Forever Friends

I’m fortunate to have a lot of people in my life I consider friends. However, only a handful of these can be considered close friends. These are friends who I may not see for months or sometimes even years, but when we do get together, it’s as if no time has passed. I know their siblings and parents as well as my own family. I had dinner at Rustler’s Rooste in Phoenix, AZ with one such friend last week.

My cousin Debbie, Carol's brother Steve, Me, my cousin Jimmy and Carol

Carol and I have known each other since grade school when her family moved next door. She was in fifth grade and I was in fourth. I only mention this because at this point in my life, it’s fun to point out that she’s older. Her first boyfriend was my cousin and my first boyfriend was her brother. Carol and I, along with my cousin Debbie, spent our summers “picking” berries (we weren’t very productive, but we had a lot of fun!) and swimming. We were bridesmaids in each other’s weddings.

When Carol moved out of state, we only saw each other when she came home to visit her family. This was before email became an indispensable tool of communication, and long before we could follow each other’s daily lives on Facebook. But somehow we’ve been able to stay connected. Those long summer days as preteens and teens bonding over boys and difficulties with our mothers created an unbreakable connection.

Carol and her husband Dave

We reminisced over dinner about those days, but also talked about the satisfaction of being in long term marriages, the concern over watching our parents age, the trauma of going through the change, and plans for our retirement years. It’s great to be able to pick up right where we left off and know this is someone I can count on to understand who I was, who I’ve become and my journey to become a woman of finesse*.  To all my forever friends, this blog’s for you!

My friendship finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert            

What’s your friendship finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Put your best face forward

For the past two weeks I’ve been interviewing some of my fascinating friends regarding their professions for my Friday posts. This week I chose to interview Leslie Daoust, owner and operator of Cosmetic Laser Advantage.

I’m honestly not that unhappy with my appearance. Most people act truly surprised to learn I’m in my fifties. I do have smile wrinkles, but hey, they were caused by laughter, and I’m not interested in erasing “joy” from my face. However, I have had more people ask me if I’m upset or mad in the last few years. My skin is slightly sagging around my mouth giving the appearance of a frown. I wouldn’t mind “fixing” that so that my outside reflects what I’m feeling inside.

I met with Leslie, and as I started talking with her, I knew this was something I would like to have done, but was sure the price would be a deal breaker. When I found out that the price was similar to a facial at a high-end salon, the meeting changed from an interview to a treatment session!

Next week I will go into detail about what I had done during those two hours, but today I just want to say how pleased I am with the results. The droopy skin around my mouth is lifted, and my skin feels fantastic – I kept touching it all evening! 

Leslie also provided some information on very low-cost treatments I could do at home involving baking soda and aspirin, which I will share next week.

Living with *finesse is not about looking younger, but looking and feeling healthy. Thanks, Leslie, for helping me make that happen!

My skin care finesse level: 
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What’s your skin care finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Extending that manicure!

For me, living with *finesse is enjoying the little extras as inexpensively as possible. One of the little pleasures I gift to myself is the occasional manicure and pedicure, and if I can enjoy them through the use of Groupon or Sharing Spree all the better. However, I deserve to splurge even if I don’t have a coupon.

What I don’t enjoy is when the manicure starts looking ragged, the color chipping, etc. Thankfully that’s a thing of the past with Shellac manicures, which have been on the market for about two years. I love that the color dries so quickly (no more messing up the manicure the minute you walk out the door) and lasts about two weeks. However, being the frugal gal that I am, I take action to extend that period out to three weeks or more.

First of all, I go with a French manicure so that grow out is less noticeable. Secondly, I apply Solar Oil to the nails daily. I purchased the very small bottle from my manicurist for about $3, which seemed insanely expensive, but it LASTS a long time and is well worth the money. Finally, when I can see the edge of the shellac above my cuticle or notice any “lift,” I gently file the edges or lift down and begin “sealing” the nail with a shiny top coat daily. If you can’t file down the lift, go to your manicurist and have the Shellac removed. You don’t want water getting between your nail and the Shellac and growing icky stuff!

