Monthly Archives: May 2016

Ways to Make a Watermelon Fruit Basket

This is one of the easiest edible fruit baskets you will ever make. I promise that it will impress your friends and party guest. I’ve been making them for over 10 years now and had forgot about it until this summer. The first one I did was for a company meeting, and my employees couldn’t believe that I went to so much trouble. LOL

Getting started

The first thing of any recipe is going shopping for the ingredients. You should buy produce that is organic and definitely fresh. Start off with a medium size watermelon that is fairly round, with good color and has at least one good flat side so it will set up straight and not be wobbling. My other ingredients for the fresh fruit basket varies depending on the season and what they have on hand. You can add anything that you like but here are some things that I place in my basket:

  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple chunks
  • Grapes (red and green)
  • Cantaloupe (cut in half and scoop out with a melon ball utensil)
  • Watermelon (scoop out with a melon ball utensil)

As soon as I get home, I wash all of my fruit and melons thoroughly. Then I refrigerate everything but the Watermelon.

Prepping the Watermelon

First I decide which way the watermelonsits the best to make the watermelon fruit basket. Make sure it’s good and flat with no wobbling and on a flat surface. The white side that it was sitting on is usually your best bet. Then I get out my trusted yard stick and measure the height and length. I then take my height  and divide it in half, that determines my cut line. Placing the yard stick standing straight up, I take a marker and go all the way around the melon marking my cut line.

Marking for the handle for the edible fruit basket is the next step. If your watermelonis 18 inches long, for example, I mark the top center at 9 inches and both sides. I then add 1 1/2 inches to both sides of my center mark. (Just remember, your handle will not turn out to be 3 inches wide, because we still have to cut the indention’s in it.) I then take my yardstick and mark for the handle from side to side across the top. Always begin your first cut on the handle because it will help you out to not over cut when placing the cuts from each side. Then taking a long butcher knife, I cut down from the top for both sides of the handle. Then I cut from each side back towards the middle.

Melon Balling the Watermelon

Next, I start making watermelon balls from all three portions. I usually use both sides of my melon ball utensil for the two different sizes. The seeds are sometimes a problem, if you don’t get a seedlesswatermelon. Just take a small paring knife and stick in the balls to try and check for seeds. This will be the largest quantity of everything in your basket. When the majority of it is out, I then take a large spoon and scoop out whats left. Drain off any excess juice, and you’re now ready for the pretty part.

Grooving Your Watermelon Fruit Basket

This next step looks hard, but it’s really not. I usually start beside one of the handles and using a paring knife making small angled cuts between 3/8 and 1/2 inch deep. I then move over and make another angle cut backwards making a “V” shape in the top edge. ( see picture below) Continue this all the way around, then proceed to the handle. This is probably the most time consuming part, but don’t let it freak you out. When you get finished, you will not realize that every cut is not perfect. It will look just fine. Just be sure to never pick your watermelon up by the handle. Always carry it from the bottom.

Prepping The Other Ingredients

I then move on to my cantaloupe to get it ready. Start by cutting in half, then raking all of the seeds and pulp out. (be sure to save this for your compost bin as well as yourwatermelon and cantalouperinds.) I then use my melon ball utensil (both sizes) and proceed to getting as much out as possible. I place all of my ingredients in individual baggies until time to use. Next I remove the stems from the strawberries and cut the bottom off. I pick my grapes off the vine and remove all of the little stems from my blueberries. I try to always use fresh pineapple that I cut into 1/2 inch wedges.

Presenting Your Watermelon Fruit Basket

I never add my ingredients to my freshfruit basket until it’s time to present it. Never dump everything in at once, because you will have too much. I normally take a portion of everything and mix it in a large bowl and then just fill the edible fruit basketto the top of the v-cuts. Refrigerate whats left to replenish you basket later on. I hope you enjoy using this as much as I have. It’s a great way to impress your friends while giving them something very delicious and healthy to munch on.

How to Make Fresh Fruit Juice

There are many varieties of fruits grown in the Caribbean. The tropical island of Jamaica is no exception. There are many types of fruits widely available in Jamaica. The fruits are not only eaten, but they are also used in salads, fruit bowls and for making drinks. Swapping fruits is also popular among neighbors in Jamaica. For instance, if one person has a mango tree and it bears extra fruit (too much for his family and household) he will usually give some of the fruit to his neighbors. And, if one of those neighbors has another type of fruit tree growing in his yard and he also has extra fruit, instead of letting it spoil, he will give some of the fruit to his neighbors. Fruits can also be purchased locally in Jamaican supermarkets and markets. Here are some of the typical fruit juices that people make at home (from scratch) in Jamaica.

