Travels thru NorthWest France: We Storm the Beach in Normandy


Normandy Coast

Did I mention that it has  rained every day on our trip through northwest France?Today, the deluge continues. And the rain provided the perfect atmosphere, setting the emotional tone for our visit to Omaha Beach.

It was cold, wet and silent as we left the highway from Caen and drove past narrow lanes lined with stone houses which suddenly opened up to the expanse of Omaha Beach.  This was one of two beaches that U.S.  forces landed on in a coordinated assault on six beaches by Allied troops . In all, 156,000 soldiers all landed on June 6, 1944. The deadliest landing was at Omaha Beach, where over 6000 young Americans  died on this cold, wet beach that day as they arrived by land, sea and air to help liberate France from the Nazis.

There is a beautiful sculpture on the beach commemorating the allied assault . We shot many photos and I tried to narrate a brief video with my voice choking with raw emotion. D Day was an incredible act of daring, imagination, cooperation and bravery. On this blustery, wet, grey day, we could visualize the awful welcome these brave souls faced.

IMG_0422 soldiers Omaha Beach & American Cemetery

Omaha Beach & American Cemetery

Omaha Beach & American Cemetery

We left the soggy  beach and headed further down the road to the American Cemetery  in Collineville Sur Mer.  It was still raining hard as I pushed my guy in a loaner wheelchair from the visitor center to the huge graveyard. It was raining & blowing so hard that both our umbrellas collapsed.

Still we stayed awhile, getting wet and taking  pictures of row after row of white crosses and a few Jewish stars. It was less a Cemetery  than a meadow of memory to those who gave their lives.  I started to say the Kaddish prayer for the dead but couldn’t remember all the words so I humbly faked it as our Rabbi Stan taught us:  God doesn’t care about the words, just the intention. And we said a shehechiyanu for good measure as we were grateful to have reached this day and this season in our lives.

Afterward,  we spent some time  in the visitor center watching films and displays about individual soldiers and their lives at home before the war cut them short. We also learned so much about the unbelievably complex and comprehensive  strategy of the D Day assault. I need to read a book about this some day.

After a quick “chez auto” picnic of fruit, bread and other leftovers from breakfast stashed in our car, we drove the hour back to Caen, returning to the land of the living and to more sybaritic vacation experiences such as:
-Picking up our nice clean laundry from the kindly but non- English speaking lady in the local laverie with whom I mimed our laundry needs.
-My guy consuming 9 fresh oysters for 9 euros from an oysters only joint at a place across the dock from our Mercure hotel.
-Consuming fresh grilled fish and lamb at the basque place next door to that and
- finishing with homemade ice cream and cheesecake at the place next to that!
- and  completing our food extravaganza with an 8 year old Calvados brandy for the husband and vanilla Calvados for me at our hotel bar. Calvados and cider are local specials because “Normandy has  good apples and bad wine,” according to our bartender!

We are off to Mt St. Michel next and then on to Brittany with my tall grey man with the one bad foot (and a bellyfull of oysters with the promise of more to come!)

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Traveling through France with the “Tall Grey Man with One Bad Foot”


This trip nearly didn’t happen. Our big plans for driving through Normandy, Brittany and the Loire Valley were jeopardized when the big guy broke his foot in May. Although our trip wasn’t till September, we just don’t heal like we used to.

However, with the Doc’s last minute permission, we headed to France equipped with an inflatable hard cast, gel pack and pain meds. What I didn’t think about was the car we rented was a manual transmission and he couldn’t use the left foot! So, I became the designated driver although my driving skills in any car are dubious at best.  And so began our Tales from the Road!

Tales from the Road

Monet's Lily Pads, GivernyMonday. I have decided that this trip is like Homer’s  Odyssey. We are being tested and challenged by many issues: Husband’s still unhealed foot, my terrible stick shift driving skills and many personal and travel technology issues. It is like  the Greek gods are laughing at  us on high. “Oh you foolish mortals, we are going to screw with your phones, texting, gmailing and GPS.”  The gods laugh and we get lost. Again and again ( As in our three hour trip to Monet’s Garden in Giverny that should have taken only one hour!).

