Category Archives: Lifestyle

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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Hump Day Hacks

Happy Wednesday! Two clever tips caught my eye this week.

How to remove oil stains

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Ever dripped olive oil on your clothes, or is it just me? I recently read that one surprising item will remove the stains if you act quickly.

The usual go-to’s are dish soap and laundry detergent, which break down oil. The surprise: aloe vera. You simply soak the stained area in water and rub the gel into the stain. Next, hand-wash the piece and allow it to air-dry.

My question: if you’re hand washing with soap anyway, who’s to say the aloe vera made the difference? But, worth a try if you already have it in the house!

How to keep white sneakers white

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Unlike when I was a kid, pristine sneakers are the desired look these days. And the best way to keep them white is to wash them in the washing machine.

Step 1: The night before, sprinkle about 3 tablespoons of baking soda on the outside and inside of your shoes. Be sure to dust it off before you wash them.

Step 2: Remove shoelaces, place in a pillowcase or wash bag and put them in the washer. Taking the laces out of your sneakers makes sure they get totally clean and no remaining dirt stays caked on under the holes.

Step 3: Use a shoe brush or old toothbrush to remove any loose dirt before you put your (lace-less) shoes in the washer.

Step 4: Next, add several towels. The towels act as a buffer between the shoes and the washer, preventing them from getting too knocked around or damaged during the wash cycle. Putting your sneakers in a separate wash bag adds extra protection.

Step 5: Set your washer on the cold delicate cycle and use liquid detergent. No chlorine bleach!

Step 6: Let your sneakers air dry after washing. Never put any type of shoes in the dryer, as the extreme heat will warp rubber or metal details.

 

 

Random Hacks

The Internet was full of interesting tips this week!

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7 ways to prevent (and fix!) smelly shoes

1. Start with clean feet: Soak them in salt water, then dry off and dust with talcum powder (baby powder or Gold Bond).

2. Put antiperspirant on the soles of your feet.

3. Sprinkle the inside of your shoes with baking soda and leave overnight. Vacuum or shake out in the morning.

4. Place dry tea bags inside your shoes and leave them overnight.

5. Put crumpled newspaper inside your shoes and leave overnight. It absorbs odor-retaining moisture.

6. Place your shoes in individual plastic zip bags and leave them in your freezer overnight to kill bacteria. During the winter, leaving them overnight in a cold car will work too. Let your shoes slowly return to room temperature before wearing.

7. Spritz sneakers or fabric-lined shoes with mixture of water and white vinegar. Let dry thoroughly.

 

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5 steps to relaxation

1. Place the tip of your tongue just behind your front teeth and exhale sharply.

2. Close your mouth and inhale slowly through your nose for a count of four.

3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.

4. Exhale strongly to a count of eight.

5. Repeat 3 times. Ahhhhh.

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17 ways to save money

  1. Clear your browsing history. When shopping online – especially for airline tickets – make sure to empty your cache. Online companies follow your history and raise prices based on this information.
  2. Shop as a guest. When buying online, use the Guest option instead of creating an account. New customers usually get lower prices.
  3. Leave items in your online cart. Get everything filled in, with your name, e-mail address etc., but don’t purchase immediately. You’ll often get a follow-up e-mail a day or two later offering a discount code to incentivize you to complete the sale.
  4. Lower the brightness on your TV and computer screen. Reducing the brightness of your TV and/or computer monitors from their default settings can reduce power consumption by up to 40%. 
  5. Carry large bills. Research shows that you’re likely to pay less if you use cash instead of a credit card. That’s because purchases feel more “real” when you see the amount you’re spending. If you carry only $50 bills you’ll be less inclined to break them, which helps avoid impulse buys.
  6. Make lists. You’re also less likely to succumb to impulse buys at the mall or grocery store if you’ve decided ahead of time what you need and plan to buy.
  7. Build your credit. Your credit score determines your rate on loans; nowadays utility and insurance companies use these scores to calculate monthly premiums.
  8. Make large purchases at the end of the month. Buying a couch, car or electronics? All sales reps have to meet monthly quotas. If they’ve had a slow month they may be willing to give you a deep discount in order to make a sale—and reach their quota. 
  9. Paint your roof white. If you live in a warm climate, this quirky idea could save you a bundle on air conditioning bills. Traditional roofs are dark, and dark colors absorb more heat.  Go even further and install solar panels – the upfront cost will be worth it if you plan to live in your house for a long time.
  10. Brew your own coffee. Home brewing cuts your cost to about $0.25 per cup vs. $3 at a pricey coffee shop, saving you hundreds per year (and over $1000 if you have a 2/day habit!) 
  11. Eat less meat. Eating vegetable-centric meals 2-3 times per week will save you some major cash.
  12. Buy generic. Store brands often have the same ingredients as name brands and may even be made by the same companies. Same with prescriptions – ask your doctor if the generic version is an effective option. 
  13. Buy a water filter. Bottled water isn’t just expensive; it’s not necessarily healthier than tap water. The filtration process may result in water that’s actually better for you than spring water!
  14. Exercise daily. Research confirms that working out regularly limits the number of trips you’ll take to the doctor’s office.
  15. Eat out at culinary schools. If you love dining out, investigate culinary schools in your area. You can enjoy delicious meals from up-and-coming chefs at significant savings vs. restaurants.  
  16. Stay hydrated. Many people overeat because they mistake thirst for hunger. Drinking water before a meal will help you to only consume what you need. Result: lower grocery bills!
  17. Ask for discounts. Most companies offer money-saving promotions but may not advertise them. When contacting your cable, gas, phone, or credit card companies, ask if there’s a way to reduce your bills. Sometimes, mentioning that you’re ready to cancel a service or switch providers is all it takes for them to “magically” come up with a better deal.

