The greatest wealth is health

“To insure good health: eat lightly, breathe deeply, live moderately, cultivate cheerfulness, and maintain an interest in life.”  ~ William Londen

Today is International Self-Care Day. It is really important to look after yourself. If you don’t feel great, investigate (the cause). 

You owe it to yourself to live the best life feeling good, even great. You may need only tweak your self-care by eating more healthily, drinking more water, taking a multi-vitamin, getting 15 minutes of sunshine daily while adding exercise to your routine. Or, you may need to demand to see a specialist to confirm your hunch that there’s something amiss.

The best way to get your health issues heard is to track your symptoms so you can take something concrete to a GP and discuss the next step.

FoodDiaryI use Health Storylines Food Diary and Symptom Tracker tools for that. You don’t have to suffer from a chronic illness to take advantage of this easy-to-use tracking system. It you have any food intolerance, or just generally don’t feel up to par, tracking what you eat and when may be key to shaping a new way of living that can optimise your health.

Who wants to go through life feeling unwell. By tracking your reaction to foods you consume, you will discover which products trigger symptoms (bloating, gas, nausea even constipation or diarrhoea).

It takes about two weeks of monitoring what you eat and how you feel to see a pattern. It is easy to do, just take five minutes at the end of your day to write down what you ate (via the Food Diary) and how it made you feel (Symptom Tracker). 

There’s good reason for the saying food is medicine. If you need a kick along, follow The Australian Dietary Guidelines, which has information about the types and amounts of foods, food groups and dietary patterns that aim to: promote health and wellbeing; reduce the risk of diet-related conditions, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity.

Your GP can refer you to a dietician and exercise physiologist if you want to tackle two issues together.

For those suffering the same condition as me (NETs), this video provides a quick snapshot into avoiding food triggers.

In no time you’ll be on your way to feeling great. Happy International Self-Care Day!

Hope you join me on the fitness journey to track food and symptoms. Just click on this link to get started.

The author has used the Health Storylines since being diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumours of the small intestine in 2016. After more than a year documenting her health via the app, she has become a Self-Care Ambassador as part of a pilot to encourage others to track their health.

Mum’s the word in Latin America

Mother’s Day in Panama is different from Mother’s Day in North America in two important ways. First, Mother’s Day is celebrated in December. Second, they up the celebration anti by adding on a national holiday. —

Few holidays bring a nation to a standstill in Panama like Dia de la Madre and in 2014 there’s even more reason to celebrate because the international holiday turns 100.

However, Panamanian moms don’t just get a special lunch on Sunday as their Northern American counterparts do, they also get a day off work [the next day]. Technically everyone enjoys the national holiday because all businesses but retail and service industries are closed.

Dia-de-La-Madre-2013-5Panama celebrates Mother’s Day officially on December 8. It is the only country in the world to have chosen this date — linked to the highly revered event from the Catholic calendar: Observance of the Immaculate Conception, honouring the Virgin Mary.

“Respecting one’s mother is a characteristic of Hispanic life that is highly cherished,” writes Adriana Fazzano in news magazine, the Parklander. “The role of a mother in Latin America is one of a role model and a facilitator of love. With that role comes the outstanding devotion that most Hispanic children have towards their mothers.”

LET’S CELEBRATE It’s been a huge year of celebrations for Panamanians and none more so than the 100-year anniversary of the Panama Canal [August 15, 1914] and Independence Day [commonly called Separation Day] on November 3 to mark the nation’s secession from Colombia. Dancers in colourful national folk dress joined soldiers marching through the historic city of Casco Viejo as part of the military procession celebrating independence from not one, but two countries, reported The Huffington Post, commenting that, “November 3 may be held as the beginning of the country’s sovereignty but before the celebrated date, Panama obtained its first independence — liberation from the Spanish crown”.

PanamaIndependenceThis year’s Independence Day celebration, which attracted a letter of congratulations from US Secretary of State John Kerry, was held amid a flurry of Panamanian holidays, including Día de los Difuntos (Day of the Dead, on November 2), Flag Day (November 4),  Colón Day (November 5), the Uprising of Los Santos (November 10) and, of course, that second Independence Day [from Spain] usually held on November 28 but in 2014 moved to December 1 to make way for Black Friday.

BLACK FRIDAY The US Christmas shopping-spree phenomenon — that has also gripped the UK — bumped Independence Day [from Spain] celebrations in Panama, causing upset for some. Black Friday has been observed in Panama City since 2012. It began as a move by the government to attract local tourism to the capital. Immigration census stats show it drew as many as 35,000 regional tourists in its first year.

