Pumpkin Shrimp Recipe

Recipe contributed by Luciana Mitzkun Weston,
Alexander Gardens Community Services Director

“Camarão na moranga” is a typical dish of the Brazilian south coast, delicious and impressive for special occasions. The recipe was created in 1945 in Ubatuba, a town along the northern coast of state of São Paulo. 
Pumpkin is a Central American vegetable very common in Brazil. It is versatile and is used to make a infinite number of sweet and savory recipes.


  • 5lbs flat pumpkin (sweet pumpkin)
  • For the prawns in cream sauce:
    • 2 lbs medium prawns
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1 garlic clove chopped
    • 1 small onion chopped
    • 2 cups tomato sauce
    • salt and ground pepper or chilli pepper
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup whipping (heavy) cream
    • 1 cup coconut milk
    • 2 cups cheese cream
  • Garnish:
    • large sized prawns
    • salt
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 garlic clove
    • 1 shot cognac

Preparation method

Preparation of the pumpkin: 
1. Wash the pumpkin and cut the “lid” to make the pumpkin into a “bowl”. 
2. Scrape the inside with a spoon to remove seeds. 
3. Bake the pumpkin at 250° for about 1 hour, until the pulp is soft.

Preparation of the prawns in cream sauce: 
1. Sauté the onion and the garlic finely chopped in oil and butter.  
2. Add the tomato sauce, the bay leaf, salt, black pepper and cook for 2 minutes.
3. Add the peeled prawns and cook a few minutes. 
4. Dissolve the flour in a little of coconut milk or whipping (heavy) cream. 
5. Add the whipping (heavy) cream, the coconut milk and flour dissolved to the mixture, a little at a time, and stir frequently until the cream is thickened. 
6. Season with salt and black pepper; remove and discard the bay leaf. 

To assemble the dish:  
1. Fill the baked pumpkin with the prawns in cream sauce and the cheese cubes. 
2. Bake the filled pumpkin at 350° until the cheese has melted. It takes about 15 minutes.
3. Decorate the filled pumpkin with prawns sautéed with olive oil and garlic and flambéed with cognac. 
4. Pumpkin is not only a bowl but is part of the dish so, serve the pulp of the pumpkin with the prawns in cream sauce. Serve with white rice. 

Yield: 4 – 6 servings.

5 Reasons Seniors Should Join a Book Club in When Living in Assisted Living

Senior Reading

The Book Club at Alexander Gardens Assisted Living is one of the many life-enriching activities offered to our residents. We understand leading a full and meaningful life is important at any age but when seniors move to an assisted living community a good life enrichment program will improve the quality of their lives. Staying active in an Assisted Living community is vital in reducing depression and isolation.

