About Ciao Mom

Hello there, and welcome to my personal website. This is a website that is written by a mom, who has lived through a lot. I am a cancer survivor, mother, retired teacher, triathlete, and all around go-getter. And my website features all of my musings and the different things that I have encountered in my life. You can read all about what I have written through my various posts. Those posts are also arranged by different categories. So if you want to read about my health tips, just head on over to my website’s health section. The website is organized neatly into different sections, to make it easier for my website’s readers to navigate around.

You can find inspirational posts, stories and other content on my website. So if you want to grow a little bit every day, you can go on the same journey I am going through. Life is full of surprises and little adventures. And you can read about my little adventures as well. You can look through all of the old posts that I have on this website, to be able to read through all of the past adventures that I have gone through. My travels, lessons, and so much more are all on my blog posts. I promise that you can learn something if you just take the time to read through my blog.

Growing together

Ciao mom in a nutshell

My website is all about the different things I can teach to other people. I write about my life, productivity, health tips, and a whole range of other topics as well. You can look through these individual website categories to read what I have personally learned through my life. My inspirations are numerous, and I want to share what inspires me, to my readers. And I hope by reading through my website, you can learn to get inspired too!

My family is one of the most important things in my life. And being a mother has taught me a lot about caring for a full family. You can read about my cooking, homemaking, and child-rearing tips and guides on my website. I try to cover a wide range of different topics as it relates to family life. So there are a lot of parenting tips, baby guides, cooking guides, and a whole lot more on my website.

Family life

My life

I also try to write about my personal life as well. So I try to include the details about what I have been doing day to day. This is a personal blog in addition to a website, after all. So all of my readers can read about what I have been doing lately. I try to write about my day job, what movies I have seen, books I have read, etc. And on all of my posts, I try to include a little inspirational content for my readers to get a benefit out of!

Since I am a cancer survivor, I am much more conscious about my own personal health. Ever since I beat back cancer in my life, I have become much more proactive about taking better care of my health. I am a mother, and I want to be there for my children as they grow older. So I try to take care of my health as much as possible. I also try to spread health awareness to anyone that takes the time to read through my blog. So I try to share tips and guides on how to take better care of your personal health.

Yoga, dieting, sleeping habits, nutrition, and many other health topics will be covered by my blog. All of the readers, who come to my website, will learn a thing or two, about taking better care of their health. There are a lot more in-depth guides on health on my website.

Health and fitness tips


I am a retired teacher, and throughout my career in education, I have learned quite a few things about maximizing personal productivity. And I share all of those tips to help everyone do more in their lives. By sharing my posts on productivity, I hope to spread more productive habits among my readers. And to that end, I try and write about tips and guides on how to be more personally productive in life. I also try to live as an example to my readers as well. So this will means that I also try to practically follow the productivity tips on my website. I am still learning about personal productivity, so there is a lot more to write about the subject.

Doing more is a personal mantra of my mine. And doing more in life requires more than just being busy. It takes inspiration to also increase personal productivity. So I hope to feed your personal inspiration. I try to lead as much of a positive life that I can. And I share that positivity with all of my readers. My posts are all positive, and I want to inspire the readers who read my website. So I try to share some of the best stories and moments of my life!

There is a lot more that you can find on my website, so just browse through my archive if you would like to read more about me. There are a lot of old posts on the archive of my website, which you can read through at your own convenience. So be sure to check out what I have written in the past to see what else I have been up to. This website has been on the internet for several years now, so there is sure to be something that you can read on my post’s archive if you look hard enough.

There is a newsletter subscription for my website. Consider signing up for my newsletter to get regular updates on the newest content that can be found on my website. If you sign up for my newsletter, you will get regular email updates on any new content that has been posted onto my website. So if you want to read the latest posts that I have written, you can do so if you sign up for my website’s newsletter. By signing up for my blog’s newsletter you will also be supporting me since I can directly reach you by email!

Fresh From Our Blog

Bad Parenting Adages: Forget These Sayings

When you were a kid, you probably swore to yourself that you would never, ever repeat certain adages and proverbs that your own parents told you. But, now that you’ve got children of your own, you probably find yourself making the mistake of repeating mantras you grew up hearing.

Childish rebellion isn’t the only thing that points out the fault in adages like “Say you’re sorry” and “If you can’t say anything nice…” Logical, responsible parenting can also reject the use of some negative and hurtful sayings.


Bad Parenting Adages: “Because I said so!”


Children ask “why” because that’s the only way they know how to learn. When a child wants to know why you’re leaving the playground, why he can’t play with matches, or why he can’t spend the night at a friend’s house, it’s not because he’s challenging your authority: it’s because this is the only way he can understand the adult world.


To tell a child that “because I said so” is a legitimate answer, is to tell him that explanations don’t matter and that he should blindly follow any and all authority figures without learning how any of it works– a sure method to render him unable to make his own decisions. It is never wise to deny your child education about the functions of a society.


Bad Parenting Adages: “Say you’re sorry.”


When we insist that children apologize because we think they should, we are essentially telling them to lie. The child may grunt “I’m sorry” under his breath to a sibling or playmate he just hit, but unless he actually feels remorseful about his action, this will just built resentment. Instead of forcing children to apologize when they don’t mean it, we should work toward getting them to understand what they should feel sorry in the first place.


If we instill our children with a sense of empathy by pointing out how their actions affect others, they will naturally apologize without force or resentment. Instead of “You’ve been bad! Say you’re sorry!” something like “Look how you made your sister feel when you hit her! How would you have felt?” can work to create true sympathy, rather than fake apologies.


Bad Parenting Adages: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”


Like adults, children need to feel heard in order to feel secure, and no one’s opinions include only nice things. Imagine what our world would look like if adults only said nice things about politicians, consumer products, and world history! We may not have nice things to say about the holocaust, ecological destruction, or social injustice, but we say what we think anyway. Dissent is what keeps the world spinning round.


Children must be taught that it is okay for them to have a negative opinion of someone or something: be it the kid across the street who stomps bugs for fun or the taste of last night’s dinner. Rather than teaching them to avoid expressing their opinions, parents should focus on teaching them polite and productive ways to go about creating change.


Bad Parenting Adages: “You’re a bad girl/boy!”


