The Mountains vs. The Beach

I’m at the beach this week, so I thought I’d recycle this one from June, 2012. It’s an oldie but a goodie, and sort of sums up where I am right now:

Which do you prefer in the summer?

Me, I’m torn. I love them both.

As someone who grew up on the Jersey Shore (which was not like the TV show of the same name. Heck, those creatures aren’t even from New Jersey. I wonder if they’re even from this planet), I have an almost visceral attachment to the beach. When I was a kid, I spent my entire summer there. My high school years were reminiscent of Beach Blanket Bingo. All my friends hung out on the beach, so I did, too. I even waitressed nights on the boardwalk so I could spend my days on the sand. The smell of sunscreen (we used to call it suntan lotion) still takes me back. And there’s no food I enjoy more than good seafood.

Not my high school, but close enough.

But the mountains… ah, the mountains. What can compare to the smell of pine trees, the view from a mountain top, the fun of kayaking a mountain lake or river? Even though I moved to the mountains later in life, I feel at peace here. It’s my home, and I love it deeply.

It’s true that every summer I feel the pull of the ocean. I yearn to sit on the beach, sun-sotted and salt soaked, dashing into the waves when I get too hot, stuffing myself with steamers and crab. All the same, I hate to leave my Green Mountain State. Summer in Vermont is glorious, and as much as I love it in the winter, it’s amazing here now, too.


The Green Mountain State

So truly, I’m conflicted. Does it have to be an either/or situation? Can’t we embrace them both?

This year, I’m solving my dilemma with a trip to Acadia National Park in Maine. If you’ve never been, you should go. It’s the perfect combination of mountains and ocean, with lots of lobster on the side. And though the water is bone chilling cold, that’s okay. There’s enough other stuff to make up for it. I know I’ll have a great time.

So which do you prefer in the summer? The mountains? The beach? Or are you like me and love them both?

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Beyond the Ice Bucket Challenge

Sometimes things take off big time on the internet: people dancing to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” Grumpy Cat, flash mobs,  anything about Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. So when something new starts popping up on your Facebook feed, it’s easy to dismiss it as just another flash in the pan.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is one of these things. Seems everywhere you look, someone is getting dumped on with a bucket of ice water. Justin Timberlake, Ethel Kennedy, Mark Zuckerburg, even me:

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I’m not condemning or poo-pooing the Challenge. It’s a terrific cause and it’s done a fantastic amount of good. As I write this, the ALS Association has raised more than $15 million in donations, way beyond what it’s ever raised before in a comparable period of time. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

But like anything else, the Challenge is bound to run its course. So what’s my point? It shouldn’t take a viral video or a celebrity death (I’m thinking Robin Williams) to draw attention to ALS or Parkinson’s or Depression or any other worthy cause. There are a lot of things that could benefit from an outpouring of contributions. All. The. Time.

So before you put your wallets away, here are some great ski-related charities that could benefit from your generosity. Please give, and give generously. No ice bucket or video required (though you could ski a run for them, later on).

High Fives Foundation: Dedicated to raising money and awareness for athletes that have suffered a life-altering injury while pursuing their dream in the winter action sports community.

Kelly Brush Foundation: Dedicated to improving the quality of life for individuals living with spinal cord injuries (SCI)  by purchasing adaptive athletic equipment for those with financial limitations; advocates for improved ski racing safety;  supports research to treat and cure paralysis due to SCI.

Disabled Sports USA:  Provides adaptive sports opportunities for people with disabilities to help them develop independence, confidence, and fitness.

American Blind Skiing Foundation: Provides blind children and adults with opportunities to build confidence and independence through skiing.

Kevin Pearce Fund: Supports organizations that enrich and enhance the lives of individuals and families affected by brain injury, Down syndrome, and other challenges.

Protect Our Winters:  Dedicated to uniting and actively engaging the global snow sports community to lead the fight against climate change.

Clean Water Carbon Fund: Fights climate change and protects clean water by planting trees along streams and rivers.

