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Global Guide to Divorce

Jack Jack the Cat

Wendi Schuller

Obtaining a Passport for Your Child in divorce

There are subjects to bring up during the divorce proceedings to make life easier down the road. When  big issues, such as custody and division of property are looming in the forefront, it is easy to forget about smaller ones. If your child’s passport is up for renewal, or a new one needs to be issued, then have your spouse sign a notarized letter right then and there to give you permission to obtain one for minor children. There is a notary in every attorney’s office.

If you had an acrimonious divorce and now you want to take your child out of the country, this could be a touchy situation. If your child is 16 or older then she can get her own passport without both parents’ permission. If under 16, then both parents must go to the passport center together, with the necessary documents, such as a birth certificate. If this is not feassible, then one parent may give notarized permission for the other parent to obtain the passport for their child. If your child is close to 16 and her passport is expiring make sure that there is at least six months left on it. One family was turned away from getting into Argentina when their children had only a few months left on their passports.

If you have a judge involved in your child’s life then the US Passport Agency will allow a judge to send a statement giving permission for just one parent to obtain a passport for a minor. This could be the judge who presided over your divorce case. Your teenager can petition the court herself for the right to have just one parent obtain her passport. In one case a 15 year old had a judge for an unrelated issue. When his father refused to participate in his passport renewal, then that judge wrote a note on official court stationary to the US Passport Agency allowing the child to get a passport with just the mother. The mother had a notarized copy made and carried that with her when she left the country to avoid any complications with customs. When one parent takes a child out of the country, then notarized permission from the other one may be required by the airlines or customs. If you do not have contact with your ex-spouse, then e-mail the court designee (court moniter in my case) and carry their response that they notified the other parent. I took a copy of the court moniter’s e-mail and that worked well.

If you have your child’s passport in your possession and the other parent asks for it to plan a trip, be careful if you think that there could be a risk for kidnapping. Consult your lawyer if you are in this particular circumstance.

Buy from a tree farm and help preserve nature

  Think about preserving our open spaces for the wildlife and us to enjoy.  Buy your Christmas tree from a tree farm, particularly smaller family owned ones.  Some people think they are doing their part for the environment by purchasing factory made  Christmas trees and “going green.”  Well, think again.
  Near my house  growing up in the Midwest, was a small, locally owned tree farm.  I would strap on my cross country skis and glide amoung the  firs.  There was a higher concentration of wildlife in this small tree farm and I loved having this bit of nature in the suburbs. It was  in the late  1970’s and artificial trees were in vogue, especially the aluminum ones.  Well you guessed it.  People patronized big box stores instead of this neighborhood oasis of green.  The tree farm couldn’t make it financially without consumers’ support and it closed. It was traumatic seeing it paved over to make a parking lot and several buildings.
  My sons and  I are able to walk down our street and buy trees and wreathes brought in from a small family owned tree farm outside of our city.  The trees are so fresh, that I maybe sweep up 5 pine needles when I take out the live tree in January.  The city recycles these firs for needed  mulch.
  Do you want to support Chinese factories or local families making a living? It’s a no brainer for me.

Happiness and Meaning in Life

Viennese Viktor Frankl was sent to a concentration camp with some family members and he wrote about this ordeal in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning.” While imprisoned he discovered that others who had meaning in life were more apt to survive.  Frankl stated the Nazis could not take away one’s attitude, outlook on life.  He met several men who gave up and were waiting to die. Frankl delved into their lives and found out what was important to them, waiting on the outside.  For one it was a family member safely tucked away from harm, and the other had a special project that was left unfinished.  These two men then became determined to live.  The Center for Disease Control said that 4 out of 10 Americans  have not discovered their meaning in life and that negatively affects their health.

What is the difference between just having happiness or having meaning/purpose in life?  You are happy because you have money to buy expensive gadgets and goods.  If something took those away, then happiness fades.  Having meaning in life is more lasting, not the here and now of happiness without a purpose.  Meaning in life is more enduring, things may not be great now, but you are reaching out to others and enlarging your supportive social network. Frankl stated that the more one is focused outside of yourself  – reaching out to others – the more human you are. Most people that I interviewed, claimed that they got more out of volunteering, than the recipients did.

Since happiness is a more transient feeling there are ways to boost its level every day.  Spend your money on having experiences, rather than on more material goods.  Think about travel for example.  You open your eyes and mind to new cultures, sights and ideas which in turn can be life changing.  You can bond with your kids and have forever memories.

Make a list of what you enjoy doing and gives you pleasure.  Then schedule these on a weekly basis in your calendar.  It may be going out for lattes or margaritas with the girls or perhaps a stroll around a museum.  Pick some free activities, such as a picnic or hike in a leafy area.  Just thinking about what you were happy about that day can give you a more positive outlook in life.

Optimism and Health

Optimism can affect health and reduce stress, according to the Mayo Clinic.  A positive attitude is that “you approach the unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way.”  One is able to cope better in tense situations when optimistic.  The Mayo Clinic said positive thinking may increase the life span, decrease depression, and give one more resistance to colds.

A New York University study said that the brains of optimistic and pessimistic people light up differently when subjects thought about the future. They are striving to unravel how much is hereditary and much is due to other factors.

Researchers at the University of Penn. are not clear if optimistic people have especially good health because they take better care of themselves or that they have more extensive social contacts which “have been associated with longevity.”

Harvard school of Public Health studied optimism and heart disease.  They concluded that having a positive outlook could reduce heart disease risk by 50%.

Robert Grenfell, director of the Heart Foundation of Australia, said research indicates the link between “psychological well-being” and heart health.  People with social isolation have an increased risk for heart disease.

Different studies were unclear whether it is the pessimism or depression itself that has a negative impact on health, or is it more due to social ramifications such as a lack of a social network. Also it was mentioned that depressed people may not feel like doing preventative health care measures.

Strive to become more of a person who sees the world through rose colored glasses.  It may be beneficial to see a life coach or cognitive therapist, who help give concrete steps to achieve a more optimistic outlook on life. Others dive into self-help books for suggestions.

Fighting Sexual Harrassment in the Military and at Workplaces

Things are looking more promising for people fighting sexual discrimination or harassment in the military. There are more safeguards now in place for reporting these infractions. My friend was successful with her gender discrimination allegation on an Air Force base and is happy in her new department. One Air Force Region has Special Victim’s Counsel (SVC)  which has these important services:

Represents just the victim, providing confidential legal advice and assistance. Protects rights and advises on the investigation & prosecution.

Attends interviews, hearings and court-martials with the victim. The SVC does not work for anyone else on base and their chain of command is a separate office in Washington DC.

The actual report can remain restricted so others can’t see it.