If you tell a child that he is bad, he just might believe you. And if he believes you, he is likely to follow with behavior patterns that fit this assumption. Children will eagerly follow nearly any label that we apply to them. If we call them “spoiled”, that is what they become. If we call them “hateful”, they to the best they can to live up to our expectations.


No child is perfect, but the best way to insure a child’s imperfections is to communicate that his identity and his behavior are one and the same. There is no harm in telling a child that something he does is hurtful, silly, or mean, but there is a great deal of harm in tellling him that his own identity is based in these labels.


As parents, we owe it to our children to put thought into our roles as parents. Beyond repeating the mantras that we grew up hearing, we must teach them with dignity, thought, and respect.

Traveling with Kids? Suggestions to Make it Easy

Almost everyone at sometime or another ends up taking a trip in a car somewhere with kids along. That is part of the American image after all. However, that image usually does not include the kids in the backseat chanting over and over “are we there yet?” Car trips with kids can either be great, or a total nightmare depending upon how well prepared you are.

Remember kids really do not care how long it takes to drive a mile or that once they are at their destination they can finally get out and stretch. They are not typically capable of long car rides with no breaks along the way. To help make the trip as peaceful as possible be sure to schedule breaks along the way to stopping for bathroom breaks, food and the occasional chance to just stretch the legs and awaken the brain.


Do make sure that car doors are locked and kids know not to play with the handles, make sure kids are aware that they are not supposed to even have any part of their body hanging out of the car, this includes arms, hands, and feet and legs. Make sure everyone in the vehicle wears their seat belt, adults included to set a good example. Kids who are to be in car seats should still be in their car seat for the entire trip. Do not ever walk away from the vehicle with kids or pets alone in the car; it only takes a moment for a disaster to strike.


Kids love to ride in the front seat of the car, but car trips are especially important to make sure kids are in the backseat. Many states have now made it a law that kids ride in the backseat only. It is always a good idea to take a small cooler along for the ride so that a cold drink is never far away. Keep juice and water for the kids, especially since soda tends to make kids hyperactive and hyperactive kids and a long drive do not mix well.


Keep a close eye on the little passengers in the car, hot temperatures, and curvy roads can allow carsickness to set in quickly. Small kids who are sick can quickly and easily become dehydrated if they are not closely watched. Make sure to pack a fresh pack of baby wipes they are great for a large number of uses while on the road.


I always allow my children to pack a small rolling suitcase for trips that will fit in the backseat between their car seats. They themselves pack the bag that way the toys in the bag are what they themselves have picked out. I however always check the bag to make sure it does not have every loud toy in the house packed in it.


Remember that while stopping for food is always good, a snack every so often is also necessary. Packing snacks where the kids can reach is always good to help curb the afternoon munchies so they are not starving the whole way. Another good idea is to pack where they can reach a car pillow and small blanket. This way they can get comfortable and take a nap when they become tired without getting neck pains from uncomfortable sleeping positions.

How to Use the Metro

Transportation in and around Washington, DC must be among the best in the world. You can get just about anywhere with a combination of the Metrorail, which is the subway system, and the Metrobus, which is the bus system. Together those two make living life in the DC Metro region a joy. Since I want others to enjoy the same luxury of traveling the area that I have had, I’m going to tell you the basics of how to use the metro. Hopefully after this article, you’ll feel confident enough to hitch a ride on the green line.
The prices are very reasonable. For the buses, a normal trip is $1.25. Express price is $3.00. The cool part about the whole set up is something called a transfer. When you get on the bus, you’ll be handed a little slip of paper. Hold on to it. Present it to the bus driver when you get on the bus the next time and you’ll get on the bus for free. I was amazed that I could ride round-trip for only a buck 25. Just be sure to look out for the time that the slip of paper says. Usually you’ll have 2 hours or so to use the transfer. You can’t use it after the time is up so plan your trip accordingly.

Metrorail is also very well priced. For barely four bucks you can ride from Maryland to Virginia. That’s why most people that work in DC opt to take the Metro to work every day. The thing to keep in mind with the subway is that the price is different depending on the time of day. Regular fare is during weekdays from 6am to 9:30 am, 3-7 pm, and 2 am to closing. This is peak traveling time for the train, so it makes sense to charge a little more since the trains run more frequently. All other times are reduced fair.

Also, if plan you get off the subway and use a bus, be sure to get a transfer for the station. It should be somewhere near the gate when you are about to board the train. If you present this to the driver of the bus after you get off the train, you’ll only have to pay 35 cents to ride the bus. Just be sure to get the transfer from the station you are boarding, not at the one you are arriving.

Now, I must highly recommend getting a Smartcard if you intend on frequently using the Metro system of transportation. It’s a little card that you can purchase at any station for $5.00. You can place money on this card and use it to pay for your rides on the bus and the subway. I guess they call it a Smartcard because it eliminates the need for paper transfers. The card automatically gives you whatever discounts are coming to you based on your usage of it. It’s so much better than keeping track of papers and whatnot. You can also register your Smartcard so that if it gets lost your balance will be safe.

In the next part of this series, I’m going to teach you how to navigate around the metro stations.

How to Fight Flight Boredom with Audio Books and Short Novels

So it’s going to be a long flight home. As you find out your flight is delayed another three hours from the snowstorm, you anticipate a long, long day of traveling ahead. Traveling on a flight that doesn’t offer in-flight movies, extras, or entertainment options can make the whole trip seem like a lifetime. If you’re traveling alone, it’s times like these that a great music collection, novel, or stack of magazines can offer some great company.

Some new options await this year, that may just boost your spirits and help you spend your time well. It’s easy to pick up a pre-recorded book complete with headphones and batteries to accompany your carry on baggage. Or, take along a short book that already has an anticipated reading time printed on the back; your choice of 1-3 hours, depending on the length of your travels (or lack of).


Audio fiction and nonfiction titles, in short bites, are a great option for frequent travelers who are looking for minimal fuss. Pick up the Play Away Digital audio books for the latest titles, new releases, or your favorite classics. These pint-sized books include their own set of headphones. Each feature is a full narration of your book in an easy-to-carry miniature box. The box itself looks like a miniature size version of the hardcover title. The company has recently launched a custom library too, allowing downloads and streaming music in addition to your recent read.


