Top 3 tips for picking your own produce

Apple pickingNothing could be a more healthy fall activity than picking (and eating!) your own fruit and vegetables — and now’s the perfect time to pack up your friends, kids, and neighbors and pick a freezerful of this season’s harvest.

1. What to pick?
From apples and pumpkins to kale and cauliflower, fall’s bounty is amazing. Here’s a sample of what you’ll find growing in our region of the country:

  • Lima beans
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Peppers
  • Pumpkins and squash
  • Assorted herbs
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Grapes

2. How much to pick — a bushel or a peck?
Before you go and fill the back of your car with apples … or pumpkins … or beans (and your house with fruit flies), here’s a look at how much “food” your effort will yield:

  • 8 apples make 3 cups of applesauce or 1 apple pie.
  • 1 bushel of grapes makes 16 quarts of juice.
  • 2 quarts of grapes makes 1 quart of jelly.
  • 2.5 – 3 pounds of tomatoes make 1 quart canned.
  • A 5-pound pumpkin will yield 4 cups of mashed, cooked pulp (enough for about 2 pies).
  • A bushel is equal to approximately 8 (dry) gallons. There are 4 pecks in a bushel.

3. Where to pick?
There are many pick-your-own farms to choose from in our area, but why not choose to go organic? (It’s like winning the pickers’ trifecta: local, seasonal, and organic!) Check out these farms:

  • Taylor River Side Farm
    5 Taylors Lane, Cinnaminson, NJ
    Just 25 minutes outside of Philadelphia on the banks of the Delaware is the Taylor family’s, 200+-year-old, beautiful, earth-friendly, sustainable, organic farm. Either pick-your-own or shop at their market and experience the Garden State at its absolute best.
  • Indian Orchards
    24 Copes Lane, Media, PA
    Called the best kept secret in Delaware County, family-owned Indian Orchards offers already-picked or pick-your-own sustainably or organically grown fruits and vegetables.
  • Find a farm near you
    Find local pick-your-own farms and fruit and vegetable festivals. Search by State and region and find helpful picking tips and resources for preserving your produce.
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      Sheila

      The problem with being a copywriter who writes about health and wellness is that I struggle daily with what I know I should do and what I want to do. Some days I practice what I preach — or as they say around here “Walk the Talk” — some days I don’t. Regardless, I love what I do, where I work, and the IBX members I write for.

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Top 3 ways your dog can get you moving

Dog in CanoeOff the couch, Fido! It’s time to get out and get some exercise. Your dog might just be the best fitness partner that you don’t have to beg to go for a walk. So ditch the dog park and try these 3 alternate dog-friendly activities. You’ll be doing your dog—and your waistline—a favor.

1. Explore a dog-friendly hiking trail
Philadelphia has a multitude of hiking trails that welcome dogs and other pets. What better way to get some exercise and enjoy the great outdoors than with your furry friend? Plus, many of these hiking spots allow your dog to roam leash-free (check individual listings).

2. Try some “doga”
Yes, dog yoga — or “doga” — is a real thing. What’s more, experts say there are real physical benefits for you and your dog. Go ahead and try some yoga poses with your dog. You may be surprised to find out that you and your dog are calmer, more relaxed, and less likely to bark at your neighbor!

3. Navigate the Brandywine River with your dog in tow
Any dog owner knows how much joy their dog gets out of getting some wind on their face, and a canoe or kayak is the perfect way to give your four-legged friend that treat. At the Northbrook Canoe Company, you can bring your well-behaved pooch along as you meander down the Brandywine River in a canoe or kayak. You’re guaranteed to have a tail-wagging kind of day.

Bonus: After spending the day out and about, take a break at one of the many pet-friendly restaurants in Philadelphia!

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Sarah B.

As a copywriter at IBX, I frequently write about health and wellness topics. I am passionate about reading, writing, and travel. Because I’ve never met a dessert I didn’t like, I am always trying to stay active — whether that’s running, spinning, hiking, yoga, Pilates, or Barre. I also try to balance out dessert with fresh, in-season veggies from my local farmer’s market, and I love trying out new recipes.

