Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Holiday Everyone!

Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-time takes twelve minutes. This is no coincidence.
     -Erma Bombeck

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The First Thanksgiving Feast

Thanksgiving focuses my thoughts on food and the first holiday feast. I am not cooking dinner this year, but will be making a couple of dishes to take to our family banquet.
We are members of a CSA – Community Supported Agricultural group. Every week we receive a box of fresh herbs and vegetables. The assortment varies as the season’s progress from spring to summer and fall. We opted for an extended program, and will get veggies until mid-December. This week’s delivery brings broccoli and cabbage, among other fall greens. Consequently I am preparing a broccoli casserole and cole slaw.
Most family dinners will have some food in common with the First Thanksgiving feast celebrated by the 53 Pilgrims lucky enough to survive the winter, but not a lot and prepared very differently. A detailed menu for that first three-day feast is not found in any contemporary account, but some of the foods eaten by the first Pilgrims are mentioned in existing records. The menu probably looked something like this:
                Seasonal Fowl (ducks, geese, venison, possibly wild turkey).
                Possibly fresh seafood, perhaps oysters which the Indians would have supplied.
                Stuffing of herbs, onions, and oats.
                Indian corn, processed and prepared in dishes similar to rice or oats such as porridge and pancakes.
                Various dried and fresh vegetables, including: parsnips, collards, carrots, turnips, spinach, cabbage, onions, and beans. They would have been seasoned with fresh or dried herbs: thyme, marjoram, sage, parsley.
                Fresh and dried fruits: pumpkin, cranberries, grapes, nuts.
There were no potatoes, no sugar, no pumpkin pie, and no cranberry sauce.
The commercial turkeys of today bear no resemblance to the wild turkeys the Indians and Pilgrims enjoyed, but that is another story…               

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fashionable Finally! at Sixty

I have never been stylish or trendy or classy, ever, in my entire life. When I was a teenager Twiggy was the model du jour. She was ultra-skinny with long, stick thin legs and knobby knees. I am short, chunky, with too many pounds, and large breasts. Twiggy must have had breasts, but you would not know it from the clothes she wore. I looked pregnant in the popular dresses of the time.  
Before jeans became the uniform of my generation the preppy look prevailed. I did not care for it, and could not afford it. I liked the jeans and sweater look. The clothes hid a lot of flaws. My work clothes were conservative, affordable, and uninspiring.
Fast forward to the present. Nothing much has changed fashion-wise. My wardrobe is still not chic or elegant or modern. I want clothes I like, outfits that are comfortable, fit well, are reasonably priced and a bit beyond boring.
A couple of years ago I bought a navy blue wool cape. It works well in all but the coldest weather. I love it. On plane or car trips I drape the cape over me and use it as a blanket. It scrunches up and takes up less space than a coat.
And then there are my hats. I like hats. They cover my hair and part of my face. I was never skilled at hair or make-up. Hats keep me warm in winter, protect my face in summer, and hide my hair and face. At my age comfort, concealment, and function are most important.
My uniform for a recent trip was jeans, comfortable boots, my blue cape, and a wide brimmed brown hat. And – something that never happened to me – people commented positively about my hat and cape – I like that hat! – Love your cape! All of a sudden I was stylish. Who would have thought…?
I have been thinking about the moral of this story. Maybe it is the old adage be yourself. Or maybe it was just a fluke.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Junk Mail, Jobs, and De-cluttering

I am being inundated by junk mail. Snail mail daily brings ads, requests for donations from charities contributed to in the past, and appeals from organizations I have never given a penny. There are address labels from groups all over the country. Conflicted over whether to use them without sending a donation, I got over my reluctance and now use all labels received. It would be a shame to waste them.  There are catalogs from vendors I purchased from, and many from retailers I never heard of until their literature arrived at my door. I like coupons as much as any thrifty shopper, but I do not like them cluttering my house. I am not very organized, and papers pile up everywhere. By the time I want to use a particular coupon it has either expired or I can’t find it and just get frustrated. 
Then there are emails. I finally got impatient and tired of deleting them. I went down the list and unsubscribed. Most companies make it fairly simple; a couple of clicks and that is it. A few have a menu allowing a choice of how often you wish to receive emails – daily, weekly, monthly. A couple of times I chose monthly. I felt bad cutting them off completely. 
I had second thoughts about getting rid of snail mail. I used to feel bad mail carriers are forced to lug all that extra weight around, but recently I began looking at it another way. The more junk mail to deliver, the more mail carriers will be considered necessary. I now accept junk mail as one small way I am helping to keep people employed. Most flyers, credit card offers, catalogs, charitable requests and miscellaneous correspondence are thrown out without opening. Less junk email and snail mail to deal with helps de-clutter my life, and any help simplifying and organizing my life is welcome.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What Am I Waiting For?