Book clubs are important in assisted living because research shows reading helps long term memory, focus and concentration. In her article, Being a Lifelong Bookworm May Keep You Sharp in Old Age, by Marina KorenSMITHSONIANMAG.COM, JULY 3, 2013, she talks about giving our brains a workout. Reading and retaining words requires more mental energy than, watching TV or playing Solitary on an IPad.
According to Koren, “In particular, people who participated in mentally stimulating activities over their lifetimes, both in young, middle and old age, had a slower rate of decline in memory and other mental capacities than those who did not.” No matter your age it’s important to read and these are some of the reasons seniors should join a book club.
1.    Socialization, in addition to giving your brain a workout, a book club can be social. It brings together residents in a group environment to share their ideas about the book they are reading. They may have so much fun and meet someone new.
2.    Expanding resident’ horizons beyond the walls in assisted living. Reading brings the outside world to the resident’s world without leaving the building. Books offer a glimpse into the lives of other people, different cultures, and current events.
3.    Practicing effective communication skills in a book club helps residents clarify what they have read in the book. Residents will question each other about ideas and opinions. In addition, they will provide feedback to each other when discussing characters and plot.
4.    Setting goals for reading is a good thing for residents. Sometimes residents get over whelmed if they feel pressure to join an activity or group especially if they were not social when living in their home. But reading is an individual activity and can be done at one’s own pace. Whether the resident chooses to join the conversation or sit and listen it’s up to them, but both are better than staying in their room.
5. Getting out of their comfort zone. Sometimes residents get comfortable and won’t try new things. When they commit to joining a book club they may have to read books that they ordinarily would not read. And they may have to discuss topics they are not exposed to on a regular basis.
Improving long-term memory in seniors through the book club is just as important as exercising. The mental challenge of reading and retaining information helps delay the onset of dementia. A science advisor Dr. Zaven Khachaturian, to the Alzheimer’s Association published an article in USA TODAY, states, “ brain-challenging activities build a reserve of neuronal connections, making it take longer for the Alzheimer’s process to destroy enough neurons for symptoms to emerge.” As the residents read and discuss the material in the book they are retaining the information and helping the brain stay young.
Reading no matter what your age is good for your brain. It helps improve concentration, focus and thinking skills. Coupled with a book club makes reading a positive and rewarding experience for seniors living in assisted living.
If you are looking for a book for your book club try reading, Happy for No Reason, by New York bestselling author, Marci Shimoff. Why not start your year off right and learn how to reset your happiness button. Take the Happiness Quiz from Happy for No Reason Questionnaire. According to Aristotle, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim, and end of human existence.” Make 2020 the year of the book and join the club.

5 Cost Free Gifts How to Give the Gift of Love


How to Give the Gift of Love

5 Cost Free Gifts

By Mary Brook

If you are an average American consumer then you are expected to spend $942.00 on holiday gifts this season. 37% of Americans say they will spend $1,000 or more and 16% say they will spend less this year than last year. These are all record amounts of spending for this average holiday season. According to a Gallup Poll initial, it should be a good spending season for retailers.

But if you are senior or live on a fixed income these numbers can be overwhelming. How do you find a gift that won’t break the bank? What is the best gift you can give this year that doesn’t cost a dime? I believe it’s the gift of love. Love comes in all shapes and sizes and it may or may not be wrapped up and put under the Christmas tree. Love has different meanings to different people. But the true meaning of the holidays is sometimes forgotten. Take a moment to remember it’s not about buying presents but about giving.

What is the best gift you can give this year that doesn’t cost a dime? The gift of love. Love comes in all shapes and sizes and it may or may not be wrapped. Love has different meanings to different people. The Oxford dictionary defines the word gift, “as a thing given willingly to someone without payment, a present.

“The true meaning of the holidays is not about buying presents
but about giving.”

I hear again and again from seniors the number one gift they want for Christmas is to spend time with their family. Sharing your time, energy and unconditional love with no strings attached is celebrating the true meaning of the season. Visiting family because you want to not because you have to create good feels for everyone. Anyone can go to the store and buy a present, but if you take the time to visit with family it will mean so much more. The time you spend together will be a memory for that last throughout the year.

5 Cost Free Presents!

The Gift of Time: One of the hardest things to do is slow down and take the time to connect. Put down the cell phone, and listen to what the other person is saying is a gift of love.

The Gift of Nature: Take a walk together when you are outside with your loved ones it is a refreshing change of pace. Getting out of the house and into nature is good for everyone. The loving feeling of being together in nature will create a memory that will last.

The Gift of Play: Play a game together and have some fun. One of my favoritesScattergories, a creative-thinking based game that can be played in teams. There is a lot of laughter and a lot of conversation when you play together.

The Gift of a Handwritten Letter: Instead of buying a card that says I love you. Write a letter to your loved ones. Put into words your feelings and let that person know why you care about them. A letter is something they can keep and look at throughout the year.

The Gift of Kindness: Being kind to others costs you nothing but a smile or a few kind words. The effect of kindness makes you feel better and will let the other person know you care enough to connect. Being kind to strangers standing in line at the grocery can lift the spirits of everyone in line. When you ask someone how they are doing it may be their only social connection that day. For some seniors who live alone, it means a lot. Especially when they don’t expect it.

