Your Favorite Drink

For years, I would restrict myself to a light whiskey, a girlie drink as they call it, that has the right proportions of lemon juice; warming, floral bourbon; and sweet syrup to deliver a refreshing cocktail that’s neither too cloying nor too biting. Just what I needed to mingle around with a drink in hand.

American vodka

I learned to drink stronger stuff during my business trips to Belarus. Vodka, the typical Russian drink is not for the faint of heart. In the States, I’ve tried vodka diluted with orange juice and ice cubes, and found it too strong for my taste.

In Minsk, I experienced the burning effect of straight, unadulterated Belarusian vodka. When I landed in Minsk, Belarus, to work as the Program Manager of an American-Belarusian project of demilitarization that included refurbishing an analytical laboratory, I discovered that Belarusians can’t function without a bottle of vodka handy.

Belarusian vodka

During our delegation’s first meeting in the historical Hall of Officers, I presented a ten-minute summary of the project. Later an officer brought a bottle of vodka and small glasses, filled the shot glasses and distributed them. The Belarusian general raised his glass in a toast. “Welcome to Belarus. Moy drouk, my friends, I wish you a happy stay in my beautiful country. Na zdorovie. To your health.” Na zdorovie was the second Russian word I learned after Dobroye outroh, good morning.

The men emptied their glasses in one shot. I swallowed a first sip. A colonel laughed. “Let me show you how to drink vodka. One of us makes a toast. You raise your glass and you swallow it all at once. Bottoms up, as you Americans say.”

French vodka and Swedish vodka

The officer filled a second round and the general stood for another toast. “I propose a toast to the success of our joint project in Minsk.”

The men chorused, “Bottoms up.”

I raised my glass, then emptied half of my drink and brought my hand to my throat. I could swear it was on fire.

Waggling his finger, the officer chuckled. “You cheated. You left half the vodka in your glass. With each toast, you’ll get better.” Toasting with vodka became part of my job description.

Vodka, a liquor usually made from fermented grains and potatoes, has a standard alcohol concentration of 40% ABV in the United States, and 45% in Belarus (or up to 76%). Belarusians drink vodka to celebrate, to keep warm, to treat cough and sore throat. They use it in cooking and pastry. When I got sick during a trip to Minsk, they treated me with six shots of vodka. I fell asleep right away and awakened cured.

In remarks to U.K newspaper The Times, President Lukashenko encouraged citizens to drink vodka (unless working) and visit the sauna at least twice a week to stay healthy. Thanks to their heavy drinking of vodka, only 152 people have contracted COVID-19 infections, with no deaths.

I wrote two books set in Belarus:

Allow me to present my new series, LOVE PLANS with three romance novels released in September and October.

Me, a Health Nut? Guilty as Charged! by @TaylorLeeWrites

I admit it.  I’m a health nut.  I don’t know how anyone could sit on their butt all day the way we writers do and not be concerned about their health  much less the size of their ‘butt.’

Health Nut

I’m a seven day a week exerciser and am seriously out of sorts if I miss a day at the gym where I do a minimum of seven miles on the elliptical and fifteen minutes on the rowing machine. I’ll admit, vanity is probably a bigger impetus for me than paying attention to my health but both spur me on.  Even I know that the benefits of daily exercise are more than looking good or even feeling good. Which brings me to this terrific article in the New York Times that was catnip to this addicted exerciser:

Regular Exercise May Keep Your Body 30 Years ‘Younger”

The muscles of older men and women who have exercised for decades are indistinguishable in many ways from those of healthy 25-year-olds, according to an uplifting new study of a group of active septuagenarians.

The authors of the study confirm that “worryingly, statistics and simple observation suggest that many elderly people experience frailty, illness and dependence.” They add, “But science has not established whether and to what extent such physical decline is inevitable with age or if it is at least partially a byproduct of our modern lifestyles and perhaps amenable to change.”

“While there have been hints, that physical activity might alter how we age. Recent studies have found that older athletes have healthier muscles, brains, immune systems and hearts than people of the same age who are sedentary. But many of these studies have concentrated on competitive masters athletes, not people who exercise recreationally, and few have included many women.”

So for the new study, which was published in August in the Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., decided to look at a distinctive set of older men and women.

Exercise as a Hobby

“We were very interested in people who had started exercising during the running and exercise booms of the 1970s,” says Scott Trappe, the director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State and the new study’s senior author. They took up exercise as a hobby.”

The fact that this is precisely when I began my focus on regular sustained exercise encouraged me to read further. Indeed like me, the participants in the study maintained that exercise regimen throughout the next 50 or so years, running, cycling, swimming or otherwise working out often, even if they rarely or never competed. And like me the men and the women are well into their 70’s (Ditto.  Seventy-seven for me)

Using local advertisements and other recruitment methods, they found 28 of them, including seven women, each of whom had been physically active for the past five decades. They also recruited a second group of age-matched older people who had not exercised during adulthood and a third group of active young people in their 20s.

