At the age of six, I wrote a letter to Santa Claus letting him know that I had behaved very well that year, giving examples of when I was nice, and leaving out details of when I had been naughty (according to my mother). I always included my "Dear Santa, it would make me so happy if you could bring me..." list so that he would know exactly what to put in his bag on Christmas Eve when he came down the chimney (which we didn't have, but that didn't stop me from believing).
That year (1962), I wanted a Barbie, a bike, roller skates, and some coloring books. My mother -- um, I mean, Santa -- rewarded me for making his life so much easier by listing everything I simply had to have: on Christmas morning I found all these things (plus a few surprises) under the tree.
When my daughters were old enough to write, I instructed each of them to send a respectful letter to Santa -- always inquiring after Mrs. Claus, who, I explained, did most of the work but got none of the glory -- making sure to include a recap of their behavior that year, even though they understood that Santa would have already gathered this bit of intelligence. At the end of each letter came the list. My husband and I had a ritual: after the girls were asleep, we would sit down with a cup of mint tea, some homemade Christmas cookies, read the letters and smile: once again, we held the key to the magic of Christmas in our hands.
Just because we're adults doesn't mean we can't have lists, too. The holidays are a crazy time of year, and we're all so busy running around getting the perfect gifts for everyone else that we often forget about ourselves and our own needs. In addition, loved ones are left wondering what they should get us and end up giving gifts that are quickly placed into the re-gifting or recycling pile.
In an effort to help the cause, here's a list of things that every woman over 50 (or just about any age, for that matter) should have in her Christmas stocking this year. Many were recommended by the experts I interviewed for "The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts' Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money and More," but a few I've discovered on my own. Most are inexpensive and easy to find, and all are must-haves for a healthy, fit, and stylish New Year. I suggest that you forward this list on to all the Santas in your life, so all they have to do is click and buy. Simple.
One of the most important things you can do for your health and well-being is move your body every day. Gentle running is an effective way to build endurance and stamina, but for starters, walk 10,000 steps every day. A simple, inexpensive pedometer, like the one designed by running guru and former Olympian Jeff Galloway, is all you need, and every step you take is one step closer to better health.
Whether you choose to walk those 10,000 steps or add a little gentle running (with walk breaks), you'll need to have a good pair of running shoes from a reputable store. Running shoes that fit you and are designed to support your particular needs are essential.
Retinoid products speed up skin's natural sloughing action to smooth fine lines and wrinkles, remove brown spots, and even out skin tone. Retinoids are derivatives of Vitamin A, and you can get them from your dermatologist or over the counter, but it's highly recommended that you go for the prescription-strength. You only need a pea-size amount, and make sure your skin is completely dry. There are no magic amulets when it comes to skin care (except keeping out of the sun), but Retin-A is as close as it gets.
Less is more and simple is best, especially when it comes to skin care. After you've exfoliated your face (use a little bit of plain white sugar on a soft wash cloth), apply a daily moisturizer with a powerful SPF -- like Neutrogena's Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer with SPF 50. It's an easy way to moisturize and protect your skin with one product.
This is Carmindy's (a makeup expert in my book and a star of TLC's "What Not to Wear") secret weapon for a fabulous face. Highlighters should be pearly, and cream color is generally best. Apply a few dots of highlighter -- like Benefit's High Beam -- under eyebrows, on the inside corners of your eyes, and on top of your cheekbones. Blend it all in, and the result will be a luminous glow in all the right places. Don't know where the top of your cheekbone is? Place two fingers side by side under the outer corner of your eye.
I wore tinted moisturizer for years because I hated the feeling of foundation on my face, until I discovered Laura Geller's Balance-n-Brighten. Made in Italy, it's a liquid that is then baked in special ovens. This amazing product takes seconds to apply (with a brush), tones down redness, covers problem areas, and is light and flattering. It's the one thing I might take with me to a desert island.
One of the best ways to define and highlight your eyes is to use a little eyeliner, but the goal is to apply it along your upper and lower lash lines as close to the roots as possible. It's faster and easier to use a pencil -- such as Revlon's ColorStay in Charcoal and Laura Geller's Waterproof Eyeliner in Black. Keep the line thin, or your eyes will appear smaller. Charcoal is best for day. Save the black for evening.
The most flattering shade for most women is a pretty pink. Go for sheer, light lipsticks, and avoid any that are thick and heavy. If you have trouble with lipsticks bleeding, or with color fading too quickly, try using a lip-colored pencil (not a dark one that gives you an outline), then apply your lipstick over that. One of the prettiest is Perfect Pink by Sally Hansen Natural Beauty Inspired by Carmindy.
Cardigans are a terrific year-round fashion accessory that look great with jeans, pants, skirts and dresses. There's a classic, three-quarter length sleeve cardigan from the Merona line at Target that is a must-have, and at a price point of under $15, get more than one. These have a fabulous fit, and fall just above the hip. Ask your secret Santa to bring you one in black, white, brown and blue -- for starters -- and get a size smaller than you usually would wear. They should be fitted, not baggy.
This dress, made famous by Diane von Furstenberg in the 1970s, is now made by many designers and retail brands. One of these in basic black can be worn for many different occasions, from the office to a cocktail party, depending upon how it's accessorized. Tie it on the side, never on the front, and not as a bow. Pair with sling black pumps or boots. This fantastic style flatters all shapes and sizes and is one of the most versatile dresses you will ever own.
There is no need to use shampoo on your hair every day, especially as we get older. The most important thing is to put moisture back into it by cleansing with water and a really good conditioner. A good choice is DevaCurl One Conditioner. Apply at the midshaft down to the ends, run it through hair with your fingers in the shower, count to five, squeeze moisture out of hair, add a little gel, position it, and let it dry (steer clear of blow-dryers as much as possible for healthier hair).
One of the best tools for losing and maintaining weight is keeping a journal. Ask for a beautiful journal in which you will write down everything you eat and drink, no matter how small. See if what you're eating -- or not eating -- matches up to your eating plan, and adjust accordingly. You won't always need to keep a journal, but in the beginning, it'll keep you on track.
You should always have a cell phone with you when you're out running and walking, and this one gives you the added benefit of music, too. You can even add apps -- like a pedometer -- so you only need to bring one device along with you. I never leave home without it.
The amazing experts I interviewed for my book have suggested many more products and routines for staying fit, fabulous and stylish after 50, so check out the book for more details.
Have a wonderful, healthy, happy, and fun holiday!
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More:Best Gifts For People Over 50 Gifts For People Over 50 Christmas Gifts 2010 Christmas Gift Ideas 2010 Gifts For Women Over 50
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