Friday, March 30, 2012

Travel Tales: Traveling Italy by Train

100_4032.jpg by Kathy Sterndahl

Sometimes you make your own fun! My friends and I traveled around Italy together for three weeks. Neither of them had ever traveled internationally (except to Mexico, where we all have homes), so it was up to me to do the planning. Not that I minded, as you might have guessed from last Wednesday's post. They got to travel for three weeks; in my way, I was there for a year.

The photo above shows what turned out to be my favorite part of the trip - the picnics we ate on the trains as we traveled. Most hotels had a check-out time around 11am to noon and a check-in time of either one or two in the afternoon. We took advantage of that fact to plan all of our travel between towns during that time. It worked perfectly!

The night before, we went to the best deli or cheese shop we could find and bought small chunks three or four different cheeses - almost always pecorino. We loved that sheep cheese! Then we went to a wine shop and chose whatever looked good to us that day, making sure that we tried a large variety over the course of the trip. Nothing expensive, though; we usually spent less than $10US. Our last stop was a fruit stand or store where we bought apples or pears or figs and maybe some kind of crackers. We wrapped everything carefully and packed it in my daypack with plastic cups, paper napkins, my Swiss Army knife and a corkscrew. Our lunch was ready to go when we were.


If we were moving to a new town, we checked out of our hotel around 11am and walked to the train station. Sometimes I had an idea when the train would run, but if not, we just checked the schedules when we got there and bought our tickets for the next available train. We never pre-bought tickets, which would have required us to be in a certain place at a certain time. Almost all the trains run frequently, and I think we only had one time where a train was sold out. We had to wait for about an hour for the next one.

We were usually able to find seats with a table in the middle, but not always. Whatever was there, we made it work. As soon as we got our luggage settled, I started pulling our feast out of the daypack. We always drew quite a bit of attention, but it was the good kind of attention - people remembering times they'd done the same thing or wishing that they had thought of it themselves. We couldn't share much of their language but the smiles all around were easy to understand.

We arrived at our destination relaxed from the wine, hunger satisfied, and ready to continue with our adventure.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Life without Medical Insurance

An AARP study says that health care issues are the #1 fear of retirees. That's understandable if they live in the US. I don't have medical Insurance and I don't plan to get any in the near future. One big difference here in Mexico is that we can get very good health care at very reasonable cost.

I actually had insurance for the past seven years - Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social - but I had never tried to use it until this past summer. When I finally did, I was more or less denied coverage. It's not just me, our local director seems to be denying coverage to all the gringos. Many are fighting and may eventually win, but I decided I didn't want it anyway. My small experience at the Guadalajara clinic convinced me that I didn't want to go there if something was really wrong with me. I wasted $2000 in premiums over those seven years, but better to learn now than ten years down the road.

Preventative Care

Right up front I have to say that I am healthy and do what I can to stay that way. I quit smoking twelve years ago. I eat a diet low in fat, sugar, and meat, and very high in fruits and vegetables. I average about two alcoholic drinks a week. I generally do 30 minutes of yoga with 20 minutes of meditation every morning and then later walk for 30 to 45 minutes. My blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc. are all good. If this wasn't the case, I would have insurance.

Costs of Medical Treatment

I don't mean to imply that I haven't had any medical care during the eight years I have been here. It's just that it has been so reasonable that I've never felt the need to fall back on the insurance.

My dentist charges $23 for a cleaning. My doctor recently raised the price of an office visit to the equivalent of about $15US. If I want to see him, I call in the morning to make an appointment or just go on in and wait my turn.

I go to a brand-new, state of the art hospital in Guadalajara for my mammograms. The price is about $40US, including a sonogram, if it's needed. The equipment is much more advanced than any I've seen in the US. I do make an appointment for that and may have to wait 15 minutes.

My boyfriend used to play tennis five days a week. His body is in great shape but he wore out his knees. His doctor is the orthopedic surgeon for the Chivas soccer team, and he replaced both knees at once. The entire cost of doctor, hospital, titanium knees, and follow-up came to $17,500.

Emergency Care

A few years back, I fell on our boat and landed on my ribs on the gunwale. I didn't spill the beer I was holding but I did collapse my lung. I had a chest x-ray in Chapala and then my doctor drove me to Guadalajara for a CAT scan. I then had a chest tube put in to drain the air out of my chest cavity. I had spent all my cash on the CAT scan, so my doctor covered the hospital bill for me and said I could pay him later! He loaned me an oxygen machine to set up in my house, free of charge. When I went to pay him back, he wouldn't let me pay anything for his services because he thought it had already cost me too much!

Travel to the United States

I would never travel to the United States without insurance. The medical costs there could eat up my entire savings very quickly. I buy a policy from www.worldnomads.com for the time I will be north of the border. I just bought one for a May trip I've got planned to Florida: five weeks for $168. Too bad it is only available for travel to a country other than where you live.

Travel Tales: Boquete, Panama

100_2702.jpg by Kathy Sterndahl
The mountains around the town of Boquette

A lot of Americans and Canadians are moving to the town of Boquette in western Panama, so we decided to take a trip there to see for ourselves what was attracting this migration. We flew in to Panama City and then took an overnight bus to David and then a smaller bus to Boquette.

When we arrived, clouds were clinging to the nearby volcano and a mist was settling down on the community. It wasn't enough to really get us wet, but we weren't entirely dry, either. We dropped our stuff off at our little hotel overlooking the river and set off to explore.

Boquette sits in a steep-sided bowl between mountains, so there isn't a lot of walking on level ground. Add to that the crumbling or non-existant sidewalks and we spent more time with our eyes on the ground than looking at the town.

Once we had visited the nearby botanical garden and the local expat hang-out, we weren't really sure how to keep ourselves occupied in that small town. Our hotel rented out motorbikes, so we decided to take a ride into the mountains. The manager went over the motorbike to be sure all was well and then explained how to follow the route he suggested.

Once Terry had started the bike, I hopped on the back and we took off over the river and up the road climbing the mountainside. The scenery was beautiful and I was happy that he was driving so I could just enjoy it.

All was going well until we came around a curve to find that the road ahead was much steeper than what we had been experiencing so far. We got as much of a running start as we could, but we had barely started up that steep part when the bike began slowing noticably. It finally came to a stop; it just couldn't carry us both up the hill. Since I didn't know how to drive a motorbike, it made sense that I was the one to get off and walk while Terry continued up the hill on the bike. He never got too far ahead of me - just went a little way and then stopped until I caught up.

