Living Your Best Life at Any Age

Archive for October, 2011

What Happened to the Dinner Party?

I love to browse cookbooks and magazines about cooking.  I subscribe to Cooks Illustrated and and even watch the Food Network at the gym.  (OK, I did that three times but it sounds good)  I imagine the wonderful dinner parties I will have.  In the meantime I eat leftover pizza, lean Cuisine or a frozen dish from Trader Joe’s

But I love to cook and entertain.  But no one seems to entertain anymore.  I don’t know if it is geographic and that people in the Northwest just don’t invite each other over for dinner or just the kind of friends I meet.   As I sit here in my bathrobe in the middle of the night I think of the dinner parties I might have.

At one time I committed to one dinner party a month.  I invited a young couple fro random reasons I can’t remember.  I’m not sure what the menu was but there was that fantastic dessert.  I don’t remember the dessert either but I do know that it had lots of whip cream which I had flavored with cinnamon.  My guest was allergic to cinnamon and almost went into cardiac arrest.  Cinnamon!  Who would have thought that it could be lethal.  After assurances that he did not need emergency medical help, the couple hastily grabbed their coats and were out the door.  Not an auspicious start to my weekly dinner parties.  That was three or four years ago and I have not resumed the practice.  But I might.

There are the holiday dinners.  I now get Christmas dinner and last year I also got Thanksgiving and Easter brunch.  My immediate family is my daughter, son-in-law, grandson and two other grandmas.  There is no extended family and  there are no grandfathers.  So I import family.  Each year I find someone who either has no family or has disowned the family for the time being.  It is always good to add new folks to the mix as it changes the dynamics.

I love the family holiday dinners but the menu is pretty much fixed.   One must not deviate from Turkey for Thanksgiving, roast beef for Christmas and ham for Easter.  One year I announced that I would be preparing seafood newberg for Christmas dinner.  I almost had a boycott.  Roast Beast is the only thing you can have for Christmas dinner.   I read and I studied and I determined it would be the best roast beef ever.  Each year I determine it will be the best roast beef ever.  Now when you only cook something once a year it is hard to remember what worked and what didn’t.  Taking notes would be a prudent thing to do.  I guess this Christmas I will do that.  Cook’s Illustrated still is my mainstay.  I can tell you all about the science of roast beef if you like.  No one else wants to hear it.  Basically the theory is a very low temperature for a very long time.  When you have gone through two bottles of wine and all the appetizers are gone and the guests are cranky, you turn up the oven to incinerator and will that thermometer to go above body temperature.  Works every time.

Then there is my pineapple upside down cake.  Again Cook’s Illustrated.  Real butter, fresh pineapple, an uneven number of egg whites and yolks and a professional grade mixer.  I added the mixer after the first year’s pineapple upside down brick. (Saved with lots of whip cream — no cinnamon)   The cake got better and better with the addition of the heavy duty mixer that only comes out twice a year.  So at my last party I happened upon a pineapple upside down cake at Costco.  It cost eight dollars!  I spent that on ingredients alone.   So I put the Costco cake on my fancy raised cake plate and passed it off as my own.  And the verdict?  All the guests who knew of my quest  praised me for finally perfecting the recipe.

So what’s next on my culinary adventure?  Maybe I could perfect recipes for a dinner party for one?



Things You Must Not Say If You Don’t Want to Look OLD

“Aging is mandatory.  Getting old is optional” has become my mantra.  Granted I am being opinionated here which is a prerogative of  being a sage, which I intend to be.  

So here goes my own opinion grounded in careful research while moving around my community and reading on line blogs.  I use OLD as the term we are trying to avoid.  This is in contrast to vital, wise, passionate and fabulous we all want to be.  Let’s be sages.  So here goes a top ten list of things not to say:

10.  “Why can’t you just pick up the phone and call me?”

Phone calls are seen as mostly intrusive by younger people.  They text, e mail, or IM.  Phone conversations are pre-arranged for mutually convenient times.  Send a text, or better yet, Facebook message (see below) and say “Let’s arrange a phone conversation about this”.

9.  “I see no use for texting and don’t plan to ever do it”

 I’m guessing you would have said the same thing about the telegraph, or even telephone.  No you don’t have to write in the cryptic OMG R U LOL?  I prefer using full words and punctuation.  I think it makes me look educated but not OLD.  Texting is very efficient.  My neighbor and I will send quick messages like “Are you ready”   “Yes”, “Meet you out front”.  Better than honking the horn, don’t you think?