A lot of times I do not wear what I consider to be the best things I own, whether clothes or accessories or jewelry, because I am ‘saving’ them. It finally occurred to me – what am I saving them for? I am 60 years old. 

I have stuff that has been in drawers and closets for years - even decades – rarely used.  What good do these things do sitting in a draw or hanging in a closet gathering dust? By the time I decide to wear them many items are dated, do not fit, or I do not like them anymore.  I look at the item and ask myself: Why did I ever like that? Why did I ever buy it? Why did I ever think that was so special? And the biggest question - what was I saving it for?
So I have come to the conclusion that it is time to use everything. If I want to wear a nice sweater I will not wait for a special occasion. That special occasion may never come.
My new motto: Use it, wear it, enjoy. 
Clothing I do not like, or that does not fit, or I know I will never wear will be tossed out. 
My stuff will do no one any good after I am gone. Most things will end up at Goodwill or some other charity. So aside from a thrift sale shopper, no one will care about my wardrobe. I am going to wear things, enjoy them, use them, or get rid of them. 

What is the worst that can happen – something I love gets worn or ripped or stained? I will then need to replace it. I will have to go shopping. That is a tough, time consuming, exhausting undertaking, but I will do it…

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chocolate, Cheese, and Gelato Delight

I am a dedicated foodie, and any activity revolving around food is tops on my list. One Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago five members of my family experienced what is known as the Decadent Food Tour. It was 2 ½ hours of food tasting, talking, walking (not so much), and generally having a good time.
The first stop was a gourmet grocery store. Our guide gave a short talk detailing the cheese-making process, the difference between real cheese and faux supermarket cheeses, and the different types of cheeses. Then the fun began. It was taste testing time. There was a selection of hard and soft cheeses, sharp and mild ones. They were all excellent, expensive, wonderful domestic and foreign varieties. My favorite was a goat cheese.
The cheese tasting was followed by a short walk to a chocolate cafĂ©. There were a total of thirteen participants and the tour guide. We sat around a low circular coffee table. Each one of us had a small plate of chocolates in front of us. Before we could taste, our guide explained how chocolate is made, from cocoa beans to finished product. It was difficult staring at the chocolate and not eating until the lecture was over (but it was interesting). There was white chocolate, milk chocolates, dark chocolates, and a truffle that was absolutely out of this world. There were so many kinds of chocolate, and several of each kind, that we could not finish them all. The guide passed around cute little pink boxes so that we could put the extra chocolates in the box and take our gourmet chocolates (read: expensive if purchased) safely home. No one asked about the calories, but there has been much written lately about the benefits of chocolate…
After another brisk, short walk we arrived at a gelato store. I would guess the two walks totaled about 20 minutes, and only because we walked slowly. We probably expended about 20 calories total. I realize that doesn’t come close to making up for all the tidbits we ate. I am sure just one piece of chocolate was way more than 20 calories…Anyway, back to the gelato store. We sat around a long rectangular table. Placed in front of us was a set of dishes with six scoops of gelato, each a different flavor and different color. Our job was to taste every one and guess the flavor. There was pumpkin (it was October and Halloween season), basil (who but the Italians would think of making basil gelato!?), and four other flavors I cannot think of offhand. One was a chocolate variety, and of course that was my favorite. Sometimes I am not very adventurous.
After having a great time sampling all the wonderful goodies, it was time to find a place for dinner. But that’s another story...
If you are looking for a different kind of city experience and live in or are visiting Philadelphia, try one of the food tours offered by City Food Tours: (By the way, this is not a paid advertisement! I just enjoyed the tour and thought others might too.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Found: A Suitable Gym Experience

I have no excuse now that I am retired for not exercising. I realize the need to pay attention to my body if I want to avoid becoming a big round ball. I see too many older people put on the pounds and collect an assortment of maladies and problems. And so I head for the gym. I don’t expect miracles. My goal is to put off the inevitable as long as possible. 

