Category Archives: A Certain Age

Observations on years 2×20 and beyond

I Looked Younger When I Was Fat

I have read and heard on news shows that older women look younger with a few extra pounds on them.  It’s all about skin elasticity after 40.

Yikes!  I am now an “older woman.”  I will be fine with this, as I truly believe age is more about attitude than the numeral.  However, the realization that losing weight to increase my physical health, mental health, fitness, and longevity may make me look older is a bit disconcerting.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m willing to take the hit.

For all interested, I spent the past 15 months focusing on reaching a personal healthy weight with Weight Watchers Online.

When I glance at my reflection now in a mirror or window, I notice I look more my age than in the past.  It seems to be more noticeable in the neck and eye sockets.  I have a genetic tendency for dark circles in the eyes, but I see a wrinkly neck syndrome starting – no way!

I admit, I have enjoyed looking 20-30 something for the past 20-30 years, even when I wasn’t.  It’s a transition, but I embrace the change.  I will celebrate the fact that I am not 30 and that I don’t look 30, unless it’s a dark bar.  If it’s a very dark bar, I could even look 2o-something … OK, a girl can dream …

That doesn’t mean I will stop having fun or being silly, just that I will not focus on looking  young at any cost.  I will *try* to stay true and age gracefully and naturally.  More to come on that …


14 – I Didn’t Realize

It appears natural for people to reflect on the past when the year ends; but, it also seems artificial.  I try to reflect on things important quite frequently, hoping that I learn from past mistakes and experiences.  I don’t always meet that goal, but have had good success in the past year or so.

That concept truly came to light when I looked back at my weight logs from January 2010.  I have been periodically documenting my weight on a notepad since 2002.  During my three experiences with Weight Watchers (including Weight Watchers Online), I kept all the official logs, which do go back to the 1990s.  Do others do that?  For anyone that doubts Weight Watchers — don’t.  It is solid psychology and science that adapts to changing data.

When I reviewed the logs today, I found that I was 14 pounds heavier on January 1, 2011, than I am today, January 1, 2012.  How cool is that?  I have become accustomed to my current weight range, as it is the range that feels most like me.

In the interest of full disclosure, I currently am not at the goal weight for Weight Watchers nor my own goal.  I am 4 pounds higher than the WW goal and 7-8 pounds higher than my personal goal.

However, I spent 90 minutes working out at the local Lifetime Fitness club today.  In addition, I worked out 15 times at that club in December, which I believe is a lifetime record for me.  I have never been a gym rat.  The music on the iPod Nano does help.  I do have a BlackBerry, which can also store music, but I find it too cumbersome.

The iPod Nano was a recent discovery and a Christmas gift – thanks to Mom and Jack.  The size is perfect. 

I wasn’t convinced that the heart rate monitors on the gym equipment were accurate or aligned to me and my size.  Every time I used the heart rate monitors at the gym, I thought the ranges were too high.  I purchased the Polar FT60 to monitor my heart rate and manage fitness.  I used the Polar for the first time, today, so time will tell.

Anyone who thinks change is too difficult — see photos from September 2010 and from December 2011 — you can do it!

Is the Original Chex Mix recipe truly the original?

No, it’s not!  The current “original” recipe includes bagel chips and seasoned salt.  Bagel chips did not exist in the 1950s, when Chex Mix was invented.  I’m fairly certain the seasoned salt blend had not yet been invented, either, but I cannot find any data to support my theory.  Chex Mix was a staple and a tradition in my family’s holiday treat collection.  I remember being very impatient about how long it took to make, since you could smell it in the oven after about 25 minutes.  I admit, when I made it tonight, I dipped into it before the instructed 60 minutes of baking was completed! Chex cereal was introduced in 1937 by Ralston Purina.  By 1952, recipes for “Chex party mix” appeared on boxes of Chex cereal.  It is reported that, in 1955, the wife of a Ralston executive in St. Louis served the snack at a holiday function, which launched its popularity.  Apparently, the invention of television spurred creativity in developing recipes for  snacks that could be enjoyed without interrupting television watching.  The commercially packaged versions of Chex Mix came about in 1985.  While the commercially packaged product can serve as an emergency fix, it does not compare to the oven roasted version.   A few years ago, I consulted my mother to find the true, original recipe; or, at least the one she used when we all were kids.  She did use pretzel sticks, which I always found very annoying.  The inside of my mouth was continually stabbed with the pretzel ends.  Seriously, how could a mom do that to her children?  I chose to replace the sticks with tiny twists – oh, so much safer! Here is Chex’s current link to the Original Recipe

