Age well with these role models

Can aging be a choice, or at least, can we have a decent input into how it plays out?

I certainly think we can, and here’s a fantastic video and article from Dr. Mercola to back that up.  Click on this link to take a look at this delightful trio.

Chocolate – Food of the Gods

Chocolate shoe
Click on any of the images in this post to enlarge them

Chocolate is no ordinary food.
It’s not something you can leave, something you like only moderately.
You don’t ‘like’ chocolate. You don’t even ‘love’ chocolate.
Chocolate is something you have an affair with.   Geneen Roth, Feeding the Hungry Heart

Where it all began
Chocolate started life in the Amazon rainforest around 4000 years ago. Dull pods hiding their buried load of cocoa beans hung from ancient trees that 17th C naturalist, Linnaeus, aptly named Food of the Gods.

Cocoa bean pods

Cocoa bean pods

The Aztecs and Maya Indians used these beans to make a frothy drink that they used both as a stimulant and restorative. Sometimes they fermented it, and used it for fertility rituals. (What’s changed?)

Finally in 1503, Columbus brought cocoa beans to Europe.  Soon after, Cortez realised they were a great currency to exchange for Aztec gold, so he got plantations going. Money it seems, does grow on trees.

And that wasn’t the only time they were used as money….there was a time you could get a courtesan with 12 cocoa beans, and with 100 beans you could own a slave.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate

How come a bitter powder made from these unremarkable seeds has us under its spell? Everyone (well, almost everyone) knows you can’t live without good chocolate. That sometimes, you even have to rush out late at night to get some.  Could it be our bodies’ innate intelligence knows what’s good for it?

No more guilt
Because, the results are in.  Research shows that chocolate is good for you.  Guilt begone and rejoice!

Happy hot choc

Happy hot choc

There’s no shortage of studies to prove the point and that’s not surprising – can you imagine turning down the chance to run such a study?

And I bet they have volunteers falling over themselves trying to join. Tough job, but someone has to do it I guess.

What’s so good about chocolate?
It makes you feel good…. Fills you with serotonin, the ‘happy hormone’….. Reduces anxiety.
Casanova knew all this,and drank it before bedding his conquests. Who needs science?

Double antioxidants

Double antioxidants

It engages all our senses – taste, touch, smell, sight, sound. And the better the quality, the more this is so. You really do get what you pay for.

What’s the science say?
You can find reputable studies on Pubmed, which show cocoa or chocolate:

  • reduces total cholesterol
  • limproves gut microbe activity
  • is full of antioxidants and flavanoids
  • helps lower blood pressure and enhance blood flow
  • mimics the psychoactive effects of cannabis – lessens pain
  • seems to lower heart disease rates among those who eat it

But make sure you’re getting chocolate that’s at least 75% cacao solids, or the sugar and fats will probably outweigh ANY benefits.

Read the labels
The difference between brands can be huge, in both cocoa and chocolate,  (and most other things for that matter) so don’t assume they’re all the same.  It’s time to stop listening to the advertising, and start reading the labels.

The table below shows a supermarket brand compared to 2 good quality organic brands…..and notice how all of them differ – 300% more sodium and 200% more fat in the No brand, while Organic B has much more protein and minimal sodium. That matters!

100g Cocoa No brand Organic raw A Organic raw B
Protein 18.8g 17.8g 26.8g
Sodium 474mg 160mg 5mg
Total Fat 21.6g 10.7g 11.1g

Chocolate as Art
There’s a whole other side to chocolate that isn’t often on public view.  Professional chocolate makers and high-end chefs battle it out for supremacy at events such as Salon du Chocolat.

Held every 2 years in Paris, the cream of the crop work at making high art  from chocolate. It is totally breath-taking to see them in action, and then to see the finished pieces.Take a look at some of the possibilities below.

  • All sorts of chocolate
    All sorts of chocolate

So however you look at it, chocolate’s pretty enjoyable.  But make sure you appease those chocolate gods – and only eat the best.  Quality wins over quantity every time.

Hot Chocolate anyone?

Hot Chocolate anyone?


