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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Read More!

THE #1 BEST THING YOU CAN DO FOR YOURSELF.  We hear a lot about self-care.  It's important.  Gone are the days when Mom would bring chicken soup to your room and Dad would fix your bicycle tire.  We are (through no fault of our own) the Adults now and we must take care of ourselves.  I know, it can be quite alarming sometimes to realize we are the Adults and no one is going to take care of you -- but you.

Taking care of yourself sounds easy.  But do you schedule regular doctor and dentist appointments for yourself?  Do you stretch in the morning, take vitamins, and floss your teeth?  Pretty basic stuff, but when pressed for time, we tend to put everyone and everything before our own self-care.

Try building in some time for things YOU want to do.  It's not selfish, it's soothing.  Your parents would approve.

Going to the gym or exercising in your own way should be a top priority.  We talked about this last week.  Also, making time for friends is high on the importance list.

The number one thing you can do for yourself, in my opinion, is Read.  If you already love to read, then it's just a matter of finding a comfy chair and investing the time.  If you're not a reader, get thee to the Library and find books you like.  Or maybe try books on tape, I love to listen to audiobooks while driving.  The best ones, in my opinion, for the ones read by the author.  I read so much I would go broke if I purchased every book that I read. That's why I love the library. You can even download e-books onto your Kindle reader at the library.

I just love to read and it has been that way all my life.  I could spend entire days and nights reading books, if I had the time and the domestic staff of Downtown Abbey.  Instead, I carve out the time after work and on weekends.  I especially love adventure and mystery books that take me to new and exotic lands.  Or back to other periods in history.  A love of reading can protect your brain from Alzheimer’s disease, slash stress levels, encourage positive thinking, and fortify friendships, according to Reader's Digest.

And really, with all the "noise" out there in the world, isn't it wonderful to put it all on hold and retreat into the world of whatever book you're reading?

So to all my bookish friends out there, I say "Bookworms Unite!"  Here's to library bags filled with books, comfy chairs, hot tea and books so good the pages practically turn themselves.  I'm almost done with "Before the Fall," by Noah Hawley.  Got a great book recommendation?  I'd love to hear it!  💛📚 Mrs. Lo

Friday, February 3, 2017

"But You're So Skinny ..."

BUT YOU’RE SO SKINNY!  Here is a newsflash, being “skinny” does not mean that you are healthy.  I found this out the hard way.  All my life I have had higher than normal cholesterol.  Which my doctors all ignored because on the outside, I’m the picture of good health.  I have good readings when it comes to everything else (blood pressure, resting heart rate, blood sugar, triglycerides).  But I am getting up there in years (I am 51). I have a new female doctor who told me my cholesterol was too high, and that I needed to either get it down through diet and fitness or go on medicine.  I really did not want to go on medicine.

    February is American Heart Month.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease.  Heart disease can lead to heart attack and stroke.  And the leading causes of heart disease are Smoking (including secondhand smoke), high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and blood vessel inflammation (according to the pamphlet my doctor gave me).  Carrie Fisher and Mary Tyler Moore recently died of a heart attack; as did Alan Thicke.  The threat is real; and more prevalent than cancer.
    My cholesterol reading overall three months ago was 245.  My LDL or “bad cholesterol” was 171, which is what worried my doctor.  I really made it by life’s work to get that cholesterol down.  Ideally, she wanted my cholesterol under 200, my HDL or good cholesterol is supposed to be above 60.  And she wanted my Bad cholesterol under 115.
I switched up my diet.  Cholesterol comes from animals, so anything that comes from an animal, I either eliminated or really cut back on.  That meant no dairy at all (good bye half and half, I love you!!); only chicken and fish, lots of whole grains like brown rice, and lots and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.  No more pizza or lasagna!   For snacks, I ate only bananas, dried fruit and Kind bars. I eat 24 bananas a week.  And tons of water.  I started taking supplements and foods that were anti inflammatory (like Tumeric).
I already belonged to Gold’s Gym Newburgh but I joined the “Alloy” program there, which is additional classes with circuit training.  I committed to go to at least 2 classes a day at Gold’s, usually a CX (core training) or Alloy class, followed by a yoga class.  I started doing yoga and meditating every day, either at the gym or at home.  I convinced myself during meditation that I could lower my cholesterol.  Then, after coming home from work, I got on my indoor rowing maching and rowed at least 2 miles every day.
My family was not only supportive, they were like having Jillian Michaels living in the house (“Put down that cookie, Mom, do you want HEART DISEASE??!!).  The ladies in my boat were incredibly supportive, we have an ongoing group text that never stops, and they pushed my to work on my cholesterol.  They went to the gym and to yoga with me.  We did a virtual rowing challenge on our indoor rowing machines.   I told all the instructors at Gold’s what I was trying to do and they gave me diet and fitness advice and lots of support as well.
Soooo … after three months I had my cholesterol tested again (my doctor orders a blood test).  Yes, there was that deeply twisted part of me that was secretly hoping my cholesterol didn’t change, so I could stop working so hard and watch Netflix in my pajamas.  But that would mean taking medicine and I really didn’t want to do that.  The nurse called me with the results.  My cholesterol had gone down from 245 to 231.  My good cholesterol went up from 47 to 51.  And my bad cholesterol went down from 178 to 150.  “Whatever you’re doing, keep it up,” is what Dr. Park had told the nurse to tell me.  I was elated!  I’m not where I need to be yet but I know that if I keep at it, I will get there.  And I am one pig-headed human being, so I will not stop until my numbers are where they need to be.  
I hope everyone will get their cholesterol tested when you go for your annual physical.  And if your doctor recommends medicine then by all means take it.  In my case, I was borderline and my doctor gave me the opportunity to try to bring my cholesterol down myself.  And now this is my life.  I will never stop my fitness and healthy diet routine because I have lost too many people in my family to heart disease and stroke.  If it’s at all possible, I would like to be there for my kids’ graduations, and weddings, and all that good stuff.  And knowing I can get there tastes a lot better than pizza.
So get out there and get moving!  For more information on heart disease and prevention, visit:
For more information about Gold’s Gym and the Alloy program visit:
And for more information on how to join the rowing programs of the Newburgh Rowing Club, visit
Photo from Hudson Valley Winter Erg Sprints, 01/29/17

