Diet, Menopause

For New Year’s! A Dairy Free Appetizer and a Tummy Soothing Giveaway


Just in time for your New Year’s party, a post by my daughter Laura Allen:

Back in September, I made the decision to give up dairy. After a month of almost daily stomach aches, I figured life without cheese, yogurt, and butter was a small price to pay to feel normal again.

During the first few days, I had vivid dreams of cheese: buttery brie spread on thick crackers, bowls of pungent blue cheese crumbles, and sweet goat cheese cheesecakes.

But within a few weeks, the dreams and the cravings subsided, and my stomach felt great. I accepted my new dairy free life…until it was time to entertain.

I wanted to throw a big housewarming party with lots of delicious eats, but virtually all my go-to recipes contained dairy: pimento cheese spread, Mexican seven layer dip, warm goat cheese with pecans and chutney, and my mom’s trifle recipe.

Of course, I could serve veggies with hummus, but I know from experience that party guests aren’t as satisfied when the spread appears too healthy and dips just don’t taste as good with raw vegetables!

So, I give you avocado chicken salad on sweet potato rounds!

Boil around 1lb of skinless chicken breast and shred with fork.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees and slice two large sweet potatoes into discs. 

Season with olive oil and salt and cook on a baking sheet for 25-35 minutes, checking frequently.

Mash up two to three ripe avocados to make a good guacamole. Season to taste with lime, salt, and hot sauce, cumin, or chili pepper.

Mix guacamole with shredded chicken.

Top sweet potato rounds with chicken salad and finish with fresh cilantro.

By the way, my party was a huge success, and I still served pesto gouda and Danish blue for the cheese lovers.



21-Day Tummy:The Revolutionary Diet That Soothes and Shrinks Any Belly Fast
By Liz Vaccariello, author of the New York Times bestseller, The Digest Diet, with Kate Scarlata, RD
Published by Reader’s Digest


The 21-Day Tummy diet targets excess weight and belly fat while addressing the most common digestive disorders.

We love to eat but that doesn’t mean our stomachs always enjoy digesting what we put in them. Add to this the fact that our nation is heavier than it’s ever been, and it’s clear that our tummies don’t just need to function better, they need to be smaller. In general, smaller stomachs digest food more effectively, and that’s why dropping the pounds isn’t just a matter of vanity but of health.

Featuring carb-light, anti-inflammatory foods, the 21-Day Tummy eating plan slashes inches from your belly (up to 4 ½ inches!) while banishing gas and bloating, heartburn and acid reflux, constipation, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

In addition, 21-Day Tummy includes:

  • 50 scrumptious recipes such as Tomato-Ginger Flank Steak and Almost Pumpkin Mini Pies.
  • A Digestion Quiz to help you measure your overall digestive health
  • Tips on how to combat the Four S’s — Supersizing, Sitting, Stress, and Sleep Deprivation.
  • Inspirational stories and advice from our successful test panelists. Our top tester dropped 19 pounds in 21 days and completely stopped taking medications for acid reflux.
  • An optional equipment-free workout plan that helps to both sculpt and soothe your belly with a mix of core strengthening, walking, and yoga.
  • Guidelines on how to incorporate potentially problematic foods back into your life so you are never deprived of your favorite foods.

To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment by January  20 saying you’d like to win.

Publishers Weekly just gave the book a glowing review:  “With lively writing, inviting four-color format, pull-outs, sidebars, nine personal success stories (including the author’s), and enticing photography, this book is a winner.”



Saving Mr. Banks


We went into Baltimore City, to the Hippodrome Theater, and waited in a long line.


The year: 1965.

The movie?

Mary Poppins!

images (1)

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My dad loved the film so much that he bought me the soundtrack, and it wasn’t even my birthday.

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Cliff confessed on our first date that he loved the movie, too.

So  thirty-seven years later, we stepped in time and got ourselves to Saving Mr. Banks.

The movie recounts the battle of words and wills between the author of the Mary Poppins books, P.L. Travers, and Walt Disney and his studio.

Great trailer. Really catches the flavor of the film.

