Welcome! I'm a 48 (and 1/2) year old, wife, mother (8 1/2 year old son), daughter, sister, friend and volunteer. So, 48.5 really means I'm into my 49th year on this amazing planet, and on July 19, 2010, I'll be in my 50th year. The mid-century mark. L. The big 5-0. However you want to say it, to most of the English speaking world, it means "old". I want to get there with grace, passion, beauty, love and laughter. I want to get there the old-fashioned way: by taking care of myself, eating right, creating a balanced life, laughing and living life to it's fullest. I'll be documenting my journey and hope you will watch and learn along the way. I'll also provide some of my tips for looking young and feeling your best as we head to and beyond our mid-century mark. Here's to being "Beautifully 50".

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"How old are you?"

I never thought I would ever grow to hate a simple question, but I do. It's not that I'm not proud of how I look, how I feel, or what I've accomplished, it's just that I'd rather keep people guessing. Some people, of course, are very respectful and would never ask a lady this question - kudos to you! On the other hand, there are others that somehow think it's their right to know..even if they've just met you. Am I making too much of this? Probably.

There's one time when I like this question. When a stranger or acquaintance says, "So, how old are you, 40?"  I proudly boast my age. This, however, is happening on fewer and fewer occasions. So, what's a girl (oh, that's right, middle ager) to do when this inquiry is made?

Here are a few of my responses:

1) 38 (we all want to be 10 years younger, no?)
2) Old enough.
3) Why?
4) I don't want to talk about it..
5) "cringe"...48.
6) How old are you?
7) Mid-life crisis age.
8) One hundred and twenty.
9) Older than you think (hopefully)
10) I'm old.

I love Erma Bombeck's quote:

As a graduate of the Zsa Zsa Gabor
 School of Creative Mathematics, 
I honestly do not know how old I am. 

Didn't this work for Zsa Zsa? I don't think anyone knows her real age.  My goal in 2010, as I'm trying to embrace the coming of the big 5-0, is to say "48" (yes, my real age) with confidence.  What's your answer to this "age-old" question?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

iHad to Share

I just had to share this new iPhone case maker with you! I happened to notice a friend's case the other day, and it was unlike any I had ever seen. We've all seen the rubber peace signs, Paul Franks', colored plastic, even shiny gold iPhone cases...all very cool as well, but this one we create ourselves. Yes, a one-of-a-kind iPhone case. The process is fun, inexpensive and gets your creative juices flowing. (Am I the last to know about this?)

The site is called imakemycase.case-mate and in addition to the DIY cases, it has a wide selection of other cool ready-made phone cases as well. 

As I said, the process is simple. The site has 10 different world-class artists (with samples of their work) for you to choose from, and each artist has several different backgrounds (from your basic white to psychedelic prints), dozens of different graphics (flowers, diamonds and serpents to name a few) and a few tools (want a kaleidoscope of your art? no problem). Then it's all "drag and drop".  The art is applied with a special process that embeds the ink directly into the case, ensuring it won't scratch or abrade with our daily addictive use. Cases are made with Lexon, an extremely strong plastic that is more durable and lighter than the other plastic cases on the market. Since 'imakemycase' is one-of-a-kind, they strived to use the best quality products in their design.

So what's this got to do with becoming "Beautifully50?"  Don't we all want to celebrate our individuality?  We are past the "take what they give you" stage of our lives, right? And, this is a great way to show our creativity and passion for art.  All of this for a mere $39.99. Oh, yes, at our age, we love a good bargain too.

My friends will tell you that I love art, but I'm certainly no artist. Here are some designs I made in 10 minutes or less (all of them, not just one of them!):

Loads of Diamonds

Spring has Sprung

Grayphic Circles

My Valentine's Mess

Scroll it!

Pyschedelic 60's

The ten minutes I spent creating these was lots of fun. I cant' wait to go back on and create another. Although, I'm kind of liking "My Valentine's Mess". What do you think? 

