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Enjoy, laugh, rage, disagree or simply empathize with those who lived life in THE sixties and are now rockin' life in THEIR sixties+.


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How to prevent a cold . . . and not get fat


Colds are not fun.

A couple of years ago I posted my personal treatment program for the common cold (Step right up, try my guaranteed cold remedy). I can now take that advice a step further and suggest how you can prevent getting a cold in the first place. And, in the course of my research it was revealed that my latest discovery has a marvelous spin-off benefit—preventing weight gain. In medical circles I think this is called “off-labeling” where a treatment for one ailment has an unexpected side benefit. That’s what happened when the experts noticed that the medication used to treat glaucoma also grew thicker, longer eyelashes. Voila: Latisse.

Whenever my husband and I travel on vacation, he always gets a cold. Usually he catches it on the plane going over but on our latest vacation he held off until the final couple of days before we came home. Three years ago he generously shared his germs with an entire bus load of more than forty people touring French and Belgian war sites with us. We were very popular. This predilection for getting sick on vacation is so assured that he loads up on Canadian cold remedies from the drugstore before we leave to take along with us. I must confess right up front here that when I get sick he’s a virtual Florence Nightingale. He brings me soup, runs the household and generally gives me the time, space and resources I need to recover. He’s sympathetic, helpful and nurturing. When he gets sick, however, I turn into an evil witch. I chastise him for not washing his hands frequently enough; I refuse to touch him or anything he has touched; I avoid his air space and generally treat him like a pariah. And this is a guy who toughs it out with minimal complaining when he gets sick; he’s not one who displays the typical behaviours of a “man cold”.

France’s secret defense system against sickness and obesity.

Anyway, back to the point of my story. We recently celebrated my seventieth birthday and his seventy-fifth by taking a trip to France. We spent a few days in Paris where it was cold and wet (while it was 30 degrees C in Toronto) before traveling to catch a river cruise down the Rhône River to Marseilles. Everything was going well until a couple of days before the end of our trip when he started to complain about a sore throat and started blowing through forests of Kleenex. The barriers flew up. I washed my hands obsessively. I turned my head when he sneezed. I only touched common door knobs, taps and other items through the protection of a sanitizing wipe. (Fortunately, I’d stock-piled a supply of President’s Choice wipes before we left.) I employed my usual regimen of avoidance/prevention measures.  In the past, these measures rarely worked and I always still managed to catch his cold. This time, for the first time ever, I did not. We’ve been home for several days now so I’m past the typical three-day incubation period for catching a cold. I’m miraculously symptom-free and he’s now better.

The only conclusion I can derive from this experience is that a trip to the south of France is the secret to preventing colds. Essential to this regimen is obviously the daily consumption of copious amounts of fresh French baguettes, pounds of exotic frommages, particularly sharp blue and Camembert, crèpes set alight with generous splashings of Grande Marnier, gelato at least twice a day, delectable wines with every meal and at various times throughout the day, regular consumption of crème caramel or crème brulée, and assorted chocolate and pastry treats daily. And, when we weighed ourselves after we arrived home, we were practically the same as when we left. I can only surmise that all the walking we did from the gelato shops to the cafés and patisseries kept us fit, so similar exercise is definitely an essential component of the plan.

The French lifestyle is obviously highly conducive to healthy living.

This doesn’t account for why he got a cold under the same conditions I experienced but that’s not the issue. I didn’t. Therefore, my research is anecdotal but I’m not one to nit-pick. French women have it figured out. Not only do they stay slim as gazelles on a daily diet of crusty baguettes, delicious wines, exotic cheeses and assorted patisserie treats, they probably don’t get colds either. So, the next time my honey starts sniffing, I’m bolting for the south of France. It works for me. Merci beaucoup mes chères.

Click here to read Step right up . . . try my guaranteed cold remedy.

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Remember when laundry was a chore?


Some friends and I were discussing laundry the other day (our lives really are more interesting than this conversation would lead you to think), making the inevitable comparisons between how it’s done today and how it was done when we were growing up in the fifties and sixties. Our mothers had wringer washers and clothes were hung outside to dry, which was a giant leap in terms of convenience compared to how their mothers handled laundry. My grandmother raised eight kids washing everything by hand and only got her first wringer washer when her eldest son bought her one when he got his first job.

