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.

HOME

20 For 20

So all the anticipation is over. The year 2020 is here and the holidays are behind us. Some of us (like me) have a few more days left before I go back to work and reality so I can relax and think about the year ahead and what I hope it will bring for all of us.

I have decided not to make resolutions this year but simply to work hard at being happy and being kind to others so that they may experience joy in this tumultuous world. What I love about the holidays is that they give us the opportunity to enjoy time with family and friends, to reflect on what is the real importance in our lives, and to see the world as a beautiful place to live. We can all strive to make that happen this year. Enjoy the simple joys of everyday life and take more deep breaths to reduce stress.

We have certain traditions like eating fish on Christmas Eve and having a White Elephant gift exchange with extended family and friends. These treasured memories carry us through the holidays and hopefully into the bleak month of January.

I came up with a list of 20 things I hope for in 2020:

1. I hope that this Presidential Election does not get out of control as it did in 2016. People lost respect for each other and rioted in the streets when Trump won. I have never seen such a display. Whether you are happy or upset about the results of an election, a person who is elected to the office of President should be respected. What’s done is done. Deal with it. I am not going to watch debates, news or look at Social Media viewpoints on the election this year. I don’t want to add that stress to my life.

2. I want to take time out to take deep breaths and not overcommit myself. I am going to learn how to politely say NO to people and realize that it doesn’t mean that I don’t care — it means I just can’t or just have to take a step back.

3. I am going to make an extra point of helping others in need. Whether its donating to a charity or buying a cup of coffee for someone in need, I want to show others kindness and hope that it will add to their lives just a little bit. I always remind myself to be grateful for what I have in my life and to always show kindness.

5. This year I am going to make health and fitness a priority again. I have been slacking off because of my knee problems and just being busy at work. No more excuses. Even if I am not ready to take on an Aerobics or Zumba class, I will start off with Yoga, Barre and Stretching. Also, I am going back to a more healthy eating plan.

4. I would like to read more books this year. In the past I have averaged 10-12 books a year. I would like to double that this year and finally get through my “To Read” pile in my office. I hope to start my 2020 list today.

6. I am going to make learning a goal this year and take a few courses that will help me in my freelance business as well as courses for some fun hobbies I never had time for. As work winds down for me I hope to do this while exploring in my town and neighboring villages for some fun learning experiences, whether they be for a daily meeting or an extended course at the local middle school.

7. Explore where I live. I moved to my new community less than 4 years ago and because of work and constant running there is still so much more I want to learn about where I live. There are local places I haven’t visited, thrift shops to explore and interesting eateries I still have to try.

8. This year would be the perfect time to revisit some classics that I have forgotten since High School. At that’s time, I just read books for assignments and often resorted to clip notes for tests. I would love to actually sit and enjoy books like Catcher in the Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird. Reading these through my adult, experienced eyes may be completely different and definitely more rewarding,

9. I would like to discover new places. Last year brought me to Italy on a very scheduled tour which was an amazing 10 days of all you could possibly see in Italy. I would like to take travel differently this year. Take some short trips, maybe some day trips to towns I have never heard of and just experience what our country has to offer. I always wanted to visit places like Nashville, New Orleans and Memphis so maybe this is my year to start.

10. It is important to spend more time with family. We get so caught up in our everyday lives that we often don’t realize that we are spending too little time on the important part of our lives. Every Christmas I invite my extended family over for a celebration which confirms that we need to do more of that during the year. We get so caught up in running from work to an obligation at night, just to continue planning and working the next day. So this may be the year of some impromptu plans with my family.

11. When my mother passed away almost six years ago, she left over 40 photo albums. I took them apart and put them in bins by category (her family, my kids, miscellaneous) knowing that one day I would have to properly sift through them. Often when I start it is still a painful project, but this year I am going to share some of these precious photo with family members. My plan is to group them into families (my mother was one of 8) and after taking out ones I want to cherish for myself, make little packages for each of these families. This gift will mean so much to them.