But this isn’t a tale of woe. It is about bravery, heroism and moments of surpassing delight.

Today we spent the day mostly in Rouen a,lovely medieval city. And like every other day on our trip so far it rained. Hard. So we went to the Fine Arts museum that was hosting an incredible Impressionist exhibit. I pushed the husband in a wheelchair and we see so much beauty by many masters in paintings that were inspired  by the landscapes we are actually seeing around us! We also have to schlep through the entire museum twice because their handicap access is limited to two elevators at opposite ends.

Then after a quick omelet lunch, we try to leave Rouen to get to Caen.  Try, as in I have to drive my little stick shift up two narrow landings in an underground parking lot. And to make it harder still, Someone is trying to enter the garage from top. And someone else is trying to get to the second ramp where we are now stuck.  And neither of them will back up. I panic. I can’t drive up that ramp and I can’t drive Down. And miracle of miracles, my man comes through in the clutch! Literally.

He gets in driver’s seat of this car he hasn’t yet driven, puts his bad foot on the clutch and perfectly moves our car into a narrow corner  so both cars can pass and then he easily drives up the steep ramp and gets us back on the street. He was my hero! I could cry with relief.

After that, our drive to Caen in the heart of Normandy was uneventful except for the sudden blinding downpour when I’m driving at 130 km (80mph) and can’t see a damn thing. I nearly lost it with terror but the rain soon slowed again. Oh those gods on Olympus were screwing with us again.

Arrived in gorgeous late daylight to Caen to a nice hotel right on the water. Amazing location. and tonight we had our best dinner yet at Le P’tit B , offering modern French cuisine place with pristine local ingredients. I had amazing red mullet and shrimp brochettes. The man had oysters, fancy duck and we shared a molten cake. We walked there both ways!  Another great foot forward if you’ll excuse the pun.

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Back to work after 30 years. Five second laugh break guaranteed.


A five second video worth 1000 words. For all my NoBlueHairs, try to stop laughing.

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Why women should buy the stocks in the family


How to Pick the Best Stocks - Venn Diagram

How to Pick the Best Stocks – Venn Diagram (Photo credit: steadfastfinances)

Most of the stock pickers, analysts and pundits in the investment world are men. But I think  men are the worst stock pickers for consumer & retail stocks. Why? Because it’s the women in their lives who do the shopping.

But I don’t want to be completely sexist here. I also think women would be great technology and business stock pickers. Sheryl Sandberg urges women to Lean In to their careers. I say, Lean In to stocks, too. You can manage the family budget, hold down a demanding full time job, hug & guide your kids and still be a damn fine stock picker.  How do I know this? Because that’s my life.

These are the characteristics of good stock pickers:

Intellectual curiosity. Do you read many different websites, magazines, books? Talk to your business and social contacts about a wide range of topics? Then your brain is absorbing a whole lot of data that you may not realize is important. However, your subconscious mind is always making connections. You just need to tune in.  Are you hearing a name brand come up in conversation or hearing excitement about a new development in your field? Check out those stocks. My first place for research is Yahoo Finance. They have all the basic data on every stock and they also publish relevant articles written about a given company.

Shopping savvy. Women do the bulk of the family shopping. Even the big ticket items like cars. Because in successful families, the mantra is “If mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy.” So what brands do you love? What new store is coming to your town? Which stores are crowded? Want to know if Apple  (AAPL) still has it? Check out how busy their local store is.  Will Lululemon (LULU) come back from its ” transparency” problem.  Check out the store and how packed their free classes are.  Is Whole Foods (WFMI) still a buy? I don’t know about yours, but my local store is busy selling lots of “whole paycheck” products!  If you shop, you can be a stock picker.

Intuition.  Women are famous for their intuition. Use it to buy stocks…and to sell them.  There’s so much information available about any stock but how do you know which to trust? There’s a few sources that tend to be reliable but they don’t REALLY know. They are making educated guesses mixed in with their intuition. And if your intuition tells you that someone’s hot tip is too good to be true. Trust your intuition!

