Archive | July, 2014

New Student Special at the Movement Center

Posted on 09 July 2014 by Jason

New Student Special
Hatha yoga weaves together body, mind and breath into a practice that teaches us how to live in harmony with our total environment. The result is a healthier body, an adaptable mind, emotional clarity and a connection to the stillness at the heart of our being.
The Movement Center Yoga Studio offers classes to suit a broad range of levels and interests—everything from basics to vigorous hatha classes, prenatal to dynamic seniors yoga, specialty classes, private sessions, workshops, teacher training and more.
Enjoy the first two weeks of yoga in their beautiful meditation and retreat center in the heart of Portland for only $29. This one-time introductory offer starts when you go in for your first class. Sign up online at

Location: 1021 NE 33rd Ave., Portland. 503-231-0383. For more information and to sign up for classes visit

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Anyone Can Sing! at New Vox Academy

Posted on 09 July 2014 by Jason

Anyone Can Sing! at New Vox Academy
Indeed, singing is our birthright, according to voice teacher and performer Sarah Brooks. She admits many are curious about singing but may have been shut down by harmful comments like “just be quiet” or “you can’t sing.” This may have put a person’s inner critic into overdrive, and a natural desire to vocalize became stifled.
Brooks is confident that when we drop our inner critic, we can explore singing with curiosity and freedom. “As we let go of our ideals of perfection, come into “the present moment” and explore in a non-judgmental way, we can find our authentic voice,” states Brooks.
Learning to sing means stretching the voice in a healthy way without hurting ourselves. It involves releasing tension, maximizing the power of correct breathing and finding our full resonance through various fun exercises, with the help of a skilled, supportive teacher. Whether a true beginner who sings only in the shower or a performer who’d like some helpful tools, anyone can dive into singing lessons. Learning to free our unique, authentic voice is a wonderfully transformative process.
Brooks is a graduate from TVI’s Apprentice-Teacher Program and has been singing/performing for over 25 years. She says, “I love teaching and love my students!” Her lessons have been described as fun, encouraging, unique, helpful, energizing, transformative and brilliant.

For private voice lessons and summer specials, contact Brooks at 503-235-4001 or email VoxAcademy, formerly known as TVI, is located in SE Portland.

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Shake the Hands That Grow Your Food

Posted on 08 July 2014 by Jason

Shake the Hands That Grow Your Food
Ah, summertime, and the living is easy. So is eating healthy! When seeking healthy and natural food choices, look no further than local farms. At this time of year, it’s easy to find a huge variety of fresh foods produced right here in the Portland area. When buying food directly from local growers, we not only get the tastiest fruits and veggies ever, we also reap great health benefits. We are getting an abundance of naturally occurring vitamins and antioxidants found only in fresh-picked food.
And that’s not all. It’s also helping to keep local farmers farming. To know exactly where our food comes from and who grows it, Tri-County Farms makes it easy to find a nearby farm. Simply use their handy search tool, found at It’s mind boggling—there are actually hundreds of farm fresh products at over 60 locally owned and operated farms. They have every local crop imaginable—from berries to eggs, and veggies to meats.
Folks who don’t mind getting their hands dirty can head out to one of the many U-pick patches for an outing under the big, blue sky and a taste of a true farm experience. In a hurry? No sweat. Many farm locations feature retail markets where people can pick up their favorites. Either way, summer is a great time to visit a farm and shake the hands that grow your food.


For more information, visit

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Support Uganda’s LGBT Community: Attend Portland Screening of Call Me Kuchu

Posted on 08 July 2014 by Jason

Support Uganda’s LGBT Community: Attend Portland Screening of Call Me Kuchu
On Thursday, July 10, QDoc and Dharma Rain Zen Center will co-sponsor an important screening of the award-winning film Call Me Kuchu at the Hollywood Theatre at 7 p.m. Call Me Kuchu grants unprecedented access into the lives of David Kato and other Ugandan LGBT activists as they struggle against the rise of homophobia and anti-gay legislation in the wake of visits to Uganda by radical American Christian evangelists, including former Oregonian, Scott Lively. Hailed as “horrific and uplifting, [an] excellent documentary” (NPR), this screening comes at a crucial time after Uganda’s passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in February, which further strips LGBT individuals of their basic human rights.