Special Olympics: Provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

SkiDucks: Dedicated to enriching the lives of disadvantaged and financially underprivileged children by teaching and sharing the joys of skiing and snowboarding.

Challenged Athletes Foundation: Provides opportunities and support to people with physical disabilities so they can pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competitive athletics.

National Sports Center for the Disabled: Facilitates sporting events for the physically disabled.

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Biking through the summer [or whatever gets you through the off season].

Summer’s a rough time for skiers who really don’t have any non-skiing passions. I mean, I like to do other things besides ski, but I just don’t LOOOOOVE them in quite the same way. So finding an alternate activity is tough. I can’t run (I have seriously bad feet), and hiking, though enjoyable, isn’t something I do too often.

One of the things I do do is bike — road, not mountain. I have a Specialized Ruby Comp road bike that’s about seven years old. I’m not a bike gear head so I can’t give you all the specs, but if you’re interested in such things, you can read about it here.

Anyway, here it is. I’ve made a few modifications since I got it. Pink tape on the handlebars, changed out the compact crankset to a triple (yeah, I wanted the granny gears), and most recently, a really cool saddle.


Cool seat!

Cool seat!

This summer I got a bright safety green helmet, too. I think it makes me extra visible to the cars and trucks out there; I’m a little paranoid about getting hit. I like the visor, too.


But even with the cool bike, saddle, and helmet, biking in Vermont can be a challenge. I’m not the strongest cyclist out there, and the hilly terrain isn’t easy. But the rewards are great. You get to see lots of stunning scenery right up close. Here are a few pics I’ve taken cycling in the area:

Cornish-Windsor Bridge

Cornish-Windsor Bridge



Once in a while you encounter something a bit offbeat, too. Like this sign for “Wendy’s Way,” a bike path in the Manchester, VT, area dedicated to 10th Mountain Division veteran, Olympian, and long-time Stratton ski instructor, Wendall Cram. Needless to say, I got a real kick biking on it — and an even bigger kick when I happened upon him in the parking lot, when I was loading up my gear.


Then there’s this marker for Phineas Gage in Cavendish, VT. Phineas was a railroad worker who suffered a traumatic brain injury when an iron spike accidentally passed through his skull with such force that it landed almost 30 yards behind him. Remarkably, he regained consciousness within a few minutes, was able to speak, and survived a 45-minute ride back to his boarding house while sitting in a cart. Although Phineas managed to recover from the accident, his personality was radically altered. His case is among the first evidence suggesting that damage to the frontal lobes could changes aspects of personality and affect socially appropriate interaction. Kind of makes you appreciate helmets, doesn’t it?

Phineas Gage Marker

Phineas Gage Marker

Anyway, I’m counting down the days to ski season, as I’m sure many of you are, too. Let’s see — with a target day of November 15, that’s only 96 days from today, August 12. In the meantime, I’ll keep on pedaling.


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Getting to the top.

I live not too far from Suicide Six, a small mountain in Vermont that prides itself on being the first lift-served ski area in the US. The mountain installed a rope tow in 1934, a couple years before the country’s first chair lift went into service at Sun Valley, Idaho, in 1936.

Ski lifts have come a long way since then. Today you can ride a tram, gondola, high-speed quad, double, triple, rope tow, J-bar, T-bar, and Magic Carpet, to name a few. And oh, the places you’ll go. The Peak-To-Peak Tram at Whistler-Blackcomb, for example, spans 4.4 km in just 11 minutes. The Aerial Tram at Jackson Hole takes you 4,139 vertical feet in 15 minutes. And the Lone Peak Tram at Big Sky brings you up to 11,166 feet, climbing 1,450 ft over a distance of 2,828 ft. Lifts open up terrain that would otherwise be inaccessible to the majority of skiers, and substantially expand a resort’s skiable acreage. Skiing wouldn’t be the same without them.

