Where are all the Vegan and Plant-Based Options?

I recently changed my diet again. I’ve done almost every diet you can think of- Keto, South Beach, Scarsdale, Slim Fast etcetera etcetera, but I think I finally found the right diet for me.

I’m currently following a whole food plant-based diet (WFPD). A WFPD is a way of life, not a fad diet. On a WFPD diet you basically only eat whole food, unrefined plant-based foods, and minimize the use of oils. This means no meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy, like Vegan, but the WFPB diet emphasizes minimally processed foods.

I had mostly given up meat and milk years ago, but I was still eating lots of eggs and some cheese. I would have meat when dining out. Now I have given these foods up completely because my health numbers were changing, and changing for the worse. I was always the 110/70 blood pressure and cholesterol in the 160’s kind of person, but recent blood pressure checks were much higher and my cholesterol came in at a shocking 215!

I’ve always taken pride in not needing any kind of regular medication. The doctor started talking about taking a few months and checking again and perhaps putting me on meds. Well that was it for me. I had seen “Game Changers” and “To Your Health” on Netflix and I decided to give this plant-based eating a try. A few of my former coworkers had made the shift to Vegan so I did have some familiarity.

With lots of YouTube and other reading such as “How Not to Die”, I decided I fit more of the whole food plant-based diet profile since I really didn’t eat processed foods anyway, and I do wear leather and suede shoes and own lots of animal skin items.

With many recipes to download on the Internet and find on Instagram and Pinterest, I have had no problem finding ideas and recipes. I recently stepped up my dinner entrees and have been making WFPB desserts for my husband trying to get him to make the switch. When my health numbers came back much improved, I became living proof that this kind of diet can be healthy.

Everything is going well, but who wants to cook dinner every night? Going out to dinner is something we like to do at least once a week. We also like to get takeout too. On Long Island, you would think there would be tons of options, but there’s not.

I feel like restaurants are missing an opportunity here. They don’t have to become full blown Vegan or plant based, but there should be viable options on the menu. Going to most diners, I had difficulty finding many choices, and almost every recipe has eggs and cheese.

Mexican restaurants have burritos with vegetables, rice, and beans. Maybe a veggie fajita.

I found Nassau County, LI does have a few of the açaí bowl places, but they have been all take out. Recently we discovered Fuel Your Body Cafe in Hicksville where we got take out. My husband had the veggie chili and I had an açaí bowl. It was very good and we would definitely try it again, but my husband said it was really more like a take out place.

I’ve been doing some in depth research, similar to my hunt for plant-based recipes and there seems to be a few places around to check out. Core Life Eatery in Garden City and Healthy Boy Grill in Carle Place . Suffolk County has The Purple Elephant and Plant Wise. All these establishments tend to be low key kind of restaurants which will have to be the kind of places we learn to eat out at for now.

The day will come when the diners, grills, and more upscale restaurants begin to offer a large selection of vegan and plant-based options. Restaurants will have more and more customers requesting these options and the change will come.

Until then I’ll keep searching for the vegan and plant-based options near me.

How was your 15 Days to Slow the Spread?

How was your 15 days to slow the spread?

Overall, I feel like mine really wasn’t that bad…

I tend to be resilient and able to shed stress pretty easily. As I wrote in So It’s The Laughter We Will Remember, I tend to look on the bright side.

In the beginning....

When the 15 days to slow the spread began, I viewed it as a patriotic mission for the well-being of the country. I was all in on staying home and doing my part.

I was disappointed that our 30th Anniversary vacation would be postponed. I was also worried about my husband who was a frontline supermarket worker, my daughter who was still away at school, and my son who recently left the nest to live with his girlfriend.

As a retired teacher, I was able to play board games and binge watch t.v. My husband worked in Stop & Shop, so I was never stressed about the at home virus essentials.

I stressed about my husband bringing home the virus on his shoes? coat? groceries? I stressed about him getting Covid. I stressed about my daughter being away from home.

It also became evident pretty quickly that my dog sitting business was going to be taking a hiatus as cancellation after cancellation came in. I didn’t really stress over this though when other people were losing their lives and their livelihoods. Dog sitting is just a side job for me.

I felt better when my daughter came home to what would become the “New Normal” Distance Learning. She was annoyed with the Governor and basically with the whole locked down, but having her around gave me a companion. Grocery store managers are never home, and the virus made things even busier when people were panic buying.

I was doing great! Then they extended the lockdown. Boy did I get depressed! Two weeks sounded like a solid plan. Now I felt like I was on shaky ground.

Easter came and there had been no Holy Week. Church was a weekly thing for me. My church had a long way to go with online masses, so I turned to Rick Warren who had been doing this for years for my Easter service. He definitely left me inspired and feeling hopeful for the future.

Easter Sunday was actually pretty nice the three of us. We did everything as usual. We dyed eggs and had hors d’ oeuvres, and a really nice dinner. My daughter and I worked together to make a really nice bunny cake.

Then Monday came and my husband didn’t feel well and went to get tested for the virus. It didn’t take long to find out that he Tested Positive for the Virus!

Wow! Now What? So much was unknown about the spread of the virus and how to recover from the virus. I spent a great deal of my time sanitizing, and began reading stories of families who experienced not so great experiences with the virus.

Three weeks later I have to say we were very lucky! My husband never had to be admitted to a hospital and my daughter and I got away unscathed. It was a long 3 weeks and the darkest time of the pandemic. I lost my love for shopping when my daughter and I were forced to do food shopping under very stressful conditions. Not wanting to breathe, tough things, or be near strangers made shopping undesirable.

Practicing Social Distancing

I pretty much have practiced social distancing for years now staying in my small bubble of people. This may be the main reason I faired so well during the lockdown. I’m not very into many people anyway.

During the heart of the spring season, my daughter and I took up walking. We explored our neighborhood on hour long walks, and expanded to as many preserves, trails, and arboretums we could find open on Long Island.

We really made the best of it. We went somewhere everyday, enjoyed the sunshine in the yard, binged watch Netflix and did 1,000 piece puzzles in the evening. This went on for weeks. So much for 15 days to slow the spread!

Ready for a Change

June came and my nails were pretty much destroyed without my powder gel manicure. My hair was also ready for a fresh highlight. Take out food had lost its luster and I was ready for a change of scenery.

We were supposed to go to Disney World in June, but ended up taking a road trip to Binghamton and staying at my daughter’s apartment. This was great because the Governor granted them outdoor dining privileges, and we discovered Animal Park Adventure and Buttermilk Falls. The quick getaway was what we needed.

When we returned my daughter was getting depressed about not having her usual summer camp job, but she put herself out there and landed a great daycare job which she now works at whenever she’s home throughout the year.

Jen’s Doggy Daycare came back to life the 4th of July weekend and has pretty much been steady ever since as I wrote in I think I Reached Phased 4. Many people discovered the value of a road trip and others started returning to work.

Over the summer, we continued road tripping with a trip to Cooperstown and another to Cape May. As always, I figured out a way to be happy. After all, when I retired I said I would watch dogs and go on vacations, and that’s just what I was going to do!

When the fall came, I have to admit my life became pretty normal. My daughter went back to school and I stayed home dog sitting. Going out to eat became more pleasant and trips to the local stores seemed to become less stressful.

We had a wonderful 90th birthday celebration for my mother-in-law outdoors with friends and family stopping by. I don’t think this would have been as nice without the new craze of outdoor and drive by birthday celebrations.

We went on our Anniversary trip in November to St. Lucia. We followed all the protocols and everything was fine. Christmas was wonderful as always. I did my best to find holiday attractions and lights to get in the Christmas spirit and church was open for holiday masses.

My daughter and I did our now annual January vacation. This year was Coconut Bay in St. Lucia. No cruise (ha ha) like last year.

It’s Spring Again…

Spring is in the air and I’m starting to get back outside again. I’m happy just to get some fresh air and sunshine, watch dogs, go out to eat occasionally and plan and look forward to my next vacation.

There have been some changes. The Covid Culture has me now using YouTube for online yoga and pilates classes. The gym no longer interests me, and I enjoy trying out new classes and instructors. I don’t feel awkward when I don’t like a class and choose a new one. I also have changed to whole food plant-based diet. I view both of these things as positives of the lockdown.

The big thing now is everyone wanting to get the vaccine and get back to normal. I have decided to get the vaccine when I am eligible. I think by the time they get to me it will be very accessible.

So how was my 15 days to slow the spread? As the saying goes, “Life is what you make it”. As always, I made the best of it.

I’m confident that the day will come when this is all in the past.

So how was your 15 days to slow the spread?

What Kind of Dog Parent Are You?

As a dog sitter, I’ve discovered that there are a few different kinds of dog parents and I categorized them below:

Everything but the Kitchen Sink Parent (Also Known as the Just in Case Parent)

This dog parent has to bring the entire family to drop off the dog and make multiple trips to the car for what seems like everything but the kitchen sink.