Get Fit – At Any Age

Walk the dogs

We all really need to include some serious exercise in our lives, and if you find it challenging (or even if you don’t) there’s an easier and more efficient way to do it.

Even in retirement, most of us can find excuses for not exercising, the commonest of which is not enough time.  How bizarre is that?

After half a lifetime of fitting in a dozen things at any one time, suddenly with time on our hands, that time telescopes into nothing.

How we’re designed
It can be argued, and lots of clever people do, that humans are designed for short bursts of high activity, sandwiched between lighter exercise.

Happy Fred

Happy Fred

That fits nicely with the picture of early humans mooching about the prairie looking for dinner.  With nothing much about, our ancestor spots a small animal nearby, takes off and runs it down.

Bingo! Fred Flintstone, gasping for breath, but happy. Dinner’s in the bag.

Fit as a flea, in 15 minutes
Well, the good news is, once you ‘get it’ you only need to spend 15-20 minutes 3 times a week to end up fit as a flea!

Called High Intensity Training – HIT for short – it sounds forbidding, but in fact is a quick and simple way to get and stay in top condition.

The idea is you do super short bursts of exercise followed by a rest period…your heart goes flat-out then recovers before doing it all again.



Choose something you like
Doesn’t matter at all what you choose to do.

Walking for many people is all they ever do. But you can row, swim, ride a bike or lift weights. Or anything else that takes your fancy.

Start small

Start small

The only important bit is that it’s something where you can vary the speed at will. Which means skiing or rock-climbing probably won’t work!

Start where you are
Even if you’re completely unfit when you start, you can take as much time as you need.  It might take you the whole year or it might take a few weeks; who cares?   Getting fit is the only goal here. No competition.



You might only manage to walk slowly to the front gate. Just do it, then once you get your breath back, see if you can repeat it. You might only get halfway the second time.

Congratulations!  Progress
The focus is on doing something, and continuing to do that something, with tiny improvements as you can manage.

And you improve

And you improve

And then you build on that, adding repetitions, getting faster, and lessening the time between each effort.

Below is a fantastic infographic from Dr Mercola’s website. It gives you a graphical look at this whole thing.

Give it a try, and quite soon you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Every little helps.

peak fitness benefits

Improve your body’s ability to burn fat, growth hormone production, insulin sensitivity, and glucose tolerance by trying the Peak Fitness program, which incorporates minutes-long high-intensity interval training. Discover more about the benefits and proper way of doing this exercise program by checking out this infographic.

Never Give Up – Give Yoga A Try


Life challenges can sometimes seem just too big to deal with.
Watch below if you’re looking for a monumental motivation.

So can Yoga work for you?  You bet it can.

photo by:

When Life Hands You Lemons……..

Fresh lemons

Faced with a big bag of free lemons recently, I went straight to Google and demanded a solution.
I turned up mountains of fascinating stuff about every aspect of lemons, and the best piece of advice I got was:
When life hands you lemons……do a happy dance and mix a martini!

Make a Martini

Make a Martini

Optimism Wins Every Time
That’s optimism, in spades. And by now, of course, it was too late to do anything else with my lemons.
Not long afterwards, I read a news item about a crash that deposited a load of lemons on the highway. The attending officer apparently commented that it was the best smelling crash he’d ever attended.

So the lemons are a bit like a metaphor for optimism. And, just as lemons are loaded with benefits, so too is optimism.

A study in Clinical Psychology Review reported that optimistic people

  • cope better with adversity and difficulties
  • are more likely to proactively look after their health
  • do better socio-economically
  • do better in relationships

So if you’re not naturally optimistic, there are some pretty good reasons to take a crash course ASAP.

Back To The Lemons
Lemons have multiple benefits; as well as eating them, you can clean, cook, garden, preserve and start the fire with them. The Swiss Army Knife of the household really.

They’ve gained superstar status over time, and take credit for totally magical powers. Without a scrap of science to get in the way, cholera to corns, and everything in between, will turn up their toes at the merest whiff of lemon.

And if you believe all you read, you’ll never need another pill, potion or poultice for the rest of your life. But, let’s get real.

