Every time there’s a reference in the news or in general conversation to cement steps, cement porch, curbs or building components, my husband has a nuclear meltdown. We both spent our careers in construction and every time we hear the word ‘cement‘ used when the word they should be using is ‘concrete‘, it hits our ears like chalk grating on a blackboard, or, worse, Yoko Ono singing. This mistake occurs frequently including several times on CTV television and their writers should know better. It’s one of those petty annoyances like people using ‘irregardless’ for ‘regardless’. Just . . . DON’T do it.
Here’s the scoop. Cement is one ingredient in the recipe for concrete. Concrete is made up of five basic ingredients:
Aggregates (crushed stone)
Sometimes, other materials or chemicals may be used as well to modify the strength, density or weight of the finished product but basically, that’s what it includes. Interchanging ‘concrete’ and ‘cement’ is like making a cake and calling it flour. Cement is a dry ingredient that is just one of the components of concrete.
Various additives and chemicals can also be added to a concrete mixture to make it lighter, stronger or more weather resistant..
Creating concete is much like making a cake. You would never call a cake “flour”. That’s just one of the ingredients in the final product.
So, do we all now understand? The words concrete and cement are not interchangeable. That sidewalk, wall or those steps Rocky Balboa climbed to get in shape are concrete, not cement. I don’t want to ever hear you call them cement again.
On my more virtuous days when my grocery cart is full of organic produce, fresh-pressed Green Goddess juice and two kinds of quinoa, I like to cast a critical eye on what’s in the cart of the person ahead of me or behind me in the lineup. It’s a bitchy and small-minded exercise in me getting all sanctimonious and judgey. When I see a cart overflowing with bags of white Wonder Bread, cases of soft drinks, frozen mac n’cheese, Doritos and heavily sugared breakfast cereals, I get all self-righteous and mentally think, “No wonder you weigh 300 lbs.”.
Then, there are the days when I’m dropping in for a few pantry staples—beans, ketchup (Canadian French’s, of course), mayonnaise, Rocky Road ice-cream and a couple of bags of Ruffles, I’m more than a tad embarrassed. I avert my eyes and hurry my purchases into the bag. Should I explain to those in the lineup ahead of or behind me, that this isn’t the sum total of my weekly shopping? I feel obliged to explain that my normal weekly groceries generally include organic produce, grass-fed cow’s milk, fresh fruit, chia seeds, and extra virgin organic olive oil. I buy quality Ace bread (which I only allow myself to eat on weekends—how’s that for discipline?), hormone-free, organic meat and as many fresh and non-GMO’d products as I can manage. I feel like someone should care. Seeking vindication.
There’s another nasty habit I have that I shouldn’t share, but it’s just you and me here so I will. I also tend to be critical of the food choices by people who claim that eating well and/or eating healthy is expensive. I’ve seen 10-lb. bags of carrots for $5.00. Tomatoes in season are cheaper and easier than trying to grow your own in a pot on your deck or balcony. Zucchinis are so abundant and cheap they’re practically free. For the price of a small container of ice-cream (which I’m ashamed to say I can consume in a single session), you can get an entire bag of grapes or a bunch of bananas. Ontario apples are ridiculously cheap when purchased by the 5 lb. or 10 lb. bag, particularly in the fall when they’re in season. I’m a true believer in “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”.
Our 21st-century taste buds are so conditioned to needing food that’s overloaded with fat, sugar, and salt, that it takes some time to readjust our pallet to appreciate real food at its best. Years ago I stopped taking sugar in my tea and then started reducing it in other areas of my diet as well. It’s been a journey. I’ve also become an enthusiastic label-reader. I’m far from perfect (having a sweet tooth) but I do try.
I’m also extremely concerned about the high percentage of us who are getting unexplainable cancer. Most of us know not just a couple of people suffering from the disease, but far too many. It’s rampant and I wonder if there’s something in our food chain that Big Agra and the corporate food producers should answer for and are not fully disclosing. I understand the rationale behind all the pesticides and fertilizers used to protect and grow our crops but how much of it is getting into the food we consume on a daily basis?
