Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Book Review: The Art of Social Media

Communication guru Marshall McLuhan asserted that "the medium is the message" so many years ago. I'm sure he had no idea how many platforms that message would be funneled through by the 21st century. I thought of him a lot when I read The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users, the new book by information power players, Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick. And as I attempted to absorb all that was put before me in this fast-paced, coming at you from all angles at breakneck speed book, I realized that no one could have predicted what today’s message disseminators were going to have to deal with. 

The first line of the book sets the tone as Kawasaki tells us the authors want us to “rock social media.” This is not “Social Media For Dummies”--if you are looking for the ABC’s, you will have to look elsewhere. In order to really appreciate what the book is about you must understand the basic concepts--meaning, no neophytes here, please. Only those who have already dipped their toes in the proverbial social media sea will benefit.

Kawasaki expects the reader to hit the ground running, and if you can keep up, you will find a huge storehouse of information about how to approach every social media platform and use it to its best advantage--for yourself, your business or a client’s business or organization.

Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, are all discussed in depth with content curation being a dominant focus. Where to find content that fits your niche, how and when to post, and how to respond to what will hopefully be many comments. Kawasaki stresses the importance of knowing your audience, building your network and increasing your fan base: “There are only two kinds of people on social media: those who want more followers, and those who are lying,” and his sharp wit often helps bring his point home. Of course, all of this is done with the ultimate intention of making money.

By often referring to his co-author, Peg, and providing both textual and visual examples of how she handles social media issues (she too is a thought leader in the field), the reader is actually getting a “two for one” deal. Kawasaki also uses a liberal hand when peppering his explanations with quotes and links from other industry smarties. (NOTE: I read the electronic version and found being able to immediately click on his links to be amazingly helpful.)

In addition to the “How To’s” (how to run a Google Hangout, how to take charge of an event, how to create a SlideShare presentation, how to organize a Twitter chat), the author has no problem telling us what not to do: “don’t be a pimp,” “don’t swear,” “don’t beg for shares and follows.” There are times when he does chide any naysayers--something I found to be a bit disconcerting--but he also goes out of his way to state that his “tips, tricks, and insights” should not be taken as gospel.

Whether you drink all the Kool-Aid or not, the book is so super-packed with information that you can’t help but take something away from it. It took me so long to get through it because I kept stopping to take notes! And, some of the most helpful portions appear after the conclusion...the list of apps and services is invaluable for someone like me who is often looking them up online. 

This book will serve as a helpful manual for anyone who handles social media for themselves or others and wants to learn how it can help grow your business. I know that I will reread it many times--each chapter is largely written as a separate entity, and can be easily referred to independently of the others. Algorithms will change and apps will come and go, but the philosophy and strategies that the authors so comprehensively share will continue to be pertinent for a long time to come.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Uninvited for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s something I plan for weeks in advance–pulling out my huge stack of November food magazines that I’ve been collecting for years. The other months’ issues are relatively dispensable as far as I’m concerned. It’s the November issue that’s the crown jewel of the year. I love seeing what new sides the editors have come up with and how they tweaked the old ones. ("Add morels to the mashed potatoes" one year, "take them out and add bacon" the next.) 

The photos of the table settings are always dazzling, and the people in the photos are always dressed to the nines, while having a grand time. Babies are never crying, their tear-stained faces smeared with cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. There are never pictures of drunken Uncle Al or miserably hostile Cousin Minnie. In those photos, everyone is beautiful and laughing, and life is perfect.

In the real world, Thanksgiving is a study of contradictions. It’s supposed to be a day when we turn inward and reflect on all that we are thankful for in life, and then hopefully (at least in my house) we turn outward and express our thanks in words and deeds. Ironically, the things that I find so special about the holiday–being together with family and friends–make other people’s skin crawl. In many homes, the Thanksgiving gods are frauds. Not everyone loves their family. Sometimes harsh words and actions of the past cannot be overlooked, even for one day. The wounds and scars they've left behind are immutable, and being with certain family members merely serves as a reminder of the damage. I can appreciate that, and I feel truly blessed that I can look upon the holiday with anticipation rather than trepidation.

Most of my Thanksgiving memories are happy ones. In fact, there’s only one that I can think of that rocked me to my Chanterelle mushroom-gravy-loving core….

