Remember the Jewish Teen Learning Center charity event, Top Nosh, that I mentioned a couple weeks ago? Well that 18th birthday celebration for the Center was held last Wednesday 2/27, and it was the cherry on top of my February!
In case you missed it, my recap of the Mohegan Sun BrewFest was published yesterday! A new restaurant review too!
Good day, folks. Or at least I’m trying to make it one. I have been having on-and-off lingering tummy issues since Wednesday and it’s really gotten old. (Actually, hearing about it has probably gotten old for you all too, but I digress.)
I fluctuate between feelings of nausea and feeling pretty-OK-but-something-is-still-off. Obviously I am grateful that I felt well enough to go to the BrewFest on Saturday night and have a good workout Sunday morning, and even a pleasant Sunday doing errands, blog work, and homework. But I woke up yesterday (Monday) ill again and I’m getting sick of being afraid to eat my favorite things like salad beasts, cottage cheese, and peanut butter! Today has just been more straight-up nausea.
I know that there are many folks out there who have GI issues ALL the time. So I feel bad complaining. And also feel much more aware of how lucky I am to have the healthy body I have! 99% of the time I am a healthy and happy camper. I didn’t even get a cold last fall/winter (and I hope I’m not jinxing myself, but it doesn’t matter because I’ve already said this a few times this year). The body is an amazing thing and when I am feeling ill, no matter how so, I am more driven than ever to take care of my body.
At least I didn’t have too many plans this past weekend with the exception of dinner out with my mom on Friday night and the BrewFest Saturday night. Plenty of time to rest during the day. I just am hoping my body will decide whether or not it wants to get better soon because I’m not a fan of the flip-flopping. And I also hope my body flips to the get-better side and stays there. Right now it seems to be staying nauseous. Wrong way, body!
On Sunday afternoon while I was at home being productive, I took some photographs of a beautiful bowl I received from Macy’s via the Everywhere Network. The bowl was sent to me to review as part of an effort to spread the word about the Path to Peace Collection.
Macy’s first started selling these handmade baskets, exported from Rwanda, in 2005. Since then, they have contributed to Rwanda’s exports a great deal. The program is part of a mission to help the country via “trade instead of aid”. The idea is the support of Rwanda via increased awareness among US citizens of the beautiful products that can come from that country and its people, so that they can remain self-sufficient. You can check the collection out here - some of the bowls are breathtaking.
Macy’s purchases the baskets from the weavers, who not only gain a source of income, but also pride.
Anyone who purchases a Rwanda Path to Peace basket can be confident that he or she is directly promoting the well-being of that basket’s weaver. This practice reminds me of Fair Trade products – making sure that someone producing a product is getting a fair amount of income from it, and a place to sell that product too.
I don’t usually do these kinds of posts, but I wanted to take the time to do so because it’s a great cause and if I am able to write a blog post about this and spread the word, why not? Even if only one person ends up buying a basket because he or she sees a retweet from another tweet from a Facebook status from this post, at least I will have somehow helped that basket’s weaver – I don’t even need to know that I did.
The detail in these baskets is pretty incredible and I love how malleable they are. Completely easy to store when not in use, and easy to transport too if needed. Check out the entire collection – you might like what you see!
I received a basket from the Everywhere Network to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Have you ever used your blog to support a charitable cause?
Did you see any baskets on the website that you liked?
Have you ever had an illness that seemed to linger? How did you handle it?
Don’t forget to check out yesterday’s post if you’re a CT resident – it contains some special instructions about how to possibly get into the VIP portion of Cuvee‘s 3rd Anniversary Party in West Hartford next Thursday 8/30!
Before I get into today’s review and giveaway, I have big news for you guys that I’ve been holding off on sharing until after I was done recapping the 2012 Healthy Living Summit. On Monday I was contacted by Ripe, a local company that makes 100% natural drink mixer juices. They, along with Onyx Moonshine (another favorite local company of mine) and Morton’s of Hartford, are sponsoring a Farm-to-Shaker Bartender Challenge at my favorite CT farmer’s market, the Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market, on Sunday 9/9 at 2:30PM. Area mixologists will be asked to use ingredients from the day’s farmers’ market offerings to make unique cocktail creations. Adding a local twist to fancy beverages?! This has ME written all over it!
