The Survival Mom » Staying Healthy http://thesurvivalmom.com Helping moms worry less & enjoy life! Tue, 14 Oct 2014 12:47:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 10 Things You Should Know About Ebola http://thesurvivalmom.com/things-know-ebola/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/things-know-ebola/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 07:00:41 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=18779 Like many of you, I have been trying to keep up with stories about Ebola, ever since this terrible virus reared its deadly head, again, in Africa. At first, the stories were interesting and a lot of us in the Read More

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things know ebolaLike many of you, I have been trying to keep up with stories about Ebola, ever since this terrible virus reared its deadly head, again, in Africa. At first, the stories were interesting and a lot of us in the prepper/survival niche toyed with the idea of, “What if it came to America…”

Well, now it’s here, and by the time you receive this email, things could have gone very, very wrong, indeed. Or, perhaps not. We now know of at least one more confirmed case of Ebola, a nurse who had been attending the infamous Liberian patient, Thomas Eric Duncan. If we’re lucky, that will be as far as the virus spreads.  Another possibility is that the Ebola hype has died and another potential pandemic is on the horizon.

I originally sent this article to my newsletter subscribers but I’ve received so much positive feedback that I wanted to share it on the blog as well. I do send out exclusive articles to my subscribers, and you can sign up for these here.

There are 10 things you should know about this Ebola scare, and they apply to any type of outbreak:

1. If you’re prepared, in general, you’re already prepared for Ebola or any other outbreak. Almost. Be reassured that you have many survival pieces in place and are way ahead of the game, if the worst should happen. Now it’s just a matter of adding some additional supplies and making a few, new plans. Just in case.

2. Almost prepared for something like Ebola isn’t good enough! In addition to your food, water, cooking/heating, and other preps, you should begin adding:

  • Heavy duty trash bags. These will serve a multitude of purposes, but this story about a woman in Liberia who was able to treat her family members with little more protection than a raincoat, rainboots, and trash bags is inspiring and shows the need for this basic supply.
  • Multiple pairs of Nitrile gloves. They’re inexpensive, so stock up.They’ll come in handy for far more than Ebola.
  • Face masks. Read this article for more details, but a respirator is highly recommended. The ReadiMask is a good, inexpensive option, but the most recent reports seem to indicate that nothing short of a respirator is the best choice in an Ebola hot zone.
  • Safety goggles. If you ever have the misfortune to be in the presence of an Ebola patient, every bit of skin should be covered. You’ll need safety goggles to protect your eyes and the skin around them.
  • Several gallons of bleach. If you know how to use calcium hypochlorite to make your own bleach, that’s a better option, but it’s also more of a challenge to get the chlorine at a safe level.
  • Hand sanitizer in every possible form and plenty of soap.
  • Protective clothing, if possible.

Here’s a big word of warning. We’re seeing healthcare workers who have worn professional, protective gear become infected with this virus. In no way am I suggesting that the supplies on this list will keep you safe if you are face to face with an Ebola patient. Until we know more about how the virus is transmitted, and I don’t believe even our most expert experts know for sure, the best course of action is to avoid any known areas with the infection.

3. Begin thinking about hunkering down, in place, for weeks or possibly months. If any pandemic grabs a foothold in your area, say within 100 miles, you won’t be able to go to work, the kids will stay home from school, even going out to buy groceries or other necessities may be too dangerous. What should you have on hand in this case? Could you begin homeschooling your kids? Do you have cash on hand, rather than just in the bank? Read The Jakarta Pandemic for some practical tips.

4. Keep track of news from multiple sources. Information coming from the CDC is scary, not reassuring, and they are supposed to be the ultimate source for controlling disease. On the other hand, some voices on the internet are screaming that it’s all over and we’re doomed. Read everything you can and assess information from multiple sources.

These five articles that have given me a lot of insight and food for thought:

  1. When Ebola Protection Fails
  2. What We’re Afraid to Say About Ebola
  3. Ebola, A Nurse’s Perspective
  4. The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola” (This one is sad.)
  5. Firestone Did What Governments Have Not: Stopped Ebola in its Tracks

5. If now is the time to panic, you absolutely must not panic! This is the time to assess your preps, get the facts and the latest information. Prepare to hunker down or pack up what you can and head for a part of the country that remains unaffected. Thinking clearly and making logical plans will be your 2 best survival preps.

Having said that, if a particular website or radio host or friend is a source of nothing but negative, doomsday information and you find yourself swallowed up in it, avoid them. Just a friendly tip from Survival Mom!

6. At this point, normalcy bias could be your worst enemy. I never dreamed that you and I would be talking about EBOLA in AMERICA, yet here we are. There’s no point in trying to take comfort in, “It’s just one guy in Dallas.” That’s normalcy bias talking. If the virus made it this far, it’s likely to pop up again, and again. That could be our new reality. Hiding behind, “It couldn’t happen here…” is the least helpful thing you can do.

7.  Work hard to become as healthy as you possibly can be. It doesn’t appear as though Ebola’s effects are more profound against the unhealthy, aged, and/or weak, but Ebola isn’t the only potential pandemic on the horizon. Build your immune system by paying attention to your body, first and foremost. When you’re tired, rest, and get plenty of sleep. Spend time outdoors in the sun and nature. Eliminate sugar and processed foods from your diet as much as possible. Strengthen your muscles and overall stamina through regular exercise.

8. Introduce any changes to your family routine slowly and matter of factly. Scaring kids with horrific tales of Ebola or any other disease and its effects will only instill panic. Being a bit more cautious than usual around sick family and friends, taking some time off from school when flu reports become widespread, teaching kids to wash their hands more frequently — none of these are wild-eyed, tinfoil hat responses! They make sense and when you have a low-key explanation, kids will cope just fine.

9. Be prepared to take action before officials give the go-ahead. Officials at all levels, including school districts, fear nothing more than panicked citizens. When a large number of people panic, they begin to take actions of their own. This might take the form of demanding accountability from individuals and agencies or it could take the form of riots or worse.

Try to stay one step ahead by getting your information from multiple sources. If you have friends or family in the medical field or in government agencies, ask for insider information.

10. Continue to enjoy life. Make plans for holidays and birthdays. Go ahead and try to lose those last 15 pounds! We’ve seen good times and bad times come and go, but what keeps us steady and sane are the little things in life that aren’t so little — family, faith, friends. In the stories coming from the Ebola hot zones, there’s something that comes up over and over: family bonds and traditions. It’s important that we keep those going in our own homes and communities.

As a Christian, this verse from Ephesians 6:13 comes to mind:

“Therefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

You may not be a Christian and this article isn’t about the armor of God, but as a group we are determined to survive and are every bit as determined as any ancient warrior. So to paraphrase, “Take unto you all common sense preparation plans both for you and those you love that you may be able to stand strong during worst case scenarios, and when you’ve done all you can, stand strong.”

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3 Herbs for SHTF Hygiene http://thesurvivalmom.com/shtf-herbal-hygiene/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/shtf-herbal-hygiene/#comments Sat, 11 Oct 2014 06:00:54 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=18484 I have a confession: I don’t use coupons. I know, I know. They can be a great way to help stock up on extra personal hygiene products to round out your preparedness kits. But my main focus has always been Read More

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SMHerbalHygieneI have a confession: I don’t use coupons. I know, I know. They can be a great way to help stock up on extra personal hygiene products to round out your preparedness kits. But my main focus has always been having a back up plan for the backup plan.

Herbal Hygiene

Rather than keep ten years’ worth of deodorant and toothpaste on hand, I’d rather just keep one or two extras in the medicine cabinet and know what I can use from my garden instead. Part of this is because space is at a premium in my living quarters, partly because I’m a stubborn minimalist, and partly because I’m a kooky herbalist. Take your pick.

So, let’s take a look at the three most basic components for personal hygiene: something to wash skin, hair, and clothes; something for oral health; and something to keep the arm pits from getting quite so stinky. Three easy to grow, perennial herbs that fit these functions perfectly are soapwort, licorice, and sage. Being able to use these three herbs in a pinch can be handy, or they can supplement an existing daily routine as a more natural option.