It’s challenging not to get caught up in the spending spree that has become part of the holiday season. But what will your family remember two days after Christmas? The store-bought presents or the time you spent engaging in meaningful activities and connecting. To give the gift of love at the holiday season is the best gift of all.

Make This Year the Best Thanksgiving Ever!


Make This Year the Best Thanksgiving Ever | Eliminate the Holiday Stress in 5 Easy Steps, by Mary Lynn Brook

Over the River and Through the Wood, a poem, written by Lydia Maria Child in 1844 and later set to music conjures up childhood memories of a trip to Grandma’s house for a family Thanksgiving dinner. The memories are sweet but those memories may not be your reality. Listen Now

Your reality may begin with the congested holiday traffic on the 101 freeway the day before Thanksgiving. Like so many other busy parents, you worked up to the moment of departure and are now joining the thousands of families on their way to visit with their family. You thought about taking time off of work to leave early but decided against because you didn’t want to miss a day of pay. You can feel the stress of the holiday starting to build even before you leave the house. After filling your tank with gas at $4.00 per gallon, then packing the car with suitcases, for your two kids and a dog for a few days at Grandma’s house.  Just thinking about the holidays causes one to pause and take a deep breath.

Coming together as adults in your childhood home for the holidays can also be a stressor. Having a houseful of grandparents, parents, your sister’s children, your children, and a couple of dogs for a few days brings some challenges. The kids may have fun but living on a different schedule with other family members may take some adjustments.

Make this year the best Thanksgiving ever by reducing stress with these easy tips.

1. Focus on the positive

When faced with the negative challenges of being with your family, focus instead on the positive experiences of being together. Let go of the expectation of being perfect and acknowledge that each family member has valid feelings and agree to disagree. Just laugh when your brother reminds you of how you failed that college entrance exam 20 years ago. It doesn’t matter - let it go. Think about all the good things that came out of that experience. Don’t engage in past events that you cannot change or don’t want to talk about.

2. Manage the Money

Many families face money challenges during the holidays. Taking time off of work to travel to Grandma’s house or buying airline tickets for a family of four may be a financial sacrifice. If travel is a financial burden, it can put a damper on the occasion. If you can’t make the trip this year, be honest with your family and explain the situation to them. Maybe next year, everyone could meet in the middle of the country and start a new tradition. If you don’t have the money, don’t spend it.

Another way to save money is by finding gifts that are meaningful but don’t cost a fortune. Bake your favorite cookies and put them in a holiday cookie tin or frame a current photo of the family. Grandmas love these gifts! Gifts don’t have to be expensive; it’s the thought that counts.

3. Don’t Fret About the Food - it’s Just food

Believe it or not, Thanksgiving is not all about the food. However, if the turkey is the tradition that you absolutely will not compromise, plan with the prep work. Ted Allen’s article in Food Network Magazine called Ted’s Tips for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving, walks you through some useful information on food prep. Read Now

4. Find Joy in the Simple Things

Taking a walk together after dinner and forgetting about the dishes is a good time to reflect and share good feelings. Getting out of the house and stretching your legs will make you feel 100 percent better than if you were to sit in front of the TV. Holding hands, laughing, and playing in the snow is a good bonding opportunity for families. It lets the holiday spirit grow within the family.

5. Be Thankful

Reminiscing about loved ones who are no longer with us can be a worthwhile conversation. Talking about certain traditions they started and you are continuing means you are passing on a part of that person to others. Whether it’s a food tradition, like roasted parsnips or pecan pie vs. pumpkin, every time you eat those foods you will remember them.

Holidays come every year and the timing is predictable. Around Halloween, the stores start stocking for Christmas and grocery stores advertise canned pumpkin. However, each year presents new situations and challenges. It’s how we choose to meet those challenges that will determine the quality of the holiday we enjoy with our family. If the whole process becomes overwhelming, stop and prioritize what is important to you and your family. Remaining calm and positive will have a lasting effect on the people around you. You can set the tone for the season by your choices. It’s OK to set limits on your time and energy. Choose what feels right to you and everything else will fall into place.

