Tag Archives: bloggers 50+

Hump Day Hacks

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

How to remove oil stains


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


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.



A True Story

I always enjoy my monthly massage, not least because my therapist is smart, funny and usually has an interesting story to share.

Today we were talking about the hassles of resuming our maiden names after divorce. This reminded her of someone who lived in the small Texas town where she grew up.

This fellow, the town drunk, decided one day that he wanted to legally change his name to his high school nickname, Squirrel.

He went to court and told the judge what he wanted to do.  The judge thought he was kidding, or drunk, or both.

“Squirrel?” “Really?” “Yes.” 

“Are you sure?” “YES!” 

The back-and-forth went on for awhile and both parties were getting exasperated. Finally, the judge asked again, “You REALLY want to change your name to this?” “YES!!! Squirrel!! Period!!”

And the judge legally changed his name to Squirrel Period, as he has been known ever since.

Only in Texas.



For the Love of Carbs #3

Last week we experimented with bread porn.  This week, class entered horror movie territory as we were introduced to… The Slasher!!

The slasher, otherwise known as a bread lame (“lahm”, “lahm-uh”, or as our instructor endearingly pronounced it, “lamb-y”), is a tool used to score dough so that it can expand during baking.  For this session, we improvised with a razor on a stick, which worked pretty well.


Our final class was perhaps overly ambitious.  We made baguettes, another sourdough, pumpernickel (which we baked at home) and pizza (which we ate during our break).

Baguettes are nearly impossible to bake properly at home since it’s difficult to generate enough steam but we all wanted to try. Abby had made the dough in advance, which looked like Jabba the Hutt as it shimmied its way from its giant pan to the workspace.


Our baguettes ended up a bit under-baked due to time constraints, and mine got squashed on the ride home. They were tasty, though, and worth another try in the future.

The pizza was fun to make and we’d all worked up an appetite, but I’ll probably stick with Bobby Flay’s recipe. 

Pumpernickel was the most successful, perhaps because it wasn’t rushed.


The sourdough was good, too.


Someone asked Abby why she decided to make baking her career, not just a hobby. Her advice: If you lose track of time while you’re doing something, it means you really love it.

We certainly did!

bread class workshop pic (2) (1)

(Abby’s the tall one in the middle, back row. Yours truly is front row left in a scarf.)









For the Love of Carbs #2

Bread class continued with good spirits and much laughter, as we embarked on focaccia, ciabatta and a new method of making sourdough.


Is that apprehension I’m sensing?

First up, some brave souls brought in their starters for Abby to evaluate. We learned that a starter is ready to use if a small bit floats when immersed in water. Sadly, most of our efforts sank like a stone. (Cue “My heart will go on”.)

To make both focaccia and ciabatta, you begin with a “poolish”, which is pronounced poo-leash rather than rhyming with “foolish” which is how we felt about our sinking non-starters. This is essentially another type of starter that is ready much faster and keeps the dough nice and airy.

Abby kept us on a strict schedule so we could bake these during class. Unfortunately, my benchmate and I made the crucial mistake of flouring the tops of our ciabattas, not realizing they’d be flipped over. (Or possibly not paying attention?) And I opted not to cut the dough into rolls, ending up with a pale loaf bearing more than a passing resemblance to a manatee.


Ciabatta in the oven


Abby suspects they’re not quite ready.

Our focaccias weren’t much prettier, being pancake-flat. But despite their wonky appearance, both breads were pretty tasty.


Focaccia resembling paddleboards

The big excitement of the evening came when we learned a new technique that brought out our inner dominatrix. Abby had e-mailed us a video to get us “in the mood”. It’s called the slap and fold method, or, as my friend S dubbed it, Food Porn: You slap your dough on the counter, stretch it up and slap it down again. After about 5 minutes the dough is ready to rest, and so are you.

Who knew that bread making had a racy side? Or that my wardrobe needs a black leather apron?!