OnFlightFiction.com offers a time scale of fiction novels for your selection Ranging from 1-3 hours, the book list currently highlights westerns and a few thrillers. The company plans to expand the titles list to include nonfiction, business books, and even self-help topics as the company grows. Still, this is a great way to find a quick time-filling activity if the reading rack at the airport disappoints. Amazon.com is the place to pick up your favorite, and the OnFlightFiction.com website features summaries and upcoming releases when needed.


For crossword and game lovers, there’s still plenty to choose from at the airport’s convenience store or kiosks. Track down some crossword puzzles or cryptograms to decipher; or, catch the Sudoku craze and stock up on the foldover tablet books that fit neatly into any backpack or purse. For the digitally inclined, keep your mind sharp with the touch screen handheld console loaded with the New York Time crossword puzzle. The device looks like a PDA, and offers some of today’s most challenging puzzles that can keep you busy for hours.


Delayed flights, inconsistent flight schedules, or just having to kill time at the airport can add to the stressors in traveling. When you’re stuck for entertainment options, or just need to occupy your mind with something creative, pick up a few interesting reads and activities in today’s most convenient formats. Your travel time will zip by faster than ever!

We Made Family T-Shirts With Our Heat Press

We had the 2017 family reunion a few days ago. It was an absolutely amazing time! We had over 50 of our immediate family and cousins there! This is by far the biggest showing that we ever had. To commemorate the occasion, we created T-Shirts for our family using our brand new heat press machine!

We chose to make our own using a heat press rather than buy them because we are such a creative family! Buying them from your usual shirt manufacturer would have been more cost effective, but would not have been nearly as much fun.

We spent about 30 hours making all 50 shirts. I’m sure that we could have done it faster, but spending quality time with our family was much more important than being very efficient.

We used a PowerPress heat press machine with Siser glitter vinyl; simply because we wanted our shirts to be fabulous! The shirts took about 20 minutes each to make.

Typically the Ciao Mom family will do some sort of family unity craft. In the past we have crafted ribbons to coordinate with what branch of the family tree we are on.

We did have an assembly line crafting the t-shirts comprised of several generations of our family. The grandparents were in charge of actually using the heat press. The moms and dads were in charge of making sure all of the transfer vinyl was properly lined up on the shirts. Of course, the kids had the most fun out of anyone since they were the ones designing the shirts.

While we liked to think that they would follow the crafting guidelines that us adults had set forth, they surely did not. However, the end result was amazing!

What resulted was the finest family made shirts that I have ever seen. Okay, maybe I am a bit biased since they were made by my family; but I couldn’t have been prouder of how everything came out! Coming together as a family to make something so wonderful and seeing everyone get all crafty with a heat press and vinyl was really a joy in my life. I’ll cherish these memories forever!

4 benefits of using sous vide machine a family kitchen

Cooking for a family is difficult, as any person should know. And that fact is even truer for a larger family. There is a lot of preparation to go through whenever you are cooking for any large meal. And the pressure can even increase when you are trying to cook for a special meal, such as the holidays or a family get-together. However, one piece of cooking equipment can really help you prepare your dishes much faster. If you want to cook meat the sous vide style, you should be using a sous vide machine. Having this kind of machine in your family kitchen can be beneficial in the following ways.

  1. Faster preparation

Usually preparing any kind of meat for a recipe can take a really long time. There is just a lot to do whenever you want meat in a recipe to taste good. With the use of this machine, a lot of that preparation time can be speeded up. You just have to put the meat and its sauce in a plastic bag and let the machine handle the rest of the preparation.

  1. More convenience

Using these kinds of machines is actually really convenient. You will only need to set a timer, and then add the piece of meat. You then just have to wait until the timer is up, and you can get the meat out and it will be ready for further cooking or even consumption!

  1. Better tasting food

Any kind of meat that you prepare using the proper cooking machine is going to end up tasting much better. The meat will be tenderized in its own juices, so it will ensure a juicier and more flavorful piece of meat. And since the meat will be sealed in a vacuum, it will also end up really soft. In fact, if cooked right it will end up butter soft in the mouth!

  1. Versatility

You can use this kind of cooking machine to prepare any kind of meat dish. If you want, you could use it to prepare everything from pork to poultry. You may even use a vacuum-sealed cooking method for fish dishes as well. And every time that you use it on any kind of meat dish, the meat will come out tasting juicier and be so much softer to chew on.

  1. Easier to cook sous vide style

The sous vide style of cooking, when translated from French, literally means vacuum-sealed cooking. And while that may sound fancy, it is not all that different from normal cooking at all! You can also have that same method of cooking at home if you have got a machine that can do the sous vide style of cooking.

This kind of cooking machine is not only for professional kitchen restaurants. Any cook in their own family home kitchen will be able to benefit from cooking it. You will have a much easier time preparing for any kind of family meal if you have got this piece of cooking equipment in your own kitchen. And even if you are not a cooking enthusiast or a seasoned chef, you will still be able to get a lot of use out of this kind of cooking machine. There have been a lot of people who have successfully cooked steak and even fish dishes with just the use of this cooking equipment. So you can expect to get a lot of delicious dishes with this kind of cooking equipment.

Parenting Step-Kids: Only-Child or Oldest Sibling or Both?

Step-parenting is hard, plain and simple. Regardless of how old the child is when you meet them or how long their parents were divorced, there is an inevitable adjustment period. If you throw new children into the mix, especially half-siblings, the equation just got more complicated. This is especially true if the step-child thinks that their biological parent somehow loves the “new kids” more because they love the new spouse and (theoretically) not the ex-spouse. Add to all of that angst the fact that many kids of divorce have half-siblings with one biological parent and not the other and the stress factor has just multiplied.

Benefits of Being an Only Child


In theory, an only child has quite a few benefits. There is no one to have to share toys with or space with or even the attention of the parent (especially if the parent is not remarried). My step-daughter frequently mentions how nice it is to be able to watch whatever movie she wants to or gets new clothes because there is no one to pass clothes down to her. There are definitely times when she loves being an only child.


