A Sleep Trick

I just read about a brilliant way to lull yourself to sleep — or back to sleep if, like me, you tend to wake up in the middle of the night.

  1. Think of a letter — either at random or start at the beginning of the alphabet.
  2. Visualize a word beginning with that letter, e.g. “apple” for A.  Don’t choose anything you’re phobic about, such as clowns, heights or spiders.
  3. Keep thinking of new words beginning with the same letter (“avocado”, “armadillo”…) and take time to picture each one.
  4. When you run out of images, move on to a new letter.
  5. Keep going until you nod off.

I tried this in the middle of the night and bored myself back to sleep in record time!

Have a great, sleep-filled weekend, and Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who are mothers, about-to-be mothers, or have ever had a mother.

The Upside of Bad Relationships

This year, two friends have become widows at a young age and I’ve been thinking how hard it must be to lose your partner, especially if you were together for a long time.

This in turn has led me to contemplate the opposite situation: how liberating it is to get rid of a bad relationship. Let’s talk about that instead of something sad.

Think about it: there’s a lot to appreciate about a crappy relationship!

The Upside While You’re In It

  • You can concentrate your anger and frustration on one individual instead of spreading it around
  • You develop a rich fantasy life, often involving that person being hit by a car or falling off a cliff
  • Your own faults pale by comparison
  • Your life is much more dramatic
  • There’s always a new story to share with your friends
  • You become much more knowledgeable about alcohol
  • You can be sure your tear ducts are working
  • There’s usually ice cream in the house

And When It’s Over

  • Your murderous rage subsides
  • You don’t have to watch endless sports/chick flicks
  • You’re no longer subjected to someone else’s bodily functions
  • You’re free from your partner’s annoying friends and family
  • You can wear, eat and do whatever you want
  • You can have sex with yourself, which is probably an improvement
  • You have lots more free time
  • You only have to attend your own boring business events
  • You’ll really appreciate a GOOD relationship

“Got Your Goat” Quick Bread

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance” wrote Shakespeare in Hamlet.  Unfortunately I don’t remember where I first saw the original recipe and I’ve made a few changes to it along the way.

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Being blessed (or cursed, as the case may be) with abundantly-growing rosemary in our hot climate, I’m always looking for a new way to use it. This tangy, crunchy, slightly sweet loaf is super-easy to make. It’s also very versatile.  Substitute any of your favorite herbs or nuts, or add raisins, chopped figs or kalamata olives for a different flavor.

Savory Quick Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup lowfat milk
  • 4 tablespoons softened butter (unsalted)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried and crumbled)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose unbleached white flour
  • 2 ounces goat cheese (very cold), cut or crumbled into small chunks

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Directions:

  • Heat the oven to 350℉.  Butter a 9″ loaf pan (or use Baker’s Joy spray).
  • Beat the egg in a medium bowl and whisk in the milk and butter. Don’t worry if you still have small lumps of butter after whisking.
  • In a large bowl, stir together baking powder, rosemary, lemon zest, pecans, salt and flours.
  • Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir everything together with a wooden spoon until barely combined.
  • Sprinkle goat cheese pieces over the batter and fold in gently with 2 or 3 strokes.
  • Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake about 50 minutes or until a tester or toothpick inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean.

Yield: about 12 servings

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Busting Out of a Bra Rut

A bra fitting is the root canal of shopping. Next to trying on bathing suits (or having a mammogram) it’s one of the more unpleasant experiences you can put your boobs through, as far as I’m concerned.

Which probably explains why an estimated 75% of us are wearing the wrong size bra; it’s less stressful to grab the same old thing than to stand around half naked in a fitting room for a half hour or more while some chirpy stranger straps us into dozens of choices and prattles on about “uplift” and cleavage.

Bra size often changes when we gain or lose weight, gain or lose muscle tone, go through pregnancy, and get older. And bras themselves simply wear out. I can’t remember the last time I was measured and odds are that my go-to size has got up and went in the wrong direction. So I zip over to Nordstrom’s (any store with a decent lingerie department will have experienced fitters on staff) for a major overhaul of the underwear drawer.

You can measure yourself at home (details below), but according to experts, that’s not the best option. It’s very hard to pull the tape tight enough while attempting to exhale. It’s also hard to be objective about what’s flattering.

After stripping off my shirt while avoiding my reflection —  lovingly bathed in harsh fluorescent light that showcases every lump and bump, and not the good kind – my fitter Ms. C measures my rib cage by pulling the tape tightly around my body just below the bra line. This is the band size, and it’s about two sizes smaller than what I’ve been mistakenly wearing. Guess I should have done this a while ago. I learn that the right size band should fit snugly on the last hook and you should only be able to fit one or two fingers between the band and your back. (Is this why the boys had so much trouble unhooking our bras back in high school?? Oops, I digress.)

Ms. C doesn’t measure my cup size – I suppose years of looking at breasts gives you a pretty good idea of how big somebody is – and heads onto the floor to bring back different options.

