see how your thoughts and feelings tend to move in particular patterns. Over time, you can become more aware of the human tendency to quickly judge an experience as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant. With practice, an inner balance develops.

In some schools of meditation, students practice a combination of concentration and mindfulness. Many disciplines call for stillness — to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the teacher.

Other Meditation Techniques

There are various other meditation techniques. For example, a daily meditation practice among Buddhist monks focuses directly on the cultivation of compassion. This involves envisioning negative events and recasting them in a positive light by transforming them through compassion. There are also moving meditation techniques, such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and walking meditation.

Benefits of Meditation

If relaxation is not the goal of meditation, it is often a result. In the 1970s, Herbert Benson, MD, a researcher at Harvard University Medical School, coined the term “relaxation response” after conducting research on people who practiced transcendental meditation. The relaxation response, in Benson’s words, is “an opposite, involuntary response that causes a reduction in the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.”

Since then, studies on the relaxation response have documented the following short-term benefits to the nervous system:

  • Help lower blood pressure
  • Improved blood circulation
  • Lower heart rate
  • Less perspiration
  • Slower respiratory rate
  • Less anxiety
  • Lower blood cortisol levels
  • More feelings of well-being
  • Less stress
  • Deeper relaxation

Contemporary researchers are now exploring if a consistent meditation practice yields long-term benefits, and noting positive effects on brain and immune function among mediators. Yet it’s worth repeating that the purpose of meditation is not to achieve benefits. To put it as an Eastern philosopher may say, the goal of meditation is no goal. It’s simply to be present.

In Buddhist philosophy, the ultimate benefit of meditation is the liberation of the mind from attachment to things it cannot control, such as external circumstances or strong internal emotions. The liberated or “enlightened” practitioner no longer needlessly follows desires or clings to experiences, but instead maintains a calm mind and sense of inner harmony.

How to Meditate

This meditation exercise is a simple introduction to meditation techniques.

  1. Sit or lie comfortably on a chair or cushion.
  2. Close your eyes. We recommend using cooling eye masks or restorative eye pillows if lying down.
  3. Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
  4. Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly. Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.

Maintain this meditation practice for two to three minutes to start, and then try it for longer periods.

Pets of the Month

Winston: An 8-month-old French Bulldog who lives at Tuscany Walk in Houston, TX. Winston loves everyone he meets. He gets so excited for our daily walks outside, and insists on saying “hi” to every human and animal we come across, especially the security guard! He balances his excitement for life with plenty of daily naps on the couch. Hanging out with him is my boyfriend and I’s favorite time of the day!

Pumpkin: This adorable kitten was adopted from the Nebraska Humane Society around Halloween and now she happily lives with her family at Breckenridge in Omaha, NE. Her favorite past time is to find funny places to sleep. One night, her family found her sleeping on their dining room table, cozied up and sleeping in the napkin basket!

Mason Jar Salads: Recipes for Salads on The Go

The best part about salad jars is that they are customizable. Each of these salad jars is packed with fresh veggies, flavorful combinations, and ample protein so that you’re satisfied and energized after lunch. Just be sure to put the dressing at the bottom and the leafy veggies towards the top so that they don’t get soggy once you’ve prepped them.

Instructions – For each salad: Add all ingredients into a 16 oz Mason Jar (or equivalent). Keep in fridge until ready to enjoy! When ready to eat, simply pour ingredients into a bowl and serve.

Greek Chicken Salad

  • 2 tbsp. balsamic dressing
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • ¼ c. diced cucumber
  • ½ c. chickpeas
  • 2 tbsp. diced red onion
  • ¾ c. diced, grilled Just BARE chicken breasts
  • ¼ c. kalamata olives
  • 2 tbsp. feta
  • 1 c. chopped romaine

Chicken Quinoa Berry Salad

  • 2 tbsp. raspberry vinaigrette (or any berry vinaigrette)
  • ¼ c. quartered strawberries
  • ½ c. cooked quinoa
  • ¼ c. blueberries
  • ¾ c. grilled Just BARE chicken breasts
  • ¼ c. goat cheese crumbles
  • ¼ avocado, diced
  • 2 tbsp. almonds
  • 1 c. arugula