Drawbacks of Being an Only Child


The only child lifestyle can also be quite a lonely lifestyle. When there are no other kids, rainy days can be boring. When there are no other kids the only toys that exist are your own toys. With siblings there are lots more toys even if they aren’t all your own. Playing make-believe and hide-and-seek is pretty difficult by yourself. My step-daughter often speaks of how boring things are when her friends can’t come to play or her parent is too busy for much conversation or other activities.


The Transition


When a child spends most of their time as an only-child it is easy to get caught up in a me-centered universe. They have all of the attention, all of the snacks, all of the T.V. time. When they want to be alone it is pretty easy to do because they can go in their room and close the door. Going from being the only child to be the oldest of three or more kids can be overwhelming for some kids. My step-daughter does a pretty good job of tolerating her younger sisters but I can tell there are times when she just needs to be alone. We all need alone time but for a child who doesn’t have just one home, time to transition is even more critical.


How to Help


There are lots of benefits to having siblings and they pretty much go with the drawbacks of being an only child. More toys, more attention, less boredom, and more fun games top the list for sure. But understanding that a child that gets shuttled from one “home” to another, regardless of how frequently, is a stressed child is important. My step-daughter is a great girl and she obviously loves her biological mother and she equally seems to love her family with us: her father, me (her step-mother), and her two younger sisters. We even have dogs and a cat for her to entertain herself with. Life is never dull at our house but that is often the problem. We have made sure that she has her own room, even as the family grows. We make sure that her sisters understand what a closed door means and not to be offended by it. We make sure that she understands that it is okay to love all of us, even if we want to have her all to ourselves. The bottom-line is to make sure that a part-time only child feels secure, that they have a place to be alone if that is what they need, and that they will be loved no matter what.

Parenting Vs. Technology

They are all around us. No matter where we go, they seem to seek us out and call to us. There at your friend’s house, the local nursing home has a few of them and yes, I have even seen one at the doctor’s office! I can only imagine that in short order they will find away to attach onto your smart phones.

So, how do you avoid falling under their spell? I mean come on they sure are better than the old version of Pong most of us grew up on, right? That’s right, I’m talking about video games! They are everywhere nowadays. It is getting harder to avoid seeing them, let alone trying to get your kids to stay off them long enough to eat dinner!


For many parents these devices of simulation are the antichrist, to others these same machines are the pacifier. How do you manage to get this machinery to fall somewhere in the middle of that enormous gap? I mean it can be hard to tell little Johnny or heck even little Susie to stop playing, when deep inside you are dying to try it yourself!


I mean come on some of these games today are just flat out fun. Do you remember lawn jarts? In most, if not all states those lethal implements of fun are banned….well now I play with my six-year-old son on the Wii! No fear of any one catching a heavy metal spike in any part of the body, yet still all the satisfaction of landing one inside that blasted little circle.


Finally, after nearly twenty years, I can beat my father in law in horseshoes…thanks again to our friends at Nintendo. So how can I as a parent tell my kids no, you cannot play games today? Heck I have had mornings where that blasted console is sizzling hot before my kids are even awake.


I have tried to set a system of playtime rules and regulations at my house, perhaps it may in some configuration or another work in your household.


Rule number one: All games in the house must meet parental guidelines (no war games for my two young children, fine for me of course)


Rule number two: All homework must be completed BEFORE the Wii gets its daily percentage of my electric bill.


Rule number three: If there is more than one child plopped in front of the console, then any games played MUST be a mutual choice. Do not ask me which game you two should play; you know my answer will be “grab a book”.


I have also instituted a rule that is secret to only my wife and I, and that is the dreaded time limit. We never mention this to the little ones, because they tend to do crazy things like set your clocks back twenty minutes. Every household has a time that works better for them. We allow the kids to play while we prepare dinner, pay bills etc.


The beauty of being the parental unit is that the rules can change, without notice or justification. Some days, the rule of NO GAMES falls into play. You do not need to have a reason for this one; it is one of the rewards of being the parent. Fear not, just as your kids think you are the worst parent in the world, you can pull out the rule of mysterious time extension. Ahh yes, this one can be implemented for things like, good behavior or good grades in school. Our favorite mysterious time extension is weekend mornings, our kids are awake at ungodly hours, heck they usually wake the rooster up!


6 a.m. Little Johnny: “Dad, can we play wii.”


6 a.m dad: “mumble mumble, huh yeah sure, close the door.”


An added bonus to this little extension is a bit of extra bed time, and if your lucky enough to have company in the bed with you…good for you!


Let’s face it, they are everywhere nowadays, you can not run from them…well unless you want to run to Amish country, but really? Therefore, instead of trading your life of cars, electricity and well just about anything else, you probably should learn how best to fit Video games into the daily grind. You may find the kid in you along the way.

The Prague Travel Guide

I had known since the beginning of my trip that I wanted to visit Prague. During the months leading up to my trip many people who had already visited Europe and backpacked across the continent highly recommended Prague for its beautiful sights, nightlife and general atmosphere. Of course arranging a trip from Rome to Prague was no easy task but after a long afternoon at a computer lab I planned a flight from Rome to Frankfurt and then a train ride to Dresden and another train into the Czech capital. I would now be leaving Western Europe and the warm climate of the Mediterranean but I was running seriously low on funds and the west was bankrupting me so I gladly welcomed the dollar-friendly exchange rates of Eastern Europe.

I enjoyed a long day of European mass transit during the course of which I landed in Germany. Germany was, from what I could see, very green and very modern. The German countryside is studded with wind farms and is spotlessly clean. In Frankfurt I purchased my tickets to Prague and boarded a German bullet train. Unfortunately when the train arrived in Dresden some hours later, I did not realize that the city had two train stations and I got off at the first while my connection waited across town at the second. With approximately fifteen minutes to get there I hailed a taxi to run me across town. Firstly, German taxi cabs are all Mercedes Benz and this one handled and accelerated like a race car. My driver was a trim middle aged woman with bleach blond hair cut into short spikes. She drove expertly and smoked cigarettes the whole time. If she got me there on time I would give her a ten euro tip. If we failed, I would wait six hours in the station for the next train to Prague. It was close. As I looked out the window I thought of Slaughter House 5 and how American bombers turned this city into powder during the closing days of World War II. Needless to say we made it; I tipped the cabbie a sawbuck (in euros) and sprinted with my cumbersome pack swaying on my back to the train.


