Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New ... Something, Anything!!


Well, 2009 is just a few hours away from being history -- thank god, because, frankly, it was a pretty sucky year all around.

Come to think of it, I'll be glad to see the entire decade ( the "Aughts"? ... the "Zeros"? We never DID come up with a descriptor!) go bye-bye. And I'm hardly alone. In fact, Time magazine had a recent cover story titled "The Decade from Hell" -- and it nailed the problems and ills we've both encountered and instigated as a me-first, short-sighted, consumer-capitalist society. From the "Millennial panic" to 9/11 to Iraq to Enron to the burst-bubble housing market to the disintegration of millions of jobs ... the hits just kept right on coming!

Sigh ...

So, I for one, am only to glad to bid adieu to the "Zeros" (much more fitting, if you ask me!). I'll be celebrating at a small but fancy (gourmet meal on fine china!) party with dear friends and strangers alike -- a perfect combo for greeting 2010! May you have a safe and happy celebration of your own.

Happy New Year; happy New Decade. Let's hope the "Teens" turn things around -- for all of us!!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

How the Grinch stole Christmas-card sending



Spotted a report today in USA Today that confirms what I already suspected: Fewer people are mailing Christmas cards this year, thanks to economic and personal factors.

According to the story: "The U.S. Postal Service reported an 11% decline in cancellations of first-class cards and letters Dec. 1-13 — when most Americans mail holiday cards — compared to 2008. The post office expects to deliver 16.6 billion cards, letters and packages between Thanksgiving and Dec. 24, down from 19 billion last year, said spokesman Michael Woods."

And the evidence is apparent in my own mailbox: The cards I've received this year are a trickle compared to years past. Now, to be fair, I myself haven't been sending out cards recently, what with the financial and time challenges I have faced these past couple of years.

Instead, I've chosen to put together an e-card and send my sincere holiday wishes to loved ones via cyberspace. The sentiments are still the same; the mode of communication is just different.

This option is a win-win, in several ways: Saves time, saves stamps, AND saves the planet.
Ho-ho-ho, indeed!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Holiday date ideas

Promised that I'd update on my new endeavors.

So, here's a link to my first blog for AOL Personals -- eight ideas for a great holiday date (I coined the word "holidate" -- corny, but cute, right?) Check it out for some ideas on fun and fitting things to do with your significant other during this festive holiday season!

Oh, and as a bonus, here's one I thought of after I'd posted the article:

9. Take a drive together to check out the holiday lights in local communities; there are some crazy, crazy displays out there, with some neighborhoods seemingly ablaze enough to be seen from space! Afterward, stop at a local cafe for some dessert, coffee, and sharing of your own individual holiday memories.

More links and updates to come; stay tuned!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Making it as a blogger

I've been writing for Examiner.com for almost six months now, and it's been a good-bad-news kind of effort. The good news: It has primed my writing muscles again and gotten me back into the regular-writing habit. Bad news: It hasn't exactly paid the bills.

Examiner, as you might have heard, is one of those "content mill" sites where the business model is quantity over quality; they're in an extremely aggressive expansion mode, adding markets and writers as fast as they can, without much concern over how good the writers are. Thus, there's a lot of pure crap and drivel on Examiner -- articles that are poorly written, not researched, not cited, and/or even downright plagiarized.

This gives the rest of us legitimate Examiners a really bad name. And it also drives down the page views for individual Examiners, especially those Examiners who cover basically the same "beat." (Though, not surprisingly, the execs at the company argue the exact opposite outcome -- more page views overall, more page view for everyone!!)

And, as you might have suspected, this blog -- Middle-Age Sexy -- hasn't paid me one dime so far for my efforts. It's been a labor of love, one I've neglected of late in favor of writing for a site where I can make at least something.

Happily, these efforts have finally borne fruit in the form of two Internet-writing gigs that actually pay me a decent wage!

First, I've joined a small, locally-based, start-up Internet site, doing SEO and PR writing. I'm in on the ground floor of something that could turn out to be great; but regardless, I'm learning invaluable skills.

And second, I've become a lead blogger for a new blog at AOL personals geared toward Boomer and senior singles. The blog is still in its formative stages, and we haven't quite settled on a name for it, but I'm really excited about this new gig! Stay tuned for details.

Meanwhile, I'll still continue to contribute blogs on this site and articles for Examiner; just not quite so many (sorry -- gotta prioritize!).

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I went to a garlic party ...

... to reminisce with some old friends ... and of course gorge on garlic!

The party concept is quite simple: Everyone brings a garlic-loaded dish, and a bottle of wine or other beverage, to share with like-minded garlicophiles. After we converse and fill our bellies, the music is cranked up and we hit the dance floor. It's a wonderful night, something I greatly look forward to every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

This party has become somewhat of a local legend during its 30 years of existence; it has even been featured in local newspaper stories. It attracts somewhere between 60 and 140 guests, depending on the year, the weather, etc. I went to my first one in 1988, when I was a student in a master's-level class taught by the host, and I've been going pretty much ever since, missing only about three or four in the past 21 years.

Alas, the 30th annual Garlic Party was the last one. The hosts are, understandably, tired ... of all the set-up and break-down labor ... of being committed for the weekend before Thanksgiving each and every year ... of being tied down to Boca Raton (they're retired and plan on doing some extensive traveling) .

Luckily, my good friend Cori, who happens to live just a few doors away from the hosts, has volunteered to carry on the tradition, and maybe even morph it a bit into a newer version. It will be different, for sure. But the date will be the same. And it's already penciled in on my 2010 calendar.

Long live the Garlic Party!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Latest mammography recommendation puts me in a quandary

Recent studies on mammograms have been questioning their efficacy and necessity, so it's not much of a surprise to see the latest recommendation by a governmental task force that most women should only get screened every two years starting at age 50.

Already, there is much controversy about this report, along with suspicion that it's just a secret plot to hold down health-care costs at the expense of middle-aged and senior women. But there is also much evidence that says irradiating women regularly, and prescribing treatment for even the slightest signs of irregularity, are much more harmful to women overall.

I fall more into the second camp -- the one that favors fewer mammos, rather than more frequent ones. However, I dutifully followed the recommendations, and have been getting yearly or biannual screenings from the age of 40, even though there's no breast-cancer history in my family.

And then recently, there were signs of calcification in my right breast that warranted more detailed follow-up, which caused three rounds of X-rays in the past year (last November, this January and July) -- which I've blogged about here and here and here. I'm supposed to be going back again this month (November.)

And that puts me in a serious quandary. My doctors are just doing their job by being cautious. But I really hate the whole process, and the fact that I, like so many other women, am being needlessly put though this process of alarm-and-worry-and-wait-and-see.

