Days 1 and 2

Days 1 and 2

I won’t bore myself researching how many thousands, or millions, of people have diabetes, are overweight, have stress and anxiety, and other unhealthy diseases or conditions that are often avoidable by healthy living. I am becoming one of them.

It seems that while we have written so many words about healthy living and viewed hours and hours of more information about the topic, we are generally not a healthy society.

I’m in my 50’s and this is going to change for me now.

I have little discipline. Somehow I’m not even heavier and an alcoholic. I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like and I do believe that champagne is the one beverage that is appropriate to consume any of the 24 hours in a day, 365 days a year. But I’ve gained a fair amount of weight since menopause and developed high blood pressure (which is improving).

I don’t play sports and I don’t enjoy gyms. I already have a dog, but don’t really enjoy walking him either (bad mom).

Yesterday was my 1st Day. I’m brought in my breakfast and lunch, to work and walked during lunch. I ate a modest dinner, early in the evening. Today I pretty much repeated the same routine. I’ll have to figure out a lot more if I’m going to be serious about all of this, but it’s a start.

In two days, I will be driving down to Los Angeles to attend BlogHer with my sister and youngest daughter. I’m really looking forward to it. During the drive, my dad will be joining me for the road trip and I’ll be dropping him off in Ojai to visit his old school buddy. I think they are friends from junior high. He’s so excited. But I’m a little concerned about the eating and drinking. There is a lot of it at this conference. Get a few thousand women together and they like to have fun.

I’ll have to be careful and balance it between my deep belief in making memories being so important to our happiness and the idea that I gotta get my shit together. I can make memories without all the calories and alcohol. Truth is, I’ll probably have more memories! Wish me luck.

Letting Go in a Dangerous World

Letting Go in a Dangerous World

We drove our little girl to the airport, watched her enter the terminal, and drove away.

Mind you: That “little girl” is a 20-year-old young woman, and we’ve been doing this now for a couple of years – since she started college 2500 miles away from home, in Chicago. This time, she is flying all the way to England for a two-week program at a university in Manchester. And in a few days, my husband and I will also be flying to the UK for a visit with his family, so we will all be together again in a very short time.

That doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye.

Last night, during the news of the attempted military coup on Turkey – and following the awful tragedy of the attack on Bastille Day in Nice – my husband wondered if we should be worried about our daughter’s travels. I shook my head “no.”

But of course, I worry.

We’ve worried about terrorism while flying for most of her young life. I also worry about random shootings at school, in movie theaters, and shopping centers here in the United States. If anything, I worry about her more now because she’s almost entirely autonomous. I have no control. And the truth is, I never really did – it just felt that way. If I’ve learned anything from the waves and waves of surprising violence in this country and around the world, it’s that none of us can ever be 100% certain we’ll be safe. All we can do is play the odds, and fortunately, the odds are still very much in our favor.

The Odds are in Our Favor

But that realization is pretty cold comfort. I am 60 years old and I still call my dad every time I travel to let him know I’ve landed safely – and he says he appreciates it.

We dropped her off at LAX around lunchtime and decided to grab a bite somewhere in town.

“Where would you like to go?” my husband asked.

I wasn’t sure. “Some place very L.A.,” I told him. After all, in a few days we’ll be far away from palm trees and hazy sunshine and the Pacific Ocean. We toyed with the idea of going to the beach, or downtown Los Angeles – and settled with one of my very favorite spots in all of Los Angeles: Monsieur Marcel at the Farmer’s Market.

I had my usual Salad Nicoise and ordered a glass of French Sauvignon Blanc. I don’t usually drink at lunch time, but there had been so much traffic that it was nearly 3:00 PM and besides, my baby was getting on a plane and flying 6,000 miles away WITHOUT US. And I remembered, years ago, when my oldest niece left Los Angeles for a summer college term in Europe, we took my sister out for some wine at the very same place, and it suddenly felt very right.

YOU ON THE PLANE YET? I texted my daughter.

WAITING FOR MY ROW TO BOARD, she answered.

I ordered a second glass of wine. That felt right, too.

ALRIGHT TAKING OFF NOW! SEE YOU IN 2 WEEKS, my daughter texted.

