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Considerate Travel

My husband and I just got back from Texas. We were in the Dallas area to attend our son’s wedding. It was beautiful, and I’ll probably write about the wedding soon. Today I want to talk a bit about traveling.

We left late on a Friday night. We drove about three hours and slept for a few hours at a rest stop. Many other travelers were doing the same. About 4:30 in the morning a family pulled in. The kids were a little noisy, but that’s not unusual. Children rarely think about the effect their actions have on others. However, the parents violated the first rule of travel—be considerate of others. They both yelled loudly, more than once, for their children to “Load ‘em up!” I will assume it never occurred to them that the cars around them held people attempting to sleep. Still, yelling at 4:30 in the morning is not a considerate thing to do, no matter where you are. Frankly, yelling loudly in public is never a considerate thing to do.

We stayed in comfortable hotels the rest of the trip. Hotels hold their own set of courtesies. If there is someone else already at the desk registering, be sure to stay back until you’re asked to approach the desk. You and I know you’re not trying to listen in for others’ personal data, but they don’t know that.

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Christmas in July

I know we just finished celebrating Independence Day, but it’s not too early to start planning for Christmas. Early planning is one of the best ways to stay within budget and to make sure you have the time in December to enjoy the season.

This is a great time to look over your list. If you buy for children, make note of their current sizes, color preferences, and hobbies. Those can change over the course of a year. Though, the younger the child, the later you may want to leave buying their gift(s). Our granddaughter Song went from wanting to give away her Care Bears to Care Bears being her favorite thing in the world in the course of a few months. Children age 2 to 12 are incredibly fickle. Keep your eyes open, but consider making these your last purchases.

Road Trip!

We will soon be traveling to the Dallas, Texas area to attend our son’s wedding. We’ll be driving there and back, so it will be quite a road trip. Planning the trip got me thinking about staying healthy on the road. You may remember that I’m a well-behaved diabetic, so this won’t be a junk food journey. Here are some strategies I use to stay on track while we’re traveling.

Car Snacks

Snacking while in the car is part and parcel of a fun road trip. The good news is that you have complete control over what snacks you take along. Think fruits, nuts, and protein. Portion control is as important with healthy snacks as it is with indulgences. The Furry Guy and I love dried fruit. On thing to keep in mind, though, is that dried fruit packs a hefty carb/calorie punch. It’s easy to eat the equivalent of 3-4 apples while snacking on dried apple slices. A handful of raisins is the same as eating a full bunch of grapes. Nuts are a good source of protein and fiber. Again, be conscious of how many you eat. A serving of almonds is 10 almonds. For me that’s about 1½ handfuls. On this trip, instead of buying individual portion-sized packages, I’ll have a marked container to put my snacks in. This way I will know when I’ve finished a ¼-cup serving of whatever. No grabbing straight from a big bag for me.

Choosing Seafood

Summer and seafood are a natural fit. But sometimes it’s hard to know if you’re making the best choices. That’s especially true here in the Midwest, where we can be far away from the source of that seafood. Here are a few helpful hints.

One general guideline: seafood should smell clean and fresh, like the ocean. It should never smell fishy. A fishy smell is the first clue that seafood is old.

Farmers’ Market Strategies

The Miami County Farmers’ Market is now open! It will gain more and more vendors as the local produce comes on. I love a good farmers’ market, and we have a good one here in Miami County, with much more than simply fruits and vegetables. Here are a few strategies that will help you make the most of your next visit.

Bring a bag. Chances are good that you’ll make several purchases. A good-sized tote or shopping bag will help you corral all those great finds. It will also keep your hands free for checking out the products at the next stand.

Bring along a cooler. If you have to travel more than just a few minutes to the market, a cooler in your car, outfitted with a cold pack or two, will help keep your food fresh on the way home. You don’t want that kale wilting in your hot car. And if you purchase exotic meat, you’ll want to keep it cool and safe.

Family Reunion Fun

I love family reunions. There’s just something special about gathering with people you’re tied to whether you want to be or not. My father’s family is huge. He was the second of thirteen children. So, as those siblings married and had families that married and had families … You get the picture. Here are a few ideas for making those gatherings even more fun and meaningful.

Bring old pictures. It’s fun to see how much people have changed through the years. It’s also good to see and remember those loved ones who have passed away. Want to really have fun? Set up a display of the oldest pictures and have a contest to see who can name the most people in the photos.

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Keep It Safe

The summer is upon us. It’s often filled with gatherings, and gatherings usually involve food. Keeping food safe inside is fairly easy. Keeping food safe outside is often difficult. Here are a few tips to help keep food issues from ruining your summer fun.

Plan Wisely

As you’re planning your menu, focus on foods that can handle a few hours in the heat. Anything that contains dairy, eggs, meat, fish, or poultry is going to need to be kept at a safe temperature. Hot foods need to be kept hot. Cold foods need to be kept cold. If potato salad is a must, consider serving one that has a vinegar-based dressing instead of a mayo-based one.

Which Pasta?

I love pasta. While I’m not a big fan of pasta salads, just thinking about macaroni and cheese, lasagna, and manicotti makes my mouth water.

One of the most important decisions you’ll make when it comes to pasta is which type of pasta to use. In order to choose a pasta, you’ll need to decide first what type of sauce you’re making. If you’re planning to serve a hearty meat sauce, you won’t want to use a delicate pasta such as angel hair. It won’t hold up to the heavy sauce. On the other hand, if you’re planning a delicate lemon, butter, and herb sauce, the flavors will be overwhelmed by something like a fettucine or farfalle (bow tie pasta). Here’s a handy guide:

Long, thin noodles like spaghetti, capellini, spaghettini, and angel hair work best with lighter sauces. Sauces made of tomato and olive oil that will coat the strands without weighing them down are ideal. Small add-ins such as fresh herbs, dices tomatoes, and crumbled bacon or pancetta will complement these shapes.

Long, flat, thinner noodles such as fettuccine, linguine, beautifully with creamy sauces and seafood. The delicate structure of the seafood won’t overwhelm the pasta. These are perfect for Alfredo and other simple sauces.