Pizza… Let’s Take a Trip to Italy

When I went to Italy last year everyone mentioned how the pizza there would be so different than what I was used to. I couldn’t imagine how. Pizza being one of my favorite foods, left me hesitant to try it in a country where pizza is best known for. You can’t drive through any town in the United States without spying many pizzerias and always associating them with Italy and delicious Italian food. It makes your mouth water.

Pizza became a meal thousands of years ago when people made flat bread and used it as a plate. The bread would soak up the juices from the meal. Then after eating the meal they would eat the soggy, delicious bread left on the plate. In Italy, they originally cooked their pizza on the floor of the oven in hot ashes. The bottom was black and the word “pizza” came from the Italian word for “black-bottomed pie”. One queen’s favorite food was pizza and her cook made it for her with tomatoes (red), cheese (white) and basil (green) to make it look like the Italian flag. When pizza cam to America other toppings were added such as pepperoni, onions, peppers and now even fruit and pasta. This is not like the pizza you will find in Italy.

Our first stop was Rome where we spent three glorious days touring and, of course, enjoying the delicious foods of Italy. The first day we ordered pizza near our hotel and decided to get a plain pie and just check it out. It tasted like fresh-baked bread with delicious sauce, basil and a tinge of mozzarella. I learned from my visit to Italy that us Americans are the ones that drown our version of Italian food with tomato sauce and mozzarella. Most restaurants don’t even serve the “parmigiana” dishes we serve here. After tasting different pizza in Italy I realize that it is more authentic and delights in the flavors of Italian cooking traditions.

While in Rome, we tried a different pizzeria, Gallina Bianca, where we were able to order some specialty pies. Again, not drowning in mozzarella and tomato sauce. The flavors of the basil and toppings were more apparent because they weren’t overrun by the overwhelming pizza toppings you find in our country. One of my favorites was with prosciutto and fontina cheese, a wonderful balance of homemade bread with a hint of taste in toppings that were not overbearing.

Our next stop was Pompei, where everyone on our tour told us was the best pizza in Italy. The flavors were spectacular and it was very light, like fresh baked bread. I enjoyed that quality of pizza in Italy because you walked away feeling satisfied and not bursting full. Here we ordered a simple margarita pizza, just like the queen loved. Delicious and enjoyable beyond words!

My last delicious pizza was part of our tour of AnaCapri which was the most spectacular day of my trip to Italy We had our meal before going aboard the sky lift which would show us all of Capri and AnaCapri. Sites beyond words and a definite bucket list item for me. Having pizza in Italy was on my bucket list as well. We ordered this one with sliced tomatoes on it. This is one of my favorite ways to eat pizza in the United States so it was a good source of comparison for me. It was, of course, lighter in Italy and less garlicky which surprised me. It seems that basil is the main ingredient in the pizza in Italy that makes it different from ours which is usually drenched in garlic and cheese.

As soon as I got back from Italy I wondered if I would eat pizza here again. Of course I realized that I probably wouldn’t be returning to Italy any time soon so I better just go for it and eat pizza from my favorite pizzerias again. Yes, I do enjoy America’s version of Italian pizza but I now find myself comparing it to the ultimate pizza I indulged in throughout Italy.

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Check out the California Wine Club. I have been using them and especially during lockdown…..

Self-Care During Social Distancing

This has been a time like no other we have experienced. We are staying home, staying away from family and waiting for this pandemic to start declining. It’s a very scary time for all of us. We are all experiencing different aspects of this devastating virus. Many of us have lost people we love, not being able to say goodbye, while others fear every step we take outside our homes. Our work lives have changed. Some people are now working at home, while others have lost their jobs in this unforeseen economy. In a nutshell, we are all worried. So how do we take care of ourselves during this time. Self-care is important for our mental and physical well-being as we go through this unspecified time period afraid and unsure of what the future holds.

1. Take Time Each Day for Yourself.

Maybe this is a good time to take care of some self-care that we tend to neglect in our busy lives. Maybe a long bath with some soothing music or a simple online yoga class can help you put your mind back on track. Take out that facial mask you bought and never used. Go through that cookbook you have collecting dust and create a new family meal that you can remember. Read a book without thinking that you should be doing something else. This is a time we never expected and we may as well do all those things we would do to relax that we never get to do.

2. Start a Journal.

When we write down our feelings, they leave our body and are now on paper. It is a kind of freedom and release that is very helpful in relieving tension. Just keep writing about your day, your feelings and whatever comes to your mind. You will notice that it feels like taking a deep breath after exercising or sitting down after working in the garden. These kinds of releases are important to maintain our mental health during this crisis. Having our feelings bottled up is not healthy. Let them go. Write them down. You will feel better.