Single Chair, Mad River Glen

Single Chair, Mad River Glen

People get incredibly attached to lifts. Here in Vermont, it’s not unusual to see a house with an old lift chair or gondola cabin in the yard. And then there’s the historic single chair at Mad River Glen, which has a mystique all its own. When the mountain refurbished its lift in 2007, the old chairs were auctioned off to raise funds, with a minimum starting bid of $1,000. They sold.

Every now and then you hear a crazy ski lift story in the news. In 2010, five chairs fell 25-30 feet from a lift at Sugarloaf, Maine, injuring six people. In 2009, a nearly 40-year-old lift at Devil’s Head, Wisconsin, ran backwards at an out-of-control rate of speed, overriding the safety brakes and injuring 14 people. Luckily, these are exceptions rather than the rule. Statistics compiled by the National Ski Areas Association show only 12 chairlift fatalities in North America between 1973, when data collection started, and 2011 (the date of the source I found), making chairlifts safer than cars, escalators, or elevators.

Ski resorts do a lot of lift maintenance, refurbishment, and installation during the summer. This year my local mountain, Okemo, is installing a six-person bubble chair, complete with heated seats, to replace a high-speed detachable quad. It’s the first one like it in North America, and it’s been interesting to read people’s reactions on the internet. Some see it as an absolute travesty, more evidence of the corporatization and sanitation of the ski experience — which I think  is pretty silly. Unless you’re hiking, you have to rely on some sort of automatic conveyance to get to the top, and I see little difference between the new lift and riding a tram or a gondola. All offer wind protection and a larger group of passengers than a typical chair — except with the bubble lift, you don’t have to remove your skis, which to me is a big plus. Yes, the heated seats may be a bit over the top. But ask me about this again on a day when the temps dip below zero, and I may give you a completely different answer. After all, no one gets a medal for being uncomfortable.

Bubble Lift to be installed at Okemo Mountain Resort

Artist rendition of Bubble Lift.

A lift being demolished or installed doesn’t happen every day, and I’m hoping to see some of this at Okemo this summer. It’s a massive undertaking that relies on incredible logistics and lots and lots of money; the lift at Okemo is clocking in at $6.9 million and is slated to start rolling in mid-December. I’ve been told they’ll be using helicopters to install the footings for the new towers in a few weeks, and I may go over to watch. If I do, I’ll take some pics so you can see, too.

In the meantime, enjoy this video of a chairlift installation at Vail in 2011:

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Why is working out so hard sometimes?

I just got back from a bike ride that nearly ate me alive. By the end I was toast. Exhausted. Ready to collapse into a sweat-soaked, road-dust encrusted puddle of flesh. I know, I know — ewwwww.

Yet the other day I did a similar ride and had a completely different experience. Same intensity, same type of terrain, no problem. It was a piece of cake. Easy-peasy. I felt wonderful, maintained a good pace, and at the end I leapt off my bike, smiling.

Go figure.

ExhaustionI know I’m not the only one who has exercise ups and downs, but why things should vary so much from one day to the next is a complete mystery to me.  And it’s not just limited to biking. I’ve had this problem in a variety of activities — including skiing –and if I could bottle the good days for the days when I felt like crap, I’d be a happy camper.

So why is working out so hard sometimes? Why can’t each day be the same?

There are a variety of theories on why this happens, so I thought I’d share some with you:

• It could be nutritional, hormonal, sleep-related, [insert something here]. The body is a complex machine, and there are stressors in our lives and bodies we may not even be aware of. Drink alcohol the night before, and you might not perform well. Get a poor night’s sleep, and it could make a difference. (Though as a chronic insomniac, I’ve had some pretty good days following nights when I’ve slept maybe 3-4 hours Maybe it all comes down to what you’re used to?)

• It could be the environment. Maybe it was too hot/cold/humid/dry/windy. Maybe it’s the air quality. Maybe it’s the altitude. In short, in addition to internal things, there are external things that can affect your performance. Working out when it’s really hot or humid can be much more exhausting than it is on a  moderate day. And biking when it’s extremely windy can be a real challenge. Know that and make allowances.

