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!

Bailey Arboretum

I’ve known my whole life that the beach was my happy place. Growing up in Rockaway Beach, N.Y just one house from the boardwalk and ocean, my friends would call me (on the house phone) to see if there were waves, and I would stretch the long telephone wire onto the porch to check it out. The beach was all I knew growing up being kind of isolated on the peninsula, and I can count on one hand the number of family vacations we took.

When I got married and had kids we visited The Poconos, Disney World (lots of times), and went on various cruises. Of course we visited Caribbean Islands and beautiful beaches, but there was always somewhere else kind of tugging me in another direction. I discovered that I enjoyed strolling and hiking in wooded areas.

As we moved away from Disney trips, my daughter and I always made it a point to go on at least one hike per trip. We explored the El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico, a bamboo forest in Hawaii, rain forests in St. Lucia, Curacao, and recently in Martinique on our cruise in January. Booking a hiking excursion became as important as booking a beach excursion.

Somewhere along the way in our marriage, we moved to Long Island for better schools for our kids. Being a teacher, I still had my summers with Long Island beaches and our annual family vacation. Last year everything changed. I no longer spent my days at work and my nights planning and preparing for the next day. I no longer just planned and looked forward to my annual family vacation. I retired!

My life now revolves around dog sitting, planning vacations, and finding things to do near me. Summer was like it always was, but in the fall I started looking for things to do near me, and for the first time in a long time I enjoyed the season of fall. One of the places we discovered was the Bailey Arboretum.

Bailey Arboretum is located on the North Shore of Long Island in Lattingtown, N.Y. There’s 42 acres of trails and gardens and you can visit throughout the year for free. They do have events such as Family Day and Popcorn and Pajamas. My husband and I enjoyed getting lost along the leaf littered trails and enjoying all the beauty fall had to offer here on Long Island. We visited many leaf littered wooded areas on Long Island and for the very first time in a long time, I was able to take a deep breath and enjoy the beauty of the fall season.

Turns out spring is even nicer than the fall walking through these wooded areas. I wrote about the beauty of The Muttontown Preserve and Planting Fields Arboretum previously, and how great it is to find things to do near me, and the awesomeness of spring green. Emerald green is the dominant color.

I never really noticed much about spring except the blooming flowers and trees that popped like the magnolia and cherry blossom. Spring in recent years was a countdown to summer and my summer vacation.

Visiting the Bailey Arboretum in the spring looks far more beautiful to me than it did in the fall. It radiated renewal and hope. Turtles and frogs were soaking up the sun in the pond and birds were singing their songs throughout the acres of trails and gardens.

There is a section called Turtle Island. When we went in the fall we did not see any turtles, and this time I made a joke about there being no turtles on Turtle Island. And then, exactly as they advertise, two turtles were basking in the sun on a log. They have chairs are set up for you to sit and rest and enjoy the island.

A wonderful section at the Arboretum is the Children’s Garden. We felt like kids walking the grounds where you can climb, make your mark with chalk, swing, playhouse, or just rest. My daughter instantly became childlike as she played with the chalk. Shortly after we left this section a band of cheering kids entered and were playing and having a great time just as the garden was intended to be used for.

The arboretum sits on the former estate of Frank and Marie Louise Bailey. That was news to me until we stumbled on a house on the grounds which we inferred was part of the original estate. It was the Bailey’s summer home purchased in 1911. Frank Bailey was a self taught horticulturalist and left his mark on the 40 plus acres in Locust Valley, NY. The property was donated to Nassau County in 1968 and has been under the care of the Friends of Bailey Arboretum since 2006. The estate and grounds can be rented for special occasions.

So if you don’t know, an arboretum is a botanical garden devoted to trees. As you walk the paths and trails, especially this time of year, the trees are simply breathtaking. The grass is emerald green and there’s not a falling leaf in sight.

Bailey Arboretum is a great find close to home. I highly recommend it to people of all ages to stroll, explore, or just to sit in relax among nature.

Why Not Take a Road Trip?

Living on Long Island is great, but a change of scenery is even better. In the world we are all living in right now, why not take a road trip?

I just came back from a road trip to Binghamton and Ithaca New York with my daughter, and we had a great time. The Southern Tier of New York has plenty to offer, and basically our trip was really about just getting away and being somewhere different.

We had a good time on our 3 day 2 night getaway. We went to Animal Adventure Park, Buttermilk Falls in Ithaca, and we were out in about in Downtown Binghamton.

Animal Adventure Park was way better than I expected! As a teacher I’ve been on field trips to local small zoos like the Prospect Park Zoo and Staten Island Zoo, but this place was 1,000 times better! When you look at their website they advertise and promote the giraffes- April, Oliver, Tajiri, and Johari, but I was very surprised to discover that there were tons of animals to see and that you could spend a great deal of time visiting. The giraffes were amazing! They are very friendly and you can get great photos with them. For a small fee you can buy carrots to feed them, and you will quickly learn how long a giraffe’s tongue really is. You always hear about how long their necks are but never about their tongues.

