Category Archives: Lifestyle

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

scale-403585_640

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!)

 

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.

Breaking Up With Your Housekeeper

I always feel conflicted when someone else cleans my house. On the one hand, there are times I’m sidelined due to injury or illness, or just plain too busy to keep things looking tidy. On the other, it feels much too “Lady of Leisure” to be lolling about while someone else does the scut work, regardless of how much they’re being paid. Ideally, I’d be out of the house but it’s not always practical.

This feeling of guilt makes it even more difficult to fire someone if they’re (OK, she – because, let’s be honest, it’s usually a woman) is not doing a good job. Admittedly, this is a “high end” problem that won’t get you a lot of sympathy from any friends and family who clean their own homes.

Nevertheless, whether and how to do it is a legitimate quandary.

I hate to generalize, but I’ve found that even the best cleaning people become complacent after a while. If you really like your housekeeper but are becoming unhappy with the quality of work, here are some suggestions before you pull the plug:

  1. Make sure you’ve given clear direction, such as “Please clean under the bed.” Leave a pair of shoes under the middle of the bed and if they’re still there after she’s finished, well, there’s your first clue she’s not too motivated.
  2. Give her several chances to do better if you really like her, without letting her know she’s on probation. Each time ask for specific chores to be done and notice whether she added these to her to-do list or skipped other tasks to make time.
  3. Ask her to help plan her schedule and make sure you set reasonable expectations. Maybe she only needs to clean the oven or guest shower every two weeks or once a month, whereas she must do the master bath every time. Make sure she actually has enough hours to do what’s needed and adjust accordingly. And of course, make sure you pay the going rate for your neighborhood.

After a few weeks, one of two things will happen: Either you’ll be happier with the work or it will be time to part ways. Needless to say, never break up with someone if they still have your keys!

This is one of the few instances where I believe fibbing is in order.

  1. Say you’re going on vacation. Then try a cleaning service.
  2. If the service does a noticeably better job, it’s time to cut the cord and trot out your best excuse. My suggestion: “I have to cut back on our spending. So I’m going to have to clean the house myself. I’ll never do as good a job as you do.” There is absolutely no percentage in telling someone she’s not up to your standards.
  3. Wait until after she’s done for the day. You don’t want her to be simmering with resentment while she’s dusting the breakables.
  4. Pay severance if she’s been with you for a while – at least the amount of one or two service calls. She counts on the income and it may take a few weeks to add a new client.
  5. If you’re letting her go because you’re moving, make sure to give her plenty of notice. An extra bonus is a nice gesture.

All things considered, I prefer using a cleaning service. You always get new people, so you don’t develop an awkward relationship. And I think they try a bit harder.

Remember: Be fair. Be firm. And line up your next option before you quit cold turkey.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

I was going to write about something else this week; something more lighthearted than lewd remarks made by a person running for office.

But I feel the need to go on record: crude, demeaning, objectifying language about women is not “locker room banter” or some benign indication that “boys will be boys”. And no half-assed apology after the fact dilutes the message.

Remember that old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me”? Not true. Words have power. And allowing language that insults women to go unchallenged encourages a culture which is one small step away from a date rape, abusive marriage, serial cheating, or any situation in which a woman is viewed as “less than”.

In my twenties, when I was a junior copywriter, I had a supervisor who was very tall, very large and very intimidating. I knew he had a bit of a crush on me so I kept our conversations brief and professional. One day, he came into my office, closed the door, and pushed me up against the wall as he attempted to kiss me.

Another time, a different man – married, and also my boss – slipped me the address of a friend’s apartment, saying he had been asked to “apartment sit” and hoped I would meet him there to “relax” outside of the office.

These weren’t the only incidents.

In those days, women joked off advances to save face for the men and to hang onto their jobs while maintaining a decent working relationship. There was no term such as “sexual harassment” and if you’d gone to HR you would have been told, “They didn’t mean any harm; just laugh it off”.

I’ve read that many of today’s young women reject the term feminist, thinking it equates to “man hater” or means they are unfeminine. That’s because they haven’t had to fight overt sex discrimination at every step of their careers. They take equality for granted, even though women are still paid less than men.

But here’s the thing. When a man talks about a woman in terms of her body parts, or comes on to someone who isn’t interested, it isn’t flattering – it’s offensive. Just as saying, “I love women” is patronizing and reductive.

