Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ring The Bells That Can Still Ring...

Susan Saint James, today
Susan Saint James, ca. 1976

Susan Saint James was my all-time favorite actress of the 70’s. I loved her as the kooky, quirky but loveable Sally McMillan in McMillan and Wife. In 1979, she starred in the movie Love at First Bite, and in the late 80’s played the part of Kate McArdle on the sit-com Kate and Allie. She retired from acting in her mid-forties, and today is married to NBC television executive Dick Ebersol.

The other day, she and makeup artist Bobbi Brown were on The Today Show, talking to Ann Curry about how the aging process changes your face and body, and how those changes affect your confidence and self-image. Now in her early sixties, she’s chosen not to have cosmetic surgery (facelift, liposuction, etc.) but respects the decision of those who do. Instead, she chooses to eat well, exercise, and to dress and makeup in ways that accentuate her assets and minimize the things that, frankly, aren’t as great as they used to be. She said it’s important for her to look the best she can for the age she is at the moment, and not to struggle with looking like she did thirty years ago.

And she said something else that really struck a cord with me. She said, “I want to ring the bells that can still ring.” I love that! Because as we age, we forget that we still have a multitude of attractive qualities to put out there. We really do still have bells to ring.

Unfortunately, we sometimes look back and wax nostalgically about the way we were. I know I do. I pull out old photos of myself and just sigh, because what I see is a cute, pointy little chin, sun-kissed brown hair instead of gray, and a distinguishable waistline. Then I look at myself in the mirror and think, “what happened?”

Aging requires attitude adjustments, that’s for sure. No, we’re not the way we were. But we can love, nurture, and be grateful for what we are now, which is pretty fabulous, too!

Think of life like a cycle of the sun. When the sun rises, the atmosphere is fresh, dewy and innocent…the day is brimming with possibilities. The mid-day sun is at it’s peak…bright-hot, energetic and powerful. But the sunset! That’s when the sun is it’s most breathtaking! A spectacular, burst of color, dimension and beauty. Every moment, from the beginning to the very end, is exquisite!

Live in that moment, and don’t miss a single one! Ring the bells that can still ring…


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Planet Carol's Super Smoothie...

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It's when we "break" the "fast" and fuel up our bodies for the day ahead, after eight hours of fasting. So often we skip breakfast, because we're late for work, or we just don't want to deal with the extra calories...or maybe you find eating first thing in the morning unappetizing. Unfortunately, I've never had that problem...I wake up starving!

However, I am occasionally confronted with the time crunch, and I'm always looking for ways to eat healthier. So, I've created the perfect smoothie. It's so yummy, you don't even realize how healthy it is. It's fruity and creamy, cool and refreshing, light but filling. It's packed with vitamins, antioxidants, protein, potassium, and lots of other "good for you" stuff..but not a ton of calories. And if that's not enough, it's incredibly easy to make, and you can drink it in a sippy cup on your way to work!

Planet Carol's Super Smoothie...

1 cup of frozen berries
(I like a mixture of blueberries and boyfriend likes blueberries and mangoes)

1/2 of a frozen banana
(easy..just cut a banana in half and put it in a ziplock bag in the freezer}

1/2 cup of orange juice
(the kind with extra D and calcium)

1/2 cup of plain yogurt
(1/2 cup of skim milk works fine if you don't like yogurt)

a pinch of cinnamon

No need for extra sweetener. Just put the ingredients in a blender and pulse a few times until smooth-ie! Now pour it in your sippy cup and get on the road, girl!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pesto alla Genovese...

Pesto is a sauce originating in Genoa in the Liguria region of northern Italy (pesto alla genovese). The name is the contracted past participle of the Genoese word pestâ (Italian: pestare) which means "to pound, to crush" in reference to the sauce's crushed herbs and garlic.

