Travel with Mona to Beijing, China

We left home on Friday, at 4:00 am to reach a 6:00 am flight, the first flight of a very long trip, two hours to Philadelphia with a forty-minute transit and a flight to Chicago, two hours transit and then the thirteen hours, yes THIRTEEN hours, long flight to Beijing. I was blissfully tired and lucky enough to sleep during most of the trip. We arrived in Beijing on Saturday, at 5:00 pm. There is a twelve hours difference in time between Florida and Beijing.

Of course, we lost our luggage. While we ran down the Philadelphia airport to catch our connection to Chicago, our suitcases procrastinated and missed the connection. We met a couple from Seattle who were in the same predicament. Very nice people, so friendly, they couldn’t wait to start their vacation and enjoy it. Unfortunately, their dream cruise ended in a horrible way as the man had a heart attack at the end of the cruise on his way home.

For our first day in Beijing, my husband had booked a private tour with an adorable guide very . Our guide was a lovely young woman, fluent in English, answered my unending questions. She explained, the government was still communist but more open to the West. Years ago, she was living in a small apartment with her father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, uncle and aunt and a cousin in a two-bedroom apartment. Notice one child per family. They all shared one kitchen and one bathroom with the rest of the building and they all had to dress the same way. Now she is engaged. Competition is encouraged. She and her fiancé worked hard and saved money to buy a one-bedroom apartment.

The 2008 Olympic Nest
One of many high rises in Beijing.
Notice the TV screen.

She showed us the Olympic Nest, downtown Beijing and the Summer Palace. We had a delicious lunch in the adjacent restaurant.

The Summer Palace
The Summer Palace
An imperial boat on the lake
In the Summer Palace gardens

I was agreeably surprised to discover that Beijing is a clean, modern metropolitan capital with more high-rises than Manhattan. I am not kidding. Not at all the idea I previously had of China.

For our second day in Beijing we joined the official cruise tour. We visited the Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. The square is a huge place overcrowded with a million tourists every day. To cross the large avenue and reach Tiananmen Square, we had to go through a tunnel. It was here that one of the tourists in our group panicked and said she couldn’t find her mother. The poor old woman was separated from our group. We spent half an hour looking for her, while taking pictures and then the group had to continue. Two hours later, both women finally joined us.

We spent three hours touring the courtyards, pavilions, and palaces of the forbidden city. Each of the emperor and empress had their own palaces. There were pavilions for the guests, for the officials, for the empress’s family…The yellow color was reserved to the imperial family. No one else could use it in China. The various servants serving in the Forbidden City were carefully chosen. It was an honor to serve the imperial family. But once chosen, the servants could never leave the Forbidden City and the parents could not visit.

On our third day in Beijing, we went to the Great Wall of China built in the 3rd century BC. I was surprised to find out that the Wall is formed by stone stairs framed by two walls interrupted by towers. I walked up to the first tower. It was almost like climbing three stories. The steps were at least one-foot high and irregular. My husband felt challenged and kept going to the second tower as high as eight stories. Apparently, the view is breathtaking from there.

As you can see it was cold on the Great Wall. This picture is taken from the first tower. The third tower visible from far.

People rarely walk beyond the third tower, although the Great Wall completely surrounds China and is the only man-made artifact visible from the surface of the Moon.

The statues of soldiers from the Ming Tombs.
And here, a picture at the Cloisonné factory where they manufacture gorgeous vases and plates.

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Is Chocolate sexy? by @TaylorLeeWrites

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
Charles M. Schulz

Chocolate Candy

In answer to the question above, the answer is ‘Heck Yes!” Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but if you’re a Romantic Suspense writer like I am, love and romance is a 365-day-a-year adventure. While science and romance may seem to be at odds, I love it when science studies issues critical to those of us who write (and love) Romantic Suspense. The scientific study below (reported by Diana Herrington @DancinginLife) asks: Which is a more powerful sexual turn on – a piece of chocolate or a kiss from the person you love most? Think you know the answer? Read on.