It’s not a compliment when someone grabs your ass, tells a buddy about your great rack, or jokes that you are “hard to get”. Whether he’s 17 or 70.

I’ve been lucky. I’ve never been raped, and I’ve never had to make the agonizing decision whether or not to have an abortion. I don’t know what I would have done. But I know this: my body is nobody else’s business – to flatter, insult, violate, or make decisions for.

In the immortal words of the great Aretha Franklin, “All I’m asking for is a little respect”!

The Rites of Fall

Last week totally got away from me. We’d left the cool coastal weather for hot, steamy Austin and resumed normal, non-vacation life – which included discovering a dead car battery, a pool that was neon green, a wonky garage door, physicals, dental visits, haircuts and other end-of-summer transitions.

More than January, September always feels like the true beginning of a new year. For my husband, the return of fall football is his favorite ritual. For me, it’s all about curling up with the big September fashion magazines; the fatter, the better.

Every year, as I flip through the pages, I ask myself: 1) Who would be caught dead in these get-ups? and 2) What, if anything, can I (still) wear?

Stacy London, former host of What Not To Wear, recently wrote an impassioned piece about the challenges — sartorial and otherwise —  of being a woman in a society that doesn’t value aging. It’s hard to evolve your appearance in a way that feels truthful, relevant and flattering.

I’m not about to adopt a style that doesn’t suit me just because a magazine says it’s “in”. But reading about the latest trends gives me fresh perspective on stuff at the back of my closet that could potentially live to see another day, given a tweak or two.

The older I get, the more those “trends” start to seem like classics. Every September, the fashion bibles trot out some version of menswear plaid, Victorian heroine (velvet, lace), preppy chic and Goth black leather. This year, “athleisure” is still going strong and leopard is everywhere.

I’m not yearning for lace or embroidery, and I’ll limit black leather to coats and bags rather than heavy-metal biker outfits. Ah, but animal print? That’s the real me.

I first fell in love with leopard around 7th grade back in the 60’s. (Notice how fabulous Anne Bancroft looks in The Graduate and you’ll know why.) I’ve never stopped wearing it, though most years I confine my leopard obsession to shoes, scarves or other accessories. I’ve also considered giving it up, wondering if I’m too old to be flashy, but then I look at nonagenarian Iris Apfel’s exuberant ensembles and think, hey, who cares?

This year, I’m channeling my inner Kate Moss and looking for a full-on leopard print fake fur coat. It will be too hot in Texas to wear until December but I don’t care. It will keep me fashionably current, appeal to my inner glamour puss, look cool in my closet and add some verve to my dull everyday uniform of jeans and a sweater.

Rituals keep us connected to our history. My husband loves watching football as much as he loved playing the game in high school. And the September magazines remind me that playing with fashion is a way to have fun, feel inspired and reinvent myself – even if it’s only in my own mind.

Shop on!

7 DIY Cleaning Hacks

We’re in the middle of closing up our summer house, and I stumbled on some great cleaning tips you can do with stuff you probably already have on hand: lemon, baking soda and white vinegar.

1. FAUCETS

To get rid of hard water stains on faucets, wipe them with vinegar to dissolve calcium deposits. Stains will wipe away much more easily.

2. DRAINS

Here’s an easy 3-step drain cleaner: Start by pouring boiling water down the drain. Immediately follow with 1/2 cup of baking soda. Finally, pour a mixture of 1 cup vinegar + 1 cup hot water on top.

3. CABINETS

Combine one part vegetable oil with two parts baking soda. Then work it into the wood with a sponge or cloth to get rid of the gunk that accumulates over time.

4. SINK

Is your sink looking a little dull? Sprinkle some baking soda in the sink and use a lemon wedge as a scrubber to refresh the shine. (Note: I only had limes in the house so I used those, which made the kitchen smell nicely tropical.)

5. GROUT

Mix up a paste of baking soda and water and spread it on kitchen or bathroom grout. Leave it on for a few minutes; then spray with vinegar. After it fizzes, scrub lightly with an old toothbrush.

6. FRUIT FLIES

This is a great solution to a pesky problem. Put two lemon halves in your oven and leave the door slightly open overnight. The next morning, close the oven and turn on the broiler for a few minutes. Turn it off and let the oven cool. Toss the lemons and wipe off the bottom of the oven. (I have no idea why this works!)

