Monthly Archives: November 2011

Preschool is magic…

Sunday thoughts…

It is never too late to be what you might have been.

                                                                            –George Eliot

My morning “concoction”

Long before every magazine cover, talk show host and morning news segment highlighted the benefits of healthy eating, I was a “health nut.”  My family, both nuclear and extended, might say more nut than health but slowly they have come to see the truth in my ways. Especially my husband and his opinion of my “morning concoction” as he prefers to call it.

Now, I have been researching to find the bottom line of what is a truly healthy diet, and what is not, for more than three decades. But he is new to this game. He stared at me with a mixture of awe and disbelief, but some curiosity, when I gave up beef in high school. (Yes, I knew him then.  Blind date. Go figure.)

Consequently, I have never had a McDonald’s burger, a dubious claim to fame but perhaps good enough for a guest spot on Letterman?

Anyway, he stuck with me through the Micky D’s drive through late nights of “I’ll have a Big Mac and she wants a cheeseburger, hold the burger,” the tuna spaghetti he choked down the first week of our marriage and countless other fads and enlightened eating cure-alls I pursued such as spirulina salads, liquid protein diets, cabbage soup colon cleanse and brewer’s yeast in my daily orange juice.

After my third child was born, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia which at that time was a sort of catch all label for an auto immune disorder that causes tight, achy muscles accompanied by painful joints.  I was told to exercise more and try anti-inflammatory medications to relieve the pain.

As most of us know, too much Advil or the prescription version anti-inflammatory medications can wreak havoc on your stomach. Knowing digestive issues were part of the reason I gave up beef and began my quest for a healthier diet in the first place, I turned to the natural alternatives to help my inflammation, boost my immune system and improve my over-all well being.

I settled on four staples in my diet that seemed to provide the most benefits with no side effects:

Natural, 100%, no sweetener added, cherry juice: Cherry juice is a natural anti inflammatory and rich in antioxidants.

Bragg raw apple cider vinegar: Vinegar is high in potassium, boosts the immune system, promotes digestion and relieves skin irritations.

Carlson lemon flavored cod liver oil: Cod liver oil is rich in Omega 3’s that are believed to protect against coronary disease, improve eyesight, increase brain function, and boost the immune system. The oil also soothes joint and skin irritations.

Fortified ground flax seed: Flax is high in fiber, also has Omega 3’s, contains powerful antioxidants and research has shown it can help lower cholesterol.

I started out using them all separately, vinegar in warm water in the morning, cod liver oil at bedtime (grandma did know best!), sprinkled flax seed on cereal and salads and substituted cherry juice for orange juice in the morning. Then as the pace of life got faster and I became lazier about remembering to use them each day, I decided to throw them all in one glass in the AM and down all my wonderful Omega 3’s, antioxidants, anti inflammatories, immune boosters and cholesterol lowerers in one gulp. And it wasn’t so bad.  And I felt better. And as the medical research improved, the brands (I have cited my favorites) became more readily available and my morning concoction was born.

I feel better when I drink it and notice a difference when I don’t. So much so that my husband has jumped on the morning concoction band wagon but substitutes Acai nectar or pomegranate juice for the cherry and adds antioxidant smoothies.

For our test market study of two, most days I am symptom free of any signs of fibromyalgia and my good cholesterol has doubled in the last ten years, so much so that my doctor suspects I have the Methuselah gene. (Remember him? The oldest guy in the Bible?)

But I know it is my concoction. And now my husband does, too.  His eczema he has had on his elbows for as long as he can remember is gone.

Also,  we both look twenty years younger.  Not really. But I am working on that secret elixer next.



Sunday thoughts on the New River Gorge in WV…

“If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come.”
                                                                                                                 –Chinese Proverb


Pack like a butler

As promised yesterday, I will share my handy packing tips I picked up while watching an Internet video of a British butler packing for his “Sir.”  Now why would I be watching such a video, one might ask.  After too many 2 AM scrambles before an 8 AM flight, with a bed full of clothes and a suitcase that looked much like this one, I was desperate.  Living with a man who would happily pack in a manila envelope if his dopp kit would fit, I was finished with his snoring away as I frantically shoved everything I own into an expanded 22″ the night before a trip.  And don’t even mention carry on to me. It sends chills down my spine.

