Such a TURKEY!...bird allergies that is.

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Ahhh yes! Thanksgiving dinner will soon be on your table. A beautiful roasted turkey with all the trimmings and pumpkin pie ala mode for desert.  A nap on the couch and then round two! Stuffing and turkey with gravy all over and another helping of pie and ice cream to top it all off, then sitting around with your family watching football or a few good movies.

Yes… it sounds like a wonderful way to spend a day. But where do you keep that tom if you’re allergic to bird feathers? WHAT you don’t keep a live turkey in your home for Thanksgiving? Ok not very many of us urbanites do, but I am sure there are some rural-lites that still have a designated bird for their Thanksgiving meal, like say poultry farmers.

Even if you buy your turkey from your local grocery or butcher shop there is a small chance of being allergic to our fine feathered friends.

Bird allergy is a normal reaction of your body's immune system to the feather dander, or more popularly known as feather dust, and droppings or fecal matter coming out of birds.

 

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People who work closely with birds like farm workers and zookeepers and those who take care of birds as pets like bird fanciers are the most at risk to develop bird allergy.  If you look into it medical statistics identify that the number of people allergic to birds are far lower compared to those allergic to other animals like dogs and cats.

 

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Bird allergies work just like pollen or other allergies. When bird dander or dust from bird droppings enter the air and you breathe them in your body fights back against the allergens causing allergy symptoms.  If you have bird allergies the symptoms are sometimes similar to those for hay fever or allergic rhinitis.  Symptoms for bird allergies can be divided into two groups.

1. Average:Those symptoms that are considered less severe, including watery eyes, sneezing, postnatal drips, sore throat, stuffy nose, coughing, hives itchy eyes and allergic shiners or the presence of black circles in the area below the eyes.

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2.  Severe:The serious form of bird allergies symptoms include prolonged coughing, extended periods of breathing difficulty, occasional fever and chills, weight loss and dry cough which can persist for extended periods. Triggers that cause severe bird allergy can reduce your lung's capacity,  and may potentially pose a detriment not just to your health but also to your life. Sever allergies are caused by regular or constant exposure to allergy causing birds. So if you are a bird keeper or just around avian pets and have experienced such symptoms over a long period of time but cant figure out what is causing your symptoms, allergies may be the culprit.

What to do if you think you have bird allergies. First and foremost see your allergist to confirm your suspicions.  Physicians often prescribe antihistamines, decongestants and corticosteroids to relieve the symptoms associated with bird allergy. Antihistamines block symptoms to allergic reactions, not just to birds, but also to all forms of allergies. Allergy shots, of course may block the onset of bird allergy, but I hate shots!

Avoiding exposure to allergens, in this case the birds and their feathers, will absolutely reduce or even end allergy symptoms, and is probably the most effective measure to use. However, hygiene also an effective defense against any form of diseases and will also be effective in fighting attacks of bird allergy. Wash your hands!

If you have birds in your home the ultimate solutions would be to find them a new home, but our pets are like family and if that’s not an option good air filtration in your home is.  HEPA quality main filtration for your HVAC system and VentMask vent register filters make a good combo to stop allergens in your air and trapped in your air ducts.

 

See ya soon… we must go pardon a turkey! Happy Thanksgiving all!!!

 

WAIT!....speaking of turkey pardoning why not have some fun and learn a little about this tradition.

It is often stated that Presidents Lincoln's clemency to a turkey recorded in an 1865 report by White House reporter Noah Brooks was the origin for the pardoning ceremony. Reports of turkeys as gifts to American presidents can be traced to the 1870s, when Rhode Island poultry dealer Horace Vose began sending well fed birds to the White House. 

By 1914, the opportunity to give a turkey to a President was open to everyone, and poultry gifts were frequently touched with patriotism, partisanship, and glee. In 1921, an American Legion post furnished bunting for the crate of a gobbler en route from Mississippi to Washington, while a Harding Girls Club in Chicago outfitted a turkey as a flying ace, complete with goggles. First Lady Grace Coolidge accepted a turkey from a Vermont Girl Scout in 1925. The turkey gifts had become established as a national symbol of good cheer.

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In November 1947, announcements of the government encouraging "poultryless Thursdays" grabbed national headlines. Outrage from homemakers, restaurant owners, and the poultry industry was palpable in Washington. This came to a head when the poultry industry pointed out that the upcoming Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day, the three big turkey holidays, happened to fall on Thursday.. The effort was deflated in time for Thanksgiving, but not before poultry growers had sent crates of live chickens— "Hens for Harry"— to the White House in protest. The turkey they presented to President Truman that December promoted the poultry industry and established an annual news niche that endures today.

 

While 1947 was the beginning of the official turkey presentation from the poultry industry, the turkey pardon remained a sporadic tradition.

 

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In December 1948, Truman accepted two turkeys and remarked that they would "come in handy" for Christmas dinner. There was clearly no plan for these birds to receive a presidential pardon. The Washington Post used both "pardon" and "reprieve" in a 1963 article in which President Kennedy said of the turkey, "Let's keep him going." During the latter years of the Nixon presidency, Patricia Nixon accepted the turkeys on behalf of the President and in 1973 sent the bird to the Oxon Hill Children’s Farm. The 1978 turkey, presented to Rosalynn Carter, met a similar fate when it was sent to Evans Farm Inn to live in a mini zoo. 

 

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After 1981 the practice of sending the presentation turkey to a farm became the norm under Ronald Reagan. The turkey ceremony also became a source of satire and humor for reporters. The formalities of pardoning a turkey gelled by 1989, when George H. W. Bush, with animal rights activists picketing nearby, quipped, "But let me assure you, and this fine tom turkey, that he will not end up on anyone's dinner table, not this guy -- he's granted a Presidential pardon as of right now -- and allow him to live out his days on a children's farm not far from here.”

 

Thanks for joining us for our Turkey day blog we hope you enjoyed it! So lets enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and remember the things we have to be thankful for… health, family, our freedoms and FOOD!

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM THEVENTMASKTEAM!

 

 

My allergies made me do it!

MY ALLERGIES MADE ME DO IT!

MY ALLERGIES MADE ME DO IT!

MY ALLERGIES MADE ME DO IT! Crimes committed because of your allergies…sounds pretty far fetched doesn’t it?  I thought so too, so I did some poking around and the following may surprise you!

This is and article from allergy-book.blogspot.com……

“Crime and violence are increasing, especially among young people. Yes despite the best intentions of rehabilitation workers, counseling and attempts at reform are often futile. Some people seem destined to say in trouble with the law all their lives.

A few doctors and scientists now take the view that much crime, particularly violent crime, is caused by some biological malfunction of the criminal’s brain – sometimes triggered by food allergies and chemical exposure. Not that sociological factors do not play a role.

But biological factors such as allergy have been ignored too long, say the researchers. In a speech to the California Commission on the Prevention of Crime and Violence, Bernard Rimland, Ph.D., said that because traditional approach to rehabilitation of criminals haven’t been very successful, it's time to examine the influence and correction of other factors, specially:

  • Food allergies,

  • Food additives,

  • Excess sugar intake,

  • Pesticides and herbicides inadvertently added to food and water,

  • Fumes from industrial and other environmental sources and

  • Alcohol use.

Interestingly enough, many of those same factors have been found to be responsible for allergy induced hyperactivity, learning problems and aggression, which are often directly related to criminal behavior. Dr. Rimland described the brain as a ”soggy computer” – a compact information and control center that’s 85 percent water by weight.

You distract her....I'll get the goods!

You distract her....I'll get the goods!

Doctors already know that if an individual takes in too much of a toxic metal like lead, or too little of an essential nutrient like thiamine, something will go wrong. By the same token, if the person eats a food or breathes a substance which is basically harmless but to which he or she happens to be allergic – wheat, POLLEN, aspirin or whatever – the brain will act up.

The result can be distortions of judgment and control that can easily lead to antisocial and criminal behavior. ”It's well known that allergies may cause such symptoms as hay fever, asthma and hives,” says Dr. Rimland.

”Since it is so widely recognized that the nasal membranes, the lungs and the skin can be affected by a food or other substances to which some individuals are intolerant, (it's not surprising that) the brain, the most intricate and biochemically complicated organ in body, could also be effected by allergies.”

”Individuals who have cerebral (brain) allergies to wheat, beef, milk, corn and other common foods are likely to experience chronic problems such as headaches, feelings in violence or, surprisingly, specific compulsions such as to steal or commit arson,” says Dr. Rimbaland.