BlackFridayPanamaTwo years on up to 100, 000 are believed to have participated in the event, which attracts gun-toting policía and guards who trawl the malls. They even patrol inside stores, which is off-putting for unsuspecting tourists queuing for or exiting the probador [fitting room]. And like everywhere else, it is a case of get out of the way. Panamanian shoppers are on a mission and, with up to 70 per cent off items at some of the more exclusive stores, most gringos are happy to take a backseat to the herding throng. Of course, Mother’s Day only adding to the frenzy for locals looking for the perfect gift.

Panama isn’t the only Latin American country to observe Black Friday. It was introduced in Mexico in 2011 as a way for the government and retailing industry to create an annual weekend of discounts known locally as El Buena Fin [Spanish slang for “the good weekend”], and coincides with the Mexican Revolution holiday. When Buena Fin was launched by then President Felipe Calderon, a LA Times blog proclaimed it “a distraction to allow Mexicans to momentarily forget the doom and gloom of the drug war and the country’s wider economic woes…”

There’s no such woes in Panama. Job stats have never been better and Panamanians are enjoying la buena vida [“the good life”] fuelled by an influx of overseas tourists, US expats relocating in droves given it has been named the best retirement haven in the world [again], as well as the wealth all those taxes the canal brings.

But back to those Panamanian moms. Things will be more subdued over the two-day Mother’s Day break. Local taxi driver Roy Campos says: “It’ll be a slow morning [for the shops]. After church, Panamanian mothers and their families will visit the mall because it’s the only place they can enjoy FREE air-conditioning!”

Freelance writer and blogger Judy Wilkinson has escaped the 6ºF [-14ºC] ice pellets hitting Chicago for 26ºC [80ºF] sunshine and Black Friday bargains in Panama City.

Ain’t that the berries, travelling down South

The chance to see Nicole and Keith at the 2014 CMA Awards in Nashville may have slipped through our fingers given we arrived the weekend after filming but, as luck would have it, the concierge at the hotel secured seats at The Grand Ole Opry in its traditional home at the Ryman!

It seems everywhere you travel across America’s South, there’s always something special to discover: Southern hospitality at its best and, of course, all those Southern sayings!

aa3ce5b0777e76b465c8b5a4ff7c9444Forget the twang and the dropped “g” because almost every one of those slow-talkin’ folks know how to charm. It was 94-year-old Little Jimmy Dickens who had the full-house crowd cheering at the Ryman. Guest artists Chase Bryant knew how to impress with guitar riffs, and few will forget the haunting songs performed by Hank William’s granddaughter, Holly. It was left to Opry inductees’ Old Crow Medicine Show to bring the concert home and get everyone up on their feet. And they did.

Of course, there were some highs and lows travelling down South. For the uninitiated to Memphis, Graceland is an “exhibition holding room” where Elvis fans are forced to congregate in long lines beside souvenirs for sale before being driven across the road to the real deal. More fun can be had at BB King’s “original” Blues Club where the regular All Stars Band won’t disappoint.

Elvis may have left that building but further south in a little town outside Georgia, Atlanta, an impersonator was swaying to the beat of the Cloud Springs Gospel and Blues Association monthly meet. This Elvis was a bit worse for wear but rockin’ the same outfit and upstaged by new singer of the year James Spearman. The lunchtime audience swelled to 20, maybe 30 but no one cared, it was what the South does best: seein’, laughin’, singin’, eatin’, meetin’ and partyin’! James travelled close to 145 miles [nearly three hours from Gatlinburg, Tennessee] for a chance to sing at the Georgia event.

ChooChooSIGN_JWIf there’s one place not to miss it’s Chattanooga. The historic Tennessee Choo Choo Station is a must-see for every visitor from Australia, especially Novacastrians and Newcastle City Council members who could bring an end to the “rail” debate if only they had the foresight to adopt the same outcome for Newcastle’s historic terminal.

ChooChooGardenJWThe 1909 terminal was saved from demolition in 1973 by a group of local investors after the trains stopped running in 1970. This year Chattanooga’s Choo Choo is getting a $US8 million makeover. Its magnificent 85-foot free-standing dome is the focal point of the 24-acre historical property, which includes hotel accommodation, dining, tourist shops, family entertainment and soon-to-open comedy venue.

On the ride back to Chicago, Illinois, along Interstate 65 drop into Louisville, Kentucky, not for the fried chicken but to visit all the antique shops. One thing for sure is no matter where you go down South, you’ll find a little piece of Australiana tucked away. It could be that Kangaroo Opal Pin that found its way into a vintage store, or the Nanny Goat Strut Laneway to an Aussie vendor popping up in the least place you’d expect.