Read this review by Mark KermodeI second his final lines “…as a diehard Thompsonite who considers Mary Poppins one of the best 10 movies ever made, they appear to have made Saving Mr. Banks for me. And I loved it.”

I loved it too and so did Cliff.

Loved the sixties stuff. Loved the acting. Loved the music. Loved the pull between Travers and Disney.

And I loved thinking about going to the Hippodrome Theater in 1965.


A Mary Poppins book from my childhood. This is the real Mary Poppins, the first one, a magical curmudgeon of the finest degree


The movie story, also from my childhood bookshelf

End Pages

The end pages of Mary Poppins in the Park. Note the merry-go-round, setting for the controversial animation scene in the movie. P.L Travels argued NOT to have any animation in the movie. To this day, the animation bothers me too. Just doesn’t fit!


The end pages of my movie version. I wrote my room number in it, meaning I must have take it to school for some reason or another

What about you?

Do you have Mary Poppins memories?

And let us know if you’ve seen Saving Mr. Banks!


For an insightful look at the real P.L. Travers, who has no doubt been done a disservice  in some respects by the Disney people, read this article by children’s literature expert Jerry Griswold.

Celebrations, Menopause

A Can’t Miss Holiday Toast!



The best present

Of all this holiday

Is the presence

Of all of you!


This toast is easy to remember! Say it slowly with gusto.

If you use it, let me know how it goes…

Happy holidays and plenty of presents to one and all!

Thank you so much for your presence and for reading Friend for the Ride!


My toast will be included in an anthology compiled by June Cotner and Nancy Tupper Ling, to be published Fall 2014 by Viva Editions.

Photo: The pretty packages  above decorate Virtue Feed and Grain in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia. When I was a little, I was shocked when my mom told me  packages like these were empty boxes covered with paper and ribbon. But alas, we can pretend!


Little Women: Christmas Won’t Be Christmas


Famous first line!  A Christmas line, spoken by a great character of literature, Jo March.

Opening to Little Women

In honor of that first line and the ambitious and opinionated Jo March, I present the Little Women collection of my friend Nancy Espersen.  Nancy’s lovely home was recently featured on the Hillsborough Candlelight Home Tour.

Little Women Room

The guest room, decorated as the Little Women Room for the tour










A Little Women bank and mementos from the movie starring June Allyson and Peter Lawford


A scarf from the June Allyson movie

Orchard House Crossstitch

A cross stitch of the Alcott home, Orchard House, in Concord, Massachusetts


Paper dolls!

Paper House

A paper dollhouse of the March home

First Day Cover

First day issue of the Little Women postage stamp

Christmas Reading

Christmas stories

little women - 1955 Whitlman Publishing Co

The cover of Nancy’s childhood copy of the book, Whitman Publishing, 1955.

Nancy's Book

The endpages with a Little Women sticker in the corner

I asked Nancy to tell us about her lifelong appreciation for Little Women:

My love of everything “Little Women” began as a child.  Perhaps it was the version of the book that began this journey. Whatever it was, the story of the March family captured my heart, especially the way they dealt with their trials and tribulations as well as their triumphs and joys. It is still a tradition to watch the movie at Christmas.  And even to this day, my husband is ready to hand me a tissue when Beth dies. 




Sandwiched Between MIL and DIL

Mazel Tov

A post by writer Miriam Hendeles:

Today I find myself in a generational crisis.

I was born in the early 1960’s into what became known as the Baby Boomer Generation.  We boomed along for several decades, through Generation X and Generation Y.

More recently I’ve landed in the “sandwich generation,” an apt description because I often feel that way: sticky like peanut butter, mashed up like tuna fish and mayo or flattened like turkey.

And it’s no fun.

Yes, flat, sticky and mashed up is how I feel as I wonder who to please. Do I please  MIL or do I please  DIL’s?  How about both? Is that possible?

Recently, our son, DIL, and children came to visit us for a few weeks. On the way back from the airport, my mind was swirling:

Should I encourage them to call Grandma?

Or would that put too much pressure on them?

After all, they just landed.

But Grandma is probably anxious to see them. She only called three times today asking when they are arriving.

