Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Upside to the Down Economy/ The Ultimate Packing List

Just wanted to give you a packing tip if you are going on a long trip (more than 10 days) and that is to choose mix and match items by choosing three or four colors as your basic palette, with one accent color. My mother employed a version of this when we were growing up, and the colors she choose were red, white and navy blue, so no matter what we pulled out of the drawer and put together, we didn't look too awful. This method of packing is sort of a Garanimals (if you had kids in the 80's you know what I'm talking about) for adults. The colors I choose for my two- week trip were black, white, khaki, navy blue and red. I went over the recommended amount of colors, but the point is, everything mixed and matched and I don't think I wore the same outfit twice! I also packed a big red purse, a small black purse and black flats, black high heels, black sandals, white flip flops and sneakers to go along with the theme. My sister Kelley restricted herself a little more, with black, red, white base colors and an accent of orange.

The last time we took a European trip, we tried sticking to Rick Steve's packing list, but it was extremely restrictive and included washing your underwear out in a sink. This might be fine for backpackers, but since we knew we were going to be on the ship for 11 days, we felt we could pack a little more, plus we needed outfits for three formal nights. I stuck mostly to solids and some stripes, with a multi-colored skirt thrown in for good measure. Let me tell you, a white shirt and khaki pants can get you through almost any travel adventure and you can always accessorise with scarfs and jewelery. Here's a photo of us from Venice, St. Mark's Square.

Monday, August 29, 2011

I read an article in the Op-Ed section of The New Yorks Times a couple weeks ago that made a lot of sense. Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO of Starbucks sent out an e-mail to his Starbucks employees titled "Leading Through Uncertain Times." Although the title struck me as similar to Jerry Maguire's missive to his sports agency in said movie (right before he gets canned), the idea he esposed is both brilliant and revolutionary. Instead of "Less Clients, More Attention", he proposed that the country should go on strike against its politicians by refusing to give money to either party until they wise up and put America and Americans ahead of party politics.
His theory is that members of Congress make decisions based on re-election and since "the lifeblood of their re-election campaigns is political contributions", that if Americans (big donors and small) stop making contributuions that will give Congress the motivation to start acting responsibly on their behalf. It's no surprise that when Schultz researched the level of political contributions since the year 2000, it has steadily increased each year from 3 to 5 billion in 2008. The "final straw" for Schultz was the inablity to reach a compromise during the debt ceiling crisis. He believed it was "destructive to the country, yet entirely manufactured for political gain. He envisions the boycott to be completely bi-partisan and thinks Congress's job one, should be the creation of new jobs. When that task is accomplished, the boycott would be lifted.
How about it? Are you (to use another movie reference) "Mad as hell, and not going to take it anymore?" Do you want Congress, Democrats and Republicans, to be worried about you and your family or their job and party? Are you willing to put your (lack of) money where your mouth is? I have donated to political parties and specific candidates in the past. I am willing to stop contributions in order to effect change.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Upside to the Down Economy/ On Swimming and Scalps

Here's an update about two recent posts: Swimming and Dry Scalp and what the monkey means.

I have swum every day since I posted, including the day when Hurricane Irene was pouring down on Miami. That day I jumped in and swam one lap, just to stick with the program but other days, I have been swimming about 20 minutes a day. I plan on increasing that to 30 minutes next week. What do I hope to gain from swimming? Toned arms, bigger shoulders, stronger legs and a skinnier core. So far, so good and I figure that by the time it gets too chilly to be swimming, it will be a perfect time to start running again. A word about the monkey in the swimming post photo and what it means (although I guess it only makes sense to me). When I first learned to swim, I took lessons from a nice lady at my grandparent's pool. I can remember laying face down on a towel, on the hot concrete by the pool after my lesson and feeling completely happy and relaxed. When I ventured inside the house to the Florida Room to get a drink, I remember this monkey at my Pop Pop's bar. I was only 2 or 3, but the monkey stuck in my memory (maybe because it was wearing golf clothes and had a drink in it's hand) and it just reminds me of my childhood, swimming and happy times. This monkey is my Rosebud.

As far as my dry scalp goes, I am delighted to report that my scalp is much better. I attribute this to switching shampoos (if only I had known it was so easy I would have done it long ago!) and following other advise I found. I also mashed up an avocado, massaged it into my scalp, let it marinate for 10 minutes and rinsed with apple cider vinegar. Zeke said "No wonder when I was near you I felt like eating guacamole!" In addition, I read that Vitamin D was good for this condition, so in addition to ingesting it, I opened one up and squeezed it around the scalp area near my face. I also have some dry patches near my eyes and in my eyebrow (I know, yuck!) and had been trying to moisturize it with Oil of Olay with no improvement. The Vitamin D worked brilliantly! I also discovered, when I took a shower, I was doing everything wrong. Besides using cheap shampoo, I was washing my hair in super hot water and scratching my scalp with my fingernails, instead of warm water and gentle strokes with my fingertips.

So, my healthy scalp and I are swimming and doing well- hoping to squeeze out these last waning days of summer. Jump in, the water's fine!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Swim Yourself Silly

Heidi Klum declared on her AOL website that she was going to run every day of the summer. It is too hot here to run (at least for me) so I decided to swim every day of the rest of the summer. There is exactly one month left. Swimming is one of those activities that I loved as a child, but never really embraced as an adult, despite the fact that most of the places I have lived, have had pools. I think it was because I didn't want to change clothes and get my hair wet. When I thought about it some more, I realized this was kind of silly since I have to change clothes when I jog and can wear a shower cap to avoid getting my hair wet. I am inspired by women swimmers who are older, like Diana Nyad, who recently attempted to re-create her swim between Florida and the Cuba (at age 61!) and Dara Torres, who won a gold medal at the US Nationals, at age 40. Swimming is a sport you can continue as you age and is kinder to your body than pounding the pavement. Of course, the fact that you don't feel yourself sweating in the pool is also a plus in 90 degree weather.

