53 Fun Family Summer Activities Checklist

53 Fun and frugal summer activities for children 200x150 53 Fun Family Summer Activities Checklist

53 Fun and frugal summer activities for children 53 Fun Family Summer Activities Checklist

This is always about the time of summer when despite the abundance of great weather for being outdoors, the delicious seasonal produce and the wonderful long days… kids start to get bored.

At least my kids have.

School is still out, I’m not a fan of letting them watch TV and we’ve already made many library runs.

I decided it was time to make a checklist of fun summer activities that we could do in the weeks before we start school again. The kids helped me brainstorm, and this is the list we came up with. The best part? Most of these are free or very low cost.

Add your ideas in the comments!

Family Summer Activities Checklist:

  1. Take a hike.
  2. Create a nature scavenger hunt.
  3. Visit our local nature center.
  4. Camp in the treehouse.
  5. Finally go check out the state parks near our house that we’ve never visited.
  6. Have a water fight in the backyard (use sponges, not balloons, to avoid choking hazards and plastic waste!
  7. Go to a drive-in movie.
  8. Pre-make a bunch of frozen meals for friends who are expecting babies in the next few weeks.
  9. Blow bubbles.
  10. Even better, make bubbles in a kids pool and use a hula hoop to surround ourselves in bubbles.
  11. Make a (healthy & homemade) lemonade stand.
  12. Catch fireflies.
  13. Make popsicles from fruit and chia seeds.
  14. Have a luau for neighbors and friends.
  15. Have a picnic.
  16. Stay up late and try to find constellations.
  17. Go wildcrafting for herbs and plants with our local expert.
  18. Go fishing and learn how to clean the fish.
  19. Play frisbee
  20. Play outside in the rain.
  21. Turn on some oldies and have a dance party in the living room.
  22. Make a slip and slide in the backyard.
  23. Go to a baseball game.
  24. Play wiffle ball in the backyard.
  25. Make homemade ice cream.
  26. Learn how to make simple origami.
  27. Finger paint outside.
  28. Draw with sidewalk chalk.
  29. Have a puppet show
  30. Make necklaces with homemade clay beads.
  31. Make a bird house.
  32. And a bat house.
  33. Visit the fire station.
  34. Go to the zoo.
  35. Play in the sprinklers.
  36. Visit a retirement or nursing home and make cards for the residents.
  37. Learn how to score a baseball game.
  38. Go to the lake.
  39. Go to the free kid’s workshop at Home Depot.
  40. Have family game night.
  41. Learn new card games.
  42. Have a backyard campout.
  43. Teach kids how to jump rope (and practice it myself)
  44. Make these healthy ice cream sandwiches.
  45. Take a nap!
  46. Fly a kite.
  47. Build a fort.
  48. Play capture the flag.
  49. Climb trees.
  50. Join the library’s summer reading club.
  51. Make paper airplanes and race them.
  52. Let the kids plan and cook dinner.
  53. Play flashlight tag.

I want to hear your ideas now! Share below!

53 Fun Family Summer Activities Checklist originally appeared on Wellness Mama.

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The legacy of slavery echoed in the Charleston shooting, why we feel awe, the happy memories of mice + more

Bryan-Stevenson-TED-Talk-CTAThe TED community has been very busy over the past few weeks. Below, some newsy highlights.

Powerful thoughts on slavery’s legacy. Last week, Bryan Stevenson spoke with The Marshall Project about the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. In a Q&A, Stevenson shared his thoughts on the deeply entrenched legacy of slavery. “I don’t believe slavery ended in 1865, I believe it just evolved,” he said. “It turned into decades of racial hierarchy that was violently enforced — from the end of reconstruction until WWII — through acts of racial terror. … It is the same narrative that has denied opportunities and fair treatment to millions of people of color, and it is the same narrative that supported and led to the executions in Charleston.” His chilling, humbling words have special resonance today, as news surfaces of another church burning — the seventh church fire since the shooting. (Watch Bryan’s TED Talk, “We need to talk about an injustice.”)