The ancient Romans ate a cheese spread called moretum which may sometimes have been made with basil. The herb likely originated in North Africa; however, it was first domesticated in India. Basil took the firmest root in the regions of Liguria, Italy and Provence, France. The Ligurians around Genoa took the dish and adapted it, using a combination of basil, crushed garlic, grated hard cheese (parmigiano-reggiano, pecorino, etc.), and pine nuts with a little olive oil to form pesto.

In French Provence the dish evolved into the modern pistou, a combination of basil, parsley, crushed garlic, and grated cheese (optional). However, pine nuts are not included. Pesto did not become popular in North America until the 1980s and 1990s.

Historically, pesto was prepared in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle. The basil leaves were washed, dried, placed in the mortar with garlic and coarse salt, and crushed to a creamy consistency. The pine nuts were added and crushed together with the other ingredients. When the nuts were well-incorporated into the "cream", grated cheese and then olive oil were added and mixed.

Because pesto is a generic term for anything which is made by pounding, there are various other pestos, some traditional, some modern. For this reason, the original (and most common) pesto is now called pesto alla genovese or pesto genovese (both forms are used in both English and Italian), in order to help differentiate the original basil based pesto from alternatives.

If you’re trying to eat healthy, lose weight, or just make something quick and tasty for dinner, pesto is your friend. For years, I’ve enjoyed pesto in pasta or on pizza in restaurants. And I always keep a few jars of pesto, from the specialty foods section of the supermarket, in my pantry. A small jar of pesto, added to a bowl of cooked whole wheat pasta, with coarsely ground pepper and freshly grated parmesan or Romano cheese, is one of the quickest, healthiest, tastiest dishes around. As well as one of the least expensive.

Here are some other ideas for incorporating pesto into your cuisine…

*To the pesto-pasta dish described above, add cooked green peas, asparagus, broccoli, or sautéed mushrooms. Or, throw a handful of fresh spinach leaves into the pasta while it’s cooking, but just before you drain it…long enough for the spinach to wilt.

*Spoon a little pesto over a grilled chicken breast, pork chop, or salmon fillet and serve on a bed of the pesto pasta.

*Cut a pita round into quarters and spread out the triangles on a baking sheet. Brush the tops with a thin layer of pesto and pop in the oven, just long enough to get the pita good and hot.

*Cut a baguette into slices and spread out on a baking sheet. Brush the tops with a thin layer of pesto, then sprinkle a scant teaspoon of chopped black olives and some feta cheese on each slice. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Pop into a pre-heated, 350 degree oven, for about five to seven minutes.

*Mix a little pesto with olive oil, minced garlic, and a few peppercorns to make a dipping sauce for a warm baguette or crusty, rustic Italian bread.

*Mix pesto with low fat mayonnaise, and a touch skim milk to thin it a bit, and spoon over poached salmon. It’s also really good on asparagus.

*Make an omelet. Before folding it over, spoon pesto on the partially cooked eggs, with a little salt and pepper and grated cheese of your choice.

*Spoon a little pesto onto a baked potato, brush on roasted corn on the cob, or stir a spoonful or two into cooked rice or couscous, instead of butter

*Halve a few cherry tomatoes, some olives, and cube up mozzarella cheese in approx. equal amounts. Mix up a little olive oil, a generous amount of pesto, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, some coarsely ground pepper, and a dash of salt. Pour over the tomatoes, olives and cheese. Marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours before serving,

Recently, I decided to go a step further, and make my own pesto. It’s super-easy, and adds extra zing to so many dishes. Want to try making your own? This is the recipe I use. It makes a cup of pesto, and if you store it in the fridge in an air-tight container, it will stay good for at least a week. Just cover it with a layer of olive oil (about 1/8“) Also, if I'm not going to use the whole batch immediately, I put the cheese in as I use it, rather than adding it all in at the beginning. Pesto can be stored in the freezer for up to three months. Just transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Add the cheese later, when pesto is thawed and ready to use.


2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese (see Cook's Note)


Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
If using immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese.
If freezing, transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw and stir in cheese.

