Archive for November, 2014

How a whole-house humidifier helps keep your home healthy and comfortable this winter

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Dry indoor air can cause myriad problems, including:

* Increased likelihood of colds, flu and other upper respiratory ailments. Viruses that cause colds and flu thrive in low humidity – dry indoor air can spread airborne viruses more easily than air that is properly humidified. And dry air can make people more susceptible to infection, according to The American Society of Otolaryngology. In addition, dry air can aggravate allergy and asthma symptoms.

* Home damage. Dry air causes walls, woodwork and hardwood floors to crack. Electronics can fall victim to static electric charges, requiring expensive repair or replacement.

* Higher energy costs. Dry air can make you feel cold at normal temperatures, leading you to turn up the thermostat. This leads to higher energy bills.

“Dry air is also responsible for many of the physical discomforts we experience during the winter including a sore, scratchy throat, nose bleeds and dry lips and skin,” says Mike Rimrodt, product director at Aprilaire, a leader in the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) accessories industry. “The best way to alleviate these symptoms and prevent home damage is by controlling the humidity levels in your home with a whole-home humidifier.”

A whole-home humidifier, installed as part of your heating and cooling system, is designed to deliver the perfect amount of moisture to your home without constantly making adjustments or refilling the water. Whole-home humidifiers are uniquely efficient and effective because they accurately measure the outdoor temperature and indoor humidity levels to automatically provide the ideal amount of indoor relative humidity – meaning home owners don’t have to constantly adjust humidification settings. Simply set it and forget it.

“In the winter months, the average household needs upwards of 400 gallons of water to properly humidify the air,” says Rimrodt. “Unlike a portable room unit, a whole-home humidification system is connected directly to your home’s HVAC and water system, saving you hundreds of trips to the faucet, and hours of messy cleaning over the season.”

Whole home systems deliver proper humidity levels throughout your entire home and require simple, inexpensive and infrequent maintenance by simply changing an internal water panel once a year.

Active thinking leads to better grades

Monday, November 24th, 2014

(NC)-All students are active thinkers by nature, but not all students know how to think actively when it comes to classroom learning or at-home studying.

According to Oxford Learning’s CEO and founder, Dr. Nick Whitehead, this is because, like many other school skills (such as studying, organization, and focus) active thinking is a skill that students need to be shown how to use.

“Active learning is not a skill restricted to the classroom. Children (and adults, too) should always be thinking about the world around them. In fact, the more that children develop this skill outside the classroom, the more they are able to apply it in class.”

Dr. Whitehead outlines three simple steps for students to follow to practice their active thinking skills:

Before the activity, whether it’s doing a craft or sitting down in class, students should pause to try reflect on what they already know about what they are going to do. This primes the brain to get it ready learn something new.

During the activity students should ask themselves questions to draw connections or highlight details, like “What is this similar to?”

After the activity students can reflect on what they just learned. This can be done by creating summary notes. Students should attempt to draw similarities, no matter how random.

Dr. Whitehead says that parents can encourage active thinking by prompting conversations about learning and by asking the right questions. Instead of asking, “how was school?”, more specific questions such as “how was math class?” or “what concepts did you learn today?” are more helpful.

Baked Potatoes with Creamy Mushroom Ragout by Isabelle Boucher of Crumb: A Food Blog

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

(NC)-One of my favourite things about mushrooms is the way they add hearty flavour and texture to meatless dishes. Take this recipe, for example, where a hearty vegetarian-friendly mushroom ragout elevates the humble baked potato from simple side dish to a meal in itself.

Baked Potatoes with Creamy Mushroom Ragout

Serves 4


Baked Potatoes:

4 large baking potatoes, washed and scrubbed

1 tsp olive oil

Kosher salt

Creamy Mushroom Ragout:

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

1 lb mixed fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 cup thinly sliced shallots

3 tbsp flour

1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 tbsp sweet paprika

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tbsp chopped fresh dill

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Salt and pepper to taste


Bake the Potatoes:

Preheat oven to 425°F. Rub the potatoes with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and prick all over with a fork. Place on a baking sheet, and bake in preheated oven for 45-60 minutes, or until a fork pierced through the skin meets no resistance.

Prepare the Mushroom Ragout:

While the potatoes are baking, prepare the ragout.

