10-Minute Daily Yoga

I’ve done yoga on and off over the years, but I have to admit, for me, I really just needed to do it on my own, not in a group where I would feel self-conscious. My need for a more meditative solitary practice inspired me to ask my friend, Paula Suter, if she would be willing to pass on to me her intuitive yoga knowledge. She has such a way about her, I wanted some of her calm and beauty for myself. This was her gift that she passed on to me. In the spirit of paying it forward, here’s her rudimentary 10-minute version for you to try yourself, modify for your needs, and then share with others. Enjoy.

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We were in a beautiful place in Mexico surrounded by unpopulated hills and the sounds of the sea in the distance. Seeing these images and video just transports me there. I had only shot it for my own personal use, but Paula has graciously given me permission to share it with you all here. The images and video should simply speak for themselves (do pause the video to do your stretches, as we blasted through the poses quite quickly.)

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Breakfast Nut Bars

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We were hungry for something new at breakfast-time, and my mostly-vegetarian family just loves nuts. Inspired by Our Paleo Life, we were able to come up with a recipe that is better than any Kind Bar we’ve bought. These nut bars are perfection, and have become a family breakfast or snack-time staple. This recipe, like all my recipes, is meant to be played with, to suit your palate and what’s in your cupboards:

Use any combination of the following nuts, to reach a total of about 6 cups:

Almonds

Walnuts

Pecans

Pumpkin Seeds

Hazelnuts

Chop nuts into smaller sizes, so you have pieces of nuts that’ll stick together well in a bar.

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Add:

1/2 Cup Flax Seeds

1/2 Cup Toasted Coconut

1/2 Cup Rolled Oats

1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt (I use a Fleur de Sel)

1/4 Cup Cacao

1/4 – 1/2 Cup Agave

1/2 Cut Raisins

1/2 Cup Peanut Butter

3-4 Tablespoons Molasses

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

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Mix everything together in a bowl and place the mixture into a glass baking dish lined with parchment paper that comes up the sides.

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Place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Press the mixture down with your overlapped parchment when you pull it out of the oven, to compress the bar mixture. Pull out the square mixture with the parchment paper sides and place on a wire rack to let it cool for 30 minutes. Press your large square again when your mixture has cooled and then turn the whole thing over and place on another square of parchment so the bottom is facing up.

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Cut your nut mixture into bars and wrap individually for snacks!

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How To Recycle Plastic Bags

Let’s talk polyethylene, or plastic bags. They’re stretchable plastic bags, or film, that are #2 or #4 plastics. Amazingly, most people don’t recycle them, but you can. These things just never go away, so doing your best to not acquire them in the first place is a tall order, but well worth it. And then, reusing them as much as you can until you have to recycle them is your best course of action.

Most supermarkets have a recycle bin where you can take your polyethylene or plastic bags. The most common polyethylene bags are plastic bags that you get at the grocery store, but there are many more items that you might otherwise throw away that can be recycled in polyethylene recycling. Let’s review them in a simple list, below.

When you take your bags to get recycled, simply stuff the rest of the polyethylene from your life into that bag to get recycled, too. But please remember: Recycling plastic bags is not a closed-loop system. Best to think about ways to avoid it altogether.

Ok, Here’s the List of Plastic Bags/Film That Can Go In Your Plastic Bag Recycling Bin

Grocery Bags: On our island, we’re lucky these things have been banned. So, they’re few and far between.

Bread Bags: Some bread comes in polyethylene. Be sure to recycle them when you’re done reusing them. And if you want to reduce this plastic altogether, try my fail-proof bread recipe. It’s a staple in our home.

Air Bags for Shipping and Bubblewrap: Definitely reuse these, or offer them up on your local Buy Nothing group. People and businesses who ship items often are always happy to take them off your hands.

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Ziploc Bags: If you use resealable bags that have those zipperlike locks on them, just rip that hard block off of your bag and recycle the bag. I’m proud to say I haven’t bought resealable bags in years because I clean, dry, and reuse what I have.

Garment Bags: Man, that’s a lot of polyethylene. Maybe your dry cleaner will take them back if you keep them clean.