Lemony History
Lemons are most often associated with the South of France, and you can find an annual Lemon Festival on the Riviera. But they only hit Europe a few hundred years ago.

By chance, I just came across this fantastic blog post about that very festival.  Nita Gill has a fascinating website – that is well worth visiting.  It’s a bit addictive, watching her do ‘simple’ carving that turns mundane fruits and veg into edible works of art. I’m just about to order her 101 course and some basic tools.

In fact, lemons hail from somewhere in Asia – India or China – where they’ve been enjoyed for a couple of thousand years. And China still leads the world in lemon production.
In the 1700s, long before the days of serious science, some clever chap discovered that on long sea voyages, sailors who ate lemons, didn’t end up with scurvy. Though they didn’t understand why, it became standard practice, and changed the face of sailors’ health.

Almost Magic But Some Science Please
Then science peered over the horizon, and they found all sorts of goodies in the humble lemon:

  • a range of minerals including calcium and magnesium
  • loads of Vitamin C
  • some Vitamin A and D
  • a range of B Vitamins
  • antioxidants
In the Office

In the Office

Leading With The Nose
The science gets a bit muddy from here, but studies suggest the smell of lemon will induce buyers to buy more goods, and so the nose became a marketing tool.
It’s also been shown that the smell of lemon makes us more alert, so we think faster and smarter.  Perhaps it should be mandatory in offices, meetings and exams.

But What To Do With Those Lemons?
The quick and simple solution is to zest the skins, and juice the flesh.
If your lemons are from a clean source, you need only give them a quick wipe. If commercial, they’re probably sprayed with fungicide and have a wax coat. You must scrub them first. Then you can:
• Zest and juice to freeze
• Preserve with salt
• Make Marmalade

Frozen juice and zest

Frozen juice and zest

Zest and Juice
I zest the rind and freeze it in small ziplock bags. The juice goes into ice-cube containers, both large and small, then into ziplock bags when frozen.
Pull out a few pieces of rind and chop finely to add to cakes, icing, vinaigrette or salad dressings – anything that needs a bit of a lift. Toss a cube of juice into casseroles, sauces, drinks, iced water. Or make a hot lemon drink to ward off evil bugs.



You can get a nifty little zester that takes off fine strips of rind without the pith.
Or you can use a fine grater, but that’s messy, and harder to do. Always do the rind first; it’s too soft to manage once it’s been squeezed.

Then use whatever sort of juicer you have to extract the juice. If you have a lot of lemons to deal with, be aware it’s easy to sprain your wrist if using a manual juicer, so only do a few at a time. Juice can be strained or not, as you like.

Preserved Lemons
It’s dead easy to preserve lemons, but unless you already use a lot, start with a small jar.

Cut the lemons almost through, into quarters – leave them joined at the base. Put a layer of salt in the bottom of your jar. Cover the inside of the lemons with salt, and close them up again.

Push as many as you can into the jar, cover them with lemon juice, and cover tightly. I also tucked a few pieces of the lemon rinds I’d juiced into the spaces. Leave to mature for at least 6 weeks.

When you want to use some, pull a piece out, rinse well, and add to your dish. Remember it’ll be very salty, so make allowance for that in the seasoning. If necessary, top up the remaining lemons with more juice to cover. They’ll last for a long long time, though they will discolour in time.

Lemon Marmalade  – This link will take you to the recipe

Lemon Marmalade

Lemon Marmalade

The link above takes you to a recipe for Lemon Marmalade, but any Marmalade recipe will work. It all depends on what size, shape and texture you prefer.

With luck, life will bless you with loads of lemons and just as much optimism. And that’ll mean you’re smarter, sweeter and healthier.

How To Find New Friends
And Enjoy Retirement More

Someone to talk to

Social contact is a really important part of life, crucial for keeping us mentally healthy.

Often though, when you retire from regular work, your network of friends and acquaintances can disappear overnight. For many, work contacts are the only ones they have, and retirement means a complete loss of that network.

So you’re left floundering, with no idea how to find new ones. More people than ever before are without partners; sometimes by choice, but often from death, disease or disability. This can make it doubly difficult to even get your head round how to somehow get connected to others.

