Author Archives: adguru101

About adguru101

Formerly a creative director and writer at NY and NJ ad agencies, I'm now retired and living in Oregon, USA, with my husband and countless dust balls. With this blog, I specifically hope to reach "mid-century moderns" -- women born in the '50's -- with content and observations about the issues we deal with every day. But I welcome all readers of any age, sex, orientation, etc… you youngsters will eventually be my age too, and I love reading everyone’s comments!

A Taste of the Périgord

Travel is a wonderful way to broaden our horizons… and our waistlines, n’est-ce pas?

Dear Husband and I have just returned from two weeks in France, a trip that was slightly more ambitious (a.k.a., complicated) than might have been ideal. Since many of you have been to Paris I won’t go into detail here, other than to note that the city seemed to have especially poor air quality versus previous visits, not helped by the ubiquitous smokers everywhere. (How is this still a ‘thing’ ?!) And for the love of all that’s holy do NOT arrive for one day in Bordeaux on Nov. 1 which is a holiday, and then return for another day on a Monday when the museums are closed. Oh well, the Intercontinental hotel is still a great place to hang out.

We’d both been eager to visit the Dordogne (inspired by our love of Martin Walker‘s delightful Bruno, Chief of Police novels) and planned the trip based on our schedules, which proved rather an error: Once the tourist season ends (Oct. 31) it REALLY ends, and not only attractions but most shops and restaurants are closed. Note to future travelers: you can avoid the worst of the craziness by traveling in late Sept/early October when the weather is still warm. We also did not realize we had chosen a school holiday period (cue hand smacking head), which also meant crowded trains and limited seating for the Paris/Bordeaux connection. (Bordeaux is well worth visiting but otherwise I suggest flying/taking the train directly to Bergerac rather than renting a car in Bordeaux, as we did, at the rather harrowing 4th-level and hard-to-find train station location.)

Most important — since the Sarlat tourist office had not clued me in when I’d contacted them weeks before — you still need to prearrange tickets for the caves and other points of interest.

Let the photos begin! First up, Montignac, and our home base at the gorgeous Hôtel de Bouilhac.

A partial view of our private terrace at the delightful Hôtel de Bouilhac
A hint of the expansive terrace view
And its wonderful restaurant

Of course, we have to visit Lascaux IV, which is an exact replica of the original cave. I was lucky enough to visit the real one as a child in 1960 before it was closed to the public due to threats of deterioration.

This exhibit shows how the replica was painstakingly created. It’s huge!

On to Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère, one of many beautiful villages in the area.

The Romanesque 12th century church was originally a Benedictine priory. Its limestone slate roof is typical of Périgord, with flat stones wedged between chestnut wood slats.
Driving has its challenges (but offers views of sheep and cows along the way)
Imagine building a house up there

Next up, Sarlat-la-Canéda, after which we head to Château de Beynac.

Sarlat
Beynac castle, built in the 12th century, was a key fortification during the Hundred Years’ War
A commanding view of the surrounding countryside, and below

Above is La Roque-Gageac, a lovely town but too far up the cliff to explore when rain is threatening.

A pretty church in Carsac-Aillac:

Another day, we head to the farmers’ market in Périgueux, which is a lively spot at the base of the cathedral.

Which makes us hungry, so we stroll around looking for lunch, and stumble onto a terrific Michelin-starred restaurant, L’Epicurien, quite by accident.

The next day, we discover the fascinating museum of prehistory in Les Eyzies, a must if you visit the region. It is a stunning reminder that prehistoric people living 15,000-20,000 years ago were creative, practical, family-oriented, and artistic.

And, it’s built into the cliff (pretty amazing in and of itself), with more spectacular views.

The lovely towns of Trémolat, Cadouin, and Limeuil are also worth a visit.

Trémolat
Abbaye de Cadouin (and below)

A major highlight of the trip: the cave at Font-de-Gaume, which unlike Lascaux is the real deal. We are a group of four (joining us, a couple from Paris who’ve never been here before) with a guide who explains the drawings in both French and English. After climbing the steep hill to the cave’s entrance, it’s a dramatic conclusion to our time in Périgord.

