The Seguso glassmaking dynasty began in 1397 with Antonio Filux Segusi. Twenty-three generations later (with the 24th in the wings), they are still the premiere creators (and award-winners) of luxurious glass.
Our tour included a complete historical overview from co-owner Gianluca Seguso, followed by a visit to the workshop, where we got to see the craftsmen creating beautiful pieces, such as a plate that became a bowl as it was twirled in the air. One thing I learned (the easy way, not the hard way) is that even when glass looks cold, it’s hot. Glad I’m a good listener.
While I can’t guarantee you’ll have a poem read to you, I can say that you can sign up in advance for your own private tour. Like a number of magical places in Venice, it’s a private-ish place that isn’t widely advertised, so you’ll want to plan in advance.
After we left Murano, our water taxi took us to Fortuny on Giudecca, home to some absolutely gorgeous fabrics. As you get close to the island, look around and notice how the architecture is different from that of Venice. In 1919, founder Mariano Fortuny purchased the land (a former convent that had been closed down by Napoleon) from Giancarlo Stucky, a close friend and owner of the wheat mill next door. That wheat mill is now the very imposing neo-Gothic Hilton Molino Stucky.
The Fortuny property encompasses the fabric showroom and the gardens and home of the former owner, New York interior designer Elsie McNeill Lee, also known as La Contessa. The factory is also on the property, but visitors are not allowed entry in order to maintain Mariano Fortuny’s trade secrets.
Again, thanks to the prior reservation made by the Design Hounds organizers, we got to see both the showroom (open to the public on weekdays – weekends too in the summer), and the adjacent gardens. As a matter of fact, we came right after major restoration had occurred, and one day before the pool was to be opened. Dang, missed a chance to show off my new bathing suit.
Even if you don’t have a BA in Medieval Studies due to a love of European history, or didn’t grow up performing in musical theatre, thanks to a mom who had degrees in dance and costume design, you’ll still love both Seguso and Fortuny for their aesthetic appeal. Look at any painting of upper class Venetians from a previous century, and you’ll see what I mean.
Text and photos: Alexandra Williams, MA
Let’s walk through the sometimes confusing realities of killing off kilocalories. Once we appreciate the role carbohydrates and fat both serve in providing fuel, then we can understand how to select the “best” workout programs.
But first, when speaking of “the best” programs, we have to mention our recently created “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50.” (Go for it — click that link!) Even if you’re carrying extra ell-bees around the middle, you can still achieve a strong core. Why not feel more confident, capable, and comfortable in your body as you burn fat and gain amazo abs? Read more here as well: Get Ultimate Abs (Better Yet, A Strong Core)
And, we’re back …. Stick with us to the end where you’ll get 4 fat burning programs to try.
First, the goal is to have a caloric deficit to lose any weight. That deficit comes from the age old energy balance equation: take in fewer calories than we put out (eat less); put out more calories than we take in (move more). The entire weight loss picture is far more complex, affected by a myriad of other factors. For more on losing weight and fat, check out To Burn Fat, Do I Go Faster or Slower? Professional alert warning system activated — it’s not just about cals in and out, though you do have to start there! (Then continue with this post on another surprising factor that affects weight: Is Stress Making You Fat? )
Second, is that we break down carbohydrates 40 times faster than fat, with carbs supplying most of the fuel (energy) to power our exercise. Distinguish between absolute and relative numbers when thinking of fat loss. When you exercise with some intensity, you use a higher percentage of carbohydrates compared to fat as the fuel source. However, the highest total of burned calories is what you are going for. For that, you need to suck it up and add some effort.
Higher intensity exercise burns more calories; however, a long, slow approach is better than what most of the adult population is doing — uh, as in better than not much or nuffink! But a workout with some oomph to it at a higher pace will use more total energy (calories) than the lower intensity plan. Absolutely!
Third, thanks to international fitness expert, professor, and colleague of ours, Dr. Len Kravitz you get top level practical tips. He shared with us the exciting, proven, no-magic-required realm of the four best training programs to maximize calorie burning and become lower fat! He recommends we try all 4 methods.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Select a cardio activity you enjoy, such as cycling, running, walking, using a row machine. Go as hard as you can for about 30 seconds. Then recover at a self-selected, variable pace for about 3- 4 minutes. Complete 4-8 rounds for a total workout time of about 30-45 minutes. Dr. Len recommends changing up the mode workout to workout, especially if you have several favorite cardio activities.
And if you forget all this, simply recite the Kymberly mantra: “Go as hard as you can, as long as you can, as often as you can.” I hear the sizzle of calorie burning already!