Buon appetito! C

Monday, January 17, 2011

Making Peace With Dressing Like A Grown-Up...

With age comes wisdom, but it doesn’t make getting dressed any easier. The thing is, we gravitate to the clothes we wore “in the day.” You know, the wonder years when we felt we looked our best. If you are reading this and you’re under thirty, you’ll understand soon enough…

When I was eighteen, I wore skin-tight bell-bottomed jeans and loose flowing tops. I was a bohemian flower child.(without the dirty hair and hairy legs, which I couldn’t abide) Anyway, I loved the clothes. I didn’t have a clue then who I was or what life was about. But I was fit, reasonably attractive, and I looked really great in those jeans. So, why not continue to wear the clothes I felt good in, right?

Hence, the dilemma. Still love the clothes, but now those low rise, hip-hugging jeans that looked so hot in 1969 create an unfortunate muffin top of mushroom cloud proportions, and those ethereal floaty tops look like maternity-wear. And since I’m obviously too old to be having a baby, it confuses people. Somehow, the look just isn’t as charming today as it was in the sixties.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect to look like I did when I was eighteen, and I certainly don’t want to BE eighteen again. I’m wiser, more content, and have a respectable amount of self esteem that I’ve earned over the past few decades. I can navigate the ups and downs of life with confidence…way better than I could then. But now that I finally have my shit together, my torso looks like an atomic mushroom cloud. Rats!

So the question is, what to wear? I hate everything that’s supposed to be “age-appropriate” for my demographic. I’m not ready for polyester pants with elastic waistbands. And those tailored navy blue suits are so NOT me. But I may never weigh 120 lbs again, and even if I actually did lose weight, I’m guessing the distribution of the remaining poundage wouldn’t be the same.

But just for fun, let’s say I did lose the weight, and everything miraculously sprang back into the upright position. The wardrobe of my heyday still wouldn’t work. Why? Have you ever approached a female from behind, with “Farrah Fawcett” hair and a smokin-body, wearing a mini-dress and stiletto’s, only to have her turn around to expose the scary, tightly stretched, plump-lipped, heavily made up face of “The Joker?” A middle aged woman desperately trying to look young again? Or in my case…since I refuse to have work done….a somewhat tired-looking face with dark under-eye circles, saggy jowls, and Howdy-Doody lines? That’s why.

Guys don’t get a break either. How many middle-aged men have you seen…in their Tommy Bahama shirts and tight jeans that emphasis the butt that isn’t there anymore because it morphed into a beer belly years ago…riding around in sports cars? You just have to avert your eyes….

When are clothing designers going to wake up and realize that baby boomers make up a majority of the population now? I’m not suggesting they throw the eighteen year olds under the bus. I’m merely pointing out that we boomers need something to wear that falls somewhere between mini-skirts and muu-muus. We want clothing that says, "we've come to grips with the reality that we’re grown ups, but we still want to look cool."

Eileen Fisher kind of gets it. Her clothes are fabulous…stylish but not trendy, age appropriate but not matronly. What she apparently does not get is that we’re not all NYC executives making $100,000 a year. But she’s very successful, so maybe the trend will trickle down to the masses. There has to be a middle ground, and I’m determined to find it. And when I do, you’ll be the first to know!


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Every Girl's Crazy 'Bout A Sharp Dressed Man...

Justin Timberlake and Jessica Beil
photo from The Sartorialistphoto from The Sartorialist

Don’t you just love a guy who knows how to dress with style? It’s a rare and beautiful thing. I’m not talking about throwing on jeans and a tee shirt here, although there’s nothing really wrong with a clean white tee shirt and a well-fitted pair of jeans. But I’m talking about going that step further, and putting a personal stamp and a stylish spin on it. Think Justin Timberlake, or the guys photographed for The Sartorialist.