Monday, February 22, 2010

Good Day Sunshine

Remember how happy this Beatles song made us feel? Well, that's how I'm feeling right now as I've been given "The Sunshine" award by one of my favorite blog sites, La Dolfina. If you appreciate the beauty in every day life, aspire to have beautiful surroundings in your home and beyond, this is a site you definitely want to follow! Terri has impeccable taste and an eye for the exquisite, you won't be disappointed. 

It's an honor to be listed in the same breathe as the twelve other blogs Terri has bestowed her Sunshine award upon. So now it's my turn to share the twelve blogs that provide my daily dose of sunshine!  Here's to the following wonderful reads...follow them for your recommended daily dose!

The Sunshine Award
click here

My Favorite Things

And, of course, I need to include my own Super Sunshine award to Terri at La Dolfina, and to my one of my very best friends, Kellie at CashonandCompany! Thanks Kell, for pushing me to start a blog!♥ 

Dancing with the Stars, Part 1

What I'm about to write about is still somewhat surreal to me, however, it's about to get real, and in only 6 days! Last fall I was asked by the chairperson of my son's school auction to consider being one of the "stars" in our "Dancing with the Stars" themed evening. My son attends an all-boys school and the "auction" is our major fundraiser of the year, sometimes bringing in upwards of $500,000! Each year the chairperson determines the theme and attempts to increase funds raised over previous years' events. You get the drift....

So, when asked, I actually jumped at the opportunity. Always a "Dancing with the Stars" fan, the thought of getting professional lessons (they comped eight 45-minute lessons), dancing with a pro, wearing a cute outfit and helping to raise money for my son's school was so appealing.  I have zero dance background, other than shaking it with the girls on a girls' night out. Oh, that's right, I took ballet when I was three, and during my recital, dressed as a lion, I urinated all over myself and the stage...(let's pray that doesn't happen this time!).

I've always thought that stepping out of your comfort zone was important in life.  I love trying new hobbies, some I stick with (yoga), and some I'm glad I did, but will never do again (half-marathon), and some are on the back-burner for now (needlepointing). Dancing was something I always thought I could learn fairly easily, but boy I was wrong. Eight 45-minute lessons equates to eight runs down a ski-slope and then performing in the Olympics. Seriously! So, I've handed lots of cash over to the Arthur Murray Dance Studio in hopes of honing my cha-cha skills. In six days, the 500 person, standing room only crowd will see the results of my efforts.

The "show" segment of the evening will run just as a "Dancing with the Stars" competition. There are eight "school" dancers (faculty, staff, 2 parents) and eight "pros". Each amateur will take the stage with their pro for a long one and a half minute routine and then the voting begins. We have three judges that will comment on our performances, and the entire audience votes with some type of electronic gadget. A big, mirrored disco ball trophy goes to the winner, but believe me, that's not my focus. Cha-cha'ing for 90 seconds without falling is my goal.

School Auction Logo
provided by "A Different Perspective" graphic design

Throughout this journey, I've realized that I'm much too hard on myself, I'm too serious, and I need to focus on the real fun dancing has brought to my life. My hopes are that I can carry these feelings over into other aspects of my being...it will be difficult, but I know I just need to lighten up!  Look for "Dancing with the Stars, Part 2" sometime next week...and I'll let you know if I got my cha-cha on or not.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Power of the Sweet Potato (or 'The Supreme Yam')

Sweet potatoes...not just for the holidays anymore. Seriously, we all need a reminder on the power of this colorful potato! One of Dr. Mao's must-eat foods, the sweet potato, and cousin yam, both provide more beta-carotene and vitamin C than carrots, more protein than wheat and rice, and more fiber than oat bran and as much potassium as a banana! A single skin-on sweet potato only contains 120 calories, and has over 1000 mcg of vitamin A (more than our daily requirement), plus good amounts of B6 and folate. Most importantly, both are a rich source of DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), the mother lode of all hormones.

DHEA is what we call a "precursor hormone", one that remains latent in the body until it converts to a hormone that our body needs. It can become estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone, all so essential for our body's anti-aging defenses to work. DHEA doesn't stop there, it is a potent immunity booster, helps to control auto-immune disorders, and has been shown to possess significant anticancer properties. As the most abundant steroid in our body, DHEA also helps ward off arteriosclerosis, lowers blood pressure, reduces inflammation to the brain, prevents fat accumulation, and improves heart function. Need I say more??