”Individuals who are allergic to or who cannot tolerate substances (which they eat or encounter less frequently) such as oysters, walnuts or formaldehyde, may experience unexpected and uncontrolled episodes of aberrant behavior with intervening periods of trouble free behavior. ”The ’brain allergy’ concept has important implication for correcting criminal behavior through diet,” says Dr. Rimland.

As it happens, many of the dietary changes designed to improve criminal behavior have involved the elimination of nonnutritive items such as sugar and foods additives. Alexander Schauss, a noted criminologist, reports the following sequence of events as a military prison in Seattle. On November 1, 1978, white flour was replaced with whole wheat.

On February 3, 1979, sugar was eliminated – including all pastries, cakes, ice cream, soft drinks and Kool-Aid. Records subsequently showed that after the menu changes, discipline problems among the inmates were down 12 percent from the same period a year before (Diet, Crime and Delinquency, Parker House, 1980).

But removing any incriminated allergens can correct criminal behavior. Doris J. Rapp, M.D., an allergist in Buffalo, New York, tells of one uncooperative young man who had a history of stealing. During the nine months that Dr. Rapp treated his allergies, the stealing stopped.

When therapy was discontinued (at his mother’s request), stealing resumed. Three other patients in Dr. Rapp’s care had a recurrence of stealing when allergy treatment was discontinued (Journal of Learning Disabilities, November, 1979). ”One wonders how many children and adults have been drugged and placed in institutions because of violent behavior related to adverse food reactions,” says Schauss.

Because 90 percent of delinquents have reading difficulties and other learning problems, we suggest that parents of troublesome children also read the entry on Learning Disorders. The entries on Aggression and Hyperactivity may also be helpful.

·       https://allergy-book.blogspot.com/2007/11/allergic-reaction-criminal-behavior.html

 

Ok that was mostly directed at food allergies, so I did a little more exploring and found this in the LA Times.

“A 46-year-old college professor who complained of life-threatening allergies was arrested Tuesday after being forcibly removed from a SouthWest Airlines flight that was bound for Los Angeles and carried dogs in the cabin.

The incident, which was captured in jumpy cellphone video, occurred at Baltimore airport, after a passenger asked that two dogs be removed from the aircraft, according to a witness. Instead, the flight crew asked the woman to leave, and she refused.

Anila Daulatzai of Baltimore was taken into custody and charged with disorderly conduct, failure to obey a reasonable and lawful order, disturbing the peace, obstructing and hindering a police officer and resisting arrest, said Lt. Kevin Ayd of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police.

This isn't really Ms. Daulatzai...it's just some pic we got off Google! ;-)

This isn't really Ms. Daulatzai...it's just some pic we got off Google! ;-)

Daulatzai was transported to the Anne Arundel County District Court, where she was released on her own recognizance, Ayd said. She had been removed from the plane at the request of its captain.”

Now Ms. Daulatzai allergies didn’t cause her to commit any violent acts, but nowadays disturbing flight crew and disrupting behavior on a flight can get you into serious trouble. But how about serious crimes, crimes of passion, greed, you know A&E channel kinda stuff?

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Looking a little deeper I found this from a book called, Advances in Hypersensitivity Research and Treatment: 2011 Edition.

 

“ In 2003-2005, the Chicago Initiative to Raise Asthma Health Equity conducted an asthma screening survey of children in grades K to 8 attending Chicago public schools and Catholic schools. Crime data was obtained from the Chicago Police Department. In addition to simple regression analysis, multi level logistic regression analysis was performed to estimate the effect of criminal activity on neighborhood asthma variances. Of the surveys returned, 45,371 (93%) were geocoded into 247 neighborhoods. Neighborhoods were divided into quartile groups by mean asthma prevalence (9%, 12%, 17% and 22%). Criminal activity (annual incidence per 100,00 people) was significantly higher (p<.001) in neighborhoods with a high asthma prevalence, especially drug abuse violations, which increased more than six fold (461 vs. 2921) and violent crimes, which increased more than three fold (448 vs. 1566). After adjusting for community race/ethnicity, only violent crime continued to be significantly associated with the neighborhood asthma prevalence (odds ratio, 1.27; 95% confidence interval, 1.04-1.55, p<.05). When considered along side the sociodemographic and individual characteristics, violence continued to contribute significantly (p<.05), explaining 15% of neighborhood variations in childhood asthma. Evidence suggests an association between violent crime and childhood asthma prevalence in Chicago, wrote R.S. Gupta and colleagues, School of Medicine.

 

The researchers concluded: “ A deeper understanding of the mechanisms that underlie these association may lend insight to potential interventions to address urban asthma”.

 

If you don’t believe me you can read this for yourself here… https://books.google.com/books?id=pWCFdq8Dr0IC&pg=PA65&lpg=PA65&dq=violent+criminal+activity+linked+to+allergies&source=bl&ots=VuNG-BJ3GW&sig=M5WIrYgYLdxUVASG1suvx30EpWE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj26N7Kq4nXAhVI74MKHeQxD9EQ6AEINzAD#v=onepage&q=violent%20criminal%20activity%20linked%20to%20allergies&f=false

 

So links to bad behavior have been made to asthma.  Would you sensibly say that since asthma and allergies have common symptoms that allergies could also play a role in criminal behavior?

 

It’s an interesting concept and since I have teenage boys at home I will continue to use good filters to lessen all the asthma and allergy inducing contaminates and VentMask filters to trap everything in our ducts that builds up over time.

Maybe it’ll keep them both on the straight and narrow…I use every tool at my disposal! LOL! I'm hoping maybe it'll straighten out the dog too!

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Puppy Love and Real Love

When love is in the air, you want to breathe it in. But what if that air is also filled with pet dander or pollen? Take these steps to avoid symptoms that get in the way of Cupid's work.

Sniffling, sneezing, and leaving a trail of wet tissues everywhere you go is hardly a recipe for romance.

Want to sail through the pollens of allergy season with less hassle? The No. 1 rule of thumb: "Be proactive," says Clifford Bassett, MD, assistant clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center.

See an allergist before the season starts for a treatment plan that may include a nasal steroid spray. These sprays can take a few weeks of regular use to reach full effect.

Don't rely on over-the-counter antihistamines alone. They may not be enough -- and they may help you less as the season wears on.

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What about my pets? They’re like my kids, I think of them as members of my family. If you've been allergic to cats or dogs (or bunnies or guinea pigs) your whole life, your heart may sink when you learn the love of your life comes with one or vise versa. But before you run the other way, try these steps, says allergist Janna Tuck, MD:

Set ground rules. Find out what your partner is willing to do to help. Talk about where you'll spend time together -- preferably, your place.

Clear the air. Have your partner:

  • Use air purifiers (one in every room, if possible).
  • Clean often.
  • Keep the pet outside as much as possible, or at least out of the rooms where you spend the most time.
  • Use extra filtration on your vent registers to remove more pet dander

Get medicated. If over-the-counter allergy pills and eye drops don't do the trick, see an allergist for prescription meds. Allergy shots (ouch) may be an option for you, but they require at least 3 to 5 years of regular doctor visits.

Plan your pet future. Agree that if the relationship continues, when the dog or cat goes to pet heaven, you won't get another.

If your allergies are still a problem, find out where you stand. "It's a relationship gauge," Tuck says. "If your significant other isn't willing to consider your health as more important than the pet, then you might want to reconsider the relationship."

No one wants to give away a beloved pet, but human health comes first, she says.

We asked our friends at MyPetHealthGuide.com what to do if Rover's ruining your game. They walked us through six common dating-with-dog (or cat) dilemmas and how to keep your cool when the claws come out. 

 

1. HE/SHE THINKS YOU LOVE BUDDY MORE THAN YOU LOVE THEM

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When man and man's best friend have similar needs (back scratches, ample praise and a spot next to you in the bed at night), you're bound to feel like a tug-of-war chew toy. And if you cancel a date to take your pup to the dog park, your guy might start to feel left out. 

Ask yourself whether you really are putting pet before person or if he's just looking for an excuse to fight. A quarrel over your furry friend could be a cover-up for another issue that needs attention. Talk it out instead of using the dog to distract from what's really going on. 

 

3. HE/SHE IS SLACKING ON LITTER BOX DUTY

If you and your man have agreed to split the responsibility of caring for a pet, but he's not holding up his end of the bargain, it's time to bust out the old school chore chart. Divide and conquer is the name of the game. Rotate duties, like walking, feeding and cleaning, to ward off resentment. Or find ways to make pet care fun. Chances are giving the dog a bath could lead to some scandalous sudsing of your own. 

