How to be Italian

How to be Italian book cover

Maria Pasquale: Immersed in Life

Learn Language, Culture, and Etiquette Tips

How to be Italian book cover
Maria Pasquale’s Italian guide to the culture, food, mindset, and language is the ultimate how-to book for wannabes.

“How to be Italian” by Author Maria Pasquale is the ultimate travel and culture guide. Through Pasquale’s lens, you’ll walk away with the essential tools and knowledge you’ll need to know about Italy should you want to reinvent yourself as an Italian. She presents detailed information about the country’s food, language, traditions, and culture in ways that only someone of a deeply rooted Italian heritage can offer.

Planning a trip to Italy?

Learn why Italians live the way they do and the rewards that come from a more carefree and passionately unhurried lifestyle.

Pasquale is an award-winning food and travel writer, and journalist who regularly contributes to USA Today, CNN, Condé Nast, and The Telegraph. She was raised in Melbourne but lives in Rome where she reaps the rewards of living in one of the world’s most exciting cities.

Pasquale wrote, “With a country that loves love and believes in il destino, how could it not have become the greatest romance of my life?”

Why family is so important to Italian culture
Italian life revolves around family and taking time to enjoy life.

More to come from Pasquale in an upcoming interview. Visit her website for additional information.

In the meantime, you can purchase her book through using my affiliate link at no additional charge to you.

No Comments
African Animals African Tours Lifestyle

My Kids Met the Tallest Land Mammal

Giraffes of East Africa Seen While on a Safari

The Adventure of a Lifetime

And Why it’s Dangerous for Giraffes to Pee During the Dry Seasons

A Travel Feature by Lori Appling-Allen, Focused Escapes

Gather your kids around to read this guest post, “My Kids Met the Tallest Land Mammal,” by Lori Appling-Allen, Focused Escapes founder.

For Thanksgiving 2021, we traded turkey and mashed potatoes for elephant sightings and homemade baobab juice in Tanzania. With five families in tow, we set out on the adventure of a lifetime for both us adults and our kids. 

We spent three days exploring Serengeti National Park then transferred to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. After a couple of days at the crater, we ended our day at the Tarangire National Park, sleeping inside the park and waking up just steps away from friendly monkey families starting their day just like us.  A pride of lions with tiny baby cubs passed by our tent while we watched safely from the window.

We spent our days bouncing in 4x4s, meeting elephants, giraffes, zebra, and wildebeests.  We saw large herds of hippo and Cape buffalo…a half dozen cheetahs, leopard – you name it, we saw it!

One of our favorite days was when we learned that giraffe pee drips and sticks like honey. 

In dry seasons, it’s dangerous for a giraffe to drink. Watering holes are where the predators hang out because they know their prey need to drink eventually. So, a giraffe will typically drink once and then hold her pee all day.   

By the time she relieves herself, her body has absorbed all the water it can. What comes out is thick and sticky like honey. Not watery like other animals who don’t need to bend down so far and put themselves in such a compromised position to drink.

Tanzania, you might know, is home to the one and only Masai giraffe – one of the tallest land mammals on the planet, second only to the Rothchild in Kenya (though Kenya requires a yellow-fever shot to enter and Tanzania doesn’t – one of the many reasons we chose to bring the kids to Tanzania over Kenya).

Standing on my seat and taking her picture through the roof, this girl towers above me… 

My Kids Met the Tallest Land Mammal

Her legs are almost as big as our vehicle… 

A Trip to Africa is not a glorified zoo experience.

People who have never been to Africa think this trip is a glorified zoo experience but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

While writing this, I asked my family to recall what made our trip to Tanzania so special. Aside from the overall giddy feeling you get while experiencing something truly fantastic — we concluded that it has to be the fact that a single country has such a supreme combination of so many things – wildlife, culture, food, accommodations, scenery, hospitality, language and wonder. 

The kids are still talking about it.  It marked them in a way a trip to a zoo never does.

They marvel at how close the animals got to our cars… the creatures big and small that they’d never even heard of (like the kori bustard)…  the amazing guides who taught them how to make baobab juice and medicine from herbs.  They smiled nonstop as the 4x4s ran through mud puddles and over wild bushes.  They called out new words to each other in Swahili and made little insider jokes about how to remember a phrase so they could repeat it to our guides later.  

I designed this trip for my family and our friends, but it was such an amazing success I now take other families who are willing to adventure to the other side of the globe with their kids or grandkids.

It’s fun when multiple families get together and the kids make new friends with other kids on the trip. It allows the adults to have an adult conversation by the fire while the kids behave like kids on the deck.

If you see your family exploring Tanzania with our group, claim the spot on my website right here. 

Publisher’s Note:

Lori Appling-Allen, Focused Escapes founder, crafts unforgettable trips for 10-12 travelers to destinations that open your eyes to this beautiful planet, teach you new skills, and leave you craving to see more of our magnificent world.

Want to read more family trip stories? Read a fly-fishing story here.

No Comments
Expo 2020 Dubai Lifestyle Music and Technology

Keiichiro Shibuya

Expo 2020 Dubai Jubilee Stage at EXPO 2022 Dubai

Exploring the Border Between Humans and Technology

On the Road Home from EXPO2020 Dubai

Japanese Musician and Composer Shares His Music with the World

Keiichiro Shibuya Image Courtesy of Expo 2020 Dubai
“Android is a mirror.
Music is a mirror.
It is a reflection of yourselves.” Photos courtesy of EXPO 2020 Dubai.