In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium heat, heat the butter and olive oil until butter is melted and foamy. Add shallots and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes longer, or until the mushrooms are soft and starting to brown. In a small bowl, whisk together white wine and flour until smooth. Add to the pan along with chicken broth and paprika. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until thick. Stir in the sour cream and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes to heat through (make sure not to bring to a boil, as this can cause the sauce to curdle). Remove from heat immediately, and stir in dill and parsley. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.


Once the potatoes are done, transfer them to a cutting board to cool for 5 minutes.

Cut a slit through the top of each potato, and gently push on the ends to create a small pocket for the topping. Sprinkle the inside of each potato with a little salt.

Ladle a generous amount of mushroom ragout onto each potato, letting the excess spill over the sides and onto the plate (yes, it’s messy, but it’s the best part!). Finish with a sprinkling of parsley or dill, if desired, and lots of black pepper. Serve immediately.

Isabelle Boucher is a well known food blogger who resides in Toronto, working in the Telecom industry by day and whipping up tasty creations by night. Follow her blog, Crumb: A Food Blog, where her tasty recipes and photos are documented.

How to maximize the flavor and nutrition of snack mixes

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

When deciding between your favorite snacks, there’s no need to sacrifice flavors and seasonings often reserved for main course dishes. Instead, look to combine different food groups to create unique, delicious snack mixes. A mix can not only pack a lot of flavor but also can be full of nutrient-rich vitamins and whole grains.

The perfect snack mix combines flavors, textures, seasonings and tastes.

* Whole grain crackers add heartiness to your snack leaving you deliciously satisfied.

* Adding vegetables such as leafy greens adds vitamins and minerals – a perfect low-calorie addition.

* For extra crunch, popcorn or nuts are flavorful ingredients to add to your mix for a wholesome, appetizing snack.

Chef Rocco DiSpirito, known for his best-selling healthy comfort foods series Now Eat This!, created Brown Rice Triscuit Sea Salt & Black Pepper Crumbled Snack Mix, a tasty mix of popcorn, kale and the new Brown Rice Triscuit, which is baked with 100 percent whole grain brown rice. This snack mix is one great way to reap the benefits of whole grains in a distinctive new way.

Brown Rice Triscuit Sea Salt & Black Pepper Crumbled Snack Mix

Yield: 9 servings, about 1 cup each

Prep time: about 10 minutes

Processing time: about 10 minutes


Olive oil cooking spray

3 tablespoons popping corn kernels

1/8 teaspoon each salt and crushed red pepper flakes

1 bunch of Tuscan kale (about 15 leaves), or 4 loosely packed cups of leaves only (remove tough center stem with knife or kitchen shears)

20 Brown Rice Triscuit Sea Salt & Black Pepper Crackers, quartered


1. Spray a medium-sized saucepot with 1 second of cooking spray; add the popcorn kernels and place over medium high heat. Cook, covered, shaking occasionally until the kernels have popped, about 2 minutes. Turn off heat; place popcorn in large bowl and season with salt and crushed red pepper flakes.

2. Lay the kale out in batches in single layer on microwave-safe plates. Spray each plate with 1 second of cooking spray and microwave on high for 1 minute. Flip the leaves, then microwave on high until the leaves are dried and crisp, about 1 minute. Continue microwaving, if needed, turning every minute until crisp. Repeat with remaining kale.

3. Break the kale crisps into bite-size pieces. Toss with the crackers and popcorn and serve.

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 80 calories, 2g total fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 90mg sodium, 14g carbohydrate, 2g dietary fiber, 0g sugars, 2g protein