Anyway, after one of these nights where I arrived at the airport bleary-eyed, wet-haired, without a drop of caffeine in my veins, I vowed never again.  Now in my defense, I have come a long way from the days when I packed a 26,” which my son affectionately referred to as my fourth child Hartman, as he lifted all 75 pounds of it into the trunk.  I would often follow with a hanging bag and a hat box. Embarrassing but all true.

So before my next trip, I googled how to pack a suitcase.  Rather than Over Packers Anonymous, up popped a video of a friendly looking Jeeves who had me at, “This is how it is done for Master Brown.” I figured it it was good enough for Master Brown, it would be good enough for me.

This is what he said:

–Try to stick to one or two color families (black/white or brown/ beige) as that minimizes shoe and accessory choices.

–Pack heavy items such as shoes, larger toiletries and books (travel guides and leisure reading) on the bottom of the case, heaviest items toward the spine. (Makes sense as that is where it all falls anyway when the gorillas the airport pick it up and toss it toward the conveyor belt.)

–Cover all bigger items and those you care most about not wrinkling with saved dry cleaning bags or thin tissue.  (Jeeves was so cute with his large squares of  cream-colored tissue paper carefully placed between master’s cricket pants and smoking jacket.)  I stick with dry cleaning bags and they work great.

–Pack pieces within pieces after making a firm base above the heavy bottom items.  For this one, I put my work out clothes and PJ’s on top of the shoe base to make a more even surface and then start layering on that.

–For layering, again start with heaviest items, for instance jeans or a pair of wool slacks and lay them flat on the PJ’s etc. with half of the pant laying across the suitcase lengthwise and half of it out to the left or right.  Place the next item on top of the pants and fold in the other half of the pants on top so the inner item makes a cushion and prevents wrinkling. Continue layering items, sticking in t-shirts and softer items (like underwear) at crease points until you have filled the case.

He actually used the straps I always leave tangled on the bottom of the case to tighten it all at the end and much to my surprise, it prevents shifting and added wrinkles.

And if all of this is just too much trouble, pack like my daughters.  Take ten minutes to grab from your closet, roll it all in balls, stuff it in and wear what you forget on the plane. They always look much cuter and more rested than I do when we arrive at our destination.

I do get some satisfaction that they invariably ask to borrow some little something from me. And of course I always have it.


Fashionista Smashionista

My friends and daughters often ask for my fashion advice.  Whether it is where to get the best white t-shirt in Chicago (Feel Good at or can I wear white to a wedding (officially no), I am their go to resource for clothing questions.  I am always flattered to be asked but I have to admit, since high school when I was nominated “Best Dressed,” it has always stymied me a little that I get this recognition.  My high school nod was based on a wardrobe that I either made on my own Singer or purchased at Montgomery Ward in my hometown of Charleston WV. Since then, I have certainly upped the ante on price tags as my circumstances have allowed but my fashion mojo has always been based on the same philosophy:  Like the Marines, depend on “a few good men.” Buy well-made pieces (whether they come from Bergdorf Goodman, T.J. Maxx or a local consignment shop) you can wear over and over, mix and match, and dress up or dress down.

In addition to my basic soldiers (maintaining the Marine motif) I always throw in a few unique, one of a kind pieces like the skirt pictured above.  I have worn this to several events, with boots, high pumps, low pumps, sandals, sleeveless top, long sleeves and even a surgical bootie after some foot repair.  My favorite comment I have received on this skirt was, “Only you could pull that off.” Rather than take that as, “Who do you think you are, the Pink Swan?” I saw it as my style isn’t completely predictable. My approach is, keep the outfit simple and add a funky necklace or bracelet or do the opposite, wear the funky skirt but everything else should blend into the woodwork.

Basically, my fashion philosophy is:

— Choose timeless pieces and build your wardrobe around them.

— Essential of any wardrobe:  crisp all cotton white blouse, white t-shirt, classic black blazer, good fitting pair of jeans.

— Wow them with your accessories or wow them with one piece of clothing.  Never both.

— The right shoes make or break the outfit.