• Maybe you were over/under hydrated. If you don’t drink enough before or during your workout, you could feel weak, dizzy, confused, or sluggish. Overhydration has its own set of problems, too: cramping, nausea, and confusion, so it can easily be confused with dehydration. In fact, drinking too much fluid, especially from certain “rehydration” drinks, can ironically cause dehydration.  A drink that has a high level of sugar and additives may require too much of your body’s own fluid to dilute so it can be absorbed. Also, drinking too much water at once may cause you to pee too much, so you don’t absorb any fluid.

• It’s in your head. It’s no secret that energy can be related to attitude. A positive attitude can result in greater energy for a better workout. And depression can wreak havoc on the way you perform. So keep that in mind (pun intended).

• These days just happen. And when they do, either pack it in or just expect less from yourself. Your body is trying to tell you something, so listen to it and back off.  You may be doing too much. There’s actually something called “overtraining syndrome.” Too  much training can break you down and make you weaker. Physiologic improvement actually occurs during the rest period that follows hard training. During recovery, your cardiovascular and muscular systems build to up to compensate for the stress you’ve applied. The result can be a higher level of performance.

In short, who knows what’s going on. Some days are just not as good as others, so I kind of like the last explanation best (though trust me, I am not overtraining). But if you think you have an idea of your own, post it here. I’d love to hear it.





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How to stay motivated [Translation: whatever works].


Ever notice how little motivation you need to do something you love?

That’s how it is with me and skiing. This past season I skied 85 days — a personal record — and as you can probably guess, it was not a problem. Each time I skied, I did it with joy in my heart. But during the rest of the year, getting myself to swim, bike, or work out at the gym can be a little more difficult.

Which leads me to today’s topic: Motivation. Because sometimes it’s hard to get off your butt and get yourself in gear.

What is it that makes that happen? Me, I’m pretty disciplined. I work out probably five days a week. And yeah, it’s not always easy. But two things keep me going:

1) Ski season and 2) my parents.

The first is easy to figure out. I stay in shape the rest of the year so I won’t fall apart next time I click on my skis. I want to be ready as soon as the snow flies, and working out is the best way to make that happen.

My parents, looking pretty good for 85 and 91.

My parents, looking pretty good for 85 and 91.


The second, well, you have to know my mom and dad. I’m at the age where a lot of my friends’ folks are either doing poorly or have passed away. Fortunately, my mom and dad, ages 85 and 91 respectively, are doing extremely well. Why? Part of it is just either just plain luck or good genes. They’ve avoided cancer, heart disease, Alzheimers, all the awful stuff that’s hit a lot of their contemporaries. But it could also be because they make physical activity (and eating right) a priority. They do something active every day. It doesn’t have to be anything extreme — they’ve never gone for that — just something as simple as walking. I look at them and it seems like a no brainer. After all, you can’t argue with success.

But that’s my motivation. It’s personal, and it isn’t necessarily the same as yours. It works for me, and that’s what counts.

Still, getting started and sticking to an exercise program requires a particular mindset. I’ve been doing some reading about this lately, and here are a few tips I thought I’d pass on:

1) Set a realistic goal: If you’re a recreational swimmer who swims laps a few days a week, chances are your routine isn’t going to lead to your swimming the English Channel. Recognize this. Embrace it. Figure out, realistically, what you want exercise to do for you. Do you want to lose weight? Improve muscle tone? Sleep better at night? What goal makes the most sense for you? Then work toward it.

2) Make it convenient: If you work 60 hours a week and have a family and need time to grocery shop, cook meals, clean the house, etc., making time to exercise can be challenging. Be sure to set a goal you can live with. Instead of saying you’ll work out every day, set a schedule that’s more in keeping with your lifestyle. Maybe you can’t work out five times a week, but you can work out twice. Maybe you can leave the house extra early one day a week and fit it in then. Maybe you can just resolve to take the stairs instead of the elevator, or park the car a bit farther from the door. Whatever you do, make sure it’s something you can live with.