Mail Order Clothing Bags: My husband works for a clothing company and we get samples from them every week. They all come in polyethylene bags. Bothers me.

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Beverage Shrink Wrap: These are usually clean and can just be thrown right into recycling. This excessive packaging is disturbing.

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Newspaper Bags: Digital subscriptions are looking a lot more eco-friendly these days.

Magazine Covers: Be sure to remove the paper address label and recycle that paper label, or throw it in your compost.

Frozen Food Bags: It’s super important that you wash and dry these bags so there’s no food residue inside.

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Cereal Box Liners: According to this website, you can recycle them.

Toilet Paper Roll Packaging: This is the one we can’t seem to avoid. I don’t like buying individually-paper-wrapped toilet paper rolls.

Paper Towel Packaging: Or, just skip them altogether.

Individual Kleenex Tissue Wrap: I found this in the woods on a hike. Using a handkerchief can go a long way toward reducing these kinds of plastics.

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Produce Bags: I reuse mine, taking them back to the store, and no one seems to care.

Plastic Shipping Envelopes: Just remove the sticky label. We reuse these, too.

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Trash Bags: These have to be clean and dry.

Wood Chip Plastic Baling: We used to use wood chips as bedding for our chickens (but now we use shredded paper.) This stuff is polyethylene! If you make sure it’s clean and dry, it can be recycled.

Little Hardware Bags For Nuts, Bolts, Screws, Etc: These little bags are what the hardware store provides for you when you buy bits of hardware in bulk.

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Furniture Wrap: This is film, and it should be recycled.

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What can’t be recycled? My rule of thumb is, if you can stretch your thumb through it, it’s polyethylene. But don’t include Saran Wrap/cling wrap. Apparently, that’s a different plastic (until recently, it was PVC.) If your plastic item crinkles, it’s not recyclable and you’ll have to throw it away. The risk of putting the wrong plastic into your recycling is that the recycler will reject the entire recycling container-full of bags. So, be sure you’re sending the right stuff to get recycled.

I’m a big believer in every office and classroom having a polyethylene bag recycling area, so long as a volunteer will take it to the supermarket for recycling every week or so. Imagine the impact you could have by doing this? It would reduce the waste-to-landfill by a lot, and save the school and office a bundle in solid waste pickup fees.

What can you add to my list?

 

A Trip To The Dentist And The Plastics Therein

Our Trip To The Dentist and the Plastics Therein. Photo © Liesl Clark

“Please don’t have him eat candy for a day.”

What? I was standing in a dentist’s office, and these were the first words out of the dental assistant’s mouth after my child had some ‘routine’ protective sealant put on his molars. No candy for a day? How about a month or 6? We don’t do candy all that regularly, so to hear her put the limit at 24 hours felt like a license, to my child, for everyday candy in the house, perhaps even a piece or 2 every 4-6 hours. Thank goodness that happy gas was still in effect, for he had a look of mirth on his face while he questioned me about it.

But what I want to know is this: Why is a dental office for children the purveyor of so much cheap plastic crap? This trip to the dentist was truly enlightening for us all — and has served to alter our trust in dental-care in general. I can give you 4 reasons why:

1) That little bin with the plastic junk in it, meant as “prizes” for even showing up at the dentist, was an early highlight. My kids both chose the same toy so they wouldn’t be jealous over the other’s better choice. Their choice x 2!?  A squeezable caterpillar that off-gases more toxic fumes than a PVC shower curtain.

2) Both children complained at how sick they felt from the sweetness of the stuff the dentist used to clean their teeth.

3) Quite disturbing for me was the amount of plastic we left with, each child carrying a little plastic bag filled with free stuff (see the photo above.) Here’s the short list of their freebies x 2:

— A new sample-size tube of Colgate toothpaste.

— A single-use plastic applicator flosser packaged in a plastic bag.

— A new plastic toothbrush complete with plastic packaging.

— A plastic baggy filled with those cool pink pills that show you how well you’re brushing, or not.

— A bigger plastic bag to hold all the plastic crap held in smaller plastic bags.

