Monday, April 25, 2016

Cubs and Cards at Busch Stadium

We had the best seats ever last Wednesday afternoon in St. Louis Busch Stadium for the Cubs/Cards game. 

We had four seats behind the Cubs dugout at 3rd base. We were second row back. We could see everything. It was amazing to watch the players up close.

It was a beautiful day in St. Louis - hot and sunny with a few clouds. A thunderstorm blew in during the 7th inning and there was a rain delay for about 3 hours.

We met our friends and seat companions at Ballpark Village for an early beer and some appetizers before the game. Ballpark Village is the place to go before the game. Ballpark Village is the Cardinals answer to Wrigleyville. There are 3 floors surrounding an indoor center court containing a stage, restaurant, bars, and beer pong areas. There are several restaurants, bars, shops, and a museum of the Cardinals Hall of Fame surrounding the court. Tickets are available for purchase to watch the game from the rooftop at the  Budweiser Brewhouse. You can also just sit in there and watch the game on via flat screen tv in cool comfort. On that day it was a sea of Cubby blue and Cardinal red. While we were there, we listened to music and watched a contest to see which fan could eat the most jalapeno peppers. It was very lively in there and an awesome start to our adventure!

Go Cubbies!!!

We found our seats and had a great time watching the game until the 7th inning storm sent us back inside the stadium. We waited for two hours for the game to resume. We had found several other people we knew and passed the time visiting and drinking more beer. People started to leave and we grew hungry so we decided to get some food. We left and had a nice meal at Hooters down the street. Our friends went home and we walked over to the Lumiere Casino as we had a room for the night. We gambled and had a few more drinks. It was fun but I wish I hadn’t lost so much money in those slot machines.

Can’t wait to do it again! 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Sinus Remedies

Do you like the smell of fresh brewing coffee, baking bread, the top of your child's head?  If you are missing these smells, you may have sinus congestion. Sinus problems can also interfere with your appetite and your memory.

Seasonal allergies. It is the time and the season. My nose runs, my head hurts, my throat is raw, and my ears are stopped up. I can’t hear what people are saying to me and they are confused by my replies. Food has no taste. I've got sinus congestion. Life has become a little colorless.

This year I had my allergies tested and I am very allergic to mold and dust and less allergic to certain weeds, trees, and corn pollen. No allergies to cats which is a good thing because I have two of them. I have just started allergy immunotherapy to decrease my sensitivity to these things. This consists of a series of shots. I get 2 shots a weeks for several months, one shot a week for a few more months and then one shot a month for maintenance. It is very inconvenient, as I have to go to the clinic twice a week for one injection per arm and wait for a half hour to be sure I do not have a serious reaction. It is very expensive. The serum for the shots must be prepared individually just for my own set of allergens. The serum costs around $1360 dollars for the first years supply but my insurance covered it. Each shot costs $32 and I have a $24 dollar co pay.  It will take about 6 months before I will feel any relief. I’m hoping it will be worth the time and expense.  I am desperate to feel better. 

In the meantime, I am taking Zyrtec and Flonase. My doctor says I can use these medications twice a day when my allergies are really “acting up” as my mother says. They do make me sleepy. I am using a Neti pot twice a day. I have put allergy covers on my pillows and I change my furnace filter frequently. I dust and vacuum as often as I can. 

My sinuses are not doing well this spring. They feel congested and inflamed but I do not have a fever so I do not think I have an infection. I won’t go to the doctor unless I have a fever or just cannot get any relief. Here are a couple of things I do to make them feel better.  

Afrin Nasal Spray is the first thing I try. (Free coupon) It is a decongestant that shrinks the blood vessels in your nose and relieves congestion.  You have to be careful to only use it twice a day for 3 days or it will backfire and cause the blood vessels to swell leaving your sinuses even more congested. It is addicting. You can use it on a one week cycle if needed. Oral decongestants and sinus medication make me feel sicker so I don’t use them. 

Heat followed by rinsing helps immensely to drain and clear sinuses.  I have a long sock filled with rice which I heat in the microwave and lay over the part of my face that hurts. A steam bath will work also. After 15-20 minutes of heat, I rinse my sinuses with my Neti pot. The Neti pot should be used twice a day to rinse out problematic sinuses regardless of whether you use heat. I experiment with the temperature of the water. Sometimes cool water is soothing and sometimes warm water feels better. Be sure to blow your nose gently – you do not want that stuff backing up into your ears or deeper into your sinuses.  After rinsing my nose, I apply coconut oil or tea tree oil with a cotton swab to each nostril after the rinse. This keeps the nostrils from drying out and the antibacterial properties of the oil helps prevent infection. 

 Everyday, I massage my sinuses in the shower as I wash my face. Google “sinus massage” for instructions on how to perform facial sinus massage. I have a bottle of eucalyptus oil I sniff to help clear my sinuses but I have to say that tea tree oil opens them up the best for me although it doesn’t smell very good. It doesn’t bother me, but my husband hates it. 