3) Don’t expect perfection: It’s okay if you don’t break any records. Accept that you’re not Serena Williams or Diana Nyad or anyone like that. Few of us are. Whatever you do is fine. Just move.

4) Don’t compare yourself to others: This goes along with the above. Just do what you can, and stop looking at the ultra-fit woman next to you in spin class. At least you’re out there. In the words of Popeye, “I yam what I yam.” S’okay.

5) Make it fun. Seriously, this is so basic that it hardly needs stating. But if your exercise routine consists of something you dread, you’re never going to do it. So find something you like. Change your routine. Work out with a friend. Play some music. Anything. Boredom is an exercise killer. Don’t invite it in.

6) Get support: Nothing kills a workout more than a friend/family member/significant other who isn’t behind you. You don’t need to hear, “Why are you going to work out? Let’s hit the bar instead.” Rather, you need someone who takes your workout as seriously as you do; someone who gets behind you and provides you with encouragement. Because really, don’t we all need a cheering section?

Now excuse me. I have to go work out. Don’t you?



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Ten Super Foods You Really Should Eat.

superfoodI have the taste of an eight year old. If I had my way, I’d probably exist on a diet of pizza, pretzels, ice cream, and chocolate, with maybe a really good burger and fries thrown in now and then.

Unfortunately, those don’t any good for my health or my figure. So really, I do what I can to eat better: oatmeal for breakfast, fruit salad for lunch, no fast food, healthy(ish) snacks.

Recently I’ve been reading quite a bit about so-called “super foods”: things that you eat that are extra-special-super-duper healthy. This is tough, since chocolate is only mentioned once and pizza not at all. But you have to look at it this way: You put garbage in, you get garbage results.  You put good stuff in……you get the drift.

It’s frustrating that I don’t love a plate of steamed broccoli the way I love a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Maybe I just need a little bit of attitude adjustment: it’s not a sacrifice; it’s an opportunity for self improvement.

Ugh. Doesn’t sound great, does it?

Still, most of the foods that are super good aren’t all that bad to deal with. And if you like being healthy, then you’re gonna love what they do for your body:

1) Lemon: For years, my mom’s been starting the day with a glass of warm lemon water. I guess I can’t argue with success. She’s 85 and in excellent health, so I’ve been trying to follow her example. Lemon contains all sorts of good stuff: calcium, potassium, vitamin C, pectin fiber, iron, vitamin A. Plus it helps prevent constipation and diarrhea, and flushes out toxins. Some say it even boosts your immune system. I don’t know about that, but it seems pretty harmless, so why not?

2) Broccoli: The first President Bush was famous for hating broccoli, and though I’m not a huge fan either, I eat it all the same. Why? Research shows it can help prevent osteoporosis, protect your skin against UV light, reduce cancer risk, and detoxify air pollutants in the body. Sulforaphane in broccoli may also significantly improve blood pressure and kidney function, and may also stimulate a variety of antioxidant defense pathways in your body that can reduce oxidative stress and slow down immune system decline.

3) Blueberries: Summer is blueberry time, so this one is, if you’ll pardon the expression, a piece of cake (which I also love). Blueberries have the highest antioxidant capacity of any fresh fruit and can boost your immune system.  What’s more, they can reduce belly fat, promote urinary tract health, and slow down vision loss. They’re also high in manganese, which plays an important role in bone development.  A study published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine  suggests that blueberries reverse age-related memory loss, thanks to their abundance of antioxidants called flavonoids, which have been found to activate the parts of the brain that control memory and learning. Laboratory studies published n the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry also show that the phenolic compounds in blueberries can inhibit colon cancer cell proliferation and induce apoptosis (programmed cell death). A significant 34 percent reduction in ovarian cancer risk was also seen in women with the highest intake of blueberry flavonoids flavone and luteolin.

