I’m Dreaming of a Good Night’s Sleep

gsleep better concept

Last night I managed to get six hours of sleep, which is pretty good considering most nights I’m lucky to get four hours of shuteye. Health experts recommend eight hours, but unless I’m in a drug-induced coma that’s not going to happen.

For one thing, I’m a light sleeper, so the slightest movement on my husband’s side of the bed can roust me from a deep slumber. It doesn’t help that he sounds like a cross between Darth Vader and Chewbacca when he snores either!

Schnarchen beim Schlafen

Need to find a way to keep Mr. Snorelax from disturbing my slumber!

Sometimes I wake up thirsty so I’ll down a big glass of water and end up making several trips to the bathroom. Then there are the hot flashes (or in this case, night sweats). One moment I feel like I’m lying on a bed of coals, so I kick off my blankets to cool off. The next thing I know I’m shivering like a featherless bird. So, I hang one leg out of the covers and hope for the best. All I can say is, these sleepless nights are making me grumpy and groggy and I’m tired of being tired.

Turns out chronic sleep deprivation is a common problem for a lot of people (especially older adults) and according to Web MD  it can eventually affect your health, weight, mental capacity, work performance, and safety. I’m doomed!

So, I decided to do a little research to find causes and solutions for insomnia. Here are some things we can all do to get a better night’s sleep:

Set a regular bedtime schedule. Go to bed and set your alarm at the same time every day. Dang! I guess that means no more sleeping in on weekends!

Exercise. Even though most experts don’t recommend a strenuous workout right before bed, moderate exercise up to an hour before bedtime helps relax your body and clear your head.

Checking the phone

No smartphones in the bedroom!

Power down your electronic devices. Glowing screens from your smartphone, tablet, laptop, computer, and TV increase brain activity, making you more alert and less likely to fall asleep. They also screw up your body’s ability to produce melatonin (the hormone that induces sleep). So, no texting, Facebooking, or watching the news in bed!  Better yet, banish your mobile devices from the bedroom while you sleep.

Watch what you eat and drink. Stay away from foods that cause heartburn (e.g., tomato-based sauces) and carbs like cookies and chips (they raise your blood sugar level) in the evening. If caffeine affects your sleep, switch to decaf or don’t have any caffeine after noon. I know if I have a Diet Coke or a piece of chocolate after 1:00 p.m., I’m wired all night. Avoid alcohol a few hours before bed too. It may make you sleepy at first, but it also acts like a stimulant, causing you to wake up frequently during the night. Also, no heavy meals or binge-eating at night as it can cause indigestion. If you’re hungry, have a light snack like a small bowl of cereal with milk, a dab of peanut butter on a cracker, or a handful of almonds.

Don’t bring your troubles to bed with you. I admit I’m a worrywart and if I have something on my mind, I tend to toss and turn all night. You, too? Then you need to write down what’s bothering you before you hit the hay and deal with it the next day.

Create a relaxing environment. Block out noise with ear plugs and use shades or blinds to shut out bright lights (or wear a sleep mask). Play soft music or nature sounds to help lull you to sleep (think of it as a lullaby for grown-ups) and try meditating to reduce stress and calm your mind. Click here for meditation techniques you can use to unwind before bed.

Lower your thermostat. Per Sleep.org, the ideal room temp for optimal sleep is between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit.  Make sure your bedroom is well ventilated and insulated too. After all, a room that’s hot and stuffy or cold and drafty is not exactly snooze-worthy.

Check your bedding. If you have trouble getting comfortable in bed or wake up with a sore neck, your pillow may be the problem. If that’s the case, I would suggest a MyPillow®. It’s amazing! Also, make sure your mattress has adequate support and isn’t too hard or soft for your back.

Try natural sleep aids like these:

Chamomile – warm herbal tea is known to relieve anxiety and promote relaxation.

cherryjuice cherryshareTart Cherry Juice – research shows that consuming two glasses a day helps improve the quality of your sleep.

Lavender – the scent has a soothing effect so you fall asleep faster. Make a lavender sachet and place it under your pillow.

Melatonin Supplement – I’ve tried this remedy and it seems to work for the most part, but it’s meant for short-term use. Be sure to read the label before using.

Find more natural sleep aids at everydayroots.com

Now it’s time to catch some zzzzz’s!  Sweet dreams!

Smart Perks blogger Catherine B. may not get much sleep, but she does have some fascinating dreams. If only she could figure out what they mean.