8.  “Hello, this is _____, it is 11:30” 

Uh, my phone has already told me who it is and what time you called.  Get to the message.  Oh, by the way  (BTW in texting) voice mail does not necessarily require a response if the messages was clear.  (“I am bringing red wine tonight.”)

7.  “I just don’t get today’s music at all”

 Do you remember your parents saying this?  At least ask and try to identify some more recent band.  The good news here is that there is a current following for The Beatles, The Rollings Stones, Eric Clapton and even the Grateful Dead.  Surely you can identify something there?  Remember though that they are considered retro.  Hint:  If they are playing at the local Indian Casino they are probably not very current.  Jazz can be a safe bet.  Big bands are not.  If you really want to score points comment on the latest “Duet” album of  Tony Bennett.  He is even older than me but considered hip.  Extra points if you can comment about his singing with Amy Winehouse.  (Recorded before she died)

6.  “What is Twitter?”

You get a pass here.  You don’t have to actually use it but you should know what it is.  It can be a useful news feed but not essential to keep from looking OLD.  Just know that “tweet” is a verb and a noun.  One tweets and reads other’s tweets. Tweets are limited to 140 characters.   Most of the news folks now have “handles”.  Twitter names begin with @ – – –  (pronounced “at”)   As in @presidentobama.  (I don’t know if that is real but the white house does tweet)  Twitter is free and you would get major NOT OLD points if you used it occasionally.

5  “I would never go on Facebook”

 You better.  This is where your children and grandchildren congregate.  If you can’t set up an account, ask a friend to help.  Does not even have to be a younger friend.  People over 60 are the fastest growing demographic on Facebook.  There are privacy settings you should know about that your friend can help you with.  Facebook is a growing phenomenum and not going away.  You can ooh and ahh over your friend’s pictures of grandchildren and soon you will  be posting your own pictures.  (See “smart phone” in previous post about taking pictures)   I have really increased my social circle on Facebook even though I do not befriend strangers.  Maintaining social contacts is crucial to mental health as we grown older.  This is a way to stay in touch.

4.  “Who is John Stewart?”

 John Stewart and the Daily Show is supposedly a comedy show but it has become the major source of news for many younger people.  You may not agree with what you hear but you will be in the know.  While the show has a liberal bent, you will find even conservative politicians find it necessary to make an appearance.  You don’t have to “get it” but at least be conversant.  Even Bill O’Reilly goes on the Daily Show.  You may be offended by some of the language but that in itself might make you look OLD.

3.  “What is your fax number so I can send you this document?”

 The fact that you are faxing does show you are more advanced than some but in today’s technology world the in thing is to “scan”.  You scan a document much like you do a fax only it goes to your computer, most likely as a “PDF” which you then e mail.  Very efficient.  You no longer need hard copies and everyone can save the document on their computer.  Court’s are now accepting scanned documents.  Also the PDF is in color and looks just like the original.  If you have a multi-function printer, and I hope you do, scanning is easy.

2.  “My e mail is”

 Instant OLD.  Even or etc.   are OLD.  From a practical point of view, if you change service you have to change your e mail address and then you have to send those annoying “I have a new address” type e mails that none of us can remember to change.  You will notice a lot of “” addresses.  You still will get your e mail on the same service but if you change service, you still have your “gmail”  address.  Extra points for getting your own domain name.  (   Ask a friend to help you.  Incidentally, I recently learned that e mail addresses are no longer case sensitive so don’t bother capitalizing names.

1.  “All this new technology is too much for me”

 NO, no, no.  Please never ever say this.  This is really OLD.  Embrace technology!  There is so much fun you can have with it.  You can engage your younger friends by asking them to help you learn.  Think of the things we can do now that we couldn’t before.  We can run a small business out of our house with a computer and internet access.  That’s about all you need.  How great is that.  You can write a blog.   You can share photographs, write poetry or learn the words to a current poplar song. (Or find the words for “You Are My Sunshine”)

Please have some fun.  Learn something new.  Become a sage!

Technology for Old People

I don’t want to be disparaging to old people.  I just don’t want to be one of them.   If you are reveling in being old, go for it.  I choose not be.  So here are some more irreverent ways not be old.