12. Along with my mother’s photos is a bin of jewelry and miscellaneous items that I have from when I cleaned out her apartment. It’s easier to get rid of stuff you can’t use, clothing and furniture. This bin holds some of her most precious memories. Every time I tried to do this with my daughters, I would open it up and start looking, only to quickly cover it and put it away for another day. Well, I think that day will come soon as I feel the strength to pour myself into the memories.

13. Through the years I have given to various charities. Years ago when I was a stay at home mom I often volunteered at some local charity events especially with my Girl Scout troop. I enjoyed giving to the community, reaping the rewards of giving, and just sharing with others for the same cause. Since I moved to my new community I have been taking note of different charities I would be interested in working with. This year I would like to help out at one of their fundraisers instead of just giving money or donating clothing.

14. For the past three years of so, I have had the outline of a children’s book rattling around my head. I have taken some online writing courses and also made note of some possible publishers. This year I want to take my ideas and write my book. Once that is done I can decide if I want to pursue a publisher or self-publish.

15. Sometimes I feel like all I do is rush from one activity to the next. I envy people who tell me they binged something on Netflix or stayed in their pajamas all day. Probably from how I was raised to always be dressed your best and ready to go, that is the way I approach every day. So I started this year (its 2 days old) by taking my time with each step of the way. If I don’t want to run an errand and it is not absolutely necessary to go at this time, maybe this time I will just sit and read a magazine or put the TV on for a short time. I have led a regimented life that I would like to slow down a bit. Now that my daughters are grown and have their own homes I have to remind myself that it is ok to just relax.

16. Along with the going slower, I also want to remove unwanted clutter around me. Since I cleaned my mother’s one bedroom apartment out with over 50 bags to be donated, I started being more aware of what I save and just put away. Yesterday I started with my first closet. It felt so good to organize, throw out some stuff and now look at a shelved closet that has order and purpose.

17. I love to organize. When you are working you tend to wear the same jewelry, same outfits and others get pushed aside in the drawer or closet. So while I am organizing clutter, I want to organize myself. For example, I know that I recently bought a night cream but I cannot find it. I have a habit of “squirreling” things away til I absolutely need them and then have a problem recalling where it is. So this year I want to use things I bought, wear all my jewelry and change bags more often (as I have quite a collection) and take my time enjoying “old stuff” that I am finally using !

18. Over the past few years I have been toying with the idea of early retirement. I love teaching but it is not the same as it was when I started over 20 years ago. Guidelines and curriculum that are not inspiring, coupled with much added work drives me to want to go onto the next phase of my life. This involves getting my finances in order, trying not to spend foolishly and figuring out how to live on a smaller income, my pension. I hope to take my freelance writing past my blog and also make time for other experiences I have already mentioned. It is a scary step that takes planning and that’s where I am right now.

19. Going along with the planning for retirement is my goal to be more diligent to save along the way. I love getting deals but often, because I am often in a rush, I end up paying way too much for an item only to regret it later. Taking more time in all I do seems to be a thread going through this list and I will make every effort to save whenever I can. It gives you a sense of accomplishment when you find what you are looking for (or need) at a fraction of the cost.

20.Lastly and most importantly, I want to spend time with all those I love. I want to be less tired to talk to my husband after a long day at work. I want to stop saying no because I am tired. This year will be a momentous year for me as I am going to have a grandson in June. My daughter lives far away but I plan to reconnect more with her and spend time with this little bundle coming soon. Many of my friends have become grandparents, as has my husband, but this will be the first experience for me and I can’t wait. What is life if it cannot be spent with those we love.

I don’t consider the above my resolutions, but rather my hopes and dreams for 2020. Wake up in the morning being grateful for another day and think of how your day will make your life better and the lives of those around us better. Kindness is a priority in this tumultuous world we now live in.

May all your new year dreams be realized and accomplished. Most of all, please enjoy the ride!

What is Christmas?

Christmas means something different to each one of us. Often we are so wrapped up in the preparation for the “perfect” Christmas, that we don‘t take a moment to really understand the true meaning of Christmas. Well, after having three weeks of insanity at work with parent conferences, report cards and some parties, I have finally rested for a day to take care of my sinus problem that has been lurking since the beginning of December.

