New Decade. New You. New US. – Jill Sung

New Year’s is around the corner, and this time it’s the start of a New Decade.  2010.  This past year was a difficult year for almost everyone I know and tons of people I don’t know…so I’m hoping that 2010 will be amazing.  Trite, but you know what I mean. It’s a new decade, so it’s a double new beginning this January 1. I guess that means it carries twice the hope a normal new year brings.

I love “hope”. It’s what keeps people going.  There’s a million organizations with “hope” in their name. It springs eternal. Hope is in love, religion, relationships, work, and the self….and almost every novel or non-fiction book I’ve ever read speaks of hope to some degree. I read a social science study which found that Americans lead the world in having “hope”! How cool is that? But I digress.

With the hope that the new year brings, comes New Year’s Resolutions. We love to hate them, hate to love them, and can’t live with or without them. (I’ve made resolutions yearly, biannually, monthly, biweekly, weekly…you get the picture. I’m a fixer-upper =) The to do list that keeps on going and never ends. Resolution bunny.)  It’s a ritual that almost everyone around the world has performed. Every culture celebrates the new year – maybe not on this date, but it’s celebrated and looked on with hope and wishes for a better something.

Look back, evaluate, learn, look forward, improve, and repeat.

I looked around on the internet and even some top ten lists of resolutions exist.  The best list I found is on the usa.gov site (best because it has links to how and why (America has a vast amount of resources we can enjoy)…and who doesn’t want to send health-e-cards?):

All variations of be healthy, live healthy and the golden rule. I thought to try to improve upon this list, since it’s a new decade, but all mine still fit within the be and live healthy, golden rule paradigm, so I figured I’d stick with what seems to work. And I’ve decided for the new decade to also follow the rules on how to stick to resolutions. Write them down, make resolutions with small achievable goals, re-evaluate regularly/daily, post them somewhere you look daily, get other people involved.  That’s key – getting other people involved. Enlist help from family and friends. Make meaningful bets with someone with similar goals. Encourage each other. By having them help you, you help them. Community living in whatever community you live in. All of the old adages apply. Then pay it forward.

And although 2009 was a challenging year, I see positive changes all around. Here’s to a great 2010 and beyond!

And For a Non-Snowy Interlude…- Metta Murdaya

My photo at the Tugu Hotel in Lombok – lovely weather all year round.

So far, we’re just passed Christmas, the first large NY snowstorm, and a soppy raining weekend. Though the weather outside could be more frightful, I don’t think the worst is here yet. Nine years in New York, and I feel like no 2 winters have been the same. I’ve been through superlatives, with the news touting one year it was the “Biggest snowstorm.” The next year, “The Coldest Winter.” The next, “The Longest Winter.” Last year, it was “The most schizophrenic-almost-non-existent-god-help-us-global warming winter.” Each winter was followed by strangely short or late summers bracketed by rainy springs and pleasant, split-second falls. So tomorrow, will it be sweater-pleasant or puffy-coat-hat ungodly? In New York, the weather is still deciding whether to be 48 or 20 degrees, which makes for a surprise outfit du jour. But  such is the adventure we face living in a state with real seasons. For a cheeky moment, let me just tout the benefits of being in a solo-season country (hot) like Indonesia, with one variation only: Wet or Dry. I have my reasons to think that living in a hot and humid tropical country is quite convenient, and here are just a few reasons why. If you’ve spent time in a tropical country, I hope you can relate… And for those of you who haven’t, I hope you are amused.

1. You don’t need a watch. The weather is like clock.  In case your watch breaks, just wait for the torrential rain to pour out of the blue. Then you’ll know it’s 3pm. When it stops, it’s 4pm.

2. Free sauna/cold pool all year round. Exit big building, walk a block. Sweat. Enter big building. Instant freeze from over air-conditioning. Repeat with vigor. Fashion benefit: If you work in an office, you can also wear that stylish warm sweater all year round thanks to perpetual building over-air-conditioning.

3. Delicious tropical fruit all year round. Fresh coconut juice straight off the tree available everyday. Can’t beat that. Not to mention,  it’s beautiful weather for that trip to Bali almost all the time… mmmm….

4. Save money on shopping. Summer weather means summer fashion all year round, no need to shop for a winter wardrobe,  (except for maybe point 2 above.) Packing for trips are awesome – shorts and t-shirts are so much less bulky than sweaters and jackets…

5. No need to rake the leaves. Fall? What fall?

Anyone have preferences on single-season or multi-season living locations? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 🙂

JUARA Girls Holiday Video! – Metta, Jill, Yoshiko & Tami


Happy Holidays from the JUARA Girls!!!! Thanks for reading our blog, for your comments, and here’s to seeing you more in 2010!

