Friday, August 31, 2012

An Apple A Day

August is the time to get apples from the farmsor in my case, my yard.  I was lucky to buy a home with fully mature apple trees on the property.  In fact, I have several different varieties available and ready for the picking.  I’m not even certain of all the types of apples I am growing, but I can tell you that here in Seattle, “It is a great year for apples."   
nutritional benefits apples
Healthy and sweet there are many types of apples!
I have lived in this house for 4 years, and this year's harvest is the biggest yet. That could mean lower prices for apples at the store.  But if low prices don't make your mouth water for this tasty fruit, then knowing the nutritional benefits will.  So take advantage of our bountiful harvest and, hopefully, great prices.

A Tempting Fruit

First things first… how many calories are in an apple?  A medium apple has about 95 calories and counts as one cup of fruit.

What about the health benefits of apples… Is it true that an apple a day keeps the doctor away? Here are a few of the nutrition facts:
  • Vitamin C – one of the benefits of apples is immune boosting Vitamin C.  Apples provide about 14% of the daily recommended value.  
  • Pectin – a fiber that helps lower blood pressure and sugar levels.
  • Boron -- a nutrient that supports strong bones and a healthy brain.
  • Quercetin--  a powerful antioxidant with anti-histamine effects. This may be a great way  to curb allergy symptoms. Or at least keep those sneezes to a minimum. I don’t think it is an accident that apples come into season at the same time as allergies. 
  • Phytonutrients plant chemicals that help prevent disease. Apples are full of them. They include vitamins A,  E, and beta carotene. They may have an effect on overall health and may reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and asthma.
Just think… all these benefits in one little fruit.  The fiber content, health benefits and how satisfying an apple is make it a great snack.  I’d say these 95 calories are well worth it. Whether you're trying to lose weight or just stay fit, apples are truly a great choice. 

As fresh fruits go, those are some impressive apple nutrition facts!  I think it's safe to say that  an apple a day might just keep the doctor away.

Oh the Variety

It turns out there are about 7,500 varieties of apples. That's a lot of choice! You're bound to find at least one that will satisfy your tastes. Here is a list of just a few of the top favorites, just in case there is one you haven’t tried yet. These varieties are grown here in Washington state. Since we are known for our apples, I thought this would be a good place to start: 
  • Jonathan - sweet and juicy with a tang
  • Gala - sweet and crunchy
  • Fuji - mildly sweet, juicy and crisp
  • Braeburn - firm texture, sweet with a hint of tart
  • Granny Smith - firm and smooth with a tart flavor
  • Red and Golden Delicious - firm and crisp can be very sweet or mildly sweet, depending on the climate where they are grown
  • Honey Crisp - very crispy and juicy, flavor ranges from mildly sweet to very sweet
  • Cameo - a crisp crunch with a deep juicy flavor
  • Cripps Pink - firm and crisp, they have a tangy-tart sweet flavor
apple pie apple crisp
Easy does it with this easy apple dessert.
One of the things I love best about apples is the many tasty apple dessert recipes. From apple pie to apple crisp or plain sliced apples with caramel dip, they're all delicious. But let’s not forget apple cider, a real favorite up here in the Northwest! 

Juicing apples is a great way to get the most from all the nutrients available in this family favorite. Since finding easy apple dessert recipes is well, easy, I thought I would include a juice recipe that my husband and grandson really love! So pull out that juicer you bought but never use, because this is one you'll want to make for yourself!
Yummier Than it Sounds Apple Juice Favorite
5 small to medium apples
3 stalks of celery
2-3 handfuls of spinach
1 small beet
½-1 cup purified water

Drink slowly and truly ENJOY! Have a fabulously clear headed and healthy day! 

Gwendolyn
Contributing Writer

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Alzeheimer's It's More Than a Memory

Don't Face Alzheimer's Alone

The video to the right is not just an ad - it is the reality of about 5.4 million people, not to mention the over 15 million unpaid caregivers responsible for caring for those suffering with Alzheimer's.

(Video from Alzheimers.gov - a free information source about Alzheimers)

When I noticed behavior changes in my mom, I feared she might have Alzheimer's. My grandmother developed Alzheimer's in her seventies. I knew that heredity played a part in Alzheimer's risk. But I didn't know many facts about dementia or Alzheimer's.  Dementia describes a range of symptoms that affect a person's memory and thinking abilities. Alzheimer's disease is one type of dementia and accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, one in eight Americans 65 and over are suffering from Alzheimer's. More than half are women. Every 68 seconds, someone in America develops Alzheimer's. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the US and out of the top ten leading causes, it is the only one that cannot be prevented or cured. About 800,000 people with Alzheimer's live alone, increasing their risk of falls/broken bones, infections, malnutrition and dehydration.

alzheimer's caregiver
Mom, third from the left, staying active with family.
My mom was working part time when she showed symptoms of dementia.  She was having problems with her boss and co-workers, making a lot of mistakes and had job duties taken away. That wasn't like my mom. Before retiring, she managed an office for eighteen years. She helped a small business grow into a multimillion dollar company. She knew her stuff!

Barry Reisberg, M.D. identifies this as part of mild cognitive decline,  third of a seven tiered framework of Alzheimer's stages.  A progressive disease, Alzheimer's symptoms might not be immediately noticeable and people progress at different rates.

Everyone forgets things from time to time. Who hasn't forgotten their next word, or mixed up the names of their own children? But what should you do if you suspect your loved one might be dealing with dementia?

How Do I Know?

There are no screening tests that diagnose dementia. It is diagnosed by reviewing symptoms and ruling out other conditions such as depression, infection, diabetes, brain tumor, small strokes, even certain vitamin deficiencies. It is important to consult a skilled health care provider in order to diagnose dementia.

