Overwhelmed with Life? Try Making Your Bed

My parents passed on many a piece of advice to my brother and me over the years. Like most children, we generally did the opposite.

Eat your broccoli, it’s good for you = Whittle a hole in table leg, hide broccoli there.
Empty the dishwasher, you’ll feel accomplished = Pay off a sibling to do it for you.
Being home by curfew will make you feel responsible = change the clocks an hour ahead.

You can see where this is going.

But there was one piece of advice that I initially embraced. Then, as life went on, I forgot it. Now, after recently becoming a parent, I’ve finally realized the true genius of this “life tip.” It was my mom’s edict to make my bed.

Forgetting everything my mom ever told me

A call to make one’s bed was, shall we say, a distinct challenge. You can’t throw a twin bed out of the window as a way to avoid the chore. Paying my brother to make the bed defied economic sense when calculated against income from allowance, my mix cd business and hoarded lunch money.

As such, I acquiesced on the topic, until I went to college and Forgot Everything My Mom Ever Told Me. As she visited my freshman dorm room, she took stock of the scene: a cereal spoon molded to the floor in a halo of dried milk, a stack of CDs wobbling on a stack of papers, and an inked reminder on the back of my hand to do something, possibly study for an exam.

She looked longingly at my roommate’s pristine side of the room – a made bed, a calendar, file folders and – gasp! – an iron. She sighed, as mothers often do, then fell back on a piece of wisdom she often uttered to her notoriously disorganized youngest child:

“If you can keep your room clean, you can keep your life clean.”

My mom had a point

Anytime something felt overwhelming, she would ask “Is your room clean?”  After a dozen years and hundreds of “no’s,” she modified the question.

My flavored toothpick business is getting too large and I can’t keep track of my clients on the school bus.
Did you make your bed?

I’m not ready to pick a major and don’t know where to start.
When was the last time you made your bed?

This Italian class is really hard.
Go make your bed, then sit on it, with your books.

Make your bed. It could lead to other good things

This wasn’t just a mom-tested mantra; she used it in her days as a social worker. Sometimes tasks in life seem so insurmountable, she would say, that it’s hard to know where to start. Even the phrase “start small” feels big. But a palatable suggestion, like “make your bed,” well that can have some power.

Here’s why.

In the widely-circulated commencement speech and subsequent book from Naval Adm. William McRaven, the emphasis on making a bed isn’t just aesthetic. It’s about paying attention to detail, starting small and harnessing a special kind of momentum in your day:

If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made — and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

Others in the home/life organization field say it’s one of those habits that snowballs into other good things. Kind of like when you say “hi” to someone and they say it back, it’s a simple task that makes you feel good (if it doesn’t, YOU ARE SOUL-LESS.)

So the next time you feel overwhelmed or aren’t sure where to start with something, try going back to basics. Try making your bed.

And if you can’t remember, just write it on your hand.

Five Pumpkin Breakfast Recipes for Fall

(Just about) everybody loves fall. But do you ever get tired of the leaves, the brisk morning air or the pumpkin everything? NEITHER DO I! I don’t just love pumpkin because of the weather. It’s also delicious and really good for you. Pumpkin is rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene, which help promote the health of your eyes and skin. The fiber in pumpkin also works to keep your digestive system happy. That’s why I enjoy these pumpkin breakfast recipes all year long (shhh…don’t tell fall).

Print Recipe
Warm Autumn Oatmeal
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
  1. Combine oats, pumpkin, milk, and apple into a bowl.
  2. Microwave for one minute.
  3. Add peanut butter and pecans, stirring to combine.
  4. Top with cinnamon.
Print Recipe
Pumpkin Protein Smoothie
Prep Time 5 minutes
Prep Time 5 minutes
  1. Blend all ingredients together in a blender.
Print Recipe
Pumpkin Granola Bars
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line an 8 by 8 pan with partchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together oats, walnuts, spices and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, honey/maple syrup, applesauce and vanilla until smooth.
  5. Pour over oats and stir to combine. Mix in chocolate chips.
  6. Evenly press the mixture into the pan.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until edges are golden brown.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for 5 minutes before cutting into bars.
Print Recipe
Pumpkin Parfait
Prep Time 5 minutes
Prep Time 5 minutes
  1. In a small bowl, layer yogurt with pumpkin puree and granola.
  2. Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice.
Print Recipe
Pumpkin Pancakes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Prep Time 20 minutes
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, pumpkin, egg, vegetable oil, and vanilla.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and whisk gently until combined. Let the batter set for 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat a pan to medium heat. Drizzle vegetable oil on the warmed pan.
  5. Ladle 1/3 cup of the batter onto the pan for each pancake.
  6. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the bubbles around the edges are open and set. Flip and cook on the other side for an additional 2 minutes.