The second train rode through the verdant forests of Eastern Germany. After an hour’s ride we passed nothing but small farmhouses and rocky outcroppings. Then we rode along a river in the middle of nowhere, whose name I never learned, that separated Germany from what used to be Czechoslovakia. We crossed the border and two customs officials smoking acrid cigarettes examined and then stamped my passport. After a few minutes the train moved forward, stopping at the first Czech station. On the signs indicating town names and danger signals I saw the accent marks and spelling of a Slavic language for the first time.


I spent the duration of my ride sitting next to a young Czech school teacher. She spoke some little English and talked with me, explaining the general layout of the city and places that I should see. She looked like many of the Czech girls I would see with a small lynx-like triangular face with a chic brunette bob surmounting her head. She was very slight but well dressed, though slightly behind the fashion. She was an interesting companion and when the train came to a halt in the station and we got off I said goodbye and went off to see the city.


Since my stay in Marseille I had stopped reserving rooms as I arrived in cities so I had no arrangements. My first impression of Prague was the train station, which was a seedy place that failed to inspire much confidence. I found myself clutching my possessions carefully. There were several burly men with signs indicating that they offered rooms for rent but I didn’t like the looks of them so I went straight to the tourist information center where I was able to book and pay for a room in a nearby hostel. I walked to the hostel, which was a large old building only a few hundred meters from the station. I was soon to find that my hostel was used alternately as an SS barracks and as a barracks for Soviet soldiers. The hostel was very large with many floors with dorm rooms, lockers and large public bathrooms. As night was falling I decided to stash my gear, grab something to eat and then get some sleep. It was a much colder night than any I had experienced in Rome and it had just rained, which made the city smell like early spring rather than mid July.


The next morning I woke up well rested and ready to see the city. My hostel and the train station were situated in the Nove Mesto, or new town, on the eastern bank of the Vltava River. As I walked through the Nove Mesto, I saw many 19th century buildings with modest but tasteful facades and elegant wrought iron balconies. The streets were cobbled with small square stones. It seemed that everywhere I went, somewhere in the distance rose the spires of some cathedral or castle. Czech architecture has many large pointed towers on ancient edifices but unlike many other, plainer forms of architecture, from each large tower branch out several smaller spires. It is a very unique and beautiful sight that is the first thing I picture when I think about Prague.


At the end of the my street, stood the impressive national museum. The museum is a large brown stoned building that looks as sumptuous and dramatic as the Paris Opera House. The museum stood at the end of a long boulevard that was effectively the heart of Nove Mesto. Lining the street are modern strip malls, fancy boutiques, neon lights and outdoor bistros and cafes. The street bustled with activity. In the center pedestrian island were several modernist sculptures that illustrated the Czech propensity for the absurd in art. One sculpture was a series of brutal looking male figures constructed entirely from iron plates bolted and riveted together. Another sculpture depicted Superman flying head-first into the ground. At regular intervals there were small stands that sold incredible hot dogs that cost only a dollar. There were also a number of outdoor bistros and cafes, which advertised traditional Czech cooking on black sandwich boards.


As beautiful as it was, I found that I had to keep on guard in the Nove Mesto. Prague is filled street urchins, salesmen, beggars and outright thieves. As in any city, I find it best to act confidently and act as though you are very aware of your surroundings. At one point I allowed a very solicitous man show me where I could buy a pack of cigarettes. I soon found myself with a faithful guide who wanted to show me where I could have a good time in Prague. I soon extricated myself from the situation with a little money for a tip, but I only needed one such experience to learn my lesson.


I soon made my way closer to the river, toward the Stare Mesto. In the old town the buildings get larger and larger with more spires. I made my way to Old Town Square in the heart of town. The square is extremely large and surrounded by tall buildings, cafes and restaurants. In the center of the square stands a large statue of Jan Huss, a Czech theologian who was burnt as a heretic during the Counter Reformation. Huss is depicted at the moment of his execution standing boldly upright. Today Huss is considered an important Czech hero. Overtime many of his controversial religious opinions have been adopted by various sects of Christianity.


Tyn Cathedral borders the square to the east. The church rises with twin towers surmounted by many smaller spires. The main nave is long and narrow but rises very high with buttresses neatly providing exterior support. On the western side of Old Town Square is St. Nicholas Church, a baroque masterpiece. Nearby stands the Old Town Hall, with its tall, slender clock tower from which tourists can peer out over the city. The most famous feature of the hall, however, is the medieval astronomical clock on its southern face. Crowds gather to watch the ornate display when the clock chimes the hour.


Moving west from Old Town Square, the streets become considerably narrower pedestrian pathways. Many tiny shops selling traditional Czech wares line these small streets. People hand out advertisements for eateries, classical music concerts and other sundry offers. I soon wound my way through these streets in the direction of the Charles Bridge.


The Charles Bridge is perhaps the most famous sight in Prague. The bridge was built during the 14th and 15th centuries as the only connection between Stare Mesto and Prague Castle. This sturdy stone span contributed greatly to Prague’s importance as a town on the trade routes passing through Europe. The bridge rests on a number of solid arches and is protected by three guard towers complete with spires, balconies and large powerful gates. During the 17th century a number of statues were erected on the bridge depicting saints and traditional Czech heroes. Today the Charles Bridge is a pedestrian thoroughfare across which throngs of people pass each day. The bridge is also a de facto market along which merchants sell wooden handicrafts, jewelry and artwork. Many beggars also line the bridge, bent low with hats in hand. Others seek their fortunes playing violins, guitars or clarinets for their alms.


The western bank of the Charles Bridge is known as the Lesser Quarter of Prague. There are, however, a number of sights to be taken in on this side of town. The most important, by far, is the Prague Castle. Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world. It features an enormous courtyard, several of the tallest spires in the city and numerous lavishly decorated rooms. As I arrived at the castle I noticed a detachment of guards carrying bayoneted assault rifles. They walked with a high martial step in unison to the castle to relieve the guards on duty. It was fascinating to see this ritual of Czech pride parading through the streets.