Opportunities are out there

In reality, most communities offer plenty of opportunities, but you might have to trawl round a bit to find them.  You might also have to be prepared to ‘put yourself out there’. I’ve always been a bit of a loner, not at all adept at meeting and making new friends.  But I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how simple it can sometimes be.

Mahjong tiles

Mahjong tiles

Mahjong is a great choice

My first foray into the field was Mahjong. I went because a friend wanted to learn to play, and then after two sessions, she disappeared off my radar, and I haven’t seen her since.

But I continued to go, and really look forward to my weekly games. The tiles and the hands have unexpectedly exotic names that continue to delight….kongs and pungs and chows, and hands like Moon at the bottom of the Well, Dragon’s Tail and Gertie’s Garter.

Chow and pung

Chow and pung

It’s a great game you can take to any level you like. I’m not too hung up about it, but I do rather like it when I have a winning streak (rarely). No money is involved, so it stays completely relaxed. No Pressure.  

Each person sits in the nearest vacant seat, and plays with whoever turns up, with sessions lasting 3 hours, including afternoon tea. Over time you play with most of the members, but without any great social obligation.

We wear name badges so you don’t even need to work at remembering names. There isn’t team play, so if you mess up, no one but you needs to know!

Nice Mahjong hand

Nice Mahjong hand

Everyone’s prepared to help newcomers, and in no time you get a working knowledge of the game and can start to enjoy it. $3 entry includes afternoon tea. Now I don’t think value comes much better than that.

One intriguing thing about Mahjong is…every club seems to have its own take on the rules, and know that it’s the RIGHT version. Bit tricky if you move between clubs, though lots of people seem to manage.

Playing Mahjong

Playing Mahjong

Become the local authority

A small group of people that do the same gym classes as me decided they’d like to play Mahjong, so I volunteered to teach them.

Every few weeks we meet at someone’s house, all bring something for lunch, then spend a pleasant afternoon playing. It does tend to be a bit ‘Rafferty’s Rules’ though, since my friends rather like to make up their own hands – to suit the tiles they find themselves with.

Perhaps it’s not quite time for them to join a club just yet.  Although they might just stick a little more closely to the rules!

Find your own Mahjong set

There are lots of places to look if you would like your own Mahjong set.  They often appear in classified adverts, garage sales, and on Ebay and Amazon.  I’ve bought and sold several at garage sales, while looking for one that suited me.

You might get lucky and pick up an antique set made of ivory and bamboo, and worth a small fortune. Good luck.

Numbers and rail

Numbers and rail

Make sure the tiles have numbers as well as characters, or you’ll have a hard time knowing which tile is which.  Also be sure you get a set of rails, needed to rest the tiles on as you play.

The easiest instruction book is also available at Amazon, and is used by beginners and old hands alike. The Mahjong Player’s Companion is well illustrated and simple to follow.

Break the Rules For A Healthy Mind


Today, I kicked against my habitual discipline. (Miss goody two-shoes!!!) As usual, I got dressed ready to go to the gym. But then ‘that voice’ loudly demanded that it go shopping!  I’m sure you’ve all heard it at some time or another. “No, no, not possible”, I said,  “I have to go to the gym”.  And then I wondered why I couldn’t have a pleasure day. Who says I have to slavishly turn up 3 times every single week of the year? Sometimes, that’s an important question to ask ourselves. Having a routine is good, especially when it comes to important things like keeping our body fit and healthy.  But giving ourselves an occasional pleasure is also important. It keeps our minds fit and healthy.

New Booties

New Booties

Of course shopping is not the only way to do that, and in fact I mostly don’t even like shopping.  But I needed a new pair of shoes as it happened. But you don’t even have to spend much money.  I often have fun browsing the op shops, and come away with a pretty little dish that has cost a couple of dollars, if that.  Over the years, I’ve found lots of treasures. (that I didn’t know I needed)

Hobart Botanical gardens

Hobart Botanical gardens

There are so many ways we can simply treat ourselves: a relaxed hour or two in a nearby park or Botanical Gardens, where you can delight in the view, chortle at kids’ antics or just soak just up the sun; dawdle round the neighbourhood peering into people’s gardens; nurse a coffee and read a book in a local cafe.