In the Office or Job site:

If appropriate, speak to the perpetrator or have a co-worker do so on your behalf as in the following situation. The boss in one office was a sports coach outside of the work environment and gave his players mini massages to keep their shoulders and neck muscles relaxed during the game. His employees enjoyed these same quick massages when having a frenetic or stressful day and told him so.   A new woman joined this work team and felt like her personal boundary was being invaded and was uncomfortable with these massages. Telling her boss, or having a co-worker tell him that she did not want to be touched would have been more simple.  Instead, she went to the HR department and lodged a formal complaint.  The boss was reprimanded and had to attend a sexual harassment class.  He was banned from touching any employees.  The other employees were miffed about losing their mini massages that helped them be relaxed at work and were not happy with how the new employee handled this situation.

Tips for dealing with Sexual Harassment

Published February 3, 2013 | By Wendi Schuller
If you are dealing with  sexual harassment at work and want to nip it in the bud, here are some suggestions. 1.  Ask around, is it just directed at you, or are there other victims?  Go to the offender’s supervisor, or to HR, enmass.  There is more crediblity with a group complaint. 2.  If you think the offender is just plain stupid , then talk to him and let him know that the line has been crossed. Possibly just educating the clueless one will do the trick.  He may erroneously think that you are “one of the guys”. 3.  Keep meticulous  records with times and dates of what happened. 4.  Use a sense of humor to set the record straight. 5.  Consult an attorney, if all else fails. I read how an ingenius group of women, who worked in a factory, handled this issue.  The floor supervisor would come around and sexually proposition the female workers individually. They talked amoung themselves and realized that they were all his victims.  They decided to take matters in their own hands and stop the problem once and for all.  Their plan was when the supervisor would come around to talk to someone, all of them would shut off their machines to make it quieter.  The victim would yell, whatever the proposition was, like  ” you want to do what to me?”  They knew it would be especially difficult for the first couple of women.  Soon, the  men also turned off their machines when it happened and laughed whenever the supervisor tried his tricks.  After a short while, the supervisor gave up and mainly stayed in his office overlooking the factory floor. Try being creative to avoid a lengthy lawsuit.



Returning to the Workplace During Divorce

The April 11, 2013  New York Times newspaper’s magazine section had an article by Judith Warner that discussed returning to work after a long hiatus raising children. Some of the women were facing divorce and had to jump back into the workplace.  A question was raised, is it better to get a job during the divorce or wait until it has ended. A woman’s divorce attorney told her “Before you do anything, you get a job.  You have to look at the next 30 years of your life, and if you are in control of the situation, and you have a job that’s paying you money, he’s going to be far less powerful over you in the divorce.”

Before my divorce, I was forced out of my job in our jointly owned business. My divorce attorney also insisted that I immediately find employment. Besides earning a little extra cash in this part-time position, it helped keep my sanity intact and gave me more power in my divorce proceedings.  Since it was far less income than co-owning a business, it may have given me more leverage in my alimony amount. One hurdle with determining alimony is that it can be calculated on what you can potentially earn, even if out of the workplace for many years.  It is a toss up  if quickly finding any old job during a divorce helps with increased alimony, but it can boost self-esteem.

The article discussed how women may be able to get back into the job market.  Schools are great places to network with well placed parents who have contacts in one’s field. One woman said that she did not even have to fill out a resume because these parents knew her talents and a job materialized. Warner stated “those who hadn’t been sufficiently strategic in their volunteering often struggled greatly.” Listing volunteer fund-raising efforts at schools and clubs can especially put one in the path of nonprofit organizations.

It would be interesting to hear what divorce attorneys around the country advise clients about getting a job during their divorce.



Financial Fasting a New Trend

Financial Fasting works much like diet fasting does when one reduces calories for a day of two a week.  This is particularly helpful for those just emerging from a life transition, such as divorce. Fasting may be short lived, such as when one wants to lose a few pounds before a special event. Or it can be long term, as some of my European friends do. Think of your finances in a similar vein. UK’s Women & Home magazine’s August 2013 issue has an article describing this latest trend.  Cut down on expenses for one or two days a week and spend your normal amounts on the other days. This will get you ahead of the financial game and put some extra cash in your bank account.

You may want to just have a designated time period for this financial fast, such as three months with an option to extend it.  For me, seeing a short-term goal makes it easier to do.  The article suggested the usual, bring your lunch and leave your credit cards at home on fasting days.

It also suggested viewing the financial fast as a trade.  You are giving up some extra frivolous expenditures for something that you would really enjoy, such as a facial.  You could have a special ongoing goal as my sons and I do. We have a vibrant pottery canister that is our “Travel Fund.”  We forgo extra clothes, gadgets, etc and put that money into the Travel Fund.  We fast financially, by going to coffee shops instead of expensive dinners.

Give this Financial Fast a go and see your dream reached a little quicker.

Family Dynamics Changing Post-divorce

Some family relationships may take a nose dive post-divorce and you may go through the grieving process for what is lost and will never be again. Take Naomi for example, she had written her step-mother regularly and sent cards for every occasion. She felt that they had a good long distance relationship. Her sons had told their step-grandmother about some abuse that they had suffered during the marriage and subsequent therapy post-divorce. The step-grandmother kept in contact with the ex, despite the boys’ wishes. Naomi wrote her step-mother saying that she and the boys would be in town for a short visit and gave two possible dates to get together. Imagine her shock when her step-sister wrote a scathing note back stating that her mother did not want to see them because the ex had a different story regarding his sons. The step-sister and Naomi only exchanged Christmas cards, so she was surprised at the intensity of the venom. The step-sister also was a friend of the ex on Facebook, although she had not seen him in over 15 years.

Sometimes you just have to let people go and realize that this is in your own and children’s best interest. If someone has an idea so entrenched in their brain, it may be better just not to respond. Or keep them at a distance and only exchange holiday cards, without a personal message.

Another issue in a situation like this, is how to gently explain something to your children. Part of the vitriol of that letter was specifically directed at her younger son. She told both boys that Grandma was unable to meet up with them for that visit. Naomi is going to show her other son (in his early 20s) that letter a bit later. You don’t want to harbor family secrets, but rather to discuss family issues in a therapeutic way. We can’t change toxic family members’ behavior, only our response (or lack of) to it. Talk this over with friends and if it still bothers you, possibly to a therapist or clergy.

Visitation When There Has Been Previous Abuse Pre-divorce

During the divorce process, there are two attorneys and possibly an interim child psychologist looking over the parents’ shoulders during visitation. They are checking to make sure that a parent is not trying to alienate the other one and that the children are having smooth transitions. In the majority of cases visitation goes well with children benefiting with the presence of both parents in their lives. When there has been some past abuse or the children feel threatened, or unsafe, then measures can be taken. These tips help children feel more comfortable.

Get a track phone for your child with an x amount of prepaid minutes. Some of these phones will let you program a few important numbers in them. I taped that track phone’s number and my son’s therapist one on the back for any emergency. Just carrying the phone discreetly in a pocket can help a youngster feel more secure. Bach Flower Rescue Remedy comes in a dose for children This is for an acute, stressful situation, if one should arise. I would only send this with an older child who understands how to correctly take this stress remedy.

