Love DIY and It’s Not ‘Cause I’m Frugal

Now that the cold weather has settled in, I am taking baths again and have discovered something luxurious:  pretty and fragrant bath bombs!  The kind that are sold at Lush for $8 a pop.   While this post is late (better late than never), I made DIY Bath Bombs as Christmas “thank you’s” for the staff at my mother’s nursing home.  It was nice to do something over-and-above chocolates and cookies.  And they ended up being a big hit!

DIY Simple Bath Bombs

These are simple to make and require everyday ingredients.  Ok, the citric acid is a little tough to find but I ended up sourcing it at bulk stores and Amazon.  If you don’t take baths, you can use these pucks as “freshies” to keep your toilet smelling fresh*.

Recipe for DIY Bath Bombs *

  • 1 cup of baking soda
  • 1/2 cup citric acid
  • 1/2 cup Epsom salt
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp oil (I used grapeseed)
  • 20-30 drops essential oils of your choice
  • Food colouring (if desired)
  • Hydrogen peroxide spray (as required)
  • Moulds

Instructions

  1.  Add the baking soda, citric acid and epsom salt together in a large bowl.  Whisk the mixture very well to break up anDIY Bath Bombs expand in the mouldsy lumps.

2.  Add water, oil and food colouring to a glass measuring cup and mix well.  I added different essential oils at this point.  Lemon to yellow, vanilla to blue and rose to red.  While I kept it simple, you can add mixtures of different scents.  It’s really up to you.

3.  Slowly add the liquid to the dry mixture.  I poured very slowly with my left hand while I whisked briskly with my right.

4.  The mixture should be damp enough to stick together when squeezed.  If it is too dry, spray lightly with hydrogen peroxide.

After 48 hours, DIY Bath Bombs are Dry5.  I used different moulds but the best were the ones from Ikea because they were stiffer.  I pressed the mixture firmly into each mould.  There was some minor expansion that occurred.

6. I let them sit in my cold, dry oven for 48 hours.  At this point, they were very dry and hard so popping them out of the moulds was easy.

7. To keep them moisture-free, I wrapped them first in cellophane and then inserted them into small Christmas “food cartons” that close at the top with handles.  Since I was giving them away to strangers, I printed a label with instructions and a list of the ingredients.

DIY Bath Bombs Make a Great Gift

In Summary

I am a novice when it comes to DIY products but it doesn’t matter.  They are many recipes on the web and most items are very easy to make.  Once you get your “pantry” of basic items together, these things cost pennies to make.  For example, I made 60 small bath bombs which cost about $7.15 total.  Not only did the recipients enjoy my DIY bath bombs, I also really enjoyed the process of making them.  And as equally important,  I know that they are natural and good for the environment.   What a win-win!

 

* If you only want to use these as “freshies”, eliminate the oil and Epsom salt.   Instead use 1 1/3 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of citric acid with 1 tsp of water. Recipes inspired by Jillee at  (http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/fizzy-cleaning-toilet-bombs)

 

 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mhx/16419218393

Are We Still Cranky in Midlife?

I always thought that when I got older, I would mellow out.  Especially when the day-to-day pressure of being an everyday superwoman subsided once I got off the hamster wheel.  While I do think that I am more patient overall, I am sometimes shocked at how certain situations make me really, really cranky.

  1. Slowpoke drivers who insist on staying in the left lane.  This happens ALL the time in my city of over 4 million people.  It makes me unreasonably cranky; my blood pressure skyrockets.  Why?  Our roads are congested, full of cars and trucks.  Slowpokes in the left lane slow down traffic for many kilometres behind them. The left lane is for passing!  If you cannot drive as fast if not faster than the speed limit, stay out!  If you feel fear every time you get on the highway, take alternate routes.  The combination of aggressive speed and slow/fearful drivers on the highway is a lethal mix.

2. The word “like”.  It is a very useful, multi-functional word that can be a verb, preposition, conjunction, noun, adjective and adverb.   But I have noticed that an extraordinary number of young people use it as filler.  For example, “She was like where did you go?  And I was like, I had to go to a doctor’s appointment like at 4 o’clock”.   I swear some people use it in almost every sentence, sometimes multiple times. I grew up across the street from a professor who gently advised me to stop using filler words (I think it was “you know”).  At the time, I was embarrassed but his lesson has served me well as an adult.

