Author Archives: adguru101

About adguru101

Formerly a creative director and writer in NY and NJ ad agencies, I'm now a freelance writer living in Austin, TX. With this blog, I hope to reach "mid-century moderns" -- women born in the '50's -- with content and observations about the issues we deal with every day.

Desire, Anticipation, Realization

Remember the old Heinz commercial with the Carly Simon soundtrack? Anticipation has been motivating people long before it was an advertising theme. I’ll bet Mrs. Caveman found saber tooth stew more appealing after waiting all day for Mr. C to bring home the goodies. (Imagine how a little ketchup would have helped!)caveman-159964_640

I’m not a patient person. But I love pre-planning vacations: reading about my destination; researching places to explore and eat; making and revising endless lists of what to bring and wear; creating a wish list of possible purchases. Anticipation extends the trip well beyond the actual time away if I start enjoying it months in advance.

I also find anticipation half the fun of baking – the long, slow rise of the bread or waiting for some delicious dessert to come out of the oven. And what’s nicer than looking forward to a hot cup of tea or coffee after being outside on a cold, rainy day – or a frosty beer after a blisteringly hot one?

Although it can be frustrating, time-consuming or confusing, anticipation is especially useful when purchasing something expensive. When’s the last time you bought a car or house on impulse before taking the time to decide exactly what you wanted? (If you did, you have far more disposable income than I do; please buy me a Bentley!)

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Psychologists tell us that desiring something is more satisfying than actually acquiring it (scientists call this “habituation”). There’s often a letdown after getting the object, which is why prolonging the process can be so enjoyable. (Check out a fascinating article on this topic in The Atlantic.)

I’ve been thinking about this since arriving at our summer house 20 lbs. lighter than last year and discovering that “I have nothing to wear” wasn’t hyperbole. I had exactly one pair of jeans and three sweaters that fit; everything else down to my underwear needed to be replaced.

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The surprise, for a dedicated shopper like myself, is that mass acquisition isn’t much fun. I’ve pretty much had to blitz-shop online (hello, The Outnet) to compile an instant wardrobe. As a result, I’ve been denied the pleasures of anticipation, window-shopping, weighing pros and cons, etc. as part of the experience.

Years ago, on a trip to Milan, my husband and I watched a group of young women return to our hotel laden with shopping bags from every high end store you can imagine (Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior etc.) woman-1329790_640

I’ve often wondered: Did those girls really appreciate everything they bought, after the shopping high wore off? If you could acquire anything you desire without a second’s thought, would it be special?

What do you think — is anticipation more satisfying than acquisition? And what about delayed gratification… does something have more value to you when you’ve saved up for it? Are there things you bought that you love as much — or more — now that you have them?

In other words, does the “high” always fade?

Avoiding Brain Drain

In hopes of staving off cognitive decline, I’ve been refreshing my French with the help of the free online language courses on DuoLingo. Next up: brushing up on my minimal Italian (one college semester) in preparation for our trip to Sicily, Milan and Florence in October.flag-2292679_640Younger readers may think this is an issue that only affects their parents or grandparents. Not so fast: apparently the seeds of dementia can be sewn in our 30’s, 40’s and 50’s — up to three decades before the disease appears full-blown. Yowza.

Nearly two-thirds of Alzheimer’s sufferers are women. But the good news is that there’s a lot we can do to protect ourselves – at every age. Reducing inflammation, insulin resistance, blood sugar, high LDL cholesterol and vascular problems lowers our risk, and current research now focuses as much on causes as on cures.

The Big Three: Eating, Exercise and Engagement.

EATING

The Mediterranean Diet won’t just keep you slim; it’s literally brain food. Eating veggies, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry and olive oil boosts brain health. And don’t forget the wine: the resveratrol in red wine has many benefits.

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  • Protects the lining of our arteries so blood can flow freely
  • Improves the body’s ability to repair damage caused by free radicals, which helps prevent premature aging of cells
  • Blocks the production of inflammatory agents

What to avoid? Sugar. Too much can lead to obesity and diabetes, both of which increase the risk of dementia. So swap that margarita for cabernet! And watch your cholesterol: high levels can cause plaque buildup in blood vessels and keep blood from effectively reaching all parts of your brain.

EXERCISE

It’s as good for your brain as it is for your butt.

