Archive for August, 2009

Be sure to check out the new blog posts on our other blog: Budget Travel: When You Want To, But Don’t Always Have the Cash To by Chicago freelance writer Meg Hoppe. Hoppe talks about some great ways to get all of your summer fun in without compromise and without paying a huge price. She also gives us some great advice when buying a home one the foreclosure market. Something to definitely read up on.

Follow her on Twitter @CallMeHoppe of us @TWDHF


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I am wondering if I have a fetish for toilets. Remember the article we did about toilet in France? Well here I am minding own business and voilá out jumps a Russian and Eastern toilet article! Well after reading the article you know I had to share it with you.

bathroom_joburg_vacantToilets in Russia and Parts of Eastern Europe:
Toilets in Russia and in some parts of Eastern Europe are a bit different from what we expect here in the United States or Western Europe. While serviceable public toilets are becoming more easily found, especially in well-populated areas, you will still encounter some old-style public toilets in Russia and former Soviet countries. Don’t be alarmed – the use of these toilets can be navigated, but be prepared. I think for me I would be alarmed!

Pay Toilets in Russia and Eastern Europe:
Public toilets, such as those in train stations or large shopping centers, may require a small fee for their use. The fee is usually prominently displayed and will amount to a few cents’ worth of the national currency. If you’re out and about, it may be possible to avoid the use of pay toilets. However, sometimes you’ll find yourself in a situation while traveling in Eastern Europe when a pay toilet is the only accessible restroom. Keep some change handy for these instances.

Carry Toilet Paper when Traveling in Russia and Eastern Europe:
Public toilets often do not equip each toilet stall with toilet paper in Russia. Sometimes toilet paper is available outside the stalls. Sometimes there is none to be had. You can purchase small, travel-sized rolls from hygiene-product travel sections in supermarkets or convenience stores. Travel packages of tissues may substitute in a pinch as well.

Russia’s Dreaded Squat Toilets:
No one likes to enter a stall only to be met with the sight of a hole in the ground flanked with feet-shaped tread. Even more bizarre is the regular toilet that has been equipped with raised platforms so it is impossible to use the toilet in the normal way – one must squat over the bowl or teeter precariously in front of it… [Beatrice suggestion to Beatrice’s readers? Exit promptly!] …there is usually a more serviceable toilet nearby.

Are Public Toilets Clean or Dirty in Eastern Europe and Russia:
In nicer Eastern European shopping centers, restaurants, and cafes, you’ll be pleased to find some very clean, equipped toilets. In airports or train stations, and even in some universities, the state of disrepair and lack of maintenance of the toilets will leave you breathless – literally. These may be your only choice. Carry waterless hand sanitizer.

Russian Toilet Paper – Toilet Paper in Eastern Europe:
“Sandpaper”-like toilet paper is still in use in some toilets in Russia and Eastern Europe. Yes, the soft stuff is available for general purchase. The gray-to-brownish Soviet-issue toilet paper is as bad as the stereotype – to varying degrees. If you stay at a friend’s house, and they are still using it, try introducing them to the cotton toilet paper. They will probably think you’re funny for lavishing luxury on your posterior.

Toilets in Private Residences in Russia and East Europe:
Some toilets in Russia and Eastern Europe are given their own room, separate from the bathing/sink area. This will require you to exit the “toilet room” and enter the actual “bath” room to wash your hands. No one thinks this is weird.

Flushing Toilets in Russia – How to Flush an Eastern European Toilet:
Some toilets in Eastern Europe will flush the way you’re probably used to – there will be a lever on one side of the tank. Other Russian toilets will have a ball or a button on the tank. Pull or press to flush the toilet. Some toilets will not have enough power to flush toilet paper – there may be a sign over a trash basket asking that no toilet paper be flushed.

Well you know readers that this will be a memorable toilet travel experience!!

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Now, I am not a kill joy, but my grandchildren understand only Disney World. Don’t get me wrong I like Minnie, Mickey and my favorite Donald Duck! I am sure it has to be his sexy quack that really turns me on! Excuse me I regress to my childhood remembering my Donald Duck lunch box.

Well, I foolishly tried to explain there were other sites there as well. My little darlings would have none of that. The only redeeming part of Florida is Disney World. But, for the rest of us, here are some great sites to see in Florida once you’ve expended all your energy for Flash Mountain.

Best Miami Attractions for Kids

Biscayne National Park

Courtesy of: QT Luong

Courtesy of: QT Luong

While enjoying the natural parks in Miami, don’t forget about the one located under water! Kids of swimming age will find a bounty of treasures in this 181,500-acre wonderland, located just off the Miami coast. You can explore the vibrant coral reefs in a myriad of ways, including glass-bottom boat tours, snorkeling, scuba diving, canoeing, fishing, and more. There is more fun to be had on land, on hiking trails or while camping on Elliot Key, or the more rustic Boca Chita Key. Visit the Convoy Point / Dante Fascell Visitor Center in Homestead to start your adventure.