Frankly, it sucks.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

An enlightening night of yoga and camaraderie

So, for my gig as the West Palm Beach Health and Happiness Examiner, I got hold of a screener copy of a new documentary called Enlighten Up! A Skeptic's Journey into the World of Yoga, which comes out today (Nov. 10) on DVD. I planned to, and did, review the film for the Examiner site.

A week or so ago, I mentioned the screener during a yoga class, inquiring whether anyone might want to join me when I viewed it. And before I knew it, my suggestion had morphed into a special night of yoga at my fitness studio, Get Fit! in Boynton Beach.

Last night (Nov. 9), we started with a one-hour yoga class taught by renowned yoga teacher Ken Schwartz, then enjoyed a delicious potluck dinner, followed by the screening. About 16 people showed up for one or more of these activities; I think Get Fit! owner Christine King was thrilled by the turnout -- and by the enthusiastic response to the film, which most of us gave about 4 (out of 5) stars to.

Not only is Enlighten Up! entertaining, amusing and insightful, but it also provides the perfect opportunity to organize a similar get-together for yourself! You can read my review here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I've got the Halloween ho-hums


Many of my friends rank Halloween as tops on their holiday list: the parties, the costumes, the candy and goodies, the chance to be someone (or something!) else for a night.

But for some reason, I've always been blase about this holiday. I can remember one year, at about age 10, I procrastinated so long on my Halloween costume that my exasperated mom literally cut two holes in a sheet and sent me out trick-or-treating as a ghost. (Not my favorite costume, btw!)

In my 20s, my sister lived close by (in Wellington), and she and her roomies always threw kick-ass parties -- so that was a fun period. But then, as I got older and friends married and had kids, they became wrapped up in that whole parenting experience of the holiday, while I sat on the sidelines and watched.

Gradually, I grew less interested in going through the bother of Halloween, so I stayed home and passed out candy to the neighborhood kids. Then last year, my Halloween was a lot of fun, because the ex and I went as a couple to a great party.

Now, however, it's back to the ho-hums. Since Halloween falls on a Saturday this year, I do have several opportunities for having a scarily good time. I'll probably choose the West Palm Beach option: a private party followed by Moonfest, the free street festival on Clematis Street. I even found a costume that I don't hate. (Hint: I'm a prisoner of love.)

Who knows, maybe this year will be my best Fright Night ever, and I'll become a convert from the Halloween ho-hums to the Halloween happies!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Here come the waves!

Well, my summer of snorkeling is over: The days of calm, clear water have given way to the fall/winter seasonal pattern of colder, murkier water, and bigger waves.

So, it's time to put away the snorkel gear ... and get out the boogie board!

Went to the beach today (don't hate me cuz I live in paradise, OK?!?), and it was a gorgeous day -- cool breeze, blue sky with puffy white clouds -- with small, perfectly formed waves rolling gently and regularly onto the shore. So, I spent about a half hour having a blast in the water, riding wave after wave almost up to the shoreline.

What a way to start a new "season"!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The celibacy diet


What do Corn Flakes, mint, licorice and saltpeter have in common? They are among 11 foods that most kill your sex drive, according to a hilarious blog I found called 11points.

Here's the reasoning:
Corn Flakes: developed by anti-sex and -masturbation crusader John Harvey Kellogg to be a bland, non-passion-arousing food.
mint: contains menthol, known in large quantities to kill the libido.
licorice: again with the libido-killing effect in large quantities.
saltpeter or potassium nitrate: long thought to be an anaphrodisiac.

The others on the list:
soy and cilantro, libido-tamers that are both eaten by monks (to, uhh, help with that whole celibacy thing, perhaps?); gin and tonics, a combo of testosterone-quashing quinine and hard-on-killing alcohol; tuna noodle casserole, and also okra -- both of whose taste and texture alone are enough to kill the "mood" for an entire evening!; graham crackers and granola, developed and marketed by moral crusaders Reverend Sylvester Graham and Kellogg, respectively (are we sensing a pattern here?).

For more details, and a really good laugh, check out the original blog. Meanwhile, if you want to get lucky tonight, you might be well advised to leave these foods off your menu today!

Monday, October 12, 2009

An infant too obese to insure? Only in America!

Saw this news item from the Denver Post, and I just HAD to comment. I mean, it's ridiculous! Seems a 4-month-old boy, who weighs a chubby 17 pounds but is otherwise healthy, was denied insurance coverage because, the insurance company says, he has a pre-existing condition: Obesity. Needless to say, his parents were confounded.
Any wonder our health-care system is so unhealthy? For more details, plus more of my take on this issue, please see my post at Examiner .com.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A beauty pageant for fake beauty!

You know we're reaching the point of no return in our youth- and beauty-obsessed society when an entire beauty pageant is created for plastic surgery patients! Yes, you read this right: It happened Friday (Oct. 9) at the Miss Plastic Hungary 2009 in Budapest.

I've written more extensively about this on my Examiner page, so check it out!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The secret to longevity: lots of sex, and lots of grapefruit?


Does the secret to longevity lie in grapefruit juice -- and man juice? A new study suggest so! That's because both grapefruit and human sperm contain high levels of a chemical compound called spermidine, which might be the secret weapon in helping us live longer!

For more details, check out my story on Examiner.com.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Another year older ...

And hopefully wiser ...

I turned 53 five days ago. In this past year, my life has certainly changed in ways, and stayed much the same in others. I've landed and lost jobs; I've seen my family remain close while undergoing individual trials and tribulations; I've become single again and returned to the dating world; I've gained new friends while watching others drift out of my life; and I've stayed in shape by adding new and exciting activities to the mix.

But guess what? Maybe I'm not much wiser, because what I wrote a year ago (Happy Birthday to me, Oct. 1 2008) still basically holds true, so I'm just going to repeat it here:

Every day of my life has led me to this exact place and time, just as it should be. The true measure of success is how many loved ones you gather, not how much wealth. You get what you give. And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make (credit: The Beatles).

Here's to the next part of the journey ...

Below is a picture of me, winning a pair of one-day cruise
tickets at a recent fund-raising event at Cheers in
Fort Lauderdale. Nice birthday present!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

My newest passion

As a fitness buff, I incorporate a workout into my life at least four times a week. I like to do a variety of things (e.g., functional training, bicycling, walking and swimming). However, one thing I've never embraced on a regular basis has been yoga. Oh, I've dabbled over the years, taking the occasional class and following a yoga workout tape at home now and then. But, for one reason or another -- usually scheduling or monetary -- I've never fully committed to the yoga life.

Until this past week, that is, when a golden opportunity to dive into yoga presented itself -- and I grabbed it.

The owner of my fitness studio is making over her business -- from a circuit-based, functional training studio, to a class-based system (pilates, yoga, functional training, beach boot camp, etc.).
The studio has been offering free classes to get us used to the change -- so I decided to take as many of the yoga classes as I could. I went Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

In just one short week, I'm hooked! So, I plan to finish up my one-year membership at the studio, taking two to three yoga classes per week (plus others here and there as well).