I’d bet my intuition against the experts any day. When the entire stock market tanked in 2009, I took whatever cash we could get our hands on and started buying stocks I thought would lead the recovery. I could either decide the world was coming to an end, which many nattering nabobs of negativism did. But I decided that if world wasn’t ending, we’d need to buy stuff again to start building. I bought Rio Tinto Mining (RIO) because you need natural resources to build stuff. I bought GE because that company is so diverse it’s definitely too big to fail. I  bought Cemex because you need concrete to build stuff.  I even bought some stock in those big, bad banks that created the economic meltdown. I bought these stocks so damn cheap, I’m embarrassed– under $10/share for all and under $5 for many.  I picked a few losers, too, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac hoping that they would get back to solvency. It didn’t take a lot of money to buy all those stocks but it took guts. Or intuition. And that intuition paid off. As for the losers, I sold them, took the loss and used it to write off some of my profits!  No one is a perfect picker. Not even Mama.

Stamina. Women are notorious for their strength of will to protect & provide for their families. We are Grizzlies, we are Lionesses. We are natural stock pickers.  We manage the family budget, pay the bills, make the doctor appointments. We try to put a little money away for a rainy day.  And we can put a little of that rainy day money into stocks. With online trading, it’s not expensive to buy stocks. Start small. Buy 10 shares of something you believe in. If it goes up buy more. If it goes down a little and you still believe in it, buy more.  If you lose half, sell.  Then get back in the next time you see an opportunity. That’s my best advice. Use your stamina to hang fast when others start panicking.  Trust your gut, keep being curious.

If you’d like to know more about what stocks I’m buying, check out my new blog: StockPicknMama.com.  It’s where I share my lifelong passion for stock buying and what I’m buying and why. It’s a fun, non-technical blog and another way this NoBlueHair is keeping her brain sharp and her future sharper

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Vitamix won the blender wars at my house. An update.


VitaMix

VitaMix (Photo credit: elvisripley)

Over a year ago, I blogged about my search for a blender replacement for my dead Oster. After much research, I ended up with a Kitchen Aid because it was far less expensive and appeared to be just as useful as a Vitamix.

Time for an update.  A few months ago, my Kitchen Aid started leaking from the bottom. While I researched replacement parts, I decided to buy a Vitamix from Costco, ostensibly to use it until my KitchenAid part arrived and then return it. Well, from the first week, it was apparent that my Vitamix wasn’t going back to Costco. We adopted it.

Now my morning smoothies are rich and creamy without making the racket that my old blender did.  Vitamix is  fast, efficient and relatively quiet. I don’t expect to be making soup anytime soon but having this larger capacity does inspire me to make mixed party drinks for a crowd and to share more of my morning smoothie with the Mister. So, he benefits, too.

Yeah, this power machine cost a whole lot more than my KitchenAid but considering I spent about $100 on that blender and it conked out on me in a year, I think the $375 I spent at Costco is a whole lot cheaper…if it holds up.

The KitchenAid didn’t end up in the trash though. I ordered the replacement jar and mailed the whole thing to my kid who’s now using it for his smoothies.

I like stories where everybody wins.  And you win, too,  if you read this before you go out and buy a KitchenAid blender.

Here’s my go to morning recipe for one:

1/2 frozen banana
1 cup of berries- fresh or frozen
4 oz nonfat greek yogurt
handful of oatbran or flax seeds
couple ice cubes
a little water as needed
Mix and enjoy!

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Guest Post: Fine Arts, Creativity & the Aging Brain Positively Linked


nobluehair:

Love the thought of entering the “Vintage Years”…and knowing that “enhanced creativity later in life when we can draw upon a vast storehouse of lifelong learning that can be expressed in unique, fresh, and complex ways.”
Thank you to “The Artists Road” blog and Vintage Years Author Francine Today for the inspiration .

