Catch Up on Calcium

Nurturing Your Health

Most of us know that calcium is good for our bones, and it’s especially important for women in helping to prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures later in life. Calcium is also very important to keep our teeth strong. If you don’t want to look like Farmer Fred in your seventies, then make sure you read this entire post! However, you’re probably aware that most women do not get enough calcium in their diet nor enough Vitamin D to help absorb the little calcium they have. I’ve struggled with getting enough calcium into my diet for a while, but I finally feel like I’ve got it under control, so I’ll share a few quick tips with you.

If you’re like me, then you hate swallowing those big “horse pills,” as I call them, that almost all vitamin supplements come in. You’re trying to do the right thing by jamming these rocks down your throat, but the inability to actually consume the supplements keeps you from getting the nutrients you need. I think the vitamin manufacturers finally heard my inner ranting because now everywhere you turn there are gummy vitamins for adults! No longer relegated to the “Flintstone kids” age set, adults who are tired of almost choking to death on massive pills can now safely consume their vitamins. I’ve tried a few different kinds of calcium gummy bites, and so far, my favorite is the Caltrate Gummy Bites. They deliver about 50% of your daily calcium value, and Caltrate Gummy Bites also deliver the critical Vitamin D3 needed for calcium absorption. You can find these delicious fruit flavored vitamins at Target for about $10. However, if you click on the link, Caltrate is currently offering a $1 off coupon for the Calcium Gummy Bites.

Now, you’ve probably seen the commercials on TV for Silk, soy milk, but have you ever actually tried it? If you haven’t, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, because it’s delicious! My mom started on soy milk long before I gave it a second look, and I’ll admit, it did take me a while until I found the exact brand that I liked. I’m now hooked on Harris Teeter Naturals Organic Soy Milk, “original” flavor. Even my husband loves it! It’s great with cereal or just plain for a refreshing drink. The best thing about soy milk is that it has 50% more calcium than regular dairy milk! 50%! Now that’s a big number. What an easy way to get half of your daily calcium.

To take it one step further, I suggest you try Stonyfield’s organic O’Soy yogurt. Soy yogurt does taste a little different from your regular Yoplait yogurt (which, if you’ve never read the label, contains aspartame, the ingredient we all know causes cancer!). However, after you’ve adjusted to the slightly different taste, you’ll enjoy the same smooth, creamy texture and yummy fruit flavors you’re used to. The O’Soy yogurt provides 25 to 35% of your daily calcium value and also 20% of your daily Vitamin D3. Finally, soy milk and soy yogurt are better for your overall health because dairy cows are sadly pumped with hormones (and also subject to cruel treatment, which I’ll discuss in a later article), which means your dairy milk may not be safe to drink. That’s why I stick with non-dairy, organic soy milk and yogurt to keep my body healthy and my bones strong.

Women’s bodies absorb less calcium after their late twenties, so don’t think you can put it off. The more you do today, no matter what age you are, the better off you will be. It’s never too late to catch up on your calcium!

Chasing Childhood Dreams

Do you remember what it was like to be a child? The world seemed like it was full of possibility, life was easy, and we found joy in everything. Fast forward to today where we’re working our days away, not getting enough sleep, and definitely not experiencing the joy we once did.  Wouldn’t you like to go back sometimes and feel the lightheartedness and simple pleasure of life again?

I do. Towards the end of last year, I felt like I was plodding my way through life. Get up, go to work, go grocery shopping, do laundry, answer emails, go to bed. And repeat. Over and over and over. As I’ve been slowly approaching 30 (still two years away, thank you!), I’ve been promising myself that I will go back and take tumbling or gymnastics classes again. I took gymnastics from age 3 to 9 years old, then came cheerleading and tumbling for three years throughout middle school. I threw in some street jazz classes that took me all through high school, and it was as a freshman in high school that I discovered my passion for singing and began vocal lessons that spanned five years. I loved being active, performing, and continually improving my skills. A few years out of college, I began to miss the feeling of challenging myself and the thrill of victory as my talent rose to the next level.