Soapwort- Saponaria officinalis

Soap Substitute

Soapwort is a beautiful perennial plant that is hardy in US zones 3-9. It grows to be about three feet tall, and prefers rich, compost-heavy soil. It can be a little finicky about light requirements, as it likes sun but not too much afternoon sun. If it likes its growing location it can become invasive, but if that happens, just harvest more of it. Soapwort leaves and roots can be dried for later and still lather when used.

To make a soap solution with soapwort, use 1 tablespoon of dried leaves or roots (three tablespoons if the herb is fresh) per cup of water. Bring the water to a boil, add the herb, and allow to simmer for ten to fifteen minutes. Strain and cool before use.

Soapwort solution can be used for hair, skin, and clothing. It is very gentle, and is often found in high end organic facial care products and used to clean antique textiles. So by all means, don’t wait for SHTF!

Soapwort is toxic to fish, so don’t wash with or dump soapwort solution directly into a pond or stream where live fish are present.

Licorice Root- Glycyrrhiza glabra

Toothbrush/Toothpaste Substitute

Another perennial in the three to four foot tall range, licorice is hardy in USDA gardening zones 7-9. It prefers full sun and moist soil but doesn’t appreciate clay.

The plant will need to grow for two or three years before the roots are large enough to harvest. Once they have matured, they should be harvested in the fall, when the plant has focused all of its resources down into the roots before winter. The flavor and chemistry of the roots will be at their peak during this time.

Not only does licorice root contain antibacterial and anti-inflammatory components, it’s also shaped perfectly for turning into a simple toothbrush substitute. I use them in addition to a regular toothbrush/toothpaste routine, but some people successfully use licorice root alone.

Licorice root typically grows in a long, thin shape. Once it has been dried (this technique won’t work on a fresh root), choose one end of the root and soften it by standing in a glass with a half inch of water or by sucking on it until the root softens (usually about sixty seconds either way). Peel back the outer root bark (the brown looking skin on the root), and gently chew the root until there is a quarter inch or so of “brush” at the end. Gently rub along the gumline and over each tooth to clean the mouth.

Licorice has a sweet taste, so there’s no need to fear that your brush will taste like pencil shavings. After each use, trim away the used “brush” with a knife or scissors and store in a clean place until next use.

Sage- Salvia officinalis

Deodorant substitute

Sage is a small to medium perennial herb that prefers a very sunny location with dry, well drained soil. It will grow from zones 4-8 in the US. Many people are familiar with sage as a culinary herb, but it also has more medicinal uses.

Make a strong infusion of the fresh or dried herb to spritz or splash the underarms and help control body odor. For best results, make the infusion in the evening and allow to sit overnight before straining. It will need to be applied more frequently than a store bought deodorant, because it will not be as strong. It is not an antiperspirant, either, so it won’t keep you dry.

Fresh sage leaves can also be added to an oral hygiene routine with licorice root. Simply rub a fresh sage leaf over the gums and each tooth. Sage has a stronger flavor than licorice, but the leaves can be harvested more often and more easily than licorice roots, so it’s a good option to know.

Soapwort, licorice, and sage have many other herbal uses, but they are definitely botanical all stars when it comes to personal hygiene. Knowing how to grow and use them will mean you always have a back up plan for soap, toothpaste, and deodorant.

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Stomach “Bugs”: An Herbal Back-Up Plan http://thesurvivalmom.com/stomach-bugs-herbal-back-plan/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/stomach-bugs-herbal-back-plan/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 06:00:27 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=17779 These tips may come in handy someday soon! Click here to pin! So perhaps it’s that time of year, and stomach “bugs” are starting to make the rounds at school and work. Or, perhaps you’ve had a run in with Read More

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stomach bugs

These tips may come in handy someday soon! Click here to pin!

So perhaps it’s that time of year, and stomach “bugs” are starting to make the rounds at school and work. Or, perhaps you’ve had a run in with a mild bout of food poisoning. There are plenty of OTC drugs available (Imodium, Pepto and the like), but let’s take a look at some alternatives in the event that OTC meds aren’t available for whatever reason.

Basic Care for Stomach Bugs

There are many other herbs with a history of use for digestive support, but these five are especially easy to grow and identify, so I think they are particularly well suited for emergency preparedness scenarios where OTCs might be in short supply or unavailable. Combined with a commonsense care approach focusing on food and fluid intake, they should provide a decent family or community back-up plan.

First, regardless of what else is available, food and fluid are going to be key in keeping the situation from getting out of hand. Fluid loss from diarrhea and vomiting are especially dangerous for children and the elderly, so pay close attention to what is going in, not just what’s coming out.

Bland, soft foods are important so that the digestive system isn’t stressed further, so stay away from offering spicy or greasy foods. Make sure the foods still have nutritional value. Sugary gelatin and pudding really aren’t the best idea here. Some nutrient dense but bland foods include oatmeal and other whole grain porridge, meat and veggie broths, yogurt, and plain fruit and vegetables that are cooked until soft.

Maintaining electrolyte and fluid balance is even more important.  Make sure they drink plenty of water, diluted fruit juice, and herbal teas. Stay away from sugary drinks and anything with caffeine. An electrolyte formula can be used if the fluid loss is especially severe, and is a good idea for children and the elderly.

If you don’t have access to Pedialyte, the World Health Organization recommends ORS (Oral Rehydrating Solution) which is 5 liters of water, 6 level teaspoons of sugar, and ½ level tsp of salt. The solution is good for 24hrs, after that you will need to make a fresh batch. It can be used by alternating with other fluids.

Beyond that, these five herbs have a tradition of use for digestive upset. I’ve included some information on the growth habits of the plants as well as how they are used, and hope that will be useful for my readers interested in growing their own herbs and being less reliant on outsourcing their dried herbs.

Herbs for Vomiting

Marshmallow (Althea officinalis)

This plant is soothing for the stomach and the throat when there is a lot of vomiting and the stomach acid leaves the throat feeling raw. Marshmallow has a high level of mucilage, which makes the tea take on a distinctive “slippery” texture.

The best way to use marshmallow as a tea is actually by allowing the dried root to soak in room temperature or cool water- not brewing it with hot water as is common with most herbs. Leave it overnight for best results, but it can be used anytime after it has soaked for thirty minutes.

Marshmallow is traditionally understood to coat and soothe inflamed tissues of the digestive tract. It is one of my go-to herbs for the aftermath of food poisoning. Marshmallow is native to Africa but it is not a fussy plant and is usually happy to grow in rich garden soil as long as it gets enough water. It is a perennial that is hardy across most zones and prefers consistently moist soil.

Ginger (zingiber oficinale)

The root of this herb can help settle a stomach, and is traditionally used for nausea and improving digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Tea from fresh ginger root is best, but dried will also help. Some health food stores carry candied ginger root, which is convenient and palatable to most people. I enjoy adding it to trail mix, too, so I usually keep plenty on hand.

Ginger is a tropical plant, so for most parts of the US it will do best if grown in pots that can be brought inside during winter and placed in a sunny window.

Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra)

The bark of slippery elm is traditionally used as a thin porridge – a gruel – or added to porridge such as oatmeal. Like marshmallow, slippery elm is helpful for coating the stomach. The main difference between the two is that slippery elm is considered to be more nutritive and was used during convalescence as a food. It was often turned to when the sick person couldn’t seem to keep any food down.

Some good flavorings for a gruel that uses slippery elm are ginger or cinnamon, for an extra boost of stomach settling goodness, and honey as a sweetener. To make a slippery elm porridge, start with a bowl of oatmeal or other whole grains, and stir in a tablespoon of slippery elm powder.

To make a slippery elm gruel, place a tablespoon of slippery elm powder into a bowl, and add one cup of hot water. Add cinnamon or ginger, if desired, and allow to cool to a safe temperature for drinking.  It will thicken as it stands, so if it becomes thicker than you want, add more water.

Sometimes, herbalists mix honey and slippery elm powder to form a dough, and then roll the dough into bite sized pieces This can be eaten a few pieces at a time, rather than making a gruel.