And Ripe thought so too, because the reason I was approached on Monday was so they could ask me to be a JUDGE at this event! I enthusiastically, immediately accepted the “job”. I am not only excited to get a chance to sample all these cocktails, but beyond honored and pleased that my blog has accurately portrayed my passion for the most out-there, skillfully crafted, and simply tasty cocktails. The fact that I was thought of as a good person to judge this kind of event means that I am doing a good job of being ME when I publish posts! And after having just tuned into the “I Am the Blogger in Your Neighborhood” session at HLS and feeling encouraged and reassured about my involvement as a CT blogger, this is only further proof that I am on the right path!
My BB Heather just so HAPPENS to be visiting that weekend too (this keeps getting better) so she will be able to join my parents in watching me judge – and take photos/videos to show you all!!!
Now let’s get into the goods. As in, good for you guys!
My friend Richard has utilized his local food expertise and started Knoshbox, a monthly subscription service that delivers local treasures to foodies nationwide. There are other food sample subscription services out there, but Knoshbox differs in a couple of ways.
Firstly, the products Richard selects to send out each month are not produced by “big business” by any means. Knoshbox recipients can rest assured that the food they’re receiving is coming from sources such as start-up ventures or farms.
Secondly, Richard is not sending subscribers sample items. Instead, he sends out full-size items so that foodies have plenty to enjoy. Also, farms or start-ups might not already be producing sample sizes, so I think it makes sense and is considerate of the producers to not restrict Knoshbox items to those that come in sample sizes only.
I was so excited when Richard sent me the company’s first box and even included a note explaining just how fresh the box’s contents were. The words “a few days ago”…”this past Friday”…”first bounty of the season”…totally stood out to me and made me all the more excited to see what was inside.
No, I’m just kidding, the box did NOT only include packing “potpourri”. But I thought it was way fun.
But seriously, my Knoshbox contained a variety of high-quality foodie treasures.
All of these items and those that appear in any Knoshbox are available for purchase on the site’s Market. Your next question, I’m sure, is “How much will this cost me?” You can guess that with full-size local products, the price point of a Knoshbox is not as low as the $10/month I was paying for my Birchboxes. However for $30/month, you can get your own Knoshbox without having to pay shipping. And if you aren’t sure whether or not you want to commit, you can order just one box (with shipping) – that would even make a great gift, since Richard shares on the website ahead of time what kind of goods will be in the upcoming month’s box! For example, September will bring the Wine Trail Box with goodies like Vermont wheat crackers and Portland, Oregan chorizo – perfect for the wino on your gift list (*cough*)
One lucky Cait Plus Ate reader will WIN that September Wine Trail Box! Giveaway is open to US residents only (except Alaska and Hawaii) and will close Saturday night at 11:59PM ET. The winner will be announced Sunday. There are several ways to enter, and make sure you leave a comment for each:
Good luck to all!
Don’t forget to enter the Mohegan Sun giveaway for an autographed copy of Real Housewives of New Jersey’s Teresa Giudice’s newest cookbook! If you live near the casino, you can even meet her to get your autograph. You have until tomorrow (Friday) night at 11:59PM EST.
I have a ridiculously packed, planned-in-advance calendar. I’ve actually been making a conscious effort to make LESS plans. But for now, the next couple months’ worth of weekends are chock-full of summer class, trips, and local events and outings that I’ve already scheduled, some as far back as February or March. This past Saturday evening’s girls night with Kim, for example, has been on my calendar for almost two months. Not a joke – that’s how long it took to find a Saturday night that worked for both of us! But we planned, we waited, and we (finally) cooked. It was time for another tea-infused cooking adventure with the Alice’s Tea Cup cookbook.
This time, Kim and I decided to make the tea-infused Alice’s Veggie Burgers. The book has a recipe for both beef and veggie burgers, but the veggie variety sounded way more interesting! The tea to be used was supposed to be a variety called pu-erh, but we both had no idea what that was and Wikipedia didn’t offer any ideas for a comparative type, so we just used an earthy loose-leaf tea from Daybreak. Kim handled boiling the water in her cute tea pot and steeping the tea.
Kim probably has one of my favorite kitchens ever. I adore cooking there. And you guys know I don’t really cook.