3. Bad grocery cart etiquette.  I have a regular shopping list of things I buy at Costco.  It is not a place to dawdle, it is always insanely busy.  Even though I shop on weekdays, I am amazed at the number of people who leave their cart in the middle of the aisle and walk away.  Sometimes they leave their kids in the cart too,  or worse, let their kids run around unsupervised.  The pile-up around the sample stations makes me want to ram other carts or say rude things.  But I don’t.  I grit my teeth, pick up my things and get the hell out of there as quickly as possible.

4. Web ads that know what I’ve been looking at.  Even though I have learned that web developers load “pixels” and “cookies” to follow your online activity, I really find it creepy. Companies track your online behaviour and know a lot about you.  For example, if you look at a pair of shoes online, you may see ads for those same shoes on many sites you visit afterwards. Facebook and Google know the most and have the ability to share that data with other companies.   It’s a little frightening.  Do yourself a favour and watch the movie “Snowden”.  It’ll make you think about how little online privacy you actually have.

5. Over-blown holidays.  Don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t love Christmas time with the family?  I’m talking about the unnaturally BIG events that most companies and retailers blow out of proportion.  For example, Valentine’s day.  While it’s lovely to celebrate your love for another, it has become a pressure-filled event with rampant commercialization that starts right after New Years.   The advertising makes you feel like you’re a loser unless you buy the the biggest present, a dozen roses, fine chocolates, expensive jewelry, and a fabulous dinner out.  Spend spend spend! This scenario repeats itself for other events like Mothers’ and Fathers’ days, Easter and Hallowe’en amongst others.  Bah humbug!

So the answer for me, is that I can still get pretty cranky and impatient but I think I hold it in better than I used to.   And some things have actually stopped bothering me (like streetcar travel).  I wonder what it’s like for others?

Tracing the Ancestors, Exploring the Past

I know very little about my family’s past. I do know that my parents came to Canada in 1947 as part of the Chinese diplomatic service.  They never expected to stay permanently but history intervened and they were forced to become refugees.  Like so many other immigrants, they worked long and hard to provide a good life for their 4 children.  Unfortunately, they did not force us to speak Mandarin, they were busy and the community was small.  Regretfully, none of us grew up speaking the mother tongue. Although there was prejudice, we were somewhat sheltered by a community full of immigrants including Greeks, Italians, Latvians, Germans and even open minded multi-generational Canadians.  We grew up Canadian first, we were assimilated. This was especially true when I, the last child, rolled out of the womb.  I was never interested in my heritage, something that I regret today.

Souvenir with Name

Last year, my sister and I took a trip to China, my first time.  Over the course of 2 weeks, we saw many sites in Beijing, Xi’an, Chengdu and Shanghai.  At one tourist shop, we picked up a souvenir pamphlet that talked to the history of our name  ““.  Of course, neither of us could read it but we would get it translated.  Fast forward several months.  I asked an elderly Chinese man to translate it for me.  He politely declined but found the same document online.  That’s where it started, I spent a month obsessed by the pursuit of my family history.

My siblings had some snippets of documents that my father had written.  On one, I found crucial information: my father and grandfather’s names written in Chinese characters along with their ancestral hometown, Yixing in the province of Jiangsu.  My elderly friend provided the digital characters that allowed me to do Google searches. Not reading Chinese is an enormous handicap when you are researching your genealogy. I had to use several online translators to gain even a nugget of understanding.  Translators are literal, they cannot grasp the context of characters that have different meanings when placed in different sequences.

Yellow Emperor, Huang Di
Yixing, 200 KM west of Shanghai

What I have found is fascinating.  It also makes me proud of where I come from.  My family is old, very old. The name”任” harkens back to 2500 B.C.  Yes, that’s 2500 years before Christ.  The Yellow Emperor bestowed a Dukedom of “” upon the youngest of his 25 sons. His descendants took this surname.  The branch I come from can trace roots back to the 5th century.  This current cycle split off in the 13th century when my ancestors fled south from the invading Mongols lead by Kublai Khan.  They settled in Yixing where my father (任以宏)was born in 1912, almost 7 centuries later.

My father’s father

My father was very proud of his own father (任锡周). Born in 1873, our grandfather was awarded the title of “Juren”, a designation bestowed upon the few who successfully passed the grueling imperial exams. This was the entry to higher level positions within the public service. We know that he was a secretary in the Governor of the Province of Jiangsu’s office and for 5 years, he had a similar role in the office of the President of the Republic himself. We also know that he was honourable and patriotic. He was deeply disturbed by the corruption manifested by powerful warloads that was rampant in the government.  During the Sino-Japanese war, he refused to be bribed and as a result, he eventually lost his wealth, his health and his life shortly after this period.