Keiichiro Shibuya creates music that can be shared with anyone internationally.

Shibuya, an acclaimed Japanese composer, and musician brought his global vision to EXPO2020 Dubai, a World Expo, hosted by Dubai in the United Arab Emirates that ran from October 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022. Shining a bright light on Japan’s musical and technological accomplishments was one of his goals throughout the six-month event.

“I would be happy if people knew that this kind of thing came from a Japanese person,” Shibuya said.

Keiichiro Shibuya

Shibuya performed the Android Opera “MIRROR,” an international and cross-cultural collaboration between the Humanoid Robot, Buddhist chants in Japan, and NSO Symphony Orchestra (UAE) at the expo on March 2, 2022.

If you missed Shibuya’s Expo debut; at center stage, the android, Alter3, improvises and sings a text created by AI (artificial intelligence) surrounded by four monks singing Buddhist chants that back 1,200 years. Surrounded by a local UAE (United Arab Emirates) orchestra, the musical piece evokes the unification of piano, computer, and voice. Watch his performance here.

Combining Music and Theatre

Keiichiro Shibuya creates his music to explore the border between human beings and technology with a broad range of works such as piano solos, electronic music, and opera.

Keiichiro Shibuya Alter3
Shibuya conducted the Alter 3 orchestra, a humanoid robot, created by Osaka University roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro and Mixi Corporation. The robot is embedded with an artificial neural network developed by artificial life researchers at the University of Tokyo.

Technology and Tradition = Diversity and Tolerance

You might ask how the diverse audience received the fusion of tradition, modern, and the future all on one stage.

“I believe that Dubai has such diversity and tolerance to accept these strong contrasts,” Shibuya said via an email interview. “By the way, Dubai Expo was my first experience of Expo – which was amazing.”

Android Opera
Shibuya’s Android Opera

And performing at the EXPO offered Shibuya many opportunities to experience a multitude of cultures. What contrast stands out?

He explained,

“…Dubai is much more international. Everyone speaks English and many nationalities there. Japan has to learn so many things from Dubai. I was surprised that my friends in Dubai know about the Japanese culture and architects very well…”

When he wasn’t performing, Shibuya spent his free time sightseeing and taking in Dubai, a Persian Gulf hub known for its luxury lifestyle, lively nightlife, and state-of-the-art architecture.

“I visited my local Emirati twins’ friends and stayed at their fireplace. I went to Women’s Day by Cartier at (the) expo (the 15th Anniversary of the Cartier Women’s Initiative) and the Dubai art fair (Art Dubai) for my endeavor of inspiration,” he said. “Of course, I also went to Dubai mall for shopping like Balenciaga and Celine. Also visited The Museum of the Future and had a meeting with them so I’m wishing to make concerts there.”

Expo 2020 Dubai Jubilee Stage at EXPO 2022 Dubai
The opera house

EXPO2020 Dubai Takeaway

As he looks to expand his touring schedule internationally, Shibuya said he is especially interested in exploring new opportunities in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States, and invites promoters to reach out to him.

“So if you have any requests for performances, please contact us. This production is not for a one-time Expo. I want to perform it again in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States,” Shibuya said. “I will keep upgrading it, just as I have done with other productions. We are especially looking to expand like touring in the Middle East.”

An Eye on the Future

What’s in store for the future? Shibuya noted that as his research and collaboration with AI & Android continues as his key focus, in April 2022, his Android and music laboratory will be established at a Japanese university, and he plans to unveil his new Android Opera at the 2025 Osaka Expo.

He added,

“We would like to do a tour of this MIRROR by then. There will always be an android in the lab, and from there we will travel around the world…”


But his accomplishments don’t end there. In August 2021, Shibuya released a new opera, “Super Angels” with Conductor, Kazushi Ono, and Writer, Masahiko Shimada, at the New National Theater, Japan. In the last 15 years, Shibuya has collaborated and developed stereophonic sound with various artists and scientists such as Hiroshi Sugimoto at the Palais de Tokyo in France, Hiroshi Ishiguro, a robotic researcher, Jérémie Bélingard, Etoile of Opéra de Paris, and Takashi Ikegami.

Shibuya also established ATAK, a music label featuring cutting-edge electro-acoustic music compositions by various artists from around the world, and he also recently composed the music for the September 2020 film, “Midnight Swan,” starring Tsuyoshi Kusanagi. His music score earned him awards at the 75th Mainichi Film Awards and the 30th Japan Movie Critics Award.

September 2019 brought the Buddhist Chant: Shomyo + Electronic sounds, “Heavy Requiem” through collaboration with Japanese traditional monk, Eizen Fujiwara, at Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria, and in 2018, he released the Android Opera ”Scary Beauty,” a humanoid android in which AI conducts a human orchestra and sings with them. Shibuya released the Vocaloid Opera, “THE END,” in 2012, starring Hatsune Miku, without any human beings.

Publisher’s Note

EXPO 2020 Dubai offered artists like Keiichiro Shibuya the stage to entertain and enlighten and revisit the past and experience the future from October 2021 to March 31, 2022. If you weren’t able to attend the expo but would like to learn more, visit

Who designed the EXPO 2020 Dubai Japan Pavilion? Learn more about the Japanese architect behind this magnificent welcome center.