My favorite way to eat sweet potatoes is simple...puncture a few times with a fork, bake in a hot (400˚ oven) until you see caramelized potato seeping out of your fork holes, slice open, add a little butter and S&P to taste. Depending on my mood, I might add cinnamon and brown sugar (sweet mood) or chili powder (hot mood). Both are delicious! Sweet potato fries are another quick favorite - I simply slice into strips, add a little olive oil and salt, and bake until done. Of course, make sure to keep the yummy skin on, lots of potent vitamins are in the skin!

When buying sweet potatoes (actually slightly healthier and definitely tastier than cousin yam), avoid ones with blemishes, cracks, soft spots and cuts. Store, uncovered, in a cool, dark spot (always hard for me to find!).

Sweet Potato Fries with rosemary
Add chili powder, paprika, thyme or cinnamon!

So, I'm thinking one a day will keep aging away!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Swim Spanx, Really?

Wow. We all remember the "Miracle Suit"...needless to say, I've never tried one on (they always seemed very outdated in their styling, although I loved the concept of a swimsuit taking off the terrible 10), but I may actually take a dive into these new suits from Spanx.  Yes, Spanx! The company we all wish was created decades ago, but fortunately we all know and love now for their slimming shapers and body wear. And, if you've never purchased a Spanx product, either count your blessings for your perfect body, or head to the nearest big box retailer and load up!

Currently I'm at that stage in my life when I'm mourning the loss of ever hoping to wear a bikini again...even in my own backyard. And really, my body is not that bad...some cellulite here and there, a little back fat and a less than perky derriere. My tummy is actually flat, but it's covered with lines (are these stomach wrinkles?), and I have a decent bust area.  I just feel over-exposed in a two-piece since my almost 49-year-old skin is just not as pretty anymore. Worrying about excess skin (ok, fat), is something I just don't care to do anymore....so one-piece, you are my new bff.

So, when I ran across the Spanx suits on Neiman's website, I was immediately intrigued. New this year,  they are meant to provide the same slimming effects as the Spanx bodywear, by including a lightweight inner body shaper that will flatten tummies, smooth backs and slim love handles, all designed with beautiful Italian jersey (my mantra...everything Italian is good).  Gotta love that! Here's a sampling of the new line, with fun, sexy, flirty styles! And, I'm headed to Neiman Marcus this afternoon (time to pay that bill..I think I'll die with a NM balance), so I'll try a Spanx suit and report back.

All items available at Spanx.com or NeimanMarcus.com. 

Spanx Deep-V
Other colors available

Spanx Flamingo 
My favorite, love the color and ruching

Spanx Color Block
Must see the zoom on fabric at spanx.com, very pretty!

Spanx Triangle Top
Other colors available

Spanx Ruffle top
Other colors available

Spanx Swim Dress
Cuter on than you think!

Spanx Tankini
Several tankini styles available

Spanx Bikini
Cute, for someone!
Not sure where or how the body shaping plays a part!

Spanx Bubble Skirt Cover-up
I like this in black...need to see it on.

So, are these cute? Or wishful thinking on my part? I'm definitely going to try on...I think they are perfect for trips to a lake, water park or vacationing with other families (isn't that the worst..your friend's husband checking you out in a bathing suit?!).
Comments, please!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Modern Times

The Paradox of Our Age

by The Dalai Lama

We have bigger houses but smaller families;
More conveniences, but less time;
We have more degrees, but less sense;
More knowledge, but less judgment;
More experts, but more problems;
More medicines, but less healthiness;
We've been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.
We build more computers to hold more information to
produce more copies than ever but have less communication.
We have become long on quantity,
but short on quality.
These are times of fast foods but slow digestion;
Tall man but short character;
Steep profits but shallow relationships.
It's a time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Décolleté Decay

I admit it, in my thirties, and even early forties,  I seldom paid attention to what was happening below my chin...after all, your face is what counts, right? Well, now as I am approaching my quarter century mark, I realize that my décolleté desperately deserves attention! Décolleté, such a pretty word, from the french meaning "wearing a low-neck dress" or "having a low-cut neckline".  It now also translates to the skin of the upper area of our bodies, including neck, chest, cleavage and shoulder areas.