Renfamily.cn google-translated to English

During my search, I stumbled upon a Chinese language website that was set up in 2014 to celebrate the”” family heritage but also to find overseas members.  I sent an e-mail in English and 5 days later, I was rewarded with an e-mail from Mary in Sydney, Australia.  She gave me so much information including the digital version of the last update of the family book, a customized spreadsheet showing our lineage back to the 13th century and even poems by family members.  Unfortunately, many of these documents sit in my Dropbox, still unread.

My last name “任” means “a person doing his duty”. It is listed as the #58th most popular Chinese name with 4.2 million people sharing it.   In English, it was translated to “Jen” (although more recently, the new Pinyin translation is “Ren”).  My siblings and I have always thought that we alone had this last name, we had never ever met any other Jen’s.  But this past summer, much to my surprise, I saw someone in a Facebook group with the same last name. I sent her a private message with some information and lo and behold,  she  confirmed that her family also came from the same town.  And then we discovered that we live 1 kilometre apart!.    I have also become aware of an American writer named Gish Jen who I now follow on Facebook.  I bought her book, Tiger Writing, which was inspired by her father’s memoirs.  I’ve done a search and found other people in the US and Canada named “Jen” and “Ren”.  I have not reached out, I am not sure what I would say so maybe it is a project for the future.

Mother & Father (1946?)

The Internet has made the search for my family roots much easier.  My only regret is that I did not take the time to gather information from the master of story telling himself, my father.  He was a also scholar and a very prolific communicator until he went blind in his 80s.  Much of our immediate ancestral history died with him in 1999.  But I have to think that he is looking down upon us, happy that we are finally looking back to the past to help define who we are today.

I Have an Election Hangover

Like millions of other people, I have a massive U.S. election hangostylized-us-flag-hangoverver hampered by a heavy heart.

While I am Canadian and not able to participate, the 24 hour barrage of images and messages have been unavoidable, especially on social media.    I tried to ensure that I read stories that were fact-based that came from unbiased sources.  But there was so much garbage.  Stuff that was so ridiculous that even a hardcore National Enquirer reader would shake his/her head in disbelief.  I won’t even provide examples, they were so ludicrous.

I’m not even sure why I care but I do.   I care that an authoritarian narcissist with little self-control or understanding of the issues showed so many character flaws that were forgiven or glossed over as “locker room talk”.   I care that he is a vulgar man who flamed the fire of hatred and intolerance with his non-truths and exaggerations.   And I care that his fans ate it all up and voted him in over a woman with exceptional credentials.   What does that say about America?    Even though Hilary also had skeletons in her closet, she didn’t deserve the vitriol and disgusting things that his fans said about her on social media.  I was and am repulsed by this.   Many of his fans are no different than the terrorists they proclaim to hate except that they are on the other side of the coin.   And when some call themselves Christian, I have to laugh.  My children went to Catholic school where they were taught to be tolerant and respectful of all beliefs and religions.   I would think that’s how true Christians behave,  not these hooligans who troll.

There, I got it out.  There are many others things that made me angry but I’ll stop here.   I hope that these words are nothing Mourningbut an over-emotional rant.  I hope that he was playing some crazy villainous role and when in office, takes on a moderate, more reasonable tone.  I like to think that I am an optimist and when times are dark, good will still prevail.  Yet part of me is very scared for the future of America and the world that my children and their children will live in.   I hope I’m wrong.

 

Sensitive and Middle-Aged Skin

I got into natural products by mistake.   Around 2 years ago, my teenage daughter began to read the labels on the personal products I was buying and pointed out scary ingredients that were both bad for your health as well as the environment.  I referenced these chemicals in an earlier blog article (The Dirty Dozen, 12 Chemicals to Avoid).  Add that to my peri-menopausal, newly sensitive middle-aged skin and I started to look for alternatives.

Katie-Wellness Mama
Katie – The Wellness Mama

I never realized how much info is out there is on DIY in the cyber-world.  Nor how easy it is to make.  I have tried many different DIY recipes and there are a handful that have stuck with me.  One of my inspirations is the queen of DIY natural products, Katie aka the Wellness Mama.  She has been creating her own products for many years and is very good at it.  Not only that but she has 6 (!!!) children under 10 years old, manages a thriving business and is a doula in her spare (?) time.  She’s done so much and hasn’t even reached midlife yet!