Crandon Park BeachCrandon
Crandon Beach has been ranked one of the Top 10 Beaches in the U.S. A short stroll along the promenade takes you to the Amusement Center – a hub of activity including a carousel, outdoor roller rink, splash fountain, and playground. The park also features concession stands, picnic areas, various nature trails and tours, and kayaks and cabanas to rent.

Everglades National Park

Courtesy of: Jim Richardson & National Geographic

Courtesy of: Jim Richardson & National Geographic

Make reservations ahead for a two-hour tram tour starting at the Shark Valley Visitor Center. This is the most family-friendly of the visitor centers and the one closest to Miami. You will see plenty of alligators, birds, and other wildlife. The Bobcat Boardwalk is an easy ¼ mile trail that kids will enjoy walking.

Gold Coast Railroad Museumthe-gold-coast-railroad
The museum is home to several historic train cars, including the Ferdinand Magellan, built by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and used by several Presidents after him. Short train rides are offered on several types of trains, depending on the day. There is also an extensive model train exhibit, and a huge toy train set that children can play with.

Historical Museum of Southern Florida
Learn about South Florida and Caribbean history at this lovely museum in Downtown Miami

Miami Children’s Museum
Younger children will marvel at the plethora of interactive exhibits, and be delighted that they can touch and move anything they want.

Wishing you a marvelous travel experience at Disney World and beyond!!

“In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

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french_flag_arc_de_triompheIf you recall we did an article about passengers may having to pay to use the toilet with certain airlines. Now it seems as though it may be difficult to use the facility in another locale when nature calls! Read on to look at the challenges you may have in France.

Using a toilet may sound like the simplest of tasks, but if you aren’t used to France’s plumbing it can be an experience. The public toilets in France are often broken down and sometimes a little scary. You need to know how to flush, how much it will cost you and other secrets to using the restroom.

Here is your toilet guide information on how to answer natures call:

  1. Find a bathroom. This isn’t always that easy, as public restrooms aren’t necessarily plentiful. Shopping centers or malls usually have a public restroom, as do some popular outdoor areas. Parks tend to have the public restroom pods. Worst case scenario, pop into a cafe, order a coffee and use their facilities. If you’re bold, march into a busy one and go straight back to the bathroom, then leave and save yourself a couple euros. Look for signs saying, “toilettes” or “W.C.”
  2. Look over the bathroom once you enter. While it is much less common these days, some have a glorified hole in the floor. You are supposed to squat and hover how would you handle this with arthritis and nature is calling? I guess the answer would be excitable!! This is one that I wouldn’t recommend.
  3. Flush. The flushing mechanisms on French toilets are almost never on the back. Sometimes there is a chain pully from above, sometimes a foot petal on the ground. Sometimes there is a button on top, sometimes two (pushing both will make the toilet keep flushing). Often, there is a large, rectangular bar on the back wall. Push or pull whatever you find.
  4. If you encounter an outdoor public pod-style restroom, they are a bit of their own category, and can be rather intimidating and confusing. Simply step up and look to see whether it’s occupied (red or green dot by the door). Put in your change, and wait for the door to automatically open. Step in, and the door automatically closes. Some individuals like to take a book or magazine with them when nature calls. But if you use this particular facility if you are there 15 minutes or more, the door WILL open. No book or magazine for this one!! These seem dirty, but they actually are disinfected after each use.
  5. Always have small change on you. Many restrooms are pay, sometimes manned by an attendant and sometimes accepting change to enter. The outdoor restroom pods require exact change, so have 5- and 10-centime pieces.
  6. Don’t be surprised by unisex bathrooms, or men’s and women’s rooms with a common lobby. The French are not nearly as hung up about separate restrooms as, say, the Americans.
  7. Before you enter, check to see if toilet paper is outside the stall. Sometimes, there are dispensers in the sink and mirror area, but no paper inside the stall.
  8. If you are visiting busy fast food restaurants, SAVE YOUR RECEIPT. It usually contains a code to get into the restroom there.
  9. Don’t be surprised if the outdoor pod-style public bathroom is broken down. Go to the next park

Wishing you the best with this nature call because really it is a travel experience!!

“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”
– Michael J. Fox

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Be sure to check out the new blog posts on our other blog: Budget Travel: When You Want To, But Don’t Always Have the Cash To by Chicago freelance writer Meg Hoppe.

Hoppe talks about some great ways to get all of your summer fun in without compromise and without paying  a huge price. She also gives us some great advice when buying a home one the foreclosure market. Something to definitely read up on.