Here is the recipe from my mother.  When you compare them, you immediately notice the difference in the amount of butter or margarine.

Original Chex Mix – circa 1965-1975

1 cup butter
4 Tb Worchestershire sauce
3 tsp celery salt (another missing ingredient in the current original recipe)
3 tsp onion salt
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp garlic salt
1 lb Virginia peanuts
4 1/2 cups Rice Chex
4 1/2 cups tiny twist pretzels
4 1/2 cups Corn Chex
4 1/2 cups Wheat Chex

In case it is not obvious, Chex Party Mix is not Weight Watchers friendly.  However, it is one of my favorite indulgences and a weakness.  I delayed making it until I knew I could get it out of my sight quickly.  I will be packing and shipping much of it and storing the rest well out of my reach.  I had 3 large handfuls this evening!

If you choose to use the oven instead of the microwave, follow the instructions on the Chex cereal boxes.  Be sure to melt the butter and stir the seasonings in before adding cereal, etc.  Bake at 250 degrees for one hour and stir every 15 minutes.

It’s All About Tucker

Last month, I wrote about Tucker, the wonder dog.

Tucker can no longer walk – it’s been about 3 weeks.  My brother, Jason, has been carrying him everywhere and ensuring his dignity in every way.  Jason beat cancer in his early 20s (he’s now almost 40) and is very tough – clearly tougher than I am.  I don’t know that I could do what he has done for his best friend.  The situation with Tucker is very similar to human situations.  The difference is that it is not practical for dogs to use wheel chairs.  This creates a challenge that results in having to consider difficult decisions before a person is ready.

I realize people that don’t have strong relationships with animal companions will wonder why Jason did not make a tough decision a while ago.  I cannot convince you and will not try.  You either get it or you don’t.  I get it, so do all my siblings, my mother, her husband, and many friends.  I believe it has everything to do with how animals impacted someone’s childhood and/or significant portions of their life.  Review statistics on the subject.  All support the concept that people enjoy a better life with animal companions.  One of my university minors was statistics, so I know that statistics can be manipulated to express the desired results, but these stats are consistent.

Tucker’s condition has not been easy for me, at all.  My two animal companions, Izzy and Maise, are 11 and 8 years old.  The younger one is a rescue from a puppy mill, so it has been difficult, since she has had such a negative and fearful reaction to humans.

In a tribute to Tucker, the wonder dog, here are some photos for all to enjoy.

Update 11/29/11:  Tucker found peace with the help of Dr. Tom Skadron on 11/28/11.

Saturday Beans

It started about three weeks ago.  My body started sending me subtle messages – “winter is coming,” “you need to store up.”  I have cravings for carbohydrates and comfort food.  Chocolate cravings also seem to be up.  This is empirical evidence that human biology is impacted by changing seasons.  In the Upper Midwest of the U.S.A., the number of daylight hours is declining and  mornings are getting colder.

I’ve noticed that when a person pays more attention to what is consumed (food or drink),  a person also more quickly notices the effects.  I heard those subtle messages and unconsciously took action on them.  It occurred to me, yesterday, that I had to actively manage this situation to avoid certain disaster.

Beans are a logical answer.  They are an almost-perfect food – high fiber, high protein, low fat, low calories.  Black beans are a staple in my healthy eating regimen, but they were left out of today’s cooking experiment.