DIY Body Wash for sensitive & Middle-aged skin

Of all my DIY natural products, this creamsicle body wash is my favourite.  Not only is it cheap and easy to make, it is creamy, fragrant and feels great on my skin.   With the addition of the vitamin E, glycerin, and various oils, it absorbs quickly and moisturizes my sensitive, middle-aged skin well enough that I only require a light lotion afterward.   So much has been written about the benefits of organic coconut oil.  Raw honey is also a terrific added ingredient. Not only is it moisturizing, it has anti-microbial properties, a most appropriate characteristic of a body wash!

Creamsicle Body Wash for Middle-Aged Skin

Creamsicle Body Wash for Middle-Aged Skin

Note that vanilla and essential oil quantities are approximate. I have added other essential oils or changed quantities as listed. Trust your nose!. This body wash is very moisturizing for middle-aged skin

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup organic coconut oil
  • ¼ cup raw honey
  • ½ cup liquid Castile soap
  • 1 teaspoon vitamin E
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin
  • 1 teaspoon oil (your choice - almond, pumpkin)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 20 drops sweet orange essential oil
  • 10 drops neroli oil blend

Instructions

  1. Measure 1/4 cup coconut oil into 2 cup measuring cup
  2. Add 1/4 cup raw honey to the same 2 cup measuring cup
  3. Place in a double boiler over low-medium heat until melted (approximately 15 minutes)
  4. Remove from heat. Add glycerin, almond oil, vanilla extract and essential oils and stir well
  5. Add Castile soap slowly, stirring gently to avoid creating suds.
  6. Transfer to glass bottle using a funnel if required
  7. Shake before each use
Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin
http://thejuvenileretiree.com/2016/08/27/middle-aged-sensitive-skin/
 This recipe was inspired by http://helloglow.co/diy-body-wash/

 

Summary

DIY Creamsicle bodywash. Great for middle-aged and sensitive skin.
Pretty Creamsicle Body Wash

I have used essential oils and scents that remind me of creamsicles and complement the honey in the body wash.  However, you can add the essential oils that please you the most.

I estimate that this body wash costs about $1.50-$1.75 to make.  The most expensive element is the organic, locally sourced honey I buy.  My family of four uses this product and it lasts about 1 month.  So not only is it economical to make, it is better for your health and the environment.  If you buy pretty glass soap pump bottles, these make lovely gifts as well

 

 

I am a Middle-Aged Pokémon Hunter

You have to have lived under a rock to not have heard about Pokémon Go.  This is a modern reinvention of an equally successful Nintendo Gameboy game launched in North America in 1998.  Impressive numbers abound:  100 M downloads, over $200M in revenue, daily news stories from around the world and even a ban in Iran – all in a month’s time since its release.  Even I have given in to the Pokémon craze.  It has gotten this middle-aged body to start moving again.

It all started when my now 22-year old son was small, I used to advance games on his Gameboy while he slept.   Burger_King_Poké_Ball_-_closedAround 1999 or 2000, I remember scouring upper NY state for the red and white plastic Pokéballs that Burger King was giving out.   I think I ended up collecting 8 of them much to my son’s delight.  We used them to wage mock Poké battles at his Pokémon themed birthday party. Lots of excited little boys yelling “Charizard, I choooose YOOOOOUUU!  It was such fun

Many years later, Pokémon Go arrived in Canada last month on Itunes.  My son was so excited.  He convinced the entire family to download the game.  That very day, we walked around the neighbourhood catching Pokémons.   We hadn’t walked together in a long time so it turned into a fun family outing.  Admittedly, as a middle-aged woman, I was a little embarrassed bumping into other adults.  But I could tell that they felt the same.  Heads down, we’d raise our eyes momentarily to give each other a knowing but sheepish look acknowledging our juvenile desire to participate in this cultural craze.

1. Pokémon FACTS

It’s very simple.  The game is based on the original, first Pokémon game that was launched for the Nintendo Gameboy in 1998.  While similar to the original, this game is played on your mobile device using the GPS.  The main goal is to acquire 150 Pokémons and the only way to do so is to move from place to place.  There is also the ability to battle at gyms to earn Pokécoins and prestige, but this isn’t necessary to enjoy the game.

2. Key Terms

Avatar of Pokémon trainer
No middle-aged Pokémon trainer avatars available

Pokémon stands for “Pocket Monsters”.  They are creatures raised and commanded by their Trainers (you).  They are normally hatched from eggs, captured in the wild or evolved from simpler forms.  They grow and become more experienced and can evolve into more powerful Pokémon.  Currently, there are 150 unique Pokémons.