4) Salmon:  Salmon’s main health benefit is that it’s an excellent source of  Omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower bad cholesterol while increasing the kind that’s good. It can also help repair heart damage, strengthen heart muscles, lower  blood pressure, and even prevent hardening of the arteries. Omega-3 fatty acids help your brain work better and improve memory. In conjunction with Vitamins A and D, amino acids, and selenium, these acids may also protect your nervous system from the deteriorating effects of aging.

5) Dark chocolate: Now this is something I can really get behind. Get this: In a 9-year Swedish study of more than 31,000 women, those who ate one or two servings of dark chocolate each week cut their risk for heart failure by as much as a third. And in a small Italian study, participants who ate a candy bar’s worth of dark chocolate once a day for 15 days saw their potential for insulin resistance drop by nearly half. This is great, too: chocolate and exercise work surprisingly well together: A recent study from Australia shows that eating chocolate high in healthy antioxidants reduced the blood pressure-raising effects of exercise on overweight individuals.

6) Potatoes: Lots of people stop eating potatoes when they’re trying to lose weight. But this is a mistake. If you want to lose weight, cut out the toppings — like butter and sour cream — but leave in the potatoes. Why? Potatoes are a rich carbohydrate source, so they help fuel the reactions you need for movement, thinking, digestion and cellular renewal. They’re also exceedingly rich in Vitamin B6, a substance needed for cellular renewal, a healthy nervous system and a balanced mood. And they can help reduce blood pressure.

7) Avocados: I really wish I liked avocados. Unfortunately, I don’t. Nonetheless, avocados are great for reducing the risk of inflammatory and degenerative disorders. They’re an excellent source of carotenoid lutein, which can help protect against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. The monounsaturated (good) fats in avocados can reverse insulin resistance which helps to regulate blood sugar levels. And the high levels of folate in avocados may also protect against stroke. A study has shown that individuals who ate a diet rich in folate had a lower risk of stroke than those who did not .

8) Garlic: Yep, garlic is for more than just keeping away vampires (although that’s pretty awesome). Garlic strengthens the immune system and helps fight chest infections, coughs and congestion. It can also reduce cardiovascular disease and has high levels of iodine, which makes it a very effective treatment for hyperthyroid conditions.

9) Spinach: I don’t know about you, but when I think spinach, I automatically think Popeye. But maybe he was onto something. The possible health benefits of consuming spinach include improving blood glucose control in diabetics, lowering the risk of cancer, lowering blood pressure, improving bone health, lowering the risk of developing asthma, and more. Spinach is also high in fiber and water content, both of which help prevent constipation and promote a healthy digestive tract. It’s also high in vitamin A, which is necessary for sebum production to keep hair moisturized and for for the growth of all bodily tissues, including skin and hair.

10) Beans: Beans are comparable to meat when it comes to calories, but they really shine in terms of fiber and water content, two ingredients that make you feel fuller, faster. Adding beans to your diet helps cut calories without feeling deprived. And beans are high in antioxidants, a class of phytochemicals that incapacitate cell-damaging free radicals in the body.

So how many of these do you eat?

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So what if it’s an El Nino year?

Believe it or not, people are already starting to plan their ski trips for next ski season. I know, I know. Seems like a long time off, but there are work schedules to juggle, kids to attend to, things to work around. People have to PLAN.

The problem with figuring out a trip so far in the future is the weather. You Just. Don’t. Know.

Lately I’ve been hearing that 2014-15 will be an El Nino year. What does that mean? El Niño is a pattern that develops when easterly trade winds in the tropical Pacific relax – even reverse – allowing a vast pool of warm water in the western tropical Pacific to move east until it reaches the west coast of Central and South America. This results in higher than normal sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Pacific, creating weather patterns that can cause droughts, storms, fires, and floods throughout the world. The last El Niño occurred in 2009 to 2010. The last big one, in 1997 to 1998, caused billions of dollars of damage around the globe.

The trouble is that even though there’s loads of speculation, no one can tell exactly what’s going to occur. Will it be a strong event? A week one? Will it even happen?