Hidden Gem: The Westminster Staircase

Referred to by some as the “Stairway to Heaven,” the Westminster Staircase in Syracuse holds special meaning for those of us who use it.

Starting on Euclid Avenue and leading to a small circular park at the dead end of Westminster Avenue, the stairs are a startlingly serene departure from the hustle and bustle of the University Neighborhood.

From the crest of the hill, you can catch some of the best views of Syracuse depending on the time of year. The stairs and park have been the scene of countless heart-to-hearts among friends, breakups, and even wedding ceremonies. But the stairs remain relatively unknown to the larger Syracuse community.

Is It Really “Hidden?”

To the untrained eye, yes! With the tree cover, you might mistake the base of the staircase for the steps to one of the neighboring Euclid Avenue homes built into the hillside. More observant passersby and those “in-the-know” will see the entrance to one of Syracuse’s more whimsical urban features.

What’s So Great About A Staircase?

Walking up the stairs recently, I could hear the sound of summer cicadas all around me (terrifying for some, calming for me). The noise of traffic was blocked by thick trees and I was surrounded by the lovely smell of earth and greenery. Even though I went on a 90-degree day, my walk up the stairs felt cool and relaxing in comparison to the sidewalk below.

At top of the stairs is Westminster Park, a modest patch of grass surrounded by a loop of road. Mature trees shade part of the park, and there is a solitary bench for weary stair-climbers. Above scrubby trees and bushes covering the sides of the hill, you can see the Carrier Dome and other iconic buildings on the Syracuse University campus. Milkweed growing among the brush is a sign the park may be a good place for watching for butterflies, and I saw a cardinal perched in one of the tree branches.

One More Thing

The staircase is used by many as an outdoor workout course. On my recent climb, I saw several people using the staircase to get in their steps for the day. Even just walking up the stairs will get you winded, so running up them is a great challenge!

The Details

Access the stairs from the south side of Euclid Avenue, between Maryland and Lancaster avenues. Or, enter from the dead end of Westminster Ave.

Please use caution as many of the bricks and cobbles have been worn away by the elements and there are many uneven surfaces. Only those with sure footing should use these stairs.

Your Back-To-College Health Checklist

I’ve never been as sick as I was my first year at college. I was barely sleeping and living off ramen noodles and coffee. No wonder I caught mono!

Unfortunately, my mono went without diagnosis for eight months! The cure for mono is rest and more rest. But when I did suffer a cold or aches and pains, a simple gift of a first aid kit from my parents ”saved” me on more than one sickly occasion!

That’s why a first aid kit is on my back-to-school health care checklist.

You can create your own first aid kit by including some typical injury materials, including bandages, gauze and tape and antibiotic ointment for cuts and scrapes. You might need ibuprofen for aches and pains and antihistamines for allergic reactions. Eye drops help get the red out. Add a thermometer, just in case!

But a first aid kit is just one of the items you might want to tackle before the start of school:

#1 On Your Checklist Is . . .

Although it’s the last thing on our minds when we’re healthy, getting your yearly checkup should be at the top of your checklist.

Many college students should also get certain vaccinations, including those for meningitis, cervical cancer and whooping cough. Flu shots are also strongly recommended, but many college campuses offer free vaccinations for them in the fall.

Ask your doctor about the best ways to care for yourself, especially if you’re away from home. Also consider getting your annual dental checkup and needed vision and hearing screenings out of the way before school starts.

#2 Your Doctor’s Digits

While you’re at it, ask your doctor about the best way to reach him or her while you’re at school. Your pediatrician knows you best, and you trust him or her. Ask if they do visits over the phone or by video chat for those times when you can’t get to their office.

#3 Unlock These Health Benefits

Maybe not as exciting as meeting your new roommate or choosing your first classes, but you may save yourself a hassle later on by  registering now for an online account on your health insurer’s website. You may “unlock” a bunch of important benefits, including instant access to your member card and a new kind of service that lets you video chat with a doc ! (See below for details.)

Register now while you’re healthy. You don’t want to be searching for this stuff while you’re battling high temperatures, a scratchy throat and the shivers.

#4 Get “The Card”

You’ll need your health insurance member card, whether it’s a digital version on your phone or a physical card. You’ll need your card wherever you seek care.

#5 FaceTime A Doc

Adulting is hard! Mom and dad might not be there to take you to your doctor when you’re sick. If you can’t contact your doctor or your college’s health center is closed, telemedicine might be your best bet. It feels a lot like FaceTiming or Skyping. You can talk or video chat with a doctor from your dorm room, apartment or between classes for non-emergency medical conditions.