My yoga teacher, Ken, says that the practice of yoga makes you better from the inside out -- helping with everything from your energy to your moods to your appearance to your sex life.

Can't wait!!!!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The yard-sale item that cost $100,000 ... to the seller!


Yard sales: That great American tradition where junk-unloaders and bargain-hunters come together in an orgy of wheeling and dealing. Everyone's a winner: The cash-seeking homeowner who's looking to reclaim room in the garage or the closets; the frugal shopper who doesn't mind using second-hand goods; and the landfills, which stay just a tad emptier thanks to this process of practical recycling.

But, wait a minute! The Consumer Product Safety Commission, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to burden your Average Joe yard salesman with the responsibility of ensuring that all the items in that jumble of goods are completely safe! This new rule, called the "Resale Roundup," sets limits on lead in children's products and makes it illegal to sell any items that don't meet those limits or have been recalled for any other reason. And that includes resales!

Quotes a recent story by Fox News: "'Those who resell recalled children's products are not only breaking the law, they are putting children's lives at risk,' said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. 'Resale stores should make safety their business and check for recalled products and hazards to children.'"

In order to comply, stores, flea markets, charities and individuals selling used goods — in person or online — are expected to consult the commission's 24-page Handbook for Resale Stores and Product Resellers and its Web site for a breakdown of what they can't sell. If they're caught selling a forbidden item, they could be whacked with a fine of $100,000 -- per infraction!

Gulp! So before you put a $5 price sticker on, say, that Hasbro Easy Bake Oven, or that Graco Jump 'n Jive Doorway Jumper or that Black & Decker Thermal Coffeemaker, you'd better think twice!

Instead, these items will be headed to a landfill near you. ... Yeah, that's a better alternative!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The rising cost of living


Don't know about you, but I'm being crushed by the alarming increase in my monthly bills -- everything from my taxes and insurance, to utilities, to cable and phone, to groceries. Every time we turn around, it seems, some "provider" is raising its rates or petitioning the state of Florida to be able to do so (hello, FPL -- can you say unmitigated greed?!?). This, combined with the continuing frustration over finding steady employment, has caused a vague sense of dread for me every time I approach my mailbox.

The price inflation is most evident in my weekly grocery bill, which has risen steadily over the years and now sits at about $80-$100 per week just for me. Every time I look, some staple that I buy has gone up -- week by week by week, it seems.

And yet, a story today in the Washington Post reports that grocery chains have actually been lowering prices this past year or so, sometimes even below their cost point. The story says that a steep decline in commodity prices (such as corn) has "helped drive down the grocery consumer price index, which measures what shoppers pay at stores, about 2.5 percent since its peak in November, according to new data released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While there was an upward blip in energy prices that drove the wider consumer price index up 0.4 percent in August, over the past 12 months overall consumer prices have fallen 1.5 percent. "

Hmmm ... well, tell THAT to my mailbox!!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Watching your parents age, helplessly


Just returned from a trip to visit my mom and stepdad, but it wasn't exactly a "vacation."

That's because, in addition to facing financial difficulties that will be causing them to have to move within the next few months, they are also suffering from various health problems, ranging from the mild and manageable (my mom) to the severe and restricting (my stepdad.)

So, I spent the better part of five days on household projects to help Mom cull through and get rid of everything from some of their book collection (which consists of hundreds of books!), to consignable clothing items (hey, that's a cute dress! Maybe you could get some money for it!), to long-outdated canned and jarred foods in the pantry (umm, care for some peas from 2001? Didn't think so!).

I also watched my mother deal with Peter's physical ailments, which have made him all but sedentary and include diabetes, poor eyesight, poor hearing, high blood pressure, poor circulation, and wounds on his feet that won't heal. This last issue has become so severe that he recently had an operation to remove about 1/4 of his foot, in an attempt to save the foot. So, Mom has to change the dressing on the wound (she made me take a peek -- ick! No way could I ever be a nurse!), and she also was learning how to administer twice-daily doses of a super-antibiotic he was prescribed.

Watching Mom have to wait on Peter hand-and-foot was especially tough, for as much as I felt sorry for the guy -- his quality of life has pretty much evaporated in the past couple of years -- I was also angry and resentful that it has come to this. For, though some of his health problems are age-related (he is 76), a great deal of them are direct results of poor lifestyle choices he made throughout his life. Such as: smoking cigarettes (which he did not give up for good until about five years ago, after the doctor scared the crap out of him by threatening to have to cut off his leg if he didn't quit), exercising sporadically (at one point, however, he did play tennis and golf regularly), and gorging himself on sweets such as sugary sodas and candies, junk foods such as chips and cookies, and carb-loaded foods such as pastas and breads, thus gaining about 40 pounds -- mostly in the gut.

And the strain of it is getting to Mom, who has developed her own health issues such as elevated blood pressure and low B-12 levels, and is looking decidedly older by the day. At 76, she is still relatively healthy, thank God, but the stress is taking a toll that is indeed alarming.

For, if she keels over dead from the burden of running their life and being his caregiver, lord know I don't want to have to care for him (I'd kill him in about a day!).

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Obama haters, you've really gone off the deep end!

(Note: I just posted this on my Examiner page; but I thought it was worth repeating here):

Next Tuesday (Sept. 8), the day after the U.S. has celebrated the labors of its citizens with a national holiday, President Barack Obama plans to deliver a speech to America's schoolchildren.

By all reports, this national address is intended to deliver a message to these kids to stay in school, to study diligently, and to be kind and respectful to one another, their teachers and their parents -- basically, to be good, responsible citizens!

Now, it should be easy to extrapolate from this message another, underlying message: That earning an education, and that becoming a responsible young citizen, will ultimately give you choices in life -- which will help you become a responsible and productive adult citizen who contributes to the labors of society, thus making you less likely to need to rely on the welfare state for survival.

And you'd think that members of the Conservative party would be doing somersaults over our president bearing such a message.

But, N-O-O-O-O!!! Some have become so outraged over Obama's intentions to "indoctrinate America's children to his socialist agenda" by "using our children as tools to spread liberal propaganda" (these words were actually penned by Florida GOP leader Jim Greer!), that they have called for a ban or boycott on the speech in local schools.(So, there goes the basic American principle of free speech, right out the window!).

Now, I get that our country has become so divided, so filled with Obama haters, that anything he does is bound to attract a boatload of outrage and moral indignation.

But -- just for the sake of argument -- let's say that Obama does use this opportunity to try to brainwash all those little minds. Let's say his speech is loaded with messages about, oh, the importance of a national health-care plan, or the need for a more fairly distributed tax system. Then, haters, here's an idea for you: Why don't you use the opportunity to have a dialogue with your children about it? Why don't you use it as a way to put forth your own ideas and beliefs while allowing for the free exchange of ideas and opinions? You might even find that it will engage their minds in ways not previously explored. And, surprise! you might both learn something from the experience!

