Cold weather brings dry air and this winter has been a cold one indeed–too cold to go outside and play some days. I saw negative 24 on my outdoor thermometer this week and a few days never got out of the negative numbers at all, in spite of the sunny days with beautiful blue skies. Cold air is dry air this time of year and heating our houses tends to dry out what is left of any moisture, leaving skin feeling, well, extra crispy! I feel like immersing myself in a big, old tub of fragrant oils to restore my outer layer to the plump and flexible covering I remember from better, warmer days.
In addition to the dry air, some medications like blood thinners and corticosteroids can make the dry shin problem worse, actually thinning the fat layer beneath skin that gives it cushion and makes it resilient. Hormone deficiencies may also cause thinning of the skin.
What can you do to support your outer layer? Studies show that adequate intake of Vitamin A, C and E and beta carotene support strong skin from the inside out. Check your vitamin supplements to be sure you are getting these, eat colorful fruits and vegetables and drink a lot of water. Water is removed from the system at a more rapid rate in cold weather and older adults often fail to keep up with the demand for hydration. This can lead to a host of additional issues such as disorientation, fainting, and susceptibility to infection.
While immersing yourself in a vat of fragrant oils sounds lovely, it is a bit impractical, so I came up with this idea for an oil rub that feels delicious and results in soft and comfortable skin. The recipe is below. Click Here to see a video of me making the Bath Cakes.
• 1Cup Coconut oil
• A few drops of essential oil in a fragrance you love- try lavender or rose
• Optional -1cup of sugar, to create an exfoliating scrub
1-Put the jar of coconut oil in a small saucepan with a cup or two of water and heat gently until melted.
2-Measure out a cup or so-precision is not needed!
3-Add a few drops of essential oil and sugar if making exfoliating scrub
4-Pour into round bottomed cup or bowl, about 1/4 cup in each.
5-Let harden to room temperature and run a little hot water over the bottom of the cup or bowl to release.
To use, rub the oil cake all over your body right before a bath or shower. Don’t bother with lots of soap-it is drying to skin and the oil will dissolve and clean you just as well. Be sure to use a good rubber tub mat with lots of traction because it will get slippery.
Store your oil cakes in a jar, just in case summer comes around again and it gets warm enough to melt them. Remember summer? It stays light out after 5PM and you can go outside without your parka, mittens, thermal boots, 2 hats, snow pants and face protector. Then we will be complaining about the heat and humidity. A girl can dream!Read More
The first signs that I was losing my mind came predictably just after I entered my forties. After a busy day keeping the lid on my business, getting the family organized and off to school, then fed and back out the door for my daughter’s class participation in a professional performance of Carmina Burana, I found myself grateful to have my seat in the balcony. Surrounded by fellow parents, I chatted and called out greetings to friends as I took off my coat. Then, suddenly, conversation stopped all around me–people seemed to be staring. Looking down, I saw with horror, a soup stained apron tied over my ‘dress up’ duds. It was not my favorite moment and I remember thinking, this must be how it starts…
Now I know it was not really the start of a long slow decline in my memory and mental ability, but more probably a function of the extreme demands a family with three teenagers puts on a working Mom. Sometimes I just ran out of energy and thinking ability before I ran out of the day.
New brain science tells us that in many ways, a brain is just hitting it’s stride in middle age. The brain does not have a finite number of brain cells. It can make new ones. Scientists call this “neuroplasticity” and it is how the brain changes throughout all of life, not just the early years. Experience can actually change both the brain's physical structure and functional organization. So while older brains do slow down when it comes to processing calculations, it continues to make new connections, and is better than the younger brain at coming to meaningful conclusions. Maybe we have enough data already? If all the colors in the world can be made from red, yellow and blue, maybe the millions and millions of data points already logged in our heads be enough to spark the fire of wisdom?
A flexible brain has multiple pathways to solve problems. The older executive may not be able to hold every bit of information in the fore front of his brain as he did when he was young, but he knows where to look for it when he needs it. Furthermore, the special trick of the older brain is to gather all the information and bring it to a central spot for processing without stopping along the way to consider if the information from that particular collection is applicable. The time taken by younger brains to sort as they go leaves them a smaller bucket of data from which to draw meaningful conclusions and slows down the process. An older person can solve problems by calling up a many layered array of possible solutions and throw out the less relevant data at the end of the process forming a conclusion with assurance. In my case, I havn't worn an apron to the opera since my forties… That, my friends, is wisdom in action.
A few weeks ago, I set out to organize my home and office, beginning with a cleaning and sorting of my front hallway. A vision formed that day of order emerging from the tangle old scarves, single mittens (why is there always a single mitten?) sports gear and books that had washed up on the shore of my entryway. In my minds eye I saw drawers that open easily, freed from their jam of lost, broken and mysterious gadgets, I saw closets with no mysterious bags and boxes of things cleared in past attempts at order, I saw myself living a life of peace in a home where there was ‘a place for everything and everything in it’s place’. A place much like the studio of sculptor Daniel Chester French, pictured here. I forgot one thing about Daniel Chester French as my vision formed-he has been dead for well over a hundred years and I suspect someone did his sorting for him before opening his studio to the public.
Having advised the readers of my book and blog to “clear the clutter” I thought you might like to hear how that is going for me. Warning, it’s not pretty–yet. After pulling that single thread that unraveled my whole house, I stepped into the heart of chaos. It was hard to remember my design principles-”Have nothing in your house that you do not know how to use, or believe to be beautiful” as William Morris said, but having begun, I must go on, or have no where to sleep, and no where to stow my clothes as I have given away my bed and dresser (there was some bad feng shui-long story.)
