Author: winemakerfw51

12 Safe Common Sense Recreational Activities You Can Do During the Lock Down

A father is arrested for playing catch with his son on the front lawn. A citizen can buy lottery tickets, alcohol, and dope, but can’t buy paint, seeds, or a garden hose.

In an irrational panic, have we lost all common sense?

Emergency regulations, meant to prevent the spread of a killer virus, are supposed to be based on rational and, as the experts would have you believe, scientific reasons. If that’s the real reason, the draconian regulations we’ve witnessed in places like Michigan don’t make sense. Michigan is by far the most extreme example.

Now, Michigan is a pretty diverse and geographically varied state with areas of varying population density. Anyone who’s been there can tell you that the wild upper peninsula is nothing like Detroit or Flint. That goes for most places, agricultural and wooded, west of Route 131 and north of Manistee. While the virus is raging in Detroit, one could argue that it’s irresponsible and irrational to close down the entire state.

This weekend, Florida opened up some beaches for walking. The picture, widely circulated in the press, shows hundreds of people out for a walk and most of them responsibly social distancing. Yet, when you read the headlines, it’s as if the press didn’t see the picture at all, and would have you think that this was risky behavior. Why would they do that?

If you are up for silently protesting the stupidity, or are tired of looking at the four walls, I thought I would offer a variety of outdoor activities that get people out of the house, into the beautiful spring sunshine, and promote good health through exercise, as well as sanity. These are all things people can do without endangering others. Practiced with proper precautions such as social distancing, they would be safe.

Walking

Jogging

Bicycle Riding

Kayaking (single person)

Rowing (single person)

Singles Tennis

Drive Golf Balls

Fishing

Gardening

Home Improvements

Reading

Sunbathing

I’m sure that many readers can think of other activities.

Stupid Statistics

Sometimes stupidity is so much on display that it is hard to ignore. Yesterday was the coup d’grace.

With the Covid-19 pandemic, the news networks have irresponsibly been throwing around misleading statistics without any context. In most circumstances, I don’t think they do it maliciously. They do it because the producers are ignorant of what they mean and don’t care to know, and the reporters don’t have enough smarts to ask the right questions. The news readers blindly pontificate from a teleprompter or are told what to say through an earpiece hidden from view.

Statistics without context are just numbers.

Take yesterday afternoon, Saturday, April 11. The big news was “The US has surpassed Italy with the number of deaths from Covid-19!” The number is in the tens of thousands, and that’s terrible. But let’s put it into perspective. Italy has a population of about 60 million. The US has a population of about 360 million – that’s 6 times more. When the US surpasses Italy by 6 times, then it will be news! The real number we need to know is the percentage of population the death number represents.

In the following breath, the news reader told the audience that the states of Delaware and South Dakota had more than a 200% increase in reported Covid-19 cases. This is another meaningless number. The curious would ask – a 200% increase from what? After all, 2 is a 200% increase from 1.

All of this is ginned up to scare us. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be concerned. But, we should just insist on more responsible reporting.

Observations of the Modern Camino

In the fall of 2018, I walked a 100 mile segment of the Camino Portugues from the Spanish/Portugues border to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. I recently wrote a book about my pilgrimage, called Walk by My Side: A Solo Journey to Santiago on the Portuguese Camino. It will be published on March 3. I’m sharing the last chapter here on my blog. For information about the book and to order, please click on the cover image to the right.

When I first thought about walking the Camino, my vision was of strolling through beautiful woods, lush vineyards, and waving fields of grass and grain. These are the kinds of places that lend themselves to a peaceful and contemplative journey.

However, modernity has impacted the Camino de Santiago at every step. I won’t judge whether this is good or bad, but as I learned, today’s Camino is not your great grandfathers Camino. Urban growth, electronic technology, cheap airfare, and even rising standards of living, have made the modern Camino more accessible to more people than at any time in history.