Animal Adventure Park is located Harpursville, NY which is just about a 15 minute drive from downtown Binghamton. It is open 7 days a week from 10am-4pm. My daughter and I paid $13.99 each for 2 adult tickets and I thought it was definitely worth it. If you come with a family, children under 2 are free and children under 12 are $11.99. When we paid our admission, we were asked if we wanted to buy a cup of food to feed the animals which was $3 each. At first I was a little surprised by the price, but the 2 cups of food lasted the whole visit and were also souvenir cups. Besides it was definitely worth it because we had such a blast feeding the animals. I always enjoy watching the brazen ones who try to bully everyone else or the clever ones that go way out of the way from the other animals pushing and shoving for food. We always make sure to feed the timid ones who just can’t break through the crowd.

As we were walking around we were continuously surprised by the amount of different animals to see at this little known animal park. We saw sloths, reindeer, bison, tamandua, camels, lions, zebras, and many other animals I didn’t think would be here. Most of these small zoos usually let you down with the actual amount of animals. available.

There were also an endless amount of birds such as penguins, macaws, ducks, flamingoes, toucans, and many more!

We had a great time at Animal Adventure Park wandering around encountering beautiful animals. It was nice to visit a gift shop and snack stand where I got a hot pretzel and my daughter got Dots ice cream. I would highly recommend visiting this park!

On another day we visited Buttermilk Falls State Park. This was about an hour drive from Downtown Binghamton. If you already read my blog you know my daughter and I enjoying hiking nature trails on Long Island and visiting various preserves and gardens, so this place was right up our alley. We paid $8 to park our car and we were on our way. There’s a large picnic area and a huge waterfall that leads to a large natural pool that under normal circumstances you would be able to swim in. After our hike it would have been great to cool off in, but it was still relaxing to sit by, and very beautiful.

People come to this park to camp and you can bring your RV but we came to hike the trails. There are 4 trails: Lake Treman (Easy), Bear Trail (Moderate) Rim Trail (Strenuous) and Gorge Trail (Strenuous). At first we didn’t know where we were suppose to go, but a nice family suggested we start at the Rim Trail and it will lead to the Gorge Trail and bring us around in a loop to the pool, and that’s what we did. And it turned out we hiked the two strenuous trails. We didn’t know it at the time, but it definitely was a lot more challenging than the Long Island trails we were use to. Rim Trail was uphill at first then became a woodland area that was much easier to navigate.

We walked along for awhile and then seemed to be on the street and then came around and ended up on the Gorge Trail which was magnificent! This was much different from our usual trails on Long Island. The water was flowing everywhere and shaping and eroding the rocks into magnificent textures and shapes. Waterfalls and natural pools flowed and shaped the rocks.

We got some great scenic pics on bridges and slippery steps along the way.

We spent sometime sitting by the pool and then headed off to Ithaca Commons which apparently wasn’t really up and running. Usually there are nice little shops to browse in for somewhat unusual items.

The remainder of our trip was spent in downtown Binghamton. It was fun walking around by the Twin River Park and walking along the river. We also discovered Peacemaker Plaza which was rather nice. As you walk along the promenade they have plaques from people influential to African American History such as Rosa Parks and Fannie Lou Hamer. The entry has a beautiful statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. Of course we enjoyed some outdoor dining as Binghamton was a phase ahead of us in opening.

Sometimes all you need is a couple of days away and a change of scenery. In When Should You Travel? Any Chance You Get? I wrote about another time we went to Binghamton to spend the day for my daughter’s birthday. That time we visited Ross Park Zoo, The Phelps Museum, the Cutler Botanic Garden, Dos Rios Cantina, and 205 Dry.

I love to travel as is evident in my Cruise Travel piece and When Should You Travel? but with the ways things are this summer, I think we will stick to road trips. Why not?

Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park

It’s funny how you can live in an area for 20 years and not be aware of the many beautiful places you can visit in your own backyard. I spent the last 20 years raising my children, commuting back and forth to work, and taking our annual family vacation. I visited and knew about the more well known places near me like Jones Beach and Old Westbury Gardens. We strolled around Mill Pond Park and took an occasional hike in Cold Spring Harbor, but apparently there’s so much more to see and do.

As a retired teacher and now a dog sitter I enjoy traveling, but I often look for things to do near me. I discovered in the fall that I could find somewhere different to visit just by googling Things to do near me. This year I appreciated the beauty of fall for the first time without all the hustle and bustle of teaching. The spring season has been no different. As beautiful as the reds and golds are in the fall, so are the green and pink and purple hues of spring.

My daughter and I have discovered many Preserves and Parks this spring on Long Island from Muttontown to Merrick. Our latest discover is the Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park. The name “Planting Fields” comes from the Matinecock Native Americans who cultivated the soil in the clearings above Long Island Sound. It is located in the village of Upper Brookville in Oyster Bay NY. Like the Oheka Castle in Huntington, NY owned by Otto Hermann Kahn and his wife Addie, Planting Fields was home to William Robertson Coe and his wife Mary during America’s Gilded Age on the Gold Coast of Long Island. The original Coe Hall burned down in 1918 and was replaced soon after.

We were very surprised at the size of Planting Field. It turns out that it is over 400 acres and includes nature walks, gardens, huge open areas and woodlands. We knew from the moment we started walking around that we would definitely need many visits to thoroughly explore all the trails and gardens. The huge open space made us feel as we were far, far away from home. Like we took a long road trip to the country.

