Fermented Foods – Choose Beneficial

Many vegetables are grown in a fertile valley far away. Almost as soon as they are harvested, they are flash-frozen and transported on refrigerated trucks to a supermarket near you. You have a freezer at home, and the delivery of healthy nutritious vegetables from farm to consumer is completed easily. Refrigerated trucks keep fresh-picked vegetables viable long enough that your green grocer’s shelves remain well-stocked throughout the year.

Go back just a few decades, and you will find that this was not the case. Winter produced very sparsely populated shelves in the green grocery section of the market. Go back just a few more decades and you will discover that people had to find creative ways to sustain themselves through harsh winters and on long journeys. For thousands of years, people have fermented foods to preserve them for when supplies of fresh foods were not available.

The Romans preserved cabbages with salt, and Genghis Khan fed his armies fermented cabbage to sustain them on their campaigns through Europe. This use of preserved, fermented foods was a common practice for travelers as a source of nutrients. As late as World War I, allied forces relied on fermented cabbage, or sauerkraut as we now know it, to supply nutrients to soldiers on the battlefields of Europe.

The process of fermentation helps to preserve the food for use many months later. Fermentation also generates many health benefits for the consumer. The essential nutrients and vitamins are preserved. Sugars are broken down so they are more easily absorbed with far less insulin or allergy reaction, in the case of lactose intolerance to dairy products. The process also generates enzymes that are essential to supporting the digestion of foods that we eat. Finally, they are natural probiotics, jam-packed with beneficial microorganisms.

A healthy gut, supported by a strong population of beneficial bacteria, serves as a powerful booster for your immune system. The digestive tract is where nutrients are extracted from food and absorbed by the body. Enzyme and microbial activity accelerates digestion and generates enzymes, vitamins and antioxidants that are essential to health. They also protect us from pathogens and flush out toxins from our bodies.

You can find a variety of ready-to-use fermented products at your local supermarket. They include yoghurt, which is fermented milk (usually cow’s milk). The fermentation process breaks down the milk lactose to make it easier to digest and the yoghurt supplies billions of helpful bacteria. Be careful of brands with large amounts of sugar added, as that will create other problems. Another healthy fermented product from milk is kefir, a drink often found in the supermarket refrigerator.

Kombucha tea is another good source of enzymes and beneficial microbes. Kombucha is made from fermenting black tea. Other products you may find in the supermarket include kimchi, a Korean version of fermented cabbage and a mixture of other vegetables. Raw apple cider vinegar is also loaded with beneficial bacteria and has many different uses apart from supporting a healthy digestive system. You may find Japanese products like miso, and natto, both loaded with microbes and used in cooking soups, marinades and sauces.

If you feel adventurous, the processes for making your own fermented yoghurt, kefir, pickles and kimchi are relatively easy and they require no special equipment. Select healthy organic ingredients and you will be able to rely on the process for creating your own healthy, nutritious probiotic foods.

Boost Your Business Website Traffic SEO Hacks

We all want websites that are search-engine friendly. But sometimes when you are busy it’s easy to publish a new blog post and be off to the next thing on your to do list.

Over time, this can really hurt your SEO efforts. That’s why I’ve put together this short hit list of things you can do to boost your WordPress SEO.

Schedule these tasks in your calendar to make your blog traffic soar!

1) Post New Stuff Regularly

Google has a bias towards fresh content. Part of Google’s algorithm looks at how new the content is and gives preference to more recent results. So publishing original content on a regular basis is important.

Also size matters when it comes to content. Generally longer content ranks higher than shorter content. So strive to make your post at least 500 words.

2) Create a Keywords List

If SEO is a priority, then you’ll want to develop a keyword list. This is basically a list of keywords and phrases that describes your products and services. These keywords should include words from search terms that are more likely to be used to find your offerings online.

Google has some incredible tools to make keyword research easy including Google Search, Google Suggest, Google Instant and Google Wonder Wheel.

Hint: if you want a really targeted keyword list, hire an SEO expert!

3) Install an SEO Plugin

This will allow you to set keyword-rich custom titles and Meta descriptions for your posts for search engines.