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Along with a group of designers, I was part of a group that traveled to Venice and Milan. Just to be clear, I’m not an interior designer in any sense. I decorate my home in Early Dust Kitty. But I do know a lot about
bribing the organizers wellness, leading an active, healthy life, and travel.
This is my second trip to Europe as the oddball blogger in a group of designers organized by Veronika Miller of Modenus / DesignHounds, and it’s fantastic to see through the designers’ eyes. Our trip was organized around a visit to the Salone del Mobile Milan, probably the world’s biggest kitchen, bath and furniture show. But of course, we spent a few days in Venice, which I’m highlighting here. Stay tuned for an upcoming post with pictures of Milan.
As you vicariously travel to Venice by scrolling through my pictures, I’ll share some information about Liebherr, one of our trip’s sponsors, plus tell you a story about my attack freezer.
My younger son and I moved into a rental home that we own a few months ago. As part of our move we said goodbye to our fancy, new refrigerator and hello to a fridge that has only wire shelves that don’t do a great job holding food in place. And anything put in the back of the fridge freezes. Not a winning plan for my Dutch cheese or the celery. But the fridge is still better than the freezer, which has NO shelves at all. This means everything is sort of stuffed in. Every time one of us opens up the freezer door, the contents fling themselves at us and onto the floor. Every. Damn. Time. I hate the freezer with a passion. The freezer reciprocates.
Liebherr is a German company that makes refrigerators (I should mention the wine coolers too, knowing how much you all like wine). Roughly translated, Liebherr means “Love the Man,” so you KNOW I’m all over that.
I found my next refrigerator. It has glass shelves (ooh, aah), is Energy Star rated, and (drumroll please) has BioFresh compartments that keep my fruits, veggies, cheese and fish fresh for days longer than a standard crisper. This last feature had me at “hello.” I’ve even downloaded the free Liebherr BioFresh app in anticipation of receiving this fridge for my birthday (hey, Liebherr, it’s in August). The app tells you how long something would stay fresh in a standard fridge, how long it stays fresh in either the BioFresh or BioFresh-Plus drawer, and how to store it. For example, I picked the Zander fish from the app because it’s similar to my family nickname – Alex-ZANDER-a – get it? The app recommends the DrySafe (low humidity) over the HydroSafe (high humidity) compartment. When it’s wrapped and stored in the DrySafe BioFresh-Plus drawer, the fish stays fresh four times longer than it would in the pitiful excuse of a fridge in my house (and probably yours). I also learned that Zander fish has Vitamins A, B2, D & E, and Minerals Flourine, Iodine and Zinc.
Now I just have to figure out if limoncello counts as a fruit. If so, I can store it in the HydroSafe drawer. Or the wine cooler. Or, you know, drink it immediately. I hereby raise a glass to toast my happy memories of Venice and Milan, and to Liebherr for helping make my dreams come true (both the travel AND the plan to oust my attack fridge).
by Alexandra Williams, MA
Cardio exercise has officially moved into the number one spot for “the best thing you can do for your brain” (AARP Bulletin, Get Moving for a Healthy Brain, Sept 2013, pgs 12-13). Take that crossword puzzles, foreign languages, and musical instruments! (Also touted as great vehicles to boost brain power, but downshifted out of first place given the latest research).
If you want to keep smart, cut your risk of Alzheimer’s in half, repair brain cell damage, and basically grow a bigger brain, you’ve got to dance, baby, dance! Face facts midlifers and baby boomers — if you do not eke out at least 150 minutes of cardio per week, your brain actually shrinks every year post 40, year after sedentary year.
But if you want to increase your brain size and capability — cue harps and trumpets — then find a way to work in about 22 aerobic minutes each day. Or 50 minutes three times a week. Or 75 minutes twice a week. I can do this math for you because I boosted my brain teaching step class and walking my dogs. We’re easy around here how you get to the total and new studies support that ease. Sure walking for weight loss is wonderful (read our post on what walking can do for you). Walking for brain gain is even more powerful and impactful! Or try dancing, swimming, getting on a treadmill, biking, hiking, gardening even (could this be any easier? No I am not going to include watching Dancing With the Stars on this list even though I admit total fanaticism for the show.) It really does not take much time or effort to succeed with a brain fitness program.
Let me stress again how powerful movement is for your brain — each and every time you exercise, you get a bigger hippocampus (that’s sexy talk for the post 50 crowd); you stimulate the growth of new neurons; you cut your risk of dementia by 60 percent. Can I get a rah rah here with a pom pom thrown in please?