The altitude wasn't too bad, but my exercise-induced asthma really had me gasping for breath. He came up with the idea of letting me sit on the bike while he walked along side balancing it and giving it just enough gas to haul me, and pull him, up the hill. It turned out that it was just too hard to control it that way, so I went back to walking. With slow and steady progress, I finally made it to the top. After resting a bit to regain my breath, we hopped on the bike and started down the other side of the hill. Oh, yeah - downhill!!!

We hadn't gone far when the brakes decided not to respond very well. It was all Terry could do to keep the bike under control. When we finally got to a spot that was a bit more level than the rest, he was barely able to get us stopped. Fortunately, we were very near one of the few homes on that road. We jumped off the bike and walked it back toward the house. The lady who lived there had seen us coming and met us at the bottom of her driveway.

She rescued us by calling the hotel and then giving us a cup of tea and some company while we waited for someone to arrive to take care of the problem. When the guy finally came, he made a few adjustments to the brakes and started to get back in his truck, saying he would meet us back at the hotel. We told him to forget that idea. He could take the damned motorbike back; we were driving down in the truck. He made it back OK, but when we saw how steep that road was, we were very happy that we weren't on that bike. No wonder the brakes were worn out!

Back at the hotel, we got a refund, went to the store and bought some wine, and celebrated our survival. We were very ready to get out of Boquette on the morning bus.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Travel Tales: Ronda, Spain



I knew I would love Ronda before I ever got there. I fell in love with the city from reading Nick Bantock's The Forgetting Room. His protagonist is an American bookbinder who inherits a home in Ronda after the death of his artist grandfather. The grandfather has left him clues that lead him to remember how he had loved art as a boy.

The city of Ronda is built on a high mesa with the old medieval town connected to the newer part of town over the bridge in this photo. Bantock's character becomes obsessed with drawing and painting this bridge. Who can blame him?









All of the buildings in Ronda are painted white and have tile roofs. The streets are paved with flat stones. This photo shows the newer part of the town and was taken from old town. Even though much of the new town was quite old, I preferred the old town much more. It was easy to imagine that I was back in the Middle Ages as I wandered around.

It is easy to see from this photo that Ronda was pretty secure from attack except from the bridge and the road at the other end of the old town. Most of the edge of this cliff is park so I was able to walk along the top and enjoy the view below. I could see for miles in all directions.

There is a river that divides the two mesas that make up the town. I climbed down a scary almost vertical tunnel cut through the cliff to give access to the water of the river in case of siege. The climb down took a long time, but up was much worse, of course.





I enjoy finding "dream homes" when I travel - places I would like to live, assuming that money was no object. I found this one just at the bottom of the cliff pictured in the photo above. A river flows by just out of sight so there should be lots of water for all my grapes. I think I could be happy in my little stone cottage with a nice pool to keep cool on those hot summer days.
Just to be sure I learned what I'd need to know for growing my grapes, I made sure to visit the Museum of Wines of Ronda and tasted all that they had to offer.

I really enjoyed my visit to Ronda and wish I had been able to spend more time there. Maybe some day I could rent a little house for a summer to really get the feel of living there.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Looking for Peace and Quiet

100_1566.jpg by klsterndahl

I always expected my retirement to come with plenty of peace and quiet, but sometimes it is hard to find.

A couple of years ago we went canoeing in Florida with Terry's brother and sister-in-law. We left early and no one was around when we began paddling up a quiet stream toward the spring that is its source. Just us and the waking wildlife. So peaceful. We kept on paddling until it was so shallow that we were having to haul the canoes over too many downed trees, and then we decided to head back downstream. Upstream hadn't been hard, but downstream was even easier; all we had to do was use a paddle to steer the canoes as we floated with the flow of the water. But as we neared the mouth of the stream, we began hearing airboats all around us. The local fishing camp (a bar on the river) was sponsoring an airboat rally. Those things are amazingly noisy! Later, I got to take a ride on one, and it was fun, but right then the noise totally ruined the mood of our day.

Near my home in Chapala, the government has put a lot of money into fixing up the malecon - I guess you'd call it a boardwalk in the states. It is essentially a lakeside park with a wide tiled walkway bordered by trees. It is a wonderful place to walk in the mornings. Traditionally, the government also paid people to sweep the walkway early each morning with large bundles of twigs tied together to make a broom. The sweepers were poor people and this job was a substitute for welfare. Last year the brooms were replaced with leaf blowers run by young men. The blowers make a terrible racket and raise huge clouds of dust, ruining the ambience.

It seems to me that we are loosing our peace and quiet to machinery. I know that some noisy toys are really fun, and some of the noisy machines make work easier for some people, but I wonder if they are worth it. 

I used to love snow skiing, or even just walking through the snowy woods, the only sound the plop of snow falling from the branches above. But if snow mobiles showed up, my fun was ruined.

Consider the peacefulness of fly fishing or even relaxing in a small boat with a line in the water.  Does it really matter if you catch a fish? But using up gas while trolling around the ocean means you have to holler to be heard and puts a different kind of pressure to actually catch something to show for the expense.

I used to love kneading homemade bread. It was a lot of work, but it helped get rid of a lot of stress and the smell and taste of the wonderful bread made it all worthwhile.  Bread machines took all that away and the bread just wasn't the same.

While I was never crazy enough to piece my quilts by hand (well, there was that one I made by hand from my daughters baby clothes), I have found over the years that the parts of quilting I like best are the hand applique and hand quilting. The machine work of piecing gets to be so boring to me. The hand stitching is almost like meditation. I don't have to think about anything but making those stitches as small and even as possible.

I've included one of my favorite pictures above. It just looks so peaceful and relaxing to me. I would love to be able to sit on the end of that dock to meditate as the sun comes up. I know it would be nice and quiet. The problem is that the lagoon is now choked with water hyacinths and a crocodile is likely to climb onto the dock with me. But I know the only noise I would hear would be the thousand mosquitos circling before landing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Planning the Trip is Part of the Adventure!

I don't have enough money to be on the road as much as I'd like. I'm happy if I can put together the money for one three-week trip to foreign country a year. But I have figured out a way to enjoy that trip for up to a year before I even leave home.

Travel Guides

The first thing I do is to buy a Lonely Planet for my next destination, usually a whole year ahead of time. Of course, there are other perfectly fine travel guides out there, but I've found that Lonely Planet works best with my style of travel. I'm not a backpacker, exactly, but I like to travel light and inexpensively.

I sit down with my travel guide and read about the history, economy, and culture of my destination. I want to learn a bit about the different areas of the country and what they offer to a traveler that is different from what I have seen somewhere else. I want to know about the people and their culture.

