Coffee heat rising

Merry Weird Christmas!

It’s been awhile since I’ve added a post here…under the weather in an alarming way. The new ailment causes typing to make my hands hurt!

LOL! Poetic injustice, isn’t it?

So…this is about the weirdest Christmas I can remember. No, not “about”: THE weirdest. The church — and especially choir — has been closed down for months. Turns out that during an epidemic singing is about the most dangerous thing you can do.

So: Nix on the midnight mass. Nix on the singing. Nix on the Christmas Eve potluck. Nix on Life, the Universe, and All That!

In more pedestrian fields: My hair is halfway to my butt, because I’m afraid to go to the stylist to get it trimmed. Literally, my hair has never been this long, ever. Don’t have much fear of the stylist himself, since he’s a guy with pretty sterling common sense. But you could not pay me to stick my head in a public sink to get my hair washed, with someone lurking over me breathing into my face. I haven’t asked…but if they’d let me show up with wet hair and skip the in-salon hair laundry, I’d probably do it.

Truth is, though, I don’t even know if the beloved Shane is still there or if the salon is still in business. For years, he’s talked about retiring and moving to Prescott, where his family lives. He and his sister bought a house up there to use as a vacation home…he may simply have tossed in the hair-stylist’s towel and left town. Bizarrely, I had an appointment on the first of April, which was right when the whole covid-19 horror descended. My son called and asked me not to leave the house, even to go to grocery stores (or maybe especially not to go to grocery stores. His step-brother and his best friend are both medical doctors, and coincidentally they both phoned him on the same day in a great sweat and told him to keep the old people indoors — that if DXH, New Wife, or I catch this thing, we will be DEAD.

Accordingly, I canceled that appointment, and I imagine a whole bunch of the salon’s other clients did, too.

If you believe their website, they still seem to be operating…but no clue whether the redoubtable Shane still lurks there.

But…now that I have a death-dealing “pre-existing condition” on top of what is regarded as senescence, I guess I’d really rather have eccentric flowing tresses with split ends than risk catching a potentially fatal disease.

Locking oneself up in solitary confinement does, it must be said (à propos of flowing tresses), lead you to diddle away your time on some surprisingly bizarre endeavors.

This morning, as I contemplated the tangle of split ends finishing off the eccentric flowing tresses, I recalled that back in the Dark Ages when I was but a young pup, my mother used to treat my hair and hers with a thick, rich conditioner called “Kolesteral.” It had the consistency of library paste. You massaged it in to your abused tresses, left it to soak for half an hour or 45 minutes, then washed it out. Et voilà! Your hair would be magically transformed!

I think this may be the stuff…

But I thought it was spelled “Kolestral” (or something like that), it was made by Wella, and it definitely came in a tube. But then…so did everything: except for Pond’s cold cream nothing came in a tub. In fact, I don’t think they even made cosmetic jars in plastic like they do today…and a big glass jar like this would have jacked up the price of the product more than any marketer of a low- to mid-priced hair nostrum would have liked.

Not being sure that this really was the original magical mystery hair goop, I set sail for a short cruise across the Internet, in search of laydeez recommending their favorite split-end fixes. And lo! What should I come across but this charming woman!

COCONUT OIL??!!???  Well hot dayum! I’ve got a whole jar of that stuff, sitting on the nightstand! By golly: don’t even have to order some expensive gunk from Amazon!

So as we scribble, I’m sitting here with the oiled tresses wrapped up in a plastic bag, sealed in under a bath-towel turban. We shall see, in an hour or so, how well (or if) this scheme works.

Mwa ha ha! We already know the stuff works superbly as a furniture polish. Why not hair polish, too?

LOL! When I was a little kid, I would have killed to have hair halfway down to my tailbone. But my mother…well…she just WOULD not allow it. No matter how much I begged her to let my hair grow, every two or three months she’d plop me on the kitchen stool and do a hack job on the hair, chopping it off at about ear level. Since the other little girls had their hair done by the lady in camp (we lived in an oil camp in Saudi Arabia) who had worked in a hair salon in her US incarnation and got fancy haircuts in Beirut or Paris when their parents went on leave, this made me look even weirder than I already looked — which as a little girl who wished she was a boy and who was dressed in ugly clothes ordered from the Sears catalog , was pretty damn weird. (Yes: the other little girls got clothes from Paris or, when their parents went to New York on long leave, from Bergdorf’s. Not that I cared: I wanted to be a boy; specifically, I wished to be a space cadet. Or an astrophysicist. Or both.