Photo from the website, as cameras are forbidden

And, finally, the food. I don’t think we had a bad meal anywhere, and so much of it was as gorgeous as it was delicious.

Vive la France!

Quit While You’re Behind

Liz Truss, the UK prime minister, has resigned after only 45 days. While she’s been roundly criticized for her policies, I believe she should be applauded for reminding us of something important: Cutting Your Losses.

Would that more politicians would quit once they’ve passed their sell-by dates, rather than clinging barnacle-like to constituencies they barely serve.

And what about those everyday jobs employing people who are totally unqualified? (I’m looking at you, nameless installer of bathroom cabinets with unevenly-spaced handles that have to be replaced.) Or truly bad cooks. Or the talentless actors who survive on bit parts hoping for the big break that never comes. Surely, those folks have other talents and would be happier and better-suited to other positions.

This also goes for bad relationships. Admit failure — or even chronic dissatisfaction — , CYL and walk away.

Thanks, Liz, and good luck in your next career.

Photo by Kate Gundareva on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: Bone Up on Calcium


Taking calcium supplements before age 35 may prevent osteoporosis later in life
[John Anderer, studyfinds.com]

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com


Planning ahead can pay serious dividends in many areas of life. Now, new research out of China suggests a little bit of forward thinking when it comes to bone health can help stave off osteoporosis years down the line. Researchers report taking calcium supplements between ages 20 and 35 can help improve bone mass at peak bone mass age.

Study authors believe this work points to a new, easy way adults can proactively protect their bones from a young age, setting the stage for more robust bone health during old age. On an even more general level, researchers add young adults should pay more attention to their bone health.

“Osteoporosis and fractures are important global public health problems, particularly in elderly women,” explains lead study author Yupeng Liu, a researcher at Wenzhou Medical University’s School of Public Health and Management, in a media release. “However, although calcium supplementation has been widely used in older age to increase bone mass, a number of studies suggest that it is unlikely to translate into clinically meaningful reductions in fractures.”

“On the other hand, intervention before young adults reach peak bone density might have a greater impact on bone health and prevent osteoporosis later. There has been considerable debate about whether calcium supplementation has effects on bone health among young people, so we conducted a comprehensive review of the evidence for calcium supplement effectiveness in people under the age of 35.”

Are supplements better than the real thing?
The research team made use of previously conducted randomized controlled trials — seen as the gold standard for clinical research — to compile these findings. More specifically, they searched for trials comparing calcium or calcium plus vitamin D with a placebo or no treatment in participants under the age of 35. They also focused on results reported for bone mineral density (BMD) or bone mineral content (BMC).

In total, this project ended up encompassing 43 prior studies involving over 7,300 people. Among those 43 studies, 20 looked at dietary calcium while the other 23 focused on calcium supplementation. The team then combined all of the data to search for changes in BMD and BMC in the lumbar spine, femoral neck, total hip, and total body.

That investigation led to the conclusion that calcium supplements taken by people under 35 have significant potential to improve the BMD levels of both the total body and femoral neck. They also appear to slightly increase the BMC of the femoral neck, total body, and lumbar spine. In comparison to individuals younger than 20 (the pre–peak bone mass age), these benefits were more prominent among participants between 20 and 35 years-old (the peri–peak bone mass age when bone mass plateaus).

Importantly, both dietary sources of calcium and calcium supplements had a positive effect on femoral neck and total body BMD. However, BMC measurements of the femoral neck and lumbar spine only improved following calcium supplementation.

Vitamin D, meanwhile, was a bit of a mixed bag. A combination of calcium and vitamin D did prove more beneficial for the femoral neck bone mineral density and content, but researchers did not see the same robust benefits for BMCs of lumbar spine and total body, or total body BMD.

Moving up the ‘intervention window’
In summation, study authors believe calcium supplements have serious potential to improve both bone mineral density and content, especially in the neck, in a major way. Taking calcium supplements during peri–peak bone mass age (ages 20-35) appears to foster the strongest benefits in comparison to earlier or later in life.