The purpose of awe. It’s a moment — no matter how fleeting — many recognize: when something is so wonder-filled, so inspiring, so beautiful that you get goose bumps. Last month, Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner wrote a piece for The New York Times on why humans experience awe. Their latest research looks at awe as a collective emotion that motivates us to uphold the greater good. “Awe might help shift our focus from our narrow self-interest to the interests of the group to which we belong,” they wrote. (Watch Paul’s TED Talk, “Does money make you mean?”)

A big step for littleBits. Last week, Ayah Bdeir’s startup, littleBits, announced that it has raised $44.2 million in new funding. According to the press release, the company will use it to further invest in STEM/STEAM education, step up their global expansion and create new initiatives. More than anything, Ayah said that she wants to continue to foster the inventive spirit. “Our goal is to have littleBits in every home, every school, every creative space,” she said. (Watch Ayah’s TED Talk, “Building blocks that blink, bleep and teach.”)

Are we running our cars on … dinosaur poop? A new Vsauce video dives into the science of Jurassic World, with insights from paleontologist Jack Horner and actor Chris Pratt. The two are asked some quirky and thought-provoking questions, like: Are we fueling our cars with dinosaur remains? The answer is no. The oil we use today doesn’t come from dinosaur poop, or dinosaurs at all. “It comes from microorganisms and oceans,” Jack says. This is a good thing because, if it did, the fuel wouldn’t last long. “If you took all the dinosaurs that ever lived and … squished them up in order to get the oil out of them,” says Jack, “We’d probably go through that oil in a couple of days.” (Watch Jack’s TED Talk, “Building a dinosaur from a chicken.”)

So … how do I become a TED speaker? Ellis Weiner shared something that’s been on his mind for a while with The New Yorker‘s Daily Shouts & Murmurs. “For several years now, I’ve been concerned with one central question: Can I get myself invited to do a TED Talk? And if so, how?” Sure, he’s got thoughts on Technology, Education and Design — and he’s never at a loss for ideas. But to spark even better ones, he dreamed up some new renditions of the conference: “Technology, Puppies, Design” and “Bacon, Entertainment, Design.” Ideas worth spreading?

The explorer in all of us. TED Fellows David Sengeh, Skylar Tibbits and Manu Prakash have been named National Geographic Emerging Explorers. David was recognized for making 3D-printed prosthetic sockets and wearable interfaces; Skylar was selected for his work on objects that self-assemble; and Manu was chosen for creating Foldscope, a microscope made of paper. This makes 12 TED Fellows who have become Emerging Explorers, so far. (Watch David’s TED Talk, “The sore problem of prosthetic limbs,” Skylar’s TED Talk, “The emergence of ‘4D printing’” and Manu’s TED Talk, “A 50-cent microscope that folds like origami.”)

A cross-section of happiness. What does a cross-section of a happy memory look like? It’s blue and black, flecked with fibers of bright red. When Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu published a new study in Nature about activating happy memories in mice, IEEE Spectrum writer Eliza Strickland found herself fascinated by the image below. By artificially reactivating the happy-memory neurons seen in it, while the mouse was in a stressful situation, Steve and Xu saw something interesting. “Our data suggest that activating positive memories artificially is sufficient to suppress depression-like behaviors,” they wrote. (Watch Steve and Xu’s TED Talk, “A mouse. A laser. A beam. A manipulated memory.”)

Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu happy memory
Have a news item to share? Write us at blog@ted.com and you may see it included in this weekly roundup.

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Video: Avocado Chocolate Mousse

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TED@BCG focuses on the many meanings of growth

Douglas Beal kicked off TED@BCG with a look at how growth in terms of GDP doesn't always align with growth in terms of citizen well-being. Photo: TED

Douglas Beal kicked off TED@BCG with a look at how growth in terms of GDP doesn’t always align with growth in terms of citizen well-being. Photo: TED

Growth is usually a good thing. For a person, it means more wisdom; for a business, it means more profit; for a country, it means increased prosperity. But growth has a darker side too: aging, a sense of impersonality, waste and pollution. At TED@BCG — the latest TED Institute event, held on June 30, 2015, at Old Billingsgate Market in London — speakers explored both edges of this term. In three sessions of talks, curated by Juliet Blake and hosted by Margaret Heffernan, speakers shared their insights on what it means to move “Onwards & Upwards: In Pursuit of Growth.” Below, a taste of each talk.

