Choosing a Foreign Language Dictionary

Many times, language participants ask which is the best dictionary to buy for their target language. With so many choices out there and with everyone having a personal favorite to recommend, how do you know what the best choice is for you?

First, you need to assess your current level in the target language, be it Spanish, Portuguese or any other language. If you are a beginner, there is no reason to purchase a large hardcover dictionary becuase, at least at first, you will not have the need for a dictionary that big; ultimately, buying a dictionary that is too large could hinder your learning. Instead of thinking of ways to say things that you already know, you may become too tempted to look up new ways to say things instead. In the long run, it is much better to start with a smaller dictionary and upgrade to a larger one when you are ready.

Second, dictionaries have different layouts. You need to decide what you are comfortable with so that you don't choose a dictionary whose layout is confusing to you. Go to a large bookstore near you that carries a variety of foreign language dictionaries and flip through a few to decide what layout is easiest for you to use. Try looking up a few words to see how comfortable you are with the dictionary. If you don't like one, try another.

The most important thing to remember is not to use your dictionary as a crutch. Rather, your dictionary should be a useful reference tool when it is truly needed. Spanish and Portuguese dictionaries, grammar guides and phrase books are available in our online store.

AmeriSpan Guarantee

We at AmeriSpan are always looking for the best way to deliver top notch customer service at a good value just for you! As a result, we have just launched our Triple Guarantee. There is no risk in choosing an AmeriSpan program because you'll get the best program, best price and can cancel for any reason and get a full refund on every dollar we have received for your program. Below is a summary of each component that makes up the Triple Guarantee:

Satisfaction Guarantee
Your satisfaction is our main concern. If you aren't satisfied, we'll pay for a week of group classes at the same program or another of your choice.

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You never pay more with AmeriSpan because if you find a price lower than ours, we'll match it and take another 10% off.

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Change your mind for any reason and we'll refund 100% of any money paid to AmeriSpan…no questions asked.

Click here for complete details: Triple Guarantee

By Elizabeth Gregory

CD Review: Mensch

When last in Germany, I popped into a music store. I always try to pick up a CD of some popular music of the country I'm in since many times world music selections can be lacking at home (plus it's a relatively cheap souvenir for myself). Prior to my shopping trip, I asked my host brother who was popular in Germany. After listing to many groups and soloists that I hear on the radio at home, he finally admitted that "the only good non-techno singer in German music that a lot of people like is Herbert Gronemeyer". Based on his suggestion, I picked up a copy of his CD Mensch. I love this CD. It's a great mix of slow songs and fast songs. In a strange way, he kind of reminds me of Sting. Even the parts where I don't know what he's saying, I find myself singing along. There is a lot of variety on this CD, and you can really feel his emotions which vary based on the type of song he is singing. I highly recommend this CD for anyone looking to expand their world music collection. It's also a great one to have in the car when you're struggling to find some good "driving music".

Highly recommended by Elizabeth Gregory

International Arts & Crafts

Arts and crafts refer to anything made with one's own hands, a skill. It doesn't matter what the medium is that the crafter or artist chooses to use as each piece is made from the heart, involving a soulful expression of self. With each country's own culture, attitude and life experience, what becomes is a special uniqueness in the eyes of the world, an honest expression of one's world, thoughts and experiences.

With all that differentiates people around the world, arts and crafts are one thing that breaks all barriers and transcends cultures. By looking at what each culture hand crafts, you are seeing into their soul, their story, their outlook, their life. Hence, arts and crafts can be a very powerful expression of self.

Here are some of my favorite crafts as seen around the world:

1. Matryushka Dolls (Russia)
These wooden nesting dolls have a special meaning for me because my great grandparents, who were born in Russia, gave them to me when I was a little girl. As an adult, all I have to do is pick up one of these painted figures and instantaneously be transported back in time!

I read several different stories on its origin, and the one I like the best comes from Russian Crafts:

"In old Russia, the name Matryona or Matriosha was a very popular female name among the common people. Scholars say this name has a Latin root "mater", meaning "Mother". This name was associated with the image of a mother of a big peasant family who was very healthy and had a portly figure.

Subsequently, it became a symbolic name and was used specially to create brightly painted wooden dolls in such a way that they could be taken apart to reveal smaller dolls fitting inside one another."

2. Barro Negro aka Black Pottery (Mexico)
The town of San Bartolo Coyotepec in Oaxaca state is well known for their handcrafting of black pottery, a special procedure for which was developed by Dona Rosa, whose son, Valentin still carries on this tradition at the Alfareria Dona Rosa. The present day pottery, which is shiny, smooth and black, should be used for decoration only and not for cooking or serving as its light grayish brown utilitarian predecessor.