Native to central, eastern and southern US and parts of Canada, this tree is an excellent addition to the landscape as a shade tree. Harvesting is a little trickier for trees than for other herbs. It is usually done in the spring, when the rising sap makes the bark easier to peel from the tree. It’s best to learn how to do this from someone who has had experience. “Girdling”, or stripping the bark all the way around the tree, can kill it.

These herbs are especially good if there is vomiting. But what if the problem is at the, ahem, other end?

Diarrhea

Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus)

Blackberry is the old-timey standby for diarrhea. The leaves were favored by traditional European herbalists, while the Native tribes in the US favored the roots. In the US, blackberry plants are grown domestically and it is also a common wild plant.

The leaf is easier to harvest, and usually easier to find commercially than the root.  Leaves from raspberry (a close relative of blackberry) can be used as well, and both are best prepared as a hot tea. If you are making use of blackberry leaves from your own plants, harvest them as the plant is beginning to bloom and arrange them on screens or hang in bunches to dry until you need them.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

The go to herb for end-of-meal digestive support, peppermint is also excellent for stomach bugs that leave you feeling gassy and bloated. Try hot peppermint tea with a little honey for best results.

In the garden, I always recommend planting peppermint in containers; if you plant it directly in the ground be aware that it spreads by runners and rootlets and is vigorous enough to kill other, more mild mannered, plants by crowding them out. I have also commonly found peppermint growing wild around old home sites and damp fields. It’s quite hardy and spreads freely.

As always, be aware that although many herbs have a long record of safe use, they can interact with prescription and OTC medications, so be sure to check with your doctor for potential problems before you use an herb for the first time.

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Fast, Free Survival Mom Maintenance http://thesurvivalmom.com/fast-free-survival-mom-maintenance/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/fast-free-survival-mom-maintenance/#comments Sun, 28 Sep 2014 06:00:47 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=18145  Pin this —> Taking care of the mom who takes care of everyone else! The most important thing you can do for your children? Take care of their mother! You’ve heard that if the momma isn’t happy, nobody’s happy.  You Read More

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mom maintenance

 Pin this —> Taking care of the mom who takes care of everyone else!

The most important thing you can do for your children? Take care of their mother!

You’ve heard that if the momma isn’t happy, nobody’s happy.  You need to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually to be at the top of your game so you can be the mom your kids deserve every day—including in times of crisis.

But with both time and money in short supply, what’s a survival mom to do? It’s surprising what fast, free actions can help you be better prepared.

Take care of your body

Eat in the morning

If you’re still having aspirin and coffee for breakfast, you need to rethink your routine! You’d never send your kids to face a full day on an empty stomach. You shouldn’t, either. Even if you mix up a quick protein shake the night before and down it in the car, you’re less likely to experience low blood sugar and that irritable, panicky, I’m-late-again tantrum. (‘Cause that’s not just me, right?) You’ve prepared for having to make it home without your car, deal with ugly weather conditions, and countless other unpredictable emergencies. Will you really be able to do it on an empty stomach?

Drink water

Years ago I read a book called You’re Not Sick, You’re Thirsty.  It makes for pretty dry reading, no pun intended, but you can glean much from just the summary.  While recent research indicates that forcing gallons of water down your gullet isn’t necessarily beneficial, Mother Nature never intended you to drink a 2-liter of soda a day, either.

Staying hydrated boosts your energy and helps fill your tummy, too. If you’re one of the handful of women who doesn’t have to diligently watch her waistline, well, I’ll keep my snarky comments to myself. But for the rest of us, water may be our diet’s best friend.

Stretch 

You know you’re supposed to exercise at least 3 times a week; it’s not news.  But I promised free and QUICK strategies, so try this one! Find 30 seconds in your day—especially when you feel a bit sluggish—to stretch your back, arms, and legs. Touch your toes. Take a deep breath. You’ll feel energized instantly.

Floss 

Statistically, most of us don’t floss our teeth regularly. Your oral health provides a window to your overall health, according to the Mayo Clinic.  You probably have imagined a scenario where dental care could be unavailable or unaffordable.  A 2-minute date each day with some dollar-store floss seems like a pretty cheap insurance policy.

Stop smoking, already!

This is beyond free, because you’re actually saving money. And your health, and your kids’ health. If it hits the fan, you’ll have to go cold turkey, anyway, so you might as well get ahead of the game and put that money to better use now.

I know, I know, it’s easy for me to say because I’ve never been addicted. So I’ll tell you what I tell my kids: If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way.  If not, you’ll find an excuse. Breathing is kind of essential to survival—more than any food stores or silver stash. Give your lungs the priority they deserve.

Get some sleep!

Seriously—your mind and body need rest.  Limit your late nights to just a couple a week.  The laundry will still be there in the morning, I promise. But if you drive to school groggy, snap at your kids unnecessarily, or slog through your day doing everything at half speed, you’d be better off getting that extra hour of zzz’s.

Keep your mind sharp

Read!

Download a free kindle app. Then, download some free kindle books. Even without a kindle, you can find enough to keep your brain engaged. Read short articles while you’re at the doctor’s office. Read The Survival Mom on your lunch break. Read to your kids before bed! Keep that tradition going even when your kids can read on their own. Current research indicates that it’s even good for teenagers! Read a book together (or at least talk about it when you’re both done).

Journal

Neurosurgeon Dr. Paul Nussbaum has laid out a prescription for keeping the brain so healthy that the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease can be delayed until death—even when physiological changes consistent with the disease are already present. His recommendations include reading and writing just a little bit every day. Don’t bog yourself down wallowing in only survivalist reading. A cheesy romance novel can be good for the brain and spirit, too.  Still no time? Read on your treadmill. Surely multitasking can help you justify 30 minutes to yourself. (I like to read the kindle and walk the track while the kids play at the playground.)

Nurture your spirit

Develop an attitude of gratitude

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your lists of things to do/buy/learn before everything hits the fan, make a mental list of all the things you have to celebrate. It’s impossible to wallow in the doom and gloom of internet news when you ‘re picturing the faces of your smiling kiddos or grandkids! Even in the midst of divorce, illness, financial difficulty, or multiple loads of unfolded laundry, you have lots to be thankful for. If you’re not dealing with any of those issues, you know where to start your list.

Pray or meditate daily

Even if you’re not religious per se, Dr. Nussbaum says daily time in quiet contemplation (maybe making that gratitude list?) has powerful effects on the brain and body. I know it’s tough to find quiet time.  Might I suggest the minutes between “snooze” hits on your morning alarm? Works for me.  I find I can be very contemplative on Monday mornings.

Ask for help

It’s not against the rules.  It doesn’t make you a bad mom. It just means you’re human, and you’ve accepted it. That can be really powerful! Showing your kids how to take care of simple chores, meal prep, and organization can be empowering for them and liberating for you. And if we’re being honest, go ahead and admit that you don’t ask your husband for help because you hate admitting you need it, not because he won’t do it. Mine started snapping beans with the ballgame on and worked his way up to slap-chopping vegetables with the kids (it’s hilarious to see them all lined up and pounding their way toward homemade salsa!). Now he’s an expert tomato skinner, pear peeler, and taste-tester. Plus we get to spend time together instead of me busy in the kitchen while he does…well, whatever he does out in the workshop.  I have found he’ll help with pretty much anything if I ask. But expecting him to notice a sticky hand print and attack it without prompting is unrealistic. I don’t get too worked up about it—especially now that I feel like I’m not doing it all on my own. (Again, that’s not just me, right?) Asking for help will also allow you to make time to exercise, read, and get enough sleep.  I bet your husband will agree that you deserve those things! Give yourself permission.

You’re too important to your family to neglect yourself. They need your “A” game every day. And because you never know when emergencies—major or minor—could require peak physical, mental, and emotional performance, taking care of the mom who takes care of everyone else may be the most important preparation you’ll ever make.

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The Star Wars Guide to Surviving Flu Season http://thesurvivalmom.com/star-wars-guide-surviving-flu-season/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/star-wars-guide-surviving-flu-season/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 18:02:31 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=17786 Pin this so you’ll have easy access to these great tips! It happens each and every year.  No, it’s not your birthday. Well that happens too, but that’s not the topic. It’s that oh-so-rude life interruption that comes every fall.  Read More

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surviving flu seasonPin this so you’ll have easy access to these great tips!