You are advised to have the Shellac removed professionally. I have never had to do that as it peels off my nails easily, sometimes without me even noticing. My nails are very thin and pliable, so that may be the reason.

Let me know if these tips work for you, or how you’ve extended your manicure!

My thrifty finesse level: 
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What’s your thrifty finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Can overeating be triggered by exercise?

I was always active as a child; riding my bike, playing tag – the usual kid stuff. I ran track in middle school and was a cheerleader in high school. I never gave much thought to exercise because I was proportioned adequately, looked fine in whatever I chose to wear and didn’t have any problem hiking the trails my dad thought we should explore.

Now as a middle-aged woman, the memory of that peppy, high school cheerleader has grown quite dim. I can honestly say that I’m not looking to regain that former appearance, but I do want to be as healthy as possible. I exercise and watch what I eat, but have watched the number on the scales creep higher and higher. So, it’s not surprising that an article in the New York Times titled, Does Exercise Make You Overeat, caught my eye.

The article covered two studies. In one study, researchers tracked activity in portions of the brain known as the food-reward system, which have been shown to control whether we like and want food. What hasn’t been clear is how exercise alters the food-reward network. That particular study published in The Journal of Applied Physiology determined that “Responsiveness to food cues was significantly reduced after exercise, and that reduction was spread across many different regions of the brain, including those that affect liking and wanting food, and the motivation to seek out food.”

However, the volunteers in that study were in their 20s, normal weight and fit enough to ride a bike strenuously for an hour. Since many of us do not fit that description, those results may not be typical. In fact, the other study of brain activity after exercise discussed found, some overweight, sedentary people respond to exercise, quite differently than their counterparts in the first study. Their food-reward systems became accelerated after exercise.

The two studies suggest that exercise does have an effect on our food reward regions, but the effect may depend on “who you are and what kind of exercise you do.”

“Four or five years ago, it really looked like appetite hormones controlled what we eat,” says Todd A. Hagobian, a professor of kinesiology at California Polytechnic who oversaw the first study. “But I’m more and more convinced that it’s the brain. Hormones don’t tell you to go eat. Your brain does. And if we can get the dose right, exercise might change that message.”

I don’t necessarily want to eat after I exercise, but I do probably feel a greater license to eat things I shouldn’t as a reward. I think I need a greater amount of *finesse to change that behavior!


My wellness finesse level: 
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What’s your wellness finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Buried in boxes of photos

I had good intentions and followed through pretty well during the first few years of marriage. Shortly after getting our photos developed, I’d place them neatly on the adhesive pages of photo albums with clever captions below. When we started having kids I envisioned photo albums for each child, creatively capturing each milestone from first steps to graduation.

Something went very wrong between the visions and reality and we now have boxes of photos. The ones that did make it into those old adhesive photo albums have been removed, but some are very badly damaged. I invested in several photo-safe boxes and began organizing the photos by date. I’m glad they are safe from further deterioration, but this still doesn’t seem to be the best option for preserving memories long term. Honestly, it’s all a little overwhelming.

I used a new approach with the pictures of my son and daughter-in-law’s wedding. I used an online photo book service and was very pleased with the result. I have to say, the layout options were a little less intuitive than I would have liked, but workable if you have some photo editing knowledge. The same company offers scanning of photos, but I’m not comfortable sending irreplaceable memories through the mail.

Organizing digital photos can be equally frustrating. We recently updated our computer’s operating system and can’t get our photos to transfer. If they aren’t safe on the hard drive, then they have to be stored elsewhere.  Print them? Burn a CD?

A simple internet search yields a lot of results for how to organize photos, but I’d like to know what works for you. Have you found a great solution?

My photo organization finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert

What’s your photo organization finesse level?

Playing detective

I’ve been researching the history of our property and it’s requiring a HUGE amount of *finesse!

I’d heard stories of a murder-suicide involving the owners in the 1930s, and was able to dig up the account from The Oregonian. It’s a pretty interesting read, especially the style of writing, which would never pass for journalism today.