Another helpful hint is letting the child take a small object that helps her feel more powerful. It may be a saint’s medal or a special natural stone with certain perceived protective properties. My younger son got a Chinese character with a specific meaning from a compassionate shopkeeper. He still wears it around his neck for ongoing protection. My older son also included a smooth gemstone in his pocket that he fingered when upset. Maybe a small toy would be comforting for a young child.

If the older child drops out of visitation when she turns 18 and the younger one refuses to go alone, then supervised visitation is an option. The length of visitation or the type of activity might have to be adjusted. Your divorce attorney or child’s therapist can help with setting up supervised visitation. The age where a child can petition the court for modifying or ceasing visitation varies by state.

Do not ask how visitation went or what your child and the other parent did. If you suspect that any abuse is reoccurring , document any physical signs (photos of bruises) and discuss this with your lawyer. Children’s Protective Services may have to be notified. Again, most visitations go well with children feeling loved and cherished by both parents.

Joint, Physical, Sole and Legal Custody

Joint, Physical, Sole and Legal Custody have distinct differences and it is important to understand these during divorce negotiations.

Sole Custody can be granted to one parent when the other or the partner is abusive or impared.  The courts across the country are moving away from granting this type of custody and are giving Legal Custody to both parents. In sole custody, the  one parent has complete say in the child’s decisions and does not have to consult the other one.  If one parent is completely out of the picture, then this is when sole custody is more likely to be awarded.

Legal Custody is usually granted to both parents and this allows them to make decisions regarding the child’s medical, educational, religious and schooling even if one parent is in jail.  The incarcerated parent can still have imput on the child’s upbringing. When a parent has alcohol or drug abuse, then visitation may be supervised, but legal custody can still be awarded.  If a parent makes important changes, such as a school, the other parent can take that parent to court if he was not consulted in this decision.  Although my children had visitation, I was reprimanded for not informing my son’s father that our child had gotten a job during our divorce. If the other parent is abusive, Legal Custody can still be awarded, with a court mediator being appointed.  Then all communication between parents would go through this person.

Physical Custody is granted to the parent where the child completely or mainly resides. This may be that the child lives with his mother during the week and stays at his father’s house on the weekends.  It also is awarded to a parent when there is no overnight visits or in cases where visitation is supervised.

Joint Custody is when the child spends part of the week at each parent’s house or alternates every other week.  It is close to 50/50 and often the parents live nearby to make it easier for the child schooling.

Instances of where  family members, other than parents, are awarded custody are becoming more common.  This is particularly  the case when both parents are impaired or incarcerated.  Then grandparents, aunts or uncles may be granted custody. I personally am seeing this more and more in the public schools. I am having to call a grandparent to pick up a sick child or  ask an aunt to obtain permission to give a medication.



Collaborative Divorce – A New Team Member

There is a new member on the Collaborative divorce team.  A career coach is becoming an invaluable asset in collabortive divorce negotioations. Quite a few women have put aside their work aspirations to raise a family and have been out of the job market for awhile.  A career coach may be brought in to help these women determine their strengths and weaknesses and develop a plan of action. An intial assessment of skills and interest is performed and then the woman and career coach investigate potential jobs and career paths. It may be that the woman has developed different interest areas and accomplishments from her previous jobs and requires some vocational guidence during and post-divorce.  The career coach can assist with concrete tasks, such as helping to write a resume and check job wanted ads. Another function is to provide  reassurance and support for the spouse who is now hunting for a job.

An additional reason that a career coach is brought onboard is to help determine alimony and child support during collaborative divorce negotiations. These are determined by the earning potential of both spouses.  If one spouse has to go back to school or training to update her skills or license, then the career coach can point this out for a fairer  alimony/child support settlement.

In an acrimonious divorce, the career coach is a neutral person who can help set alimony/child support in an impartial manner.


Bobbi Brown’s tips for life

In Bobbi Brown’s new book,” Beauty Rules”, she has nuggets of wisdom which apply to all of us.

She states to “be nice” and that “you must be kind to others”. Also to “tell the truth”. She said “to take risks”, giving the example of going to NYC, without contacts and making cold calls to people in the beauty industry  .Bobbi  Brown said ” never give up”, even working for free on a trial basis to show your skills.

“Be on time” and “be open” to whatever may be coming your way. Feel your passion and to “care about something”, whether it’s animals, the environment or whatever. She suggests “giving back” by finding a cause and that is special to you. Bobbi Brown advocates “working hard” even if this means starting from the very bottom and working your way up the corporate ladder. “Look people in the eyes” to show your confidence, even if you aren’t feeling it at the moment. Bobbi Brown learned that looking and feeling pretty matters to one’s self esteem.

I am helped by reading of successful people’s struggles and the wisdom that they learned along the way. So many people have nuggets of wisdom that we can incorporate into our own lives, whether they are celebrities or a valued elderly neighbor.

How to pay off your mortgage

Tips on paying off your mortgage quickly.
1. Have your mortgage automatically withdrawn form your bank account with a set addtional amount to go to the principle itself.  For example, I doubled my mortgage amount with the other half going directly to my principle.
2.  Put ALL extra dividends, bonuses, tax refunds, inheritance, etc directly to your principle.  Make out a mortgage slip and send that in as  an extra payment to your principle.  It doesn’t matter if they are small amounts as long as they are clearly marked “principle”.  If you get large sums of money sporadically, such as artists do after shows or when paintings sell, put a good chunk of that to the principle.  I am friends with an artist family and they blow big chunks of money on frivolous items, but moan about their mortgage.  Any extra money that comes in, that is not your salary, put towards the principle.
3.  Check your mortgage policy.  Is there a prepayment penalty?  If so, see if you can have that mortgage transferred to another institution, which doesn’t have such restrictions.  Maybe you can have your mortgage loan refinanced at a lower rate.  Your monthly loan payment can be reduced if you put a certain  amount down on your mortgage.  For example if I put at least $5000.00 down, with a small fee, my loan payment was recalculated and my monthly payment became less.
4.  Some people are putting large amounts of money into their savings accounts and investments, which don’t accrue the same amount of interest, as the interest owed with a mortgage.  For example, last year I paid $1648.00 in interest with my mortgage, but did not earn any where near that with my small savings and investments.  I pulled money out of my small investments, sold heirloom silverware, etc and paid off my mortgage!  Now instead of paying $1648.00 in yearly interest, I can EARN some interest.
5.  More ways to pay off that mortgage:  Do you use great aunt Sally’s sterling silverware ?  Do you need your predivorce wedding china and crystal?  Then sell it.  Wouldn’t your deceased relatives be glad that you have a  completely paid  roof over your head?  You can put an ad in your local paper, sell items online or take them to a consignment shop.  I’ve sold some less expensive heirlooms at garage sales.  This money adds up and put  it towards your principle.
6. Live simply and put extra money  not spent, towards your mortgage.  Buy kids clothes at the thrift stores, some items still have the tags on them.  Go out for lattes instead of dinner or lunch.  More in later blogs about saving  money.  Stay focused on your mortgage goal and you will accomplish it, as I did.
7. Read some books or articles by experts, such as Suzy Orman to get you on track.
8. If you have a larger living space than you need, could you downsize and sell it, buying a smaller abode?
Could you take in a paying roomate, if you don’t want to sell it?
9. Be creative and you will be surprised how quickly you can obtain this goal.