So, the way I see it, Obama's speech is a win-win situation for everyone, not something to be suspicious, fearful or outraged about!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

From teacher ... to porn star


You know we're in a really bad economy when a healthy, attractive, 31-year-old Florida teacher can't get a job and so turns to appearing in porn films to make a living.

I mean, where the hell is a healthy 52-year-old supposed to find work if she's unemployed? Laundering the bedsheets after the scene is filmed? (Don't answer that -- it was rhetorical question!)

Now, to be fair, there's more to the teacher's story. Her name is Tiffany Shepherd, she taught biology at Port St. Lucie High School, and she brough a rainstorm of shit down on her head back in April when she let herself be photographed in a teensy-weensy bikini while moonlighting as a hostess on a fishing charter (to make ends meet as a single mom, apparently). And, surprise! -- the photos surfaced, the prudes at the school balked, and she was fired (though the school claimed that it was due to unexcused absences -- natch!).

Shepherd says she sent out 2,500 resumes – some even to prisons – without landing a new teaching job. Then, she lost custody of two of her three kids to her ex-husband. So, in desperation, she turned to Internet porn under the acting name Leah Lust, and making videos such as My First Sex Teacher (ugh! -- oh, and can you say ironic?).

This is all very, very sad -- for reasons too numerous to count.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

How Ted Kennedy could have been "Right" instead of "Left"!


Speaking of the Green Bay Packers:

Amid all the news stories, remembrances and mourning for Senator Ted Kennedy, who died Aug. 25 of brain cancer at age 77, came this little bit of his biography that I never knew: He was once offered a spot with the Packers!

According to info on the Senate.gov site, the young stud was quite the football player during the years he attended Harvard:

"On November 20, 1955, in a 21-7 defeat to Yale, Harvard's lone score came on a low five-yard pass that was snared by No. 88, the Senior Right End Ted Kennedy. Just one month earlier, Kennedy's promise on the football field had caught the notice of Green Bay Packer Head Coach Lisle Blackbourn. "You have been very highly recommended to us by a number of coaches in your area and also by our talent scouts as a possible Pro Prospect," Blackbourn wrote to the young Right End. Kennedy declined the offer, saying he was flattered, but that he had plans to attend law school and to 'go into another contact sport, politics'.
(And we all know how that decision turned out! )

Hmmm ... you think that maybe the ultra-liberal politician was already prescient enough to be bothered by the fact that, if he accepted such an offer, his career accomplishments would bear the adjective "Right" instead of "Left"?!?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Favre, Packers, and the nature of competition

As a defacto fan of the Green Bay Packers (Mom was from Green Bay), I have followed the rocky career path of famed quarterback Brett Favre over the past couple of years, since he was traded to the New York Jets in 2008 -- after much back-and-forth drama and finger-pointing with Packer management over Favre's retirement, change of mind, forced ouster, etc.

His one-year stint with the Jets garnered just so-so results (they ended the season with a 9-7 record, but did not make the playoffs) and much criticism over his increasing penchant for throwing interceptions (he currently owns the record, at 310 total for his career).

After that one-season run, Favre again announced his intentions to retire. That was it, I sighed: no more Brett drama to dominate the news pages and sports blogs, just good, old-fashioned game play.

But retirement, apparently, doesn't sit well with the almost-40-year-old athlete: He has just signed with the Minnesota Vikings, who happen to be the Packers' No. 1 rivals. In years past -- Favre's glory years -- Viking fans loathed him just as much as Pack Backers loved him.

And now, almost comically, those tunes have switched completely: Green Bay fans are booing Favre and decrying his turncoat ways; while Viking fans have developed Brett fever, even giving him a standing ovation at the start of the team's preseason game Aug. 21 against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Vikings, apparently, have pinned their Superbowl hopes on Favre.

Says a recent AP story: "In about 72 hours, the Twin Cities have turned into the Favre Cities. Purple Favre jerseys and T-shirts are everywhere and fans have filled the phone lines of talk radio to hail the arrival of a three-time MVP who, despite turning 40 in October, is believed by many to be the missing link between this franchise and its first Super Bowl appearance since 1977."

It's still a little soon to tell whether Minnesota's dreams will be realized: Though they won that game 17-13, Brett threw only four passes -- with only one completion -- before he had to be replaced due to a hard tackle (read: injury avoidance!). And I know that fanatic Green Bay followers are hoping he falls on his face (literally!).

And then there are those Favre-ophiles who love him so much, they've switched team allegiance with his every move. (Geez, folks! What are you going to do when he finally retires?)

As for me: I personally don't care much one way or the other. My basic loyalties still lie with the Packers, but I'm really more interested in seeing good football. Will Minnesota's sudden "darling" be worth the big bucks -- and controversy -- of his signing? We'll just have to watch and find out. It's going to be a fun season!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Walk naked, and prove your patriotism!

At the risk of disseminating a politically-incorrect message, I just had to post this hilarious e-mail I received today. But because its basic message is about tolerance vs. intolerance, here goes:

WALK NAKED IN AMERICA DAY

Don't forget to mark your calendars. As you may already know, it is a sin for a Muslim male to see any woman other than his wife naked. He must commit suicide if he does. So next Saturday at 4 PM Eastern Time, all American women are asked to walk out of their house completely naked to help weed out any neighborhood terrorists. Circling your block for one hour is recommended for this anti-terrorist effort. All patriotic men are to position themselves in lawn chairs in front of their house to prove they are not Muslims and to show support for all American women. Since Islam also does not approve of alcohol, a cold 6-pack at your side is further proof of your anti-Muslim sentiment. The American government appreciates your efforts to root out terrorists and applauds your participation in this anti-terrorist activity. God bless America!

It is your patriotic duty to pass this on. If you don't send this to at least 5 people, you're a terrorist-sympathizing, lily-livered coward and are in the position of posing as a national threat.

(As a side benefit, by posting this, I've hopefully passed it along to at least 5 people, proving once and for all my patriotism!)

Monday, August 17, 2009

The newest eating disorder: Healthy eating!


The youth-obsessed Baby Boomers have been instrumental in a widespread shift toward a healthier lifestyle, including healthier eating -- which on the whole is a very good thing. But, like with every human activity, there's a fringe of people who have taken it to unhealthy extremes, by becoming obsessed beyond all reason about what foods go into their bodies.

This disorder has become so serious that doctors have even given it a name: orthorexia nervosa.

According to a recent story in the British Guardian: This eating disorder "affects equal numbers of men and women, but sufferers tend to be aged over 30, middle-class and well-educated. The condition was named by a Californian doctor, Steven Bratman, in 1997, and is described as a 'fixation on righteous eating.'"