Call Me Kuchu has won numerous international awards, including most recently the 2014 GLAAD Award for Outstanding Documentary. Two Ugandan activists featured prominently in the film will be in attendance for a Q&A panel following the screening. They will join leaders of Portland’s LGBT and religious communities in an effort to correct the egregious message carried to Uganda in 2009 by radical American Christian activists. This will be the first time the film has screened at a Portland theater.
“Feels like Paris Is Burning by way of The Battle of Algiers.” ~ Anthony Kaufman, The Village Voice


Tickets are $8. The Hollywood Theatre is located at 4122 NE Sandy Blvd., Portland. To underwrite this event, please contact David Robinson at 503-201-1418.

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Stewards of Earth’s Bounty Organic Farmers Sow Seeds of Change by Melinda Hemmelgarn

Posted on 08 July 2014 by Jason

From epidemic childhood obesity and rising rates of autism and food allergies to the growing risks of pesticides and climate change, we have many reasons to be concerned about the American food system. Fortunately, many heroes among us—family farmers, community gardeners, visionaries and activists—are striving to create a safer and healthier environment now that will benefit future generations. Recognizing and celebrating their stellar Earth stewardship in this 2014 International Year of Family Farmers, Natural Awakenings is spotlighting examples of the current crop of heroes providing inspiration and hope. They are changing America’s landscape and the way we think about the ability of good food to feed the future well.


Doug Crabtree and Anna Jones-Crabtree, of Vilicus Farms, in Havre, Montana, are reviving crop biodiversity and pollinator habitat on their organic farm in northern Montana. “We strive to farm in a manner that works in concert with nature,” Doug explains.


The couple’s actions live up to their farm’s Latin name, which means “steward”. They grow 15 nourishing crops on 1,200 acres, including flax, buckwheat, sunflower, safflower, spelt, oats, barley and lentils, without pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers. By imitating natural systems, planting diverse crops and avoiding damaging chemical inputs, they are attracting diverse native pollinators, he notes. Their approach to farming helps protect area groundwater, streams, rivers and even oceans for future generations.


Dick and Diana Dyer, of Dyer Family Organic Farm, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, finally realized their lifelong dream to farm in 2009, each at the ripe age of 59. The couple grows more than 40 varieties of garlic on 15 acres; they also grow hops and care for honeybees. In addition, they provide hands-in-the-soil training to a new generation of dietetic interns across the country through their School to Farm Program, in association with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Diana, a registered dietitian, teaches her students to take the “We are what we eat” adage a step further. She believes, “We are what we grow.”


“Like nearly everyone else, most dietetic students are disconnected from Mother Earth, the source of the food they eat. They don’t learn the vital connections between soil, food and health,” says Diana. During a stay on the Dyer farm, she explains, “The students begin to understand how their food and nutrition recommendations to others can help drive an entire agricultural system that promotes and protects our soil and water, natural resources and public health.” It all aligns with practicing their family farm motto: “Shaping our future from the ground up.”


Mary Jo and Luverne Forbord, of Prairie Horizons Farm, in Starbuck, Minnesota, raise Black Angus cattle, grazed on certified organic, restored, native prairie pastures. Mary Jo, a registered dietitian, welcomes dietetic students to the 480-acre farm to learn where food comes from and how to grow it without the pesticides that contribute to farmers’ higher risk for certain cancers. “We must know the true cost of cheap food,” she insists.


Most recently, they planted an organic orchard in memory of their son, Joraan, who died of cancer in 2010 at the age of 23. Joraan’s orchard is home to thriving, health-supporting apple, apricot, cherry and plum trees, plus native aromatic berries. It also injects fresh life into the community. Each spring, the Forbords celebrate their son’s birthday by “waking up” his orchard. His mother explains: “People of all ages gather—an assortment of our friends, Joraan’s friends and their growing families, neighbors, relatives, co-workers, students and others—to keep his legacy growing. The incredible community support keeps us going.”