A couple of popular SEO plug-ins to consider are All in One SEO Pack and WordPress SEO by Yoast.

Again, this is something your web designer or an SEO professional can easily install for you.

4) Hand Submit to Search Engines

What good is a site if no one can find it? That’s why getting listed in Google and the other popular search engines and directories is one of the most effective ways of getting free targeted traffic to your website.

You have probably seen lots of automated submission services where you pay a small fee for them to submit your site to hundreds of search engines. These services not only won’t help – they can actually hurt you.

Almost all of these free directories never send an actual visitor to your website and getting links from them can hurt your ability to rank in the real search engines like Google and Bing.

The best practice is to manually submit your site to search engines yourself. WordPress makes this easy once you set up an account in Google, Bing and Yandex Webmaster Tools.

If unsure, just ask your webmaster or SEO Specialist to set up these accounts.

5) Add Tags to your Posts

WordPress, straight out of the box, comes ready to embrace search engines. The tags features is one of those SEO friendly features you should take advantage of.

Be sure to add relevant keyword-rich tags to every post you publish.

6) Leave Comments on Other Blogs

Start linking more to other people’s posts on their blogs and encourage them to link back to you.

One search engine factor that Google considers is backlinking. A website that has more backlinks is considered more of an authority site and gets higher rankings.

7) Block Spam Comments

When people leave comments on your blog, it counts as content to Google. So if you have a website about DIY crafts and someone leaves 5 comments about “cheap enhancement pills’ that ruins your keyword relevancy and hurts your rankings.

So blocking spam comments from posting to your blog will improve your SEO – as well as make your real blog readers happy.

8) Internal Linking

One easy way to get more traffic is to add internal links to your blog posts.

For example if you have an article on Overcoming Your Resistance to Blog Writing, then at the bottom of that article you can post links to “Other Related Articles You May Enjoy”: 4 Content Marketing Trends for Business Owners in 2017 and other related articles. WordPress SEO by Yoast does this automatically for you as you can see at the bottom of this post.

9) Use Image Alt Tags

For each image you use in your post, ensure you add the Alt tag to help them rank better in image searches. This is another excellent place to put relevant keywords.

Google has an image search function that works in pretty much the exact same way as the webpage search with keywords and relevance. So adding Alt tags helps Google find and include your images when someone does an image search.

10) Tweak Blog Post Titles

If you quickly wrote titles to your blog posts before, take time to review them first before publishing.

Your blog post titles are vitally important to your SEO rankings so compare the keywords used to your keyword list and make your blog titles more keyword rich.

11) Add Social Media Sharing Buttons

When Google sees a blog article is getting a lot of posts and shares on social media, it boosts the ranking of that blog post.

So making it easy for readers to share your posts helps others Tweet and share your great content!

12) Update Your Theme

Not all WordPress themes are SEO Friendly and the free WordPress themes may be hurting your search engine rankings because of this.

Having a premium WordPress theme ensures your content will be indexed by the search engines, since the developers have taken special time to optimize every aspect in terms of both security and SEO.

It’s smart to make sure your theme programming isn’t bloated with inefficient code that slows down page load times. We find this a lot with purchased themes and that’s why we only provide custom designed and built WordPress themes for our clients.

PlanningTravelling Alone

Often people are shocked when they hear that I love to travel alone. Some state that they would be afraid to do this while others imply that they just don’t think they would enjoy the trip without having people accompany them.