Orthorexics have rigid rules around eating. Forbidden foods typically include not only things like sugar, salt, caffeine, alcohol, wheat, gluten, yeast, soy, corn and dairy foods, but also anything with pesticides, herbicides or artificial additives. Those suffering this disorder are so restrictive on what they eat, that it can seriously impact their personal and social lives. Also, many can actually become malnourished.

So, in their obsessive attempts at becoming healthier, they get less healthy! Once again, we return to my basic argument about practicing moderation and doing everything within reason -- by never taking any activity or enterprise to ridiculous extremes!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Looking on the bright side

So, a new study bolsters the notion that being optimistic is better for your long-term health.
According to a story in Health.com: "Women 50 or older who are optimistic are less likely to get heart disease and die of any cause in a given time period compared to women their age who are more pessimistic, according to a study published this week in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association."

Well, duh!

Even if you don't believe in the ideas behind the Law of Attraction -- what you think is what you get (because the energy you put out into the universe is what returns to you) -- how can you possibly argue against the notion that putting out positive vibes is better, period: Better for you, better for those near you, just better all around.

So, whenever possible, do strive to see the positives to any given situation. Of course this does not mean putting on blinders or becoming myopic from those rose-colored glasses. Sure, there are going to be events and times in your life where it's damned difficult to see anything positive, at least in the short term. But I 'll bet if you look back at most -- if not all -- of those situations, you'll be able to discern at least a glimmer of a silver lining. And it's there where the bright side lies!




Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Long time, no write


Hey there!

Sorry about my absence, but I've been on holiday, with limited access to a computer, for nearly two weeks. I spent quality time with my family at a lovely condo in Peru, Vermont -- the locale of the Bromley Mountain ski resort, and a wonderful place to spend a summer vacation!

It was marvelous! No constant monitoring of e-mail or Facebook or Twitter, no news headlines blaring onscreen at me, no pressure to stay "connected." Just me, my sister, brother and dad, hanging out, hiking the local mountains, swimming in the community pool, kayaking on the Battenkill River, and barbecuing at night, with a roaring fire and board games -- and some TV (hey, they're not totally uncivilized there; they do have cable!) -- to occupy our time. We also played a little golf and tennis, to work out a bit of the rust and kinks in our games! Oh, and I completed a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle all by myself (everyone else got too frustrated with it!).

I did manage to post a few articles on my Examiner site, so in case you didn't get a chance to check those out -- here's the link.

Otherwise, it's been a very relaxing and rewarding couple of weeks. But now, back to reality! Which means, of course, that you'll be hearing more from me ... that's a good thing, right!!!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

At what age are you an 'adult'?


When do you officially become an adult in the U.S.A.?

If you're talking about voting, or enlisting in the military, you're old enough to make that decision at 18. If you're talking about consenting to have sex, all it takes is being 16. But if you're talking about taking a drink legally, you have to be 21.

This inconsistency in our definition of "adulthood" has long bothered opponents of the law that raised the legal drinking age to 21.

And now, one of the leading proponents of the law, whose testimony helped legislators decide to pass it on July 17, 1984 (when Reagan was prez), is having second thoughts, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times . Apparently, psychiatrist Dr. Morris Chafetz is now advocating lowering the legal age back to 18.

"Legal age 21 has not worked," Chafetz was quoted as saying by the L.A. Times piece. "To be sure, drunk driving fatalities are lower now than they were in 1982. But they are lower in all age groups. And they have declined just as much in Canada, where the age is 18 or 19, as they have in the United States."

One group that is actively pushing for a lower drinking age is Choose Responsibility. "Alcohol is a reality in the lives of young Americans. It cannot be denied, ignored, or legislated away" says the group's Website.

Though there are certainly valid arguments (and supporting data) on both sides of the issue, I think it's time to take a serious look at the alarming pattens of alcohol and substance abuse among our younger generations. I saw a very powerful documentary at the Delray Beach Film Festival called The Spitting Game, about the rampant "hooking up" culture among college students today. This behavior is largely fueled by binge drinking and extreme drunkedness. Here's a link to the movie trailer. (Please, please see the movie if you get a chance -- especially if you have kids in that age range -- it will scare the bejeezus out of you, believe me!)

Could we possibly teach more responsibility and have more resources devoted to substance-abuse problems if we lowered the legal age and taxed it appropiately? That is something to consider, at the very least.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Nudity in the news

Reuters recently posted this fun little story on the Top 5 destinations for Nude Vacationing. Here they are, with my personal takes on each:

What: World Naked Bike Ride (worldwide, June and July
): Riders, advocating cycling over driving, often paint messages on their bodies.
What I say: I'm all for lobbying for ways to help the environment (and bike riding certainly qualifies!), but riding a bicycle with nothing between your nether parts and the bike seat? Yuk! (Can you say "sweaty and smelly"?!)

What: World Record Skinny Dip (across North America, July): This event, hosted by the American Association for Nude Recreation, had more 12,000 participants last year, qualifying it for a Guinness Book category.
What I say: Go for it! There's nothing more refreshing (or, in some special cases, sexier!) than submerging your unclothed body in a cool body of water. And if an event like this can help get Americans over their prudishness regarding the naked body, all the better!

What:
Nude Beach Olympics, (Australia, January): The games celebrate Maslin Beach’s place as the country's first official nude beach.
What I say: Nude beach, good. Nude Olympics? Questionable. When you're engaging in any activity that makes you sweat and bounce around like that, I think some clothing is preferable -- if only as a sweat-sopping measure!

What: Running of the Nudes, (Spain, July): PETA hosts this event in Pamplona to protest the cruelty of bullfighting—runners, though mostly naked, don bull horns.
What I say: Let me get this straight: A bunch of macho, testosterone-fueled men are going to heed a message delivered by nude women jiggling past them? Yeah, right!

What: Burning Man (Nevada, August and September): 50,000 people come together in the Black Rock Desert to create art and then ceremoniously burn it down, with free-spirited participants often stripping down.
What I say: Well, it's to be expected as part of the whole experiece. After all, wild, hedonistic revelries often are accompanied by stripping of clothing and other uninhibited behavior.

Oh, and by the way: Where the heck is Fantasy Fest on this list? I mean, that 10-day revelry of all things fantastic takes nudism and naughtiness to new heights!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Watch this: 'Drop Dead Diva'


The Lifetime Television channel recently introduced the new series Drop Dead Diva, which airs original episodes at 9 p.m. Sundays.

I caught the pilot a week ago, and then watched the second episode on a rerun last night (hey, we're talking about a cable station -- so that means multiple viewing or DVR-ing opportunities every week!)