Language Study

If I don't speak the language of my destination, I begin to study it. Even if many of the people can speak English, I've learned that I am accepted much more readily if I can show them that I've at least made an attempt to learn the native language. Plus, I will understand what is going on around me so much better.

Now, I know that I'll never be very proficient in a year of casual study, but I'll at least learn the numbers and polite phrases. Understanding how a sentence is constructed in that language can help a lot. And a few common verbs.
I don't have enough money to be on the road as much as I'd like. I'm happy if I can put together the money for one three-week trip to foreign country a year. But I have figured out a way to enjoy that trip for up to a year before I even leave home.


Find novels that take place in your country. Do a Google search to find out what's available. Listen to music, either contemporary or traditional, from your destination.

Decide Where to Stay

There are many web sites that specialize in arranging reservations. The one I like best is Venere.com. I have had very good luck with this company. Every listing that I have seen has been exactly as advertised. But there are other options that are becoming more popular all the time, such as Airbnb which can set you up in a room in some one's house, or even in a whole house. Or what about a home exchange?

What if You Can't Afford to Travel?

I know, the economy stinks right now. No one can afford to go anywhere. Consider using some of these ideas above to plan a virtual vacation. Even if you can't really go, you can have a lot of fun if you follow these ideas. And you won't even have to pay for the plane tickets or hotel rooms.

Happy traveling!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Take Care of Your Brain

October 24, 2011 - Jellyfish by klsterndahl
I don't think jelly fish have much of a brain but we humans need to keep ours healthy.

                      The more you read, the more things you will know.
                      The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.
                                                                    - Dr. Seuss

I've always liked Dr. Seus. I read many of his books to my kids when they were little. He published on of my favorites, You're Only Old Once, on his 82nd birthday. One of my greatest fears has always been that my body would stay healthy well into advanced age but my brain might not keep up. Because of this I work to keep it going strong. Hopefully, I'll still be writing when I turn 82, maybe even 102!

I try to eat a healthy low-fat diet, including eggs for choline and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which can support brain health. Too much fat in the diet can lead to blocked arteries, which can mean that the brain doesn't receive enough oxygen. And excess body fat can lead to reduced brain tissue and an increased chance of Alzheimer's.

I try to start each day with yoga and take a long walk after breakfast. Sufficient sleep, meditation, and yoga can all give your brain a chance to process all the information that it takes in during the day and strengthens the connections between neurons, resulting in better memory. Aerobic exercise, plus strength training can increase oxygen to your brain to help preserve that precious brain tissue and help maintain your memory.

I just can't imagine not reading. When I see statistics about how few books the average American reads once they are out of school, I am always shocked. Reading helps your brain, but especially if what you are reading gives it a challenge - if it has to work to figure something out. Even reading the newspaper or a magazine can add more information to those data files in your brain.

The idea is to make your brain work. Learn new things. It's never too late to learn how to play a musical instrument. What about a dance class? Learn new steps to challenge your memory and coordination. Or learn to juggle. Gather up a friend or two and play a game that will make your brain work - Scrabble, chess, bridge.

Wake up your creativity with drawing or painting classes. Write your memoirs or the next bestselling novel. Learn a foreign language. Take a college class. Hang out with your brainiest friends. Have interesting conversations that will get you thinking about things that are new to you. Follow Dr. Seuss' advice:

                                  Think and wonder. Wonder and think.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Travel Tales: Hvar, Croatia

100_4399.jpg by klsterndahl

Relaxing in Hvar

I'd been hauling my suitcase around for three and a half weeks by the time we reached Hvar. Tamra had joined me two weeks earlier. We both decided we were ready for a couple of days of down time and our location here couldn't have been nicer. So we adjusted our schedule a bit so that we could stick around longer than we'd planned.

Hvar is a pretty little town - clean, quiet, and comfortable - with just enough to keep us occupied for a few days of kicking back and relaxing. As in most towns on the Dalmatian Coast area, the entire town is built of limestone - the roads, the walkways, and the buildings - so everything is white except the green plants and the startling blue water.

Exploring Town

Old Hvar begins at a promenade lining the small harbor and wrapping around a couple of points. From there it climbs steeply up a hillside and over the hill where our hotel was situated. We wandered the town's narrow streets - really not much more than paths - that allowed us to peek into the gardens behind the houses and get a feel for life in Hvar.

We drank great wines but were disappointed that we couldn't find the wonderful Pecorino (sheep) cheeses that we had enjoyed in Italy. We ate a fantastic beef tenderloin meal, even though they had to move us and our table when it started to sprinkle. We also had a very expensive but mediocre "Slow Food" meal one night and a really bad undercooked (hard) risotto the next. Many times we walked past a seafood restaurant near our hotel that kept many of it's offerings alive until just before dinner time. I don't know why we never ate there, but seeing the live fish made us think about fishing.

Let's Go Fishing!

One day, we noticed a tourist stand set up offering boat rides to various nearby islands. Tamra fishes with Terry and I all the time, so we both know what we are doing with a rod and reel. We hadn't seen any fish in the water, but it was so clean and beautiful, we knew they must be out there somewhere. Besides, we thought it would be fun to go home and brag that we'd been deep-sea fishing in Croatia.

The kid in the booth spoke English so we explained what we had in mind. It soon became apparent that he knew nothing about fishing, but we didn't care about that, as long as the boat captain did. It turned out that he had never arranged a fishing trip before but he told us to come back later that afternoon and he would have it all set up for us.

We drank great wines but were disappointed that we couldn't find the wonderful Pecorino (sheep) cheeses that we had enjoyed in Italy. We ate a fantastic beef tenderloin meal, even though they had to move us and our table when it started to sprinkle. We also had a very expensive but mediocre "Slow Food" meal one night and a really bad undercooked (hard) risotto the next. Many times we walked past a seafood restaurant near our hotel that kept many of it's offerings alive until just before dinner time. I don't know why we never ate there, but seeing the live fish made us think about fishing.

Let's Go Fishing!

One day, we noticed a tourist stand set up offering boat rides to various nearby islands. Tamra fishes with Terry and I all the time, so we both know what we are doing with a rod and reel. We hadn't seen any fish in the water, but it was so clean and beautiful, we knew they must be out there somewhere. Besides, we thought it would be fun to go home and brag that we'd been deep-sea fishing in Croatia.

The kid in the booth spoke English so we explained what we had in mind. It soon became apparent that he knew nothing about fishing, but we didn't care about that, as long as the boat captain did. It turned out that he had never arranged a fishing trip before but he told us to come back later that afternoon and he would have it all set up for us.