If you have Excellus BlueCross BlueShield health insurance, you may have access to a telemedicine benefit through MDLIVE. Using an app on your smartphone, computer or tablet, you can get help from a doctor within minutes. If needed, the doctor can fax in a prescription to a nearby pharmacy.

Consider registering today for telemedicine so you’re ready to use the app when you’re sick: ExcellusBCBS.com/HealthCareLive

That’s all I have for tips! I hope you’re better equipped to handle whatever malady comes your way this school year.

Ready to Run? Learn to Love Hills

Hills kinda have a bad rep among runners. Something about gravity and sweatiness and REALLY HARD WORK! It’s true. Hills are not easy to run. But I love them anyway, and you can learn to love them, too.

“Love” is a relative term. You learn to love hills the same way you learn to love kale. You know it’s good for you. You know if you try it now and then you’ll get the results you want.

My journey to “love” started with my second 5k. I was new to running. I randomly picked a race, and when people started warning me about the hills, I shrugged it off like any clueless novice. I’d run a few mildly hilly training routes. I could do three miles without walking. How hard could it be?

I had no idea what I was in for

Two miles of hills! I huffed and puffed and almost made it to the top of the last hill before I had to walk. Almost. I felt a little defeated, because my goal was to run the whole race without walking.

*Cue the Rocky theme*

After that, I made it a point to run hills every single week until the course became easier. Not easy, but easier. I recently ran the Boilermaker 15k, which has more than its fair share of hilly goodness. Every time I reached the top of a hill, I felt like I’d overcome a challenge.

You, too, can embrace those inclines.

tips for making it to the top, don’t pass them up

You’ll get stronger! When you run up a hill, you use your muscles differently. Your leg muscles and your booty will get a better workout. Strengthening those muscles up the hills will help you run better when you’re back on lower ground.

AND faster! I will never win a race. But I do strive to improve my personal times. Run hills every week for a few months then sign up for a flat 5k. See what happens!

Tired of running the same flat routes? Or the treadmill? Hills present an opportunity to end the monotony of the same old route, same old terrain. Changing things up can help your mental game both on and off the road.

It’s a challenge! Think about how you feel when you overcome any challenge. It’s exhilarating! Satisfying! Maybe even a little exhausting. But you did it. Congratulations!

You can be THAT person! You know the person I’m talking about. The one who says “Bring it on!” when everyone else is groaning about hills. You may even inspire the look. Is it respect? Awe? Fear? I haven’t figured that out. Give it a try and let me know.

Tips to make the most of hills

Slow down! It takes more work to run up a hill than it does to run on a flat surface. Unless you’re speed training and your goal is to sprint uphill until you can sprint no more, slow down a little to avoid burning out. Try to keep a consistent level of effort throughout your run: this means a slower uphill pace.

Don’t look up! If you’re afraid of heights you’ve heard “Don’t look down.” Apply the opposite concept if you tend to think about how much further you have to go.

Watch your posture! Especially if “Don’t look up!” helps you get to the top. If you find yourself slouching forward or hunching your shoulders, your movements become less efficient and you end up making more work for yourself. Think about standing up straight and gravity will help you get the slight lean that will drive you forward with better form.

Run with friends! If you’re like me, running with a group will motivate you up the hills when giving up sounds like the better deal. Think of the stories that will come out of the shared experience: Remember that time we ran ten miles, uphill, both ways, in a blizzard? A little exaggeration never hurt anyone.

There’s no shame in walking! If running up hills isn’t your thing, you don’t have to avoid routes or races because they’re a little (or a lot) hilly. There’s no rule that says you have to RUN every step of the way anytime you lace up your running shoes. Do what feels right for you.

Have any other tips? A favorite hilly race? Maybe a favorite training hill? Share in the comments section below!

Lifehack: 26 Year Old Buying Health Insurance

If you’re like me, you give your health care almost no thought until you’re sick or you need to fill a prescription. You show your insurance card and it all kind of just happens because you’re on your parents’ health insurance plan.

But then your 26th birthday comes along and *bam* you’ll be dumped and forced to figure this health insurance thing out. #adulting

After my boyfriend turned 26, he went without health insurance for five months because his employer didn’t offer it. When we attempted to get him covered, we realized we were in way over our heads (that was 2014).

Fast forward a couple years and it’s ironic that my job is to explain health insurance in an easy-to-understand way. I’ll let you in on what you need to know and how to go about choosing a plan—we’ll call it a crash course in health insurance.

First, let’s understand the basics.