So I made myself a promise late last year. I would get in shape in order to relive my childhood passion and take an adult gymnastics class. Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been working out three to five days a week with cardio and strength training. At the end of each workout, I diligently stretch my body back into positions that it hasn’t been in since I was twelve years old. I started out barely able to hold my legs in a split, but now, after about six months of training, my legs are on the ground, and my split is pretty darn good, thank you very much. No matter how exhausted I am, I always push myself to work out because I have a goal in mind, and I don’t want to lose the progress and momentum I’ve gained. All the hard work will be worth it when I step out on the spring board floor and throw myself into a round off back handspring. I’m looking forward to that familiar feeling of strength and power that pushes me into the air like I’m flying for just a split second.

What makes you feel like you’re flying? Were you on your local swim team, spending weekends and summers in the pool? Or were you out on the baseball field, throwing curve balls and striking the opposing team out? I think it’s important to rediscover your childhood passion and reconnect with a part of your soul that is innocent and pure. Feeding your soul doesn’t just come through spiritual discovery. It also comes through personal discovery, and if you’re ignoring your soul, the essence of who you are, then the spiritual enlightenment that you’re seeking will never be attained. Your soul needs to be nurtured, and a great way to breathe life into your heart is to practice the activities, sports, or hobbies that ignite a passion inside you.

Now, you may think you’re too old or there aren’t any opportunities for you to step back into a hobby you practiced twenty years ago. However, I’m here to tell you that you’d be surprised to see how many adult leagues there are for almost any sport you can think of – baseball, kickball, volleyball, basketball, biking, etc. Heck, if there’s a gymnastics class for adults, one of the most strenuous and demanding sports that exists, then you should have no trouble finding an adult class for any activity you may be interested in. As you enter back into the world of your childhood passion, I hope you’ll find excitement in life again, as I have. Practicing your hobby with abandon will bring a nourishment in your soul that will spread through the rest of your life.

Fashion Friday

Outfits for real people with real budgets

Simplifying Your Life

Welcome back to Fashion Friday! I hope you enjoyed last week’s sundresses. This week, we’ll be dressing for summer with European flair!

First, we’ll start with a cute orange striped top from Ann Taylor Loft. Retail price only $24.50.

Next, we’ll pair this with brilliant blue shorts perfect for summer. Pick them up at Express for only $29.99.

Finally, we’ll top off the outfit with simple silver Gladiator sandals from Nine West for only $39.

For under $100, you will look like you just got back from summer “holiday” in the south of France.  Don’t forget the tan to go with it!

Crush Credit Card Debt

Simplifying Your Life

Nowadays, it’s common for people to have multiple credit cards and carry a balance on one or all of them. As a society, we have kind of  become immune to credit card debt as our materialistic culture tells us we “need” a brand new Mercedes or we “must have” a designer purse. Some people go so far as to finance a laptop or a TV.

However, people don’t realize the damage they’re doing to themselves until it’s too late. Until their credit card debt has reached $10,000 or $25,000, and they’re only able to make the minimum payment. The interest continues to accumulate at an astronomical rate of 15 to 20%, the principal balance climbs, and before you know it, you feel like you’re drowning.

If this sounds familiar, you may be asking yourself “how do I stop the bleeding?” You may feel you’re already in so deep that there’s no way you’ll ever climb back out. However, I’m here to tell you there are always solutions. Not easy solutions, but there are viable options. First, the goal that you should be aiming for is to pay off all credit card balances and to use only one card going forward. Please note that even though you’ll only use one card in the future, you should keep the other credit cards open. Closing a credit card is bad for your credit score. When you’re buying a house and your lender pulls your credit, or you’re buying a new car and the dealer looks at your credit report, it will be more favorable to have more available credit (the unused cards) and only be using a small portion of it (via your one card) than if you had closed the unused cards.

Now that you know what you’re aiming for, how do you get there? Well, there are a few different schools of thought on this topic. Some experts will say pay off the card with the smallest balance first because psychologically, this gives you a boost, and you’ll be motivated to stick with the program. However, another rule of thumb is to pay down the highest interest card first since this card is accumulating debt faster than the others. So which path should you choose? I recommend paying down the highest interest card first. Even though paying down the smaller balance may feel like a victory at the time, what’s happening in reality is that as you focus on the smaller card, the high interest card is compounding debt at a very fast pace, pulling you right back down into the hole.