Centuries ago, people found their way to Santiago on rustic trails and byways, many of which were replaced long ago with modern thoroughfares. Pilgrims came on foot, on horses and donkeys, on carts, and the rich came by carriage. Today, the Camino welcomes bicyclers and the physically challenged with their own defined routes.

Cities and towns that were once small villages have expanded into sprawling suburbs that have encroached on the ancient way. In many places, the Camino route is shared with modern highways and suburban streets. Once bucolic paths are bordered with ugly factories, large box stores, and their massive parking lots.

The statistics show that the number of people walking the Camino continues to increase every year. It’s also not surprising that, as the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, the number of pilgrims over-sixty is growing as a percentage of all pilgrims. This unbridled growth inevitably puts a strain on the entire system, whether it be the trail system, maintenance of markers, or the support services along the routes. In addition, I’ve heard complaints from other pilgrims about over-crowding on certain sections of the Camino, especially the 100 kilometer section from Sarria to Santiago.

These changes are a concern of the Church and Pilgrim Office in Santiago. They are exploring ways to preserve the historical traditions and promote the religious nature of the pilgrimage in the face of modern changes. While the 100 kilometer requirement for a compostela only came into being in 1993, there are discussions of either increasing the requirement or doing away with it entirely.

There is little we can do about what happened in the past. Of more concern to me, even as a non-Catholic, is preserving the spiritual and physical beauty of the pilgrimage experience for future generations.

On the positive side, the growth of participation has given rise to new support services, including restaurants, albergues (hostels), hotels, as well as other travel services which make a pilgrimage easier and more accessible to a wider variety of people such as me. In addition, some of these services have helped breathe new life into small villages along the route.

There are as many ways to walk the Camino as there are people who do it. A lot of people freelance it. They throw a pack on their back, start hiking, and stop at an albergue whenever they’ve had enough for the day. Others, like me, plan every detail. And there are others still, like my friend Connie, who used a planning service, like a travel agency, to make all her arrangements. And, there are all sorts of variations in between.

The modern Camino enables pilgrims to plan their experience from an a la carte menu of options. Traditionally, pilgrims stayed and ate in albergues. The opportunities for this experience still abound. But, albergues have changed too. I stayed in two private albergues with modern bathroom facilities, mattresses better than my own at home, and semi-private rooms.

However, many albergues don’t accept reservations and work on a first-come-first-served basis. During busy seasons, it can be difficult to find accommodations. My friends, Jim and Kathy, after slogging through a cold rain all day couldn’t get into an albergue at which they were planning to stay. They needed to walk a few kilometers more before they found an albergue that had room. I’m sure that experience disheartened them. Obviously, pilgrims want to avoid such situations, so they often rise early and stop early…by 2 or 3 pm.

Technology has played a huge role in how one plans for and executes a Camino. Just a few examples include the accessibility of information, the ease of finding accommodations, GPS capabilities, and finding convenience services. It’s all there on the Internet.

Many of the guide books that a few years ago were only available in print, are now available electronically. Some have versions that use GPS to locate a pilgrim’s position, keep them from getting lost, provide historical background on notable sites, and suggest services en route. Google Maps and its Street View functionality played a significant role in my planning. For the most part, I knew where I was going.

There are also a number of online forums, such as caminosantiago.me, where past and future pilgrims can share information and help each other before and after their pilgrimage.

With more people of means and those over sixty doing pilgrimages, different accommodation options have popped up to cater to an aging clientele and others. A growing number of people are staying at budget hotels that have become easier to find, especially in out-of-the-way places, through online services such as Booking.com or AirBnB.com.

I spent a lot of time on Booking.com, and reserved several months in advance. Consequently, I knew where I would be sleeping every night. There are good points and bad ones for planning like I did. Yes, it removes a certain degree of uncertainty and anxiety about your Camino. Also, if I didn’t know where I would be at the end of the day, I would have had to carry my full pack which weighed about 17 pounds. However, such a tight schedule added a rigidity meant when I wanted to change my plans, it would have been a logistics nightmare.