 

4. COL ZAC POSEN

If your pet's plotting a Parent Trap-like scheme to cramp your style, set some boundaries ASAP. When he's yapping while you're macking, show your pup that you're in charge by issuing strong commands like "stop!" and "down!" When it comes to PDA, your pet may be feeling jealous or trying to protect you. Spend plenty of QT with him alone. 

If your dog's humping your guy's leg (awkward), it could be a sign of dominant behavior. Stop the distasteful habit in its tracks by neutering by six months of age. 

 

5. IT FEELS LIKE A SLUMBER PARTY

If you're butting heads over a pet in the bed,  let your guy or girl win this battle. While you may tolerate dog drool on your pillow or cat hair on the comforter, your critters can also carry fleas, worms and other treasures into the sack. Plus, puppies may wet the bed and tiny kittens make easy targets for human steamrollers. The floor's a safer spot. Or meet half way by letting your pup sleep in his own bed at the foot of yours. Let kitty curl up on one of your sweaters (your scent will comfort her). 

 

6. HE/SHE IS ITCHING FOR A WAY OUT

If your guy's got severe or life-threatening allergies, you keeping a pet could be a deal breaker. Even if you spend hours vacuuming up pet hair, you'll be welcoming him with more than that bottle of wine when he pops over for movie night. That's because the real allergy culprit isn't fur, it's dander--tiny, sticky pieces of protein from your pet's skin and saliva. 

Reduce the risk of an allergy attack by frequently bathing your pet and scouring all surfaces in your home. Certain breeds like poodles and Chihuahuas may also leave behind fewer flakes. 

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7. YOU'RE SENDING HIM/HER TO THE DOGHOUSE

If you and your guy go in on a pet together, have a plan in case things don't work out. Don't put your kitty or pup's health and safety in jeopardy. Decide in advance whether you or your partner is better suited to care for the pet if your relationship hits the rocks. If neither one of you is willing or able, ask friends and family members to take your pet in instead of dropping him off at the shelter. 

 

http://www.womenshealthmag.com/sex-and-love/pets-and-relationships/slide/7

 

SEXY TIME FOR TREES MAKES ME SNEEZE!

I have been fighting with thick pine pollen for the last month and am not sure but I think it’s winning the battle! 

I wash it off my car, hose it off my drive, pull my screens off and clear them of the yellow dust clinging to them.

With all of that pollen I know my VentMask filters were working overtime to keep it outta my home, but guess what….that’s probably not what’s clogging your airways, making your nose run and causing your eyes to itch. The belief that pine pollen can trigger allergic reactions in people is disputed by some experts, they argue pine pollen is too big to permeate the nasal membrane. However, researchers have shown that key proteins from pine pollen can penetrate the nasal membrane to trigger a reaction.

BUT that grainy yellow dust is a “marker” — its presence on your vehicle signals the arrival of other pollens filling the air which are WORSE triggers for your allergies!

Here in Utah and probably any other pollen drenched state you may be able to avoid a particular plant that is proliferus, but odds are your body will find some other plant, mold or pet dander to react to wherever you go. So knowing that allergies are impossible to avoid completely, being informed is the next best thing for alleviating your suffering! It is most likely that not one but several allergens are the culprits causing your misery. Trees pollinate between February and May. These pollens ease off just in time for grasses to start spreading their pollen. Grass allergies are the worst between May and July. Just when those pollen counts start to decrease, weeds take over. Weeds can aggravate allergy symptoms from July until, as previously mentioned, the first hard frost. This is generally sometime in late October or November. Added to this problem may be dust allergies, mold allergies and allergies to pet dander.

The trees most notorious for causing allergy problems in the Western United States, including Utah, are the Ash, Cottonwood, Birch, Walnut, Juniper, Acacia, Mesquite, Alder, Box Elder, Mulberry, Sycamore, Elm, Cypress, Oak and Maple. According to a report in KSLnews.com, Cedar is the most potent tree allergy in Utah. As a general rule, the brighter the plant, the less likely it is to be causing your allergy.

Utah's worse allergy offender...The Cedar!

Utah's worse allergy offender...The Cedar!

CottonWood tree trying to make another CottonWood Tree!

CottonWood tree trying to make another CottonWood Tree!

Ash...lovely to behold, not so lovely for my nose!

Ash...lovely to behold, not so lovely for my nose!

If you are lucky enough to be unaffected by the trees, you may need to try avoiding grasses instead. The top allergy causing grasses in Utah are Bermuda grass, Meadow fescue, Brome, Orchard grass, Wild oat, Timothy, Red top, Johnson and Rye. Fortunately, according to Conservewater.utah.gov, Kentucky Bluegrass is the most common type of lawn grass in Utah and is not on the list of the most highly allergenic.

Meadow Fescue grass

Meadow Fescue grass

Bermuda grass

Bermuda grass

After surviving the tree season and the grass season, you still have to endure weed season, which as mentioned, will last until about the end of October or first of November. The most problematic weeds in Utah are Ragweed, False Ragweed, Pigweed, Careless weed, Sagebrush, Tumbleweed, Cocklebur, Yellow dock, Marsh elder and Lambs quarter.

Sage Brush

Sage Brush

Rag Weed

Rag Weed

Pollen counts, the average number of pollen grains per cubic meter of air, are generally given on the news, often during the weather reports. As a general rule, pollen counts are higher on warm, dry, breezy mornings. They are lower during cool or rainy days. Knowing the pollen count may be somewhat beneficial in avoiding allergy symptoms. A high pollen count indicates that most people with plant allergies are at risk of symptoms. A medium pollen count would indicate that in general most people with sensitivity would be affected. A low pollen count means that only those who are the most sensitive will have a problem.

Utah is a beautiful state and enjoys a wide variety of greenery. We are fortunate to have such variety. However this variety leads to a variety of allergen producing pollens.

Don’t let the trees and grass “getting busy” slow you down!

Take advantage of the great outdoors like I do by using antihistamines butalso be very proactive in keeping those allergens out of your home with good HVAC filters and VentMask filters to stop what the main filters miss. VentMask filters also catch what may be built up in the ducting that the main filtration unit cannot.

Puerto Rico and beyond!

This international travel blog starts in Puerto Rico join us as we make our way about the Western Caribbean! 

We started our adventure by heading out from Salt Lake City to JFK in New York and then hopping a flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico's attractions range from the adventurous…like the underground caves ofRio Camuy … to the historic, like the 500-year old walls of the El Morro Fort. And there are plenty of options between the two extremes. Beach lovers must visit the western beaches of Rincón for sunbathing and surfing; snorkelers are bound to enjoy Vieques' bioluminescent Mosquito Bay.  If you're the kind of traveler who enjoys the after dark scene you'll discover a varied but vibrant nightlife in San Juan.

Our stay of two days here was spent at the Caribe Hilton Condado.  It's a nice hotel with good amenities and an awesome pool area right near all the Condado area nightlife and restaurants. It was real easy to not leave the hotel area but I suggest you absolutely do….at least for part of the day and go exploring….then come back and flop down and have a mojito poolside.

We enjoyed heading into Old San Juan to wander around the shops and see the historical sites. Outlet shoppers should come to Old San Juan prepared to let go of a few dollars. The city's Calle del Cristo is a haven of restaurants, art galleries and boutiques. In addition to popular stores, those walking the cobblestone street can discover local crafts and artisan shops. If you're looking to skip shopping altogether, Calle del Cristo is still a worthwhile spot to get a feel for the beauty of Old San Juan. Trees, cobblestones, shops, restaurants, small squares, people, traffic, birds, locals playing guitar and serenading in Spanish all adds to the vibe of this small town.

We did visit the El Morro Fort while we were here. El Morro juts out of San Juan harbor beckoning to cruise ships just as it used to deter sea attacks. The structure is a hulking six-story fortress built between 1539 and 1589, withstanding the two World Wars and several other scrimmages. Now, El Fuerto San Felipe del Morro is Puerto Rico's go-to tourist attraction, both for its extensive history and its outstanding vistas of the Atlantic Ocean. You can also walk though the fortress' depths, which include a maze of tunnels, barracks and prison cells.

You'll enjoy exploring more if you wear comfortable walking shoes, as the site is quite big and there are lots of stairs to navigate. Bring water and allow yourself at least three hours to explore this fort and learn about its history.