3 Turn Off the TV

Many of us often think that we would not have survived this type of social distancing years ago when televisions weren’t in every home, we did not have computers or smartphones and information was not at our fingertips. Unfortunately, sometimes we are on overload. So take some time in every day to turn it all off and just sit and do nothing. Just think and relax for a little bit with no interruptions from texts, phone calls, and emails. And no interruptions from the anxiety that the local news brings to you.

4. Stay Connected to Those Who Matter

A phone call or a text can lift your spirits for the day. It makes you remember that you are a special person and that someone is thinking of you. Calling a relative or old friend that you may not have time to do in our regular, fast-paced lives may be just the remedy you need (and them) during these uncertain times. It will brighten up the day. These days are about the small stuff that is important and that truly fills our hearts.

5. Send Someone a Card or Gift

We are blessed with technology and are able to order many products online. If you know someone who is alone or very sad during this time, send them something special. Flowers, fruit and other presents are perfect but think about even sending them a pretty mask to brighten their day at the store this week. It is those little things that matter.

Take time to write a little note or send a card to someone who lives far away to brighten their day. A small gesture can go a long way to make someone smile and take away some worry. In these isolated times it is important to feel essential in this big pool of uncertain life.

6. Keep Up With Routines

While everything around you is different and disheartening, it is important to keep up with your daily routines. Clean the house, do the laundry and make sure you take your daily pills. On top of this make sure you are taking care of yourself: shower, get dressed, style your hair…. These are things that seem less important when we don’t see people but we want to see our reflection, and think of the hope that lies ahead. And you want to look your best when you go to the mailbox or walk your dog.

7. Help Others

Remember that some people are not as lucky as we are during these times. Businesses are struggling, people are out of work and many, many people are losing loved ones every day as a result of Covid-19. So support a restaurant, thank a nurse and always take the time out to call or write to a family who has suffered a tragic loss. Many of these families were not able to say goodbye at the hospital and are now facing no goodbyes at a funeral. These are added hardships to already horrible times. So give to a GoFundMe cause, or send a meal to one of these families that are hurting. And don’t forget to support your favorite restaurant and maybe order take out during the week. These small gestures will go a long way if others do them as well. Let’s be there for each other.

8. Be Ready for An Emergency

This is a good time to review all your papers and put them in order so that they are available in case of hard times. Write a list of your prescriptions and your accounts in case anyone has to look for them. We don’t like to think in these terms but we don’t know what lies ahead so we have that extra time to sit around, we may as well put our lives in order.

9. Sort through Memories

This is a perfect time to go through old pictures and articles you have saved and organize them in folders or binders. Or if you have a little bit of energy, scan them and put them in folders to keep for your children and grandchildren. I have a bin of photographs from my mother that I always say I am going to organize. In fact, when I have my whole family over we start to do this and then we stop because we are all enjoying each other’s company. This week my uncle passed away, and I thought about all the times we tried to do this so now I plan to sit down with this large bin of photos and organize them by separate families while I have the time. It will be wonderful to give them to my loved ones when we finally see each other in person.. And at the same time, I can enjoy looking at some fonder memories.

10. Make Plans

Better days are coming so make some plans. What do you want to do when we can return to normal life? Who do you want to see? Where do you want to go? Sometimes thinking about what we will be doing sometime in the hopefully near future, will brighten our day.

What will be the first thing you will do when we are no longer social distancing? Let’s share some of our thoughts here. Please comment and let’s make our “wish” list together….. Be safe.

Being Grateful for the Small Stuff

As I finish the fourth week of my social distancing, teaching from home, I realize that we are all guilty of not appreciating the small stuff in our lives. I hope that when this is all behind us we relish every moment that we get to spend with our families and friends in the real world. Yes, it has been wonderful spending time in my home, which I love, but I feel as if I am missing even the trivial parts of my everyday life.

For example, just going to work and having lunch with some friends, or seeing you friends at lunch will seem less trivial to us. We may no longer dread Sunday nights and actually look forward to our traditional work week. Or will we? Will we become so accustomed to this “new normal” that we will not know how to return to our everyday normalcy? I don’t know the answer but I would hope to find out soon. Soon I hope we will be in our carpools, at our jobs,at our gyms, at family gatherings, at restaurants, and the list goes on.