For those averse to planning themselves, there are services, such as Camino Ways that act like a Camino tour company. They’ll help you plan your route, arrange accommodations, and in some cases, hook you up with a group and provide guides.

I was delighted to find out that there are services that can help you move your pack or suitcases from one place of accommodation to another. At my age and physical condition, I wasn’t looking forward to carrying a 17 pound pack 20 kilometers day after day. I used a service called Tuitrans to transport my backpack between hotels. It made walking easier, enabling me to have a more enjoyable pilgrimage. There are other companies that also offer that type of service, including the Spanish Post Office.

All of these changes, in part, have contributed to the recent fast growth of participation because they make undertaking a pilgrimage much more doable. I would anticipate that the Camino will continue to be more accessible which will, in turn, drive up participation. Whether you are a healthy young adult or an aging septuagenarian with joint problems or chronic medical conditions, Santiago is more reachable than ever before.

There’s More Than Tacos at the Taco Stand

I’ll have to admit that, when I first arrived here, I was a little wary of the taco stands. I’ve since learned that a trip to a taco stand can spice up your taste buds, if not your life.

Maybe you’re intimidated, like I was, because you’re not sure about the cleanliness, what to order, how to order it, and how to eat it without embarrassing yourself.

Frankly, I’m more intimidated by the menu and food at Taco Bell.

The best way to find a good taco stand is to follow the locals. Generally, their concerns about quality and food safety are the same as yours. If you see lines waiting to order and be served, most likely its product and reputation are good.

Most foreigners stick to tacos at the taco stand. They probably don’t realize there’s a lot more variety available. Did you know you can order items like quesadillas, gringas, campachenas, vampiros, or tortas? Sounds confusing? Don’t worry. All of these concoctions are variations on a theme.

So let’s introduce you to all these yummy choices starting with tacos as made in this area of Jalisco. Mexico is a very diverse country, and there are lots of regional and family variations.

Everything Corn Tortillas

Tacos here are made with soft corn tortillas, warmed on the grill, and filled with a meat of your  choice. The meat is cooked on the grill and chopped before it’s heaped on a waiting tortilla.

Taco meats and tortillas on the grill; fillings are on the table to the left

The meats are mostly beef (res), chorizo sausage, and pork (puerco, carnaza, and adobada). More exotic are tacos de cabeza that use all the parts of a pig’s head from ears, tongue and lips to eyeballs and more.

If you add grilled cheese to your taco, you have a campachena. It’s a few more calories, but the cheese adds a gooey surprise. Vampiros are like mini tostados. In this case, the corn tortilla is allowed to crisp on the grill until the sides curl up into a little cup. The cup is filled with cheese and meat and heated until the cheese melts. These delicious morsels are not to be mistaken with the pink drink of the same name.

Foreigners are familiar with tacos dorados or barbacoa found at the tianguis or on the plaza on Sundays.  These start with stewed meat that is put into a tortilla, folded over and crisped on the grill until golden.

Pork and onion layers with pineapple for making tacos al pastor

Tacos el pastor are cooked on a vertical spit like gyros. Thin slices of pork are layered on the spit with onions and pineapple and their juices flavor the meat as it cooks. The cooked meat is sliced off.

You can add an array of condiments to your taco. Usually they include chopped cilantro and onion, radishes, cabbage or lettuce, beans, an assortment of pickled vegetables, and of course the ubiquitous salsas of various heat. It will come as no surprise that a few tacos can make a filling meal.

Tortas

If you want to venture further afield, a good bet is to order a torta. Tortas are grilled sandwiches made with rolls (bolillos). The rolls are smeared with crema and toasted on the grill with shredded cheese. The cheese melts into the bread, and meat of your choice is spooned on top. When you add condiments to your torta, you have a feast. And the experience in your mouth is magical. The combination of tastes is much greater than the sums of the individual ingredients.

In this part of Mexico, you see road signs everywhere for tortas ahogadas. They’re a little bit different – a Mexican version of a pulled pork sandwich found up north. They’re made with chopped carnitas, pork that’s generally cooked in vats of fat until it falls apart. The chopped pork is heaped on a roll and doused in thin gravy.