Now that you’ve decided to pay down the highest interest card, how do you actually do that? I’m assuming that your monthly income only goes so far as to cover your expenses and possibly put a small amount in savings (otherwise, you wouldn’t need to be running up credit card debt in the first place). If that’s the case, then we’ll need to see where we can cut your monthly expenses, so that you can divert some extra cash towards your credit card payment. Remember when I said this wouldn’t be easy?

We’ll start with examining some “luxury” monthly expenses that can reasonably be reduced. Do you have a premium cable package with every single channel under the sun, HBO, and Showtime? If so, then this is an easy place to make a cut. Switch back to basic cable, get rid of the DVR box, and start watching TV shows and movies for free online at Hulu. If you have Netflix, stop that service as well. Next, do you work for a large Fortune 500 company? If so, your company may very well get a corporate discount at cell phone providers such as Verizon and AT&T. Check with your HR Benefits department. You can get discounts of up to 25% with some employers.

Let’s turn now and look at your gym membership. Did you read my “Get Energized for Exercise” article? If you did, then you know you can get a great workout at home without paying $50 a month. Now, I realize some of you are locked into contracts and getting out of them means paying a fee. If that’s the case, then stick with the gym until your contract runs out. However, make sure you know exactly when the contract expires, and ask your gym how much advance notice they need to cancel your contract. A lot of gyms require 30 to 60 days advance notice or else they’ll automatically renew you. If you’re not locked into a contract, then stop going to the gym and pick up some of the workout videos I recommended in my article. You’ll still get a great workout at home but at less than half the cost.

Finally, if you’re eating lunch out every day, then you can save money here as well. Bring your lunch to work (if you don’t have time to make lunch, then pick up a few cans of 365 Everyday Value organic soup at Whole Foods, throw an organic apple in your bag, and keep a box of Harris Teeter organic Wheat Thins at your desk). This will save you about $25 per week or $100 per month. Wow! Did you realize how much you’re spending on lunch? An average lunch can cost about $10 or more. The lunch I just suggested costs at most $4, and I included the cost of the whole box of crackers, even though you won’t eat that all in one sitting.

This may all sound very painful to you, but remember, these changes aren’t forever. Once you get your credit card debt paid off, and you’re able to pay your balance in full each month, then you can look to roll back some of the cuts. However, I hope you’ll stick with a few of them and keep saving yourself money. I promise, you can live without Showtime.

Between the reduced cable package, cancelled Netflix, lowered cell phone bill, cancelled gym membership, and reduced lunch costs, I’ve found you roughly $205 in monthly savings. Take this money and start applying it to your high interest credit card. Keep at it until the entire balance is paid off. Then focus your energy on the next highest interest card and so on and so on until your credit card debt is eliminated. Remember, once you’ve reached a debt free zone, keep yourself that way and always pay off your balance in full each month. I live by the motto “if you can’t pay for it in cash, you can’t afford it.” Wait until you can pay for something in cash.

I will acknowledge that others may have different opinions on how you can achieve this goal, but I think the above plan of action is the easiest to implement and makes the most common sense. Cut unnecessary expenses, live within your means, and use the savings to pay down high interest debt.

Good luck! I know you can do it!

Super Soul Sunday

Feeding Your Soul

I’m sure most of you have watched Oprah through the years, and you are probably familiar with her new network OWN. However, have you ever seen her program on Sunday mornings called Super Soul Sunday? If you haven’t, you are missing out! I feel like Oprah also has the same big picture view that I’ve been discovering on my own. She brings on different spiritual leaders, regular people with extraordinary spiritual experiences, and makes you question things in a new way. She’s spoken with Christian leaders, Sufi teachers, and regular people with no particular religious affiliation. I like the fact that she is religion-neutral and instead focuses on the overall truths that exist – there is a God, our Earth is a divine creation, the path towards love and acceptance is taught in every religion, and the Holy Spirit is moving throughout our lives in ways that we aren’t even aware of.