We drank great wines but were disappointed that we couldn't find the wonderful Pecorino (sheep) cheeses that we had enjoyed in Italy. We ate a fantastic beef tenderloin meal, even though they had to move us and our table when it started to sprinkle. We also had a very expensive but mediocre "Slow Food" meal one night and a really bad undercooked (hard) risotto the next. Many times we walked past a seafood restaurant near our hotel that kept many of it's offerings alive until just before dinner time. I don't know why we never ate there, but seeing the live fish made us think about fishing.

Let's Go Fishing!

One day, we noticed a tourist stand set up offering boat rides to various nearby islands. Tamra fishes with Terry and I all the time, so we both know what we are doing with a rod and reel. We hadn't seen any fish in the water, but it was so clean and beautiful, we knew they must be out there somewhere. Besides, we thought it would be fun to go home and brag that we'd been deep-sea fishing in Croatia.

The kid in the booth spoke English so we explained what we had in mind. It soon became apparent that he knew nothing about fishing, but we didn't care about that, as long as the boat captain did. It turned out that he had never arranged a fishing trip before but he told us to come back later that afternoon and he would have it all set up for us.

When we returned at five, he greeted us with a big smile and proceeded to tell us what he had arranged for us. The following morning, we would go out in a small fishing boat for four hours. During that time, we would have the opportunity to experience four different styles of fishing: cast nets, bottom fishing, jigging with a hand line, and, finally, trolling. OK... so they obviously didn't get many people wanting to go sportfishing. They had absolutely no idea what we were talking about. I was surprised to see that Tamra still seemed to be considering the trip. She asked about the price, and when he told us that it would be 500 euros - over $700US - for that four-hour joke, we looked at each other and laughed before we walked away.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cosmetic Surgery Anyone?

According to the American Academy of Plastic Surgeons there has been a 77% increase in cosmetic surgery over the past 10 years. I thought we were in the midst of an economic crisis!

Women's Health magazine says that 69 percent of adults in the United States would consider having cosmetic work done. Breast implants may seem to be the favorite, but that's just because they are so obvious. More popular procedures include face lifts, breast lifts, tummy tucks, hair transplants, nose jobs, liposuction and injections like Botox and Juvederm.

I'm going to be very up-front and honest here. I had a face lift six years ago and a tummy tuck a year later. I'm not even counted in those figures above because I had them done here in Mexico. I think of it as part of the 'starting over' of retirement.

I got serious about dieting when I retired in 2004, and I lost 30 pounds. I told myself that if I could keep it off for one year, I would get rid of some of the excess skin that had accumulated on my face. I did. I also exercised like crazy to firm up the muscles of the rest of my body. I had gone out dancing four nights a week to lose the weight and then took a Latin dance aerobic class five days a week for a year to build muscle. It worked well. But even doing 300 crunches a day couldn't help with the stretch-marked belly I had from three pregnancies. And so I had a tummy tuck.

Now I hear that Mexico is turning into a destination for Medical Tourism. People are starting companies to help with all the arrangements and are looking to buy expensive properties where guests can hide out in luxury while healing.

And why not? The prices here are still amazing but not quite as low as it was when I did it. Are you ready for this? I paid a total of about $1,800US for my face lift, including two nights in the hospital in Guadalajara. A year later, the tummy tuck and two nights in the hospital was $2,500. Those prices included everything (except the luxury hide-out)!

I'm just one of many Americans and Canadians who have gone the same route. So many of us move down here and make a commitment to lose weight and then decide we deserve to lose that extra skin, too. Sure, there are a few that can't seem to stop once they've started and end up somehow strangely distorted, but that happens up north, too. Everything in moderation, right? Besides, it really does hurt! I'm glad I did what I did, but I wouldn't want to do any more.



Thursday, March 15, 2012

Travel Tales: Belem, Lisbon, Portugal




Torre de Belem

On the outskirts of Lisbon, on the northern bank of the Tagus River, is an area called Belem where I spent a long wonderful day. Portugal had been a last-minute addition to my trip so I hadn't done as much research as I normally do, and my "Mediteranean on a Shoestring" Lonely Planet was ancient and falling apart, so I'm not even sure how I found my way here, but it was one of the highlights of my trip.

The Torre de Belem was built as part of a system of defense for Lisbon during the early 16th century. The dungeon of the limestone building also served as a prison for about 250 years.

The upper rooms of the tower are reached via a single limestone spiral staircase worn smooth over the centuries. Since it provides the only route up and down, it is usually quite crowded, and I highly recommend holding out for the wide outside part of the stairs rather than the narrow inside.



While some areas of the castle were quite crowded, the smaller rooms were cool and quiet. I found myself hiding out there and trying to picture what it would be like to live in these rooms. I decided I would like it a lot, as long as I could add a kitchen and a bathroom and get rid of the tourists.

In 1983, the tower, along with the nearby Mostiero dos Jeronimos (Jeronimos Monastery) became a UNESCO World Heritage site.




Mostiero dos Jeronimos

This beautiful monastery, near the beach, was built to provide support to the pilgrims traveling to the area. It contains a church that served as a house of prayer for seamen leaving the port and returning home.

The original buildings were greatly expanded with money raised by taxing the valuable eastern spices and now contain the tombs of famous explorers, such as Vasco da Gama.

The monastery is large and has many places explore. I spent hours wandering it's corridors, cloisters and lofts.

Last year I read a book in which part of the story took place in this monastery. I found myself immediately back in Belem and could picture exactly what the author was describing. It put me right in the middle of the action!




Padrao dos Descobrimentos

Also on the shores of the Tagus River, this monument proudly celebrates Portugal's role in the Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries. Representing a ship with sails, the statute is manned by 33 people important to Portuguese exploration lead by Henry the Navigator at the bow. I suppose I knew about Portugal's role in exploration, but this really brought it home for me. I left here wanting to learn more.

The building inside contains a cultural center, meeting rooms, an exhibition hall, and an elevator to a fantastic view from the observation deck on top.

Casa Pasteis de Belem

Definitely the highlight of the day was my visit to the famous bakery serving these wonderful treats. Customers form long lines stretching outside for their turn to buy Pasteis de Nata.

Pasteis de Nata are tiny pies made of a creamy custard in a wonderful light flaky crust. The pasteis were first made before the 18th century by the Catholic monks at the Jeronimos Monastery. When the monastery closed in 1820, Casa Pasteis de Belem became the first place outside the convent to sell them.

A warning here...Do not make the mistake I did and buy only one! I promise that you will want more but you will not want to wait in the line again. Diet be damned! Go ahead and buy a few. You won't be sorry! I found them in downtown Lisbon but they were nowhere near as good.




Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sh** Happens...Get Over It!