So let’s take this time to organize our homes, our lives and ourselves so that when we can go back to our normal life we will embrace it with caution and extreme satisfaction. I believe it will have to happen slowly but I know everyone will take precautions when we go back as we recall what these times have really been like.

Not seeing our families, our friends, our grandchildren, our colleagues and so on has made us more appreciative of the small stuff. I remember reading that book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” and thinking yes this is right. Now we understand that the small stuff can be so gratifying and yes, we do miss it. Enjoy that cup of coffee in the morning. Relax as you take your online yoga class. Meet your friends and colleagues on Zoom. This will continue for a bit longer so get the most out of it. Tell people you love and miss them. And hopefully soon we will all be together again…. hopefully at barbecues, pools, beaches, parties, restaurants or just hanging out with our friends…. something that we miss so much.

So please stay safe and follow the social distancing rules so that we can return to normal life. If we all follow protocol it will happen sooner. Then we can get our jobs back, our economy back and our lives back to our normal which will never be the same. It will be a normal that we will appreciate every single day!!!!!!

Feeling Accomplished During Social Distancing

We have been stuck inside for awhile now. Going to the store to pick up and order or a restaurant for a special take out treat is the most fun we have during the week. Most of us are used to being so busy that we cannot keep up with our lists of what to do each day. So think of social distancing as a time to catch up on our mundane or “too busy for” tasks that often get put off til forever. At least if we do this, when the ban is lifted and the virus subsides, we can run free outside and into the world knowing that we put our time to good use.

1. Plan Meals for Week

Take a look in your refrigerator and pantry and think of some fun recipes you can finally take time to prepare. Look through some old cookbooks and make each night’s dinner something fun and different. Get the whole family involved. It could be a bonding time that we often miss out on during our normal busy lives. Ask family members for ideas and a wish list of what they want to eat. Then you can make a list of what you will make each night of the week without going to the store. And, of course, supporting a neighborhood restaurant could also be one night’s meal choice.

2. Books to Read

Most of us have a shelf or corner of a room dedicated to a pile of books that we haven’t read yet (but had to buy at that yard sale). Some of us even have many books to read on our Kindles or IPads that we keep downloading in hopes of reading. One way I feel accomplished is by writing a list and then actually checking off what I have done. So write down every single book in your corner, and book on your Kindle, and as you read them you can check it off. You may want to even add a box to donate (an actual book) or delete (an ebook). I know that we have been home for 17 days and I have read 3 books and 1 ebook. I was going strong for awhile but working at home is taking up a bit of time.

3. Self-Care List

When we are working or doing things for our family, we often forget ourselves. So now is the time to give yourself your own list. On your list you should write down what you will do daily to take care of yourself. You can also add a list of products you need to purchase in order to maintain self-care (Here’s where Amazon may come in handy). This list can also include your daily schedule with time indicated for your self-care activities such as spa, online gym classes, meditation and so on. It is so important to take care of you, or you won’t be able to take care of them.

4. Organizational Needs

This is a good time to evaluate your home office and see what you may need to make things work more efficiently. Especially in these times of not knowing how long we will be social distancing. You can make two lists: One which lists what you should buy now (amazon.com) and a list for future, i.e., new computer or new organization system. Take a good inventory and take your time making the list. It doesn’t have to be checked off right away.

5. Social Lists

It is important to feel connected to the other people in your life that are not currently stuck in the house with you. Make a list of people to call, text, write to and even send a Birthday or Get Well card to. You can also make a list of upcoming gifts you need to buy with some room to jot down ideas. Don’t forget to check items off as you get done!

6. To Do Lists

I find it helpful to have a to do list for every day. Usually when I am done for the day and watching tv or reading I write down what I need to get done tomorrow. This is helpful to me because I always feel the need to feel as if my day was an accomplishment of some sorts and have goals for the next day.

I hope that you have found some of these ideas helpful and maybe you are starting some of them right now. Good luck in your social distancing goals and also don’t forget this is time to reconnect with your family and also to catch up on sleep.

Stay well. Let me know how you are doing during social distancing. We all need each other.

Organizing at Home During Social Distancing

As we all sit at home for days (twelve for me now) we try to get ourselves focused on projects to get us through the day. It is very difficult to start as we are ridden with anxiety from the news and the quiet on the streets. But let’s think of this time as a time we never had and may never have again…time to get stuff done that we only talked about before. Lists we wrote that got ripped up without anything checked off. So let’s get organized one step at a time.

Let’s start with your house. I started my organizing by writing a list by room of tasks, no matter how menial that I wanted to accomplish. Sometimes being able to check something off your list is all you need to feel productive for the day. Let’s start….. Go…..