Safety tips for subways etc

  Recently a robbery happened to the man behind me in a subway station in South America. It could have taken place anywhere.  Be mindful of your surroundings, including “sleeping” homeless people on the floor. The big saftey tip is to particularly watch your wallet/ purse when you are going towards the train, BUT there is a nearby exit.  The man entered as we did, and someone behind him grabbed his wallet and ran up the  exit steps to the street. He yelled and I gestured to the policeman to follow them up the stairs.
This robbery occured at a small station, so we walked the extra 15 minutes to use a busy, large station after that robbery.  Skip the smaller, less peopled subway stations when possible.
 There are videos from the London underground stations, where would be thieves carry around empty plastic carrier bags.  What the theives do, is to shield the pickpocket area from passersby with the plastic bag.  Then no commuters see a billfold being lifted from a pocket or a handbad being opened and some contents purloined.
 My older son kept his hand in his pocket, over his wallet which may have saved him from being the robbery victim.  Even though there is safety in numbers, be vigilent of your surroundings.

Adopt a class before your vacation

Talk to a teacher and bring back a local craft/bookmark for each student.  The kids will learn a little bit about a new corner of the world.  When I went to Vietnam, I found a small set  containing a wooden girl and boy, dressed in the native outfits, for $1.50 each.  That way the gift could be given to either gender.  Colorful bookmarks with local scenes would also be inexpensive.  The teacher showed the first grade students where Vietnam is on a globe and map.  They briefly discussed a little bit about the country and food.  It was fun for me to find these treasures and the kids really liked them and learning about a different country  Key chains, pencils, pens or small local crafts would inspire children to want to know more about kids around the globe. Perhaps you could find a small  booklet about your travel destination, for school kids amidst these budget cuts for education.

Ten Top Travel Tips

IMG_2102Here are great tips from a frequent traveler:

1.  Save, don’t throw away, your holey underware and socks.  Add to it, pants, dresses etc that are on their last wearings. Clothes that aren’t to your liking, or were given to you by an ex,  could be included in this mix.  Take these on your upcoming trip and leave them or throw them away as you wear them.  Just think, you’ll  have almost a whole suitcase available for souvineers and presents. If you leave clothes behind in a hotel room, make sure to leave a note to the maid, that they are unwanted.

2. Book trips way ahead of time, even by a year, to take advantage of great prices. For example, Viking River Cruises has 2 for the price of 1 deals. 3. Book  another trip while onboard.  You usually can change the date or destination later, but keep the 5% to 10% discount.

3.  Get past cruiser  discounts or a night free in a hotel, by sticking with the same cruise lines, hotels, or airlines/partners. There are big savings in loyalty programs.

4.Save your small containers, such as eye cream or lip balm ones.  Put sunscreen, hair conditioner, etc in them for your small allotment for carryons.  Remember to use your children’s pint bag  liquid allowance for airplane carry ons and load them up with your extra lotions and potions. I especially use their liquid allotment on the return trips, when I bring back bodycare presents for friends

5. A great travel agent is invaluable, particularly if you are in a disaster on the way home and need assistance.  Agents also can sometimes get upgrades and added bonuses, that you can’t.  They can get cheaper prices, because they are experts and know how to get travel services in cost-cutting packages.

6. Go to the library and pick up free magazines to take with you. Get cheap paperback books that you can leave enroute, from a used bookstore, thrift shop or library book sale.

7.  Have specific pieces of clothes that you only take travelling.  That way, you can pack in 15 minutes and know what fits and packs wonderfully.  Purchase clothing that can be washed in a hotel sink and hung up to dry.  One great brand that does this beautifully, is  Tianello.  I have black pants that work well with a dressy top, or a casual t-shirt for daytime sightseeing.  I also have a comfortable pair of casual/ dressy black sandals for extensive walking, or dressier situations.  A few other pairs of shoes are just for trips.

8. Satisfy your wonderlust and get it off your taxes!  The IRS allows one inernational trip a year for your business/ job.  I usually go on one exotic nurses’ trip/conference a year in locales such as Iceland, Egypt, South Africa etc.  Check for conferences in the city or area of the world that you would like to explore.

9.  When you return from a trip is the time to restock your cosmetic case.  Wash out your brushes, replace needed cosmetics, then you are good to go at a moments notice.

10.  Do your birthday and holiday shopping when in exotic locales.  You will have different, exciting gifts, often at a fraction of the price of  the more mundane ones at home.  It makes going to the souk more fun, if you are buying future gifts for friends and family. My nephews loved the t-shirts from Egypt, Morocco etc. and my relatives have enjoyed the different jewelery, not found at home.  My friends enjoy the different facial treats  and lotions from abroad.

Quick and Easy Meal

Here is a quick and healthy way to make soup.  I go to Trader Joe’s (or your local favorite store) and buy different  cartons (32 OZ) of their various vegetable soups. I use fresh vegetables bagged, or from the produce aisle, or farmer’s markert. Steam and  then puree them in a food processor.  For example, I sometimes get a bag of mixed broccoli/califlower and after steaming and pureeing, put them in a pan and add organic butternut squash soup. It seerves 3 to 8 people, depending on portions.
  If you want to skip the steaming part, make a red/yellow/orange pepper soup. I buy a 32 OZ carton of Organic Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper soup. I puree 2 or 3 peppers and put the puree in a pot on the stove, adding the carton of soup.  Just heat through and serve.
  You can steam and puree the veggies ahead of time, put them in a small container and refridgerate until almost serving time.  It takes around 5 to 10 minutes to heat up the puree veggies and soup.
  This is a wonderful starter  when entertaining, bound to get you rave reviews.  For a simple meal with the kids, add a sandwich or salad and you are done. 

New way to cancel your mortgage

Here is an ingenious way to get rid of a mortgage.  My neighbors had a big mortgage and a business that was feeling the effects of the recession. This is what they did. They switched houses with another family and moved into one that had the mortgage paid.  They gave up their bigger, close to town house, for one that was more out in the country.  They no longer had a mortgage, so could get caught up financially. The commute into the city only added about 12 minutes per way, so it wasn’t too bad for them.
If you need the equity out of your house and don’t want to sell it, then you may want to consider a credit line which is tied to your house.  Check out the interest rates to see if this would work.