The Advantages of Having a Roommate in an Assisted Living Community

The Advantages of Having a Roommate in an Assisted Living Community

Joseph Newlan, LVN, Associate Executive Director, Alexander Gardens Assisted Living Exerts from Starlight Homes Assisted Living 2019

Roommates in assisted living can have several advantages that you should consider when choosing a room.  Having to decide to share living space with another person, often someone you have never met can be difficult for both the resident and the family.  Here are some valuable benefits to consider:

  • Saving Money – The most obvious of the benefits of sharing a room is sharing the cost of accommodations. The savings are approximately 30-40% on average.
  • Easing Transition– Having a roommate promotes socialization.  Having a roommate can provide the first person you get to know   Your roommate can give you advice on how to better navigate within the community’s unique culture.
  • Decreased Loneliness – Too much seclusion is not a good thing. It is easy for loneliness to set in. Many seniors will stay in their rooms most of the day sleeping or watching television.  This lack of socialization can sometimes contribute to loneliness and worse, depression.  A roommate can dramatically diminish the feeling of isolation and/or loneliness.
  • Additional Monitoring – You should consider the benefit of the additional monitoring that a roommate provides. Because they see each other every day, roommates can be the first to notice changes that occur in the health or ability of a senior. There is great value in noticing a pattern early that might otherwise go undetected for a longer period.
  • Longer Life Expectancy – A variety of social studies confirm that social relationships augment one’s quality of life and extend our life expectancy. Having a source of consistent companionship in the form of a roommate can increase mental and emotional stimulation and therefore contribute to overall health and longevity.

Roommates aren’t just for starving students or young people but can be beneficial for people of all ages.

When choosing a room in assisted living there are many options to consider and a shared room or private room is worth considering.


Celebrating Birthdays, Anniversaries, and Everyday Life at Alexander Gardens Assisted Living |Creating Wellness in the Assisted Living Community

Group of old friends and family celebrating senior man 80 birthday party in retirement home. Happy elderly people having fun. Grandfather blowing candles on cake.

Alexander Gardens plays an important role with all residents especially those seniors who do not have family nearby. Celebrating their birthday is significant in creating feelings of fellowship and support for the resident. It may be the only day of the year the resident feels special. But not every day is a birthday or anniversary so celebrating everyday life is part of a healthy happy lifestyle.

There are several noteworthy reasons to celebrate everyday living in an assisted living community. Celebrations provide an opportunity for singing, laughter and sharing positive feelings. It creates a warm social environment for all involved. Families, staff and residents feel the positive effect from honoring each day or whatever the moment brings. Coming together for a common event also reinforces the bond of socialization with each other.

In her blog Why You Should Celebrate Everything/Make a toast to the weekend, or just a great side dish | Posted Dec 02, 2015,  Author Polly Campbell, host of the Polly Campbell, Simply Said podcast talks about ways we can find happiness and wellness in everyday life. Finding happiness in simple things like opening the cupboard and finding a jar of your favorite jam that was hiding behind a can of beans can be a cause to celebrate. She also talks about personal growth and spiritual development in our busy lives in her books and blogs  How to Live an Awesome Life and Imperfect Spirituality. Her subjects explore useful practical ways to bring joy to our daily occurrences.  Read now.

As we age special moments in our life give us time to pause and take our minds off our daily challenges. Residents suffering from physical pain or depression benefit from the positive experience of a celebration providing welcome relief from their symptoms.

According to social psychology researcher Fred Bryant, “when we stop to savor the good stuff, we buffer ourselves against the bad and build resilience—and even mini-celebrations can plump up the positive emotions which make it easier to manage daily stress.”

The importance of celebrating life is simple. When we come together to share a positive feeling about a common event in the company of others it gives us strength. Looking forward to events in our daily lives keeps our minds focused on the present. A celebration isn’t just about the party, it’s about sharing and caring about those around us honoring their presence in our lives.