It happens each and every year.  No, it’s not your birthday. Well that happens too, but that’s not the topic. It’s that oh-so-rude life interruption that comes every fall.  We go about our business as usual and then some blimey news anchor reminds us that it’s Flu Season. UGH. It’s a reminder that it’s time to be on our ‘A’ game as far as avoiding that little bugger that cause such angst among us.

Well, I’m here now to impart of my wisdom to you. I’m knocking on wood here, but also letting you know that I’m in my 40’s and happy to say that I have NEVER had the flu. I hope that something I share today can help you  claim that distinction for this year too.

Instead of just a list of things to do, I thought it a great idea to impart some wisdom from another realm. However, in my research (which consisted of consulting my 19 year old Star Wars guru son) I discovered that the flu does not exist in a Galaxy Far Far Away.  However, The inhabitants of that galaxy do have lots to say about different aspects of this article, so I’ll include their commentary below.

The Star Wars Guide to Commentary on Surviving Flu Season

Stay healthy:  Our bodies are an amazing thing if we treat them right.  They are designed to fight and destroy invaders. When we keep ourselves healthy by eating healthful foods that fuel our machines and exercise regularly our fighting force is kept in tip top shape. Avoiding stress also plays a roll here. Stress taxes our body and our fighting force is much less effective.

Hydrate: We hear this a lot in the summer months – hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – but it’s even more important in the winter months. Hydration keeps our outer defenses in place. If we allow our Shields (skin) to be compromised then the virus can enter more readily. Our Skin is our first defense, keep it solid and it will serve us well.

Hydrating in the winter is harder because our thirst mechanism is less keen when it’s cold outside. We just don’t feel thirsty so it must become a more conscious process to stay hydrated. Plan to keep 2 quarts of water in you at all times. After a few days of making this a habit, our bodies adjust to the new level of hydration by utilizing the water better and we aren’t running to the bathroom like we will the first couple of days.

If you feel the need to apply lotion to your hands often, that’s a good clue that your body is dehydrated. Drink!

Wash Hands: We tend to chant this mantra especially during flu season but that’s usually as far as it gets. The flu virus is airborne via droplets that are expelled when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Those little droplets land on EVERYTHING.

Even Uncle Owen knew that cleanliness is very near to godliness:

Unless our hands are in our pockets all day long we WILL pick some up when touching things like door knobs, elevator buttons, keyboards, light switches, telephones, toilet flushers, buttons on merchant card machines, shopping cart handles, etc.  FREQUENT hand washing must become a habit.

Those little buggers aren’t crawling up under our fingernails and drilling their way through our skin. Nope, we get sick from touching things and then touching our face, eyes, mouths etc.  Just take the next 30 minutes and count how often you touch your face area and you’ll be amazed.

Many of us spend time during the day where we aren’t able to run to a sink whenever we like.  But we all can carry and USE hand sanitizer for those times when we can’t.  Remember to stay hydrated because hand sanitizers contain alcohol and it can be very drying. As Darth Vader would say, “It is unwise to lower your defenses!” Keep your  hands clean!

Social Distancing: Staying away from crowds and putting space between your mucous membranes and the potentially infected droplets of others is Social Distancing.

This is a tough one because we love to congregate for all sorts of reasons, especially during the holiday season, and sometimes we must for our work.  Just being aware that a certain percentage of the people in your vicinity haven’t read this article and won’t be doing what they could to avoid the virus will go along way to sparing you from it. 

You’ll start to notice the sickos in the elevator and then maybe decide to take the stairs instead. (That’s a more healthy choice anyway, see the first item above.)  Although they should, sick people don’t stay home when they are sick most of the time.  It might seem a bit rude but maybe think about NOT shaking hands during the flu season.

C3PO might have been better off maintaining a bit of social distancing from the Jawas. Am I right?

Cover your mouth: Did you hear your mothers voice when you read that? Mom’s are so smart. Covering your mouth helps contain your droplets from flying around the room. Growing up we were told to cover our mouths with our hands. That helps, but then the hand is covered with droplets, and since we touch so many things with our hands, that’s a problem.

A tissue covered hand is a great option but most of us don’t have a tissue at the ready. A better option is to cough or sneeze into your arm. It does look a little weird but pretend like you are trying to kiss your shoulder and you’ll have the correct sleeve-sneezing position.

Coughing or sneezing into the fabric of your sleeve contains the droplets much better than our hands. You tried kissing our shoulder didn’t you? Good job, practice makes perfect.

Stay home:  Now if we’ve followed the above advise this one is a non-issue but if not…read on. Just stay home if you are sick. Our co-workers would thank us if they new the little ickies that we protected them from. We all have stuff to do, but the reality is that most of the time it will wait or someone else can do it. The world will keep on spinning if we take a couple days off work to stay home and keep our germs to ourselves and let our bodies recover from the foreign invasion.

If the first person with the flu just stayed home….There would be only one person with the flu that season. I realize that’s an oversimplified statement, but the person to person transmission would be cut down significantly. C3PO makes that declaration very clearly:

If the worst does happen, be prepared

Before flu season arrives, equip yourself with everything you would need if the worst happens and little Johnny brings home a flu bug. In a box, bucket, or other container, assemble products that will see you through 3 or 4 days of dealing with a family affair with the flu.

  • Ginger ale for queasy tummies. Ginger is the key here, so make sure it’s a brand that actually contains ginger not just a flavoring.
  • Sick People Food: chicken noodle soup, crackers, gelatin, possibly even broth or rice
  • Gatorade or Pedialyte for dehydration
  • An extra box or two of tissues and hand sanitizer
  • Disinfectant spray and /or wipes
  • Thermometer (Remember to disinfect it before putting it away!)
  • Vomit bucket  A drink pitcher can work well. Trash cans can be too big for little hands to hold, if you aren’t in the room when they need to use it.
  • Kid’n Pets Stain & Odor Remover
    • This will eliminate smells and stains associated with the flu, including vomit. My family uses this on a regular basis, and I’ve reviewed it here. The next time you’re at a Walmart, look for Stain & Odor Remover in a big white and yellow bottle in the cleaning products aisle.

Fortify your Defenses: For me this means boosting my immune system using essential oils (EOs) and other things like Vitamin C.  Taking a multivitamin will also help our bodies have what they need to defend.  There are many companies that sell different EO blends to combat germs. You can search those out, but I prefer to make my own blends.

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned getting a flu vaccine.  That is a very personal decision that I’ll leave to each of you.  I will say that In my 40 something years I’ve NEVER had the flu…and in those same years….well you can finish that thought.

Do your homework where vaccines are concerned and make the best decision for your family.

Princess Leah looks  none too pleased at the needle headed in her direction.

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REVIEW: ESSIO Aromatherapy Shower http://thesurvivalmom.com/review-essio-aromatherapy-shower/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/review-essio-aromatherapy-shower/#comments Sun, 07 Sep 2014 16:00:00 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=17932 I have become a big fan of essential oils over the last few years, so I was curious when I had the chance to review the ESSIO Aromatherapy Shower kit. The kit includes a plastic arm that clips onto to Read More

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aromatherapy showerI have become a big fan of essential oils over the last few years, so I was curious when I had the chance to review the ESSIO Aromatherapy Shower kit. The kit includes a plastic arm that clips onto to the showerhead pipe, three types of oils, and a plastic tray to hold the oils.

To start, if I didn’t make every possible mistake with the first pod, I’m not sure which one I missed. This is good for you, since I can tell you what to watch out for.

After I got all my mistakes out of the way, it was easy to use.

The First Pod: Breathe

They clearly state that these aren’t designed for use with a hand-held shower. The master bath shower was in the middle of being recaulked, so I tried it in the kids shower. Naturally, it has a hand-held shower. (If I wasn’t writing a review, I would have waited, but I thought it might be helpful for readers to know how it worked out – I’m thoughtful that way.)

The short answer: It wasn’t terrible, but the oil pod wasn’t directly in the water as is intended. It might actually have made it, if I had realized that the plastic arm the pod attaches to telescopes out to become longer. My user errors didn’t stop it from filling the room with a lovely scent, but it just didn’t seem quite as effective.