Please don’t run from technology.  You learned how to use a telephone answering machine and eventually you programmed a VCR didn’t you?  Today’s technology is actually easier to use than the old stuff.  Here are some techie things that make my life better:


The Digital Video Recorder means you now watch television on your own terms.  I have to laugh when someone tells me they never get to watch a certain show because it is on too late or because they aren’t home on those nights.  RECORD your favorite shows.  I have a cable box DVR and all I have to do is look at the TV schedule and click one button to automatically record a show.  You can record just that episode or the whole series.  Wondering when the new season of The Good Wife or Parenthood starts.  Don’t need to.  If you recorded the series last season, it will automatically start recording this season.  Then you can watch on your own time,  speed through commercials or go direct to the end to find out who got booted on Dancing With the Stars.  And it really is OK to dump seven episodes of a series you lost interest in long ago.


They are not called “cell phones” anymore.  Smart phones at a  minimum have your calendar, your contacts, and a call log.  Many also have “Apps” or applications — hundreds or more.  While installing an appliance at my house, a friend downloaded an app for a level.  You know, a carpenter’s level.  There was also a flashlight but I haven’t found the screwdriver yet.  There are apps to help you with your diet and exercise, shopping, recipes and on and on.  Oh, and don’t forget the camera which is now ubiquitous at any public event.  Your grandchildren are probably playing Angry Birds or other games.

Smart phone users are divided into iPhone and Droid and still a few Blackberries.  You can get these phones from any of the carriers.  There are other phones that do some of the functions of a smartphone but those are the biggies.  You do know that iPhone is an Apple Product promoted by Steve Jobs and Droid is now Google?  Blackberry is Research in Motion (RIM) but that probably isn’t important to know any more.

These are not phones you leave in your car glove compartment for emergency use.  These are important accessories to  pull out whenever you are scheduling an appointment or looking for an address. You also will use the maps to help you find where you are going.  When you become more proficient, you will find a nearby restaurant, movie times and how to get to your niece’s birthday party.  You can even find out the cheapest place to buy gas.  It is really beyond imagination what these little tools can do for you and you will wonder how you ever did with out it.

The most important reason to have this accessory is that you will not look OLD.  I am chagrined over the number of younger people who act surprised that, at my age, I would have an iPhone.

Oh and don’t forget to get a cool case for it.  You do want yours to be distinguishable.


The technology is changing so fast here that it will make your head spin.  Basically what we are talking about is a tool for reading books electronically.  Why would you want to?  How many books can you keep in your purse to take with you as you go about your daily routine.  How full is your suitcase with reading material for your vacation.  One little e reader will do the trick.  Yes, you do have to buy the books but there is new technology for borrowing library books as e readers.  You will probably really appreciate the fact that you can change the typeface to be larger and you won’t have to wear reading glasses.

You can read e books on a smart phone but I find that much too small.  You can read them on your computer or laptop but that is too heavy to take with you in your purse.  You can read ebooks on a tablet such as an iPad and there are specific e readers such as Kindle or Nook.  A tablet has a lighted background, which can be handy but I am told is also harder on your eyes.  An e reader such as Kindle uses a technology that more resembles ink on paper and is easier to read in bright daylight.

I like my Kindle because it is light weight, I can read in sunlight and it is easier on my eyes before going to sleep.  Another benefit for me is that it is only a reader.  I get distracted easily and don’t want to be checking e mail, Facebook or websurfing while I am reading.  I understand that Kindle may be adding these features and that’s a negative for me.

Of course, I also have an iPad and a laptop and an office computer and a smartphone.  You know what is really cool?   They all synchronize so that I can continue reading on my iPad a book I was reading the night before on my Kindle and be on the right page.  Is that cool, or what?  (I still say cool even though that is probably OLD)

Come on.  Try some new technology.

Why do all the “How to Look Fabulous at Any Age” Articles End at 50?

Glamour, Vogue, W, Cosmopolitan, Savvy.  We expected it of them.  But MORE — the magazine for mature women?   They all do fashion and makeup articles for looking good at any age.

Really?  ANY age?

Rarely do they even go to 60.  As the baby boomers are now in their sixties we should expect differently.  But do we really need their advice anyway?  You know what looks good don’t you?   What looks good is self confidence, good posture and a certain attitude.  Eat your veggies, wear sunscreen and smile.  Bah humbug!  I know very nice women who do that and are really very lovely but,  let’s face it, they do look OLD.    You are comfortable with your age and you have the attitude and so-called “inner beauty”.  Can you do more to not look old?  Of course you can.