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Top 3 back-to-school tips for parents

Back to SchoolSaying “so long” to summer isn’t easy, especially if you have kids in school. With class back in session, it can take a few weeks to readjust to routines that you’ve let slip over the summer. Try these 3 ideas to ease into the fall:

1. An apple for teach; an App for you
Busy parents will appreciate these back-to-school apps. Juggling schedules? The myHomework Student Planner and Sunrise apps have calendars that sync to other platforms to help organize multiple schedules. Need an electronic tutor? Duolingo and ToDo Math make learning languages and arithmetic all about fun and games.

2. Fall in love with fitness
Don’t wait until New Year’s resolutions to get back in the gym. Fall is the perfect time to get re-energized about getting in shape. And it goes without saying that regular physical activity helps you reduce stress and boost your immune system, which is especially important with cold and flu season around the corner.

3. Stay classy
You’re never too old to go back to school! Beginning in September, many local communities offer adult personal and professional enrichment courses in the evenings. Try a healthy cooking class or learn a new language. Studies show that being a lifelong learner can help us stay mentally sharp as we age.

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Mary Eileen O'Connor

I am a senior copywriter at IBX. For me, the key to personal health and wellness is having simple goals and sticking to them — whether it’s drinking more water, working in a few extra steps each day, or just making time to unplug once in a while. When I’m not busy wordsmithing, my favorite ways to unwind include enjoying local arts and culture, reading a good book, and watching TV cooking shows.

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Top 3 ways to make your workday less like work

Office YogaNo matter how you’re planning to spend your extra time off this Labor Day weekend, make sure you can keep the good vibes going when you’re back at work on Tuesday. Here are 3 ways to make your workday less like work:

1. Stand up for yourself (literally!)
Lately, it’s been said that that sitting is the new smoking. Don’t believe it? Google it! Even if you’re physically active outside of work, you could still be leading a sedentary lifestyle if you spend all (or most) of your work day sitting. So, what’s a working person to do? Luckily, with a little ingenuity, it’s easy to break the sitting cycle. Check out these creative ways to add activity to your work day. Some you’ve probably heard before, but others (calf-raises while photocopying) may surprise you.

2. Increase productivity by slowing down
Whether you’re rushing between meetings or juggling 20 different tasks, your first impulse when you fall behind at work is probably to buckle down and plow through. No lunch for you, right? Not so fast! Contrary to what you may think, when you need to make up time on a busy day, you shouldn’t hurry up…you should slow down. According to a study in the journal Cognition, taking brief mental breaks during the day is good for you and your work. One idea: Nature rejuvenates…take a quick walk outside. Or, try one of these other tricks to recharge your brain.

3. Remember to stretch
Ever look up during the day and realize you’ve been working for hours? Your back hurts, your shoulders are slumped, and your afternoon caffeine buzz is gone. Scheduling time to stretch can make a real difference in your day. With these easy-to-master yoga poses, you can shake off that stiff neck without leaving your desk. Think of it like an important meeting and block a little bit of time every hour or so just for you. It’s a small thing, but your body will thank you!

Bonus: There are plenty of jobs where sitting too much isn’t a problem. However, even if you’re on your feet and active all day, it’s still a good idea to give yourself time to recharge your mind. These mindfulness exercises can help you refresh and refocus…and they only take a minute!

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Jennifer

As the content manager at IBX, I have the good luck to work with a talented team of writers developing materials that promote health and wellness in our community. When I’m not puzzling over sticky grammar questions or running to catch my train, I spend my time hiking, shopping, and watching movies. Recently, I surprised myself — and everyone I know — by completing the Blue Cross Broad Street Run.

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Top 3 tips to make your fall garden grow

CarrotsSummer may be winding down, but there’s still time to plant a fall garden now and enjoy fresh vegetables as the seasons change while reaping the many health benefits of gardening, including lower blood pressure and improved mood. Use these top 3 tips to help make your garden grow:

1. Pick your plants wisely
Although it’s too late in the season to plant peppers and tomatoes, which are my personal favorites, there are plenty of vegetables that thrive in cooler temperatures, including beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, kale, leeks, and lettuce. Plant some arugula and spinach, and you’ll be tossing a salad in no time — these fast-growing greens pack a nutritional punch and can be ready to pick in about 30 days.