When I pulled out the pod, there was a plastic cover on it. The instructions didn’t mention removing anything before attaching it to the plastic arm, so I thought it was paper that would be punched through. It does not punch through, it twists off – and you’ll need to put it back on when you’re done, so don’t throw it away.

Even after I removed the plastic cover, I had a difficult time getting the pod attached and dropped it a couple times, once into running water. The instructions warn you it will dilute the oil if you get water into it by putting the entire pod under the water flow.

When I finally attached it, I wasn’t careful and managed to ram the tip that is supposed to go into the water flow back inside the pod. Between dropping it, ramming the tip inside, and other user-errors, I used up all the “Relax” oil in the first usage.

I did find that it made me more relaxed, even with the problems getting started, and both my boys enjoyed the scent when they took showers a little later in the evening.

The Second Pod: Passion

I used it in the master bath and it went far more smoothly. The plastic arm easily attached to the pipe in both bathrooms, and I was able to attach the pod easily now that I knew what not to do.

The pod easily reached the water flow. Flipping it up to reduce usage and back down to add more aroma was a piece of cake. The “lid” went back on the pod for storage without any challenges.

I used very little of the oil this time and have more than enough for several more showers, and I really enjoyed the smell.

The Third Pod: Breathe

I can’t testify as to whether this helps on a stuffy head since I don’t have one right now, but it smells nice and like something that would help, if I was stuffy.

I had a little more trouble attaching this one than the second, but nowhere near the difficulty I had the first time, and I still had it attached in well under thirty seconds. As with any product that requires a tight fit (you don’t want the pod dropping off mid-shower), sometimes the fit is simply a little tighter than others.

While my kids aren’t tall enough to tilt the pods up and down, the youngest loves the idea and the eldest is willing to give it a try. The next time they have a cold, we’ll use this. I may even buy the “Night” pods for nights he’s not very sleepy at bedtime.

Overall

aromatherapy nightI could understand readers thinking that putting oils in your shower could make the shower slippery or leave your hair or body oily or greasy. The truth is, as with all things essential oil, we’re talking about drops of oil, not cups of it. In addition, it’s not dripping on you. The drops of oil are delivered through a specialized tip that diffuses them in the shower water.

Even when I dropped the pod directly on the tub floor, it wasn’t oily. And even with using an entire pod in one shower, I didn’t feel any residue on my skin or hair. The whole family could, however, smell the oil throughout the upstairs for quite awhile after my shower.

As I said, I’m a big fan of essential oils. These are a fun, easy way to get aromatherapy benefits – and an excuse to take a little extra time both in the shower and in the bathroom afterwards, pampering yourself a bit and enjoying the lingering aroma.

The Actual Pods

Since you are probably wondering, while a refillable pod that you can put your own scents into would be great, they don’t offer those. They do have a nice selection that covers what are probably the most-often-wanted uses for for aromatherapy including the three discussed, Night, Wisdom, and Clear.

We’ve all seen McCormick’s little oval squeeze containers of dye for coloring food. Each oil pod is approximately the same size (and shape) as those dye containers, but they aren’t squeezable. They also aren’t refillable, but you can buy replacement packs of 4 or 8 pods for $19.99 or $29.99. Given that they are 100% certified organic oils with no chemicals or synthetics added, that price seems reasonable.

If each pod lasts for 4 showers, that works out to about $1.25 or $0.94 (plus shipping ad handling) per shower for a home-spa experience. (They are actually offered at my favorite day spa!) I’ll take that deal.

Giveaway

ESSIO is running a giveaway from now through September 25th. Five lucky winners will receive a free Shower Kit.

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Five Misconceptions About Herbal Preparedness http://thesurvivalmom.com/five-misconceptions-herbal-preparedness/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/five-misconceptions-herbal-preparedness/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 06:00:04 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=16707 As an herbalist and a prepper, I have noticed several common misconceptions people have about using herbs in general, but that especially apply to people interested in learning about herbs for preparedness. These misunderstandings usually come from overly simplified ideas Read More

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5 MisconceptionsAs an herbalist and a prepper, I have noticed several common misconceptions people have about using herbs in general, but that especially apply to people interested in learning about herbs for preparedness.

These misunderstandings usually come from overly simplified ideas about plants and herbalism.

Keeping it simple is good, but oversimplification can get in the way and, in this case, even cause harm. So what’s a would-be herbal prepper to do?

Let’s look at the five most common misconceptions about herbs that seem to affect the prepper community.

Misconception #1: If It’s Natural, It Must Be Safe

Reality: Not necessarily! Most herbs have a high margin of safety, but some are toxic in large amounts or under certain conditions. Some herbs should be avoided during pregnancy because of historical use as abortifacients.

Other herbs that were considered safe traditionally have been found to contain toxic compounds when subjected to modern research. Examples include herbs like Borage and Comfrey, which contain alkaloids that can cause liver problems.

Herbs can also interact with other medications, so make sure you keep your doctor apprised of any herbal supplements you take regularly.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), herbs are classified into three groups: the first level are as safe as foods. The second are more targeted in their effects on the human body and are used safely as needed. The third level are used sparingly, and may contain plants that modern science has identified as toxic.

For example, lobelia is an herb commonly used for lung problems and as a natural aid to stop smoking. Lobeline, part of the plant’s chemical profile, is similiar in structure to nicotine but is non- habit forming. However, in large amounts, lobeline can act as an emetic and cause vomiting.

Misconception#2: Herbs Don’t Really Work – I Tried Them

Reality: You may not have been using the right herb for the job, or used it the right way. Herbs actually have a complex relationship with the human body when used correctly. Because worldwide traditions of herbalism focus on the state of balance within the human body as a whole, rather than the modern, western fascination with disease as a separate entity, it can be difficult to translate the proper use of herbs into a modern context.

Many resources make the mistake of oversimplifying, listing herb after herb under each category with no distinction of the most appropriate situation for use. A great example of this is herbs for coughs. The list typically goes something like this: plantain, coltsfoot, thyme, marshmallow, cherry bark, pleurisy root, elecampane, mullein…and it could go on! Does that mean that all the herbs on the list can be used interchangeably? Far from it!

Plantain and Marshmallow are going to give the most benefit to a dry cough where there is only a little mucus that is hard to bring up. Herbs that can be used when there is lots of mucus that the body is trying to expel include cherry bark and elecampane.

Mullein is a wonderful herb for coughs, but it is traditionally used for allergies and asthma rather than an acute respiratory illness. Herbalists observed that it works on the cough reflex, so using it while the body is trying to get rid of lots of mucus is not a good idea! Suppressing the reflex and having the mucus just sit around in the lungs can set the stage for infection.

So, as you can see, all of the above herbs are great for coughs, but it’s important to consider the type of cough for best results.

In addition, some herbs are drunk as a tea, others are inhaled in steam, and still others are applied topically. You can rub chamomile on your tummy all day long, and it still won’t help you sleep the way drinking a cup of chamomile tea does.

Misconception #3: Herbs Don’t Really Work – There’s No Science.

Reality: Much of the current research on herbs has been done overseas, rather than here in the US, but there is actually plenty of literature in medical journals worldwide to explore. Most research focuses on identifying the active constituents in the chemistry of plants. This leads to more information on why a plant traditionally used for a given ailment was effective, and how that can be harnessed for the modern pharmaceutical industry.

Digitoxin is a cardiac drug that is one example of this. It was originally extracted from the herb Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), used by medieval herbalists.

It is interesting to note that many traditions of herbalism rely on taste to group herbs into different useful categories. Before modern chemical analysis emerged, this was a crude way of noticing that the chemical make ups of the plants were different.

Many “bitter” tasting herbs were observed to have a “cooling” effect on the body, and therefore matched with the observation of “heat” in the body. “Heat” conditions in traditional herbalism are a broad category that include cases that would be explained by modern science in terms of bacterial infection. Modern science confirms that many of the bitter principles found in herbs have an antibacterial capacity that makes them suited for use in an infected, or  “hot”, condition.

It’s also important to note, however, that the chemical makeup of plants is complex enough that science is only beginning to scratch the surface of the way they interact with the body. Sometimes reducing the plant down to one or two chemicals that seem to be “active” is actually another oversimplification in itself. But it’s a start.