One thing I was a bit put off by, there seems to be a dispute between the cab drivers and Uber drivers and soon to come Lyft drivers. If you are an Uber user, like I am be aware you may have to endure some dirty looks and find agreeable pick up spots. However with the news of Puerto Rico financial troubles the drivers may find that cooperation will make for a better living for all of them very quickly. It’s not a big issue but one that can effect your getting around.

OK the FOOD is amazing! Although Puerto Rican cooking is somewhat similar to Spanish, Cuban and Mexican cuisine, it is a unique tasty blend of Spanish, African, Taíno, and American influences, using such indigenous seasonings and ingredients as coriander, papaya, cacao, nispero, apio, plantains, and yampee. Locals call their cuisine "cocina criolla". When Ponce de León arrived with Columbus in 1493, the Spanish added beef, pork, rice, wheat, and olive oil to the island's foodstuffs. Soon after, the Spanish began planting sugarcane and importing slaves from Africa, who brought with them okra and taro (known in Puerto Rico as yautia). The mingling of flavors and ingredients passed from generation to generation among the different ethnic groups that settled on the island, resulting in the exotic blend of today's Puerto Rican cuisine.

 

Lunch and dinner generally begin with sizzling-hot appetizers such as bacalaitos, crunchy cod fritters; surullitos, sweet plump cornmeal fingers; and empanadillas, crescent-shaped turnovers filled with lobster, crab, conch, or beef.

 

Carne frita con cebella

Carne frita con cebella

Typical main dishes include fried beefsteak with onions (carne frita con cebolla), veal (ternera) a la parmesana, and roast leg of pork, fresh ham, lamb, or veal, a la criolla. These roasted meats are cooked in the Créole style, flavored with adobo.

Puerto Ricans also like such dishes as breaded calves brains (sesos empanados), calves kidney (riñones guisados), and stuffed beef tongue (lengua rellena). I didn’t get a chance to try any of these…if I had the chance I would just to say I did!

Arroz con Pollo

Arroz con Pollo

Puerto Ricans adore chicken, which they flower various spices and seasoning. Arroz con pollo (chicken with rice) is the most popular chicken dish on the island, and it was brought long ago to the U.S mainland. Other favorite preparations include chicken in sherry (pollo al jerez), pollo agridulce (sweet and sour chicken), and pollitos asados a la parrilla (broiled chickens).

 

Mojo Isleño

Mojo Isleño

A popular fried fish with Puerto Rican sauce (mojo isleño). The sauce is made with olives and olive oil, onions, pimientos, capers, tomato sauce, vinegar, and a flavoring of garlic and bay leaves. Fresh fish is often grilled, and perhaps flavored with garlic and an overlay of freshly squeezed lime juice -a very tasty dinner indeed. Caribbean lobster is usually the most expensive item on any menu, followed by shrimp. Puerto Ricans often cook shrimp in beer (camarones en cerveza). Another delectable shellfish dish is boiled crab (jueyes hervidos).

Jueyes Hervidos

Jueyes Hervidos

Camarones en Cerveza

Camarones en Cerveza

Flan

Flan

And last but not least desserts…Desserts usually include some form offlan (custard) or perhaps nisperos de batata (sweet-potato balls with coconut, cloves and cinnamon). Equally traditional would be a portion of guava jelly with queso blanco (white cheese). Chefs take the bountiful harvest of Puerto Rican fruits and create any number of desserts, including orange layer cake, banana cupcakes, and guava cake. The most delicious dessert may be a freshly prepared fruit cocktail. The pumpkin, which grows in abundance on Puerto Rico, is used not only to flavor soups and as a side vegetable, but also to make the succulent base of a traditional Puerto Rican cake. Similarly, the sweet potato is used both as a side vegetable and in making a regional sweet-potato cake.

Nisperos de Batata

Nisperos de Batata

Coconut is probably the most common dessert ingredient. Many delectable desserts are made with its milk (leche de coco), including coconut flan, coconut cream desserts, crunchy coconut squares, coconut with meringue, and candied coconut rice. Another classic preparation is coconut bread pudding (boudin de pasas con coco).  Polvo de amor ("love powder") is prepared with grated coconut meat after the milk has been extracted. The coconut is mixed with a lot of sugar and placed in a kettle to cook rapidly, then served crisp and golden brown.

I did some research into Puerto Rican traditional medicines and found “Alcoholado” to be very interesting. The basic concept of Alcoholado is that it is a rubbing alcohol that has been infused with natural plants and other essential oils, primarily bay rum, eucalyptus, piper marginatum, pathchouli (see my blog Nov. 28, 2016), ginger, limpia stoechadifolia, yellow sage, sweet scent, peppermint, and camphor.

It has a very strong smell to it, of which one thinks is very pleasant or very overpowering.  We love it though!  It has a wide-ranging list of uses, primarily as a rubbing alcohol for the use in massages to relieve symptoms associated with poor blood circulation, fever, arthritis, headache, muscular pain, fungus, insect bites, rheumatism, respiratory problems and neuralgia. It is a natural expectorant for congestion and eliminates mucus – perfect to combat colds, flus, bronchitis, and asthma. It is applied as a rubbing alcohol on the skin in the affected region.

Amazingly enough the air quality in Puerto Rico can be a risk. Exposure to air pollutants from large ships includes nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and particulate matter and can cause respiratory illnesses, such as lung disease, asthma, and heart disease. The Port of San Juan in Puerto Rico moves approximately 11 million metric tons of goods on nearly 3,800 vessel trips annually. It is also a major destination for over one million cruise ship passengers. It was reported in the States News Service (December 7, 2010) that because of the pollution caused by cruise lines and container vessels there is a proposal for these vessels in “emission control areas” to use much cleaner fuel or install better pollution control technology. So even though the air appears to be clear I would suggest VentMask for your hotel vent registers.

Next week we hop on over to Barbados and work our way down the island chain back to Puerto Rico……check back and get the low down on Barbados!

Guy Rawson-VentMaskTeam Member

Germany!

Germany is a Western European country with a landscape of forests, rivers, mountain ranges and North Sea beaches. It has over 2 millennia of history. Berlin, its capital, is home to art and nightlife scenes, the Brandenburg Gate and many sites relating to WWII. Munich is known for its Oktoberfest and beer halls, including the 16th-century Hofbräuhaus. Frankfurt, with its skyscrapers, houses the European Central Bank.

 

History, culture, and natural beauty perhaps best describe the essence of vacationing in Germany. With its historic cities and small towns, along with an abundance of forests and mountains, visitors are spoiled for choice. Those wanting to sightsee or experience the arts should head to the metropolitan areas, while those looking to engage in recreational activities should visit places such as the Bavarian Alps, the Black Forest, or the Mosel Valley. Lovely old cathedrals and grand palaces are everywhere, and in the smaller towns and villages, many centuries-old traditions continue. At the cultural heart of Germany is the capitol Berlin, home to many fine museums and galleries, while nature lovers will find a world of possibilities in Germany's great outdoors.

 

There are WAYYYY too many cool things to see in Germany to list so here are a few I found interesting.

 

1. Modeled on the Acropolis in Athens and built for King Frederick William II in 1791, the monumental sandstone Brandenburg Gate in Berlin's Mitte district was the city's first Neoclassical structure. Measuring an impressive 26-meters in height - including the spectacular four-horse chariot perched atop - its six huge columns on each side of the structure form five impressive passages: four were used by regular traffic, while the center was reserved for the royal carriages. Huge Doric columns also decorate the two buildings at each side of the Gate, once used by toll-collectors and guards. Undoubtedly Berlin's most iconic structure, it was also once part of the infamous Berlin Wall and for a few decades was symbolic of the division of Berlin into East and West.

 

2. The old town of Füssen, between the Ammergau and Allgäu Alps, a popular alpine resort and winter sports center, is a good base from which to explore nearby Neuschwanstein Castle, one of Europe's most famous royal castles. From 1869-86, King Ludwig II of Bavaria built this many-towered and battlement-covered fantasy fortress - the inspiration for Walt Disney's famous theme park castles. A variety of tour options are offered, including guided tours of the sumptuous interior taking in the Throne Room, the Singers' Hall, and some of the country's most spectacular views.

 

3. The Rhine is Europe's most important waterway, and it’s most beautiful. With a total length of 1,320 kilometers, this magnificent river stretches from Switzerland through Germany all the way to the Netherlands. While there are many places in Germany to enjoy this majestic river, the lovely Upper Middle Rhine Valley section is probably the best place to see it. Here, this often-dramatic 65-kilometer stretch of river boasts more than 40 castles and some 60 picturesque medieval towns all just waiting to be explored either by river cruise or by car. Bingen, where the river cuts through a deep gorge before entering the Bacharach valley, is a good place to start .