As I left the Farmer’s Market, I was downright relaxed. And I will try to remain that way – at least until I get that text from her to tell me she’s landed.

A New Mother’s Day

A New Mother’s Day

Last December, our mother died. It was a short illness, started with flu-like symptoms, ended in sepsis. I knew it was very serious, but really never believed she’d die. She was 79, which doesn’t seem old anymore.

Mom was a shopper and she loved clothes. Nice clothes. Before she died, she had taken much of her very expensive wardrobe to a consignment store from where my father is still receiving checks in the mail. We bagged up most everything else and donated it. Some items are left in the closet for the granddaughters to rummage through, as they are the only ones who can fit into her small-sized clothes.

Dad is coping as well as anyone can who lost his wife of 60 years. He also lost his driver’s license earlier in the year, so he’s had a double whammy. Not that one should compare driving to a wife, but there is a loss of independence that comes with not driving anymore. He’s still mourning his car. The family’s focus has turned to him, his physical and emotional well-being, and a new life that he is rebuilding at 82 years old.
We were never allowed to look in the safe my parents had in their home, but I knew it was filled with jewelry, as mom also loved bling. I always called it The Vault to annoy her. “Show me what’s in The Vault,” I would plead. She would always say “next time.” Now I go into The Vault and play with the jewelry like when I was a kid playing with her costume jewelry in her 1960’s jewelry box. Dad tries to recall where each piece came from, but many things are not remembered.
I’m not sure what I’m learning from this experience, but I’m trying to gain something from it. Anything that is this life-changing must bring something to gain. Maybe the best part is that my sister is committed to coming to visit once a month. It makes my dad happy. My mother would approve of that.
So, as Mother’s Day approaches, I think about it and realize I don’t really feel a great loss attached to the day. I feel the loss every day. All kids ask why there isn’t a Children’s Day and all kids get the same answer. I now feel the same about Mother’s Day: Everyday is Mother’s Day, when you don’t have your mother around anymore.
In Quest Of: A Perfect Cup of Coffee

In Quest Of: A Perfect Cup of Coffee

Have you ever noticed how many blogs by women feature the word “coffee” or mention coffee in their tagline? A quick search on “mom blog coffee” pulled up Mommy Needs CoffeeThe Coffee Shop BlogBusy Mom (Better Parenting Through Coffee), Coffee Lovin’ MomCafe Mom, and Mommy Loves Coffee.

And that was just on the first page of results.

I could do another search for titles that include the words “Java,”  “Cappuccino,” “Latte” and “Caffeine.” The point is, there are a lot of women who cannot get through the day without their hot, caffeinated beverages, and I am one of them. I have a Pavlovian response at the site of a Starbucks logo, and an uncanny ability to remember the exact locations of coffeehouses I’ve visited — even in cities I rarely frequent.

I admit it: I am an addict. I go through periods where I try to cut down on my consumption (such as the nine months of pregnancy, when I switched to decaf) — but I always come back. I just have a hard time waking up in the morning, and need a little liquid kickstart. And I need it even more on days when I’m trying to write: Caffeine has been shown in studies to help increase women’s focus and concentration, and I have found that an extra cup has the power to jolt me out of my spacey stupors and back on track.

But I won’t drink just any cup of Joe. My favorite coffee beverages are the sweetened lattes, which have way too many calories to consume in mass quantities. I hate a brew that’s overly bitter or weak, and while I enjoy a good espresso, I don’t often make one for myself, even though I have a pretty good espresso machine. I’m lazy. I don’t want to take the time to heat the machine, measure and tamp the grounds — and then clean it — just for a single tiny cup. (We won’t even talk about the effort it takes to froth milk and clean the nozzle for a cappuccino or latte.)

So given these proclivities, it’s not surprising that I took some time out of a busy day earlier this month to attend an event showcasing the latest single-cup machine from Nespresso. The festivities were held in a pop-up cafe at LA’s famed Grove shopping center, and for most of those attending, the big attraction was celebrity spokesperson Padma Lakshmi. But for me, it was the coffee.