By room:

Kitchen:

1. Cabinets: Go through all your cabinets and organize shelves so that everything is within reach and organized. Make sure dishes are in same cabinet and Tupperware is stacked somewhere where it won’t hit you in the head. I prefer putting it in a pullout drawer, organized by size with lids on the side. This may be a good time to make a little box of items you never use to donate at a later time.

2. Pantry: Organize your shelves by type of food and check expiration dates. This would be a good time to have a large garbage bag next to you. It is amazing how much we overbuy when things are on sale. Yes I am also guilty. I just found 5 bottles of salad dressing that expired last year. So much for the savings I thought I was getting.

3. Deep clean: Now is the time to get out that cabinet polish, countertop refresher, windex and whatever else you use to clean your kitchen. Put the gloves on and go crazy. Your kitchen will thank you and remember this glorious day when you are back at work and leaving dirty dishes in the sink again.

4. Floors: Don’t forget to swiffer, mop and shine that beautiful ceramic tile that was bought with the intention that beige is great because it doesn’t show any dirt. Well, let’s kill all germs and make our floors shine!

Bathroom:

Whether one, two or more, now is the time to deep clean and organize the bathrooms in our house:

1. Empty Medicine cabinets and Vanities: We are all guilty of shoving things in cabinets, drawers and at the bottom of vanities. So take everything out and use that big garbage bag again. Throw out expired or unnecessary products. Again you will remind yourself to not fall for those sales. Clean surfaces and return products to shelves and the bottom of the vanity. Be sure to clean all area surfaces before returning products. Another job we never get to when working outside of the house.

2. Scrub, scrub, scrub: Now you can get on your hands and knees and scrub that shower, bathtub and the toilet bowl and surrounding areas. Use your gloves so you will not hesitate to clean until they shine so brightly.

3. Floors: Don’t forget to swiffer, mop and scrub those tiles until they look like you just put them in your brand new bathroom.

Voila! The most important rooms of the house are done, now let’s make a list of other jobs we can do around the house.

Living Room/Dining Room: Give these rooms a deep clean and don’t forget the furniture polish and wood floor cleaner too. Put clutter away or throw out accumulated nonsense. Another two rooms in your house are now sparkling.

Bedrooms: Clean out drawers (don’t forget to have an empty donation bag right next to you), Organize closets, dust and polish furniture and hang up all the clothes that are around. This may be a good time to put on a load of laundry.

Miscellaneous: For those of us who have basements and/or garages you can extend these cleaning, sorting and donating projects to these areas as well. Check the next time bulk will be picked up and make an area in your garage for that pickup. While we are organizing, don’t forget hall closets, mud rooms, linen closets, and so on.

Start by writing down all the rooms in your house on paper with space in between. On each space in between write down the jobs you want to get done. Check off each as it is accomplished. You will feel so satisfied at the end of the day and days that your mind will not be consumed with the virus and its impact outside but rather on changing your world temporarily while we wait for the world to heal.

Don’t forget to take before and after pictures to look at one day when you are back to the 9 to 5 craziness your life used to have.

Please comment and share your lists and accomplishments. We are all in this together. Stay safe and healthy.

Is Social Distancing Our Future?

With the outbreak of corona virus spreading through our nation, causing closing of all schools and businesses to work from home, are we headed towards a stay-at-home society? Every day more and more changes and restrictions are being discussed, so much so that fear is rising and people do not know what to expect. Stores overcrowded, bars and restaurants on take-out only, gyms and other businesses that provide services are closing, while the news is just making everyone scared about their future. People are worried about their savings, their pay checks, and their overall quality of life. When can we expect things to get back to normal or will this be the new normal?

When Corona Virus swept through China, Italy and other parts of Europe, Americans just held their breaths. Then, we heard of a case here and a case there. Still trying to remain calm. Now we have gotten to people cancelling trips, parties, weddings, etc. way into the month of June. Could it be that we would be social distancing til then? Will people be able to get back on track after this? What about the children who are trying to learn at home with parents struggling to keep their own jobs going and lack of babysitting help? How long can our society go on like this?

Let’s take a deep breath and try to put it into perspective. First of all, our main concerns should be that we have what we need in our homes to get by for a few weeks – food and basic supplies. We have to assume that we will be able to get additional supplies as we need them. Most importantly, we need to have all of our prescriptions filled for the next 90 days if possible. Be aware of online medical help that is available for non-threatening illnesses. We do not want to go to doctors offices or hospitals unless it is a complete emergency.