2. Get growing
Timing is everything, especially when you’re gardening. The Old Farmer’s Almanac A-to-Z growing guide can help you decide which vegetables are the best ones to grow now based on our region’s climate. Click on a vegetable, and learn how and when to plant it, care for it, and harvest it. As you nurture your garden, you can use it as an opportunity to practice mindfulness. It’s just one way that gardening can help you reduce tension and relieve stress.

3. Share your bounty
Use a seasonal produce guide to help you turn the “fruits” of your labor into healthy meals for family and friends. If you wind up with more carrots and kale than you can eat, consider donating your extra veggies to a program like Share the Harvest, sponsored by Philabundance. National non-profit AmpleHarvest also coordinates donations of fresh produce. Visit their website and enter your zip code to find a participating food pantry in your community.

Which cool-weather crops will you grow in your garden?

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Mary Eileen O'Connor

I am a senior copywriter at IBX. For me, the key to personal health and wellness is having simple goals and sticking to them — whether it’s drinking more water, working in a few extra steps each day, or just making time to unplug once in a while. When I’m not busy wordsmithing, my favorite ways to unwind include enjoying local arts and culture, reading a good book, and watching TV cooking shows.

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Top 3: Ways to unwind without spending a dime

Relaxing in hammockIf you’ve run out of vacation days or money (or both!), it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy some relaxation and rejuvenation this summer. Here are some straightforward ways to fully recharge your batteries over the weekend, without leaving town. Making these habits a part of your life can help you reduce your overall stress levels, which in turn will boost your productivity, mood, and immune function.

1. Unplug (Yes, really!)
Nothing messes with your ability to relax quite like technology, and while completely powering off all of your devices all weekend probably isn’t possible, consider shutting down for short periods of time or turning off unnecessary notifications. You can make disconnecting easier with help from apps like Unplug & Reconnect (for Androids) and Pause (for iPhones) which send automatic text messages to let people know why you missed their call or text. Once you’re successfully off the grid, look around and take advantage of the museums in Philly with free-admission Sundays and the top free attractions in Philly — and enjoy the moment without having to capture it or tweet about it.

2. Sleep late, nap often
The health benefits of sleep are undisputable, from improving memory, to unlocking creativity, to enhancing mood. Good sleep is essential to good health! And research has shown that a combination of naps and night sleep can help your body recover after a week of poor sleep.

Make a point of going to bed early, sleeping in, or napping this weekend. If you struggle with falling asleep, try these tips and tools, and you should be sawing wood in no time.

3. Free your endorphins
Endorphins are the chemicals in your brain that reduce the effects of stress and make you feel happy. You can tap into your inner euphoria and let the good times roll by:

  • Exercising. Just about anything — from walking, to interval training, to tai chi — will do the job.
  • Eating. Make you next meal a happy meal with foods that help tamp down stress.
  • Getting a back rub. Even though someone else is doing all the work, you’ll reap all the benefits. Just lie there and relax (until it’s your turn to return the favor).

How do you unwind, recharge, or reboot when you’re short on time or money?

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Sheila

The problem with being a copywriter who writes about health and wellness is that I struggle daily with what I know I should do and what I want to do. Some days I practice what I preach — or as they say around here “Walk the Talk” — some days I don’t. Regardless, I love what I do, where I work, and the IBX members I write for.

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Top 3 outdoor activities to take advantage of in Philly before the summer is over

Outdoor YogaI hate to be the bearer of bad news but there are only a few weeks left to summer. I know it seems like just yesterday we were celebrating our first 70° day by prematurely breaking out shorts and tank tops and making our first Rita’s Water Ice visit of the season. But hey, I’m not here to be a Debbie Downer. I’m here to urge you to get outside while you can to enjoy these last fleeting days of summer!