We've all seen women with perfectly smooth (botox?), even (chemical peel?), tight (face-lift?) skin, and then noticed their saggy, wrinkled, hyper-pigmented chest areas.  I don't get this! Pay that much money for a flawless complexion and then let your décolleté decay?! Ladies - our complexions must match our décolleté's or we are wasting our time, money and energy on all of our facial beautifiers! If your face reads 40-year-old, don't have your decollete read 50-year-old.

So what can we do? It's easy. Basically, we need to treat our skin below our chin with the same care as the skin above our chin.  Cleanse your chest area with a good cleanser, follow up with a moisturizer and slather on the sunscreen. Gently exfoliate twice a week, and use a hydrating mask on a weekly basis.  At nighttime, when your body and skin are rejuvenating, apply a cream that focuses on your chest area's particular problem. My chest has a sunspot for every day I've baked in the sun, from my teens to thirties, so I utilize a hydroquinone (bleaching) cream as well as Olay's Definity Night Cream.  I don't have a lot of wrinkles (yet), but I know the care I'm giving this area now, will help ward off the deep lines for a bit. There are dozens of excellent throat/décolleté creams on the market, but I find that facial moisturizers combat the same issues, with a lower price tag than the targeted "throat" cream.

Deep set wrinkles in the décolleté area are mostly caused by sleeping on one's side, the weight of the breast actually compresses the skin together, leaving the lines behind.  Be sure to exercise the chest (just like any other part of your body, a toned chest looks better than a unfit one), try to sleep on your back, and moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.

Also, whenever you are treating yourself to a facial, ask your aesthetician to use the same techniques in your chest area as she does for your complexion.  However, be careful with chemical peels in this area due to the thinness of the skin. Be sure to have an extremely knowledgeable aesthetician, or even better, a dermatologist,  decide if a chemical peel might benefit your décolleté.

When wearing a low-cut garment,  I always apply a light mineral based powder to even up my skin tone, and highlight my shoulder bones (every ladies best asset!).

So, bring on the low (ok, lower) cut dresses and let's show off our pretty décolleté's!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Just say "NO"!

Really, I wish it was that easy (it sure is for my 8-year-old)!  It should be..I mean, I'm a confident, strong, outgoing middle-aged woman who knows what makes me happy, right? Then why is it so hard for me to decline the endless requests for volunteer help at my son's school? Does it fill a need to please? To control something? Quite honestly, I'm not so sure, and please tell me I'm not alone in this quandary.

I do know that being overcommitted overwhelms me.  Dr. Mao wants us to realize that there is lots of power in the word "no" and that we just have to relearn how to use it, just like we were two-years-old again.  "When we are able to acknowledge our limitations and our need for peace by saying no to additional burdens, we reclaim control of our lives and reduce stress (Secrets of Longevity)." And, when we reduce stress on ourselves, we are happier...and I bet everyone around us is happier too.

So, now I'm done with all of the baskets for our upcoming auction..oh, wait, I need to "show and tell" them at the cafeteria all next week. Ok, when that's done..oh wait, I'm a dancer in our "Dancing with the Stars" themed auction party.  Then it's chairing "Blue and Gold" field days in May...and then...something I swore I'd never do.. chairing Fun Day next October - our huge two-school carnival.  I promise, after that, I'm saying NO! Someone, please, hold me to it!

Just a small sampling of baskets that have taken over
my house for the past two weeks! 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Can you say Quinoa?

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah!) is one of my new food obsessions, and I find the history behind this edible seed so interesting. Quinoa has been an important food source for the past 6,000 years in the Andes region of South America and the ancient Incas viewed the crop as sacred. In fact, the Inca emperor would sow the first crop of the season with his "golden implements." However, during the European conquest of South America, the Spanish suppressed production of Quinoa since it was only a "food for the Indians". The conquistadors actually halted production for a time, and the Incas were forced to grow corn to survive.