Add EXPO2025 Osaka to your calendar. Visit the official website to learn more about the event.

No Comments

The Best Bird Field Guide

The Best Bird Field Guide

All About Birds: Northeast US and Canada

Birdwatching 101: Learn with The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The Best Bird Field Guide – All About Birds covers 198 species with updated information from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website,

You’re out for a walk in the woods and a friend points to a bird perched on a tree limb. If you’re lucky enough to have a copy of the best bird field guide I’ve seen, “All About Birds, Northeast US and Canada,” you’d have access to in-depth information about 198 species.

Thanks to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website, “,” and Princeton Press, the publisher, the guide covers many of the Northeast’s most beautiful birding and wildlife habitats from coastal regions to your own backyard.

Buy a copy of the book at no additional cost to you using my affiliate link.

Photo Courtesy of

Why do you need this field guide?

With more than 800 species of birds in the U.S. and Canada, chances are a beginning bird watcher can only identify a small percentage of the birds we spot. All About Birds allows you to expand your horizons to include not only the Robin, Bluejay, Cardinal, Finch, and Woodpecker families, but also lesser-known birds like the Northern Harrier and the American Coot.

So the next time you’re spending an afternoon outdoors and someone asks “Hey, do you see that bird on the top branch? What type of bird is that?” you’ll pull out this outstanding reference guide and rattle off the “Size & Shape,” “Color Pattern,” “Behavior,” and Habitat.” The guide offers four ID photos per bird, updated range maps of bird locations, a full-color visual index, and free access to the companion Merlin Bird ID app available through the Cornell Lab.

Ready to venture outdoors?

Before you go, take this Bird Quiz.
Where can you find Barred Owls?

What does the Common Tern nest?

How does the Peregrine Falcon catch its prey?

The answers to these and other questions are available in the guide.

Get the birdwatching gear you need. Buy high-definition binoculars on

Read a companion story.

No Comments

A Passion for Nature

Canyoning and a passion for outdoor activities

Canyoning: Why the Outdoors is Good for Your Soul

The Benefits of an Active Life

By Itziar Miranda, Tenerife, The Canary Islands (Spain)

What is a passion for nature? For me, that question has a simple answer. Passion is that feeling that moves you and makes you try new ways to do the things you enjoy.

Passion is the activity, sport, food, book, or whatever it is that makes you feel like the world has stopped. It is the moment when you can look around and see and hear new things that bring on the flow of adrenaline from the inside out. It’s that “something” that makes you feel like you are soaring above the clouds. As a result, you feel big and strong, motivated, and at the same time, relaxed and comfortable with yourself.

Canyoning and a passion for outdoor activities
Canyoning and other outdoor activities can help you find your passion.

For me, that passion is called canyoning, a new way of living in nature. Canyoning is more than a sport or even a hobby. By definition, canyoning means exploring a canyon by engaging in such activities as rappelling, rafting, and waterfall jumping but I see it as a new way of living in the natural world.

Canyoning forced me to stop for a moment and it taught me to feel calm, to be a part of what was going on around me. It makes me become aware of new sounds and views, even though they have always been there.

Nature is a part of you. It makes you feel happy and, at the same time, relaxed, meditative, and more creative.

Have you found your passion? You need to find yours because passion moves you and makes you want to be more proactive, to try a new thing, to feel a new feeling, to experiment, and to let your mind and body go beyond the normal and everyday things.

And it is so wonderful when you have it so close to you. Because, yes! Passion is all around you. You will feel it at one specific moment of your life and you will know that it is the one for you.

For this reason, when you find your passion, do not let it go, and do not give up. Follow it, practice it, be constant, because the benefits are so big… Nothing can compare to it, so you just have to keep moving forward, dedicate your free time and enjoy it.

Most of all, you deserve to be happy and experience all those feelings that will help you stay full of life.


Throughout my studies and my working life, I have learned to manage, plan, deal with different people, work in a team, cope with problems and incidents and make each employer feel like an integral part of every project which I have worked on. I pride myself on having three skills that define me – listening to my clients’ needs, empathy, and teamwork.

I always want to learn, listen to others, and get the most out of any situation that may help me grow both on a personal and professional level. I am keen on punctuality and on a well-done job, and on reaching and going beyond the goals and objectives.

I am passionate about taking on challenges and conquering them, without any hesitation, using my entire arsenal of knowledge and tools that I have acquired. I have an untiring desire to work and to help others achieve growth as well. I am motivated and I have the attitude, aptitude, and willingness to deal with new projects with a vision for the future.

One of my goals is to create a community of people who enjoy travel, outdoor sports activities, with a focus on eco-tourism and sustainability.

The community I am referring to is one where like-minded individuals have a place to talk and share experiences about all that nature has given us. Above all, achieving optimum health is more than staying in shape. Reach out to me with your thoughts and suggestions about how we can work together to make the world healthier and happier through nature.

What is canyoning? Here’s one example of canyoning.

No Comments
Beauty Lifestyle

The Future of Beauty and Skin Care

The Future of Beauty and Skincare

What Recent Recalls Mean to You

Special Beauty and Skincare Update By Dr. Liia Ramachandra 

In December 2021, Procter & Gamble (P&G), the company that has brought us many of our favorite beauty, skincare, and personal care items, announced voluntary recalls of 30 aerosol spray products. The announcement came with some disturbing news: the products had possible traces of benzene, a chemical known to cause cancer.