1. Move your movie night outside
Grab a blanket, snacks, and some friends, and get down to the Schuylkill Banks for a movie under the stars. Movies have been running all summer, but you still have a few chances to take advantage of this free event!

August 7: The Princess Bride
August 14: The Karate Kid
August 21: Pitch Perfect
August 28: Despicable Me 2

And, since you won’t be sitting in a theater, you won’t be tempted by the super-sized buttery popcorn and soda. Try a creative and healthy DIY popcorn recipe instead!

2. Walk off dinner, while you’re eating it
Yes, I know, technically Night Market isn’t a summer-only event. However, summer is the perfect time to check out Philly’s favorite street food festival. With everyone down the shore for the summer, you’ll have a much better chance of avoiding the lines at your favorite food truck. Don’t miss the next Night Market on August 14th at Lancaster Avenue and 35th Street.

3. Add a little sunshine to your yoga routine
Ditch the studio and head outside for a yoga session in the great outdoors. There are just a few months out of the year when the weather is nice enough to do this, so why not take advantage of it when you can? Practice your downward dog at an arboretum, on the beach, in a tree, on the water, or even at a winery! I don’t know about you, but I feel like it would be a whole lot easier to find my inner chi if I were surrounded by fresh air and Mother Nature.

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Sarah B.

As a copywriter at IBX, I frequently write about health and wellness topics. I am passionate about reading, writing, and travel. Because I’ve never met a dessert I didn’t like, I am always trying to stay active — whether that’s running, spinning, hiking, yoga, Pilates, or Barre. I also try to balance out dessert with fresh, in-season veggies from my local farmer’s market, and I love trying out new recipes.

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Top 3 healthy frozen treats to keep you cool all summer

Grapes & BananasDuring the summer, I’m surrounded by sweets down the shore. There’s Lenny the ice cream man wheeling his cooler up and down the beach, a dairy bar on every corner, and the jingly sound of the ice cream truck’s hourly rounds. If I had my choice, I’d eat ice cream every day (for breakfast, lunch, and dinner). To keep me from indulging as often as I’d like, I rely on these healthy, frozen treats to keep me cool and my sweet tooth satisfied.

1. Frapes (aka Frozen Grapes)
Why didn’t I discover this sooner?! Frozen grapes are super easy to make — just put them in your freezer. It’s a great way to keep them from going bad, but more importantly, they taste like candy. Delicious, refreshing candy. The best part is they’re good for you, low in calories, and fat-free. They also make great ice cubes that won’t water down your favorite grape beverages.

For a twist on frozen grapes, try Frozen Grapes Rolled in Yogurt and Crushed Pistachios.

2. There’s a new freeze pop in town
Looking for a healthy alternative to freeze pops or ice cream bars? Just grab a portable tube of Greek yogurt and throw it in the freezer. Once frozen, just let it defrost for a few minutes so it has a creamy frozen yogurt texture.

3. Franana Whips (aka Frozen Banana Whips)
This snack is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S!
Forget banana bread, it’s time to use your extra bananas for banana whips. Throw a few bananas in the freezer, blend them in a blender or food processor, and enjoy! It tastes like banana ice cream, but it’s a lot healthier and easier to make. And if you want to get creative, you can experiment with different flavors and add-ins, like honey, walnuts, and strawberries.

Check out these recipes for more ideas: Magic One-Ingredient Ice Cream 5 Ways — Peanut Butter, Nutella, and More

What are your favorite healthy and refreshing summer treats?

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Susan

I'm a copywriter at IBX and have worked here for the last 5 years. Now that I'm a new mom, it's even harder to find time to exercise and eat healthy. But I also have a darling little girl reminding me why I need to take care of myself. Follow my posts as I strive for balance when it comes to leading a happy, healthy life.

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Top 3: Pop-ups to pop by

Spruce Street HarborI love summer. Normally, my goal is to spend pretty much every weekend at the beach. But this year, I’m excited to stick around the city since it gives me a chance to visit some of the many pop-ups planned for the summer. If you’re not up to speed on the whole pop-up thing, the idea is simple: Just find an open space in the city (think abandoned lot) and turn it into something unexpected.