Travel Diary: London/Paris

Whew! I’ve finally unpacked, done the laundry, and gotten a decent night’s sleep, having just returned from a quick 10-day visit to two of my favorite cities.

Rather than a full travelogue – most of you are quite familiar with these locations – here are some random impressions/moments from this trip.

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Arrival Day (Hooray for British Airways Austin-London direct flight!)

  • Caught the last day of the history of underwear show at the V&A. Not as titillating as one might have expected, except for the bondage-y innerwear-as-outerwear trend pieces. Grateful I don’t live in an era of wool drawers (itchy!), cone bras (remember Madonna’s?), 18” corsets that played havoc with women’s internal organs, or paniers.
  • Discover I’ve forgotten melatonin. Crap. Turns out, you can’t buy it over the counter. Will tough it out with red wine or vodka before bed.

High points:

  • Dinner with local friends (helps one feel less like a tourist), noting as always that Brits are wittier than Americans. Sorry, but there it is.

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  • Robert Rauschenberg retrospective at Tate Modern. Don’t miss if you’re in town.

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  • The Leopard Bar at the Montague on the Gardens hotel. I do love a leopard pattern!
  • Buying a new animal-head umbrella at one of my favorite shops, James Smith Umbrellas in Bloomsbury. It’s like stepping back in time to the Victorian era, replete with walking sticks and a “vintage” salesman.

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  • Eating (duh) and drinking “cheap and cheerful” dreadful wine with friends.

PARIS

We spent most of our time here, and my overall sense was that people are feeling edgy and a bit under siege, although everyone we encountered was perfectly lovely.

Sadly, the city is looking a bit tired and dingy. More litter and dogs*** in the streets/on the sidewalk than I recall from the last trip two years ago. The métro is smellier. There’s almost a palpable collective Gallic shrug of “why bother?” going on.

However, we had a wonderful visit. How bad can things be when you eat croissants every day? (I recommend finding your local Eric Kayser bakery.) FullSizeRender 4.jpg

Notes:

  • Love the Eurostar! So much easier than dealing with the airport. But my overlarge suitcase was very cumbersome.
  • Wonderful Kiefer/Rodin show at the Musée Rodin. A fascinating “conversation” between artists of different generations looking at the same subjects.

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  • Want to look Parisian? Wear a scarf with everything! I felt I was passing for a native when someone stopped me on the street to ask (en français, bien sûr!) if I lived in the neighborhood. It’s good to blend in, especially these days.
  • People treat you better if you carry a good handbag. Superficial but true.
  • Today’s polemic: French/British children can tell a Monet from a Manet by six years old because going to museums is part of their everyday schooling, not a special event. No wonder we’re raising generations of Philistines in our country, where the arts are considered an elitist luxury and Führer Trump wants to abolish the National Endowment! If you can’t appreciate beauty, you can’t appreciate anything. OK, I’m jumping off my soapbox now.
  • p.s., Where but in Paris does a shopkeeper recommend a museum exhibit? Does this happen in Chicago? I don’t think so.

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  • Chatting with people makes all the difference between feeling like a visitor and feeling comfortably part of your surroundings. A few moments:
    • Conversation with the proprietor of vintage handbag store (specializing in 1950’s Hermès) combining her limited English with my fractured French. A delightful history lesson.
    • Another Hermès moment: my husband chatting with a Saudi gentleman while his wife special-ordered various bags and I spent a tiny fraction of what she did. Although not in the same financial league, our husbands shared a laugh over the common experience of patiently waiting while their wives shopped.
    • Discussing politics with taxi drivers (we’re all worried!)
  • Music is a universal language. Having coffee one evening at a brasserie near our hotel, we enjoyed a playlist of Ray Charles, the late, great BB King and Tina Turner. Thumbs up all around with the owner and other patrons.
  • People dress very casually at The Opéra Bastille, where we saw a beautifully sung Carmen. Glad I didn’t pack a special fancy outfit.
  • Note to self: Buy booze at the Monoprix to avoid paying minibar prices. Who cares if we don’t finish it?

xo, Alisa   IMG_1747

Where to Retire: US Edition

A friend sent me this helpful guide the other day. Author unknown.

