Saving and Spending

A fun article; hope you can access it since some Wall Street Journal pieces are behind a firewall:  https://graphics.wsj.com/image-grid/OD50Spring2018/

And one on truly excessive excess, courtesy of my dear friend and fashion maven, SH.  Would be perfect for a certain President I can think of….

https://www.retaildive.com/news/retail-therapy-the-loo-uis-vuitton-is-here-to-flush-100k-down-the-toile/521780/

Hope you’re all having a great weekend! xo, A

Traveling With Others

Traveling with another person is the ultimate blind date. Do you like to do the same things? Are they overly assertive or passive compared to you? How would they handle a stressful situation?

With luck, you find a partner, spouse or friend whose rhythms match your own. But what about a trip with another couple, your extended family, or someone you don’t know well? That’s a real litmus test.

Mostly, I’ve had wonderful experiences. A trip to London with S forged a friendship that’s lasted for decades. DH and I took a European vacation early in our relationship and learned that we were able to cope when things didn’t go as planned. And our recent visit to Charleston was successful because my friend T and I talked frankly in advance about what we all wanted – or didn’t want – to do there.

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Other trips have been a challenge. Beware of these types of travelers!

The Sloppy Drunk. I’m all for having a good time. But when my ex-husband fell into the bushes after a booze cruise and had to be dragged out by a sailor I should have saluted that red flag and called off the wedding. Live and learn.

Druggie Howser. Similar to the Sloppy Drunk, Druggie will score whatever he can, wherever he travels. An ex-beau bought weed and hashish from a complete stranger when we were in Morocco in the 70’s… did ‘ya learn nothing from the movie Midnight Express??

Sir (or Lady) Bossypants has researched every heritage site, museum, etc. within an inch of its life and is a self-styled expert on all topics relating to the places they insist on dragging you to and Will. Not. Shut. Up. About.

The Slowpoke moves at a different – dare I say, glacial – pace. Unless you are a very patient person (unlike myself) this will drive you stark staring insane.

The Obsessive Planner follows a rigid schedule. By which I mean never, ever deviates from it. You’re enjoying chatting up the owner of a local art gallery? Too bad; gotta get to the next thing on the list. NOW.

Mr. Spontaneity, on the other hand, NEVER wants to plan ahead. You might arrive in another country without a hotel reservation, as happened to a friend of mine many years ago. In high season.

The Hysteric. S*** happens. Train schedules change. Planes get grounded. Connections get missed. Places are unexpectedly closed. You do not want to travel with someone who is totally unhinged by this. Trust me.

Morning vs Night. My father was a morning person. My mother stayed up until 2 AM and slept until noon. On family trips, we had to squeeze all activities between 1:00 and 8:00 PM. Know which one you – and your traveling companions – are, and plan accordingly.

The Cheapskate. Bargain-hunter in the extreme. Will only eat street food, go to a museum on the one free day, stay at a Motel 6, or take the bus even though you risk arriving at your destination after closing.

Hey Big Spender. There are two subcategories: Ms. Moneybags (who can afford it) and Mr. Moocher (money is no object because you’re footing the bill). Watch out for anyone who has no understanding of – or respect for – your finances.

Michelin Or Bust. Michelin-starred restaurants can be terrific — unless you have a sensitive stomach or wallet. Our last Michelin meal was so rich, both DH and I tossed our (artisanal) cookies within an hour of returning to our hotel room. Next time, we’ll suggest our friends dine alone, check out the simple place around the corner and meet up for an after-dinner coffee.

The Bottom Line: Pre-Planning

  • Discuss expectations and set ground rules in advance, even if it feels awkward. Especially if you’re traveling with another couple or someone you don’t know well.
  • Be honest about how you want to spend your time. Be open to compromise unless an activity will bore or annoy you. For example, don’t go shopping just because your friend loves it if you know you’ll hate every minute. A reluctant companion is no fun for either of you!
  • Benefit from others’ expertise. Some of our friends are serious foodies and love to research the newest or best-reviewed places in town. I’m happy to let them pick the restaurants since I don’t care all that much.
  • Eating out with others? Get separate checks. You won’t feel guilty if you have that extra drink or order something more expensive.
  • Travel with people who have similar resources. If you’re on a budget, make sure you don’t get sucked into spending outside your own comfort zone. On the other hand, if you always stay in a suite you may feel resentful if you get a standard room like theirs to be “polite”.

Enjoy traveling this big, wonderful world of ours!

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Who’s Scared of Friday 13th?

(Adapted from alltimelists.com. Interesting stuff!)