Many years ago our family was “uninvited” to the house of a “friend” two days before the holiday. What we thought was going to be a day spent with that friend and her family was obliterated when she called to say that her mom wanted it to be “just family,” and she hoped we understood. As shocked as I was, there was not much for me to do at that point, other than say “yes,” and as I did, visions of myself running through the aisles of supermarkets searching for dinner ingredients clicked through my head like a film projector on speed.

 I don’t remember why I initially gave up the taking of the helm of the Thanksgiving boat that year. We were relatively new to the area, and spending the day making inroads with some new friends sounded appealing, perhaps.  Ultimately, I did manage to patch together a tasty meal–tears falling into my mixing bowl as I prepared the stuffing and peeled the sweet potatoes. (I know, that’s a little melodramatic, but it is true.) And as salt-bitten and puffy-faced as I was, feeling alone and missing my family 3,000 miles away, my boys, who were very young at the time, didn’t seem to notice me or that no one else was joining us for dinner.

When the sumptuous meal was served and eaten, it was obvious to all that another family (a few families) could have joined us at the table and there would still have been leftovers. 

And then I had a brainstorm: why not share the leftovers with those who had no dinner? 

This was going to be one of those great learning experiences! We told our boys (who were by then, slumped over their dinner plates because we had eaten so darn late) that we were going on an adventure, and as my husband and I furiously packed up the rest of the turkey, cornbread stuffing with sausage, sweet potato and apple gratin, and pie, they looked at each other and rolled their eyes. “Just another one of Mom’s kooky ideas.”

We loaded them and the food into the car and proceeded to head to downtown Long Beach, because if you were looking for people who were not partaking of Thanksgiving dinner in the conventional way, of course they would be just lying on the streets of this urban wasteland…waiting for you! Not!  This was not a well-planned mission–this was a fly-by-the-seat-of-one’s-pants project. We didn’t (I didn’t) stop to think that most people who had nowhere to go were probably being fed at churches and community centers. So, it was no surprise that at 8 p.m., on a chilly Thanksgiving evening, the streets of downtown Long Beach were deserted

We drove around for a while and found one soul pushing a supermarket cart that was loaded with bags filled with who-knows-what.

“Stop the car!” I yelled. “This guy is getting our food, whether he wants it or not.” 

I grabbed one of our shopping bags and added it to his collection. “Happy Thanksgiving,” I said. He nodded, and as we pulled away, I turned around and could see him gingerly looking through the bag.

We didn't stick around to see whether the recipient of our gourmet meal was thrilled or befuddled, but I'm sure there was a smile on my face (first one of the day) as we drove away. “You see, guys, we turned our Thanksgiving around…now let’s go home and have some pie.”

This Thanksgiving parable may sound a little hokey, more like something straight out of an O.Henry anthology or better yet, a Jean Shepherd film, but it really did happen. Did it have a huge impact on the lives of my kids? I’m not sure they even remember it – I’ll have to ask them when I see them on Thanksgiving. But it meant a lot to me. It reminded me of the importance of sharing, your time, your food, your compassion, with others during the holidays. How an act of kindness may sometimes be more valuable to the giver than the receiver. 

I have hosted many Thanksgiving dinners since that one, and invariably there are one or two at the table who would ordinarily have nowhere else to go. These are the celebrations that have left their mark on my sons. They appreciate a full house as much as they appreciate a full plate.

One of my standard desserts around this time of year is Pumpkin Bread Pudding. The only pumpkin bread recipe I use when making this comes from the nuns at The Monastery of the Angels in the Hollywood Hills. They began selling their famous pumpkin bread years ago during the holidays, and rumor has it that they sell upwards of 18,000 loaves a year. I’ve read that the “nuns are skeptical that their bread can be duplicated,” but this recipe is touted as being theirs. If you add some cranberries, dried or fresh, or chocolate chips, it is really good enough to eat all on its own.

Monastery of Angels Pumpkin Bread

3½ cups sifted flour
3 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1½ tsp. salt
4 eggs beaten
1 cup oil
2/3 cup water
2 cups canned pumpkin
Walnut halves
1 cup each, chocolate chips and dried cranberries (opt.)

Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Combine eggs, oil, water and pumpkin and mix well. Stir into dry ingredients. Gently fold in the chocolate chips and/or cranberries, if using. Turn into 3 greased loaf pans and top with a few walnut halves. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool before slicing.  Makes 3 1-3/4 lb. loaves.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My Brush With Fame and "The Boomer List"

The last of the Baby Boomers turns fifty this year, and in celebration of that auspicious era when we first graced the world with our presence, PBS will be airing “The Boomer List” tonight to highlight just how unique we really are. 