You can retire to Phoenix, Arizona where…

1.  You are willing to park three blocks away from your house because you found shade.
2.  You’ve experienced condensation on your rear-end from the hot water in the toilet bowl.
3.  You can drive for four hours in one direction and never leave town.
4.  You have over 100 recipes for Mexican food.
5.  You know that “dry heat” is comparable to what hits you in the face when you open your oven door at 500 degrees.
6.  The four seasons are: tolerable, hot, really hot, and ARE YOU KIDDING ME??

OR

You can retire to California where…

1.  You make over $450,000 and you still can’t afford to buy a house.
2.  The fastest part of your commute is going down your driveway.
3.  You know how to eat an artichoke.
4.  When someone asks you how far something is, you tell them how long it will take to get there rather than how many miles away it is.
5.  The four seasons are:  Fire, Flood, Mud and Drought.

OR

You can retire to New York City where…

1   You say “the city” and expect everyone to know you mean Manhattan.
2.  You can get into a four-hour argument about how to get from Columbus Circle to Battery Park, but can’t find Wisconsin on a map.
3.  You think Central Park is “nature.”
4.  You believe that being able to swear at people in their own language makes you multilingual.
5.  You’ve worn out a car horn.  (IF you have a car.)
6.  You think eye contact is an act of aggression.

OR

You can retire to Minnesota where…

1.  You only have three spices:  salt, pepper and ketchup.
2.  Halloween costumes have to fit over parkas.
3.  You have seventeen recipes for casserole.
4.  Sexy lingerie is anything flannel with less than eight buttons.
5.  The four seasons are:  almost winter, winter, still winter, and road repair.
6.  The highest level of criticism is “He is different,”  “She is different,” or “It was different!”

OR

You can retire to The Deep South where…
1.  You can rent a movie and buy bait in the same store.
2  “Y’all” is singular and “all y’all” is plural.
3.  “He needed killin” is a valid defense.
4.  Everyone has two first names:  Billy Bob, Jimmy Bob, Joe Bob, Betty Jean, Mary Beth, etc.
5.  Everything is either:  “in yonder,”  “over yonder”  or “out yonder.”

6. You can say anything about anyone, as long as you say “Bless his heart” at the end.

OR

You can move to Colorado where…
1.  You carry your $3,000 mountain bike atop your $500 car.
2.  You tell your husband to pick up Granola on his way home, so he stops at the day care center.
3.  A pass does not involve a football or dating.
4.  The top of your head is bald, but you still have a ponytail.

OR

You can retire to Nebraska or Kansas where…
1.  You’ve never met any celebrities, but the mayor knows your name.
2.  Your idea of a traffic jam is three cars waiting to pass a tractor.
3.  You have had to switch from “heat” to “A/C” on the same day.
4.  You end sentences with a preposition: “Where’s my coat at?”

OR FINALLY

You can retire to Florida where…
1.  You eat dinner at 3:15 in the afternoon.
2.  All purchases include a coupon of some kind – even houses and cars.
3.  Everyone can recommend an excellent cardiologist, dermatologist, proctologist, podiatrist, or orthopedist.
4.  Road construction never ends anywhere in the state.
5.  Cars in front of you often appear to be driven by headless people.

 

 

 

Resolutions for 2017

Happy New Year, dear readers! I’m back after a non-vacation “vacation” spent doing errands and waiting for the weather to improve so more could get done. Hopefully your holidays were restful and relaxing, and I hope 2017 brings you peace, happiness, good health and prosperity. (And good riddance, 2016 – you were crap.)

Right now, the TV is full of ads for self-improvement (diet, fitness, financial etc.) to make us all feel guilty about the holiday season’s excesses. In the spirit of making New Year’s Resolutions — an activity I generally resist — here are some of mine:

SPEND MORE time with my favorite people

EAT MORE whole grains and fish

WORRY MORE about things I can actually do something about, and ignore the rest

PAY LESS ATTENTION to crazies on the news

EXERCISE LESS anxiety over issues that are out of my control

COMPLAIN only to people who can fix the problem

SIT ON MY BUTT and watch more sunsets

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Seriously, though, I do want to share that I’ve lucked into a weight loss program (through my husband’s employer) that actually works: Naturally Slim. If you’d like to lose a few pounds or kilos, or have ever dieted with only short-term success , I wholeheartedly recommend their approach.

Naturally Slim is not a diet, there are no special foods or potions to buy, and there are no group weigh-ins or mass flagellations. You simply log on weekly and watch a series of videos that help educate you about different topics to ultimately change your behavior and attitudes toward food. It is remarkably simple, smart and easy.

I’ve lost 17 pounds since mid-September and can tell you enthusiastically that I have never once “dieted”, felt deprived, or found it difficult to stay with the program. I can eat “fattening” foods like pizza or grilled cheese and still lose weight because of when and how I’m eating them. Miraculous! Happy to share more details if anyone’s interested.

Cheers, Alisa

(As always, this is not a sponsored post– I wish it were!)