Home Alarm tip

A construction contractor gave me this tip to prevent false alarms. Remove cobwebs from around your alarm sensor and get rid of any spiders near it. The movement of a web, or spider, in front of the alarm sensor can trigger a false alarm. Air rushing out of your heating and cooling vents can get those strands of webs moving. I also keep the vents near my ceiling dust free with a long duster.
  Remember, when you go on vacation to call your alarm company to give them your house/pet sitters’s phone #, in case there is a false alarm or possible break in.

Quick shortcuts with food for company

  Save on prep time and buy prediced ingredients.  Many grocery stores carry, fresh diced onions. Soups and other recipes call for a vegetable mixture called mirepoix, which can also be purchsed in the fresh food section.  Keep cream cheese on hand because it can be mixed with so many other items for a quick dip or hors’doeuvres.  Mixed thawed spinach (thawed in a flash in the microwave) or herbs with the cream cheese and serve with crackers or cut up veggies for drop in guests.
   For Ham Pinwheels: Take thin slices of ham, spread on cream cheese, plain or with herbs, then roll up the ham tightly with the shorter sides. Slice it about 1/4 in. thick for a lovely appetizer.
  Yummy French Bread appetizer: Cut a loaf of french bread into 1/2 inch slices. Spread with softened butter with a dab of mustard mixed in.  Top with Brie cheeze. You can also sprinkle paprika on some and Fines’ herbs or Herbs De Provence on others for more festive colors.  Broil theses just until the edges turn brown, maybe a minute or two.
  Quick stuffed mushrooms:   Remove the mushroom stems and dice them.  Add cream cheeze, chopped green onion and salami bits.  Mix together, and stuff the mushrooms. Cook on baking sheet for 10 min.s @ 375.  You can get creamed spinach in the freezer section and stuff the mushrooms with this for a variarion.
  Remember the classic, but easy artichoke dip. One can of chopped artichoke hearts.   3/4 cup of mayonaise. One cup of cheeze, can be parmesian, or whatever tickles your fancy.  You can add anything else, green chili, herbs, whatever.  Cook @350 for about 25 min.s
  Keep some high quality frozen appetizers in your fridge for drop in company, such as those from Trader Joe’s. In an emergency, Cut bread into rounds, top with cheeze and put under the broiler for a short time.
Enjoy the holidays!

Children’s stomach and bowel woes

If your child is having stomach/bowel problems which keep reoccuring for several weeks, it’s time to take the next step. Check her stress level. Could she be bullied at school? Is she having problems with her teacher, homework, classwork or peers?   Check in with her teacher to see what may be happening.
If she got an all clear from her doctor, then insist on a more in depth evaluation, including blood tests for blood sugar, gluten and lactose intolerance. Also have a stool sample analyzed, particularly if your family travels.  A good friend in my nursing school was hospitalized with a nasty GI parasite and she hadn’t left the state, much less the country.
Is your child getting 5 to 7 fruits and vegetables a day?   Is she mainly living on fast foods (particularly teenagers)?  I’m guilty of making meals from frozen, but organic foods without including a salad for roughage.
If she is running to activity to activity, without much downtime? A hectic schedule can contribute to GI woes.

Travel Tips

IMG_1562  It’s better to start packing for your next trip right after you get back, rather than waiting to do so right before  your next one. If you need a new travel size deodorant or toothpaste, get them right away and pack in your carry-on.  Wash your make up brushes upon return and when dry, pack them in your cosmetic bag.  This way, if you have a family emergency, you’re good to go.  I keep small containers on hand, so I can fill them up quickly.  Save money, by recycling clean small containers, that used to contain your eye cream or lip balm.  I also stash samples and the small cosmetic freebies from magazines, in one place and take them along on journeys.  Airport security allows the blunt tip baby nail scissors to be taken in a carry-on bag.  They are great for cutting open samples or foil pouches of facial creams.  I also cut  off the bottom of tubes, to get every last bit of ointment or cream, while on the road.
I have a bin where my holey underwear and socks go, plus any clothes that have a few more wearings.  Then I can throw away or leave the clothes enroute, to make room for new purchases.  I went to Egypt with one small, carry-on suitcase and managed to have room for a lot of souvenirs and gifts.  When I leave clothes behind, I put a note on top of them in the hotel, that I am done wit them.
I keep an extra comb, travel tooth brush and disposible razor in my carry-on bag, so don’t have to remember to pack these before a trip.
You may want to have a space in your closet for a nightgown and several travel dresses or outfits.  Yes, I’m wearing a lot of the same clothes in travel pics, bit I haven’t forgotten anything and literally pack in 10 minutes.

Go to the public library to get free magazines before your trips. There is a shelf in my
library where people can exchange magazines. I stock up on used paperbacks at the library’s
semi-annual book sale fundraisers. Then I can leave books on my trips and have room for
buying gifts.  My older son goes to a used bookstore and stocks up on books.

I buy some Manga ( his current favorite) books for my younger son and save them for trips.
He is happy to do extra chores for these books and has something new to read on long haul
adventures. Curious George is great for the younger set,  particularly if you are going somewhere with cheeky monkeys.

Bon voyage!

quick and easy healthy meal/snack

For a quick and yummy breakfast, I throw this together.  Take at least 1/2 cup of non-fat or low-fat plain Greek yogart and sprinkle in some raw oats  ( I use McCann’s quick rolled oats). Use as much as you like,for either a  more crunchy or creamy texture. Then I add around 1/2 cup of  blueberries. Use whatever fruit that you like and change it for variety or for what is in season.
   For a fancier dish, mix equal amounts of blueberries and green grapes together. Add a creamy,  rich strawberry yogart, such as yoplait, to coat the grape/berry mixture.  Serve in a pretty dish.  The amount depends upon how many people will be eating it.  This  looks elegant in a brunch buffet. Enjoy!.

Helping Local Charities when Traveling

When you travel abroad, think about helping local charities. If you know that you are visiting a school or orphanage, bring school supplies. Our nurses’ group brought supplies when visiting a school in a township in South Africa.  We didn’t know to bring easy reader books in English, so I sent a shipment  of paperback ones to them , after returning home.  When I went to poorer places, I brought some common antibiotics, etc ( from pharmacutical rep.s, which I used to know) and gave them to clinics.  In Burma, the guide asked if  I had any pediatric medication that I didn’t use for my two kids on the trip, so he could pass them along to a doctor friend who worked in the local pediatric clinic. The last day, I gave him kids’ tylenol, etc.


A great web site is, which has a global map, and you click on it where you are going.  For example, I clicked on Indonesia and a  local charity in Denpasar, Bali ( same area as the international airport) was recommended.  The web site states what they particularly need. This charity’s requests included body wash, pillow cases and diapers. Some items are so easy to pack  and one could pick up pillow cases and children’s clothes, cheaply at your charity shop. You are invited to put down a local charity that you found when traveling, upon your return.  Be sure to get specific information, such as address, phone#, directions from the airport, etc.
Just think of the positive message that you will give your children, as you go to clinics, school, etc, when abroad. It lets them realize that traveling isn’t just about yourself. Enjoy your adventures, while helping others!