 If you can’t get health insurance through your employer, you can buy a plan through the exchange (in New York, the NY State of Health Marketplace) or directly from an insurer.

The benefit to signing up on the exchange is that you can get help paying for your plan. In 2017, if you make less than $47,520 (400% of the current Federal Poverty Level, or FPL), you’ll likely qualify for some sort of financial help, so it might be worth exploring your options on the exchange.

When you turn 26, you’re usually covered on your parents’ plan until the end of your birth month. But that doesn’t mean you should wait until the last day to start researching your options.

Losing your parents’ coverage is a “qualifying event” and makes you eligible for a Special Enrollment Period. It’s a set window of time to enroll in a plan, usually 60 days, and once enrolled, you’re locked into that plan until December 31st of the year you enroll.

“These deadlines are why you want to give yourself at least a month to research,” said Shelley Bollar, Supervisor for Marketplace Facilitated Enrollment at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “You want to make sure you’re ready prior to losing your insurance so you don’t have a gap without it. You never know when you’ll have health issues.”

Next up, learn how it works.

 No matter what plan you go with, most preventive care is free. These are things like your flu shot, annual physical, STD testing, depression screenings, and generic birth control.

There are a lot of plans to choose from. You’ll have to figure out how you’ll want to pay for it. The lower the plan’s monthly (premium) cost, the more you pay when you get care. The higher your monthly cost, the less you pay when you get care.

Here’s that this looks like:

This is where you start to think about how healthy you are.

People who are generally healthy and don’t see the doctor often tend to go with high deductible health plans, or the base, bronze and silver plans. That’s because these cost the least per month, and the user can pay as they go for services they use.

On the other hand, some people choose gold or platinum plans just because they’re more comfortable with traditional co-pays when they get health care, not necessarily because they’re visiting the doctor more often.

If your plan has a deductible, that’s the amount you pay upfront when you get care. This handy dandy chart put it into perspective for me:

Why is health insurance worth it? You’ll be protected financially if something catastrophic happens to you. If you fall off your bike and break your leg, for example, it could cost you $8,000 if you don’t have insurance! Each plan has an out of pocket maximum, which is the most you can pay in one year.

But your membership with a health insurer also gets you a discounted rate when you use health care services.

“Narrow your choices if you know there’s a particular health insurance company you want to go with, a certain price you want to pay, or a specific doctor you want to see,” says Shelley.

Start browsing plans at nystateofhealth.ny.gov to get an idea of what’s out there. If you see a few plans you like you can select them and compare side-by-side. Get a more narrow focus by bouncing over to the health insurer’s site. The research is on you.

Some other things to think about are

Take all the plan costs into consideration, not just your monthly premium. These are things like deductibles, costs for drugs, trips to the doctor, etc. Remember the deductible is what you pay first, upfront. Verify that the health care providers you see are in-network and “participate” with your plan.

Catastrophic plans are available to those under 30. You can’t get a tax credit with the base/catastrophic plan, but you get three free visits to your primary care doctor.

If you take prescription medications, the Silver Standard plan gives you copays on drugs from day one (so you don’t have to meet your deductible first). Make sure your meds are covered on the drug list (called a “formulary”).

Check to see if your gym membership can be reimbursed or if there are other health and wellness discounts. For example, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield plans gives you up to $400 back with the ExerciseRewards program.

You can only Google and read so much—I totally get it. The good news is there are experts who do this every day and can help you.

You can call a licensed agent at Excellus BCBS at 1-888-370-7098. They can estimate your financial help, explain all the insurance stuff, and help you choose a plan. You can also meet in-person with someone like Shelley, a facilitated enroller, or an independent broker. To schedule an appointment with an Excellus BCBS facilitated enroller, call 1-800-234-4781 or find someone available in your area.

And of course, you can review your decision with your parents. Once you’ve got health insurance under your belt, you can get back to doing all other things adulty.

Do you have other questions about buying health insurance? Leave your comments below.

O Canada! International Travel Right Next Door

For a fun family vacation or couple’s getaway, think Canada. You can say you’ve been abroad without traveling far. Four major cities—Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City and Toronto—are within driving distance of four upstate New York cities—Binghamton, Rochester, Syracuse and Utica.


If you’re a big league baseball fan, Toronto offers a different venue than New York City or Boston for Yankees or Red Sox games. When my son, Andy, was young, we took family trips to Toronto to see the Seattle Mariners, Ken Griffey Jr. in particular, play the Toronto Blue Jays.

My first trip to Toronto was with family from Oklahoma. We took in tourist attractions and did a lot of shopping. A year or two after Andy was born, my husband arranged for child care and surprised me with a trip to see “The Phantom of the Opera” at the beautiful Pantages Theatre (renamed the Ed Mirvish Theatre) in Toronto.