I am not profiled in the film, nor have I seen it, but I was lucky enough to be photographed by an amazing photographer who made me look as though I was one of the celebs in the film...

It all took place a few months ago while my friend and fellow blogger, Lisa Carpenter and I attended the AARP Life @50+ Conference in Boston. After a long day of meeting some terrific people and hearing about all the great benefits AARP members can get with their AARP card (shameless plug there), we headed out, only to be sidetracked by a colorful booth close to the Expo’s exit. 

The last of the Baby Boomers turns fifty this year, and in celebration of that auspicious era 
when we first graced the world 
with our presence, PBS will be airing 
“The Boomer List” 
tonight to highlight 
just how unique we really are. 

Mary Ann Gatty, and her son Mike were taking photos in the booth that was promoting the upcoming film. I make no grand pronouncements that the only reason we stopped at the booth was because I was interested in the film...the beautiful photos of Billy Joel, author Amy Tan, journalist Maria Shriver, and others (taken by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders) did pique our interest, but equally so, we were lured in by a huge jar filled with Boomer candy, and the Turkish Taffy was calling our names.

Never a big fan of having my picture taken...or invariably of the finished product, I acquiesced to standing in line. At best, I would have a souvenir of the conference, and in the least, I could add another photo to the batch of duds at the bottom of my desk drawer. 

Who was this insightful woman? I wanted to know her, so I came back the next day to hear more about her life and career.

Mary Ann thrust a bouquet of flowers in my hand, positioned my chin just right and told me to “think of myself.” When the photo came rolling out of the developer I was astounded--in the few minutes it took for her to look at me, have me pose, and snap my picture, Mary Ann had captured ME! 

Who was this insightful woman? (I’m sure Mary Ann won’t be insulted if I describe her as “well-seasoned.”) I wanted to know her, so I came back the next day to hear more about her life and career.

Originally from Pittsburgh, and now living in Virginia, Mary Ann was a true BA50 when she divorced at 58 and then found herself at a crossroads at a time when the list of career and lifestyle choices for women was rather short. After taking a year off to recoup and reassess, Mary Ann realized she liked being alone and “eating pie in bed,” and then hit the ground running. Having already had a little photog experience under her belt (her ex-husband, also a photographer, spearheaded her career by asking her to go the Hill and take a picture of then Senator Ted Kennedy--how’s that for a Baptism by fire?!?), Mary Ann began doing more work in D.C. while she raised her son. Once Mike graduated from college, the two of them combined their expertise, and a business that has been thriving ever since was born. 

While other women Mary Ann’s age are thinking about retiring (or have already done so), she’s too busy to even give it a thought. The week before I met her she had just finished photographing Magic Johnson, and she was getting ready to board a plane for yet another photo shoot once the conference was over.

To say that Mary Ann is a true inspiration for today’s BA50s, would be an understatement. And to use words such as “spry” and “feisty” to describe her would be insulting. She is a professional in the highest definition of the word--a businesswoman from a world and a time when women were not readily making their mark in the profession of their choice. “The Boomer List” chronicles a group of extraordinary men and women who were icons of a certain generation, but it is people like Mary Ann who were our role models. I am hoping some of the celebrities will give a nod to those women--their unsung heroines.

(Note: In addition to the film, the Newseum in Washington, D.C. will open an exhibit of Greenfield-Sanders photos on September 26. And a companion coffee-table book will be available on October 1.)

Ultimately, I wound up having much more than a great souvenir of the day. And the photo that I assumed would be stuffed into the bottom of my’s now my Facebook profile.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Are You Still A Mom When Your Kids Are Far Away?

I’m not quite sure who first used the metaphor “nest” to refer to one’s home, but that wise soul was really spot on. We’d often come across nests poking out from under the eaves of our house. If we were lucky, we’d see the papa bird getting it ready for his lady,  leaving and returning from a bird’s version of Home Depot with just the right materials in his beak. Only when he was done would the mama bird show up, and eventually, tiny eyes could be seen peeking out from above the shreds. At the end of the season, without even a goodbye, the family would be gone. Their nest would be left behind for some other family or depending upon the dad’s building prowess, it would fall and eventually be blown away. 

