Deja Vu All Over Again

Dear Readers,

As luck would have it, my California Idyll was interrupted by a recurrence of nerve pain which came back with a vengeance. Unable to walk, I was forced to return home early, and an MRI revealed I needed more surgery, which took place yesterday.

Unfortunately, spending hours at my computer blogging is not part of my prescribed recovery so I will be silent for a little while. But am already thinking of my return with fresh material.





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Life’s a Beach!

I’m almost two weeks into my vacation in blissful Santa Barbara which seems a planet away from the Siberian-esque winter we have been weathering in New England. Each day, as I walk along the ocean, I witness people running, walking, biking, surfing and paddleboarding as opposed to shivering, shoveling and sliding their way through the icy tundra. AH! That’s me breathing a sigh of relief.

Yesterday,  my husband, having been invited to play golf, surprised me with a welcome suggestion: Why didn’t I spend the day at a luxury Spa just up the road from the golf course? Really?? Twist my arm! A little online research revealed a special Spa Day for locals, which I qualified for by virtue of my 2 week rental. The deal was a 50 minute massage, a glass of bubbly and full usage of the facilities for $125. Sign me up!image

So it was that he drove up a winding tree lined drive and through a massive stone archway and deposited me in the front of the hacienda style edifice that is Bacara, a stunning resort and spa surrounded by lush, tropical foliage. Pristine white stucco with a classic red tile roof, the unimposing facade led into a magnificent two story lobby dominated by a massive chandelier. I was directed down a curving staircase and out to a path that led past the flowering shrub surrounded pool and into the cool confines of the Spa.image

First, I was ushered into the elegant ladies’ locker room and issued a robe and slippers for my treatment. But since I had a couple hours to kill, I slipped into exercise clothes and went downstairs to the extensive fitness area. One large room held spin bikes and Pilates apparatus, another every form of cardio machine and a third, free weights and weight machines. After clocking a half hour on the treadmill and hoisting some light weights for my upper body, I retraced my steps to the front motor court. There I grabbed a chicken wrap and exotic iced tea at Blend, a little panini, smoothie and salad venue where I lunched at a shady bistro table. Next to Blend was a wine bar and tasting room. Made a mental note: drag husband here after golf and “exhausting” spa day for a glass of vino.

Back at the Spa, I checked out the inventory at the boutique which was well stocked with goods from Osea, Fresh and Babor with lots of testers for the irrepressibly curious like me. Then I changed to my robe and went upstairs to the Serenity room, where like-robed ladies waited in front of the fire on comfy chairs and couches for their treatments. I had requested a female masseuse but I was claimed by Matthew who was most definitely male; also cute! young! and hot! But all discomfort melted away in the candlelit room where I was kneaded into submission accompanied by the sound of waves crashing on shore.

When my time was, sadly, up I dragged myself off the table and into my robe and upon leaving the room, found Matthew waiting with a hefty glass of champagne. I think I could get used to this pampering thing!

Since there were many options open to me, I had also booked a waxing session and a young woman named Kathleen whisked some fuzz off my face. “Am I hurting you?” she asked, concerned. “Hardly,” I cracked. “Once you’ve had a Brazilian, everything else is child’s play.”

imageOnce done, I finished my champagne and had a shower and shampoo. Refreshed and blow dried, I sauntered out on the grounds and read my book with a private ocean view. “Life is tough, isn’t it?” my husband texted me. “Yeah, it is.” I wrote back. “But somebody’s gotta do it, and today it’s me!”

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Faking It

After barely surviving the endless snow, brutal cold and icerink like streets wrought by February, I was more than ready for some well earned R&R in warmer climes. We planned several snowles, sunny days in Arizona before taking residence in a beach cottage in gorgeous Santa Barbara, the “American Riviera”, a moniker that is no exaggeration.

But a mostly idle month recuperating from surgery had left my normally fair skin with a pasty pallor. Not just my face; my limbs were blindingly white too. The last thing I wanted was to sport that light deprived skin in the land of bronze and vigorous. I needed a vacation prep  strategy. What to do?

Fake it.

With the help of a few products at the ready, I gave myself a couple pre-flight days to approximate a more robust appearance.
First up, a daily post shower application from head to toe of St.Tropez self tanning oil. An indulgent dry oil, it leaves a streak free golden glow that lasts a week or longer. After a few days of diligent coverage, I had eradicated the winter pale color of my arms, legs and chest. Then I simply re-apply every few days to maintain my color. I also found that if I applied a bit to my face before makeup, it acted as a golden, illuminating primer.