I wanted to find out more about the family, so I plugged their names into I wasn’t having much luck until I entered the name of the half-sister of the owner listed in the newspaper account. I was really excited until I started finding the same two surnames repeated over and over again. It appears this German family wanted to maintain their blood lines and married cousins.  

I was able to contact two of the family members that posted the family trees by email, so I’m hopeful they will respond and help me unravel the tangled twist and turns.

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

My research finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert   

 What’s yours?

Hair stylist shares practical tips

I don’t know what I’d do without my friend and hair stylist, Kelly Dowhan. A professional with more than 30 years of experience, Kelly is passionate about helping her clients look their best.  She enjoys researching current hair and clothing fashions, and is especially interested in proportion, hair and skin tone, and practicality when it comes to hair and clothing fashions.  I recently sat down with Kelly to discuss how to age with finesse*.

Q: Kelly, what are the most important things women can do to keep their hair healthy as they age?

A: The most important thing a woman over 40 can do to keep her hair in the best shape is to make sure she’s getting all the right nutrients and enough sleep for her body to produce healthy hair and skin. This would also include exercise. Most of the demise of a woman’s hair, once she enters into peri-menopause and menopause, is due to hormone changes. This can cause hair to lose its luster, become wiry and thin, not to mention the obvious: grey. Diet and exercise can often delay and lower the impact and signs of aging and the inevitable decline of hormones. 

Additionally, take a moment and reassess your hair type and make sure you’re on target.  Are you still treating your hair with the same type of products you used in your twenties and thirties? If your hair has changed, you should change your products.

Shampooing tip (this is a biggie): “Wash the scalp, not the hair. Condition the hair, not the scalp.” When shampooing, tip your head upside down and apply the shampoo onto the scalp by going in at the base of the hair shaft. Two shampoo applications will be necessary: one from the forehead and temples working back, and one from the nape up to the crown. Don’t work the shampoo through the rest of the strands; the gentle rinse of soapy water passing through will do the job. Only apply conditioner to the dry ends, never near the scalp or around the hairline. 

Q: What’s the biggest mistake women make with their hair as they age?

A: TOO BIG!!!  Rein that baby in. 


Q: What are your three top tips for looking our best at any age?

A: “Shower, Shampoo and Shine!” Look like you care. Get up. Get ready for the day. Do your hair. Put on a little make up — especially lipstick (not too dark as you get older; it can look harsh). 

Regarding the “Shine,” pick out something cute to wear — not just/only “comfortable.” One thing I’ve noticed is that many people in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s tend to wear the same clothes for years –like ten, fifteen, twenty years. This is certainly noble and very practical, but it’s one of the things that can really make a person look, well, kind of stale. 

Newer fabrics may be one of the reasons people don’t rotate their wardrobe as often as they should. Some people want to wear items until they wear out, but, let’s face it; some of these fabrics are so indestructible they could out live us all. And because we don’t want to give away a perfectly good item, we end up with huge outdated wardrobes.

To avoid this, make a pen mark on a tag inside the garment or on a notepad, noting the date you bought the item — like you might do with kitchen spices. Do an occasional assessment of your small, but wonderful wardrobe, looking for items that may not yet be worn out, but have worn out their welcome. Aim for a small, steadily overturning, current set of clothes (which, by the way, makes packing a breeze).

My hair/fashion finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert         

 What’s your hair/fashion finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Eating well out of the clearance bin

I always check the meat department’s marked down/clearance bins, and about 25 percent of the time, find something to purchase. I’ve found specialty roasts all seasoned and ready for the oven at half price! These are the ones offered around the holidays that are really top quality. The last two years I’ve been able to score these for the annual holiday dinner we prepare for our mothers a few weeks before Christmas.