“Uh, maybe you want to call Grandma when we get home to let her know  you arrived?”

“Sure,” they answered.

But I could tell they were distracted with keeping him from wriggling in the carseat.  Why can’t I just back off? I’m treating them like babies. Let them handle their vacation time themselves.

 We get back to the house. My husband helps them take their bags into the house.  I go inside to prepare dinner. The phone rings. I see the caller ID – it’s Grandma.

Me: “Hi Grandma, yes, they arrived…..yes, here they are…they were just going to call you.”

I hand the phone  to my DIL who has the baby squirming in her other hand.

I leave the room as she speaks to her grandmother-in-law.

Being sandwiched between generations and deciding how to accommodate both parties can be a delicate balancing act.

As I gingerly un-stick myself  from the outer trappings of the events around me, I try to keep my focus. This is time to be sensitive to those older and younger than me. 

I do my best to accommodate and then let it go.  I’s really about me – the tuna, peanut butter or turkey and how I take care of myself, so I can deal appropriately with all my relationships.  Especially during the Holiday season, when the various generations gather together, I try to be sensitive to those older and younger than me.

How do you deal with the pulls and the pushes of the sandwich generation?

Are you feeling conflicted between your roles?

I’d love to hear.


Miriam Hendeles, MT-BC is a music therapist, writer, blogger and the author of a book on being a grandmother to her four grandsons,  Mazel Tov! It’s a Bubby!

Miriam’s website is  MIL’s who visit that site will get ideas on how and when to speak up, keep quiet, cope, and survive in their challenging roles as mothers-in-law.  Miriam lives in Los Angeles with her husband and sons.


And check out her blog, Bubble Joys and Oys: A Place for Grandmas to Kvell, Kvetch…and Stretch.

Bubby Joys


Menopause and Angel Wings

Younger--Friend for the Ride--Angel Banner


Who wouldn’t want to be one? (Someday, that is.)

Robes that hide stomachs and veiny legs.

Wings that take you wherever you want to go, with no security line hassles.

And you can sing!  (I didn’t make the chorus in fifth grade, which devastated me, and age has done nothing for my vocal tone and range.)

Then of course, there are angels who don’t wear the standard garb. Angels, who appear with invisible halos, to help a girl out.

What’s the kindest thing a stranger ever did for you?

I love this question!

But here’s another one.

What’s the kindest thing you’ve ever done for a stranger?

I’m realizing now, that in the menopause journey, I shrank into myself, some. I became less outgoing and less willing to extend myself to strangers.

Only recently did I, a people lover, figure out this had happened.

But you can’t be an angel, even a sometimes angel, if you hide inside yourself.

But I’m back at it.

I revved up a bit on a flight home from Baltimore yesterday. When the plane landed, the woman next to me thanked me for chatting. She and her mom were flying from Dayton to visit a sister/daughter in North Carolina.

Usually, I barely speak on a plane unless spoken to, as I’m fearful I will lose my reading time.

My seatmate ended her thank you by saying that her mom hadn’t flown since 1968.

Granted I was a tiny angel, but I like to think the mom, who had a long day, found the skies friendly in 2013, in part, because of our conversation.

What about you?

Did your flight into menopause make you more outgoing or did you turn inward?

If you turned inward, any plans to spread your wings again?

Christmas Banner:  My mom, Nancy Kiehne, made the angel banner in 1965 for Divinity Lutheran Church. The rocket is a nod to the space program, which was in full swing.

Birthday:  Happy birthday to loyal blog reader Gail Crane, who owes me another guest post. Her post, “To Be or Not to Be– Grey Hair, That Is”  started a festive conversation.


This Holiday Give Your V a Gift!


A guest post by menopause expert Ellen Dolgen, whom I recently shared a glass of wine with at the meeting of the North American Menopause Society:

Ladies, we deserve to have the best sex of our lives—now! Even better, it’s completely doable (pun intended). During our menopausal years, our sex lives have so much from which they can benefit: a strong sense of self, deep relationships, and bodies we actually know how to use!