He/She will bring:

  • Both the dog bed (one for day and one for night time) and crate
  • Leash, collar, harness
  • Favorite blankets
  • Raincoat and/or sweater
  • Dog Brush
  • Wee Wee Pads
  • Wipes
  • Dog bowls in their stand and placemat
  • Sometimes bottled water
  • Dry food (Individually bagged), wet food, and usually chicken and sliced cheese
  • Favorite toy, other toys, and chew sticks (chew sticks to be given at certain times of day)
  • 4 or 5 different kinds of treats (Enough to share with other dogs)
  • Multiple phone numbers and ways to be reached
  • Emergency Contacts and Vet information

Takes the Dog Sitter’s Advice Parent

This dog parent usually brings the suggested supplies the dog sitter recommends:

  • Dog bed and blanket if there’s usually one in the bed
  • Collar with an ID tag and leash
  • Food bowl/Water bowl
  • Food the dog usually eats with instructions for frequency and amounts
  • Treats optional (we have treats)
  • One toy if the dog usually sleeps with it, otherwise not necessary (we have toys)
  • Contact information

The Minimalist

This dog parent usually meets you at the car and may or may not get out. This dog parent usually brings:

  • Food

New Testing Protocol for International Travel

The new U.S. testing protocol for International travel has this frequent traveler wavering.

In the summer I went on a few road trips: Binghamton, Cooperstown, and Cape May which did not require any testing.

In November, my husband and I finally got to celebrate our 30th anniversary with a trip to Sandals in St. Lucia. No longer could we just book a resort and airfare. There were travel forms for approval to enter St. Lucia and a PCR Covid test was required 7 days prior to travel. The forms seemed pretty much like a formality as long as you were staying on a certified resort. I have to admit, having my first Covid test made me a little nervous.

We had our tests done in 2 places just to make sure we got them back in time. The CVS test required an appointment where you went through a drive through. It was a self administered type of test that you drop in a lab box for pick up. The City MD test required no appointment and was administered by a doctor.

Waiting for the results was kind of stressful. Even though we felt perfectly fine, we kept hearing about those who tested positive with no symptoms. Pretty much I couldn’t really get excited about our vacation until we received the results. It took less than 18 hours to get our results in our portals. We had our negative test results and could now get excited about our trip! Test results had to be emailed to St. Lucia, and a copy had to be printed to show upon arrival.

St. Lucia had a pretty seamless process for entering their country. We waited on a couple of short lines and then we were off to the resort. Throughout our stay at Sandals we followed all their health and safety protocols and had a great time. When it was time to leave, it turned out that St. Lucia had gone from a Level 1 country to Level 2 which would now require a 14 day quarantine at home. My husband was an essential worker and was not required to quarantine. As a retiree and dog sitter, I’m pretty much always home so this was no big deal for me. Still it was a little stressful how the rules changed while we were in a different country.

In January, my daughter and I were back to St. Lucia for a 9 night stay at Coconut Bay Resort and Spa. We only did one Covid test at CVS and once again received our results quickly. I was familiar with all the country’s requirements so this was a comfortable place for me to visit with my daughter alone.

Right before our trip, the CDC changed the rules. Starting January 26 all International travelers would need a Covid test to return. The funny thing was our departure date was the 25th so we weren’t effected. The resort offered tests and we saw a few people waiting to get tested for their return flight. They had a designated room and it seemed pretty orderly, but I was relieved we didn’t need it. We returned home and now only had to quarantine for 10 days. That was a piece of cake.

My daughter graduates college in May and my husband and I planned a trip for the 3 of us to Beaches Ochos Rios. We planned this trip before the International testing change. This trip has me worried. As my friend always says,”Everyone has their own level of comfort.” Getting tested in another country takes me out of my comfort zone. I half way think I would of felt okay at Coconut Bay because I did have a sense of comfort there. Jamaica is a whole different ball game.

My husband now says he’s not going because he can’t risk being detained an additional 14 days, so that leaves me and my daughter. Beaches and Sandals both have on site testing for free and would allow you to quarantine at the resort God forbid you test positive, but I can’t imagine relaxing and having a good time until my trip was almost over and we got our negative test results.

Now I’m the worry wart Mom who’s ruining her daughter’s college graduation vacation.

Then I got an idea! The Virgin Islands are a US territory and I learned that they do not require a return test. I’ve looked at quite a few places, and these islands are all beautiful, but finding an all inclusive resort has been the challenge. Finding something with all the bells and whistles has also been an issue.

I kind of settled on a place in St. Thomas where you can travel to other islands during your stay. It’s definitely not a Beaches, but I’m sure we would have a good time like we always do.

I’ve been mulling these ideas around, and then I started warming back up to the Jamaica idea again, until I read on Google News that a Jet Blue flight attendant tested positive while on a vacation in a 5 Star hotel in Jamaica. She got to stay in her 5 Star hotel, but in isolation.

Once you test positive, you’re not visiting the beach, buffet, or bar anymore. You are isolated in a room for a 14 day quarantine, if you’re lucky and don’t need hospital care.

This is way out of my comfort zone! This trip is going to have to be rescheduled to a time where International testing to return home is no longer a thing.

Now to convince my daughter that the Virgin Islands is a worthy college graduation trip.

Happy 1st Anniversary With WordPress.Com

It’s the one year anniversary of my blog Momrockzz Her New Life!

Blogging hasn’t been so easy for me. There was so much I didn’t understand and still don’t, but somehow I managed to get a site together and write a fair amount of posts.

Soon after I retired from teaching, I thought starting a blog about living a happy retirement life would be a good idea. I read all about finding your niche. It would be a nice hobby and perhaps I could make a little extra money from my posts. I figured I would call it Momrockzz Retirement. Momrockzz was a name my daughter gave me years ago for the Wii Game System and it has stuck.

Well I didn’t know anything about starting a blog so I did some research. Google led me to Pinterest where you can find a gazillion pins about blogging.

  • How to start a blog
  • Mistakes bloggers make
  • How to promote your blog
  • Affiliate networks everyone should join
  • Ways to protect your blog legally
  • 25 WordPress tips
  • Reasons new bloggers fail
  • How I turned my blog into a career

Dazed and Confused

Everything I read said you should use Bluehost for website hosting, and that any other choice would be a mistake. I had a feeling I wouldn’t understand it. That it would be too complicated for me. After days of reading posts about starting a blog, I signed up with Bluehost. I had no idea what to do once I got my domain name. I was completely lost. It was supposed to be one click, but then I was reading about cpanels and it was like I was back in the days of DOS before Windows 95 and point and click. The phone assistance didn’t help, so basically I paid for a domain name that I had no idea how to use. Big disappointment! I hate feeling stupid. I was sure half these people with blogs I saw on Pinterest weren’t exactly the sharpest tacks, but they got a website together.

Lost without a Home

I tried checking out using Facebook and Google, but this was a dead end when they asked for a privacy plan. Facebook would end up being a page similar to what I have for my dog sitting business. That wasn’t going to reach new people, and to be honest I’m not crazy about half my friend’s list reading all my posts. Google’s blog seemed to suggest that it would be eliminating this feature which made it pretty undesirable.

I looked at Go Daddy, Wix, Squarespace, SiteGround, but I figured I would have the same result as Blue Host. Then I did the thing every blog Pinterest pin said not to do. I signed up with WordPress.com. I chose the the Premium Plan which was a step up from the Free plan.

The Best Made Plan

First I needed a new domain name since I couldn’t use the one I bought on Bluehost for a year. I kicked a lot of variants of Momrockzz Retirement around and settled on my current domain name- Momrockzz Her New Life. I somehow figured out how to categorize a few pages and make an about page. My page categories were: Blog/My Travel/Dog Days/Words to Live By. I was pretty impressed with myself. I wrote a whole post analyzing a quote for Words to Live By and another about retiring, but when I told my friends about the blog no one seemed able to get on. I was very frustrated and at a loss of what I should do next. I was ready to quit.

A few days went by and I decided to ask WordPress for help. The help chat was very responsive and even though I sounded like an emotional wreck, he calmly explained my problem. There’s a difference between a Post and a Page! I was posting on a static page! He helped me have an operational blog in just a few minutes.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that I needed to tweak my categories and came up with using – Her New Life as a connection. My categories morphed into: Her New Life Blog; Her New Life Dog Sitting; Her New Life Travels; Her New Life Quotes.

I tweaked my categories one last time to better fit my posts: Retired Life Blog/Dog Sitter Life/ Life on Long Island. I realized that most of my travels were on Long Island and that I could put any other travel post under Retired Life. Analyzing quotes was pretty laborious, but also fit under the category of Retired Life.

Traffic/subscribers/Affiliates

Pinterest was a valuable tool for learning about getting traffic on your page, ways to get subscribers, and affiliates a new blogger could join.