The pastoral image of little ones being sheltered by any semblance of a home is comforting. But when those children are no longer little ones and the time comes for them to leave, that homespun visual of a warm embrace and cuddle up in bed cuteness gets altered. And what was once a “nest” has now become an “empty nest,” and the visual for that is quite different–stark and spare, and a lot less comforting.

Adding insult to injury, some other wordsmith came up with the “Empty Nest Syndrome,” a phenomenon that occurs when the nest one has so lovingly built gets emptied by the ones for whom it was created. “How can these guys and gals do that to us?” we ask. We gave them love and shelter, and they leave us with twigs and bits and pieces of string.

"My son’s bedroom will now become a guest room and his “desk” in the kitchen will now become a baking station..."

My younger son was still with us on a short summer break when my husband and I moved into our new place just three weeks ago. Although a lot of his things are still here, he’s now gone; this is really our place. For the first time in twenty-eight years (practically our entire marriage), we are living closer to more family and old friends than ever. They’ve been coming by to visit and chat, and fill up the spaces that my son left behind. So, it’s not exactly “empty.” And considering we occupy the top three floors of a brownstone, most metaphoric types would consider it, not a nest, but more of an aerie. Especially when you look out through the top skylights and see nothing but blue and the random bird flying by.

My son’s bedroom will now become a guest room and his “desk” in the kitchen will now become a baking station–things they were intended to be when we first looked at the space. This has never been a place where two little boys wrestled and played so loudly with many other little boys that you thought they would fall through the ceiling. No birthday parties with cakes made to look like pizzas and baseballs and dinosaurs have ever been thrown here. The two beautiful wooden and glass front doors welcome you when you walk up the stoop (yes, we have a stoop!), but they’re not the doors that my boys stood in front of for their annual first day of school photo.

So, I am left to wonder as I walk by my son’s/my guest’s bedroom, did this place ever function as a “nest?”  And if not, do I have the right to feel even the least bit of Empty Nest Syndrome here? The question is similar to the one I often asked during the early days of being far away from two boys to whom I had been virtually tied at the hip for so long. Are you still a mom when it seems like it’s been ages since you’ve seen those you’ve mothered? (Did you really mother anyone at all?) Are you still a mom when the “mom-ish” tasks you have been doing for so many years are no longer necessary…or are just different? 

 "Are you still a mom when it seems like it’s been ages since you’ve seen those you’ve mothered?" 

Years ago people stayed put, and the family home often got handed down. Generation after generation could feel the same feelings and live amongst the ghosts of the past. The impression of Great Grandma’s footprints had worn a distinct path from the kitchen sink to the stove. And the wooden bench in the shed still bore the indentation of Grandpa’s tool box. If you closed your eyes and concentrated, you might be able to hear your young aunts laughing in the bedrooms up the stairs.

The Baby Boomer credo is not to plod the same path often enough to wear out the floor, but to forge new paths. Midlife men and women are reconnecting, reinventing, and like my husband and myself, relocating. We are not our grandparents or even our parents.

This has not been the first move we’ve made from the original “homestead,” and the “heirlooms” have long since found other homes. The emphasis is on turning, not to things, but to experiences that will have legacy value. As we all grow older and age, a mom task can be done via Skype or during a text. And a nest can be made not only in a tree high in the sky, but high in the sky in a row on a plane as you sit next to your son and talk about his future and the dreams and hopes you have for him.

This originally appeared in

Friday, July 25, 2014

How Moving Forced Me to Declutter

shoes in a closet

With an (yet another) upcoming move on the horizon, the very wet July 4th was taken as a sign that it was time to begin purging packing. The last time we moved, three years ago, I had the Herculean task of consolidating a whole load of crap beautiful things from many years of living in a large home into less crap a proper amount that would fit into an apartment…across the country. This time, the move will not be nearly as far-flung, and the space will be relatively the same, just reconfigured. So, this time it will be a “breeze.” I thought.

Tackling the big, black hole of my closet, was a scary project, but I was up to the task. I had been very conscious of space limitations these past three years, and thus was “relatively” prudent when it came to purchasing new things. (Or so I thought.) I did try to adhere to the recommendation, one thing in, one thing out, but if there is really anyone on this earth who actually abides by that hogwash, I would love to meet her. 