Sun screen is a must, so I am using my favorite discovery of last summer, Australian Gold Sheer Coverage 45 with instant bronzer. Though hard to find (I have to find itonline), it is worth the effort, not only giving me high SPF protection, but an instant and gradually building self tanning action.

Because it takes a LOT of product to transform me from pale face to golden girl, I literally gild the lily with a daily dose of Clarins Radiance Plus Golden Glow Booster. Just 3 drops of this genius product mixed with my night cream or moisturizer keeps me glowing.

I also brought along my Dermalogica Color Corrector. A little squirt of this baby in my light -as -air Maybelline Wonder Fluid-Touch Foundation, and I can match the minimal but all important coverage to my bronzier self.

Lastly, I use my Nars dual blush/bronzer in Orgasm and Laguna to bring color and contour to my cheekbones. A slick of peachy lip color, a touch of gloss and VOILA! It’s time to glow.

* On vacation, I am having photo upload issues. My apologies for lack of picture content.

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From my teens to my forties, my oily skin was an issue. My T-zone was constantly pumping and I never left home without sopping it up with toner and stowing blotting papers to stem the tide while away. Every product I used had to be “oil free”. And then something happened; it was called MENOPAUSE and it was a game changer.

As my hormones took off for parts unknown, two positive things happened: I no longer had to shave my legs and underarms and the oil surplus became an oil shortage. Over the years I have gone from “oily” to “combination” verging on “dry” particularly in winter. Can’t say enough about the challenges of winter 2015! Between the bitter cold and biting wind, my skin has been sapped of moisture, flaking to the point where I am now, shockingly, apply oil to my newly parched skin!

As luck would have it, the skincare industry is having its own little oil glut with oils being the “IT” ingredient of the moment. Every brand is touting the benefits, moisture and glow to be had by using its oil infused products. Kudos to Josie Maran whose argan oil- rich line beat the market trend by years and is one of the best.oils

Here are a few others that I have gotten to know and love:

Origins Clean Energy gentle cleansing oil

I started using this post-laser peel when my skin was ultra-sensitive and it has been a life safer in this frosty weather, gentling emulsifying makeup and leaving me with clean, soft skin.

L’Occitane Shower Oil with almond

Since I discovered it last winter, I will never be without it. Itchy winter body skin? G-o-n-e after using this gem with its yummy scent and gentle lather. I now buy the big refill bag which keeps costs down.

Boots Botanics 100% organic facial oil

A mixture of argan, almond, rose hip and more, Dr Jessica Wu recommends adding a couple of drops to your moisturizer for extra richness. I sometimes rub a couple drops between my fingers and press gently into the skin to soothe my savaged dermis after a wintry blast. I also discovered…

Aura Cacia Rosehip Oil with Vitamin E which is a gentler version of retinol and far more soothing on my sensitive neck than Retin-A. Walgreens and Target carry Boots and Whole Foods, Fairway or the like have rose hip oil.

Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate

With evening primrose, lavender and squalane, this is a soothing and hydrating night serum. I like to alternate it with Retin-A.

L’oreal Sublime Sun Suncreen Oil spf 30

I picked this up last summer and added it to my sun protection arsenal. A non-sticky, non-greasy oil, it gives moist protection with a little healthy sheen and no obnoxious scent.

Vea Olio

This a little cult product that I read about awhile ago and recently found online. It is THE oil used in photo shoots to produce gleam-y limbs. Hey, if it’s good enough for the swim suit models, it’s good enough for my bone dry arms and legs, just about to make their winter debut in California. Perfect on the collar bone and exposed shoulders too for an evening out.

Kerastase Oleo-Relax Anti Frizz

My step-grandaughter, Micaela, she of the glorious mane, turned me onto this. While she has mountains of hair, mine is thin and fine so I have to use restraint. But just a drop  rubbed between the fingers and run through the lengths and ends of my hair produce piece-y, shining strands.

Bumble and Bumble UV Protective Polish

Another light, finishing oil, this is geared to preserving and polishing color treated hair.