Quesadillas and Gringas

Quesadillas can be found on the menus of many North American restaurants. Most taco stands here can make them. They’re made with flour tortillas, filled with cheese, folded over and grilled until the tortilla is crisp and the cheese is runny. If you put chicken, meat, or shrimp in them they become gringas (which is also the name of a female North American).

Are you still intimidated? Armed with this information, you should be able to navigate most taco stands.

But, if you’re still not sure what to do, just observe what the locals do, follow their lead, most of all have fun. Buen provecho!

Pizza Partisans

They say that there are two things that expats should never discuss in social situations…politics and religion. So, if we find ourselves in unknown company, it’s always wise to avoid such conversations, if for no other reason than to keep your friends. After all one of the reasons why many of us moved abroad was to escape the politics that are poisoning the U.S.

A recent event prompted me to dust off my rusty computer keyboard to propose a third verboten topic…PIZZA!

I was sitting with a group of people having breakfast at the plaza when the conversation turned to pizza and the establishments that make it here in town. The group started to talk about one particular place. In my foolishness, I chimed in that I thought the quality of that establishment had gone down. A woman at the table became physically agitated, and almost jumped out of her chair to challenge the notion.

You would have thought I had thrown a fire bomb on the table; Or that I told a Republican that Donald Trump is a Russian agent; Or told a Democrat that Barak Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery.

Whoa! I was taken aback — so much so that my chair almost toppled over backwards. Suddenly, this woman told me in no uncertain terms that the quality was the same if not better, and then challenged me to state the reasons for my opinion. No matter how hard I tried, my reasons weren’t good enough for the pizza partisan. She had developed pizza derangement syndrome!

Let’s face it, tastes in food are personal – especially pizza. I even wrote a blog post and an article for Ojo del Lago, a monthly magazine where I live in Mexico, about why I don’t like Lima Beans. Regardless of the best efforts of friends to change my mind, I still hate them.

So, what is pizza? In the New York area they sometimes call it a tomato pie. Dean Martin referred to the moon as a “pizza pie.” It’s a simple food with a baked yeast crust on the bottom and toppings on top. In Chicago, they make it in a pan with a baking soda crust. It has become a universal food, to which the Italians may claim its origins, but not its various regional and personal incarnations. Pizza knows no international borders. Its enjoyment isn’t limited to any racial, ethnic, political, or religious group. Even vegetarians and meat lovers can share its pleasures. And, you can feel “safe” that probably no one has ever been accused of cultural appropriation for eating pizza.

In the past thirty years, the north American population has been introduced to a myriad of different pizza varieties. Gone are the days when the pizza that your neighborhood pizza parlor made was good enough. I remember when people, especially in Italian neighborhoods, would argue over whether Neopolitan or Sicilian was better. Today we have crispy crust, thin crust, medium crust, Sicilian thick crust, Chicago style, fancy focaccia, Stouffers French Bread Pizza, Tostinos Pizza Rolls, lamajeun, flat bread, and I’m sure I missed some.

Everybody has their favorite style and favorite toppings. Even Dominoes in the U.S. has thrown in the towel, and now offers a selection of four different types of crust…one for (almost) every taste.

There are some absolutists when it comes to food, and it’s often because of regional preferences, or what they remember eating when they were younger. While I’ve seen plenty of Mexicans put ketchup on pizza, you’ll never convince a Neapolitan that it’s OK. And likewise, you’ll never convince a native New Yorker that ketchup belongs on a hot dog.

But, you may like your pizza or hot dog with ketchup. Who am I to tell you you’re wrong? At the risk of getting the dander up on the backs of pizza partisans reading this, I confess that I’ve never understood mixing pineapple with ham on a pizza…heresy! That combination belongs at a luau or Easter dinner. And, thank goodness no one has thought to top a pizza with lima beans!