Which Wearable Works Best for You?

fitbit

Fitbits, FuelBands, Jawbones: We’ve all heard of them, but do you really know how to use them? Or even what they are?

All of the above are just a few examples of different types of wearables, or technology pieces that serve a variety of functions, ranging from monitoring heart rate to playing music. In this case, these are all activity trackers, which are watches that track, well, your activity.

This can be useful for monitoring how many calories you burn, steps you take, and  what your heart rate is. They are especially useful if you’re trying to get in better shape, because you get information on your progress right there on your wrist! You can even wear some of them to sleep and wake up with a little report on what your night was like – how often you were restless, when you were in deep sleep, when exactly you woke up.

Basically, activity trackers are simply a great way to give you feedback on your own body.  Sounds good, right? If you need some help deciding which of the main fitness wearables is best for you, have no fear: here is a roundup of the top performers and why they might be the watch for you!

Fitbit:

fitbit

Probably the most popular of the activity trackers, there are 8 different models to choose from in a range of prices and functions.

Actually, their website has a test you can take to see which one matches your needs most. I have the Charge HR, which is primarily different from some of the others because it monitors your heart rate (hence the HR part), and I absolutely love it.

While I don’t always remember to charge it and sometimes forget to put it on in the morning, whenever I do wear it I love looking at the data. With just a quick push of a button, I’m reminded that I’ve only taken 2,000 steps today – a full 8,000 under the recommended 10,000 to take a day. When I’m exercising, it’s a great motivator to be able to look down and see how many calories you’re burning.

Though some spring for the pricey Fitbit Blaze ($250), for people on a tighter budget, the Charge is just as good and definitely less costly. Plus, it now comes in pink – a great gift for Mother’s Day.

Price: $59.95 – $249.95

Tip: This applies to all activity trackers, not just the Fitbit, but the prices vary significantly from store to store. Definitely shop around before purchasing one!

FuelBand:

fuelband

This sleek device, just like a Fitbit, is worn on your wrist and tracks your activity. How it differs: Whereas the Fitbit is great for even the most sedentary of people, the Nike+ FuelBand really kicks it up a notch.

First you determine your daily goal for what you want to accomplish that day, and then the FuelBand tracks your progress – whether it’s running, playing basketball, or walking – and changes colors from red to green throughout the day, giving you an idea of what your progress has been.

From what I’ve heard from people who have them, one of the biggest draws to the FuelBand is this very visual reminder of your activity levels. Because of the way the Nike+ Fuel app is set up, every day seems like a competition with yourself – but in the most positive way possible! Just note that you will need a smartphone in order to most effectively use a Fuelband, as it works in tandem with an app.

Price: $149.99

Jawbone:

up2

The fitness tracker Jawbone Up has 4 different options, of which the most acclaimed is the Jawbone UP2. Though it first came out awhile ago, this activity wearable is still very popular.

Why? Because at just under $100, it’s cheaper than some of the others on the market, but without losing any of the quality. It tracks both sleep and steps, as well as monitoring calories burned. It’s also unobtrusive and easy to use; it doesn’t have any buttons or a screen, so you switch between active or sleep mode with just a tap.

Although it doesn’t monitor heart rate, one advantage it does have is a “smart” alarm. This can be set before you go to bed so that the Jawbone UP2 wakes you up during a lighter stage of your rest in the morning, which is helpful for waking up feeling refreshed rather than restless.

Like with all of these fitness trackers, it’s unfortunately not waterproof, but it is considered water resistant: a definite plus for those of us (I’m not pointing fingers!) who may sweat a lot.

Price: $49.99 – $199.99

There are plenty of other options out there on the market, but these are the basics of the major three activity trackers. If you’re interested in others, this article is a really useful tool to help you decide.

Whichever one you choose, know that you’re one step closer to reaching your 10,000 step goal. And if you need any advice on how to take all of those steps, hope this helps!

Blogger Katie U., a SmartPerks employee, all too often forgets to charge her Charge HR. Don’t let it happen to you!

 

 

Banish Blossom Rot & Save the Salsa!

Ripe tomatoes in greenhouse

Are you celebrating opening day this week? Baseball? No. No. No. Farmer’s market opening day, silly!  Our local market officially opens for the season this Saturday.

It’s a day I look forward to all winter long. Time to start planning the garden, and deciding which veggies I’ll put in this year.

Tomatoes, however, are a no-brainer. I’ve planted about 18 vegetable gardens of my own over the years.  And tomatoes are always the stars of the show.