 

4. Part of the Wetterstein mountain range, the Zugspitze massif straddles the frontier between Germany and Austria and is surrounded by steep valleys. The eastern summit, at 2,962 meters, is crowned by a gilded cross and can be reached by the Bayerische Zugspitzbahn, a cog railway, or by cable car. Another great way to enjoy this area of outstanding natural beauty is aboard the Tiroler Zugspitzbahn, a railway that runs to the Zugspitzkamm station at 2,805 meters. From here, the journey can be continued via a cable car to Zugspitz-Westgipfel Station at 2,950 meters with its excellent panoramic restaurant. A highlight of the journey is the chance to walk through an 800-meter-long tunnel, complete with viewing windows, to the Schneefernerhaus station at the top of the Bavarian cog railroad, from where you can ascend the eastern summit with its viewing platforms.

 

What about traditional medicines found in Germany?

The Germans have used herbal medicines as cures for a range of ailments down the ages. Herbs were easily available and generally safe for quick recovery from minor ailments. Herbal medicine was first practiced in cloisters and monasteries in Germany.

Chamomile plant with flowers.

Chamomile plant with flowers.

Chamomile infusions for colds and fennel tea for stomach aches were among the many herbal medications that survived generations. Willow Bark was used to cure fever because it contained acetyl salcyclic acid which is used in the aspirin we know today as an effective pain reliever. Hildegaard a Benedictine nun was famous for her herbal preparations for curing illness. She lived in Bingen from 1089 to 1179. Monasteries and cloisters were known to have large herbal gardens and monks and nuns formulated treatments by combining the effects of herbs. Herbal medicine was regarded as the best form of medication for children. Germany has over 3500 registered herbal medications even today.

Willow bark.

Willow bark.

Herbal medicine has a long tradition of using plant seeds, flowers, leaves, bark and roots and its dominance in medicine cabinets throughout Germany, in addition to the advances in clinical research in proving its value in the treatment and prevention of disease, began some time ago to attract the attention of major European pharmaceutical companies.  The use of ‘herbs’ in this case also covers what are commonly known as ‘weeds’ to those who have gardens in which they would rather that they did not grow.

Regular herbal medicine and plant remedy courses, taking the form of walking through meadows and woods or up hills and mountain sides, and before noon because this is the optimum herb harvesting time, are well attended and regularly run for those who want to find out more about nature’s plants and herbs, be given tips on what can or can not be used, and learn the lotions and potions which can aid or perhaps cure a problem.

In keeping with a country which believes as far as possible in a Green way of life, there are also many experts who dispense eagerly followed wisdom and advice on the age-old medicinal recipes for every month and each season’s herbs and plants.  Including a famous Bavarian Kraeuterfee, Herb Fairy, now an active mid eighty year old and an inspiring and youthful advertisement for her way of thinking. Her recipes are followed faithfully and cover everything from various nettle mixtures, including juices to combat stress, anemia and tiredness, red onion juice with honey and schnapps for building up immunity, apple vinegar poultices for tired, swollen legs, to nettle, dandelion and wild garlic paste which, when added to salad sauce or cream cheese, chases away all traces of spring tiredness or anemia.

There are many popular and well-used natural medicine alternatives to the pillbox or medicine bottle, including the centuries old cure for almost everything, homemade chicken soup made with herbs and vegetables. Or the instant and permanent relief that comes when fruit schnapps, or vodka, is dabbed onto a burn first cooled in cold water.  A complementary alternative remedy for headaches is a few drops of peppermint oil gently rubbed into the forehead, temples and back of jaw, any excess allowed to seep into the skin giving an immediate cooling feeling, followed after about 30 minutes by relief from the headache.

Of course although in former years garlic traditionally offered protection from vampires, now amongst other things it is a popular natural health remedy to give relief from bronchitis and clear sinuses, by way of a tea made from three crushed garlic cloves simmered in water for 20 minutes together with chopped parsley leaves, which can then be sipped without fear of leaving a tell tale odor.

Despite its increasing popularity, natural medicine and the use of herbs will not be replacing conventional medicine in Germany. However it will continue to run in combination as modern science has made it possible to prove that, for many ailments, herbs and methods handed down from generation to generation and quoted for centuries in German ‘folklore’, including Horse Chestnut for varicose vein treatment, Chili Pepper for pain relief, Valerian for insomnia as well as the healing power of water, make viable and effective treatments while causing less side effects, and are more relevant today than ever before.

 Should I bring VentMask filters if I visit Germany? In many cities, air pollution from fine dust particles and nitrogen dioxide exceeds the maximum threshold levels, according to a new report from the Environment Ministry.  [Secret Word:VOLKSWAGON] Residents of Stuttgart are currently exposed to the highest pollution levels in the Federal Republic, a report published by the German Environment Ministry showed.

Take VentMask filters and enjoy the sunsets without the worry about allergies.

Take VentMask filters and enjoy the sunsets without the worry about allergies.

Fine dust particles pose another serious problem. Here, the maximum is 40 µg up to a particle size of ten micrometres per cubic metre of air. Stuttgart exceeded this limit on 91 days in 2013. After Stuttgart, Reutlingen follows in second place, followed by Markgröningen, Tübingen, Gelsenkirchen, Hagen and Leipzig.

 

So pack up some VentMask filters for your hotel, and get out there and visit this wonderful country!

 

Safe and healthy travels! -TheVentMaskTeam

 

 

Off to FINLAND!

  Finland is different from that of other Nordic countries like the one we visited in our last blog, Switzerland.  Bordering the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia, and Gulf of Finland, as well as Sweden, Norway, and Russia, Finland is the northernmost country in the European Union, and is called ''the land of a thousand lakes,'' but at last count there were 187,888 of them - more lakes in relation to a country's size than any other. Indeed, with a population of about five million, Finland has one lake for every 26 people. That’s a lot of lakes…you think the Land O’ Lakes butter people know this? Anyway….

  I’ve only traveled to Helsinki, Finland’s largest city is also its capital and one of the most popular cities to visit. The two places I visited that still stand out from my visit there are Mannerheim Museum and Fortress of Suomenlinna. I would suggest visiting both of those places, you can book guided walking tours of the Fortress to get a bit of the history and interesting stories. The museum is interesting if you walk it with a guide or ion your own, but having a guide to explain the historical importance of the displays REALLY makes a visit there better!

  I traveled Finland via the web and found these to be the top five most interesting places to me…you may and will find others…but heres my top 5.

1. Rovaniemi

Rovaniemi is the old city situated in the north, not far from the Arctic Circle (only about 10 kilometers). Its history dates back to the Stone Age when it was a place of settlements but the city’s name was first mentioned in the 15th century.

It is a hometown of Santa Claus so once you are here, do not forget to visit its Office, Village, Park and many other attractions related to this famous figure. This is why the city is quite popular among travelers.

2. Levi…my love of snowboarding may make me plan a trip here soon!

One of the most popular ski resorts in Finland is known as Levi. 43 ski slopes and 27 lifts are a guarantee of great skiing experience in Finland. The resort’s position within the Arctic Circle is then a guarantee of snow cover during the majority part of the year.

More than a half of them are lit so you can ski here even during the nights. Cross country skiing is also very popular here. You can try it on more than 200 kilometers of tracks. Not far from here is another Igloo hotel, from where you can watch northern lights

3. Hämeenlinna

City of Hämeenlinna is a pleasant stop on the route between Helsinki and Tampere. You can take a short walk across the main square towards a peaceful park on the shore of the lake. It is here where you can find a huge castle Hämeenlinna (known simply as Häme), the main landmark of the city.

And if you’re a fan of more modern history, right next to it you can find the artillery museum with an extensive exhibition of weapons mainly from the last century.

4. Savonlinna

Right in the heart of the Finnish lake region of Saimaa lies the romantic city of Savonlinna. It is situated on two islands between the lakes Haapavesi and Pihlavesi. Due to the numerous monuments the city has become a popular destination for tourists and those who visit it will not regret.

The most important and dominant landmark of the city is magnificent 15th century Olavinlinna Castle towering on a rocky island. The best time to visit this town is during its annual international Opera Festival that is held at the castle every summer.

5. Kemi

Kemi is another important tourist center especially in the winter when it houses snow castle Lumilinna. It is here, where you can sleep in the ice hotel or taste some of the delicious Finnish meals in ice restaurant.In winter you can also take a trip by icebreaker Sampo, which anchored in Kemi, and today operates mainly as a tourist attraction.