Tarrant Lanier, of the Center for Family and Community Development (CFCD) and Victory Teaching Farm, in Mobile, Alabama, wants all children to grow up in safe communities with access to plenty of wholesome food. After working for nearly two decades with some of South Alabama’s most vulnerable families, Lanier wanted to “provide more than a crutch.” In 2009, she established the nonprofit CFCD organization, dedicated to healthy living. Within five years, she had assembled a small, but hard-working staff that began building community and school gardens and creating collaborative partnerships.


Recently, the group established the Victory Teaching Farm, the region’s first urban teaching farm and community resource center. “The farm will serve as an onsite experience for children to learn where their food comes from and the reasons fresh, organically grown food really matters to our health,” says Lanier. However, “This is just the tip of the iceberg for us. Ultimately, we’d like to be a chemical-free community through advocating for reduction and elimination of pesticide and chemical use in schools, hospitals, households and local parks and ball fields.”


Lanier aims to help improve on Alabama’s low national ranking in the health of its residents. “I love our little piece of the world, and I want future generations to enjoy it without fearing that it’s making us sick,” she says. “We are intent on having a school garden in every school, and we want to see area hospitals establish organic food gardens that support efforts to make people healthier without the use of heavy medications.”


Lanier further explains: “We see our victory as reducing hunger and increasing health and wellness, environmental sustainability and repair, community development and beautification, economic development and access to locally grown food, by promoting and creating a local food system.”


Don Lareau and Daphne Yannakakis, of Zephyros Farm and Garden, in Paonia, Colorado, grow exquisite organic flowers and vegetables for farmers’ markets and community supported agriculture members in Telluride and the Roaring Fork Valley. Recently, the couple decided to take fewer trips away from their children and homestead, and instead bring more people to their 35-acre family farm to learn from the land and develop a refreshed sense of community.


From earthy farm dinners and elegant weddings to creative exploration camps for children and adults and an educational internship program, these family farmers are raising a new crop of consumers that value the land, their food and the people producing it. The couple hopes to help people learn how to grow and prepare their own food, plus gain a greater appreciation for organic farming.


“The people that come here fall into a farming lifestyle in tune with the sun and moon, the seasons and their inner clock—something valuable that has been lost in modern lifestyles,” notes Lareau, who especially loves sharing the magic of their farm with children. “Kids are shocked when they learn that carrots grow underground and surprised that milk comes from an udder, not a store shelf.”


Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens, of Lakeview Organic Grain, in Penn Yan, New York,  grow a variety of grains, including wheat, spelt, barley, oats and triticale,  plus peas, dark red kidney beans and edamame soybeans, along with raising livestock on about 1,400 acres. Their family farm philosophy entails looking at the world through a lens of abundance, rather than scarcity, and working in cooperation with their neighbors instead of in competition. The result has been a groundswell of thriving organic farmers and a renewed sense of community and economic strength throughout their region.


The Martens switched to organic farming after Klaas had experienced partial paralysis due to exposure to pesticides, compounded by concern for the health of their three children. Because the Martens work in alliance with nature, they’ve learned to ask a unique set of questions. For example, when Klaas sees a weed, he doesn’t ask, “What can we spray to kill it?” but, “What was the environment that allowed the weed to grow?”


Anne Mosness, in Bellingham, Washington, began fishing for wild salmon with her father during one summer after college. The experience ignited a sense of adventure that led her back to Alaska for nearly three decades, as a crew member and then a captain in the Copper River and Bristol Bay fisheries. During that time, Mosness became a passionate advocate for protecting coastal communities and ecosystems. “Like farm families on land, fishing families face many risks and uncertainties,” but she believes, “political forces may be even more damaging to our livelihoods and wild fish.”


For example, “We are replicating some of the worst practices of factory farming on land in our marine environment with diseases, parasites and voluminous amounts of pollution flushing into our coastal waters,” explains Mosness. She’s also concerned about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s potential approval of genetically engineered (GMO) fish without adequate health and environmental assessments, and she works to support GMO labeling so consumers can make informed choices in the marketplace.