The Alzheimer's Association lists information for what to expect during an examination and a doctor's office checklist that will help you and your caregiver prepare for your appointment. There are identified risk factors:
  • Close blood relative has Alzheimer's
  • History of head trauma
  • High blood pressure for a long time
  • Being female
  • Being older
  • Have certain genes linked to Alzheimer's, such as APOE epsilon4 allele
Sadly, there is no cure for Alzheimer's. However, there are treatments available that can help slow down the progress of the disease.  Medications can also help manage symptoms and some of the behavior problems associated with dementia.

Many families struggle with the high cost of anti-dementia drugs. Insurance might cover only a portion of the cost. The free FamilyWize discount prescription card helps manage the costs associated with dementia treatment for the following popular anti-dementia medications:
  • Aricept and Aricept ODT
  • Donezepil
  • Exelon
  • Rivastigmine
  • Galantamine
  • Namenda
  • Razadyne and Razadyne ER 
Dementia caregivers should also be aware that these medications and substances can increase confusion.
  • Pain killers
  • Antihistamines
  • Sleeping pills
  • Alcohol
Over the counter and prescription medicines should be carefully monitored and used only with the advise of your doctor.

After my mother fell in our home, injuring her back, the ER doctor prescribed Darvocet for pain. It's a standard pain medication. She became unresponsive to me the next day. She was more confused than normal. We went back to the ER and found that she had a reaction to Darvocet and determined that pain medicines increase her confusion.

I learned quickly to keep print outs of my mom's medications and dosages, along with instructions for what she can/cannot take. I give this to the emergency response team if we call 911, the ER nurse and doctor.

As caregivers, we are our loved one's advocate. I've had to take my mom to the ER many times in the past two years. Sometimes we go to the ER, come home, and go right back because she has taken another fall. For people living with dementia this can be the norm. We are part of our loved one's medical team. It's not only the doctors and nurses who administer treatments. We are a vital part of the decision making and we are the main line of communication between the professionals and our loved one.

Tips for Caregivers
The Alzheimer's Association has many links for caregivers, even caregiver dementia training.
Our previous blog, Tips for Elder Care - The Sandwich Generation  also has many tips and links to help caregivers.

Life's Full of Surprises
Remember that you are not alone when dealing with Alzheimer's. Take time to enjoy the moments that you have. Some days mom doesn't know who I am. I'm the girl who lives here with her.  This can be a heart breaking moment in dealing with Alzheimer's. Don't let it get you down. After all, when we were teenagers and we used to try to act like we didn't know them when out in public! Paybacks are....kinda funny sometimes, actually. Mom and I try to laugh a lot.  We've learned to let go of a lot from the past, but I also have fun getting to know my new daredevil mama who bought herself a new red car earlier this year.
dementia treatment assisted living
It's not a little red corvette, but mom's dealing with dementia in style!

Caroline Carr
Full-time Caregiver and Contributing Writer

































Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Simple Crayon Happiness


Being a Preschool owner you would think I would know the ins and outs of crayons, but not necessarily true.  I do know that children love them mainly because they are colorful and it is something that Moms and Dads let them color with, without any complaints.

that happy feeling
Coloring with crayons always keeps kids happy and imaginative!

Kids can also take their imagination to the next level. If they want a purple puppy they can have one.  What kids don't know is that crayons are great for developing small manipulative skills and eye and hand coordination.  

What I didn't know was that the smell of a crayon stimulates the brain by increasing serotonin and endorphin levels which make you happier and more creative.  If you are happy good things always happen as you open your mind up to many possibilities.  Who would think that the familiar smell of wax you grew up with actually helped you create that masterpiece that  hung on the fridge for everyone to see when you were a kid?

Have you ever noticed that when you smell something familiar it always brings you back to your childhood with pleasant memories?  Scents and memory seem to coincide and work as one when you smell a familiar smell.  I know that when I smell something familiar, the memory of my childhood comes flooding back and gives me that happy feeling inside.

When I smell popcorn I think of my Dad and how he would make us homemade popcorn for desert instead of a bowl of ice cream.  The smell of snails (yes snails) reminds me of playing in my backyard and jumping off the walls where the snails all crawled.  The smell of tar reminds me of a hot summer night, eating missile pops and watching the neighbor's roof being re-shingled.

As for the smell of coloring crayons I would guarantee most of you remember coloring in your coloring book and trying to stay in the lines. Or drawing pictures where only you really knew what the picture was!  The reason for this is that smells leave long lasting impressions in your memory bank and when it is triggered, your memories will come back with just one whiff of a familiar smell.

The sense of smell is a very powerful sense. All the scents that you have come across over the years will always be with you good or bad.  Sometimes it takes a few minutes to remember where you have smelt a certain scent before and other times it comes rushing back and you know exactly where you have smelt that oh so familiar smell before.   

Smelling crayons definitely have a distinctive smell and you will always know it. A test at Yale University actually ranked crayon smell 18 out of 20 for the most recognizable smells amongst American adults. The difference with the familiar smell of a crayon and any other smell is that smelling a crayon actually increases creativity in the human brain, according to Eric Wahl, graffiti artist and international speaker.  Not only will a crayon bring a smile to a child's face but it will also get the juices flowing so your child can create project after project and use their imagination to the fullest.

Best Crayons
Crayola scents
Make your own fun shaped crayons
As a preschool teacher, I'm always looking for the best tools that can withstand and please any preschooler, I recommend Crayola for your crayon needs.  I have bought generic brands in the past and nothing beats Crayola crayons.  Not only are the colors better but they produce brighter pictures.  Other brands don't show up as well and the kids have to press harder to make sure their picture turns out.  The quality can't be beat and kids won't be frustrated wondering why their picture isn't as bright.