The upside was we could do four loads at the same time.

While living in various cheap apartments and bed-sits during my early working life, I was accustomed to taking the laundry, a box of detergent and a bag of quarters in my bundle buggy down the street a few blocks to the laundromat, or later, when I advanced in the world, having facilities conveniently located in the basement of my apartment building. That was luxury. When my husband and I bought our first (town)house in Pickering in the seventies, the greatest thrill was having my own washing machine and it didn’t require coins. I no longer had to use the same machine as hundreds of other people who’d put heaven-knows-what in the load before mine. At the time, we couldn’t afford five appliances and I really really wanted a dishwasher (my first) so I had to forgo a clothes dryer to stay within our four-appliance budget (fridge, stove, washer, dishwasher). It was three years before I got a dryer to sit alongside my beloved automatic washer. A friend who also bought her first house at the same time installed an old coin-operated washer and dryer that had been discarded from her family’s campground laundry building. She, too, could use it without coins. Such lucky girls. And to think young marrieds today can’t imagine living without all the mod cons including granite countertops.

And they called wringer washers a modern convenience.

Decades later, I still love my washer and dryer and it’s probably because I clearly remember when laundry was not such an easy chore for me and my boomer friends. When I was in high school in the early sixties and I did the household laundry it was in the “cellar” with our wringer washing machine sitting alongside a dual-tub concrete laundry sink. For those readers who weren’t born then, all the washing was done with the same tub of water that was recycled into the left laundry tub before being pumped back into the machine for each subsequent load and so on until darks were washed last. After several loads of sheets, towels and clothing, the darks were the least likely to show the residual effects of washing in water recycled from previous loads. This handy feature was called a “suds-saver”. The right side of the concrete laundry tub was then used for hand-rinsing the clothes in cold water before being manually fed into the wringer. A wooden stick was handy for keeping your fingers out of the rollers but not always successful and many women suffered painful hand injuries.

As kids, we thought frozen longjohns were hilarious.

In summer we hung clothes outside in the breezes where they dried quickly and the sheets and pillowcases smelled heavenly when you put them back on the bed. In winter, the clothes froze solid on the outside line and always made us kids laugh at jeans and pyjamas stiff as boards when we brought them in. When clothes weren’t dried in a warm dryer, everything had to be ironed—socks, underwear, towels, even pyjamas because everything was stiff and wrinkled. In the days before steam irons, everything had to be ‘dampened’. Remember that? At our house we used an old Pepsi bottle filled with water and a corked sprinkler gadget in the neck. We’d sprinkle all the clothes and roll them in damp towels that waited rolled up like cordwood in the bathtub until they were ready to be ironed. Cotton was the primary fabric used in clothing then (wool was hand washed in cold water) so wrinkles abounded.

They call this work? Not in my world.

Recalling those sequences of work with my friends reminded me of how lucky we are today. Not only do we have so many fabrics that require minimal care and no ironing, we are blessed with washing machines and dryers that do everything but dispense our wine. I load the machine, tap a setting and with a few ping ping pings, technology does all the work. But old habits die hard. I still hang sheets outside and I’m genetically programmed to always do the darks last, even though I don’t need to. No more cellars, no more recycled water, dipping hands in freezing rinse water, feeding clothes into the wringer one piece at a time, dampening everything for ironing and blessedly, no more work. Even our laundry rooms now get ‘decorated’ to be cheerful, efficient and enjoyable. I may not know how to use my cell phone to its full capability or how to program all the settings on my TV but I sure know how to tap out those laundry settings. And how to pour a nice cold glass of wine while technology does all the work. We’ve come a long way baby.

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I gobbled up The Edible Woman


I still have my original paperback copy.

It was probably the popularity of the television series The Handmaid’s Tale based on the book written by Margaret Atwood that reignited my interest in her writing. I must confess though that I did not like the book when I read it thirty years ago. Just too weird for my taste, but I absolutely loved the television series and can’t wait for season two. Perhaps I’ve evolved and I finally get it. In discussing the series with a friend who also disliked the book, I suggested she read The Edible Woman, a wonderful book written by Atwood in the late 1960s. So, the other day I unearthed my old, yellowed paperback copy of The Edible Woman to lend her. Although I’ve already read it two or three times since it was first published in 1969, I couldn’t resist the urge to take a quick peak inside. Then I couldn’t stop reading. It’s a time capsule of life in Toronto when there were still typewriters on our desks at work, girdles in our dresser drawers and hi-fi’s in our apartments. The sixties vernacular came crashing back through familiar-sounding descriptions of the clothing, social attitudes and physical surroundings. I was reminded of the difference in our moral standards. Back then gays were still referred to as queer, unmarried couples could not share a hotel room and young women often quit work when they married.