I took a look at the NOAA web site, and here’s what they think El Nino will do for our weather in January, February, and March:

Temperature predictions

Temperature predictions


Precipitation Predictions

Precipitation Predictions


But it’s not that cut and dried. Anthony Barnston, chief forecaster at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society in New York, believes it’s not clear right now how strong an El Nino this’ll be. A majority of forecast models suggest that it will be moderate, though many indicate it’s more likely to be weak than strong.

However, Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, says the coming event could rival the one strong one of 1997. He  points out that NOAA based its prediction mostly on data from April, and that more recent data show strong signs that waters off the coast of Peru are continuing to warm. And that means are more intense weather event. He also says that El Niño tends to drive the average west-to-east storm track farther south than usual. This means more winter storms for California, instead of the Pacific Northwest. Depending on the intensity of this El Niño, drought-stricken California could finally be getting some relief. The Northwest, along with western Canada and southern Alaska, tends to dry out during an El Niño and post warmer-than-normal temperatures.

The bottom line?  Who knows. Forecasters seem to have a lot of trouble figuring out what the weather’s going to be next week, let alone 6 or 7 months from now. So stay tuned. One way or another, we’ll all eventually find out.


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Sure, I [insert whatever] like a girl. You got a problem with that?

I can’t believe this is something I’m doing, but I’m actually posting an Always commercial here.

Always is what they euphemistically  call a “feminine hygiene product,” but that’s neither here nor there. Suffice it to say they sell to a lot of adolescent girls, an age where  confidence can take a big hit, with far reaching consequences — none of them good (I wrote about this here).

The Always commercial is about something near and dear to my heart: how doing something “like a girl” has come to mean doing something poorly. When someone tells someone you throw like a girl, it’s almost always meant as an insult. This has never made any sense to me. As one of the young women in the commercial says, “It doesn’t matter what they say. Yes, I kick like a girl, and I swim like a girl, and I walk like a girl, and I wake up in the morning like a girl,  because I AM a girl, and that’s not something I should be ashamed of, so I’m going to do it, anyway.”

In the following ad, Always takes “like a girl” and turns it into a message of empowerment. It’s inspiring, it’s a breath of fresh air, and it’s something I’ve believed my entire life — so much so, in fact, that TheSkiDiva store sells a T-shirt that says, “Sure, I ski like a girl. You got a problem with that?”


Anyway, without further ado, here’s the commercial. Watch it. Show it to your daughters, your sisters, your husbands and brothers. In fact, show it to everyone. It’s about time we broke down the old stereotype and changed the meaning of “like a girl” into something awesome. Because, after all, isn’t that what we are?

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Separating Sunscreen Facts From Fiction.

When I was a kid growing up, I used to slather on baby oil and sit on the beach and roast. The idea, of course, was to achieve the “perfect tan.” But what I usually ended up with was the perfect burn, instead.

Yeah, I was a moron.

Now, of course, we know better. Sun exposure can cause all sorts of damage to your skin, not to mention contribute to skin cancer. And yes, it can cause premature wrinkles, and who wants that?

So when I saw this on CNN about common sunscreen “myths,” I knew I had to post it here.

sunscreen-cancer-ftrMyth No. 1: Sunscreen is all you need to stay safe.

Reality: “Sunscreen is only one part of the sun-protection picture,” explains Francesca Fusco, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. “Just slathering it on and doing nothing else isn’t going to cut it because, even with sunscreen, there’s still up to a 50 percent risk that you’ll burn.”

You also need to seek shade between 10 AM and 4 PM, when sunlight is strongest; cover up with clothing, a broad-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses; do regular skin self-exams; and get a professional skin evaluation annually.

Myth No. 2: SPF measures levels of protection against both UVB and UVA rays.

Reality: The SPF (sun protection factor) measures only the level of protection against UVB rays. But several of the 16 active ingredients approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in sunscreens also block or absorb UVA rays, says Warwick L. Morison, MD, professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins Medical School and chairman of the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Photobiology Committee.

