10 Tips for a Terrific 2010

I can't believe that 2009 is going out and 2010 is coming in.  I am sure you have already made a few New Year's resolutions, but I wanted to give you 10 tips to help you be your best in 2010...and beyond...

1) CHANGE YOUR DIET...Don't go on a diet.  If you go on something, it is just as easy to go off of it.  Not to mention whatever you consume is your diet, so if you go on one, what were you doing before that, hmmm.  So, what you really want to do is change your diet.  Include more fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats and low fat dairy.  Avoid saturated fats, sodas, highly processed foods, fast foods, "junk" foods and anything with a lot of calories but little nutrients.  Notice I didn't say eliminate, only avoid these foods.  The ones I mention first you should choose more often, and save the others for special occassions or treats.

2) EXERCISE AT A LEVEL COMFORTABLE FOR YOU...this means don't over do it.  Make sure it is safe with your doctor first and that no medical condition poses a threat to your health.  Then choose an activity that fits your age, weight, height, schedule, lifestyle, budget, and most importantly your personal preference.  Don't choose something you won't enjoy because it will be hard to stick with.  Pick something you can do easily, but has room to push yourself further.  The idea is to improve in your fitness level and flexibility, but not to overextend yourself.  If you don't exercise right now, walking is a great place to start.  If your knees hurt, trying swimming (community centers often have an indoor pool).

3) DONATE...anything.  Just remember that even if you have little, there are still people out there with even less.  You don't have to donate money, it can be food, used clothing or furniture, and even time.  If you can't afford something of monetary value, remember your time is just as valuable.  Helping out where ever it is needed will ultimately bring you reward.  Don't forget, even donating a dollar here and a dollar there can add up for someone.  If 1,000 people in a town donate $1 each, a family could have rent and heating paid for the month.  Little bits add up to a lot and everything you donate is appreciated.

4) GO BACK TO SCHOOL...not necessarily for a degree, but just for personal enrichment.  It doesn't even have to be a tough subject.  It could be art history, ceramincs, jazz music, native American history, eastern religions, logic, creative writing or even public speaking.  Choose something you have always thought would be interesting but never got around to studying.  If you are looking for cheaper options for courses, check out your local community college.  They usually cost less, but the educators are just as good.  If you were considering going back for a degree, start now.  Why wait until fall?  You are just in time to enroll for the spring semester.  Even if you can't apply in time to be admitted, many schools let you start taking classes as a non-admitted student.  Start off with the core classes and if you have to fill out an application later, at least you have a jump start in the program.

5) DRIVE SAFELY... wear your seat belt, drive the speed limit, don't talk on the cell phone, and always pay attention.  Even though you may be a good drive, others are not.  This means your life can be in the hands of someone elses poor decisions.  Always be on the look out.  If you notice someone driving unsafely, pull over or get out of the way.  There is no need to speed (ok, a few miles over the speed limit is one thing) just to slow down, and trust me you will always need to slow down for something.  Enjoy the time you have in the car.  For many people this is an escape from the office or the home and offers some quiet time, or time to sing obnoxiously loud in your car.

6) CHANGE SOMETHING...maybe your hair cut, the color of your bedroom, the landscaping in front of your house, maybe your mailbox or your nail polish.  Whatever it is, big or small, make a change.  Bring a new perspective to your everday life.

7) IT'S WHAT IS INSIDE THAT COUNTS...I don't know how many times I have had young college students tell me they can eat what they want, they have a fast metabolism and they look fabulous.  Great, that's what's on the outside.  A greasy hamburger is still a greasy hamburger to your arteries.  Although you may look great on the outside and your BMI is within a healthy weight range, it doesn't mean you are healthy on the inside, which is where it counts.  If you haven't been to the doctor recently, schedule your yearly check up.  Get standard blood work done to make sure you are healthy...the kind that you can't see based on the outward appearance.

8) OH YEAH...IT'S WHAT IS INSIDE THAT COUNTS...now I am talking about you and how you treat others.  Next time you go to gossip about someone, think about how you would feel if someone said that about you.  Is it really your place to tell someone about someone elses life?  Sure, it is fun to be on the inside of everything, but at what cost does this come.  If you have ever lost a friend over gossip or rumors, then you know what I am talking about.  Treat others with respect and compassion.  Never underestimate the power of kind words.

9) RECONNECT WITH OLD FRIENDS...ok, I won't lie, facebook is great for this, as is any other form of social media that connects friends.  But you can connect anyway you feel comfortable with...snail mail, email, the phone...any of these work.  Do you ever think about distant family members, high school friends, college friends, camp friends or even as far back as elementary school friends.  They are out there and chances are they would love to hear from you (let's face it, you are all great people, who wouldn't want you back in their lives!).  