Pokéstops.  These are typically located at cultural or important landmarks like statues, plaques, buildings etc.  Pokéstops are a place to stock up on the Pokéballs that are needed to catch Pokémon.  They also are a source of healing and revive potions, Pokémon eggs and raspberries (that increase your chance at catching a Pokémon) .

Gyms are locations where “battles” take place

3. How do I get them

  • Capture wild Pokémon using Pokéballs.  Pokémon spawn and are therefore more frequently found in higher density areas.
  • Hatch them from Eggs.  So far I’ve seen 2, 5 and 10 kilometre versions.  Place the egg in an incubator and walk the required distance.  Feel like a proud mama when your baby Pokemon hatches.
  • Evolve them.  Some Pokémon have 2-3 forms.  Both Stardust and Candy are required for evolution. You get Stardust by capturing wild Pokemon or hatching eggs.  Candy is acquired by transferring duplicate Pokémons to the in-game host Professor Willow.

4. Where do I get them

I have since figured out the most efficient way to play this game is by taking the slowest method of Marian Pokedextransportation in this city,  the streetcar.  I then walk around downtown where there is a higher density of My Pokémon BagPokéstops and therefore, Pokémons.  I used to take the subway, even only for one stop. Not any more.

The Pokédex keeps track of the Pokémon you’ve seen and
caught.  But I carry up to 250 Pokémon in my “bag” and I can review duplicates and transfer and evolve them from this screen.  There is a certain sense of satisfaction seeing these two screens populate.  My kids and I (and now my husband) compare screens on a regular basis.

5. Do I Need to Spend Money

Nope, but you can  There is an in-app shop where you can buy more Pokéballs, Incense and Lures that attract more Pokémon, Lucky Eggs that increase XP amongst other things like storage upgrades. While I am not against spending a small amount of money playing games, it’s unlikely that I will do so here.

In Summary

I think this is a fun game for now.  Some of the benefits are that we play as a family, engage in some friendly competition, all while getting some much-needed exercise.  Will I continue being a middle-aged Pokémon hunter when my kids leave for university and the temperature drops? Probably not unless the gameplay evolves.  But for now, it’s a great summer past-time and I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

If you are interested in becoming a middle-aged Pokémon hunter, here are a few simple but thorough sites to walk-through.

Hoo-hah!  Good Pokémon hunting!

 

 

 

 

The Dirty Dozen – 12 Chemicals to Avoid in Personal Products

It’s very scary what manufacturers put in the everyday products we use.  The ingredients are chemicals that enhance the colour or consistency, add or mask fragrance, or act as a preservative.  ThingSuzuki Dirty Dozen Chemicalss that make the product more attractive to the consumer.   The “Dirty Dozen” are 12 toxic chemicals that are commonly found in shampoo, conditioner, moisturizers, cleansers, and other skin and hair care products.  In fact, U.S. researchers report that 1 in 8 of the 82,000 ingredients in personal care products is an industrial chemical!  These can include carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, hormone disruptors. and plasticizers.  These are products we slather into our skin.

David Suzuki is a well-known Canadian academic, science broadcaster and environmentalist. His foundation conducted a survey to see how many of the Dirty Dozen ingredients were included in their bathroom products.  Their results were based on 6200 respondents reporting on more than 12,500 personal products.  The results were disturbing:

  • Almost 80 per cent of products reportedly contained at least one of the Dirty Dozen ingredients.
  • More than half of all products reportedly contained multiple Dirty Dozen ingredients
  • Participants were unable to locate ingredient lists on more than 1,000 products

I decided to look at some of the products in my own house after reading Dr. Suzuki’s report.

ceraVe Front

CeraVe is a fairly pricey drugstore moisturizer that I purchased because of its great reviews and the fact that it was “developed with dermatologists”   I was looking for a stronger product for my extra dry, itchy and sensitive skin this past winter.  While this cream is not organic, I wanted to try it since I had read that one of its ingredients, “ceramides” would help rebuild the collagen that I was losing post menopause and this appealed to my vanity.  The ingredients (copied from their website) are

Behentrimonium Methosulfate and Ceteayl Alcohol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Carbomer, Ceramide 1, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6-Ii, Ceteareth-20 and Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Cholesterol, Dimethicone, Dipotassium Phosphate, Disodium Edta, Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid, Methylparaben, Petrolatum, Phenoxyethanol, Phytosphingosine, Potassium Phosphate, Propylparaben, Purified Water, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Xanthan Gum

So CeraVe contains 2 types of parabens and petrolatum, ingredients that are on the Dirty Dozen list. I expect better considering that this cream was developed with dermatologists.