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Things to Do (Toronto)

Canada’s Wonderland: If you crave big thrills, shows and events, splash works and a kids’ area, then this amusement park north of Toronto is for you.

Casa Loma: This Gothic Revival style house, the former residence of a financier, is now a museum and landmark. Due to its unique architecture, it’s a popular filming location for movies and television and a venue for weddings.

CN Tower: The third tallest free-standing structure in the world and the tallest in the Western Hemisphere, the CN Tower was designated as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. The revolving restaurant at the top gives a 360 degree view of the city.

Ontario Science Centre: Very kid friendly, with interactive exhibits that make learning fun for children and adults. Exhibits are devoted to the human body, space, the universe, the earth, nature, music, sports, the planets, technology and innovation.

Toronto Zoo: The largest in Canada, the Toronto Zoo is divided into seven geographical zones. It also has a Kids Zoo, Waterside Theatre and Splash Island.


Mike and I took a “babymoon” or pre-baby vacation to Ottawa, Canada’s capital. Where else can you see the “changing of the guard” this side of the Atlantic? In their tall, black furry hats and impressive red uniforms, the guards perform drills every day (weather permitting) 10 a.m. on Parliament Hill early July through late August.

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Places to Visit (Ottawa)

Byward Market: In the heart of Ottawa, the Byward Market is a collection of eclectic shops, boutiques and restaurants. Most memorable from nearly 30 years ago? The street organ grinder with his little monkey and my husband buying me an original framed painting from a sidewalk artist.

Parliament Hill: The political and cultural heart of Ottawa, the Hill contains Gothic-style structures where politicians debate the present and future issues of the country. Free guided tours are available daily; Peace Tower offers an overall view of the city. The Hill hosts a number of celebrations, including Canada Day (July 1) with entertainment and a fireworks show; the Sound and Light show on summer nights; and Christmas Lights Across Canada during the winter holidays.

Rideau Canal: Making its way through Ottawa’s downtown, the canal is active with walkers, runners, in-line skaters and cyclists. This waterway connecting Kingston, Ontario, to Ottawa is used regularly by boaters and paddlers alike. When the canal freezes over, it becomes the world’s largest skating rink.

Montreal & Quebec City

This year, my son and I made Mother’s Day a long weekend, breaking up the drive from Syracuse to Canada by going first to Montreal and exploring that cosmopolitan city for a couple of days. Then, we headed north to Quebec City, the closest thing to Europe in the Western Hemisphere. After a short visit, we returned to Montreal for another night’s stay. The next day, I drove home and Andy flew back to Baltimore. Over six days, including travel time, we packed in a lot of sightseeing.

Everywhere we went, Andy and I encountered friendly, helpful people. It was refreshing to enjoy a different culture so close to home. Expect to be greeted with a “bon jour” in Quebec City and Montreal. Yet, French-speaking Canadians quickly switch to English when requested. Plus, you can download the Google Translate app to your smartphone if faced with a menu or directions in French. (Note: You can switch most websites from French to English.)

Using YELP and Trip Advisor apps, we plotted our “must see places” (many free!) and local eateries.

Did I rave about the food yet? It’s extraordinary! We used our apps to find highly rated, but not out of our price range restaurants. We were never disappointed. Most restaurants had an “authentic” feel with rustic furnishings and décor that added to their ambiance.

We burned off the extra calories by walking almost everywhere. Google Maps made directions easy, although Montreal (and Toronto) have good subway and other transport systems. And, we felt safe.

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 Things to Do (Montreal)

Biodome de Montreal: Home to the 1976 Olympics, the site has several exhibits. Andy and I visited the indoor wildlife park. Several ecosystems exist side by side, from tropical forests to temperate woodlands and rivers (including raccoons and otters) to the polar world where we viewed our favorite bird, the puffin.

Mount Royal: We walked through downtown Montreal and McGill University to reach this iconic landmark. Wooden steps intersperse the trail to make the climb easier. From the top, the view of the city is spectacular.

Notre-Dame Basilica: Our goal was to stay in or near the historic district of old Montreal to explore on foot. A must see is this gorgeous cathedral with wonderful wood carvings, stained glass windows and lots of sculptures. Quiet refuge in a bustling city.

Old Port Montreal: A scenic place to walk along the St. Lawrence River, with attractions such as Cirque de Soleil, Montreal Science Centre and a spa barge.

Where to Eat (Montreal)

We happened upon Le Robin Square, where Andy had pork belly. The wait staff was attentive, and the owner sat and chatted with us after the restaurant closed.