The large shop has 4 sides of shelving all well-stocked with hundreds of pieces of black pottery for sale. There's a large pile of urns, like the ones that carried mescal, located on the grassy area in the middle of the store. You can watch Valentin demonstrate how the black pottery is made and take some great pictures of him and his pottery, as I did in November 2003.

I enlarged and framed my photo of him making a vase with clay everywhere and have it displayed at home on my wall above where my own two pieces of black pottery are sitting. It's a very inspiring display, reminding me of my trip.

More information about black pottery and Dona Rosa can be found at TomZap.

3. Haiku (Japan)
I have stretched this topic a bit to include this traditional Japanese poetry because it's so reminiscent of my elementary school days in Language Arts class! What's really fascinating about this particular art form, originating in the Middle Ages, is that some of the best Haiku poems describe everyday situations in a brand new and exciting way.

As random as they sometimes seem, haikus are very consistent in Japanese, with 5, 7 and then 5 syllables in 3 separate phrases, each complimenting the others. In English, though, the number of syllables is not so consistent, hence changing the sound of the flow. Another rule of thumb is that the phrases cannot rhyme.

If you haven't seen this type of poetry since you were young, like me, here's an example of what's known as "urban haiku":

Silence–a strangled
telephone has forgotten
that it should ring

It's comically refreshing, is it not?!?

For more haiku poems, including some that are reflected in really neat (in an engagingly spooky way!) black & white photos, look for "Photo Haiku" at Haiku Poet's Hut.

4. Balcones or Casitas (Colombia & Venezuela)
These adorable 3-dimensional wooden models that depict scenes from typical Latin American houses are my absolute favorite craft around! They are part of the miniature world that secretly inspires me. Often hung on a wall, they depict a typical scene of a patio, balcony, window, doorway or interior room with a fireplace called chimeneas.

After the wood is assembled, the model is painted, then the finishing decorative pieces are attached, such as floor and roof tiles, wood stairs, old style tiny wood windows and clay pots and hanging baskets with flowers.

5. Photography (Everywhere!)
Even though photography is generally seen as an "art", it brings with it more considerations than many typical arts and crafts because it affects people directly, especially when snapping photos of the local people while traveling.

Even local photographers need to have a level of sensitivity when photographing their own. Jim Kane, founder of Culture Xplorers and avid photographer, describes the process as "Culturally Sensitive Photography" and gives us eight guidelines to consider when photographing people that you can even use photographing your own country.

As you shoot your own personal portfolio of photos throughout the years, you can start to notice how your own sense of photography style is developing; after shooting lots of the same types of photos and applying your personality to them, your style emerges. Since I'm a contemplative sort of person by nature, I tend to take more pictures of the subtle nuances of life when I travel, from potted flowers and plants and a row of colorful fruit displayed at a fruit stand to a construction guy napping in a wheelbarrow and a small child innocently feeding birds in the park.

Since photography is one of my passions, I thought I'd share what's worked for me for better photos on the road:

  • Bring more rolls of film than you plan on using and don't be afraid to use them! You may not return to your destination for a long time; why not capture as much of the daily life as you can while you are there?
  • Take the rolls out of their boxes and put them all in a clear baggie for the purposes of check-in at the airport (see next tip).
  • Even if you are going through only one airport checkpoint, politely(!) insist that the X-ray official to check your camera and film by hand rather than scanning it through the X-ray (even if they say it's harmless!).
  • Take pictures from different angles, getting down low to the ground to take a picture of a child or higher up as necessary.
  • Be willing to take off-centered photos. It's really liberating; you'd be surprised!
  • When taking a landscape picture, scan the horizon horizontally and snap picture after picture in smaller segments to be pieced together (when they're processed) to get a more expansive feel. It's a great display for a scrapbook!
  • When you get home, photos developed, pick out your favorite or two, enlarge and frame them (Target has an enlarger and it's pretty reasonably priced!) and then display them in your house as a daily reminder of your trip abroad.
  • Or better yet, make a scrapbook of the whole trip if you have time (at least commit to doing one page, it'll usually progress to more!). One of my favorite websites to find inspiring scrapbook layouts and general scrapbooking tips is Creating Keepsakes. Happy scrapping!
  • There are lots more helpful travel photography tips, compliments of Fodor's.

So, the next time you are looking for a different kind of travel, how about a trip planned around crafts, following your heart from country to country in search of the hand-made wonders that each culture has to offer?

