Monthly Archives: November 2016

There’s No Place Like Home(s)

I was born with wanderlust in my heart. I emerged not head first, but with an outstretched arm. Although this was widely interpreted as a sign of friendliness (quickly disproven, as I was a shy and introverted child) I believe it was a deliberate reaching-out for someone to grab my hand and get me out of the womb as quickly as possible so I could explore somewhere new.

As my husband and I (and many of our friends) approach retirement, one of the big questions we’re debating is: Where will we live once we’re not tied to a job? For many, there’s a desire to return to their childhood hometown. I envy those of you who have a clear vision, because I can’t picture any single destination that feels like the perfect fit.

I come by this schizophrenia naturally, having grown up in two places. My family lived in Manhattan (and, later, Long Island) for nine months of the year but spent every summer on Cape Cod as my father, a professor, had summers off. Although we were only there from June until Labor Day, the Cape felt like my true home. I was just marking time the rest of the year until I could return.

These days, I feel the same impatience to begin the summer in coastal Oregon. It’s the pull of the ocean: the smells and sounds of the waves as we fall asleep, the cool temperatures, and a pervasive sense of relaxation.

At the same time, though, I wouldn’t want to live there year round. It’s too remote and too far from a city; I’m still a New Yorker at heart. But which city? I have no desire to move back to Manhattan, so the conversation goes round and round as we keep exploring where to spend those other 6-7 months.

Maybe I’ll never find that one perfect place. And maybe that’s ok. As the cliché goes, home(s) is where the heart is.

A Family By Any Other Name

If you’re like me, the concept of “family” is complicated. The family we’re born into may be less than ideal, incorporating fraught relationships with parents or siblings. Even in families with a relatively healthy dynamic, there’s often a tendency to act or be treated as if we are eternally eight years old.

As we get older, our definition of family expands and changes. Lines blur as our children become friends, close friends become more like siblings, and siblings may become strangers.

Since Thanksgiving is a holiday that’s typically associated with family, let’s celebrate ALL our families, not just our biological ones:

  • Circumstantial: The family we join through marriage or re-marriage
  • Work: After all, we probably spend at least as much time with our “work family” as we do at home
  • Friends: Who else could we bitch to about everything — including our families?!
  • Support System: Our family of stylists, massage therapists, manicurists etc., with whom we share stories and confidences
  • Our church, synagogue, mosque or other religious affiliation
  • Neighbors


This is one of my favorite recipes for dessert, whether you’re hosting or bringing something to the feast. Almond flour and Whey Low make it healthier.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone — however (and with whomever) you spend it!

Double Chocolate Almond Flour Brownies


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (I use 4 tablespoons (¼ c) butter + ¼ c canola oil)
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (substitute bittersweet if you prefer less sweetness)
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar (I use 1/3 c brown + 1/3 c white for less sweetness)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Optional: ¼ teaspoon espresso powder


  1. Preheat the oven to 350º and butter an 8”x8” pan.
  2. Place the butter and chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler or a large glass bowl set over a pot of gently boiling water. Whisk together until the butter and chocolate are melted and well combined. Set aside and let cool for five minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the almond flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla.
  4. Add the cooled chocolate and butter mixture to the egg/sugar mixture. Whisk to combine and then mix into the dry ingredients until everything is well blended.
  5. Pour the batter into the baking pan and bake for 25 minutes or until tester comes out clean with a few crumbs clinging to it.
  6. Cool before slicing.

Ready. Set. Purge.

The 45-minute closet clean up

One of the best ways to clear my head is to clean up my surroundings. It’s a no-brainer to toss the stuff I hate. What’s harder to identify are stealth garments that lurk among my favorites: clothes I used to love but barely wear, items that are serviceable but not exciting, expensive mistakes, and anything that doesn’t quite fit.

Weeding out things that no longer work — whether clothes or noxious elements in your life — can seem overwhelming. So start small. You can do this whole purge in under an hour.  Or if that’s too much, attack just one category a day. Spend 5 minutes on each and be ruthless!

  1. Fixer-Uppers: Broken zipper? Sleeves too long? Put anything that needs to be fixed into a bag. If you don’t take it to the tailor or shoemaker within a week, you’ll know that you don’t love it enough to keep it.
  2. Pants: Do they fit perfectly? Can’t wait to wear them? If you don’t feel attractive, you’ll always pick another pair. The exception: jeans that used to be flattering and are now too tight, but ONLY if you are serious about losing those extra 5-10 lbs. Save one pair and re-evaluate in three months.
  3. Shoes: Too big, small or tight? Gone! Not really your style? Had them for months and still haven’t worn them? Odds are, you never will.
  4. Duplicates: If you own multiples of the same style, only keep the ones you wear the most. Even among five black sweaters, you undoubtedly have one or two favorites. Ditch the rest.
  5. Fill-Ins: Do you have clothes, shoes and accessories that are nice enough but you always gravitate towards something else instead? If you’re not ready to toss them, make a list of the pieces you want to upgrade and when you buy that perfect jacket, shirt or belt, get rid of the fill-in.
  6. Sad Sacks: Underwear, socks, t-shirts…. Throw out everything that’s stained, shapeless, faded or has holes. Check collars and cuffs – that’s where the wear shows up first. Even if you’re only running to the grocery store, why look like a hot mess?
  7. Fantasy Island: If you can’t imagine wearing a particular item or outfit any time in the next year, get rid of it. Exception: your favorite LBD or a timeless designer piece that will always make you look and feel great.
  8. Guilt Trippers: We’ve all had buyer’s remorse after spending a lot (usually on sale) on something we just don’t wear. Donate it to charity and you’ll feel good about yourself instead of guilty.
  9. Old Loves: If you can’t bear to part with something for sentimental reasons, box it up and store it somewhere outside of your closet. Even better: enjoy the memories without letting unnecessary mementos take up precious space.