Coconut Oil

Although originally used for cooking, it has recently become the star of the oil world, purportedly curing all ills on all body parts including whitening teeth. You have to REALLY like the smell of coconut, but it is pretty much one stop shopping if you want one product that can cover a multitude of tasks. Cheap thrills, indeed!

Some of those listed by Pop Sugar:

Makeup remover

Breath freshener (seriously, you have to gargle with it for 20 minutes. I don’t think I could even gargle Champagne for 20 minutes!)

Body cream

Cuticle oil

Lip balm

Stretch mark remover

Shave cream

Body oil

Deep conditioner

Tame hair frizz

And my favorite, Body Exfoliant.

Mix ½ cup coconut oil with a handful of Kosher salt or sugar to rid yourself of flaky, dead skin while leaving moisture behind.

Coconut oil traditionally came solid in a jar but now with all the hoopla, you can buy it in liquid form too.

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It is Better to Look Good than to Feel Good!

Thank you, Billy Crystal, for that immortal line! And how often I have used it. Never more than this past month, fresh from spinal surgery, but pumped full of pain killers, when I posted a photo on Facebook. “You look so good for just having surgery!” was the general reaction.

Hours after surgery and flying high

Hours after surgery and flying high

Surgery was, for me, a last resort after not months, but years of ineffective treatment and lack of a real diagnosis. Was it sciatica? Piriformis syndrome? A battered joint? Arthritis of the facet joints? By 2014 it had progressed to the point that every step triggered pain in my lower back and down my legs. One by one, I had to give up my physical activities. Ballet barre was out; too much squatting and back leg lifts. Next to go was Body Pump, deemed as too stressful for my spine and joints. Even well practiced Pilates moves were too much. I was reduced to a mat core class as the only thing that would strengthen rather than irritate my back.
Believe me, I left no stone unturned. First there were guided injections. Then a course of physical therapy, followed by acupuncture and more injections. More PT and chiropractic adjustments brought no relief. A spinal pain specialist then gave me an epidural, more guided injections and a rhizotomy to de-sensitize the nerve causing pain, none of which worked. After more MRIs and x-rays, spinal stenosis was the final diagnosis. The narrowing of the open spaces within the spine, stenosis is bony growth that puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves that travel through the lumbar spine. A comparison of my MRIs showed that it was advancing, and rapidly. Finally, out of options, I agreed to a laminotomy, an orthopedic neurosurgical procedure that removes part of the vertebral arch to decompress the spinal cord and nerve root.
The day after surgery I was not so sanguine. IV gone, I was staggered by the intense pain. One day after surgery, I was home and humbled. Vicodan didn’t touch it. Neither did Percocet. By the time I gave up on Dilaudid, a serious narcotic, as ineffective, I decided to go cold turkey since it made no difference. Walking was my prescription and 4-5 hours a day encased in a corset- like back brace. The doctor dictated 10 minutes, twice a day to start, building to an hour by the time he did follow up 3 weeks hence. No driving, no sex. I assumed no sex while driving was a given.
Six excruciating days after going under the knife, it all turned around and by a week post –op (my birthday) I was well enough to go out and party with friends. Amazing! But, wait for it….. a few days later I slipped on the ice and fell causing a major relapse and wiping out all the progress I had made. So discouraging, it dumped me into a major depression. Had it all been for nothing? Was I back to square one?

The doctor prescribed a powerful steroid to calm the inflammation but after the six day course it was, if anything, worse.
The minute I got up from a sitting or supine position, any weight on my left foot triggered searing pain up my leg and across my sacrum. The day I was to start PT the technician backed away saying my pain was too acute for any manipulation. “I think you have a hot nerve root,” he decided. “Best get an MRI and see what is happening.” I was fortunate to get an immediate response from my surgeon and had an MRI that afternoon but it showed nothing. I was looking for a source and a fix but it wasn’t there. The doctor then sent me back to my spinal pain guru for a nerve root block. I was seriously at the end of my unraveling mental rope, not prepared for a world of pain. But after my directive to “Hit me with your best shot, doc!” he did nail the right spot and within 24 hours, I was pain free. Just…like…that.
To go from constant pain to complete relief is a feeling too euphoric to adequately describe. As long as it lasts, I am incredibly grateful to feel like myself again. You can double that for my husband!
The real truth here is that it is IMMEASURABLY better to feel good than to look good. As we get older, we start to realize the sagacity of the adage “When you have your health, you have everything. When you do not, nothing else matters at all.” As blithely as I glided through my 30’s, 40’s and even 50’s, when my friends started to falter from wear and tear, replacing their joints like new valves, I got it. And when they failed in their fight with a menu of cancers, COPD, Alzheimers and more, I was properly sobered to the new reality of being over 50. Life is short; sometimes much shorter than we anticipate. The way to enjoy it to the hilt is to face it strong in body and in mind. The greatest wealth, acclaim or success is meaningless in comparison to a healthy body and a lucid mind.
So take care of yourself. Seek help when you need it. Delay could be deadly. Sharpen your mind by challenging it at every opportunity. And enjoy each day that you feel vital and sharp. For as long as it lasts.