10) MOST IMPORTANTLY...Make it to 2010!  Seriously, you can't be a better person in 2010 and beyond if you don't play it safe tonight.  If you plan to drink, make sure you have a designated driver.  If you plan to drink, make sure you eat something before you party.  If someone offers you drugs, think about the possible consequences.  If something doesn't seem right, it probably isn't, which means it is probably time to head out from where ever you are.  Never travel alone, keep friends near by.  If you plan to stay in, practice safe habits there too.  Don't leave candles or the fire place burning unattended.  Turn off the oven or stove when you finish cooking.  Ok, ok, enough of my rules for safety...most importantly, have fun and don't forget to tell your loved ones that you love them.

See you all in 2010!!!

The Big 1-0-0

I can hardly believe I have made it to my 100th post, and before the new year too!

I am so honored to have some loyal readers...and not just my family...

Thank you to everyone who is keeping up with my crazy journey.  For those of you who are new to my blog or may have only started following recently, I wanted to take this time to highlight my favorite 10 posts.  So here goes...

1) My very first Nutrition, Food, Travel and More Post: Start of a New Adventure

2) Here are all 3 parts of my post on a huge food festival that takes place here and lasts for 10 days.  It is known as Praia Fest and all of these main land Portugal restauants set up full service restaurant at the marina.  Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

3) Some pictures from around the island.  It is so beautiful here.  This is just a post with some random shots from around here.

4) If you are madly curious about who I am...READ THIS!

5) In our village we have an organic market.  Not only can you buy produce here, but some restaurants will also purchase their salads for serving on their menus.

6) This island is well known for it's crazy street bull fighting.  This is a post from the fight that ran in front of our house and the party we had for the occassion.

7) Ever done lateral thinking puzzles.  They are too much fun.  Click here to give these a shot.  Don't forget to grab a pencil and some paper.

8) If you're up for a lesson on food labels check out this post in the % daily value.

9) Would you eat at a restaurant that has a whale sculpture hanging out of the wall?  We did and it was GREAT!

10) Ok, ok, it is so hard to pick just 10, but last on my list is...a post about Monte Brasil, which is a large nature reserve/park in Angra.

Now that I have shared some of my posts in review (kill 2 birds with one stone as 2009 is almost...over!), I wanted to ask for everyone's thoughts on my blog.  I have recently changes my template, which most of you shared you really enjoy this new look.  I am wondering what kinds of things you would like to see me post about over the next year.  My blog title is nutrition, food, travel and more, and so I try to get a little of everything in there.  So, my questions to you:

1) In the area of nutrition...since I am a registered dietitian...what kinds of topics would you be interested in learning more about.  My areas of expertise are weight management and diabetes, but I have experience in just about every aspect.  I also teach undergraduate nutrition, so no topic is off limits.  Feel free to ask here, or you can email me at melinda_seff@yahoo.com.

2) In the area of food, I usually show restaurants, but I also show foods I prepare in the home.  Anything you would like to see more of?

3) In the area of travel, most of what I share now is the travel around the island, which is still new to us.  I hope to travel more during 2010.  Are there any things you have specific interest in learning about around this island?

4) Ok, for the more part...what more would you like to know?  What else would you like to see on my blog?

Again, thanks so much for your comments so far and for reading about my life over here.  I have really enjoyed making my first 100 posts and I hope I have many more to come.

Sabores do Chef

When Ryan and I first arrived on the island we did not have a car and we were living at the base hotel.  After a few days we were able to get a rental car, which are very expensive and that is why we hesitated.  But after a few days, the small base begins to feel even smaller, and the novelty of walking everywhere starts to wear off.  Once we got that rental car, we had 2 stops on the top of our list.  The first was to hit Modelo, the local super grocery store.  The second was find ourselves a nice restaurant where I could take Ryan for his birthday dinner.  That was around early July.  We went to Sabores do Chef and had a great meal.  We haven't been back since, not because we didn't like it, but because we got our cars, a place to live, and went out to see what else the island had to offer.

So the weekend before Christmas we tried to get a table but the whole restaurant was booked with parties and reservations.  We weren't ready to give up just yet, so this past Saturday night we gave it another try.  Now that we had tried foods at other places, I wondered if our initial praises of this restaurant will still hold true.

What initially attracted us to this place, other than extensive advertising on the base, was the modern look...as in this place could pass in Vegas as a hot spot based on the decor and ambiance.