The goal was baked beans, but not something usual.  I surveyed the cabinets and refrigerator for ingredients and just kept adjusting.  The results slightly exceeded expectations.  The key is to taste frequently and adjust, as necessary.  I even made flatbread pizza with the resulting bean concoction for this evening’s dinner.

Here is what I came up with today – adjust to your preferred tastes.

1 small poblano pepper, chopped (if less heat desired, use green pepper)
3/4 large onion, chopped
1 clove hot and spicy garlic (local food artisan)
3-4 oz. Jimmy Dean reduced fat pork sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
10 oz. can diced tomatoes and green chilis, drained
15 oz. can pinto beans, undrained
1/3 cup dried lentils – prepared
1/3 cup dried small red beans – prepared
1/3 cup chunky salsa (local friend)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3  teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon molasses
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon salt
2 slices cooked turkey bacon (just use the real thing, believe me), chopped
1 slice cooked center cut pork bacon, chopped

Sauté onion, pepper, garlic, sausage, and bacon (if not previously cooked) in olive oil.
Add all other ingredients, cover, and cook on low heat for 2 hours.  If mixture appears too thin or soupy, remove cover.

Flatbread pizza —

Spritz Flat-Out Light Original flatbread with olive oil.  Spread thin layer of reduced fat mozzarella cheese.  Spread thin layer of bean mixture.  Place turkey pepperoni slices.  Spread another thin layer of reduced fat mozzarella cheese.  Bake in oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes or until cheese is browned.

What a Difference a Year Can Make

BMI September 2010 = 32.5
BMI September 2011 = 24.8
Weight reduction September 2010 – September 2011 = 38 pounds, 24% of starting weight

I feel fantastic, better than I have in 20 years.  I am focused on healthy eating – beans, whole grains, fruits, vegetables – and regular activity – walking, biking, swimming, strength exercises.  I monitor my weight every day.  Carbohydrate intake is significantly reduced.  I travel to the local grocer and farmers’ market several times per week for fresh fruit and vegetables.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I have not given up wine, chocolate, and an occasional pizza or chicken wing.  A woman’s got to live!

I have muscle definition that I don’t recall ever having in my life.  I sometimes am surprised by my own image in the mirror.  My overall attitude is improved and I feel comfortable again in my own skin.  Not bad for a woman much closer to 50 than 40!

There have been weekly trips to the local consignment shops with stacks of too-large clothes, in hopes that I can slightly offset the cost of a new, smaller wardrobe.  There have also been several large bags of clothes given to friends and donated to local charities.

I dusted off the 15 year old pedal bicycle in the garage that still looks new, added a rearview mirror, and easily rode 10 miles last Saturday.  I was looking for more!  Those bags of dog food aren’t as heavy as they once were.  Stairs are no challenge.  I can walk behind the Jeep in the garage with space to spare.  My sister and I discovered I had no bum.  I put on a new swimsuit and didn’t feel the need to put on shorts.  I had to move up the driver seat in the Jeep to better reach the driving and braking pedals.

It has been a productive year.

Atlantis Retires – End of an Important Age

It was a somber event in the wee hours of the morning today when the shuttle Atlantis made its final landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  For those of us of a certain age, we remember the early days of the space race and exploration in the United States.  It was new, exciting, and people were completely focused on television and radio for the latest news.

I vividly remember the teachers at Ames Country Day School corralling us preschoolers to sit on the floor in front of a black and white television on a rolling cart to watch the moon walk in 1969 (I do believe it was Apollo 11 in 1969, but cannot yet verify.).  They didn’t want us to miss an important part of history and I appreciate it.

I have mixed feelings about the end of the the space program as we know it, but I am hopeful and optimistic that curiosity and exploration will continue.  I was moved by the comments of the Atlantis crew and operations staff at the final landing this morning.

Space exploration in the U.S. has not had as much media attention in the past couple of decades, but the committed staff at NASA hasn’t been loafing around, waiting for the cameras.  I admire and respect all the work being done by those individuals in space research and development.  Keep it up!

Landing video and comments —

Comments by Flight Director Tony Ceccacci —