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Beauty Promotion (Finally) Comes of Age

For years I’ve scoffed at the idiocy of using 20-something models to promote anti-aging products. The whole thing smacks of oxymoron-ism, if there is such a word. But lately something has happened to the glossy magazine ads and TV commercials. The cosmetics moguls are, at last, choosing age appropriate women to hawk their products, I mean, represent their companies. “Brand Ambassador” is the preferred term and these contracts are lucrative and lust- worthy. Let those youngsters wait their turn!

The advertising industry appears to be belatedly waking up to the fact that the over 50’s are a demographic jackpot more than 100 million strong and a force to be reckoned with. The revenue of the U.S. cosmetics industry alone is on track to generate over $60 billion this year and an estimated $250 billion worldwide. That’s a LOT of lipstick!

The 50+ demographic is growing daily and by 2017, roughly half the US population will be part of this not so exclusive club while controlling 70% of the disposable income. So when it comes to advertising strategy, it’s ignorant, no suicidal, not to market to those with the money. The baby boomers and those right behind them are redefining what it means to be, not old, but older. And we want women we can relate to representing those skincare and beauty products that will allow us to continue to look beautiful at every age. We’re wise enough to know that no cosmetic or cream is going to make us look like we’re pushing 25 so why not use someone realistic as role model?

The long running Andie MacDowell

The long running Andie MacDowell

L’oreal reigns as the most savvy of companies when it comes to featuring grown women. Andie MacDowell has been representing the brand in some format for over 25 years! That’s a lifetime for a brand representative as they are generally swapped out with the speed of a revolving door. Now 56, we have seen her age, and beautifully, in their ads. Clearly, they have found that SHE is “worth it.” Last year L’oreal also adopted a campaign for nude lipstick, and to illustrate the variations in what nude can be, assembled a gorgeous assortment of  multi cultural actresses including 54 year old Julianne Moore (THIS CLOSE to an Oscar) and the apparently ageless Jane Fonda, 77, who continues to score a string of TV and movie roles.

Dame Helen Mirren

Dame Helen Mirren

The newest star to hit the cosmetic contract mother lode is Helen Mirren who turns 70 this year. L’oreal hired her after their extensive research showed her to be appealing and admired by most consumers. As a role model, she exemplifies aging with grace, intelligence, class and sass.

Nars is next in line, jumping on board the trend by featuring Charlotte Rampling, still hauntingly lovely at 68 with the mercurial Tilda Swinton , 53, following in her wake later this year. Tilda is widely admired beyond her acting for being fearless in her fashion choices and has also been featured in ads for Pomelatto jewelry where she is stunningly styled.

Tilda, the architectural wonder

Tilda, the architectural wonder

A few years ago Revlon stuck a toe in the water by featuring now 68 year old Susan Sarandon and Julianne Moore but now sticks to a stable of much younger women. Shame on you Revlon! If you want to appeal to the anti-aging obsessed group, Emma Stone is not going to do it for you.

In the fashion realm, Marc Jacobs has put his money behind 65 year old Jessica Lange, who has  made a splash in his arty magazine ad as well as on TV in American Horror Story to award winning affect. It is inspiring to see women over 50 still in demand on the small tube and the big screen (Meryl Streep, 65, anyone?)and killing it on the red carpet. Meryl is still beautiful as well as insanely talented but needs a stylist, and badly!