Drop Dead Diva is a very touching, witty and insightful program that examines looksism in our shallow, beauty-obsessed society. It stars zaftig actress Brooke Elliot as Jane Bingum, a brilliant lawyer who is "possessed" by the spirit of a dead model named Deb (Brooke D'Orsay). Actually, both women occupy Jane's body. (It's a bit confusing and requires a serious suspension of disbelief, but bear with me here): The comely but vapid Deb now inhabits Jane's body -- with all of her personality and memories intact, but with Jane's sensibilities and brains.
Suddenly, Deb has to deal with the "horrors" of being plus-sized: not liking what she sees in the mirror, being ignored in singles bars, and having sly put-downs and barbs hurled her way from her wicked, but pretty, rival in the office. Oh, and (coincidence alert!), Deb's grieving fiance, Grayson (Jackson Hurst), is now a junior member of the law firm -- but of course he has no idea his darling is alive but sporting a new, heftier form!

Phew! Did you get all that? Don't worry -- it's not at all hard to follow once you start watching it.

Of course, it's not perfect. Some of the acting is only so-so -- but Elliott is spot-on as a woman with two personalities! -- and it sometimes relies too much on cliched depictions of being overweight (must Jane really crave donuts to the point of distraction?) or pretty (does her BFF Stacy (April Bowlby) really have to be a dumb blonde?). Still, it's a very rewardable hour in front of the tube -- and you won't even feel like a boob for enjoying it!

The show has apparently hit a big nerve with American viewers, as its premiere garnered blockbuster ratings for Lifetime (by cable standards, at least!). So, that bodes well for the series' longevity.

Long may Deb-- er Jane -- er, Deb -- live!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Building sandcastles out of worry

As if we don't have enough to worry about, just trying to enjoy life here in South Florida (the traffic! the cost of living! the unemployment! the crowds! the heat index! the sun exposure!), now comes news that another danger might be lurking as you spend a relaxing day at the beach: in the SAND!!

A recent story in the San Diego Times Union talks about the health risks from contaminated sand found on many beaches. Apparently, people who play in the sand -- building sandcastles, being buried, etc. -- run a slightly higher risk of coming down with diarrhea and other ailments associated with the kind of fecal contaminants that were found in sand sampled for the study.

Says the story: "The report's authors ... think it's important to caution people about the bird droppings, urban runoff, sewage and other contaminants that pollute sand. 'Take care to use a hand sanitizer or wash hands after playing in the sand,' said Tim Wade, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who helped write the study."

Egads!

Of course, this might all be making a sand-mountain out of a molehill. I mean, isn't the water polluted enough already? And you don't see many people shunning the beach because of that. So what's a little more contamination among beach-going friends? Plus, I suspect that here in South Florida -- in the summer, at least -- the sand gets hot enough to burn off (or kill off) any nasty stuff. (It sure burns off the bottoms of your feet!)

So go ahead and enjoy your day at the beach!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Twitter, reconsidered

Just a couple of months ago, I was skeptical about the whole Twitter thing ("Am I twit for not tweeting?", April 29). While I had set up an account on this and other social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, I personally was not a frequent user of said sites.

Citing a recent study that estimated the "drop-out" rate for Twitter at about 60 percent, I argued that nothing beats face-to-face contact.

But then, when I became an Examiner, I officially joined the ranks of people trying to make a few bucks producing online content. Everything I read about promoting myself indicated that I must utilize these social media sites to build awareness, and hence readership. (You're reading my Examiner stuff, right? Right?) Rather than fighting "them," I decided to join them!

So, now, I'm diving into Twitter, and Facebook, and even LinkedIn, building contact bases, and trying to become a valued member of each of these communities (without wasting a lot of time on the more "frivolous" activities). And actually, it's kind of fun!

Don't get me wrong; there's nothing more valuable than time spent in person with friends and loved ones. After all, you can't hug someone through your computer, nor truly share a smile, a laugh, a knowing look (and no, those emoticons and acronyms -- LOL, BRB, etc. -- are not an adequate substitute!).

But perhaps its time to acknowledge that the Internet serves as a complement to our social interactions, rather than a competition for them. Look at it as having it both ways: face time, plus interface time!

Note: If you're a Twitter novice, it may seem a bit daunting at first. But it's not so bad once you get the hang of it. Here are a couple of articles from a fellow Examiner that I found helpful:

http://budurl.com/beginningTwitter
http://budurl.com/Twitterfollowback

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Update: My right breast, revisited

Phew!

I just returned from a six-month follow-up mammogram -- which was prescribed in January, after I had a second set of images taken when doctors found some calcifications in my right breast during my routine screening last November. (Blog entries "Update: My right breast" Jan. 17, and "Gulp, and whoa!" Nov. 8). The radiologist wanted to see whether there were any significant changes since the January session. But, apparently, everything looked good today -- i.e., no change. So, I got the OK to proceed with my regular yearly screening in six months or so.

Back in November, the doctor had originally wanted to perform a biopsy after seeing the irregularities on those images; but I fought that idea, and they agreed to let me go for a second opinion (hence the January tests).

For these last two sets of tests, I used another provider -- a Woman's Health Center -- and I must admit I like it there much better. They seem to "get it." They take the time to allay your fears, answer any questions, etc.

So, I'll be using them for my mammos from now on.

And in the meantime, I'll continue to do the things I started doing back in November, such as keeping up my exercise and healthy lifestyle, plus staying on my regimen of vitamin and herb pills -- based on research about which natural supplements seem to be beneficial for breast health. These include a super-antioxidant formula (vitamins A, C, E, B-2, B-6 and several minerals); vitamin D (which helps the body metabolize calcium); cat's claw; and cranberry (which as a bonus also helps with fluid retention and kidney health).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Update: I'm over the hump

OK, I'll say it: I had a harder time getting over Matthew than I first admitted. Though my "head" realized that the breakup was for the best (he truly wasn't right for me), my "heart" was much more reluctant to go there.

I've had some sleepless nights, some lonely days, and I've bent friends' and family members' ears off talking about it, ad nauseum -- him, us, the breakup, etc. -- the way we women do, when trying to process feelings and change in our lives. I've gone out to social events and even on a few dates, but many times found myself just "going though the motions," as it were.

I really struggled during the Fourth of July weekend, because last year by comparison was such a fun time -- Matt and I were totally into each other. This year, my mom and stepdad came for a very low-key visit, so that provided a bit of a distraction; but still, I felt an overwhelming sadness and melancholy all weekend long.

But, just a couple of days ago, in the middle of the night, while I was in that hazy zone of half-sleeping/half-waking, something clicked in my head/heart. I'm no longer obsessed with thinking about what he's doing (and who he's doing it with!), or wondering "what if" ... he were different? I were different? We hadn't had that final argument? Blah, blah, blah ....

I finally let him go! Yay!