One particular episode that I really enjoyed was Oprah’s discussion with Sufi teacher Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee. He spoke about how Sufism focuses on discovering your oneness with God and entering into a love with God that occurs deep within the soul. That comment of entering into a love with God really struck me. We always talk about loving our family or worshiping God, but the phrase “loving God” does not come up. If someone asked you if you loved God, how would you respond? I know my response right now would be “I guess so.” But how do you love someone you’ve never met? Well, according to Llewellyn, you can meet Him because God is inside of you; He resides inside your soul. If you stop and think, this actually doesn’t sound so far off. If you believe that we came from God, then does it not make sense that we are made up of God? Sufi followers devote themselves to this exact journey of traveling deep inside themselves to enter into fellowship with Him. This relationship goes far beyond praying to God or sending thanks His way. They know Him intimately, just like we would know our husband or wife. Llewellyn even referred to God as “his Beloved.”

I’ll share a quote with you from the episode that I feel encapsulates his message –

“Sufism is a path of love. The Sufi is a traveler on the path of love, a wayfarer journeying back to God through the mysteries of the heart. For the Sufi the relationship to God is that of lover and Beloved, and Sufis are also known as lovers of God. The journey to God takes place within the heart, and for centuries Sufis have been traveling deep within themselves, into the secret chamber of the heart where lover and Beloved share the ecstasy of union.”

As ideal as it would be to become lovers of God, it is certainly not easy and not a quick journey. As I was watching the program, I thought “I’d love to be in a place of endless joy with God, but how would I ever get there?” I think we can find God when we’re quiet, and when we open our minds and hearts to hear His message. His voice is always speaking, but too often, we drown Him out with jobs, TV, and responsibilities.

One way in which I try to hear God is by driving to work without the radio on. Have you ever driven to work on a sunny day with silence in the car, looking around to notice the blue sky, the green trees, the brilliant sunlight? In our busy world, this moment of silence in the car is an easy way to find quiet time with God. Sometimes I pray while I’m driving, and other times I just observe nature passing by my window. I try to turn off the endless chatter in my brain and think nothing at all. This is when your mind will open up and start to hear God speaking.

Try driving in silence one morning or evening. I hope you’ll hear God’s voice or at least find some quiet time to relax.

Get energized for exercise

Nurturing Your Health

Jillian Michaels Ripped in 30 DVD

It’s now June, and a lot of those New Year’s resolutions, like join a gym and start an exercise plan, may be falling by the wayside. I understand. It’s hard to stick to a workout program for a lot of reasons – gym memberships are expensive, our schedules are already full, and it’s not always convenient.

I’ve been in the same boat. For a long time, I did no exercise at all and figured my youth would get me by. However, after about 3 years of not exercising, my body started to feel weak and tired. I didn’t feel good, so I finally decided to start exercising. However, I knew I did not want to spend $50 per month on a gym membership. I love taking group exercise classes, but I found a way I can replicate this experience at home for a one time cost of about $12. How? Through workout videos!

You don’t need a $2,000 Bowflex machine, a rack full of weights, or even a gym membership to get in shape. I use two sets of dumbbells (5 and 10 pounds) and my own body. By using just the space in front of my TV in my living room, I have gone from huffing and puffing my way through a kickboxing workout to feeling like it’s one of my easy routines now.

Some people have told me they can’t work out at home because they’re not motivated there, and they’ll find something else to do. However, I have a little trick that I hope will help you. When you get home, DO NOT SIT DOWN. Do not check your email, do not sit on the couch and watch a rerun of Friends, do not pass go. Instead, immediately go upstairs, change into your workout clothes, get your glass of water, and put in the workout DVD. Follow the instructor on the DVD and 30 minutes later you’ll be done with your workout.

I think this works for a couple reasons – (1) you don’t let yourself get distracted and (2) you get it out of the way early in the night while you still have energy.

It works for me, and I’ve been doing this now for about 5 months. My body has changed, and I have muscular arms, a flatter stomach, and a lot more endurance. Not all workout videos are made equal, though, so I’ll share the ones that I’m using that I feel give you a good overall workout.