— A carton of dental floss (okay this one’s an acceptable freebie in my book as there are no plastic-free alternatives that I know of, yet.)

Well, the kids’ teeth got high marks for cavity-prevention from the dentist, yet I didn’t dare tell the dentist we use bamboo toothbrushes and make our own toothpaste mostly in an effort to reduce our plastic footprint. How is a family to keep up their standards of low-impact sustainable dental care after a visit like that? And we have to do this every 6 months?

On the drive home, as we sniffed our new PVC caterpillar toys now flung in the back of the car, I started wondering if my child truly needed those protective molar sealants in the first place? The molars looked good on the X-rays. “It’s optional, but we highly recommend it,” were the words of encouragement from our dental professional.

4) I looked up the sealant as soon as we got home to see what it was made of and, surprise of all surprises, it’s a plastic resin akin to those found in baby bottles, complete with the same endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as BPA and pthalates. What have we done?! 

Now that I’m well-versed in the the debate over whether dental sealants are safe for kids, I’m kicking myself for not having had a clue. I, the mom who has spent the past 6 years divesting our home and bodies from plastics, opted to seal them into my child’s mouth. Anyone know if sealants can be unsealed without the use of toxic chemicals? Likely not.

Backyard 7 Summits Project: Kitsap County’s Highest Peak

By Cleo Clark-Athans, Grade 4

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Climbing Gold Mountain © Liesl Clark

We did it!

We reached the highest point in our county today. It’s called Gold Mountain and is only 1,687 feet high. It took about an hour and 10 minutes to get to the top. Two miles to the summit, but it was straight up through a thick forest, until we hit a logging road with extraordinary views.

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We could see across many lakes and Hood Canal to the Olympic Mountains out on the Peninsula. My brother was happy to get to the top, with sweeping views and high winds.

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Million Dollar View, 50 Miles Wide © Liesl Clark

Although our county doesn’t have extremely high peaks, I’m planning to climb all 7 of the highest mountains as part of my Backyard Seven Summits Project, an attempt to get kids outdoors to explore the high points in their own counties.

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Gold Mountain Lets You See From Sea to Summit © Liesl Clark

We’ve done 2 out of 7 summits and they’re all beautiful hikes, in the Blue Hills of Kitsap County. Most people don’t even know about these peaks. They’re hilltops for all of us to get on top of for great expansive views of a luscious green landscape from the sea to the glaciers on the highest points of the Olympic Peninsula.

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Sibling Time Together © Liesl Clark

The journey down is like a dream, easy, and it goes by fast, with so much to see on the horizon miles and miles away. But if you watch your feet there are semi-precious stones to be found on these trails, like agates. We learned this from a man we met on the trail. He also said he saw fresh puma tracks. Hiking gets people outside but it also gets people to talk to each other.

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PNW Whimsey © Liesl Clark

There’s plenty to marvel at when you just get outside. Our dog, Sailor, knows this.

Have you climbed your own seven summits in your neighborhood? If so, please write in the comments below so we can hear about your adventures.

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The Backyard Seven Summits Project © Liesl Clark

Easy DIY Hair Detangler

DIY Detangler Before and After. Photo © Liesl Clark

Detangle yourself from purchasing unnecessary hair products when the secret to getting difficult-to-brush curly or coarse hair tangle-free is oil and water. We’ve learned this secret the hard way. With a daughter who loves her hair long, but doesn’t love to brush it, we end up with tangled dreadlocks in a matter of hours. And sleeping on them makes the tangles multiply.

Rather than buying yet another bottle of detangler, we came up with the perfect solution. Put some of your favorite oils in some water in a pretty bottle that has a spray pump on the top of it. That’s the secret! An attractive bottle, oil and water.

Our detangler bottle is an old Aveda bottle. Photo © Liesl Clark

Be sure to shake the bottle before spraying it on your hair. We take the added step of doing the major detangling when her hair is wet. It seems to ease the pain for our 10-year-old who won’t let me near her locks with a brush.

What oils to use?