When your sinuses are clear and healthy, your sense of smell returns. Believe it or not, a good sense of smell activates the brain.  Memory improves.  Food tastes delicious! Life is good!



Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Let's Party!

Once again spring has come to the Midwest.
I love spring! 

It was a long and dreary winter: cold, rainy, cloudy most of the time. Officially, we are almost a whole month into spring but it has not felt like it. The weather has been chilly and rainy but we are expecting sunshine and warmer weather for the next few days. More time to get outside! 

Bulb plants are blooming. Trees are flowering and starting to turn green. The grass is thick and lush. Spring is very pretty this year. My backyard looks good and I haven’t even touched it yet.  

Spring is very sensual and sexy. Visibly we have more color and pretty landscape to see. We can watch the birds nesting and bunnies and squirrels running around. We can smell the freshness of the earth and air outside. We can hear the birds going crazy nesting, fighting, and searching for food. We can taste the first fresh asparagus, lettuce, and mushrooms. Salads are so delicious right now. We can feel the warmth of the sunshine and the softness of the new grass and tulips.  

Spring is all about nature. It is a feast of the senses. It also signals a time for new beginnings. The warm weather encourages us to eat lighter and move around more. We have more energy and actually feel like organizing and cleaning our homes and yards.  We become more social as we see our neighbors outside more and start to attend baseball games and other outside activities. 

There is always a dark side. Some people simply do not like spring. Allergies, hay fever, asthma, difficulty breathing, and sleep problems are a huge problem for a lot of people. Some people feel overwhelmed with spring cleaning and other chores and activities. My cats are shedding buckets of hair that I need to keep cleaning up. 

Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’ (Robin Williams) 

So, let’s be happy and enjoy spring.



Tuesday, April 12, 2016

John Mellencamp's Plain Spoken Tour

John Mellencamp. I have loved his music for over 35 years. I ran miles and miles listening to his Scarecrow album in the eighties in cassette form. Last night I saw him in person for the second time in one year. I was lucky enough to see him last May in St. Louis. Both concerts were simply epic! 

Tickets for the concert sold out quickly the first day but we were lucky enough to get a set of 4 seats in the 7th row. They were over $100 each but well worth it. He was so close! I wish I could have taken a picture or two. The ushers were Nazis about cameras. The girl sitting in front of me was very nearly asked to leave. I don’t think taking a picture would have been worth the risk of missing the concert.  

It was a wild ride. Mellencamp is a musician who loves to perform and share his music. He is enthusiastic and energetic. He sings, dances, tells stories, and throws out guitar picks. He is one of those performers who show appreciation and love for their fans. 

He looks good – fit and trim, handsome, attractive - dressed in a dark suit. It is hard to believe that he is 64 years old. His voice is still strong – a bit raspy perhaps from all that smoking. 

Carlene Carter, daughter of June Carter Cash opened for him. She is a lovely person with a lovely voice and is the picture of down home country charm. After a brief intermission, John Mellencamp and his band came out on stage and played most of our favorites and some new stuff from the Plain Spoken Tour. He told several stories about his grandmother and where he was when he wrote “Jack and Diane. He talked about his children and growing old. It felt like we were hanging out with an old friend. 

My husband was slightly disappointed that he did not see Christie Brinkley who is Mellencamp’s current girlfriend. Other than that, it was the perfect evening!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Purse Party

Purse Party!

It was called Power of the Purse and it was a fundraiser for Mercy Community. Mercy Community is an organization that provides housing and services for homeless mothers with children. 

Basically the Power of the Purse was an online auction of purses ending with a lovely party of music, champagne, drinks, appetizers, gifts bags, door prizes, winning new purses, and fun with your friends.

Mercy Community had put purses up for auction on their website as they were received. Many of the purses were donated but the organization also bought some to round out their collection.  Each purse had a starting price and a buy it now price. The auction was to end at 8 pm during the party. Tickets for the party sold for $50.00 and included a flute of champagne, goody bag, and heavy appetizers. There was a cash bar. There was also a table of items to be raffled off at the end of the party.

It was so much fun.  The purses were gorgeous. There were all kinds and sizes, mostly designer, although some were beautifully handcrafted. For me, I could bid on the purses I like without feeling guilty about the amount of money I was spending because it was for a good cause. We enjoyed champagne and appetizers while discussing and bidding on purses and looking through our goody bags. We took home a pretty good haul of cosmetics and spa stuff.

I don’t know why but you just can’t have enough purses!  Shoes are the same. A shoe party would be fun too.

It is a wonderful idea for a fundraiser! You are giving money to a good cause and getting something great for yourself at the same time while having a great time with your friends!