Visit us here for more JUARA fun!

Best,

Metta, Jill, Yoshiko, Tami

Are you really drinking enough water?

WaterWe all know how important it is to drink enough water and to stay hydrated.  It’s important for your metabolism, your skin, your brain, your heart, eyes, etc. etc.  During pregnancy it’s even more important because you’re creating another human being.  Generally it’s recommended that we drink at least 6-8 full glasses of water per day, 8 full glasses during pregnancy.  With my generally pretty healthy lifestyle, I’ve been kind of assuming that I was in fact drinking enough water every day.  So it came as a complete shock the other day when I had checked into the hospital because of contractions and nausea – I’m 8 months pregnant at this point – and was told that I was dehydrated and needed to be hooked on an IV for rehydration.  Dehydrated?  Me?  This incidence prompted me to consciously take a closer look at how much water I was really drinking in a day.  The discovery was sobering…

While I usually started off my day pretty well with a tall glass of warm water with lemon and finished my day with a big mug of herbal tea before bed, it turns out I actually didn’t do so well during the work day, especially when I had a meeting-filled or generally hectic day.  On average I drank about 3-4 glasses of water or mugs of herbal tea during the day, not including my before-bed tea.  That means I am consuming a total of 5-6 glasses of water on a normal day, and on most days, I am short 2-3 full glasses!  Coffee does not count since it’s a diuretic.  Well, first of all, when I’m really busy, I’m probably not consciously thinking about whether I could be dehydrated because I’m  too amped up getting stuff done.  I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who forgets drinking enough during a busy day.  It’s also very annoying to have to run to the bathroom so often, especially when you’re pregnant.  But an even sneakier problem is that most people, including myself, wait to feel somewhat thirsty before they rehydrate.  It’s a common misconception that you associate dehydration with thirst.  Thirst, however,  signals that in fact you have gone past that point already.  So I was told after my dehydration incidence that it’s important to not feel thirsty in the first place by drinking water continuously throughout the day, which takes conscious effort and discipline.  My doctor at the hospital advised me to keep track of how many glasses I drink throughout the day, either by always having  a bottle of water or mug of tea, or by downing a full glass at set times of the day.  I combine both approaches and keep track of how many glasses or mugs I finish.  The bigger lesson for me though:  I can’ take for granted that I am actually following certain healthy habits just because I know what they are and because they seem pretty easy to follow.  To me, drinking enough through the day had seemed like the easiest of all healthy habits to follow until I learned the hard way that I wasn’t actually doing it.  Same applies to other little things like good posture, proper breathing, minimum exercise, etc. etc.  My advice:  Take a step back once in a while and take an honest look at the basics your lifestyle.

Healthy Holiday Sweets…Yum! – Jill Sung

carrot mini cupcake

Not into holiday weight gain, but love the holiday sweets? I don’t actually love eating sweets, but I love baking…  And it’s fun to bake for holiday parties or as gifts to friends.  My current favorite, carrot cake. It’s pretty healthy as cakes go, and I’ve melded together a few recipes to create a healthier version that tastes great and is really moist without making me or the gift recipient feel guilty about indulging. Makes about 20 servings. Per serving: Calories with frosting: 219.4; without the frosting: 152.8. (You can check nutritional info for almost anything you make with this recipe calculator: http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-calculator.asp)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4  cup white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup apple sauce, unsweetened
  • 3 egg, large
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups shredded carrots(fine grating disc of food processor works well)
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained

Frosting

  • 6 ounces, neufchatel cheese (lowfat cream cheese)
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9×13 inch pan.
  2. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Make a well in the center and add sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla. Mix with wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in carrots, coconut, walnuts and pineapple.
  3. Pour into 9×13 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Allow to cool.
  4. Frosting: Cream the butter and neufchatel/low fat cream cheese until smooth. Add the confectioners sugar and beat until creamy.Mix in orange peel.

You’ll notice I replaced the vegetable oil with apple sauce and cut the sugar in more than half. Sometimes, people will partially replace the sugar with natural replacements like agave syrup (from the agave plant, doesn’t increase blood glucose levels) or xylitol (from birch tree – kills cavities)…but I haven’t tried these yet.

I love making this in mini-loaves, cupcakes, and mini-cupcakes (the smaller the size, the fewer the calories and sugars per serving – you’d be surprised, but people will eat less when things are served in smaller sizes). For Yoshiko’s baby shower, we combined a plate of mini-cupcakes, and decorated the icing with a crying baby (that’s Metta’s artwork above!). Hope you love the recipe. I’ve gotten rave reviews, over and over again. Let me know your secrets for healthy baking or just your favorite recipes!