Friday, January 6, 2017

Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas, Hawaii: A Mrs. Lo Travel Blog

Aulani Resort, view of the beach from one of the pools
We have just returned from a one-week stay at Aulani, the Disney Vacation Club resort in Honolulu, Hawaii. As Disney Vacation Club members, Aulani is one of our home resorts (our other home resort is the Grand Floridian Villas).  This is our second trip to Aulani; the last trip was in July 2015. This trip was from December 26 to New Year’s Day, then we had to get the kids back to school!
Lobby during holidays

1. FLYING FROM THE EAST COAST.   We live in New York state and it is a very long flight from our home to Honolulu.  We like to break it up by staying on the West Coast for one night and then flying out to Hawaii the next day.   We flew to San Francisco, saw a few sights, had dinner and stayed at the Westin San Francisco Airport (there are two Westins in San Francisco). I highly recommend the Westin San Francisco Airport it is very convenient and positively sumptuous after a long flight.
2.  RENTAL CARS -  I would highly recommend getting a rental car for a few reasons. Unlike the Disney magical express in Orlando, there is no shuttle from Honolulu airport to Aulani.   It's nice to have a car all week so that you can go do excursions on your own. Disney offers excursions from Aulani but they are pricey and you are stuck doing them on the timeframe offered. You can also use your rental vehicle to go get groceries from Safeway, more on that later.  We like Alamo, they also have a rental office at Aulani.  DVC members get free parking, I think it’s otherwise $25.00 per day.
Aulani Robes, 2 per room
Aulani Studio Villa with Island view

3.  THE ACCOMODATIONS.   The villas at Aulani are simply beautiful.  We were on the waiting list for a one bedroom but they got snapped up right away. We were in a studio with an island view.  It was fine for our active family of two parents and two boys. Since we are out of the Villa pretty much all day it really didn't matter to us but a studio might be a little small for a family of four if you plan to spend time in the room (although this is Hawaii, who’s staying in?).  We were in the Ewa tower and had a great view of the palm trees and the gardens. We had a nice veranda where we went out and had our breakfast every morning.  There is a full size bed for the parents and a pull out sofa for the kids. The bathroom was very luxurious. I loved the rain shower and the custom robes.  There is a small kitchen but it was fine for our needs. We like to have breakfast in our room as well as snacks. The kitchen comes stocked with the usual dishes plates utensils, as well as a sink refrigerator microwave and toaster .   As with all DVC villas, you get the full kitchen when you get a one bedroom or bigger villa.  For those of you who are not DVC members, here’s the main benefit:  your stay at Aulani and any other DVC resort using your points is FREE!  So we only paid for airfare and food.

Aulani Laniwai Spa
Mrs. Lo taking Ocean Fitness class
Paddleboards at Aulani

4.  LANIWAI SPA AND FITNESS.  Definitely get a massage at the Spa, the place is absolutely magical!  I had no idea how big the spa is, it takes up a lot of real estate that you can’t see from the rest of the resort.  Get there early for your tour.  You can hang out in their spa area outdoors it’s magnificent.  Outdoor chaise lounges under palm trees, whirlpools; a hot pool to plunge into next to a cold pool plunge; special massage showers, and an exfoliation station where they make an exfoliant for you -- I chose plumeria.  Indoors there are locker rooms, relaxation rooms, a fountain, and beautiful showers with everything you need to get ready for the day from Hawaiian sea salts to sunscreen.  Also a steam room with peppermint and eucalyptus towels.  I had Sean as my massage therapist, he was fantastic, he used the hot stones and my muscles have never felt better!  Also, get the Fitness Class schedule for the week.  I took a class every morning.  I loved the Beach Body boot camp, Sunrise Yoga, Paddleboard Yoga and a Class called Ocean Fitness which is basically Pilates on a paddleboard (they’re anchored).  The classes all take place on the beach or the water.  Some of them are an extra charge like the Yoga but most are free.  I took at least one class every day.