  1. Jillian Michaels “Ripped in 30”
  • This video has 4 workouts that go from beginner to advanced. They’re only 20 minutes long, but they include a warm up and cool down, so you get a good 30 minute workout. It’s also very nice that there are 4 different routines in one DVD (not a lot of videos have this many).

2.  The Firm “Pump Jump n Jab”

  • This video has one kickboxing workout, but it’s fantastic for building muscle and cardio endurance at the same time. I do this routine once a week

3.   Jillian Michaels “Extreme Shed and Shred”

  • This video has 2 workouts – one beginner and one advanced. Both are great total body workouts.

I hope this makes exercising easier to fit into your life so you can reach your goals and stick with this lifestyle change. Good luck!

The Third Jesus

Feeding Your Soul

A lot of us attend church on Sundays, focus on God for an hour, and push him to the back of our minds for the rest of the week. And we’re left feeling unsatisfied. Or maybe you’re like me, and you don’t attend church at all, but you feel a nagging sense that something’s missing in your life. You desire to have an inner peace in your soul, but all you feel is out of breath from racing through the mundanities of life.

I’ve felt this longing for inner peace, and I determined the best way to start my quest for a richer spiritual existence was to read a book by someone who had already achieved such enlightenment. Enter “The Third Jesus” by Deepak Chopra.

I’d heard of Deepak Chopra by watching Oprah,  but I’d also heard others refer to him as “a great spitirual leader” as I read and explored more. So I perused his books in Barnes and Noble and settled on “The Third Jesus.” Even though Deepak is Indian (as in from the country of India), he was exposed to Christianity along with Buddhism at a young age. I was surprised that the book dove into the scripture and analyzed Biblical verses on a deeper spiritual level. I expected him to ignore the Bible all together and speak to a more metaphysical experience. However, this fresh approach to scripture intrigued me.

The title “The Third Jesus” comes from the premise that there are three versions of Jesus. The first is the historical Jesus, the man who lived in Galilee and lead a human life. The second Jesus is the Jesus created by the church to manipulate people into following a political agenda. This Jesus is also the “feel good Jesus” the church has created to lull people into believing they can practice a watered down version of Christianity. Finally, the third Jesus is the real Jesus who meant what he said. When he commanded “love your neighbor as yourself,” he didn’t mean “only when you feel like it” as we practice today. He meant “love the terrorists who attacked the Twin Towers because they are your brothers, and you must forgive them.” This is a tall order, and a level of spiritual advancement that most of us will be unable to achieve in this lifetime.

But that’s why I like this book. It asks you to explore Jesus’ teachings on a new and deeper level outside the confines of Christianity. I’ll leave you with an excerpt to get you thinking as you ponder your own spiritual journey –

Jesus did not physically descend from God’s dwelling place above the clouds, nor did he return to sit at the right hand of a literal throne. What made Jesus the Son of God was the fact that he had achieved God-consciousness. Jesus said as much over and over when he said “the Father and I are one.” He knew no separation between his thoughts and God’s thoughts, his feelings and God’s feelings, his actions and the actions God wanted performed.

I highly recommend this book, no matter what religion you are or where you are in your spiritual journey. It is well-written, a reasonable length, and has practical ideas on how you can have a deeper relationship with God. I hope you’ll at least check it out at your library. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Quick and easy organic dinner

NurturIng Your Health 

It’s Sunday night, and exhausted at the end of a busy weekend, the last thing you want to do is whip up a gourmet dinner. But stuffing yourself with chemical-filled, processed Domino’s pizza makes your stomach turn. You search for healthy recipes online, but every meal calls for 20 ingredients that you don’t have in your pantry. Or they take an hour and a half to prepare, and you’re starving now! What to do?

Well, just scroll down for a quick, minimal ingredient, organic recipe, and you’ll have a healthy, budget friendly dinner in no time!

Humlicious Sweet Potato

Total prep time – 7 minutes

Number of ingredients – 3

Serve with an organic green salad. Harris Teeter sells pre-packaged, pre-washed organic lettuce from Earthbound Farm. Pick up a package of baby organic carrots, an organic cucumber, and finally, Annie’s Organic Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Now how easy was that?! I hope you enjoy this dinner, and I’ll keep posting similar recipes so you can eat well when you’re short on time.