A Study of Chocolate

“According to a study at Mind Lab chocolate stimulated the brain more intensely than a kiss with a partner. They had 6 couples in their 20s wear heart and brain monitors. Each person in the study placed a piece of dark chocolate on their tongue and let it melt without chewing. Later, the couples kissed in the way they normally would. What the study found was that when the chocolate melted in the mouth, all areas of the brain were stimulated far more intensely. Their hearts even beat faster for longer after the chocolate than the intimate embrace.

Chocolate is famous for containing a ‘Love Drug’ because it triggers feelings of attraction, euphoria and excitement, mimicking the brain chemistry of a person in love. Dr. David Lewis, one of the researchers at Mind Lab, said: “There is no doubt that chocolate beats kissing hands down when it comes to providing a long-lasting body and brain buzz. A buzz that, in many cases, lasted four times as long as the most passionate kiss.”

Chocolate Boosts Mood, Eases Depression

Chocolate contains approximately 380 known chemicals, some of which promote serotonin production which boosts our mood and eases depression. They give a hormone rush that is similar to the rush of love-making as the pleasure center of the brain is triggered somewhat similarly to the peaks during an orgasm.

Chocolate has had a reputation as being an aphrodisiac throughout history. This dates back to the Mayan period from about 250 AD to 900 AD. The Mayans were chocoholics and highly valued the cacao bean. A man could hire a prostitute for eight to ten cacao beans. Rumor has it that the Aztec emperor Montezuma known for being a hot lover, drank 50 cups of cacao a day before heading off to his harem.

Nonetheless, the actual truth is cacao has never been fully proven to be an aphrodisiac. It does have the chemical composition, but in quantities so small you would need to consume as much as the emperor Montezuma did (which is not recommended).

A Feel Good Food

Without question, chocolate has been proven to be a “Feel good food.” Research proves that its ingredients help relax us mentally and physically and brings a sense of wellbeing which can promote sexual interest. Since chocolate improves mood, it can improve sex, but it does not need to strictly be an aphrodisiac.”

Back to the question: “Which is more powerful —a yummy piece of chocolate or a kiss from the person you love the most?”  My answer:  Why choose?  Double your odds.  Have them both!

Here is a tasty decadent chocolate recipe full of healthy ingredients using dark chocolate:

Cherry Pecan Dark Chocolate Bar

Ingredients:

  • 4 squares (approx. 112 gm) unsweetened chocolate
  • 3 Tbsp organic virgin coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon liquid light stevia
  • 2 Tbsp raw honey
  • 1/4 cup pecans, roasted and chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried unsweetened cherries, chopped in half

Directions:

  1. Dry roast pecans in a toaster oven or in frying pan (stir frequently so they do not burn).
  2. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or very carefully in a saucepan.
  3. Use coconut oil to oil a small pan of approximately 8 inches square.
  4. Evenly sprinkle the cherries and pecans in the pan.
  5. When the chocolate is melted; remove from heat.
  6. Mix in the coconut oil and stevia.
  7. Then mix in honey.
  8. Pour melted chocolate mixture over the cherries and pecans.
  9. Let cool in refrigerator or freezer.
  10. Once set, then cut into squares. Store in covered container in refrigerator or freezer, if desired.

****

As you are nibbling on your chocolate and having found a great person to share it with, grab: 

Jorden

JORDEN

Book 3: The Justice Brothers Series By Taylor Lee

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  • An Assistant US Attorney fights the legal battle of his life. This time Jorden’s on the defense and his children are at stake. 
  • An evil woman isn’t about to let her children and former husband go without a fight. And this woman fights dirty! 
  • A family drama that calls for the best and the worst of the two passionate lovers. Unfortunately, Jorden and McKenna discover that Justice—like Love– isn’t always fair or

WARNING: Romance so HOT it singes the pages.  HOT, tough, explicit. Not for the faint at heart.  Definitely bring a fan!

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Sugar Problems

From Dr. L. Lambert: Even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, you still need to be vigilant about the amount of sugar you consume every day. It’s not so much what you sprinkle on your morning cereal as what you eat when you’re noshing on processed foods. From sweetened beverages like fancy store-bought coffee to pasta sauces to breads — and of course, desserts — sugar is in lots of foods we eat.