Ingredients include: avobenzone (Parsol 1789), octocrylene, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide, as well as the recently approved Mexoryl SX. Make sure one of these is in your sunscreen, or look for products labeled “broad spectrum,” which means they protect against UVB and UVA rays.

Myth No. 3: Some sunscreens can protect all day.

Reality: “Regardless of the SPF or what the label says, sunscreens must be reapplied every two hours,” Fusco says. “The active ingredients in most products begin to break down when exposed to the sun.” Only physical blockers such as zinc oxide stay potent after two hours, but not all sunscreens are made with these ingredients.

Myth No. 4: Some sunscreens are waterproof.

Reality: The FDA does not recognize the term “waterproof,” so don’t count on sunscreen to last through hours of swimming. The agency does recognize “water/sweat/perspiration resistant” (which means a product offers SPF protection after 40 minutes of exposure to water) and “very water/sweat/perspiration resistant” (which means it still protects after 80 minutes). To be safe, reapply sunscreen after swimming or sweating.

Myth No. 5: A sunscreen can provide “total sunblock.”

Reality: “No sunscreen blocks 100 percent of UV rays,” Fusco says. An SPF 15 protects against 93 percent of UV rays, SPF 30 protects against 97 percent, and SPF 50 wards off 98 percent. You should slather two tablespoons on your body a half-hour before going outside, so the sunscreen has time to absorb into your skin.

All this is well and good. But there are an awful lot of sunscreens out there. Which one should you use?

Consumer Reports recently tested sunscreens from both large and small manufacturers. All had to have an SPF claim of at least 30, be broad spectrum (protect against both UVA and UVB rays), and be water-resistant. They considered cost, too.

Here are 7 they recommend:

  • Banana Boat’s Ultra Defense Max Skin Protect SPF 110 spray, at $1.75 an ounce.
  • BullFrog Water Armor Sport InstaCool SPF 50+ spray, at $1.67 an ounce. This was one of the two screens that lived up to its SPF claim.
  • Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50, at $1.38 an ounce.
  • Neutrogena Ultimate Sport SPF 70+ lotion, at $2.75 an ounce.
  • Target’s Up & Up Spray Sport SPF 50 spray, at $0.80 an ounce.
  • Walgreens’ Well Sport SPF 50 spray, at $1.58 an ounce
  • Walmart’s Equate Ultra Protection SPF 50, at $0.56 an ounce.

And here are 13 they don’t:

  • Alba Botanica Very Emollient Sport SPF 45, at $2.75 an ounce.
  • Banana Boat Kids SPF 50, at $1.25 an ounce.
  • Banana Boat Sport Performance CoolZone SPF 30 spray, at $1.42 an ounce.
  • Beyond Coastal Natural SPF 30, at $4 an ounce.
  • California Baby Super Sensitive SPF 30+, at $6.90 an ounce.
  • Coppertone Sensitive Skin SPF 50, at $1.67 an ounce. This sunscreen lived up to its SPF claim, but only earned a “fair” rating for UVA protection.
  • Coppertone Sport High Performance SPF 30 spray, at $1.67 an ounce.
  • Coppertone Water Babies Pure & Simple SPF 50, at $1.31 an ounce.
  • CVS Sheer Mist SPF 30 spray, at $1.80 an ounce.
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist SPF 30 spray, at $1.90 an ounce.
  • No-Ad Sport SPF 50, at $0.63 an ounce.
  • Target’s Up & Up Kids SPF 50, at $0.64 an ounce.
  • Walgreens’ Well Baby SPF 50, at $0.80 an ounce.

Consumer Reports recommends applying all sunscreens at least 15 to 30 minutes before you go outside. And they say to use spray sunscreens carefully. The FDA is exploring the risks of inhaling spray sunscreens, but until the results are known, they recommend not using them on children, and not spraying them directly on your face. Instead, spray them on your hands then apply. Sprays are flammable, so let them dry before going near an open flame.

Whew. And you thought sunscreen was easy. But the bottom line is this: no sunscreen will work if you don’t use it. So apply frequently, be careful of the sun, and be safe out there.

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