By Sue Lavene

Movie: Love Me If You Dare

Love Me If You Dare (Jeux d'enfants) is one of the coolest movies I've ever seen, and it is easily one of my favorites. The vivid color and unconventional plot are reminiscent of Amelie, everyone's favorite French film, but Love Me If You Dare tells a story all its own.

Starring heartthrob Guilluame Canet as Julien and Marion Cotillard as Sophie, Love Me If You Dare begins when Julien and Sophie meet as children; they immediately commence an exciting (and oftentimes disturbing) game of outdoing each other with outrageous dares. (Cap ou pas cap?) The games continue through college and into adulthood, and with each dare it becomes more difficult for Julien and Sophie to admit their love for one another. I won't tell you exactly how things turn out for them, but I have to say that it was the most romantic, yet strangely unromantic, ending to a movie I can say I've ever seen.

Again, it's not your typical romantic comedy, but that's what makes it so cool. You'll laugh, you'll be shocked, you'll fall in love with love. Love Me If You Dare is out on DVD, and I highly recommend checking it out.

Travel Health – Part 2

Of course, there are many reasons why we travel. Some of us long for the excitement and "newness" of a country other than our own, some decide to leave behind their every day lives for a while, others want to learn a new language, take cooking or dance classes abroad, while others go in search of higher meaning or life fulfillment. Regardless of what your specific goals are, one thing's for sure. You've got to take care of yourself while on the road so your experience can be as problem-free as possible.

While on the Road

One of my previous articles, Eating Around the World, was about trying the local fare at food stands abroad, specifically in Oaxaca, Mexico. I described the fun and cultural benefits of eating local food in that setting. When deciding to indulge, however, one fact remains true: You must take certain precautions when deciding to "dig in" to avoid later health consequences, some of these prior to your departure (see: Healthy Travels – Part 1). That was just one example of where you should heed caution. There are an infinite number of other ways to take care of your health upon arrival in your adopted country:

1. Jet Lag
According to According to Aviation-Health, most passengers experience jet lag after trips of over 3 hours either East or West. The main cause of jet lag is the disruption of the body's internal clock. What happens is that your body is thrown out of sync because it experiences light and dark at different times in the new location. Another contributing factor is the lack of oxygen in the pressurized cabin of an aircraft. Symptoms vary from person to person and can include: Extreme fatigue, insomnia, upset stomach, aches/pains, irritability and disorientation.

One way to lessen the effects of jet lag, according to SleepDisorderChannel, is to get plenty of sleep prior to your flight and avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, all of which are associated with restless sleep. Also, by trying to adapt to the new time zone by setting your watch to that time as soon as you leave home, you may try to minimize the effects of jet lag.

Another useful strategy for easier eastbound travel, according to SleepDisorderChannel, is to take a daytime flight.

"If a traveler flies eastward by several time zones during the day, they may arrive at their destination in the middle of the afternoon (home time) and in the middle of the evening (local time). For example, if they leave Boston at 10am on a flight to London, they will arrive in London at 9:30pm, GMT. However, their body clock tells them it's only 4:30 EST. They should try to go to sleep at a normal time in the new time zone. If a traveler needs to take an evening eastbound flight, they will arrive in the middle of the night (home time). In this case, immediate rest helps. They should try to sleep for a few hours when they arrive and then try to stay up until bedtime. For most people, westward travel is easier to adapt to than eastward travel. This is probably because it is generally easier to elongate one's day by staying up later, than to try to shorten one's day by going to sleep earlier."

You may find this and more information on the subject at SleepDisorderChannel.

2. Altitude Acclimatization
Even healthy travelers can experience altitude sickness when quickly ascending to altitudes above 8,000 – 9,000 feet. Some common less serious symptoms include: nausea, poor concentration, headache and difficulty sleeping. More information about this phenomenon can be found at FamilyDoctor.

3. Emotional Health
No matter how old you are, sometimes you feel homesickness upon arrival at your destination. It doesn't usually happen right away. First you might feel lots of euphoria and excitement about your surroundings however, as you settle in, you might experience "culture shock", including feelings of depression, anxiety, loneliness, lack of confidence or insecurity. Please be aware that this can happen even if you have traveled extensively and are a well-seasoned traveler.