Sometimes, however, science and logic defy the rules. There are people who consume all the foods I look down my nose at, who smoke and drink to excess and amazingly live to a ripe old age. Then, as we’ve all witnessed, others who live a healthy lifestyle and are careful about everything they eat, yet they’re the ones who face a health crisis. It’s unfair and illogical. But that doesn’t mean we should just throw caution to the wind and live on junk food.
I did once advise the woman behind me in the lineup to not the buy the dried pigs’ ears she had picked up for her dog. I cautioned her against Asian pet food and treats, which she seemed to appreciate and removed them from her cart. (We have a friend whose dog died of kidney failure after eating dried “chicken tenders” loaded with unknown, unlabelled chemicals so I’m on high alert.) We can eat whatever we choose, but please don’t feed helpless animals something that might harm them.
I’ll probably never stop mentally critiquing your purchases in the lineup at the grocery store but in order to avoid public violence, I should probably keep my opinions to myself. But, I’m warning you, I’ll be watching your shopping cart. Don’t make me say something! Unless, of course, there’s some Black Jack Cherry ice-cream or Ruffles in my cart, in which case I’ll just keep my big mouth shut. Then, it’s shame on me.
Whever I read a book like Under Ground by Antanas Sileika I’m reminded that we won the lottery being born in Canada. The rights, freedoms and privileges that we enjoy as Canadians are shared by so few in the world. After World War II, the three Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were basically abandoned by the Allies and left to be plundered by the Russians. After being pummelled both physically, morally and politically by the Germans during the war and then the Red Army, Lithuania was a country destroyed. Everyone was considered a traitor to one side or the other.
In a heroic effort to save their country, rebel armies of partisans formed in forest camps. Consisting of former soldiers, students, farmers and workers, the partisans lived literally below ground, in small earthen bunkers they dug deep in pine forests to conceal their location from the Red Army and its supporters. If you ever watched the 2008 movie Defiance with Daniel Craig you’ll have an understanding of the primitive conditions under which the partisans lived their lives and fought their counter-offensive. The main difference is these people were not Jews hiding from Nazis; they were mainly Catholics fighting for their lives and for freedom.
Lukas, a student and the son of a farmer, is forced to leave university after the war because both he and his seminary-attending younger brother are at risk of being deported to a Siberian labour camp. They join the forest-dwelling underground partisans. Lukas is a cut above the average with his intelligence and language skills so he soon becomes a communicator as well as fighter. After two years of feral existence, he marries a female partisan, Elena. Love affairs and particularly marriage are discouraged because love weakens partisans and makes them vulnerable to capture.
During a particularly bloody confrontation, Lukas is separated from his wife and she is shot by the Reds. Through partisan channels and his own wits, Lucas escapes to Sweden and eventually lands in France. Desperate to call attention to the plight of the Baltic states, he begins speaking to expats and sympathizers to help raise funds for their cause. He has become a bit of a folk hero, well-known among Lithuanians for his heroic attacks on the Reds but he longs to return to his home and rejoin the fight.
This book is based on a compilation of true stories kept secret behind the iron curtain for decades. Antanas Sileikais is a Canadian-born author of Lithuanian heritage and a graduate of The University of Toronto. The story spans the final years of the war until 1950 and in an interesting twist reveals a Canadian connection at the end. I don’t want to give too much of the story away because it’s a fascinating read that you should enjoy for yourself. As baby boomers, we are a product of the end of that war and reading this book serves to remind us all how lucky we are that we were born when we were and where we were. This is a 9 out of 10. I highly recommend reading Under Ground.
This is really embarrassing to admit but the other day my honey and I had an actual disagreement about the intelligence of our dog, a 3½ pound 7-year-old female Yorkie called Sassy. I truly dislike the name she came with but she’d been named when we got her. She’d been returned by her previous owners who found her energy level unsuitable. I like a name that denotes gender and one that’s easy to yell so I wanted ‘Stella’ (think Streetcar Named Desire). He couldn’t come up with anything better that we both liked, so ‘Sassy’ stuck. I liked my last dog’s name, “Gracie”. It was always fun to sign Christmas cards, “Lynda, George & Gracie” (you have to be a certain age to appreciate that).
She was a dismal failure at puppy school. She’s never been motivated by food or treats (the primary training tool) so when all the other puppies were joyfully dancing and bowing to their masters’ commands, my dog preferred to simply sit there looking cute. Intractable. An embarrassment. There was another Yorkie in puppy school who could do everything but her owner’s income taxes, so my dog’s failings weren’t breed specific.