When all is said and done, we’re lucky that there’s no lack of pizza options at Lakeside. Whatever you like, you have a choice.

As for the pizza place that I said has seen better days, I still buy pizza there. I like that style of pizza.

Becoming a Karaoke Singer

I stood in front of the computer screen with a microphone in my hand.

It was Tuesday night – karaoke night – at Mama’s Bar. The hour was late, I had had a few too many glasses of wine, and the place was almost empty. About a dozen friends sat at the table I had just left, waiting in anticipation for my karaoke debut. I had never sung in public before.  With so few people present, it felt safe. I stood there detached from myself and anaesthetized from fear.

Chris, the “karaoke DJ,” looked at me. His eyes were looking for acknowledgment to one of two questions: “Are you ready?” Or possibly, “Are you sure you want to do this?” I nodded in the affirmative.

The song I had chosen was “Fields of Gold” by Sting. The fifteen second introduction seemed to last forever. The dots at the top of the screen started their countdown. The first four lines of the song appeared on the next screen. I opened my mouth and took a deep breath…

And so began my new past-time as a karaoke singer at the age of 70.

Some people retire to Lake Chapala in central Mexico with plans to pursue a long put-off dream or continue, in earnest, a passion developed in their former life. It might be painting, writing, tennis, golf, bridge, or any number of pastimes.

Others, like me, are traveling through their retirement as a voyage of discovery and a chance to redefine themselves. Taking this path usually means trying a lot of new things, or just doing whatever you want. Since turning 70, I’ve walked the Camino de Santiago and flown in an ultra-lite for the first time. A song, “Live Like You Were Dying,” sung by country singer Tim McGraw, expresses my attitude perfectly…

…”Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying

Like tomorrow was a gift
And you’ve got eternity
To think about
What you’d do with it?
What could you do with it?
What did I do with it?
What would I do with it?”

Believe me, when I started my retirement journey, singing and singing karaoke weren’t in my plans.

My first real exposure to karaoke was at a Japanese restaurant in Massachusetts. On Thursday nights, 20 and 30 somethings would drink themselves silly, and compete to see who could butcher their chosen song the most. It was pretty pathetic.

Karaoke at Lake Chapala has been elevated to a more mature level. On any Tuesday or Friday night, Mama’s Bar entertains an eclectic clientele. Sure, there are singers worthy of the Gong Show. But there are a number of very good singers who, in their younger days, sang in bands, performed on stage, and in church choirs. And then there are those of us whose musical talents entertained the walls of a shower stall, or “sing-alongs” with the car radio. We’ve discovered that we love to sing, and karaoke lets us explore our fantasies. For several minutes, we can vicariously be a rock, Broadway, or country and western star.

When I moved down the street from Mama’s a few years ago, I started going to karaoke on Friday nights. I observed the happenings for almost two years. I sat at the bar or at a table with friends and sang to myself. The noise level was high enough that no one heard.

Secretly, I knew I could sing. But, I just needed to overcome my inhibitions.

Before I ever contemplated singing in public, I sang along with Youtube videos. Without Youtube, I don’t know where I would have found such a broad spectrum of musical genres and styles. Karaoke introduced me to country and western, a genre I had previously scorned. Kenny Chesney, George Straight, Merle Haggard, and Allen Jackson became parts of my repertoire, as well as Michael Buble, R.E.M., Radiohead, Meatloaf, and Queen.

Before karaoke, my problem was that many of the songs I wanted to sing were in the wrong key, and I had to restrain my voice when singing in my living room lest my neighbors complain. So, it was liberating to have the words in front of me, microphone in-hand, and Chris, the DJ, magically adjusting a song’s key to my voice. I could open my mouth; sing from my diaphragm; and belt out a song with the best of them.

Lo and behold, I discovered, as did the people who had known me for years, that I could sing…pretty darned well.