Originally posted on The Artist's Road:

Here at The Artist’s Road we promote creative thinking and doing at any age. Dr. Francine Toder has written a book based both on scientific research and individual case studies that not only supports the notion that a “vintage” brain can take up a new artistic passion, but that there are many benefits to doing so. She’s also a living example of her teaching. So I’m pleased to offer today a guest post by Dr. Toder, author of  The Vintage Years: Finding Your Inner Artist (Writer, Musician, Visual Artist) After Sixty. Be sure to share your own thoughts and experiences with her in the comments!

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When I decided to start playing the cello at age seventy, I was dissuaded by well-intentioned people for all kinds of reasons. They said, “You need to start young.” “You’ll never get good.” “What’s the point at this stage in life?” “It’s too…

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My new besties: Heidi Swanson, Gypsynesters, David Lebowitz, Peter Greenberg and Maria Popova


how to become a famous blogger

how to become a famous blogger (Photo credit: six steps )

The tweets come in daily, I get their latest news in emails, tweets & blogs or flipping through my Flipboard. My friends really know how to communicate. And I’m in their inner circle. From great recipes from my pals David and Heidi to inside travel tips from good buddies Peter & the Gypsies David & Veronica and the best book ideas from my dearest confidante Maria, my life is full of amazing, enriching people who care and share with me.

Or that’s the illusion.  The Internet has created this personal intimacy with people you’ll never run into. They live lives that appear far more fascinating than yours but they are gracious enough to include you in it.To treat you as one of their closest friends. Or so it seems.

When I started Nobluehair, I wanted a place to explore the passage of growing older. What does it mean to age in a society that so desperately fears the end of time?  I wanted a place to stay engaged, curious and creative every day of my life and hoped others were seeking same. My blogging journey started safely with complete anonymity. I didn’t want fame. In fact, at first I didn’t tell anyone I knew that I was writing.  I didn’t want to be judged. But then I caught the blogging contagion, AKA Jungle Fever— AKA the Klout syndrome—I wanted more readers… and more… and more.  And that meant letting people know my blog existed.  It meant promoting it to everyone I knew And soon, people arrived. Some left a comment or a like but most left soundlessly leaving a touch so soft that only WordPress counted it.  I gathered “impressions,” not friends.

What I’ve noticed over the past two years of blogging is that I, too, follow other bloggers soundlessly. I don’t leave a trace. I’m simply a voyeur of their lives and thoughts. They don’t wish me Happy Birthday. They don’t call. I don’t call them.  They may have hard days, setbacks, runny noses and broken toes. But these “professional” bloggers don’t share these less than perfect parts with me. They present us with “curated” lives not messy ones. They don’t share the “real” parts of their day. They may have bad hair & relationship days but they don’t tell me that.  Real friends do.  Yet, when I read their moderated musings, I experience a connection that feels like friendship. But isn’t.

So, that’s my Internet confession.  Some chase Hollywood celebrities. Others chase Internet bloggers. I’m the latter. But let’s face the facts. We may be faithful fans of these online personalities, but their curated posts are not the same as shared lives.  Though it’s fun to pretend they really are my BFFs, I think I’ll go call a girlfriend.

Girls' Night

Girls’ Night (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Someecards.com: How did they get so smart?


About Me:

Everyone is posting these witty free postcards from someecards.com. I don’t know how they make money…but I sure appreciate how they understand the angst, agita and attitudes of today. Or at least of MY day!

Work:

Love:

Yep,  these someecards folk are pretty smart about real life.  At least my life!

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Memoto. A new tool for all your senior moments


Memoto

As if recording all your random thoughts on twitter and Facebook are not enough, now you can record photos of nearly every moment of your life. Call if life-blogging or the pinnacle of navel-gazing narcissism.  I call it a memory saver for all your senior moments.

Where did I put my keys? Back up the camera to the moment you put them down. Did I take my pills this morning? Backtrack instantly.  What was the name of that book I was going to get? Find the cover shot.

You don’t have to remember anything anymore. Memoto remembers… and never forgets. Instead of wearing an albatross around our necks, we’ll all be wearing elephants!  Imagine if we all walked around photographing two shots of every minute of our lives? Are our lives that memorable? Are they worth revisiting?