The other day she walked within five feet of a field mouse on the street and didn’t even see it—completely disregarding the noble, heritage of her Yorkshire Terrier working ancestors who were bred to catch rats in the coal mines in Yorkshire, England. That’s what initiated our conversation about her dubious doggie I.Q. She can fetch a ball but refuses to “give it up”, preferring to shoot it under the couch or coffee table instead. That requires creaky old me or my creaky old husband to get down on all fours and retrieve the ball with a yardstick. I’m not sure that’s what they meant when they said dogs ensure we get our exercise. She can “Sit” but only for three seconds when offered a treat. Then, she ignores the treat and walks away (see what I mean about not being easy to train with treats). Sometimes she carries the treat around for a few days. Or it might turn up a week later in my husband’s shoe or in our bed. She loves stuffing treats down between the sofa cushions so we have to go mining for them (is that the coal mine genes at work?). I can put food down for her at any time during the day and it’ll sit there for hours before she decides to partake.
Being a pet parent is a responsibility not unlike the more serious kind. Pets require food, in some cases expensive special food with special price tags only available from the vet. After seeing a horrifying documentary about the pet food industry called “Pet Fooled”, purchased and shown by a member of our local dog park, I’ve given up on commercial dog food (with the exception of some dental crunchies, from the vet of course) and cook my own with meat and vegetables. Some of us spring for doggie daycare and regular boarding which can run into hundreds of dollars before the week goes by. And those vet bills can be heart-stopping. But boomer pet parents take it all in stride. They’re our fur babies. We love them with stupid devotion that I only wish all animals could receive.
If you’ve ever been to Florida you’ll regularly see seniors pushing their pets around in specially designed pink and purple pet strollers that allow them into restaurants and malls. You can’t leave a pet in a hot car and those strollers make sense. I’ve also seen older, ailing pets enjoying a blissful walk in the Florida sunshine pushed along in their luxurious strollers by their equally ailing senior pet parents.
Non-pet owners love to poke fun at those of us who dress our dogs up. Especially when you have a petite little one, it’s so much fun to dress them up in seasonal attire. In nearly forty years of owning little dogs, I have accumulated a pet wardrobe that includes a Roots baseball jacket, duffel coats, a golf shirt, faux Chanel-styled hoodie, Valentine’s and Christmas outfits, a Halloween pumpkin, a lady bug and a particularly cute muscle shirt imprinted “Security”. Even larger dogs who spend a lot of time indoors need supplementary winter coats. Raincoats make sense in keeping pets dry. There’s nothing more unloveable than a smelly wet dog when you return from a walk. And the boots prevent painful burns on the pads of their feet from winter salt on the sidewalks. They also prevent pets from licking the salt from their feet and incurring digestive problems, which of course could bring on more of those expensive vet bills.
Then, there’s the cost of grooming. I’m quite capable of doing a half-assed job of grooming myself but it’s never as thorough and lovely as what the professionals do. I hate having to pay $70.00 to get a 3.5 lb. dog groomed but I have to admit those groomers earn their money. It takes a long time to bath and blow-dry, followed by trimming, ear and other orifice cleaning, nail clipping and fine-tuning. I once took a one-day grooming seminar with a friend which gave me an even greater appreciation for the work performed by the pros. So, I give her a bath and mini-grooming every couple of weeks. When Sassy’s too embarrassed by her appearance to go out in public, then we take her in for a spa day.
Boomers love their pets. Most of us grew up with at least one dog or cat in the family. Back then, however, our un-neutered or un-spayed dog probably slept outside in a doghouse and the cat roamed free and vulnerable to every danger lurking in the neighbourhood. We were emotionally imprinted at a young age by such canine heroes as Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, The Shaggy Dog and who can forget Old Yeller. Now that we’re retired and don’t have to worry about leaving a pet home alone all day, we’ve once again become enthusiastic pet parents—but with a difference. Now we’re over-the-top devoted to our little ones and we don’t care what other people think about our pet-fancying ways. On the plus side, other boomer parents understand because they probably have a fur baby too. We’re all kinda crazy about our pets.