Mango Juice
Mangoes make a delicious drink. To prepare the drink, first wash the mango then peel it. Slice the mango into small pieces, avoiding the large seed in the middle. Throw away the seed. Place the pieces of mango into a blender. Add milk or water. Sweeten with sugar if necessary. Strain the mango juice if you want a smooth textured drink. Add ice. Serve chilled. Put the rest in the refrigerator.

Papaya Juice
Jamaican papayas are different than the papayas you find in some of the other countries (America, for example). Papayas are also delicious but the taste takes a little getting used to, in my opinion. To make a drink from the papaya you first wash the papaya, peel it then slice it in half. Use a spoon to remove the hundreds (maybe thousands) of little round black seeds. Throw away the seeds. The selected papaya should be ripe and soft. Slice the papaya further into smaller pieces. Put the sliced papaya into a blender. Add milk or water. Add sugar and/or condensed milk to sweeten if desired. Blend for a few minutes. Strain if desired. Add ice. Serve cold. Refrigerate the unused portions of juice.

Sweet Sop Juice
Sweet Sop drink is very tasty. However it takes some time to prepare and it is difficult to get Sweet Sop to buy if you live in a North American country; for reasons unknown. As mentioned previously, Sweet Sop drink is more difficult to prepare because you cannot peel off the skin of the Sweet Sop so you will have to cut or break open the fruit and scoop out as much of the sap as possible with a spoon. Furthermore, there are dozens of black seeds within the fruit and each one is encased within the sap of the Sweet Sop. You will need to separate each seed individually from the sap and try not to throw away any of the sap. Once this is done, you can place the sap in a blender, add water or milk. You can sweeten with condensed milk or sugar. Blend until satisfied. Strain if necessary. Add ice. Serve cold. You should refrigerate the left over portions of juice.

Sour Sop Juice
Another delicious drink is made from the Sour Sop fruit. Sour Sop is actually not entirely sour as its name suggests. Sour Sop is a popular drink which is also widely known among the Hispanic community (where it is known as Guanabana). To make Sour Sop drink, first you wash the fruit, cut it and then you remove the seeds. Peel the remaining skin. Cut the Sour Sop into sections then place them into a blender. Add milk or water. Sweeten with sugar or condensed milk. Blend for a few moments. Strain the juice. Add ice. Put the unused portion in the refrigerator.

The above are a few of the many freshly made juices you’ll find in Jamaica. The recipes above for making each drink will vary from person to person. Of course you can make more elaborate tasting drinks by adding additional ingredients or by varying the recipe. Happy experimenting.

Finding Dental Insurance for Seniors

The exorbitant cost of dental care has made it mandatory for people to have dental insurance. It is always better to get a dental plan before the problem arises to get competitively lower rates. In December 2011, 42% of the American senior citizens had faced tooth loss to an extent of replacing it with dentures and implants. Like this, there are several other dental problems that people have to face as they age.

About 97% of the insured population opt for dental health insurance plans that are employment-based. This is because employer-based dental insurance is a group insurance plan that has lower premium requirements as against individual dental insurance. Such plans are available for senior citizens also. As far as senior citizens are concerned, cost-effectiveness is one of the parameters that an insurance plan must fulfill. Here, we will discuss each of the plans in detail with its pro and cons.

Dental Plan Types Available in the Market Today

PPO Dental Insurance Plans
(Good Coverage, but High Prices)

Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) are attractive due to the flexibility they provide while choosing a dentist. These plans can be regarded as gold for those who can afford it.

Big companies provide these plans to their employees as a privilege. Although their annual payment is more expensive than other options, PPO plans are easily available to individuals as well as groups. They offer the maximum benefit to members who choose dentists from within their provided network. Nevertheless, members have the freedom to opt for any dentist of their choice at the cost of some benefits.

Alternately they reimburse the member or directly pay the dentist. Before getting attracted to its perks, be aware of all the costs that accompany it. Also, it requires you to pay the deductibles before the coverage actually starts.