Also, do you find yourself picking up little crayon pieces everywhere?  If so don't throw them away!  You can reuse them by melting them yourself. It is a trick I learned over 15 years ago.  Find all your peeled broken crayons and put them into a muffin tin.  These days you can find a lot of cool shaped muffin tins (letters, numbers, hearts, etc..) Place the muffin tin filled with the crayons in a 300 degree oven.  Once the crayons have melted, turn the oven off and let them cool in the oven.  This will keep you from spilling or mixing up the colors if you want them to have swirls.  When the crayons are firm, take them out of the oven and let them cool completely.  You can also place them in the freezer if you want to speed up the process.  Now you have some cool shaped crayons that the kids will love and it adds a little fun to their next art project.

scents crayons
Who has the blue crayon? This gives me that happy feeling.

Marci Psalmonds
Contributing Writer



Monday, August 27, 2012

Skipping Your Medicine - A Prescription for Risk

Your Health and Medicine:  How Stopping or Skipping Medication is a Prescription for Risk

Common sense tells us that when people skip prescribed medication, it can negatively affect their health.  But did you know that when people stop their medicine prematurely it affects the overall medicine costs of the community and average cost of individual prescriptions?

The Non-Adherence Problem

The term used by the pharmaceutical and health industry is medication non-adherence—not adhering to the instructions provided with prescribed medications.  It can take many forms, including:
  • Discontinuing medication  
  • Reducing or skipping dosages  
  • Failing to follow directions 
  • Taking expired medications

skipping prescriptions
Non-adherence of medical prescriptions is rampant and costly.
There are health risks involved with medication non-adherence. For example, discontinuing antibiotics can cause the illness to return and make it difficult for another antibiotic to work effectively the next time. Reducing dosages might not be effective as many dosages are prescribed according to patients' weight. Some medications need to maintain a certain level in the blood stream to be affective. Skipping doses interferes with those levels. Expired medications can lose potency and may not be as effective.

Surprising Statistics

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports about 50 percent of patients do not take medications as prescribed.  A Consumer Reports survey of over 2,000 adults found that: 
  • 16% did not get prescriptions filled the first time.
  • 13% admitted to taking expired medicine.  
  • About 13%  skip doses or even stop taking medicine without doctor’s approval. 
  • 4% share their prescription with another person.
  • 8% split prescription pills to make them last longer without checking with their doctor.
Clearly, non-adherence of medical prescriptions is rampant.  But is this a big deal?

The Risks

Stopping medicine or skipping prescriptions can affect your health  because it increases your chances of becoming sicker.  According to The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), personal healthcare costs often increase as a result of not following prescription instructions.  This is ironic, since a common reason for skipping medication is to save money.

medication costs
Skipping prescriptions is linked to increase in hospitalization.
PhRMA statistics show an increase in hospitalizations, nursing home admissions, doctor appointments, and other healthcare costs that could have been avoided by taking prescriptions as directed.  Hospitalization, re-hospitalization and premature death were more than five times higher for hypertension patients who did not follow prescription instructions than those who did. For patients being treated for heart disease, health complications nearly doubled for those who did not follow prescription instructions. Diabetics who skipped 6 out of 10 doses of their medications were 3.6 times more likely to be hospitalized, compared to patients who followed prescribed treatments. PhRMA also warns of the following problems when we don't don't follow prescription directions.
  • Not following prescription directions is linked to 125,000 deaths each year.
  • The financial cost may be as high as $300 billion per year.
  • It is associated with up to 40% of nursing home admissions.
  • Adds $2,000 annually per patient in physician visit costs.
Many who skip or reduce their medication for financial reasons are in high-risk categories, such as the elderly, lower incomes, and those dealing with a chronic health condition. Increased hospitalization is a burden on public resources. The result is health care costs increases for entire communities.

The Good News - Tips to Reduce Costs

If money is tight, here are two ways to significantly lower your out-of-pocket medication costs without resorting to skipping doses or stopping prescriptions.

1. Request generic drugs.

Ask your doctor if the medication has an approved generic.  In some cases, generics may save up to 75% compared to the brand name version.  When changing to the generic version of a drug, always check first with your doctor.  To find out more about saving with generic drugs, see the FamilyWize article Understanding Generic Drugs.

2. Seek low income prescription assistance.

Medical prescription assistance is available nationwide in the U.S. through government and privately funded programs that are designed for those who cannot afford the cost of prescriptions or who do not have prescription coverage through a health insurance plan. 

To find such resources, perform a search engine query using the phrase “medical prescription assistance in _____” fill in the blank with your community or county name.
 
You can also get help from nationwide resources such as FamilyWize or Partnership for Prescription Assistance.  FamilyWize, whose mission is is to reduce the cost of prescription medicine for children, families, and individuals by $1 billion by the end of 2015, offers a FREE prescription card to those who need prescription assistance.  Find out more at http://familywize.org/.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Friday, August 24, 2012

Beet It!

I don’t know about you, but beets were never at the top of my “Yummy Foods” list.   Don’t get me wrong, I love pickled beets, but the idea of eating a raw beet never held any real appeal.   If you’ve ever had a bite of this richly colored root veggie then you know it has a very "earthy," but sweet flavor, which may appeal to some, but never big in my book.

health benefits of beets
Beets and beet greens fresh
from the garden!
So why would I choose to write about it and sing its merits?  Long story short… my liver was in trouble.   I am a petite person, who grew up in a very toxic area of our great nation.   My liver has fallen victim to the huge amount of toxins we live with in our world today.  Raw beets are one of the natural solutions to my overloaded detoxification system.