Kim finely diced some of the above garlic, along with five or six small mushrooms, and sauteed them in EVOO. I handled cracking two eggs to separate the whites (used in the burgers) from the yolks, microwaving and mashing the frozen cauliflower (awkwardly packaged in a bag that asked me to “massage” before heating and to not “penetrate” the bag in any way), and rinsing and draining the black eyed peas. I combined all of that in a bowl with sea salt and ground black pepper, instant oatmeal, the tea, and the sauteed mushrooms and garlic.
The recipe called for us to mix the above with our bare hands, but it seemed to us that this method would not produce a sticky-enough product. So, I took to the bowl’s contents with the “masher”. After a few minutes, I had a nice mushy combo that was ready for patty-forming.
Making the patties with our hands was way-fun, just like when we mixed our tea-infused berry scones with our hands!
We struggled at first to fit four patties onto the pan, but man we were getting hungry, so we managed to do it!
We had a bit of a fail when we realized the reason the patties weren’t searing on each side after six minutes, like the recipe said they would, was because we had the burner set on the lowest heat setting. We were finally cookin’ (ha) once we fixed that.
Each side got nice and crispy (burnt in some cases, but I dibsed those, I love carcinogens). We also melted some smoked cheddar on top, and Kim fixed some Alexia frozen sweet potato fries in the oven. I decided last-minute to chop up some veggies after spying some olive hummus in her fridge! I also threw arbitrary amounts of garlic powder and ground black pepper on the rest of the cauliflower so that I could mash it all together and add extra bulk to my burger.
When the burgers and fries were almost ready, we poured some Noble Vines 337 Cabernet Sauvignon that Kim’s dad picked out for us. It was a really good Cab Sauv! I often don’t prefer them because they are sometimes too light for my tastes and are more similar to Pinot Noirs. But this Cab had a Chianti-like dryness to it. Plus, a lighter red like a Cab definitely was OK for a meal with no meat involved. As soon as the wine was poured, we had to take domestic housewife pictures.
Finallyyyyy everything was ready. Kim and I were chomping at the bit (didn’t even let the cheese melt on the burgers) but somehow managed to be patient enough to take a “proud table display” photo before diving in.
So how’d the burgers turn out? I’m not going to bother telling you the sweet potato fries were awesome – well OK, I guess I just did. Love Alexia’s frozen fries, especially with both Grey Poupon and French’s yellow mustard! Our veggie burgers didn’t taste tea-infused at ALL. We may as well have just saved the tea for drinking. I feel like the Alice’s cookbook recipe creators just threw tea in there to say the burgers were tea-infused. I’m not sure why it was included because I’m sure they tasted the burgers before selecting them for the cookbook. Maybe if we’d used the actual Pu-erh tea?
However, the veggie burgers were amazing. They tasted so hearty and were extremely satisfying. This was my first time having black-eyed peas and I loved them! I’d definitely like to cook more with them in the future. The smoked cheddar was of a really high quality and was fun to pair with the wine (along with everything else).
Despite the presence of the aforementioned food and wine, the best part of the evening was hanging out with Kim. We shared the girliest of girl talk and watched “I Love the 90′s”. We learned new things about each other and deepened our friendship, cheesy (smoked cheddar cheesy) as it sounds. And it all happened over preparing and enjoying a meal together. It was truly an evening of enjoyment.
Have you ever cooked with black eyed peas? Any recipes to share?
What was the last girl’s night you had? Or boy’s night for my male readers
Have you ever heard of and/or had pu-erh tea?
Happy Monday! I’m not feeling too happy that it’s Monday but maybe if I repeat that greeting enough, it’ll actually rub off on me. Enjoy today’s baking (gasp!) post and also be sure to check out my Healthy Page interview!
Have you ever heard of Alice’s Tea Cup? It’s an NYC restaurant (it seems all the best are there!) with a few locations. This place serves up both food and drinks made with tea (the closest thing we have to that here in CT is Tisane in Hartford, which is certainly excellent). Of course, they also serve tea on its own, but if I can make loose leaf tea at home then I’d much rather have a unique infusion creation!
Luckily the founders, Haley and Lauren Scott, have made it possible to have more than just Alice’s Tea Cup teas in your own home. They published the Alice’s Tea Cup: Delectable Recipes for Scones, Cakes, Sandwiches, & More from New York’s Most Whimsical Tea Spot, a cookbook full of recipes drinks and food fit for all meals, some with tea and some without.