Well, there are several advantages to going solo:

1. Planning is much easier. You just think about where you would like to visit and start researching your options. You can open an email with flight offers and book whatever grabs your attention at the time without having to consult or compromise.
2. Travelling is more flexible. If you miss a plane or decide to get sidetracked you can coordinate things based on one schedule only – your own. You don’t have to worry about anxiety or commitments of others in your party. In fact, you could even choose to give up your seat on an overbooked flight and receive hundreds of dollars from the airline for doing so.
3. Opportunities abound. It is a lot easier to purchase one ticket to a popular event that two. Several times I have impulsively arrived at a box office and found that the concert was sold out – except for one great ticket – MINE! Would you believe twenty-third row center for Natalie Cole in Seattle?
4. Relationships develop. Frequently I am invited to join interesting people at their table for a meal when they realize that I am on my own. I have made amazing friendships and enjoyed great conversations on trips that wouldn’t have occurred if I had been with other people.
5. Culture can be experienced first-hand. There is always time to visit with hotel or restaurant staff, discover local adventures or learn about the language and customs from a shop keeper because no one is waiting for you or wanting to do something else.
6. Plans can be altered. You can sleep in, order lunch in mid-afternoon or take an impulsive detour without upsetting anyone else’s itinerary.
7. You set the pace. I have learned to walk slowly and rest often – a situation that does not match that of many other people. Last month, in Ronks, Pennsylvania, for example, I chose to take advantage of an outdoor Amish-made rocking chair so I could just rock and people-watch for two hours. I loved it but know that not everyone would have felt the same way!
8. You spend less money. At least I do because I know that I am the one who will have to haul my luggage around from place to place. And I don’t want to pay an extra transportation fee if it weighs in att over fifty pounds.
9. I also eat better when I am alone because I am not in restaurants three times a day trying to finish everything on the plate. In fact, I eat only one restaurant meal a day, ask for a take-out container and then supplement my left-overs with fruit, vegetables or snacks that I have purchased throughout the day.
10. Finally, and with tongue in cheek I enjoy the fact that there isn’t anyone to correct my stories!

You don’t have to be afraid to travel on your own if you are wise. Just use your common sense, ask hotel personnel for advice about safe areas and keep your eyes open. With just a little practice, you will find that travelling on your own can be a wonderful experience!

Six Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

If you are thinking about the holidays right now and frowning, smooth your face, square your shoulders and take a cleansing breath. A little positive thinking can go a long way in helping you to enjoy the holidays this year instead of agonizing over all the little details. These 6 tips for a stress-free holiday season will start you off on the right foot.

1. Plan ahead. Print out return address labels for cards (I’m really doing it this year – bad hand cramping), update your address book, make room in your front hall closet for guest coats instead of piling them on a bed like usual, and prepare guest rooms ahead of time. Tackling a few of these tasks before you get really busy can make a world of difference.

2. Rethink your gift giving. Cut down on the mad shopping rush and stress of finding exactly what everyone wants this year – consider giving experiences instead of material gifts, and maybe even implement The Four Gift Rule. My extreme-gift-giving mom is actually trying it this year. Thanks, Mom!

3. Keep things simple with food and d├ęcor. Stick to your favourite recipes instead of trying something complicated and new, and a simple homemade centrepiece is all you need on your table. Please don’t belittle yourself for not having matching napkins and candleholders! Focus more on the family and friends you are gathering with rather than stressing over too many fussy preparations.

4. Have a few extra gifts on hand. A small stash of thoughtfully wrapped gifts is perfect for unannounced friends or last-minute invites. Choose items that have universal appeal and can be used by you and your family if they are still around come January. Think locally-made condiments, soy candles, handmade chocolates, wine and preserves.

5. Be choosy when it comes to events. This can be tough for social butterflies (my husband) and people who have trouble saying no (me). Only accept invitations to gatherings that are pertinent to the holiday and meaningful to your family. When planning your own event, keep it small and intimate with just a few close friends and relatives. We used to have a big Christmas open house but after a few years, we realized it was too chaotic as we spent most of our time greeting and seeing friends out, refilling glasses and snack bowls, and making sure little ones didn’t trash our house (even if they were adorable). Choose to host big parties at a different time of the year, when there is less going on and you are not so taxed.

6. Live in the now. As you trim the tree or make cookies with your kids, don’t forget to pause and really live in the moment. Don’t worry about what’s still on your to-do list (there’s always something), because before you know it the holiday will be over and you’ll be disappointed that you didn’t make the most of it. Also, carve out some time to do something just for you – take a walk, read your book, have a hot bath – it will go a long way in helping you to keep your sanity during the holidays.