As I try on the first few bras, Ms. C introduces me to the “scoop and swoop” method, immediately conjuring visions of Johnnie Cochran: “Scoop and swoop, or you will droop!” Basically, this means you put on the bra, lift up the breast tissue, and move it towards the outside edge of the cup to make sure all the boobage is tucked in. A little weird, but it works.

Now that she knows what size I am, she brings in several designs including some molded styles that I immediately reject on the grounds that the last thing I need is any enhancement.

Unfortunately, the store doesn’t carry much in my size (“well endowed” with a 30-inch ribcage) so I leave with only two Chantelle bras — supportive but not matronly. Once home, I have better luck shopping online, beginning with Nordstrom.com  and moving on to Bare Necessities, which stocks a wide variety of sizes and styles including many tops and bottoms that are boudoir-only if you’re feeling saucy.

If you are inclined to measure at home, here are some tips from Bare Necessities:

How to measure bra size:

Bra band – Pull the measuring tape tight across the bottom of your current bra directly under the bust, across your ribcage and around your back under your arms. If you get an odd number, round up to the next even number.

Remember that you want a bra to fit snugly on the last hook when new. As the band loosens with time, you’ll be able to tighten it by using the next rows of hooks. If the band of a new bra fits on the first/tightest hook (i.e., with no others showing) you’ve got nowhere to go when it gets too loose, so that size is too large.

Bust size – Find your bust measurement by measuring loosely around the fullest part of your bust with the tape straight across and around your back under the arms.

Cup size – Subtract your band size from your bust size and use the difference to find your bra cup size in the chart below. For example, if your bust is 38” and your band is 34” (a 4” difference), you would wear a 38 D.

That said, every woman’s body is different so you may need to experiment to find your best fit.

Size conversions

US/UK/European sizes vary above a D cup. When buying online, it helps to know what size you are in a specific brand so the website can suggest equivalent size choices.

(Bust minus band)         US                 EUROPE                    UK

1″ A A A
2″ B B B
3″ C C C
4″ D D D
5″ DD/E E DD
6″ DDD/F F E
7″ DDDD/G G F
8″ DDDDD/H H FF
9″ DDDDDD/I I G
10″ J J GG
11″ K   H
12″ L   HH
13″ M   J
14″ N   JJ
      K

NORDSTROM’S FIT QUIZ

  • Does the band ride up in the back? If yes, your bra is either too large or it needs to be tightened. If it’s still too loose after you’ve adjusted the band, it’s time to go down a band size (and possibly up a cup).
  • Do your breasts bulge or spill over the cup? If yes, your cups are too small and you need to go up a cup size.
  • Do the cups pucker or gap? If your breasts don’t fill out the cups, your bra is too large.
  • Do your straps slip and slide? If you’ve adjusted your straps and they still fall off, either the band is too big or your bra has lost its elasticity. If you have sloped shoulders, opt for a racerback bra or a style with convertible straps.
  • Do your straps dig into your shoulders? If so, try loosening the straps. If that doesn’t solve the problem, it’s likely the cups are too small and you need to go up a cup size.
  • Does the wire poke and prod? If so, you’re wearing a cup size that’s too small.

A QUICK CHECKLIST

TOO SMALL

  • Spillover on top or sides
  • Center section doesn’t lie flat
  • Underwires poke or ride up

TOO BIG

  • Cups wrinkle or gap
  • Adjusted straps still slide off
  • Band rides up in back

JUST RIGHT

  • Smooth cups
  • Center section lies flat
  • Band is low and even

Interesting discovery: As band size goes down, cup size often goes up, e.g., the cup size of a 32 D will fit about the same as that of a 30 DD.

Need some wardrobe inspiration? Try one of these styles:

T-SHIRT: Smooth coverage with molded cups and enhanced lining so you can wear something sheer without any see-through.

PUSH-UP: Padding enhances cleavage and provides extra lift for plunging necklines. For less ooh-la-la, go up a cup size.

DEMI: A straight-across cut enhances cleavage, while wide-set shoulder straps highlight your neckline.

STRAPLESS/CONVERTIBLE: A fitted band provides support for any bare-shoulder look, while removable straps give you day-to-night options.

RACERBACK: This sport-inspired bra offers slip-proof straps and generous support. Great with tank tops.

BRALETTE: Soft, stretchy fabric gives light support and comfortable fit for smaller cup sizes.

UNLINED: This seamless style provides a natural shape without lining or molding and flatters an average to fuller bust.

WIRELESS: A soft, no-show silhouette works well under sheer tops and can be more comfortable than wires if you don’t need a lot of support. Foam cups offer extra coverage.

So, when’s the last time you checked if your bra is still the right size? Get thee to a fitter; it’s worth it!

Beauty Adventure: Lash Lift

Ladies, if you are spending way too much time curling your lashes — or avoiding it because you’re worried you’ll pinch your lids or yank out your eyelashes — let me introduce you to the “lash lift”.