Now, I'm actually looking forward to getting out there, being active, making social plans -- and meeting new fellas! I really DO believe that Mr. Right is just around the corner. And' I'm ready for him!!!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sunscreen smarts


Have you heard about the latest report from the Environmental Working Group that ranks 1,581 sunscreen products by efficacy and safety?

The bad news: Many of the most popular and affordable products had a dismal rating based on their lack of real protection or their inclusion of harmful ingredients such as oxybenzone. Of the 482 sunscreens tested, brands that rank in the "dangerous to use" category include most of the Coppertone products, as well as generic products from drugstores such as Walgreen's and CVS. Even my favorite brand, the Neutrogena Ultra-Sheer Dry Touch line, ranks in the middling range (mostly because it contains oxybenzone).

Yikes! So what's an outdoor lover to do? The best-rated products are, naturally, by far the most expensive. I'm going to buy some of these products -- such as the Badger SPF 30 -- for the most sensitive places on my body (e.g. face and chest), and continue using my favorite products for the rest of my body!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Go Fourth and enjoy!


Happy Independence Day!

Wherever you are, I wish you a day filled with love, laughter, fun, relaxation, pleasure, and peace.

I also hope you take some time to think about and be thankful for the blessings we enjoy as Americans -- from our inalienable rights to our bountiful freedoms. It's a flawed country, to be sure, but I for one think I'm pretty lucky to call it my home!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Update: I refused to be a victim


Hard to believe that it's been four weeks since my house was burgled as I slept in my bed. The thief stole my 37-inch Vizio LCD TV and my new Samsung Eternity cell phone -- plus, of course, my peace of mind.

The police told me it was probably a pro, and the chances of catching him (her?) are slim until he makes a mistake or gets caught (both unlikely). However, I vowed not to let this latest blow get me down. After all, you can't walk around in life as a victim, for that's what you become!

So, I did what any sensible person would do: I beefed up security on the house, went back to using my old phone, and have been using the TV from my bedroom in place of the missing LCD set.

And you know what, things have been okay. Slowly, I've recovered my sense of equilibrium and security. I'm cautious, of course, but I feel perfectly comfortable in the house. My old phone works just fine; I hardly even miss Eternity. And, best of all, I just had a brand new, 40-inch Toshiba LCD TV given to me! It's even better than the other one! I'm watching the Wimbledon tennis tournament on it right now -- in glorious, high-definition, large-screen color!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

How we're losing in the Sizing Game

Did you ever walk into a store expecting to buy a new outfit, or blouse, or pair of pants, in a size 12 (your "normal" size) -- and walk out, proudly clutching a size 8 garment?

Guess what: You've been snookered by the strategy of lowering sizes that clothing manufacturers have been using on us for years. In a society of ever-widening girths, clothing sizes are ever-shrinking. It's a psychological "game" -- and we're the losers. According to a great story I found on DivineCaroline:

"SizeUSA, a national survey that digitally analyzed thousands of Americans, found that the average size of an American woman is no longer a 35-inch bust, a 27-inch waist, and 37.5-inch hip -- the industry’s standard size 8. Now the average American woman is more like a size 14."

And the clothing companies aren't even consistent in their number-crunching. We've all seen it: One label's size 10 is another's size 6 is another's size 2. (What's next, NEGATIVE size 2??)

While this game might make us feel temporarily better about ourselves, it doesn't help our society face its obesity problem -- and it sure doesn't make it easy (or quick or convenient) to go clothes shopping!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My love for these isn't a Croc!

Here's shameless pitch for Crocs. These shoes are not only comfortable, versatile and environmentally friendly, but they now come in many styles and colors.

The first pair of Crocs I ever saw was in the summer of 2004, when my sister and I were on a white-water rafting trip on the Nantahala River in North Carolina, and our guide was wearing a pair of the clunky original clogs. She raved about them, saying every one of her colleagues wore them, too. (They were all basically college kids on a fun summer fling -- er, job! -- so fashion wasn't exactly high on their list!)

I didn't care for the style, however, so I held off on buying a pair -- until the cuter Mary Jane style came along. I bought a pair in pink, and got much use out of them. They're still a staple in my wardrobe, especially during the cooler months here in South Florida.

Last spring, I came across a display of Crocs in store that featured the Cleo slide, and I fell in love! So, I bought a pair of the celery green ones and proceeded to live in them all last summer -- they REALLY come in handy if you spend any time on a boat. I loved them so much, I bought a second pair in turquoise.

And recently, a friend of mine was sporting the new Cypress high-heel sandal -- adorable!

So, if you're looking for a hardy, affordable new pair of summer sandals, or two: Check out these links!








Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What I'm up to

I've been busy this past week or so trying to get my new gig as the West Palm Beach Health and Happiness Examiner up and running smoothly.

My most recent posts there have involved green tea's possible benefits on prostate cancer; learning how to let go of something; and the raw/organic food movement. That's kept me pretty busy, let me tell you!

Otherwise, we've settled into the typical summer here in SoFla. Which means: hot, muggy, hot, hot, muggy, and hot -- interspersed with nasty weather. Wanted to get to the beach and swim this morning; HAH! The thunderstorms hit here in force around 7 a.m., and it's still cloudy-rainy out with a forecast for all-day storminess. Oh well; hopefully it will cool things off again -- and bring my lawn back to being green!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

'The Hangover' stays with you


The movie The Hangover has been getting a ton of buzz; so I HAD to check it out last night.

Went with a good friend of mine -- two Middle-Age Sexy ladies in a theater full of youngish couples and groups. But once the film got rolling, the "differences" faded as we all became engrossed in this wonderful little film about the misadventures (and that's putting it mildly!) of four thirtysomething guys at a Las Vegas bachelor party.

HY-STER-I-CAL!!! I laughed so hard my throat hurt. Especially the scene where the guys wake up the next morning in their wreck of a hotel room, which screams: The Wildest Party -- EVER!! The bridegroom is missing, and the fellows have not one idea of what happened during the last 12 hours.

The movie isn't perfect, of course. It drags a little in the middle, and there were a couple of characters that didn't do it for me -- such as a gay Chinese gang leader -- but overall, I'd give this gem of a film an A-.

So go see it: This is one Hangover you don't want to miss!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A call to arms

I was surfing around various places, looking for fodder for this blog as well as articles for my new role as the West Palm Beach Health and Happiness Examiner (please check it out -- often!!), when I stumbled across this call for volunteers for the Army of Women breast-cancer research project.

These are ongoing studies involving real women aimed at eradicating this major health issue for women. They are looking for women of all ages, races, sizes and health backgrounds. (For instance, current studies include looking at the effects of yoga on breast-cancer recovery, and looking at whether examining breast milk will be useful in predicting cancer probabilities.)