A great resource on the chemical science behind herbalism is the textbook Medical Herbalism by David Hoffman.

Misconception #4: Animals can tell what plants they need instinctively or by taste. So can I!

Reality: This is a really, really bad idea.

Here’s why:

Yes, herbalists traditionally group herbs for use by taste. Herbs that were sweet, salty, bitter, or sour were believed to have an affinity for different body systems and conditions. (See number three, above.) However, when this myth comes up in the prepper community, people are usually talking about using taste and instinct to IDENTIFY random plants they find growing nearby and make use of them.

This is either used as an excuse to avoid learning how to identify plants safely out of laziness, or for the sake of some weird “I’m Very in Tune with my Body” bragging rights. Either way, considering that cattle poison themselves rather frequently (just ask any experienced rancher), and that most of the people who have this misconception can’t “intuitively” identify poison ivy, it’s safe to say that there is an incredibly dangerous disconnection here.

A great example here is water hemlock, which regularly poisons both people and livestock. It is a common wild plant in the carrot family, but a single bite of the root can kill an adult human, and cattle have died in less than fifteen minutes after ingesting more. The few people who have survived accidental ingestion have remarked that it’s quite pleasant tasting.

Exhibit A: If you don’t know what it is, don’t put it in your mouth. Period.

Misconception #5 I’ll Just Stock up on Field Guides and Books. If SHTF, I can Forage for Everything I Need.

Reality: People who don’t spend a lot of time in nature often don’t realize that it is a far cry from the mythical, unspoiled bounty of the collective imagination. Nature is not a grocery store.

For one thing, just like garden vegetables, wild herbs and plants have an ideal harvesting window that can vary by the length of their life cycle. We don’t experience this in our modern grocery stores because of worldwide shipping and greenhouse growing, but very few plants can be harvested year round. There’s almost nothing available from late fall through mid-spring in most natural settings.

Why do you think canning was invented?

Another problem with relying on books and planning to harvest “as needed” in a SHTF scenario is the potential difficulty in resource management – the threat of over harvesting. Stands of wild plants require special care to avoid wiping them out permanently in a single harvest. In some cases, this means harvesting less than 1/10 of the plants in an area that can be acres in size, and allowing rest years for the population to re-stabilize.

SHTF, you can bet no one is going to be concerned about whether they pick too much. This problem doesn’t even occur to most people now. “Poaching” and over harvesting for the commercial trade is an issue even without the desperation implied by a SHTF scenario.

During a major disruption, it’s possible that many areas would be stripped of available edible and medicinal plants in short order and take years to recover.

The Take- Away

So, considering these five misconceptions, I think there are three very important things the prepper community needs to take into account if we want to consider herbalism as a viable skill for our personal and community toolkits.

For one thing: know thy plants! It’s better to know a few herbs very well than to have had a brush with many. Learn how to identify the herbs which you use the most in every stage of growth, and learn all of the small distinctions in use that set them apart from other herbs in the same category.

For another: get set now. Stock an herbal pantry with your most commonly used herbs in their dried, bulk form and in alcohol extracts. As a minimum, consider four oz of the dried herbs per person, stored in an airtight container away from light and temperature extremes. This will need to be replaced yearly.

Keep a minimum of four oz of each extract per person. These can last much longer (in some cases more than ten years!).

And last, whenever possible, learn to grow your own herbs. Even a small container garden on a patio can be used later to grow a larger garden if it becomes necessary.

By learning from these five misconceptions, not only do you have a much better chance of using herbs safely and effectively for health and well-being now, but also in scenarios where you are down to no other options.

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Homesteading Health Tip: Sneaky Sugars To Watch Out For http://thesurvivalmom.com/homesteading-health-tip-sneaky-sugars-watch/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/homesteading-health-tip-sneaky-sugars-watch/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 06:00:43 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=16472 As part of my Gluten Free journey, I removed refined sugars from my diet and even cut back on the natural sugars that kind of appease my sweet tooth. Of course, that meant checking what is added to food when Read More

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sneakysugars - Karen LynnAs part of my Gluten Free journey, I removed refined sugars from my diet and even cut back on the natural sugars that kind of appease my sweet tooth. Of course, that meant checking what is added to food when when go grocery shopping.

I did not  realize just how rampant it is until I became more educated on refined sugars and their effect on my body, my brain, and my general health. The food industry is sneaking sugars into a lot of foods on the grocery shelves – even food items I didn’t expect to see sugar added to.

Coffee drinks were not a big surprise, although I am not sure everyone realizes just how much sugar is in those delicious caffeinated beverages. Other items were surprises – bread and yogurt, for example.

Bread

Yes, read your bread labels carefully. I recently picked up a loaf of bread and it stated on the label: Made without high fructose corn syrup and I was thinking…corn syrup really in my bread? Bread doesn’t weigh in high on the sugar scale, but I didn’t like seeing the trends in labeling since it means many companies are adding high fructose corn syrup or other sugars.

I don’t know about you, but when I choose bread for my family – and I do because they haven’t all given up bread – I look for company’s that are using more healthful options with their ingredients.

Catsup or Ketchup

This once-healthy condiment is now loaded with sneaky sugars. Just turn the label over  and read it. One product in particular not only added high fructose corn syrup, they added a little extra regular corn syrup for good measure.

So what do you do? If all else fails, you can make your own ketchup. It’s really not terribly difficult. (Keep an eye out for the October 2014 podcast with the writer of that article on The Survival Mom Radio Network.)

Let’s face it: not everyone is going to make their own catsup. You can follow my lead and just avoid it for most meals, but there are many new kinds of catsups on the market, including lower sugar, spicy, lower sodium, and more. I recently purchased a low sugar version on vacation and liked it well enough to continue using it. Personally, I have already given up my bread, so I really want to keep the catsup on my hot dog. I feel like I’m at a Baseball field. It’s more festive!

Spaghetti Sauce

It actually stunned me when I started making better eating choices and saw how many sugars are on your plate of pasta. I had always known to stay away from fatty white sauces, but I never knew to steer clear of sugar laden marinara or spaghetti sauce.

Now, I prefer to just add home-canned diced tomatoes to most of my food. There are also healthier store bought sources of canned tomatoes that use proper canning techniques. It may seem too plain to your palate at first, but season it with a few well appointed seasonings (such as basil and oregano) and you will be won over in know time.

Flavored Yogurts

Many of these are loaded with either sugar or aspartame. I started making my own plain, full fat yogurt and add fruit and nuts. My husband does not care for plain yogurt, so he switched to cottage cheese. Sometimes eliminating sugars takes a little more change, but whatever works for your family is the right choice.

Parents for sure don’t want their children eating too much sugar. If your kids won’t go for the plain yogurt, try adding a teaspoon or two of honey (raw, of course) or a low sugar jam. It will be sweeter for them, but much healthier than the list of chemicals and sneaky sugars they are slipping into flavored yogurt.

Coffee Drinks (Lattes, Frozen Coffee Beverages, etc.)

Not so sneaky, but there are so many gourmet coffee shops and specialty coffee drinks I thought it worth mentioning.

The average small latte has about 200 calories and 13 grams of sugar. A small caramel frozen coffee beverage boasts an even higher sugar content – a whopping 60 grams of sugar.

Alternatives?

I am an avid enthusiast of all things honey and well that’s easy for me to say since we are beekeepers and have an abundance of it. The primary sugars I keep in my family’s diet are natural sugars, mostly honey and stevia. If we were not beekeepers I would probably eat even less.

I’m thankful I gave up coffee drinks a long time ago! Give me a nice delicious cup of coffee with a little cream and honey, and I’m a happy gal. And when I say a little honey, I mean a very little maybe a ¼ to a ½ of a tsp., and a very generous tablespoon of cream.

For some folks sugar is not a problem, but understanding those sneaky sugars is key because that might change later, such as when you have kids. Simply getting older forces many of us to start paying attention, whether we want to or not. If you start earlier, maybe you can put that day off a bit longer, and provide a good example to  your family. (Even if you are a teenager now, you can be the example to your parents.)

Now, when I purchase spaghetti sauce or almost anything else pre-made, I take the time to read the labels.