The vision was lovely–so compelling that before I knew it, I was committed to a wholesale rearrangement of the house. Summoning strong relatives, I swapped the bedrooms for the office redesigned the walk in closets and shifted mountains of “stuff”. I hired a friend to fix all the broken bits, finally finish off that drywall in the bathroom and paint random walls.
I can see how great this is going to be. The excitement is building as I anticipate the new bed, the closet where I can actually find something to wear, and the desk placed in my power spot in my new office.
But right now, today, drywall dust drifts around thickly, and the “to be sorted” boxes might be breeding little boxes and bags in the dim corners. I have to go away for a day or or possibly die from sneezing. I am not giving up, this is a strategic retreat. After taking care of some pressing business meetings, conveniently a hundred miles from home, I will return and tackle the remaining tasks with vigor, if not joy, because I can still see the shining vision of my orderly home.
I am declaring that this time, I will triumph over the dark, unconscious corners (am I still talking about my house?), I will bring light and order to every last nook and cranny. Wish me luck, and pray for me, for this is a battle and I must win, or forever cower in the guest room!
It's the New Year and I'm supposed to be buckling down to work, but the snow is deep and the sun is out and I'm headed out for the slopes! Putting myself out there is a bit scary, but I try to do at least one thing I would rather not do, at least once every day. Today, I'm in the clear because I have faced down a tangle of scary digital file conversions, and if I did not exactly triumph over it, I did stand my ground. (Waiting for a call back from tech support, but patience is a virtue too.)
As a dedicated and extremely amatuer snowboarder who has taken all the hits to the head I choose to take in this lifetime, I focus on getting down the hill in the upright position. I used to think that if I wasn't falling, I wasn't learning. After a particularly bad season of falls, I decided to be smarter, not faster. OK, I realize that hurtling down an icy incline with both feet stuck to a slick board is not the safest thing to be doing, but the joy I get from those few minutes is worth it, not to mention that snowbaording is cool. I always wanted to be cool and now I am. (I declare it)
It's hard to get up and out the door in winter, so here is a little inspiration for you.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a little u-tube movie is worth a million as it is made up of many many frames. Having my priorities straight, I offer you dessert first-my recipe for delicious low calorie, dairy free (only if you want it to be) HOT CHOCOLATE. http://ow.ly/gC4Lx
After a frenzy of post holiday reorganization-(order is yet to emerge from the chaos, but I live in hope) I turned to a frank and honest assessment of my daily practices. Feeling a bit down from not living up to last years resolutions as completely as I had hoped, I wondered what a wholesale makeover including every healthy practice i have heard of and approved, would look like, so I made a list. I love lists. They are so crisp and hopeful. They are the picture and promise of my potential–right there on the page in black and white.
The list looked long, very long–and daunting. In a frenzy of pre-action, worried about future failure to be a slimmer, stronger, altogether more cheerful and fun self, I assigned times to all the things on the list and found that it was do-able, but only if I eliminated sleep and ditched all frivolous but fun time wasters, like watching Downton Abbey and all the episodes of ‘MI-5’ on Netflix.
One of the perks of age is wisdom I hear, so I decided to use some of mine and pare the list down to items that felt good and were good for me as well. I was left with quite a reasonable resolution to:
A. Enjoy a daily cup or two of espresso
B. Stop neglecting my chocolate intake
C. Drink wine more regularly
You may think me mad, but to quote Oscar Wilde-
“Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.”
A bit of research turned up lots of proof that indulgence is good, not only for the soul, but also for the body. Here is a summary of what I found, with links to the research in case you have doubts.
Finally , proof that your morning mug of bliss -aka coffee, is good for you after all. Women who drink a cup or more of coffee daily have up to a 25 percent lower stroke risk than those who don’t indulge, according to a new study reported in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
"Coffee is incredibly rich in antioxidants, which are responsible for many of its health benefits," says Joy Bauer, RD, nutrition and health expert for Everyday Health and The Today Show. Caffeine may play a role in it’s health benefits but decaf also packs a healthy punch. If you worry about caffeine intake–try darker roasts for a more robust experience with fewer side effects. Regular coffee drinkers have less chance of getting Diabetes, Skin cancer, Cavities, Parkinson's disease, Breast cancer, Heart disease and head and neck cancers as well.
In a ten year study that concluded in April 2012 -Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study researchers found that of the 2013 participants, those who consumed dark chocolate with a polyphenol content of 500+mg daily, significantly reduced both total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. (One tablespoon of cocoa or 1/4 of a big dark chocolate bar contains 500 g of polyphenols) The effect of a daily dark chocolate regimen could prevent 70 non-fatal cardiovascular events and 15 cardiovascular related deaths per 10,000 people annually.
Considering that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, a small investment (an estimated $42.00 per year) in “The Food of the Gods” could pay off very well. The study concluded that “Chocolate benefits from being, by and large, a pleasant and hence sustainable treatment option.”-Indeed!
The latest, greatest research about the health benefits of wine comes from a twin study recently done in England. The study proved that a glass of red wine per day increased bone building osteoblasts and immediately began to strengthen bones. The abstaining study participants had a decrease in bone density, but were able to quickly rebuild by adding a glass of wine per day to their diet.
The Yale School of Medicine conducted a study that showed a connection between drinking red wine (red wine has a higher polyphenol content than white) and cardiovascular health.
Don’t worry, all you white wine lovers-according to a study by the University of Buffalo white wine helps support lung function. The study showed superior lung function in those who enjoyed 2-5 glasses per week. Drinking wine also boosts the function of the pancreas and reduces the level of glucose in your blood. This prevents you from being at risk for diabetes during any stage in your life.
So go ahead and resolve to indulge yourself regularly–it could be the healthiest thing you do all year!