After Hurricane Jova
This morning I took a walk along the beach in Barra de Navidad. It gave me a different view of the destruction caused by the hurricane that hit last October. All of the usual access routes between the beach and the road above were blocked by construction, but I wasn't worried because I could see a set of stairs up ahead. I had been walking for quite a while and could see that the tide was going out. No Problem.

Suddenly, some especially large waves came along that forced me up against the seawall. Getting my clothes wet was no big deal, but I had some electronic stuff that I really did not want ruined. When the fourth one came up to my knees, I realized that I had to get out of there. I looked ahead and could see that the waves were much worse in that direction. To go back the way I had come, I had to walk out around a wrecked building - to much lower ground.

I took the only reasonable choice available - I climbed the broken wall next to me to the restaurant above and, with all the dignity I could muster, walked through the restaurant to the exit and the street beyond.

OK, so this was a tiny crisis. I've been through much worse. Twenty-seven years ago, my youngest daughter was diagnosed with leukemia shortly after her third birthday. I was beside her through every minute of treatments, hospitals, relapse and, eventually, cure. Sure, it was hard, but it was much harder on her. I was always perplexed when people commented on my strength. I heard often, "I don't know how you can do it."

That always seemed crazy to me. First, she was the one going through the horrible stuff. I was just there to love and support her. And how could I not do it? I had no choice. I did what I had to do to deal with the problem so we could get on with our lives - the same thing I've done through all the sh** that's happened to me along this path of my life.

Bad stuff happens to all of us. It's part of life. It could be a hurricane in Mexico, tornadoes in Kentucky, an accident, an illness or death in the family. No one makes it through life unscathed. We can sit there crying about it, or try to drown our problems in booze or drugs, or we can do whatever has to be done to go on with life.

My Mexican neighbors rolled up their sleeves and figured out their options for getting back into business. Some only had to dig out the mud and get out scrub brushes, others reopened businesses with only half a building, some have to knock it all down and start from scratch. The same as the people of Japan have done and the ones in Kentucky will do. Feeling sorry for yourself is a waste of time. Besides, look around you - there is always someone who has much worse problems. So get over it!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Travel Tales: Ocampo, Michoacan, Mexico



The Monarch Butterfly Preserve

Our local English-language newspaper has an article this week about the monarch butterflies of Michoacan. Unfortunately, the number of butterflies is down by about 30% and the number of people visiting them is down by an equal amount. It seems that environmental stress and the threat of cartel violence are the causes. I'm glad we went a couple of years ago in better times.

The hike up to the butterflies was pretty tough for me because the air was cold, the trail was steep, and the altitude high. With my asthma, we had to stop a lot to rest - for some reason Terry worried when he noticed my lips turning blue - but we saw many guides pass by with small packs on their backs. We had started early and climbed slowly and only later did I learn that all those packs carried small oxygen canisters, for visitors just like me.

The experience was well worth the struggle, though . We got to the top of the trail a few minutes before the sun came up over the mountain, which is the goal. We saw 'sleeping' butterflies dotting the ground and park rangers carefully moving them so they wouldn't be trampled. Above us, the tree branches, heavy with butterflies, were more orange and black than green. Who would have ever thought that butterflies could cause large branches to droop under their weight?

The magic began as the rising sun struck the branches, for as the butterflies felt the warmth, they took flight by the thousands. The sky was literally full of the fluttering orange and black creatures. I'll never climb that mountain again, but it was an experience that I'll never forget.

The Village of Ocampo

Equally as fun, and a lot less work, was our visit to Ocampo, the town nearest the park entrance where we slept the night before our climb. We drove around the white-washed village looking for an inexpensive hotel, but we couldn't seem to find anything. When we saw three men standing on the street corner, we pulled over so I could ask for information. "Disculpe, senores. Donde esta un hotel economico?" (Excuse me, gentlemen. Where is an inexpensive hotel?) The three guys looked at each other and one turned to me and said, "No hablo Ingles." (I don't speak English.) For just a minute I was confused, and then I told the guy that I wasn't speaking English! I think he was so convinced that I would speak English to him that his brain just kind of shut down before he realized that I was speaking Spanish.

We decided to look elsewhere for someone to ask and as we drove by the shady plaza, we came to the police station. We stopped again to ask and, before we knew it, we had a police officer sitting in our back seat holding his M-16 in his lap and giving us directions. Having heard stories about bad cops in Mexico, I was very uncomfortable about the situation, but what could I do? He took us to a nice little hotel, and when no one was around, he had us wait while he walked to the owner's house to find someone to check us in! We tried to give him a tip before he headed back to the station, but he wouldn't accept it.

We had a few other surprises in store for us in Ocampo. The first was the discovery of a street named 'John Lennon'. I would have loved to find out how that came about, but before I could ask, we were sidetracked by the number of children who were greeting us in English as we walked around the plaza. It is not unusual to run across one or two that might give a shy "Hello" but we had never seen so many! Finally, after one little girl said, "Hello. How are you?", we asked her parents why so many of the kids spoke English. The father explained that most of the adults in that town had been to the US to work and,realizing the value of being bilingual, they insisted that the school teach English to the children in all grade levels.

On our way back to the hotel that evening, we ducked into a candy store - literally. This place had so much candy that it was even hanging in bags from hooks on the ceiling. Mexicans tend to be short, especially if they have a lot of Indian blood, so these bags of candy hung down to about five and a half feet off the ground. Terry, at 6' 2", had to walk through the store bent over at the waist! Even so, he was delighted to discover some giant marshmallows, at least three inches across, so when we returned to our room we each carried a big bag.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Looking Forward to a Long Retirement

I don't know about you, but as far as I'm concerned, the age of fifty marked not only my retirement but also what I expect to be the half-way point in my life. I intend to follow in the footsteps of my grandmother and live a long full life, so I'm doing every reasonable thing in my power to make that happen.

But I look around at so many of my friends and it seems like they don't even care.  They certainly aren't doing much to push the odds in their favor. Generally, it all comes down to a few things that can make such a big difference, not only in how long you live but also in how healthy you are during those years.

Eat More Vegetables

Three or more servings per day can lower you chances of dying from heart disease by 30%. If you eat the recommended 4-5 servings of vegetables and 2-3 servings of fruit daily, you just won't have that much room left in your stomach for the unhealthy stuff. And eating a mostly plant-based diet helps prevent cancer.

Eat Less Fat

According to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, over 90% of people with Type 2 Diabetes eat more than the recommended fat calories per day. Eat the veggies from above and see how much room you have left for the fat. It is so much easier to not eat all those calories in the first place than it is to burn them off afterwards. But don't forget your omega-3s - they can lower your risk of heart disease by up to 64%.