Over the course of my week in Prague, I visited each of these sights in turn. I saw the requisite museums and climbed the many stairs to look out from ancient towers over the small red roofs and distant spires of the city. However, I derived the most pleasure just from hanging out in this charming city. Prague has so many cool places to see. One café I located in the Lesser Quarter of town was built on the ruins of a 13th century chapel. More than once I ordered a pot of tea and sat to relax in the underground vaults while reading a book. Near another café I found a small theatre that offered performances of its plays nightly to audiences of twenty or so. I attended one such performance called Mimi and her Lord which was a silent production portraying the escapades of a penniless Mimi as she went from employer to employer trying to earn money. At last she ends up working as a maid for a sadistic old man who throws around pasta for her to clean up and blows smoke at her. Despite having no words, it was quite hilarious.


Another night I attended a classical concert at one of Prague’s many small but ancient churches. The list of performances included various works by Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss and of course, Czech master, Dvorak. The concert was played by a violinist, a classical singer and an organist. The church organ dates back to the 17th century and is in flawless condition. The music soared through the eaves of that church and for one hour I was transported to an ethereal place where my whole existence was reduced to the sense of hearing. That hour went by so quickly and I was sorry to hear it when the instruments at last fell silent.


One of the best features of Prague was the cuisine. Czech cuisine is a heavenly concoction of meats, rich sauces and starches. At one restaurant near the Charles Bridge I enjoyed a pig’s knuckle with potato dumplings and vegetables. All week I ate other meals of various game animals at cafes, beer gardens and bistros.


After the hectic pace of Rome, I welcomed the laidback city of Prague. I lounged about in parks, public squares and cafes, reading books, watching people and taking in the sights. I found a large park on the western outskirts of town located on a green hill with fruit trees. From the park I could see the American embassy with its flag waving in the breeze. The sight of the flag was a welcome one but it made me a little homesick. I continued on, however, and spent a pleasant sunny afternoon reading Dharma Bums on the high wall of an abandoned military institution.


By night, there was always a lot to do in Prague. My hostel was filled with young people from various nations. The hostel’s courtyard had a small bar and was a popular place for people to hang out, play music and talk. I spent much of my time with a group of young French guys. They were shocked that I spoke French and I had fun dispelling many of their misconceptions about Americans in their own native tongue. We played cards, smoked cigarettes and listened to each others i-pods. One night the group of use went out to a club on river near the Charles Bridge. The club was incredible with many different levels, rooms and dance floors playing different musical styles: hip-hop, techno and rock and roll. We wandered throughout the place dancing, hanging out and having a great time.


Prague is a decidedly small city that can boast barely one million people. However, Prague is completely unique. The city was the home of Kafka and bears a museum in his honor. Fittingly, out front of the Kafka museum is a fountain shaped like the Czech Republic. In the middle of the fountain stand two copper statues of dictators urinating on the country. That’s what Prague does; around every corner the classical and the absurd are glaringly juxtaposed. The old and new collide everywhere in this city. Communist housing blocks, medieval churches and neon lights all abound in Prague. There is a thriving tourist trade, but Prague is not overrun and I never once felt crowded or rushed. I stayed long enough to see everything there was to see and by the end of my stay I was simply relaxing and planning my trip to Krakow. Even these days, however, never felt empty as the mere atmosphere in Prague has a tonic effect and I could see why virtually everyone recommends Prague to travelers of Eastern Europe. To their recommendations, I heartily add my own.

Traveling Tips to Help Plan the Perfect Holiday

Trips especially during the Christmas season are planned for but they fall short of expectations. The ones that are a success still have some areas where they can be improved and perfected. Here are some tips that will help you execute the flawless trip to any country.

Firstly, the perfect trip needs to be planned well in advance. Hotels especially during the Christmas season are filled to capacity way before Christmas day. Places with warm temperatures and sandy beaches are a means of escape from winter. People from Europe, America and places experiencing winter especially in December find a safe haven in warmer countries.

Your reservations need to be made according to the hotel that you want to stay in. popularity of hotels vary even if they are equal in quality. Your reservation needs to be made at a time when the hotel is experiencing the least number of guests as they are more eager to grab new ones. Remember that in some hotels, you can reserve a room and cancel at no cost. Take advantage of this and reserve accommodation well in advance.

It’s better if you book into a chain of hotels as they allow you to stay in different hotels and synchronize your account.

Planning should be made to the smallest detail possible. Micro planning allows you to have control of nearly all the activities that you will do while traveling. This is a step closer to a prefect holiday.

Remember that for the perfect holiday, a schedule needs to be made and all the places of interest listed and time allocated to them. The time to get from one place to another cannot be known by simply looking at a map. If it is a foreign country that you will be visiting then the travel dynamics will totally change. The roads might be poor, the car might develop troubles or bad weather will delay you. This is why a schedule in reality cannot be followed to the letter. The best that you can do is staying on course as much as possible.

Language barrier is a hindrance to the perfect holiday plan. Luckily, hotels employ people who know at least one foreign language so that more tourists are attracted and retained by the hotel. The downside comes when you venture outside large cities to places where the locals know only their mother tongue. To eliminate this, you can hire a local who knows the language you are comfortable with.

When unexpected situations occur, make the best of them to fully utilize your holiday. Convert a disadvantage into an advantage that is enjoyable; always look at the bright side of situations.

You cannot plan for the perfect holiday by simply perusing through fabricated brochures. Some of the photographs are years old and don’t portray a truthful account of the facilities available. You can Google earth search the location that you are eyeing which will give a recent description of the area. Ask people who have been to that place about what the place offers and its downside.

Reserve the first and last days. The first because you will be too tired to start moving around again and the last day so you can do whatever you could not do for one reason or another. Have a pleasant trip and this time, make it flawless.

Using Positive Parenting to Combat Behavioral Issues

Your child comes home from school in a mood (again) and everything you say or do seems to set her off on a tirade. There could be underlying issues. But most likely she is just going through a phase. I’ve authored a book on positive parenting and use the technique in parenting my own kids. In my experience, positive parenting helps combat behavioral issues more effectively than negative discipline techniques, such as spanking or yelling. In some instances, kids may need professional help. However, these tips are geared toward children with common behavior-related issues. If your child is having extreme behavioral symptoms or has been diagnosed with a mental or behavioral condition, it is best to consult a professional.

What is positive parenting?