Some ways to help with those sometimes-intense feelings of displacement include:

  • Write your feelings in a journal to help with perspective and as a cathartic exercise of acknowledgement and honor.
  • Be gentle, understanding and patient with yourself while you adjust to your new environment. It's going to take time, more for some than others.
  • Write about your travels and send them as email diary entries to your friends/family.
  • Get more involved in your new surroundings to keep busy.
  • Eat well, sleep lots and relax often, perhaps more than normal.
  • Reflect on your reasons for travel.

It might also be helpful if you bring along a small photo album with pictures of your family, friends and pets. Or how about bringing along some favorite, inspiring greeting cards or letters that others have given you that you can place around your room? They are easy to pack, light to carry, and seem to help quite a bit to take the edge off of uneasy feelings from being outside of your comfort zone. And as Julia Kalish, Certified Nutritionist and Health Coach, in the article Ten Secrets to Healthy Traveling recommends, indulge in primary food.

"Primary food is the food that feeds the soul! It doesn't come on a plate, but comes in the form of hugs, touch, kisses, warmth, massage, meditation, fun, nature, hot baths, close friends, and anything else you can think of that feeds your hunger for living. The more primary food you receive, the less you need to depend on secondary food (the food that comes on a plate)."

Okay, I don't necessarily recommend going out and touching and kissing strangers but maybe in the travel scene, that "touch" or "kiss" can come from emailing or receiving email (or a letter) from a loved one!

4. Drinking The Water
I would definitely recommend bottled water even to brush your teeth at least until getting the okay from local school staff that you can drink the water. According to the ISEP, carbonated bottled water and soft drinks, beer, wine, tea and coffee are usually uncontaminated. Furthermore, where water is contaminated, ice is also contaminated. Alcohol in a drink does not sterilize water or ice cubes.

While in Antigua, Guatemala, I initially used bottled water to brush my teeth for a couple of days until learning that it is considered safe in Antigua because of the large amount of chlorine! Then, I rinsed my mouth with tap water, still not drinking it (because I usually don't like the taste of tap water, anyway, even at home). In smaller, more remote towns unless you hear otherwise, definitely drink bottled water with an unbroken seal. You can never be too careful!

5. Your Diet
This is always a challenging self-care issue on the road where food products that you are used to at home are not readily available. Some people need to avoid certain foods because of high blood pressure, diabetes or other medical conditions while others keep a more rigid approach to eating in a daily attempt to stay healthy.

However, there are those of us who are continuously in the “diet” mode, even subconsciously, and are used to unknowingly labeling foods as either "good" or "bad". This type of thinking might make it harder to adjust to the different types of foods available on the road. You may not see the plethora of fat-free, sugar-free and salt-free options that we have at home, especially when you travel outside of the larger cities to rural areas.

Certified Nutritionist, Julia Kalish, recommends that you enjoy the food that you decide to eat.

"No matter what foods you decide to eat while on vacation, eat without fear, worry, or guilt. The anxiety produced over "bad" food choices can be more damaging than the food itself. Express gratitude for the food you eat and eat it with joy! Remember too that if you are visiting friends or family while on vacation, it may be healthier overall to dig into whatever is being served rather than make people feel bad that you won't enjoy the food they've prepared for you."

This extends to those possible situations where you find yourself invited to a local's house for a dinner celebration of a national holiday. Sometimes it's liberating to give yourself permission to indulge, giving up your previous eating restrictions, if only temporarily or once in a while, in order to connect with locals and enjoy their home-cooked meals!

One more piece of advice regarding food intake comes from Dr Kathi Head, N.D., from the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians:

"You can begin to boost your immune system several weeks before you plan to travel. Try taking Vitamin C or increase your dose to 3-5 grams daily if you already take it. Increase vitamin C gradually and take in divided doses with meals. Consume a little less if you experience digestive disturbances. You may also want to take an herb called Echinacea, available in most health food stores. Begin taking it a week or so before your expected date of departure and continue taking it throughout the trip."

As always, check with your own physician about this advice and for other daily diet tips!

6. Personal Hygiene/Cleanliness
When you are in a new environment with new germs, you are susceptible to diseases. You can prevent trouble by washing your hands often.

  • Use hand sanitizer when you can't get to water, or if there's no soap around.
  • NEVER use a bar of soap in public places or towel provided!
  • Try not to rub your eyes because this is an entrance for microscopic organisms.
  • Bring travel-sized rolls of toilet paper in case you unexpectedly find yourself in a stall (or outhouse) without it and are in need.
  • In many countries around Latin America, it is strongly requested that you throw used toilet paper into the trashcan rather than throwing it down the toilet to save the plumbing. The only thing I can recommend is to get over it. It's gross no matter how you look at it; however, it's part of being a conscientious and sensitive traveler : )
  • Always wear some type of foot covering even at the beach or hot springs. You wouldn't want to step on a rusty nail or pick up a virus or fungus!