How to treat burns

Have a safe 4th of July and watch children around fireworks and outdoor grills. This is the difference between burns and how to treat them. A first degree burn is pink or red and can be a mild sunburn. Put a cool cloth over burn and after that, aloe vera or other simular burn remedy.
A second degree burn goes to the dermis skin level, and appears mottled pink, with some blisters or waxy looking areas. Pour cool water on the burn. If the burn is more than 15% of the total body area, is on the feet, hands, face or groin area, then that person should be seen as an emergency patient. Remove jewelery from burn areas right away, before swelling starts. Do not put any ointment on burns when the person will be going to the ER for evaluation.
A third degree burn goes to the fatty tisse and can invovle the bone and muscle as well. It appears whitish with some grey/black areas. Call 911 right away and cover the person with a sheet or blanket while waiting for the ambulance.
If the burn is from a chemical, then call poison control at 1-800-222-1222.
Remember the stop, drop and roll if your clothes catch on fire.

DIY Home Repairs and simple updates when divorcing or other Life Transitions

Some home repair/placement items give more bang for your buck. When a friend of mine was selling her house post-divorce, she got sparkling new faucets and hired a plumber to install them.  She sold  her house in a jiffy. Remember, if you are selling your home quickly during a divorce, to do even small actions such as buying new hardware. There are attractive drawer handles/pulls for just a few dollars and they can liven up a kitchen or bathroom.
Another person spent $30.00 on 2 bedroom light fixtures for her rental property, before showing it to prospective tenants.  The old ones were the can style, which illuminated only a tiny part of the room. What a difference that small investment made for  brighter rooms.
My contractor’s advice when doing your own home repairs or painting, is to use high quality tools. He states that it is worth the few extra dollars to get a better paintbrush, roller, etc.  He can walk in in a room and know that the owners painted it themselves and skimped on a cheapish brush. Other repairs don’t go as well, if the equipment breaks, or just doesn’t do a decent job.
Another thing he does, is to custom order paint , so that it will match the room exactly, when he does touch ups and doesn’t need to repaint the entire room.  For example, when he was putting a heating system in, he took a small part of the wall to our local Sherwin Williams paint store.  The color was exact, so he only had to touch up around the base board and the new, small section of wall installed.
When you are buying items, such as cabinets, for home improvements, don’t assume because you are buying surplus items at a charity shop, that it is cheaper. One local charity shop, where builders bring new or slightly used supplies, sometimes has items which are more expensive, than at large DIY stores. My contractor has pointed this out at this charity shop. So use great equipment and know your prices before shopping for supplies.

How to patent your invention

                        Tips for getting your great idea a patent.
  Get a blank notebook and draw out your idea.  Write a description for your diagram.
If it is something that you can make yourself, for a prototype, then do so.  If you need to get outside help, then have the artist, welder, or whoever sign a confidentiality agreement.  The most important tip is to get a patent attorney, who regularly does patents.  It is okay if this attorney is in another city, because you may not have a patent attorney in your home town. 
  Don’t make my major mistake.  I asked an attorney, who I used to do business with to recommend someone.  He endorsed his new, just passed the bar partner, and said that she would do a great job.  An inexperience lawyer, who did not specialize in patents should have raised a red flag.  My patent application was so botched that it was returned and I had to have a patent attorney in another city to tend to it.
  You can go online and see if there are any other products, like the one you want to patent.   when you get a great idea, write it down right away.  I’m still trying to remember my fantastic, can’t live without it one, from several months ago. Think of this as an adventure.

Prevent/Treat Sunburn Peeling

If you or your child gets a sunburn, here is a tip to prevent peeling or stop it in it’s tracks.  Mix equal parts of  Apple Cider Vinegar  (the darker type)  and water in a small container. Apply this mixture over the sunburn areas, including  over the white, flakey peeling skin ( it will stop peeling after this).  Use this mixture at least every  1/2 hour to hour durning the first 24 hours.  Put this mixture by your bedside , so you can  apply this over the sunburned areas, if you wake up during the night, without having to get out of bed. Yes you may smell like a salad during this process, but it is better to have the sunburn go into a tan vs. white, peeling skin.
Remember to apply sunscreen frequently and not wait until you feel a burn. Get a small travel   or sample size of sunscreen to make it easier for kids to tote it around.

Trading goods in foreign markets and saving money

Save money on items in souks and market places abroad. Take some of the latest jeans or other gadgets when going on vacation.  I took some American jeans and traded them in the  Istanbul souk for some great gifts. I took 2 cartons of American cigarettes to an upscale jewelry store in Jerusalem and bargained like mad.  The store owner was so impressed that he offered me a job on the spot.  Unfortunately, I was leaving soon and couldn’t accept it.  I did  get some lovely gold items from  his shop.  As a nurse, I wouldn’t take cigarettes again.
When I went to Egypt, our guide told us about the nurses before us, having to take a long bus trip  to a site, when the airplanes were on strike.  He dreaded their return that evening, fearing he would hear nothing but complaints. Imagine his surprise when the nurses were so excited and said it was one of the best days of their lives. A  nomadic caravan was in the desert and the bus stopped for it. The nurses got out, traded about everything on and with them, for lovely treasures from the desert, including jewelry and clothing. What a fantastic experience they had!
Surprisingly, my kids t-shirts have been popular in Asia. This is a money saving tip, which is fun to do,

Exercise and Fitness

This is a resistance exercise that can be done at home, in a hotel room or cruise ship cabin, using a small hand towel. Stand with your legs apart and kness slightly bent. Put a small hand towel over your head and grasp the two ends, pulling on each end. Bend 5 times to the right and 5 times to the left from your waist, maintaining  resistance with the towel. Keep going. This is great to do while your body lotion is drying. Not only do your arm muscles get a work out, but you will feel it along your sides as well.
This can be followed by doing some squats, easy to do when you are travelling. Stand with your legs apart with toes pointing outward. Lift your big toes to avoid pressure on your knees. Then lower your bottom, like you are going to sit down. Keep your back  in the same position, doing the bending from your knees.
Remember to just take the stairs on cruise ships, then you can eat that great looking dessert.

Cruising for great deals – cheap travel

IMG_1545Find conferences around the globe in your profession and you travel to an exotic local as a tax deduction.  The IRS allows 1 international conference a year.
Some people have gotten terrific travel deals by using local travel agencies in foreign locales.  They use frequent flier miles to get to Europe, Asia etc and have a native agency make all of the interior arrangements and save big bucks.
As a single mother with a passion for international travel, I have to get the most bang for my buck. If you are retired or on a routine yearly schedule, such as a teacher, here is a great tip. Book your trip over a year ahead of time and take advantage of 2 for the price of 1 specials. We have taken several European river cruises on Viking River Cruises and paid the price of one passenger for two of us per cabin. All meals and shore excursions are included, so it is a big money saver for me.
Ocean cruises, such as Holland America and Cunard also have better deals, the farther out you book. With ocean cruises, you get another discount if you book, while still onboard for a future cruise.
Another trick a learned from two sweet elderly ladies who live around Southampton, England, is to keep a travel bag always packed and call cruise companies the day of or day before a ship’s departure. Southampton is a major hub for various cruise lines, so they often get unbelievable deals at the very last minute. They are both retired and have family that can watch their flat and house when that happens. If you live near a cruise ship terminal, this could work for you. Bon Voyage!