Get More Exercise

Seven hours a week of moderate activity can lower your risk of early death by about 25%.  This isn't marathon training - think walking, gardening, yoga, and tai chi. And exercising gives you more energy, improves your mood, helps keep blood glucose stable, helps prevent cancer, and helps control your weight.

Brush Your Teeth Twice a Day

Amazingly, your risk of heart disease rises by 70% if you don't!

To get an idea of where you stand right now, go to www.realage.com and take their test to find out how many years you've put on your body.  Is it better or worse than your real age? I've seen other tests online that are the same idea. Try www.livingto100.com for a Life Expectancy Calculator. Let me know how you do.



Saturday, March 10, 2012

Travel Tales: Tena, Ecuador

Amazon Jungle Tour

We went to Ecuador to consider whether we'd be interested in relocating there because some people we know have moved to Cuenca and love it. Mostly, we were disappointed. It was too high and too cold in the Andes for us. But we did try out the lowlands on both sides of the Andes and found that we were much more comfortable there.

We only had a couple of days in Tena, which is advertised (along with many other places) as the headwaters of the Amazon. Actually, Tena is wilder but similar in many ways to where we live in Mexico, which is probably why we felt comfortable there.

We had no plans for our short stay there so we decided to take the Jungle Tour offered by our hotel. It was wonderful!


Our guide was a Kichwa healer, as had been his grandparents. His main focus is to travel through the area to small villages and teach the young people about birth control. He told us that it is very common for marriages to take place between girls of 13 or 14 and boys of 15. By the time they are 20, they may have four or five children, and they just never stop. He gives these tours to raise money to fund his work in the villages.

When they passed out high rubber boots to protect us from any insects or snakes we might encounter, I began to have second thoughts, but our guide assured me that it would be fine and we set off into the jungle. We were accompanied by a large German shephard who at first seemed like a pet, but turned out to be our protector. The guide carried a machete but never took a step without that dog going ahead to watch for trouble. Oh, great!

The trail, or what there was of it, climbed steeply to the top of a high ridge, the temperature and humidity rising with every step, and we had to stop to look around, because while we were moving we had to keep our eyes on the trail. The jungle was too thick for any distant views but there seemed to be something interesting in every direction, like the rotting log above covered with perfectly white mushrooms. I was glad for the rest to catch my breath, but even happier when we started back down.

Except down was hard, too, because it was so steep. And as we approached the gully at the bottom, the ground turned into mud. As I said, it wasn't much of a trail. The guide used his machete to clear branches from our path. There were downed trees and giant rocks that we had to climb over and small streams we waded through, always holding on to something to catch ourselves when our boots slipped in the mud. And about that downhill part? It just lead to the next uphill and many more.

Our guide was very good, sharing lots of information about the types of jungle we were passing through and, most interesting to me, the many medicinal plants and their uses. One tree was called Dragon's Blood. He used his machete to cut a small slice and then a leaf to catch some of the thick blood-red sap that dripped out, explaining that this sap is used to help heal bruises. Then he scooped up some dirt from the ground to carefully seal the wound he had made in the tree.

The bumpy branch pictured above is the source of curare, which is used in anesthesia and to poison arrows. They also called it Monkey Ladder.



My favorite was the "walking trees" which actually move (a little bit) to try to stay in the best sunlight as other trees grow up around them. They do this by leaning toward the sun and then putting down an aerial root to give them support.


After hours of sweating as we tramped up and down the steep hillsides, we finally came to a refreshingly cool river and our guide passed out the lunches he had been carrying in his pack. After a nice rest in the shade, my feet in cooling in the river, we waded across and entered a flatter area with some signs of cultivation. The pod above is cacao - chocolate in it's natural form. Inside are seeds that are filled with what looks like dark chocolate but the taste is enough to cure the most passionate chocoholic!



Our final stop was at the home of a Kichwa family. The mother of the house demonstrated how they make yucca milk, which we all liked. The guide had explained to us that the reason we had seen no sign of animals in the jungle was because they had been overhunted until nothing survived. The people of this area lived almost entirely on yucca, which, while healthy, is certainly not a complete diet, so there are many health problems.

The family which occupies this house numbered around 10-12 people, probably four generations. They didn't speak Spanish, so we couldn't really communicate, but I was very happy that I had lots of leftover lunch that I could share with them.

The dog in the photo was our mascot and protector. During the tour, I had assumed that he was protecting us from animals. Our guide made sure he was always in front of us but since there were no animals, I now have to wonder if he was really there to prevent bandits from approaching. I wouldn't have wanted to know that then, because I couldn't have enjoyed such a great experience if I was worried the whole time.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Fish Stories - All True!


I have become a deep sea fisherman (-woman???) since I retired. I didn't plan it that way, but my boyfriend lives to fish and I like being out on the ocean, so it made sense to learn. And, as it turns out, I'm really good at it.  He's a very good teacher, and I certainly got lots of practice.

He made me start out with small fish in the bonito family that no one wants to eat.  When we find them, there are a bunch, and they all hit those lures at once! They fight very hard so it's very exciting for the time it takes to reel them in, but I soon got tired of doing all that work for something I just have to throw back in the water. It was a good way to learn, but I try to steer the boat away from them as much as possible now.


Then he taught me how to catch dorado, also know as mahi-mahi.  The one above is my very first - they get much bigger. Dorado are fun because they jump high into the air trying to loosen the hook from their mouths. It wasn't unusual for us to each have a dorado hooked up on opposite sides of the boat. In those days, we had old light equipment. Once we each broke a pole and lost a dorado, maybe two minutes apart. Now we have better equipment.


Terry kept telling me how crazy and fun it is to find a bunch a tuna because they all hit at once. But the tuna never seemed to be there when I was.  One day he called me at my home in Chapala, very excited because they had found a bunch of tuna that day. I quickly packed up my car and drove the 225 miles to the beach so I would be ready to fish the next morning.

So we go out fishing and after a while we get a fish on.  The guys handed me the pole and I sat down in the fighting chair to bring in my first tuna. I was thinking the whole time, "What's the big deal here? It feels just like a dorado to me." So I get the fish close to the boat and, sure enough, it's a dorado - right in the middle of the tuna. But right about the time we got the dorado in the fish box, all the other poles went down and we had four tuna on at once. It continued on that way until we had our limit for the day.  Yep, tuna fishing is very exciting!