Next personal product is Dove Oxygen Shampoo for Men which my husband and son use.dove mens shampoo  Dove has fabulous marketing for its products targeted to women.  The current theme is “Let’s break the rules of beauty” and I’m sure you’ve seen their other “all women are beautiful” campaigns.  I have been impressed by their messaging for many years, even when they were only known as the soap maker that added 1/4 cup of cold cream to their soap.  They have a great reputation, that’s why I buy their men’s line of personal products for the me in my family.   The  ingredients for this bottle of Dove Oxygen Charge shampoo (from their website ) include:

“Aqua, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Chloride, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Parfum, Glycerin, Dimethiconol, TEA-Dodecylbenzenesulfonate, Citric Acid, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Tetrasodium EDTA, DMDM Hydantoin, PEG-45M, Propylene Glycol, Caffeine, PPG-9, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, CI 42090, CI 17200.”

Wow, that is 4 different ingredients that are on the Dirty Dozen list. And as much as love Dove’s image, I’m not feeling comfortable about this.

I was already going down the path of using natural, organic products or making my own.  But I see that I need to be more vigilant.  Suzuki Shoppers Guide to ToxinsThere is a handy Shoppers’ guide on Dr. Suziki’s website that you can print and reference when shopping.  His website suggests that you read labels and avoid buying products with these ingredients.  He even goes so far as to advise you to send back open products to the manufacturer.  Other suggestions include buying natural products or those with short ingredient lists.  There are some other resources like the US Environmental Working Group and Queen of Green that focus on safer products.

This report makes me wonder if the sensitivity I have developed this decade is due to years and years of using products that contain chemical toxins?  It’s kind of scary.

Taoist T’ai Chi Surprised Me

I tried T’ai chi when I was 25 years old.  Since I was (and still am) very impatient, I found it far too slow so I quit after a few classes.   Jump ahead 30 years and it’s now the right speed.   I started last year knowing that I needed to find a way to relieve the overwhelming amount of stress I was experiencing at that time.   I ended up selecting T’ai Chi for several reasons:

  1. IMG_1481I had heard T’ai Chi being referred to as Moving Meditation.  I thought this might work better for me than Yoga which I have tried multiple times.
  2. I am of Chinese descent and I thought that this was a way to connect with my heritage
  3. I already have arthritis in my fingers.   Look at these knuckles, especially the middle finger.  My elderly mother has arthritis and osteoporosis amongst other things, and due to her lack of exercise, she is bound to a wheelchair.  If I live to be as old as she is, I want to prevent that from happening to me.
KR Tai Chi
Google Maps captured my silver Impreza parked outside

I decided on the Taoist Tai Chi club simply because there is a studio close to home.  I took a crash course to learn all 108 moves over an 11-hour beginners’ weekend.   Although I have participated in hundreds of aerobics classes, I was surprised to find that not only was I struggling to memorize the sequence of moves, I had also developed 2 left feet.  Nonetheless, I remained enthusiastic and dutifully attended class 3 times per week.

Taoist T’ai Chi surprised me in many other ways.

  1. There is no syllabus in Taoist T’ai Chi.  No precise and predetermined execution of movement and placement like there is in ballet.   Master Moy’s philosophy was to customize the move to the individual since each person will have different issues
  2. Taoist T’ai Chi is about continuous improvement and learning.  Even for those who have studied for decades.  It does not remain static.  It lives.
  3. I still find it a bit on the slow side but that no longer annoys me.  In fact, I strangely enjoy the minutiae that can sometimes be Taoist T’ai Chi
  4. I have strengthened my core.
  5. I sweat.
  6. The membership is primarily Caucasian
  7. There is no judgement

I am not sure if all my expectations were met with Taoist T’ai Chi but I can say that I have made progress.   My mind stays relatively uncluttered while in class and when practicing.  If I am thinking about anything at all, it’s about executing the corrections I’ve been given.   I don’t worry, my mind wanders much less than when I have tried to meditate in the past.   I feel calm.   Taoist T’ai Chi has been an anchor during my year of transition to retirement. It has provided me with focus, regular exercise, volunteer opportunities and of course, social interaction.  While the membership itself is not very Asian, the society’s principles are.  Sometimes I stare at the posters littered around the studio.  The one that resonates most with me lists the 8 virtuesvirtues.  Filial Piety, Sibling Harmony, Dedication, Trustworthiness, Propriety, Sacrifice, Honour, and Sense of Shame.