HMO Dental Insurance Plans
(Affordable Care, Reduced Flexibility)

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans are cheaper than PPO plans and indemnity plans. They are commonly known as Dental Health Maintenance Organizations (DHMO). Just like PPOs, DHMO also covers a group of dentists that provide service at predetermined prices. They are famous among the employers who buy them for their employees, but an individual can also approach a DHMO policy conveniently.

For senior citizens, the low cost attached with this plan is the appealing factor. This plan does not provide you with any comfort while choosing your dentist. In fact, if you are required to consult a specialist, the insurance carrier will pay only for that specialist referred by your dentist.

The unique feature about this option is the way DHMO pays their network of dentists. The dentists are paid on the basis of number of patients they treat and are also required to accomplish a target. This leads to unprofessional treatment and discommode to the patients. In spite of the shortcomings, these plans are preferred due to their cost-effectiveness.

Dental Indemnity Insurance
(Traditional Dental Coverage for Seniors)

This was the basic plan introduced for the purpose of dental insurance. In this type, the policy holder has the freedom of choosing any dentist of his choice without any prejudice. It has a reimbursement mode of payment. The policy holder files a claim which is reimbursed by the insurance carriers.

It covers 50-80% of the cost incurred in a dental treatment; rest is to be borne by the patient. For this reason, this is not a favorite among the senior citizens.

Steps to a Perfect Choice

Today there are many ways of researching in order to find the perfect plan that solves all your problems. There are companies like Spirit Dental, Dental Plans, Medicoverage, etc., which offer easily accessible websites to search and compare a variety of dental insurance options. Four fundamental steps that one must follow while buying a dental insurance for seniors are listed below:

  • Step 1 – Use the online tools provided to search for all the dental plans available and narrow it down according to your need. Look at the procedures offered, some of them are not covered under various plans or covered at low percentages.
  • Step 2 – If you already have a family dentist, visit him for advice or to learn about the plans that he is covered in. If not, then call up few referred dentists and ask them for the schemes that cover them and check for the success of their practice.
  • Step 3 – After going through the above-mentioned steps, narrow down your selected plans to two or maximum three that represent the best combination of your preferred services and your favorite local dentist.
  • Step 4 – To make your final selection contact a licensed agent. He can help you with all the issues that you haven’t noticed and fill up the remaining loopholes, after which your final dental insurance plan will be ready.

Problems Associated with Dental Insurance
Managed care plans are the cheapest, and as a consequence, most employers have shifted to these from the erstwhile popular traditional insurance plans. Managed care plans force the insured to choose from the given network of doctors and do not provide coverage for preexisting conditions.
Traditional insurance plans result in the insured receiving only the cheapest treatment according to the Least Expensive Alternative Treatment (LEAT) clause, although one has the option of choosing the doctor. Again, preexisting conditions are not covered by the plan.
The best dental insurance plan for people who are employed, is definitely the Direct Reimbursement Plan, which in addition to being the only plan that covers preexisting conditions, also provides the benefit of deductible premiums to employers. However, there is the danger of the amount not being reimbursed by the insurance company.
Since the aforementioned plans are usually employment-based, and have certain restricting clauses as far as treatment and payment is concerned, these are not suitable for seniors.
The Best Alternative

Dental Discount Plans
They have assumed a great deal of significance from the perspective of ensuring cost-effective treatment without the usual hassles that are associated with dental insurance. These plans are an alternative to insurance. The plan works by allowing members to save up to 60% on various procedures like cleanings, fillings, braces, checkups and more. Some of the advantages of dental discount plans include:

No Waiting Period: People have to pay an annual or a monthly fee in order to become members. The membership card generally arrives within 7 to 10 days of joining the plan. The procedure for becoming a member does not require extensive paperwork. Moreover, there is no waiting period clause unlike Traditional dental insurance and Managed Care plans. Direct Reimbursement plan is the only insurance plan that does not have any waiting period requirement, but costs more and is typically employment-based.

Cost-effective: The annual membership fee is generally around $100. The members have the option of visiting participating dentists nationwide and availing discounts by showing the membership card. Members receive a discounted fee schedule for almost all procedures and the least savings may be to the tune of 10%. The maximum savings, as mentioned earlier, is around 60% for certain procedures. Amongst dental insurance plans, managed care plans are the cheapest, but force people to choose from a narrow network of dentists. In addition to discounts on dental procedures, people may receive discounts related to vision, hearing and chiropractic care as well.