Follow her on Twitter @CallMeHoppe of us @TWDHF

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I was looking at some of Hank Shaw’s fish recipes the other day and I stumbled across a great one for sardines. I know that most people think of the stinky fish in the aluminum container when they think of sardines. However, what people don’t realize is that sardines are absolutely amazing fish to grill and eat on a warm summer night! Sardines are also great for the memory, check out my earlier blog: Taking a Trip Down Memory Lane for other great memory enhancing tips.

If you think that you can challenge your mind to think of and try something new, give this recipe a go.

Fresh Sardines Grilled and Stuffed

Grilled, semi-boneless fresh sardines are a fantastic fish to serve in summer. This sardine recipe uses grape leaves to hold in a simple stuffing — and keep the fish from sticking to the grill. Sardines are a full-flavored fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but they are bony. Good news is that it’s easy to remove most of the bones with a method describe below.

Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes


  • 8-12 fresh sardines, scaled and gutted
  • 8-12 grape or fig leaves
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped mushrooms
  • 2 T. chopped parsley
  • 2-4 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 T. of your favorite herb — I like to use basil in summer, sage in winter
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper


  • Make the stuffing
    • Combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the breadcrumbs, mushrooms, herbs, garlic, onion and salt in a food processor and buzz until combined. Do not work the mixture too long or the texture will taste odd. Just pulse it a few times so it comes together. Let this stand while you de-bone the sardines.
  • De-bone the sardines
    • Once you have scaled and gutted sardines, you need to remove most of the bones so you can eat them easily. Do this by taking your sharpest knife — a fillet knife is the best for this — and cutting along each side of the backbone behind the ribs.
    • Once you do this, slip the point of the knife (facing away from the backbone) under the ribs and free them from the meat. Do this on each side.
    • Using scissors or kitchen shears cut the backbone where it meets the tail and where it meets the head. You can remove the head if it bothers you.
    • To remove the backbone, work your thumb and forefinger alongside the backbone at the tail end to free it, and carefully lift it up as you go toward the head. Push down the meat as you go. Once you get near the end of the ribs, it will all come away with lots of bones attached. You now have a cleanly split sardine.
    • There will still be a few bones in the sardine, but they will be very thin and perfectly edible. Assemble. Paint each sardine with olive oil and fill the cavity with some of the stuffing
  • Moisten each grape leaf (fresh or the brined, canned ones from the store are each OK) with olive oil and wrap the sardine in the leaf. The oil will help them stick.
  • If you cannot find grape or fig leaves, you can omit them or use cabbage leaves that have been soaked. If you don’t use a leaf, you will need to sew the cavity shut or use a skewer to do so.
  • Grill the sardines over a hot fire for 5-6 minutes per side. Turn only once.
  • Serve with cold white wine. Try chenin blanc, pinot grigio, a Portuguese vinho verde, a Spanish Torrontes or with this dish, a Greek assyrtiko.
  • As a side dish consider a tossed salad with a nice vinaigrette.

Wishing you a lot of fun in trying a new recipe!

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Credit: The Bonnie Blues

Credit: The Bonnie Blues

I really wanted to share this article with you earlier, but I honestly forgot where I had filed it! I have to wonder, is forgetfulness an age thing? Are young people really as forgetful as they seem to be? I really don’t remember if I was forgetful as they are!

I really found this article quite interesting. I am sure many of us are doing some of these suggested approaches to a healthier memory. I feel that we just have to remember to double it and be consistent.

I shamelessly lifted the following five memory loss tips that will also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease from Dr. Ben Kim’s excellent newsletter, which you can sign up for at www.drbenkim.com.

According to neuroscientists at a recent Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Dublin, the five best steps you can take to prevent memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease are:

  1. Ensure regular intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Healthy sources include:
    1. Walnuts
    2. Purslane
    3. Freshly ground flax seeds
    4. Wild salmon
    5. Sardines
    6. Cod liver oil (Carlson)
  2. Stay physically fit
  3. Reduce stress
  4. Enjoy a rich and varied social life that involves activities that mentally stimulate you
  5. Think young

Now, those are five tips anyone can put into action! So incorporate them into your life starting today.

Wishing for you to remember to have a fantastic travel experience down memory lane!

“Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon. A happiness weapon. A beauty bomb. And every time a crisis developed, we would launch one. It would explode high in the air – explode softly – and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air. Floating down to earth – boxes of Crayolas. And we wouldn’t go cheap, either – not little boxes of eight. Boxes of sixty-four, with the sharpener built right in. With silver and gold and copper, magenta and peach and lime, amber and umber and all the rest. And people would smile and get a little funny look on their faces and cover the world with imagination.”
-Robert Fulghum

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