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  • Aerobic exercise builds up grey matter in the cerebral cortex (where memories live), releases chemicals thought to affect learning and memory, and delivers oxygen to your brain.
  • Regular exercise sharpens focus and stimulates nerve cells and blood vessel formation in the hippocampus, another part of the brain associated with memory. Don’t you love the word hippocampus, which sounds like a university for, you know, hippos? (I threw that in to see if you’re paying attention.) hippo-783522_640
  • Studies have shown that strength training improves blood flow to areas of the brain associated with executive function and memory. So pump that iron!
  • Stress busters such as yoga help reduce cortisol, the fight-or-flight hormone that can go into overdrive, impairing memory and causing neuron-damaging inflammation.

ENGAGEMENT 

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  • Learn something new and keep doing new things (at least an hour each day).
  • Spend time socializing; it helps build new brain cells.
  • Protect your heart (and not just romantically!) The better it pumps, the more blood can circulate throughout your body, nourishing the neurons and blood vessels in your brain.
  • Feeling bored at work or in a social situation? Wiggle your toes — it snaps you back to the moment.
  • Hit the sheets for at least seven hours. The slow-wave stage before REM sleep is thought to be the time when cognitive function strengthens and consolidates.
  • Take time to relax. It lowers blood pressure to help reduce strain on blood vessels.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for my new fitness regimen: lifting several heavy glasses of wine while reading Italian travel guides and researching restaurants. Gotta start someplace, right? Salute e ciao!

Rosemary Redux

Time got away from me this week.  We traveled to the west coast to open our summer house and it’s been nonstop errands.  So, no time for a long post but here’s a wonderful recipe to kick off summer: sweet, salty shortbread with an herbal kick.

ROSEMARY SHORTBREAD adapted from epicurious.com

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Ingredients

  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon honey (2 tsp if you prefer less sweetness)
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (cut back a bit if you prefer less sweetness
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves or 1.5 teaspoons dried rosemary, crumbled
  • Optional garnish: small rosemary sprigs if using fresh herbs

 

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and generously butter (or spray with Baker’s Joy) a 9-inch cake pan or 9-inch round shortbread mold.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat butter with honey and sugar until light and fluffy. In another bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and chopped or dried rosemary. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and beat until just combined.
  3. On a lightly floured surface knead dough until it just comes together (about 8 times). With floured hands press dough evenly into pan or mold. If using cake pan, score dough into 8 wedges with floured tines of a fork and press edges decoratively with flat sides of the tines. Press small rosemary sprigs on top.
  4. Bake shortbread in middle of oven 20 to 30 minutes or until pale golden, and let stand in pan for 10 minutes.
  5. While shortbread is still warm, loosen edges from pan with a small knife and invert onto your hand covered with a kitchen towel. Invert shortbread onto a cutting board and cut halfway along score marks. (If using a cake pan, let it cool in the pan until easy to cut and remove.)
  6. Cool shortbread on a rack.

YIELD: 8 large wedges.  IMG_1910

Note: I prefer smaller pieces and this recipe works well in a square 8×8 pan too. Not as pretty though!

 

 

Beauty Adventure: Microneedling

Recently, my daughter met one of my cousins for the first time and commented, “She looks about 80.” Normally, this wouldn’t be a compliment, but my cousin is nearly 95!

One reason Helen looks so good is that she’s always taken care of her skin. In my own quest to keep blotches and wrinkles under control without going overboard, I keep exploring non-invasive procedures that deliver visible results to supplement my small arsenal of lotions, potions and sun block.

Which led me to the SkinPen.FullSizeRender 13

Let me say at the outset that there are devices such as the Derma Roller you can use at home, and they seem to do a nice job of making the skin glow. However, they don’t penetrate as deeply as tools used by professionals so are less effective at treating fine lines.

The idea behind microneedling is to create thousands of micro-injuries (tiny vertical channels in the dermis) to initiate the body’s wound healing process. It sounds scary but is actually pretty cool, as the body responds by breaking down underlying damaged tissue and producing healthy new cells. These repair the injured tissue, creating more collagen and elastin.FullSizeRender 14

As a side note, Fraxel will do the same thing, although it’s more aggressive.

Lasers, chemical peels and other invasive methods are considered ablative, meaning that they remove tissue to start collagen production in your skin. Lasers such as Fraxel or CO2 fractional laser either remove the top layers of skin or remove only small parts/fractions of the skin. Your skin care professional will know what’s best for your particular situation.