For some expert advice, I turned to an article in Elle Magazine, that suggested I look at the entire process as a “cleanse.” Not exactly an appetizing endeavor, but one I could wrap my head around, since the only thing actually getting the colonic was my closet. As I went through the physical things that basically told the story of my life, the questions I asked myself were not, as the article stated, “Was I high?” but “Haven’t I done this before?” and “Why weren’t these thrown out three years ago? 

I obviously could not detach myself enough the last time I packed, but I was determined to be ruthless this time.The too small (yes, there were more of those), too outdated, too stained or torn items were immediately relegated to the “toss” pile…but then there was the old high school sweatshirt (was it even mine to begin with?), the tee shirt from the final parents’ weekend at my son’s college (that I only wore once–during that weekend), the shirt my former coworkers gave me when I left New York, that said “I Love NY” and left sparkles behind me whenever I wore it. Now that I was moving back to New York–shouldn’t I be wearing it again? (NO!) 

Any workout wear that was too short, too old or too worn was aerobically lobbed into the throwaway pile…but some of those pieces reminded me of the instructors I had loved (and lost) during the years. And what of the sweaters that came with me to Los Angeles (where I never wore them) from New York over 25 years ago, and then back to the East Coast (and I still never wore them)? Those heavy, itchy, classics were…classic! After they saved me during the most horrific winter, how could I give up on them now? Ruthless me turned the sweater skyscraper on the floor into a one-story double-wide. 

"I am by no means a shoe diva, 
but the amount of shoes I've 
amassed would give 
Imelda Marcos pause."

And then it was on to the nightgown/lingerie drawer. The crossword puzzle pj’s that my hubby bought me, thinking they were SO adorable (and they were…uh, are!), but have yet to come out of the bag. My barbie doll nightgown (that would be, not one that makes me look like a barbie doll, but one that is flannel, and has barbie dolls scattered all-over-it) has been with me since before I was married (really…I haven’t worn it since I said “I do!”) 

I am by no means a shoe diva, but the amount of shoes that I’ve amassed would really give Imelda Marcos pause. Since I am now trying to adhere to the “Slow-Fashion Movement,” any pair of shoes that were bought cheaply and worn once (or never) got tossed. Better to leave the curating of a footwear museum to the wise people at the Smithsonian. 

As the day wore on, melancholy began to settle in. I realized one does not have to actually wear the clothes to appreciate them. There is a lot of sentiment and memories metaphorically woven into those fibers. I have read de-cluttering articles that suggest taking photos of the well-loved and well-worn items, and I can appreciate that, but it’s just not the same as looking closely at something and immediately knowing when you wore it, whom you were with, and how it made you feel. Touching the fabric brings you back to when you last touched it. There might still be a hint of perfume or body lotion (OK, sometimes not so good) hanging on for dear life. You can’t get that from looking at a photo. 

And then a voice inside me yelled, “Snap out of it!” One glass of wine–this was only a symbolic “cleanse”–and I could feel the fibers of mental strength coming together once more. By the time I got done, the boxes were packed, the closet and drawers were empty and I had the satisfaction of knowing that there would be some lucky people tap-dancing in their new shoes, and happily itching in their newfound sweaters come next winter.  (And emptier drawers and closets on the back end will enable me to do some more shopping!) 

"And then a voice inside
 me yelled, 'Snap out of it!'"

As I said, the rainy weather served as good incentive to get some work done, and my husband felt the same way. He had his own piles of giveaways, and he is by no means as attached to his belongings as I am. He’s out running as I write this, so it’s a great opportunity for me to check on what he’s got in those bags…and I think I see an old Hawaiian shirt from many moons ago that he definitely should NOT be parting with…not yet anyway.

This article previously appeared on

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Trifle: The Perfect Summer Dessert

According to the dictionary, a “trifle” is something that is of little consequence–a mere insignificance. But this rich, often indulgent, tiered dessert is anything but. The treat dates back to the 1700’s and came to the US via the British when it was served to the wealthy.
Over the years, trifles have evolved–crumbled biscuits became cubes of pound cake which became crushed coconut macaroons, which became lady finger cookies. And vanilla custard was replaced by lemon pudding which morphed into whipped cream, and chocolate mousse, and so on. Berries, peaches, and lemon curd were overtaken by chocolate curls, crushed brownies, and shards of toffee. 

