Articles from July 2013

Stretching Before Bedtime


If you have trouble sleeping because of stress, or experience neck and back pain because of tense muscles, stretching before going to sleep may be just what you need for a better night of rest.  Stretching can take anywhere from five minutes to an hour, depending on what types of stretches and the routine you prefer. Even just a few minutes can make a significant difference in your sleep quality.

Types of Stretches

There are many different kinds of stretching. Yoga is a popular type of stretch exercises that connect stretching with breathing. This is particularly helpful in preparing for sleep, as focusing on breathing can help calm your mind. Fitness magazine suggests several yoga poses that can be done right in your bed to help you fall asleep. It’s also important to practice stretching in a warm quiet place, moving slowly between positions and never holding a position that causes pain.

Part of a Routine

Stretching can be a great addition to a bedtime routine. Routines before bed can help your body prepare for sleep, helping you fall asleep faster. Stretching can help relax your muscles and focus your mind. If you are having trouble falling asleep, try trading a few minutes of TV time for some quiet stretches. You may find yourself more comfortable in bed and less time spent with your mind racing. You may also want to try stretching if you wake up in the middle of the night and are unable to fall asleep again. Stretching and breathing may help clear your mind and help you return to sleep faster.


If you have any health concerns, be sure to talk with a doctor before beginning any stretching routine. An article from the Mayo Clinic suggests holding each stretch rather than bouncing, as bouncing can cause damage to the muscle. The same article also recommends accompanying stretching with gentle movement such as Tai Chi. Keep in mind, however, that the goal of this exercise is not to increase the heart rate, but to loosen tense muscles.

For stretching to be successful, it may take time. Commit to including stretching in a nighttime routine for several weeks to see if it is beneficial for helping you sleep and feel better.

Photo “Yoga After Climbing” by lululemonathletica

Do It Yourself Summer Party Games

Summer is a great time for outdoor gatherings. Kids birthday parties, barbecue get togethers, 4th of July parties and family picnics are all great reasons to spend time outside celebrating. Even just an evening outdoors with the family can be a great time to break out a party game.

You don’t have to break the bank to have fun at these outdoor gatherings. Here are several do it yourself party game ideas that will keep you and your family entertained all summer long.


This unique outdoor game is like an over-sized game of KerPlunk. The design uses a bit of chicken wire, bamboo plant stakes and plastic pit balls.   This Old House offers detailed plans to build this fun group game. They suggest it takes about 6 hours to make. Their version also requires some minimal carpentry skills, but a simplified version could also be made with just the chicken wire.

Beanbag Toss Games3717875703_4deb9c25ea

There are a variety of backyard beanbag toss games that are fun for kids and adults. Cornhole is quickly becoming a very popular game. It uses bean bags and two flat, slightly elevated boards with a single hole. You must work in teams to toss bags into the holes. This site offers complete construction instructions as well as the rules. This game requires some carpentry skills and power tools to create.

This fun and easy kids beanbag toss game simply uses old cans and a few beanbags. Paint six or ten clean cans in fun colors and designs. Beanbags can be made with old material scraps or bits worn out clothing and filled with dried beans. Stack the cans in a pyramid shape and take turns attempting to topple the stack.

Crafty Carnival offers the simple suggestion of using cardboard to cut out and paint fun themed designs to make a beanbag toss game. She used monsters, but the design could be changed to fit any theme.

Backyard Bananagrams

Take the speedy scrabble-like game Bananagrams outdoors. You can easily make game pieces by using 12‘x12’ masonite tiles to make a giant version of this fun game. Using lauan makes for a lighter weight version. You can also make the dimensions a bit smaller to use less space. 

Use this summer to have some creative fun in the backyard or at the park. Getting outdoors and playing with family and friends will help you get exercise and may even relieve some stress. 