I do not know what birthed her dread of long, flowing locks on her little girl. It may have been the nuisance factor: she probably didn’t want to listen to me squalling as she yanked out the tangles. Or it may have been a dread of letting me look sexy: sexiness was something to be avoided in her strait-laced world.

Probably, though, she was inspired by abhorrence of our even more strait-laced neighbors, a couple who declared themselves to be extreme Southern Baptists. In their belief system, girls did not cut their hair. They had three daughters, for each of whom they became slightly more liberal as the children grew. The eldest, Ann, was NEVER allowed to cut her hair, ever. By the time she finished the eighth grade (at which point the Aramco school quit and kids had to be shipped either to the American school in Beirut, to a boarding school in Switzerland, or back home to the US for high school), that poor child’s hair hung all the way down to her feet.

The second girl, Mildred, presumably was so inelegantly named that there was little risk of hair sexiness, and so she was allowed to wear her tresses dowdily at about shoulder length. And the third child, a little girl named Helen, was allowed to live and look pretty much like a normal American kid. I believe the pressure on the parents from the other Americans’ disapproval of this silly practice is what led them to allow Helen and Mildred to wear normal hair styles. As for Ann? The instant her feet hit the tarmac in New York when they shipped her home for high school, she was off to a hair salon, where she had the ridiculous mane hacked off.

LOL! Just imagine what those folks would have thought of some woman vlogging from the shower! 😀 About oiling her sexy hair!! 😀 😀

My mother would have fainted dead away. But Mildred’s mother surely would have had a heart attack at first glance.

In another three hours, it’s off to my son’s house, where he proposes to fancify a beef roast. That will be nice. I hope he likes his Christmas present… He asked for a salt cellar. But it had to be a certain size, because he wanted it to perch on the window ledge next to the stove, which is less than one Mexican tile wide.

(Yes. Men do ask for weird gifts.)

So I found a really handsome one that I think will fit there, at (where else) Amazon. Ordered that up…and to my amazement, they sent TWO! So now he’ll have a pair of them. Plus a gigantic plastic jar of Costco’s white salt, plus a gigantic jar of Costco’s cool, picturesque pink salt, which comes with a salt grinder on the side.

He’ll never run out of salt. That’s something. I guess…


Oil and Water: The Miracle Cure?

Okay, so here’s my latest quack nostrum: a glass of water.

I’m sitting here the other evening contemplating how bad the hide looks. The arms are not just freckled with potentially precarcinomish sunspots, but the skin is sagging and crepe-papery and realllly ugleee. So…what else? I go online and google how you can treat sagging wrinkly old-person skin.

What comes up, right off the bat, is the suggestion — repeated at various sites and debunked at others — that wrinkling can be caused by dehydration. That’s not of the “smear hand cream on your hide” variety but of the “drink water” variety.

Hmmmm… Whether guzzling water plumps up your wrinkles and erases years from your aged arms or whether it does…well, nothing, the fact struck me that I hardly ever drink water anymore.

What do I drink?

  • About three cups (24 ounces) of coffee every day.
  • A glass or two of iced tea
  • A glass or two of wine, or a bottle or two of beer, or a bourbon & water

Annnddd…that’s about it.

Caffeine is dehydrating, so if there’s any truth to the tale that you need ample water for good skin health, then the coffee and the iced tea might be described as counterproductive. So, one might expect, would alcohol, in whatever form you choose to imbibe.

Sooo…what is considered “enough” water? For a woman, it’s ELEVEN CUPS a day. For a man: 15 cups (of the eight-ounce measuring-cup variety).

Well, of course that’s insane. Eleven cups is almost three quarts; 15 cups is almost a gallon.

On a lark, though, I decided I’d try drinking that much (water, I mean…) just to see what happens. So measured out 11 cups into a clear glass water pitcher and stashed it in the fridge, planning to pour a glassful every few hours. This would allow me to see how much water I’ve consumed at any given time of day and sorta keep “on schedule,” trying to get through half of it by mid-day and the rest by around 8 p.m.

Soooo…. I tried it. The strategy, such as it is, added about three quarts of water to the usual ration of about 3 cups of French press coffee and one or two glasses of wine or beer per day.