Melinda Hemmelgarn, aka the “food sleuth”, is a registered dietitian and award-winning writer and radio host at, in Columbia, MO ( She advocates for organic farmers at

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Fracking versus Food America’s Family Farm Heritage and Health at Stake by Harriet Shugarman

Posted on 08 July 2014 by Jason

What if farmers couldn’t confirm what they grow and produce was devoid of toxins, cancer-causing chemicals, radioactive materials and other pollutants?


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other federal and state agencies set standards and enforce regulations to ensure what we eat is safe and that production is secure. But hydraulic fracturing, or fracking and its accompanying infrastructure, threatens this. Questions must be raised and answered before the safety of our food supply is permanently impacted.


Conditions that Demand Changes


*No federal funding exists for researching the impacts of chemical contamination from oil and gas drilling and accompanying infrastructure on food and food production.


*No public tests are required for what contaminants to look for because many of the 500 plus chemicals used in the fracking process are categorized as proprietary.


*Minimal to no baseline analysis is being done on air, water and soil conditions before oil and gas companies come into a new area.


*No commonly agreed distances are lawfully required between farms, farmlands, rivers, streams and water supplies in relation to oil and gas wells and associated infrastructure.


Compounding Crises


Harsh economic conditions, plus concerns over long-term climate changes including extreme weather events, have pitted neighbors against one another as farmers consider leasing their lands to oil and gas companies. Very often the riches promised do not make their way to the farmers that need them the most. American policies favoring megalithic agribusinesses continue to push farming families into unsustainable choices.


Standard leases rarely provide broad protections for farmers and can even take away their ability to control the siting of access roads, well pads, pipelines and compressors on their property, all of which can hamper normal farming. In Pennsylvania, where fracking is commonplace, thousands of diesel trucks drive by working farms daily, compounding problems already associated with 24/7 vibrations, noises, emissions and light pollution, stressing both humans and farm animals.


In New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Ohio, farmers that have or are near leased land are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain mortgages, re-mortgage property and acquire or renew insurance policies. Caught up in a vicious cycle, some farmers feel forced to abandon their farms, thus opening up more land for leases to oil and gas companies.


“Fracking is turning many rural environments into industrial zones,” observes Jennifer Clark, owner of Eminence Road Farm Winery, in New York’s Delaware County. She notes that we often hear a lot about the jobs fracking might create, but we hear little about the agricultural jobs being lost or the destruction of a way of life that has been integral to America’s landscape for generations.


Asha Canalos, an organic blueberry and heirloom vegetable farmer in Orange County, New York, is among the leaders in the David versus Goliath battle pitting farmers and community members against the Millennium Pipeline Company and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. On May 1, oral arguments were heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals. According to Canalos, “Our case could set a national precedent, with all the attending legal precedent, that will either empower other farmers and communities like myself and Minisink or will do the opposite.”


In January 2013, more then 150 New York chefs and food professionals sent a letter to Governor Cuomo calling for a ban on fracking in their state. As of December 2013, more then 250 chefs have signed on to the Chefs for the Marcellus campaign, which created the petition. In April 2014, Connecticut chefs entered the fray by launching their own petition to ban the acceptance of fracking waste in Connecticut.


In California, this past February farmers and chefs banded together to present Governor Brown with a petition calling for a moratorium on fracking, stating that fracking wastes huge amounts of water. The previous month California had declared a statewide drought emergency and by April Governor Brown issued an executive order to strengthen the state’s ability to manage water. Ironically, existing California regulations don’t restrict water use by industrial processes, including fracking which uses and permanently removes tremendous amounts of water from the watercycle. To date, fracking in California operates with little state regulation.

It’s past time for a “time out” on oil and gas production and infrastructure development. Every citizen needs to think carefully and thoughtfully about what’s at stake as outside interests rush to use extreme forms of energy extraction to squeeze the last drops of fossil fuels from our Mother Earth.