Photo “My Cornhole Board” courtesy of Stevie Lee

Breakfast Like a King

You may have heard the phrase, “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.” It has long been thought that eating a large, healthy breakfast is an important part of feeling good and having more energy during the day. Here are a few of the healthiest foods to eat for your kingly breakfast. 5334218936_3c6f3f1664

1)  Healthy Protein

Protein that is both low in fat and sugar will give you plenty of energy to start out your day. The Food Network Blog suggests mixing natural peanut butter into oatmeal or spreading it on whole grain toast. By using natural peanut butter you will cut out the extra sugar. Eggs and cottage cheese are also great sources of protein and will fight your hunger all day long.

2)  Shakes and Smoothies

If you don’t have much time in the morning, smoothies are great to sip on the go. You can include fruits, like berries and bananas, yogurt or milk, and Real Simple suggests adding protein powder for an extra boost. Throw your favorite ingredients in the blender and you are on your way.

3)  Flaxseed

Reader’s Digest recommends adding ground flaxseed to your breakfast. You can sprinkle a few teaspoons of ground flaxseed over just about anything; cereal, yogurt, oatmeal and smoothies, to name a few. The flaxseed is high in omega-3 fatty acids which are excellent for both brain and heart health.

4)Whole Grains

Choose 100% whole grain bread, bagels, English muffins, or cereal. Whole grains are a great source of fiber and a healthy carbohydrate to get you going. Instead of cream cheese consider using natural peanut butter, or goat cheese as a spread.

5)  Eggs and Greens On the Go

This recipe from Fitsugar incorporates healthy eggs and even healthier kale to make a delicious mini gluten free quiche on the go. Starting your day off with greens that are high in folic acid is excellent for your health. You can make these ahead of time and use them throughout your busy week. 

6)  Grapefruit

Reader’s Digest informs that grapefruit is full of folates, which reduce the risk of stroke. They recommend eating half of a grapefruit twice a week. If you take medications, check with your doctor before including grapefruit in your diet.

Starting your day out right with well chosen foods will help you feel great all day long. A few rules to stick to are: 

  Pick protein. Protein in the morning will help you feel great all day

  Skip sugar. Use berries, dried fruit or a small amount of honey to sweeten your breakfast foods.

  Choose whole grains. Whole grains will give you the fiber you need for a healthy day.

To have healthy energy all day be sure to eat breakfast like a king!

Photo “breakfast” courtesy of Meg Lessard

The Daybed

The daybed is typically the size of a twin size bed and designed with a frame that includes two wooden or metal boards on either end and another long board running the length of the bed. This portion is usually placed against the wall. The day bed has a long history and according to eHow home, can be traced all the way back to ancient Indian and Egyptian cultures when palm leaf wicker was lashed together to make lounging chairs. It began resembling more closely what we use today in the courts of King Louie the XIV, when royalty lounged on elaborate, long, cushioned chairs.

Alternative to a Guest Room

Daybeds can be an inexpensive and space saving alternative to a guest bed. They usually require a twin size mattress and no box spring, saving money.3309806025_760c62651a They can be tucked into alcoves or in corners of offices, and sewing or craft rooms. If you are wavering between work space and guest space, a daybed can accommodate both.  A large sunny window can be transformed into a comfortable reading nook with the help of a daybed. They can also add storage to a room, as many daybeds include drawers underneath the mattress.


daybed can be as formal or casual as the environment you desire to create. A daybed in a sewing room could inspire a country feel, with a wooden frame, and unique quilt or coverlet. Drawers under the bed would be the perfect place to organize fabric and patterns. A more modern looking, metal frame can add formal elegance to an office space. Consider using dark, solid colors to avoid distraction in this space.

Daybeds intended for comfortable lounging should include many pillows. Alternate between patterns and solid prints, so that the bed does not look overwhelmingly cluttered. Daybeds can also be great stater beds for kids rooms. Children will enjoy playing, reading and sleeping on a smaller bed. If they are not quite ready for a full sized bed, a daybed can be a cute and fun way to start out in a bed.