These are just a few examples of some sneaky sugars that can sneak into you and your family’s diet. Be watchful and put on your spy glasses! I am a Certified “Sugar Spy” these days! ;) I hope you have accepted this mission to join me, and that you enjoyed my latest homesteading health tip for The Survival Mom Blog.

Disclaimer:  I am not a nutrition expert, just a Suburban Homesteader who is slowly educating herself on how to eat healthier and live a healthier more active lifestyle!

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Have You Read The Label? Make Your Own (Healthier) Salad Dressing http://thesurvivalmom.com/read-label-healthier-salad-dressing/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/read-label-healthier-salad-dressing/#comments Tue, 05 Aug 2014 06:00:44 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=16086 So you’re standing over a big wooden bowl beholding your masterpiece. This is no ordinary salad. There are roasted baby carrots from your CSA, locally sourced cheese, grilled radicchio, organic orange segments, and baby greens you grew with your own Read More

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salad dressingSo you’re standing over a big wooden bowl beholding your masterpiece. This is no ordinary salad. There are roasted baby carrots from your CSA, locally sourced cheese, grilled radicchio, organic orange segments, and baby greens you grew with your own hands. Because you care about the environment, the local economy and what your family eats.

Now you need some dressing.

Mmmm…it’s the disodium guanylate that gives it that homemade touch….

When did salad dressing get so gross?

I could go on and on (as I’m wont to do) about the dual loss of Mom’s cooking and Home Ec class, the folly of farm subsidies making bad food cheap, advertisers, food fads and imaginary allergies, etc. The sad bottom line is: It happened when we let it happen. We were seduced by “easy” and abdicated our food choices to people who DO NOT have our best interests at heart. Our bad.

There are dozens of books specific to dressings or with great dressing sections. A couple of great ones are Oils and Vinegars by Liz Franklin and the generally awesome How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. But here’s an overvembarrassed.lettuceiew:

What does dressing do?

All too often, it disguises a wilty, boring, or weird salad. Ever notice that we tend to put less dressing on a really great salad? The time to start thinking about dressing is before making the salad, not after.

Yes, there are days when all we have time or supplies for is lettuce/tomato/cucumber. That’s where assertive dressings like blue-cheese, Green Goddess, and Caesar come in. In such a case, try sticking those tomato chunks (brushed with oil) under the broiler for a couple minutes, too.

What’s in dressing?

Typically, oil and vinegar. Or at least, something oily and something acidic plus assorted seasonings.

Cropping up around the country are stores where you can taste the oils and vinegars. They bottle them to order and some even give a refill discount. Most of them ship. Odds are that your local Weight Watchers knows where they are. Full Disclosure: I work at this one: O’Live A Little but there are others.

Let’s talk about oil: Thankfully, people are finally waking up to the fact that bad, biased science from a bygone era gave fats and oils an undeserved bad rap. Our ancestors have been eating plant and animal fats since time immemorial. It’s the fake fats that are the problem. Did you know that hydrogenated oil was originally formulated to make soap and candles? That’s where it should stay.

Salad oils

Soy, Canola and Corn: Flavorless and odorless, they’re supposed to be more versatile. When did flavor become undesirable? Again, when we wanted convenience and “one oil to rule them all.” Farm subsidies made them artificially cheap and we grew accustomed to their taste (or lack thereof).

Be aware that in America, right now, any corn product that isn’t organic is almost certainly genetically modified! Canola and soy almost as much so. So if you do want a neutral oil, look for organic, but try having at least 2 oils around for different flavors.

Olive: There are tons of myths about olive oil. So here are some facts:

  • Color does not indicate quality or freshness
  • A great deal of it claiming to be Italian is really from someplace else but bottled in Italy, most is from Spain
  • EVOO doesn’t always taste better or milder (some is actually very bitter; taste is about variety, location, freshness and storage conditions)
  • Non-extra virgin isn’t necessarily substandard.

Tree nuts: Walnut, hazel, pecan, etc. Delicious and silky but very delicate and easily overpowered. Works nicely with nuts, dried fruits (especially cranberries) and mild fresh fruits like pears, figs and dates.

Sesame: Almost always toasted, very assertive. Usually paired with classic Asian flavors like ginger, lemongrass and soy sauce. It’s also great on salads that are next to or topped with salmon or green beans.

Squash Seed Oils: Remember eating the toasted seeds from your jack’o lantern as a kid? They press those and other squash seeds for oil now. Now, I’ve become allergic to peanuts. I don’t miss peanuts per se; I miss peanut butter. I about died when I tried roasted Butternut squash seed oil. It tastes like peanut butter! And if you mix it with a thick, well-aged balsamic vinegar in your favorite fruit flavor, that makes peanut butter and jelly! That’s a nice dressing for a mild salad but also try it on Belgian waffles topped with whipped cream or mascarpone cheese!

Which brings us to…

Vinegars

There are basically 2 kinds: Regular and Balsamic.

Regular (a word which hereafter shall mean “not balsamic “): These are typically made from grapes or apples. Red wine, white wine, sherry, etc. are usually just that. Read the label though! Sometimes “apple cider” or “Chardonnay” vinegar is really cheap, distilled white pickling vinegar with a little of the advertised vinegar added. Such pretenders are usually flat and boring, often harsh and bitter.

Don’t be afraid of blends like cider/white wine or sherry/champagne; the dominant flavor gets dialed down and makes it more versatile. For a more savory/Umami quality, try Malt vinegar. Made from barley, it’s ubiquitous on fish and chips but try it on salads with seafood, sweet potatoes and cheese. If you like the flavor  but want to tame it slightly, a touch of honey and a pinch of cinnamon or bay leaf will do wonders.

Vinegars made from red wines are typically more earthy and complex. Rice wine vinegar is very mild. Champagne is mild and versatile and is the favorite of artisanal picklers. Sherry vinegar is more interesting like red, but milder and often sweeter. Just as with alcohol, the word “dry” means “not sweet.”

Speaking of alcohol, many people who don’t drink alcohol for religious reasons shun vinegars made from them. That’s a personal choice. But I will say this: There’s no alcohol in them. Also, they don’t taste the same, according to alcohol drinkers; this removes the concern about getting accustomed to the taste and being tempted to drink actual Fire-Water. Cooking and baking with alcohol is another matter that we’ll leave for another time, but as for vinegar, you can save the distilled white for pickles.

For guidance on brands, ask friends and try some. Cooks Illustrated Magazine and their PBS show America’s Test Kitchen are another good resource. If you buy one that’s not terrible but not quite knocking your socks off, add your favorite herb or mix in a little Balsamic.

Balsamic: There’s a lot of confusion and myth about balsamic vinegar. In a nutshell, it’s crushed white wine grapes that are caramelized and aged in charred casks. As it ages, it also condenses and becomes thicker and sweeter. Experts and fans usually consider 8 years a minimum age but prefer 12 or more. Avoid ones that are barely aged (or just red wine vinegar) with thickeners and a ton of sugar added. White balsamic is not caramelized and the casks are uncharred, so it’s a lighter color and typically less sweet. It’s a less nuanced flavor but a cleaner, more floral one.

Flavored Balsamic vinegars are usually traditional balsamic flavored with fruit and other flavor concentrates. Why not add the flavor in the beginning? Because sometimes the aging process is not kind to a flavor and it doesn’t end up tasting like peach, mango, or whatever.

Part of the beauty of 12yr+ balsamic vinegars is that they can be drizzled directly on a salad without any oil…they stick! (That’s why Weight Watchers knows where the local on-tap shop is.) If you do use oil, far less is required than with regular vinegars. It becomes all about flavor. One of my favorite combinations is green apple White Balsamic with about 10% scallion olive oil.

What about “creamy” dressing?

That’s simply a dairy product in place of part or all of the oil. It’s usually buttermilk or yogurt, but other dairy is sometimes used including, of course, blue cheese. When I was in college in Idaho, they would dip or slather anything – a-ny-thing – with Ranch dressing. Salt Lake City was worse. A chef I worked with there bemoaned that Ranch dressing was “the second largest religion in Utah.”