The Nespresso “U

Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi is the type of woman I like hanging out with. She loves good food and good drink and I could put up with her being so gorgeous long enough to enjoy a Girls Night Out in a trendy restaurant. She said that she had stopped drinking coffee in the United States because too often, it tasted like a hot, bitter liquid with grounds.  And then a friend suggested she try one of Nespresso’s machines. She bought one for herself and loved it — so her endorsement actually means something, as it comes from someone who uses the product herself.

The Good

The machine has a small footprint, so it does not take up a lot of counterspace. The water tank swivels so you can configure it to fit exactly how you want it.

It is extremely simple to operate: turn it on, drop in the capsule and let it go. You can modify the size of the pour: Ristretto is the smallest, at 0.85 oz, Espresso is 1.35 oz and Lungo is almost the size of an old-fashioned coffee cup, at 3.75 oz.  These are NOT Ventis — but the resulting brews are not weak and nicely balanced.

When you turn the machine on, it takes just 45 seconds to heat enough to brew a cup of coffee with 16 bars of pressure, which create a gorgeous crema float at the top.

The colorful, aluminum coffee capsules are also small and Nespresso sells a variety of attractive containers for storage and display. However, they’re really expensive (scroll on down to the section titled “Bad.”) The capsules are airtight, which ensures that your espresso or coffee will always come out fresh.

The U automatically pushes the empty capsule into a container for emptying and recycling later. There is also virtually no excess dripping, which is super nice.

Nespresso has targeted foodies and coffee snobs with this machine. It’s only available at Nespresso boutiques and high end department stores and cookware chains like Bloomingdale’s and Williams-Sonoma, which — whether you like it or not — gives the machine some cachet. But that means if you don’t have a retailer near you, you must order the coffee capsules online or by phone. It’s easy to do with membership in the Nespresso Club, where you can get personalized advice on which of the 16 “Grand Cru” coffee blends you like best. (The U came with a sample of each; I have been busy jotting down my tasting notes on each one so I can figure out what to re-order).

I love the ease of making myself an afternoon espresso pick-me-up or an evening decaf. It is no exaggeration when I say that owning this machine has changed my life (in a good way).

The Bad

As mentioned above, you can’t just run out to the supermarket to buy more capsules. And if you don’t have a Nespresso boutique near you, you will have to order by phone or online.

The capsules will run you about sixty cents a piece. This is expensive when you compare it to the cost of coffee by the pound, but it’s within range of the price of other single cup coffeemakers’ modules. It’s also way less than you would pay for a shot of espresso at Starbucks, and the flavor is better.

You cannot make cappuccinos or lattes with the U. Nespresso makes other models that include a frother. They also make an Aeroccino (seen in the video), which heats and froths milk.

Of course, as with any single cup coffeemaker, there is a lot of waste inherent in all those little coffee capsules. The good news is that Nespresso’s all-aluminum capsules are 100% recyclable. Nespresso will even pick your used ones up for you — if you live in Manhattan.

The rest of us have to do the recycling ourselves. That means taking them to your local recycling center, after you have washed out all the coffee grounds. You will also need to pack and bundle the used capsules tightly (because their small size can jam the machines that process the aluminum).

Another issue is Fair Trade – ensuring that the farmers use best practices and earn a fair return. For the last couple of years, I’ve only purchased Fair Trade certified coffee for my home. Nespresso’s coffee has been certified by another organization, the Rainforest Alliance, which aims to accomplish the same goals of sustainable farming with living wages. And here is where it gets dicey: The Rainforest Alliance has been accused of being a greenwashing program, because they will certify a product with as little as 30% sustainable content. (Nespresso says their goal is to source 80% of their coffee from the 40,000 farmers who are participating in their own proprietary sustainable coffee program.)

So that could be an issue. However, all is not rosy with the Fair Trade organization, either. There has been a rift between Fair Trade USA and Fair Trade International,  the organizations that issue the coveted certification. The bottom line is that it’s increasingly tough to tell what you’re getting, even when you make the effort to pay a premium so that the people who grow your coffee benefit.

This is one I’ll be chewing on for a long time — while sipping an espresso.

This article was previously posted at In Quest Of. We were given the Nespresso U machine reviewed in this post. Review our Disclosure policy here.