I can thank my friend Kim for the small amount of tea knowledge I possess…of course, the above copy of the cookbook is hers! She told me about it and we immediately made plans to get coffee at Daybreak and select one dish and one drink to whip up at a later date. Our requirements? A) Delicious (oops, according to my Foodstock education I just made an error in using that word!) and b) tea-infused. Perhaps being in Daybreak, a place with wonderful scones, inspired us to pick out the above recipe for Berry Bunch Tisane-Infused Scones. Or perhaps we just picked them out because we love scones and tea. Whatever the reason, a date was set, groceries were purchased (see the first photo), and we met up at Kim’s house to do some cookin’! (Please, don’t be TOO surprised to see me in the kitchen.)
Kim didn’t have any tisane on hand, but her mom recommended a Celestial Seasonings Blueberry Breeze Green Tea (sadly looks like it’s been discontinued, but the website offers suggested replacements). As soon as we put it into the hot water to let it steep, we knew she’d chosen a winner! A pleasant blueberry smell filled the room and was a nice “background” to our scone-making.
Dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt) were combined in one bowl…
…and wet ingredients (buttermilk, vanilla extract, and the blueberry tea) were combined in another.
Keeping the wet away from the dry for now, we had to work the butter and blueberries into the batter carefully with our hands (to avoid too much berry-squashing). Um, don’t have to ask me twice! This was so much fun.
NOW it was time to make a well in the dry ingredients, butter, and berries and add the wet ingredients.
Attacked it all with a rubber spatula…don’t worry, hands would get to come into play again. The rubber spatula was gentle enough to keep most berries un-squashed.
Fun dough playtime! We sprinkled a cutting board with flour and got to work cutting the dough into scone shapes.
There were no photos taken of the scone-cutting because it got VERY sloppy. The Scone Monster made an appearance though.
Even with her around, we still managed to get a few trays of only slightly haphazard-looking scones into the oven.
The scones baked and we got down to the drankin’ portion of our tea party. Tea and a little something else that is…
This couldn’t have been easier to make! Kim brewed the peach tea before we even started on the scones, and then we added the Splenda (instead of sugar) and stirred. It made a nice simple (literally) syrup that we were able to let cool and coagulate (fun word!) in the fridge while we worked on the food.
Once the syrup was done, all we had to do was add it to a pitcher of Prosecco with a splash of OJ, and we had Peach Tea Bellinis! We also had the idea to add our leftover berries to our drinks!
Despite a few incidents with the oven timer (AKA forgetting to set it, that’s what happens when your mind is stuck on bellinis…), our scones came out looking like REAL scones! So proud.
Pretty darn close, right?!
We each took a bite and literally swooned. They turned out so well!!
Kim’s mom joined our little tea party, but her dad was too busy being a manly-man and attacking trees with a chainsaw to notice. Typical dad behavior!
We also asked Kim’s cat Cali to join us, but she not-so-politely declined.
Don’t worry, our meal wasn’t just carbs and alcohol and fruit. Kim’s mom donated some tasty rotisserie chicken she had on hand in the fridge. I had completely forgotten how much I love rotisserie chicken. A super random, but super lean and protein-filled, addition to our meal!
Now you can continue to be impressed…it was a nice day, so we got a cute setup going outside. Complete with background music AKA Mr. Bronson’s chainsaw.
It was really rewarding to sit down with Kim and her mom, savor our drinks and scones, and enjoy and appreciate our work in the kitchen. OK, so I may be too lazy to cook, and I do still prefer to pay others to do it for me, but I understand the pride one gets from putting something special together!
I helped myself to a few scones, some chicken, and a few bellinis…when in Rome, right? Or, when in Kim’s backyard on a Sunday afternoon. And since I’m more likely to be there than Rome, I’m gonna roll with that.
Have you ever made a food item or alcoholic beverage that used tea as an ingredient? Or been to a restaurant that does the same?
What is your favorite kind of scone?
What’s the last baked good you made? The last cocktail?
This month, I sent my May Foodie Pen Pals box to a blog reader, Renee. Since she doesn’t have a blog, I asked her if she’d be interested in guest posting for me on what I sent her, per Foodie Pen Pal Program originator Lindsay‘s suggestion. Thankfully, she agreed! Please enjoy this post about what I sent her way!