Skin cancer

People sometimes put off having moles and freckles checked, because they think that they are too young for skin cancer.  If you have a lot of freckles, having an all over body exam,  by a dermatologist is a good idea to establish a baseline. Two years ago, some very dear friends lost their son to melanoma.  He was out in the sun a lot,  playing golf and other sports and didn’t wear any sun screen.

Here is a guide to determine if you should see a dematologist for skin cancer. This is an easy way to remember what deadly moles look like. ABCDE.
Asymmetry.  Is the mole perfectly round (normal), or a different shape?
Border.  Are the edges sharp (normal), or more blurred?
Color.  Is the mole one color ( normal), or a variety of black, brown or red?
Diameter. Is the mole under 6mm (normal) or over that size?
Expert.  If your mole/s fall in these second categories, then see an expert (dermatologist).
This is the guide that nurses use, and I want to add, if your mole is bleeding, also have it checked.  Sometimes a cancerous mole may stick up more (such as on the scalp) and you notice it that way. An acquaintance started feeling a small bump on her scalp when she was doing her hair.  This sun-loving woman had the bump checked out and it turned out to be cancerous (she was in her early 30’s at the time). Scalps can get sunburned too, so wear a hat in the intense sun.

Diversify your Assets

In these crazy economic times, don’t put all of your  financial eggs in one basket. Diversify!  For example,
one of our esteemed American financial institutions played a big part in wrecking havoc with Britains’ economy.  Londoners lost their high paying financial jobs which trickled down to other parts of society.  Some experienced London  investment advisors did not do what they preached.  When they received bonuses, they took it in stock options and other bank plans, instead of putting their money in other types of investments in different venues.  These people lost their retirement investments and life savings in one blow, along with their jobs.
Pick more than one financial institution for your investments.  I have done well recently in intermediate bonds.  I also keep some money in my bank, for easy access.  I am investing in a plan which has a multitude of stocks, to minimize risks, although less of my money is here.  I was shocked that one local bank only offers .10% on savings accounts, almost nothing.  Look to see if a bank now owns an investment house that you are considering for investments.  One bank that I loathe, bought out the one I was with, so I withdrew my money and found a much safer, higher paying  venue.  Another way to diversify, is with real estate.  It’s a buyer’s market now.  If you have the money to purchase an extra, smaller house, you can rent it out for years and enjoy the income.  Your house would eventually appreciate and you can sell it at a much later date.

Professional Home repair tip

Here is a tip dealing with home repair, that I learned the hard way.  Don’t pay for the entire job upfront.  Hold some back for a final payment to make sure the job is completed.  I paid  the entire fee to a workman to redo my outside courtyard area in front.  When he stopped in the middle of the job and disappeared, I tried to track him down.  He disconnected his cell and I called the person who had  recommended the workman.  That person refused to take any responsibility for the referral and explained  that the workman was a drunk and currently in jail.
1. Get better references than I did.  Do a word of mouth survey and see if several people recommend the same worker or company.  Ask someone in the business, such a former construction worker, who he would hire.
2. Get a signed receipt for all payments, especially if you may be going to a small claims court down the road.
3. Hold the final payment until work is done to your satisfaction.
4. Check with your local Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints.

Post-divorce or with other life transitions, you may be stressed, but taking more to make sure you have the right worker will save you money and frustration in the end.


A Child’s favorite travel destinations


IMG_1350New Zealand

Here, from the mouth of my youngest son, are his top ten favourite places to travel, written by him.
Germany, the scenery is amazing and the food is excellent.
Vietnam, the people are so kind and welcoming plus the food is out of this world.
New Zealand, two main islands make up this gorgeous country with exceptional views.
Argentina, the culture there is interesting and they have quite friendly cats (Botanical Garden).
Thailand, one of the most friendly countries I have ever been good foot massages too.
Gibralter, the gateway to the Mediteranian: nice city nestled on a mountain side.
Switzerland, best chocolate in the world and world class scenery.
Morocco, best mint tea in the world people are very welcoming to tourists.
Sri Lanka, world class Bhuddist shrines have an abundance of wounderful monks and people.
Any rural place, to get away from it all and star gaze.

🙂 enjoy traveling

Heat Stroke vs Food Poisoning

I was just asked how to differentiate between heat stroke and food poisoning. With food poisoning, the body wants to get rid of the toxins as quickly as possible. You will have diarrhea along with vomiting. It comes on very quickly. Sometimes it is as if one moment you are fine and the next, you are running to the bathroom. With food poisoning, you may end up camping in the bathroom for the night.
Heat stroke comes on more slowly, in a gentler way. You feel hot, nauseated, without always vomiting. You may have a headache.  The symptoms of heat stroke lessen when the person gets out of the sun, sips a cool drink, puts ice or a cold cloth over part of them, and lies down for a while.  Sometimes with food poisoning, you can remember some dodgy food which you consumed.  Heat stroke comes on after being in the sun or in the scorching heat.

Treating heat exhaustion

The symptoms of heat exhaustion are: dizziness, nausea/vomiting,  muscle weakness, heavy perspiration with possible clammy skin. Get the person to a cooler place, loosen clothing and have person start drinking water or an electrolyte replacement drink.  A women on a boat developed heat exhaustion quickly, when I was in the Caribbean.  I had a staff member put crushed ice in 4 disposible gloves and I put 2 of  them under her arms. Her husband put 2 gloves with the ice around the woman’s groin. These are 2 sites which bring down the body’s temperature more quickly.
Heat stroke is a medical emergency, with these symptoms: hot, dry red skin, confusion,rapid heartbeat,lack of sweating, high body temperature and possible fainting.
Stay well hydrated on hot days and in some shade.

Treating the Flu

Here’s a nurse’s tip for stopping the flu in it’s tracks. Boiron Homeopathic medicine makes a great product which is small pellets  that melt in your mouth ( great when you can’t keep anything down).  It’s called Oscillococcinum and can be found in almost any drugstore or supermarket.  It really is a miracle remedy in my book.  I  have given it “off label” for food poisoning and it cut the suffering time to less than half.

For colds, “Coldcalm” helps my symptoms to be in hours instead of days.  I keep both of these products on hand, because especially when the flu hits, you don’t want to find someone to go to the store for you.  There are special formulations just for kids.  If I start to lose my voice with a cold, then I get it right back with this product.
Of course flu/cold prevention is always best, so remember to wash your hands and carry around a hand sanitizer.  Pop a hand sanitizer in your kid’s school backpack. Cough in your arm or shoulder and not in your hands.

