Tag Archives: boomer bloggers

“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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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.

The Bunion Diaries (or) The Agony of Da Feet (part one)

There’s nothing like the word “bunion” to make you feel like an old crone, is there? I used to have really pretty feet. But even though I haven’t worn tight shoes or stilettos in years, heredity has reared its ugly head and created a situation I’m about to remedy.

A bunion, for those of you lucky enough not to have this condition, is a bony bump that forms at the base of your big toe when it pushes against the next toe, forcing the joint to get bigger.

They can develop from wearing tight or narrow shoes, high heels, arthritis or a structural issue, and are typically seen in older adults although I know several young women who have them too.

Experts say there’s no reason to have surgery unless they cause pain. So that left me with a dilemma.

My left foot hurts when I wear most shoes – even flats – for more than an hour, such as when taking a long walk or standing around at a party. But it’s not constant. Still, after a consult last year when my podiatrist said I could wait a little longer, I noticed that the condition was definitely getting worse.

Since there’s no way to reverse the damage without surgery – and because it seems logical to do it before the surgery becomes extremely complicated – I’ve opted to get this done. Wish me luck!

First step, so to speak: I see the nurse, get x-rayed again (oh joy, I am now beginning to develop arthritis in that toe), get my prescriptions and a physical, learn what meds to discontinue, buy a giant waterproof bag to protect my cast after surgery, line up a wheelie thing to scoot around the house afterwards, and worry that I am about to do something drastic that I could avoid if I just wore men’s sneakers for the rest of my life.

There are two kinds of bunionettes in the world: Some women with truly hideous feet flaunt them in sandals and just don’t care. I am not that person. Others won’t wear revealing shoes even if it’s 100 degrees outside. Um; definitely familiar.

Mostly, I would just like to wear normal shoes without pain. And I’d like to avoid the possible complications that arise from an untreated condition, such as bursitis (painful inflammation of tissue in and around the joints), hammertoe (when the toe next to the big toe also begins to bend), metatarsalgia (inflammation in the ball of the foot) and worsening arthritis.

Stay tuned! I will report in next week with all the gory details.

 

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!

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”.

 

 

Baking New Friends

When you’re a kid, you can become best friends with someone simply because you both hate school lunches or gym class. It’s not much more sophisticated when you’re an adult: Chances are, you’ll bond with someone at work when you discover you both loathe your boss, love French films, or nodded off in the same boring meeting. Or you’ll meet a mom in playgroup who shares your opinion that the neighbor’s “perfect” child is a spoiled brat.

I’ve found it gets a lot harder once those natural opportunities are behind you. It’s even tougher if you move to a new town, retire, work from home or become divorced, widowed or remarried.

For me, baking has become one way to connect and enrich budding friendships. This dates back to my childhood.

V lived a few streets away. I don’t remember what prompted it, but one afternoon when I was playing at her house – we must have been about 10 – we got the idea to bake something. I’m going to guess it was cookies, because what kid doesn’t like cookies? V, who was always more confident than I was, knew exactly how to start the oven. I quote: “You turn on the gas, wait awhile, and then light it.” Which is what we did.

BOOM! Both of us were knocked backwards, the smell of burnt hair everywhere. My bangs were reduced to an inch of frizz and I no longer had eyebrows. I think V was relatively unscathed except for a burned arm. Our mothers were seriously pissed off and our respective punishments forged a shared bond along with our battle scars.

Undeterred — and still liking cookies — I’ve continued to bake. And I’ve discovered that the alchemy of turning flour, sugar and butter into something delicious is not unlike turning ordinary experiences into the basis of a lasting friendship, don’t you agree?

This leads me to Baking Friend #2. T is a real baker, by which I mean that she knows enough not to improvise the way I do, has actually done it professionally, and posts very beautiful photos of all her discoveries on her wonderful blog, The Cook”s Tour.  I, on the other hand, have more of a hit or miss success rate and can make the same recipe 20 times and get it wrong the 21st. Yes, it’s a gift.

From sharing recipes, T and I have branched out to sharing details of our lives, political observations and inspirations for future travel. After knowing her for only a couple of years I am delighted to consider her a friend, even though we communicate almost entirely by e-mail.

Most recently, my neighbor H and I embarked on a baking adventure at her house. She is a woman I admire greatly, but we are both a bit shy and take a long time getting to know people. Friendship #3 is like the long, slow proofing of bread that tastes its best because you take your time making it.

A couple of weeks ago we decided to bake bagels, using a recipe I love that is usually foolproof. This time, however, lacking the necessary food processor, we opted to wing it and use the stand mixer. Since the dough was too dry to come together, we added more water. And then a little more. And a little more. (See? Winging it.) By the time we made our bagels, they had ballooned to the size of small pillows and while they weren’t what I’d call horrible, they were definitely not New York bagels either.

Still, even a relatively unsuccessful result can lead to a lot of laughter and a stronger connection. Which is ultimately a more important measure of success.

Eventually, we all figure out who’s toxic and whom we want as our friends. We may have fewer but hopefully each will be special. If I can get through life burning more cookies than I burn bridges, I’ll be very happy!

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!