And…holy mackerel! What a difference! First off, along about 9 p.m. the first day, it occurred to me that I felt better than normal. Second, on inspection, even on the first evening, the hide looked noticeably better. And third, that night I did not wake up at three in the morning.

Well, okay, the latter may be coincidence. But the decrepit hide issue? It’s getting better every day. Where the skin on my arms was kinda hanging loose in the inimitable manner of Old Age, it’s firmed up and is not sagging or looking pathologically wrinkled near as bad.

Do I look like I’m 23? Hell, no…but neither do I look like I’m pushing 93. The skin looks a lot healthier, firmer, and…almost normal. I mean, normal for, say, a 45-year-old.

A glass of tap water: cheapest med you can buy, eh?

As I may have mentioned a while back, a friend showed up at the Funny Farm bearing a small vial of CBD cream. CBD is a now-legal (amazingly, in crazy-conservative Arizona) derivative of the marijuana plant; commercially, it comes in the form of an oil, a cream, or a waxy salve. The spot where the latest actinic keratosis had been frozen off the back of my left hand still hurt, even though it was ostensibly healed. So, without thinking about it, I slapped a dab of this stuff on it.

Then thought…uh oh! That was dumb!

And then thought…holy mackerel!!!! This WORKED.

Yes. Within minutes the stuff had killed the pain that was radiating across the back of my hand.

Soooo… I started to look it up and found that yeah, CBD oil can apparently ease minor, superficial skin pain and possibly even joint pain (not likely, because it isn’t absorbed through your skin…but whatEVER).

This was interesting. I continued to use it.

Come last week’s appointment, I present myself at the westside dermatologist’s office, where I’m greeted with ecstatic exclamations of amazement at how well the damn thing has healed up. I think…right, sure. This performance rings of “humor the patient,” but I go on about my business figuring that the nothing too drastic has been going on. Of course, I do not clue the doctor to the fact that I’ve been smearing cannabis oil on my sweaty little paw.

But…suppose this stuff really does work to promote skin healing? Suppose it aids in healing of actinic keratoses, in specific?

What the hell else can it do?

Could it, do you suppose, help to fade the age spots that speckle my hide like a leopard’s fur?

Clearly it’s a quack nostrum. Evidence that it works to fade solar lentigines (the techno-name for sun spots) is anecdotal and vague.

But…but on the other hand, it doesn’t appear that the stuff is likely to hurt you. It’s poorly absorbed through the skin, and so has few or no systemic effects, as far as I could unearth. And I don’t appear, idiosyncratically, to be allergic to it: no sign of a rash on the hand where I applied it so liberally.

Well. For the past three weeks, I’ve been smearing this stuff across the back of my left hand and on a particularly annoying age spot that adorns its finger-flicking finger…and…hmmmmm…. The left hand is the one that gets most of the blast of the sun coming in through the car’s window when you’re driving (surprise! glass doesn’t block enough UV light to matter, after all!). So it has lots of age “freckles” on it, as well as that spot, which looks like a map of Australia.

And y’know what? The thing is getting lighter. The smaller spots have faded, too: still there, but compared to the right hand, lighter and less noticeable.

But I could be dreaming this up, of course. Nothing like a little wishful thinking to make your age spots fade…right before your eyes. 😀

So I came up with a wee experiment:

Selected several particularly prominent lentigines — this is easy, because having grown up and lived in the subtropics all my life, I have them all over my body — and photographed them.

Next, I’m going to rub a CBD skin product into each of these sun spots, several times a day over the next three or four weeks. Then, photograph them again and see if any noticeable change appears.

This should be amusing… In the “doesn’t have enough to do with her time” department. 😀

How to Fix a Broken Nail

This one is probably for wimmen only…although any of us, regardless of gender, can bash a toe hard enough to break a nail back below the quick. For women, the following repair project will work on hands or feet; for men, probably it’s only good for toenails, and that only if you never take your shoes off around the guys.

One day when I was a little kid, I was drying dishes (in those days there were no dishwashers :roll:) and I dropped a dinner plate edge on, right onto my big toe. Holy mackerel, did that hurt! It cut the nail bed about halfway across the toe. Amazingly, the toenail didn’t fall off, though my mother luridly predicted that it would. But to this day, a transverse scar under the nail leaves the nail itself prone to cracking horizontally. Usually this is a minor annoyance, but recently I caught the toenail on something, once again splitting it and lifting it bloodily off the toe.