Another day, Terry and I were out fishing by ourselves and we were having pretty good luck with dorado. Then we both happened to be looking in the same direction and saw a marlin jump out of the water not too far away.  We quickly reeled in the lures and headed in his direction.  I think it may have been on the second pass that we hooked that marlin.  Hooking him was the easiest part.  I had carefully fought that marlin (we had the light equipment) for an hour and a half before he up and had a heart attack and died. Dead fish sink and that one went straight down. Luckily, a friend of ours saw us and radioed to ask if we needed help. He came over to our boat and he and Terry spent another hour and a half carefully pulling that 300 pound fish to the surface. I posed with him for the photo at the top and then gave the marlin to our friend.

Over the past six years I have caught a lot of fish and had lots of fun doing it. I hooked a tarpon at Boca Grande in Florida (that one got away), caught sailfish at Zihuatanejo, and Spanish Mackerel, needle fish, and jacks right close to home.  I even played tug-'o-war with a sea lion over a chula (tuna family). It was a tie, I got the fish but he took a big bite out of it. But each year Terry got bigger and better equipment and it seemed to me that the big stuff took the fun out of it. It became too automatic. So, now I've decided to retire from fishing and leave some for the guys.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Travel Tales: Madrid, Spain

100_0363.jpg by klsterndahl
Churros and Hot Chocolate to Start a Day in Madrid

I arrived in Madrid around 7am after flying from Guadalajara via Houston and Newark. I had already been traveling forever and still was a long way from my goal in Portugal. My train to Lisbon did not leave until about 9pm, so I checked my luggage at the train station and set out to explore Madrid.

I didn't have any real goal for the day. I had an ancient Lonely Planet that said the Prado Museum would be closed that day - bad luck! So I tore out the map page and set out to see what I could find.

I had tried churros and hot chocolate in the states and thought it was only okay, but I had heard that it was wonderful in Madrid, so my first stop was at the Chocolateria San Gines. It was colder than I'd expected, so I was looking forward to the hot drink. But that's not what I was served.

The churros, served hot from the grease, were thin and crispy on the outside and perfectly cooked in the middle - much better than the ones I'd had before that were thicker so the inside was often kind of mushy. But it was the chocolate that I'll never forget! This wasn't the drink I was expecting. It was more like super extra rich dark chocolate pudding right out of the pan when it has just cooled enough that you can stand to touch your tongue to it. It is not intended for drinking, but for spooning and dunking. And the combination of the two - heaven! The crispy churro coated with the thick rich chocolate was to die for!


My luck continued - it turned out later that the Prado was open so I spent most of my day enjoying the wonderful paintings. And then I discovered another smaller museum across the street that was showing a collection of works of Albrecht Durer, my all-time favorite artist. What an unexpected treat!


By this time, my legs were killing me and I was starving. I was very tempted to return to the chocolateria for dinner but I had feasted on art for lunch instead of food so I decided that would probably not be the best idea. I found a lovely plaza with a great little sidewalk restaurant where I spent a couple of hours over a wonderful dinner and more than one glass of red wine. After a long flight and a busy day, it was wonderful to just relax and watch the world go by until it was time to return to the train station.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Is Retirement What You Expected?

100_3253.JPG by klsterndahl
Sunrise at Zihuatanejo - nothing to do with today's blog, but I thought you might like it.
          
I've been talking to some of my friends lately about the difference between what they expected retirement to be like and the reality of it.  Generally, not much about retired life is what they thought it would be.

Some thought they would be living somewhere else or splitting their time between here and somewhere else. The guys expected to be hunting and fishing and traveling the world, while the women pictured stress-free lives with lots of time for hobbies and travel. 

Most find their lives to be busier than they thought and still too stressful. A few were surprised by health issues that they didn't expect at such a young age. Some had found unexpected new love, but others had been in long-term relationships that didn't survive retirement. There is some disappointment, but they are all young still (early 50's to 66) with time to change what they don't like.

So I asked them what they would like to change, if they could. A few wish they didn't own property so they wouldn't feel as tied down as they do, or wish they still had property in the states so they could easily travel back and forth. Of course everyone has health issues, large or small, that we would like to see go away. Many hope to travel more in the future. The women are struggling to keep a bit of independence - some breathing space - while the men seem to want to hold on tighter.

Finally, we talked about the changes they would have made in the past if they had known what they know now. Relationships were a hot topic.  Some would have worked harder to hold a relationship together while others would have divorced or never married. Almost everyone wished they had saved more money. A couple wished they had followed career dreams that had fallen by the wayside.

While the past can't be changed now, there is still hope for the future.  The two main obstacles that I can see are not quite believing that they can make the changes and the need to have a serious discussion with a mate.  It may seem easier to just keep plodding along like we have been, but that's not how we will fulfill our retirement dreams.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I Love to Travel

 

          The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.
                                                                                  - St. Augustine

My uncle used to own a copy of every National Geographic magazine ever published. I can remember, at a very young age, being impressed at the amount of shelf space those magazines took up. Each of them had stories about people all over the world. I wanted to go to every one of those places!

I was able to do some traveling with my husband, but once we got divorced, I saved up any possible vacation money for my retirement, so no more travel. I've been trying to make it up to myself ever since.

I have a lot of tales to tell, so today I started an additional blog about my travels. My plan is to post to both blogs a few times a week. Please come over to visit me and read about my Travel Tales.

(April 16, 2012 - I've decided that it is too much to try to maintain both blogs, so I merged the Travel Tales back into this blog.)

Travel Tales: Tikal, Guatemala

Temple 1, Tikal
We sat on the front step of our Flores hotel in the semi-dark, entertained by the cries of the neighborhood birds waking up long before the sun and fighting over who got to sit on the peak of the house across the street - apparently a favorite spot. The bus picked us up at 4:30am so we'd have a chance to enjoy the Mayan ruins before the heat and humidity of the afternoon made us miserable.

Everyone was half-asleep during the first part of the hour and fifteen minute bus ride, but it didn't matter because we couldn't see anything out in the dark countryside. As the sky lightened, our local guide began explaining the history of the Mayan people and the importance of the 2,000 year old ruins.

The bus trip was timed to arrive at the gates of the national park at 6am, just as they opened. The towering jungle on both sides of the 17 kilometer park road kept the ruins hidden from view until we pulled into the visitor's center parking area. Although our tour included a guide, my boyfriend had been there before, so we hurried off on our own to beat the crowds to Temple 4 - at about two kilometers distant, the furthest from the entrance.

We paused about half way to catch our breaths and I took the above photo of the pyramid called Temple 1 before the morning fog burned off. We next came to Temple 3, which has not yet been uncovered and allowed us to see what the ruins looked like when the first white explorers found them - really nothing but a steep rocky hill covered with trees and vines.