Before moving I belonged to a succession of gyms. The first one had a variety of equipment, and a limited number of exercise classes. There were a considerable number of younger people in cute outfits who were there to socialize, pick up a weekend date, network, and otherwise complete a variety of tasks that had nothing to do with exercise. And there I was, older than most, sweating in what can kindly be called an older version of modern gym wear: a pair of cheap sweats purchased at an outlet and an oldie-but-goodie T-shirt. Nothing fancy, nothing close-fitting, nothing matching, but the outfit worked for me.

Did I mention the men at the gym? Besides the women in charming tight clothes, there was a group of fanatical men with oversize muscles sweating, grunting and groaning their way to ever bigger muscles. They wore tight clothing too. 
After a while I moved on to a women’s-only small workout center. It was fine for a while, but the routine got boring. And much as I like to meet friends, I was there to work out , and not so much to socialize. The socializing became distracting.
At about that time a friend told me of another women’s-only workout place opening near my home. I signed up. The equipment was newer and the place larger than the other women's-only gym. The center was fine for several months, but then the recession hit and the place closed.
Next stop was a cheap gym. For $10 a month I could work out to my heart’s content. I averaged twice a week, if lucky. No classes, but you can’t have everything. Or maybe the right way to look at it is – you get what you pay for. I passed the gym on my way home from work. It was a big place with lots of equipment and worked well for me for several months.
Then the gym went all out on a publicity blitz and marketing campaign seeking new members, and at the offering price was inundated. That was great for the company, but bad for me. I was still working, so had limited flexibility for my workout schedule. A lot of people went to the gym after work in the late afternoon. It became annoying trying to maneuver from one piece of equipment to another, seeing what was available and making a beeline for it before anyone else grabbed it.
Then we moved. The local community center has a fabulous modern, well-equipped gym. The price is more than the bargain $10 a month, but worth every penny, and not as expensive as a lot of fancy gyms nowadays.
 I am in gym heaven for a number of reasons:
·         The workout areas are clean, bright, and spacious, and the equipment in excellent condition.
·         It is not too busy or crowded.
·         There are no twenty-ish young people in fashionable attire seeking a social life.
·          A lot of the men and women are my age and older.
·         Popular apparel are sweats and old T-shirts.
·         I fit right in.
·         There are a variety of classes, many geared toward seniors.*
·         I feel comfortable.
·         There is no pressure.
·         It works for me.

I try to go three times a week, but usually make it twice a week.  I feel good when working out, and feel good when I leave. And hungry.
So I stop at my favorite bagel store, buy a bagel and go home and eat.
I know there is something wrong with this routine, but can’t figure out what…
*Seniors as in older people, not high school or college seniors.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sexty in the City

I admit to hitting six decades in June. Not a thrilling milestone. For me, more impact than hitting 30 or 40 or 50.


Sounds old. And it is, especially to anyone younger than 60. Sure there are lots of people older, but they are OLD. OLDER. And not getting younger.

We can kid ourselves about getting better. But all the medical research (and personal experience) indicates our bodies have begun to go: hair turning gray, eyesight dimming, hearing waning, boobs heading south, waist expanding, butt sagging, knees dragging. Feet flatter. Instant response time increasing. Forgetting things.

To celebrate this dubious milestone, four friends decided on a girls' night out. We all have birthdays in June, July, and August, turning between 60 and 65. Our night out involved dinner and bar-hopping (OK, just two bars, but for us that is two more than usual). We exchanged our summer daywear for fancier attire, combed our hair and put on makeup. And wore heels (not high ones; at our age we would have ended up with blisters and bad backs).

The first stop was dinner at a tapas restaurant, characterized by low lights, high prices, small portions, a fancy ladies’ room, and great food. We drank just enough wine to make us somewhat tipsy, and ate to our heart's content. This celebration was worth throwing diets to the wind.

Exiting the restaurant, we walked out into the summer night shore air. It was refreshing and energizing, encouraging us to walk along the boardwalk and enjoy the evening.