Comfort Foods and Cook Books

Cooking homemade turkey chili for dinner.

Comfort Foods and CookBooks

A Winning Combination in Assisted Living

By, Mary L Brook, Associate Executive Director

What makes comfort foods and cookbooks, a winning combination in an Assisted Living community? It comes as a result of the nostalgia it creates when residents, staff, and families remember their favorite foods. People are passionate about food, especially in an Assisted Living community. They are so excited to talk about and remember where they were and how the food smelled and tasted.
However, not everyone has the same favorite comfort food. As a child, I remember eating grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup on a rainy afternoon? I always looked forward to Thursday night dinner because it was always Tuna and Noodle Casserole with Potato Chips on top. Growing up I had a feeling of comfort knowing the rhythm and routine of my favorite food served at regular schedule date. But my comfort food may not be your comfort food.
Chicago Chef and inventor Homaro Cantu was an internationally recognized chef and leader in the field of postmodern cuisine and an inventor of futuristic food delivery systems. Even though his food inventions focused on the future, he knew about comfort foods and felt they are an important part of the food experience. He said, “Most of us have fond memories of food from our childhood. Whether it was our mom's homemade lasagna or a memorable chocolate birthday cake, food has a way of transporting us back to the past.” Read More. By Kieran Morris, “How a Homeless Child Grew Up to Become the Most Inventive Chef in History,”
Food can be creative as well as fun. It can bring about a time of joy and laughter that creating wonderful memories for the people at the table. If you want to awaken old memories go to your favorite comfort foods from your childhood to recreate the feelings of nostalgia. However, if you want to create new memories that can be associated with a certain time and place try a new recipe. Cooking or baking with grandchildren is one way to create new food memories that they can recall later in life. Food memories are meant to be shared with family and friends. By sharing food together with your loved ones, you develop a deeper connection with those around you. Whatever comfort food you remember connects you to family, friends, and your immediate environment. It makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside as you imagine the smell, taste, and texture of the meals you created. Best of all, these foods conjure up memories of a special time or place from a long time ago without a conscious effort.
 Susan Brauss Whitbourne, PH.D. ABPP, a Professor Emerita of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is an expert in personality development. Her research includes a wide variety of subjects that focus on aging. In her post OF August 19, 2017, in Psychology Today, Entitled,  “What Your Earliest Food Memories Say About You,” she talks about the food you ate in childhood becoming an emotional memory and part of your sense of self as an adult. Her findings tell us, “Without realizing it, these emotional memories, associated with both the food you ate and the atmosphere in which you ate it, have become part of your adult sense of self.”
Family recipes are fun to share with others. We have created a Cook Book at Alexander Gardens Assisted Living giving our residents the opportunity to share their favorite comfort food while preserving our resident's history to share for future generations.
At Alexander Gardens the chef prepares a family recipe that residents have submitted for the AG Cook Book. By preparing his or her favorite recipe the resident is reminded of a time when they prepared the same recipe for a loved one. Sharing the recipe with the rest of the residents gives the person a sense of belonging and purpose. Each dish has a story and the resident loves to tell

Baby Boomer Burnout

Back Pain

Baby Boomer Burnout

The 5 Best Cures for Baby Boomer Burnout!