When I first visited Lake Chapala, I asked an expat resident of 15 years, “What do you do here?” He replied, deadpan, “Whatever I want.” And sometimes that means just having a beer, as so many expats are known to do. One day I happened on a fun song by Kenny Chesney. He appropriately captured that retired expat attitude in a song called, “Beer in Mexico,” part of which goes like this:

“…Too old to be wild and free still
Too young to be over the hill
Should I try to grow up?
But who knows where to start.

So I just
Sit right here and have another beer in Mexico.
Do my best to waste another day.
Sit right here and have another beer in Mexico.
Let the warm air melt these blues away…”

And, I’ll just sing a little karaoke once in awhile too.

Still Retired, Still Single, Still Writing

Dear Followers and New Readers,

It’s been almost two years since I’ve posted to this blog. I hope you’ve been well.

A lot has happened since I tried “giving ice away in winter,” my last blog. I’m still living in Mexico, and the weather is still beautiful. At the risk of being a NIMBY, it’s unfortunate that the baby boomers, of whom I am one, have discovered this wonderful part of Mexico. It seems that there are a lot more people, cars, and everything has gotten more expensive. In the past, the snowbirds would invade for the winter and go home. Then the sunbirds, avoiding the heat of the southwest, would take their place for the summer. Today, more people are opting to stay here all year long.

At some time in the past two years, I was introduced to country music, and discovered a song by Tim McGraw, “Live Like You Were Dying,” and it has inspired me to live my retirement to the fullest. The premise of the song is: if you knew you only had a short time left on this earth, what would you do with it? I’m not talking about a bucket list, but rather a creed about how to live life every day.

So in the past two years, I overcame my fear of singing in public, and now sing karaoke two times a week and open mic two times a week. I sing an eclectic variety of music, including contemporary, country, and blues. No opera yet!

I always loved flying and have been intrigued by ultra-lights for years. At one time in my life, I even took flying lessons on a single engine Cessna. About a year ago, I discovered that a friend was taking ultra-light flying lessons. So I hitched a ride with him one day across a mountain to the village of San Marcos where took a demo flight with the instructor. What a rush! Talk about flying by the seat of your pants.

In the spring of 2017, I had a hip replacement. But I didn’t let that stop me. In the fall of 2018, I walked a 100 mile portion of the Portuguese Camino to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Since then, I’ve written a book about my experience which I’ll introduce to you in a future blog post.

I’ve also written a number of short pieces that are appropriate as blog posts, and I’ll be sharing them with you about tacos, pizza, karaoke, and the Camino.

Looking at the future…let’s see what’s next…could it be motorcycles?

Giving Away Ice in Winter

Hey, what’s so difficult?

Send an email to 20 people you know and tell them that you’ve got a free book for them. All they have to do is, when they get a notification email from Amazon, click on a link and claim the gift.

You see, I had just published my first book for Amazon Kindle. It was about online dating: 50+ Online Dating Profile Tips for People 50+:How to Write an Awesome Online Dating Profile that Attracts People You Want to Meet.

To get people to buy my book, I first needed to get them to know it’s available, or raise its visibility. Amazon uses an algorithm based on sales and reviews to rank and place a book. That makes sense. Amazon wants to make money, so if you want to be highlighted on the first search page, it helps if you’re making them money.

So, when someone accepts my gift, it counts as a sale. I’m paying for it, but it’s just a promotional expense. And, at $.99, it doesn’t break the bank. Before I gifted my book, I sort of explained this in an email to my 20 friends. Granted, writing an online dating profile is probably not what my 20 friends were thinking about when I approached them. However, even if they couldn’t use the book or didn’t want it, I implored them to please just accept it.

I forgot to also tell them it doesn’t matter if they don’t have a Kindle, you don’t need to have one to accept the gift.

OMG! When I decided to do this, I forgot the population I was dealing with – most over 60. You’d think they’d just crawled out from under a rock holding a flip phone, and thought a tablet was something you took once a day to control cholesterol.

For about half the group, you’d think I was asking them to commit suicide, kill their first born, or scam them out of their social security number.

I’m sure several ignored my email, thinking, “What does that jerk want now?”