The recalled items included aerosol beauty products like dry shampoo and dry conditioner with the decision to recall the products done under an abundance of caution. Daily exposure to benzene in the amounts found in the affected products is not known to cause any adverse effects; however, companies as large as P&G need to proceed with caution to protect their customers and their companies. To date, there have not been any reports of adverse effects from benzene in P&G products, but the unlikely occurrence that a consumer could be affected is enough for the company to take bold precautions.

Dry shampoo and dry conditioners are among the recent product recalls.

Expect More Recalls in the Future

The recall announcement has made its mark on the beauty and skincare industry. What is often not reported but needs to be understood is that the benzene found in the P&G aerosol products was most likely not placed there on purpose. On the contrary, benzene probably found its way to the products through contamination from solvents or machinery. The chemical benzene is found almost everywhere in manufacturing, and it is nearly impossible to avoid altogether.

The recalls of products in November and December of this year tell us that this may not be a one-time situation and that more product recalls may be on the way. After all, the P&G recalls were not the first to make headlines. In July of 2021, Johnson & Johnson issued recalls of aerosol products due to the benzene issue, in a move that P&G mirrored soon after. The industry and consumers can likely and unfortunately stay tuned for more recalls coming down the road. As consumers become more aware of benzene’s presence in products they use every day, they will pressure companies to solve the issue preemptively. 

What Can Consumers Do to Protect Themselves?

Benzene is a highly flammable chemical that has a sweet odor. It evaporates in the air quickly but dissolves only slightly in water. It’s found in natural places, like volcanoes and forest fires, and is also found in crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke. People can get exposure to benzene from various sources, including glues, detergents, and furniture polish. Gas stations are a huge source of benzene exposure for people.

Because many people are unaware of benzene and how prevalent it is, companies will face a battle in convincing consumers that their products are safe. Benzene can be found almost anywhere, and it’s difficult to avoid the chemical altogether. To address the presence of benzene in products, rigorous testing has been implemented by not only Procter and Gamble but also other companies. The issue of consumer safety is not being overlooked but outright addressed in marketing campaigns to put consumers’ minds at ease.

Because of the testing and voluntary nature of the recalls from P&G and other companies, consumers should be proactive with their response but not overreact to the recall announcements. Throwing away any items in their cabinets that show up on the recall lists is suggested.  

The Post-Recall Future of Beauty & Skin Care Products

As a healthcare and beauty professional, I understand the importance of knowing what’s in our products. Consumer advocacy groups and watchdog groups are pressing companies to test for traces of cancer-causing chemicals before packaging items and placing them on the shelves. P&G and other companies also offer reimbursement to consumers who purchased the recalled items. Going forward, companies need to be explicit about what is in their products and diligent about looking out for harmful chemicals making their way into products. When issues arise, companies need to continue to be forthcoming with information for consumers and, if necessary, issue further recalls.

Do you know what’s in your products?

Choosing Medically Clean and Hypoallergenic Products

Consumers can be careful when purchasing products, seeking out items that are certified to be hypoallergenic and medically clean. While there’s no way to completely avoid benzene exposure, focusing on medically clean products can ensure you’re using the best possible products for your health and well-being. Stories about cancerous chemicals and recalls can be alarming, but with diligent research and careful shopping, consumers need not be scared to buy beauty and skin products. 

Simplify your makeup routine with Woosh Beauty. Learn more here.

No Comments
Lifestyle top

Japan Pavilion Expo 2020 Dubai

Japan Pavilion Expo 2020 Dubai Yuko Nagayama Associates

Understanding NATURE & HARMONY in Japanese Architecture

Interview with Yuko Nagayama

Yuko Nagayama’s EXPO 2020 Dubai design reflects a fusion of Japanese and Middle Eastern cultures with an emphasis on global materials.

A meticulously wrapped building in the Al Forsan Park EXPO 2020 Dubai Opportunity District beckons visitors to come inside. The Japan pavilion not only references the meeting between the traditional Middle Eastern “arabesque” pattern and the traditional Japanese “Asanoha (hemp leaf)” pattern but Japan’s fascination with gift wrapping, Origata, and paper folding, Origami.

Inside the building, as guests meander through the exhibits, the latest technology has allowed designers to convey Japanese history, art, and culture, in a futuristic way few would have imagined.

The water features that reflect the image of the Japan Pavilion add ornamentation to the scenery in the form of reflection pools and at the same time, borrow from the traditional methods of Japan and the Middle East. Sustainable architecture is realized through capturing the wind cooled by the heat vaporization of the water.

Taking “Connect” from the EXPO 2020 Dubai theme, architect Yuko Nagayama, Yuko Nagayama Associates principal and EXPO Japan Pavilion chief designer, integrated culture, technology, and sustainability into her design. The pavilion’s façade, with its delicate and slender architectural structure, combines both cultures and embodies Japan’s ability to respond flexibly while integrating with global culture.

“The design represents the fusion of Japanese and Middle Eastern cultures, to represent the long-standing relationship between the two nations,” Nagayama said.

Yuko Nagayama, Yuko Nagayama Associates

Japan shares the stage with 191 nations and organizations participating in the world EXPO, a 170-year tradition held every five years. The event provides a platform for countries to showcase the greatest innovations and latest technology that continue to shape the world we live in today.