by Mary Brook Associate Executive Director
Burnout. It is real and it will creep up on you. It is insidious: You may not notice it until it arrives. It starts as a nagging feeling that something is just not right but you can’t fix it. You feel tired all the time and a little dark cloud hangs over your head. You tell people you are doing fine but smiling takes an effort, it feels forced, although you keep on going. Your head is hanging so low you don’t notice the small things in life anymore.
For the last 20 years life has been at high speed and suddenly your lifestyle isn’t working for you. You feel sandwiched between taking care of your parents, caring for your family, working too hard and never taking a break to think about yourself.
According to Joe Robinson, author, trainer, and keynote speaker,  “burnout is a serious medical condition that can set off other problems—depression, stroke, suicidal thoughts, breakdown. The last stage of chronic stress, burnout occurs
when all your energetic resources—emotional, physical, and mental—have been used up.”
The causes of burnout are different for everyone. Caregiver burnout from the task of caregiving is emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausting. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a baby boomer sandwiched between taking care of your aging parents, spouses, or the grandkids, caregiving burnout is real and needs to be recognized.
In addition to caregiving, work is one of the most common causes of burnout. If your work is monotonous, high pressured, and unappreciated stress may be a consequence of the work environment and constant stress leads to burnout.
Other causes of burnout are related to your own lifestyle and or personality traits. The pace of your life at high speed can cause burnout. Never taking the time to “stop and smell the roses” may leave you feeling empty and not connected with friends and family. Your own personality can cause you stress. If you have a need to be perfect or in control of every decision in your life, you may be at higher risk of burnout. Holding on to your high expectations can cause stress especially when life doesn’t go as planned.
Here are some of the symptoms of burnout:
  1. You wake up every day with an empty feeling in your heart and mind, or feeling totally exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally.
  2. You feel like you have nothing left to give to your family and those around you, and you don’t care about anyone or anything.
  3. You are not motivated to go to work, clean the house, or take care of yourself.
  4. Your vision of the world is heavy and dark, your fatigue blinds you and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  5. You feel like there is nothing to look forward to in your life because your cup is empty, not even half full.
  6. When you reach the point of burnout you feel like you don’t know how to fix it.
  7. You wake up in the morning and the only thing you think about is wanting to feel better.
  8. You just want to get your life under control and get rid of everything that is causing you pressure.
If you have reached that point of burnout you know it is time to pause and hit the stop button. Take a deep breath, step back, and start taking care of yourself. Pushing through burnout can have serious consequences that will potentially manifest in the body in the form of illness. If you are feeling chronically stressed it is time to take a serious look at being burned out!
Taking the first step towards wellness doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Curing burnout doesn’t happen overnight. Take one day at a time. Stop and imagine what your day should look like and plan steps to make your day go as what you imagined. Write your plan down.
Set your goals for the day and prioritize your responsibilities by putting your goals first. Don’t make excuses about not having enough time or attending to someone who may need you. If you make the commitment to take care of yourself it is important to keep your commitment. In order to make it happen, you may have to get up an hour early or not watch TV at night. But if your goal is to feel better you must have the energy, desire, and motivation to take care of yourself.
The 5 Best Baby Boomer cures for Burnout!
  1. Let go. Quit trying to take care of everything by yourself. Ask for help. Ask your family, friends, church, work, neighbors, social workers, and anyone who can lend an ear or a helping hand. Don’t be afraid to let go. It will always work out in the end.
  2. Eat how you want to feel. Eating a healthy diet will make you feel better and lighten your mood. If you are stressed and eat candy, cookies, and cake you will feel heavy and sluggish. Making little changes in your diet over time will make a big difference in how you feel. Remember to take one day at a time.
  3. Exercise on a regular basis. Exercise doesn’t have to be an hour at the gym every day. It can be a walk outside or working in the garden. The feeling of being outdoors is freeing and invigorating. Park your car at the end of the parking lot and walk briskly to the door. Stand up at your desk if you have been sitting for a long time. Take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
  4. Mind your P’s and Q’s. Saying please and thank you can change the way you feel. When you are polite and on your best behavior you can trick your mind into believing you feel better. It’s mind over matter. Every day you have a choice when you wake up. Chose to feel better and do everything you can to make it happen.
  5. At the end of the day congratulate yourself and be grateful for what you did do versus what you didn’t do. Feeling grateful makes you appreciate what you did for yourself. If you take care of yourself you can take care of others.
Stress can cause serious problems with your health, personal life, and affect your view of the world. It's important to stop, take a deep breath, and start to take care of yourself.