“Although further trials will be needed to verify these findings, our review provides a new train of thought regarding calcium supplementation and the optimal timing of its effects,” concludes senior study author Shuran Wang, a professor at Wenzhou Medical University. “In terms of bone health and an individual’s full life cycle, the intervention window of calcium supplementation should be advanced to the age around the plateau of peak bone mass – namely at 20–35 years of age.”

The study appears in the journal eLife.

In Praise of Spontaneity

Recently, some friends who happened to be in the neighborhood stopped by on the off chance we might be home (which, happily, we were).

It made me realize how rare this is; generally, a ringing doorbell indicates either an Amazon delivery or that our trash can lids have blown open.

In my ever-faulty memory, it seems to me that neighbors used to stop by unannounced with some frequency, especially when we were kids. But this has gone the way of the dodo, thanks to crime, COVID, and other modern inconveniences.

I must confess I would never just show up — I might text to see if somewhere were home or if it was a convenient time to receive visitors — but I kinda think that’s a shame.

Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

Does Your Blog Ever Make You Feel Guilty?

I’m continually in awe of all of you who post regularly no matter what! Much as I love to write and hear from those of you who make time to respond, I sometimes just can’t seem to fit it in. And I don’t even have the excuse of a full-time job!

Although I heartily dislike the whole concept of “guilt”, it does nag at me that I haven’t kept my bargain with myself. (Never mind the pandemic pounds I haven’t lost either.)

Take last week. A hastily-arranged trip to Texas to see family was followed by an equally hasty return to host, first, a visit with dear friends we don’t see often enough and then several intense days (Highs! Lows! Seafood! Cocktails!) with my two wonderful stepdaughters. All absolutely enjoyable but with no spare energy for the computer.

On a related note, have any of you watched the series “Guilt” currently in Season 2 on PBS in the US (which presumably aired before this in the UK)? Of course those guys are stealing, lying, murdering, etc., which makes me feel better about my own minor infractions. There’s guilt and then there’s GUILT.

Have a great week! xx Alisa

Photo by Jessica Lewis Creative on Pexels.com

Does the “E” in E-mail Stand for Endless?!?

Lately, my inbox has become a game of whack-a-mole.

No sooner do I delete, say, a dozen messages — not a single one announcing that a distant relative has bequeathed me a sprawling, all-expenses-paid estate in the Cotswolds — than another two dozen appear.

And spam filters never seem to catch the nasty varmints. ARRGGHHH.

Photo by Richard Wilson on Pexels.com

Quickly’s Believe It or Not

Whew, dear readers. After weeks of inactivity (blog-wise, that is) I have recently noticed more and more “can this be true?” events in the world.

You’ve probably seen the news story of actress Anne Heche driving out of control and hitting some unlucky woman’s house, causing it to burst into flames and destroying all of her possessions.

While Ms. Heche’s subsequent intubation and mental health issues may deserve sympathy too, here’s what has me shaking my head: WHY does the woman whose house was crashed into need a GoFundMe page to get her life back together, rather than millionaire Ms. Heche’s family immediately offering to pay what’s necessary??

And on a different note (literally), I was driving the other day and an old Eric Clapton song, “I can’t stand it” came on the radio.

My question: Who on God’s green earth would EVER cheat on Eric Clapton?!?

The mind boggles.

The Great Toaster Oven Experiment: Focaccia

Continuing with alternative baking methods/bread, I decided to attempt focaccia. Spoiler alert: not perfect, but perfectly acceptable in a pinch.

In my search for a suitably-sized vehicle, I discovered that out of the dozen or so bread/loaf pans accumulated in decades of marriage — this not being the first for either of us, though that may not explain the excessive number — only one actually fits in the toaster oven.