Each virtue is described in more detail on the http://www.taoist.org website but when I look at the poster in class, I try to think of how I exhibit (or don’t exhibit) the characteristics. While I am FAR FAR FAR away from being a model for the 8 virtues, the poster regularly reminds me of the characteristics and behaviours needed to become a better human being.  I try to work on one thing at a time.  I’ve spent 55 years developing some bad attitudes and habits, it’ll take a while.

This sounds like a cliche but Taoist T’ai Chi is for everyone and anyone.  I am only in mid-life and still healthy but there are many members who have serious health issues who practice T’ai Chi. Some suffer from severe diseases (like Parkinsons) that affect mobility.  Others have had terrible accidents that resulted in limited movement.  There many other members who practice T’ai Chi for the mental relaxation and physical exercise.  Every member has his/her personal story.  Some are in the video below.

So all in all, I am grateful that I found Taoist T’ai Chi.  I feel that it’s helped me both physically, mentally and emotionally.  I thank my lucky stars that I am healthy. Practicing this art form is a way of staying that way.  It is something that I will continue even if I embrace other forms of exercise and/or meditation.  It has certainly earned a continued place in my life.

10 Reasons Why I’m a Cat Lady

Whiskey SantaThis is my beloved cat Whiskey.  He is a rescued cat that we adopted 18 months ago when he was still a kitten. Whiskey had a rough start to his life.  When he was 4 months, he was found almost dead by a major highway.  A kind soul took him to the local vet where my daughter was working as a co-op student.  He was unconscious, blind, with a hole in his head.  It took a couple of months, but he was coaxed back from the brink of death. He is a fighter.

We changed his name to "Whiskey"
We changed his name to “Whiskey”

And Whiskey (formerly known as Sparky) became a bit of a TV celebrity.  He was featured on “Animal House Calls”, a local cable show that highlights these sorts of miracle stories.

My daughter built a bond with Whiskey during his recovery as she was responsible for cleaning his cage and playing with him.    We had managed to stay a pet-less family for a good 20 years but she was relentless in her pursuit of his adoption.  I gave in first, my husband the “cat hater” took longer.  She won the battle.  We paid $100, changed his name to Whiskey and brought him home.

We instantly feel in love with this little guy.  I took my early retirement 5 months after he joined our family so we spend a lot of time together every day.  I have come to the conclusion that I’ve become a “cat lady”.  Here are 10 reasons why.

Orijen

  1. I spent hours and hours researching cat food.  I now know what the optimal combination of protein, fat, and carbs that make up a healthy and well-balanced cat diet.  I even monitor his daily caloric intake so that he doesn’t gain weight.
  2. I have many, many “pet” names for him.  These include Bunny, Little Guy, Baby Boy, My Little Kitty as well as You Pain in the A**, Annoying Kitty, and Stupid Cat.
  3. When I talk to him, I refer to myself as “mummy” as in “Mummy says it’s time to go inside now”
  4. IMG_1169He is an indoor cat yearning to be an outdoor one.  So we compromise.  My husband devised a system where Whiskey can easily navigate the backyard (using a harness and long leash) to hunt squirrels, birds, bugs and enjoy the fresh air.  I spend at least an hour every morning (rain, snow or shine) with him ensuring he doesn’t get tangled up.

    He can tweet high scores
    He can tweet high scores
  5. I  take him on local walks.  I’ve tried to introduce him to the neighbourhood cats but that’s been a flop.  He is very territorial and seems to hate them.
  6. He has his own (albeit a discarded 1st generation) Ipad for cat games and bird videos.
  7. I only buy him cat toys on Amazon that have lots of reviews and  5-star ratings.
  8. I have taken moreIMG_1292 photos and videos of Whiskey than I have of my entire family duWhiskey cuddling Chloering the same period.  Especially of him sleeping.  We all seem to find those the cutest.  Then I send them to our family IMessage account for my husband and kids to enjoy.
  9. I give him kisses with my eyes (really)
  10. I carry him in my arms and rock him like a baby.  Or sometimes over my left shoulder like you would hold a baby to be burped.  He hates it from me but he sure loves my daughter’s cuddles.

 

Over the Hill Fashion

When I was working back in the 80s and 90s, the act of daily dressing was simple.  At work, I wore matching suits, blouses, pantyhose, and pumps.  Had the same kind of clothes in multiple colours and the heels were of different heights.  Just like this,80 powers suite catalogue

this  80 power suit 2  and this… 80 power suite

At night and on weekends, it was jeans and comfy tops with runners or boots.  At the start of this century (!!!!), the dress code at work became increasingly relaxed and eventually I stopped wearing matching suits altogether. With the (thankful) launch of Banana Republic’s petite shop, their business casual line-up of dress pants, skirts, shirts and cardigans became my new uniform and even crossed over to my non-work life. Their clothes were classic, maybe a bit generic and bland, but ageless.  And the mix and match function made getting dressed in the morning a breeze.

