Create a heart healthy Valentine’s dinner

happy valentines meal

 

Valentine’s Day is here! Have you made plans to celebrate? If you are like millions of others, your plans probably include a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant. As a highly introverted person, the thought of sitting in a loud crowded restaurant is not my idea of a romantic night. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a meal out as much as anyone. But around Valentine’s Day, when most nice restaurants at full capacity, I’d much rather have a quiet evening at home. Can you relate? (Or did you forget to make reservations for you and your sweetheart?) Don’t fret. I’ve got some delicious heart healthy dinner ideas from the Emmet Street Creations archives that are easy to make but taste like you spent hours in the kitchen. Just mix and match the recipes from the list below for a quiet meal that will make your love swoon.

Starters:

Main Course:

Dessert:

Help keep wildlife wild (because animals don’t like selfies)

Keep wildlife wild

Image credit: Costa Rica Vacation 2014-20 by wsilver, on Flickr. CC by 2.0.

Matt and I recently made our second trip together to Costa Rica. We had a wonderful vacation filled with tons of adventure.  We spotted 118 species of birds, watched baby sea turtles bursting from their nests, and spotted spider monkeys and caiman in the rainforest. The trip was almost perfect. One thing happened, however, that I can’t get off my mind.

As we were riding on a tourist bus, our driver suddenly pulled over and our guide pointed out a large group of people standing on the side of the road. We got off the bus with the rest of the group to see what all the excitement was about. As we walked towards the group of people, we noticed a sloth slowly navigating some branches very low to the ground and right next to a fence by the road. Sloths are typically very difficult to see in Costa Rica. They like to hang out at the tops of trees where they are safe from most predators and they have an ample supply of their favorite leaves. Seeing one so close to the ground was unusual and exciting.

Who knows why this little guy decided to come down? Maybe he was trying to have his weekly constitutional (sloths only go to the bathroom once a week and have to come down to the ground to do so.) Perhaps he was trying to move to a better feeding spot. Regardless of the reason, I think the little guy immediately regretted his decision (or as immediately as a sloth can). The large group of tourists were crowding around him, shouting and laughing with delight, petting him, and taking selfies with their faces pressed up against his face.

I admit that part of me wanted to run over and do the same. Who wouldn’t want a sloth selfie? But as I looked closer, I noticed that the sloth was vocalizing and attempting to swipe at the people around him. He was clearly stressed. My excitement quickly turned to disappointment. I was disappointed in the tour guides who stood by and watched as this wild animal attempted to defend himself. I was disappointed in the tourists who didn’t have enough common sense to leave a wild animal alone. Most of all, I was disappointed in myself. I wasn’t brave enough to approach the large group of people, warn them that the animal was stressed and ask them to back off. Instead I settled for loudly telling Matt what I thought in the hopes that a few people around us would think twice about joining in.

Since getting on my soap box on the internet is easier than doing it in front of dozens of people in person, here’s my advice for keeping the wildlife you love to observe safe and calm:

  • When observing wildlife, keep a respectful distance. If the creature you’re observing shows signs of distress, back off. If it tries to move away, let it go and don’t chase it. To an animal, you are a predator. Would you be comfortable with a bear chasing you just because it wants to “get a better look at you?”
  • Never touch a wild animal, no matter how much you want to scoop it up and hug it senseless. Animals have teeth and claws and they know how to use them. If the risk of having your face chewed off isn’t enough to frighten you, then think about what you are doing to the animal. When you touch a wild animal, you contaminate it with chemicals (insect repellant, sunscreen), germs, bacteria and other allergens that its system can’t handle. You can wash animal goo off your skin with soap and water. The best an animal can do is lick the human goo off itself and ingest it.
  • If you find yourself lucky enough to see a sloth in the wild, understand that their physiology makes it nearly impossible for them to appear outwardly stressed. Research has shown, however, that their heart rate can spike dangerously high from fear. They can’t run away but that doesn’t mean they enjoy being inches away from what they perceive to be a weirdly shaped predator that wants to eat them. They aren’t really smiling, they just have resting happy face.

If “hug a sloth,” is on your bucket list (it was on mine for years), I suggest crossing it out and replacing it with, “observe a sloth from a respectful distance in a safe environment.” The Sloth Sanctuary on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica (made famous by Animal Planet) offers this exact experience. You can tour the sanctuary and meet the sloths in their care, take a guided rainforest tour to see wild sloths, and even spend the night in their onsite inn! I haven’t been able to visit the sanctuary yet, but it’s on my list!