 

 

Finland has so much to offer a traveler and I cant wait to visit Lev and snowboard therei! 

Recently Olympic athletes has brought the holistic practice of cupping into the lime light. Finland with its steam baths and natural holistic medicine leanings has embraced cupping into it's traditions of natural medicine.

Wet cupping appears to be a living reminiscence of the traditional Finnish healing methods. Fifteen persons practicing or having practiced cupping were interviewed in Savo Province, Eastern Finland. The knowledge and skills of cupping appear to be transferred by personal apprenticeship within a family or from a neighbor. No written material is nowadays available and known to be used in learning. Cupping is considered by healers to be useful in the treatment of aching and pains of teeth, head, neck, shoulders, back and legs. Cuppers report cupping effective also in hypertension and skin diseases. On the other hand, the method is not regarded to be useful in problems of internal organs. Cupping is done after a sauna and bathing of the patient in a warm environment (in sauna). It is often preceded by massage. The small wounds in the cupping sites are made with the aid of a small knife. The healers have the opinion that bad blood must be removed from the superficial areas of the ailing parts of the body, The cupping sites were more or less specific to the ailments of the patient and the number of cups varied from patient to patient depending on the condition and size.

Most of the validity of cupping as an alternative medical practice comes from its long history of use over the past 3,000 years. Cupping techniques have been used extensively to treat a range of disorders and symptoms, sometimes on their own, or other times in conjunction with other alternative practices. It’s common for cupping therapy to be used along with massage therapy, essential oils, acupuncture or even as an adjunct to “Western medicine” treatments.

What we do know from the limited scientific studies that have been done is that cupping works by expanding the capillaries and increasing the amount of fluid entering and leaving tissues. Besides this, cupping therapy seems to provoke a relaxation response in some people, which means it’s useful for lowering stress and its negative effects.

While there’s a ton of anecdotal evidence that cupping can be effective and safe, to date very few clinical studies using humans have been conducted, making it hard to “prove” many of the time-honored benefits of cupping therapy. That being said, it’s worked for millions of people over many years, so here are five ways that cupping might be able to help you:

1. Helps Reduce Pain

One of the most common reasons people turn to alternative treatment methods is because they’re looking for a safe way tonaturally reduce joint pain and muscle pain. After reviewing dozens of randomized clinical trials testing cupping therapy in patients with pain of any origin, a report published in Evidence-Based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine found that cupping significantly reduced pain compared to usual care treatments, showed positive effects in treating cancer pain compared with anticancer drugs and alagesics, and helped soothe pain associated with respiratory issues.

Cupping is thought to release tissues deep inside the body, relax tense muscles and ease stiffness associated with chronic back and neck pains, migraines, rheumatism, and fatigue. Some athletes have been known to use cupping therapy to naturally improve performance and reduce stiffness, muscle cramps, joint pains and scar tissue caused by injuries.

2. Promotes Relaxation

It might seem counteractive, but cupping often helps alleviate physical complaints and allows people to enter a more relaxed state since it sedates the central nervous system. This is similar to acupuncture, which you might assume hurts and is uncomfortable but actually seems to help lower most patients’ stress responses and therefore offers protection against anxiety and depression.

How can cupping be relaxing? Just the act of laying still and being “taken care of” during cupping therapy sessions might have a positive effect on someone’s psychological well-being, which could be one reason why it’s used to lower mental illnesses. Once the cups are placed down and suctioned, they might need to remain still for up to 20 minutes, which forces stillness and silence on patients who might otherwise lead very hectic lives. According to the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, another reason cupping is soothing is because the cups help lift pressure in tense muscles, which offers a relieving sensation just like receiving a deep tissue massage.

3. Boosts Skin Health

Cupping is used to reduce herpes cellulite, acne and skin inflammation. While studies haven’t shown it can necessarily help with weight loss, the fact that it tones and firms skin by improving blood flow and expanding capillaries makes it popular among celebrities and people in the spotlight who want to appear to have toned skin. As part of a skin-clearing or cellulite treatment,  oil is commonly first applied to the skin before the cups are suctioned and moved around, bringing heat to the area along with various skin-healing ingredients depending on the type of oil used.

Because cupping improves blood flow and might help lower inflammation, some studies have found it to be equally or even more effective at  treating acne compared to antibiotics. A meta-analysis of six studies showed that for improving acne, the cure rate of wet cupping was better than the cure rate following use of tanshinone,  tetracycline andketoconazole prescriptions.

4. Helps Treat Respiratory Issues and Colds

Commonly used to help nourish the lungs and clear away phlegm or congestion, cupping therapy can be useful for speeding up healing time from respiratory illnesses like the flu or common colds. Cupping helps improve immune function by moving blood and lymphatic fluid throughout the body, which is why it’s been associated with reductions in lung diseases (especially chronic coughs), allergies, infections and asthma.

Treating respiratory conditions like pulmonary tuberculosis is one of the oldest uses for cupping and was utilized long before prescriptions were available.

5. Improves Digestion

Acupuncture and cupping are both popular ways to improve digestion and reduce symptoms from disorders like irritable bowel syndrome. This might primarily be because they can lower a patient’s stress response, which is highly tied to healthy digestive functioning.

Throughout history, cupping therapy has been found to be beneficial for people with frequent stomach pains, diarrhea, acute gastrisis, loss of appetite, gastrointestinal diseases and water retention. For digestive disturbances, cupping is commonly performed in the following areas: around the navel, over the bladder, around the kidneys or over the stomach.

 

On average, air quality is good in Finland and the local impacts of air pollutants are minor. However, in difficult weather conditions in winter and summer, pollutant levels in cities may rise to the same level as in Central European cities of similar size.  Thanks to air pollution control, air quality has improved significantly in Finland in recent decades. Emissions into the air are still generated by energy production, industry and traffic, especially in urban areas. In addition, long-distance transport brings air pollutants to Finland from other parts of the world, for example, in the form of smoke from forest fires.

The global effects of air pollution include the intensification of climate change, ozone layer depletion in the upper atmosphere and the chemicalisation of the environment. Regional impacts include the acidification of soil and waters as well as increased ozone concentrations in the troposphere. Emissions are also detrimental to human health and the surrounding area. For example, street dust and car exhaust most often cause symptoms in people suffering from respiratory tract diseases. VentMask can reduce and even eliminate particulate of outdoor pollution and also particulate trapped in air ducts of your hotel.

 

I hope you enjoyed learning a little about Finland and cupping. I hope you have a chance to travel there and try cupping for yourself or just look at some of the holistic spas in your area for a go at cupping. – Guy Rawson member of TheVentMaskTeam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweden the land of "Lagom"

Tell a Swede you’re learning Swedish, and within 30 seconds you’ll be sucked into a deep, nuanced explanation of what “lagom” means.

If you’re familiar with the story of Goldilocks and The Three Bears, you’ll understand lagom. It’s when things are not too big, not too small, not too hot, not too cold, not too much, not too little… when things are just right.

We are about to set off for the amazing country of Sweden, where you'll find things are just right!

How does one describe a country that has given the world the Vikings as well as the Nobel Peace Prize, little Swedish meatballs as well as Absolute Vodka, Volvo as well as ABBA, IKEA and H&M and…well, you get the idea.

Sweden is an incredible country that is often missed by those who only venture about Southern, Central or Eastern Europe. It has a spectacular landscape, incredible cities, an educated population (most of whom speak English) and a history and culture much older than ours in North America. Up north you’ll find a pastoral landscape and dense green forests, while to the south there are all those little red island cottages scattered across the Stockholm Archipelago. In between is a pastoral countryside filled with ancient Viking burial grounds, wonderful biking and hiking paths and a heartland in which tradition is still king. And in its cities you’ll enjoy first-rate cultural opportunities, upscale restaurants and wonderful shopping.

This is my top 5 of cool places to visit, but do not limit yourself to seeing only these places because there are too many to list on our blog today!

1. Stockholm is widely celebrated not only as the capital of Scandinavia, but also as one of the world’s most beautiful cities, built where lake meets sea, on fourteen islands, with ten centuries of history and culture. The Swedish Royal Capital is also widely known for its remarkable modernity, progressiveness and trend sensitivity in everything from lifestyle to fashion, design, food and drink and usage of new technology. The combination of magnificent scenery, ancient history and tradition, and a pervasive innovative spirit combine to give Stockholm its truly exceptional character and charm.