There’s a reason pet therapy is so widely encouraged in seniors’ residences and nursing homes. The health benefits are scientific and well-documented. Having a pet lowers our blood pressure, gets us outside for a bit of walking exercise and bending exercise fetching balls from under the sofa or coffee table. Pets give us something to think about besides ourselves and the lovin’ just never ends. They do make it tricky when we travel and the pain of losing a pet is colossal and overwhelming but the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. My friend Terry once gave me a coaster the says “A house is not a home without a dog”. So true.
Several years ago, when Murphy, my 15-year-old Maltese passed away, I thought I’d take a break from doggie parenthood but the house felt like a tomb. No one waiting for me when I got home, jumping around wanting to go for a walk; no one to snuggle with when I needed some lovin’. I lasted a month, then I went and adopted Gracie, making my life complete again. When Gracie was nearing the end we adopted Sassy and there was a year’s overlap. I must say having the replacement pet already in place helped ease the pain of losing Gracie, even though the replacement isn’t nearly as obedient, quiet or well-behaved as Gracie was.
Which is how we got into the discussion about whether Sassy is a bit dim or just smarter than we give her credit for. To her credit, she is a brilliant at making herself invisible when I turn on the taps in the laundry tub in readiness for her bath. She can disappear into the teeniest little remote corner of the house which sends us on an endless search—again, more exercise for us up and down stairs. When I tell her I need a hug, she dutifully walks over and positions her body so I can pick her up. Like typical helicopter pet parents, we’re stupidly overjoyed when she successfully uses her overnight pee pad in the laundry room. We think it’s nothing short of genius.
I’d always wanted a Yorkie. After three Maltese in succession, I figured I had time for one more dog before I go to the ‘home’ and I wanted that dog to be a Yorkie. A Morkie (Maltese-Yorkie cross) would have been even better but when we saw the ad in the paper for a Yorkie who had been returned by her previous owners, we did the deed the same day. But, as time goes on and I do the math, I figure Sassy may not have to be my last dog after all. There are so many senior dogs in shelters who need a home. I’ll be in my 80’s when Sassy reaches the end of the line but an older dog would absolutely fit the bill if I can still manage it. After all, a house is not a home without a dog, even one whose level of intelligence is a secret. Or are we just overthinking it like all helicopter parents.
I’ve added a new section to Boomerbroadcast called My Favourite Things to the menus at the top of the page. One of the subsections is Fashion Favouriteswhich I intend to expand as I discover fashion items friendly to boomers. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them. I’ve also includedLinks I Like for blogs and Facebook sites for baby boomer women’s fashion advice I enjoy following. There’s such a dearth of inspiration out there for baby boomer women in the world of fashion, that we have to share whatever we find. The magazine industry has forsaken us. It’s not as if I look to Vogue for the latest in how to camouflage boomer waistlines (or lack thereof) or the best high fashion shoes with industrial strength arch supports, but I do look to magazines for basic inspiration and find them sorely lacking.
I clearly remember my very first magazine subscription. It was Chatelaine, the ubiquitous Canadian magazine for the so-called modern woman. The wonderful feminist and women’s advocate Doris Anderson was the editor. The year was 1968 and I was living in my very first apartment by myself, on Vaughan Road in Toronto after spending the previous three years living with a series of agreeable and not-so-agreeable roommates. I was so proud of that place because it was all mine. It was a bachelor apartment in a prewar three-storey walk-up with no elevator, no communal laundry room and no counter in the tiny kitchen. It did have two old white enamel sinks on the kitchen wall and a genuine old clawfoot bathtub (no shower, naturally) in the tiny bathroom. It also had an unlimited supply of mice which I gave up trapping after I’d disposed of nineteen of the cute little creatures. Subscribing to a ladies magazine was an affirmation that I was an independent grownup, a career gal who could be trusted to be at the address I gave them and pay the annual subscription fee.
Over the years, my love of magazines developed into a bit of a problem. I became a magazine junkie. At its peak, not that long ago, I subscribed to eighteen magazines a month. I’d be truly annoyed if a day went by and there wasn’t a new magazine in my mailbox. I loved magazines—their editorial content, their glossy pictures, the quality of the paper, the fold-over perfume samples, even the advertisements. I couldn’t wait to make a pot of tea, sit down with my marker pen whenever a new one arrived and go through it slowly, page by page. It was even my dream to be a magazine editor in my next life.