Andy’s top choice was Liverpool House, sister restaurant to Joe Beef that Anthony Bourdain featured on his TV show, No Reservations. I had the house special of lobster spaghetti; good, but a lot to eat of a very rich dish.

Quebec City

Places to Stay (Quebec City)

Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac is supposedly the most photographed hotel in the world. It looks like a European castle straight out of a fairy tale. Andy compared the city’s row upon row of little shops to Skaneateles, a popular summer resort town west of Syracuse, but “on steroids.”

We stayed at quaint, but comfortable boutique lodgings, the Hotel du Vieux-Quebec, in the heart of Old Quebec. A basket of traditional French breakfast food—croissants and jam, cheese and fruit­—appeared at our door each morning.

Things to Do (Quebec City)

Quebec City is located on the banks of the St. Lawrence River and was an important part of Canada’s early history. Statues of famous figures from the past are scattered throughout the city. This July, as part of Canada’s 150th anniversary celebration of its confederation and Rendez-vous Naval 2017, 40 tall ships will stop at ports in Ontario, Quebec and the Canadian Maritime.

Montmorency Falls Park: Would you believe this natural wonder is higher than Niagara Falls? Staircases offer several views, with plenty of opportunities to get up close and wet!

Ghost Tours of Quebec: We heard about it too late to attend, but Trip Advisor gives it high marks.

Musee de la Civilisation: A rainy day forced us inside, but we’re glad it did. This museum offers not only a historic perspective of the native Aborigines and early French and English settlers, but also fun activities for families.

Places to Eat (Quebec City)

We followed a friend’s recommendation of Hobbitt Bistro for a relaxing, light lunch Parisian style seated at a small sidewalk table. Andy had the salmon tartare, I, the roasted root vegetables.

Near the Musee, we ate at Café St Malo, where Andy and I both had a delicious broth-based fish soup.

A must eat restaurant for Andy was L’Affaire Est Ketchup, another Bourdain pick. In addition to its friendly wait staff and good wine selection, this restaurant holds a claim to fame for using an electric coil range and oven to cook its tasty entrees.

One Big Birthday Bash

This year, Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary of confederation. Although our neighbor to the north was settled centuries ago, July 1, 1867, the British North American colonies of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Province of Canada (Quebec and Ontario) united under the single banner of a new nation.

Throughout 2017, Parks Canada is offering free admission to its national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas. All year, celebrations will take place throughout Canada’s cities and cultural centers.

Your Money Goes Farther

Since about 2014, the Canadian exchange rate is 70 cents to 80 cents of the U.S. dollar. You can check the exchange rate here: http://www.bankofcanada.ca/

Cash: It’s easier if you use a credit card (see below), but you may want to have a small amount on cash on hand. Foreign exchange places will charge a fee to convert your American dollars for Canadian cash and back. You can find them in tourist areas, airports, border crossings and large malls. With banks, you usually have to be a member to make an exchange. ATMs may charge a user fee.

Credit cards: Before you travel, check with your credit card company to see if it charges exchange fees. My son and I each got a new credit card that charged no exchange fees, plus gives us excellent reward points.

Smartphones: Before crossing the border, check with your mobile phone provider for coverage in Canada.

At the Border

Good news! A New York Enhanced Driver License (EDL) will allow you to enter Canada and return to the U.S. Although I could not find the exact wording on the Canada Borders Services Agency, a call to the government agency assured me you could. If you’re taking a child or children, take their birth certificate(s). A passport card works if you’re driving across the border or traveling by boat, but if you fly, you must have a passport book. An EDL takes about two weeks to obtain; a passport, six to eight weeks.

Here’s information on obtaining a US passport.

Mapquest Miles

Miles From Upstate New York Cities to Canadian Cities

FROM/TO Montreal Ottawa Quebec City Toronto
Binghamton 325 267 483 297
Rochester 332 274 494 169
Syracuse 252 194 414 246
Utica 251 193 396 293


Ready to Run? The Hardest Part is Starting

The hardest part about running is starting. The best part is when it’s over. If you’d asked me about a year ago how to start running, I would’ve said don’t. That’s because I never gave it a shot. Since joining a running program, buying my first pair of real running shoes, and running a handful of 5K’s, my perspective has changed.

Don’t get me wrong—running is hard. It’s not just a thing you start doing one day and you’re magically good at it (at least it wasn’t for me). It took a lot of dedication, fighting self-doubt, and getting out there four times a week even when I didn’t want to.

My first month of running went something like this:

Week One

This sucks. I can hardly breathe and my legs are going numb.

Week Two

Why am I doing this? I’m not cut out for running. I am so sore.