Stockholm

Stockholm

Swedes like to claim that Stockholm is a city that has all of the qualities and allures of a major international metropolis but few of its usual downsides. It’s a city where it’s easy and efficient to move around, where the air is fresh and the waters clean, with vast green areas permeating the city with plenty of space for everyone to roam freely. Few other places let you experience the pleasures and enchantments of nature, urban sophistication and cultural history, all in a single day.

Gothenburg

Gothenburg

2. City breaks don’t often come more perfect than they do in small, beautiful Gothenburg, the capital of West Sweden. Here you can discover quaint canals, the cobbled streets of historical Haga and countless green open spaces, including Sweden’s biggest botanical garden, boasting over 16,000 species. Immerse yourself in the Swedish lifestyle, soaking up the buzzing outdoor café culture with ‘fika’ (a break for coffee and a sweet bun) or indulge in the intriguing food markets, impressive museums and multitude of enticing restaurants — five with Michelin stars, including the most recent addition to the list, Thörnströms Kök. What’s more, there’s the city archipelago right on Gothenburg’s doorstep — easy to reach via a half-hour tram ride and a short passenger ferry trip.

 

Kosterhavet National Marine Park

Kosterhavet National Marine Park

3. Sweden’s first Marine National Park, Kosterhavet is centred around the car-free Koster Islands, only a two-hour drive up the lovely coast from Gothenburg. Once on the Kosters, you’ll see small fishing villages surrounded by an amazingly beautiful landscape, with many different plants and flowers. The appeal focuses on the unique seaside location, with beaches, rocky islands and the enchanting ‘Koster light’, which has inspired many artists on the island. You can rent bikes and enjoy a guided tour or a boat trip to see this marine wonderland. It’s the perfect environment for lobster safaris during the region’s renowned Shellfish Journey, as well as seal safaris, diving and sea kayaking.

 

4. No other city in Scandinavia and few cities in Europe can boast such a complete and ‘living’ picture of bygone days as Ystad. Many of the 300 half-timbered houses and other buildings bustle with restaurants and shops, and picturesque corners are alive with surprises and bargains.

Ystad

Ystad

Best-selling author Henning Mankell has put the city of Ystad on the world map with his detective stories about Police Superintendent Kurt Wallander, a bachelor who grapples with murder investigations and difficult criminal cases in Ystad and its surroundings and with his private life. The popular books have been adapted for the screen, and you can now go on a guided tour in an old veteran fire engine around Ystad and listen to stories about the films and the books.

Marstrand Island

Marstrand Island

5. Located only an hour’s drive from Gothenburg, Marstrand island is Sweden’s version of Hollywood as the playground of royalty and celebrities, boasting a rich, intriguing history. Enjoy an impressive vista from grand Carlsten’s Fortress, looking down upon the island’s colourful collection of wooden holiday homes and sailing boats of all shapes and sizes, alongside rugged rocks and the navy-blue ocean. Stay at the former residence of King Oscar II, Grand Hotel Marstrand, or the new Havshotellet Marstrand, just opposite the island, which has a superb spa (designed to reflect its natural coastal setting, with treatments to match) and a restaurant that lets guests watch the sunset over the island.

 

What about the air quality in Sweden? Emissions of air pollutants from road traffic have decreased both in Sweden and Europe, mainly thanks to improved cleaning and better fuels. Nevertheless, levels of air pollution are still high in many towns and cities, where they exceed EU air quality standards and national environmental objectives.

 

The research results confirm that it is emissions from Swedish road traffic that are most significant to the pollutants that cause problems in Swedish traffic environments. However only 1 out of 15 tested cities in Sweden didn’t meet  European air quality standards. So I would say they have great air quality. However the Indoor Air Quality suffers many of the same deficiencies that other large cities have due to dust and pollen being trapped in HVAC systems in hotels and homes.

 

Well what about traditional Swedish medicines?

The Saami are the indigenous people of northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Kola Peninsula. They have been hunters, fishers and reindeer herders, pursuing a nomadic style of life. Because of their way of life in the sub arctic and arctic environment they have developed a tradition of folk medicine, which to a large extent differs from the rest of Europe.

 

Medicine from animals came largely from bear and reindeer. Different parts of the animal were effective against different complaints. Bears were such powerful animals that it was enough, for example, to hold a pad of a bear paw against the cheek to cure a toothache. Pure bear fat was used as a salve or mixed as the base for a salve with other ingredients. It was believed that the bear was an animal endowed with a great power. Different kinds of fat were also used from the reindeer. The fat that was boiled out of the hoofs was considered to be extra good as medicine. For example, in small portions it was given as a laxative for infants. The fat of the hoof was used as a salve, just like the bear fat. Today we know that in Japan they use reindeer antlers as an aphrodisiac. The Saami made bullion soup with reindeer antlers, which was drunk in case of a bad cold. A special tendon from the back legs of the reindeer was kept and used to tie around a hurting extremity as a remedy for pain.

imgres-3.jpg

I thought this was super cool !....Ring så spelar vi (Call us and we’ll play) is a long-time favorite radio show in Sweden. As a matter of fact, it’s been airing since 1968 on Saturday mornings at 07:03-09:03, and is the radio program with the most listeners in the country. Recently, the listeners were asked to call in with their best household remedies, and since we’re fast approaching the cold and flu season, Nordstjernan wants to share some of these remedies for you to try.

“A tablespoon of olive oil will take away your cough. I’ve tried it several times on the kids; cough syrup is no longer needed.” Martina Karlsson

“A peeled garlic clove in your ear if you have an ear infection is very effective.” Catrine Månsson in Hörby (another listener added that it is important to wrap the garlic clove in a piece of cotton, don’t put it directly in your ear)

“Dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and gargle if you feel you’re about to get a sore throat. If you need to sing, then add a small piece of butter and let it melt in your mouth and swallow.” Curt Axelsson, Myresjö

“Ginger: as an aid for sore joints. Take a tablespoon in a cup with filmjölk (plain yogurt might be an alternative in the U.S.). Garlic against a cold (at least 10 cloves).” Leffe on Söderön, Östhammar

“When you have a cold, dissolve 1 teaspoon ascorbic acid in a glass of water and drink. Repeat 2-3 times a day.” Birgitta Bengtsson

“My home remedy for colds: Dissolve two throat lozenges into boiling water in a big cup. Squeeze half a lemon and pour in the juice. Add a splash of whisky and honey. Will tickle your sinuses in a nice way.” Helene Gustavsson, Göteborg

“Cough syrup: Slice a piece of ginger, add 1 teaspoon thyme and 1 cup of milk. Let boil 10 minutes then strain. Drink three times a day.” Lena Landy

“My grandfather always took a sugar cube with a glass of milk for his heart burn. Works for me, too.” Annica in Öjebyn

“My mother often had boils on her legs, and when antibiotics didn’t help she took a piece of bacon rind and put on top of the boil.” Birgitta Ström in Gävle

Ok well there are some destination ideas and some really cool info on traditional Swedish health remedies.

Wishing you the best health and safe travels-TheVentMaskTeam

 

 

Dasvidaniya...off to find Russian folk remedies.

Ladies and Gentlemen please fasten your seatbelts and bring your seatbacks to the upright position we are taking off Russia for our next International Travel Blog.

Russia is the largest country in the world. Its area is 17 098.242 thousand square km. The state is located in Eastern Europe and northern Asia.

From north to south the country stretches for over 4,000 km; from west to east – for almost 10,000 km. Russia borders on 16 countries. In the southeast - with North Korea (DPRK), in the south with China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Georgia; in the southwest - with Ukraine, in the west with Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Norway; the Kaliningrad Region borders on Lithuania and Poland.

Being that it is such a huge country I thought I would find a few things that I found interesting about Russia instead of just one major destination. Here are things that are really interesting …

Sochi where the last winter Olympics were held. Sochi on the Black Sea is a great winter sports destination and, in fact, hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics. Skis aside, Sochi also hosts the Russian Formula 1 Grand prix and will be a host city for the 2018 Fifa World Cup. Despite winter snow, Sochi offers a subtropical climate and great beaches, making it a key part of the Russian Riviera. The resort city makes a great summer (and winter) getaway for Russians. Strolling along the pedestrian-only sea embankment is a pleasant experience. Environmentally conscious travelers may want to visit the Caucasus Biosphere Reserve. Sochi also is home to the area’s northern most tea plantations.

Sochi

Sochi

 

The Golden Ring strings together several cities outside of Moscow that fill the senses with awe. Picturesque countryside’s filled with cherry orchards, quaint cottages, onion-shaped domes and iconic churches that contain the country’s oldest art make this region a special place to visit.