The Coe’s hired the Olmstead Brothers, the landscape architects who also designed Central Park and Prospect Park. Their influence is evident throughout the estate. There are different themed gardens that rile the senses. The scent of the lilacs was overwhelming as was the collection of azaleas in all the colors of the rainbow. There were rose gardens, peonies, Italian Garden, and greenhouses.

Walking the wooded areas and nature trails also show the landscape architect’s influence.

You can tell that this is a special place when you see plaques honoring those who valued the importance of the preservation of the beauty of the Planting Fields. There are so much more about this place I would like to learn. At some point I would like to return for a guided tour of the estate and gardens and attend some of the events such as concerts that are hosted here. There are other houses, gardens, and greenhouses that I would love to learn about.

We went just to explore another nature trail on Long Island, but we may have found a new place to visit often, attend garden talks, and other happenings.

Muttontown Preserve

It seems that the chipmunks of Long Island have discovered the secret to happiness- The Muttontown Preserve. As you walk onto the trail at the preserve you immediately discover that there are many, many chipmunks happily dancing with delight from one side of the emerald green trail to the other. During the height of the spring season the the preserve’s fluorescent hues are simply breathtaking.

Muttontown Preserve is the largest nature preserve in Nassau County, NY. There are 550 acres of fields, woodlands, ponds and estate grounds. The Preserve is also referred to as the Bill Paterson Nature Center named for the naturalist who served as the supervisor of the preserve from 1968-1992. He lived in Baldwin, NY before living on the estate grounds. The Preserve has miles of marked trails that are suitable for most.

I have read that this preserve has been named the “Best Nature Walk” of Long Island. Since my retirement almost a year ago, I have visited many Long Island Trails and visited many Preserves, and I have to agree. The William Cullen Bryant Preserve with the Sculpture Park and the Planting Fields Arboretum State Park are other beautiful gems on Long Island. We will definitely back to the Muttontown Preserve for a nature walk and to visit to the lucky chipmunks that reside there!

Long Island Hiking Trails

I’ve been retired almost a year now from teaching and I’ve discovered that I really like the outdoors and walking the trails of Long Island. I have hiked trails in Hawaii, Martinique, Puerto Rico and many other places, but you can get that feeling of escaping it all, right in your own backyard.

Three recent trails I have visited are Cold Spring Harbor State Park, Trail View Trail, and Stillwell Woods Preserve. Each one of these trails were different and offered visitors a different kind of experience.

The Cold Spring Harbor Trail is a tough one. My daughter and I chose to do this trail on my birthday. I like to confirm I still got it lol after 56 years on this earth. This trail is 4.2 miles in length out and back. This is not a loop trail. Basically, whatever you climb up you need to climb back down. It is characterized as an intermediate trail.

The Cold Spring Harbor Trail starts out with a steep climb up and makes you wonder what you are getting yourself into. Along the way you have some choices of the best way for you to safely make your way through the trail. Most of the trail is a hard dirt surface with occasional rocky areas and branches that are underground. In many places you are ascending and then suddenly there’s a downward trail that has you side stepping to keep a strong footing. I saw many people using hiking poles to help them along. The trail gives you great views of the harbor and is a beautiful wooded area. Many people bring their leashed dog along for the hike and there are even joggers. Some people appear to walk the trail regularly as a means of exercise.

Trail View State Park runs between Bethpage State Park and Cold Spring State Park and is considered to be part of the Nassau/Suffolk Greenbelt Trail. It is located on Jericho Turnpike in Woodbury. It is right next to the Stop & Shop and has its own free parking. Like most parks it is open dawn till dusk. I chose this trail to walk on Mother’s Day because we went as a family on this walk, and it is mostly flat and linear. There is a walking path and a separate mountain bike path. On our return trip we cut off to the mountain bike trail which made it slightly more interesting with more highs and lows and twists and turns.

All in all the Trail View State Park Trail was very enjoyable. We did see and hear many birds along the way and would be a great place for birdwatchers. In the springtime everything was very green and beautiful as the filtered sun dappled our trail along the way. I do have a sudden intrigue in learning more about this mountain biking. I am a regular bike rider on newly created bike paths around Long Island.

Stillwell Woods Preserve was a really nice place! As you drive in there’s a ball field that normally would be occupied and a few people flying kites. You need to keep walking to the back to see where the entrance to the trails are located. We seemed to see three distinct trails. One for walking and 2 for mountain bikes, but you could still walk the mountain bike path. That’s what my daughter and I decided we were going to do.

The trail was very different than other trails we have been exploring. Everything was so green and kind of glowing. We seemed to need to walk at a faster pace as we made our way twisting and turning through narrow paths.A few mountain bikers came by, but we just simply step to the side out of the way. They really seemed to be enjoying the struggle of it all.

The path was a loop and clearly marked. I really enjoyed all the highs and lows and twists and turns and felt like I got a good workout. We checked out the other bike path too which seemed to be much tamer as was the walking path. One thing I will say about Stillwell Woods Preserve was that everyone was all smiles and very friendly. I really like this place and will definitely return.

Cold Spring Harbor is great when you want a challenge. Trail View State Park was nice, but probably a one time thing. Stillwell Woods Preserve is a place I would visit again and again.

What should you look for in a dog sitter?

We are all starting to get a little antsy, and as soon as we can, we are going to start planning well-deserved vacations. Our dogs all think we quit our jobs to be with them, so they are going to need a special dog sitter.