Throughout the project, Nagayama and the on-site teams worked together to overcome the differences in the production environment and the regulations of each country. The result is a high-quality pavilion.

“This was due to the fact that everyone shared the same concept that I had initially proposed and we were able to push forward toward that goal together,” Nagayama said.

Nagayama’s design emphasized the overall Expo 2020 Dubai theme but as she explains, instead of using special materials to express Japan, she said, we thought to express Japan using global materials.

The design features parametrically designed smaller membranes, rather than a large membrane commonly used in most membrane architecture, with the position of the shadows determined by the movement of the sun, and according to the use of the space.

Similarly, in keeping with traditional Japanese art and design principles that focus on maintaining harmony with nature, Yuko said “While the lattice is systematic, the position of the membranes is randomly determined by the surrounding environment and other conditions. After the work was completed, various shadows fell on the surrounding area like sunshine through the trees.”

The use of Japanese water technology widely used in the Middle East is equally as important to the overall design and is expressed in the water basin outside of the pavilion. Sustainability is captured through the semi-exterior space by utilizing a small membrane on the façade of the building to block the sunlight. By placing the water basin in an appropriate position, when the wind blows, the building is cooled by the water basin and slips through the small membrane to enter the room. This method uses the power of nature to regulate the indoor environment. The system is sustainable as it can be reused, according to Nagayama.

EXPO 2020 Dubai will continue through March 31, 2022, with events scheduled around the ongoing COVID pandemic. Visit for ticket and travel information, and current COVID protocol.


Yuko Nagayama Expo 2020 Dubai Japan Pavilion designer

Born in 1975 in Tokyo, Yuko graduated from Showa Women’s University in 1998 with a degree in life and environmental sciences. From 1998 to 2002, she worked at the architecture studio of Jun Aoki. In 2002, she established her own studio, YUKO NAGAYAMA & ASSOCIATES. Her major work includes the Kyoto Daimaru Louis Vuitton store, A Hill on a House, ANTEPRIMA, Kayaba Coffee, Sisii, Kiya Ryokan, Teshima Yokoo House, the fifth floor of Shibuya Seibu AB, and Goddess of the Forest Central Garden (a hall complex in Kobuchisawa, Yamanashi). Her many accolades include the L’Oreal Encouragement Prize; JCD Design Award Encouragement Prize in 2005; AR Emerging Architecture Awards 2006 in the UK for A Hill on a House; Architectural Record Award, Design Vanguard in 2012; JIA Best Newcomer in 2014 for the Teshima Yokoo House; Yamanashi Architecture Culture Prize; JCD Design Award Silver Prize in 2017; and Tokyo Architecture Prize Excellence Award in 2018 for Goddess of the Forest Central Garden. She is currently designing a new skyscraper for the Kabukicho district of Shinjuku, planned for completion in 2022 and TOKYO TORCH in Tokiwabashi.

Looking for a companion story? Read my initial article published in 2020.

No Comments
Book Review Lifestyle

Dating Tales from the Bark Side

Dating Tales from the Bark Side I'm Not Single, I Have a Dog by Susan Hartzler

Author Susan Hartzler, “I’m Not Single, I Have a Dog,”

Hartzler’s Ups and Downs On the Road to Finding Unconditional Love

Dating Tales from the Bark Side I'm Not Single, I Have a Dog by Susan Hartzler
Susan Hartzler’s memoirs shed light on why there’s nothing wrong with staying single.

Susan Hartzler’s life revolved around finding the perfect companion, but after living through a string of disastrous relationships, she learned to accept and even love her single life. Susan’s memoir, “I’m Not Single, I Have a Dog: Dating Tales from the Bark Side,” explores the disappointments, fear, and humor in her life as she pursued the bad boys women often find so appealing.

For many people, men and women included, not having a significant other to celebrate holidays, like Valentine’s Day, for example, evokes a myriad of feelings from despair to intense loneliness. Sometimes, we write off our incompatible choices hoping we can alleviate our symptoms and mold another person into the perfect companion or the ideal husband. But as Susan explains,

“I thought that perhaps there were many of us out there with bad pickers and I wanted to let others know there’s nothing wrong with staying single. I think I was trying to convince myself too!

Susan Hartzler

Dating Tales from the Bark Side shows us there is indeed hope for finding unquestioning love elsewhere. On a trip to the pound, Susan not only came home with a pet to care for – she found the missing link in her complicated life that would make her situations more tolerable. She discovered living with dogs is much more fulfilling and interesting.

What would Susan say to someone who would argue a dog can never take the place of a human partner?

“I feel sorry for them because they have never experienced the unconditional love of a dog. Dogs don’t take the place of humans. They are much better than humans!”

While she doesn’t blame herself for the kind of men she finds attractive, Susan learned the hard way that the men she found exciting, unpredictable, and irrepressibly masculine, were not healthy for her in the long run.

Susan Hartzler's book focuses on why you don't need to be married to enjoy a fulfilling life.
Susan Hartzler with her dogs, Blondie and El-Vez, shown with the Mexican Elvis. Photo submitted.

“I don’t blame myself for the kind of men I find attractive. I mean, who wouldn’t like to be around a bad boy?”

That is, as she describes in her book, until the relationships become toxic, abusive, and emotionally damaging to the person on the receiving end.