We simply looked in our cabinet and found some delicious-sounding massage oils and have used those. The key is to choose an oil as a base and then add a few drops of essential oil for a soothing scent.

These are our favorite oils to use as a base:

Coconut oil (heated up)

Avocado oil

Apricot oil (this was a bottle given to us from our women friends in the village of Kagbeni in Nepal, they use it on their hair daily)

Olive oil (then add a favorite essential oil)

Jojoba oil

Sweet almond oil

Possible essential oils to use:

Geranium oil

Lavender essential oil

Rosemary

Chamomile

Peppermint

Grapefruit seed extract

Round up your favorite oils to mix with water for a DIY detangler. Photo © Liesl Clark

Start with a 5:1 ratio of water to oil and, depending on how thick your hair is, you might want to increase the oil part of the equation. For our daughter, we’re comfortable at 3:1.

As her Daddy says, “Goodbye Buffalo Soldier Girl!” — at least for this week.

Let us know how your water and oil hair detangler goes, in the comments below!

DIY Dishwasher Rinse Aid

What the heck is rinse aid and why do we need it? If you have hard water, you might want to get rid of the those residue spots left over by the drops of water on your glassware. A rinse aid has a surfactant in it that prevents your water from leaving droplets on your dishes. But you should know that many rinse aids have toxic ingredients that I doubt you’d want to have on any surface that holds your food and drink. I’ll quote Treehugger here to outline the ingredients in question:

 

  • Sodium tripolyphosphate: High concern for general ecotoxicity.
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone: High concern. The US EPA reports the LC50 value is very toxic to aquatic life.
  • Antiredeposition agent: Moderate concern for cancer, respiratory effects, kidney and urinary effects, general systemic/organ effects; and some concern for chronic aquatic toxicity, skin irritation/allergies/damage.
  • Troclosene sodium, dihydrate: Moderate concern for chronic aquatic toxicity, acute aquatic toxicity, respiratory effects; some concern for general systemic/organ effects, developmental/endocrine/reproductive effects, cancer, kidney and urinary effects, nervous system effects, digestive system effects, skin irritation/allergies/damage, damage to vision.
  • Oxybenzone: Moderate concern for developmental/endocrine/reproductive effects.

 

It turns out, you might not even need rinse aid. If your water isn’t hard, the little droplets left over on your dishes won’t leave a residue on them. Test your water, or better yet, go without rinse aid for some time and see what happens. But first, if you have residue on your dishes and glassware, cut the amount of detergent you use by half. Chances are you’re using too much.

If you have hard water, I sympathize. Ours is, too. Want to save some money, still have spot-free dishes, and do the right thing for the environment at the same time? Try this secret ingredient in that little rinse aid spot near where the detergent goes:

White vinegar.

Distilled white vinegar as a rinse agent in your dishwasher will render your glassware shiny and streak-free. Photo © Liesl Clark

That’s all you need. Replace your rinse agent with vinegar and you’ll get the same if not better results. But a word of caution: if you have rubber parts in the slot where the rinse aid goes, don’t put the vinegar in there. Apparently, vinegar can corrode rubber. I know of some people who skip putting the vinegar in that special slot for the rinse aid and just put it in a small cup in the upper shelf so it can splash out over time. Either way, you’ll save a bundle, reduce your plastic footprint and keep chemicals off your plates and out of your gray water.

Distilled white vinegar to the rescue! Use this instead of expensive rinse agents. Photo © Liesl Clark

The interior of our dishwasher is metal and we’ve used vinegar now for over 3 years with no problems to the parts. I’m not sure how a plastic-interior dishwasher will take to vinegar in the reservoir and would love to hear from others who have used it.

We buy our white vinegar in bulk and then put the vinegar for our rinse aid in a plastic bottle that squirts.

Find a good squirt bottle to convert into your rinse aid dispenser. Photo © Liesl Clark

It’s stored under the sink right next to the dishwasher. You’ll likely find a good bottle in your own trash to reuse as your vinegar rinse aid dispenser, or simply reuse your rinse aid bottle.

Crystal clear dishes again. Photo © Liesl Clark