Activist Harriet Shugarman, a veteran economist and policy analyst and former representative for the International Monetary Fund at the United Nations, currently chairs regional environmental committees and works with national, state and local organizations seeking pro-environmental legislation. 

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Essential Oils for Summer Healing Fragrances for Bites, Allergies and Sunburn by Kathleen Barnes

Posted on 08 July 2014 by Jason

A breath of sweet lavender oil can quickly reduce stress. A whiff of lemon oil can energize us.

“Essential oils are not magic or folklore. There is solid science behind them,” says Elizabeth Jones, founder of the College of Botanical Healing Arts, in Santa Cruz, California.


Here’s what happens after inhaling lavender, the most popular of all essential oils: The cilia—microscopic cellular fibers in the nose —transport the aroma to the olfactory bulb at the bottom of the brain, from where it proceeds to the limbic brain and directly affects the nerves, delivering a soothing effect. “Or put it on your skin and other properties of essential oils are absorbed straight into the bloodstream,” advises Jones, author of Awaken to Healing Fragrance.


Thai studies show that a whiff of lavender oil is calming and lowers blood pressure and heart rate, yet there are many more benefits attributed to the art and science of aromatherapy and essential oils. For those struggling with summer maladies, here are several simple solutions essential oils can provide.


Minor Scrapes, Cuts and Blisters


Tea tree oil (melaleuca) is tops, because it contains terpenes that kill staphylococcus and other nasty bacteria and works to prevent infection, according to a meta-analysis from the University of Western Australia. The researchers further suggest that tea tree oil may be used in some cases instead of antibiotics. Oregano and eucalyptus oils are likewise acknowledged for their natural abilities to eliminate infection-causing bacteria, fungi and viruses.


“Blend all three for a synergistic effect,” says aromatherapy expert Robert Tisserand (, of Ojai, California. “They sort of leapfrog over each other to penetrate the skin and cell walls.”


Sunburn, Bug Bites and Poison Ivy


A small amount of undiluted lavender oil will cool sunburn fast, advises Tisserand. Add a few drops to a dollop of cooling aloe vera gel for extra relief and moisture, advises Jones. Undiluted lavender is also a great remedy for insect bites, notes Tisserand. “You can stop the pain of a bee sting in 20 seconds with a few drops.”


Chamomile, either the German or Roman varieties, helps with rashes, according to Jones, especially when mixed with her summertime favorite, aloe vera gel. She recommends mugwort oil for poison oak or poison ivy, a benefit affirmed by animal research from the Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine’s Herbal Medicine Formulation Research Group.


Allergy Relief


During hay fever season, several aromatherapy oils from a diffuser can offer relief, counsels Tisserand. He recommends eucalyptus, geranium and lavender oils, all of which are antihistamines. Use them separately or blended. When using a diffuser, it’s not necessary to put the oils into a diluting carrier oil or gel. He says a steam tent containing 10 drops of each of the three oils mixed with two cups of boiling water is highly effective.


Sprains, Strains and Joint Pain


Lessen inflammation and the pain from tendon and muscle sprains and strains with rosemary and/or peppermint, adding a dash of ginger for additional benefit, says Tisserand. He recommends rubbing the oils (diluted in a carrier) directly on the sore spot.


Rosemary is particularly effective for bringing blood flow to an injury site and the menthol in peppermint is a great pain reliever, adds Jones. A Chinese study published in the European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics confirms the pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory abilities of peppermint oil. Researchers from Taiwan confirm that ginger is anti-inflammatory and can even reduce intense nerve pain.


Jones believes that essential oils have a place in everyone’s medicine chest. “Sometimes I feel like David up against Goliath,” she remarks. “I encourage everyone to use natural healing products from plants instead of pharmaceutical drugs, the side effects of which actually diminish the body’s natural ability to heal.”


Kathleen Barnes has authored numerous books on natural health, including Rx from the Garden: 101 Food Cures You Can Easily Grow. Connect at



Best Carriers


Almost all essential oils are so strong that they must be diluted before using to prevent skin irritation. Use cold-pressed oils and mix 10 to 15 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier substance. Some of the best carriers are almond oil, aloe vera gel, apricot oil, cocoa butter, glycerin, jojoba oil and olive oil.