Why You Need to Worry About Sugar
By A. Klemes, DO, FACE

Of all the things we eat, nothing perhaps does more harm than foods that are awash in sugar. Cakes, cookies, sugar-sweetened beverages like gourmet coffee and sodas come to mind. But sugar is everywhere — in low-fat yogurt and barbecue sauces, in granola, protein bars and canned soup, in canned fruit, smoothies and even spaghetti sauce and ketchup.

Sugar is everywhere because food manufacturers know our bodies crave it. When we consume sweet foods, our brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in how we feel pleasure. It also releases opioids, which are associated with addiction. Of course, there are legitimate reasons food manufacturers add sugar: It gives foods flavor, texture and color; sugar preserves some foods; and it balances the acidity of some foods like tomatoes, among other things. And it makes sweet foods sweet.

How Much Sugar Is Okay?
The federal government recommends that Americans 2 years and older limit their sugar intake to less than 10 percent of daily calories. On a 2,000-calorie diet, that’s only 200 calories from added sugar — or roughly 12 teaspoons. Another way to put it: there are roughly 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon, so 48 grams of sugar is the limit on a 2,000-calorie diet. A 20-oz soda has roughly 65 grams of added sugar. This extra sugar consumption is fueling record levels of obesity and the diseases that come with it: heart disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes.

Health Consequences of Too Much Sugar: More than 70 percent of Americans are overweight (me included!) or obese. The AHA estimates that the average American consumes more than 60 pounds of added sugar every year. The extra weight is driving an increase in preventable diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, sleep apnea and even depression, among other conditions. In particular, sugar may interfere with leptin, a hormone the body produces to regulate hunger. Studies show that sugar may lead to leptin resistance—which can trigger obesity.

Sugar by another name: When you do buy processed food, pay close attention to food labels. Sugar masquerades under many different names, some of which you’re probably familiar with: corn syrup, sucrose and fructose. But there are at least 61 different ways manufacturers indicate sugar on a label. Here are some examples: Corn Syrup, Sucrose; Fructose; Honey; Fruit Juice; High Fructose Corn Syrup; Evaporated Cane Juice; Dextrin; Dextrose; Maltodextrin; Refiner’s Syrup; Sweet Sorghum; Molasses; Maltose; Glucose; Corn Sweetener; Beet Sugar; Barley Malt.

It’s nearly impossible to avoid all added sugar, but if you keep an eye on food labels and prepare more of your own food, you can hit recommended intake targets and eat a healthier diet.

When Dr. Lambert warned me that I was borderline diabetic, I stopped nibbling on dried fruits, chocolate covered almonds, and other deliciously addictive snacks.

Are you seriously avoiding extra sugar?

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The Memory of a Dog

“Dogs are often known for their loyalty, intelligence and maybe even their short attention spans. But a study published in Current Biology found that a dog’s memory may be better and more complex than we previously thought.” Global News

I just read an article on Google that couldn’t be more appropriate.

Bosty is a happy dog who loves to play with friends.

He was due for a grooming appointment at the same place where his mommy has been taking him for four years.

Professional dog grooming comprises the cleaning and hygienic care of a dog, including bathing, hair removal, nail trimming and ear cleaning. Good groomers also check for signs of health problems by looking out for swelling, parasites, heat, cuts and thrush. Regular dog grooming helps a dog stay fresh, keep calm and enjoy a coat that’s free of tangles and fleas.

Bosty is always happy to go out, whether walking or riding in the car to run an errand with his mommy.

Today, when the car stopped in front of his usual pet groomer store, Bosty stared through the window and barked. His mommy opened the door for him to jump out. Instead he shook his head, backed up to the other end of the car and cowered on the floor, whimpering and refusing to move. There was no way to make him move from his corner. His mommy gave up and returned home.

It turned out that at his last grooming, the tech cut near his ear by mistake, a tiny cut that must have hurt him, although his family didn’t notice and the store didn’t report it.

Now Bosty will go to a new dog groomer.

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