Apparently, there’s a growing market for non-stop life logging. And Memoto makes it easy.For as little as $279, you get a cute little body camera and a year of cloud storage.

And it’s not just recording  a vast soup of your life. It organizes everything so you can find it again. Like your keys for those of us suffering senior moments.  Or instant anxiety relief for the OCD among us who can now check incessantly whether we locked the door on the way out or turned off the stove. It’s the perfect gift.

Not only that– but unlike most digital toys today…we don’t have to learn anything to use Memoto. There’s no buttons! Just turn it on and it never turns off.  Of course, depending on your height and where you place the camera, you may mostly have pix of other people’s belts or boobs!

Here’s how Memoto describes their product: “The camera and the app work together to give you pictures of every single moment of your life, complete with information on when you took it and where you were. This means that you can revisit any moment of your past.”

The real question is: Do I really want to revisit any moment of my life? One of the glories of aging is that time softens the edges of memory. Our good memories are deeper, our bad memories are faded. Do I really want to be reminded in living color of what I look like first thing in the morning or last thing at night as I floss in the mirror? Do I want my descendants to pore through my life for a possible moment of brilliance that likely isn’t there? Nope.

I’m sure it’s not coincidence that the product name nearly mimics is the unnerving cult thriller Memento, where the protonist– who lost his short-term memory– must try to find his wife’s killer by writing copious sticky notes and even tatooing  info on his body to stay on track with his investigation. I suppose Memoto is a better solution than Leonard Shelby’s draconian memory techniques. But for the rest of us, forgetting seems a lot more pleasant than hi-fidelity memory.

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Bread-Making Here I Come: Update on my New Year’s Resolutions


Bread making deal from Amazon Local

It’s nearly April,  a quarter of the year is nearly done and it’s time to check in on my resolutions progress.

Resolution 1: Give up cookies and ice cream.
I’ve now done this twice for two weeks. Once in January and once now. My excuse this time is they gave us free ice cream at the end of our “Pre- Passover Pasta Pigout” dinner saturday night at Locanda Positano in San Carlos. A gorgeous ball of hazelnut tartufo appeared magically at the close of our fabulous dinner and, of course, I had to try it. Then on Sunday, the last day before Passover, I had to clean out my freezer of the remnants of bread and cookies that have been lingering. You don’t throw out a cookie. Ever. Nuf said.

Resolution 2: Take a dance class
I have now taken Zumba classes three times and I can say with the utmost confidence that I haven’t gotten any better at it. It’s an hour of flailing and shlepping my body to great music. It’s definitely the sweatiest exercise I do but my  future as a Dancing with the Stars participant is not imminent.

Last week, the guy and I went out for a salsa lesson at Cafe Cocomo in S.F. We used to take these lessons regularly but forgot everything we knew. This was great fun and it did kinda come back to us and I was shaking my hips and twirling out of turns by the end of the night. Not only that but dancing with your partner is a great way to work out your power issues (stop leading. well somebody has to.), get sexy in public and pretend you aren’t the oldest couple on the dance floor.

Resolution 3: Take art & writing classes
Thanks to my girl friend’s quick decision to buy us Groupons for a glass-blowing class, I am now the proud owner of a homely pink vase that I kinda made myself.  The teacher did most of the work but I did get to hold and turn the rod as my glass blob melted in the  giant flame spewing furnace. I worried that my contacts would fuse to my eyeballs as I stood close with the scorching air blowing out but he assured me that my face would be gone long before that happened. I was seriously reassured and that’s the end of my glass-blowing career.

I have not made a move on my writing career…unless you give me extra credit for writing this post.

Resolution 4: Learn how to bake bread
Woohoo. Today, I saw an Amazon Local Deal  for a starter bread-making class or bagel-making class with Sour Flour in S.F. I bought me a coupon and now I just need to schedule a class. If anyone  out there is interested, the deal is still on for 4 more days. I, however, have to wait till after Passover to take it!

How are you doing on all your resolutions? Have they fallen bedraggled on the ash heap of history or are you still valiantly tilting at them. Looking back on my progress, I’m feeling pretty damn good. Not perfect. But that’s never been the goal.

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