7. Sun Safety
Make sure to bring along sunglasses, facial lotion and makeup with SPF, suntan lotion (don't forget your ears, nose, lips and scalp!) and hat, preferably one shading your ears and neck. The higher the altitude, the greater your risk for sunburn. More information about care in the sun can be found here.

Remember: UV rays reach you on cloudy and hazy days, as well as on bright, sunny days. UV rays will also reflect off any surface like water, cement, sand, and snow.

If you do get burned, I have found that one of the best remedies for your burn is 100% pure aloe gel. I once fell asleep on the beach in Cancun, Mexico for only 45 minutes and woke up to find a nasty burn from my knees down. My legs were so badly burned that I could not bend my knees nor walk up curbs for days because of the intense swelling and pain. As a kind offer of generosity, my roommate had given me pure aloe gel. After using it for a number of nights, I was amazed that my skin had healed without blistering or even peeling AT ALL! The aloe spray tends to provide only momentary relief of the pain however, the gel, when applied liberally and frequently, provides a fantastic cooling effect as well as promotes quicker healing.

8. Miscellaneous Travel Tips

  • Make sure to drink plenty of water to stay well-hydrated even in the winter. According to the medical field, at the point when you become thirsty, you're already dehydrated.
  • Make time to move your muscles even if it's just by staying busy or walking while window-shopping. When in a plane, bus or train, try to get up several times to stretch your legs to avoid circulation problems.
  • Bring along healthy snacks for when you just don't feel like eating anything else.
  • A sense of humor and unlimited patience will help you keep your sense of balance and good attitude while traveling. Remember that a missed meeting or a night spent at the airport in a storm won't be the end of the world, but will make a good story.
  • Approach your trip with a positive attitude, a sense of curiosity and willingness to be delighted by new experiences.
  • More travel-related advice for the road can be found here and here.

And lastly, let your trip be a growing experience…be willing to be pushed beyond your day-to-day comfort zone; however…be smart!

By Sue Lavene

The Homestay Experience

You've heard it more than once – travelers desribing their time spent living with a local family as either the best or the worst part of their trip! In spite of everyone's definitions of "best" and "worst", it is agreed that the homestay experience makes a strong impact on the student traveler's view the a new culture. Some people love their host families because of how different the family's culture is from their own. Others love their host families because the host family treats them the same as their own family. Some enjoy the constant interaction. Some enjoy the independence. For as many different travelers as there are in this world, there are probably an equal number of reasons why people fall in love with their homestay experience.

So, who are these familes that choose to accept foreign students into their homes? They are often your typical, middle-class family who has space in their home and an interest in cultural awareness. Often in Spanish-speaking cultures they include more of the extended family than what is typical in North American homes. For example, many households in Latin cultures include members of four generations; it is not uncommon for cousins or aunts and uncles to be part of the household as well. Other host families may consist of a couple who does not have children of their own or whose children are grown and out of the home. Homestay families come in all different shapes and sizes, and each offers a truly unique experience for the traveler.

Now we know who these families are. What motivates them to do such a thing as welcome strangers from another country into their home? The answers to that question are as varied as the reasons a stranger would choose to join a foreign family for weeks at a time. Some families are eager to create an exchange opportunity for their own children. For some families, hosting provides a significant source of income. For many, it comes down to a basic appreciation of different places, peoples and cultures. Maybe your family has hosted international students at one time; maybe friends or neighbors that you know have done the same. Most certainly, they all have their own stories to tell. Who are these families you ask? They are people who want to share what they have to make an intercultural experience possible for someone else. No amount of money can fully reimburse families for accepting strangers into their homes. Hosting is no ordinary job. The families may be ordinary people, but for travelers, they make extraordinary experiences possible!

After all is said and done, how can you ensure that you have the best experience possible while living with your host family? Basically, be flexible, be sensitive, be yourself. If that's not specific enough for you, here are some tips for successful homestay experiences:

  • Bring pictures of family, friends, your house, a map of where you live. These can be used to start discussions.
  • If interaction with the family is important to you, take the initiative to spend time with them. They will follow your lead.
  • It's OK to make mistakes with the language! Your host family does not expect you to speak perfectly, and they can become excellent teachers if you let them.
  • Absolute beginners – you'll be amazed how much you can communicate when you're creative. Play charades!
  • Ask questions. It shows interest, and the answers may be more interesting than you expect.
  • Your host family is just that – a family. They are not a tour company, available at your disposal. However, they are a valuable resource for advice on places to explore.
  • Remember what your parents told you: "Try one bite!" It won't kill you to try something new, and if you don't like it you don't have to finish it.
  • Treat your family with respect.
  • Discuss your concerns regarding issues like telephone use, meal routines and visitors. It's the only way to find out what your family expects.
  • When in doubt, take the conservative approach in discussions. Know what topics are inappropriate to discuss with your family. These may include religion and politics.
  • Be patient with yourself and the new culture.
  • Put aside self-consiousness and have fun! There is much to learn and many friends to be made while abroad.