To test their premise the authors also recruited a second group of age-matched older people who had not exercised during adulthood and a third group of active young people in their 20s.

A Hierarchical Pattern

The researchers focused on the cardiovascular system and muscles because they are believed inevitably to decline with age and the scientists had expected they would see what Dr. Trappe describes as a “hierarchical pattern” in differences between the groups.

The young people, they thought, would possess the most robust muscles and aerobic capacities, with the lifelong exercisers being slightly weaker on both counts and the older non-exercisers punier still.

But that outcome is not precisely what they found. Instead, the muscles of the older exercisers resembled those of the young people, with as many capillaries and enzymes as theirs, and far more than in the muscles of the sedentary elderly.

“Together, these findings about muscular and cardiovascular health in active older people suggest that what we now consider to be normal physical deterioration with aging “may not be normal or inevitable,” Dr. Trappe added,  “These people were so vigorous, I’m in my 50s and they certainly inspire me to stay active.”

WOW!

P.S. If you found this article intimidating or downright annoying, take heart. There is always the inimitable Joan Rivers, who lived to be 81 years old and said: “I don’t exercise. If God had wanted me to bend over, he would have put diamonds on the floor.” 

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

P.S. AFTER you’ve done your promised workout, reward yourself and curl up with a hot book.  If you want a book sure to raise your heart rate, I recommend:

JARED: Book 1; The Justice Brothers Series.

 

It’s FREE September 25-29

Jared

  • On her first mission, Officer Hailey Michels confronts the leader of a dangerous Cartel.
  • Her chance to become a hero evaporates when the powerful Cartel member turns out to an undercover agent.
  • It was bad enough to blow his cover but when she discovers who he really is, Hailey’s budding career, along with her heart, takes a decided nose dive.
  • The rookie cop learns the hard way that when tangling with the Justice Brothers, Justice—like Love– isn’t always fair or
Sweet and Sassy Falling In LoveAnd check out our Author’s Billboard terrific new box set:

SWEET AND SASSY: Falling in Love

 My book in the box set is—“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

Challenging Year

About the book:

He’s a hard as nails police chief. She’s a feisty ADA. The one thing they have in common is arrogance. Sparks flare when the challenging duo face off.

Police Chief Garrett Drake rules his dominion with an iron hand. Short tempered, irascible, and a fierce taskmaster, the chief doesn’t suffer fools gladly. He barely tolerates the cowering ADAs the DA sends him.

Zoe Tanaka is legal royalty. The talented Japanese-American ADA, happens to be the daughter of a former associate justice of the California Supreme Court. Outspoken, confident and beautiful, the diminutive force-field isn’t easily intimidated.

Garrett concedes he’s never run up against a woman like Zoe Tanaka. Hell, she was almost as arrogant as he was. She’d clearly been bred to think that she can rise to meet whatever challenges she faces. As she no doubt had—in the past.

Amped by the adrenaline of the near-death attack, Garrett surprises himself when he invites the sassy woman to his pad for a nightcap. The only person more surprised is Zoe who accepts his daring invitation.

If you like smart characters, cops, courts, and scorching passion, you’ll love Taylor Lee’s sizzling thrill-ride.

Crocheting

Years ago, my mother-in-law decided to teach me crochet. My first reaction was to protest. With a full-time career and an overwhelming schedule as a lab manager, I hardly had time to cook for the family, let alone sit on a chair for hours and crochet, but she insisted I would learn without effort. With incredible patience and perseverance, she managed to teach me the basic stitches. Her compliments encouraged me to crochet a blanket.

My first afghan is 30y old: Unfortunately, I forgot how to stitch this pattern.

Things didn’t go easy as she chose a complicated pattern where I had to continuously concentrate on the task and count stitches. My first blanket took forever. I had to undo and repeat every time she detected a mistake, which often revolted me, but when it was eventually finished I was quite proud of myself.  We started a smaller afghan with a much easier stitch, one that repeated itself. I got the hang of it. Over the next five years I crocheted afghans for every relative in the family, baby blankets for every young friend expecting a baby, and a mix of these that were auctioned at the church festival, for a total of almost thirty pieces.

After I took an early retirement to pursue my dream of writing novels, I didn’t have time to crochet. Fifteen years later, I realized I completely forgot how to crochet. When I found a note in the church bulletin announcing a crochet hour every Thursday morning, I showed up with my old crochet bag. I explained that I was ready to learn again. The group of ladies reassured me they would teach me in no time. “It’s like riding a bicycle. It’ll come back right away.” Surprisingly it did. They taught me an easy stitch lemonade, and a few others.

One of the old ladies reminded me of my mother-in-law with her short white hair and her way of saying, “Doesn’t look right. You better undo it, dear, and repeat.” At Christmas time, more than two-hundred afghans and blankets are exhibited in the church hall and then shipped to the veterans and to the hospice.

The afghans ready to be shipped to the veterans or the hospice at Christmas time.

