Doggy Day Trips—Old Westbury Gardens

img_7860Old Westbury Gardens has always been my absolute favorite escape on Long Island. It is the perfect place to unwind, relax and enjoy nature. As a child, I would go off exploring all that the Gardens has to offer—the thatched cottage, East Lake, the Walled Garden, nature paths and everything else in between—pretending that I lived in Westbury House and the gardens were all mine! It almost felt like I stepped back time, especially when walking through the house.

As the years passed, my love for Old Westbury Gardens grew. Every weekend, my mom and I would take a couple of lawn chairs, pack a picnic and our favorite books and spend an entire day under the shade of one of the massive breezy beech trees or find the perfect spot somewhere near the lake.

No matter the season, there’s always plenty to enjoy—from chamber music in the Red Ballroom and the summer Picnic Pops concerts to yoga on the lawn and members-only events and more. Some of my favorite memories have been from Old Westbury Gardens.

When Emma arrived on the scene, my mom and I felt guilty we couldn’t bring her to enjoy our favorite getaway. Then, shortly thereafter, we were excited to discover the Gardens began a new tradition—Dog Days! Twice a year, visitors are allowed to bring their canine companions to walk the gardens, do some canine shopping, participate in fun activities, meet animal rescue groups, and more.

Last month, when I took Emma to the first Dog Days weekend of 2018, it was a bit more crowded than usual, as they were undergoing landscaping renovations. Portions of the Gardens were closed; but it didn’t deter us from having a fun time. We had perfect weather, which always helps to add to the joy of the day. (Dog Day Festival Weekends are usually slated for spring (April) and fall (Sept/Oct), so be sure to check their calendar of events.)

Regardless of whether you have a dog or not, spending a day at the Gardens is certainly worth the trip. There are year-round activities; and if you become a member, you’ll receive extra perks, discounts and members-only events. Old Westbury Gardens is easily accessible by both Northern State Parkway and the LIE (I-495).

Let me know if you visit—or attend the next Dog Days! Emma and I will be on the lookout for you.

Doggy Day Trips: Long Island’s Sands Point Preserve

img_7565Even though Long Island was hit with a few snow storms since the official beginning of “spring,” I took advantage of a nice day last weekend to take Emma on a day trip. (Thankfully, all the snow melted quickly.) When the weather is nice, we both love being outdoors. One of our favorite places to visit is dog-friendly Sands Point Preserve on the original Guggenheim Estate.

The Preserve has six hiking trails that start at a quarter-mile, or you can loop all the trails together and walk for several miles. On our favorite trail, there’s a spot that overlooks the beach and the Long Island Sound. It’s the perfect spot for a photo on a sunny day.

Some of the trails are not shaded, so if you go in warmer months, be sure to go first thing in the morning and take plenty of water for your dog. (If hiking isn’t your thing and you want to leave your pooch home, the Preserve does have other year-round activities and events.)

We visit the Preserve year-round, and each time we go, the terrain can be different—dry, muddy, snowy, icy, depending on the previous day’s (or week’s) weather. I usually stay away from the trails after it has just rained or snowed. That can make for messy or dangerous conditions.

The Preserve is located on the North Shore of Long Island in Nassau County and is fairly easy to get to off the LIE (I-495) or Northern State Parkway. It costs $10 for the day and is worth every cent.

Do you have a favorite spot to hike with your dog?

Doggy Day Trips: North Hempstead Beach Park

fullsizeoutput_34acBefore New York’s fourth Nor’easter hit this week (and here I thought spring arrived), I took Emma over to North Hempstead Beach Park, formerly Bar Beach. It has a special meaning for me—it’s the place where my parents met a bazillion years ago—but has become a place that I love to go with Emma since they now allow dogs!

The day that we went, it was extremely windy, but we got to enjoy a long walk back and forth on the promenade, breathe in the salty, sea air and soak in the warm sun, thanks to the cloudless blue skies. Emma and I love the cold, but the 20-degree wind chills were enough to send us home after an hour!

BarBeach2018This park is one of our year-round favorites, especially in cooler months when there aren’t many people there—and we don’t have to worry about the scorching weather. But because it’s right there on the water, there’s not a lot of shade on the promenade. So, if you go in warmer months, be sure to go first thing in the morning or at dusk so the concrete is cooler for your dog’s paws. They have a shaded picnic area, which can be fun in warmer months; but it does get crowded.

The park is free to enter in the off-season, and a season pass (Memorial Day through Labor Day) will cost you $50.

When Your Dog’s Paws Smell Like Corn Chips

img_7340.jpgI was on the phone recently with a friend who mentioned that, although she’d just given her dog a bath, his paws smelled like Fritos! I knew all too well what she was talking about. From time to time, Emma gets that same smell.

The corn chips (or Fritos) smell has to do with yeast and bacteria on your dog’s paws. Pseudomonas or proteus are types of natural bacteria that make their way into the crevices of the paws. This happens when you take your dog outside and whatever is on the street or grass gets stuck on the paws. Like humans, dogs sweat. But they sweat through their paws. So, sometimes when they sweat, the moisture becomes trapped in the fuzz between their foot pads, causing the smell.

To keep the smell to a minimum, be sure to trim the fuzz between your dog’s foot pads, then clean and dry properly. Whenever you come in from outside, wipe your dog’s paws thoroughly. I always keep a pack of paw wipes at the door, so before I let Emma back in the house, she gets her paws (and bum) wiped.