Traffic

I occasionally posted my blog on FaceBook and tend to get some traffic to my page. Occasionally a Twitter follower will check out my blog. I have linked my blog post to Pinterest quite a few times too. WordPress Readers check out my blog posts also.

Subscribers

After some more struggles, I figured out MailChimp for subscribers, but don’t really have many. To be honest, I follow other WordPress bloggers and only occasionally click on the link to read their blog from the email notification. I do go to the Reader page though and find many engaging articles to read and often comment on.

Affiliates….

I did a lot of research on this topic! I signed up with WordPress, Amazon, and Chewy pretty easily and surprisingly learned how to link promotions and products to my posts. I had no interest in signing up for pop up ads that I personally feel cause the reader to lose interest in the words on the page. I had little luck with affiliates and when someone actually bought something on Amazon, I decided this was a waste of time due to the small earnings. I also felt phony putting these links on my post. I guess I’m not a salesperson.

Currently

Today I’m pretty happy with my blog. I don’t have many subscribers, but I do know people who have checked out places on Long Island because of reading my blog. Dog Lovers have enjoyed my Dog Sitting Posts, and my Retired Life Blog Posts have entertained and inspired a few.

I gave up trying to get people to subscribe and repeatedly link posts on Pinterest. I stopped all the affiliate links too. I decided that I’m just going to write. Writing is a nice outlet for me, and if I think about it, it’s actually something I’ve always done to express my feelings.

If one person reads my blog posts and decides to check out a local hiking trail or preserve, or finds things to do near their home, or finds a hobby or takes a trip, or rescues a dog, I’ll be satisfied.

I’m not a paid travel blogger or influencer, but in a small way I feel my writing helps others.

I like writing blog posts and I guess that’s all that really matters.

Mother/Daughter Vacations

Now that I’m retired, I have more to time to go on vacations, and Mother/Daughter vacations are a special kind of getaway for me.

These vacations are special to me for many reasons.

  1. I never had this kind of relationship with my mother.
  2. I know they won’t last forever.
  3. She gets and accepts me (the good and the bad)
  4. We like to do the exact same things on a vacation and never get sick of each other.

Our first getaway together was in 2014 for my 50th birthday. We went to Universal Studios for a few days during our Spring Break from school. We love rides, and since it was my first time traveling alone with my daughter who was 15 at the time, I felt comfortable having the Mears Shuttle pick us up from the airport and bring us back. I definitely didn’t want to start renting a car or anything. I’m not that adventurous. As my friend Lorie says, “Jennifer lives under a well-appointed rock.”

The very next year my daughter turned 16. Instead of a party we went to Hawaii as a family in August, but my daughter convinced me to take her for her actual birthday to Disney which fell on Columbus Day Weekend. This was really nice because we had been to Disney many times, but not during the Halloween season. They had special parades and fireworks. We even got to trick or treat in the Magic Kingdom.

These two trips were a success so I got it in my head to travel to Puerto Rico on a 4 day weekend in February the very next year. This was a big change and a transition from parks to beaches.

We were back at Disney when my daughter graduated High School, and we returned one last time to Universal when I retired from teaching.

I almost forgot my daughter’s birthday getaway weekend at The Mohonk House in New Paltz, NY. This was our very first road trip together where we hiked about 10 miles in 2 days, went horseback riding, and had some great mother/daughter bonding time.

Well, now that I think about it, we actually have been on many trips together, but things changed in a big way when I retired.

January has always been my least favorite month of the year because I despise the cold, and I got it in my head that my daughter and I would travel together every January for as long as she’ll have me. Traveling in January was never an option for me as a teacher, but now I can travel anytime. As a college student, my daughter is free most of this month too.

On Thursday January 2, 2020, the day all my teacher friends returned to work after the Christmas Break, we were on a plane to Puerto Rico. This would give us two full beach days before our Royal Caribbean Cruise that Saturday.

We were happy just to soak up the warm sun and lay on the beach all day. It was way better than January in New York, and little did we know that we were closing in on a pandemic.

On Saturday, January 4, 2020 we started our 7 day cruise. Once again, were unaware that this would probably be our last cruise ever, or for a very long time.

In Cruise Travel, I wrote all about this trip. How we accomplished one of our mutual goals of visiting one beach at a time, and always going on one rain forest hike per vacation.

This trip ended up being the trip whose memories basically kept me together during the heart of the pandemic. These memories gave me hope that one day things would be back to normal again. My normal as a retiree is dog sitting and going on vacations.

All spring we stayed close and explored Long Island together as I wrote in Planting Fields Arboretum, Long Island Hiking Trails, William Cullen Bryant Preserve , and others. These were little mother/daughter staycations which were special in their own right.

Well I’m always thinking, and I’m a true believer in always having something to look forward to, so I came up with the idea to take a road trip. In Why Not Take a Road Trip?, I wrote all about our adventures in Binghamton, Animal Adventure Park, and Buttermilk Falls.

This trip was so successful, we decided to visit a different kind of beach. Before my daughter headed back to school, after being home from March, we drove to Cape May, New Jersey. This trip together was just as good as any Caribbean vacation. We really liked this place as I wrote in Cape May/Angel of the Sea.

Our most recent trip was our now annual January getaway. This year we spent 9 nights at The Coconut Bay Resort in St. Lucia. This is a great all inclusive resort that we had gone to as a family about 4 years ago.

This trip was magical. We had hot sunny days everyday and a choice of 7 pools and the beach daily. Our morning walks and talks on the beach are to be cherished by any mother and daughter hoping to have a loving friendship and strong bond.

We did what we do best on this trip, turn bronze in the sun, sample an endless list of island cocktails, dress up at night and indulge ourselves.

This trip our excursions were horseback riding which we both love to do, especially on the beach, and we tried something completely new to the both of us – Island Exploration on ATVs.

We got the hang of this pretty quickly, and to be honest I think horseback riding has the potential to be far more dangerous. We zoomed through a rain forest, got a little history on a historic sugar plantation, and visited a black sandy beach. I definitely prefer a white sandy beach any day.

Now it’s time for my daughter to return to college for her final semester. I will miss her, but this trip like all the others provide me with memories to endure. My tan will fade but the memories we created will stay with me forever.

Who knows how many more mother/daughter vacations there will be? One day she will be married and have a family of her own, and I bet vacations with my grandchildren will become my next favorite kind of getaway.

For now, I’ll cherish all the times we had together and I’m sure there’s still plenty more to come. We’ve have lots of ideas and I’m sure we’ll be making memories again soon.

So It’s The Laughter We Will Remember

As 2020 comes to a close, there will be many who say, “Good Riddance!”

Yes 2020 was full of heartache and a never-ending disease, but I always try to remember the good things. And for me there were a lot of good things!

January started off with a trip to Puerto Rico and a 7 night cruise with my daughter. This was my first January as a retired teacher, and we boarded the plane the day I would have had to return to work after the Christmas break. We had a grand old time doing what we do best, soaking up the sun and visiting one beach at a time Island hopping.

The Cruise with my daughter was what got me through the worst parts of the pandemic when everything stopped for “15 Days to Slow the Spread” which we all know went way longer. I would think back and reminisce about the white powdery sands of Punta Cana, overdoing the rum punch in the sun in St. Lucia, hiking in Martinique, souvenir shopping, fine dining, the casino, and especially the walks and talks with my daughter.

My husband and I were supposed to go to The Bahamas for our 30th Wedding Anniversary in March but that was canceled just as all the Caribbean Islands and the airlines came to a stand still. I was really disappointed but I learned from that moment on that you should travel any chance you get! Life is short and you shouldn’t put things off.

In April it was disappointing not being able to go to Church on Easter. I go on a weekly basis, but I especially missed Holy Week and Easter Sunday. Online services never really worked for me, but Rick Warren came through on Easter with a wonderful service. Rick Warren has far more experience with remote Masses than my local church.

My husband was also diagnosed with Covid in April which led to a few weeks of duress for the whole family. Thankfully he never had to be admitted to the hospital, but it was a very stressful time not knowing if things would take a turn for the worse.

The best part about April was that my daughter came home from school. My husband is an essential worker and if my daughter wasn’t home, I would have basically had to quarantine alone. There were no mornings at the gym or trips to the mall so I would have been pretty isolated.

Throughout April, May, and June my daughter and I did many things together which never would have happened if there wasn’t a pandemic. Everyday we would either take very long walks around the neighborhood or visit local trails and preserves right here on Long Island.

After 20 years, I now know all the different blocks and houses in my own neighborhood like I did when I was a kid in my old neighborhood. We strolled around Mill Pond many times, found a new trail to hike short drives away, discovered a Sculpture Park at the Nassau Museum of Art. In the heart of springtime we roamed the Muttontown Preserve, Planting Fields Arboretum, and the Norman Levy Preserve.