After opening remarks from Rich Lesser, BCG’s President and CEO, great moments from the talks in session 1:

“Which country do you think is growing faster: China or Poland? … It’s actually Poland. … Poland is the best in converting its GDP growth into improved well-being.” .
—Douglas Beal on why leaders should be measured by how they improve lives rather than by GDP

“Africa represents 14% of the global population, but 24% of the global disease burden and 54% of communicable diseases. Meanwhile, it only has 2% of the world’s doctors.” —Mathieu Lamiaux on what Africa can do to improve healthcare, efficiently and effectively

“If you’re hoping to live to be 85 or older, your chances of getting Alzheimer’s will be almost 1 in 2. Chances are, you’ll spend your golden years with Alzheimer’s or looking after a friend or loved one with it. Alzheimer’s is one of the biggest medical and social challenge of our generation, but we’ve done little to address it.” —chemist Samuel Cohen on why a cure for Alzheimer’s is so key

“We have more and more evidence that the effect of diet on mental health, on memory and on mood is mediated by the production of new neurons in the hippocampus. This is literally food for thought.” —Sandrine Thuret on neurogenesis, an emerging field of research on the growth of new neurons in the brain

“Some people are surprised to hear that I can integrate the things I learned in business with what I do now in the ministry. But I can.” —Philip Krinks, on a walk that led him from the business world to being ordained

“All my life, I’ve been told the way to get ahead is to compete and, frankly, I’ve never found it very inspiring. … We badly need to find a better way to work and a better way to live.” —Margaret Heffernan in a reprise of her TED Talk, “Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work

Joachim Horn explained to the audience how they could invent even if they don't understand how electrical circuits work or how to code. Photo: TED

Joachim Horn explained to the audience how they could invent even if they don’t understand how electrical circuits work or know how to code. Photo: TED

The talks in session 2:

“When did we begin to fear and suspect the people that worked for us? What happened to the trust between us? Maybe we killed it off slowly with the annual performance review.” —Patty McCord, former Chief Talent Officer of Netflix, on big issues in human resources

“Those who say ‘no’ to things are rewarded with feeling safe. Those who say ‘yes’ to things are rewarded with adventure.” —Dylan Emery of The Showstoppers on the power of improv

“Family businesses are some of the largest companies in the world. About 30% of large companies in the US and Europe are family businesses — companies like Walmart, News Corp, Koch Industries.” Vikram Bhalla on family businesses, and how they are different in developed and emerging markets

“Are we just sitting and watching as we lose our jobs to smart machines? The simple answer is: yes. There’s simple mechanical labor that will not be needed anymore. … But there is good news with new technologies and new business models. New tasks emerge.” —Markus Lorenz on what he calls “Industry 4.0,” the merging of data with physical systems

“[Engineers] use too much of our creativity taking pre-existing things and making them better. …This frustration was felt by me and a lot of my friends after engineering school. They wanted to seek a world of adventure, of creativity, of impact, and a lot of them ended up with jobs in investment banking.” —Joachim Horn on SAM building blocks, which let people invent without having to code or solder

“We’re attracted to brands just like we’re attracted to people.There are instant attractions, slow seductions and wild flings between buyers, goods and services.”  .
—Sarah Willersdorf on what good branding has in common with online dating

Patty McCord shares what soured her on corporate talent management — and how companies can do better. Photo: TED

Patty McCord shares what soured her on corporate talent management — and how companies can do better. Photo: TED

The talks in session 3:

“I think we’re all very passionate, sometimes quite secretly, about the china we use every day.” —Emma Bridgewater on what inspired her to start her pottery brand

With cooperation the whole is worth more than the sum of the parts. This is not poetry; this is math. That’s the miracle of cooperation — it multiples the energy and intelligence of human efforts.” —Yves Morieux on the mundane things that undermine people’s desire to work together

“The choice of a new box is much more important than the decision to get out of the current one.” —Creativity consultant Luc de Brabandere on the proverbial ‘box’

“All told, companies spend a trillion dollars a year trying to understand and shape the journeys of their customers. Companies spend a thousand times less understanding the people they depend on most: their own employees.” —Diana Dosik on a common issue she sees, and tries to fix, in organizations