And so, off came my gym gear, and I set sail, feeling like a liberated schoolgirl.  It only took 10 minutes to find the perfect shoes, and then after a bit of wandering, I bought the paper and enjoyed a very leisurely coffee and bowl of salad at my favourite cafe. It was a delicious and decadent few hours of messing about. I’m still relaxed and smiling, and will be ready to go to the gym with renewed vigour tomorrow.



Why Exercise is Essential for Fit Seniors

Hiking is an easy cheap way to exercise

Hiking is an easy cheap way to exercise

Yes, yes!  We’ve heard it all before, but guess what?  Mostly we ignore it, because …well, why?

That’s a really hard question to answer, because almost everyone will tell you they feel better after some sort of exercise, especially when it’s enjoyable.  And maybe that’s the key…enjoyment.

When we’re in the workforce or bringing up kids, it’s likely we’ll have close contact with other people, whether we want to or not. As we age, and head to retirement, these groups of ready-made acquaintances have a habit of disappearing, because we no longer have work as the glue that keeps us together.

As well, spouses die, or up and leave for greener pastures, and we find ourselves with no-one to talk to and no-one to do things with – or for. No-one to motivate us to get off the couch and go for a walk or a swim.

Well, these things happen anyway, and if you don’t want to spend the rest of your life on the couch, YOU have to do something about it.The trick is to pull on a new way of thinking about life.   Just because you’ve always done things the same way is no reason to keep doing them.

‘If you always do what you’ve always done
You’ll always get what you’ve always got’  NLP Adage

While I was hunting around trying to find out who wrote that quote I came upon a fantastic page of quotes on Pepi’s Blog; take a look, they are great.    I thought this quote particularly apt for us:
“You can’t wait for inspiration। You have to go after it with a club.” 
Jack London

So why bother to be fit?  Lots of very compelling reasons make it seem pretty stupid not to.  Don’t we all want to be well and mobile for as long as possible?  I know I do.  I’m terrified of not being in complete control of myself (and others around me if I get half a chance!)

Weight control is nowhere near the top of the list of reasons why you’ll want to exercise, though it’s often the catalyst.  And there’s no doubt it works. But reducing the likelihood of getting chronic disease seems much more important.

MC900355299[1]If you already have Arthritis, you’ll have less pain when you exercise your joints regularly and you won’t lose function, which means you can continue your normal activities.A recent study showed that exercise performs better or just as well as Glucosamine.

As people age, depression gets more common.That’s one reason why they no longer bother with social life or almost anything else, choosing to sit in isolation. It’s clear that regular physical activity improves mood, and reduces symptoms of depression.

Other reasons to drag yourself up from a sitting position are:

  • better sleep
  • less likely to have falls
  • you’ll have more energy
  • falls result in fewer broken bones
  • improves mobility so you move more easily
  • improves insulin sensitivity to guard against type 2 Diabetes
  • all movements and jobs are easier and more efficient with stronger muscles

That seems pretty convincing to me, and I hope it does to you too.

Go for a swimThen comes the big question of what to do.  Try a whole lot of things, and you’re sure to be surprised at how enjoyable the most unlikely things can be. It’s important to start gently – even though you feel you have to be perfect on day one, you actually don’t!  Nor even on day 2… you’re retired, you don’t have to prove anything to anyone, ever again.

I joined a gym, and when asked if I’d like to join a seniors class, I  vehemently refused, saying I hated classes.  For some reason though, I decided to just have a look, and 3 years later, I’ve been doing 3 classes a week, and haven’t been near the rest of the gym.

StretchThey are made to measure for people like us, targeting balance, strength and mobility, while leaving out the sweating and loud music.  And as a bonus I discovered a whole new social life with a group of like-minded ‘girls’. We go off to the coffee shop a couple of times a week, and often do other stuff together. Fantastic.

But there are lots of different sorts of exercise that you might be interested in finding out about.  Have a look below for some ideas. They’re not all done yet, but the blue ones are linked.