If there is a mistake to be made in planting tomatoes, I have made it.

I’ve started tomatoes from seed, and experienced long, leggy seedlings that grew too thin and sideways, because I didn’t have a light source directly above, and didn’t rotate the seed tray enough.

tomato plants

My go-to tomatoes are Early Girl, Roma, San Marzano, Brandywine and Sweet 100s.

I’ve lost young tomato plants I started indoors, because I neglected to harden them off, by gradually introducing them to the outdoors for hours at a time, then bringing them back in.  These tender young plants need time to adjust to the elements – wind, direct sun, and temperature fluctuation. Truth be told, I just buy started plants at the farmer’s market now.

I’ve made the mistake of planting THREE cherry tomato plants (Sweet 100s are a fave) and ended up with eight billion of the sweet little nuggets of tomatoey goodness – more tomatoes than any one family could eat in a lifetime.

Close up of cherry tomatoes growing in a vegetable garden

But most distressing for me are the common problems that tomato-growers everywhere have experienced at one time or another that occur once the tomatoes start to bear fruit. By that time, it’s almost too late to salvage the plant for the season, and all that nurturing was for naught.

So rather than wait to diagnose tomato troubles mid-season, this year I decided to do some research to head them off at the pass. Stop blight, blossom rot and cracking before they have a chance to take root. Here are some of my top tomato tips:

  1. I have a relatively big garden for a small suburban backyard. It’s approximately 40 feet long. There are a couple of reasons why this is important. First, plant spacing. Adequate spacing between plants prevents the leaves of one plant from touching those of another. Not only does this allow air to circulate, but it prevents disease and pests from easily transferring from one plant to another. Secondly, I rotate my crops. Diseases can stay in your soil from year to year, so I try not to plant my tomatoes at the same end of the garden, or in the same row for consecutive years. Note: Planting tomatoes in a large pot on a patio is a fantastic option for apartment dwellers. I’ve done this, too. You’ll be surprised at the number of tomatoes that one well-cared for plant will produce.
  2. Have you ever had your soil checked? This isn’t an absolute necessity. But it takes the guesswork out of whether your tomato plant is getting the nutrients it needs to thrive. I like to add well-composted, aged manure directly to the soil I’m planting in.
  3. Plant tomatoes deep. A good rule of thumb is 2/3 of the plant should be underground. Planting tomatoes deep will help establish a stronger root system which helps them to survive hot weather and support more fruit.
  4. Support your plants. My grandpa always used 2-inch wood stakes and tied the stems to the stakes with one-inch strips of his old t-shirts. They sell special spongy ties now, but the t-shirt trick is more economical. I use tomato cages myself. I found some round cages that are powder-coated in rainbow colors that make me happy and brighten up the garden. They’re thick and sturdy enough that I don’t have to replace them every year like the other thin or collapsible cages.
  5. Mulch! Mulching around the base of your tomato plants will prevent a variety of the most common tomato maladies. Not only does mulch help conserve moisture, but it also helps prevent the spread of disease. Straw works great as mulch, but there are a variety of other mulches available at your local garden center.
  6. Water! Almost every tomato problem you can name from cracking to blossom rot stems from uneven watering.
Cracked tomatoes

Cracking from uneven watering

Cracking for instance develops as a result of uneven watering, or a period of drought followed by over-watering. The skin can’t stretch to accommodate the fluid build-up, and splits.  The tomato becomes like an over-filled water balloon.

Blight is a fungus that shows up as those dark concentric circles on yellowed leaves, which can occur from wet leaves. Sometimes simply removing damaged leaves is enough, but if the weather won’t comply, you’ll need to remove the whole plant.

Blossom Rot

Blossom rot – Add more calcium

Blossom rot is another problem brought on by drought stress and inadequate watering resulting in a lack of calcium in the soil. The calcium doesn’t move up through the plant quickly enough and the tissue on the blossom-end, turns black and breaks down. You can spray tomatoes with a calcium solution as a stop-gap measure.

A good rule of thumb is to water regularly, but sparingly. Your tomato plants need approximately 1 – 1 ½ inches of water a week. A good soaker hose with a timer is your best bet.

Finally, tomatoes degrade and lose flavor if left too long on the vine or exposed to temperature of 40 degrees or less. You can tell a ripe tomato by a green gel around the seeds. Once the gel turns clear, the tomato is overripe and the flavor diminishes.  Store your ripe tomatoes on the counter to keep them ripe and flavorful as long as possible.

