Monthly Archives: January 2016

Mouthing Off

Yesterday I went to the dentist to have a crown made. “Crown” sounds so elegant, like you should dress up and be all Downton Abbey-ish, rather than the disturbing reality of someone jamming their elbow into your mouth while you’re drooling and wearing a paper bib.

I started wondering what kind of person chooses a profession where no one wants to see them. Sure they make good money but you could be a podiatrist. Feet have to be more appealing than rotting teeth and bad breath. Are all dentists masochists? Personally, I’d rather have a colonoscopy than visit the dentist. At least you are asleep through the ordeal and they give you nice warm blankets and juice. At the dentist you get lidocaine and vile-tasting mouthwash, and stumble off with lipstick all over your face because you can’t feel where your lips end.

Leaving with a swollen jaw and an admonition not to eat anything hard or sticky (Nuts! Caramels!) I decided on cauliflower for dinner. It’s nice and bland and won’t stick to the temporary crown. If you’ve never puréed cauliflower, it makes an excellent substitute for mashed potatoes, which I didn’t have in the house. It won’t fool anyone but it’s quite tasty and low cal too. All you do is steam the head and mush it up in a food processor with some milk, salt and pepper, plus grated parmesan to offset all that healthiness. Go easy on the milk, adding slowly until you get the right consistency.

Still, modern dentistry is a big improvement over the “good” old days, when they didn’t have anesthetic. If you’re not squeamish, check out, which is fascinating. Did you know that an ancient Roman toothache remedy was gargling with urine? Aren’t you glad I told you?

I’ll have the temporary for 2-3 weeks so I’m thinking about other soft foods to eat.
Since it’s chilly I’m focusing on soup. In this easy recipe for veggie soup, start with whatever’s in the fridge and add your favorites. Bon appétit!


Veg Out Soup

• 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
• 1 lg. onion, chopped
• 1 leek, chopped
• 2 carrots, chopped
• 2 celery stalks, chopped
• 1 medium zucchini, chopped
• 1 medium yellow squash, chopped
• 1 bell pepper, any color, chopped
• Trimmed green beans, cut bite size
• 1 lg. can fire roasted (or other) diced tomatoes
• 8 cups low fat chicken broth (enough to cover all veggies)
• Rind of Parmesan cheese
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Any other veggies you like, such as turnips, parsnips, chard, etc.
Optional: add a can of beans at the end of cooking

• Cover bottom of large, heavy soup pot with olive oil
• Turn heat to medium
• Add chopped onion to pot, stirring occasionally so it browns lightly
• Add other veggies to pot, stirring with each addition. Start with thicker, heavier vegetables, then add lighter ones
• When all fresh vegetables have been added, add can of tomatoes, Parmesan rind and enough liquid to cover veggies well
• Raise heat until soup starts to bubble, then lower to a simmer
• Simmer for several hours, until liquid has reduced and soup has thickened
• Remove rind and season with salt and pepper to taste
• Serve with crusty bread and more grated Parmesan

Makes about 8 servings

Sex in the Middle Ages

You know how it’s ok to make fun of your own family but you get defensive when someone else does it? Middle-aged sex definitely has its issues but in my opinion only those of “a certain age” have the right to make jokes. I get really peeved when I see some movie where the old duffer in a bathing suit is played for laughs. Hey, we already know we have cellulite and a flabby butt.

For instance, there’s that post-menopausal “dry as the Sahara” moment, when your head says “Go” and your body says, “Are you kidding me?!” That’s what lubricants—or, as I call them, “sexy juice”—are for. Embrace the sexy juice—it makes the impossible, possible.

Or the contortionist problem: He wants to get exotic. Then his knee gives out. Or maybe his hip. There goes the moment. It’s hard to sustain the fantasy of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy when you’re thinking you might have to call 911.

Nevertheless, people our age deserve to have sex, do we not? Why? Well, besides being fun, having sex helps maintain a connection with our partner, burns calories, pumps blood to our hearts and helps us sleep better. (And if you’re not in a relationship, that’s no reason to abandon sex – your body needs it, and you can buy a vibrator online if you’re as leery of walking into a sex shop as I am.)

Over time it’s all too easy to take our spouses and partners for granted, becoming friends and ”roommates” and leaving sex in the rear view mirror with memories of “when we were younger”.

True, most of us looked better back in the day. But remember, he looks at least as crappy as you do, and he’s just as insecure. (Then again, he’s a man and probably delusional.) That’s why God invented darkness.

I’m also a fan of “middle of the night” sex when you’re half asleep and way less inclined to be judgmental.

In the other Middle Ages, people believed in the concept of “first sleep” and “second sleep”. When you woke up from deep sleep you’d spend an hour or so writing, praying, having sex or even visiting neighbors before going back to bed. I bet it was really fun when Mrs. Bricklayer next door dropped by to borrow a cup of mead at 2 a.m.

Over time, the second sleep idea fell out of favor. Instead, somebody came up with the idiotic goal of 8 hours’ continuous sleep, which is completely unrealistic once you’ve hit menopause. Or if hubby snores.

Bottom line: when it comes to sex, in the immortal words of Nike, “Just do it”.  It may not be pretty but it’s worth the effort.

Hair Apparent

Here’s what I’m obsessing about today:
Why are my eyelashes disappearing but hair is sprouting on my chin? And what’s with that one sharp white eyebrow hair the size of my forearm?

The happy answer: aging. But, as my mother used to say, “Consider the alternative”. As you may have noticed the week before your colorist appointment, gray hair is coarser. So, compared to normal eyebrow hairs, the weird ones are thicker.

(As a side note, can anyone explain why your hair miraculously looks perfect on the day you’ve scheduled a haircut? Is this the same cosmic joke as feeling 100% better the day of a doctor’s appointment?)