Both microneedling and lasers result in collagen production that slowly continues months after treatment, but the lasers remove tissue. Microneedling creates micro-injuries without using heat and without removing layers of skin, so the skin heals more rapidly compared to the recovery time from lasers. It’s also much less prone to infection.

Sign me up.

Microneedling is a two-step process. During the 28-day remodeling period following treatment, specific nutrients such as Vitamins C, A, E and copper peptides are applied topically to ensure proper cell nutrition. The makers of SkinPen offer a full line of post-procedure products (surprise!) or ask your derm or facialist for other suggestions.

Stephanie, my skin whisperer, recommends a series of three treatments spaced a minimum of one month apart. I can continue treatments indefinitely if the budget allows; she has one well-heeled client who comes in every six weeks but at a couple hundred a pop that’s out of my league.

Here’s what the makers of SkinPen say:

  • A procedure that helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and smooth wrinkles, SkinPen® may be used on all skin types
  • A safe solution with little recovery time
  • Results from a minimally invasive procedure
  • A procedure for ongoing maintenance of healthy skin
  • The advantages of your SkinPen® microneedling procedure include:
    • SkinPen® microneedling is minimally invasive and a quick procedure, performed in-office
    • Little recovery downtime makes SkinPen® ideal for a busy lifestyle, and a great place to start for aesthetic procedures
    • Support of healthy skin
    • Skinfuse® post-procedure protocol by Bellus Medical ensures you receive all the right vitamins and minerals to your skin, with none of the wrong ingredients
    • Results are generated from your own skin’s natural collagen remodeling and elastin
    • SkinPen® may be used on all skin types
    • Ideal for assisting in reducing the signs of aging
    • A versatile, precision design for use on most all parts of the body including face, neck, and décolletage. The SkinPen® helps reduce fine lines and soften the signs of aging. By tightening pores, your skin will look refreshed and have a youthful glow!

It’s now about 3 months since my first treatment and the lines around my lips do seem to have diminished. It will probably take another 3 months to see the true results.

TREATMENT #1

First, Stephanie applies a numbing cream and I wait 20 minutes for it to take effect. Perfect time to catch up on the office’s trashy celeb magazines! Using a gel for glide, she moves the little machine (which indeed looks like a pen) all over, avoiding moles. She goes over the worst areas (around mouth, chin) a couple of times. The SkinPen makes a fairly loud buzzing noise and doesn’t hurt, except for some slight pain in my lip and forehead areas. It certainly hurts a lot less than the IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) facials I get twice a year to zap brown spots. She then applies the company’s SkinFuse Rescue to protect the skin and begin restoring its moisture barrier. I leave with a tube of Rescue to use twice a day (or more as needed), a weekly collagen booster (Surge) and post-procedure instructions.  FullSizeRender 12

  • Day Of: After microneedling my face is dry, shiny, tight and blotchy, as if I have a sunburn. I go straight home, hoping I don’t run into anyone I know. The redness fades a bit after a few hours and I don’t look quite as horrible though it feels rather uncomfortable. Tonight I’m instructed to rinse my face with water only and apply Rescue cream before bed. I notice that the Rescue peels a bit (I’ve now applied it a few times) and resist the urge to poke at it.
  • Day 1: After 24 hours I use a mild cleanser, apply moisturizer and avoid the sun. Most of the redness has faded but my skin still feels very dry, tight and dehydrated. I have a few areas of tiny pinprick blood spots on my cheeks and apply some topical arnica. I would NOT want to socialize with my skin looking like this!
  • Day 2: Better but still dry. I continue putting arnica on the pinpricks.
  • Day 3: Much more hydrated. Pinpricks are fading. Using normal skincare products. By today I could go out in public wearing tinted sunblock.
  • Day 4-6: My skin now feels normal; I can cover the pinpricks with makeup.
  • Day 7 and once a week: Use the Surge collagen booster. IMG_1861

TREATMENT #2 (5 weeks later)

  • Day Of: After I comment that I haven’t seen any improvement yet, Stephanie suggests using PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma; also known as the “vampire facial”). PRP involves extracting a small amount of a patient’s blood from their arm and spinning it in a centrifuge to separate the plasma – the fluid part – from the red and white blood cells. Sounds creepy but is supposed to speed healing. Hey, why not?
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Bwaahaha!