Hello everyone!! My name is Renee and I am so excited to be guest blogging on CaitPlusAte.
I am here to reveal the contents of my very first Foodie Pen Pal package.
I felt like a kid at Christmas waiting for the mail to come anticipating the arrival of this unknown package.
When it arrived I was so excited, since I didn’t get home until 10:00pm!
I opened the box very carefully, as not to harm the products inside.
This was my first peek!!
I was actually shocked at how much I had received. I loved the fact that there was more than just food!
I had told Cait I am trying to live a healthy lifestyle and she definitely helped contribute with the fantastic items in the box!
(This picture was actually taken the day after, so I have to tell you there is one item missing. A Think Thin snack bar. I ate it then remembered I had to take some photos. We will just pretend it is there.)
The only thing I have ever had in the box was the California Raisins; I love Raisins so I was very excited to receive them WITH a raisin cookbook!!!
I opened up the Fiber One 80 Calorie cereal and took a handful. SOLD!! So good. I could definitely see myself eating that with milk or mixed into yogurt.
Love Grown Granola is AMAZING. As I read the label I noticed there are no strange additives. I don’t think I have ever had something that unprocessed aside from fresh fruit and vegetables. Super tasty, I’ll have to look for it in my area!
An Herbal Tea Blend from New York City. I love tea so much!!! I even have a fancy tea ball!!!
The leaves definitely give off a sweet aroma of Chocolate and Coconut.
Judy’s Best Garlic Butter contains dried herbs, spices and butter that you can mix with olive oil and toss with pasta and chicken, or pretty much whatever. Garlic pretty much runs through my veins so I’m VERY excited to try this.
Cait also included some cute pink straws that I definitely put to good use on one of the 80 Degree days we had this past weekend!
An awesome Oakley water bottle that is flexible and foldable, you could definitely bring it ANYWHERE! All in all I was SUPER pleased and so excited about my Foodie Pen Pal gift, it has been so great to chat and follow Cait on her blog!
THANKS SO MUCH!! HAPPY EATING!!! RENEE
And thank YOU Renee for posting! Happy eating indeed Have you ever tried any of the products I sent Renee? I know they may be familiar to some of you – some are from my adventures in NYC earlier this month!
Sorry for the lack of a post yesterday! It was a busy day – I had work (punctuated by a gorgeous lunch break outside, oh this weather makes me so happy), a trip to the gym (Group Power and the elliptical), and q-time with my parents to watch the most recent ep of “Mad Men” and eat a taaasty meal. Thanks Mom!
I felt a bit sore when I woke up this morning, and the stretching during P90X Yoga (my usual Tuesday morning thang) felt good, but all the leg-burning action also probably didn’t help my soreness. I kinda sorta definitely LOVE being sore though, so bring it on!
Let’s get to the goods. I am always tweeting about Daybreak Coffee Roasters and mentioning them on my blog, because they are a part of my weekend routine. In fact, I was recommending them to the Gossip Girls of West Hartford this morning!
Each Saturday and Sunday morning I work out, and then head to Daybreak with my laptop and homework in tow to get MBA/blog-related work done and sip on delicious coffee in the form of a nonfat blanc made with whatever flavored coffee they have “on tap”. I don’t usually like flavored coffees, but Daybreak roasts their own and the flavors taste so fresh, natural, and perfect. If I don’t like what’s already brewed, they will event let me choose any flavor bean I want to be French pressed! It doesn’t get much fresher than that, friends.
My favorite flavors, to name a few, are amaretti di sicilia, chocolate banana, toasted butternut, and pecan pie. The vibe of the cafe is fantastic, with cute local foodie gifts lining the walls.
The staff is so kind and helpful! They know me at this point, and my order. They put up with me when I stay there for hours at my favorite sunny table and only order one drink. It’s so comforting to listen to their friendly rapport with the shop regulars – it really creates a sense of community. I have friends I’ve met at Daybreak, and friends I’ve grown closer with because we kept seeing each other there. The owner, Carmelo, even offers patrons with dogs sitting at outside tables a bowl of water for their pups. Amazing!
Though I’ve never had any, Daybreak also specializes in freshly-baked pastries. Judging by the number of people who order them I can only begin to guess how good they are.
They are most famous for their scones (pictured below at right).