During these months in the evening we started doing 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzles. I have fond memories of these nights with my daughter finding ends and corners, sorting pieces, divvying up the sky, grass, fields, snow etc. I got really good at the different blues in the sky and my daughter could always figure out the greens and browns in the fields and the arrays of different colorful flowers. There was always that satisfaction of putting in the final piece and the feeling of triumph. We did ten 1,000 piece puzzles in all. Those nights together were priceless and I will always remember them fondly.

In June we were ready to break out and headed to Binghamton to stay at my daughter’s apartment for a couple of days. The Southern Tier had outdoor dining and we went to Animal Adventure Park and to Buttermilk Falls in Ithaca hiking. It was great to get a change of scenery and it was here I once again realized the value of a road trip. This would turn out to be the first road trip of the summer season, and once again we had a lot laughs and good times on this getaway.

Father’s Day was really nice! We had our usually barbecue and Carvel Whale of the Dad cake too. What made it special though was that my son and his girlfriend finally were able to come over. It was a backyard event and it was a good start at trying to get things back to normal.

Jen’s Doggy Daycare, my dog sitting business fell victim to the virus too. Trip after trip was canceled due to the quarantine which led to zero dogs from March through June.

Then July 4th came! Of course the local fireworks were canceled, but Jen’s Doggy Daycare had a rebirth with Bentley the French Bull Dog and Aria the toy poodle. Both of these pups are what you call quarantine dogs. It really was a great time to get a puppy since families were home full time.

We had dogs all summer and even ended up with Bentley and another pup Lady as regular daycare dogs while their parents were at work. Even though traveling is kind of slow, people started returning to work and needed care for their new puppies while they were away.

In August, my husband and I took a road trip to Cooperstown with a stop at Howe Caverns for 2 nights. This wasn’t the Bahamas, but we got a couple of nights away and enjoyed this town very much.

Before my daughter headed back to school, we went away for a few nights to Cape May, New Jersey and stayed at The Angel of the Sea. I highly recommend this trip to anyone-couples, families, friend. It was a great beach and a fun town. I would definitely go back there again.

Then my daughter went back to school…….

I was sad, but life must always move forward.

In September I tried to go back to the gym, but in the end decided that I actually like my long walks and found great alternatives for yoga, pilates, and other fitness right on YouTube. We celebrated my son’s birthday and discovered another great restaurant in our neighborhood we’ve been missing out on for the past 20 years. My mother-in-law celebrated her 90th birthday and a wonderful outdoor socially distanced party was well orchestrated by my brother-in-law.

I also enjoyed not having to return to work in September for the second time reassured that I knew I made the right decision retiring. Once again I enjoyed the beauty of fall by finding things to do near me.

In October my husband and I were back in Binghamton to celebrate my daughter’s 21st birthday. We had a great hike that day enjoying the upstate fall foliage.

October was also a great time for me to get back into doing crafts. They always say that when you retire you need 3 hobbies: one to make you money, one to keep you fit, and one to keep you creative.

Halloween was definitely different this year with few trick-or-treaters, but I had a great time dressing up all the pups.

In November we finally got to celebrate our 30th anniversary with a trip to Sandals in St. Lucia. The Bahamas trip morphed into a St. Thomas trip then Antigua, but it all worked out with St. Lucia. This was our first time at a Sandals, and we plan to vacation at as many of them in the Caribbean as we can in the near future. Because when should you travel? Any chance you get!

Thanksgiving was only the three of us, but thats what happens as kids grow up and have lives of their own. A few days with my daughter is always a plus and it was great to have her home again, even just for a few days.

December started with my husband’s birthday. It was great to get out and celebrate at The City Cellar. We ate indoors and had some good food and drinks. The waitress even put a candle on the birthday boy’s cheesecake.

I wanted to do somethings this month to celebrate the season and try to have some fun.

My husband and I went to the Jones Beach Christmas Lights which was a great jumpstart to getting into the spirit of the holiday season. It’s fun for all ages!

My daughter came home after finishing her fall semester, and I wanted to be sure to do some holiday outing with her too. The Westbury Gardens had nothing this year, , and we were too late for available tickets to the Milleridge Inn. We did find Bright Lights at the Vanderbilt Mansion and Museum. This was a perfect! It was a warmer evening and my husband came along too. We all really enjoyed this look at Christmas lights of a Gold Coast home.

Christmas Eve and Christmas were as wonderful as always! My daughter and I went to a Christmas Eve mass at our parish and the Monsignor’s homily about family and seeing Jesus in others and the hope that others were see Jesus in ourselves was heartwarming. A very special part of the Mass was at the very end when the Monsignor said he wanted to share something from his childhood with all us. He played an old Bing Crosby Christmas song that touch all of us. It was really special when a few people started singing along, then more and more joined in.

Later in the evening we went to the restaurant that we had discovered over the summer and had a great Christmas Eve dinner full of hope and joy of the Christmas season.

Christmas Day was different not having my son there in the morning, but we enjoyed opening all our gifts the three of us. It was really nice having my son and his girlfriend visit for the day. I guess this is our new normal for now at Christmas. That’s usually what happens. Couples go to one side of the family one night, and the other the next.

So as 2020 comes to a close, I only remember the good things. I pretty much have gone through life only remembering the good things.

As Barbra Streisand sang in “The Way We Were”, “So it’s the laughter we will remember, whenever we remember, the way we were.”

I’m looking forward to 2021 being a great year! I already have some trips planned, my daughter will graduate college, my son and his girlfriend’s love affair will grow stronger, and Charlie and I will celebrate 31 years together.

I’m sure 2021 will fly by like every year seems to do, and I look forward to the laughter and making memories with my family!

Oh Christmas Tree!

The family Christmas Tree is finally decorated. Decorating the Christmas Tree is a big deal to me as it was for my Dad, and as I hope it always will be for my daughter.

When I was a kid we would go out as a family, always on a Sunday to pick out our Christmas Tree. My Dad would choose the biggest, gaudiest tree he could find. They would tie it to the top of my Dad’s big Cadillac and we would drive home in the sealed car full of cigarette smoke.

My Dad preferred decorating the tree on his own. He would lay the tree on its side to screw it in the stand. He would place the angel on the top, the same angel year after year. We had the big colorful hot lights so my Dad would let me put the foil backings on the bulbs which were for preventing the tree from burning down. Then he would string the lights, carefully string the gold garland, and then start on the ornaments.

If I put on an ornament, I would always see later on that it was moved.

Still, I learned a lot watching and was always proud of our family tree, and of my Dad. Everyone would always come to admire Johnny’s tree.

When I grew up and got married I bought a big and gaudy tree too, and decorated it just like my Dad. I had my own angel now which we got in Woolworths. I included the gold garland and lots and lots of tinsel just like Dad.

As time went on, I evolved. I got rid of the gold garland and said good riddance to the nuisance of tinsel which had a million label warnings. I replaced the garland with red bows and used little white lights. More than 25 years later the angel died and I replaced the Woolworth one with one from Amazon.

Along the way, my Dad died. He left all his Christmas ornaments to me.

My daughter and I have been decorating the tree together for years. I almost never move her ornaments.

Today we still decorate the tree together. It’s my favorite part of Christmas. We even have the color lights again, but now they’re cool to touch thanks to technology. We’re still getting a live tree because I’m stubborn and refuse to get an artificial one. I’m hoping my daughter will feel this way too, but I have a feeling that won’t be the case.

We have ornaments for every year 1990-2020.

We have baby first Christmas ornaments and Best Teacher ornaments too.

There are dozens of Disney World ornaments, and ornaments from many of the places we have traveled.

There’s an ornament for each dog we had over the years.

Many ornaments were made by my children and by me too.

my favorite ornaments used to be the ornaments that were once placed on my Dad’s Christmas Tree.

Now they are the ones my daughter gives me!

Bright Lights

I’m always looking for something to do near me and on Long Island you can always find something. During the holiday season this year, I feel it’s especially important to try to find safe and festive activities. No matter what happens, you can’t stop Christmas from coming, so you might as well enjoy the season.

Last week we went to The Jones Beach Christmas Lights, and last night we went to Bright Lights at the Vanderbilt Museum.

The Vanderbilt Museum was once the Gold Coast home of William K. Vanderbilt. Recognized as a potential museum by its owner, Vanderbilt established a trust fund to finance the operation of the museum, and deeded it to Suffolk County, NY upon his death in 1944. The museum opened to the public in 1950.

Today you can and take mansion tours, explore the waterfront grounds including a seaplane and boathouse. In addition, there is a Planetarium Complex where visitors come to holiday shows, educational shows, and even rock laser shows.

This was my first visit to the estate grounds, but my daughter had come in 4th grade for the mansion tour and planetarium. Apparently, all Long Island 4th graders have field trips here.

