Information Huddle

Outdoors for Urban-Dwellers

Living in a major metropolitan area makes having daily access to nature a challenge. While we’re lucky enough to have a wooded area near our house, but I know that not everyone is so lucky and wanted to compile ways to increase one’s exposure to nature.

Growing up in a rural area I learned to appreciate all that nature had to offer, but because Jai is going to grow up either in an urban or suburban location (unless something drastically changes), he’s not going to have the same amount of exposure I did. So bringing nature inside will be one task I will want to do as much as possible for his sake.

Bring Nature to You

Here are some simple and easy ways to bring nature to you to help you with reconnection. I didn’t want to limit it to adults with children, so you’ll find all of these suggestions work for adult-only households:

  • Container Gardening: a great way to create your own produce, especially if you live in a food desert or want to know the origin of your fresh vegetables. You don’t need a yard to have a container garden, as a window or balcony can afford you enough space.
  • Potted Plants: you don’t have to have a green thumb to grow and maintain potted plants. If you are worried that you’ll kill a plant, buy a succulent. They tend to be really difficult to kill.
  • Nature walks & classes: find a local nature preserve and check their class schedule. Most have outdoor classes for adults and children on the weekends with a suggested donation fee. Learn a new skill and get yourself out in the wild.
  • Remove the blinds and curtains: if you can, keep your blinds/curtains up all the time to allow for maximum sunlight in your space. Choosing to use the sun for light sources can also be soothing.
  • Picnics in the park: have a park nearby? Why not bring some food and blanket for a quick picnic. Perfect for any day, especially if you work on the weekends or have a tight schedule.
  • Wading pool: For adults and children. Nothing feels better than filling a wading pool in the heat of summer and dipping your feet in.
  • Centerpieces and home decor: If you spend enough time outdoors, consider creating a centerpiece for your table of the interesting sticks, rocks, or leaves you find interesting. Dry flowers and arrange them according to the season with found river rocks in the vase bottom.
  • Companion animal: this is pricier and more time intensive AND dependant on allergies, but consider adopting a companion animal. Animals are known stress-reducers and their wild natures can bring the outside in for you (especially walking the dog). Reptiles are great for places that might have pet fees or those with allergies.
  • Fruit picking trips: If you can, look to see if there is a local farm where you can pick-you-own fruit. It’s a fun experience and a great way to discover fun recipes with the leftovers.
  • Nature Arts & Crafts: I have a flower press that my dad made me when I was a child. I used to press the flowers and leaves I found to make cards or bookmarks. Finding a cheap flower press and making art with dried pieces is a great way to reconnect with nature and a fun gift for a friend.

What do you do to bring nature to you when it’s hard? Share your ideas and experiences in the comments.


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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton Photography

Food & Recipes

Simple 3-Ingredient Fruit Leather

Jai and I went strawberry picking yesterday, our first of the fruit season. It was his first-time strawberry picking, though he went peach picking with me last year. He seemed to enjoy himself, although he stayed in his carrier the whole time which isn’t a bad way to spend the time: comfortable transportation AND food service? Yes, please.

This bodes well for blueberry picking because the farm we go to has tall bushes that are out of reach for little ones. He may be able to grab a few while he’s on my back and if he doesn’t, he won’t be bored while I pick.

I snuck a couple of (rinsed) berries to him while he was back there and he seemed to be a fan, though he was more into eating them once we got home.

Strawberries have an extremely short shelf-life, so I had to come up with some ways to preserve them beyond a couple of days. We got huge bucket-full so I needed to think of something quick.

Jai is on a fruit leather kick so I decided to make some from the fresh strawberries. I hunted around for some recipes and settled on this one, but I made my own modifications to veganize and help naturally sweeten the leather some more.

I’ve written up my modifications below, but do check out Momables for other great healthy eating ideas for little ones.

 

JaiandMeStrawberryPicking
Jai’s first berry-picking experience. He was the official quality control agent: my shirt-back can attest with all the strawberry stains.

 

 

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Food & Recipes

Chocolate Power Protein N’ice Cream

Whether you have a picky eater or an under-eater, it is sometimes important for your child to pack on some weight. That’s when we, as parents, turn to supplemental nutritional drinks and foods that are high in calories that will help them gain weight faster.

Jai recently had a nasty cold which suppressed his appetite and caused him to lose about one pound. At his age, this weight loss was less concerning, but he was already on the low end for his age range, thus causing him to be underweight. During the cold, he was only consuming liquids like breastmilk and water, so I wasn’t worried about him being dehydrated, but I wanted to make sure he was getting all the important nutrients he needed and his daily caloric requirements. I also wanted to help him quickly add that pound back on and maybe an extra one for good measure.

I went out and bought a name-brand nutritional drink for toddlers. I looked at the label and was not happy with how much sugar the product contained. He hadn’t had that much sugar up to this point in his life, but I was concerned about his needing to gain weight so I bought the stuff.