Maybe it’s the social conditioning thing…you know…“a man who pays too much attention to fashion is considered frivolous, or un-manly.” It’s one of those taboos, along with “guys can’t cry or show emotions that indicate weakness,” that I just don’t understand. Who decided these things? Because to me, there is nothing sexier, more attractive, or more masculine than a man who can freely express his feelings, without self-consciousness...and a man with style. And when I see a guy walking down the street, holding his girl’s hand and really owning his style, it makes me happy! Ladies, are you with me?


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Car Talk...

Here are ten great tips for keeping your car in prime condition. You don't realize how important your automobile is until it's in the shop for a few days. So avoid the inconvenience of hoofing it or hitching a ride, and give your car the love and attention it deserves!

And girls...I'm talking to you, too. Don't just depend on the guy in your life to know what's up with your car. It's 2011! Take charge of your wheels!

1. Change Vital Filters and Fluids

Checking fluids and the air filter on a regular basis can increase the life of your engine.

Even the most mechanically challenged drivers know to change a car’s oil and oil filter on a regular basis. But other fluids (antifreeze, brake and transmission, for example) and filters also need regular maintenance. This is essential because over time they, too, lose important properties — such as their ability to remove heat and to lubricate, as well as the ability to prevent rust and freezing.

Changing your air filter helps your car breathe easier and its engine last longer. An engine needs an exact mixture of fuel and air in order to run, and all of the air enters the system through the air filter. Its purpose is to prevent dirt and other foreign particles from entering and possibly damaging the engine. If your air filter is clogged, your engine is not performing properly. It also hurts your fuel economy because the engine is working harder to get more air.

2. Check Your Cooling System

Mechanics recommend a minimum 50-50 mix of coolant to water for most climates. For severe conditions, you can increase the mixture to about 70 percent coolant.

Making sure your car’s cooling system is working properly and coolant levels are correct can potentially save you thousands of dollars in repairs. A cooling-system failure can result in your engine literally melting down. Without proper coolant and maintenance of hoses, you can have lethal consequences.

3. Take Proper Care of Your Tires

Keeping tires at the proper inflation pressure will increase their life, as well as improve fuel efficiency.

Tires are often the most neglected part of a car, and can be the least expensive to maintain. Take tire inflation, for instance. Most people don’t pay much attention to keeping their tires at the right inflation pressure, and it’s not only bad for the car, the tires and fuel economy, but it’s also a safety issue. The simple step of keeping the tires up to proper pressure is valuable all the way around, and it essentially costs almost nothing. Also, don’t forget to rotate your tires. Every 3,000 to 5,000 miles is suggested, even if the tires don't show signs of wear.

4. Pay Attention to the Gauges

Pay attention to your car’s gauges for any indication that something mechanical has gone awry.

If there is a problem with your oil pressure, cooling system or any other major system, your car’s gauges will tell you — if you’re paying attention to them. The vast majority of people don’t. That’s why manufacturers went to ‘idiot lights’ to give a clear indication of when there’s a problem.

5. Find a Mechanic You Trust

Not all mechanics are created equal; a good one could be the difference between keeping your car on the road as long as you need it and wasting your savings on a lost cause.

Find a repair shop and mechanic you trust, and let that shop service your car all the time. When you get sick, you don’t go to a different doctor every time. Your doctor knows you from top to bottom, inside and out. A good mechanic will get to know your car, look it over the same way each visit, and thus spot potential issues. Plus, having a good working relationship with your mechanic will enable you to make wise decisions when the time comes — and you won’t have any doubts about the truthfulness of the advice.

6. Get Regular Checkups

It's important to follow the scheduled maintenance for your car to keep it in top shape.

While your owner’s manual will have a maintenance schedule, another advantage of using the same mechanics on a regular basis is that they will be able to make sure you stick to that schedule — and take care of things the manual may not include. If you go to different places each time you have your car serviced, they won’t know the last time you had something done, so you may end up paying for unnecessary repairs. Most shops have electronic records, so they know when each service was performed. The scheduled maintenance charts in owners manuals tell only part of the story. So it’s also a benefit to have a relationship with a service adviser who knows your vehicle and when to perform service in addition to what’s in the owner’s manual.