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Summertime, and the Sippin’ is Easy Quick and Cool Vegan Smoothies by Judith Fertig

Posted on 08 July 2014 by Jason

Smoothies offer big nutrition in a small package. Based on a vegan source of lean protein like coconut milk, yogurt, soy, chia seeds or a vegan protein powder made from dried beans or hemp, they can energize us for a full day of summer activities.


Other ingredients follow the peak of summer crops. Berries, greens, melon, tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, celery, carrots and stone fruits like peaches and mangoes add antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals. A tablespoon or two of healthy fats such as milled flax seeds, hemp or nut butter adds richness to the flavor, while providing omega-3 fatty acids necessary for complete nutrition. For the finale, add a touch of sweetness from fruits, maple syrup, agave nectar or stevia.


The best way to mix a smoothie is to start with either a liquid or an ingredient with a thicker consistency, like yogurt, placed in a standard or high-speed performance blender. Next, add the desired fruits or vegetables and flavorings, followed by ice. Start on a slower speed, holding down the lid tightly, before increasing the speed to achieve a velvety texture. If the smoothie is too thin, add more frozen fruit or ice. Freezing the fruits first and then blending them into a smoothie can substitute for ice. Peeling bananas before freezing them makes smoothie-making easier. Freezing the fruits in recipe-size portions also simplifies the process.


Smooth-fleshed fruits like mangoes, papayas, bananas, ripe peaches and nectarines blend more easily to a silky finish than do fresh berries. Tender, baby greens such as spinach, kale or chard virtually disappear within a smoothie; if using mature, rather than baby greens, cut out the stems unless the blender is extremely powerful.


Blending enough ingredients for two smoothies can yield a leftover serving to store in a reusable glass canning jar in the refrigerator. To reactivate the full taste later, just turn over the jar and give it a good shake to re-blend the ingredients.


Spirulina (made from a micro-saltwater plant) and wheatgrass juice and powder are a few popular smoothie add-ins. Milled flax seeds add healthy fat, but their water-soluble fiber also adds a little bulk; although the texture difference isn’t noticeable if the smoothie is enjoyed right away, it will be apparent if it sits for 20 minutes or more.


With the whir of a blender—and no cooking—summer’s tastiest bounty transforms into at-home or on-the-go beverages to revive, replenish and renew us so we’re ready for our next adventure.


Judith Fertig blogs at from Overland Park, KS.



Sunny-Day Sippers


Mango Lassi


Yields 2 servings


¾ cup vanilla soy, almond or coconut milk

¼ cup vanilla soy, almond or coconut milk yogurt

¾ tsp vanilla extract

1½ cups chopped fresh mango, frozen

½ tsp ground cardamom

Agave nectar to taste

Ground pistachios for garnish


Combine the milk, yogurt, vanilla extract, mango and cardamom and blend using low to high speeds until smooth. Add agave nectar to taste and blend again. Sprinkle ground pistachios over each serving.


Black Cherry Raspberry


Yields 2 servings


¼ cup cranberry juice

1 cup pitted sweet black cherries

½ cup raspberries

⅓ cup plain soy or coconut yogurt

4 ice cubes


Combine all ingredients and blend from low to high speed until smooth.


Peachy Watermelon


Yields 2 servings


2-3 cups watermelon, seeded

1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt

1 cup frozen strawberries

1 fresh peach, peeled, pitted, cut into chunks and frozen


Combine all ingredients and blend from low to high speed until smooth.


Seasonal Suppers


Tomato Smoothie


Yields 2 servings


2 cups tomatoes, chopped

½ cup tomato juice

¼ cup apple juice

½ cup carrots

¼ cup celery, chopped

Tabasco or other hot sauce to taste

2 cups ice


Combine all ingredients and blend from low to high speed until smooth.