Trifles are a perfect dessert to serve over the July 4th weekend–the ingredients can be home-made or store-bought, and they can be assembled a day or so in advance. In fact, the dessert gets better with a little time under its belt. The traditional deep, round trifle bowlsreally showcase the individual layers, but if you’re making the dessert for a crowd, a large, deep Pyrex dish would be equally good. Putting together individual mini trifles in tall iced tea glasses or large individual sherbet cups are a nice touch as well. (Once you’ve prepared all the individual ingredients, you can even have the little ones help you assemble them.)
We’ve searched the web and picked out a collection of favorites that really showcase the versatility of this long-loved dessert. And how fitting that it be served on Independence Day, as we celebrate just one more thing we’ve wrestled away from the British!
Strawberry Chocolate Trifle from uses crumbled cake and pie filling.
strawberry chocolate trifle
 “Better Than Sex” Trifle from uses chopped Heath Bars and chocolate cake, and looks luscious!Better Than Sex TrifleMini Tiramisu Trifles are from uses crushed cookies and can be made in individual individual triflesThe traditional Mixed Berry and Angel Food Trifle is from and can be assembled in “30 minutes!”angel food cake trifleRed, White, and Blue Trifles from are the ones the kids can pitch in and help with. They’re adorable!  berry trifles

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Coconut Browned Butter Cookies

I am going to put it all out there…I am not a fan of coconut. BUT, I am a fan of thin, crisp cookies and Browned Butter, so when my friend Helene Bludman posted a link to these Coconut Browned Butter Cookies from Smitten Kitchen (one of my favorite food websites), I took notice.

Browned Butter puts its pale yellow, insipid cousin to shame. It is butter that’s gone on a vacation…to the tropics…and it’s come home all tawny and burnished, and smelling goood. It’s a little wild, a little flirty and sputtery, so it needs to be watched carefully as you melt it down. First comes the foam and the sputter, and then comes the caramelization process and the “sun tanning” begins. Your kitchen begins to fill with a nutty aroma and just a second before it goes over the edge into burnt butter oblivion, you grab that hot sucker of a pan off the stove and pour everything (including the browned bits at the bottom) into a glass container (yes, anything plastic will melt).

    “Browned Butter is butter that’s gone on a vacation…to the tropics.”

Browned Butter is a treasure. Once it’s cold, it can be beaten into submission with sugar and eggs and folded into flour to make a totally awesome cookie dough. It is not a one-trick pony, however…it can be tossed with pasta or spooned into risotto to make a savory dish that much richer.   These Coconut Cookies should be crispy, not chewy, so bake them until they are a deep russet. And if, like me, you think you don’t like coconut, get over yourself. You will love these cookies! (BTW, it might be gilding the lily, but a handful of very bitter dark chocolate chips would be a great addition. Fold them in at the very end.)   

(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)   
1 cup (2 sticks or 225 grams) unsalted butter 
2 tablespoons water 
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (125 grams) granulated sugar 
3/4 cup (145 grams) packed light-brown sugar 
1 large egg 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (175 grams) all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
Slightly heaped 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt 
4 cups (240 grams) dried, unsweetened coconut chips (if you can't find coconut chips, use sweetened coconut and decrease sugar quantities by 1 Tbsp. each)
1 cup dark chocolate chips (opt.)

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Don’t take your eyes off the pot as it seems to take forever (more than 5 minutes) but then turns dark very quickly. Once it is a deeply fragrant, almost nut-brown color, remove from heat and pour butter and all browned bits at the bottom into a glass measuring cup. Adding 2 tablespoons water should bring the butter amount back up to 1 cup. Chill browned butter in the fridge until it solidifies, about 1 to 2 hours. 

 Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Scrape chilled browned butter and any bits into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add both sugars and beat the mixture together until fluffy. Add egg and beat until combined, scraping down bowl as needed, then vanilla. 

Whisk flour, baking soda and salt together in a separate bowl. Pour half of flour mixture into butter mixture and mix until combined, then add remaining flour and mix again, scraping down bowl if needed. Add coconut chips (and chocolate chips, if using) in two parts as well. Scoop dough into 1, 2 or more (a 2-inch wide scoop for bakery-sized cookies works best) balls and arrange a few with a lot of room for spreading on first baking sheet; use the back of a spoon or your fingers to flatten the dough ever so slightly. Bake first tray of cookies; 1 tablespoon scoops will take 10 to 11 minutes; 2 tablespoon scoops, 12 to 14 minutes, the 2-inch scoop used at the bakery, 14 to 16 minutes; take the cookies out when they’re deeply golden all over. If cookies have not spread as much as you see above, stir 2 teaspoons more water into cookie dough, mixing thoroughly, before baking off another tray. (See note below for full explanation.) This should do the trick, but if it does not, repeat the same with your next batch. Once you’ve confirmed that you have the water level correct, bake remaining cookies. Cool cookies on baking sheet for 1 to 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Cookies keep for up to one week at room temperature. Extra dough can be stored in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for a month or more. 