Bright Lights was an enjoyable evening. We enjoyed strolling the expansive grounds and imagining what life here was like long ago. The grounds were decorated with familiar light displays. The entrance to the courtyard was similar to an expansive drawbridge. The courtyard had me turning in circles imagining the parties that were once held there. The mansion was closed, but I hope to come back for a tour in the spring.

We took pictures with Santa, which was a little different this year, and drank hot cocoa.

This is a fun time for kids and those who are young at heart.

Deck The Halls!!!

After more than 30 years of marriage and a teaching career, We have acquired quite a collection of Christmas decorations for around the house. Many of our decorations are Christmas gifts from my students. Our children also made some of the decorations when they were young in school, and no matter how worn and tired they look I still display them. Some were my parents, and I keep and display these worn and tired decorations too. Whether they were gifts, crafts, holiday favors, department store bought, or holiday clearance items, they all come out from their year long storage to don our home each Christmas.

Many decorations were gifts from my students over the years…

I’d like to say I remember who gave each gift, but I do remember many.

Swedeena gave me the snowman with a bottle of Chanel #5. I’m not sure if the snowman was handmade.

Brendan gave me the Best Teacher Ever hanging which I love because its the only decoration we display specifically for teachers.

Cody gave me the Nativity Snow Globe which plays Hark the Herald Angels Sing… He was a special kid and this was a special gift. I loved his mother too! She was always there to help out.

Keghan gave the glass nativity ornament that no longer lights up. I don’t put it on the tree because it’s too heavy.

I always received coffee mugs because Mrs. Moerler was always drinking coffee.

The hanging Santa came with some kind of lotion or cologne with Santa’s arms around it.

The Let IT Snow nesting boxes were full of sweets.

The Dreams Do Come True plate is one of my favorites but I don’t remember which student gave it to me.

Cody’s Nativity Snow Globe sparked a phase of Snow Globe collecting…

Snow Globes from Disney World, Mary Poppins on Broadway, and a free gift from Target.

Santa comes in many forms…

Some are very old! They were once displayed in my childhood home…

My daughter’s pre-k class enjoyed holiday crafts…

More school crafts…

And here’s a hodgepodge of the remaining decorations…

It’s a hodgepodge of decorations collected over the years. Nothing fancy, but put them all together and it’s my life.

Looking forward to sharing our Christmas tree and all the ornaments!

Jones Beach Christmas Lights

I went with my husband to the Jones Beach Christmas Lights which is actually called Magic of Lights and it was really great!

These days with Covid it’s hard to come up with things to do. We went out to eat last week for my husband’s birthday, but I’m not overly thrilled about indoor dining and outdoor dining these days might as well be indoors with these pop up tents.

If you go to magicoflights.com you can pre order tickets that are good for any day of the week. If you order online tickets are $25 and they scan your ticket right on your phone like a boarding pass. At the gate tickets are $30 Monday-Thursday and $35 Friday- Sunday. Magic of Lights runs from November 13 -January 2, 2021. 5PM- 10PM Sunday-Thursday and 5PM-11PM Friday and Saturday. It is closed on New Years Eve.

We went on a Monday night around 5 like a couple of old people, thinking there would be no line. Turns out a lot of people had the same idea. Magic of Lights is an activity that’s fun for the whole family and safe for anyone who may be worried about catching the virus. This is probably why its so popular, and it’s not like you could go to the movies or your kids sporting event, so more people are looking for fun and safe things to do.

As you enter you can set your car stereo to Walk F.M and Christmas music plays as you drive through the displays. Using the latest LED technology and digital animations you can experience many familiar scenes which I found very nostalgic. For example Twas the Night before Christmas where you see colorful sleeping mouse and Santa coming down the chimney. They also have The 12 Days of Christmas beginning with a partridge in a pear tree and ending with 12 drummers drumming.

They have a few of the overhead light drive throughs which are always fun and many familiar Christmas symbols such as elves, toys, trees, and of course Santa. They take you on a trip around the world and of course they don’t neglect the true meaning of Christmas with the Nativity scene.

I highly recommend this activity to just about anyone. It’s safe, fun, and will help you get in the holiday spirit! Merry Christmas!

Traveling During A Pandemic

I recently returned from a wonderful trip to St. Lucia with my husband. If you spend a lot of time watching the news, you may think we’re crazy, but it was extremely safe and we had a great time!

We were supposed to travel for the first time without kids in more than 25 years for our 30th anniversary in March to The Bahamas, but everyone knows that’s when everything started to turn bad.

That same trip was changed to later in the year to Antigua, then St. Thomas, and finally to Sandals in St. Lucia.

We had to fill out a Travel Authorization Form basically stating who we were and where we were staying. They approved our travel in a few days through an email. We had to print and travel with this form. We also had to get a PCR Covid test within 7 days of traveling and send the results via email. You must travel with this documentation too. To me these were the 2 most complicated things because they were different from previous travel experiences.

Well, due to the pandemic, on our travel day, everything was quick and easy. We were very happy to give our regular limo company for trips some business, and pulling up to the JetBlue terminal was easy. We had a short line to check in our luggage and security. The airport was setup with covid safety protocols throughout.

The flight was on time and boarding was quick and easy since the plane wasn’t full. We had a seat empty between us which was great for comfort and the convenience of not having to sit with a stranger.

We were number one to take off on the runway!

I guess the pilot was happy about all this because he sounded very pleasant as he made the usual announcements about travel time and weather. He was very funny! He welcomed us to The Escape From New York Flight! (Which it was, literally.)

The flight was really uneventful and when we landed you could get off the front or the back of the plane and head to a line where we had our temperature checked and showed our travel documentation and negative PCR tests. We were brandished with a paper bracelet that proved we went through this process. Customs was pretty routine and Sandals representatives were on standby to escort us to the waiting area for our shuttle. Temperature checks and hand sanitizing were mandatory throughout each checkpoint. Our shuttle driver even had his temperature checked.

We shared the shuttle with 2 other couples and we were spaced apart and were required to wear masks. It was a friendly ride and it was great to meet a couple that managed to finally go on their honeymoon. We met many young couples at the resort that were on their honeymoon. It’s nice to know people are still getting married these days!

Throughout our stay at Sandals we felt very comfortable. Everyone working there was required to wear a mask and we were prompted to use the available hand sanitizer often as we navigated the resort. Sun chairs and restaurant seating were all spaced apart. Most restaurants were open air restaurants which was just like doing outdoor dining at home.

Our room was cleaned thoroughly with an emphasis on touch points on a daily basis. We never felt at any point on the vacation that we were risking exposure to the virus, yet the resort was fun and included many of the usual amenities with proper precautions.

We went on one excursion horseback riding and all precautions were taken. They were very diligent and strict about enforcing mask wearing and use of hand sanitizer and hand washing. It was great to be on an excursion and everyone involved was more than willing to follow appropriate protocols.

Returning home was just the same with strict protocols at the airport and once again we were number one for takeoff on the runway!

I know it sounds scary to travel, but in my opinion life is short and fleeting, as I wrote in a previous blog, When should you travel? Any Chance you Get!

I will be traveling again in January because I’m a firm believer in living my life. At this point I have the knowledge of how to take precautions and keep safe, and the Caribbean does too. They are welcoming visitors and taking every step to make Travel safe and fun as it should be!

How Did I End Up Watching So Much News?

I’m not sure exactly how it happened, or when, but somehow my television was on the same cable news channel the entire day. I could tell you what time it was basically by seeing or hearing which news show was on my television.

I retired about a year and a half ago and somehow became a cable news junkie. I didn’t actually sit and watch tv all day, but I had the news on in the background as I went through my day.

In my later years as a teacher, I didn’t have much time for tv because after work I had family obligations and my schoolwork definitely became more complicated. In the evening, I would keep the news on in the background, but that wasn’t always the case though.

Over the years I remember watching sitcoms such as Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond, Roseanne and other shows faithfully. I also never missed Knots Landing, Cold Case, and Parenthood. These shows all ended and I discovered Mad Man, Desperate Housewives, and Rescue Me. I even delved into reality television watching American Idol, The Apprentice, and Chef Ramsey.

Somewhere along the way I couldn’t tell you the name of one primetime show and watching the Emmys would be futile. I didn’t know any channel I should turn to watch anything but the news.

Perhaps I got caught up in the election or politics in general… but now I’m over it and I want to watch anything but the news! I’m learning how to watch television again, but in new and very different ways for me.

I discovered that I can watch Law & Order SVU pretty much anytime of day. I’m definitely not a fan of daytime talk shows, dramas, or courtroom shows. (This may be how I started watching the news in the first place).

I still don’t really know anything to watch on basic cable, but have watched a few things on Netflix. Nurse Ratchet, American Horror Story, Dr. Foster to name a few.