At Temple 4 we climbed the wooden stairway as high as we were allowed to go and were surprised to see that quite a few people had beat us there. They must have been staying at the hotel that is located near the visitor's center. We were on a stone platform with "steps" where we could sit while we enjoyed the view. Terry told me that, in the old days, visitors were allowed to climb to the tops of all the pyramids and the best thing was to be on top of Temple 4 to watch the sun rise and set.

Our perch put us above the jungle canopy with a clear view of the tops of some of the higher temples. Screaming howler monkeys sounded like some horrible creatures were coming through the jungle to get us. At times, they were loud enough that we had to shout to hear each other. We could have stayed longer but we had a lot to see, so we climbed down the long staircase and headed off toward the area called El Mundo Perdido - the lost world.

It was interesting to wander around El Mundo Perdido, a large complex of almost 40 structures from many different periods with another large pyramid in the center. As we approached the Gran Plaza, Terry said he'd seen it all before and lay down on a bench in the shade for a nap while I climbed another long staircase up the side of Temple 2, the Temple of the Masks.

Temples 1 and 2 face each other across the Gran Plaza, so I had a great view from the top back toward Temple 1 and to the many other buildings in this area. I wished I had been there in the days when visitors were allowed to climb the stone stairs of all the pyramids, but that was stopped because too many people fell to their deaths.

As Terry enjoyed his shady nap, I went on exploring. As monkeys played in the trees nearby, I jealously watched people climbing up the actual stone steps of Temple 5 but by that time my thighs had decided that I'd climbed enough pyramids for that day.

We spent the last hour before our noon departure following long paths to some of the less crowded areas of the ruins, enjoying the peace of being alone. I almost felt like a jungle explorer, but I was very happy that I couldn't hear the howlers any more.

Monday, March 5, 2012

When Life Hands You Lemons Make Limoncello!


Last May I was in Monterosso, Cinque Terre, Italy, where lemons are king and queen of everything! It was my first experience drinking limoncello, also called limoncino, and I loved it. So did the girlfriends I was traveling with. In December, a local Italian restaurant started selling their own homemade limoncello at about $20US for about 650ml.

It was pretty raw - what I'd expect for white lightning.  It needed to age much longer than it had. I put it in the cupboard and waited over two months before I tried it again.  It was much better - and just in time for a reunion between the three of us. We drank the bottle in one sitting. (We had a little help from the guys.)

That got me thinking about the mysterious lime tree I had at home. I bought this tree at least three years ago. The nursery lady told me it was a seedless limon. That's the word used around here for limes - lemons are not common in Mexico. I planted it in a pot and it gave me limes that first year. I moved it to the backyard and put it in the ground - and got almost nothing for over a year. It finally started putting out limes again last spring.

At least, I thought they were limes. They were small. They were green. They fell off the tree in that condition, right at the size I expected for a seedless lime. I used those limes all the time for fish and margaritas.

This winter, a funny thing started to happen. The limes stayed on the tree longer and seemed to be getting over ripe (yellowish) before I could use them. Then the limes began growing those little lemony bumps on the blossom ends - but only some of them. I began to wonder. I looked up lemons and limes on the internet. Apparently it is not unusual to not know the difference, but what I had seemed to fit the description of limes.

Last month the tree started going really crazy. It was suddenly just covered with large yellow fruit with bumps - all of them.  There was no way I could keep up with them. I decided that it was a sign that I should be making limoncello! 

I started my first batch almost three weeks ago. Tomorrow I will start another batch. Judging by the number of blossoms and tiny little fruits on the tree, I will be making many more batches in the future. I've studied my recipe carefully and decided that mine will age about three months - I like it mellow.

And the thing is, limoncello uses only the yellow part of the skin, so I still get to use the lemon juice.  Fortunately, when we were in Monterosso, I also picked up recipes for Lemon Sorbet, Lemon Mousse, Cream of Limoncello, and Lemon and Pistachio Tort.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Fruits of My Labor

Oops!  I found out I can't rotate photos from my iPod - just kind of tip your head to the right this one time.
I escaped from the computer this morning by having fun in the kitchen instead.  Tonight I got to enjoy the fruits of my labor with tortilla soup, a margarita on the rocks, and a dessert of gluten-free pumpkin bread with cranberries - some of my favorite comfort foods (and drink).

I really do love to cook.  I find the simple act of standing at my cutting board chopping ingredients into little pieces to be very relaxing - almost like meditation. I love to experiment in the kitchen and don't mind making elaborate recipes, even if it's just for me.

My favorite breakfast is sauteed onion, zucchini, red pepper, mushrooms, tomato, and garlic in scrambled eggs topped with avocado, goat cheese, and our local hot sauce. Of course, I'm talking about a tiny bit of each of these ingredients. A friend suggested that I chop up enough for a few days at a time and save them for when I need them.  She just didn't understand the whole meditation thing.

Andrew Weil once wrote that he likes to wash dishes.  He even volunteers to do them when eating at some one's house.  He says that dish washing (by hand, of course) is like meditating to him.  I understand that completely.  When I was young I hated to wash dishes and often had a sink full of dirty ones.  It never happens now.  It is just part of the cooking routine for me.

Anyway, after my morning in the kitchen I have enough soup in the fridge for two more meals and lots more in the freezer.  And dessert for many days, too, if I can keep myself from nibbling all day long. Taking the morning off from the computer and then eating that great meal fortified me to get back on here tonight without all the stress I was feeling yesterday.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Computer Headaches

This stuff is driving me crazy! If I had any hair, I'd be pulling it out! I haven't posted for a couple of days because I'm trying to figure out all this web page stuff. This is not something I thought, even a few months ago, that I would need to learn. Maybe I should have learned it before I started actually blogging.

This is what I'm trying to do... I want to have three separate blogs: this one, a travel one, and a "quilts for sale" one. That part is not hard, thanks to Google's easy blogging set-up.  The thing that's making me crazy is that I want to have a web page with my domain name - a home page, I guess - and on this web page, I want to put links to the three blogs. 

I already own the domain name. I just have to learn how to put it all together. As you can see, I've got books and notes spread out all over my desk. I've been making notes for days! It seems that Google wanted my domain name to be the address to this blog. But then I couldn't figure out how to get the others, which Google doesn't know about yet, to be able to use it.

I am making progress, but all my time has been going into this instead of the blog itself. A friend suggested that I buy a program or hire it done. I guess I'm stubborn. I want to be able to do it myself.

When I get really frustrated, I remind myself that I am challenging my brain to keep it strong and working well for many more years to come. The old "use it or lose it" idea. I am also working to improve my Spanish, studying beginning French, and challenging myself daily with Lumosity. If learning new things really does hold off dementia, I think I should have it covered this week.