Did you know that adding Epsom salts to amend the soil results in larger, tastier yields? Have you tried adding coffee grounds, egg shells or fish scales when planting your tomatoes? If you have any tried and true tomato tips, I would love to hear them. Please share in the comments!

Smart Perks Blogger, Melanie B, will be up at 6 a.m. on Saturday to get her parking spot at the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market.

Healing and Dealing with Allergies at Home

Preventing Allergy

This isn’t me, but it basically is how I feel.

There’s no nice way of putting this – allergies stink! Or rather, they might stink; I wouldn’t know because MY NOSE IS COMPLETELY CLOGGED. Yup, thanks to allergies.

But have you ever realized how expensive allergy meds are? Of course, I still begrudgingly buy my $20 bottle of Zyrtec because it’s so far helped me the most, but I still have itchy eyes, a scratchy throat and a runny nose. Not a good look, I’ll tell you that!

However, over-the-counter meds aren’t the only way to alleviate your symptoms – of both allergies and also the common cold. With the growing popularity of homeopathic treatments, there are plenty of ways to help boost your immune system and provide a little relief from the springtime season. And even if you’re not an allergy sufferer, the best part is all of these suggestions are perfectly helpful just in maintaining your everyday health! Call it a win-win.

  1. Tea Time!

Yes, I’m sure you’ve drank tea for a sore throat before. But herbal tea has many, many uses besides just for a caffeine boost or to sooth an itchy throat. There are certain kinds of teas that specifically help allergy symptoms. For example, rooibos contains ingredients that can serve as an antihistamine – the active component of allergy meds like Claritin!

blog_tea.jpg

Firstly – when choosing what kind of tea to drink, think about what you need it to do for you that day. I like green tea in the morning for the caffeine and antioxidant boost, and herbal tea such as Mandarin orange or chamomile in the afternoon to de-stress and warm up my throat.

Bonus: adding locally sourced honey can have an effect on your allergies. The idea is that it helps build your immunity to the pollen found in your area. Not all scientists agree, but why not give it a shot? It’s just honey, honey.

So, another use for tea that you might not have heard about – specifically, using the tea bags themselves. Don’t chuck a brewed bag when you’re done making a cup!

If you’re experiencing the common allergy symptom of dry, itchy eyes, placing a moderately warm (test on the back of your hand first), damp tea bag over your eyes does wonders for relieving the irritation. You could also put them in the fridge until they’re cold; either works, it’s just about your preference. Both black and green tea work, but most herbal teas will do, too. Just don’t use peppermint – it stings!

Or, if you prefer more traditional eye relief, I have found these eye drops to be the best for allergies.

home-remedies-for-itchy-eyes-tea-bags

Just trust me: it works very well and feels so good!

  1. Neti Pot to Get Rid of Gunk

Yeah, I know that’s a little gross, but if you don’t own a neti pot, I highly recommend them because that’s exactly what they do. Essentially, neti pots (or other products like bulb syringes or squeeze bottles) irrigate your nasal cavity and sinuses with a warm saltwater solution, clearing out all of the allergens like dust and pollen that can be making your allergies worse. They also break down the stuff stuck in your sinuses, helping it to drain better and allowing you to breathe well again.

I know this might seem a little shocking method to some, but if you read and follow the instructions, it’s really quite simple, and the results are amazing. Whenever I use my neti pot the relief is amazing – aside from clearing my nose, all of that terrible sinus pressure is gone, and miraculously so too is my headache!

neti pot.png

Sure, you look kinda silly. So what?

Really, there are only two things to keep in mind for safety. This one should be obvious, but it’s imperative you keep the neti pot clean, which only requires hot water and mild soap, so as not to allow bacteria to grow, but some kinds are dishwasher safe. The other is to make sure you use sterile water in the saline solution.

This is the neti pot I have, because I find that glass is easier to clean. As you can see, for the cost of the neti pot and the saline mixture, you’re looking at about $25 for months and months of relief. They’re a cost-effective solution for the thrifty sinus problem sufferer. You’re worth that! Kick those allergies to the curb – or at least to the tissue.

  1. Vitamins, Get Your Vitamins!

I’m a huge proponent of vitamins already. I eat plenty of fruits and vegetables as a large part of a well-balanced diet, but there are plenty of reasons why vitamins and supplements might be right for you. For instance, I take a complex B vitamin every day for energy, fish oil for heart health and my hair (it’s not all about health, people; sometimes a girl just wants shiny hair) and an eye health vitamin for, well, my eye health. Like I did, be sure to check with your doctor before adding any supplements to your daily routine.