I recently became Facebook "friends" with someone who was a former swimmer in High School. She looks great and guess what? She's still swimming. She said she still likes to compete, but unlike Diana, Dara or Lori, I don't have that pressure of having been a good swimmer. I am average, at best, have no idea if my technique is good and don't really care. I swam today for 20 minutes, no pressure and hope to continue every day for the next thirty days. Swimming feels like an active meditation (like yoga); it is freeing and exhilarating all at the same time. We'll see how it goes... And it was a little cold when I first got in, but as they say, once I got in there, the water was fine.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Dry Scalp Syndrome

One of the lovely effects of the big M (menopause but I can think of other m words to call it) for me has been a dry scalp. Big, flakes of white skin cover my head, causing me to itch and snow to rest upon my fair shoulders. Alas, what is a (middle-age) girl to do? I finally got sick and tired of the flakes and Googled ways to cure it. Dry scalp, and her sister Dandruff, are common problems most people experience at some point in their life, so there was a lot of info out there.

First of all, make sure you have Dry Scalp and not Dandruff, because treatment is different. Dandruff is yellow or orange in color, dry scalp causes white flakes. Dry scalp is the shedding of dead and dehydrated skin cells, caused by a lack of lubrication of the oil glands in the scalp. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including medical conditions like menopause and also from using products that dry out the scalp. One of the main culprits, apparently, is sodium lauryl sulfate, an ingredient found in most shampoos because it's cheap and it foams. It's a detergent that dissolves oil; unfortunately it also causes scalp irritation. I ran to my bathroom, to put on my reading glasses and read the labels on my shampoo bottles. Guess what? Every single shampoo I owned (including the "hydrating" Herbal Essence shampoo) contained sodium lauryl sulfate!

So here, without further ado, are dos and don'ts for treating dry scalp syndrome.


1) Buy products that contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Phthaltes, DEA, MEA TEA or fragrances.

2) Overbrush or overwash your hair. Try washing hair every other day and don't use super hot water when doing so.

3) Use a lot of hair products. These can build up on the scalp.

4) Use high heat when blow drying your hair.

Now, some ways to treat the problem.


1) Use shampoos that contain natural oils to moisturize the scalp. Some of these would be:

Tea tree Oil, Coconut, Olive Oil, Shea Butter and Jojoba Oil. Avacado can also be mashed and rubbed into the scalp for a natural moisturizer.

2) When you shampoo, rub your scalp in gentle circles with the tips of fingers to massage the shampoo in.

3) Rub conditioner onto scalp twice a week. Let sit 10 minutes with a shower cap on, then rinse out.

4) Rinse with apple cider vinegar.

5) Use a clarifying shampoo (just make sure it doesn't have Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in it) once a week to remove the buildup of hair products.

6) Use a brush with bristles made from natural fibers.

7) Take Vitamins C and D.

Well, I hope this helps if you have a dry scalp. I am going to try my own advice and see if it works. I am looking forward to having a healthy, moist scalp. This may take up to two weeks to show signs of improvement. I will keep you posted. By the way, taking care of your scalp is not cheap. I just paid $8 for a bottle of shampoo. I usually buy Suave for a couple bucks but, of course it contains, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. Frankly, my dears, I think my scalp is worth it!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ The Big Scary Boogy Monster is Back Again

Just when you thought it was safe to venture into the relatively calm financial waters, along comes Jaws (in the form of a Congress unwilling to compromise, the S & P getting downgraded, and stocks taking a plunge before going up and down and up and down) to scare the crap out of us again. Are we headed for another recession? Depression? Deflation? Who knows? In this very fragile and slow recovery our country is in, any ripples of uncertainty feel like a tsunami. On the bright side, a recent article indicated CEO's of big companies are buying up stocks in their own companies, while "mom and pops" tend to panic and sell off when bad news strikes. The gist of the article was that 'mom and pop" always get it wrong. So, tempting as it is to panic, I think we should sit tight and ride out this major bump on the road to recovery. No one knows what the future holds, but getting depressed and stressed out helps nothing. And to think I was going to change the name of my blog... not yet anyway. Hopefully, happy days will be here again soon.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home. Just did back-to-back vacations and was gone for three and a half weeks, save one night in between! As much as I enjoyed it (and I do love to travel) I am very grateful to be back at home. There's something about sleeping in your own bed, with your own pillow, drinking your own freshly made coffee, that can't be beat. While I loved the 5-course meals on the cruise and the fried chicken and okra on our road trip, my body has not so much and I am looking forward to eating healthier, exercising regularly (although I walked a lot, exercise was sporadic) and, in general, getting back into a routine. With school right around the corner, that will be easier to do. Sometimes it takes a trip away to help us to appreciate the simple things in life- like soaking in a bubble bath in my own bathtub (I'm always scared of the germs that lie in wait in hotel room tubs) and sipping a glass of wine in my own backyard (while ruminating about all the work we need to do around the house). As I said in the beginning, Home Sweet Home.

"Sweet Home Alabama, Where the skies are so blue. Sweet Home Alababam. Lord, I'm comin' home to you." Lynyrd Skynyrd

"He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home." Goethe