Others probably opened the email, and filed it for later action which, at my age, often means, when hell freezes over. That’s not meant maliciously. But chances are that I’ll innocently forget about it…until hell freezes over or someone destroys my email account. As I write this, I have over 6800 unopened emails dating back to 2000.

Some let me know that they don’t own a Kindle. To them I counseled that they could view my book on a smartphone, tablet or coputer with an app from the Kindle or Apple store. What I actually wanted to do was yell at the top of my lungs through the Telmex DSL line that I didn’t care if their computer was a vintage 1982 Osborne 2 computer running the CP/M operating system: “Just click on the F**king link and accept my gift. I need the sale for my Amazon rankings. Can’t you help out an old friend?”

Then I got this response…”But, I don’t have an Amazon account.”

Hopeless!

Imagine walking up to someone you know and trying to hand them an envelope with 2 tickets to the next Bruce Springstein concert (I’m in no way comparing my book to The Boss).

“Gee thanks!” They say, as their eyes narrow and they look at you sideways, all the while slowly running their fingers over the envelope trying to ascertain its contents and that there are actually tickets inside. “What’s the catch? Why do you want to give me Bruce Springstein tickets…for free?”

“There’s no catch,” you explain. “I put the anthrax in the tickets I gave Joe.”

Unphased by your answer, your friend asks, “When is it, the concert that is.”

“Two weeks from Tuesday,” you answer.

“Where is it?” they continue.

“At the stadium,” you say.

“Oh I hate that stadium,” they complain, rolling their eyes. “I don’t know if I can make it.”

They reach out to hand the envelope back to you.

You hold up your hand and suggest. “Wait, just keep the tickets. Give them to your kids or another friend. Or, how about that bum on the street corner over there panhandling for a cup of coffee or whatever.”

They look at you with a furrowed brow. “Are you sure these are legit?”

Now to be sure, my book isn’t everybody’s shot glass of tequila. It’s about helping people over 50 improve their online dating profile and avoiding many of the mistakes that prevent them from finding the kinds of dates they want to meet.

Maybe my next book will be about how to gratefully accept a gift – even if it’s something you can’t use or don’t want – even an electronic one.

Hey, I’m not looking for a thank you. Just click on the stupid “accept” button!

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My New Book Helps Singles Over 50 Improve Online Dating Prospects

Today, I released my first book for Amazon Kindle, 50+ Online Dating Tips for People 50+: How to Write an Awesome Dating Profile that Attracts People You Want to Meet. I’m using a pen-name, J.C. Elliot.

I started writing the book about four-years ago, while I was actively involved with online dating. I recently picked up the draft, and decided to finish it.

The purpose of my book is to help people over 50 do a better job of writing a profile. It helps prepare older divorced or widowed people for the challenges they meet. Many are going through or have been through physical life changes that can test their vanity. They’re anticipating retirement and the financial concerns it brings. Many of them haven’t dated in years and are often hesitant to use unfamiliar new technologies to find dates. They’re not sure what to do or what to expect online.

50+ Dating Profile Tips for People 50+ steps readers through the process of writing a profile from evaluating what they are looking for to communicating it effectively. The book also provides advice about the importance of photos and how to take them, as well as how to write what I call the “About Me Essay,” and how to edit it.

You can download and print 3 Profile Worksheets and Editing Checklist

Finally, the Appendices include three worksheets and an editing checklist to simplify the preparation of the profile by helping people prepare the information readers will need to complete a profile before going online, or improve the one they already have. The worksheets will also be available for readers to download and print.

I’m a retired marketing consultant, and recently dated online for more than 2 years. I wrote this book because it quickly became evident to me that most people don’t understand an online dating profile is about marketing one’s self.

The book is only 50 pages, is written in a conversational style, and is a quick read. The last third of the book contains the worksheets and checklists.

For a limited time, my book will be available for $.99. You can order it from a link at the bottom of my book’s website or order directly from Amazon here.