The Golden Ring

The Golden Ring

 

Russia’s second largest city may be known as Leningrad, but most people refer to it by its birth name, St. Petersburg. Founded in 1703 by Tsar Peter the Great, St. Petersburg was once the imperial capital of Russia; its name was changed to Leningrad in 1924. Because of its location on the Neva River, which feeds into the Gulf of Finland and then into the Baltic Sea, the city is a popular northern cruise destination and one of the most popular places to visit in Russia.

 

Saint Petersburg

Saint Petersburg

As the capital of Russia, Moscow is the most important city in Russia, but not just for political reasons alone. This city of more than 12 million is also well known for its artistic endeavors, including ballet, symphonies and art. Onion-shaped domes of historic churches fill the skyline. The stately Kremlin and impressive Red Square, one of the largest squares in the world, are sights not to be missed, as are statues of Lenin and Stalin, controversial leaders in the 20th century.

Moscow

Moscow

 

I also decided to check out some unorthodox destinations that those of us who like the odd and out of the norm kinda stuff.

Dargavs….The village of Dargavs, or the City of the Dead, has an ancient cemetery where people that lived in the valley buried their loved ones along with their clothes and belongings. The valley stretches for 17 kilometers, and the cemetery contains almost 100 ancient stone crypts. Ossetians say that the cemetery helps them understand how people lived 400 years ago. Archeologists, also, are very interested in exploring the site more completely, as there have been interesting items found that have attracted some scientific attention.

Dargavs...City Of The Dead

Dargavs...City Of The Dead

Bunker-42…There’s an amazing tunnel system snaking beneath the streets of Moscow, leading to a secret cold war fortress once code named “Bunker-42.” Designed and built after the first series of nuclear tests by the Soviet Union, these tests revealed that the optimum depth for the bunker’s silo must be no higher than 165 feet beneath ground in order to survive nuclear fallout intact. The task for the builders was enormous: construct a gigantic structure beneath the city streets without damaging Moscow’s existing infrastructure of streets and communication pathways. To do so would alert the public and innumerable unknown spies to the existence of the bunker, thereby rendering the entire thing useless.

Lena’s Pillars…Lena’s Pillars are a natural rock formation which was made a World Heritage site in 2006. Numerous fossils and ancient organisms can be found at these pillars, and the area is important for its fossil record of the explosion of life in the lower Cambrian. It has also been the site of many mega-fauna fossils such as mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius Blum), bison (Bison priscus Boj), woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis Blum), Lena horse (Equus lenensis Russ), and reindeer (Rangifer tarandus L). Evidence of ancient human life can be seen from the rock paintings and manuscripts from the area.  However this trip will cost you an average of $800 since there are no other airlines competing for this route. Upon arrival in Yakutsk, you will learn that you can only get to Lena’s Pillars by boat. Supposedly this is only a half a day’s trip upriver; in fact the trip with takes 3 days with a local guide and costs $500.  So if you go you better REALLY enjoy this one!

 

Lena's "expensive" Pillars...

Lena's "expensive" Pillars...

There are so many cultural and historical sites to see in Russia theres no way to pick just one to highlight.

 

But what about Russian “folk remedies”?

 

Many Russians, including doctors, are knowledgeable about medicinal herbs. The most popular herbs in Russia include St. John’s wort, chamomile, eucalyptus, Valeriana, coltsfoot, sage, mint, bur marigold, stinging nettle and cranberry leaves.

St. John’s wort decoction is used for treating colds, stomach problems, skin diseases and kidney ailments. Mint, mellissa, motherwort and Valeriana are used to treat nervous system problems. Camomile is known for its antiseptic qualities, and is used to treat sore throats and diarrhea. Stinging nettles are used to stem bleeding, and decoction of the weed is applied to the scalp to strengthen hair.

Bur marigold is known as an effective measure against skin allergies, especially for babies and small children. Russian mothers may add decoction of bur marigold to a baby’s bath if the child has skin problems.

Fresh cabbage leaves are known for their anti-inflammatory effect. When breast-feeding mothers have inflamed nipples, cabbage leaves are believed to ease the problem.

Other Russians rely on the healing effect of mumiyo — a natural blend of organic and non-organic soluble substances that originate in cracks between rocks. Mumiyo is used to treat wounds, gastric ulcers and headaches, and to strengthen the immune system.

 

Another Russian medical hit is the banya — a steam bath house. The Russian banya differs from the Finnish dry sauna in that it provides damp heat. In the banya, people use veniki — bunches of birch or oak twigs and leaves — to thrash each other in order to improve circulation.

The banya is not just about getting clean. It is believed to have a medicinal effect on the skin, lungs, nasal passages, joints and metabolism. Some people visit the banya regularly and swear that their health improves after doing so, and many believe that sickly children can become much healthier if they visit the banya on a weekly basis.

 

Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Volgograd, as well as other major industrial and population centers, are the highest concentrations of air pollution. Overall, over 200 cities in Russia exceed pollution limits, and this is increasing as more vehicles appear on the roads. Make sure to take your allergies medicines and other precautions like VentMask filters to ensure your air quality no matter where you visit in this grand country.

 

Wishing you safe travels and the best health-TheVentMaskTeam

 

 

 

 

Ancient Chinese Secret...not any more! Lets travel to Beijing!!

I hope you enjoyed our Presidents Day blog and learned a little bit and laughed a little bit too.

Back to our International Travel blog we are going to travel westward to Beijing, China.  Bei means northern, and jing means capital.  So Beijing literally means the north capital and is the center of the nation's politics and international exchanges, and it is also China's second largest city after Shanghai.  Breathing Beijing's air for six average days is the equivalent of smoking one cigarette.  If you've only ever heard about Beijing's pollution on the news, you might be concerned about the air. However, the city has plenty of great air days, and the situation has improved a lot even in the last few years. In fact, breathing Beijing's air for six average days is the equivalent of smoking one cigarette, so you can decide what precautions you wish to take to protect yourself while visiting this historically and culturally rich area.

Here are my top 5 interesting things about China.

The Great Wall

The Great Wall

1.     The history sites in Beijing include the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square (largest city square in the world), and the Forbidden City.

Peking Opera

Peking Opera

2.     Beijing opera or Peking opera, a traditional form of Chinese theater, is an important part of the Chinese culture. This art form consists of a combination of song, spoken dialogue, and codified action sequences. People practice their opera singing at parks around the city as well as in opera houses.

3.     The Forbidden City (the huge palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties) consists of 800 buildings, and it is a very popular place for tourists.

Forbidden City

Forbidden City

4.     Beijing was the capital to 6 notable dynasties from over 21 centuries ago, which is why there are so many historical sites to explore. Here is the full list, with links for more information:

221 BC: Yan State Capital, Warring States Period

1271: first a national capital for the Yuan Dynasty

1402: Became Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) capital

1644: Qing Dynasty capital

1912: Republic of China capital

October 1, 1949: People's Republic of China inaugurated by Mao Zedong

5.    Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that includes a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbs.

Traditionally, the goal of all TCM is to promote the healthy flow of qi (pronounced “chee”), or vital energy that travels through the meridians of our bodies. Modern practitioners use metaphorical terms such as “wind invasion” or weakened “wei” or defensive qi to describe and to diagnose allergies. The treatments are designed to treat both the root of the disease as well as the symptoms. Acupuncture can treat allergies by controlling the body’s inflammatory reactions to allergens. Herbs can also help with reduce the inflammatory reaction as well as desensitize the body to allergens. For example, the herb Astragalus, or Huang Qi as it is known in TCM, can help modulate immunities. Even simple herbal teas that contain dried chrysanthemum flowers and cassia seeds can help lower histamine production. Many practitioners also recommend a flavonoid compound called quercetin to reduce histamine production.

Ideally, treatments with a TCM practitioner begin about four to six weeks before the start of the allergy season. This allows time to build immunities to allergens. Of course, if your allergy season has already begun or if you are allergies all year round, then starting treatment immediately can still provide great relief. And if you are currently taking allergy medications, then acupuncture and herbs can help wean you from them.

 You can find many licensed practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine right here in the US if you decide that TCM is working for you. Simply search for and choose from acupuncturist and herbologists trained in traditional Chinese Medicine that are near you.  

Oh WAIT I forgot one last thing I love about Beijing…. you have got to try the Peking Duck it’s like nothing else.  Enjoy!!

Wishing you the best health and safe travels! - TheVentMaskTeam