New Vita

Here are a few vitamins tied to allergy alleviation you might want to run by doc:

Vitamin C – Ah, the Superman of the Vitamin world. Though this one is pretty easy to get from diet alone (a glass of lemon water here, a spinach salad there), studies show American adults still don’t get the daily recommended dose. But why? Vitamin C can help with tissue and bone repair, immune system building, and reduce histamine (the hormone produced by allergic reactions that makes you feel yucky). Again, if nothing else, does eating an extra orange a day really hurt anything?

Unless of course you’re allergic to oranges… anyway, moving on….

Butterbur– Unfortunately, no, I’m not telling you to eat a bunch of butter. Butterbur helps to combat inflammation and headaches, and also helps mitigate the nasal congestion and itchy eyes and nose we all suffer from during seasonal allergy time.

Probiotics – Probiotics are great for a bunch of different health issues, because they help to maintain and culture the good kinds of bacteria found in your digestive tract. This can help everything from upset tummies to improving your immune system, and can help with your allergies, too.

Hopefully, if you take some of these tips to heart, your seasonal allergies will go away and you can start to actually enjoy this glorious season!

Blogger Katie U., SmartPerks employee, never goes anywhere without her antihistamine eye drops and a packet of tissues for a solid three months of the year. But at least she can stop to smell the roses without sneezing up a storm!

Keep Calm and Cook On

 

Happy woman cook with okay sign, close up

I love to cook and I must admit I’m pretty good at it, but there are some things I’m not so good at, like peeling hard-boiled eggs without leaving divots. (If you were to rate my deviled eggs I’d probably get 8 or 9 in taste and a 1 in appearance!) I have the same problem getting the skin off tomatoes! It’s so aggravating, not to mention I end up wasting a lot of food in the process. I must say though that chopping onions is probably one of my least favorite things to do – even if I use a food chopper, I still get the tears and that strong “onion smell” on my hands.

I’m sure a lot of you can relate to my kitchen faux pas and frustrations. Fortunately I came across some helpful hints to make cooking and preparing foods easier, faster and less stressful. Some are from my Grandma Vi, who was an excellent cook, and the rest I found online.

Give these tricks a try and be smarter (and happier) in the kitchen!

* Avoid “onion tears” by placing the onion in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before slicing it. To get rid of the “onion smell”, try soaking your hands in lemon juice for 3 minutes, then rinse them in cold water.

* To easily peel skin off tomatoes, dip the tomato in a pan of boiling water for a few seconds, then stick a fork in the stem and use a paring knife to remove the skin.

Lemon and lemon zest with grater* For lemon zest, freeze the lemon and when a recipe calls for it, just grate the rind from the frozen lemon.

* Use an ice pick to peel and de-vein shrimp. Just run the pick down the back toward the tails and presto… the shell and vein are gone in one step!

* To keep apple slices from turning brown, soak them in a bowl of cold lemon water (1 tbsp. of lemon juice for 1 cup of water).

* Thaw frozen fish in milk to take away the “freezer taste”. Soaking fish in milk for 30 minutes or so will also neutralize that strong “fishy” taste and odor.  After removing fish from the milk, just pat dry with a paper towel and discard milk before cooking the fish.

fresh raspberries spilling out of their pint container

There’s nothing like fresh berries!

* To make fresh berries last longer and keep them from getting moldy, wash them in a water/vinegar solution (3 cups water + 1 cup vinegar), then store in paper towel-lined containers in your refrigerator.

* Prevent brown sugar from drying out by storing it in an air-tight container with a slice of bread.

* Keep celery crisp in your fridge for weeks by wrapping clean, dry stalks tightly in aluminum foil.

* Thinly slice raw meat, poultry or pork when it’s slightly frozen.

* If you want your fried chicken or potatoes golden-brown and crispy, avoid overcrowding the pan. It’s better to fry food in smaller batches or use two pans. The reason — food releases moisture as it cooks and you need to leave room for the moisture to escape.

* Add a small amount of uncooked rice to salt shakers and sugar containers to absorb moisture and prevent clumping. Also, instead of using your salt shaker to season food on the stove, place salt in a bowl and sprinkle it over the food.  Apparently the steam from cooking causes the salt to clump in your shaker too.

Boil egg in white plate on wooden background.

The end result when I try to de-shell a boiled egg.

Deviled Eggs

My goal – the perfect deviled egg.