Autumn Recipes

Although it is currently a humid 82 degrees in sunny Philadelphia, autumn has officially begun. Sadly, it is definitely not sweater or jacket weather in our fair city just yet, but perhaps some of you lucky readers have already packed your sandals away and started wearing long sleeves and corduroy (I am so jealous!)As Sue mentioned in her questionnaire posted earlier this month, autumn is the time for warm, hearty foods. Because AmeriSpan is a study abroad travel company, I thought I would try to find some autumn recipes with an international flair; I was able to find a recipe for Minestrone and for chicken and black bean enchiladas. Please let us know what you think if you try these recipes, and we would love to know what you're cooking to celebrate fall!


  • 1 1/2 Tbsp (25mL) olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 tsp (1g) basil leaves
  • 1 tsp (1g) marjoram leaves
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1 quart (1L) chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups (300g) white beans, cooked (canned beans work well)
  • 2 cups (910g) canned tomatoes
  • 1/2 head cabbage, chopped
  • 1/4 cup (10g) parsely
  • Pepper, to taste


  • Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot.
  • Add onions, celery, and garlic and sauté until the vegetables are tender, but not yet browned. Add basil and marjoram leaves and stir for one to two minutes.
  • Add chopped zucchini and cook for another few minutes. Pour in chicken or vegetable broth, the cooked beans and the tomatoes. Cover, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to simmer.
  • Allow the soup to cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the soup looks thicker than desired, add some water, 1 cup (240mL) at a time.
  • When it almost looks like soup add the chopped cabbage, and the parsley and cook for about 10 minutes more.
  • Add some freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  • If a heartier soup is desired, a handful of small sized pasta can be added; then the soup needs to be cooked for about 10 minutes more.

Serve with sprinkling of Parmesan cheese over the top, if desired.

Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas

  • 2 Tbsp (15g) flour
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp (10g) chili powder
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp (10g) cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • 1/2 Tbsp (6g) sugar
  • 1/4 tsp (2g) salt (sea salt if on a corn-free diet)
  • 2 1/2 cups (600mL) tomato sauce, canned
  • 1 1/2 cups (360mL) water
  • 3 ounces (85g) tomato paste


  • 1 pound (455g) boned and skinned chicken breast, uncooked
  • 1 2/3 cups (425g) black beans, canned, (one 15-ounce can)
  • 1 1/2 cups (195g) reduced fat Monterey Jack cheese, shredded, divided
  • 4 ounces (115g) green chili peppers, diced
  • 2 tsp (5g) cumin powder
  • 1 tsp (4g) garlic powder
  • 6 or 7 flour tortillas, 10-inches (25cm) round

To make sauce:

  • In a small bowl, combine flour, chili powder, cocoa powder, sugar and salt; set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, add tomato sauce, water and tomato paste.
  • Heat and stir in flour mixture using a whisk.
  • Continue stirring over medium heat while sauce thickens.
  • Simmer slowly for 30–60 minutes, stirring occasionally.

To make filling:

  • Cook chicken breasts in a pot of boiling water until done, approximately 20 minutes.
  • Cool and cut chicken into 1/2-inch (2cm) pieces.
  • Drain and rinse canned black beans.
  • In a medium bowl, combine chicken, beans, 1 cup (130g) cheese, green chilis, cumin and garlic powder.

Cooking Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C).
  • Spray a 9×12-inch (22x30cm) shallow baking pan with vegetable oil spray.
  • Pour one cup enchilada sauce into the baking dish and spread evenly.
  • One at a time, moisten each tortilla by dipping it briefly in the enchilada sauce.
  • Place approximately 1 cup (150g) of filling on each tortilla and roll it up.
  • Put in baking dish seam side down.
  • Continue this process until all enchiladas have been assembled.
  • Pour remaining sauce over enchiladas.
  • Bake in the oven uncovered for 20–25 minutes.
  • Remove and sprinkle over remaining cheese.
  • Return to oven for 5 more minutes.