Less Encumbrances: These plans have less encumbrances as compared to other dental insurance plans, since they do not involve filing claims and other forms for predetermined benefits. In most cases, there are no plan deductibles or limitation on benefits. Unlike insurance – that does not cover cosmetic dental procedures – dental discount plans may provide discounts on procedures such as bonding or veneer.

It’s evident that dental discount plans provide a number of facilities that may be unavailable to people opting for dental insurance. Seniors, who cannot rely on employer-based insurance, can benefit to a great extent from these dental discount plans; so much so that dental discount plans have become synonymous with dental insurance for seniors.

The aim is to find a plan tailored just for you so that you can flaunt your big, toothy smile!

Exercises for Seniors

Senior citizens face an increased risk of various health ailments that can range from simple indigestion to stroke, their age also makes them susceptible to a fall or physical injury. In the elderly, aging muscles and bones combined with reduced strength leads to inactivity that further results into a weak immune system, diminishing flexibility and mental equilibrium, which are recognized as some of the important factors of a healthy body and mind. A good way to fight against such old age concerns, it is important to take up some physical exercises or activities for the wellness of body and mind.

Simple or tailor-made exercises for senior citizens will promote good health in the golden phase of their life, which will help them maintain physical, mental as well as emotional balance. However, it should be noted that when age is a crucial factor for a body to respond, one should not go out of the way to match the stamina of others around.

Simple Exercises

  • Walking: To begin with, walking is one of the best primary exercises that senior citizens can opt for. Walking on a regular basis in the morning and evening can keep one fit and healthy. This activity can help burn fat, increase flexibility and uplift one’s spirit.
  • Yoga: Yoga is a form of traditional Indian exercise. It has a healing effect on one’s soul. It includes breathing exercises and meditation that play a vital role in maintaining a balance between body, mind and spirit. This can help senior citizens to reduce stress levels and decrease high blood pressure. It promotes flexibility and provides relaxation.
  • Weight training: Senior citizens may also opt for weight training with the help of light-weight dumbbells. This will help improve metabolism and increase muscle strength, enhancing stability.
  • Swimming: The primary benefit of swimming is that it is easy on the joints. This will rejuvenate you and keep the stress factor at bay, besides retaining your fitness levels.
  • Aerobics: Aerobics is rhythmic by nature and warms up the body. This activity engages every part of the body and is beneficial to stretch and tone up the muscles. Aerobics also strengthens the respiratory system, provides sufficient oxygen, improves blood circulation, reduces blood pressure and rapid palpitation, also improving mental health.

Stretching or Flexibility Exercises
As people grow old, their muscles stiffen and their range of motion decreases. To preserve the range of motion and to maintain flexibility and a relaxed mind, stretching exercises are very effective. These involve stretching slowly, while maintaining normal breathing during each movement. This will help senior citizens to relax their body as well as mind. For example,

  • Stretch your arms straight upwards, take a deep breath and exhale slowly as you bend down to touch your fingers to the toes.
  • Stretch your arms sideways, keep your back straight and twist your upper body toward the right side. Hold this position for 10 seconds and come back to the original position. Repeat this for other side and do it couple of times as per your convenience.
  • Stretch your arms parallel to the ground, close your fists and turn them clockwise and anti-clockwise.

Activities to Boost Your Stamina
If you are catching up in age but feel young at heart and like taking challenges, you can boost your stamina by performing some activities that can be little demanding for your age. Try riding a bicycle if possible, take the stairs if you can, or indulge in a sport or activity, make sure that it does not leave you breathless. This will give you a benchmark as to where you need to stop. If you succeed in this challenge, you will definitely be eligible to accelerate your happiness and be proud of what you could manage to do at your age. And we needn’t add that staying happy is also good to stay fit. Once you have developed the confidence of performing such activities, you could challenge your grandchild to outdo you. Whoever wins, you are ultimately boosting your stamina!

Some Points to Remember

  • Start slowly and increase activity gradually according to your capacity
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes while exercising
  • Test blood glucose level
  • Consult a physician before starting any exercise regimen

Exercise has no age limit, only difference being, the method and level of doing it. Having achieved most from life in terms of kind and money, dedicating their time for health and wellness tops the priority for senior citizens.