I’ve been dog sitting for 5 years, and now that I’m retired from teaching, I am home full time.

This is what you should look for:


A great way to find a reputable dog sitter is through referrals from your local groomer, pet store, or veterinarian.

Family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers may have a reputable dog sitter they can recommend to you.

If you use an on line site like Rover you can read the reviews the dog sitter has on the site.


Cleanliness of the dog sitter’s house inside and outside is important. As you pull up to the house look for a debris free area. Check out the yard for junk lying around or piles of poop that haven’t been cleaned up.

Inside the home should be clean too. Floors, surfaces, furniture that your dog would potentially interact with should be clean. The appearance of the dog sitter should look clean and neat too.

Competence is definitely a trait you should look for in your dog sitter. If you approach the front door and dogs run out this is a bad sign. Dog sitters need to plan ahead for possible escapes and the safety of the dogs in their care.


You definitely want an energetic dog sitter. Someone who is healthy and fit and can move around pretty quickly. Dog sitters should be active and into spending time outdoors. Couch potato or lazy dog sitters are not optimal.

Your dog sitter should show genuine enthusiasm for your dog and all dogs in general. A dog sitter’s light should shine the brightest when they are talking about dogs and when they are interacting with them.

A dog sitter that has empathy for dogs is very important. Showing emotion and feelings for your dog and the ability to understand your dog’s emotions is important. Some dog sitters are much better at this than other dog sitters.


Your dog sitter should have a positive outlook about your dog’s stay. He/she should explain all the wonderful ways your dog will be happy in his/her care.

The openness of your dog sitter’s home is very important. You should feel that you can walk freely about the home inside and out to see exactly where your dog will be staying while you are away.

An organized dog sitter is very important. Your dog sitter should have a system for keeping track of a variety of important issues. Dog sitters should an orderly system for reviewing your dogs upcoming stay in terms of food intake, medicine, contact numbers, and other issues unique to your dog.


How responsive your dog sitter is can you really make or break or vacation. You want a sitter that responds to your texts or calls in a timely manner. Nothing worse than wondering why the dog sitter is not responding.

A responsible dog sitter will be there for all your dog’s needs. Your dog will be taken care of in all the ways you would take care of your dog. Your dog will eat and be taken out in a timely manner. A balance of social interaction, play, and rest are important components of a responsible dog sitter.

Being a receptive dog sitter is important. A dog sitter who can sense what a dog needs intuitively and is able to figure out what your dog’s feeling is very valuable.

Flexible/ Forgiving/Fun

How flexible is your dog sitter? Are drop off times and pick up times flexible? If your plane is delayed or canceled can your dog stay longer? Flexibility also involves being able to drop your dog off for a stay with short notice or switch dates and times of stay.

Forgiving mishaps is crucial. Your dog sitter should be understanding if your dog has an accident in the house, knocks something over, or cries at night because he/she misses you.

Finally, a fun dog sitter can make or break or dogs stay while your away. If your dog is spending a lot of time outside getting fresh air and sunshine, playing with toys, and interacting with other dogs and loving people, you can be sure that your dog is content!

For additional viewing read Meet and Greet Questions Dog Sitters Should Ask.

More stories about dogs read:

1. Dog Sitter Life

2. Rescue Yorkie

3. I Miss You all the Time

Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve

In my quest to find outdoor Things to do Near Me on Long Island, my daughter and I wandered off to the Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve. It is located in Merrick, N. Y. right off the Meadowbrook Parkway. It has free parking and there is no entry fee.

And who was Norman J. Levy? And why would he have a park and preserve named after him? Norman J. Levy was a New York State Senator and a resident of Merrick, New York. He was a champion for the environment and was the sponsor of the first mandatory seat belt law in the United States. Perhaps the next time you ride along the Meadowbrook Parkway, you will notice signs that recognize his role in the seat belt legislation.

The Park and Preserve was once a landfill which is situated next to the Town of Hempstead Sanitation. It is a man-made park and preserve built in 2000. It is the highest point on Long Island’s South Shore with great views of the NYC Skyline and Jones Beach.

As my daughter and I entered the park, we were thrilled to see a barn with chickens and goats. Apparently the chickens are Guinea Fowl and are utilized as a natural way to rid the preserve of ticks. The goats are Nigerian Dwarf Goats and are used for weed management throughout the preserve. We were just excited to see animals. Who knew they were working animals?

As you walk along the different crushed shell paths there are fitness stations where you can balance on a beam, do lunges, push ups, sit-ups etc. There are also great views at the high points of Jones Beach and other seaside gems. We saw a sign for a kayak launch, but didn’t really investigate that too much. There’s a nice breeze as you walk around from the water which can be very invigorating as you breath in the salt air. You really do forget you are adjacent to the sanitation center.

Something that I thought was really nice were that there were small wooden birdhouses on many of the trees. They appeared to be home made wooden houses. Otherwise it is simply an enjoyable stroll right off the parkway where cattails, shrubs, and trees abound.

As we came around a bend, we were excited to see a pier that we were able to walk out onto. It was very breezy by the water so we just took in the views, but on a nicer day you could sit on the benches and rest for awhile. You could see many homes of Long Island residents fortunate enough to live right on the water.