Skincare Solutions

Nurturing Your Health

If you’re a woman then I know you’ve encountered skin problems at some point in your life. Some of us suffer from oily skin so shiny that you can see your reflection in our foreheads (gross!) while others of us suffer from acne that just won’t go away. As a teenager, I suffered from both of these issues, and I tried every product sold in Target to clear up my skin. Finally, in college, I tried some of my mother’s Retin-A-Micro cream, and the small, but multiple, bumps that covered my forehead disappeared! However, my clear skin did not come without consequences. When I washed my face, my skin was so raw from the medicine that even a splash of water stung like acid!

Fast forward to today, and at age 28, I still suffer from adult acne – or, I did. The bumps that had plagued me as a teenager reappeared a couple months ago, and so I turned to my trusty friend, Retin-A-Micro to burn them off my face! Pain be damned, I surrendered to my vanity, called my dermatologist, and begged for a prescription of Retin-A-Micro. Luckily, she obliged, and I slathered the cream over my forehead (mind you, they say only use a pea sized amount, but I wanted those bumps gone now!) The burning came as expected, but this time, the bumps didn’t disappear! In fact, they got worse!

So I took a moment and reevaluated my plan of attack. Suddenly my mother’s voice popped into my head, and I heard her saying “non-comedegenic, oil free, sensitive skin.” How simple! I realized I had been irritating my skin with the face wash, lotion, and acne potions I’d been using. My skin was so irritated by now that of course the Retin-A-Micro exacerbated my bumps.

I now knew what I needed to do. I rushed over to Target and headed straight for the natural skincare product aisle. First, I snatched up Burt’s Bees Sensitive Facial Cleanser. It checked all the boxes – hypoallergenic, fragrance free, 99% natural, and non-animal tested. Next, I scoured the shelves for a moisturizing lotion that worked with my naturally oily skin. Found it! Alba Botanica Natural Acnedote Oil Control Lotion – oil free, natural, with 2% salicylic acid. Luckily, I already had a great natural astringent at home – Aubrey Blue Green Algae toner (which I purchased at Whole Foods).

After only 3 days, my skin started to clear! Here’s what I did – I washed my face, followed with the astringent, and then applied a layer of the lotion each night. In the morning, I washed my face and followed with the lotion. I couldn’t believe it! The answer was so simple – use natural, hypoallergenic, oil and fragrance free products.

If you’re struggling with skin issues, I urge you to at least give this system a try. Buy natural, hypoallergenic products, and follow the 3 step system – face wash, toner, and lotion.

Good luck, and I hope you find skin care success!

Fashion Friday

Outfits for real people with real budgets

Simplifying Your Life

Do you ever get frustrated with trying to find clothes? Do you feel exhausted after visiting the mall? I know I do. I feel like I can never find a cute outfit at a good price in my size. Those three stars never seem to align in my universe. Well, have no fear, Your Life in Harmony is here! I’ve decided to devote a post every Friday to cute outfits under $100 (that includes the top, bottoms, and shoes) that you can find online at a well-known store or in your local mall. No obscure, sketchy online stores and no designer outfits that look great but cost a million dollars. These outfits will fit  your budget, your body, and your schedule!

For my first Fashion Friday, I’ve decided to highlight sundresses. I didn’t use to be a “dress girl,” but I’ve since discovered that dresses are great for two reasons – (1) you don’t have to mix and match tops and bottoms and (2) you only have to buy one clothing item, so one “outfit” costs less! Where can you find a great sundress that flatters your figure and your wallet? you ask ……..

American Eagle!

They have tons of cute sundresses under $50! Here’s a really cute one that I plan on ordering myself (see below). Interested in buying? Go here – AE Printed Sundress

For those of you wanting something a little sexier, check out their Halter Corset Dress.

And you can’t beat the prices! The printed sundress retails for $24.99 and the halter corset dress runs $29.99. What a steal!

Pair either dress with these cute nude wedges from Ralph Lauren (only $49 at Macy’s), and you’ve got an outfit for under $100!

Happy shopping!