In case you weren’t already impressed, Daybreak also houses an extensive collection of loose-leaf teas.
And those items in the glass case next to the teas are gourmet chocolates! Is there anything you can’t find here? They even sell Chobani, Odwalla bars, and Sports Beans to cater to the many athletes who stop in before, during, and after their outdoor workouts in the center of town. And if you’re gluten-free, that’s no problem – a few packaged gluten-free treats are available!
Daybreak Coffee is such a great part of my weekend routine that I wouldn’t give up in a second – any morning that I can’t make it is so disappointing. If only they were on my way to work so I could go on weekdays too!
What’s your favorite local cafe to get coffee and/or tea?
Don’t forget to read last night’s post about Daily Feats, a new social networking rewards site that helps you meet your goals AND earn bonus points to use towards rewards and/or charitable donations. The post contains a code good for 50 free bonus points at (also free) registration!
Not only do I get a Birchbox every month, but I also get an even better kind of box - from my Foodie Pen Pal! Lindsay of The Lean Green Bean has taken on QUITE the project – she now has over 200 participants! Bloggers and blog readers alike can participate (just last month, a reader without a blog did a guest post for me so that she had somewhere to share what I sent her).
This month, my pen pal was Julia of A Girl with a Stethoscope. She is a new graduate nurse with a love for running and eating. One of my favorite things about this program is the way it connects me with other bloggers and their blogs that I may never have found! I really like her blog AND her taste in food…check out all the goodies she sent me!
This month’s foodie pen pal package was great, and I already can’t wait for March. I also can’t wait to find out how my pen pal, Halley of Blunder Construction, likes her package – I think it’s the best one I’ve ever put together. Thanks again to Julia for going above and beyond, and sending me some fab goodies!
A little blurb from Lindsay herself to get you motivated to sign up: If you’re interested in participating for March, please send an email to Lindsay at firstname.lastname@example.org and include the following information:
-Your full name
-Your email address
-Your blog name/address
-Your twitter handle (if applicable)
-WHETHER YOU ARE A US RESIDENT OR CANADIAN RESIDENT.
Have you ever tried any of the products I received?
I have the worst luck, huh? Less than two weeks after getting over a stomach virus, I was hit with another one upon waking Saturday (yesterday) morning. I felt iffy, yet was experiencing no actual symptoms, so I still went to the gym and completed 30 minutes of HIIT on the StepMill. Looking back this was probably a bad call – I should have let myself rest. I wasn’t very hungry all day but managed a tiny breakfast and lunch. Luckily I was still doing OK on the plane ride to Orlando. However, my luck ended there.
This certainly LOOKS lucky – amazing dinner cooked by my dad. The place we’re staying is a timeshare so it’s more a condo than a hotel room. I was actually feeling very hungry for this dinner and it tasted fantastic to me. So fantastic that I ate myself silly!
Baked potato with salsa in the skin, medium to medium-rare filet mignon, and veggies dipped in Publix garlic hummus. Went back for more steak and also a turkey burger in spicy yellow mustard.
It all tasted so delicious, but I felt way too full afterward. I took a water bottle and went to sleep. And woke up a couple hours later in SO much pain, lots of stomach cramping, my body was VERY mad at me. I shouldn’t have let my guard down! But I did and I spent all day Sunday (today) feeling pretty darn crummy. Twitter was a lifesaver as usual – thanks to all who wished me well and gave me advice on how to tame my tummy!
I was way more cautious and though I had a couple of moments of meh feelings, I am feeling better tonight, OK enough to VERY slowly eat some rye bread and turkey pastrami from TooJay’s, a Florida go-to. I refuse to miss out on this trip! I also had WAY too much success at the Orlando Premium Outlets, by far the best outlet mall I’ve ever been to (upon recommendation from the lovely J of J’s Everyday Fashion), which cheered me up. I will be sharing my purchases soon!
Our hotel room is also gorgeous! Again, more like a condo, kitchen included. That’s how we’ve been able to stay in for a couple of nights – and no one is fighting over TVs that’s for sure! Here are some pics for you all – gotta run I’m gonna read my amazing book and hit the hay in a few. Here’s hoping I wake up feeling better!
What’s the best hotel room you’ve ever stayed in?
Have you ever gotten sick right before or during a vacation?