So as I sit here watching my third Hallmark Christmas movie of the day, I started to reflect on Christmas and what it means to me. Through the years I always put so much effort into Christmas with decorating, entertaining and finding the perfect present for everyone. It gets harder to find the perfect gift with all the insanity of shopping, delayed packages, reordering in desperation, and basically in not knowing what to get someone. What is sometimes frustrating is that it is so much work and it goes so quickly. This year I decided to enjoy certain parts of the Christmas season, no matter how small the moment. We don’t realize how important our memories are. I find myself fighting sadness often at this time as I think about my parents and not having them here for the holidays. Often, I spend hours looking back at pictures of Christmases when they were here and realize how quickly time has passed. I also miss my daughter who now lives 3,000 miles away who I cannot share these precious Christmas moments with.

With these thoughts in my mind I thought it would be helpful to share some thoughts about what Christmas really is. Christmas is not about presents and spending too much money to make someone happy. Christmas is to celebrate the people in your life that are important every day of the year. Christmas is a time for being grateful for what we have and taking time out to give a little gift or smile to someone who doesn’t have as much as you do in your life. It’s a time to celebrate the purity of children and their excitement and beliefs. Christmas is about the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ, and what he has done for us. Our strong faith gets us through each and every day and we can celebrate that on Christmas Day by celebrating his birth. Whether you go to a church or celebrate in silence, I hope you take the time to reflect this year on what Christmas is to you.

Sometimes I think I put off wrapping presents because it means that it is almost over. We should enjoy every moment of the Christmas season from shopping to wrapping to sharing moments with those we love. Next time you are waiting on a long line, smile at the person behind you — they too are frustrated and trying to do their best for everyone they love. Do something different this year to make Christmas even more memorable:

. Buy a gift for a child just because you want to share joy.

. Buy coffee for the person behind you at Dunkin Donuts and say Merry Christmas

. Donate to a charity that helps underprivileged during the holidays.

. Bake cookies and share them with your friends and colleagues.

. Call an old friend that you haven’t seen in awhile but think about often.

. Send out some personal Christmas cards to friends or relatives far away.

. Smile and say Merry Christmas to people you walk by. This may bring a smile to their face as they are trying to get it all done too.

No matter what Christmas means to you or what traditions you have in your family, think of this as a time to step back from the drudge of everyday and enjoy the magic of Christmas. Look at Christmas through the eyes of a child and you will never feel like being a Grinch again.

Merry Christmas and Happiest of New Years to all. Please share what Christmas means to you.

Embracing the Benefits of Being 50+

Many people have difficulty when they are approaching 50. They feel their youth slipping away and start researching their retirement options and readjusting their lifestyles. Then why are they not taking advantage of their senior discounts?Is it embarrassment or denial?

Once you get past that feeling and embrace your maturity, there is a world of opportunity for savings out there. Most people start receiving AARP membership opportunities when they approach their late 40s and they throw them away in disgust. Some people won’t even open it and throw it away before anyone else sees it. But think of it as something that you have earned and it will soon start giving you more money in your pocket. As you become an empty nester and have more time for yourself, take a look at what they can offer you. Now is the time to explore the world and enjoy peaceful days.

Here are some of the benefits you can receive:

. Discounts on car rentals

. Hotel discounts

. Discounts at restaurants

Visit the AARP website for a complete list. And don’t forget you can get a free donut at Dunkin Donuts everyday. Not a good idea when eating healthy but once in awhile a little splurge will lift your spirits. You can also check out AMAC which has a similar yearly fee of $16 and offers many discounts including discounted dental and vision plans, travel discounts and more.

Take your pick…..

Since I turned 50, I have a folder of all my little notes and clipped out magazine ads for any senior discounts that I can take advantage of. After all you work hard all your life and if you can save some money on exclusive benefits and products you should not look the other way. As you see others reaping the benefits, perhaps you will do so as well. Remember that places will not offer it to you, especially restaurants, unless you mention it. Be sure to mention it whenever you make a purchase. In fact, places you would not even think of, like an animal hospital, will offer you a senior discount. Have you gotten a bill from one of them lately— astronomical to say the least. So take advantage of what’s truly yours.