Thank your postal carrier with the gift of handmade luxury

How to thank your postal carrier

Your friendly postal carrier has a lot to deal with on a daily basis. From dogs whose mission it is to destroy all of their kind to walking several miles through rain or snow to dodging the bees that love the pretty flowers planted around your mail box (special apologies to my postal carrier for the stand of milkweed around mine), the postal carrier job is one of the toughest jobs out there. This time of year, postal carriers work hard to deliver your holiday packages and cards on time, often working extra hours to make sure your holiday comes off without a hitch.

You may be tempted to give your carrier a monetary tip to thank them for their service. While cash might seem like the easiest way to show your appreciation, did you know that federal employees can’t accept cash tips (or even gifts valued at over $20)? Sure, you could give your postal carrier holiday cookies or candy but imagine if everyone on their route did that?

Instead of giving your postal carrier the extra pounds from all that sugar, why not say thank you by giving him or her something that provides a positive benefit? The gift of a luxurious bar of handmade soap or a bag of soothing bath tea is the perfect solution. Postal carriers are out in the elements all day long and their skin can take a beating. Here are three unique ways you can give them the gift of relief:

  • Cocoa Butter Soap: In colder climates, being exposed to freezing temperatures causes dry and itchy skin. Our handmade cocoa butter soap is full of skin-loving olive and rice bran oils and moisturizing cocoa butter. It’s unscented so it won’t further irritate already sensitive skin.
  • Eucalyptus Lavender and Mint Soap: Walking all day long with a heavy bag of mail can be exhausting. Help your postal carrier wake up and feel invigorated with a bar of this minty fresh soap.
  • Lavender Bath Tea Bags: After a long day of walking several miles, there is no better way to relax achy feet and muscles than a long soak in the tub with the soothing scent of lavender.

Have more people to tip? Handmade soap from the Emmet Street Creations store on Etsy makes the perfect gift for your hairdresser, your kid’s favorite teacher and even your landscaper! 

Forming a new habit to drink more water

cucumber lime and mint infused water

I was recently told by a medical professional that I should try to drink at least 64 ounces of water a day. My first thought was,”That seems like a lot of water.” And, you know what? It is a lot of water. It’s a half a gallon, in fact. Logically, I know that water is one of the keys to a healthy life. (My co-blogger, Kelly, even posted about this very issue.) And I know that I don’t drink enough of it. I’ll go an entire day without drinking anything, then wonder why I’m sluggish and have a headache by the evening. I don’t to this on purpose. I just haven’t formed good water drinking habits.

So, beginning now, I’m resolving to not just drink more water but to get the full 64 ounces down the hatch every single day. To do that, I need to make some changes to my daily routine. I thought I’d share the three things I’m going to try.

  • Form a daily habit: As soon as I wake up in the morning and right before I go to bed, I’m going to chug 8 ounces of water. That immediately takes care of 16 ounces!
  • Make it fun: Since water itself is pretty boring, I bought a fruit infusing water bottle to help jazz it up. The bottle holds around 20 ounces of water so I only need to fill it twice to get 40 more ounces! It’s perfect for making cucumber water infused with lime and mintSince I tend to hoard bags of frozen fruit, I’ve got a lot of other combinations I can try as well, like strawberry lemon, blueberry lime or watermelon mint. The possibilities are limited only by my imagination.
  • Branch out: Tap water isn’t the only liquid on the planet. But most other beverages come with extra calories that I don’t want to add to my diet. Club soda and sparkling water are fizzy and have a little more zing than plain water. And they can also be flavored with fruit infusions! In the evening, when I would normally have a glass of wine or another adult beverage, I’ll have a glass of sparkling water instead. 

How do you get more water into your day? Do you have a favorite infused water recipe? Help me reach my goal by sharing your ideas in the comments or on Facebook.  

 

 

 

How used soap can save a life

Soap donation to Clean the World

Various bars of soap from my recent donation to Clean the World

Did you ever wonder what happens to that tiny sliver of used soap you leave behind when you check out of a hotel? Thanks to a non-profit organization called Clean the World, there’s a good chance that soap sliver ended up in the hands of a person in need in a developing country.