                                  (Above, clockwise: focaccia at home – I added rosemary -, ciabatta, sourdough.)

I can only imagine what’s in store for us this week. Stay tuned, dear friends.

For the Love of Carbs

Whoever said, “Man cannot live by bread alone” clearly didn’t live in my house. To that end, I’ve embarked on a series of 3 consecutive weekly classes in bread making, hoping to hone my skills or at the very least make and eat lots of yummy things.

Our first class was Tuesday night. Ten strangers introduced ourselves, commenting on each other’s aprons (the best one: printed with unpronounceable Scottish phrases) and gleaning levels of expertise. We ran the gamut from novice to knowledgeable.

Few things bind people together more than a shared interest; in this case hunger, as the class runs from 6-9 pm and no one had had dinner. As we descended on the snack table – samples of the bread we’d soon be baking – things quickly loosened up.

And then the work began. Abby, our intrepid instructor, handed out sheets of recipes (blue emmer sandwich bread, sourdough and challah) and led us back to the industrial kitchen where we started our first loaf.

First lesson: Measure your ingredients by weight, not volume. Turns out, it’s more accurate since flours vary in density, and it’s easier too. You put a bowl on a scale, set it to zero, and reset it to zero after you’ve added each ingredient. To quote the Monkees, now I’m a believer.

The whole group got down and dirty as we over- or under-loaded our bowls, covered ourselves in flour while dumping it out to re-measure, and got sticky bits of dough in our hair and jewelry. (Note to self: don’t wear a watch.) If you’re a clean freak, this “sport” may not be for you. One tip if you don’t want to keep running to the sink: keep a bowl of extra wheat flour available and rub your hands in it to remove most of the dough.

Then we started kneading. Not only is this a great upper-body workout (3 hours of standing and punching dough should cancel out all those calories, right?), it must be one of the earliest forms of therapy. PINCH! That’s for your annoying neighbor. POUND! That’s for your obnoxious boss. FLATTEN! That’s for every bad relationship you’ve ever had.

We also learned a great trick for preserving your starter if you don’t make bread multiple times a week: Roll some of the sticky starter in wheat flour and keep rubbing until it dries out into a crumbly nub. Abby says it will keep for quite awhile in the fridge (will have to ask how long “awhile” is) until you’re ready to reactivate it.

To keep your starter bubbly and active you’ll have to feed it 1-2x a week. (Starter is a fairly demanding pet but at least it won’t pee in the house!)

Keep it loosely covered in the fridge. A day or two before you plan to bake, dump out about 90% (this takes self-discipline as it seems so wasteful), then add back equal parts water and flour (half wheat/half bread flour) – making at least 130g (1 cup for your recipe plus extra to maintain it). Cover loosely and let it sit out on your counter for 8-10 hours. When the starter gets airy and fragrant, repeat the process.

If you don’t plan to bake for a few days, feed your leftover with more flour than water or dry it out as suggested above.

Exhausted but exhilarated, we left with three batches of dough to bake on our own, plus a dried nub of starter to resurrect. Abby encouraged us to name our starters – hers is Shiva. Since I have a tendency to kill mine on a regular basis, I’m naming him Lazarus.


“Meh” on the blue emmer bread. It was kind of flabby and spongy. A little too much like health food and not enough like “indulgence”.

“Yay” on the sourdough method, although the amount of dough we made was a bit small for my cast iron Dutch oven. And my usual method yields a darker, crisper crust.

“Pretty good” for the challah – I prefer the recipe in the Silver Palate Cookbook. DH says this one reminds him more of a brioche.

Looking forward to this week’s class. Especially the snacks.

p.s. Final tip: Don’t add salt with the rest of your ingredients.  Let dough hydrate (aka rest) for an hour and then mix in the salt.  Apparently it interferes with gluten production. Did not know that.