As unlikely as it seems, Iris Apfel and Joan Didion have been featured  in ads by MAC and Celine, respectively. What is the message here? I think it is that talent, intellect and style are ageless. Even such grey eminences as the late Maya Angelou, Willie Nelson and Dos Equis’ most interesting man in the world have been called into service to appeal to older buyers of beer, shoes and haberdashery. Rather than being written off after 50, the Mick Jaggers, Billy Joels and Tony Bennets  of the world are still in demand and relevant.

The author, Joan Didion

The author, Joan Didion

With 50 increasingly viewed as the midpoint of life, we are just hitting our stride. We now have, for the most part, the time and the money to stay in the game of life, traveling, dining, seeking entertainment and adventure so long as we are physically able.

Oh yeah, and putting on our mascara first.


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Kick Start, part 2


One of the toughest parts of losing weight is holding onto the loss. It is oh, so easy to slip back into your normal eating pattern and see the pounds creep back on. So this post is dedicated to holding the line on weight gain, in other words, maintaining your loss.

It is frequently said that the 80/20 rule applies to most diets: adhere to the program 80% of the time and allow yourself to go wild 20% of the time. This diet is so specific that I would probably apply a 90/10 rule to book

But I have found it amazingly easy to maintain this eating plan with some diligence. The app for The Fast Metabolism Diet is very helpful. It’ll set you back $2.99 but well worth the cost when you are at the grocery trying to remember what to eat on Phase 1,2 or 3, or at a restaurant where temptation lies everywhere. You can utilize it for menu planning, food lists, water imbibing reminders and more.

The author, Haylie Pomroy offers several suggestions for how to maintain your loss after reaching your goal without blowing the whole enterprise.

  • You can repeat the 28 day diet once a quarter.
  • You can repeat the diet once or twice a year as needed.
  • You can utilize the diet on the first week of every month.
  • You can do Phase 1 on Monday, Phase 2 on Tuesday and Phase 3 the rest of the week. The idea is to keep your metabolism fired up for life!
  • Continue to drink water, ½ your weight in ounces per day.
  • Continue to eat 3 meals and 2 snacks a day. Keep appropriate snacks in baggies so you can throw them into your handbag or car.
  • Eat seasonal food.
  • Always eat within 30 minutes of waking to stoke your furnace.
  • Eat fruit before a workout and protein after.
  • Avoid fake food and read labels. “Sugar free” usually means it contains corn syrup or sugar substitute other than Stevia, the only one recommended.
  • Keep avoiding caffeine, gluten, corn, soy, sugar, alcohol and processed food. I know, alcohol is the tough one!
  • Do enjoy holidays but use the plan as a guideline for eating. Thanksgiving can still include turkey, green vegetable, sweet potato and pumpkin pie if you do it right.
  • Choose organic wine or top-shelf (clear) liquors and drink 8 oz. water for every drink.
  • Balance alcohol with animal protein.
  • Continue to exercise at least 3 times a week, rotating fat burning (cardio), muscle building (weight training) and relaxing/healing (yoga, meditation or massage). The more muscle you build, the more fat you will burn, that’s why men lose weight easier than we do. So pump up, even if it’s light food

I admit, I have been charting my own course for meals. But now that I have the hang of it, I plan to try some of the recipes Pomroy includes in her book.

Eating out is, admittedly, a mine field so prepare yourself mentally before you go. Scope the menu on line and make your choices ahead of time to fit the phase you are in.  In an effort to stay on the straight and narrow, I have even surreptitiously snuck a piece of sprouted bread into a restaurant and once a tiny container of quinoa that I slipped onto my plate with my protein. I have no shame!

When everyone is having drinks, have a seltzer with fresh lime along side that glass of cabernet. Finish dinner with a cup of green tea or decaf coffee to make sure you feel satiated while others are eating dessert (but do allow yourself one taste!)

Be strategic before a big party or event. Eat protein every two hours all day and include veggies as on Phase 2. This helps to stabilize your blood sugar so the potential onslaught of alcohol and sugars won’t sabotage you. It will also assure that you won’t arrive hungry and binge as well as induce fat burning to offset your intake. This is not punishment. You should enjoy yourself.

Finally, I have stopped thinking of The Fast Metabolism Diet as a “diet” and adopted the principles as an eating plan I can live with. My reward is in the mirror as well as on the scale.

If you have been fighting your dwindling metabolism like I have, give it a try and if you do, share your experience. I would love to know if this is the key to your weight loss success.

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