It's a completely voluntary program. You can sign up to participate in any study that you like; and if you're a good "fit," they'll accept you. So, please go on the site and register. The more participants there are, the faster researchers will be able to find the secrets to not only a cure -- but also prevention. What have you got to lose? -- except the fear of having breast cancer impact your life!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bugs Bunny knows best!

Finally! A health story that actually helps you save money!

Apparently, carrots that are cooked whole are better for you than those that are sliced beforehand, according to a story in The Independent. Apparently, a study found that whole boiled carrots contained 25 per cent more of the anti-cancer compound falcarinol than those that were chopped up first.

Says the story: "'Chopping up your carrots increases the surface area so more of the nutrients leach out into the water while they are being cooked,' said researcher Kirstin Brandt. 'By cooking them whole and chopping them up afterwards, you are locking in both taste and nutrients.'"

So, instead of buying those expensive bags of prepared carrots, grab a plain-old bag of whole carrots and get cooking!

Monday, June 15, 2009

The sea season

Ahhh! Summer in Florida.

Yes, it's hotter than roll of quarters in a frying pan and muggier than a wool sweater in the dryer; but these are the days when we can slow down, take some time off, and enjoy the slower pace.

It's also much easier to indulge in some of your favorite activities without having to battle the long lines, waits, and parking hassles that come with the crowds during tourist season.

I personally love the summertime ocean: Before about 11 a.m., it's usually clear, calm -- and best of all, flat. I've been trying to get down there once or twice a week to do some swimming (I'm up to about a mile, woo-hoo!). Plus, I've been doing some snorkeling with one of my Meetup groups (a GREAT way to meet other like-minded folks and make friends, btw!).

On Sunday, we went to a walk-on reef off Fort Lauderdale and snorkeled for about an hour and a half. In my little group of snorkelers, we saw lots of cool sealife, including angelfish, sea urchins, a sea turtle, and a hatchery with about 10,000 baby fish. (It's easy to get into snorkeling; you can buy a basic snorkel set for about $40 -- or less.)

Next weekend, I plan on an easygoing bicycling adventure along A1A. And then after that, perhaps some more snorkeling; and then a pool barbecue and picnic; and then a free outdoor concert; and then some more biking; and then snorkeling ....

'Tis the season. Rejoice!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"Away" I went

Caught a free screening of the new Focus Features film Away We Go last night. It stars John Krasinski (The Office) and Maya Rudolph (formerly of SNL) as a rootless, pregnant couple who travel to several destinations, visiting relatives and friends, in search of a place to settle down and raise their child.

I wasn't expecting much, to be honest. Entertainment Weekly gave it a middling B- rating, calling it a "comedy of quirkiness" -- which, indeed, it is. The couple (Burt and Verona) encounter several quirky-to-the-extreme characters in their journey, with some pretty over-the-top perfomances to go with the broad characterizations.

Still, I was pleasantly surprised overall. It turned out to be a touching, amusing and involving study of thirtysomething angst with good performances by the leads, nice cinematography, and a great soundtrack. It certainly was worth the gas and time -- which is all I spent! I'd be more generous than EW and give it a B+. It's a film suited for chicks, of course -- as well as men who can handle films about relationships and life!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The importance of sleep, continued

A new study reports yet another health risk associated with a lack of sleep: high blood pressure.

According to a story by Bloomberg, the adults participating in the study who got the least sleep were most apt to have higher blood pressure. For every hour less than eight of missed sleep, odds of developing the condition rose an average 37 percent over five years, said Kristen Knutson, the lead author. Skipping two hours sleep raised the blood pressure risk 86 percent.

The researchers said that sleeplessness may have a long-term effect on the cardiovascular system, increasing high blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke, heart failure or kidney failure, according to the American Heart Association.

Just chalk it up as one more reason to make sure you get enough shuteye every night. (Sleep problems are also related to obesity and diabetes, affecting overall heart health, Knutson said.)

Here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic of healthy and natural habits for better sleep (check out the Mayo article for more details and the complete list):

1. Be consistent in your bedtime and rising time.

2. Avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol in the evening.

3. Limit daytime naps to a half-hour or less.

4. Exercise regularly.

5. Make sure your room is dark and quiet, and your bed and pillow are comfortable.

6. Develop a relaxing nighttime routine to signal your body it’s time to sleep.

Monday, June 8, 2009

How to de-claw the stress monster

Stress. We all know the harm it can cause to your life -- including health problems, a shortened lifespan, relationship woes, etc. Now add: Looking older. Yikes! According to an article in Real Age, stress can help cause wrinkles by "increasing the production of cortisol, a stress hormone that also stymies collagen production, one of the natural substances skin needs in order to plump itself, repair itself, and keep wrinkles at bay."

"Oh great," you may well mutter to yourself. I mean, it's not as if many of us have any control over the amount of stress in our lives today -- what, with lost jobs, foreclosures, mounting bills, killer workloads, battling spouses, troubled kids, you name it.

But the folks at Real Age aren't just interested in disseminating bad news about harmful elements in our lives; they're also out to help us combat the negative effects of these elements. Thus, the site also provides some hints at how to stave off wrinkles. To wit:

Tactic No. 1: Do some quick deep-breathing exercises (close your eyes, sit up straight with uncrossed legs, and then breathe in deeply and release it slowly for a few rounds). Ahhhh! Feel yourself relaxing? That's good! Now, get back to work -- but do these exercises again, as often as you can!

Tactic No. 2: Hum! Yes, hum! Apparently, humming has been scientifically proved to boost nitric oxide (NO), a body gas that has a stress-reducing effect in small doses.

Tactic No. 3: Practice meditation (for as little as 5 minutes a day) to calm yourself and help gain a better perspective on your life. For tips on how to meditate, see the handy Real Age page on the subject.

So, to the stress monster, I say: Take that, you unrepentant bully!

Friday, June 5, 2009

A thief in the night

Well, they say bad things come in threes.

First, my relationship fell apart (though I do realize that it was for the best -- in the long run!). Then, my freelance opportunity disintegrated before my eyes (though that didn't stop me from setting this direction as a course for my little biz start-up). And then, last night, my house was burgled -- WHILE I WAS SLEEPING! The thief took my 37-inch LCD flat-screen TV, some cash from my purse, and my new cell phone. (Though, thank God, he left my credit cards and IDs, and did not venture further than the family room and kitchen.)

Of course, it could have been much, much worse. I shudder to think what might have befallen me as I slept soundly in my bed. Luckily, this thief was just after quick cash. And he took things that are easily replaceable (though I can hardly afford to do so at the moment!).

I'm starting to feel like: ENOUGH, already! I'm due for some good luck, some good news -- something to break my way. And I'm losing a bit of heart, to be perfectly honest.

Still, I won't let this bring me down. I'm keeping my chin up (though it's admittedly a bit shaky at the moment), and anticipating that lucky break is just around the corner. ... I may have been broken into, but I'm not broken!!!

 
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