Reaching a senior age can be both wonderful and scary at the same time. You feel your youth slipping away and you long for those rare times people will ask you for an ID for proof of age. But remember with age comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes savings.

I would love to hear some of the senior discounts you have taken advantage of so please comment below. We should always be there for each other. So relax with a book and enjoy the life you lead. It’s yours and yours alone to reap the benefits of your hard work and sacrifice. Enjoy being a senior!

Pizza in Italy

When I went to Italy this 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.

Mouth watering pizza with basil and prosciutto

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.

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!

Margherita pizza like the flag — red, white and green

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.

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.

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.

Will I ever be able to eat New York pizza?

Essential Oils

Do you find the smell of essential oils relaxing and soothing? I love trying all the new kinds of oil scents and depending on my mood, I enjoy the different aromas and moods they bring about. During the fall and winter months I often use eucalyptus as it helps with allergies and also with colds and general aches and pains. The smell is invigorating while calming you into sleep at the same time.

An essential oil is a concentrated  (easily evaporated at normal temperatures) chemical compounds from plants. Essential oils are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils,  aetherolea, or simply as the oil of the plant from which they were extracted, such as oil of clove. An essential oil is called “essential”because it contains the “essence of” the plant’s fragrance—the characteristic fragrance of the plant from which it is derived. Essential oils typically evaporate completely without leaving any stain or residue.

Essential oils are generally extracted by distillation, often by using steam. The steam brings the fragrance through the room without becoming overbearing. Before purchasing you should research any effects they may have on pets or specific illnesses you or a family member may have. Some essential oils can be rubbed on your wrists for a calming effect especially while doing yoga or Pilates. Tea Tree oil also keeps away certain insects, including lice which can wreak havoc during the school year. You can even dab on your hair to prevent these nasty creatures from invading your life. Essential oils are also an added welcome in massage therapy. The aromas help you achieve the state of total body release and muscle relaxation in massage.

Essential oils are often used for aromatherapy, a form of alternative medicine in which healing effects are ascribed to aromatic compounds. Aromatherapy may be useful to induce relaxation, but there is not sufficient evidence that essential oils can effectively treat any condition. Essential oils can help practicing mindfulness techniques, especially for those that have difficulty getting focused and releasing the outside world. Many practitioners have found that using a calming oil such as lavender may help them ease into a meditative state while using their mindfulness strategies to achieve calmness and release from everyday stresses.

Improper use of essential oils may cause harm including allergic reactions and skin irritation, and children may be particularly susceptible to the toxic effects of improper use. You should research different oils before trying them. Every family situation is different so find ones that will be the most beneficial in your situation. One concise article https://medshadow.org/essential-oils/. — this can start you on your way to mastering the use of essential oils safely in your home.

I enjoy trying new oils but only after checking if they are harmful to pets or anyone with breathing or allergy issues. When trying a new scent I usually put a few drops in the diffuser to test it out. I have also combined some scents like orange with tea tree oil. This combination cuts down on each scent and makes it fill the room with less intensity. I admit that I have found some that I did not like and discontinued using.

I recently bought a diffuser from Botiga that is portable and ia nice wood color which can blend in with your decor. It is perfect for a non-obtrusive scent in your living room or den. In fact, I even used it in my kitchen after cooking a delicious yet fishy smelling salmon dinner the other night. You can add it to your guest bathroom when company arrives for a continuous aroma. My favorites are orange or eucalyptus. It’s portable and only $9.99. Click the link below for more details on ordering. I love it and am going to order another one so I don’t have to keep moving it from room to room.

https://www.thebotiga.com/stores/550990/products/k324oegqafye?invited_token=550990

I would love to hear about your experiences with essential oils and aromatherapy. Please comment below. Happy relaxing!!

On The Road Again

Every summer we attempt a road trip from New York to Florida. Yes, the summer is the hottest time of the year to go to Florida, but with a teacher’s schedule there is sometimes no choice. This year the temperatures in Florida were lower than New York. So our trip begins…..

We start off at Bear Mountain Bridge to Garden State Parkway. We have found this way to be much more pleasant than using I95 from the very beginning. Our trip is mostly on 95 so we want to enjoy the scenery as much as possible. So off we go with our Dunkin Donuts, our GPS and our faithful companion all in tow.