About the water: When you brown butter, water volume is lost, but not all types of butter contain the same amount of water. Most standard American grocery store butters (any non-European style butter), 1 tablespoon of water per stick (1/2 cup) of butter is a sufficient replacement. However, should you find that your first batch of cookies is too thick, a little extra water is all you’ll need to get the texture right.

(This article originally appeared in

Monday, May 19, 2014

Toss the Gloss: Finally, a Beauty Book for 50+ Women!

After spending over forty years in the same industry, and rising to executive

positions that would ultimately revolutionize that industry, you’d expect a person to have amassed a treasure
trove of information for women over 50, and even some “dirt.”

beauty book for 50+ women

Andrea Q. Robinson is that person, and her years as the ultimate insider in the world of beauty, makeup, and skincare have given her enough fodder and then some to write Toss the Gloss: Beauty Tips, Tricks & Truths For Women 50+. Her resume is more than impressive: former chief marketing officer of Estee Lauder president of Tom Ford Beauty, beauty editor of Vogue, and president of Ralph Lauren fragrances. As president of UltimaII, she spearheaded the natural (“naked”) makeup trend, and it is this adherence to looking unfussy and overdone that is the central theme of her book. She ascribes to the Japanese concept of “Wabi-Sabi,” the beauty of imperfection, and making the most of what you’ve got in a low-maintenance manner.

Part tell-all, part memoir, and part source book, Toss the Gloss talks about Robinson’s life–the glamour and the glitz, but it also gets to the nitty gritty of the cosmetics industry and tells it like it is–all while concentrating on us, midlife women. She makes no bones about the disconnect that exists between the “suits” and our audience. “The people running these corporations are afraid to address our specific needs with anything other than antiaging creams…the fifty+ ‘real women’–are the largest demographic, with more money to spend. They need to wake up and realize that we’re worth their investment.”

     "Some things do get better

      with age, and we are one 

      of them."

I grew up in a home with a mom who was a cosmetician, so makeup and skincare were a big part of my life. I have always enjoyed reading fashion magazines, not just for the fashions, but for the articles that discussed new and innovative skincare treatments that were entering the market. While the book didn’t go into detail about all the chemical properties of lots of lotions and potions, what I found to be really helpful were Robinson’s lists of which products were useless for our age group, and which advertising slogans were bogus. (“Moisturizing,” yes, “Clarifying,” no.)

She provides a good amount of gossipy tidbits and inner circle secrets (the “gift with purchase” deals are only there to lure you in, and one research lab in each corporation usually creates the same ingredient that is widely used in both their low-and high-end products), but the real value lies in the primer chapters that provide instructions on how to apply head to toe products. (The drawings here were probably the one thing I did not like about the book–for someone with “two left hands,” such as myself, actual photographs would have been more helpful. Regardless, Robinson explains all techniques in grand detail, so if you’re not visually inclined, you can still get the hang of it.) Also very helpful are her recommendations of products and color for each skin type and hue.

I applaud Ms. Robinson for finally addressing the ever-changing beauty needs of the 50+ woman. In this book she remains true to her philosophy, and does so, “without fuss.” I so appreciate someone from the industry who actually believes “less is more” when it comes to makeup for our demographic. And while the author does touch upon actual “facelifts,” she spends more time on the facelift you should be giving your makeup bag and bathroom vanity. There’s been talk of Robinson starting her own makeup line, for, of course, women our age. I will definitely look into that when the line hits the stores.

This is a book that I will come back to again and again. I plan on taking it with me the next time I go shopping for makeup, and like a good cookbook, I’m sure the pages will eventually become stained with colors and product as I thumb through it. As the author says, “Some things do get better with age, and we are one of them!”

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sharing My Writing Process...