We love salmon, especially Copper River Salmon! Unfortunately, it can be pretty spendy – about $10 per pound on average. However, I know it’s not only delicious, but good for us, so I shell over the money. I was delighted to find wild-caught Sockeye Salmon fillets last week in the clearance bin for 50 percent off. I found two 1-pound packages and used one for dinner that evening and put the other in the freezer.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who sees value in the clearance bins. A recent post on the blog provided the following advice:

“Always check the clearance bin. Just because food is on clearance doesn’t mean it’s bad. Shopping for clearance merchandise doesn’t take long and can usually save you 50 percent or more. Foods that are on clearance are generally approaching their “sell by” date; they’re not already expired.”

Since these foods are close to their “sell by” date, be sure you use it quickly or throw it in the freezer. If you can’t and have to throw it out, it’s not a bargain.

I view it as a game – let’s see how well we can eat while spending the least amount possible. My son thinks I’m cheap, but I’m really rather generous. Saving money on groceries, or any other item allows me to spend more freely on the people I love and do more of the things I enjoy. And that, my friends, is living life with *finesse!

My thrifty finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert    

What’s your thrifty finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Eliminates wrinkles and cures migraines!

As someone who suffers (and suffering is exactly what it is) with migraine headaches, my ears perked up when I heard a story on the evening news regarding a new treatment using plastic surgery. My neurologist generally keeps me posted on advances in treatment; however, I wasn’t aware of the use of plastic surgery, so I sat down and listened.

The subject interviewed, Mariclaire Buckley, very accurately described the life of a migraine sufferer; not being able to care for her children, not being able to make plans. I was nodding my head as she said, “I’ve done physical therapy and the chiropractor. I’ve taken every new drug when it comes out.” Nothing worked. (full article)

The difference between Buckley and me is that I did have success with a drug. When Imitrex came out in the early 90s, I tried it right away and it was nothing short of a miracle. To say it changed my life is no exaggeration. I was able to schedule birthday parties for my kids without having a “migraine backup plan.” I went back to college. I got a job. I enjoyed being “normal” for the first time since I began having migraines at age 12.

Since I found a treatment that works, why the interest in the plastic surgery treatment? While I love the idea of erasing wrinkles, my interest goes beyond vanity.  Unfortunately after 20 years, Imitrex has stopped being an effective treatment for me and I’m back on the hunt for “normal.”  I’ve had Botox injections, which were not successful and since the plastic surgery is an extension of that treatment, it’s doubtful that a brow and forehead lift would cure the migraines.

However, it’s always encouraging to hear of a greater understanding of migraines and new treatments, even if they won’t work for me. I’m generally an optimist, and believe there’s another miracle in the wings that will return my life to “normal” just as Imitrex once did. In the meantime, I’ll keep striving to live my life with as much finesse* as I can muster!

My wellness finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert      

What’s your wellness finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

A “collector” chooses organization

I recently wrote about trying to help my mother begin the overwhelming task of becoming organized. I readily admit to not being organized by nature (wonder where I get that?), but I have picked up some skills that help me achieve an efficient, calm, organized lifestyle. I thought if mom took an organizational class, her eyes would be opened to a whole new world where there’s “a place for everything and everything is in its place.” Oh, if it had only been that easy.

Mom’s a “fly by the seat of your pants” kind of gal. She’s always ready for fun and has the ability to make people feel comfortable. If someone needs her, she drops everything and is there for them. It’s easy to see why she has a LOT of friends. And her friends give her gifts, which she proudly displays. As I mentioned in the previous post, her collection of stuff flows throughout her lovely 3-bedroom, 2-bath home in a seemingly endless display of visual clutter.

Evil Clutter Fairy: "Three weeks after throwing something away you'll need it again."

We attended the organizational class in the summer and she resisted all requests to begin the process of elimination – until a week before Christmas. Mom wanted to host Christmas dinner at her house and understands I have a hard time relaxing while surrounded by clutter. I was fine with her hosting, and she reluctantly accepted my offer to help her get her kitchen and family room organized and festive.

I won’t say it wasn’t challenging, and at times it was even painful, but the process was started. We continued to go through her home one day a week through Feb. We’ve made a lot of progress, but we’ve got a long way to go. I’ll keep you updated!

My organization finesse level: 
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What’s your organization finesse level?

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