We were pleased with this find. This park and preserve is convenient enough to visit often. I’m sure there are regular walkers, joggers, fishermen at the pier, and fitness station participants. Norman J. Levy is remembered in a beautiful way with this park and preserve!

When Should You Travel? Any Chance You Get!

When should you travel? Any chance you get! I retired last June from teaching and I’m happy to say that I have been on quite a few getaways. I may not have traveled the world or been overseas, but I think it’s important to always have something to look forward to.

My last day of teaching after 30 years was June 26th, and on June 27th my daughter and I were off to Universal Studios in Florida. We love going on rides so it’s a perfect trip for us to take. We stayed at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. This hotel is onsite with a walkway and a water taxi to the parks. It has a great Italian theme with a variety of fountains, statues, sculptures, and mosaics throughout the resort.

My daughter surprised me with a retirement pin and champagne and we were off to the Universal Studios Park. The funny thing was when we first got to the hotel and had lunch, we asked the waiter about the the walkway to the parks. He said it was far and he had only done it once. We must of walked that path 20 times in the 5 days we were there. It really wasn’t far at all and we took great pics on the walkway including at the beautiful butterfly garden along the way.

Universal Studios has many movie themed rides and attractions. When you stay in a hotel onsite, you get a pass that allows you to go on a much quicker line to get on the rides. Disney should really have something like this. You can get on a lot of rides and attractions in one day. We especially enjoyed the character interactions in Universal.

Islands of Adventure is the other park in Universal which tends to have more of the thrill rides like The Incredible Hulk Coaster and Jurassic Park River Adventure. This is where you will find The Wizardly World of Harry Potter which is something you really need to experience to truly understand. The newest ride Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike is one of the best rides I have ever been on. Islands of Adventure also has Seuss Landing which is fun for all ages. You will see familiar characters at both the attractions and shops. The Cat in the Hat, Hop On Pop Ice Cream Shop, and If I Ran the Zoo, just to name a few.

In addition to the 2 main parks, Universal also has City Walk and Volcano Bay The City Walk is great at night to grab a nice dinner and a few drinks preferably margaritas. We like Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville and Hard Rock Cafe . After a night at the parks, my daughter enjoyed a treat from Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and souvenir shopping. Volcano Bay is a water park with something to do for all ages. I liked the lazy river, wave pool and the raft rides. My daughter was braver and sampled the zero gravity drops, twists, and turns. Volcano Bay has the virtual line feature which I think all parks will have in the near future.

Most of the summer I spent dog sitting which allows other people to travel while I safely watch their dog(s). Dog sitting is my new job now that I’m retired. I wrote in a previous blog about how you need to Find Three Hobbies You Love when you retire. One of them should help you make money to travel with. I did go to the beach, pool, Old Westbury Gardens where I am a member, Fire Island, The Oheka Castle, and many other places using my strategy of googling Things to do Near Me.

In September my husband, son, and I, took a road trip to Washington D. C. for a few days to celebrate my son’s birthday. We are Disney Vacation Club Members so we used points to stay at the Mandarin Oriental. This was all a great idea I had to make sure my physically disabled son would have a memorable 26th birthday. Unfortunately, I planned this trip before my son met and fell in love with his girlfriend. We had a good time, but it was a kind of an under appreciated endeavor.

We made a trip to D.C. a few years back and walked the Mall and had an extensive tour of the Capital. We visited the Supreme Court, all the Smithsonian Museums, and the National Archives. So on this trip I wanted to do some different things and did my research online. Unfortunately we were denied a White House tour which was a big let down. I thought that would have been a fun birthday activity.

When we checked into the hotel it was pretty clear from the other guests that the tourist season was pretty much over and business casual was the appropriate look. Being a teacher for 30 years never led to a September vacation so this was all new to me. Nevertheless, it was hot and we all had on our summer casual look.

My son is in a wheelchair, so believe it or not it’s actually easier for us to walk everywhere around D.C. than travel any other way. On our first afternoon we headed to the Newseum. This was somewhere we had never visited so we thought we would check it out. We heard it was closing down and I’m not surprised because the politics were completely one-sided not making it very welcoming to half the country.

The best part about the Mandarin is that you can easily walk to places like the Mall from the hotel. They also have a great concierge with drinks and food set up which is really the only reason I like this hotel. The last time we were in D.C. was during a record heatwave years ago in June which made walking around challenging. It was still shorts weather in September (not at the Mandarin) which made life easier for us.

Our first night we walked to the Mall during dusk which was kind of special. Everything looked a little more majestic that time of day, and we took some great pictures.

On my son’s birthday we took a Duck Tour at Union Square. The people couldn’t believe we walked there from the Mandarin. It really is a great way to see everything. If you never did a Duck Tour you should! They are actually a very big thing in the city of Boston. Duck boats are amphibious vehicles that were used during WWII by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. to ferry ammunition and supplies to fighting units on the beach. These tours are fun because the driver is always very entertaining and you actually learn a lot while you travel by land then sea.

After the tour, we walked the city and visited the Old Post Office, the Indian Museum, the Africa American Museum, and the Botanic Gardens. They were all worth seeing, but I especially enjoyed the Botanic Gardens.

One last good thing about the Mandarin is that it is in walking distance to the newly developed Waterfront of restaurants and shops. Naturally being on the water there are many seafood restaurants to choose from and there is a wonderful walkway too.

