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Your old gym membership card sits defunct in a drawer somewhere. Any fitness equipment sitting in your house does little more than collect dust, and all the while your muscle mass just keeps deflating despite the farm work you do each day. You might have planned to tone up at one point, but the thought stopped you in your tracks before you could even start. Well don’t you fret. Now you can take baby steps towards getting into better shape with toning exercises at home without the fancy equipment. Really!

Try some of the following suggestions for firming up those arms, abs, thighs, buttocks, and other areas:

Wall Push-ups

Just standing around waiting for the pressure cooker to get up to the right temperature? Do some wall push-ups, these will help tone the arms and pectorals. Facing a wall, hold your arms out in front of you and place your hands on the wall, shoulder-width apart. Spread your feet shoulder-length apart as well. Lean forward until your chin almost (or actually) touches the wall between your hands, making sure your heels still touch the floor. Do this as often as you want throughout the day in repetitions of 10, 20, etc. But don’t go overboard and render your upper body useless!

Chair Sit-ups

You started working on a fabulous quilt in your project room. You’ve been at it for hours. You just realized that if you don’t do something to break the monotony you’ll lose it. So do this: sit sideways on your chair close to the edge. Position your feet flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart. Lower your torso down until you’re almost horizontal with the seat of the chair, breathing in as you go down. Stay for a second, then lift your torso back into a sitting position, exhaling on the way up and keeping your feet on the ground. Repeat this tummy toning exercise for 3 sets of 10 reps.

Squeeze-Your-Muscles Arm Lifts

Did you just open your fridge and reach for the milk or water jug? Why not squeeze your arm muscles as you lift slowly and release them as you lower your arm? Switch arms as you return the item(s) to the fridge. Turn it into a workout by lifting with one hand at a time and use the other to brace yourself against a wall or tabletop (to keep your balance and help maintain posture) and do 3 sets of 10 reps for each arm.

Kitchen Sumo Squats


Tone your thighs, buttocks and legs while you putter around in the kitchen preparing meals, washing dishes, etc. Sumo squats are perfect for kitchen activities since you might need to turn your feet outward if you’re standing at the counter.

Unlike regular squats, you’ll be standing with your feet wider than shoulder-width and your toes turned slightly outward. Squat down, pushing your hips back but keeping your chest up. Keep your knees turned slightly outward. Return to the standing position to complete one rep. Start with 1-3 sets of 6 reps, it all depends on your skill level. You don’t want to overdo it with anything that keeps you from getting around the farm the next day!

Step-Stepper Exercises

If your home is up on a raised foundation, then this next one is definitely for you. Here you’ll use the top or bottom step of any staircase available to you. Step up with one foot, then the other, and back down with one foot following the other. For a bigger challenge, move up or down an extra step. This tones your thighs and lower legs too, and you can do these exercises in increments of 5-10 minutes at a time, as often as you can manage daily.

Bum Squeezes

Here’s a funny exercise that works sitting or standing. Firm up the buttocks by simply squeezing your butt cheeks together for a few seconds, then release and repeat. Do this for 5-10 minutes, several times a day. Combine it with Kegels and you just hit this one out of the park! 🙂

Toning your thighs, stomach, arms, and more just got a little easier. With some thinking outside the box and creativity, you can come up with more simple, easy exercises and routines to start and maintain. Give it a try. You just might be amazed at the results!

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Tasty Herbal Recipes Using a Mortar and Pestle – and Arm Power!

It sounds like something a builder would use, but a mortar and pestle is one of the most important pieces of equipment a home cook can own.

The mortar and pestle began as two pieces of stone that were used for grinding grain. The mortar was a flat stone with a depression in the middle, and the pestle was a smaller stone used to grind. This method is still used in many parts of the world.

When you buy a mortar and pestle today it is offered in a variety of materials; stone or marble is still the best. The material to be ground is placed in the bowl (which has replaced the flat rock), and the pestle is used with a rolling or pounding motion to break it up into fine grains. It takes some physical effort, but it is great exercise for your upper arms.

These tools are easy to use, and once you get the hang of it, you will find daily uses for it, including crushing garlic, cracking pepper, mixing rubs and seasonings of all kinds. It’s all in the wrist action!

Here are a few recipes for you to try:

Herbal Salt

You can make small amounts of herbal salt to use quickly and easily. If you have a flourishing herb garden, you can create mixtures for your pantry and preserve your herbs. This recipe works well for any green herbs, such as thyme, parsley, dill or mint.

Ingredients:

dried herbs of any variety
good coarse sea salt.

Use dried herbs; if you have fresh, dry them in a microwave for two to three minutes (extra if they are still moist). Put 2 tablespoons of sea salt into the mortar bowl and crumble in the same amount of dried herb. You can use one herb or a combination, such as lemon balm and thyme (which is wonderful for salads and fish).

Using the pestle, crush the herbs and salt together. Don’t rush this, you want a well-blended aromatic mixture. Put the herbal salt in a tightly lidded jar or salt shaker, label and use with salads, barbecues and soups.

Garlic and Rosemary Rub for Roasts

This rub goes well with lamb.

Ingredients:

2 large cloves of garlic
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
2 teaspoons virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt

Place the garlic in the mortar and pound with the pestle until the garlic is broken up. Add the rosemary and sea salt and grind with the garlic. Add the olive oil and mix well. Make slits in the surface of the meat and rub well in, covering the skin and pushing into the slits before roasting.

Lemongrass and Lemon Balm Tea

This lemony tea is soothing and calming.

Ingredients:

1 cup dried lemon balm leaves
four, 7″ to 9″ sticks of lemongrass (available from Asian grocery stores)

Chop the lemongrass into small pieces and smash with the mortar and pestle to release the aromatic oils. Add the lemon balm and work the two together until the aromas blend. Spread the mixture out on a clean paper towel and let dry completely. You can microwave for about 50 seconds to aid the process, but be careful not to let the lemongrass burn. Store the tea in a lidded container or muslin bag. Steep a teaspoon in a cup with strainer for three minutes.

Clove and Cinnamon Potpourri

Placed in a pretty bowl, the mixture will scent your kitchen delightfully.

Ingredients:

1 stick of cinnamon
1 tablespoon whole cloves
2 tablespoons sea salt

Break up the cinnamon stick and place it in the mortar, then add the cloves. Pound and grind the mixture until the cloves are broken up and the cinnamon is reduced to small flakes. Mix with the sea salt. The salt acts as a preservative so your potpourri will last a long time.

It is important to clean the mortar and pestle after every use, as many spices and herbs are strongly aromatic and the flavor will carry over to the next task. This applies even if you grind up a dry material, such as clove pods.

More than a trendy kitchen decoration, the mortar and pestle is a useful tool for preparing many household and culinary recipes. By crushing and blending your own herbal mixtures, you will gain far more aroma and flavor than is offered in the bland packet mixes on the supermarket shelf. Experiment and enjoy. All you have to lose is a couple of inches off your upper arms!

by Gail Kavanagh


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