Here’s my top 3 list of must-see pop-ups this summer.

1. Making something beautiful from unused spaces
Plant some gorgeous flowers and greens, add picnic tables, string up a few lights, and voilà — you have a Pop Up Garden. For the fourth year in a row, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) has opened a pop-up garden at 15th and South Streets. Movie nights, Quizzo, and boot camp-style workouts are planned for the rest of the summer. All proceeds support PHS City Harvest, which brings together a network of community gardeners, who grow fresh, healthy produce for families in need.

2. Get the shore experience without leaving the city
Ever wish there was boardwalk in Philly? The Spruce Street Harbor, an all-ages-friendly pop-up park, is your wish come true and more! Located in the Marina at Penn’s Landing, Spruce Street Harbor is the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. Plus, it gets your whole family (even the dog) out and active. Fill your belly at the Blue Fin Restaurant and Bar, relax in the hammock park, cool off under a mist walk way, and play fun games like a bean bag toss and shuffle board. You can even walk along the urban beach and boardwalk. This pop up park is open now through the end of August, so head to this urban oasis before it’s gone.

3. Yesterday’s junk can be today’s treasure!
Just like my grandmom, I love flea markets! Recently, I found a bureau for my younger brother — all it needed was a coat of paint and it was good as new! Not only did I get the thrill of a great find, but I lowered my stress-level about spending too much money. Lucky for me (and you), Philly is home to a ton of pop-up outdoor flea markets from August through October. Walking from table to table and sifting through knick-knacks can totally burn calories. And the stress you avoid by saving money doesn’t hurt either. Check out this list of outdoor pop-up flea markets in the next few months.

Now that you know about the pop-ups I’m looking forward to, what’s your favorite summer pop-up?

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Ashley

I'm a copywriter at IBX. I enjoy Philly sports and know everything there is to know about the Phillies, Eagles, and Flyers. I'm always looking for new ways that I can reach my goal weight. Follow my posts to find out what has worked for me and how it can work for you!

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Top 3 Excuse-busting fitness apps

I don’t have time to work out. RockMyRunThe gym’s too far away. I’m bored with my routine. If you’re like me, you’re guilty of every excuse in the book. But these smartphone apps can help you shed your flabby excuses, and pump up your resolve.

Check out my top 3 favorite health and fitness apps:

1. DJ got us falling in love with RockMyRun
A good DJ can keep you dancing all night — and running all day! I need some upbeat jams to pump me up when I run, but it’s hard creating the perfect playlist. Enter RockMyRun: It gives access to high-energy mixes designed by professional DJs to get me moving and motivate me to push a little harder. I use the standard version of RockMyRun, which is free. But if you pay a subscription for premier, it includes a feature to match the tempo of the music to your pace.
MyFitnessPal
2. Take the guesswork out of weight loss with MyFitnessPal
Once I had mentally committed to eating healthier, I used MyFitnessPal to keep me on track. The app makes it easy to follow a nutrition plan so I know exactly how many calories I can eat and what percentage should be fats, proteins, and other nutrients. And because I was tracking my daily meals and exercise, I found I was much more conscious of making healthy food choices, or using it as an incentive to exercise more. MyFitnessPal also syncs with a number of devices, issues reports on progress, and allows me to cheer on friends.

3. Who needs the gym when you got Sworkit? Sworkit
It’s so much harder to get to the gym during the summer — whether it’s the shore calling or just the need to be outdoors. But now that I have Sworkit, I can sweat it out anywhere! Sworkit creates custom circuit training workouts based on the areas I want to target — legs, arms, back — and the amount of time I have to work out. Voilà! I’ve got myself a personalized workout. There’s no equipment needed and Sworkit will even sync up with MyFitnessPal.

What’s your favorite health or fitness app?

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Susan

I'm a copywriter at IBX and have worked here for the last 5 years. Now that I'm a new mom, it's even harder to find time to exercise and eat healthy. But I also have a darling little girl reminding me why I need to take care of myself. Follow my posts as I strive for balance when it comes to leading a happy, healthy life.

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