Tag Archives: Baby Boomers

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 Is Hard To Do – especially when it’s your stylist, manicurist, housekeeper, etc.

A dear friend writes:

“A couple of months ago, I decided I was tired of paying $100+ for hair color every four weeks (for one-process color, no highlights or anything exotic!) So I started doing it myself and actually my hair seems healthier and I love the color. When I went for my next haircut, I told my hairdresser that I just couldn’t justify paying over $100 for hair color. I told her I wasn’t going anywhere else, just doing it myself. Of course, she copped an attitude and I got a really crappy haircut. I thought, “Hmmmm…I hope she isn’t being spiteful.” Then the next month, I got an even worse haircut! This confirmed it for me and I won’t be going back, but I haven’t called yet to cancel my next appointment. What do you think? Have you been thru this???”

Yes! And more than once.

When I lived in New Jersey I regularly went to one salon for haircuts, color, skin care, manicures and massages. For a long time, a woman I’ll call Lisa cut and highlighted my hair and did a terrific job. I was willing to overlook the increasingly bizarre stories she’d tell about her relationship with the boyfriend who didn’t want to marry her. But after a while it became too stressful to listen to her tales of woe when all I wanted to do was relax and get my hair done. I was also hearing from my facialist that Lisa was driving her co-workers and other clients crazy; it wasn’t just me. I finally cut the cord, switched stylists, and eventually Lisa was fired. I always felt badly because she was clearly troubled, but I had to make a change.

About two years ago I had another unfortunate experience. Out in Oregon I had a good haircut and decided to have “Alice” touch up my highlights the next time. The result: wide, orangey, hideous streaks. After two tries, she was able to tone them down but the color was still way off.

When I got back to Austin I immediately went to my regular salon for help. A new colorist (“Casey”) decided to apply overall color (which I don’t need since I only have scattered grays) to blend everything in. Unfortunately, it was much warmer than my natural shade. And now I had a whole head of it! The only remedy was for everything to grow out, switch to yet another colorist (who, thankfully, is much more knowledgeable) and wait a year for my true base color to emerge. It was awkward having my hair done by someone else when Casey was in the salon but luckily she has now moved away – turns out she’d f’d up several other clients’ hair as well. It’s not me; I swear!

So here’s what I’ve learned: 1) We’re entitled to get what we pay for, but 2) many of us have trouble ending these relationships and feel anxious making up excuses.

Why is this so hard? Let me count the ways.

  1. We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.
  2. Nostalgia. We remember that one perfect haircut, color etc. and know they have it in them to do a fabulous job.
  3. Fear of retribution. Unless we’re moving or planning to change salons and never come back.
  4. Fear of confrontation. Few of us like it.
  5. History. We’ve been together a long time; often they’ve been a confidante and friend.
  6. We worry about being premature or unfair. What if it’s a phase and he/she is going to be great again?
  7. Laziness or low self-esteem (a subconscious feeling that we don’t deserve “great”).
  8. We feel guilty, as if it’s somehow our fault and we’re too demanding.

Repeat after me: It’s OK to move on! Once you are ready to break up, here are some suggestions:

  1. Decide if you’re done with the salon or just the stylist.
  2. If you don’t like the salon anyway, ask friends or co-workers with similar hair texture where they get theirs done and then ask their salon manager for recommendations.
  3. If you like your salon and the problem is the stylist, talk to the manager. Be honest and specific and ask for someone new who’s good with your type of hair.
  4. Never settle for a bad cut or color! A reputable salon will have someone fix the problem as soon as possible at no charge. After all, they want to keep you as a client.
  5. Try a different stylist at your current salon on your old stylist’s day off.
  6. Make sure you try the new person a couple of times or until you’re comfortable.
  7. Once you have transitioned to your new stylist, tell your soon-to-be ex you need(ed) to go in a different direction (“It’s not you, it’s me”). No long explanations! If you have been seeing him or her for a while, or if you get other services at the salon, you may want to give (or leave) them a little thank-you gift with a note so you won’t feel totally awkward when you run into them.
  8. Most important: Do not have make-up sesh! You will get a revenge cut!

Next time: How to break up with your housekeeper. (Or should you?)


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!

Mouthing Off

Yesterday I went to the dentist to have a crown made. “Crown” sounds so elegant, like you should dress up and be all Downton Abbey-ish, rather than the disturbing reality of someone jamming their elbow into your mouth while you’re drooling and wearing a paper bib.

I started wondering what kind of person chooses a profession where no one wants to see them. Sure they make good money but you could be a podiatrist. Feet have to be more appealing than rotting teeth and bad breath. Are all dentists masochists? Personally, I’d rather have a colonoscopy than visit the dentist. At least you are asleep through the ordeal and they give you nice warm blankets and juice. At the dentist you get lidocaine and vile-tasting mouthwash, and stumble off with lipstick all over your face because you can’t feel where your lips end.