Week Three

I’m not dying anymore, and I can kind of talk to others in the group when I run.

Week Four

I’m doing it! I’m really running and it’s not as horrible as I thought it was!

Soon enough, I was shaving minutes off my pace and I actually looked forward to going for a run. If you’re thinking what I used to think (that running is horrible and you should never do it) here are a few things that might motivate you to get out there and give it a try:

Join a running program

I signed up for the No Boundaries 2.0 training offered by Fleet Feet Sports I did it for the personal accountability (the program was just enough money that I didn’t quit when I felt like giving up), pressure to keep running when I wanted to take a break, and the social aspects, too.

Other running programs include those by the Utica Roadrunners, Triple Cities Runners Club in the Binghamton area, Fleet Feet Syracuse and the YMCA of Greater Syracuse.

Make the investment in good running shoes

Yes, the good ones are ugly, but it made a huge difference in reducing my soreness and eliminating my shin splints. I went to Fleet Feet for help selecting my sneakers, but if you’re a DIY kind of person, Matt Rogers, an exercise physiologist, gives some pointers for picking out the right type of shoes.

The key, he said, is to determine whether you need sneakers with motion control, stability or cushioned support. I love Matt’s suggestion for doing a “wet test” to determine which type of foot you have. You basically wet your feet, step on some paper or another surface and see which type of “blob” appears:

  • Is there a little arch? You likely have flat feet and might need a sneaker with motion control.
  • Is there tons of space between what looks like two “islands?” Consider sneakers with extra cushioning.
  • A normal arch will look like, well, a typical footprint. You might need a sneaker with stability control.

Download an app to track your runs

Try using Map My Run. I like seeing where I’ve run, my pace, and doing challenges with friends. You could also download a “couch to 5k” app instead of joining a running program, but you won’t get that same level of accountability.

Listen to music that pumps you up

It’s amazing how one song can get you in the groove or give you an added boost. Compile a playlist of your favorite jams before you hit the streets—that way you’re not skipping through your entire music library trying to find those energizing songs.

Volunteer to hand out medals at a marathon

You will appreciate running after seeing all of the different people crossing the finish line. If they don’t inspire you to give it a try, I don’t know what will.

I still wouldn’t classify myself as a “runner.” I don’t think I ever will. But it’s really cool to stick with an activity, even when you don’t want to, and overcome the mental challenges you’ve set for yourself. Give it a chance.

What advice do you have for new runners? Are there any tricks, or other local running programs, that worked for you? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Hidden Gem: Corning Museum of Glass


When I mentioned to others I was headed to The Corning Museum of Glass, I heard a lot of, “Oh yeah, I was there in elementary school, but have not been back since.” On a recent trip to the museum, I learned that it was well worth a return visit.


We loved the interactive demonstrations. There is something satisfying about observing the creation of glass artwork, and then watching it be smashed to smithereens!

You’d be surprised by the intricate torch work needed to bring a small glass bear to life. The longer shows allowed us to see a piece being made from start to finish, and to see all the intricate handiwork that goes into this craft. Questions were encouraged, and my children always have a lot of questions.


Shevah’s daughter crafting a glass piece.

We signed my kids up for a glass blowing class. You don’t usually get a chance to try something you just learned about! The teacher was patient and kind, and engaged them in the process. And now they have something at home to remind them of the trip.

Quick tip: If you have more than one day in Corning, make your own glass on day one. Your piece will need to slowly cool overnight (this is called annealing). Or they can ship your creation home for an extra fee.

Shevah’s son blowing glass


“It’s Raining Knives” Photo courtesy of Corning Museum of Glass.

My kids usually have little patience for traditional art galleries. But I was pleasantly surprised by how engaged they were at this museum.

The piece that sparked the most interest was “It’s Raining Knives.” Even without reading the sign, the symbolism came through.


We ended the visit with the Tiffany’s Glass Mosaics exhibit that just opened. The museum boasts that it has “the world’s best collection of art and historical glass” and they do not exaggerate. The exhibits were top-notch.

There are also galleries that resemble a science museum, explaining the history of glass that dates back centuries and its applications to modern day life. It is called the innovation center for a reason, illustrating how glass has changed our lives with inventions that have helped us for centuries (cookware and windows) and new ones that have changed our way of life (electronic screens, telescopes, and fiberglass).


The museum itself could be considered a work of art and has quite the history. Large, light-filled spaces swoop around the different levels. Since it opened in 1951, galleries have expanded multiple times so that it now has 50,000 objects on display. It is a resilient space as well, having weathered a devastating flood in 1972 that was called “possibly the greatest single catastrophe borne by an American museum” to become one of New York’s cultural showpieces.