Thai Peanut Chicken Quinoa Salad

  • 2 tbsp. peanut dressing (1 tbsp peanut butter + 1 tsp soy sauce + ½ tsp honey + 1/8 tsp ground ginger + ½ tsp apple cider vinegar + 2 tbsp water)
  • ¼ c. red bell pepper
  • 2 tbsp. green onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • ½ c. cooked quinoa
  • 2 tbsp. cilantro, diced
  • ¼ c. mango, diced
  • ¾ c. grilled Just BARE chicken breasts, diced
  • 1 c. romaine
  • 2 tbsp. chopped cashews

Southwest Chicken Salad

  • 2 tbsp. southwest ranch, avocado ranch or chipotle ranch dressing
  • 1 Roma tomato, diced
  • ¼ c. diced cucumber
  • ¼ c. corn
  • ½ c. black beans
  • ½ jalapeño, sliced (or pickled jalapeños)
  • ¾ c. diced, grilled Just BARE chicken breasts
  • ¼ avocado, sliced
  • 1 c. chopped romaine

10 Marie Kondo Organization Tips That Will Change Your Life in Minutes!

Marie Kondo is a tidying expert, bestselling author, star of Netflix’s hit show, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, and founder of KonMari Media Inc. Her novel, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, is jam-packed with tips that will turn your messy room into a neat, minimalist oasis. Read along for 10 genius pointers from Kondo that will change your life in minutes.

  1. Keep only what brings you joy: Would you have seconds of that buffalo shrimp macaroni and cheese if you didn’t love it? Would you continue to watch a bad movie? Um, no. So why should you treat your belongings any different? Marie Kondo’s advice is simple: Keep what brings you joy and get rid of everything else.
  2. Tackle categories, not rooms: Decluttering your home is a huge undertaking, so it’s important you have a plan before you get down to business. Organizing room by room seems efficient, but Kondo urges you to focus on categories. Think about it this way: You probably have a lot of towels scattered throughout your house. By taking stock of all your bathroom, kitchen and powder room towels at once, you can get rid of any duplicates or towels that have overstayed their welcome.
  3. Don’t let nostalgia cloud your judgment: A movie ticket stub from your favorite film or a program from your kid’s school play may tug at your heartstrings, but these mementos aren’t doing your space any favors. So why keep them around? We know what you’re thinking: What if yesteryear’s trinkets bring you joy? Find a way to consolidate. Instead of having a box with old birthday cards from Grandma Sue, place them in a scrapbook that can fit on your newly organized bookshelf.
  4. Respect your belongings: Look at your closet. Are dresses slipping off intertwined hangers? Are expensive shoes scattered all over the floor? It’s OK, you’re not alone. We’re not sure what we think of Marie Kondo personifying clothes—she asks her readers to consider their clothes’ feelings—but we do see the importance of taking care of them. Regardless of how much their clothes cost, nobody wants to face the world in wrinkled, stained or scuffed pieces!
  5. Learn the art of folding: If you don’t have a dresser, we recommend you get one, stat. According to Kondo, your clothes will be “happier” if you fold them. After you fold your scarves, dresses, and pants, Kondo recommends stacking them vertically in your closet—she claims you can fit 20 to 40 folded piece where you’d normally be able to hang ten.
  6. Get rid of the paperwork: Speaking of superfluous systems, your filing cabinet needs to go. It’s the digital age, after all! You can find copies of almost every paper in your home office online. As for those important documents—like your birth certificate and recent W2s—Kondo advises whittling down your paperwork into two piles: “Papers to Save” and “Papers to Deal With.”
  7. Ditch the fancy storage systems: Before you whip out your credit card to buy that fancy spice rack, Kondo recommends detoxing your home first. She argues the only reason we think we need those pricey filing systems is that we have too much stuff. Go ahead, donate what you don’t need. You and your space will feel infinitely better.
  8. Store everything standing upright: If you’ve spent the majority of your life stacking your socks, bras, and underwear on top of each other, you’re in for a surprise. The organization queen recommends you store items side by side, so they look more like a row of book spines. Why? “This will allow you to see what’s inside at a glance and take inventory of what you own,” Kondo said told Architectural Digest. “If you store your clothes in a drawer standing upright, you will be able to survey how many articles you own that are the same color. This will prevent you from unknowingly buying more of the same type of clothing.”
  9. Start from square one: We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you want to give your wardrobe a complete overhaul, you’ll need to remove all your clothes from your closet. Sure, it sounds time-consuming, but Kondo argues it’ll be easier to spot duplicates and items that don’t bring you joy. Once you donate the clothes you don’t want, you can replenish your closet with your favorite pieces.
  10. Dig deep: Saying goodbye is never easy, but there are some items we can’t bring ourselves to discard. Before you start your organizational awakening, Kondo urges you to ask yourself why. She explains most items fall into one of three categories: an attachment to the past, fear of the future or a combination of both. The better you understand why you can’t part ways with those old kitchen gadgets from Grandma, the easier it’ll be to conquer that obstacle and have a brighter (and indisputably cleaner) future.