Now that I finally mastered a couple of stitches, I find crocheting immensely relaxing, and an excellent therapy for my hands, especially after a whole day at the computer.

My work in progress.

10 benefits of crocheting you won’t want to overlook

  • It’s a stress buster. …
  • It helps with depression. …
  • It’s good for your body. …
  • It keeps your mind active. …
  • It’s creative. …
  • It contributes to mindfulness and relaxation. …
  • It increases self-esteem. …
  • It helps others.

Can I teach you to crochet?

Of course during the day I write, and publish. Here are two books newly released during this month.

#NewRelease SAILING AWAY PLANS (Love Plans Series, book 1) A romantic comedy, realistic, sexy and emotional: Dr. Winston quits work to start a new life in the Caribbean, on his new boat, in a new clinic, but love strikes at the wrong time.

#NewRelease DATING PLAN (Love Plans Series, book 2)  Happiness finally seems within grasp for Matt and Brenda until the bullies in her daughter’s class pull her into their web again.

Indiana Jones in Petra

I visited Petra almost ten years ago as part of a cruise that took us from Italy all the way to Singapore, sailing the Mediterranean, crossing the Suez Canal, and continuing through the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

The blockbuster film Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade was partly filmed in the ancient city of Petra, a place unknown to much of the world before 1989. Indiana Jones was reviewed as “One of the best action-adventure films of all time,” and “One of the all-time greats. Harrison Ford is perfection-plus as Indiana Jones, so iconic a character that the AFI cited him as the second greatest movie hero of all time.”

“Archeology has never been so cool.”

Located between rugged desert canyons and mountains– in what is now the southwestern corner of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan– Petra was once a thriving trading center and the capital of the Nabataean empire between 400 B.C. and A.D. 106. The city sat empty and in near ruin for centuries. In the early 1800s, a European traveler disguised himself in Bedouin costume and infiltrated the mysterious site. In 1985, the Petra Archaeological Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, and in 2007 it was named one of the new seven wonders of the world.

Bab Al Siq’ is Arabic for gateway to the ‘siq’. Here we discovered squared monuments, the massive Djinn blocks, and the Obelisk Tomb, carved in the 1st century AD. Above the tomb are four pyramids as well as a niche with a statue in bas-relief that is a symbolic representation of the five people buried there. An inscription indicated that the tomb was used for Abdomanchos and his family, probably in 40- 70 AD.

The Siq, the main road that leads to the city, is a rock canal that measures 3 to 12 meters in width and reaches up to 80 meters in height. The main part of the Siq is created by natural rock formation and the rest was carved by the Nabataeans.

The siq opens up onto Petra’s most magnificent façade; the Treasury, or Al Khazna (in Arabic). It is almost 40 meters high and intricately decorated with Corinthian capitals, friezes, figures and more. The Treasury consists of two floors with a width of 25.30 meters and a height of 39.1 meters, and comprises three chambers. The most recent excavation has unearthed a graveyard beneath the Treasury. 

Almost three decades ago, George Lucas decided to use the monumental Treasury, the centerpiece of Jordan’s ancient city of Petra, as the exterior of The Temple of the Sun in his movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Cast and crew had to travel all the way to Jordan for just one day of shooting, because that’s all it took to make those scenes work.

The Treasury is crowned by a funerary urn, which according to local legend conceals a pharaoh’s treasure. Although the original function is still a mystery, The Treasury was probably constructed in the 1st century BC. However, in reality the urn represented a memorial for royalty.

While the filmmakers were allowed to have free access to the main entrance chamber, access is prohibited to most mortal visitors. The good news is that the most spectacular part of the location is its exterior – as well as the path you need to take to get there in the first place.

The 1.2 kilometer-long walk through a cleft called The Siq is the only way to access the Treasury and come back to the entrance.

Carved directly into vibrant red, white, pink, and sandstone cliff faces, the prehistoric Jordanian city of Petra was “lost” to the Western world for hundreds of years.

Unfortunately with the pandemic going on for almost two years, I have stopped traveling. Instead I write non-stop and have finished writing a series of eight romance novels, LOVE PLANS. The five first books are on pre-order, and SAILING AWAY PLANS will be released tomorrow.

Love Plans Series:

Sailing Away Plans: The successful surgeon quits work to start a new life in the Caribbean, on his new boat and in a new clinic, but love strikes at the wrong time. [RELEASE DAY 9/2]

Dating Plans: Attraction sizzles between a divorced surgeon and a psychologist with a challenging daughter. Things get more difficult when the teenager’s father returns.

Rescue Plans: Arianna fought hard to escape the slums and become a flight nurse. Captain Lopez taught her to conquer fear. Can he help her forget the scum from the past and win her trust?

Wedding Plans: Will the doctor make the right decision between an angry fiancée and a medical emergency?

Baby Plans: They meet at the artificial insemination clinic. Zach is doing research for an article. Audrey is secretly getting a baby. But artificial insemination works in many ways…