Beets Cleanse the Body

They are the perfect tonic for the liver.  Beets work as a blood purifier, and may help prevent various forms of cancer (Journal of the American Nutrition and Dietetics). This was all I needed to know.  My "beet adventure" was on!  Then I learned of the beet's nutritional value and the many other benefits it has to offer and I knew it was just what my body was asking for.

Beets are high in vitamins and minerals, so let’s talk about the health benefits of beets and beet juice.

  • Magnesium - this is your chill out and relax mineral. It helps everything in your body to let out a big sigh and say, "ahhhhhh". Use the tops in particular for this one.  Beet green's nutrition rich tops, like many greens, are loaded with this "chill-lax nutrient." 
  • Potassium - is essential for proper functioning of the heart, kidneys, muscles, nerves, and digestive system. Those are some major players, as far as your body goes. 
  • Fiber - how regular are you? A question plaguing Americans today. It's a little secret we all keep to ourselves, but regularity can be a real challenge. "Beets anybody?" 
  • Phosphorus - great for building strong bones and teeth. Also crucial in helping your bodies utilize fats and carbohydrates. Try a new beet recipe to help improve the strength of your teeth, bones, and body. 
  • Iron - feeling tired? Iron is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies.  Drink some beet root juice and feel the benefits. 
  • Vitamins A, B, and C - build strong eyes.  Help yourself maintain healthy skin, hair, and muscle tone, and boost your immune system. 
  • Beta-carotene - a powerful anti-oxidant. 
  • vegetables health
    These organic beets
    are full of vitamins and minerals!
  • Beta-cyanine - gives beets their color and is a disease-fighting antioxidant.   It may also be the key that helps in fighting cancer. 

You Can't Beet It for Nutritional Value

  1.  Beets Can Contribute to Your Mental Health

  2. Betaine, which is used in certain treatments for depression, can be found in the nutrition list for beets.  You can also eat beets to relax your mind and body.  You see, it contains tryptophan, which contributes to a sense of well-being.

  3. Beets can be used to test stomach acid levels

  4. If you’ve ever eaten a lot of beets or beet juice, you may have noticed a pink hew to your urine.  What could this mean?  It could be a sign of low stomach acid.  Nutritionists use beets and beet juice to test stomach acid levels.  Try it for yourself at home.  Juice some beets with some apples, carrots, and maybe a stalk of celery and see what happens.

  5. Beets are a great Energy Booster

  6. Try some beet salad recipes; cook up some beets; or just learn how to eat beets.  They are low in calories and high in sugar… a great energy boosting combination.  Not to mention, they are filling with few calories… a good recipe for losing a few pounds, which also contributes to an increase in energy levels.
beet recipe
Fresh beet juice with carrots and cucumber!
Yummmm!
The beautiful color of beets also reflects their rich concentration of health-promoting phytonutrient antioxidants, which add free-radical protection to your healthiest way of eating.  They are also rich in folate and manganese.

I’ve learned there are many fantastic tasting ways to eat, drink, and experience beets.  I challenge you to go on your own beet adventure!  You may be surprised, as I was, how much you really can love eating these richly colored, vitamin packed, sweet tasting roots of the earth.  Here is a beet recipe to try!

15-Minute Beets (courtesy of http://www.whfoods.com)
Prep and Cook Time: 5 minute prep; 15 minute cooking
Ingredients:
  • 3 medium beets, about 3" in diameter
  • 1 medium clove garlic, pressed or chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 TBS balsamic vinegar
  • 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Optional:
  • 1 TBS balsamic vinegar
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 TBS chopped dill
  • 1 TBS chopped chives
  • 2 TBS Feta cheese
Enjoy!

Gwendolyn Adams
First Level Raw Nutrition Certification
Advanced Practitioner of Health through Nutrition, Exercise and Education
Yoga, Cycling, Group Exercise and Personal Trainer Certified

Thursday, August 23, 2012

It's Scent-sational!

Rainswept streets, an orange grove, holiday cookies, and soft meadows.  Each of these phrases brings a picture to mind, perhaps a memory from the past and a smell?  Yes, that's right, there are scents associated with most of our experiences.  Who doesn't love a new car smell?  Or the comforting feeling we get from the scents of dinner cooking and dessert baking in the oven? Whether it's the smell itself or the memories they recall, certain scents affect our emotions.

After purchasing our new car a short time ago, my mom said that she always feels happy when she goes for a ride because she loves the new car smell.  Happy?  Can a smell actually affect our mood?  I'll admit, I feel happy when I smell the new car too, but I didn't know why.  Well, according to Alan Hirsch, M.D., director of the The Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, scent and mood are related.

mood smell scents
Favorite scents can alter our moods.
“Tapping into your sense of smell is one of the quickest ways to change your perspective or even your behavior," says Dr. Hirsch.  This is because the limbic system, the part our brain that controls emotion, is connected to the olfactory system.  Researchers at The Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation conducted studies showing that certain odors affect our perception of time, making a wait seem longer or shorter.  Coffee scent made the wait seem shorter while baby powder scent made it seem longer.  So is it a chemical reaction to a smell that can make us happy or even reduce anxiety?  Or does the smell remind us of a past experience where we were happy and more relaxed?

Rachel S. Herz, assistant professor of psychology at Brown University, says that it is the experiences associated with odors that affect our moods.  Odors do not act as drugs that cause us to feel happy or less anxious.  They merely bring up memories of an experience where we felt these emotions.  We must first associate the odor with an experience, then we can recall it when we smell a certain scent at a later time.