Cold Feet? – Metta Murdaya

This is how my feet feel like.

This is how my feet feel like.

Some people get cold feet when they have to walk down the aisle or try something  different, but I get cold feet in the most literal way possible. My feet are constantly in a state of freezing. I must admit despite heaters, I have fallen asleep with thick socks on AND my hands wrapped around my feet – and ended up with cold hands. How sad. Some tips on how I beat cold feet:

–  Get many wool socks for the price of 1. Invest in a great pair of cold-weather wool socks which holds in heat wonderfully. To avoid buying several (as they are pricey, about $29+ each) and overwashing them, wear them over a thin pair of socks (so it doesn’t add bulk) that are inexpensive. You change the thin pair everyday to get fresh socks, while the thick one remains clean. Here’s a place with a great selection. The ones I specifically have and LOVE are here. I know it says “Men’s” but I just get a small.

Get snowboarding socks. If you want a thinner sock that is warm, snowboarding socks work wonders too. They go over the calf to and have a good elastic grip (no sliding down,) and also keep you super warm without the bulkiness of hiking socks – a must-have for someone going up and down a mountain all day with equipment. They’re priced in the $teens to $twenties.

Exercise regularly. When you exercise, your body builds new blood vessels to increase the rate at which it can circulate oxygen. And increased circulation also means increased heat.

Wear a hat. Despite the myth that you lose up to 40% of your heat to your head, (the real number is actually closer to 10%) – it’s a 10% that counts. Because your head has less fat to insulate it and more blood vessels around the surface, as soon as it starts losing heat, more blood moves towards the head to protect the brain and keep it warm. Increased circulation at your noggin may come at the cost of leaving your feet out in the cold.

If  you feel your feet are constantly cold or abnormally so, however, it’s best to check with your doctor to make sure there are no serious underlying conditions that may have to be treated, or any peripheral vascular diseases (PVD) that may be related to circulation problems. If you are diabetic, definitely check with the doctor. Otherwise, I’m also on the lookout for easy foot warming tips, so any comments/suggestions are welcome!

Simple tricks to boost energy during pregnancy – Yoshiko Roth-Hidalgo

Pregnant and cold showerPregnancy can do a number on your energy level, especially during the 3rd Trimester.  At 7.5 months, it’s getting harder and harder for me to sleep through the night and it’s getting harder to move around.  Result:  I feel sleep-deprived, exhausted and sluggish.  Meanwhile, work at JUARA during the holiday season is demanding as ever.  Due to pregnancy, I limit coffee or tea to a max of 1 cup per day and Red Bull is not an option.  Exercise or a walk around the block are great energizers, but here are some additional quick & easy tricks to stay energized and awake throughout the day.  Here are my top 5 tricks:

1) Make eye drops your constant companion: In my case, the slightest tiredness immediately shows in my eyes.  My eyes look and feel irritated and dry, which makes it hard to focus on anything visually or mentally.  Single-dose eye drops (available at drugstores) have become my constant companion.  They sit in my purse next to my metro card.  A couple of cool drops mid-day serve as an instant pick-me-up.

2) Hard-core airing out of home or office, even during freezing weather: Bundle up and then open up every single window and door in your apartment or office, even with arctic temperatures outside.  Let the space be completely aired out, so that every corner will fill with fresh, oxygen-rich air.  Close windows after 5-10 minutes.

3) Spray energizing Aromatherapy Mist throughout room. For best results, do this after airing out the space.  My favorite aromatherapy spray for increasing energy is Essence of Vali’s Uplift Mood Mist, which smells amazing and literally gives your energy and mood a lift with its essential oils of bergamot, spruce, llitsea cubebe and lavender.

4) Alternating hot/ cold shower in the AM. I know, this is really hard, especially in this weather, but trust me, it has an amazingly long-lasting effect.  My friend swears that ever since he started taking hot-cold showers, he hasn’t been sick as much.  Plus, it is supposed to also strengthen the elasticity of your skin and help reduce cellulite.  Just remember 2 important rules:  First, always start cold showers on your feet and work yourself up your body.  You don’t have to shower your head with cold water though.  Second, finish with a cold shower.  If it’s too hard to shower your entire body in cold water, just do your feet and lower legs.  The energizing effect is still amazing.