Judy Wilkinson is a freelance writer and blogger who has enjoyed all the Southern hospitality to be found travelling through Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia, Indiana and Kentucky.

Cruz’n the day away

Maverick is a word which appeals to me more than misfit. Maverick is active, misfit is passive. – Alan Rickman


Surf’s up at Santa Cruz main beach.

Huddled together under Santa Cruz’s famous wharf, which next month celebrates its 100th year, a group of mavericks take shade from the September heat and northern Californian ocean breeze.

The local cop is telling them a tale about his weekend pursuits out shootin’ with the in-laws, laughing as he warns them not to leave the safe confines of their hideout without gathering up all their belongings. He knows they won’t be moving any time soon given they’re bunkered down smoking ‘medical’ marijuana which is legal here. They’re part of the towns misfits and war veterans from the ’70s that won’t let Santa Cruz forget.

On the other side of the bridge, two athletic-looking women gear up in wetsuits to ride the surf while a couple of guys drag their Malibu along the beach. A woman in a condo looks out over her balcony, drinking in the view as she sips coffee. It’s peaceful looking out over the wharf on a Tuesday afternoon. There are few tourists but still enough to create a queue at Marini’s at the Wharf where its famous ice cream sundaes and espresso bar draws the biggest crowd.


Primed for pursuit!

Along the length of the beach boardwalk amusement park a security guard patrols his beat on a suped-up Segway. Tourist Segways top out at 12 miles an hour, he says. He’s armed and on point and says his Segway is primed to move at 25mph! The eclectic mix of visitors mashed with the locals throw up a surprising number of incidents that keep this officer busy and in hot pursuit, especially during the light of day.

But it was the guy on the bicycle that really caught my attention. Screaming down Broadway where Ocean Street crosses, he reined in that push-bike with literally a rebel yell. “Whooh hoo, just made that!” he exclaimed as I stood at the light crossing.

Bare chested, fit and most likely in his 60s, few teeth and with a lisp he ranted to anyone who would listen that he’d rather ride a horse, Harley or push-bike. “The ‘dang’ cars need to be removed off roads.” Within the few minutes the lights were to change, I discovered he’d had three brushes with death, all involving his push-bike, horse or Harley. And none of them were his fault!

The first stoush with steel was the motherload of all hits. It happened in Texas where he’s from and “they had to virtually cut me out of that diesel truck”. Then three months ago, he got side swiped by a car that broke his femur and the doctor told him it’d take six months before he could get back on his horse and Harley. “Hell no,” he looked at me, “I said three months!” I never heard incident three as the lights changed. As I walked across the intersection wishing him a safe journey, given he was in need of some divine protection, he yelled back “God bless America and God bless you!”

I was warned about the crazies that frequent the streets of Santa Cruz. Few appear harmful, like the guy wandering down the river bank where I rode my bike in safety. He was happy talking to the bag held close to his chest. I gathered it contained all life’s possessions.


Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park.

As one blogger put it: “Driving into Santa Cruz … it soon becomes apparent that this is a beach city in every sense of the term. Like many other coastal cities, this beach berg does attract down-to-earth non-conformists who, for example, don’t have any hesitation using hair colors that looked like they were chosen from a box of crayons. Think about your worst fashion nightmare for your teenage kids, and that’s what you sometimes see on the streets of Santa Cruz – which, of course, is part of the charm. You don’t travel just to see places exactly like home.”

Not all streets in Santa Cruz display such colourful behaviour. This place is thriving and September and October are the months to visit. On September 28, the city hosts the annual Thunderbirds on the Wharf, a collection of classic cars. The mural along Beach Street a reminder of the procession of cruising cars to come.


The Village of Capitola.

Then there’s the must-visit small ocean-side village of Capitola, where real estate is at a premium. Prices vary from $US600,000 to $US7 million-plus. If you could, you would want to move here. Most of the bars and restaurants face the ocean or sit along the freshwater estuary. It’s upmarket and trendy but still with that laid-back beach feel. And when in need of a big-city fix, San Francisco is not much further than an hour’s drive taking the scenic route along Highway 1.

Of course, if you really want to visit a So-Cal city where the rich and famous frequent, then there’s none better than Monterey-Carmel, a 45-minute drive from Santa Cruz and, as this website explains, it attracts Hollywood high society!

Judy Wilkinson is a freelance journalist who travelled the Californian coast from LA into Portland, Oregon,12 months ago returning a year to the day to revisit some of the more memorable coastal getaways.