And don’t put off the small things. A small problem can quickly balloon into a major catastrophe. For instance, a worn hose can be a simple replacement. Put off dealing with it until the hose bursts and you could have a nightmare on your hands, with associated financial implications.

7. Drive Smarter

Jackrabbit starts and hard stops are not only tough on your tires and brakes, they can have debilitating effects on suspension and other major systems.

The way you drive has an effect on how long your car — and your gas — will last. You not only save wear and tear by having good driving habits, but also fuel. So drive gently. Accelerate slowly. Anticipate braking so you can avoid panic stops. Give your car time to warm up in cold weather so the oil is freely circulating through the system and fully lubricating internal components. All of these things will lessen the wear and tear on your car and possibly enhance fuel efficiency.

Also, make fewer short trips. Jaunts of less than 10 minutes can be particularly hard on a car because the engine never has a chance to heat up properly, which allows condensation to build up inside the engine and exhaust. When mixed with metal and oxygen, water will cause rust, which is bad for cars. Condensation inside the engine will also dilute the oil that lubricates it. Again, this is bad for the car.

8. Lose Some Weight

Driving around with a lot of extra junk in the trunk is like carrying a lot of extra weight around your waist — the stress can wear your car down and keep it from operating at tip-top efficiency.

Extra pounds place extra demand on your vehicle’s powerplant, and can create suspension and braking issues. So don’t drive around with a lot of nonessential stuff in your car. Also, remove anything that causes additional aerodynamic drag, such as a bug shield, roof rack or cargo carrier. These have the same effect as adding weight; that is, they increase the demand on your engine, causing premature wear and tear and reducing your car’s fuel efficiency.

9. Keep it clean

Regularly washing your car will help extend its life as well as support its resale value.

Take care of the exterior of your car by regularly washing and waxing it. And don’t forget about the interior. That’s an often the most overlooked area. Spend time keeping it clean and clean-smelling without perfuming it, and vacuum the carpet on a regular basis. Get spills out immediately, because if you don’t they’re more difficult to remove.

10. Keep It Under Cover

Sitting in the direct sun can cause many dash and interior materials to wear prematurely, as well as a car’s finish to fade. A cover will help; it will also keep your car cooler.

Store your car in a garage or under a carport or cover. Keep your car out of the sun, and keep it away from bird droppings and tree sap. Also be careful where you park to avoid dings.

Happy Driving! C

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Veggie Tale...

As part of my New Year’s resolution to live a healthier lifestyle, I’ve decided to eat more vegetables. “Sure, you and 99% of the pudgy, artery-clogged free world,” you’re thinking. Do you smell failure? Are you skeptical? I understand your skepticism.

You’d have to be a cave-dweller not to have heard the news that most of us are not eating our veggies. I’ve tried too, in the past, to include them regularly in my diet. But, enough vegetables have gone bad in my refrigerator to feed 99% of the free world.

Why is it so hard? What is the problem? Well, I don’t really know what your problem is, but I’ll tell you about mine. Vegetables don’t normally satisfy my appetite unless they’re battered and fried, salted, and dipped in a rich sauce. There, I’ve said it. It’s out in the open. Unfortunately, just knowing what the problem is won’t make me healthier.

But I’m figuring a few things out. First, introducing healthier food choices into my diet has to be gradual. And second, I have to find a way to make vegetables palatable for my taste buds, sans the crunchy coating and without swimming in hot grease. What to do?

I absolutely do not have it all figured out yet, but here are some of my personal observations and suggestions about incorporating vegetables into your meals…

You must have good knives, for slicing and chopping. It’s just too much trouble, not to mention dangerous, to chop vegetables with a dull knife. And you need a big chopping board so you can spread out without knocking things off on the floor.