Annoying to the tenth power.

The nail didn’t break completely off. I wanted to keep it in place until whatever was bleeding underneath healed and until the undamaged nail could grow out over the sensitive quick, about half of which was now exposed along the top of the toe.

Thought about sticking it together with Superglue, a common manicurist’s trick: glue a piece of tissue over the split; then layer on the paint. However, the injury hurt, and that didn’t incline me to add more pain by getting a toxic glue into it. What to do?

The fix was simple:


Yup. Scotch tape.

The fracture lines lay at right angles to each other: the horizontal crack, plus a vertical break extending to the top of the nail. Almost 1/4 of the total nail surface was broken. Half of that was busted loose, and the other half was pulled up from the nail bed.



Soaking the foot in warm water removed most of the blood. Then I took a pair of curved manicure scissors (any type would work, though) and shaped a piece of satin-finish Scotch tape to fit the nail. The “satin” variant looks more convincingly like one’s nail than the shiny stuff, and I suspected it would tolerate a coat of nail polish better, too.

Cutting it to fit the entire nail, rather than just to form a patch over the break, is more likely to hold a large fractured area in place. And, as it develops, if you smooth the tape down carefully and tightly, you can paint over it and not have any unsightly seams showing.


P1010881Before applying, hold the patch up to your nail to judge the correct size. Trim as needed to fit the size and shape of your nail. Then carefully lay the shaped piece of tape over your nail and smooth it down evenly from the tip to the cuticle, gently rubbing out any air bubbles. To some extent, you can lightly file along the top to smooth to fit — but use a very fine emery board don’t get carried away with this.

Now you  have a moderately sturdy patch. Because it covers the whole nail, it’s fairly unobtrusive.

The final step is to seal the thing in place. I decided not to apply color, partly because I wanted to keep an eye on the injury and partly because I figured removing this lash-up could be messy. (Surprisingly, it’s not!) For a significant split, use the toughest nail-protecting goop you have around. I happened to find this stuff in a drawer:


Hard-as-Nails, available in any drugstore’s cosmetic section, is pretty good. You may have another favorite. I don’t know that it’s worth trying to secure it  further with products that claim to contain fibers, but if that’s what you have around the house, it probably won’t do any harm. Apply two coats, letting the first coat dry well before putting on the second layer.

Overall, the effect is not bad. P1010888I expect that if your feet had about forty years’ less wear and tear on them than mine do, the effect would be considerably better. 😉

This is not a long-term fix. It works to hold the nail together for about a week. Then the process needs to be repeated. But I think the repair will hold together, given an occasional remake, until the broken part grows out.

Here’s the amazing thing:

Getting this stuff off is incredibly easy if you use acetone polish remover — the same stuff you use to soak acrylics off. Acetone dissolves Scotch tape! Put enough on to wipe off two layers of goopy Hard-as-Nails, and it’ll take the tape right off with it!

Dang. Who’d’ve thunk it?

Gents: note that the clear stuff women paint on their nails is day-glo shiny. Even though the gunk is clear, it’ll be obvious that you have something fay on your paws. Some types of clear base coats are matte, but finding them would not be easy, at least not without the help of a manicurist who knows her products. Even then, I expect any type of clear coating would be pretty obvious. So if you just must fix a busted toenail like this, stay out of the locker room until you’ve recovered from your dire injury!

If the break is likely to snag on your clothes or in your work environment, it’s probably more manly to keep it covered with a Band-Aid until you can cut it back without aggravating pain or causing further harm. To prevent lifting, you could layer a piece of Scotch tape over the broken nail, as described above (sans the paint) and then disguise it with a Band-Aid.

Enrich and Extend Your Moisturizing Lotion with…What Else? Olive Oil!

FaM veterans will remember the late, great post on using olive oil to condition your hair. Believe it or not, that thing has had the greatest longevity of any post ever to appear on this site. It still draws comments from new readers every few days, after all these years.

Well, a recent commenter remarked that she discovered she could extend her moisturizing lotion by adding a little olive oil. Now there’s a thought.

I had an old bottle of Keri lotion laying around the bathroom closet. Hmmm….