Each year we write down license plates as we see them along the way. Last time we found 46 of the 50 states. This time we used an app called Plate Spot that I used with my car pool all year. It’s a fun app that allows you to “Claim a Plate” and learn all about that state as you check it off. My husband and I love to do Trivia questions in the car while we are driving so Plate Spot was an extra learning bonus for us.

Each year our goal is to make it to South Carolina as our halfway point. This time we decided to leave a day earlier and we left later in the day so we were just flowing in the breeze and seeing how far we could get. We put our 70s Station on our Satellite Radio and off we were. Usually, we can’t wait to get to Delaware because then we are out of New Jersey traffic and a little closer to our destination. We always cheer as we cross the Delaware Memorial Bridge. It is especially enjoyable when you are not on this bridge on a Saturday when all the week renters are approaching. So late Sunday going the opposite way was a plus for us.

This stretch of the trip is usually the same. We hop on and off I95 to 295 or 495 to avoid the intense traffic especially in the Baltimore/Washington DC stretch of the journey. Even though I have made this trip numerous times, we always look for new interesting sites along the way. And of course, cars and trucks and interesting signs make our trip more fun. This trip we definitely avoided the DC traffic jams and actually breezed right through.

No trip is enjoyable without snacks. Our cooler is filled with iced tea, Vitamin Water, water for poochie and some Diet Coke (caffeine is a necessity). We have our bag of goodies (chips, protein bars and snacks and nuts/trail mix). This is usually the only time during the year that we actually eat and stop at a McDonalds. It’s our cheat day and definitely not a recommendation for too many meals. I always enjoy meeting the different people at our stops along the way. As you go further south you can see the difference between Southerners and New Yorkers. Sometimes they are just nicer and simpler.

So after Maryland and Washington DC we are traveling through Virginia (quiet road with not many billboards or places of interest) which is very pleasant for a two lane part of I95. We love car watching and of course, plate collecting, as we chug along through to the Carolinas.

Since we left later in the day on Sunday our goal was to make North Carolina. I did some research on different parts of the state and we chose Rocky Mount, NC. It seemed like a quaint town and had a perfect pet friendly hotel for the night – Candlewood Suites, where you are greeted with dog treats for your pooch upon checking in. I would highly recommend for your trip to North Carolina.

We woke up early the next morning and before getting on the road again decided to take our pup to Best Friends Dog Park in Rocky Mount. She always loves romping around for a few laps and that may exhaust her for the second part of our trip to Florida.

As we start on our journey after the dog park visit, we know we have reached our halfway point when we pass the sign for South of the Border which is a hotel and amusement area nestled at the border of North and South Carolina. Once we are driving in the Carolinas we see Fireworks signs everywhere and more billboards than in the other states. We see destination signs for places that we plan to visit on our future trips, such as Charleston and Myrtle Beach.

This is our fourth time driving down to Florida. Our ritual is to stop on the second day in Savannah, Georgia for lunch. From the first time we stopped there, we fell in love with this magical place. From the cobblestone streets to the quaint boutiques it is a fun little break from the car. We always go to the same place to eat, right along the water, a place called Dockside Seafood. We enjoy Hush Puppies for an appetizer (a Georgia style potato ball) and I usually have the crab cake sandwich. We love this place because it has a mister to keep you cool and it allows pets to eat with you. Check it out on your next visit to Savannah https://www.docksideseafoodsav.com/. The wait staff is friendly and accommodating and we never look for another stopover. Even in the 90 degree heat it is our go to place as we look at the harbor and boats going by.

Once we leave Savannah we are now serious about reaching our destination in Florida. This time, however, we took another detour to the Smallest Church in America https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/2427 located in Townsend, Georgia just a short stop after Savannah and less than one mile off the highway. I was so amazed to see this 12 seat church with a beautiful altar and prayer book waiting for each visitor to sign. There is no one to greet you — you just walk in and check out this tiny structure. By the altar is a carved cane with the words of God on it. On the altar are some bibles and a journal where you can write your personal prayers. If you are driving by Townsend please take a moment to visit. You will feel blessed and calm after visiting. A perfect stopover to give you energy for the last leg of our trip.