This places is heavy on the covert options, which if you do not turn away ASAP and they place on your table, you will be charged for...per person.  Usually not a bbig deal, but here they bring this sausage platter with cheese that is 3.50 euro per person, which is about $5.15 a person.  That adds up FAST!!!  SO we quickly said no to that, and instead we got a treat (hint hint, my fave part of the meal), which I have a pic of a little further down.

First up is this goat cheese with homemade jam.  The sweet and salty really compliment each other.

Herbed butter...

The bread...

Here is the goat cheese topped with the jam.

Here is my extra special treat.  The first time we diner here we did not get olives.  There are some cheese cubes here too, but I was really interested in the olives.

I had a hard time deciding, but I went with the penne and shrimp.  The sauce was a tad heavy, but really good.  The shrimp were amazing.  You could tell they were extremely fresh.

Ryan ordered what I had the first time.  This is grilled wreckfish.  The consistency is closer to that of tuna, certainly not a white flaky fish, but a much milder taste than tuna.  The naming of the fish comes from where you can find it in the ocean..near ship wrecks.  I am not sure if we have this anywhere in the states, but this is really popular on the island.  Ryan really enjoyed this dish, just as I did months ago.

Here I am.  Pardon the insane hair mess, but I have been keeping it as much out of the rain as possible and did not realize have crazy it went.  I should point out that Ryan and I are on a staycation right now, so we have been mostly inside with the rain and then outside to walk the dog, during which time I got soaked, despite my rain gear.  I actually went to this restaurant wearing my rainboots!  I guess as part of the staycation and playing tourists we will explore and probably dine out often.  If that is the case I will have lots of pics to show over the next week.  The other problem with eating at home right now is the leak and renovations we are doing in the dining room.  Everything from our pantry is now in boxes, so good thing we are in the vacation mode right now and don't feel like we are trapped with only frozen food access.  Ok, sorry for the complete side bar...back to the meal...

The first word I learned in Portuguese on the island from someone was from a server at this restaurant.  He taught me sobremesas, which means desserts.  Fitting that should be my first word!

We went with the caramel fondue, which I think was chocolate caramel fondue.  It was served with fruit, which is one of the reasons I wanted this.  We split it and it was a great way to end yet another great meal.

Well, that was it for our meal at Sabores do Chef.  I can't wait until I have some visitors so we can go back.  It can get pricey to go to these places, but we have always made date night for Friday night, and if not able to on Friday, then on Saturday we like to go out for a nice meal.  I always worked in the restaurant industry, so I feel a pull towards them, and I seek out exceptional dining experiences.  I totally dragged Ryan into that one.  I also like to know what is good and what isn't so I know where to take visitors.  I often live in areas where people come to visit (like Las Vegas) and I love to be knowledgable about food and other tourists spots.

Since I like to treat myself to quality meals, I also like to spoil my pup on occassion, so here is what she enjoyed the other night.  This is Weruva...paw lickin' chicken...

The first ingredient is basically white meat chicken breast, boneless and skinless, and from the same human grade quality chicken you would eat.  That makes it nice to know it is not crazy processed and the leftovers of what wasn't fit for human consumption.  As this is expensive, I give it on occassion and only about 2 tablespoons on top of her dry food.

But in all honesty, it looks good enough for a person to eat.  She likes it and so I will keep it on hand for when she is really good.

QUESTION: Do you have a favorite local restaurant where you take people who are visiting you, and what is the name/cuisine type?

Alcatra, traditional dish of the island...and more

Alcatra, which literally means rump in Portuguese is the traditional dish of this island.  It is a Portuguese pot roast cooked in a clay pot or clay tile dish.  Most families will make this at home, and all the traditional restaurants on the island serve this...usually in a portion for 2 since it is a family style dish to begin with.  It is usually beef with some pork or bacon, but now places will also make alcatra with fish.  Our next door neighbor, Maria, made some for Ryan just before Christmas and her husband brought it over to us, still hot, right from the oven.  There is not vegetables in here, just beef and bacon/fat.  This is what it looks like, homemade style...

He said the meat was very tender, as it is supposed to be, and the broth stuff was basically fat.  The white pieces that look like they could be potato, is really just bacon/fat chunks.  There was also a nice bone inside, and we let the dog enjoy this.  If you are interested, here is a RECIPE I found online while researching the history of the dish.  Most websites I found were in Portuguese so I have limited additional information on the rest of the history.

This is what alcatra looks like when ordered at a restaurant.  The portion is for two and this is known as a clay tile, where ours at home was in a clay pot.