You’ve surely heard that Friday the 13th has a bad reputation. Many people consider it to be one of the most dangerous days of the year and conduct their business throughout the day with great caution – whether traveling, working, meeting friends or dining with family. Whether or not you’re superstitious, here are ten fun facts about this date.

10. Friday and 13 Are Linked to the Crucifixion of Jesus

Phillips Stevens Jr., a well-known anthropologist, says that people started fearing Friday the 13th during the Middle Ages.

He says, “There were 13 people present at the Last Supper and Jesus was said to be the 13th. The Last Supper was on a Thursday and the next day was the day of the crucifixion.”

When the number 13 and Friday come together, people fear it as double trouble. Very tall buildings usually don’t have a 13th floor. It is also considered unlucky to sit thirteen people at a table and some airplanes skip the 13th row.

 9. Friday the 13th and the Calendar

Top 10 Friday the 13th Facts - Repetition in Calendar

Is there a divine pattern? Whenever January 1 falls on a Thursday, the months of February, March and November all have a Friday the 13th. This will happen 11 times in the 21st century.

Our current cycle began in 2009, when Friday the 13th occurred in February, March and November. It also happened in 2015. However, it won’t happen again until 2026, after which you will have to wait until 2037 — another 11 years — for the trifecta.

 8. Historical Associations

top 10 Friday the 13th Facts - Other Numerological Numbers

Some contributing factors to the avoidance of the 13th are historical as well as biblical. For example, the number 12 is considered as a whole in numerology: the twelve tribes of Israel, the 12 apostles of Jesus and then the 12 successors of Muhammad in Shia Islam. Anything over that number is considered “un-whole” by numerologists.

Another theory is mentioned by author Dan Brown in his book about the crusaders and the Knights Templar. On October 13, 1307, France’s King Philip IV ordered the arrest of hundreds of Knights Templar and many were murdered throughout Europe. Another reason, bound in blood, that people fear Friday the 13th.

7. It Became Popular in the 19th Century

Top 10 Friday the 13th Facts - Became Popular in the 19th century

Much of the paranoia started in the 1800’s. Henry Sutherland Edwards wrote in his 1869 biography of Giochino Rossini (a leap year baby, by the way), that “He was [always] surrounded with friends. He considered [the number] 13 to be unlucky until his last day and he also passed away on Friday the 13th.”

Later, a novel published in 1907 titled Friday, the Thirteen by Thomas W. popularized the idea, inciting superstition throughout American culture.

 6. Alfred Hitchcock Was Born on Friday the 13th

top 10 Friday the 13th Facts - Birthday of Alfred Hitchcock

Who isn’t familiar with Alfred Hitchcock? The legendary director was born in August 13, 1899 and made his directorial debut in 1922 with a movie called Friday the 13th. However, the movie didn’t gain much popularity and suffered from financial issues.

Other well-known celebrities who were born on Friday the 13th include actresses-turned-designers Ashley and Mary Kate Olsen, playwright Samuel Beckett and former President of Cuba, Fidel Castro. One could argue that it hasn’t been unlucky for them!

5. Terrible Things Happen on Friday the 13th

Some people deny that Friday the 13th is unlucky but there is a lot of evidence to back this up.  For example, the Nazis dropped a bomb on Buckingham Palace on September 13, 1940 and the day was a Friday. Also, consider the Knights Templar and their fate on Friday the 13th.

On October 13, 1989, the stock market suffered a massive crash. That day happened to be Friday the 13th. It is considered the second most damaging day in stock market history. There have also been a considerable number of plane crashes on Friday the 13th.

 4. It’s a Lucky Number for Taylor Swift

Top 10 Friday the 13th facts - Taylor Swifts Lucky Number

Despite the bad things that have happened on this fateful day, it’s still a good luck charm for singer Taylor Swift. She is so obsessed with this number that she paints 13 on her hand every time she does a show.

She explains the significance of this day in her life with the following words: “I was born on the 13th. I turned 13 on Friday the 13th. My first album skyrocketed in 13 weeks. My #1 song has a 13 seconds intro. I have always won an award when I am sitting in the 13th section or row M, which is the 13th letter of the alphabet.”

3. A Group Was Formed to Debunk the Superstition

In the 1880s, the Thirteen Club was formed to debunk the myths surrounding this fateful day. The group gathered on every 13th of the month and conducted experiments. They would throw salt and break mirrors in an attempt to get a reaction from supernatural powers. They would also note the number of people who died that day.

The group eventually gained great popularity and grew to have 400 members, including a number of U.S. Presidents.

2. The Fear of This Number is Psychological

Top 10 Friday the 13th Facts - Fear of The number is psychological

The correct word to describe fear of the 13th is “triskaidekaphobia”.