I recently became interested in plant-based eating and watched a few informative documentaries such as Game Changers and What theHealth? This led me to explore more, and I now have an endless supply of documentaries on plant-based eating on Youtube. This takes many forms from documentaries, testimonials, Ted Talks etc. such as Forks Over Knives and Plant PureNation.

Now that we are heading into the winter, my second retired winter, I’m determined not to watch news all day. It’s fine to watch a little local news here and there, but now I’m watching a variety of genres mostly on Netflix and YouTube. SVUs too.

I’m also learning to just leave the tv off and not just have it on for the sake of having it on. I’m putting music on and also find myself just kind of singing or just enjoying the solitude. I’m no longer a cable news junkie!

I have a feeling if I was watching too much news, that there’s a whole group of people just like me. There’s a lot more out there than the 24/7 News Cycle!

Mid 50’s Lifestyle Changes for Better Health and Wellness

My father used to tell me, “Jennifer your 40’s are great. It’s in your 50’s that the chips start to fall off the block.” Well I’m 56 and suddenly the chips are starting to fall! I’ve decided to make some lifestyle changes for better health and wellness.

All my life I’ve had to watch my weight and have yo yo dieted more times than I can count. My dieting days go way back to the Scarsdale Diet, Tab, Fresca, and Jack La Lanne.

I’ve been on Atkin’s, Weight Watchers (Many Versions), South Beach, Jenny Craig, Coffee and Cigarettes, Low Carb, No Carb, Keto, etc, etc.

In 2019, I gave up meat and dairy for Lent and pretty much haven’t gone back except when going out to eat, take out on weekends, or vacations. I never eat cake, cookies, sweets, or carbs besides an occasional pita bread unless its a celebration. I live mostly on fruits and vegetables in season. I have kept my weight at a healthy number. Recently I had two trips to the doctor where my blood pressure wasn’t its usual 110/70. First chip off the block!

During the pandemic with the gym closed, my daughter and I took up walking. We visited many preserves and went hiking on local trails, and began taking more than 60 minute walks a day around the neighborhood. Walking is good for the heart and I was surprised that my blood pressure was high. Regardless, regular walking is one habit I plan to keep for the remainder of my days.

In regards to my blood pressure, I looked more closely at my eating habits and discovered that grated parmesan cheese has plenty of sodium. I had not given this up because if you are Italian, you put grated cheese on everything. There’s an old saying, “You should stop talking to anyone who comments about the amount of grated cheese you use. Who needs that kind of negativity in your life?”

So, I replace the grated cheese with pepper and pretty quickly have brought my blood pressure back to its usual range. Apparently, my body is now sensitive to the amount of sodium I consume.

I recently had a physical, and as a stated my blood pressure was now normal, but I was very surprised to find out that my cholesterol was 216. Previously it was always in the 160’s. Another chip off the block!

I don’t eat meat and cheese, but I do eat eggs. I guess I was overdoing it with the eggs as my cholesterol showed. Now I have to go back in 3 months for another fasting blood test. This is the first time this has happened. Usually I just return annually. Another chip off the block!

I gave up the eggs. Now I’m down to fruit and vegetables and I added in whole oats and chick peas and black beans. One day a week, sometimes two we go out or get take out, but basically I eat zero animal products. This is my new norm for health and wellness.

During the pandemic while the gym was closed, I finally figured out how to utilize YouTube for exercise. I really like it! I can explore endless instructors and different kinds of exercise programs. Yoga and Pilates are my 2 main interest areas. I try a class and if I don’t like it, I can just changed it. It’s a definite plus. There’s no awkwardness about leaving a class or not returning to a class. I also don’t have to worry about what I wear which in Garden City you can it caught in that fashion trap. YouTube is great for a dog sitter because I don’t have to leave them and go off to the gym. The dogs all seem to know when its exercise time and usually doze off for a while. A Frenchie I watch always sits on the end of the mat and I work around him.

Recently my gym opened up and at first I decided I didn’t want to go back just yet, but then I had a change of heart. I returned for a couple of barre classes and Pilates, but found that my lower back was really acting up. Another chip off the block!

A couple of mornings I could barely walk and if I sat down too long I got really stiff. Well apparently I have sciatica and some other disc issues and visit a chiropractor regularly now. Another chip off the block!

Now I’m back to the vigorous walking and some hiking. Occasionally I get heel pain, but that seems to subside pretty quickly. I’m back on YouTube bouncing from Pilates, Yin Yoga, and Flow. I ordered 5 pound weights from Amazon to keep my arms firm because my weak triceps are another chip off the block.

My health and wellness in my mid 50’s is now regular walks, yoga and Pilates. No jumping and nothing too strenuous.  The chiropractor is now a regular thing which I kind of enjoy because we have lively talks about politics.  

I eat fruits and vegetables in season which is currently cantaloupe and apples. I buy blueberries year round no matter how much they cost. I make sautés of vegetables – currently red onions, peppers, and fresh spinach and mix in some beans and have a pita bread. Soon it will be time for air frying brussel sprouts and other winter veggies.

I do cheat on Saturdays and at celebrations. I have a few upcoming vacations planned too. I’m hoping that my commitment to my health and wellness on most days will pay off in the long run. I’ll return for my blood work in a few months and I’m sure without all the eggs I’ve was eating it will be well under 200.

I am blessed at 56 to be a “young 56” and I plan to fight for my health and wellness every step of the way. It is said that health is the real wealth. Without your health you don’t really have anything.

Cooperstown, New York

Last month my husband and I took a road trip to Cooperstown, New York. It is a great little town and we really enjoyed our two night stay there. On the way to Cooperstown, you pass right by Howe Caverns so we figured we might as well plan a pit stop there. It was definitely a one time thing, but fun.

This would be our first time staying in a Bed and Breakfast in our 30 year marriage. We thought it would be fun to try now that we were traveling without kids. When we arrived at the Landmark Inn we were very happy with its outward appearance. We figured we give checking in a shot, but soon learned that B&Bs are not hotels. Check in time was FIRM!

We drove over to Main Street which is literally Main Street USA! God Bless America all the way! I instantly fell in love. We strolled around Main Street to get a sense of things and wandered down some side streets and discovered Lake Front Park on Otsego Lake. We had a great lunch at Cooley’s Stone House Tavern. Indoor dining had pretty much just returned to Cooperstown , and you could tell the employees were very happy about that.

After lunch we decided to head over to play mini golf which was a short straight drive down Chestnut Avenue since it was still too early for checkin at the B&B. We thought Barnyard Swing was the greatest mini golf site! Not only was it a fun and challenging course, the best classic rock hits of all time streamed through the large speakers as we made our way from one hole to the next. We liked it so much we actually came back the next day to play again!

Finally it was time to check in. We learned that our room was actually not in the house but around back. We had a Key West theme room which had a separate entrance and porch. It was a little disappointing to find out that we wouldn’t have a daily cleaning service, afternoon tea and cookies, and evening wine. Apparently, the coronavirus was the reason. We accepted that, but when I went to Cape May with my daughter a week later, Angel of the Sea managed to clean our room and have the afternoon tea, cookies, wine and antipasto.

Like I said, this was our first B&B and we didn’t know any better. The breakfast didn’t options and the serving was so small we had lunch both days of our stay. Lunch was not needed at my Cape May stay.

On our full day in Cooperstown we went to the Hall of Fame, the Fenimore Art Museum, and wandered around the Cooperstown neighborhood, played mini golf, ate at the best Northern Italian restaurant, Northern Italian Grill and got ice-cream.

The Hall of Fame is fun for the whole family. Its great for baseball fans of course, but it really is a great place to see American history and American Heroes.

The Fenimore Art Museum is right on Otsego Lake. It’s a great museum on beautiful grounds. It’s definitely worth a visit.

The Northern Italian Grill is a must do! Kind of dream of living in this beautiful town and eating here on Saturday nights! Perfect place!

On the morning before we drove home we visited the Doubleday Field and the Main Street Bakery. Every Little Leaguer dreams of playing on this field. The bakery is truly like stepping back in time to Main Street USA. The people who live here are fortunate to be able to frequent this establishment regularly.

We really love this town and will have fond memories of our getaway.