“The virus doesn’t spread Ebola. People spread Ebola. And people are far more complex than viruses.” —Shalini Unnikrishnan on thinking of the Ebola epidemic in a people-focused way 

“Great companies drive innovation even before it is strictly needed. … Great companies take both a long and a short time perspective.” Knut Haanaes on four lessons for companies to avoid the traps of stagnation and of success

The TED@BCG audience — highly attentive and ready to participate. Photo: TED

The TED@BCG audience — highly attentive and ready to participate. Photo: TED

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Diversity Training In Yoga: Why We Need It (And Might Not Even Know It)

Diversity has been a hot topic in yoga as of late. Diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility. Three biggies that help form the foundation for the increasingly ubiquitous and benevolent mantra “yoga is for everybody.” But, good intentions aside, are yoga teachers saying the wrong things to make students feel otherwise? Short answer: yep, probably. But they […]

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QUIZ: Which TED Talk are you?

A fun way to find a talk that’s just right for you…


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Cherry-Strawberry Chia Seed Fool with Vanilla Bean Coconut Whipped Cream


My sister and family are here visiting this week and they brought us about 10 pounds of freshly picked cherries from my brother-in-law’s parent’s house (they have about 7 cherry trees…jealous!). It was like Christmas morning when this loot arrived. I’m eating these beauties by the fist full. Adriana is going wild over them. It’s a good week. We pitted and froze a bunch to make 1-ingredient cherry sorbet in the Vitamix (my nephews loved it) and I’m dreaming up other ways to use them before they go bad!



This gorgeous Cherry-Strawberry Chia Seed Fool is a festive dessert I came up with for Canada Day tomorrow. I actually thought of it in the middle of the night last night and by some stroke of luck I remembered the idea this morning. In lieu of heavy dairy cream, I used full-fat coconut cream and whipped it with a touch of cane sugar and vanilla bean powder. So incredibly simple and delicious. For the berry part, I made a cherry-strawberry chia seed jam with maple syrup (does it get anymore Canadian?), vanilla bean, fresh lemon juice, and a secret ingredient – a teaspoon of finely grated beet for a bolder red color (but that’s totally optional). It turned out so lovely layered in parfait glasses. Many traditional fool recipes that I came across fold the berries into the cream until it’s pretty uniform in color, but I prefer the layered look so I did it my way. Then you can swirl it all together as you eat it. Total bliss! I also added some toasted sliced almonds and flaked coconut on top for some crunch. A little lemon zest would be nice too.



Cherry-Strawberry Chia Seed Fool

Vegan, gluten-free, grain-free, oil-free, soy-free

A vegan twist on the classic berry fool! I used whipped vanilla bean coconut cream and paired it with a delightful cherry-strawberry chia seed jam with lemon and vanilla. This dish requires some advance preparation so be sure to put the cans of coconut milk in the fridge the day before so the coconut cream can solidify. The jam also requires cooling, so you’ll need at least 2 hours to chill it in the fridge before layering the dessert.

6 parfaits
Freeze time
overnight + 3 hours
Prep Time
20 Minutes
Cook time
20 Minutes
Total Time
40 Minutes


For the Coconut Whipped Cream
  • 2 (15-oz) cans full-fat coconut milk, chilled overnight
  • 2 tablespoons natural cane sugar, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla bean powder or 1 vanilla bean, seeded
For the Cherry Strawberry Chia Seed Jam (makes 2 1/3 cups)
  • 2 heaping cups fresh or frozen strawberries (hulled if using fresh)
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen sweet cherries (pitted if using fresh)
  • 3-4 tablespoons pure maple syrup, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • pinch fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla bean powder
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and finely grated red beet (I use a microplane lemon zester), adds bolder red hue
Optional garnishes:
  • Toasted sliced almonds
  • Coconut Flakes
  • Lemon Zest
  • Fresh cherries