Visit the Mercy Community website if you would like to donate.

This is a very creative idea for a centerpiece!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Essential Oils

I recently found a large selection of essentials oils on sale at Walgreens. Some of them appealed to me so I bought eucalyptus, peppermint, and lavender oils. I vaguely remembered that essential oils could help with relaxation and I have been under a great deal of stress lately. One of my friends had told me that she rubbed a little on her wrists and sniffed them occasionally when she needed to relax.
I wasn’t sure how to use them so I researched them. To be beneficial, the oils must enter the body through your skin, nose, or mouth. They should be used cautiously on children and animals. They should be diluted with unscented oils, milk, or honey.
For massage, dilute one drop of essential oil into sweet almond oil or other non-scented oil and rub into skin, sore muscles, or aching joints. For the bath, dilute 2-12 drops into 1 teaspoon of milk, honey, or oil. Make your own bath salts by combining 1 cup sea salt, 1 cup Epsom Salts, 2 tablespoons baking soda, and 15 drops of essential oil.
For inhalation. You can sniff the oil directly from the bottle or from drops on a cotton ball or handkerchief. Add 10 drops to a steam bath and cover your head and breathe steam for 5-10 minutes. Apply lavender oil to your pillowcase to induce sleep.
Drinking essential oils is not recommended. They are very concentrated and could be toxic. It is better to buy them in a commercial tea form.
Eucalyptus is good for sinus congestion. It dilates blood vessels which allows more oxygen to penetrate the lungs. I have used it with great success in steam baths for my nose and by sniffing it from the bottle. It also is supposed to stimulate mental activity. (Cure for mental fog perhaps?)
Peppermint oil has a cool and calming effect, improves mental focus, and boosts energy. Sniffing peppermint or chewing peppermint gum gives me a little boost when I am feeling sleepy or hangry (hungry/angry) in the afternoon.
Lavender oil is a relaxant, bug repellant, skin soother, and will induce sleep. I have used lavender bath salts for a long time and am now sniffing it from the bottle when I need to relax. It really helps. I recently read about the old fashioned practice of using a dream mask to help sleep and am looking for one or the instructions to make one. It is a small rectangular pillow made from herbs including lavender that you place over your eyes when you sleep. I really need some good dreams.
I’m not sure if  Tea Tree OIl is considered an essential oil but I have been using it for several years. I have it in a cream and liquid soap and although it really works for me , the smell is not very appealing. My husband does not like the scent on me. Tea tree oil is good for any kind of skin infection or irritation. It also helps with sinus congestion. I discovered it last summer when I was having so many sinus problems. I swab a little tea tree oil in my nose after using my Neti pot before bed and it really seems to help me breathe better. I have also used it to clear stuffed up ears. I add a few drops to about ½ cup of hot water and bent my ear over the cup. The steam helped my ears drain.
I also bought some sweet almond oil to use as a conditioner for my hair and nails. I had been looking for it for quite some time.
I am not fond of drinking herbal teas. I do like a passionflower tea that my daughter-in law make from fresh passionflower leaves. It is delicious and helps with digestion. I also use a chamomile and peppermint tea mixture to rinse my hair once a week. It makes my hair very shiny.

I love these aromatic essential oils and will trying many more in the future.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Crazy for the Military Diet

Losing weight is a struggle. Two years ago, I lost 10 pounds on the Dash Diet. Then, I got bummed out about Christmas and decided that drinking beer and wine and eating chocolate  was the way to get through it. I gained 15 pounds that winter and could not summon the willpower to lose any of it. My weight just kept creeping up and up.

This January, I really didn’t feel well at my current weight. My feet hurt. My back hurt. Then I had a birthday and I turned 59 and I felt like I didn’t have enough time to do the things I wanted to do with my life. The most important thing to me was to lose weight and get into shape It was a no brainer. I need to feel better to do the things I want to do.

I had a hurt foot which limited my exercise abilities. I started counting calories, drinking the required amount of water, and doing low impact aerobics in my bare feet. I went to the foot doctor and got a cortisone shot and special orthotics. I lost a few pounds during the week and gained them back every weekend when my husband I went out for dinner and/or drinks. It just wasn’t working. 

In February, I discovered the Military Diet. I like it so much better than the Dash Diet. I eat a very Spartan diet for 3 days and have 4 days off. I can do it. You get ice cream in the evenings. Some days are harder than others but I can eat sparingly for 3 days knowing I can have whatever I want on the fourth day. I have lost 10 pounds although pound 9 and 10 are up and down so I should probably just claim to have lost 8. The good news is that the these eight pounds are staying off even after a 10 day vacation. I have continued doing my low impact aerobics, added a little yoga for relaxation and flexibility and some weight lifting for strength. Lately, I have been able to increase my routine by walking 10,000 steps 4-5 times a week. I am surprised how much lighter I feel after losing just  8 pounds even though I have a lot more to lose.