Before we left D.C. we walked over and visited the Museum of the Bible. This was something I really wanted to do after watching the Bible series on television. It did not disappoint and I highly recommend it to people of all faiths. It has many modern technological features that I haven’t seen anywhere else in D. C. at their museums. It’s hard to capture in pictures so I posted a couple of my favorite Bible verses instead that they had displayed.

D.C. was a great road trip and we even stopped for a few hours at the Arlington Cemetery on the way home. I guess overall my son had a pretty good birthday, and I vacationed in September for the first time!

The following month was my daughter’s birthday and my husband and I did an over night stay in Binghamton. On my daughter’s birthday you better think of good things to do! I used my Things to do Near Me strategy and found a lot of activities for a fun-filled day! We started at Ross Park Zoo. This is a small zoo but we still had a lot of fun exploring. Since it was the month of October kids were encouraged to wear costumes and there were a sprinkling of decorations throughout the zoo. They called it Howloween at the Zoo. They had a petting zoo, wolves, penguins, an endangered species exhibit, and even a sloth. We had fun, but we usually do wherever we go.

Our next stop was the Phelps Mansion Museum where we had a scheduled tour. This was great and I highly recommend it if you are in Binghamton. This mansion is an 19th century landmark featuring the furnishings and many other artifacts of the time. The mansion is located on what was once referred to as Mansion Row. It is the only mansion left standing. Our tour was both informative and entertaining. We learned many interesting details about the Sherman D. Phelps famly at 191 Court Street during this era.

We stopped briefly to explore Cutler Botanic Garden located on upper Front Street. It has free admission and was surprisingly picturesque and made for a great stroll. The garden was established by Miss Frances Cutler, who donated land to the Cornell University Extension.

We visited two great restaurants to celebrate my daughters Birthday. Dos Rios Cantina and 205 Dry. Dos Rios Cantina has a great bar set up and a very nice bartender. You can eat at the bar too if you like. They also have table service. The bartender was great and surprised my daughter with a shot of tequila with the new sparkler set up, and they did a very catchy happy birthday song. 205 Dry is considered a Speakeasy Restaurant. A Speakeasy going back to prohibition. You walk in to shelves and shelves of books to hide that it was a drinking establishment. Drinks and food were great here too!

We had a great day in Binghamton celebrating my daughter’s birthday all using my strategy of googling Things to do Near Me.

Later in October I headed to Amesbury in Massachusetts to visit friends. Why not? I am retired. It was great to see my friends, and it was really the first time I can recall enjoying the beauty of the season of Fall. I always related Fall to going back to work.

Being a person who loves the outdoors and hiking, the first day we headed to Amesbury Town Forest. The Town Forest is 80 acres with many miles of marked trails. Strolling through a forest without a care in the world is a wonderful feeling. Newly retired, I admired the fall foliage with fresh new eyes. A trail of fallen leaves is really a thing of beauty.

During my stays with my lady friends there’s usually a lot of eating out, sightseeing, and lots of cheer. We frequented quite a few restaurants such as the Ale House which is located in a picture perfect town, and my friends were sure to show me the beauty that is all around this area. Once again being fall in New England made it even more spectacular.

Since it was October, I suggested we head to Salem, MA one night since I knew there would be some goings on for Halloween. I had been there before and visited the Witch Museum, The House of Seven Gables, and learned all about the Witch Trials. Before we reached Salem I had interest in doing one of the Haunted House Tours, but when we started walking around I chickened out. So we strolled though the streets and checked out the shops and did a “non scary tour”. We had fun but I haven’t been brave in many years when it comes to haunted outdoor activities. (Getting old)

We also visited Salem, New Hampshire which actually pretty close to Amesbury to visit America’s Stonehenge. Here you have a small entrance fee and you are encouraged to start with the short film before heading out on your adventure. As you walk through the grounds there are a series of stone structures. It is theorized like the Stonehenge in England it was built by ancient people well versed in astronomy and stone construction. The site is an actual astronomical calendar where stones appear to align with solar and lunar occurrences such as the Summer Solstice. They do have events here such as the Summer Solstice Celebration and they advertise snowshoeing in the winter. It was great visit to see friends and hope to head that way again next year.

Back home led to a series of holidays and all the preparation that goes along with that, and of course plenty of dog sitting. In the New Year, my daughter and I embarked on a 10 day adventure to Puerto Rico and a Royal Caribbean Cruise. We departed the day that I would have returned to school if I wasn’t retired. I write all about this in Cruise Travel. This was my last trip before our world changed forever. I say all the time how blessed I was to go on all these trips, especially the one in January. We had a great time, but it would of been nice to know it would be my last trip for a long while.

I pretty much watch dogs, save money and travel. I spend a lot of time planning my travel because I believe it is important to always have something to look forward to. Well in the end of March, my husband and I were this close to going on a vacation for the first time without kids in 26 years to celebrate our 30th anniversary. Right before we were to head to The Bahamas everything turned bad with virus. Little did I know how bad. A lot more than 15 days to slow the spread. I also had a trip to Disney World with my daughter kabashed which was suppose to take place at the end of her junior year of college.

So when I ask, “When should you travel?” I really truly mean any chance you get because at any given moment life can change!