Summer Salad Smoothie


Yields 2 servings


½ cup apple juice

2 cups stemmed and chopped baby spinach, Swiss chard or kale

1 apple, unpeeled, cored and chopped

½ avocado, peeled and chopped

½ cup cilantro leaves

1 Tbsp fresh lime juice

1 Tbsp matcha (fine green tea powder)

1 Tbsp milled flax seeds

¼ cup vegan protein powder


Combine all ingredients and blend from low to high speed until smooth.



Cool as a Cucumber Smoothie


Yields 2 servings


1 cup apple juice

1 cup sliced sweet apple

¼ cup applesauce

½ cup sliced carrots

½ cup cucumber, peeled and sliced

2 cups ice

Dash of nutmeg or cinnamon (optional)


Combine all ingredients and blend from low to high speed until smooth.

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Forsaking “Angry Birds” for Bird Songs Low-Cost Camping Turns Kids into Nature Lovers by Avery Mack

Posted on 08 July 2014 by Jason

“Whether urban or rural, children in our state average 4.5 minutes outdoors and four hours in front of a screen every day,” says Barbara Erickson, president of The Trustees of Reservations conservation nonprofit, in Sharon, Massachusetts.


One way to disconnect kids from electronics is to go camping. Such educational fresh air exercise is inclusive and inexpensive. David Finch, superintendent of The Trustees’ Dunes Edge Campground, in Provincetown, Massachusetts, suggests borrowed gear for the first outing. A backyard campout can be a rewarding trial run; each child can ask a friend to stay over and a parent and the family dog can participate.


Once kids have the hang of sleeping somewhere outside their own bedroom, consider an overnight program at a local or regional zoo. Kids get a kick out of watching the animals and learning about their behaviors, diets and habitats. The Toledo Zoo, in Ohio, offers Snooze at the Zoo, including a pizza dinner, breakfast and admission the next day. Children sleep near one of the exhibits or in a safari tent. The program teaches animal adaptations, food chains and ecosystems and meets requirements for scout badges in a fun setting.


The Irvine Nature Center, in Owings Mills, Maryland, near Baltimore, offers a rich outdoor experience. Organizers provide food, activities and camping equipment. Children first attend a fire safety class, then help cook a meal and make s’mores. At night, participants learn how to mimic owl hoots and practice their new skills, often receiving hoots in return. Night walks sometimes include sightings of deer, bats or flying squirrels, while morning walks showcase groundhogs and birds.


Jean Gazis, with the women’s and girls’ rights nonprofit Legal Momentum, in Brooklyn, New York, observes, “It’s easier to camp with small, even tiny, children, than with older kids. Babies are portable.” She recalls taking her 7-week-old infant along and nostalgically comments, “Now that the kids are 11 and 14, they don’t have as much free time.”


Drive-up camping in a state park that offers facilities and planned activities sets up a fun time. Gazis feels that a destination four hours away is the limit for car trips with small children. She advises giving everyone duties. “My young son once had a great time digging a ditch around the tent when it began to rain,” she recalls. “He kept the sleeping bags dry and got to play in the mud.”


Jeff Alt, of Cincinnati, Ohio, author of Get Your Kids Hiking, suggests, “Start them young and keep it fun. Get the kids involved in the planning. My kids have gone along since they were born. We stayed at a lodge when they were small, because little trekkers have a lot of gear. During the day we were out in the park exploring, always keeping in mind that kids tire out fast.” His mandatory equipment includes good walking shoes, sunscreen and bug spray. Adhering to such rules as never leave the trail or wander off and don’t pick flowers or touch animals is non-negotiable.


Stephanie Wear, a biologist for The Nature Conservancy, working in Beaufort, South Carolina, has found that it’s easy to make the experience fun. “We like to do observational scavenger hunts—find the flower, the mushroom or the tree that looks like a picture and make a list of what you see. Getting out in nature sharpens observation skills, boosts creativity and improves physical and mental health,” she says. Wear notes that her kids have listed 70 forms of life in the family’s backyard alone. Visit a local park or to take part in more activities and explore different locations. “Nature presents a great parenting tool,” she remarks.


Summertime camping helps every member of the family unplug, unwind and wander along new paths.


Avery Mack is a freelance writer in St. Louis, MO. Connect via

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