We strolled a couple of long beach blocks to Bar #1, found a table and settled in to enjoy the band and order drinks. But nothing happened. No one came over to our table or seemed to acknowledge our presence.

We listened to the music and the minutes ticked away. After being studiously ignored by the waitresses dressed in skimpy red bikinis, we realized we were not going to get any service. We figured we did not meet the criteria of the hip, young, chic crowd the bar wanted to attract. We gave up, got up and left.

Walking another couple of blocks we decided to try Bar #2. We arrived about 11:05 and were told that after 11:15 the bar waived the $5 cover charge. This was a no-brainer for four long-suffering frugal friends. We waited.

At exactly 11:15 we again entered the outdoor beach bar and found a perfect round table in a corner booth. Swirling white curtains surrounded three sides of the cubicle. We settled in, enjoying the view of dark ocean on one side, the bar and dance floor in front of us and the lighted, bustling boardwalk beyond.

A few minutes later a waitress stops by and informs us that this delightful space is available for rent for $100. We looked at each other, sprinted out of that pretty but expensive booth, found a table among the common people and ordered drinks.

The band of three large (obese by medical standards) Italian brothers sang their hearts out to music we loved, oldies but wonderful goodies. We danced and sang along until the final song. Nursing our drinks, talking and laughing, we were the last ones to leave the bar.

When was the last time four sexty ladies closed a bar!?

And finally it was time to return home. Normally by this time of night we would have been asleep for hours. And one of our group did fall asleep at bar #2; however before we could take her picture she was rudely awakened by bar noise.

Reluctantly we headed home, exhausted but sorry the festivities were over.

There is something about reaching 60 that makes you realize time is limited, when it is no longer smart to keep putting off what we want to do.

Vive the Sexty in the City girls!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

We've Come a Long Way...

On November 5, 1872 Susan B. Anthony was fined $100 for trying to vote for Ulysses S. Grant.

Three years later, on November 5, 1875 Susan B. Anthony was arrested for attempting to vote.

Everyone get out and vote today!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Domestic Not Quite Bliss and Girlfriends

One lazy summer weekend around our birthdays three girlfriends, decades old in age and friendship, took a break from real life and enjoyed a mini-reunion girls’ night out and sleepover.

We showered off the sand and sweat of summer and spent the evening on the rooftop deck of a Greek restaurant, drinking wine and sharing plate after plate of appetizers and desserts. We did not complain, however, temporarily forgetting about fat and calories, savoring the evening and our time together.

It was a beautiful night and we had a great time talking, laughing, eating, drinking, celebrating birthdays and our decades-old friendship.

On the way home, a bit tipsy and not quite clear-thinking, we noticed one alone-at-home husband called, but did not leave a message. We decided whatever the issue it must not be important. The guy probably was lonely and jealous, alone with two dogs and the TV, his wife out carousing all night. Kate called her husband, there was no answer, and figured he was sleeping peacefully and all was well.

Back at Nina's apartment we spent the rest of the night drinking more wine and watching late night TV. (Who were all those young actors, actresses, and celebrities??? The three of us usually went to bed long before late night talk shows began...)

We sang and danced along with a MAMMA MIA DVD equipped with song captions.

Totally exhausted, we finally dropped into bed.

Fast forward to a sunny, late summer morning. Kate again called her husband and discovered all was definitely not well. The two dogs were sick, throwing up all over the bed. In sympathy her husband also vomited. And the air conditioner in their rented apartment conked out. Dog #1 had an appointment with the vet (old, sick dog), and husband wanted wife home to watch dog #2 and wait for the air conditioner repairman.

He was not a happy hub.

So our sleepover ended, cut short by the demands of everyday life, once again back to the reality of sick dogs, disgruntled hubs, smelly, dirty linens and carpet, broken air conditioners - the normal trials and tribulations of life.

Epilogue -
The air conditioner was fixed by noon. The dirty linens were washed and, with the help of Resolve Pet Stains, the carpet cleaned. Unfortunately the vet determined dog #1, 13 years old, was terminally ill. Disgruntled hub, however, was soon feeling better, enjoying his cool apartment, caring wife, two adoring dogs, and life at the beach.