I’ve been in a bit of a writing slump, what else is new? SO, when my online buddy, Connie McLeod mentioned she was participating in a little writing exercise/blog roll that documented writers’ creative processes, my first reaction was...”what PROCESS?!?” And then I decided that this would be just the kick in the booty that I needed to put it all out there on virtual “paper” and get my creative juices flowing again. At the least, it will get me out of the kitchen and away from the snacks that are calling my name.


I have had an urge to share my thoughts and ideas with others since the day I stood inside a Brooklyn phone booth at the age of 8, and not wanting anyone else to hear me, called Random House Publishing Company to ask if they would take a look at a book I had written. I haven’t a clue what happened to that book, but I remember the thrill I got when the person on the other end said, “yes,” she would be happy to read what I wrote. Knowing someone is reading my work, hopefully enjoying it, and hopefully taking something away from it keeps me going back for more. 

The short story was primarily my genre in college, where creative writing was my minor. I never considered myself to have a long enough attention span to write a War and Peace or even Son of War and Peace. My muse was the sound bite queen and...and my writing is just like me...short and “sweet.”

My mother, a lovely woman, but a narcissist nevertheless, would often ask, “Why don’t you write something about me?” I would scoff at her, but recently, I gave up the fiction and took on the real nuts and bolts of my life--I became a memoirist. (Talk about being a narcissist, who would ever want to read about the things going on in MY life?) So here I am, loving the advice of Marion Roach Smith and the work of memoirists such as Laurie Colwin and Calvin Trillin, hoping my writing can come within even one iota’s reach of theirs. And my mom, she’s my favorite subject!


Not much. I have a few articles in the hopper, and a few in my head that have yet to be brought out. I will be writing a review of a Beauty Book for 50+ women soon, and until then I will continue to create the pithy Tweets and Facebook posts that I write for, where I am the Social Media Manager.


I admire the writers I know who can read an article in the New York Times and then sit down and write a critique or response. I leave that arena of writing to them because that is just NOT me. I am not a very deep thinker or politically minded, nor am I a rabble-rouser. (Although I have been known to write some pretty heated letters to the editor of our local newspaper when I felt my kids, or someone’s kids were not being treated fairly.)

I am a former pastry chef, so I love to write about anything that has to do with food, and the memories that foods evoke. I think I write for the everyman/woman. I like to think of myself as the “Bruce Springsteen of the short memoir writers whose parents were Holocaust survivors.” People can relate to what I write about--childhood, marriage, parenting, midlife angst--I don’t hold much back, but just enough for people to insinuate their own life story into my own life story. Just enough for them to be able to see themselves in my tales, and say, “Yeah, I remember that too.” A touch of humor, a touch of sarcasm, and having the “most” unique parents about whom to write probably sets me apart from others. 


If you were paying attention, you will remember that I said I had no process. And I meant it. An idea might come to me at the most inopportune time--at the gym, in the shower, coming out of the ER after I had just spent the day there thinking I was having a heart attack. I mull over the theme and let it “sit” for a while.

What might not be the most realistic way of writing, but most often works for me, is that I write part of the article in my head--mostly the bullet points. I think about it, again, in the shower or while I am running at the gym and after I’ve thought enough, I then write it down. No outline, no ”word web,” just free writing. And then I edit, and edit, and edit, and edit. Until I think I like what I see and feel comfortable with sending it out to the masses.

If I am writing a serious piece that requires facts, numbers, statistics, and quotes, I do the research. But I was never a big fan of writing term papers, and writing of that ilk comes a little too close to what I generally stayed up all hours of the night stressing over during college.

And now I turn the gavel over to a wonderful writer and one of the kindest and genuine people I know, Cathy Chester. Cathy’s lifelong passion has always been writing, but it was put on hold until her son was a junior in high school. It was then that she finally listened to her inner voice telling her to get back to writing.  She decided to go back to school to earn a certificate in patient advocacy, and combined that with her blog, An Empowered Spirit, where she pays it forward to her beloved disability community. She also writes about living a vibrant and healthy life during midlife, animal rights, social good and the joy of living. She is a Contributor to The Huffington Post (Post50/Impact/Disability Travel), and blogs for, and She was recently named one of the "Top Ten Social HealthMakers in Multiple Sclerosis" by ShareCare, a new platform created by Dr. Mehmet Oz. Her work has appeared on BlogHer, Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop, The Friendship Blog, and other online magazines.

Here are links to other writers in this blog tour. Read what they had to say about their process.

Helene Bludman

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