Things have changed. Just like my favourite women’s shows on Sirius XM radio, the good ones started disappearing. MORE magazine, one of my favourites was cancelled about three years ago. Easy Living from the UK was cancelled but I managed to replace it with RED, which is similar and I get it online cheaper and faster than waiting for it to arrive at Chapters/Indigo. Then, some of the decorating magazines that I got from the U.S. like Veranda and House Beautiful just became too weird or too arty so I let them go. But, out of patriotic loyalty, I kept up my subscriptions to Canadian decorating mags like Canadian House and Home and Style at Home. But their too-frequent features on mid-century modern and reviving 70’s avocado green and macramé are starting to concern me.
My love affair with fashion magazines however is in serious jeopardy. I much prefer ELLE Canada over the American edition but their targeting of the 18-35 demographic continues to annoy and frustrate me. LouLou is gone. Maclean’s has cut back from once a week to once a month and after more than fifty years of subscribing to Canada’s stalwart Chatelaine I’m actually considering not renewing my subscription. They’ve cut back to bi-monthly and it’s a pretty lean publication geared more to young mothers who probably don’t have the time or inclination to even read Chatelaine. What’s a boomer gal to do?
Vogue is the source of most of my delicious criticism, however. I love to poke fun at Vogue and I’ve concluded that the only reason I still subscribe is because Vogue has become my most prized source of derision. And, the September issue alone costs as much on the newsstand as my entire year’s subscription. What would I have to bitch about if I didn’t get my monthly Vogue? Its level of irrelevancy is astounding. Where fashion magazines should be inspirational and somewhat aspirational, Vogue is an exercise in complete idiocy. I still like the folded perfume samples but only the old classic French scents. As an old classic myself, most of the new fragrances all have a common chemical kind of smell that makes it impossible to distinguish one from another. Maybe my nose has lost its sensitivity but I don’t think I’m that old.
How do the fashion mags retain their credibility and more importantly their readers with the ridiculous nonsense they put out each month? It’s no surprise magazine publishing is in peril. Boomer gals love fashion—after all, we’re the ones who launched mini skirts, platform shoes and pant suits in the workplace in the sixties. But once we pass the age of 35 we’re suddenly invisible. I still have to wonder how the under-35 demographic can relate to $5,000.00 handbags and scraps of rags photographed on anorexic teenage models leaping over garbage cans. I also subscribe to InStyle but I find their emphasis on skinny, young celebrities in evening gowns off-putting. Hard to relate. Rod Stewart sang our tune perfectly so long ago when his Dad said, “We looked ridiculous”. That’s what most fashion mags are offering up today.
Back in the sixties and seventies when we were all whipping up our little A-line dresses and flared pants on our handy-dandy Singer sewing machines, we considered Vogue patterns the epitome of style and taste. Butterick, Simplicity and McCalls patterns were good for everyday fashions but for a special event a Vogue pattern tipped the balance for chic. We got our fashion inspiration from Vogue magazine and our lifestyle guidance from Cosmo’s Helen Gurley Brown. Easy peasy.
Where does a boomer gal go for fashion inspiration today? We used to rely on quality magazines like Vogue to provide us with reliable fashion direction. Most of my own fashion inspiration these days comes from like-minded bloggers and observing street fashion when I’m out and about. I frequently approach women on the street or in the food court and ask where they got a particular item they’re wearing, or who cut their hair. Fashion magazines offer nothing relevant to baby boomer women. We’re forced to find our own inspiration outside the publishing industry. I’ll never understand why the Anna Wintours and Grace Coddingtons of the fashion world are so revered. Perhaps there was a time when their declarations held water but exactly who are they serving today? Certainly not real women. Definitely not me and my boomer gal pals. I’m tempted to dust off my old Singer and see if I can’t create something on my own that is wearable, flattering and inspired.