Take Me To My Happy Place

Whether it's chemical or psychological, I just want to get to my happy place fast and enjoy it!  So what scents do most people associate with their happy place?  For mom and me it's fresh baked cookies or bread, cinnamon apple, and of course, new car smell!

scent and mood
Scents recall memories that affect mood.
Anyone from the Philadelphia area remembers fondly the smell of Nabisco as they drove by the factory.  For me it brought to mind driving to Phillie's games in the summer, the anticipation of America's favorite sport and the anticipation of maybe eating some Oreos later!  For some it's the smell of fresh cut grass or flowers, although for some that brings on allergies and a not so happy feeling.


What are some recommended scents that can make us feel happy and less anxious and how can we get more of them?

Ooh, Ooh That Smell

  • Flowers        Floral scents increase association with happy emotions.
  • Citrus           Citrus scents can create a happy mood.
  • Peppermint   Increases alertness and lifts mood.
  • Lavender     Soothes anxiety, increases relaxation and reduces pain.

Brew a cup of peppermint tea or bake some cookies.  Add lavender fragrance oils to your next relaxing hot bath.  Citrus-scented candles, shower gels, perfume scents and room fresheners are a great way to get this mood enhancer into your house.  Fresh flowers and potted plants bring these fresh floral scents into our lives.  Use floral-scented potpourri during the winter months.  Mom and I were very happy to find that there is even new car smell air freshener!  We've stocked up on that because you know that smell only lasts for the first month.

Caroline Carr
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Furniture Finds at the Thrift Store

We're buying a house!  Well, sort of... my dad owns a few rental properties and he is getting to the age where he wants to relax and only worry about what my mom is making for dinner.  Can't blame the guy!  To get the peace of mind he is looking for, he is selling one of his rental properties and...I will be buying it! (Hopefully with a daughter discount.)

Budget Furniture Shopping
The shelf, paintings, and bird cage were all
found at a second hand store!
The house has really good bones, but needs A LOT of work--new floors, new carpets, new siding, new appliances; the list I've started is getting looooooong.
However, I am totally up for the challenge!

I love to make things look beautiful and my boyfriend is a welder/fabricator so we are more than capable of taking on the challenge.

Since I'm semi-fresh out of college and haven't learned how to budget money too well and build up my savings account, I know enough to use the money I did save on those core structural items that need to be done.  Even though I would much rather spend it furniture shopping.

The money I will be spending on home furniture is coming from a box of savings bonds my mom has saved for me through the years, which adds up to around $2,000.  Does it sound impossible?  Filling a house with affordable furniture is probable with the help from local thrift stores.


Why Thrift Store Furniture?


It's Not Just Junk - There is a stigma clouding thrift stores that all they are is a roof on top of unwanted items.  So not true!  There are many reasons why these items--mainly furniture--are brought to second hand stores.  For example:

  • People move or have to downsize, the furniture that cannot be taken is deposited at thrift stores where people know it can be resold and go to a good home.
  • People pass away and family can't take or do not want any of their belongings, the thrift store is likely to gain those things too.  
Bottom line - it doesn't mean there is anything wrong with the furniture, it just didn't have a home.

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder -  If you pass by a dresser or shelf that catches your eye, but it's not the color you're looking for or it's missing a knob, don't let that stop you.  There is so much potential in used furniture if you don't mind using a little elbow grease.

Thrift Store Furniture
After stripping the layers of paint that were caked
on this dresser, refurbished furniture can look amazing!

Thrift Store Furniture Don'ts

Even though I'm all about thrift stores and would buy groceries there if I could, there are some things to keep in mind when you venture out to buy cheap furniture.

Mattresses- Hmmmm. You might want to pass.  Even though a new mattress is on the expensive side , mattresses are best when not second hand.  With the whole bedbug craze, it has taught us that we are never alone in bed!  I suggest splurging on new because peace of mind is included in the price.
  • Couches- Need a new couch? Proceed with caution! With the living room being the most used room and the house and the couch getting the brunt of it, make sure you zoom in on the couch you're thinking about buying.  If it visually looks like it's in good shape with no rips or stains and it's sturdy, you can make it yours if the price is right.  If it has a good frame, but has an outdated pattern, there is an easy fix.  Buy or make slip covers and it will look like a million bucks.
  • For more used furniture don'ts, check out this How to Buy Used Furniture article by Quickanddirtytips.com

More Ways to Fill Your House

Get to Know Craig and His List-  If you can't seem to find that perfect piece you are looking for, you should check out Craigslist.org.  It is a huge online community bulletin board where people post things they are selling in your area.  One of the categories hitting close to home for me is -- appliances.  It is often difficult to find appliances at second hand stores.  Plus they are heavy and it is not often worth the effort to take them to a thrift store.  We resorted to Craigslist.  I hopped on the computer and skimmed Craigslist.  I found an awesome stainless steel refrigerator that a guy was selling for $400 bucks because he bought a bigger one.  Being the thrifty person that I am, I negotiated the price down to $350 and we picked it up that night.   I looked up the retail price and the same refrigerator "new" would have cost over $1,000.  We are pretty sure we got a good deal!  You can find almost anything and everything on Craigslist.  If you're looking for a hard to find part for your car or even a Barbie to add to your collection, start here.  
thrift shopping
All these yard sale end tables needed was a good sanding,
white paint, and little black spray paint!

Yard Sales - I LOVE a good yard sale primarily because of the prices.  Thrift stores are often a resource for a charity to raise money and their items are priced accordingly.  And although the prices are low, they are high compared to the prices at yard sales.  People who have yard sales just want to get rid of their stuff!  The goal is to not have to bring it back into their house!  You can find really good deals at yard sales and they are the perfect place to try out your negotiating skills!