Clean the World has a simple mission. Collect soap (mainly from their 2,250 partner hotels and resorts) that would otherwise end up in landfills and get it into the hands of people in need. Why? Because hand washing with a bar of soap can help prevent illness from pneumonia and diarrheal diseases, the leading causes of death of children under five years old worldwide. Sadly, much of the developing world does not have easy access to this simple and easy preventative.

You might be thinking, “Gross, who wants to wash their hands with a bar of soap that touched someone else’s butt? Wouldn’t that spread more germs? Also, pubic hair!” Don’t worry, the smart people at Clean the World have it all figured out. Their recycling process involves cleaning and sterilizing all the soap they receive and rebatching it into nicely formed, clean bars of soap. Since its inception in 2009, Clean the World has distributed more than 22 million bars of soap around the world! That’s a lot of clean hands!

If this sounds like the kind of organization you would like to contribute to, Clean the World takes monetary donations, but they offer other fun ways to get involved. You and your coworkers can build team camaraderie by building hygiene kits and distributing them in your local community. Or you can sponsor a soap drive in your cubicle jungle. (As an added bonus, your office building will smell amazing during the collection period.)

Clean the World also accepts soap donations from handmade soap makers. This was welcome news! I recently gathered up all of my unused batches of melt and pour soap along with several bags of soap scraps that I thought I might “use someday,” and sent them off to one of the recycling centers. It’s not a huge donation but every little bit helps. And now I have some extra shelf space. Everyone wins.

P.S. The opinions in this post are completely my own. I have no affiliation with Clean the World and I have not been compensated by them. I just love what they do and want to spread the word. If you would like to help spread the word, simply use one of the sharing buttons below. (Note: If you’re reading this via e-mail or reader, you’ll need to link to our website to use the sharing buttons).

Finding peace through meditation

Finding peace through meditation

Have you ever been so stressed out in the middle of a work day that you just sat and stared at your computer monitor with your heart racing, unable to focus on the task at hand? Have you ever wished you could quickly calm yourself down so you could move forward? Now there’s an app for that! It’s called Stop, Breathe & Think and it’s brilliant.

A few weeks ago, my friend and co-blogger, Kelly, noticed I was having a difficult day. She turned on her phone and showed me this app, created by Tools for Peace. It’s a simple concept. Open the app, answer a few questions about how you are feeling in the moment, and it spits out 3 quick guided meditations that are structured to meet your immediate needs. This app is easy to use and the voice that guides you through the meditations is soft and soothing. She pauses long enough for you to stop and reflect on the things she says. And the best thing is that with a pair of earphones, you can do the quick meditations at your desk, on a plane, in a waiting room or anywhere you want. (Except in a car while driving. Keep those eyes on the road!)

While the app is free and offers several different types of meditations, you can also buy more advanced or longer meditations if you wish. Or, if you love the work that Tools for Peace does, you can thank them by making a donation to their organization right through the app.

If you’re looking for a little peace in your life, this app can help you find it. Give it a try!

P.S. The opinions in this post are completely my own. Tools for Peace has not compensated me in any way to talk about how awesome this app is. 

March 20: International Day of Happiness

It's spring! Image credit: Purple Beauties by Audrey, on Flickr (modified). CC BY 2.0. 

Today is an important day for two reasons. It’s the first day of spring (hooray!) and it’s the International Day of Happiness.

This day was first commemorated on March 20, 2012, due to a U.N. resolution designed to recognize the importance of happiness to the human experience and consider this in public policy decision making. Since then, several organizations have rallied to promote awareness of this day and encourage people to celebrate by cultivating happiness within themselves and sharing it with others. If you’re looking for ideas to celebrate today, check out the International Day of Happiness and Acts of Happiness websites.

Ultimately, the goal is for us to create happiness within ourselves every day. When you do so, it spills over into your interactions with others, making the world a healthier, happier place. Need help doing so? Project Happiness offers tools to help get you started.

Personally, I try to find or do one thing each day to remind me of my reasons to celebrate life and be grateful. Today, as my effort to spread a little happiness around, I’m sharing the first lip sync battle from The Tonight Show. Jimmy Fallon + Paul Rudd + lip sync battle = a happy heart:

Why not share a little happiness yourself? Do you have friends who could use a pick-me-up (or just some Paul Rudd eye candy)? It’s easy to spread the joy! Simply use one of the sharing buttons below.

(Note: If you’re reading this via e-mail or reader, you’ll need to link to our website to use the sharing buttons.)