The problem I have with just about any body moisturizing and conditioning lotion is that they don’t do much in Arizona’s parching dry climate. You can rub it on and ten minutes later your arms and legs look just like old alligator hide again. Some face creams work pretty well, but they’re way too expensive to smear all over your body. Olive oil alone, yes, will soften and diminish that powdery, craggy dry-skin look, but it’s greasy and too much of it makes you smell like a walking salad bowl. But what if you did mix a little olive oil with some body lotion?

Why not? thought I. So mixed a few drops of Costco’s best with a squirt of Keri lotion in a mise-en-place dish.

Mixing the olive oil into the lotion worked, but it caused the lotion to curdle a bit. That notwithstanding, it worked really well on my skin—went on smoothly, immediately moisturized and improved appearance—and the light scent of the Keri lotion overrode the olive oil aroma. Interesting.

So I decided to try it with a larger sample. Here’s how it went.

First, I filled a well washed old plastic container about halfway with several squirts of Keri lotion. Then splashed in a generous dollop of olive oil:

This move, it developed, was a bit too exuberant. The result, after beating the two together with a fork, was way too oily and liquid. So I added some more lotion.

The result, when mixed thoroughly, was okay. Not great, but okay. It still had too much olive oil, and as with the beta-trial, the lotion curdled in the oil.

The amateur cosmetologist’s kitchen, however, is never without resources. Out came the immersion blender and its little food processor bowl!

After a good whipping in the food processor, the new olive oil/commercial lotion skin conditioner came out looking like this:

Hot dang! It’s creamy, light, and absolutely free of any sign of curdling! It goes on smoother, faster, and more generously than plain Keri lotion, and it does not make you smell like a salad chef!

Applied to the skin, the product does a nice job on the old-lady crepe. If you use it moderately—don’t get carried away with slathering this stuff on—it soaks in well and does not feel greasy. If you put too much on, of course, you feel like you just came out of the auto shop, but a little goes a long way. Apply it sparingly, and it works really well. The positive effect lasts a lot longer than the moisturizing effect of Keri alone.

Next time, I’d use a lot less olive oil. By carelessly splashing in a dollop, I think I started with about a 50-50 mix. Adding another squirt or two of Keri lotion didn’t help much–to get the right proportion, I would have had to add more commercial lotion than my container could hold. If you decide to try this, keep the ratio to about one part oil to three parts lotion, and maybe even less than that. It doesn’t take much olive oil to soften your skin. In experimenting, it looks like you’d do best to start with too little oil and add more slowly to reach the right combination.

But I’m kinda pleased with it! Not only does it make the elephant hide look a lot better for a lot longer, it’s even frugal: extending lotion with olive oil, which is a lot cheaper than commercial cosmetic products, has got to save money in the long run.



Beautiful on a Budget—Naturally

Here’s a guest post from one of this spring’s magazine writing students, Audrey Gallinger. Audrey says she has a blog of her own, but it’s not ready yet for the whole world to see. Here’s hoping for a bright new blog in the New Year! 🙂

Staying beautiful on a budget can be difficult. Luckily with just a few pantry staples (and no excess packaging or chemical additives) you can create these four all-natural beauty treatments at home.

For an exfoliating mask mix 2 tablespoons of honey with a teaspoon each of ground nutmeg and cinnamon, microwave for 5 seconds to soften the honey and apply all over your face and neck. Leave on for 30 minutes and gently scrub away with a warm damp cloth using a circular motion. Immediately follow with your favorite moisturizer for silky soft skin.

Love Bioré pore strips but not the sticker price? Mix 1 tablespoon unflavored Knox gelatin with 2 tablespoons of milk, microwave 10-15 seconds, stir and quickly apply across the bridge of your nose. Let harden 15 minutes then gently peel away the mixture to reveal clean, dirt free pores.

To restore shine to dull, damaged hair combine 3 teaspoons of olive oil with 1 teaspoon of honey in a small saucepan, heat until mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat and allow hot oil treatment to cool. Apply mixture at the roots, comb through hair and wrap in a towel or cover hair in a shower cap. Leave treatment on for 30 minutes then shampoo as normal.

For incredibly smooth skin create a brown sugar body scrub by combining ½ cup of coarse brown sugar with a tablespoon each of honey and olive oil and ¼ tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, apply all over your body using a gentle scrubbing motion and rinse.

These simple, inexpensive beauty solutions are as good for your wallet as they are for your body. Now you can create a DIY spa right in your own home, so raid your pantry and pamper yourself with these all-natural beauty treatments tonight.