Look at how many preservatives are in bottled creamy dressings and you’ll see why it’s best to keep homemade ones refrigerated and use within a few days.

Assertive, creamy dressings are a good excuse for iceberg lettuce. Or put them on a simple salad of any mild, crunchy greens with just tomato and cukes.

Here’s my mother’s version of creamy:

Sharon’s  Creamy Garlic Dressing

1 C mayonnaise (your oil and vinegar are already there)
1 Tb garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
About 2 Tb milk
Combine and refrigerate for at least an hour to reconstitute. Should be thick and gloppy. Thin with a little more milk if desired.
(One of my favorite things about Preppers is that you can talk about garlic powder in front of them without recrimination.)

Some Random Pairings and Observations

  • Roasted root veggies love orange and fennel.
  • When using citrus fruit, use the juice in place of some or all of the vinegar.
  • If you can’t have balsamic vinegar due to migraines or other reason, mix your favorite jam with some regular vinegar or a blend of citrus juices.
  • Hatred of arugula is often genetic. The smell and taste are nauseating. Don’t push.
  • Fresh herbs are best, but dried ones should be stored as whole as possible.
  • Replace dried herbs annually, use at about half volume of fresh, allow at least an hour for reconstitution.
  • Most salads become a meal with the addition of beans or other protein source.
  • Beans should be large/soft enough to get a fork into. Chasing small ones is annoying.

Recreating Favorite Brands

Maybe you can’t. Maybe that’s a good thing. My family and I are in love with a particular ketchup-esque make and model of bottled dressing. It has no equivalent in other brands. We dress salad with it but we also use it with or instead of ketchup and sometimes like Worcestershire sauce. I’ve tried many recipes from the internet and my own imagination and I can’t exactly reproduce it. That’s because I’m not using guar gum, maltodextrin, or anything cooked up in a lab. I also refuse to make corn syrup the first ingredient. Every time I fail to recreate it, I’m able to let go of the original just a little more. I’m down to just using it on burgers and fries, which are an occasional indulgence.

Like our hands and feet, our tongues develop habits. They steer toward the familiar. When we eat real food made from real ingredients, our tongues develop new habits. Healthier, cheaper habits that last a lifetime and just maybe extend and enrich that life.

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Everybody’s talking about Ebola — Here’s what you should know http://thesurvivalmom.com/ebola-heres-know/ http://thesurvivalmom.com/ebola-heres-know/#comments Sat, 02 Aug 2014 06:32:59 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=16928 Pin this so you’ll know where to find it later! Click here. UPDATE: Today, 9/15/14, the CDC released a warning to doctors and hospitals to get prepared for the possibility of Ebola. CDC claims they do not know of any Read More

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ebola

Pin this so you’ll know where to find it later! Click here.

UPDATE: Today, 9/15/14, the CDC released a warning to doctors and hospitals to get prepared for the possibility of Ebola. CDC claims they do not know of any other cases but, “…it is possible that individuals with EVD in West Africa may travel to the United States, exhibit signs and symptoms of EVD, and present to facilities.” The warning goes on to give more specific advice for identifying potential Ebola victims.
Now isn’t the time to panic, but it is the time to prepare. After all, it’s not just ebola but also the human enterovirus 68 making the rounds and our regular flu season is right around the corner. It makes sense to get prepared.
Related information:
Original blog article
Several countries in West Africa are in the throes of an epidemic of Ebola virus. Over 1,200 cases and almost 700 deaths in the countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia make it a candidate for the next great pandemic. The disease has decimated health care workers, with a number of doctors, nurses, missionaries, and others dying from the illness. Indeed, the Peace Corps is now pulling its workers from the affected countries as we speak.

 

The Ebola outbreak hit close to home when American, Patrick Sawyer, died in Lagos, Nigeria, en route to visit his family in Minnesota. Although he did not become Patient Zero in the U.S., other infected Americans were transferred to the CDC hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. Despite all this, few people really know what Ebola virus is and how it does its damage, and they certainly don’t know what to do if it arrives in their neighborhood.

 

Ebola virus, a member of the Filoviridae virus family, was first reported in 1976, when 602 cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo resulted in 431 deaths. Ebola, named after the river where the first victims were identified, has several variants, a sign that it probably has the capacity to mutate.

 

What do we know?

Not much. How Ebola manages to first infect humans is poorly understood. Primates like monkeys and apes are possible agents of transmission (also called vectors), although birds, rodents, bats, pigs, and insects may be more likely to transmit the disease. The virus can even be transmitted to dogs, although they don’t seem to get sick.

 

Ebola appears to be transmitted through saliva and other bodily fluids, even sweat. The practice of relatives and workers washing a body before burial may have helped spread the disease. A 2012 Canadian study suggested that the virus may also be transmitted in air droplets. Given the highly contagious nature of the disease, this would be big trouble if true, but hasn’t been proven.

 

Signs and symptoms of Ebola

 

What does Ebola virus do to its victims? Ebola causes a hemorrhagic fever with a 25-90% death rate, much higher than even the worst of the influenza pandemics of the past century. Compare this to a 2.5% death rate from the great Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, and 0.1% from routine influenza outbreak.

 

Symptoms begin presenting about 2 weeks after exposure. Ebola patients develop the sudden onset of what first appears to be influenza: aches and pains, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, fever and chills, and malaise are commonly seen at this stage. Nausea is noted, often accompanied by abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.

 

Later on, the central nervous system becomes affected causing severe headaches, altered mental status, and seizures. Sometimes this results in the patient going into a coma. Evidence of disorders in blood clotting are seen in advanced stages of the disease.

 

Signs include:

 

• Spotty Rashes
• Bruises
• Broken blood vessels in the skin
• Collections of blood under the skin after injections
• Bloody vomit or sputum
• Spontaneous nosebleeds
• Bleeding from gums
• Blood in bowel movements

 

Once bleeding disorders occur, the likelihood of survival is slim. Although deaths from severe hemorrhage have occurred in women giving birth, multiple organ failure leading to shock is the usual cause of death.

 

Prevention

 

It’s thought that Ebola doesn’t spread until a victim develops symptoms. As the illness progresses, however, bodily fluids from diarrhea, vomiting, and bleeding become very contagious. Poor hygiene and lack of proper medical supplies in underdeveloped countries, such as in West Africa impede the progress of medical authorities to tame the outbreak. The best they can do is isolate sick individuals as best they can and follow infectious disease precautions. This is something they are, apparently, not doing so well, because so many medical personnel are getting sick. When the doctors and nurses are dying, you know you have an illness about which to be truly concerned. Imagine if the disease becomes worldwide.

 

Treatment of Ebola

 

So how do we cure Ebola? We don’t. There is no known treatment, cure, or vaccine for Ebola at present. The doctors can only try to make the patient comfortable and hope they get better on their own. Therefore, I recommend stocking up on masks, gowns, eye protection, and gloves, and learn about how to have an effective survival sick room. We’ve got a video on our YouTube channel on the subject.

 

Why you should care

 

So what’s the big deal. Why should an epidemic in Africa matter to citizens of countries thousands of miles away? Well, this outbreak is not in the deepest areas of Africa, it’s on the west coast, a more populated and easily traveled area. News about the virus is disrupting the economies of the countries affected, and their governments haven’t been all that straightforward about giving reports, until just recently. As such, many natives of the countries affected are suspicious of health workers, sometimes blocking them from entering their villages with knives and machetes.

 

The country of Guinea, where the first cases occurred, is the world’s largest exporter of bauxite, the ore used to make aluminum. Therefore, exports from the country go to many of the world’s manufacturing plants. The advent of air travel can easily spread the disease throughout the world is just 24 hours. As a matter of fact, a Liberian official took sick on a flight to Nigeria, one of the most populous countries in Africa, and died soon after. With an incubation period of a couple of weeks, you might have Ebola and not even know it (until you’ve infected a lot of other people).

 

This may be a third-world disease now, but it wouldn’t take much to make it, indeed, the next great pandemic. We’ll keep you posted.

 

This article contributed by Dr. Joe Alton, also known as Dr. Bones. Visit Doom and Bloom to learn more about medical preparedness and check out Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy’s bestselling book, The Survival Medicine Handbook.

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