For women, sex is like a fine wine. It gets better with age! Research published in the American Journal of Medicine shows that women’s sexual satisfaction actually tends to increase with age—even despite the hormonal throes of menopause.

Why? “As we age, most of us become more aware of what we need in the bedroom and how to get there. We feel more deserving of sexual pleasure and are more willing to ask for what we want from our partners,” says Hilda Hutcherson, M.D. Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center and author of Pleasure: A Woman’s Guide to Getting the Sex You Want, Need and Deserve. “In our 50s we are more likely to focus on our pleasure than in our 20s, when we tend to focus almost exclusively on his experience.”

What’s more, knowing exactly what you want come bedtime can make sex better for him as well! One study from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia found that the more you focus on your own pleasure during sex, the more satisfied both you and your partner will be. The reason: When you are selfish in the sack, your partner doesn’t have to worry that you’re not enjoying yourself—he can see that you are! Be greedy and both of you will have better sex? Yes, please!

So if your current sex isn’t the best you’ve ever had, it’s time to do something about it. After all, you do have hormonal changes to contend with.

“Women may first notice sexual changes during the perimenopausal stage, which can begin up to 10 years before your very last period, or menopause. That means that some women will begin to have symptoms of decreasing estrogen in their mid-late 30s or early 40s,” Dr. Hutcherson says. “The first sexual complaint is often painful sex due to vaginal dryness.”

A silent symptom of menopause, vaginal dryness occurs in up to one-half of postmenopausal women, while about one-third of postmenopausal women suffer from pain during sex, according to a 2009 review by Susan Wysocki, WHNP, FAANP, president at iWoman’s Health.

“Estrogen is needed to keep your vagina moist, plush, and stretchable. When estrogen is low, women may notice vaginal dryness, which can lead to painful sex,” says Dr. Hutcherson. Dry estrogen reserves = dry vagina. Plagued by thinning walls and painful inflammation, a dry vagina can make a woman feel anything but empowered. Even worse, fragile vaginal walls can suffer small tissue tears during sex that can lead to intense pain and bloody sheets.

It’s important to remember that declining estrogen levels is one of many potential problems standing in between you and the best sex of your life. In fact, according to a review published in Pain Research and Management, in some postmenopausal women, low levels of estrogen aren’t the cause of painful intercourse, suggesting that other sex-wreckers such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine fibroids, and even stress (what woman doesn’t have that!?) are compounding the problem. Basically, anything that zaps your sexual desire can decrease vaginal lubrication, potentially making sex painful, according to Mayo Clinic.

“Medical problems and medications certainly can wreak havoc on desire,” Dr. Hutcherson says. Certain meds—including antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and some allergy and cold drugs—can slash your sexual desire.

But the most common reason for a lack of libido? “Boredom. Women simply become bored with their sex lives after a time with the same partner. Sex becomes routine, same time, same place, same position, etc.,” she says.

Here is how to get sexually empowered—and yes, even greedy—for better between-the-sheets bliss:

Take Responsibility for Your Own Orgasm

“First, women need to decide that they are deserving of pleasure. Then they need to accept the fact that each woman is responsible for her own sexual pleasure. That means that she must discover, on her own, what feels good. She can’t wait for the ‘magic finger or penis’ to ride along on a white horse and bring her sexual ecstasy! Once she discovers what works, she must then show her partner and expect that the partner will work with her to make sure that she is sexually satisfied,” Dr. Hutcherson says.

Stop Faking It, Already!

“Faking orgasms will guarantee that your sex life with your partner never improves. Your partner becomes convinced that he is providing everything that you need for complete sexual satisfaction. So they keep doing the same thing and achieving the same results—that you are not satisfied,” Dr. Hutcherson says. “Let your partner know what you desire and need for complete satisfaction.” Being honest (not mean!) increases the chances of a fulfilling sex life for both of you.

Listen to Your Vagina

If you find that you’re all lubed up and sex is still “meh,” it’s time to find—and treat—the root cause of any pain. Take note (literally—go grab a notepad!) of your below-the-belt symptoms including dryness, itching, burning, painful sex, and bleeding, their severity, and what has and hasn’t worked to relieve them.