[main photo source: pixabay.com]


The Apocalypse on $10,000 a Day

A couple of nights ago, we watched the 2012 movie Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. The premise: an asteroid is hurtling towards Earth and will wipe out everyone in 3 weeks.


What would you do? Here’s my exit strategy.

Liquidate savings, leaving just a little in case the forecast is, you know, wrong.

Fly (first class of course) to a remote tropical island with a 5-star resort. Pack tons of books, many bottles of limited edition Islay whiskey, and sunscreen. (My end-of-life scenario doesn’t include suffering from painful sunburn.)

Check into our suite, having reserved all the rooms on the floor so as not to endure  fighting couples or screaming children.

Every day:

  • Walk on the beach. No sense meeting my Maker with flabby thighs.
  • Have a 3-hour massage, with one hour spent on neck and shoulders.
  • Drink steadily but only to maintain pleasant buzz, not hangover.
  • Have dessert at lunch and dinner. Who’s judging?
  • Have sex. OK, maybe not EVERY day.

Binge-watch all 19 seasons of Midsomer Murders. Mysteries are soothing because  bad guys always get caught. Unlike life.

Be friendly but don’t waste a minute with anyone who is boring or mean.

Consume plenty of fresh papaya, mango and strawberries. End-of-days plan should  not include constipation.

See glorious sunsets.

Gorge on cheese and chocolate. Cholesterol be damned.

Snuggle up with my sweetie every night. Drift off remembering every nice thing that’s ever happened to me.

There are worse ways to go.

Photo source: Pixabay

You Say Biscuit, I Say Cookie, We All Say Yummy

IMG-0028This week, I was inspired to bake up some digestive biscuits – probably because I’d been watching “Victoria” on TV. They turned out beautifully and I became curious about their origins.

The first digestive biscuit (“cookie” in American English) was the McVitie’s Digestive, created in 1892 by Alexander Grant, a young new company employee. The biscuit was given its name because it was thought that its high baking soda content served as an aid to food digestion.

I was skeptical – and wondering how many you’d have to eat to get any benefit – but according to LiveStrong.com, “ Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate*) helps to break down fatty substances and food particles, making them easier to digest and calming the turmoil in your stomach.”

In any case, digestives are a delicious, light cookie made with mostly whole-wheat flour for a nice fiber content. I wouldn’t call them health food but when your sweet tooth is calling they probably stack up pretty well compared with other cookies. (I’m talking to you, chocolate chips!)

It’s easy to make your own, and the butter tastes better than the palm oil in commercial products.

RECIPE (Adapted from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients Click here for measurement by grams or ounces

  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • (my addition: a pinch of salt)
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup cold milk


  1.  Preheat your oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a couple of baking sheets, or line them with parchment paper.
  2. There are two options for blending ingredients: Hand method: Measure the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender, two knives, or your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour mixture. Add the sugar, (salt) and enough milk to make a stiff dough. Gently and briefly knead this mixture on a floured surface until smooth. Food Processor: Pulse the flour, (salt,) sugar, butter and baking powder in a food processor just long enough to create pea-sized bits of butter. Add milk and pulse briefly, just until mixture comes together. Be careful not to over blend.
  3. Roll out the dough to approximately 1/8″ thick, and cut into circles. Traditionally, the biscuits are about 2 1/2″ in diameter (a slightly smaller cookie cutter is the perfect size since they will not spread out much).
  4. Place the cutout cookies on the prepared baking sheets. Prick them all over with a fork, and bake until pale gold, about 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the cookies from the oven, and cool right in the pan. Store airtight at room temperature for up to a week or refrigerate if you like them extra crispy; freeze for longer storage.

YIELD: about 3 dozen cookies. Particularly delicious with a pot of freshly-brewed tea.

*In case you’re wondering: Baking soda has only one ingredient, sodium bicarbonate. Sodium bicarbonate is a base that reacts when it comes into contact with acids, like buttermilk, yogurt or vinegar. Baking powder also contains two acids.