Breaking Free from a Damaging Relationship

Which of our needs do the bad boys satisfy?

Susan sheds light on what she believes was missing in her own life.

“I think it has to do with my narcissistic mother. I am attracted to men who are a lot like her,” she said.

For Susan, the possibility of entering into another unhealthy relationship keeps her off the emotional rollercoaster and out of the dating pool completely. At 60, she has chosen to train her own dogs, who are actors and models, and she is an award-winning writer, blogger, and public relations professional. She and her dogs also volunteer for Therapy Dogs International, a New Jersey-based volunteer organization that trains, tests, and registers therapy dogs. The handlers and their dogs visit hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, schools, or anywhere they can provide love, comfort, and support to individuals in need.

Susan’s Tips for an Emotionally Healthier You in 2022

How to Steer Clear of the Bad Boys

  • Watch for the red flags;
  • Follow your gut and get out of the relationship if something doesn’t feel right;
  • Start by accepting it (your need for the bad boys);
  • Work on loving yourself;
  • Don’t allow your needs to define who you are;
  • Celebrate your bonds with your dog(s) and friends and continue to nurture those relationships; and
  • Consider saving a dog and rescuing yourself from unhealthy relationships.

Self-Love A Key to Happiness

Keep in mind…

“There’s nothing more attractive than a person who loves themselves. And as soon as you love yourself, you might decide you don’t need a plus 1 to be happy.”

Susan Hartzler,

Treat yourself to a copy of “I’m Not Single, I Have a Dog: Dating Tales from the Bark Side” by Susan Hartzler.

You can buy Susan’s book by using my Amazaon affiliate link at no additional cost to you.

No Comments

Best U.S. Christmas Towns

Snow-covered, twinkling lights, and the sounds of Christmas music playing in the background are reminders Christmas is coming soon.

Celebrate the Holidays in These American Cities

Best U.S. Christmas Towns
U.S. Christmas village abound. Find one on the map to visit in a town near you.

Are you brimming with the holiday spirit? Or maybe you have time to visit one more Christmas village. Use this map as a reference to locate the Best U.S. Christmas Towns.

Best U.S. Christmas Towns

Best 25 Cities in America to Visit at Christmas Time [New Study]
Provided Courtesy of Amy Pritchett

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and to celebrate the season, the dating reviews website has ranked the Best U.S. Christmas towns.

If you’re in the mood for cozy, wintry towns to get into the Christmas spirit, here are some of the best Christmas towns across the country to visit for some serious holiday cheer.

To determine the best Christmas towns in America, MyDatingAdviser compared 152 well-known Christmas towns across the country on 21 key metrics. They looked into festive activities, weather, dining, hotels, transport, among other indicators of a joyful Christmas break. Using the data points, each town has been given a ‘Christmas Town Index Score’. This represents the quality of the Christmas break you could have there.

Top 25 Christmas Towns in the USA:

Helen, Georgia
Index Score: 85
Blue Ridge, Georgia
Index Score: 82
Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
Index Score: 77
Leavenworth, Washington
Index Score: 76
New Hope, Pennsylvania
Index Score: 76
Pine Mountain, Georgia
Index Score: 74
Ligonier, Pennsylvania
Index Score: 74
Jacksonville, Oregon
Index Score: 73
Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Index Score: 71
 McAdenville, North Carolina
Index Score: 71
 Dahlonega, Georgia
Index Score: 71
Bernville, Pennsylvania
Index Score: 71
Valley Junction, Iowa
Index Score: 70
Breckenridge, Colorado
Index Score: 70
Williamsburg, Virginia
Index Score: 69
Ogunquit, Maine
Index Score: 68
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Index Score: 67
Hershey, Pennsylvania
Index Score: 67
 Galena, Illinois
Index Score: 67
Solvang, California
Index Score: 65
Shepherdstown, West Virginia
Index Score: 64
Virginia City, Nevada
Index Score: 64
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Index: Score: 64
Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
Index Score: 64
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Index Score: 64
Here are 10 tips for surviving Christmas this year:
Plan ahead. Many of us spend weeks worrying about Christmas shopping. Instead of worrying, start stocking up on supplies as soon as possible. 
Don’t embarrass yourself at the work Christmas party. This is of course a time to let your hair down but not at any cost! Many people go too far and then regret it. 
Don’t over-inflate your expectations. You can’t expect to create the ‘perfect’ Christmas as it will likely fall short of your expectations. Remember, the most important thing is for you and your family to have fun. But this doesn’t mean being in debt for the next year. 
Don’t try to do everything. If you have the responsibility of hosting Christmas Day this year, don’t take it all upon yourself. You can ask other family members to bring parts of the meal such as salads, snacks, and desserts. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Everything in moderation. Christmas is a time of excess and indulgence. However, there is nothing enjoyable about feeling the size of a padded Santa suit or as stuffed as the festive turkey! 
Rehydrate. If you’ve had too many festive drinks, it’s a good idea to have some non-alcoholic drinks in between. Drink plenty of water to help your liver recover!
Get active in the morning after. Get some exercise like a brisk walk, jog or swim to help work off those extra roast potatoes and all those second helpings you may have had. 
Sleep. Sleeping will help you recover from the excesses of life. Drinking and eating a lot can severely affect your sleep patterns. Also, over the festive period, late nights can become a regular occurrence. 
Take some time off. If you can, plan your holidays so you don’t have to go to work. Many burn the candle at both ends with parties and work and end up totally exhausted. Time off will help prevent you from being overworked and overstressed.
Have fun. Christmas should be a fun time of year. If previous years have not been enjoyable, you can try something different this year. One idea is to get away from it all (maybe visit a new Christmas town) and remove the majority of the hassle from the whole festive experience. 
According to Amy Pritchett, Managing Editor at MyDatingAdviser, “If you’re planning a holiday getaway and looking for the best Christmas town to visit in the U.S., these Christmas villages are guaranteed to make you feel like you’re stepping inside your favorite holiday movie.”