He seemed to like it at first, but after a few sips he rejected drinking more. I suspect it was too sweet for him. I couldn’t try it myself, but even Ash was unimpressed with the flavor.

We put him to bed several hours later. I had thought the drink had left his system, but  the sugar and chemicals caused him to be a light sleeper and he woke up around 1am and screamed uncontrollably for about an hour (we tried to console him as much as we could). The only thing different about his eating habits that day was this drink.

We vowed never to do that again.

That didn’t solve my concern regarding his weight and need for nutrients and calories. I decided to experiment with what I had in the house.

I came up with a dense ice “cream” that uses fruit and maple syrup to sweeten it, but has avocados and peanut butter as a means to heft up the calories and protein.

Because it doesn’t contain any dairy, this will be okay for your little one while they have a cold, the frozen nature of the treat will soothe throats but not increase mucus production. It is also a tasty snack, so it shouldn’t be hard to get them to eat it if you have a picky eater. You can find the recipe after the cut.

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Food & Recipes

Immune & Energy Booster Turmeric Shots

Several years ago, I participated in a yoga intensive course which required attending classes at a local studio almost daily and first thing in the morning. This was before my diagnosis, but just after I experienced my first flare-up, so fatigue was an issue for me at the time.

I was complaining to another student while we were waiting to step into the studio about how tired I was and how I would love to have a cup of coffee (we were doing a strict detox diet as part of the course at the time). She pulled this small bottle* out of her bag and handed it to me.

Her: “It’s a turmeric shot. These things are great natural energy boosts.”
Me: “Turmeric? As in the spice?”
Her: “Yeah, have you heard about it? It’s got all these great ayurvedic properties, but it’s been found to naturally boost your energy. It’s more potent than caffeine.”
Me: “And it’s safe?”
Her: “Absolutely. It’s all natural. Just try half of it and let me know what you think after class.”

I tried it and she was correct. I felt extremely energized. I was almost shaking to get class started, that’s how powerful it was for me. I will add this note: it was the first of any sort of energy drink I had in weeks. We couldn’t even drink green tea, so the results might have been slightly skewed due to my body just going into overload.

I didn’t get a chance to follow up with the turmeric as an energy booster after that experience. But it stayed in the back of my mind and when I read about the natural benefits of turmeric in the diet for brain health and as an anti-inflammatory, I decided to look back into it as something to add into my daily diet to help manage my MS.

The Health Benefits of Turmeric

What makes Turmeric the wonder spice is the curcumin. Curcumin is believed to be a beneficial supplement to fight Alzheimer’s due to its anti-inflammatory and brain boosting properties. It also is found to have cognitive-boosting abilities, though this needs to be researched further. It can also help prevent certain forms of cancer.

These two things alone: inflammation and cognition are issues a person with MS deals with on a daily basis. I am not advocating forsaking all other forms of MS therapy, I am saying that by adding it to my daily diet will help supplement traditional forms of MS therapy. And as a runner, the anti-inflammatory benefits is extremely helpful to recovery.

But the energy/metabolism and the immune benefits? This becomes a universal appeal for a daily consumption of Turmeric. Even if you don’t have MS, having a natural way to get more energy and boost the immune system will be beneficial to your health. It may not cure a cold or completely prevent getting one, but it will give you that extra boost your body might need.

Making My Own Turmeric Drink

Before removing sugar from my diet, I found it harder to stomach turmeric even in a drink form. The taste was too weird and I needed something sweet to help cover it up because that’s how I handled flavors I didn’t care for in the past: add sugar to make it more palatable.

A few weeks after quitting sugar, I bought several shots of turmeric for an early morning road trip I was making to Tennessee. I took some sips and found that I actually enjoyed the flavor and felt quite the energy boost.

Sugar struck again as a ruiner of flavors. Now that it was out of my system, I was able to enjoy something I previously disliked.

But what took my breath away was the price per bottle. I could drink one bottle per day for the health benefits, but my wallet wasn’t going to be fond of the ~$6.00 per 3 fl oz. I knew I could make it even cheaper.

I found a couple of recipes online, but they didn’t adhere to the vegan diet (I wanted something I could drink once I switched over), or they didn’t have the flavors I was looking for, so I decided to create my own recipe. Below the break, you will find my recipe and some ideas for modifications.

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The Check-In

Checking In: Where’s the Beef?

Removing red meat from my diet was harder for me psychologically than dropping sugar. I didn’t think I was as dependent on beef or pork as Ash, but we had some leftover pizza with bacon and I had to stop myself from grabbing a slice Monday afternoon. I also found that every time I drove past a fast food place, I was more tempted to swing in and grab something than normal. Stopping for fast food is typically not a temptation at all and this week it was.

I suspect it is another case of personal prohibition that makes it rougher for me because I can’t, not because I need it. To help manage the red meat cravings I had chicken and salmon as a means to get my protein along with lentils and brown rice. This makes me think that when I drop chicken and fish it will be just as difficult.

Maybe worse, because I love me some sushi and poke.

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