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Holiday Cooking Challenges

One of the biggest cooking challenges when you live in a foreign country is finding the right ingredients to make the things you did before. Normally it’s not that important to me. Since I moved to Mexico, I do very little cooking. Most of the time, it’s cheaper to eat out – especially for dinner.

When I do cook, however, I often need to be creative in my selection of ingredients. In Mexico they don’t use many ingredients we use north of the border. Likewise, there are many ingredients here that are quite interesting that we never see up north. Very often, I need to find a reasonable substitute.

There’s a supermarket up the street called Super Lake that carries almost anything you are familiar with in the U.S. and Canada. If you insist on using the American brands, you’ll pay a premium.

When it comes to holidays, everyone has their favorite foods. For Thanksgiving and Christmas here, turkeys abound, and spiral hams are popular. There are sweet potatoes and cranberries, string beans, peas, corn, brussel sprouts, packaged stuffing for the turkey, and even pumpkin for pies.

Potatoes, however, are problematic. Most of the year, the only potatoes you can get here make poor mashed potatoes. The first time I made them they turned out like wallpaper paste, and were impossible to clean up afterwards if you let them dry (and even if you didn’t). During this season, we can be thankful that there are a few stores that carry russet potatoes which make a much better version of mashed potatoes.

This year I was invited to a pot-luck Christmas dinner. I decided to bring a modern family favorite. When growing up, mashed yellow turnips were a part of Thanksgiving dinner. My ex and I found a new way to use turnips in the 1993 Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appetit magazine. We discovered a recipe for a root vegetable casserole that combined mashed potatoes, turnips, and parsnip that was a hit – even with people who didn’t like turnips (see the featured picture at the top). It’s been part of Thanksgiving dinner ever since.

Mexican White Turnip called Nabo

Mexican White Turnip called Nabo

I had three challenges in finding the ingredients to make it here. First, I needed to find russet potatoes. Second, there are no yellow turnips here. But at least there is a mild white turnip, called Nabo. Third, there are no parsnips here.

For substitutes, I wanted to get the orange color of the yellow turnips and the spiciness of parsnips. So, I pureed cooked carrots and added ground allspice.

The original recipe ingredients are directly below, and my Mexican version follows. The cooking instructions are basically the same with differences noted.

Root Vegetable Casserole

Original Version

Mexican Version

7 cups canned low-salt chicken broth

3 lbs. russet potato (1.5” pieces)

1.5 lbs. rutabaga (1/2” pieces)

1.25 lbs. parsnip (1.5” pieces)

8 garlic cloves

1 bayleaf

1 tsp. thyme

3 large onion thinly sliced

¾ cup (1.5 sticks) butter at room temperature

Salt and pepper

7 cups canned low-salt chicken broth

1.5 Kilo russet potato (1.5” pieces)

.75 Kilo. Nabo (1/2” pieces)

2 large carrots (diced)

8 garlic cloves

1 bayleaf

1 tsp. thyme

¼ tsp. ground allspice

3 large onion thinly sliced

170 grams butter at room temperature

Salt and pepper

Directions:

Butter 13”x9”x2” glass baking dish

In Mexican version only, put 1.5 cups of chicken broth in a small pot with the carrots. Bring pot to boil, reduce to simmer until carrots are tender. Transfer carrots to a blender and puree. Add remaining broth to large pot below

In a large pot put first 7 ingredients

Bring pot to boil, reduce to simmer until veggies are tender (approx. 30 minutes)

Transfer veggies and pureed carrots to a bowl

Add 1 stick (approx. 100 grams) of butter to bowl

Beat until mashed but not chunky (a Kitchenaid mixer with large paddle works well)

Season mixture with salt and pepper

Melt remaining butter in a large skillet on medium heat.

Saute onions until lightly browned. Reduce heat to medium low and continue for 15 minutes

Season onions with salt and pepper.

Spoon root vegetable mixture into the prepared baking dish and smooth.

Distribute onions evenly over the vegetables

Reheat casserole for 20 minutes before serving

Buen provecho!

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