There are a few retailers now who are addressing our demographic. Chico’s recently came to Canada but I’m still waiting for others who are sensitive to our taste in fashion. Chico’s has an affiliate lingerie business SOMA that has wonderful, appropriate lounge wear, lingerie and bathing suits for women our age, but so far they’re only in the U.S. J. Jill is another one which hasn’t arrived here yet but has great fashions at affordable prices. They both have wonderful on-line stores but the cost of importing and shipping combined with dollar exchange is often prohibitive. I’ve also had great luck buying Eileen Fisher pieces on sale at various on-line sites but it requires patience and an American delivery address. I’ve scored some EF pieces at up to 70% off which puts her fashion items more within reach of our budgets.
Since fashion mags don’t address what we’re looking for in fashion (and we do have money to spend), I’m sharing some sites that I’ve found to be targeted to our specific tastes, requirements and lifestyle. Check out Links I Like at the top of the page and under My Favourite Things,open the Fashion Favouritessection for some brands I like. I’ll keep adding to these menu items as I discover new sources. If you have any suggestions to share, I’d love to hear them. You’re beautiful mes très chères.
Elizabeth “Lee” Miller was a fascinating woman and I love books about fascinating women. The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer describing the life of Lee Miller in the city of light is such a book. Miller’s glory days were spent in Paris between the wars when she was the lover, muse and assistant to the famous artist and photographer Man Ray. In a classic tale of servant becoming the master, the author takes us on a fictional journey based on Miller’s real life—historical fiction, my favourite genre.
Lee Miller was born in 1907 in Poughkeepsie, New York, the middle child of an amateur photographer and his wife. She had an unusually close and somewhat peculiar relationship with her father who often photographed her and encouraged her artistic nature. By the 1920’s she had moved to New York City where she modeled for Vogue magazine, recognized for her beauty and style. Wanting to expand her career as an artist and leave modeling behind she traveled to Paris. Despite having no connections or referrals, she had ambitions of living amongst the bohemian crowd and developing her career as an artist. In the beginning, she was lonely and unfocused. At a café one evening she meets some American expats who introduce her to an assortment of Parisian free-spirited and creative people at a hedonistic party in the home of a local arts patron. At this same party, she is introduced to Man Ray.
Attracted by her beauty and genuine ambition to learn more about the art of photography, Man Ray hires her as his studio assistant. Their relationship naturally evolves beyond that of mentor and student. Soon they are lovers and Man develops intense feelings for Miller which are reciprocated by the impressionable young woman who is at least two decades younger. As with many creative people, their emotions are intense and mercurial. Both professional and romantic jealousy regularly complicates their relationship. Living, working and socializing together soon becomes more difficult to manoeuvre and they quarrel easily. His ego ultimately supersedes his love for her.
The book begins with a brief chapter on Lee Miller in later life, definitely not her best years. She evolved through several careers over her life time. Beginning with modelling, she then earned a reputation as an accomplished photographer and during World War II was an accredited war photojournalist working for Vogue Magazine. Her war experiences included witnessing horrifying scenes of war and she was among the first photographers who entered Buchenwald and Dachau when they were liberated in April 1945. These experiences left her permanently traumatized (today recognized as PTSD) and she self-medicated with alcohol. Later, she became a Cordon Bleu chef and wrote respected columns on food and domestic life for Vogue.
At the end of the war she was given access to Adolf Hitler’s private apartment in Munich where she and a fellow war correspondent spent a few hours alone going through the personal belongings of Hitler and Eva Braun. Miller famously disrobed and took a bath in his bathtub, her first after three weeks in the field, and washed off the dust and grime from visiting the concentration camps.
After the war Miller lived in England where she married and had children. Her life never was as full or as productive as it was in the years prior to 1946 but she soldiered on trying different ways of earning a living. Despite being an accomplished journalist and photographer, she was often remembered only for her relationship with Man Ray. It was the fate of many talented women over the course of history to be remembered only for their association with a famous man and this has resulted in the loss of so many fascinating histories.
The Age of Light was absolutely my cup of tea. I loved every page and wish there had been more. It’s hard to believe this is Sharer’s first novel; the writing is excellent. The research required to string together the life experiences of Lee Miller into this fascinating story is impressive. It’s the nature of historical fiction, however, that certain assumptions and sequences of events that are the creation of the author’s imagination. As soon as I started reading and throughout the book, I found myself checking Wikipedia and Googling Lee Miller’s photographs to bring many of the events to life. I intend to read more about Miller and her fascinating life. I’d rate this book 8 out of 10. Loved it.