Good news: it’s not as bad for women as older men, who seem to grow more hair in their ears, noses, pubes and eyebrows because of testosterone. (Since we have to look at them, now is a good time to teach your guy about “manscaping” – or do it for him — before things gets even worse!)

So far, I’ve been lucky to avoid thinning hair. Forty percent of us have visible hair loss by age 40, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Not surprisingly, the most common culprit is the loss of estrogen that begins before menopause, though hair loss can result from illness and other factors.

A zig-zag part not only disguises roots but makes hair look thicker. So does parting your hair on the opposite side, since it won’t lie as flat that way. There are tons of thickening products out there and you undoubtedly have your faves. I’m partial to Aveda’s Pure Abundance style-prep because most products weigh my hair down and feel greasy the next day.

If hair loss is serious, your doctor will be your best resource. Hormone adjustments may be recommended, or he/she may suggest Rogaine (minoxidil), the only FDA-approved topical treatment. Remember: it only works if used daily as directed.

Back to brows. The woman who shapes mine also dyes them (they are white-blond and invisible otherwise) and I personally wouldn’t try dyeing them at home although people do. Regardless of trends, thin brows on older women are aging, as are extreme arches. So lay off the tweezers and find someone you trust to groom them for a natural look. As they grow in, you can fill in and cover bald spots with pencil: Bobbi Brown makes a nice one.

For thin, short eyelashes, I’m a fan of Latisse even though it’s eye-wateringly expensive. Your derm can give you a prescription. Like Rogaine, it has to be used consistently. Dyeing lashes also seems to make them thicker. Definitely do NOT try this at home.

And never underestimate the power of a good pair of sunglasses!


Perchance to Dream

FullSizeRender(5)As I was tossing and turning the other night, I started thinking about how sleep has become the Holy Grail for a lot of people our age.

Whether it’s the result of menopause, stressing about retirement, anxiety over your kid’s latest relationship, or the fettucine alfredo you knew you shouldn’t have eaten, getting your zzz’s can be a challenge.

So I started reading (yep, at 3 a.m.) about tips for a better night’s rest. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Don’t exercise right before bedtime (unless it’s sex-ercise, which will knock you out faster than Muhammad Ali). Working out raises your body temperature and being cool, not hot, helps you sleep more soundly. (Exercising earlier in the day on a regular basis helps tire you out by bedtime.)
  1. Don’t watch TV, use your computer or check e-mail right before bed. Blue light from these screens signals your brain to shut off melatonin production – that’s the sleep hormone – and messes with your circadian rhythms, your normal sleep/wake body clock.
  1. Keep your bedroom cool and dark – add shades or curtains or wear a comfy sleep mask to shut out the light.
  1. Use a humidifier to avoid getting congested.
  1. Insomniacs secrete more cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone our bodies release when we’re stressed. One way to shut down obsessive thoughts? Make your to-do list or write down stuff that’s bothering you an hour or so before bedtime. Rub your neck, arms and shoulders when you get into bed and take some deep, calming breaths to help relax.

Another trick that seems to work is to eat a little peanut butter on whole wheat toast or crackers an hour before bed. Apparently the combination of complex carbs and protein provides enough fuel to keep you from waking up hungry, but isn’t hard to digest. Plus, it boosts levels of feel-good serotonin.

Sweet dreams, my friends!

Ode to scarves (particularly Hermès)

With all due respect to the late, great Nora Ephron, why feel bad about your neck when you have the perfect excuse to cover it up?

Camouflage is one reason to indulge in all manner of gorgeous, glorious scarves. But here are some others:

  • A scarf Frenchifies any outfit, adding a touch of glamour
  • Adding a scarf to a basic outfit looks as though you care, even when you don’t
  • You get a lot of bang for not a lot of bucks, accessory speaking

Scarves add color to my otherwise totally drab closet of neutrals. Or, in fashion-speak, jeans + plain top + 36” square of silk = “high-low” dressing.

When I first started collecting Hermès scarves I had no idea of their history, I just thought they were beautiful. For the non-obsessives among you, here’s a very brief synopsis; after all, entire books have been written on this topic!

Although the house of Hermès was established in 1837, it took 100 years before the carré (“square” in French) was created, designed by artist Hugo Grygkar in 1937.

Hermès issues two collections a year, along with some exclusives and re-issues of older designs. The images can be elegant, playful, simple or elaborate, with each design offered in colors ranging from primary-bright to subtle pastels and themes that include nautical, equestrian, nature and seasonal activities. This year, one of my favorites is “Paddock”, a design from the 50’s that manages to be both contemporary and nostalgic. “Brides de Gala” (decorative show bridles), a Grygkar design from 1957, is the house’s most famous scarf. According to the fact-finders at Wikipedia, it’s been produced more than 70,000 times!

Queen Elizabeth II wore an Hermès scarf in the portrait used for a 1986 British stamp, and Princess Grace Kelly wore hers on the cover of a 1956 issue of Life magazine. If that doesn’t make you feel regal, ladies, I don’t know what will!

The 36” square (90 cm x 90 cm) weighs a hefty 65 grams and will probably outlive you, your children and your grandchildren. Each hem is hand-stitched with the rolled part facing up, and don’t forget to look for the artist’s signature. Interestingly, even though Grygkar produced an estimated 100+ designs, he never signed his work. Talented and modest!

Then, there are the larger squares, shawls, oblong twillys and maxi-twillys. Doesn’t your neck deserve a thank-you for all those years of holding up your head?! And if you get tired of wearing one you can always hang it on your wall. In my book, it IS art!

For your little piece of history, check out this year’s “Brides de Gala” at or scroll through the amazing images on