  1. Chill the cans of coconut milk in the fridge for 12-24 hours so the coconut cream can solidify before use.
  2. For the chia seed jam: Add the berries and maple syrup into a medium saucepan. Stir to combine. Increase heat to medium, and simmer until the berries release their juices and soften, about 10 minutes. After the berries release water you can increase the heat even more to cook off the water. Watch closely and stir frequently. When the berries look a bit soft, stir in the chia seeds. Keep cooking over medium heat until the chia thickens the mixture slightly, about 5-10 more minutes.  Reduce heat if necessary to avoid burning. Remove from heat and stir in the salt, vanilla, lemon, and optional grated beet. Pour into a glass container and let it cool on the counter for at least 30 minutes before covering and chilling in the fridge for at least 2 hours, preferably longer.
  3. Chill a medium bowl in the freezer (this helps the coconut cream stay thick while whipping).
  4. Open the chilled cans of coconut milk and carefully scoop off the white coconut cream from each can and place it into a medium bowl. You should have 1.5-2 cups worth of cream. You can reserve the leftover coconut water for another use, such as a smoothie or you can freeze it into coconut water ice cubes (also great in smoothies).
  5. With electric mixers or a whisk, beat the cream and the cane sugar in the chilled bowl until smooth. Whisk in the vanilla.
  6. Layer the coconut cream and the chia jam in parfait glasses. Top with optional toasted sliced almonds, flaked coconut, lemon zest, and a cherry on top! Enjoy immediately or cover and transfer to the fridge until ready to serve. The chia seed jam will keep for up to a week in the fridge in an air-tight container, and I expect the coconut whipped cream will keep for at least 5 days.

Tip: If for some reason your chia seed jam didn’t thicken enough after chilling (this might be the case if the water wasn’t cooked off enough), stir in another tablespoon of chia seeds and chill it for another hour. That should do the trick!


I’m keeping this short and sweet today because I have a big cookbook deadline looming. Thank you so much for your patience with my infrequent blog posts lately. I am dying to get back into it!

Wishing my fellow Canadians a very happy Canada Day tomorrow. Also, happy 4th of July to our friends south of the border. (By the way, you can easily turn this into a red, white, and blue dessert by adding blueberries.) I hope you have a fun and safe week filled with all the goodness summer has to offer!

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The Problem with Coffee Pods

The dark side of k cups health environmental and financial problems 200x150 The Problem with Coffee Pods

The dark side of k cups health environmental and financial problems The Problem with Coffee Pods

I love coffee, though not for the caffeine… I just enjoy the taste. The research is divided on the reported health benefits of coffee, but those who tolerate it can generally drink it in moderation without a problem.

Coffee is a multi-billion dollar industry each year that has changed drastically in the last decade (and unfortunately not because coffee drinkers are moving back to real french press coffee makers).

The Rise of The Coffee Pod…

Over the last decade, coffee pods have become increasingly popular for their convenience and novelty.

Though their inventor, John Sylvan,  regrets creating them, and says he originally designed them for office use only, coffee pods (often called “k-cups”) are now a common fixture in many kitchens around the world.

An estimated 30+% of American households have a Keurig or similar coffee pod machine, accounting for an almost 5 billion dollar market last year.

Certainly, I can understand the appeal of an at-your-fingertips 24/7 coffee maker, but as most things that seem to good to be true… coffee pods have a dark side (and it isn’t just the dark roast they hold).

The Problem with K-Cups and Coffee Pods

The Environmental Factor:

One of the reasons John Sylvan regrets creating K-cups? The environmental repercussions.

Coffee pods generate massive amounts of plastic waste each year. They are not biodegradable or recyclable (though some companies have started making biodegradable options).

So why is this such a big deal?

Last year, enough k-cups were sold that if they were placed end-to-end, they would circle the globe 10.5 times. And that is just the amount sold in one year! (source)

In fact, almost 10 billion individual coffee pods were sold in the last year and that number seems to be rising.

Some of the newer generation k-cups are recyclable, but you have to take them apart and separate the plastic, compost the coffee grounds and dispose of the top. Plus, most people aren’t even aware that some of them are recyclable.

With the rising levels of BPA and other plastic chemicals found in our groundwater, ocean water, and even buried under 30 feet of ice at the south pole, experts warn that these chemicals may be contributing to the rising health problems we are seeing.