If you have some awesome thrift store finds or tips on buying second hand furniture, please share!

Krysta W.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Children's Eye Health and Safety Month

eye health
Keep Those Blue Eyed Beauties Healthy!
August is Children's Eye Health and Safety Month.  This coincides nicely with children going back to school making sure their eye health is the best it can be for school.   

Eye health is important because a child who has problems paying attention in class simply may be a result of the student having trouble seeing, not because they don't want to learn.  

Visually impaired students may get easily frustrated during class thus giving up on their school work.  Why would they want to try and do something if they are not able to see what is going on?  If there is a problem, often times students won't say anything either because of embarrassment of needing glasses or they may not feel socially confident.   This may cause them to struggle in school, sports, and especially in reading.  

Signs of Eye Problems
Knowing that your child has good eye health and is not visually impaired is sometimes hard to know.  If a child has had bad eyesight since birth they may not notice the difference and therefore are not prone to saying anything. Studies show that at birth, 25% of infants are near-sighted, 50% are far-sighted, and 25% need no refractive correction.  It is up to you as a parent to notice the signs of poor eyesight and get children an annual eye test with an optometrist.  Here are some common signs you may observe if your child has eye problems or any eye conditions that need to be addressed.
  • Squinting 
  • Constant blinking
  • Seeing double
  • One eye turning in
  • Rubbing the eyes constantly
  • Losing focus easily when they are reading
  • Getting frequent headaches
  • Constantly losing their place when reading 
Some of you may be wondering what is visually impaired?  Being visually impaired can range from having a partial problem in seeing to blindness.  Some people are born with it and others become sight impaired over time.  Still others may have suffered eye injuries or diseases of the eyes that caused vision problems.

Keeping Your Child's Eyes Healthy

In my preschool, I had a three year old that was constantly squinting in class, but never complained that he couldn't see.  His parents took him to the eye doctor for an eye exam and sure enough they found out that he was visually impaired and needed glasses.  When he came to school for the first time wearing his glasses I asked if he could see better and he said "Everything is SOOOOO crisp now Mrs. Marci!!!"  First I started laughing because of the word he used to describe how well he could see; and then I smiled from ear to ear knowing that he was so excited to see like his other friends.  Instead of the glasses giving him a complex like most people may think; it did the complete opposite.  He was more confident.  He was just happy to see and nothing else mattered.  All the kids thought he was so cool because he got to wear glasses and even a few kids went home asking to get glasses, too.  Not to mention he sure looked cute in them.

As your child gets older you need to stay up on their eye exams.  By age 10, the percentages drops to 8% on nearsighted , 6% farsighted, and 86% need no refractive correction.  This is awesome, however your child may be that small percent much like our oldest.  We took her for her yearly eye exam when she was 12 and found out that she had a slight astigmatism.  We thought this was odd since her father and I have perfect 20/20 vision.  So don't think because your eyesight is good that your child's will be good, too.  We are living proof that it isn't always true.  Now by the age of 15, they change again and the percentages rise to 15%, 6%, and 79% respectively.  It is very important to have annual eye exams to make sure your child is seeing correctly.

The eyes are very complex and need to be protected at all times to prevent eye injury.  With children that can be difficult since they just love to be rough and tough; and they have no fear.  There are several different kinds of eye injuries and diseases that can cause a child to become blind or sight impaired.  The most common injuries that your child may get is a scratch to the eye or eyelid or maybe a black eye, which is usually caused by innocent playing and not paying attention to what they are doing.  More extreme injuries include a scratch or injury to the cornea called corneal abrasion, a lodged object into the eye, hyphema or blood in the front part of the eye, a broken bone surrounding the eye, chemical burns,or long term UV radiation.  Some of the more extreme injures can be prevented if you teach children about eye protection and you are more cautious at an early age.   Here are some suggestions that may help.
  • Wear glasses when in the sun.
  • Wear safety goggles if they are in the garage working with someone. (They will think its cool and grown-up.)
  • Keep fingernails trimmed and short. (Babies are always scratching their faces and eyes.)
  • Wash hands after doing art projects and crafts. (This helps keeps all chemicals and fragments out of eyes.)
  • Cover sharp furniture edges with protective covers
  • Teach them not to run, but move slowly with sharp objects -- scissors, pens, pencils, etc....
  • Keep them away if the someone is mowing or weed eating the yard.
  • Keep away from fireworks. ( Did you know that a Sparkler can burn at 2,000 degrees?  See our 4th of July blog.)
  • Keep eyes moist with eye drops if they always seem dry. (Click here for coupon)
One last tip for keeping your child's eyes in tip-top shape is to take Omega-3's.  It is a family of fatty acids essential to maintaining overall health and is especially important to help protect eye health.

Marci
Contributing Writer
Training Wheels Preschool Owner

Monday, August 20, 2012

Understanding Generic Drugs

Answers to Four Common Questions about Generic Medications

prescriptions drugs
Generic medications save consumers 80% to 85%.
Below are some of the most common questions that people have regarding generic drugs:
  • Do generic drugs really save me money?
  • Are generic drugs a safe substitute for name brand drugs? Are generic medications the same quality?
  • Why is a generic medication sometimes not available for a brand name drug that I need?
  • How do I find or get generic medicines in place of a brand-name drug?
  • What prescription drug insurance issues must I be aware of?
Let’s take a look at these five common questions (or, as the case may be, misunderstandings) about generic drugs so you can be informed when you go to your pharmacist or doctor.