Quinoa plant, quinoa in flower stage, harvested quinoa.
(photo credit: Wikipedia)

In modern times, quinoa has seen an increase in production, due to its' immense nutritional content. Quinoa is 12-18% protein and, unlike most grains, provides a balanced set of essential amino acids, making it an excellent food source. It's also a good source of fiber, magnesium, phosphorous and iron. Ask any vegetarian you know, and I'm sure they'll know the many benefits of this tiny seed.

To me, quinoa has a mild nutty flavor that you can enhance by lightly toasting the seeds prior to cooking. Use quinoa just like rice, couscous or any other grain, in soups, as a side dish, and even as a breakfast cereal. 

Here is a recipe that I've enjoyed time and time again...very quick and easy to prepare. Most store packaged quinoa has been pre-rinsed (otherwise it can have a soapy-like, bitter tasting residue), but I always soak mine in water for at least 10 minutes and then rinse well.

Quinoa and Black Beans (Recipe courtesy of allrecipes.com)


  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute until lightly browned.
  2. Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with vegetable broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes,
  3. Stir frozen corn into the saucepan, and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Mix in the black beans and cilantro.

I've added other vegetables (tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms) and sometimes put a little cheese on top. This is delicious as a side dish or a meal in itself. 

For breakfast, quinoa is traditionally served with apples and honey, and I've enjoyed it with chopped pecans and craisins as well. 

So, looking for a protein rich grain source? Try Quinoa...and now you know how to pronounce it!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Let the Music Play

I'm betting that if you are reading this, you own an iPod or MP3 player.  If not, add one to your next birthday wish list.  It's wonderful, the amount of music available and inexpensive for the masses to enjoy these days, everything from pop to jazz to opera and classical.

Dr. Mao's research shows a large number of centenarians enjoying the sounds of music, but not the fast, "I Gotta Feeling" Black Eyed Pea's stimulating music, but the slow, soothing music of the world's classics. Think "Peter and the Wolf" or "Claire de Lune" or any of the great masters - Beethoven, Bach, Mozart et al.

Music has been a traditional part of healing ceremonies and rituals across the world with a rich history of therapeutic use.  Calming, classical music not only enhances cognitive functions such as memory, concentration and reasoning skills, but it also boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, relaxes muscle tension, regulates stress hormones, elevates mood and increases endurance (Secrets of Longevity).  WOW. And, guess who's among the longest living of all professionals? You got it, the classical musician, especially the orchestra conductor.  Even plants, serenaded with soothing classical music, lived longer on average than plants exposed to harsh, jarring music.

Now, I'm not giving up my favorite Black Eyed Peas, Phoenix, U2, Justin Timberlake (yes, I'm 48 and love him!) or any of the other thousand songs on my iPod, but I will be adding more classical to my music library. Also, I'm hoping that New Age, Opera and soft jazz have the same benefits as classical, as I've already downloaded many a CD in these genres. So, if you're like me and seeking longevity, tune in to music on the softer side of that iPod song list.

My current go-to tunes for relaxation:

Enigma's Love, Sensuality, Devotion Greatest Hits

Diana Krall Quiet Nights

Luciano Pavarotti Nessun dorma

Jem - Finally Woken

Love to know your favorites too....now, it's time to relax...

Sunday, February 14, 2010


"IWANNA"...That's the nickname my husband has given me for the past..hmm...10 years! I wanna go on a trip, I wanna remodel the kitchen, I wanna get a new car, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna!! I guess he might have something here, but as I age, I do think my "I wanna's" have waned. Middle-age is a time when you realize that material things do not buy happiness (oh sure, they can help) and your happiness has to come from within.

So, on this Valentine's Day, here is my list of "Iwanna's":

1. To cuddle in bed with my husband and son with no schedule for the day.

2. Egg white-spinach omelette with toast and coffee...in bed (made by someone other than me!).

3. See the joy on my son's face when he opens his latest editions of his favorite new book series..."The Warriors"...and of course, his big chocolate heart. 

4. Hope my hubby likes his two new shirts...bought with my uber cool girlfriend in hopes that my mid-life (but older than me by one week, one day, and one year!) husband garners some coolness of his own. ..or is it just really too late for that?