On to other foods we have had over the past few days...

On Christmas eve day we wandered around Praia before grabbing a bite to eat at Pizza OK.  It's not the best pizza ever, but not the worst either.  We also get the veggie pizza.

Can't resist the sweets...

The day after Christmas we went to make me nuts since we didn't want to drive around and see what was open and breakfast foods sounded good even though we already had some breakfast.

My donut choice, very festive...

Ryan had an apple filled cinnamon coated donut.

As always they have a nice display of cakes.

As I was taking this picture I noticed something just above the case...Can you spot it???

That's right, they actually sell DD coffee there.  I thought they were a total knock off of DD, but now I wonder if they are related or just really really really like Dunkin Donuts, pink and orange and all!

So now we are stuck in a massive wind storm with the occassional down pour of rain.  The poor dog got caught in it and lucky for me I had put on rain pants and a jacket before I went out.  It wasn;t raining when I stepped out of the door, but then it just rained, almost like hail.  So, I think we will probably stay in today and see what is and isn't leaking since we just found a leak in Ryan's office.  I am off to help him now?

QUESTION:  Do you get high winds where you live?  Do you live somewhere that experiences lots of rain or has a "rainy season"?

An Azorean Christmas

Seeing as we had no real plans for Christmas, when our neighbor invited us over, we decided to go.  If we said no and then they were there to see we weren't doing anything anyway, it would look odd and we may never be invited over again.  So, we decided to join in with their traditional Azorean Christmas celebration with their family.  I guess it may be similar to a Portuguese Christmas, but since the island is isolated, they probably have their own customs as well.

This is actually our neighbors sister, who is also our fantastic housekeeper.  She is so sweet although i don't understand much of what she says.  This is her husband and in this picture they were offering us sweets or "American" goodies before the meal.

This was the only traditional Azorean treat on this table.  As best I can tell these were little Dona Amelias, which is the traditional sweet of the island.  They are sooooo delicious.

I was happy to see they also like my fave jelly beans...the starbust kind.  Ok, ok, I'm lying a little.  I really like jelly belly the best, but this is the next right after those goodies.

We were happy to see they all like Bud too.

This is a traditional dish, which I believe is pork.  The resemble the ones our landlord brought over for our bullfight party.

They made a ham...

These are similar to potatoes, but are a different kind of root veggie.  It had an interesting taste, a little sweet and a little salty.  They told me the name in Portuguese and it sounds like it had yam in, but it's not a yam, and I still can't tell ya what exactly it is...other than something that is native to this island!

This is alcatra.  This is the traditional island dish...they are famous for this.  It is cooked in a clay dish or tile.  My neighbor made Ryan some the night before Christmas and so I am saving all the details of this dish for it's own post.  In other words...more to come.

The traditional and oh so yummy bread.

Ok, here is where I started to feel bad.  I didn't tell them I am a vegetarian because I did not want to have them go through any trouble to make something special.  I also didn't know if they would undertsnad well enough to know what I do and what I do not eat (since I eat dairy, eggs and fish/seafood, but nothing from beef, pork, chicken or other animals, including gelatin or broths, so you can see with the language barrier I just didn't want to explain).  They felt SOOOOO bad and kept apologizing for not having anything prepared for me.  So Maria (neighbor) and Ashelina (her sister and our housekeeper) along with my neighbors daughter who speaks English, prepared for me this dish or fried eggs and these little fried turnovers filled with tuna, onion and spices.  These little tuna things were delicious.  But I felt so bad for the trouble they went through to prepare me something special.

Now on to dessert.  This had gelatin in it so I passed, but Ryan did like it.

I did not pass on this one though.  It was cake on the bottom, with cream and like a chocolate mousse.

They also had a very nice fruit salad.

Then it was time for all the kids and adults too to open their presents.  The gifts just kept coming and coming.

They did give Ryan a mug and us a table cloth and some embroidered linens with Christmas designs.

Ryan also gave me some mroe of my presents.  I totally got a slap chop!  You know you're jealous!  And of course another bread machine cook book.

Last, but not least, our landlord gave us this, which we REALLY wanted.  This is a serving tray with tiles (which is the traditional craft on the island).  This is a bull fight scene.  They paint these scenes as big or as little as you want.  We are so happy to have received one of these.

I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday if you celebrate Christmas.  If you are Jewish...I hope you enjoyed your Chinese food and an movie (or some variation, haha!)...

QUESTION:  What was your favorite present you received this year?  What was the best part of your meal yesterday?