Serve with salsa and light sour cream.

I found these and lots of other great seasonal recipes on All Recipes. Again, feel free to send us your autumn recipes or variations on the ones posted above.

Have a great weekend!

International Travel Packing

How appropriate that I am writing about travel packing. At this very moment I am preparing for my highly anticipated and much needed trip to Portugal with my amazing boyfriend. This is our first time traveling across the big pond together (been together 8 glorious months!). Initially I sensed his worry as he looked and then hoisted my weekend travel bag into the trunk for a visit with his brother and sister-in-law that he would possibly be lugging many suitcases around Portugal. In the past, his worried look would have been 100% justified. Let me put it to you this way: my family and friends would have either laughed hysterically or blinked in absolute and utter bewilderment at the very notion that I would now be giving tips on how not to overpack. I was the classic overpacker, WAS being the operative work here. Some of my friends prior to the "change" bore the brunt of my overpacking, having to carry my bag around several travel destinations taking pity on me; well, maybe they were just sick and tired of me struggling and slowing them down.

I have improved my packing habits, as my business colleague and good friend Margot can attest to. Last summer traveling together on a business trip to France, Italy and Switzerland for two weeks I packed all I needed into a 28" x 20" suitcase and still was prepared for all weather situations and looked stylish day-by-day. It was a liberating experience to be able to move much more freely, with less back and body strain too. So bye-bye to the overloaded suitcase days; my boyfriend is no longer hyperventilating. I must give credit where credit is due. My dear friend and former roommate Anne-Marie enlightened me to the way of packing wisely. She is the expert; she has lived in and out of suitcases for the past few years, moving between places from Holland to Guatemala to Spain to Philadelphia then back to Spain. Now that I have taken her cue: the advice is STICK WITH THE BASICS. Also, it's best to first research the weather. Although unpredictable, you can at the very least get the averages for your particular destination and know what you should definitely bring and what can be left behind. Stick with basic colors when packing pants, skirts and shorts. This way you only need a couple pairs and can toss in some extra tops in different styles and colors to make casual and dressy outfits. Certainly practice makes perfect. The more seasoned traveler has applied this advice for a long time and likely have some advice of their own along with other tips to share. New advice and tips welcomed!

I am all packed now for Portugal, have been since Tuesday, and I am happy to report I have one suitcase that even I can lift and tote around.

On the flip side, there are always some items that you do not want to forget and pack extra of. Here is a list that I have compiled, after asking around the office, of the top 5 "pack extra of this":

  • Individual tissue packets (Will come in handy in many situations including those times where toilet paper is scare or not available!)
  • Batteries (for travel alarm clock, camera, walkman, etc.)
  • Hand sanitizer / Wet wipes
  • Pain Relievers (aspirin, ibuprofen, Tylenol)
  • Socks and underwear
  • Feminine products

Happy travels!

By Beth Klemick

Travel Health – Part 1

More and more people are looking to travel internationally, wanting to experience other cultures on a more genuine level and going "off the beaten path" to do so. Unfortunately, with travel comes more health risks, ranging in severity from mildly annoying and inconvenient to life threatening.

My colleague Beth Klemick gave some helpful tips in “Travel Advice” for how to replace your lost passport and what to do if you get sick, etc. Below is some information as to what you can do before you leave home in hopes of preventing problems from happening on the road.

With some pre-departure planning and precautions along the way, fortunately, most travel-related problems can be prevented. The key is to think about some of these suggestions and how they impact you personally giving special attention to your pre-existing medical conditions.

It is helpful to make an appointment with your physician at least 6-8 weeks prior to your departure to discuss possible health implications of your upcoming trip and to make sure you are as healthy as you can be before leaving the country. It would be a bummer if you "suddenly" developed a cavity that had to be filled while on the road.

Let's face it. It's very appealing to imagine making last minute plans to "jump on a plane" and get away to some exotic location. Some people thrive on this type of adventure while others strive to plan ahead for their travels. The truth is, you may not be able to stay as healthy and safe while traveling as you could have if you had prepared prior to your departure.

Of course, you cannot possibly prepare for every possible scenario or illness / injury; however, by doing some research ahead of time, you will be able to decrease your chances of running into a problem on your trip. So, let's take a look at some important ways you can prepare before landing in your destination country.

1. Are immunizations necessary?
We receive many questions from clients as to what immunizations we recommend when traveling to one country or another. There are many schools of thought as to whether or not you should immunize. Some travelers do not take precautions and return home without any problems at all while others wish they had prepared beforehand. This is a great resource with frequently asked questions about immunizing.