Coffee pods alone are a significant source of plastic chemicals in landfills, and unfortunately, the their popularity only seems to be growing. This prompted one video team to make an exaggerated video encouraging people to “kill the k-cup:”

Of course, this video is overly-dramatic, but it demonstrates the point that that even those of us who don’t use k-cups are affected by the plastics being put into the environment.

To be fair, Green Mountain (who owns Keurig) announced plans to make their coffee pods recyclable by 2020, but that still means billions more plastic cups will enter the landfills in the next five years, and even if/when they are recyclable, many people won’t recycle them.

Health Ramifications:

Equally menacing are the potential health concerns associated with disposable coffee pods.


They are plastic, so all the usual problems associated with consuming foods or drinks in plastic containers apply, but are actually intensified because hot liquid is used, allowing more plastic chemicals to transfer into the coffee.

The plastic chemicals like BPA, BPF, BPS and Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors and may contribute to hormone imbalance, weight gain and fertility problems. Though Keurig recently confirmed that its pods are BPA free, they did test positive for estrogenic activity and may also contain polystyrene, a possible carcinogen.


The top of these k-cup coffee pods is usually made of aluminum, which has some health concerns of its own and which may be bad for the brain. Aluminum exposure has been linked to Alzheimers, depresion, anxiety, autism and even autoimmune disease.

Mold, Algae and Biofilms?

Microbiologist Erin Chamerlik pointed out that Coffee pod machines are also a prime growing environment for mold, mildew, algae and biofilms.

The instruction manual of these machines states that once filled with water, the internal tank and lines cannot be drained, creating a perpetual dark, warm and moist environment.

These molds and biofilms bring their own health concerns and are almost impossible to eradicate. Hot water is not enough to kill them, nor is the acidity of coffee. Some sources recommend running several cycles with diluted vinegar, but lab testing has shown that this is not enough to remove the mold and biofilms.

To be fair, this problem is not limited to single-use coffee makers. Almost all coffee makers can be a source of mold and biofilms, and even 50% of coffee mugs tested contained mold spores or even fecal bacteria.

Financial Issues

If the health and environmental aspects aren’t enough to convince you, individual coffee pods are an absolutely horrible deal.

Of course they are convenient, but with as little coffee as is in each pod, a pound of coffee would cost over $50!

Even the highest quality single-sourced organic coffees don’t usually cost this much, and many of us pay that for low-grade, plastic and aluminum coated, environment wrecking pods!

If budget is an issue, these should be the first to go!

K-cups and Coffee Pods: The Solution?

Don’t buy a coffee pod brewing machine. If you have one, get rid of it.

Sure, the convenience can’t be beat, but they aren’t worth the health, environmental and financial downsides. Increasing levels of plastics in landfills is becoming a massive global issue, and this is one major source.

Of course, I’m a coffee drinker and I’m not advocating avoiding coffee, just brewing it in an environmentally and health conscious way (that also tastes much better, for the record). If you absolutely can’t part with your Keurig, at least consider buying biodegradable options like these that can be composted (bonus: they are cheaper too!) or using a reusable pod.

What I do:

K-cups take about a minute to brew, and my eco-friendly and much healthier version only takes about two minutes… plus, the taste is absolutely worth the extra minute of prep time.

I use a glass electric water kettle and a glass and stainless french press for coffee brewing.

I heat the water to almost boiling in the electric kettle. This takes about 30-seconds. While that is heating, I grind fresh organic coffee beans and place them in the bottom of the french press.

I pour the water into the french press and stir with a wooden spoon. After about 60-90 seconds, I push down the filter on the french press and have delicious fresh-brewed coffee sans plastics, aluminum or biofilms.

Confession: I did at one time have a coffee pod brewing machine. I used reusable pods or biodegradable ones, but after researching the various health and environmental problems with these machines, I returned to our beloved french press and could not be happier.

Are you a coffee drinker? How do you make it?


The Problem with Coffee Pods originally appeared on Wellness Mama.

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Adjuster? I Don’t Even Know Her

by Sara Kleinsmith To touch, or not to touch? This is one of the dilemmas we experience as yoga teachers. In yoga, adjustments can be a matter of personal preference. Recently, I’ve had many discussions with teachers about adjustments and their opinions regarding the subject. If you are unaware of what an adjustment is, it’s […]

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