Once you get through Georgia and see the signs Welcome to Florida remember that unless you are visiting St. Augustine or Jacksonville, you have miles and miles to go. We immediately notice the changeover to palm trees and enjoy the many recognizable cities of Florida that we have either visited, know of, or know people who live there. Now that we are older, we know many people that have moved to Florida or are snowbirds. I love looking at the signs and remembering if we visited or planning a trip there when we are down in Florida again. A few years ago we visited St. Augustine, the oldest town in America, and we loved it. Unfortunately, we could not stay long because it was almost 100 degrees that day and very difficult to walk around. Going there in a cooler month is on my list of Florida things to do. So we travel through and we note all the destination signs like Miami and Orlando. You are not getting closer to these cities — this is just another highway to bring you there.

We continue for about five hours to our place in Florida which is closer to Delray Beach and Boca so at least 5 to 6 hours of driving in Florida. It’s already a long day because of our stops in Georgia and we can see our journey finally coming to a close. Many people laugh when we tell them we are embarking on a road trip to Florida. We find it adventurous and fun. Usually we fly down once or twice a year but we have looked forward to our adventure in the car together. And of course our stop in Savannah where we have also contemplated buying a property in because we love that city so much. It’s our time together that we enjoy talking, listening to music, answering trivia and collecting plates. Oh this time, we found 47 plates — missing Kansas and of course, Hawaii and Alaska. Another fun trip but as always happy to be home in our home getting back to our normal everyday lives. Happy traveling.

We would love to hear about your road trip adventures. Please comment and share.

20 Minutes to Incredible Dinners

Most of us know how difficult it is to come home from work, make dinner, and complete all the tasks we want to before relaxing and watching TV before bed. My commitment to going to a gym class every night made me a super dinner maker. I was able to plan ahead and have dinner ready in 20 minutes after returning from gym. Here are some of the recipes I put together:

Grouper In Parchment Paper

Use one large parchment paper for each fillet of grouper. Place fillet in center. Season with chopped garlic (I buy this in a jar), onion powder, dill and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap fillet carefully and fold over to cook completely through. You can add in sliced tomatoes or zucchini, some olives and sprinkle some lemon juice as well. Cook at 400 for 20 minutes,

Serve with spinach or broccoli you can make and season while grouper is cooking.

Vegetable Pasta One Pot Healthy Dinner

You can try Ronzoni Vegetable Pasta Spaghetti for a delicious pasta dinner without the guilt. While boiling the pasta according to directions I put the following in a skillet and simmer in olive oil and garlic:

. Shrimp

. Peas

. Sliced grape tomatoes

. Chick peas

Once pasta is cooked and drained, I add this to pasta and garnish with Parmesan cheese. Fantastic!

Some variations of pasta dinners I have made using Banzo Chick Pea Pasta.

While pasta is cooking I sauté spinach and add with Parmesan cheese. In other case I cook lentils on side with onions and garlic and add to the cooked pasta.

In this dish, I used chick pea rotini pasta and added zucchini and tomatoes which I sautéed while pasta was cooking.

When I do my food shopping I often buy pre-sliced veggies as a time saver and also buy zoodles and butternut squash in frozen section. I cook zoodles in a sauté pan with just alittle bit of olive oil and garlic and add vegetables and Parmesan cheese.

Some variations of the zoodles recipes above include shrimp, tomatoes and even a zoodles lasagna with tomato sauce and melted mozzarella cheese. After cooking the zoodles I put together in a baking dish and put in oven for 10 minutes for mozzarella to melt. (You can use microwave in a pinch but I always prefer oven cooking).

Cauliflower Gnocchi with Broccoli

I love Cauliflower Gnocchi available right now only at Trader Joe’s. I do not boil according to directions because they come out too watery. I cook for about 5 minutes in a skillet with olive oil and garlic. Then I add cooked broccoli and continue cooking together another 5 minutes or until desired tenderness. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Dover Sole

I never tried Dover sole before this but used recipe for filet of sole and searched Pinterest for some seasoning ideas. I usually use garlic powder, onion powder, dill, olive oil and top with some bread crumbs before I bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes. It is a delicious tasting fish.