Keep in mind, dogs lick their paws. It’s their way of cleaning themselves. But if you notice the excessive chewing, licking and nibbling, there may be something else going on with your fur baby. He or she might actually be allergic to something and you may want to schedule a visit to the vet.

Getting Back on Track Before Going Back to the Gym

pexels-photo-374101.jpegLast year was a tough year for me personally, and unfortunately, I went off track a bit when it came to exercising. I really didn’t take care of myself. While I hadn’t packed on too many pounds, I just didn’t feel right. I felt achy and lethargic, and somehow my muscles disappeared! It was time to buckle down.

Since I hadn’t been to the gym in a while, I didn’t want to overdo it by going into overdrive the first day back—something I’ve been known to do, many a time. Instead, I started with at-home exercises to build up my stamina, so I wouldn’t kill myself when I actually did haul my butt back to the gym.

Every morning, for a few weeks, I’d do at least 15-20 minutes of yoga, along with an intense 5- to 10-minute abs workout (planks, opposite arm/leg raise, squats, plank with leg lift, exercise ball, etc.). I figured if I could get up to a half-hour-plus workout routine in the mornings without gasping for breath, then I’d be “good enough” shape to return to the gym.

The best part about doing these at-home exercise—except for no-equipment needed—is that I could actually see a difference! That, coupled with a few dietary changes, I noticed my metabolism was up, I lost the extra few pounds, my muscles were toned and firm again, and, best of all, I’d lost about an inch around my waist. Woohoo!

If you’re struggling to get back on track like I was, go easy on yourself. Don’t guilt yourself into going to the gym every day, when we all know that life gets in the way.

Take it one day at a time, like I did, and you’ll see the changes soon enough.

Hearty Split Pea Soup

IMG_6766In the winter, I love making a variety of soups. Not only are they filling, they are loaded with vitamins and nutrients that your body needs to get you through the cold winter.

Over the years, I’ve experimented with different ingredients in my soups, along with the different types of split peas. I used to love green split pea soup, but over the last several years, my palate has changed; and now, my favorite is yellow split pea. It tastes a lot lighter is more flavorful than the green.

Split peas have about 10 grams of protein and fiber per serving. Yellow split peas are an excellent source of B vitamins, rich in the amino acid tryptophan, and contain potassium. So, if you’re looking for a heart-healthy soup, try yellow split pea! It pairs perfectly with a glass of wine.

Here’s how I make mine:

Ingredients:

8 cups of vegetable broth or water (I use organic vegetable broth, no salt)

1 package of yellow split peas (sorted and rinsed)

2 cups green cabbage, diced

2 cups carrots, sliced

1 medium onion, diced

1 tbs olive or canola oil

1 ½ tsp sea salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

½ tsp hot pepper (optional)

Directions:

Heat oil. Add diced onions and sauté until golden (usually 5-10 mins).

Add carrots and cabbage, stir, cook for 1-2 minutes to soften; then add peas and vegetable broth, stir thoroughly. Cover pot. Bring to a boil. Cook for one hour on low.

Add sea salt, ground black pepper and hot pepper (optional). Cook an additional one hour on low.

Be sure to mix every 20-30 minutes. The peas can thicken quickly, and you don’t want a burned layer on the bottom of the pot.

If you make the soup, be sure to let me know how you like it.

Enjoy!

Healthy Treats for Your Dog

When Emma first came into the family, she was a tiny four-pound bundle of white fluff. I wanted to be a good pet-parent and feed her a healthy diet, so she would live longer. But I didn’t want this to be limited to just her meals; I wanted her to have healthy snacks, as well.

Considering I’m a healthy eater, I’ve made sure my dog is, too. Emma does not get any “junk food,” table scraps (that weren’t prepared with her in mind – no salt, additives, etc.) or dairy (dairy is actually not good for some dogs). She eats a healthy diet of grain-free kibble with a dollop of grain-free soft food. And, if she gets any extra treats, I make sure to reduce her meals slightly so that she maintains her weight and doesn’t gain. (The more overweight your dog is, the shorter their lifespan.)

While she does enjoy her “people food” treats, she does get her usual chewy provided by the vet to help keep tartar at bay and her teeth strong.

Here are some of Emma’s favorite goodies, which happen to be super healthy—and which you can share with your fur baby, too.

Fruit: Since Emma has nixed bananas from her diet, she does love a good apple. Whenever I have one as a snack, I cut up a slice for her so we can enjoy it together. Apples have antioxidants and are loaded with vitamin C. In the summer, we switch to watermelon (seedless, of course), which has plenty of lycopene, vitamins A, B-6 and C.

Veggies: I’m a veggie lover (as I don’t eat meat), and so, I share my love of veggies with Emma. She loves roasted broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and Brussels sprouts, which have plenty of vitamins A, B1, B6 and K, folate, fiber and potassium. Sweet potatoes are the bomb! They’re a good source of vitamins A, B-6, C and E, not to mention calcium and iron.

Peanut Butter: I’ve never met a dog who doesn’t love peanut butter. Peanut butter is a good source of protein and has vitamins B and E and niacin. I buy the no-sugar, no-salt added, all natural kind. This is the best for dogs. And, a little goes a long way. A small dollop will keep Emma licking her chops for ages.

Salmon: This is one of the best things you can feed your dog as it is full of Omega-3 fatty acids. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and is good to keep the joints supple. When Emma goes to agility class, dried salmon treats are her reward. So even if she doesn’t get grilled salmon (yes, I make her grilled salmon on Sundays), she still gets the benefits from the treats.

What does your dog like to eat?