1.  Do generic medications really save me money?

Oh, yes!  The average amount saved by U.S. consumers monthly by purchasing a generic medicine rather than a brand name drug with their prescription is $3 billion every week, according to a September 2011 economic analysis of generic drug use by the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA).  That’s $158 billion that Americans save each year with generic drugs!

How much you save personally from switching to generic drugs will depend on how many drugs you use and whether the brand name prescriptions you use are available in generic form.   But the savings can be substantial; Generic medications are up to 90 percent less expensive than their name-brand prescription equivalents, and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) reports that on average, the generic drug will cost you 80-85 percent less than the brand name product.

2. Why is a generic medication sometimes not available for a brand name drug that I need?

Most pharmaceutical companies get a patent for the drugs that they develop.  Until that patent expires, their drug will only be available legally (i.e., without patent infringement) under their own manufacturing: their own brand name.  This is why just half of the brand-name drugs on the market are currently available in generic form.

While this may seem unfair from our perspective as consumers, the cost of research, development, and patent approval are enormous for any new drug entering the U.S. market.  The patent protection allows the drug manufacturer to recoup its investment before any other company can manufacture or distribute the drug as a generic equivalent to the original name-branded drug.

This also explains why a generic drug can be sold for so much less; the manufacturer of the generic drug only pays for the cost of making the drug, not the cost of research and FDA approvals. 

3.  How do I find or get generic medicines in place of a brand-name drug prescriptions?

In most cases, you must simply ask your pharmacist if the drug you’ve been prescribed has a generic equivalent.  If it’s made in generic form, the pharmacy usually carries it or can order it for you.
Some pharmacists will ask if you want the generic drug instead, but this is not always the case.  So, be sure to ask!

4.  What prescription drug insurance issues must I be aware of?

    Almost none.  Most health insurance companies that provide prescription drug insurance benefits cover generic medications at the same rates of out-of-pocket versus covered amounts as they do with name brand prescription.

    Insurance companies benefit from the savings of generic drugs just as much or even more so than we do and often get involved  in advocacy for more generic drug availability, especially now that so much research, data, and evidence support the facts that generic medications are cheaper and as reliable as name brand drugs.
    medicine name brand drugs
    Insurance companies advocate for generic drug availability.

    Summary: Generic Drugs Are Both Safe and Good Economics!

    Most data, not just government sourced, supports the facts; you can safely control health costs for you and your family by using generic drugs to substitute for the name brand drugs prescribed by your doctor.  

    Want to dig deeper?  Check out these resources:
    And while you’re working for ways to trim your prescription costs, make sure you’ve printed out your FREE FamilyWize prescription card.  Show it to your pharmacist to save even more!  Generics are less than name brand drugs and with FamilyWize, you'll save up to 75% on your generic medications!

    Friday, August 17, 2012

    Plum Healthy

    Plum nutritional benefits
    Fresh plums from the local farm!
    My personal motivation for knowing so much about what foods have to offer is based on my quest for health.   Good health is something that most people take for granted, but there are those of us that are more “health challenged”.   Therefore, getting the most from the foods we eat becomes imperative.  So for those who need, or would like, to take their health; energy level; and external beauty up a notch, I invite you to learn about the benefits of what you are putting into YOUR body.

    As I have studied through the years and continue to do so, I am amazed at all the wonderful fruits, we have that can help us live better in so many ways.  This includes the many benefits of eating Plum Fruit.  The plum tree can produce many different colors of plums like:  yellow, green, purple - also known as red plum fruit.  The plum nutritional benefits really are worth knowing, so here is a quick rundown:
    1. Eating plums may reduce your chances of contracting heart disease… the number one killer in this country.   Plums have certain cleansing agents that keep the blood pure and prevent complications of the heart.  That one plum nutrition fact is a “biggy”. 
    2. Ladies, this next one is good for you to know, in particular, because we lose this mineral each month during our fertile years.  Consumption of plums, and prunes, helps in the production and absorption of iron in the body.  This also leads to improved blood circulation, which increases the growth of healthy tissues.  And for those of you who struggle with anemia, eating plums may be even more helpful. 
    3. Researchers have found that plums have anti-cancer agents that may help prevent the growth of cancerous cells and tumors in the body.  With cancer rates on the rise, eating “on purpose” becomes even more important. 
    4. Fresh plums are rich in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant.  Consumption of foods high in vitamin C help body in resisting infectious agents; decreasing inflammation; and in scavenging harmful free radicals.  The benefits of vitamin C are so extensive, I could dedicate the whole blog to the merits of eating foods rich in this nutrient. 
    5. A piece about plums, or prunes-the dried version of plum fruit, would be incomplete if we didn’t bring up the dreaded subject of “constipation.”  There are compounds in plum fruits, such as the fiber and sorbitol, that are known to help regulate the functioning of the digestive system.  So drink your prune juice “regularly”...and you’ll stay that way, too! 
    6. Plum juice concentrate has also been shown to be effective in preventing and reducing human influenza A, so drinking this during "flu season" may be a great first line of defense. 

    Savory plum recipes

    The plums nutritional benefits can be found in more than just the fresh fruit.   I would be remiss if I didn't wrap this up with a list of some of the wonderful plum recipes using this fabulous fruit:
    Plums Fruit
    These bit sized plums are a sweet snack!
    • Plum sauce
    • Plum Wine
    • Plum Pudding
    • Prune Juice
    • Plum Compote

    Wash your fruits first

    Please keep in mind, conventionally-grown stone fruits (ex: plums, apricots, pluots) are often coated with a petroleum-derived wax containing a fungicide to prolong their shelf life, a chemical substance that simply cannot be washed off!  And that is in addition to any pesticides that may have been sprayed during their cultivation.  Whenever possible, seek out organically-grown plums.  That way you ensure the farmers who grew plum trees and other fruit trees are dedicated to sustainability, your health and the quality of their product.  And you are supporting local farmers in your own community!