7. ROOM DEODORIZER

Simmer some vinegar on your cooktop to clear the air and neutralize odors.

OK, back to packing!

Quiz-ical

The other day I took an online Jungian personality quiz three times until I got the personality that felt the most accurate. (If you guessed “obsessive”, you are correct!!)

I’ve been obsessed with quizzes as long as I can remember: “Which Beatle is your soul mate?” “Is your boyfriend cheating on you?” “What’s the most flattering hair style for your face?” “Are you doing everything you can for perfect skin?”

I loved magazines – still do – and the quizzes were some of my favorite features. Nowadays, online quizzes serve a similar function, and challenge my ever-weakening memory: “How many of these 90’s movie scenes can you identify?” (I was so excited to get 100% until I realized everyone gets 100% regardless of their answers.) “Only geniuses will answer this math quiz correctly.” (Not on the first try, because I’m sure there are at least two correct answers. Creativity and math don’t usually go together.)

Quizzes are mini wake-up calls, reassurances that we’re in step with the zeitgeist the way we think we are, ways to bond with other members of our “tribe” (“Your score indicates that you are a Problem Solver!”) and reminders to take stock of things we might otherwise neglect (“Do you take your spouse for granted?”).

They’re often a quick way to learn something new, too. “Can you identify the 5 leading causes of depression?” Or, “Do you know why sugar’s bad for you?”

Back in school, I always did better on multiple-choice tests, vs. an essay test where you had to remember the information without any hints. Even if I had only a vague memory of the chapter we’d studied, once I saw the answer sitting in front of me it would trigger some deep sense of familiarity and I would seize on it like a drowning person reaching for an outstretched log.

My mind is a steel trap when it comes to arcane facts about minor celebrities, fashion trends and other trivia. It’s a sieve regarding most items of significance. I suspect this is because I can only process small pieces of (usually useless) information at a time. Then they rattle around in the back of my brain until shaken loose. Facts about my own life experiences, however, often elude me.

I couldn’t tell you who taught my freshman French class if someone put a gun to my head. Or the names of my kids’ teachers. Or pretty much anything that has to do with geography. Never could.

But show me a list of possible options and I might stumble onto the right choice.

So the next time I can’t remember what the new neighbor does for a living, give me a quiz: It’s either a) doorman, b) Chippendale’s dancer, c) surgeon or d) chef. God help me if the answer is, “None of the above”.

 

 

If Only My Tracker Could Track…

 

I depend on my Garmin tracker to tell me how much I walk every day (usually not enough). And that’s all well and good, but what I really need is a tracker to monitor the life part of life.

Imagine it: A combination shrink, conscience, fairy godmother and enabler that could log how often we fib or ping us when we’re overdue for a brownie.

What I want to know is,

How many minutes per week do I spend on the following activities:

  • Seeing friends (not just virtually)
  • Texting my kids
  • Buying the same item for the third time because I forgot I already have it
  • Reading something actually worth reading
  • Searching for missing socks
  • Procrastinating
  • Saying yes when I mean no
  • Making excuses to telemarketers
  • Checking e-mail
  • Replying to e-mail
  • Deleting e-mail
  • Thinking about ice cream
  • Urging my nails to grow
  • Drinking good wine
  • Yelling at the news
  • Feeling lucky
  • Cooking good food
  • Stalking Colin Firth movies on Netflix
  • Calling someone I haven’t called lately
  • Planning a trip
  • Sitting on my rear end contemplating nature
  • Sitting on my rear end contemplating Masterpiece Mystery
  • Watching hummingbirds
  • Laughing
  • Scheduling a meeting
  • Ditching a meeting
  • Pulling out grey hairs
  • Avoiding a fight
  • Eating junk food

Or is ignorance bliss? Maybe I’ll just go for a walk!

Why I ‘Like’/Hate Facebook

Facebook was never envisioned as a community for us older folks—perish the thought! But that’s what happened. A lot of Millennials, including my own kids, have little interest in it. After all, they have myriad social media options these days and they aren’t old enough to be nostalgic.

Those of us who’ve now lived a proverbial nine lives—childhood, college/post-grad, several jobs, a few moves, countless Continue reading