She added, “I personally enjoy visiting Christmas villages in November and December with carolers, hot chocolate, and holiday decorations. Celebrating Christmas is an art form and small towns across America have perfected it.”

These small towns take celebrations to the next level with parades, unique trees, miles of ornate light displays, sleigh rides, and enough hot cocoa and chestnuts to send Santa’s helpers into hibernation. Just be sure to check for the latest updates on 2021 events, as some may still have coronavirus precautions in place, like requiring proof of vaccination.”

To view the top Christmas towns in the USA view:

For more information, please contact Amy Pritchett ( is a US dating website, committed to offering singles advice and reviews. Amy Pritchett started her website in March 2019 and has a passion for offering people love and relationship advice.

Read another “Best of” article.

No Comments

Best In-Flight Skincare Tips

Best In-Flight Skincare Tips

A Flight Check For Your Skin

How to Arrive at Your Destination with Healthy Glowing Skin

Tips by Dr. Liia Ramachandra, Pharm.D., Ph.D., Serial Entrepreneur and Healthcare Executive

Dr. Liia Ramachandra, Pharm.D., Ph.D.,

Air travel can take its toll on your skin. Dr. Liia Ramachandra, Pharm.D., Ph.D., a serial entrepreneur, and healthcare executive, shares her skincare tips that will ensure you arrive at your destination looking your absolute best.

As you venture out this holiday season, celebrate the good news. Air travel is finally back to where it was, pre-COVID. The bad news is that flying, never stress-free, is more fraught than ever. There are still schedules to keep, long lines to wait in, crazy people, and crowded terminals to navigate while new safety precautions have added at least one more layer of anxiety.

Indeed, few activities are harder on our skin than air travel – from harsh conditions in the cabin to overcrowded parking lots, to the constant stress that something could go awry at any time. It’s enough to make anyone suffer a spot breakout. But it is still possible to arrive at your destination with glowing, clean, and healthy skin–if you take a few proactive measures.

Skin Conditions like acne can wreak havoc on your skin.
Skin conditions like acne can be difficult to treat, particularly when you’re traveling. Masks can aggravate your existing problems.


Those ubiquitous masks may help keep pathogens out of our lungs, but they also prevent our skin from breathing, leading to spot breakouts aka “maskne.”  That’s because oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells build up even more when you’re wearing a mask. Acne and redness can also be triggered by the humidity that your mask traps close to your skin. 

But because aircraft cabins are designed to remove humidity from the air, the rest of your face will get far less humidity than it needs.  To fight back against these side effects, I recommend moisturizing with light, non-oily moisturizers like EpiLynx Miracle Cream, which is made with hemp oil, or Epilynx Sunrise Morning Cream. It’s also important to wear a clean, new mask every trip. Cotton masks typically are lighter and more breathable than synthetic ones, making them better at preventing spot breakouts.

Heat and air conditioning can leave your skin dry and irritated. Dr. Liia gives tips to keep your skin hydrated and glowing while you travel.
Heat and air conditioning can leave your skin dry and irritated. Dr. Liia gives tips to keep your skin hydrated and glowing while you travel.

I also recommend that you do not put on any makeup before the flight. This could contribute to clogging your pores. Traveling without foundation or makeup powder on your face will make it much easier for your pores to breathe. Also, minimize the use of hand sanitizers and wipes; both will dry out your skin. 

Skincare Tips for Air Travel
Do you plan to “take off” for a much-needed holiday? You can prevent common skin conditions while you travel, according to Dr. Ramachandra.


Modern airplanes are equipped with excellent filtration, but you can still expect eye-irritating allergens in the air, as well as increased exposure to bacteria. During the flight, try to minimize the number of times that you remove and reapply your mask. You might wipe your face clean with a damp cloth and pat it dry to remove any dirt or moisture from your skin every once in a while, but keep your mask in place as much as possible. 

A flight can induce so much anxiety, from last-minute delays to inconsiderate seatmates to turbulence and tense takeoffs and landings. Even if the flight is a smooth one, situational stress prompts your body to release hormones that increase oil production in your skin glands. This means a greater chance of clogged pores. Help your skin by doing whatever you can to ease your anxiety. Bring a great book to read during the flight, or pack your air-pods so you can watch a movie or listen to your favorite music, meditation, or audiobook. Remind yourself that the flight is just a few hours and focus your thoughts elsewhere.


By the time you land, chances are that your skin will feel dry and dehydrated. As soon as you step out of the airport, remove your mask and let your skin breathe! 

You should also pay attention to the climate where you have landed. If it is different from where you departed from, you may need to adjust your skincare routine. For example, if you are traveling to a humid climate, you should be using very light moisturizers that will not clog your pores. If your destination is dry and cold, start using very hydrating and heavier moisturizers. 