Some of the problems people face on this day range from relatively low anxiety to full-blown panic attacks. Because of all the distractions Friday the 13th causes, millions are lost each year for companies around the world. The National Geographic states, “It’s been estimated that about $800 to $900 million are lost in business on this day because people don’t fly as they [normally do].”

1. Good Things Happen, Too

Top 10 Friday the 13th Facts - Good Things that Happened this day

Good things happen on this day, too, although they don’t get as much attention. For example, the Hollywood sign — one of the most powerful and recognizable images around the world — was unveiled on Friday the 13th, 1923.

Whether you’re superstitious or not, you can’t deny that it’s a significant day. Hope yours is a lucky one!

Hump Day Hack: Tangled Chains

HOW TO UNTANGLE NECKLACES and FIX KNOTS IN A CHAIN

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TIP ONE Apply a drop of baby oil to the knot(s). This will make the chain slippery and the knot will come undone more easily when you pull on it. If the knot is still tight, roll it gently with your fingers until it begins to loosen. Once you’ve untangled the knot, rinse the baby oil off your necklace using a mild liquid soap.

TIP TWO Insert a straight pin into the center of the knot, then slowly wiggle it around, gently lifting/pulling it upwards. You may need to do this a few different ways to loosen particularly tight tangles. To avoid breaking your necklace, be careful not to pull too hard or catch any openings in the chain.

TIP THREE Sprinkle baby powder on the knot. This will act as a lubricant and make the chains easier to separate. Once you’ve untangled the knot, rinse off the baby powder  using mild soap.

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TIP FOUR To prevent tangling, store long chains on a multi-hook hanger in your closet.

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Ah, if only it were this simple to untangle ourselves from dead-end jobs, family drama and bad relationships!

 

 

 

 

Beauty Adventures: Vanity and Necessity

This getting older thing seems to require ever-greater vigilance. The wear and tear of sun exposure and general activity caught up with me recently, resulting in a few rounds of sclerotherapy and in-office surgery for a squamous cell (non-melanoma) carcinoma.

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Prominent veins are much prettier on leaves

First, the vanity part: sclerotherapy.

I’ve made peace with my legs’ freckles, moles, scars and other mementoes of time but one thing was really bothering me: clusters of ugly spider veins around my ankles that had appeared over the past few years. (Thanks, gravity!)

Since boots are not a year-round option and the distracting power of red nail polish only goes so far, I finally decided to do something.

Sclerotherapy is commonly used to treat varicose veins or spider veins. Depending on the types of veins affected, lasers and other methods may be indicated. In my case, sclerotherapy was the recommendation and – spoiler alert – it has made a difference.

The procedure is non-surgical, doesn’t require anesthesia, and, in most cases, doesn’t require any special preparation. Your doctor injects a solution (called a sclerosant) into the blood vessels or lymph vessels, which causes them to swell and cut off the flow of blood or lymphatic fluid to the veins, which in turn makes them shrink. The practitioner can actually see them disappear – how cool is that?

During the treatment, you lie on your back with your legs up. After cleaning the area, the doctor injects the vein with the irritant. You may feel burning, tingling, or nothing at all. In my case there was some stinging but it wasn’t too bad. When the injection is complete, the doctor massages the area to prevent blood from re-entering the vein. Depending on the area being treated compression socks may be helpful afterwards.

After treatment, you need to remain active to prevent blood clots from forming, and avoid sunlight, which can cause dark spots at the treated area. Other than some soreness, redness and bruising at the injection site, recovery is easy.

 Research suggests that sclerotherapy effectively removes spider veins in 75-90% of cases, but typically requires multiple treatments. It took me 3 sessions to remove all but the most visible cluster, which has not gone away completely but is much lighter. Unfortunately, the procedure isn’t covered by insurance and since standing and walking put pressure on the veins, they’ll probably come back eventually.  I’m hoping it takes a few decades.

Necessity: skin cancer prevention

Being fair-skinned and paranoid, I’m vigilant about sun block and see my dermatologist annually for a full-body skin check. This time, I called her attention to a small but tenacious spot on the back of my hand and she agreed that a biopsy should be done. Most red spots resolve within a month (a bit longer as we get older and our skin takes more time to heal). Anything that doesn’t go away should be evaluated.

Turns out I had a squamous cell non-melanoma carcinoma, the second most common form after basal cell carcinoma. Not life threatening, but not something you want to ignore, either. We scheduled surgery for a couple of weeks later.

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers; each year in the U.S. nearly 5 1/2 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are treated in more than 3.3 million people. It’s also the easiest to cure when diagnosed and treated early. The head (particularly if you have thinning hair), face, tops of the ears and back of the hands are especially vulnerable. Hats and gloves, people! And wear sun block every day, including driving and swanning about in your corner office with the big windows!