Lose weight for the wedding, but say ‘I do’ to a healthy lifestyle

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Every bride wants to look great when the big day comes, but how many brides commit to fitting into her wedding dress on their 10th anniversary? Do you want to look good for a day, or feel good for the rest of your life?
While considering vows, include a commitment to live healthfully ever after. That’s the advice from Cliff Edberg, a registered dietician and personal trainer at Life Time Fitness, The Healthy Way of Life Company, in Chanhassen, Minn. “When I work with a bride and her goal is to look her very best the day of the wedding and fit into the dress she has dreamed about for years, I encourage her to make this a lifestyle change, not just a short-term diet.” 
Brown, who visits her neighborhood Life Time Fitness, and her fiance both lost a significant amount of weight before meeting each other (70 pounds for him, 40 pounds for her) and plan to stay devoted to their healthy lifestyle as well as to each other.
“It’s not just about the wedding pictures – although I want them to look amazing – but also about feeling my absolute best on the day I marry my best friend,” Brown says. 
Jen Emmert, 30, of Minneapolis, and another August bride-to-be shares the same outlook. “I was overweight my entire life and it was only about four years ago that I decided to make changes. Now that I’m months away from the big day, I want to make sure I’m focused on being the healthiest I can be.”
Edberg, says it’s important to celebrate the milestone and good work you put into the wedding day. “Just be sure to continue to set goals,” he adds. 
Brown is already thinking beyond the wedding day to having a healthy honeymoon. “Just like all of the vacations we have taken, we will seek out meal options that are healthy and satisfying,” Brown says. “While we haven’t decided on our honeymoon spot yet, we are looking at places where we can be active, instead of locations where the days are filled with lying on a beach.”
Once the honeymoon is over Edberg suggests newlyweds rely on each other as their support team. One way to do that is for couples to spend time cooking meals together. “Often people get bored with ‘eating healthy’ but they just don’t take time to explore new food and new ways of preparing food.”
Edberg also suggests exploring new ways to exercise together as a couple. “Try to emphasize play in your activity,” Edberg says. “When we have fun during activity, especially together, there is a higher likelihood that it will continue and form a habit.” And the less likely you will be to fall back into old sedentary habits. “No better time than now to commit to a lifelong partnership in health, not sickness,” he adds.
Emmert, who chronicled her weight-loss journey in a blog, acknowledges that planning for the wedding day is exciting, but “it’s just one day out of the rest of our lives,” she says. “Working out and being healthy will always need to be a priority, no matter what kind of life event is going on around us.”
When the honeymoon is over, life goes on. Will you fit into that wedding dress 10 years later? In 20 years will you still be fit and healthy? In other words, look at the big picture. And you won’t find the “big picture” in your wedding album. Need additional advice or assistance? Visit

Enhance your wedding with memorable aromas

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

The ceremony. The fragrance we inhale during any important event often becomes inextricably linked with our memories of that event. In fact, the scents that your guests encounter when they first enter the wedding venue are no less important than the decorations they see. So pick a scent that you want the wedding to be remembered by. Take cues from the style of your gown, the time of year and the setting. Here are some examples of how you might match essential oils to your event:
* Elegant little white dress during the warm season (especially outdoors) is the perfect stage for fresh aromas such as citrus (bergamot, sweet orange, grapefruit) and orange flower (neroli).
* Traditional lace dress with tulle and train in a church setting trends toward timeless rose and jasmine underpinned with the balsamic, resinous scents of frankincense and sandalwood.
* Bold color dress choice in an autumn or wintertime setting equals luscious aromas of spice and fruit, coriander, cardamom, tangerine and Mandarin orange.
The reception. You’ll want to stay very low key here. Since aroma and taste are so intricately intertwined, you don’t want to introduce outside aromas that might clash with the flavors and aromas produced by any food you’re serving. There may be opportunities for subtle citrus or spice scents – perhaps at an isolated drink or snack table – but for the most part, let the aromas of the food prevail.
The dance. When the tables are cleared, and it’s time to kick up your heels, reinforce the change by introducing a distinct party aroma. Take a cue from the kind of music you’re offering:
* String quartet and elegant classical music: sophisticated cedarwood, balsamic myrrh, and earthy vetiver, sweetened with a generous dose of sweet orange.
* Lively dance band: tangy-sweet lime, bergamot, sweet orange, and spicy, candy-like fennel, anise and coriander seed.
* DJ spinning contemporary tunes: invigorating peppermint, spearmint, and uplifting citrus (lemon, sweet orange).
Diffusion is the key to designing an aromatic ambience at your wedding. This can be accomplished using a variety of apparatus that feature a fan and/or heat to propel the evaporation of the essential plant oils into the air. Simply place the oils in the device according to the instructions and add more as needed. Visit for more tips on using essential oils as well as a wide selection of plug in diffusers, vaporizers, candle lamps and essential oils.
By considering aroma – along with color, sound and flavor – during the planning stages of your celebration, you can create a complete and memorable impression on your big day.