Aulani Beach at sunset
One of the pools at Aulani
View from the bridge

5.  THE AMENITIES.  All beaches in Hawaii are public so anyone can go on any beach, no hotel “owns” any beach.  However, only Aulani guests can use the beach chairs and equipment.  The beach at Aulani is on the small side but the protected little bay is just right for families.  I wish they would drop the paddleboarding.  It’s too small for paddleboarding (like swimming in your bathtub).  Perfect for swimming and cooling off; and I like to hop on over to the beaches at the hotels next door and use their beach areas to swim in as they are a lot less crowded.  There are pools galore at Aulani, including 2 adults only pools as well as hot tubs.  It’s nice to go over there when the beach gets too crowded.  Ideal times at the beach are before 11 am and after 4 pm.  In the meantime, head to the pools or go off the resort to see the sights.  There is a small snorkeling area at Aulani, perfect for kids.  We all loved the Lazy River which is quite long, and also the slide, which is quite fun.  There is a community room and for younger kids, Aunty’s Beach house.
Photo opp with Moana

6.  THE CHARACTERS.  You can dial a certain extension from your room every morning to get the locations of the characters and you can use Photopass or take your own photos.  On any given day you can catch Mickey and Minnie, Donald and Moana.  Other characters we met were Duffy, Goofy and Pluto.

Mahi Mahi salad at Off the Hook

7.  THE FOOD.  Always get your Refillable mug.  They’re up to $18.99 but we must have filled each mug 50 times at the free refill station so worth the money and they make a great souvenir.  Definitely go to Safeways or another grocery store and get some groceries to get you through the week.  I always get a case of water (otherwise $3.00 per bottle) and things like fruit ($3 each) and bagels ($4 each at Ula Ula).  Buying Breakfast food like cereal and milk, snack food and PB and J will save you a small fortune.  For breakfast at the resort check out Ula Ula Cafe or Walilana Coffee Bar.  I would hit the Coffee Bar after Yoga or Pilates every morning and just chill out by the pool in the morning.  It was just me and the barrista; everyone else was still in their room, I loved it.  We love Off the Hook for lunch, I got the Field Green salad with Mahi Mahi almost every day.  The rest of the family liked the food at Ula Ula Cafe for lunch or you can get poolside service.  For dinner we loved the buffet at Makahiki, $45.00 pp for adults, $21.00 pp for kids 9 and under.  Mostly, we went off the resort for dinner.  Check out the food trucks on the North Shore, especially Giovanni’s famous shrimp truck (Food Channel famous).  They have everything from Fish taco trucks to Korean BBQ trucks.  Great cheap food all over the North shore and also Chinatown in Honolulu.  Also, Bravo’s and Anna Miller by Pearl Harbor.  In Waikiki Beach area, checkout favorites the Hula Grill and Duke’s.  Great food and great views of the beach.
Activities at Kai wa a Luau
Kai Wa a Dancers, Luau

8.  THE LUAU.  Ka Wa’A.  Well, the DVC Boards are all over the place.  Some people love the new luau, some really don’t like it.  We loved it.  The pros: it’s right at the resort, first of all.  There is a lot of history, storytelling, and culture.  The food is delicious.  Cons:  it’s not your traditional luau. There is wonderful dancing but there is a mix of dancing, singing and storytelling.  Your typical luau over at Paradise Cove has more dancing, more theatrics and more of the fire throwing that people expect.  Paradise Cove also has a beautiful view of the ocean and is less expensive.  However, the place is a bit of a dump and the food is mediocre.  We really liked Ka Wa’A and would do it again.  $129.00 pp for General Admission, VIP was sold out but I think that was $169.00 per person.  We got there an hour early and were at the table right behind VIP so we had great seats.  The Starlit Hui Luau (free show with Mickey and some hula dancers) is now gone, sorry to say!
Photo pass photographer taking photos of boys

9.  PHOTOPASS - get it and get the CD.  They have photographers all over including at the beach at sunset, with the characters, in the lobby and at the entrance to Ewa.

10.  MERCHANDISE .  Don’t forget to show your DVC membership card and Photo ID and get  your 10% discount.

Paddleboarding North Shore

11.  EXCURSIONS.  Disney will take you on excursions but we like to book our own.  Between the last trip and this one, we have been to:  Pearl harbor (give yourself 1-2 days), Waimea Bay (a must see), Paddle boarding on the North shore, Surfing lessons on the North shore (in a protected bay); the Kona macadamia nut farm, the museums in Honolulu including the Royal Palace, shopping all over including the Swap Meet at Aloha Stadium Wednesdays and Sundays; Waikiki Beach, and Chinatown.

With Micky at Character Breakfast Makahiki
With Pluto Character breakfast Makahiki 

12.  CHARACTER BREAKFASTS - what can I say, don’t miss them!  We went to two.

Well, that’s it for now, time to button down the itinerary for our next trip:  the Grand Floridian Villas in February followed by Vero Beach Resort.  We love being Disney Vacation Club members, Happy 25 years!!

Mrs. Lo