    There are many more health benefits to eating the delicious, succulent Plum Fruit.  So the next time you take a bite into a fresh plum be sure and take the time to pat yourself on the back for making a wise and healthy choice.   Let’s add plums to our grocery list!

    Here is a great recipe I found on the web because as we approach fall - any type of fruit crisp smells and tastes so good.

    Raw Plum Crisp by Diane Stobo

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qF63ezSd-5g


    Gwendolyn Adams
    First Level Raw Nutrition Certification
    Advanced Practitioner of Health through Nutrition, Exercise, and Education
    Yoga, Cycling, Group Exercise and Personal Trainer Certified

    Thursday, August 16, 2012

    Five Stay-Cool Pool Savings Tips

    Most of the year, the phrase “Stay cool” makes a person nostalgic, reminded of that most common of wisdoms written in high school yearbooks.  But with many of our readers living through one of the hottest summers on record, “staying cool” is just wishful thinking … unless you’re lucky enough to be one of the 10.5 million U.S. households1 who already have an in-ground or above-ground pool.  If you are, then you know what a blessing it can be to walk out your door and take a refreshing plunge on a hot day. 
    Pool Savings
    Above-ground pool or built-in pool? A tough choice.
    But if you’re one of the remaining 114 million households2 who do not, then each heat wave serves as yet a another reminder that you don’t have your own pool—above ground or built-in.  Is that you?  If so, then you may be already seeking ways to justify a swimming pool purchase  to help you and your family douse the fiery heat this summer. 

    Stink or swim? Don’t sweat it!

    Here’s some good news; the idea of “Cheap pools” is no April fools joke!   There are indeed many ways to make your pool-cool dream a reality.  Use even just one of these five money-saving pool buying tips and getting that cool splash in your own back yard could happen this summer.

    Solution #1: Above ground pools

    Above-ground pools were all the rage in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but they are gaining in popularity today in many communities because they offer so many benefits. 
    • The most obvious benefit:  cost savings.  Above ground pools are cheaper pools.  Not only are the raw materials significantly cheaper for above-ground pools, but installing one can be a do-it-yourself project, saving you tons over the cost of hiring a contractor and a crew to build an in-ground pool.
    • An above-ground pool is less disruptive to the environment, since you’re not displacing and removing earth, as you must for an in-ground pool.
    • Above-ground pools are portable pools!  If you’re not sure how long you’ll be at your current address, definitely consider a pool above ground; not only is a built-in pool an unreliable investment for property value reasons, but (stop me if you’ve heard this) you can’t take it with you when you go.  That is, not unless you are smart enough to go above ground in your planning. 
    For a more in-depth look into the advantages of an above-ground pool, read this PoolGear Plus article or this article at Pool Solutions for a look at both the ad- and disadvantages of an above-the-ground pool.

    Solution #2: Think small, save big

    Think about this for a moment; who in your family will most use a pool if you buy one? For most families, it’s the kids who take the plunge most often.  If that’s the case for you, and if your children are very young, consider going to your local toy store and picking up an inflatable pool.  Advantages of these blow-up pools:
    • Inflatable pools take just minutes to set up or take down.
    • Inflatable pools require the least amount of water.
    • Inflatable pools cost the least of any pool solution. 
    It may be a sufficient solution to cool down the kids, and save you a bundle in the process.

    Solution #3: Go hybrid with an In-ground vinyl

    Like any in-ground pools, the vinyl-lined in-ground pool begins with a big hole but...after adding some reinforcing framing of wood or other material, the hole is lined with a vinyl material similar to the walls of a standard above-ground pool.

    While more expensive than an above-the-ground pool, a vinyl-lined in-ground pool is much cheaper than a typical in-ground pool.  Of course, it’s also less sturdy; the lining typically needs replacing after 10 years.  But the lower up-front cost gives you all the benefits of an in-ground swimming pool without the upfront dent in your budget—particularly worth considering for those whose current finances are recessed, but likely to improve with time.

    Solution #4: Consider a Saltwater pool

    Save Money on Pools
    Cool Savings on Pools!
    If you are considering taking the plunge financially with an in-ground pool, take a good look first at our previous FamilyWize blog about Salt Water Pools.  There are both cost and health benefits of saltwater pools over traditional chlorine pools.

    Solution #5: Be shallow and save!

    When you make your plan for an in-ground pool, consider that the greater the depth, the greater the cost—not only to have your pool built and installed but to maintain it as well. 

    So ask yourself how you plan to use your pool:
    • Do you have a budding Olympic diver in your family? If yes, then you need a deep pool.  But you may be able to save by shortening the shallow end.
    • Is it primarily for exercise, such as doing laps?  If so, doing laps doesn’t require a deep-end at all.
    • Do you plan to use it mostly for water sports, such as water polo, Marco Polo, or water volley ball?  For most water sports like these, a deep end makes it difficult or impossible to play.   Plan for a more even pool depth and you’ll increase enjoyment and save money.

    Resources and statistics for further research

    To see the resources used in this article or to get more information on saving money on outdoor pools, take a look at the following links:
    Whatever option you go with be sure to stay cool this summer!

    If you have a pool, please share what type of pool you have and why you like it! Share a picture of your pool and friends on our Facebook page -  Facebook.com/familywize.

    1The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals estimates 10,573,780 in ground and above ground pools in the contiguous 48 states and Washington DC.
    2Number of U.S. households: see   www.census.gov.

    Ric Moxley
    Contributing Writer