Ultimately, remember the desired function of the daybed, whether it is nighttime sleep, day time lounging, or short periods of sitting, and make sure the chosen pillows, coverings and decorations do not interfere with that function.

For some fun daybed decorating ideas, see this slideshow from HGTV.

Photo courtesy of sergio_leenan

What is Chenille

Chenille is a type of fabric that feels very soft to the touch. It is often used for clothing, blankets, throws and even upholstery. It is a warm, cozy fabric that can appear to have a very attractive soft sheen.


According to WiseGeek chenille is the French word for caterpillar. It is called chenille because like a caterpillar, the individual yarns are round, soft and fuzzy. The original technique for making chenille was developed in France, but patented later in Scotland. It was popularized in the United States in the 1930s for use as bedspreads, pillows, and other decorative household items. In the 1970s, when mechanization for creating chenille was substantially improved, it became more popular for clothing.


Chenille is not made out of one particular type of material, but can be made from a variety of both synthetic and natural fibers. It is most often found in cotton, but rayon and acrylic are common to use for chenille also. The process of making chenille is placing very short lengths of yarn, referred to as pile, in between longer tightly woven pieces of yarn and then twisting the yarns together. As a result of this process the ends of the pile stand at right angles to the yarn giving it its soft feel and unique look. 


This is a delicate material that requires precise care. In most cases chenille should be dry cleaned, but it can also be hand washed or washed on the delicate cycle. Chenille should not be dried in the drier. Instead, lay it flat to dry. Drying it in the drier may cause it to shrink and hanging it to dry will make it stretch and loose its shape. This is especially important for clothing, but dry cleaning will also ease long term wear and tear on blankets and other items.


If you don’t mind the extra care, add a chenille blanket to your bed for soft, luxurious  warmth, or keep a throw on your couch to cuddle up with. Chenille is both an attractive, yet comfortable material that is fun to include around the house and in your wardrobe. What are your favorite chenille items?

Photo “ArtFibers chenille sweater” courtesy of Lisa Dusseault

The Benefits of Coffee

3299635718_1c97925a6dThe best way to feel good in the morning is to get a good night’s rest. However, some nights it’s just not possible – we go to bed too late, have to get up early, or have a tough time sleeping. Many people turn to a cup of coffee to help them on those mornings that are a little more difficult, many others simply enjoy a hot cup of coffee every morning. Science is beginning to discover that coffee may go beyond giving you a little extra jolt to get through the morning. In many cases, a regular cup of coffee has several health benefits.

The Studies

A study conducted by Harvard University indicates that coffee may reduce the risk of depression in women. The study found that women who drank coffee regularly were less likely to experience depression. Researchers were clear that more studies needed to be conducted before it could be concluded that coffee was a cure for depression. But, coffee drinkers could be assured that there is some benefit to their daily consumption. 

Dr. Donald Hensrud of the Mayo Clinic states, “Newer studies have also shown that coffee may have benefits, such as protecting against Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes and liver cancer. And it has a high content of antioxidants.”

Another study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, found that caffeinated coffee fights Alzheimer’s in mice. Researchers believe that something in coffee works with the caffeine to increase a growth factor found in the brain that fights Alzheimer’s. While this study was done with mice, surveys of humans that addressed similar issues done in the past seem to indicate similar, positive results. 


All of this good news is not free license to drink as much coffee as you want. Too much caffeine can cause anxiety and even heart irregularities. Also, remember that putting cream and sugar in your coffee will add calories and the sugar will be tougher on your teeth. For coffee to remain a healthy habit, don’t let it replace your intake of water or milk. As with all things, moderation is important. One cup of coffee with cream and sugar or several cups of black coffee may have various health benefits. So go ahead and enjoy your morning ritual cup of coffee or afternoon energy boosting break without any guilt!

Photo “Coffee Beans” courtesy of puuikibeach