Currently, I am on a weight plateau which is very frustrating. I am being careful to drink my water and walk or exercise my 10,000 steps. My focus is on calorie counting and eating better on the 4 days off. The days off are my biggest problem, especially the weekend. I need to satisfy my food cravings in a low calorie increments and I need to be able to go out with my husband on weekends. I am researching and trying to figure out how to accomplish this.

The Military Diet is crazy but it works for me. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

My Big Fat Wedding 2 Review

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a movie that I can watch over and over again. It is funny and romantic and loaded with unique and loveable characters. I watched the sequel last Friday at the movie theatre. Although I probably will not watch it again and again as I do the first movie, it was very enjoyable. I do think sequels are tricky.

The same characters from the first movie are back. It is somewhere around twenty years later. The Portokalos family is older and grayer and just as feisty. Windex is still the cure for everything. Ian and Toula have a teenage daughter named Paris who has become very rebellious in response to her overprotective family. Paris wants to go to college in New York and her parents want her to go to college in New York. Toula still works in their restaurant and has become the caretaker and problem solver for her parents.  Toula has been so busy caring for Paris and her family and working that she has neglected her marriage to hunky John Corbett. When a huge surprise is revealed and another big fat wedding is planned, she starts thinking more about what she will do when Paris leaves for college and leaves them empty nesters.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is 1 hour and 34 minutes long. It was written by Nia Vardalos and directed by Kirk Jones. In criticism, I wish it had more of a story and better flow. I felt like I was just revisiting the characters instead of watching a story. I did enjoy the movie. It was funny and charming and made me laugh out loud several times. If you liked the first one, you will like this sequel.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Spring Training Arizona 2016

Spring training in Arizona 2016! 

Sunshine, cold beer, baseball!  

It doesn’t get much better than that, especially if you live in the Midwest where a spring like day in March can quickly turn into a blizzard that night.
My husband and I just returned from our 4th trip. He is truly a die hard Cub fan and I enjoy a few games too. We saw three games this time all featuring the Cubbies. The excitement for the Cubs is at an all time frenzy. We are so excited! This will be our year!!! 

There are 10 ball parks in the Cactus League in the Phoenix - Mesa area and 15 teams: Cubs, White Sox, Angels, Reds, Royals, Dodgers, Giants, Indians, Rockies, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Padres, Texans, Mariners, and Athletics. We have been to Sloan Park, Camelback Ranch, Peoria Sports Complex, Maryvale Stadium, and Hohokam Stadium.  

This season, we went to the Peoria Sports Complex, Sloan Park, and Camelback Ranch. Each ballpark has beautifully tended grass and gardens. Tailgating is allowed and encouraged in the parking lots at Sloan Park and Peoria Sports Complex. Funny story:  We were tailgating at Sloan Park before a late afternoon game. I sat on the open trunk of our rental car and the back bumper just fell off. It was a Toyota Yaris and it looked like the bumper should just snap back in but we couldn’t get it in position. I was feeling a little panicked but one of the other tailgaters came over and helped us fix it. The Yaris has to be one of the cheapest cars made. Thank goodness we didn’t have an accident because that car would not have been any protection. 

There was a lot more traffic this year and we were told that the traffic gets heavier as the season progresses. We saw several wrecks. 

Spring training games are much more relaxed than regular season ones. Everyone is really friendly and happy and ready to have a good time. No one cares if you move to a different seat. You get closer to the players and can even get autographs. You can watch the pitchers getting warmed up.  

There is a huge variety of foods and drinks to try. There are cocktails and craft beers. Although we just have to have a hot dog and peanuts at every game, we did find frozen yogurt root beer floats at the Peoria Sports Complex and a Portillos at Sloan Park. Delicious! Camelback ran out of food as it was a sold out game and I guess everyone was hungry. No worries - there was plenty of ice cold beer. 

We like to stay in the Tempe area around the college. We like the bars and restaurants on Mill Street. We usually can find a bar close to our hotel.  We stayed at the Candlewood Suites on West Baseline Road. We had a mini kitchen and a large bath. It was clean and comfortable except the pillows were flat as a pancake.  The staff was very friendly and helpful as well. We could cook breakfast or walk to McDonalds or Waffle House. There was a very nice outdoor pool and hot tub which we used every night. We chose Final Round as our last watering hole for the evening.  It was an interesting place. The owner was a bit of a grouch but the waitresses were very nice.  

We hiked up the Hayden Butte and around Papago Park for exercise. The desert is so beautiful and all the trees and shrubs were blooming.

Casino Arizona was disappointing. The bets on the slots cost twice as much as usual and you didn’t find that out until you started playing. It was definitely the devil’s playground as my younger son likes to describe casinos. 

It was a good time. The sun shined every day.  I cannot wait to go back.