Butternut Squash Enchiladas

This is one of my favorite dishes. I use frozen butternut squash or precut from produce section. I cook in large sauté pan with olive oil and garlic (of course). I add a can of baked beans after cooking squash about 5 minutes. I continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes. Finally, I add cheddar cheese (or whatever you prefer) to finish off my enchiladas. You can add some salsa for extra enchilada pizzazz. When done I serve with tortillas or chips (if that’s all I have). A delicious fun meal.

Other quick meals you can make in 20 minutes:

Broiled lamb chops with a vegetable on side is a quick meal with very little preparation. I usually season my lamb chops with olive oil, garlic and rosemary. The best side dish is always spinach or a salad.

Lamb Burgers are absolutely delicious and mouth watering. I buy chopped lamb meat whenever I see it. You can make patties ahead of time seasoning with garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, rosemary and a hint of mustard. Grill to your liking and serve with tzatziki (store bought is fine) and a side of spinach or broccoli.

Chicken Marsala with mushrooms

I buy very thin sliced chicken cutlets. You will need butter, flour, Marsala wine and mushrooms (sliced). In a skillet melt butter. Dip each cutlet in flour and cook on each side in butter. When lightly browned add mushrooms and Marsala wine. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Deliciousa!!!

Stuffed Peppers

I love colorful peppers. I clean out pepper and boil in water for 5 minutes. While cooking peppers I take some chopped beef or turkey with olive oil and garlic and sauté. After peppers are boiled I place upright in a dish. I stuff with cooked chopped meat, tomato sauce and top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes.

Honestly, I can go on and on. I love creating my own quick delicious dinners. Also, I enjoy eating light at night while maintaining my healthy lifestyle. Once you try some of these recipes you too will come up with your own variations. I would love to hear how they turn out and please comment with pictures.

Happy Cooking!!!!

Visiting Dublin……

Enjoy the Streets of Dublin

After a long seven hour flight the adventure began.  No time for sleep.  The point was to get on Ireland time as soon as possible.  So after the landing and hotel check in, the pubs await.

Our first day in Dublin was busy, hectic and full of culture. Of course, we had to go to our first Irish pub and I tried my first Irish beer, which had the number 13 in it – my wedding anniversary date. I was intrigued by the bathroom labeling in our first pub.

Next was the Dublin Castle and more sites of this beautiful, fun city.  All along the streets we saw people rushing to and from work.  It was just a typical city with people speaking a weird kind of English. There were tourists running in an out of bars.  We tried a few more bars and took pictures of all the busy, historic sites.  We walked most of the time and saw all the nooks and crannies of Dublin Castle, all the pubs on the main strip and we enjoyed the Irish singing and dancing in many of the bars and street corners. 

In Dublin and throughout Ireland, I enjoyed sand art that was spectacular to say the least. These artists portrayed their subject in actual size (if not bigger) and with exceptional detail. The chess set was one of my favorites. Details in the pieces were incredible and a central point in Dublin Castle.

The Temple Bar is one of the most talked about bars in Dublin. It is part of the Temple Bar district which is a tourist trap but a must go to place if you are in Dublin. It is very difficult to get into so we quickly got a beer and fought the crowds while taking in the sounds and scents of Ireland. Dublin, a busy city like any other big city, has a distinct flavor of happy residents, busy workers, and interested tourists. There were many beers to explore in our visits to various bars throughout our stay in Ireland. My favorite of all was called Galway Hooker.

I recommend Ireland for a vacation unlike any other. If you plan on visiting read my other article covering many different counties and the Bars of Ireland at https://www.avacato.co/blog/bars-in-ireland

We visited many cities in Ireland but my heart belongs to Dublin. The electricity in the city is beyond words. I can’t wait for my next trip.

Read more about Dublin and other parts of Ireland in another article I have written https://vocal.media/wander/the-many-facets-of-ireland

So Many Fitness Choices…How Do You Choose?