Your best bet is to pose this question to your primary care physician / internist, local health department or to a travel medicine practitioner at least 6-8 weeks before you are scheduled to leave home. Center for Disease Control and Prevention is a resource to find your local health department or travel medicine clinic in your area.

Leading up to your doctor's appointment, you can do some research to be ready to make the most of your time with the doctor. Here are some helpful links to get you started:

One more thing to keep in mind depending on where you are traveling is that you might need to show documentation of vaccination to the customs officials upon entry to their country, such as a yellow fever vaccination certificate. Vaccination Schedule

2. Pack a first aid/medicine kit
Include products specific to your health needs. Some items to consider include:

  • Pepto Bismol
  • Tylenol
  • Anti-diarrheal medicine
  • Bee sting kit (for those with severe reactions to bee stings)
  • Topical antibiotic (for cuts/scrapes)
  • Antibiotics (ask your doctor)
  • Motion sickness medicine
  • Vitamins
  • Bandaids
  • Allergy/cold medication
  • Spare glasses/contacts (with prescription)
  • Travel-sized flashlight
  • Insect repellent
  • Suntan lotion
  • Lip balm
  • Travel-sized toilet paper
  • Your daily medications

Here are some more ideas on what you might want to pack in your kit, according to the CDC.

What to bring along may depend on your destination, length of trip, planned activities/excursions, your own pre-existing medical conditions and type of travel.
If you are not sure what you should bring or want to make sure you haven't forgotten anything, it's always a good idea to check in with your physician since he/she knows your medical history.

Here are a couple more tips regarding traveling with medications:

  • Make sure you have enough medicine to last your whole trip with some to spare.
  • Keep your medications in their original bottles.
  • You will definitely want to pack your medicine kit in your carry-on luggage in case you need something en route but also if your luggage is lost!
  • Bring duplicate and legible prescriptions of your medications, written with brand and generic names, in case they should be lost or stolen.
  • To avoid possible trouble with customs agents, it is recommended that you bring a letter signed from your doctor for any narcotic medications, including pain medicine, sedatives or tranquilizers.
  • If you have to bring along any special medical equipment such as a CPAP or oxygen machine, it's a good idea to have your physician (the one who ordered it) write a letter on letterhead explaining your diagnosis, medical reasons for use, his/her name and title, etc for customs officials who may not be familiar with the equipment. And don't forget to check to see if you need special converter/adapter plugs! A helpful world electricity guide can be found at Kropla.
  • Plan to change your medication schedule to the new time zone (be sure to discuss with your doctor, first!)

If you are pre-disposed to respiratory problems, have asthma or allergies, you might want to talk to your doctor for remedies in case the air aggravates your breathing. In some towns in developing countries like in Central America, because of different or non-existent emissions laws, the pollution is so thick and black sometimes, especially when trailing behind a chicken bus on your way up the mountain on a one road, barely paved highway. Also, due to less oxygen in high altitude locations (like La Paz, Cusco and Quito), volcanic ash/dust particles and other allergens, your breathing can become affected, which can definitely put a damper on your trip.

3. Contact your health insurance provider to see if international medical claims for illness are covered and if special conditions apply.

4. Here's a great resource for general traveling including tips for traveling with children, pets and people with special needs: CDC

5. Travel Health Online
This great, free site offers lots of traveler education tips including information on country-specific diseases, immunizations, a medicine kit checklist, finding a travel medicine provider in your area for pre-departure advise and lots of related tips to allow you to become an informed traveler! Travel Health Online

You just have to register your name, email address and password, accept the terms & conditions and then activate your access by clicking on the acceptance email that you'll receive.

6. You might want to leave your specific itinerary along with copies of important paperwork, such as passport, visa, credit card information, travelers checks, insurance paperwork, etc, with one or two trusted family members/friends in case they have to reach you for an emergency or issues that arise at home, etc.

7. Get the address and phone number of the American Embassy in each country you visit. They are a good source for physicians and hospitals abroad.

8. In fact, you might want to register your trip with your embassy before heading out. It's a pretty simple process and it saves you from locating the embassy while abroad (though that's always a good idea, anyway!). For American travelers, here's the link to do just that. U.S. Department of State

9. And lastly, get plenty of rest the night before you leave (of course, if you are all packed!), plan some healthy protein-filled snacks for your day of travel and enjoy the ride!

Be sure to watch for next week's article on staying healthy while abroad!

By Sue Lavene