My brow guru, April, started offering this service last year and says it has really taken off, so to speak.  Her clients love it and I can see why. (Man, it’s hard to avoid those puns today!)

Curled eyelashes open up your eyes and help you look younger and more alert, especially if you have short, skimpy, or thinning lashes like mine. But many of us don’t have the patience to do it on a regular basis. Which is where this semi-permanent solution comes in.

After tinting/shaping my brows and darkening my invisibly blond eyelashes, April puts protective pads under my eyes to begin the process. First, your lashes are wrapped around soft silicone rods and coated with a light adhesive to lift them just at the root and keep them in place. This is the most time-consuming part because your aesthetician needs to comb out each lash to minimize any overlap and make sure each is as long as possible. You’ll feel a little tightness and pressure from the weight of the rods but relax, it will be over soon!

Once the lashes are positioned, a gentle curling solution (think “perm” but totally eye-safe, of course) is applied to the roots and timed to suit your own amount of natural curl. After that, a neutralizer is applied and allowed to set.

That’s it! The whole process takes about 45 minutes, and your lashes will stay lifted for about 6-8 weeks. Because only the roots are processed, I haven’t experienced any lash dryness or breakage.

It’s a little too expensive for me to indulge every time I get my brows done but it’s great for vacations when I don’t want to be fussing with complicated makeup rituals, and doing it just a few times a year is enough for now.

Have you tried it? Let me know!

(Below: After 5 weeks, no makeup)

Am I What I Wear?

Lately, I’ve been going through an identity crisis. A sartorial one, primarily, stemming from the question, “Who am I if I’m not working?” combined with the dread of becoming invisible with the passing years.

As a freelance writer/retired (mostly) by choice, I could spend the day in ratty sweatpants and no one would notice. But that’s just not “me”; I worked in an office for 30 years and dressing for work is a difficult habit to overcome. Plus, I’ve always loved fashion.

This particular crise du jour is also accompanied by weight loss, which would normally be cause for celebration but is in fact cause for alarm/introspection/analysis as I have to decide: Since I have to buy new clothes that fit, WHAT should they be?

The delightful blogger Lady Sarah offers a brilliant suggestion: Create a pie chart for how you actually spend your time so that you can buy accordingly. Instead of shopping for a fantasy life, I’m taking this a step further to analyze not just how I currently spend my time but how I’d like to spend it.

Categories

• At home doing chores, scrolling through online articles, contemplating working out, watching TV, contemplating cleaning, actually working out, reading, actually cleaning

• At home writing (want to project a professional image, if only to myself)

• Running errands: Stained tees are a non-starter even though the chances of bumping into someone I know — since I know virtually no one in Texas — are slim to none

• Lunch dates: All too few. Goal: expand opportunities

• Dinner dates with husband and friends: Ah, safe ground here. Need to look nice but not overly fussed over

• Opera/Symphony: Unlikely to run into anyone here either but a good excuse to dress up

• Entertaining at home: What to wear that is chic but won’t get stained while cooking?

• Travel: My sweet spot, wardrobe-wise. I’m a big-city girl at heart and enjoy being able to wear my favorite pieces without feeling overdressed. Not that anyone’s looking – but it’s all about how you see yourself, isn’t it?

• Playing with grandchildren: Not the time for a silk blouse, but surely I can do better than an old band t-shirt and leggings even if the baby is likely to spit up

• Summer hiking/walking: Anything goes, as long as it’s waterproof

• Wine tasting (a favorite summer activity): Upgraded casual, mostly dark colors in case I spill something – a real possibility around Glass #3

FullSizeRender 7All in all, what I’ve learned from this exercise is that I shouldn’t buy another leather jacket since I live in a warm climate (much as I adore them) and that I should create more opportunities that are appropriate for my favorite items rather than “dumbing down” my wardrobe to match my mostly-stay-at-home activities.

Sign me up for: adult education classes, more travel, more lunches/dinners with friends, more evenings out, volunteering at anything where you shouldn’t look like a slob, and so on.

Anyone else having an identity crisis as you change jobs, become a stay-at-home parent or approach retirement? Please share your solutions and insights with the rest of us!

Xx, Alisa

House Woes

Have you ever had your pet punish you when you go away for awhile? Sulking, hiding, refusing to be petted when you return home?

I think our house is doing the same thing.

“She” must be pissed off that we took a vacation, because we’ve returned to a garage door that won’t close properly, and then a new crisis yesterday when our sprinklers went all demonic and wouldn’t shut off. Needless to say, this happened on a Sunday.

Owning a home is a bit of a deal with the devil. You try to keep ahead of any possible issue but there’s always something that can leap out and get’cha. Still, it makes more financial sense in the long run than renting. Or so they say.

We have smudged, cleaned, painted, upgraded, decorated, replaced all the pool equipment piece by piece, and generally done everything we can think of to make our house happy.  So I’m convinced this is an abandonment issue. I could promise that we won’t go away again but every traveler knows this is an empty gesture.

If anyone knows a “house whisperer” please send along their number.