Do You Know Your H2O?: Taste Testing Alkaline Waters.

What’s in your water?

You may have heard various health claims about alkaline water. But what exactly is alkaline water, and why all the hype?

Alkaline refers to a water’s pH level, a number that measures how acidic or alkaline a substance is on a scale of 0 to 14. For example, something with a pH of 1 would be very acidic and something with a pH of 13 would be very alkaline.

Normal drinking water generally has a neutral pH of 7. Alkaline water typically has a pH of 8 or 9. Because of this, some advocates of alkaline water believe it can neutralize the acid in your body.

Does it work?

Alkaline water is a little controversial. Some advocates of alkaline water believe it can neutralize the acid in your body because it has a higher pH level than regular drinking water.

However, several health professionals say there isn’t enough research to support the many health claims made by users and sellers. Differences in research findings may be related to the types of alkaline water studies.

According to the Mayo Clinic, regular tap water is best for most people. They state that there is no major scientific evidence that fully verifies the claims made by supporters of alkaline water.

However, there are a few studies that suggest alkaline water might be helpful for certain conditions.

For example, a 2012 study found that drinking naturally carbonated artesian-well alkaline water with a pH of 8.8 may help deactivate pepsin, the main enzyme that causes acid reflux.

Another study suggested drinking alkaline ionized water may have benefits for people who have high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. However, more research is needed beyond these small studies.

Our Taste Test

We gathered a small group of people and had them blindly taste test our chosen waters. We wanted to see if they could guess which water was clearer and higher in pH based on taste alone. We compared various bottled brands like Penta, smartwater, Crystal Geyser, Fiji, JUST Water, and essentia.

Penta Ultra-Purified: Penta Ultra-Purified water ranked high on the groups’ list as one of the testers top two favorites. Tasters commonly described the water as crisp and smooth. Many said the water also had a slight mineral taste to it that nicely balanced out the crispness.

Fiji Artisan Water: Not a fan favorite but not getting a downvote from anyone, Fiji water was largely described as lacking any particular taste and bland. Two tasters even said that it left their mouth feeling dry, chalky, or powdery after drinking it.

Crystal Geyser: Crystal Geyser marginally beat out Penta water for the group’s top choice. All of the testers agreed that Crystal Geyser was freshest tasting and had the most weight to it, making it the most filling water out of the selection.

smartwater: Almost all of the testers described smartwater as tasting like tap water. The tasters who frequently drink tap water described it as smooth and light, while taste testers who frequently drink bottled water said it had a slight mineral taste to it.

JUST Water: Ranking the lowest on the list, JUST Water was often described as feeling dirty, murky, chalky, and grainy by several testers. After all the waters were revealed, many attributed the poor taste to the brands carton-like, paper container.

essentia: Unlike the rest of the waters, where most testers agreed on the taste, essentia was split down the middle. Those who liked it described the water as smooth or clean tasting. Those who didn’t thought it had an acidic bite to it and even described it as salty in taste.