Whenever you go to a public place be sure to keep sanitizer handy and to wash your hands frequently and for at least 30 seconds. Avoid touching others and just get done what you need and go back home. Check on neighbors especially the elderly who may not be able to get to the store. If you are going anyway, see if they need some basic supplies picked up for them. A lending hand will long be remembered and reinforce the true nature of community and society. Be considerate when buying supplies – do you really need 2 cases of toilet paper right now or shouldn’t you be thinking of the next person shopping ! Let’s not overreact or hoard supplies. Let’s all have faith that we will be back to normal within a few weeks.

Be thankful for our health professionals and first responders who are risking their lives every day to continue protecting and caring for us. Before you decide to complain about limitations being imposed on you, think about the next person and what they are going through as well.

This is the time to enjoy the simple things in life and perhaps thinking about a simpler time which has gone so far away from us. Share meals with your family, enjoy game nights, have conversations and do all those things we never have time for during the normal course of our lives. This will be difficult for the children who are used to playing sports, being involved in activities every day and those that are not used to relaxing. Welcome this as an opportunity to show our children what we should enjoy doing all the time: being with those we love.

I wish everyone good luck through this national crisis. When it is over we will have so much to catch up on and discuss. Stay calm and have faith that this too shall pass. Please feel free to share your concerns and triumphs through this time.

Stay safe and wash your hands!

Healthy Living With Arthritis Pain

In the past few months, I have been diagnosed with arthritis in both my knees. The left knee, most recently, was just a bit worse. I had a big fall on that knee in April 2012 and then again in August 2016. The bruising caused me to develop arthritis. The doctor prescribed me an anti-inflammatory, Naprosyn, which is a very strong type of Advil. It did heals ease the pain but gave me terrible stomach problems. So this led me to research other ways to tolerate my arthritis without an impending surgery (hopefully very far in the future). The doctor recommended physical therapy and suggested I continue to do my Barre and Yoga classes as well. Zumba and Piloxing will have to wait a bit. Sometimes the pain is unbearable, especially when I sit, but I am determined to live with this and continue my routines as much as possible.

Even with medical intervention, the pain is still there. So a person with arthritis needs to change their lifestyle choices to ease some of this chronic pain. There are many recommended “natural” cures but you must be extremely careful of what you try and how it acts when used with other products. People I talk to recommended a CBD Hemp Oil that you can rub on the area. After research I am more confused because of the many different varieties available. So before you purchase this type of product do extensive research and talk to others who share your problems.

Therapy Topical Creams

When my knee started acting up I used Sombra WarmTherapy cream which I used many years for back pain, recommended by my chiropractor. Others have suggested Aloe Vera, which comes from the leaves of its plant. Topical aloe Vera doe not cause any side effects and can be used on the area affected by arthritis as well. Like Aloe Vera, eucalyptus can be used as a topical oil extract, and often helps with arthritis pain. The best thing to do is experiment with each of these topical oils (which are not ingested and will not cause side effects) and see what works for you.

Herbs

Some herbs are considered anti-inflammatory and are right in your spice cabinet used in everyday cooking. They have been known to help with arthritis inflammation. Ginger is an anti inflammatory spice that may alleviate the arthritic area when it feels swollen and overworked. Green tea is a popular beverage, hot and cold, that has been used to reduce inflammation in the body. Many people cook with turmeric because they like the taste and it has many anti-inflammatory properties. Personally, I would use these spices in my food or hot beverage rather than taking them orally as you cannot always be sure of the side effects.

Foods

Everyday foods have been known to ease inflammation and make it easier to live with arthritis pain. Some examples are fatty fish, garlic, ginger, broccoli, walnuts, berries, spinach, grapes, olive oil and tart cherry juice. Of course, you don’t have to eat all these foods daily, but studies have shown that people who include more of these foods in their daily diet have improved movement and less arthritic pain.

In searching for relief for my own arthritis pain, I have been focused on products and choices that do not have side effects or can cause other problems. By adding some spices and some food choices, I feel that I can experiment with the results and what works for me. Exercise is one day at a time and I try not to push myself while I am working with my physical therapist as well. I do know that after stretching my pain is eased and my overall body feels healthier.

Arthritis is a fact of life and as we get older all of our old bruises come back to haunt us. We need to fight against them and use our bodies natural healing process to get us through. Exercise, natural foods and spices, and ointments are just part of the process. Feel your body and let it tell you what’s helping and what isn’t. If it means keeping a journal then do so to encourage healing over time. Don’t be discouraged — arthritis can make you stronger as you fight to get back control of your body.

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