Positive parenting is a method that involves a strong relationship between the parent and child. This involves active, constant, and consistent communication and teamwork. Because this style of parenting often does not use punitive discipline, it requires a great deal of patience and creativity on the parent’s part. The goal of positive parenting should be to teach children how to solve problems through compromise and kindness rather than through anger and hurt.

How can positive parenting combat misbehavior?

Many times when children have behavioral issues, it is related to lack of understanding or attention. Consistently using positive parenting methods can help parents to be more in tune with their kids. This helps avoid issues where no one understands each other. It also can create a strong bond, which helps fight frustration from lack of attention.

1.Your kids are individuals with their own ideas. Treat them like a part of your team. This is very important to remember in establishing a line of communication. Kids are people too. They might be smaller than you, but they still have their own thoughts and opinions that should be considered. Work together with your kids, instead of commanding them to do things. If they can see that their opinions matter, there isn’t much reason for misbehavior. Most kids have a natural desire to please their parents. When they aren’t allowed to express their feelings, frustrations can build up. Listen to your kids and use their ideas wherever possible.

2.Let kids make mistakes. Yes, it can be hard to stand by and watch your kids mess up. But that’s how they will learn. It’s fine to offer guidance. But ultimately, unless your kids are in danger or hurting someone else, many decisions should be theirs. Making too many decisions for them can lead to negative behaviors, such as aggression and rebellion. This positive parenting technique is not going to be easy while in the process. But the benefits can last a lifetime. As parents, we want to jump in and save our kids from every little issue. However, they also need room to grow. People learn things by experience and mistakes make excellent lessons.

3.Talk and listen often. Keeping an open line of communication is important for several reasons. As mentioned above, it lets your kids know you care. But it also helps them feel comfortable enough to come to you when there is an issue. If they know you will listen, there is no reason for negative behaviors, such as screaming and temper tantrums. Talk to them about your childhood experiences and listen to theirs. Sometimes you’ll need to just listen and not say anything and other times you can give your advice.

4.Follow your child’s cues. Kids need a great deal of attention. But they also need space. Know when it’s time to back off for a bit and when extra attention is warranted. Giving extra attention when your child needs it is not spoiling him. It’s showing compassion. On the same token, when you need to walk away, it is not neglect. It’s giving your child freedom to think or play or whatever is needed at that time. Paying attention to your child will clue you in on what do to do at the right time. Memorize facial expressions and other actions that may be a lead-in to certain behavior. Figure out how to redirect them before they get out of hand.

Note: The author’s positive parenting method has evolved into what she calls Upstream Parenting.

Travel on a Budget

  1. Plan Ahead–have a list of places you would love to go, if possible, get a loved one or friend on board. That way, you can share expenses, memories and keep an eye out for each other. Look for cheap airline promotions and commit to your trip when you see an especially good deal. If you are buying a ticket last minute, try flying on a weekday when tickets are generally cheaper. In my experience, ticketing websites usually post better deals earlier in the day.
  2. Consider hostels or couch surfing–especially if you are a young traveler! Be smart and make sure you are living in a relatively safe area. Check what other reviewers have said about the hostel. If you are couch surfing, make sure the person you are staying with has a lot of friends and acquaintances who can vouch for their sanity; if they seem crazy, don’t take the risk. Couchsurfing is wonderful and you shouldn’t hesitate trying it–I’ve met wonderful people and made good friends. It is more common in European countries than in the Americas, but there are good people all over the globe. If you are a female traveler however, it is always better to couchsurf with a friend or someone you know. Otherwise, splurge on accommodations you will feel safe in and cut corners on other parts of your budget instead.


When traveling, even if you are on a tight budget, always trust your instinct and never put yourself in a dangerous situation just to save money. If something seems wrong about a neighborhood, find another one!


  1. Be a traveler, not a tourist. Tour guides and tour buses tend to cost a lot of money. If you want to see the sights, do research on the internet before you go (as internet access abroad may be very expensive) or check out good guide books from the library. Get the most current edition of the guide as possible; Frommer’s generally makes good guides. Be sure to read the sections of personal safety, as they’ll offer useful tips specific to the place you are visiting.


Make a list of what you want to see and things that you want to do. Look up tour bus routes and follow them with public transportation, on foot or on a rented bike. These options are more fun, less embarrassing than being in a huge group of tourists, and will save you a lot of money and force you to get to know the place you are visiting.


Instead of eating in touristy areas, eat in small neighborhood restaurants. Ask around for recommendations or do research online before you go. If you are familiar with the local language, pick up a free weekly newspaper many cities have that introduce good local restaurants. These publications are also good for finding local entertainment and keeping informed about entertainment possibilities in the area. By eating at smaller, neighborhood restaurants you’ll not only eat better, more authentic food, but you will save a significant amount of money which you can then spend on other things.


Or, instead of eating in a restaurant, pick up local bread, cheeses and fruits and have a picnic in a beautiful park or other landmark. If the country permits outdoor alcohol consumption, you can pick up a nice local bottle of wine or beer, too and indulge on a budget.


  1. Many museums have days or hours when admission is discounted–check for this online before you travel so you’re informed. Check to see if there are any landmarks or historical sites that don’t charge admission at all, or visit a public botanical garden or sprawling park.


  1. Avoid gift shops. Take photographs instead–they are more personal, more meaningful, and with digital technology a lot cheaper. They are also something you can share with friends when you return. If you journal or scrapbook, do that instead of buying expensive books or commemorative spoons.


  1. Bring the right clothes, and wash them yourself. Instead of paying for a laundry service, bring only clothes that are easily hand washable. Invest in a small container of detergent and hand wash clothes in sinks. Another trick is to put small washables in a large ziplock bag of soapy water. Rinse clean, and hang to dry. Laundry services in hotels can be expensive. If you are living in a hostel, laundry machines may be a cheaper alternative.


Always be prepared for inclement weather, check the forecast before you leave and bring an umbrella, extra jacket or hats and gloves if you think you’ll need them. They won’t weigh you down too much and will save you the trouble and money of having to by an umbrella when it suddenly starts raining. Also be sure to wear comfortable, versatile shoes. Like everything else, it pays to plan ahead.


Most importantly, don’t let a tight budget prevent you from traveling!