Stephanie is more aggressive with the SkinPen than last time but only my lip area is briefly painful. The plasma drips more than the gel so it’s messier but it only stains the headband she’d applied. After treatment Stephanie uses a new product from Alastin. Their recovery product is a whopping $195 for 1 ounce so, guess what, I don’t buy it.

At home I do some online research and find that the company (founded by 2 guys who used to work for SkinMedica) doesn’t disclose much about their ingredients or amounts so reviewers are skeptical. The products are meant to produce both elastin (hence the name) and collagen but doctors question how much a topical can really do. I’ve also read that it’s difficult to regenerate elastin in mid-to-older skin. Before I spring for the big bucks I’d want to learn a whole lot more.

  • Day 1 (24 hrs later): The redness is fading and my skin is taut but less so than the first time. I have fewer pinpricks but in the same (left cheek) area. Apply arnica.
  • Day 2: Notably more hydrated. My skin is too blotchy to go out in public without makeup (I use tinted Elta MD sunblock) and there’s some peeling from the products but it feels way better.
  • Day 3: Almost 100% normal. Still applying arnica to red spots and using normal skincare.
  • Day 4: Totally healed and my skin feels hydrated and supple. I’ve added Elta MD Barrier Cream to my skincare ritual (as of Day 1 night), which may be helping.
  • Day 8: Add Surge to my nighttime ritual (and will continue to use once a week).

TREATMENT #3 (after 4 weeks)

  • Day Of: PRP again. Nurse draws blood and spins to extract platelets. The SkinPen is painful around my lips, ok on my forehead/neck. I notice more redness/blotchiness/ blood spots than the previous two sessions. Stephanie applies Alastin and Rescue before I leave.
  • Day 1: Today the redness is like a fading sunburn and my skin is taut. I only need Rescue twice (afternoon and at night). I apply arnica to blood spots (left cheek), take oral arnica 3x and add Elta barrier cream to my night ritual.
  • Day 2: I use a hyaluronic acid mask, which adds moisture, and I can go out in public if I cover spots with Elta tinted sunblock. My skin feels slightly dryer than normal but not taut. I add vitamin C to my daytime ritual after applying Rescue.
  • Day 3: Back to normal. I still have faint red spots on my left cheek and continue to use arnica.
  • Day 7: Spots are finally gone.

One final note: The less you’ve cared for your skin, the more dramatic the results will be. If you’ve been diligent about sun block and retinol or use professional-level skin care products with good concentrations of vitamin C, glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid etc., the results will be more subtle: smoother skin, less blotchiness and a softening of fine lines.

So far, I think it’s worth it.

(Note: Not a sponsored post — I wish!; sunrise image from Pixabay.com)

Absent Friends

A dear friend died suddenly last week.  A kind, gentle man with a keen intellect, life hadn’t always been kind to him.  He struggled with his weight, his sexuality, and a singing career that didn’t go the way we’d all predicted when we’d first heard his glorious voice.

Despite — or maybe because of —  these challenges, he retained a vivid sense of humor and appreciation of the unexpected. A new message in my inbox always promised something witty, intriguing or surprising.

Below is the content of one of his last e-mails to me.  It’s a fitting reminder that what’s on the surface often doesn’t tell the whole story.

The Parrot

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“This is not a bird. The parrot is actually a female model who posed for Johannes Stötter, a fine art body painter who used breathable paint to create the image of a parrot, brushstroke by brushstroke.  The model’s arm forms the parrot’s beak and head, and her legs form the wing and tail feathers.

Remember: always take a closer look, as things aren’t always what they appear to be. Once you see the woman, the bird disappears.”

Either way, both images are beautiful. As was my friend.

Saturn’s Revenge : Political Therapy

Re-blogging to share a very interesting post.

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“A great man once said that the true symbol of the United States is not the bald eagle, it is the pendulum. And when the pendulum swings too far in one direction, it will go back.” 

– Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg 

On the Spectrum copy

Throughout history, the United States has often been painted as a savior of human rights, a white knight upon the world stage. Until recently, it was an image coated in Teflon, as it survived the bloodshed of our black, brown, and native ancestors. As someone who was born after the Civil Rights Movement, it has been easy to believe in this myth, but the amnesia laced bedtime story is a poor cover for this deep and systemic stain. When I saw the Statue of Liberty as an impressionable first grader, the figure that was already larger than life, approached God-like proportions. Her stoic and unwavering poise seemed to suggest that the ground itself would…

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A Day in Hospital

Yesterday my husband had surgery and everything went well, for which I am truly and profoundly grateful.