Dermatologists used to focus on brown, unevenly shaped or mottled moles. But scientists have now learned that melanomas can also be pink or red. Be on the lookout for areas that are rough, red and raised. Often you’ll detect anomalies more by feel than by the way they look.

Pre-op: The biopsy has removed most of the problem already, since squamous cells are in the top layer of skin. The pre-op prep includes avoiding blood thinners such as ibuprofen, certain supplements and alcohol the week before, plus cleaning the area in advance with an over-the-counter antibacterial liquid.

Day Of: First, the surgical area is numbed with a lidocaine injection. Mine is on my wrist so the incision is lateral and should be hidden by all the other creases. Surgery isn’t painful and I only need acetaminophen a couple of times in subsequent days.

A Week (Plus) Later: A nurse at the derm’s office removes the stitches and applies three Steri-Strips. These fall off after another week. Three weeks post-op, the back of my hand is still sore and puffy but is slowly improving.

After-care: Dr. D recommends Gold Bond Strength and Resilience to moisturize skin, Anthelios 60 sunscreen, and Serica for scar improvement – it’s much easier to apply this gel than bulky scar strips. I’m also trying it on last year’s bunion scar to see if it helps.

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Dr. D has also suggested I try nicotinamide (B3) supplements. In the recent ONTRAC study, oral use significantly reduced the risk of melanoma in patients who’d had two or more precancerous basal or squamous lesions.

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I’m taking 500 mg twice a day and will start seeing my derm twice a year from now on. I’ll also be ordering Anthelios by the truckload.

 

Charleston, Va “Benne”

How is it our last day already?! We cram a lot into our final historical dive, as well as two excellent meals.
First, a morning ferry to Fort Sumter, the strategic site where the American Civil War began. The excursion takes about two hours: a 30-minute ferry ride to and from the fort and 60 minutes on the island. During the ride, a recording describes various points of interest and the history of Fort Sumter and Charleston Harbor. Best part: we see dolphins off the side of the boat.
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Construction of Fort Sumter was still underway when South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860. Despite Charleston’s position as a major port, at the time only two companies of federal troops guarded the harbor.
The Confederacy (500 soldiers) captured the fort in a short but intense artillery bombardment of the US Army garrison (80 soldiers) on Apr 12 – Apr 13, 1861, following months of siege-like conditions. The Confederate victory marked the official start of this bloody war, although there were no casualties in this battle.

 The site includes a museum which details these events.  As a lifelong Yankee/Northerner, it’s fascinating to read the Southern perspective on slavery and other issues of the day. IMG-0273

We get back by noon and Uber over for lunch at the deservedly popular Rodney Scott’s BBQ. Our friends are eager to try the ribs, which could feed a modern-day army and are as fabulous as anticipated. Pulled pork is pretty great, too. Rodney stops by to say hi — we’d talk longer but our mouths are full!

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IMG-0290IMG-0291Next up: the McLeod Plantation, which takes an unsparing look at all aspects of plantation life. The plantation was built on the riches of sea island cotton – and on the backs of enslaved Gullah men, women and children. The stories of these families – black and white, enslaved and free – are vividly told through narrative and photos.  It’s sobering and terrible, yet the triumph of survival is ultimately uplifting.IMG-0293It’s 5:00 somewhere — oh, here! — so we conclude our last day with drinks and dinner. We discover a great bistro and bar right near the restaurant we’ve reserved.

The Ordinary is, in my opinion, rather ordinary.  Food is good but nothing special, the cavernous space (a former bank) is noisy, and the kitchen can’t get everything upstairs at the same time so some of us are eating while others are waiting. Wish we’d stayed at Felix!

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Finally, here’s a recipe for benne (sesame) wafers, a Gullah favorite — and now, one of mine too.

Benne Wafers

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sesame seeds
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (+ optional splash of lemon juice)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet or cover it with parchment paper.
  2. Place the benne (sesame) seeds on an ungreased baking sheet and toast until light brown (about 10 minutes). Watch closely so they don’t burn!
  3. In a large bowl mix the brown sugar, melted butter, egg, vanilla extract, flour, salt, baking powder and toasted sesame seeds together until combined.
  4. Drop dough by spoonfuls (each about ½ teaspoon) 1½ inches apart onto the baking sheet.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 4 to 6 minutes, until light brown.

Let cookies cool for about 2 minutes before removing from baking sheet to a wire rack to cool completely. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container.

Makes about 4 dozen, depending on the size of your spoonfuls.