When I make a vegetable salad using things like carrots, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, squash, and peppers, I put them in a microwaveable dish with a few tablespoons of water and a dash of salt (a DASH!), and nuke them in the microwave for about three minutes first. Why? Raw vegetables really leave me cold, and I find this helps wake up the flavor. Give it a try. Just don’t cook them longer than three minutes, or they‘ll be soggy.

One super easy thing to do is combine two vegetables….like broccoli or cauliflower and carrots….with a little finely minced onion, some halved cherry tomatoes (don’t put those in the microwave), a can of rinsed kidney beans or chickpeas, and some low-fat vinaigrette. You can make a large batch ahead of time and eat it for days. The beans really help to add that filling, protein-y quality, but to make it even more substantial, you can serve it with couscous, or a small can of tuna mixed in. Honestly, it’s not bad.

Another kitchen basic that’s really useful is a blender or food processor. I just have a rudimentary blender, which so far has worked fine. And people, get a crock pot. Please! I don’t care if it does remind you of your grandmother, it’s not your grandma’s crock pot. Really! You don’t even have to use recipes.

Yesterday morning at the grocery, I got two sweet potatoes, two russet potatoes, a handful of baby carrots, and some mushrooms. I peeled and chopped the potatoes, sliced the carrots in half, broke apart the mushrooms with my hands, and put them all in the crock pot. I threw in about ten prunes, cut in half, and a small handful of raisins.

Then I poured in a can of drained garbanzo beans (or lentils would be good) and a can of chopped tomatoes.

I coarsely chopped an onion, a clove of garlic, and a little chunk of fresh ginger, and put them in the blender.

Also in the blender, I put a tablespoon each of coriander, cumin, and paprika. And a dash (a DASH!) of salt, some cayenne pepper, and a little cinnamon. Then I put in a tablespoon of olive oil, a can of vegetable broth, and pulsed the blender to make a puree. (The puree added the thicker texture that teases me into feeling satiated.) Then I poured the mixture over the stuff in the crock pot.

I set the crock pot on low and left. Eight hours later, I put a few pieces of pita bread in the oven to heat up, and opened a container of hummus that I got in the deli section. I made a little couscous to spoon the vegetables and sauce over(unbelievably easy) and my meal was done. Rich, colorful, textural, spicy, slightly sweet, creamy, crunchy, satisfying and healthy!

I’m not saying I’ll never eat a burger and onion rings again. I’m just saying that if I have vegetables once….then twice….then three times a week….I’ll be on the way to that healthier lifestyle!

Will keep you posted…..C

Friday, January 7, 2011

Your Home Says "You"

A designer is part creative consultant, part psychoanalyst, and part financial adviser. A good designer listens carefully to her/his clients, takes clues from their expressed wants and needs, advises them on what to keep, what to get rid of, and what to buy, helps them with a budget plan for their design project, and then uses her/his experience, training, skills, product knowledge and creativity to make it happen.

I’ve been a designer, and in some form of the home furnishings business for a long time. I could tell you how long, but you would NEVER believe I was that old! Anyway, I’ve gone into hundreds of homes, and I have a theory that, our home is one of the truest expressions of who we are. Why? Because it’s how we live. It’s where we keep our things, and it’s where we go when we want to recharge, refresh and rejuvenate.

But home isn’t just a crash pad. It’s an expression of our personal tastes. We like our stuff. It defines us. I have a girlfriend, who is an artist. She loves plants and gardening. And she’s very tidy. When you visit her home, you enter through a small patio…a kind of secret garden… with plants, vines, flowers, garden art, bird feeders and wind chimes, everywhere. Step inside, and it’s a collage of art, photography, colors, textures, and sensual and tactile delights. It’s full of the things she loves, and it’s all neatly and beautifully arranged. It looks just like her!