— Put everything on and take one thing off, except like your blouse, obviously, but sometimes your underwear is optional.

— Buy fancy dresses when you aren’t desperate for one. You will never find one when you are.

— Although Paul McCartney’s new wife broke this cardinal rule last week in People Magazine–no stockings and sandals. Never. Not even nude colored. Not seamless toes. Never. End of subject.

— Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, even if your fitness or body type allows you to go younger, stay age appropriate.

Now you might think after all this advice that  I am a great packer.  Not so. Just because I shop abiding the “few good men” mantra, doesn’t mean that I know which one I will want to go out with when I am staring into an empty suitcase.

Next post I will reveal my tell-all secrets to packing I learned from an English butler I watched on a twenty minute Internet video.  Seriously.  I did that. And I am still late for planes.

The Paris Wife

I have read mixed reviews (e.g. of The Paris Wife but I have to say I am enjoying every page of it.

First of all, consider the title.  If you have chosen to be a wife, why not be one in Paris?!  Now I understand the French can be notoriously rude to Americans, especially if we try to engage them with our horrible version of their delicate language. And of course French husbands are famously unfaithful, can have prominent noses and smell too strongly of Bleu De Channel. But you can’t beat other aspects of the parisian wife lifestyle.  Intimate sidewalk cafes, evening strolls by the Seine, the art museums, the shopping, the adorable tiny cars, wine at lunch, the shopping, wine at teatime, the shopping, the food, the wine, the shopping.  You get the picture.

And beyond the romance of imagining yourself as a Paris wife, this Paris wife is married to Ernest Hemingway! Now here again, he may have been no dreamboat to live with and perhaps a little egotistical and for sure a man’s man who loved more than a few fingers of scotch, beautiful women and indulged an insatiable lust for adventure. Aside from that, the author, Paula McLain, paints an intimate portrait of the world Hemingway and his wife Hadley inhabited in Paris in the early 1920’s. Carousing with the fabled “Lost Generation” in the City of Light, Ernest and Hadley are part of quite a crowd– Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott and Zelda.  I mean, really.  Can you imagine it?  All these young, ambitious, struggling, soon-to-be-famous artists come to life on the page and play out the stories that put us to sleep in eighth grade English but entice and haunt us as adults.

Pick it up.  Especially in hardback.  As you can see it has a great cover, but it’s hard to beat what lies beneath it.




Rules of the Road

I just received this email from my son-in-law, as a warning for beginner bloggers:

Nan, 10 expressions you have to stop saying–like now…..This list was compiled by Oxford University scholars from a database they call the Oxford University Corpus.

1 – At the end of the day
2 – Fairly unique
3 – I personally
4 – At this moment in time
5 – With all due respect
6 – Absolutely
7 – It’s a nightmare
8 – Shouldn’t of
9 – 24/7
10 – It’s not rocket science

I responded:

Absolutely–those are perfect! So far, at the end of the day, I personally think I’m fairly unique in the world of blogs given others write 24/7 about little kids, little problems and with all due respect to their issues, at this point in time, writing about anything more–it’s a nightmare–so maybe I shouldn’t of even tried this at all. But again, it’s not rocket science…

“Bless your heart”

For those unfortunate few born north of the Mason-Dixon, I would like to provide a brief explanation of the expression, “Bless your heart.”  Used most often by southern women, the comment is attached as a suffix to a response given to another party in casual conversation.

Female to female example:
Southern friend: “Do I look fat in these jeans?”
Southern friend response: “No, honey, they look great.  Your last babies were only nine months apart, bless your heart.”
Translation: “Of course you’ll keep those thunder thighs if you don’t stop popping out kids every nine months.  Can’t you keep your legs crossed, bitch?”
Female to male example:
Male airline passenger: “Could I have another vodka/cranberry, with a twist this time?”
Female flight attendant: “Sure, darlin’, did I miss the twist on the last two? You must be thirsty, bless your heart.”
Translation: “You ring that bell one more time and I will have the pilot parachute you out over the next major city. What do you think this is, your neighborhood watering hole?”
So you get the idea. Use it and enjoy. But I’d start with yankees first.  The wiser part of the country is on to it.