5) Power-nap with the “key” trick. A little power nap during the day does not mean you’re a slacker.  It can be therapeutic and increase your productivity significantly.  Here is a trick for the most time-efficient power nap.  Sit in a comfortable chair, put on a sleep mask and use ear plugs if you get easily distracted by light and noise.  Put your house keys in your hand or dangle them from a finger.  As you drift off into slumber, you will relax and eventually drop your keys which should wake you up.  That’s it!  That’s your power nap.  You can repeat this 2-3 times if you are really tired, but usually that should be enough to give your energy a boost.

Beating the Holiday Blitz – Jill Sung

Essence of Vali - sleepingWith the holidays already upon us, I sometimes get overwhelmed with all that I have to do (presents, family get-togethers, Christmas donations for children via NY Cares’ Winter Wishes) …December is just too short  a month!  But one has to stay healthy or all that busy-ness can turn to tiredness…and overdosing on caffeine can be a vicious cycle.

This holiday month, I plan to stay healthy and sleep well so I won’t need to cover up the under eye shadows and ruin every family Christmas picture I make it into. Exercise is important and helps you sleep better at night. So when I’m in the city, I try to ride my bike or walk wherever I go – building exercise into my schedule is easiest for me because I know I’m horrible at going to the gym. Although it’s harder to do when I’m in the Texas suburbs or when I’m traveling, I try to give up driving to the grocery store or sitting in the hotel room, by walking to the grocery store or walking laps around the hotel. (A UCSF study found that for every extra mile walked per week, there was a 13% less chance of cognitive decline for older women- it’s never too early to start building good habits! Cheesy but true.) My sister loves her pedometer.

If I know I can’t sleep, I use Essence of Vali sleep products – plant-based aromatherapy that is really affordable and easy – just dab a little on your pillowcase at night and you’ll find drifting into lala land easy enough (watch out for samples with JUARA soon – Valerie, the aromatherapist founder, has graciously shared some of her soothing concoctions with us). And this will sound self-serving, but I swear that our Turmeric Antioxidant Radiance Mask really works. If I know I have a tough day the next morning, I sleep with this mask on – a thin layer goes on invisible, and while I sleep, the patented turmeric ingredient removes all the age-creating molecules I built up during the day. Turmeric is the miracle root of Asia – super detoxifying for the liver and the skin – it’s been shown in research as having extremely strong anti-cancer activity. But don’t get me started – I love Turmeric.

Okay, gotta run, 22 days til Christmas and I’m already behind…

2-for-1 Special, Weird but Good – Metta Murdaya

kombucha-coconutIt sounds kinda weird. It’s hard to imagine the flavor. If I saw it in a store, I would NOT jump to buy it. But in a blazingly impulsive ‘why not, life is short?’ moment, I tried it – and it was delicious! Of what do I speak of? A mix of Kombucha and Coconut Water.

To all my friends, it’ s no secret that I make Kombucha, a fermented sweet black tea, at home to drink daily.  (I love it so much we even put it in our JUARA face care, especially the Sweet Black Tea & Rice Facial Moisturizer.) Despite the bazillion benefits you can find online for Kombucha, the 2 most prominent (and widespread, better known) benefits I love include:
1. The refreshingly tangy sweet taste and the energy I get (not the caffeine jolt kind of energy but the generally upping-the-level-of-my-baseline energy level.)  It’s supposed to improve digestion as well, which is related to increased energy levels.
2. How it also normalizes my appetite. Perfect for curbing any chance of my power eating through a big bag of chips! Do I feel snacky? Drink kombucha – a few sips usually nips any unhealthy urges. Amazing, it just works.

It’s also no secret I’m a huge fan of coconut water. Not just buying into the hype of it being the ‘new gatorade’ alternative, given a fairly active workout schedule, I have noticed a difference. The million benefits of coconut water are also easy enough to search online, but the top 2 reasons I like it are that it are that:
1. It quickly replenishes body fluids thanks to the natural balance of potassium, calcium, sodium magnesium, making it the perfect electrolyte drink.
2. It is (oh yay!)  low in fat and calories, unlike coconut milk – which is like heaven in curries and asian dishes, and probably wreaks havoc on any diet.

So how do you mix it? I just do 1 part of Kombucha, 1 part coconut water, but I suppose it’s to taste.  How  do the 2 taste together? It has the tangy sweet/sour fizzy flavor of Kombucha, but also a slightly (I know this sounds weird,) but buttery, rounder flavor of coconut water to cut the tang and a gentle sweetness that makes the drink almost gulpable. Both beverages are available at almost every health food store and Whole Foods at this point so they’re easily accessible. Sound crazy? Try it… I dare you. And the awesome part, it’s like 2 low calorie power drinks combined into one, how much better does it get?

(To read my older post on how to make Kombucha at home, scroll down to see my March 31, 2009 post here.)