William Cullen Bryant Preserve

Sculpture Park & Walking Trails

In my quest to find Things to do Near Me on Long Island, I discovered a real gem at the Nassau County Museum of Art. To be honest, I have no interest in visiting this museum, but it turns out that they have quite an elaborate sculpture garden and beautiful walking trails.

Nassau County Museum of Art is located in Roslyn, N.Y. The museum has a variety of art programs and is popular for school trips. Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic the museum is closed, but you are free to explore The Sculpture Park and Walking Trails.

The Sculpture Park was a real pleasant surprise! A friend on Facebook posted pictures on a walking trail, but never mentioned the park. After you park your car, you walk on to a grassy area that is sprinkled with large sculptures of various size and stature. Each sculpture has a plaque nearby with the title of the sculpture and the artist’s name. There are more than 40 sculptures. The grounds are beautiful this time of year with all the flowering trees and shrubs. Sprinkled throughout The Sculpture Park are benches where you can sit and admire the view. The Sculpture Park was founded in 1989.

In addition to The Sculpture Park there is a vast woodland area and trails. There are more than a half dozen different trails with names such as Twin Pond, Hempstead Harbor Overlook, Mountain Laurel, and Tulip Tree. The majority of the trails are an easy going walk with beautiful views of Hempstead Harbor. The dirt paths are sprinkled with colorful flowers and greenery.

The indoor Museum of Art may be closed, but the outdoor Museum of Art is open for all to enjoy and explore!

Update! My daughter and I have returned to the Museum and discovered that there is so much more to explore. Upon looking at the Museum’s website, I discovered that there were many more trails, open spaces, and sculptures on the Museum grounds.

We enjoyed another day out walking the trails and taking in the beauty of Long Island. We kept saying how it felt like we traveled far from home, but in reality this beautiful place is a stones throw away in Roslyn. I’m sure if we returned again we would discover even more beautiful spaces and uniques sculptures.

Jones Beach Boardwalk

As a newly retired teacher on Long Island, I continue my quest for finding Things to do Near Me. During the Covid19 Pandemic, my college age daughter and I have taken up walking pretty long distances for exercise, and to break up the monotony of the quarantine lifestyle. We generally walk around the neighborhood keeping our distance from other people at all times. We have pretty much exhausted every direction and route in our Salisbury, N.Y. neighborhood. Last week we went to Mill Pond Park and walked the loop twice which was a wonderful way to social distance and get some fresh air at the same time. Yesterday we ventured out to the Jones Beach Boardwalk.

The Jones Beach Boardwalk in Wantagh, New York is about 4 miles in length. The trail end points are from Field 1 of Jones Beach State Park and Field 6 of Jones Beach State Park. Generally visitors park in Field 6 and start out on their walk which is also accessible for wheelchairs and bike riders.

During this time of social distancing, I found the Jones Beach Boardwalk to be a good choice. The Field 6 parking lot’s size doesn’t allow for huge crowds to make their way to the boardwalk. In addition, the boardwalk is very wide with natural social distancing caused by the center meridian. Walkers walk in an east and west direction, once again allowing for a natural way to social distance.

It was a great feeling strolling along the boardwalk with the blue skies, sunshine, and the cool salt air breeze. With a short drive we were able to escape the monotony of quarantine life with many other Long Islanders and keep our distance at the same time. We did see many people choosing to wear a face mask. For the first time I realized that wearing a mask steals your ability to smile at one another. I personally did not have a face mask on and would smile at people walking by. I could sense that they may be smiling back at me through the light I could see in their eyes. That made me feel a little sad and confirm to me that one day things will have to get back to normal.

Along our walk there were signs of the times. There was a pretty catchy slogan on a sign: Be Smart Stay 6 Feet Apart. You could find this sign along the boardwalk in many locations. There were also other signs of Closings and Do Not Enter all claiming to Stop the Spread of Covid-19.

In my quest to find Things to do Near Me, Jones Beach Boardwalk is a great option that I will be returning to many times over the next few months. I’m hoping as the weeks and months go by and the weather warms, things will get back to normal as we Long Islanders gather to stroll along our boardwalk.


So what do you do if you need a doctor during a pandemic? You call Teladoc! Teladoc provides quick and easy access to a doctor. Thankfully through social distancing and quarantine, I do not have the coronavirus, but I do have a dry eye condition that seems to be progressing.

I attempted to contact the two eye doctors I have used over the years, but they are not seeing patients so I decided to check out Teladoc. A simple Google search brought me to their site. I created a username and password and filled out basic information. Somehow my insurance just popped up with other basic information about me. I filled out the same kind of questionnaire about history and symptoms you would fill out in a doctor’s office. I then had the option of phone or video call. I chose the phone call option.

Within 10 minutes I received a call from a doctor who had reviewed my information and asked me to describe my symptoms. I explained that in addition to my typical dry eye, my left eye was red and there appeared to be a pinguecula (yellowish growth) on my eye. Apparently a person with severe dry eye and other factors like ultra violet rays exposure can cause this. She said she would prescribe drops and an ointment to treat my condition. The prescription would be sent to the local pharmacy that I chose on their website. She also stated that eventually I would have to see an ophthalmologist when things get back to normal.

Within 10 minutes I received an email that my prescription was submitted, and as I wait for my text from CVS, I thought I would share my experience with Teladoc. Of course the Covid19 is the prevalent illness we are facing today, but what do you do if some kind of minor condition arises? You can contact Teladoc!