Many people have been asking how he is (“Fine”) but I realized that nobody has been asking how MY day was. What’s up with that?

Since I’m sure my experience is AT LEAST as fascinating as any surgical patient’s, I thought I would share every detail of my incredibly long and stultifying day with you, my favorite people. I just know you’ll hang on every word!

6-8 AM

  1. We wake up bright and early and zip over to the medical center, arriving promptly at 7:30 for R’s 10 AM surgery.
  2. Shortly after we arrive in the reception area, R gets a special one-on-one interview. It’s almost as though they were waiting for him! The interviewer is obviously really interested in getting to know him because he asks all kinds of personal questions, such as, “Who is going to pay for this?”
  3. Then he gives R a nifty personalized bracelet with his name on it and everything! Meanwhile, does anybody want to know MY name? What am I, chopped liver??

8 AM  We are ushered to a private room where we wait. And wait. And wait some more.

10 AM  Discover that surgery is going to be delayed. A lot.

Apparently, the patient scheduled for the first slot didn’t bother to find out her arrival time and waltzed in two hours late. (This must be a person who has never attended a meeting, gotten a haircut, or flown on an airplane.) Consequently, everyone else’s surgery has been pushed back two hours.

Still, the day is young and the procedure should only take an hour and a half so no big deal.

11 AM Suddenly there is a flurry of activity and R is whisked off to do all kinds of interesting things: Get stuck with IV! Have catheter inserted! Gag while tube is pushed down throat! Breathe into nasty mask! Get pumped full of drugs! Sleep!!!!

Here’s what I get to do:

11AM-12 PM

  1. Walk down corridor through swinging doors to reception area and buy overpriced bottle of water from vending machine.
  2. Discover that no one is at the reception desk to buzz me back into the surgical area.
  3. Drink water and pace until Doogie Howser lookalike takes pity and lets me go through.

Once back in the room, I peruse e-mail, browse some online shopping sites without buying anything and drink more water.

12 PM

  1. Answer call from surgical nurse who says things are going well (See what I mean? It’s all about HIM.) I will hear more when they finish in another hour or so.
  2. Go down to cafeteria to buy overpriced hospital food for lunch.
  3. Return to room.
  4. Eat half of flavor-challenged lunch.

12-2 PM

  1. Peruse e-mail.
  2. Browse online shopping without buying anything.
  3. Watch Amazon Prime movie (“The Dressmaker” with Kate Winslet as glamorous seamstress returning to wreak havoc on the dusty Australian town which labeled her a murderer when she was a child.) Pretty good.
  4. Buy second bottle of water. Prop door open to avoid lockout.

2 PM

  1. Surgical nurse says R is now in recovery and should be there for “about an hour”.
  2. The day is almost over. Breathe sigh of relief.
  3. Eat mini Toblerone as reward for all my efforts.

4 PM

  1. R arrives back in the room, cheerful and groggy from medication.
  2. New nurse says he needs to rest for an hour and as soon as he can pee he will be discharged.

4–6 PM Wait for R to pee.

7-8 PM Continue waiting for R to pee. Show R pictures of waterfalls on iPad and run water in sink hoping his insides will get the message. They don’t.

8:30 PM

  1. Doctor recommends inserting temporary catheter so R can go home. (Hey, what about ME???? My contacts are burning holes in my eyes, I’m hungry enough to eat more hospital food, and I can’t read with all these people hopping in and out!)
  2. Watch catheter insertion. Try not to hurl.
  3. Pack up rubber gloves, alcohol wipes, portable urinal, discharge papers etc.

9 PM

  1. R is ensconced in special chair and escorted to my car by attentive nurse. Me? I get to walk by myself, thankyouverymuch.
  2. Realize my monovision is terrible at night. Can barely see road signs but luckily have a general idea where I am and R is alert enough to navigate.
  3. Arrive home without hitting family of deer strolling through neighborhood. Whew.

10 PM

  1. Dose R with meds and tuck him in.
  2. Have teeny tiny vodka. After all, I worked hard today!
  3. Zzzzz

2 AM

  1. Get up to empty the catheter. Was this a glamorous day or what?!?
  2. Say silent prayer to all the Carl and Clara Bartons out there. God knows, R has stepped up enough times to take care of me – it’s only fair I take my turn in the barrel.
  3. Zzzzz… until 6 AM.