5.  Exchange "Happy Valentine's" messages with my good friends and family.

6. A peaceful, happy Valentine's Sunday doing everything my little boy wants to do...my how Valentine's has changed..for the better!

7. To remember that looking in the mirror and loving myself first matters most...it opens the heart to the desire to love others and to be loved. 

8. To tell myself that looks may wane, but my wisdom, confidence, self-reliance, and character are based on the past 48 years and I wouldn't give them up for anything.

9. To continue to pray for the people of Haiti and others in the world less fortunate than myself, and to strive to teach the important lesson of philanthropy and thinking globally to my son.

10. Ok..let's face it...I hope I get my caftan (previous post) and my favorite Godiva dark chocolate! 

It's going to be a great day! Happy Valentine's Day all!

Friday, February 12, 2010

You know you are almost 50 when...

...you want a caftan for Valentine's Day! I now understand Mrs. Roper, of our favorite 70's show, "Three's Company". She wanted to look and feel glamourous even though she rarely left her apartment. Of course, I'm out and about all day long, but come 6:00 PM-ish and I know I've put the keys up for the night, I want comfort. In my 30's and early 40's that usually translated to Juicy Sweats...we all have them, in lots of colors,  and in terry and velour.  Seriously, I'm juiced out.

There's something exotic to me about a caftan, I conjure up images of Morocco and Capri. I envision Jackie O walking the White House in a beautiful silk one.  In the 60's, my pretty mom wore caftans around the house all the time. Comfortable, flattering (extra weight....where?), feminine, and visitor appropriate. Also, for me, I think a caftan is a better alternative to a robe.  No worries that something could be showing when the neighbor or my 8-year-old's friends stop by...my silk robes never seem to stay put!

So K & C...here's the spring floral caftan I want for Valentine's Day..and no "Mrs. Roper" jokes.

Natori Silk Kaftan
Available here at Neiman Marcus

By the way, caftan or kaftan is a Turkish word, and a 'c' or 'k' is correct!

Monday, February 8, 2010

My Big Girl Book Club

It's cold and rainy  a blizzard in Dallas, a perfect night to cuddle up with a page-turner. You know, those books you absolutely can't put down...I've been known to even read at stop lights, much to the chagrin of fellow drivers, I'm sure. So, like many of you, I'm in a book club..the invitation from a friend came a few months ago, and I'm so glad I accepted. Sure, I've been in others, but I call this my "big girl" book club. Why? Past book clubs I've enjoyed were the old 80:20 rule..80% gossip, drinks and more gossip, and 20% (if that) on the book.  This one follows the 80:20 rule, but the conversation truly is 80% book.

My "club" is made up of an eclectic group of women - I'm one of two New Yorkers, one gal from Mississippi, one from East Texas, three Indian women, one Polish, one Korean girl, and a mid-westerner (Nebraska!).  A great mix that makes for some intense conversations. Our club is in it's infancy stage ( 3 months), but I look forward to the coming reads and discussions.

Our past three months reads:

You'd have to be living in a cave not to have heard of this best-seller. Historical fiction based on the lives of black maids and the "country club" set of white women they work for, based in the 1960's just as the Civil Rights revolution is about to begin. Beautifully50 Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

A new look at child development that every parent should read. Each chapter was it's own "aha" moment...I particularly liked the chapters on the detriments of over-praising, new research on sleep deprivation, race relations and lying.  Beautifully50 Rating: 4 stars out of 5

At first, I was reluctant to open this one up... "a series of short stories based in Pakistan" (as described to me by a friend), however, I loved this book! The eight stories are linked with some of the same characters, and explore the lives of wealthy Pakistani landowners and the common men and women that serve them. The feudal system is still at work in Pakistan and other parts of the world. Beautifully50 Rating: 5 stars out of 5.

Of course I don't need Dr. Mao to tell me that a healthy, challenged mind is imperative to our quest for longevity.  Next time a book club invitation comes your way, my suggestion is to accept. Of course, the gift of reading is phenomenal, but the discussion the books can spur may pleasantly surprise you! Our next read:

Care to read along??