Cooperstown Notable Names

William Cooper, was a wealthy land speculator, county judge, and father of novelist James Fenimore Cooper. The village of Cooperstown on Lake Otsego in central New York is a shrine to pure Americana, the home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. *Source Wikipedia

It was incorporated as the “Village of Otsego” on April 3, 1807. The name was changed to “Village of Cooperstown June 12, 1812, after the founder. William Cooper was appointed as a county judge in the late 18th century and was elected to the state assembly from Otsego County. *Source Wikipedia

Otsego Lake takes its name from the Iroquois Indians, who inhabited the area around the lake in and before the 17th century. The name Otsego is from a Mohawk word meaning “place of the rock”, referring to the large boulder near the lake’s outlet, today known as Council Rock. *Source Wikipedia

James Fenimore Cooper (September 15, 1789 – September 14, 1851) was an American writer of the first half of the 19th century. His historical romances depicting frontier and Native American life from the 17th to the 19th centuries created a unique form of American Literature. He lived much of his boyhood and the last fifteen years of life in Cooperstown, New York which was founded by his father William on property that he owned. *Source Wikipedia

The Doubleday myth refers to the belief that the sport of baseball was invented in 1839 by future American Civil War general Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, New York. In response to a dispute over whether baseball originated in the United States or was a variation of the British game, rounders the Mill Commission was formed in 1905 to seek out evidence. Mining engineer Abner Graves authored a letter claiming that Doubleday invented baseball. The letter was published in a newspaper and eventually used by the Mills Commission to support its finding that the game was of American origin. In 1908, it named Doubleday the creator of baseball. *Source Wikipedia

Cape May and Angel of the Sea

Now that I’m retired, one of my life goals is to visit one beach at a time. I do have my local beaches on Long Island which are beautiful, and in the past year I traveled to some really nice beaches in the Caribbean, but things are different now.

I was looking for a quick getaway with my daughter and with Covid that means road trip. We either like beaches or amusement parks, and amusement parks are definitely not the greatest choice at the moment.

I was scrolling through my Instagram one afternoon and an advertisement for Angel of the Sea came up. It is a bed and breakfast in Cape May, New Jersey. I did my research using Google and Tripadvisor and we decided to check it out. It advertised being steps away from the beach and boardwalk and had quite a few amenities.

It’s an easy drive from New York along the Garden State Parkway to Cape May. It took us a little more than 3 hours. As we arrived, I quickly felt reminiscent of my childhood growing up in Rockaway Beach, New York. The town looked how Rockaway did many years ago with the large Victorian homes.

We were early of course for check- in so we decided to take a stroll on the main drag Beach Avenue where you have the boardwalk on the seaside with some shops and eateries, and homes, restaurants, shops, motels, and hotels on the opposite side. We just loved this first walk down this strip exploring. We probably walked back in forth about ten times in our 4 day stay. We discovered quaint little surf shops, eateries and even a couple of mini golf places which I always seem to find on vacation. We got an ice coffee and snack and headed back to get some sun on the beach.

Angel of the Sea provides chairs and towel and you pay a $5 fee per day for a beach pass as you enter the beach. The beach is large and very clean. We found it very easy to social distance with our chairs close to the shore. Again I was reminiscent of my childhood in Rockaway. The beach atmosphere was very much the same.

Couples were playing frisbee and Kadima. Kids were digging and building sand castles and other structures, and there were a lot of boogie boards. The ocean was great! The waves were what we use to call “Dive or Die” waves. You either went under, rode the wave in, or got knocked over. FUN!

Also as you sat on the shore planes flew by with their advertisements for everything under the sun. I haven’t seen those planes in years. There were speedboats, party boats, jet skiers galore. It was an overall happening scene.

Angel of the Sea was a pleasant surprise! Our room was a 3rd floor walk up Victorian themed and perfect for a mother-daughter stay with a scenic porch steps away. Everyday we had a delicious breakfast where we had choices for our entree. I tend to choose the one with the most carbs when I’m on vacation. We had all the juice, coffee, and fruit and breakfast pastries our heart desired.

In the afternoon they have tea and pastries, but I was very happy to find out you can have coffee too. This was perfect after a day at the beach. In the evening, they have antipasto and wine! This was great! A couple of glasses of Moscato and some salty hors d’ oeuvres really hit the spot. The service was so efficient and pleasant and the best part was the outdoor seating on the Angel of the Sea porch with the salt air and scenery.

Our nights were filled with long walks, seaside outdoor dining restaurants, ice cream and of course mini- golf.

There’s a great shopping area called the Washington Street Mall. There’s plenty of souvenir shops, specialty shops, food and drink.

Cape May is the kind of place where you can eat at pizza places like Carney’s and reasonably priced restaurants like Mermaids or you can eat at the $60 per person or live lobster joints. You can get ice cream and falafel at Seaview Beach Eats or walk up lobster rolls and Italian ices. Cape May is great for whatever kind of vacation you’re looking for.

Of course one night we went on the beach to take the classic Cape May lifeboat and lifeguard chair photos.

There was plenty more to do in Cape May. We were provided with bicycles but unfortunately my daughter isn’t the greatest rider, so we walked the backstreets exploring the different Victorian homes. They have trolley tours and horse and carriage rides. You can climb the infamous lighthouse or visit the historic district.

I highly recommend Cape May and Angel of the Sea for a beach vacation. In the year of the road trip, I’m glad we found this gem. My daughter and I will have fond memories of our trip to Cape May!

Howe Caverns

When I was a teen in the early 1980s, I didn’t have instant access to answers to questions I had, or things I wondered about. My resources were my parents, the Encyclopedia Brittanica, and the local library; and these resources often weren’t very useful in answering my questions.

When my close friend bought her first used car when we were 17 it was the typical “first car” you had in those days. Pretty old and dated, no bells and whistles, just the basics. We didn’t care it got us some new found freedom and lots of good times.

One thing this old Chevy had was a bumper sticker that said, Howe Caverns. We had no idea what Howe Caverns was, and no one we asked knew either. Some nights we would walk from the boardwalk in a “fog” and pass by the car and giggle, “Howe Caverns” blissfully ignorant to what the heck that bumper sticker really meant.

Thirty something years later, I googled road trip/day trip ideas from Long Island. Wouldn’t you know it, what would come up on the list was Howe Caverns! I chuckled and was back in time for a few moments.

That was last year long before the pandemic. When I read how long the drive was I kind of lost interest for a day trip, but I finally knew that Howe Caverns was a very popular tourist attraction where you explored a cave. It stated it had a motel and pool but the whole idea just went by the wayside.

This year is the year of the road trip! My husband and I decided that we were going to go to Cooperstown for a couple of days. When I researched Things to do in Cooperstown wouldn’t you know it, Howe Caverns came up on the list! When I brought it up to my husband he laughed and said a friend mentioned to him that we should check it out because its on the way to Cooperstown.

Howe Caverns is in rural Schoharie County, New York. The exact address is 255 Discovery Drive, Howes Cave, NY. It literally is Howes Cave NY because there really isn’t anything else in the area.

It took us little more than 3 hours from Long Island to get there. They were very organized and I was surprised how popular this place really was. They have a tour every 15 minutes and they were booked. Of course the number of people were curtailed from the norm to allow for social distancing. As we waited for our tour we took a walk around, and the motel, pool, and restaurant definitely weren’t up to my usually vacation standards, but we did have a good time on our tour!

We had an entertaining young man as our tour guide. His comedy was kind of like being on the Jungle Cruise at Disney World. We learned how Mr. Howe discovered the cave, toured the cave admiring the wonders that have been formed from years of erosion, and even had a fun boat ride. All in all we had a good time.

I personally wouldn’t recommend Howe Caverns as your only destination. We went on our way to Cooperstown and I’m sure there are countless places in upstate NY you could visit before or after your trip to Howe Caverns. From what I saw, I wouldn’t recommend an overnight stay. They did have a nice gift shop if you wanted a souvenir and the large chocolate chip cookies looked pretty good.

They do have some haunted Halloween events coming up which I would imagine would be pretty scary in the cave. I would do that if I was passing through on my way to or from somewhere else.

At least the mystery is solved and I now know what Howe Caverns is. The pandemic was definitely good for bringing back the great American road trip.

I Think I Reached Phase 4

Dog Sitting during a Pandemic

When I retired last year from teaching, my plan was to make some side money dog sitting so I could travel. I’ve been dog sitting for about 5 years now, always with the plan that this would be my side hustle.

All was going as planned…

When I retired last year in the end of June, my daughter and I went to Universal Studios and were back in time for the usual Fourth of July rush @ Jen’s Doggy Daycare. As always we would be celebrating our guest Wallace’s birthday with all his dog pals. The summer was busy as usual with “regulars” and new pups keeping me content and busy.

In the fall, I was able to travel to D.C. and to visit friends in Massachusetts. My plan was working!

Holidays are always hectic @Jen’s Doggy Daycare with my regulars Sadie whose Mom goes to see her son in Miami or her daughter in Los Angeles, and Yofi whose Mom prides herself in planning extended extravagant trips at the end of each year. We celebrated the New Year with new dogs Toby and D.J. whose parents went off to Jamaica for a family getaway.

In January, my daughter and I went on a 10 day getaway to Puerto Rico and a cruise. I was sure to start this vacation as all my teacher friends were returning to work. Made it kind of bittersweet.

When we returned I had a pretty busy February and March dog sitting. Things were really going great and I was looking forward to celebrating my 30th wedding anniversary in The Bahamas in the end of March.