Parenting a Three Year Old

I’m not really a New Year’s Resolution kind of person. I figure if I want to change something it doesn’t take a New Year to motivate me to do so. However, when thinking of 2009 and the things I would like to improve on one thing cropped right up to the top. It’s not a resolution that you can see immediate results in. As a matter of fact, it may be years before this resolution pays off. Maybe that’s why I decided on it because it is going to be the same resolution every year for a really long time. My resolution starting here in 2009 is to be a better parent. I didn’t make this resolution because I feel like a horrible parent.(although I have at times) I didn’t make it to get the mommy of the year award. I think I made it because it is the single most important thing in life…shaping a human being. If I didn’t start working on being a better parent now then it would never happen. I believe it has to be a conscious effort every day, something I struggle with every day.

It’s not like kids come with an instruction manual. Yes, I know there are a million books out there on the topic. But, it is still up to you as the parent to filter what you read and decide if it will work with you and your child. In other words it really is trial and error.


I have learned so many thing from my son and continue learning every day. Parenting a child really is like having a mirror. Its funny how much stuff they pick up from us. I know that people say a lot of toddlers throw fits because they haven’t yet learned how to communicate the way they feel. But, I discovered this year that it is more than that. Duh, how we react to a stressful situation is how they learn to react. If I react to things he does by ranting and raving then guess what he does when he gets stressed? I have no idea why that took a while to see.


We’ve all heard of the terrible twos right? Well, what about the terrible threes? Threes for me have been a much bigger challenge than two was. Now I admit there are some new senerios. One big thing is that I had a baby five months ago.(right about the time my son turned 3) I’d say that there are some behavior issues that cropped up because of that. Now in my case my son is very good to his new sister. We prepared him pretty well I think and he did not have much of an issue with her. However, I had a hard time adjusting to motherhood of two. It’s a lot more work. Plus, I was a lot more tired and when I get tired I get snippy. Then he would be snippy with me and I would wonder where he was getting that behavior. Since he is not in daycare and is with me all the time I suddenly realized I needed to take a look at me.


Upon the realization that most of his learning is done by behavior that is observed, I decided even before New Years that I really needed to work on being a better parent.


Can I expect him to say please and thank you if I don’t? Will he learn to be helpful if I never let him help?( and that means that it will take twice as long and not be done the way I think it needs to be done) Can I teach him to go to his room to calm down when he gets angry if I yell and scream at him? Can I teach him to say his prayers if I don’t pray with him?


Here’s a biggie that is really hard as a parent. Can he learn from his mistakes if he never has consequences?This means when he tears up that new present he got for Christmas rather than rant and rave about how so and so spent all this money on his present(which a three year old has no concept of anyway) I can have a perfect opportunity to teach him that when he doesn’t take care of his stuff he loses it.


Parenting a three year old is a challenge for a lot of reasons. However, we as parents make things so much harder than we have to. I remember when he started dropping his naps. Of course it all happened right as I had a newborn and so desperately needed the sleep. I would be frustrated because I was so tired and round and round we went. Then night time would come and he would be so tired he would have meltdowns and round we’d go some more. I finally stopped fighting him on the nap. Now he has to have quiet time for an hour during the day and he goes to bed an hour earlier. We almost always avoid any meldowns because of tiredness from either of us.


For a while after he turned three he really started challenging me, telling me no when I would ask him to do something, ignoring me, or throwing a fit when he didn’t like something. I knew he was testing the boundaries. Because I knew he was old enough to understand me clearly and knew it was just him being defiant, I had a hard time keeping my cool. I would feel my blood pressure rise and I would rant and he’d rant back at me. Here I was the very person that swore I would not argue with a toddler doing just that!! I finally realized I was being sucked in to his battle. I still struggle with this,but since I have decided not to engage in his battle it has been a lot better. Now when I say I don’t engage that does not mean that I let him do whatever he wants. It just means I act like the adult. How we adults get sucked into acting like a three year old I don’t know, but it happened to me. He knows now that it is alright to be angry but how he chooses to act when he’s angry is what gets him in trouble. I am not going to rant and rave at him, but he will have to be removed from the room until he can act nicely. There is no running dialogue while he in isolation,when he is done whining and crying he can come out. If he comes out and starts whining he goes back to his room. It really works. But, it is not what I do when I correct so much as how I do it. Once I started parenting in a calmer fashion he started responding in a calmer fashion.


I still am working on this and will be the rest of my parenting time I guess. New years bring new challenges. I hope that I will meet each year head on and get more creative as I go.

Parenting Teens: The Hardest Job You Ever Have

Guiding your child through the phase of adolescence to adulthood could be an exhausting adventure. Parenting teens involves the transition of puberty, acne, peer pressure and discovering one’s independence. Every child going through adolescence is different. No parent can expect to know what is going to happen or how to handle each experience. The key is to be the best role model you can as you help guide your teen into adulthood. When parenting teens you need to realize that they need more space. You will still need to set boundaries for them, but you need to let them have the ability to make certain decisions to reach their full potential. Your job through all this is to help ease them into the transition of adulthood. You want to help them set goals, learn values, develop relationships, and make good decisions. By providing a loving home, showing them respect, taking interest in their daily activities, and setting boundaries, you are giving them the solid base they need to successfully enter the adult world. Parenting teens is not always easy.

There will be times when attitudes are flying. Knowing when enough attitude is enough will make your life easier. The boundaries you set need to emphasize the need for mutual respect. Do not take their behavior personally. Sometimes they need to blow off steam. Instead, ask them about their day. Find the root of the attitude and pull it out. By letting your teen express their emotions you are helping them to cope with the daily stresses. Discipline still plays a major role when parenting teens. Discipline does not always mean punishment. In the dictionary one of the definitions for discipline is “mental and moral training”. When the need for punishment arises you need to be creative. The more creative the better. Punish them from something that is going to impact them at that moment. By doing this you will be teaching your teen that there will be consequences for undesired actions. Parenting teens can be a wonderful adventure for you. You watch your children grow into mature individuals. You get to know that every step you took to get here, helped them develop into responsible adults. By taking the time to really help them develop through these years, you will be ensuring that they will be ready to meet the world head on. Knowing you played such a vital role in bettering society, you can mark it down as one of your greatest accomplishments.