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lip it

Earlier this week, I made the mistake of deciding to purchase a girlfriend some Chanel make-up for her birthday.  I'm sure she'll love her gift, but I ended up spending far more than I should of ...on me! Usually, on any shopping expedition, I steer clear of cosmetics - mainly as a time saver (too many artists that know me), but also because I'm a sure-thing. A new mascara? Sure...A new concealer? Yes, I'll try it...I can be such a junkie, so it's better for me not to go to the source.

But, alas, I found myself talking with one of the Dior artists that used to work with me - a beautiful, classy women named Mona. Mona built her business on honesty, so her word is golden with me. I asked her to show me one product that I would love, and she pulled out the Dior Lip Maximizer.

I LOVE IT!! For once, a gloss that gives the perfect shine, not too sticky, not too shiny, is long-lasting and gives a small plumping effect (although that's not my motivation). You can use alone or on top of your favorite go-to lip shade. At $29.50, it's certainly not cheap, but it's also a lip conditioner to use as treatment at night. So, two great uses in one. I've only had it for a few days, but I know I'll be repurchasing it again and again. Oh, another plus, it's got a yummy vanilla mint taste too!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A spoonful of sugar

Today I was at lunch with a very healthy, vegetarian friend of mine. Taking my own advice (well, and that of Dr. Mao's) I ordered hot, green tea and then I grabbed a Splenda packet to sweeten up my cup.  Sitting across from her, I saw the irony in what I was doing - trying to live (and blog about) a healthier and longer life, taking my daily supplements, drinking 3 cups of green tea daily, and here I was, not thinking twice about filling up my healthy drink with an artificial sweetener!

It's well-known that some artificial sweeteners can pose a danger to one's health. Saccharin is carcinogenic as its' been shown to produce bladder cancer in rats. I know the jury is still out on the others, but common sense leads me to believe that artificial anything won't make it to any top 100 list of healthy foods.

I admit it, I began using "Sweet -n- Low" years ago as a calorie saver, and instantly became addicted to the sweetness. Splenda arrived with its' claim to be only one molecule away from the real stuff...well, at least that's what a Splenda executive told my husband on an airplane one day, and I quickly switched from the pink and have been a fan of the yellow for years now.

So sitting across from my size 0, 40-ish-year-old girlfriend, I put the yellow back and went for the sugar. Seriously, do I honestly believe that the extra 16 calories (per teaspoon) that real sugar provides is going to sabotage my weight goals? I eat an extra 16 calories every time I take a crumb of chips off my son's lunch plate. In fact, there are no studies to indicate that artificial sweeteners make any difference at all in weight-loss goals (Secrets of Longevity, by Dr. Maoshing Ni).  We do know that cancer cells can feed on excess sugar in our bodies, but fortunately I've never been a sugar junkie...and I bet an occasional teaspoon in my tea isn't nearly as harmful as the artificial stuff.

At this point in my life, I believe natural is better, and moderation is key (actually I've always adhered to that one). There are some alternatives out there for those of you not wanting any sugar in your diets, but still needing that sweetness. Stevia, an extract from a tropical plant, is a great zero calorie, zero carb, 100% natural alternative to sugar. In fact, overseas, Stevia accounts for up to 40% of the sweetener market. Diet Coke in Japan is made with Stevia vs. NutraSweet or Splenda.  I've used Stevia, and it sits on my pantry shelf, but I'm still getting used to the taste.  Also, Agave Nectar, made from the juice of the succulent agave plant (the same plant that gives us tequila), is a great alternative to sugar and honey. I often use this in my tea at home, as well as on waffles and pancakes, and as a sweet addition to a fruit smoothie. Add some to plain yogurt with walnuts and cranberries and you have a delicious morning treat. I love the taste of this sweet nectar and my son loves it even more than honey!

So no more artificial sweeteners for me...sugar (on occasion), Stevia and Agave Nectar are all I need.
PS - Stevia and Agave Nectar may also be substituted in your recipes for baking, and there are many sites available on-line for conversion assistance.

Stevia Plant and powder
Purchase the highest quality Stevia you can 
to avoid any bitter aftertaste.

Agave Nectar
Available now at most grocers and health food stores.
Use as substitute for maple syrup and honey.