I’m a lawyer and I have no experience in style, make up or mental health counseling but I do have some observations and I read.  So here goes totally MY opinionated read on it.  You are free to ignore and choose to look frumpy.


My observation is that older women go to two extremes:  Give up on makeup altogether or stay frozen in time.  Neither of you is making you fabulous.  While it is true that less is more as you get older that does not mean none.  Here are some ideas that I have either tried or read about:

The no makeup day

If you normally wear makeup, have a no makeup day.  Get used to facing the world in your natural state.  I recommend this only for a day in the woods or errands to the dry cleaner.  If you engage in professional activities this way, people will inevitably say you look tired or ask if you are alright.  Then you would have to admit you aren’t wearing any makeup which means you are admitting that you normally do wear makeup which is a secret we are supposed to keep.

The makeover

Take yourself to a department store makeup counter.  Best to do this on a slow week day when the clerk’s have more time for you.  Look around to a counter that seems to resonate with you.  You are not looking for the most trendy with runway looks.  The old stodgy brands are probably best choice here.  I happen to like Bobbi Brown as her approach speaks to me.  Some stores have makeup artists that supposedly work across all lines but I haven’t tried that.  Ask for a makeover.

Don’t panic, it’s OK to not buy anything but I believe out of courtesy you should at least buy a lipstick or mascara.  Unless you really do need it, skip the skin care spiel.  You are looking for the superficial, not the inner glow.  You want makeup.  Say it.

Now, breathe and remain open minded.  This person who is probably younger than your own children is your current expert.   Let this woman (or perhaps man) know that you do want a minimalist look you can wear every day. If you have ever watched “What Not to Wear” you know what I am talking about – think Carmody.

It is OK to say that you need to wear your new look around for a while before you buy anything but I bet you are going to love a couple of items.  You might be able to duplicate this at the drug store but in my experience, I spent more money buying the wrong thing cheaper.  Go ahead splurge.

If you absolutely hate it, you can try another store on another day but if you keep getting the same results you hate you are probably in a time warp and it really is time to change your look.

One more thing:  I know there are on-line sites where you can order out of stock colors.  DON”T.  There is a reason those colors are no longer at the counter.  Love That Red must be banished from your makeup table.


I thought it was just me.  I have the worst hair.  Thin, stringy which takes on the look of an old fashioned permanent in the rain.  I finally found a hairdresser that gets me and I have learned a lot from him.  What I’m talking about here, however, is not looking old and that means a few simple rules.

There are no rules

First rule is that there are no rules.  Long hair, short hair, curly, gray, blonde etc. etc. can all look great or can look frumpy.  The point is do you look as vital and fabulous as you can.  Remember, we are not trying to fool anyone or look younger.  So here in my opinionated way, are my rules.

Have you changed your hair in the last five years?  Please do.  There is no such thing as “classic” that never changes.  Audrey Hepburn, Mary Tyler Moore,  Princess Grace, Jackie Kennedy – all classic ladies changed their hair as they got older.  All stayed fabulous.

To color or not to color?  That is your choice but I have observed that most hair color needs some enhancement.  Is it shiny and healthy looking?  That’s what you are looking for.  A good hairdresser is worth his weight in gold.  You can improve your natural color, add some highlights or “cover the gray”.   Your skin color changes over the years and your hair color can help you look better.

Here are some ideas to keep you from looking old and frumpy:


If you participated in the summer of love and have not changed your hair, you should.

If your hair is so long you must always pin it up in some way, you will be amazed at how good you can look with freer hair.

Home hair coloring can really look old and frumpy.  This is where you must get professional help.  Really.  Take a look around you in a crowd.  I bet you can recognize the drug store hair color.

Don’t get me started on “permanents”.  It does not cover your thinning hair or enhance your appearance.  Ask your hairdresser to be honest with you and not just give you what you have always asked for.

You can be too blonde.  Even in southern California.

OK, you really don’t give a damn but do you have to look that way?


So the message about hair is the same as makeup – Find the balance between too much and too little, get professional help, and don’t be afraid of change.

Next:  Fashion, technology, manners for the truly modern mature woman. 

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