That’s when everything changed….

It soon became very apparent that it wasn’t a very good idea to go on this trip, no matter how much we were looking forward to it. JetBlue was great about a credit for a future JetBlue Vacation. It was just about right at this moment, most people’s worlds came to a screeching halt for “15 Days to Slow the Spread”.

If you think about it,

With my one single vacation cancellation: the dog sitter doesn’t get paid, the limo driver doesn’t have a run, the shuttle guy doesn’t get paid and no tip, no tips for the bartenders and no money spent on excursions and souvenirs. The airline and hotel workers have less and less reason to keep paying a worker. Worst of all, little did we all know that it was going to be a lot more than 15 days.

And just like that, Jen’s Doggy Daycare went dark...

If there’s no weekend getaways, no cruises, no European trips, no Caribbean vacations, no business travel…. There’s no Jen’s Doggy Daycare. So many bookings were cancelled for the next few months. Some were rescheduled and cancelled again.

Slow start back…

March, April and May were quiet but here in the NY suburbs, things slowly started getting better, and slowly Jen’s Doggy Daycare started anew. I actually had a meet and greet! Lola, a lapso apso was suppose to stay Memorial Day weekend. They changed their plans and she ended up staying for just Sunday night, but it was a start. One dog, one night in May on Memorial Day Weekend.

Lola came for a couple of over night stays in June, and then an extended weekend. (They had family to stay with in NJ.) Bruno whose family cancelled during spring break came for Father’s Day weekend while his parents went to Montauk. (This year is definitely the year of the road trip.)

I think I reached phased four…

July 4th weekend was the real turning point for Jen’s Doggy Daycare. Bentley the French bulldog puppy came to stay. Bentley is what you call a quarantine puppy. It turns out during the extended lockdown, many people decided that it was a great time to get a dog. People had plenty of time for training, and dogs are always a good idea if you need some cheering up. Bentley came for one weekend, then another, and now comes twice a week for daycare while his parents are at work.

Fancy’s parents went to see their daughter for a weekend in Albany. Aria’s parents whose Mom is a must teacher, hence the name went to Alaska. Aria is a mini poodle who also is a result of the quarantine. Her parents are first time dog owners. I’m hoping to watch Aria for years to come. Roxie the cavapoo was back for an overnight stay. Buster the beagle stayed a week in August while his family were in Pennsylvania. I really like a beagle!

In addition, the daycare side of Jen’s Doggy Daycare has been very active with day trips and people visiting from the city (also with new quarantine puppies) who need a place to leave their puppy while attending various parties.

The future is looking bright…

I squeezed in a road trip with my husband to Cooperstown and I’m heading to Cape May with my daughter for a few days. I’m back to watching dogs and traveling. Like I said, its clearly the summer that road trips made a comeback.

I have bookings for the remainder of August, Labor Day, and September, and of course I have Bentley a couple of days a week for daycare. I feel blessed knowing that Jen’s Doggy Daycare’s future is bright, and look forward to many more years of dog sitting and traveling because my ultimate goal is for me to live a happy retirement life!

Teladoc to the Rescue

Update! I must give another shout out to Teladoc. I think they are the single best thing to come out of this pandemic.

I went to the beach this week during the heatwave and went in the ocean numerous times and have water stuck in my right ear. I tried all the techniques suggested on the Internet for relief with no success. So what do you do? You log in to Teladoc!

In March, in the heart of the pandemic, I had an eye issue and discovered Teladoc. It is the greatest service. All you do is create a profile on their site and put in your concern and they give you the option to call you or FaceTime you.

This time on a Saturday morning at 7AM standing in my kitchen in my pajamas, I received a phone call after two minutes of logging in. The doctor patiently listened to my concerns, asked me a few questions and suggested an antibiotic ear drop. He also gave me suggestions for a follow up if the issue wasn’t resolved.

Like I said, I think Teladoc is the greatest thing to happen during the pandemic. It brought back the days of just calling the doctor and getting a prescription. It may not be your own personal doctor, but it’s the next best thing.

When you have minor issues that can be addressed without having to wait for an appointment and visit the doctor, I suggest Teledoc. There’s no traveling. No waiting. No risk of interacting with a sick or contagious person. In addition, with my insurance there is no cost!

In a few minutes, I’ll be going through the CVS drive through and picking up my prescription and on the road to recovery.

What do you do when you need a doctor? Call Teladoc!

Chihuahuas Are My Favorite People

One of my favorite sayings is, “Dogs are welcome. People are tolerated.” As a lifelong dog mom and as a dog sitter this statement is very true. I love watching all kinds of dogs for day trips, weekends, or extended stays, but my favorite dog to have for my very own is a chihuahua.

In Dog Sitter Life, I wrote about my pug Fiona. She’s a great family dog and always fun and loving. I also wrote about my less outgoing handsome puppy mill rescue dog Stitch the Yorkie. In I Miss You All The Time, I wrote about my soul dog Gabby.

Gabby was the love of my life! We had a connection that I have never had with any other dog, and with few people. She got me! When she got sick and died I was so heart broken and lost without her.

Chihuahuas are notorious for being loyal to one person, and I was very fortunate to be that person. She only had eyes for me and we were attached at the hip. Two peas in a pod. She could look me in the eye and touch me like few people I have ever known.

Last summer, I spent the whole summer without her which made me sad because blue skies, sunshine, and soaking up the sun was the epitome of Gabby and me. My Instagram posts say it all… Blue skies, sunshine and Gabby….Another great day with Gabby… Summer Sunday Selfie with Gabby…

Well… the whole summer went by and I was pretty busy dog sitting and life went on. September came and for the first time in my life I didn’t have to go back to school. I started browsing rescue sites for chihuahuas. I was just looking because I could never replace Gabby. Most of the chihuahuas were mixed and none were teacup anyway. I would let that thought go and resume planning new vacations and living my new retired life.

Then I got it in my head that maybe I would volunteer at a dog shelter. One of the local shelters was having an event at a pet store near me, so I figured I check them out. I walked into the pet store and one of the volunteers was holding a teacup chihuahua! What are the odds? Arthur was the cutest thing, and I was so happy when she let me hold him. She kind of went off to do other things and left me with him. I texted my daughter and husband who agreed he was adorable, and showed no resistance in the idea of me adopting him. I held him for a long while, then I got this feeling of being disloyal to Gabby. I gave him back, thanked the girl, and went home.

I went home but I wasn’t happy… The next morning when I woke up I completed an online application for Arthur. How could there be a less than 1 year old teacup chihuahua available for me to rescue and then let it go?

We went off to D.C. to celebrate my son’s birthday for a couple of days. When we returned I had a very comprehensive phone interview and a home visit. We found out that Arthur was found walking the streets somewhere in Texas. He seemed really comfortable with my husband (haha) and was very social with the other dogs. Of course we passed the interview and visit. Then we headed back to the store to pick him up.

When we went to pick him up he was in a small carrier and seemed very nervous. I promised myself right there that I would never put him in a carrier again. We had to get a name tag, leash, and collar before we were able to adopt him. Arthur became Andy because all our dogs are named after Disney characters. Plus Arthur isn’t the greatest name for a chihuahua.

It is said that when adopting a dog it takes your dog 3 days to try to figure out their new home and family. 3 weeks to figure out that they will live with you and start a routine. 3 months to feel like part of the family.

Andy was very comfortable with my other dogs and any dog I was petsitting right from the beginning. He was potty trained which is a plus when you rescue a dog that was living in a foster home. He was leery of people and kept his distance which was weird since he didn’t mind it in the pet store when I met him, and with my husband at the home visitation.

It didn’t take long for him to gravitate toward me though. He was jealous of other dogs getting attention and started kissing me, and eventually letting me pick him up. One thing that was very different from Gabby was that he was very food oriented. I could lure him easily with promise of a treat. We figured his prior experiences of having to find food made him this way. To this day I have to worry about overfeeding him because he gets fat so easily.

In a short while, I became his person . Of course! He loves routine and hates when you waver from it. Andy loves to wake up at sunrise, jump all over me and kiss me to death, and literally go dancing through the house. Probably because he’s going to eat. lol

Andy makes friends with all the dogs. Our own, and our visitors.

Andy loves all the holidays. He participated in the blessing of the animals, Halloween and Christmas.

Andy is here about 9 months now and he definitely feels like part of the family. Like most Chihuahuas he is loyal to one person- me. He’s not really interested in any other humans at all. We have moments of real connection where we communicate with just our eyes. The sweetest thing he does is kiss and kiss my face incessantly then nuzzle under my neck where I kiss his head repeatedly making the muh muh sound. He nudges my ankle to pick him up which I do immediately. We are surely on the road to a lasting relationship.

Some people are dachshund lovers. Some love golden retrievers. Some families will keep adopting beagles. I’m a chihuahua person. They are my favorite people!

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