Home also reflects how we want others to see us. I know a lady who has the most sublime, well-equipped kitchen imaginable, and she never cooks. She watches the Food Network religiously, and can talk an excellent game of “foodie.” I don’t think her oven has ever been turned on. (No, it’s not me!) But the trophy kitchen is her pride and joy, and an expression of how she wants to be perceived by others.

Sometimes a home doesn’t really reflect who we are, or what we want to be, but rather it tells a story about our living conditions at the moment. Although, I’m a firm believer that, unless you have absolutely no money or imagination, style can be achieved on a shoestring budget. I’ve transformed many a sows ear into an attractive and personal living space with almost nothing to work with.

Do you think decorating is shallow, superficial, and frivolous? Well, don’t think that isn’t apparent by the way you pull your home together. It might be bare-boned and monastic, rundown and cluttered, or just generally neglected, but yes, you too are making a statement.

Your home décor can be what you love, what you have to “make do” with, or consist of a handful of survival basics. It can be deliberate or unconscious, high design or strictly functional, a sanctuary of peace and tranquility or an act of rebellion. But whether it’s exquisitely appointed with expensive furnishings, packed with quirky kitsch, or it's nothing but a twin bed, a particle board dresser, and a fishing rod in the corner, your home speaks volumes about who you are.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Being Healthy Is A Revolutionary Act...

I recently discovered this website: and found it to be encouraging, inspiring and informative. The message: Good health is more than just looking good - good health is empowering. Throwing off the chains of poor health and reclaiming our full vitality is both our individual right and our collective responsibility. And there is perhaps a no more life-transforming choice...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The World At Your Feet...

Ethnocentrism is the tendency to believe that one's ethnic or cultural group is centrally important, and that all other groups are measured in relation to one's own. The ethnocentric individual will judge other groups relative to his or her own particular ethnic group or culture, especially with concern to language, behavior, customs, and religion. These ethnic distinctions and sub-divisions serve to define each ethnicity's unique cultural identity. Ethnocentrism is generally considered a human universal.

My first experience with ethnocentrism came at an early age. In the late fifties, my uncle who had been living in Spain, met and married my aunt and brought her back to the farm in Mississippi. An exotic bird, with wild, waist-length black hair, she was wearing a red silk flower behind one ear, colorful layers of ruffled petticoats, and shiny little shoes with chunky high heels that clicked on the tile when she walked. She was unlike anyone I had ever met before in the conservative South, and I was fascinated!

She was a lively little lady who spoke animatedly about….well, I didn’t really know what she was talking about, because she didn’t speak a word of English. But we attempted to communicate with each other by talking loudly, as if shouting made the words more comprehensible. We played charades, pointing and holding up things, laughing and repeating over and over what they were called in our respective languages. She taught me how to play the castanets and flamenco dance, and how to count to ten in Spanish. And she showed me how to apply rouge, and curl my eyelashes by pressing them between my thumb and the dull blade of a pocket-knife.

I’m not sure what, if anything, she actually learned from me. However, I believe she was just happy to hang out with someone who wasn’t trying to make her “fit in.” Her language, behavior, customs and religion were very foreign to the people in the rural community where she spent the rest of her life. Needless to say, she was viewed suspiciously and shunned by many of them….because she was different.

But after meeting my new aunt, I realized for the first time, that the whole world wasn’t necessarily like my world… was very different. And I needed to know more. I wanted to familiarize myself with other cultures. I read voraciously about people and places, far and wide. I sought out ethnic restaurants and tried unfamiliar but tasty dishes. I traveled extensively, talked to lots of people….and listened. I visited their cities and roamed their country-sides, marveled at their architecture and wept at the beauty of their art, dined on their distinctive cuisines, danced to their music, and experienced, embraced, and celebrated their diversity. I continue to travel whenever I can, and never tire of discovering new people, places, and things.

I don’t always understand what makes them tick, but I dive into getting to know them and exploring their world, with an adventurous spirit and a curious, open mind. And why not?! I mean, how interesting would life be if everybody in the world was just like me?


Saturday, January 1, 2011