As Dr. Michael Luan, a friend and expert on Conscious Movement puts it, “We exercise to become better humans. Conscious Movement evolves your brain. The body is your ultimate tool for success, and we all have the potential for greatness. Success with your body creates success with your career, relationships, and ultimately, your life.” The better your brain, the better your life, wouldn’t you say?
Movement will improve your focus, increase your mood, enhance your decision-making processes, help your ability to plan, regenerate brain cells, help your memory, and basically outsmart all those young people who can’t believe how sharp you are for a person your age.
ACTION: Improve your brain and body at least twice a week when you subscribe to our blog. Enter your email and claim your free bonus while you’re at it.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
In 2014, Mayo Clinic released a study that stated, “Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.”Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Click To Tweet
And the journal Evolution and Human Behavior did an analysis that noted, “this study provides limited empirical evidence that more facially attractive people (N = 100) may be physically healthier than unattractive people.” Makes me wonder if the reverse is true – are healthier people more facially attractive?
In both my education and writing career, I use (and respect) good research, yet I wonder how much culture influences our self-perception of our attractiveness.
I am especially wondering this lately, as I recently went on a walk with one of my best friends. I’ve known her for over 30 years, and she has always been considered attractive. I find her to be still attractive, and have assumed she had the same opinion. She exercises regularly and is very disciplined about her health habits. Yet (after a 6-mile hike together), she mentioned being frustrated about her weight and “unattractiveness.” I put it in quotes because I strongly disagree with her, so refuse to give it legitimacy.
According to research, all her exercise and healthy habits should lead to her feeling pretty dang good about herself. Yet that definitely wasn’t the case. If she were in Russia or Greece (or most any other country), she’d be the cultural ideal (think blond hair, blue eyes and Marilyn Monroe curvy). Yet here in the U.S. we still reward women who are size 0 (how can someone be a null and actually exist) or 4. The average U.S. woman is size 12, so quite clearly reality and cultural expectations are not in sync.Do you judge yourself by your smiles or by your weight? Why accept outdated cultural norms? Click To Tweet
This makes me sad. Women, whether your age is 35 or 55, do you judge yourself unfairly, with an emphasis on looks? How often do you judge yourself based on your health? I have several friends with lifelong issues (MS, Hashimoto’s), yet every day they work really hard to have good health. To me, they are attractive because their faces reflect their determination, spirit and feistiness.
Be honest, do you judge yourself by your smiles or by your weight? Why do we accept outdated cultural norms? Why do we compare ourselves to our 25-year-old selves? How can we possibly win against unrealistic opponents such as these?
When I was a grad student in systemic counseling, we learned the expression “Fake it till you make it.” It was advice for our clients, based on cognitive-behavioral theory. I think it’s good advice, and I use it on myself.
Here’s how – My “resting” face is more of a frown than a smile. I don’t have the classic nose, cheeks, eyes or chin that our culture says is beautiful. Yet I don’t want to be 75 and wish I’d appreciated my 50-year-old self. When I was 50 I regretted not appreciating my 25-year-old self, and vowed not to do that to myself anymore. So I tell myself NOW that I’m good-looking. I work on my posture, which is an easy way to look more confident. And if you look more confident, you feel more confident. “Fake it till you make it” in action. I pose for lots of photos and I smile in them all. Then I post the best ones online so other people can comment about how much fun I’m having. My brain hears that and the repetition makes it part of my self-concept that I have a fun life. When someone tells me I look great, I say, “I agree (except on genuinely bad photos, such as a recent close-up of my sweaty nose).”Focus on good posture. If you look more confident, you'll feel more confident. Click To Tweet
If I tell myself I’m attractive, fun and confident, that’s what I’ll exude. And that’s how I’ll be perceived. So this post is dedicated to my truly beautiful friend, and I hope every woman who reads this thinks I’m talking to her. Dear ________, you are attractive, fun, and confident. It will make me very happy if you would do me the honor of agreeing.
ACTION: Now, get out there and kick some ass. And subscribe while you’re at it. You’ll look, feel, and move better for it.
Alexandra Williams, MA
Photo credit for birthday party: Ross Barrett.
FYI, none of the fabulous women in these photos are the friend I mentioned, though they are all definite hotties too.
Like most women over fifty, I was brought up not to hit or harm anyone. Girls don’t hit. End of story. Words such as jab, hook, counter punch were not words I used.