Parts I and III of the book are written in the first person, narrated by Marian, a recent university graduate. The reason Part II is written in second person becomes evident at the end of the book. She works for Seymour Surveys finessing the language in market research questionnaires for such products as beer, sanitary pads and canned rice pudding. Marian has an uninspired relationship with an articling law student named Peter whom she plans to marry and shares a flat with Ainsley who reminded me of the selfish roommate Meredith in Georgy Girl, played by Charlotte Rampling. Various other characters move through her daily life causing her to question herself and her choices. She has a secret friend Duncan who has a thing for laundromats and the life of her married friend Clara represents everything abhorrent to her. Marian’s life as a twenty-something will sound so familiar to those of us who were never quite totally happy or unhappy at that stage in our lives. There’s an overlying veil of dissatisfaction reminiscent of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.

Toronto, as it looked when Marian worked downtown for Seymour Surveys.

Toronto in the late sixties looked very different from today with about one-third the current population and Atwood’s detailed descriptions took me back more than fifty years. She doesn’t specify street names or neighbourhoods and I had fun figuring out where things took place from my memories of Toronto at that time. I could visualize the flat shared by Marian and Ainsley being located in the Annex district just northwest of The University of Toronto. I once shared a flat in the Roncesvalles area with two other girls, that was amazingly similar to theirs. There was no privacy door between our flat and the Polish landlady who lived with her daughters on the main floor so our activities were under her constant scrutiny. Banging her broom handle on her kitchen ceiling to warn us to keep the noise down and being subjected to her constant scrutiny was a part of daily life. Marian’s friend Len also had an apartment that sounded identical to one I once occupied on Vaughan Road.

Nostalgia abounds. When Marion describes her boyfriend Peter’s new apartment in a huge new development complex south of Bloor Street I could picture it in St. James Town. Like Peter, a friend of mine moved in while the building was still was under construction and the elevators didn’t work. Back then it was still considered a hip address comparable to today’s Liberty District south of King Street. The sixties clothing worn by Marian and Ainsley is so familiar, right down to the circular virgin pin worn on the dress of one of her co-workers. Atwood’s characters meet for a drink one evening in a lounge atop the Park Plaza Hotel at Yonge and Bloor Streets, a scene I could picture so vividly having visited the same spot in 1967 with a date and stood on the same terrace looking south toward Queen’s Park.

Yorkville Village in the sixties before it was gentrified.

Before the acceptance of such taken-for-granted rights as gender equality, young women were expected to marry before having children and there was still a degree of reverence for ‘saving yourself’ until marriage. We wrote letters home; we took our bag of dirty laundry on the bus to the laundromat when we ran out of clean clothes and we had to be twenty-one to drink legally. Our spartan apartments were furnished with junk and hand-me-downs. We were subject to the tyranny of landlords and we had jobs not careers.

The message or moral of the story (which you will have to read the book to understand) will ring true for so many women who came into womanhood in the heady days of the sixties. In fact I blogged about the issue for Valentines Day three years ago. This early book by Margaret Atwood turned me into a fan of her writing. If you’re a boomer and feel like burying yourself in a delicious blanket of nostalgia, read or re-read The Edible Woman, still one of my favourites. The message is universal and something today’s millenials can learn from. I had so much fun time-traveling back to life in downtown Toronto during the late sixties. We’ve come a long way baby.

Click here to order The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood from Amazon.com

Click here to read I love you but I love me too

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I couldn’t have said it better


I just came across a shared article on Facebook’s Style Your Way to Success Over 50 written by Rebecca Huval in January 2017 entitled We’ve Forgotten How to Dress Like Adults which expresses the sentiments of baby boomer women and our relationship with fashion better than I ever could. I loved it and I think you will to. Here’s the link:

https://www.racked.com/2017/1/18/14112366/dressing-like-an-adult-sophistication

What do you think? Do you agree with Rebecca?

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