We had the great opportunity to visit over Memorial Day Weekend and experience GlassFest. It takes place in Corning’s Gaffer district (A gaffer is another name for glassblower). There were outside glass making demonstrations, concerts, kids activities, and a street craft fair with some unique items. I liked it all; my kids especially liked the snow cones.

We even got an added bonus a week later in our hometown! The museum has a floating barge that will be offering glass blowing demonstrations in several towns this summer. Look for it in Seneca Falls (July 7-9) and Syracuse (Sept. 24-28)!



Hours of Operation:
9 am – 8 pm, May 26 – September 4, 2017
9 am – 5 pm, September 5, 2017 – May 24, 2018

Admission: Adults are $19.50, Kids 17 and under are Free
(Admission is good for 2 consecutive days)
Additional Charges for Make Your Own Glass

Hidden Gems: Downtown Rochester

I’m a Buffalo native. As far back as I can remember, the “City that Smells like Cheerios” was the most welcoming, happiest place I knew. So when I moved to the Rochester area, to attend The College at Brockport, I didn’t know what to expect. I then snagged an internship at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield in downtown Rochester.

Along the way, I’ve come to learn that there are many beautiful treasures that the average passerby might miss without a keen eye. Thanks to some tour guides, that have now turned into friends, I have seen parts of downtown Rochester that I never knew existed.


In the middle of downtown Rochester, just a few paces from Geva Theatre, you’ll find Washington Square Park. This park isn’t “hidden” because you have to drive very far or follow a secret path to get to it. In fact, I drove past the park every day for two weeks before I even realized what it was. This attraction blends into the city so well; you might not even notice it, too.

Don’t miss
Strolling through Washington Square Park puts your mind at ease. My favorite time to go is on my lunch break. In the middle of the park there is a memorial to Civil War soldiers! If you glance upwards, you’ll see Abraham Lincoln looking toward the city.

An Italian Twist
The park usually hosts an Austrian cannon that the Italian government bestowed to the City of Rochester in the 1920s. The cannon honored local Italian-Americans who supported Italy during World War I by either joining the Italian or American army. The cannon, however, fell into disrepair so it was removed from the park to undergo restoration.

For more information: http://www.cityofrochester.gov/article.aspx?id=8589935120


What’s the secret?
Unlike Washington Square Park, you have to search for this Rochester treasure. It’s at the Bausch and Lomb Public Library Building, in the Children’s Center, but that’s all the help I’m going to give you!

Somewhere in the Children’s Center, which is filled with colorful books and paper animals, there’s a secret passageway that takes kids through a story book- like adventure, into a room that you can’t see from the outside.

What else?
Anyone can explore this treasure, and while you’re there, check out the rest of the library! They have a reading garden, multiple cafes, meeting rooms, and sections dedicated to the arts, social sciences, and travel.

For more information: http://www3.libraryweb.org/article.aspx?id=514035

Lush Gardens

This peaceful sanctuary is nestled in the shadows of St Mary’s Church and the Excellus BlueCross BlueShield building. The pictures hardly capture how truly beautiful it is!

Don’t miss
Check out the “Madonna of the Highways” statue. Surrounded by a variety of flora, this monument is tucked away toward the back of the garden, but is such a great place to sit and gather your thoughts. This isn’t the only monument here, though!  A couple yards away you can find one of the fiberglass pieces from Rochester’s Horses on Parade in 2001.

There is just enough shade to feel refreshed in the summer heat, but the sun still shines through the surrounding trees. The garden is filled with a variety of shrubbery.

Flowers vs. Hot Dogs
I would recommend stopping and taking in the scent of flowers, but it might be overpowered by the delicious smell of a beloved hot dog vendor,  just a few feet away on Court Street. So, while you’re sitting on the benches, enjoying the beauty of nature in the middle of a busy city, you can also get lunch for a reasonable price.

Genesee Riverway Trail

Are you’re looking to squeeze in exercise while working or living downtown? Then walk, run or bike down the Genesee Riverway Trial. The pathway runs along the Genesee River and passes so many historic points of Rochester. It’s a great way to get a walking tour of the area.

Don’t Miss
If you love taking pictures as much as I do, be sure to bring your camera on this walk! You can get a great shot of the Rochester skyline, as well as parks, waterfalls and scenic gorges.

For more information (and to download a trail guide): http://www.cityofrochester.gov/grt/

A once unfamiliar city is now starting to feel more like home with each passing day. Although I’m still adjusting to the change in scenery, and Buffalo will always be my favorite place in the world, I think Rochester is one I could love as well.