But then, there I was at my local gym, on a stair-climbing machine, putting in my obligatory thirty minutes. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman of a certain age, like myself, boxing. She was giddy, smiling and sweaty, jabbing with her pink gloves, swiveling hips, moving her entire body in a dancing rhythm, and having fun. And fun was not what I was having on the stair climber. Why couldn’t I box, I thought? Why couldn’t I have so much fun at the gym? I wanted what she was having.
Yes, us, women over fifty! I am here to tell you that boxing is simply the best cardio gift we can give ourselves. Fitness boxing—sometimes called non-contact boxing because you never hit another person—isn’t brutish or aggressive. So, here I am, age 64, with my own red boxing gloves and some newly-defined muscles, having almost too much fun at the gym.
At first, I kept thinking “this isn’t something I should be doing—really, is it okay to hit?” But with each jab, I overcame my reluctance as I punched the trainer’s resistance mitts. This deeply-ingrained cultural training—girls don’t hit—prevents most women over fifty from considering boxing. But nobody is hitting me, and I’m not fighting anyone. No gritty boxing ring is needed. And as I’m learning the techniques of boxing from my trainer, Kingsley, I’m appreciating the beauty in the sport, especially the artistic athleticism it requires. In boxing, power starts in the hips, requiring every muscle to serve a purpose, linking hands and hips in a dancer’s rhythm.Women Over 50: Have you thought of strapping on boxing gloves? This 64 year old found fun and fitness w/boxing Click To Tweet
If you’ve never thought about how much fun it would be to hit that punching bag at your gym– if words such as jab, cross, hook, and uppercut aren’t in your vocabulary yet—buy or borrow a pair of boxing gloves.
One day I hope, in the words of Muhammad Ali, “to float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”—light on my feet, with a quick, penetrating jab. I’m not there quite yet, but I’m hooked–hooked on boxing.
Bio: Nancy Sommers loves boxing and cycling, swimming and hiking, yoga and pilates–all fabulous and fun ways to stay fit. When she’s not boxing, she’s writing blogs, essays, and college textbooks. Nancy directed the Harvard College Writing Program and now teaches writing at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.
ACTION: Please comment below to let Nancy know what you think of boxing as a way to Hit to Get Fit! Might you give it a go?
Now I laugh at my arrogant youthful self. Hahahaha. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.
The tides have turned, and nowadays I see all kinds of things on social media that celebrate Boomer women. Of course, brands are still focused on pitching “age defying” skin products to us, supplements to “keep us young,” and independent living products. Guess what?! We don’t see ourselves as old and infirm or in need of “fixing.” We just want the same things we wanted at 30, but with wisdom attached.
For example, in my twenties I loved to go disco dancing. I still love it. The difference is that it’s no longer easy to find a venue that offers it. And I don’t have a wrap skirt. Back then my younger sister and I would parade back and forth to the ladies’ room a lot, as an excuse to
check out the guys let the guys check us out. If I made more than one trip to the bathroom at a public place now, people might think I have bladder issues, but I still like to check out the handsome guys. Just not the ones in their twenties.
There isn’t an age or specific date when we lose our desire to look attractive and feel sexy. Or if there is, no-one told me. And I don’t want them to. One of the many benefits to being older is that I don’t really care what other people think of me. I care what I think of me. I earned my confidence and right to be seen.
After a fairly rough 2015, I decided to join the La Boheme dance troupe here in Santa Barbara. I am not a professional dancer. I am a person who likes to dance. It’s stress-reducing. It helps keep my brain sharp. It’s a chance to make new friends. Most importantly, it’s fun. We wear some wild costumes. By “wild” I mean “super sexy.” Not once have I heard anyone suggest we are too old to wear these costumes. But I have heard people saying how happy they are to see women older than 20 doing dance performances in town. And we get a lot of compliments about great we look. Not “for our age,” just great. Period. As you look at these pictures, are you surprised that most of the women in them are in their 40s and 50s? One is even in her 60s. Just sayin’.
So if you are a Boomer women who wonders if you’ve got “it,” wonder no more. All you need is a smile, attitude, and confidence. Be flirty. Dance in public. Say thank you to compliments without adding caveats that negate that compliment. And if you don’t think you can do that, act as if you can. Fake it till you make it. You’ll see.
And if you’re in the Santa Barbara area, join the La Boheme dancers. We are going to be in the annual Solstice Parade. The theme is “Legends.” Practices start April 12th. Come to a meet and greet to learn more at Brasil Arts Cafe on State Street at 7PM.
As to me, I’ll be over here disco dancing. Bee Gees and Boomer Hotties Rule Forever.
by Alexandra Williams, MA
Photo credits: Ross Barrett, Gilbert Cruz and me.