Dimensions, for anyone else who is oven-less, or wants to give this a try (the rest of you can enjoy a short snooze):

  • Length: Exterior including handles 9.75″/25 cm; interior 8.25″/21 cm
  • Width: Exterior 5″/12.25 cm; interior 4.25″/11cm
  • Height: 2.5″/6.5 cm

Ingredients

(Dough)

  • 1 cup warm water (not too hot; you don’t want to cook the yeast)
  • 1 teaspoon dry yeast
  • 2- 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon (more or less) extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

(Topping)

  • 12 pitted olives, Kalamata or Castelvetrano, as you prefer, sliced
  • 1-2 tablespoons EVOO
  • 1-2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • Kosher salt or fleur de sel

Method

  1. Place warm water in a bowl. Sprinkle the dry yeast, stir and let it dissolve for about 10 minutes.
  2. Add 2 cups of flour and 1 tsp salt to the bowl and stir. The dough will be sticky.
  3. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes. Add more flour as needed. Shape dough into a ball.
  4. Pour a little olive oil into your bowl, add the dough, and roll it around until it’s lightly coated.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm area until doubled, approx. 1 1/2 hours. (First rise)
  6. Punch it down, knead into a ball, return to the bowl, cover with plastic and let it rise in a warm place until doubled. This takes about 45 minutes. (Second rise)
  7. Pour a small amount of olive oil into your loaf pan and spread it around to coat the inside.
  8. Once the second rise is finished, punch it down lightly, transfer it to the loaf pan and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  9. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the top of the dough. Sprinkle with chopped rosemary and add the olives on top. Let it rise uncovered for about 25 minutes. (Third rise).
  10. Using your fingertips, press indentations into the surface of the dough. The oil will pool in the indentations. Sprinkle lightly with coarse salt
  11. Bake at 450 degrees F (230C I think?) for about 15-20 minutes. Mine began to burn at 20 so keep an eye on it!
  12. Serve warm with more olive oil. Adding garlic and herbs (oregano, rosemary, thyme) to the oil is even better.

How to MacGyver Oven-less Baking

Wanting to take advantage of an overabundance of fresh tomatoes, I had a pizza craving yesterday. I could have ordered one, but a) take-out pizza around here is less than stellar, b) I only wanted a small portion for lunch, and c) I was mostly in the mood to bake and we don’t have our ovens yet. (Ah, the endless joys of home remodeling.)

One option would have been the grill but I didn’t feel like a massive post-lunch cleanup and preferred something quick and easy. Solution: the toaster oven. I was also curious to see if other items like cookies or baklava could be baked in it.

Step 1: Divide a pizza dough recipe by 25% to make a quantity that might fit in the toaster oven. Caveat, this is not my favorite recipe, which is best made 2-3 days ahead, but it was ok in a pinch:

  • 1 cup bread flour (sorry, MacGyvering did not allow time to convert to grams)
  • Scant 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • Heaping 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • Approximately 1/4 cup warm water

Method

  • Mix dry ingredients in a medium-large bowl
  • Add most of the olive oil, retaining a small amount in reserve
  • Add about half the water, and begin mixing everything together
  • If dough is too dry/crumbly, add more water a little at a time until it comes together. Likewise, add more flour if the dough is too soggy.
  • Dump dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it forms a ball.
  • Spread remaining oil around the inside of the bowl, add the dough, and roll the dough around until it’s lightly coated. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.
  • After the dough has nearly doubled in size, punch it down lightly and shape it into a rectangle on an aluminum foil “tray” that will fit in your toaster oven.
  • Pre-bake the crust at the hottest temperature (mine only heats to 450F) until golden brown.
  • Remove from toaster oven and add toppings. I used a light layer of (more) olive oil, then sliced tomatoes, chopped fresh basil, and scattered bits of Boursin cheese because that’s what I had in the fridge.
  • Return to the toaster oven and continue baking until cheese is melted and everything is cooked. You can blast it on the “toast” setting towards the end to help brown the crust.

I can’t tell you exactly how long this takes because you’d have to experiment, but it was maybe 20-30 minutes baking time.

Before
After

Delicious quick lunch with my nonalcoholic Faux Cosmo:

Fill a tall glass with seltzer or sparkling water. Add a splash each of orange juice and cranberry juice. Add the juice of 1/2 lime. Garnish with a slice of lime. Pretty and refreshing!