Banana-Republic-Work-Wear

When I stopped working last year, I went through a closet cleanse. I kept anything that was timeless. But I diwhat to wear after 50scarded a lot.  Some things I sold, some things my daughter claimed.  Most went to Value Village.  I had a hard time parting with many items, but I knew that I would feel like I was trying too hard if I wore them.   Do middle-aged women wear dresses with empire waists?  How about shorts?   Spaghetti straps?  Bright colours?  Skinny jeans?  See through tops?

Since I was unsure and insecure about what constituted age-appropriate casual wear, I went to the source of all popular culture, the Internet.

I started with Oprah, the former queen of daytime TV. She is someone with 11.5 million likes on Facebook and a staggering 32.7M followers on Twitter. I bet most of them are women.  What does she say?  She’s an influencer.  On her site, I found an article discussing what NOT to wear over 50. These would include mini skirts, bare midriff, tube tops (ewwh), shredded denim, tunics worn as dresses, bright nail polish, and rompers.

Oprah - bare midriffOprah - tube topsOprah - rompers

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) goes even further to include no sweatpants with writing on the bum, thigh high boots, gold chains, see through tops or fishnet stockings. Honestly, this is not helpful.  I don’t think these sorts of clothes look good on anyone beyond slim, under 21-year-old girls.

That same AARP site offers fashion tips for women in this age group.   They state that wardrobe “must haves” include clothes that “fight the frump and look smart”.  These essential pieces include dark denim mid-rise bootcut and straight jeans, white jeans, great fitting pants, black fitted jacket, black pencil skirt, cardigans, tank tops, dresses, and a leather jacket.  What?  Really?  Are these not wardrobe staples for most North American adult women regardless of age?

So I went to the fashion bloggers. To my surprise, there are a number of blogs aimed at 40+ women. Not much for ages 50+ but I guess we are all lumped into the same bucket.

Patti at Not Dead Yet Style
Patti looks great!

I liked this one if only for the title “Not Dead Yet Style”.  Patti is the author of this blog. She is 60+ years old and gorgeous. On Mondays, she invites her followers to become “visible” to counterattack the frequent feeling of being “invisible”.  Using a bit of embedded code, readers can celebrate their individual style by linking a photo of “any outfit, accessory, jewelry piece, hairstyle, cosmetic or other adornment” to Patti’s site.   This is a way for her readers to share their individual styles with a look that makes them happy, confident and more “alive”.

Lucy tall
Lucy looks so tall!

One of Patti’s recommended fashion blogs is run by Lucy at Fashion Should Be Fun, Style Over 40.  Lucy just turned 50 and also looks fabulous.  I cannot get over how tall she looks.   And if she isn’t that tall, she sure knows how to dress the part.  She runs a Fashion Friday linkup blog hop. Perhaps this is like a virtual beer run but for fashion blogs?  In any case, it sounds like fun and there might be something to learn.  I think I will try it at some point.

Susan B utility-jacket-grey-jeans
Susan looking chic going to the dentist

Then I went to see Susan B. at “Une Femme d’un Certain Age“.  This expression is a French euphemism for “middle-aged+ woman who doesn’t want to reveal her age”.  With a French title such as this, I am expecting expensive outfits right out of Vogue selected by a high-end stylist. To my surprise, I find a woman who has a casual style similar to my own.  She is a Francophile as I am. That’s probably why I like what she is wearing.

105 year old Beatrice Wood

Lastly, I look into a social medium that I have not understood up to now – Pinterest.   JACKPOT!  This is way better than a Google images search. There are tons of photos up here of famous and not so famous women wearing everything and anything. Look, there is even a 105-year-old woman rocking an exotic teal blue silk outfit.  This is inspirational!

As mentioned above, I am a Francophile.  When I lived in France in my twenties, I felt inadequate until I slowly adopted the uniform of young French women.  That meant jeans, leather jacket, good quality shoes, a scarf worn just so and most importantly, an attitude.  Although so much has changed over the years, when I watch this, I realize that it really hasn’t.   I’m glad that my fashion destiny is not limited to loud floral prints and stretchy pants but if that’s what I wanted, it would be OK.   It’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it.