Leaving with a swollen jaw and an admonition not to eat anything hard or sticky (Nuts! Caramels!) I decided on cauliflower for dinner. It’s nice and bland and won’t stick to the temporary crown. If you’ve never puréed cauliflower, it makes an excellent substitute for mashed potatoes, which I didn’t have in the house. It won’t fool anyone but it’s quite tasty and low cal too. All you do is steam the head and mush it up in a food processor with some milk, salt and pepper, plus grated parmesan to offset all that healthiness. Go easy on the milk, adding slowly until you get the right consistency.

Still, modern dentistry is a big improvement over the “good” old days, when they didn’t have anesthetic. If you’re not squeamish, check out http://hubpages.com/health/A-Short-Painful-History-of-Dentistry, which is fascinating. Did you know that an ancient Roman toothache remedy was gargling with urine? Aren’t you glad I told you?

I’ll have the temporary for 2-3 weeks so I’m thinking about other soft foods to eat.
Since it’s chilly I’m focusing on soup. In this easy recipe for veggie soup, start with whatever’s in the fridge and add your favorites. Bon appétit!


Veg Out Soup

• 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
• 1 lg. onion, chopped
• 1 leek, chopped
• 2 carrots, chopped
• 2 celery stalks, chopped
• 1 medium zucchini, chopped
• 1 medium yellow squash, chopped
• 1 bell pepper, any color, chopped
• Trimmed green beans, cut bite size
• 1 lg. can fire roasted (or other) diced tomatoes
• 8 cups low fat chicken broth (enough to cover all veggies)
• Rind of Parmesan cheese
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Any other veggies you like, such as turnips, parsnips, chard, etc.
Optional: add a can of beans at the end of cooking

• Cover bottom of large, heavy soup pot with olive oil
• Turn heat to medium
• Add chopped onion to pot, stirring occasionally so it browns lightly
• Add other veggies to pot, stirring with each addition. Start with thicker, heavier vegetables, then add lighter ones
• When all fresh vegetables have been added, add can of tomatoes, Parmesan rind and enough liquid to cover veggies well
• Raise heat until soup starts to bubble, then lower to a simmer
• Simmer for several hours, until liquid has reduced and soup has thickened
• Remove rind and season with salt and pepper to taste
• Serve with crusty bread and more grated Parmesan

Makes about 8 servings

Ode to scarves (particularly Hermès)

With all due respect to the late, great Nora Ephron, why feel bad about your neck when you have the perfect excuse to cover it up?

Camouflage is one reason to indulge in all manner of gorgeous, glorious scarves. But here are some others:

  • A scarf Frenchifies any outfit, adding a touch of glamour
  • Adding a scarf to a basic outfit looks as though you care, even when you don’t
  • You get a lot of bang for not a lot of bucks, accessory speaking

Scarves add color to my otherwise totally drab closet of neutrals. Or, in fashion-speak, jeans + plain top + 36” square of silk = “high-low” dressing.

When I first started collecting Hermès scarves I had no idea of their history, I just thought they were beautiful. For the non-obsessives among you, here’s a very brief synopsis; after all, entire books have been written on this topic!

Although the house of Hermès was established in 1837, it took 100 years before the carré (“square” in French) was created, designed by artist Hugo Grygkar in 1937.


Hermès issues two collections a year, along with some exclusives and re-issues of older designs. The images can be elegant, playful, simple or elaborate, with each design offered in colors ranging from primary-bright to subtle pastels and themes that include nautical, equestrian, nature and seasonal activities. This year, one of my favorites is “Paddock”, a design from the 50’s that manages to be both contemporary and nostalgic. “Brides de Gala” (decorative show bridles), a Grygkar design from 1957, is the house’s most famous scarf. According to the fact-finders at Wikipedia, it’s been produced more than 70,000 times!

Queen Elizabeth II wore an Hermès scarf in the portrait used for a 1986 British stamp, and Princess Grace Kelly wore hers on the cover of a 1956 issue of Life magazine. If that doesn’t make you feel regal, ladies, I don’t know what will!

The 36” square (90 cm x 90 cm) weighs a hefty 65 grams and will probably outlive you, your children and your grandchildren. Each hem is hand-stitched with the rolled part facing up, and don’t forget to look for the artist’s signature. Interestingly, even though Grygkar produced an estimated 100+ designs, he never signed his work. Talented and modest!

Then, there are the larger squares, shawls, oblong twillys and maxi-twillys. Doesn’t your neck deserve a thank-you for all those years of holding up your head?! And if you get tired of wearing one you can always hang it on your wall. In my book, it IS art!

For your little piece of history, check out this year’s “Brides de Gala” at www.hermes.com or scroll through the amazing images on  http://piwigo.hermesscarf.com/index?/category/Home