Bon voyage!

Dr. Liia Ramachandra, Pharm.D., Ph.D., is a serial entrepreneur and healthcare executive. Dr Liia is the Founder and CEO of EpiLynx, gluten-free skincare, and cosmetics brand. Her journey has given her experience in Global Medical Affairs, Global Ethics and Compliance, Clinical Research, and Global Publications. She has worked with multiple companies, including Takeda Pharmaceuticals Inc, Pfizer, and Astellas. Dr. Liia holds a Master’s degree and a Doctoral degree in Pharmacy from Groningen University, Netherlands, and PhD from the University of Utrecht, Netherlands.

Read More About Dr. Liia Ramachandra.

About Dr. Liia

Dr Liia is the Founder and CEO EpiLynx, Gluten-Free Skin Care and Cosmetics Brand. She comes with vast experience in Global Medical Affairs, Global Ethics and Compliance, Clinical Research, and Global Publications. She has worked with multiple companies like Takeda Pharmaceuticals Inc, Pfizer, Astellas. She holds a Master’s degree in Pharmacy and Doctorate in Pharmacy from Groningen University, the Netherlands, and a Ph.D. from the University of Utrecht, Netherlands.

Liia Ramachandra fills many roles in her day-to-day life. From being a CEO and a mother to being a doctor and a patient. It was her role as a patient that instilled in her a desire to create Dr. Liia®. 

There were many factors that contributed to the creation of Dr. Liia® Skincare and Cosmetics. Only its creator, Liia herself, can tell you what they are. 

They say “Necessity is the Mother of All Inventions.” 

Dr. Liia came out of my own needs and experiences. I created Dr. Liia® because I got sick. 

I was in the prime of my professional career. I was an executive at one of the top pharmaceutical companies in the world. But I got sick. I was losing my lifelong battle with Psoriasis. I had just delivered my third child, my blood pressure was sky-rocketing, and I had been diagnosed with Preeclampsia. I was warned that if I were to bear any more children my condition could worsen. What was I to do?

I doubled down on my professional career while my health deteriorated even further. I was being put on more and more medications for psoriasis and hypertension. Despite my career further flourishing, I wasn’t happy. The more I dove into work, the more detached I became towards my family and myself. I needed a change but I had little inspiration to do so. 

One day, as I stood in front of the mirror and looked at the bright red spots on my skin, knowing that my blood pressure was also not under control, I broke down. I confessed to my husband that I needed to find something that would bring me back to my family and allow me to follow my passion in healthcare. 

You see, my husband and I both work in the healthcare field. He has been a senior executive in large healthcare companies since 2005. He is a physician, a scientist, and a business leader (he has an M.D., Ph.D. in Cancer Immunology, and an MBA!). I have a Doctorate in Pharmacy and I am a scientist (a PharmD and a Ph.D. in Chemistry). Although many people had told us that we would make a wonderful team in solving difficult medical problems and such, we had never actually worked together.

So, I proposed my plan to him. I wanted to start my own business. I wanted to develop Gluten-Free, Allergen-Free, Vegan, and Clean Skincare and I wanted it to be the best on the market. In the meantime, I wished to figure out how to take care of myself, my husband, my children, and my family. 

I didn’t know how to begin or whether I could even be an entrepreneur. But I had to start somewhere. I started with me.

I needed to figure out what was wrong with me. A lot, apparently. After my third delivery, I suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety. It took a while to find the proper medication to treat those issues. Once my mental health was steady, I decided to focus on my physical health. I started by changing my diet. I was athletic but I decided to cut out carbs completely. But something strange happened once I did so. My skin lesions/psoriasis symptoms started to reduce. My blood pressure also lowered. I noted that a diet with less bread, pasta, and pizza would give me these results. So, I started researching this phenomenon and came upon several articles about the effect of gluten on inflammation in the body. 

I then cut out the most obvious sources of gluten in my diet. I didn’t even need to go to UV light therapy anymore for my psoriasis. My blood pressure was still high, but getting better. I had a theory, at that point. Maybe gluten is to blame for the symptoms of my ailment. So I cut gluten out even further. Slowly, but surely, the lesions on my skin disappeared. On my face and my body, there were only minor lesions now. 

The problem is: Gluten is ubiquitous (everywhere!). It is hard to eliminate gluten completely from your life but you can do it if you dedicate it. I researched various skincare as well as household products and found that, surprisingly, gluten was in everything that is of convenience to all of us.

I had an idea. I wanted to meet the needs of people who are sensitive to gluten, many other allergens, and other types of preservatives that are in everything in what we put on and in us. 

Using the skills I have learned as a scientist along with my husband’s expertise in providing solutions to problems, I knew I could help an innumerable amount of people. 

Thus, Dr. Liia was formed. As I said before, necessity is the mother of all inventions. We focus on curating products for those with gluten sensitivities, allergies, autoimmune conditions, and sensitive skin. We make our products with natural ingredients (for example, no parabens or phthalates). 

I started small. I began the process of inventing the first of Dr. Liia®’s serums and creams to help improve skin health and complexion. From a serum and a cream to now many more products catered to those who have not been catered to before.

No Comments
Travel Journalists Bistro is a learning and support group that teaches travel writers the skills they need to become successful travel journalists

Receive the latest news

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get notified about new articles