A final note on fit: Clothes that are too small make us feel like failures. Clothes that are too big make us look frumpy and imply we’re going to backslide.  Limit your wardrobe to fewer items that fit right now. You’ll feel more attractive, confident and in control.

Requiem for Decency

Well, America — you got what you wished for.  And now the vulgarians are at the gate.

This blog is not about politics.  But the vitriol, racism and sexism unleashed during this election are unprecedented, and I can’t in good conscience refrain from comment.

Clearly, we have a lot of work to do. The Trump victory shines a spotlight on the dismal lack of education in our country — a discouraging number of voters who have never learned either civics or civility.  Voters who can’t tell when they’re being manipulated by lies and innuendo.  Voters who think a charlatan with no history of helping another human being is going to make their lives better. Voters who think “different” means “enemy”.

Black, brown, Muslim, Jewish, Latino, college-educated, LGBT, female… all our rights are at risk.  We’ll have to stand together over the next four years to make sure our voices are heard, our needs are met, and that this is a one-term setback for progress, not a wholesale abandonment of American values.  We’ll have to create a unified coalition to unseat the politics of hatred once and for all.

Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

This should be a wake-up call for everyone.  And if you supported Trump, take a good look in the mirror.  The America your “victory” has created is about to become a dangerous and unpleasant place to live.  For you, too.

Scents and Sensibility

Smell is one of our most powerful senses. The scent of vanilla sparks feelings of comfort, associated since childhood with freshly baked cookies. That’s because your olfactory system is directly wired to the limbic center, the emotional “heartland” of the brain. A whiff of perfume may either remind you of something positive – say, April in Provence – or recall the unwanted memory of an ex or toxic co-worker who used to wear that brand.

As we get older, especially after age 70, our sense of smell tends to diminish. Some reasons are physiological but disease, smoking, and exposure to harmful particles in the air also play a role. Losing your sense of smell not only lessens pleasures such as eating, it can be dangerous — if, for example, you can’t smell smoke from a fire or a build-up of natural gas.clown-362155_640

By the way, “old people smell” is a real thing, and has nothing to do with cleanliness. That grassy or greasy odor, called nonenal, is a natural result of the aging process, resulting from deterioration of the skin’s antioxidant defenses. Both men and women begin producing nonenal around age 40 and hormonal changes such as menopause can make it worse. Since it isn’t water soluble, nonenal stays on the skin no matter how hard you scrub. The good news? You can reduce odor by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting plenty of rest, avoiding stress, not smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation.

What NOT to do? Overdoing perfume to compensate, especially if you can’t tell how much is too much!

Certain scents are known to improve your sleep, boost your mood, relieve stress and make you smarter.

LAVENDER: Cooperation and Relaxation. A bath or shower with lavender-scented gel can send you off to dreamland. A lavender room spray may “encourage” meetings to run more smoothly. (I’ve tried this, and it may be coincidence but it worked!)lavender-1117275_640

LEMON: Brain boosting. Got a big presentation? A UK study found that cognitive performance and mood improved when wearing participants rubbed lemon balm on the inside of their wrists.lemon-1117568_640

ORANGE: Stress, Anxiety, Digestion. Citrus aromas are often useful for curbing stress and anxiety, as well as helping with nausea and digestion. Massage therapists and acupuncturists at the Mayo Clinic augment therapies with mandarin essential oil. Could work for you, too!orange-15046_640

ROSE: Anxiety. From calming the nervous system to improving mental strength, inhaling a rose scent produces an anti-anxiety effect similar to diazepam.

rose-113735_640SANDALWOOD: De-Stressing. Recent studies have confirmed that this traditional meditative aid and natural sedative also reduces anxiety.

VANILLA: Mood Improvement. There’s a reason we find it so soothing. Scientists have found that this warm, sweet scent activates the limbic system in our brains, conjuring restful emotions and relieving stress and anxiety.

JASMINE: Sleep. This scent increases brain waves associated with deep sleep. That can mean a more restful night and greater alertness the following day.flower-363278_640

GRAPEFRUIT – The Multi-Tasker Studies have shown the women wearing a grapefruit scent were perceived to be much younger than their chronological age. Other evidence suggests that the aroma can help curb depression and enhance memory. And researchers at Osaka University in Japan found that sniffing grapefruit reduces food cravings and boosts metabolism. Maybe that’s why that “grapefruit diet” has been so popular!grapefruit-1647688_640

A few tips about candlescandle-1039538_640

Do you love scented candles, but hate the way they sink down in the middle or leave dark marks on your container or wall? There’s a simple explanation: If the wick gets too long, the flame produces black smoke and the glass your candle’s in can overheat.

Here’s how to get the most from your expensive candles:

  • BURN IT EVENLY: The first time you light your candle, let it burn for two hours to ensure that the top is entirely melted and then put it out. Any hardened wax around the sides will tunnel downwards the next time you light it.
  • TRIM THE WICK: Use a wick trimmer to keep the wick short – only a few millimeters in length.
  • CENTER THE WICK: When you put out the candle (and while the wax is still liquid) re-center the wick. This will prevent it from blackening the container the next time you light it.
  • FIX TUNNELING: If a tunnel begins to form, burn the candle for 30 minutes until the edges are soft, then put it out. Allow the wax to cool a bit; then gently push it down with your finger. Re-light and allow the candle to burn for one to two hours to level the wax.