We can all agree that between finding a diet that you can be successful with, as well as picking the best fitness plan for yourself, the choices are overwhelming. Often people are soo overwhelmed with the choices they chose to not try anything. Diet choices are individual and so is fitness, What is your comfort zone? What do you want to achieve? Do you prefer individual or group fitness, or a combination of both? Serious considerations of your feelings and preferences will make your final choices more lasting.

Let’s look at some of our options:

Fitness Classes:

There are so many types of classes to choose from where does one begin! When I decided to dedicate myself to my health and fitness, I examined all the options available. I checked out all the local fitness centers and whenever possible took a free class (or inexpensive one) to see which club was the perfect fit and which classes were available at each.

I always loved Zumba so my first attempt at each place was always a Zumba class. I now that I am not always completely coordinated but I enjoyed the steps in Zumba and felt able to keep up while I was burning calories. When I found the fitness club I enjoyed the most I also checked out their other classes. So besides Zumba I enjoy:

. PlyCombo: This is a combination of Pilates and Yoga. It involves stretching and toning which are both important for overall strength and agility. Each time you take this class you feel more confident and can see the difference as you stretch further. You will soon see definition in legs, arms and glut areas as well as feeler a leaner overall feeling. In this class, you use a mat, resistance bands, light weights and a balancing ball for certain Pilates moves. This was a class I resisted trying for a long time and once I did I can certainly feel the difference.

. Piloxing Barre: This class combines both Piloxing and Barre technique. It has a bit more cardio (Piloxing) with many Pilates moves using the Barre.. This class tones you and helps you balance. This has become one of my favorite classes. You can do the piloxing with nothing or use light Piloxing gloves which give you some weight with the boxing moves and arm toning exercises.

. Piloxing: Without the barre, this class is heavy cardio with strength training for legs, arms and abs. It is fast-paced and an unbelievable workout. I often feel as if this class is like a “tow-in-one” workout and last me for a day or two.

. The Mix by Zumba: This is a high intense cardio workout based on 80s/90 dance steps. It uses some of the steps of Zumba while incorporating some hip hop and 80s dance styles. This is a fun way to burn calories without realizing that you are because you are having so much fun.

Other classes I have taken which work on specific body sculpting areas are Triple Fit (abs, gluts and legs), Abs and Gluts, and Zumba Infused, which is Zumba with light weights..

So if you think classes are for you, try a few out with either a free class or a week membership to make sure it’s something you want.

Traditional Gym:

Choosing a traditional gym can be just as confusing. Prices can go from $10 a month to over $200 a month depending on what the gym has to offer. My personal opinion is go to the cheapest one to start and make sure you are committed to your workouts before you spend that kind of money. I have been a member of Planet Fitness ($10 a month) for almost 3 years now. I try to visit the gym at least once a week while doing my fitness classes elsewhere. This can be a good addition to your plan with specific machines geared towards body parts you want to tone, as well as more cardio using treadmills, elliptical and step training machines. This type of gym can work on its own or compliment your other fitness activities!

Walking:

When all else fails taking a long walk will help you both mentally and physically. After a long day at work, taking a nice brisk walk will ease your mind and help you reach your steps goal for the day if you can’t make the gym. This is a fun alternative to do with a friend to catch up and get fit together.

Personal Training:

Personal Training can be a costly endeavor. I have done this on 3 different occasions. It is a wonderful way to get started to work with someone who can personally analyze your body type, set goals for you nutritionally as well as fitness goals, and motivate you on a one-to-one basis. To this day when I cannot go to either of my gyms, I will work out at home using techniques learned through my various personal training experiences.

Making fitness goals involves commitment and more commitment. It is not the end of the world if you miss the gym for a week, just go back. Or have a back-up plan to walk or put in a DVD or YouTube an exercise class in the comfort of your living room. The only excuse is you allowing yourself to have an excuse. Take your time making decisions about your physical endeavors and don’t take on too much at once. Also remember its okay to change your mind and go with a different plan.

Good luck in your fitness goals. I would love to hear your stories and comments.

For a look into fitness during pandemic take a look at my article on Vocal, https://vocal.media/longevity/fitness-in-the-new-normal.