* As for getting those stubborn shells off hard-boiled eggs… I found various tips on this and these seem to be the most commonly used methods. I put them to the test and voilá, the shells practically fell off!

  1. Start with eggs that are at least 7-10 days old as fresh egg whites tend to cling more to the inner shell.
  2. Place eggs in a pan of cool water (make sure they’re covered completely). Add about 3 tbsp. of salt and slowly heat to boiling – this will prevent the eggs from cracking.
  3. After draining water from cooked eggs, tap both ends of the egg with a spoon and roll the egg over a hard surface, like a countertop, until it’s cracked all over. You can also shake the eggs in the pan until the shells crack. Both seem to work.
  4. Cover eggs in ice-cold water and let them cool down to room temperature. This helps loosen the membrane, making them easier to peel.
  5. Peel egg with your thumb, starting at the wider end where there’s an air pocket. Hold under running cold water to remove any remaining shell pieces.

One final tip: save those eggshells — they’re good for your garden, among other things. Find ideas on Pinterest.

That’s it for now – I don’t want to bombard you with too much info at once. keep calm and cook

Smart Perks Blogger Catherine B. enjoys preparing all kinds of dishes, but dreads the clean-up afterwards. She finds someone else to do it.

 

Gifts Inspired by Nature for Mom

DSC01592

Artwork by Cindy Hendricks of Woodfield Press

“Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.”  Hans Christian Andersen

On a chilly April morning, with such a deceptively brilliant blue in the sky, my desire to get outside and do something overwhelmed my common sense knowledge that we had at least a couple more sub-freezing degree nights ahead of us. But, I couldn’t stop myself. Our local farmer’s market doesn’t open until April 16th, however my determination to surround myself with the joys of springtime in the backyard was overwhelming.

Once inside the hothouse oasis of the local nursery, my senses ran amok. Being that my husband has expressly forbidden overcrowding our house and yard, I came up with the brilliant idea that Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and no one could deny me the right to buy gifts for mothers – mine, his and anyone else’s mother.

So, I put together a selection of some gifts that are a little different from the traditional chocolates and delivered arrangements. I think there’s something for all the moms who enjoy a little sunshine, bird chirping and digging in the dirt.

Mary Enblebreit

Beloved Artist Mary Englebreit has created a magical collection of garden fairies for her Merriment collection, featuring delightful little sprites from reading fairies to artist fairies, and all the darling accessories to brighten up a miniature garden this summer. All can be found at  http://www.maryengelbreit.com/collections/garden.

Pots

Pops of color will enhance every flower garden and landscape, attracting butterflies, hummingbirds and bumble bees. Mom will enjoy hours watching an endless array of bathing beauties – blue jays, chickadees and woodpeckers, fluttering their wings at her bath.

DSC01599

Two things Mom can use at the beginning of every gardening season, are a good pair of flower sheers for deadheading her flowers and a nice pair of garden gloves, like these cheerful pink polka dot models. They’re neoprene and thin, so they give you the necessary practicality you need for planting seedlings, and they wash up nicely when covered with mud.

DSC01608Placing bright flowers and hummingbird feeders near windows Mom frequents is a great way to enjoy a summer full of cheerful winged feeders. The simple syrup used to fill hummingbird feeders is very easy to make. No need to add red food coloring, as the birds are equally attracted to clear syrups.

DSC01605Another meaningful gift that mom doesn’t always think of herself is planting a memorial garden. I myself have found them to be very healing.

 

Not only do I feel a spirituality when I’m outdoors, reflecting on the tranquility of nature, but there is a gentle reminder of the cycles of life, that provide us with solace. One of the best memorials I was ever given – an apple tree – was when my grandfather died. Thirteen years later, I think of him every springtime when it blooms. The idea has become so popular that many garden centers carry memorial stones or lights, along with companion flowers.

After mom is done in the garden, she’ll want to pamper and soothe herself with relaxing gifts she can enjoy in a nice steamy, hot shower or a luxurious bath, filled with the luscious scent of garden botanicals.

Soap

Or you can treat her to a little pot of sunshine she can enjoy indoors on a cold and rainy day.

And finally, Papersource has some amazing flower print wrapping paper that’s almost too pretty to use.

I hope you found a couple of good ideas to welcome the season of getting outdoors, if not for mom, then for a friend or  even yourself. As Henry James once said, “Summer afternoon; summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” Get out and enjoy one while you can!

Blogger Melanie Bisson, a Smart Perks employee, enjoys vegetable and flowering gardening, bird-watching, and SHOPPING!