Quarantine Crafts

Kids need crafts now more than ever in this time where they are stuck in the house most of the day. As a retired 3rd grade teacher, I know the most important thing about teaching is to inspire the love of learning. Crafts can be an important vehicle during the coronavirus quarantine to help children feel a sense of normalcy. Crafts can be a great way to pass some time while we are sheltering in place, and even beyond because it seems regardless of what happens with the virus, schools are not opening back up so soon.

In Find a Rainbow Day, I wrote about how the kids of Salisbury are painting rainbows and displaying them in their windows for all to see. Kids then take a walk around the neighborhood and hunt for rainbows. This is a great activity and distraction for our time. Parents get pretty excited when they see a rainbow too. I made a point of painting my own rainbows 7, one for each window panel. When a child walks by my house at least for a moment, they can forget about it all.

An outdoor craft idea I saw was Chalk Your Walk. This activity took place on March 20 and March 21st, but it doesn’t really matter when kids do this. Kids will get some fresh air and can use some of their creativity. Once again when people walk around the neighborhood, they can see the drawings, designs, messages.

The most recent posting I have seen for an art activity and exercise is an Easter Egg Hunt with Social Distancing. Another great idea very similar to the Rainbow Hunt. Kids design their own Easter eggs and display them in their windows for all to see, and then they can go in search of eggs around the neighborhood. When I read this I got very excited and recruited my college age daughter to help me paint Easter eggs for our windows. She was pretty excited, so imagine an elementary student participating in the Easter Egg Hunt with Social Distancing.

Well as a retired teacher, I started thinking about all the other crafts kids could do to keep some normalcy in their lives. Of course kids can dye eggs for Easter and make Easter baskets, but there’s a lot of cake crafts they can do with their parents too. Kids can also have a real egg hunt in their own backyards.

I mentioned to my daughter while we were painting that kids could make flags for Memorial Day and she suggested Earth Day April-22nd and Mother’s Day – May 10th crafts too. Well this got me really thinking about quarantine crafts. For Earth Day kids can make recycled art crafts like many kids have done for school assignments over the years. They can use toilet paper rolls (HA HA!) paper towel rolls, tissue boxes, robots using a variety of recycled materials, water bottle mobiles etc, etc.

Crafts are great, but projects are even better! When I was a teacher I was involved in a great project called The Bottle Cap Project. Kids can save bottle caps for the next few weeks. You will be surprised how quickly the caps will accumulate. You can ask people you know to save the caps for you too. Once you have all your caps, you can sort them into colors and come up with a design. Sketch your design then glue on your bottle caps.

Outdoor spring crafts are endless. Kids can make birdhouses using milk gallons or cartons. Kids can paint birdhouses, rocks, planters, stepping stones etc. Get kids involved in the gardening and planting that we all do every spring.

Let’s not forget to thank our Moms. Maybe Dads could work on these crafts. Kid just need a folded piece of paper to make a Mother’s Day card, and there are a lot of easy crafts kids can make with their handprints and basic materials.

Making patriotic crafts may be the most important type of activity kids can be doing right now. Paint a flag, create a bottle cap flag, patriotic wreaths, and cakes. Displaying the red, white, and blue can help unite us. I have noticed many of my neighbors hanging their American Flags in front of their homes. Many Americans become more patriotic when their country is in trouble. It’s a great time to teach kids to be more patriotic too.

So parents get going and start crafting with your kids! It’s a great distraction for both you and your kids, and a lot of fun too!

Find a Rainbow Day

During this time of uncertainty and crisis, I continue to see heartwarming activities, as I noted in Covid19 Culture. As America lives under quarantine and unable to live their ordinary lives, it’s important that we all stay positive.

As a retired teacher, I tend to think of the effect of all this on the kids and the importance of parents outlook at this time. No matter how they feel they must stay positive and express hope to their kids.

Well one wonderful activity I found is Find a Rainbow Day. I belong to a neighborhood group Salisbury/Westbury Mom & Dads Group, and last week I saw comments about how the kid’s distance learning assignment was to make rainbows. Many parents dismissed this and expressed concern about the validity of this assignment as not being very educational, but they were wrong. The kids were to make the rainbows, hang them in their windows, and go for a walk and hunt for rainbows.

I started taking long walks around the neighborhood not only to break up the monotony of it all, but for fresh air and exercise. Well as I was walking around I started seeing rainbows on my neighbor’s windows. I have to tell you this made me feel very happy, and I commented in the group about it, and many people shared the rainbow their kid had made. There was definitely a shift in their perspective about making the rainbows.

Yesterday I took a walk with my husband with the intent of taking pictures of all the rainbows that I could find. I went on my own Rainbow Hunt. I took a photo of each one so that I could post them to the group. Parents were pleased to see their child’s rainbow was displayed and I was sure to comment that their kids were truly making a difference in the world with their rainbows.

The local News 12 heard about these rainbows and came to our neighborhood to report on it. Apparently this initiative is county wide and as the news states it is a way to share some cheer. I’m always up for sharing some cheer, especially for children, so I went home and painted 7 rainbows for each panel on my front windows. I hope to make kids smile as they go on their Rainbow Hunt.

Remember to stay positive! You never know who you are inspiring!

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