Bring your symptoms list with you to your perimenopause and menopause specialist to discuss. Your doctor can even perform a quick examination on the spot to pinpoint the problem. If low estrogen is to blame, treatment options include systemic estrogen therapy, local estrogen therapy (LET), over-the-counter moisturizers, or a combo of these options, according to Remember: There is no one-size-fits-all solution for vaginal dryness and painful intercourse. Every vagina is unique.

If you don’t have a menopause specialist, consult my Menopause Doctor Directory, check out the menopause specialists listed on the North American Menopause Society website, request a referral from any great doctors you know, or ask your friends who is helping them to find hormone happiness.

Stop acting like sex is something polite ladies don’t talk about. Sex is a foundation of who we are as women, as lovers, and as mothers. So let’s shout (you know what!) from the rooftops!

Reaching out is IN! Suffering in silence is OUT!

Ellen Dolgen is an outspoken women’s health and wellness advocate, menopause awareness expert, author, and speaker.


After struggling through the silence that surrounds menopause, Ellen resolved to help women reach out and end the confusion, embarrassment, and less-than-lovely symptoms that come with “the change.” Her passion to be a “sister” to all women fueled Ellen’s book, Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormonehappiness. As a result of her women’s wellness journey, and in response to the overwhelming thirst of her ever-expanding audience for empowering information, Ellen’s weekly blog, Menopause MondaysTM was born.

 Menopause MondaysTM allows Ellen an expansive platform from which she broadens her discussion of menopause, women’s health, and life as a menopausal (and fabulous!) woman. Her weekly Menopause News Flash provides a one-stop shop for the latest menopause and women’s health news and research, allowing women the access and know-how needed to take charge of their health and happiness.

In addition to Ellen’s ever-growing social media presence, has fast become “the place” on the web for informative and entertaining women’s menopause and wellness engagement. Ellen is #1 on Dr. Oz Top 10 Social HealthMakers on Menopause. In 2012 and 2013 Mondays was named first on the list of the “Best Menopause Blogs” by Healthline. Ellen is also a regular contributor to over a dozen leading women’s health blogs. Her motto is: Reaching out is IN! Suffering in silence is OUT!

She produces and facilitates Menopause Mondays PartiesTM for organizations across the country. Through her Menopause Mondays Google+ Hangouts, she chats with women and answers their questions; she also connects with women daily on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. Ellen also conducts Menopause Mondays Live events.

Ellen has founded a women’s health and wellness program that provides corporate education events for businesses, healthcare institutions, and other organizations. In addition, she works with pharmaceutical companies in helping them understand and address women’s health needs. Ellen co-chaired a social media roundtable for Novo Nordisk in 2012. She is a key spokesperson for GLAMTM (Great Life After Menopause) a non-branded campaign sponsored by Novo Nordisk.

She serves on the Community Advisory Board of Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla and has chaired and served on various boards and committees for Fresh Start Women’s Foundation, San Diego Hospice, Brandeis University, Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, NARAL, the Phoenix Heart Ball, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Weizmann Institute of Science, Angel Charity for Children, Brewster Auxiliary, and Handmaker Home for the Aging. Ellen’s lifelong commitment to philanthropy through board representation, fundraising, and event organization continues with her founding of Shmirshky Universal, which assists in promoting women’s health and wellbeing around the world.

 Ellen has appeared on the “TODAY Show,” “NBC Nightly News”, the “Rachael Ray Show,” “The Doctors,” Oprah Radio, Playboy Radio, NPR’s “Tell Me More,” Doctor Radio, and dozens of regional and national media outlets. In 2011 she appeared in a sold-out, San Diego production of “The Vagina Monologues.” Ellen was one of the first regular contributors to debut on The Huffington Post’s, Huff/Post50, which targets 116 million Americans over the age of 50.

Ellen is the founder and president of Shmirshky Universal and is a principal of Dolgen Ventures along with her husband, David. She lives in Coronado, California, and has two adult children, Sarah and Jack.

Like Ellen Dolgen on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and Pinterest, connect with her on LinkedIn, Google+, and Klout, watch her videos on YouTube, and subscribe to her newsletter.