Treating insect stings with kitchen ingredients

It’s easy to treat insect stings with what you have in your kitchen.
For bee stings, scrape the stinger out by going across the sting with a credt card. After washing the area, apply a paste, made with baking soda and water.
Use vinegar to  neutralize the area of an alkaline jellyfish sting.  Vinegar will lessen the pain from the sting.
If your child gets bitten by a wasp, pour fresh lemon juice over the area.
Cold compresses help with insects stings.
With black widow or brown recluse spider bites, clean the bites with an antiseptic and keep the person quiet until she receives medical help.
With snake bites, keep the bite area at or below the level of the heart while waiting for medical treatment.
I use Benedryl gel on my kids’ bug bites.  If you have many bites, you may want to consider a Benedryl capsule.  Some parents feel oatmeal baths get rid of their childrens’ itchiness. Wearing pants and a lightweight long sleeve shirt can prevent the bites in the first place.

Tips for dealing with Sexual Harassment

If you are dealing with  sexual harassment at work and want to nip it in the bud, here are some suggestions.
1.  Ask around, is it just directed at you, or are there other victims?  Go to the offender’s supervisor, or to HR, enmass.  There is more crediblity with a group complaint.
2.  If you think the offender is just plain stupid , then talk to him and let him know that the line has been crossed. Possibly just educating the clueless one will do the trick.  He may erroneously think that you are “one of the guys”.
3.  Keep meticulous  records with times and dates of what happened.
4.  Use a sense of humor to set the record straight.
5.  Consult an attorney, if all else fails.
I read how an ingenius group of women, who worked in a factory, handled this issue.  The floor supervisor would come around and sexually proposition the female workers individually. They talked amoung themselves and realized that they were all his victims.  They decided to take matters in their own hands and stop the problem once and for all.  Their plan was when the supervisor would come around to talk to someone, all of them would shut off their machines to make it quieter.  The victim would yell, whatever the proposition was, like  ” you want to do what to me?”  They knew it would be especially difficult for the first couple of women.  Soon, the  men also turned off their machines when it happened and laughed whenever the supervisor tried his tricks.  After a short while, the supervisor gave up and mainly stayed in his office overlooking the factory floor. Try being creative to avoid a lengthy lawsuit.


Best baking tip

  The best baking tip to make scrumptious goodies and savories in one word, is butter.  High quality butter makes all of the difference in baked goods, sauces, mashed potatos, etc.  The pale yellow, almost tasteless butter in many groceries, makes inferior tasting foods.  You need less butter than recipes call for, when using the rich Irish or English butters.  For every stick of that butter, I use 1 tablespoon less in my recipes.  With stovetop  No Bake  Dough Cookies, I use 1/3rd of the recipe amount.  Use  1/2  less butter in mashed potatos than what you are currently using.  I sometimes use an English one, but currently buy unsalted Kerrygold pure Irish butter. 
  High quality butter is especially noticible in pizzelles, butter cookies, shortbread, pie crusts etc.  This butter freezes well, so I buy a couple of extra  ones to pop in the freezer to use when the baking mood strikes me. Sometimes this Irish or English butter is packaged as 2 sticks together, so when I open one, I divide it in half lengthwise, so it becomes 2 individual sticks.  A dab will do it for  cooking vegetables.  I use less butter and enjoy the foods much more.

Travelling with Infants

IMG_2839Travelling with an infant is doable with a little advance planning. Consider staying in a vacation condo or a short-term apartment rental. I skipped the very cheap hotels and stayed in ones that had a crib. Travelling by train such as the Eurostar, had advantages over flying. I could walk the wee one down the aisle and point to the animals outside of our window. We stayed at my mother’s house across country that had baby paraphernalia. It was fun taking my pre-schooler and his infant brother to my favourite childhood haunts. Some parents forgo a stroller for a baby sling when travelling.

If your baby or toddler is still on formula, it’s very easy to do long international trips. I had a container which had 3 separate compartments for the correct amount of dry formula per bottle. The container had a spout on the end for easy pouring of the dry formula into a baby bottle, containing water. I would make up a bottle as I went on the airplanes. Now, you may have to buy water after security control at the airports. While touring foreign cities, I’d buy a bottle of water and pore it ahead of time into my baby bottles and then add the formula, on the go. I used the disposable Playtex liners, particularly on trips. To sterilize bottle nipples, I used a travel heating unit, which heated up water in hotel rooms, and then I poured it over the washed baby bottle nipples.

There are family friendly destinations, such as a beach, farm stay or a city like London with huge parks. Some cities have a children’s museum, zoo and fun festivals. My nine month old son ate as much at a big outdoor food extravaganza  in Chicago, as I did. Animal sanctuaries and countries with wildlife up close is fun for the little ones.


Savvy Travel Tips from Frequent Fliers

IMG_1703Here are  travel and safety tips from frequent fliers:

1.  Take blunt-tip baby scissors. They pass through security and are indespensible at opening foil packets or plastic tubes.  Save the magazines samples of lotions and cosmetics to bring on journeys. The scissors are handy to use with hotel sewing kits. I had to use them to cut ace wrap for my son’s wrist, while enroute to France.
2.  Buy skin serums in the form of capsules, for individual uses while on trips.  Easy to pack and no bottles to tote back home. I take the sample packets found in magazines and in some stores at their beauty events.
3. Take small wrapped toys for little tots and dole them out during the trip.  Get comic books or fun magazines for the older ones. Pack energy bars, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and snacks since meals can be off schedule.
4. Double your payment for bills before you leave, so no worries while abroad. This way you are covered if your trip is unexpectedly longer, and you do not return to a stack of bills to pay.
5.  Get some new toys to give your pets when you depart. My cats like a new catnip mouse or cardboard scratching post.
6. Those large plastic travel bags really do work, to flatten clothes when packing.
7. Watch for pickpockets and this INCLUDES little children. Some families are in it together.  A prime time is when people are gathered around street muscicians or buskers. Watch your possessions when there is a diversion on the street or when people ask directions and stick a map in your face.
8. Familiarize yourself with landmarks, not just street names.  When you are running to catch the last bus out of the night street market in Thailand, it’s handier to remember to turn left at the xyz restaurant. In London I totally forgot which apartment building I was in the first time I returned. Luckily I remembered the construction right in front of it and found it okay.
9. Don’t be polite. If you are uncomfortable around someone, just leave.  If you want to get away from someone walking behind you, cross the street and go into a restaurant. Learn the word “help” in whatever language is spoken where your are visiting. If being followed, nip into a restaurant or store.
10. There are disposable washcloths that I buy and take to Europe. I use the hotel shampoo to wash out my clothes and skip packing laundry detergent. Buy travel size products. I roomed with a friend on a trip who brought huge bottles with her and then had trouble packing everything going home.