Beautiful

By Lisa Scottoline

Ladies, listen to me.

Give yourself a break.

Today I’m talking about Ozempic Face.

Some of you know what I’m talking about, and some of you don’t.

I didn’t myself, until five minutes ago.

So now I’m highly qualified to opine.

By the way, what follows is not judgment, but love.

We begin when I read a news story about women putting snails on their faces because snail slime is supposed to beautify your skin.

Wait, what?

The woman in the story was already beautiful, except for the snails on her face.

Meanwhile if I see a snail on the pavement, I put it on the grass.

It never occurred to me to put it on my cheek.

I don’t want slime on my face.

I don’t want slime anywhere near me.

I got the slime out of my life in my divorces.

The next story I read about was buccal surgery, in which women are having the fat removed from their cheeks.

By the way, don’t think this is from fly-by-night doctors. No less than the Cleveland Clinic says on its website that buccal fat removal “can highlight the bone structure in your face, especially your cheekbones and the hollowed-out areas between your cheeks and jawline.”

Because hollowed-out cheeks are supposed to be more beautiful than actual cheeks.

Or, well, cheeks.

Look, I’m not judging if you want to carve your cheeks like a Thanksgiving turkey.

But my cheeks came with my face.

I didn’t have to pay extra.

Like, they’re Included.

And I love Included.

I have Amazon Prime and Audible, and if a book or an audiobook is Included, I click, Gimme.

Included means free.

Free is good.

So I’m keeping my cheeks.

Plus they come in handy.

For example, when I rest my face on my hand.

I want a nice little cushion.

Not a hollowed-out bone.

Maybe that’s just me.

I love cushions.

There’s a reason I needlepoint pillows.

The next story I read was about lip filler, which is something you may have heard of. It’s an injection that you put in your lips to make them look puffy, because full lips are supposed to be more beautiful than thin lips.

By the way, it’s hard to know the rules, isn’t it?

Lips are supposed to be full.

Cheeks are supposed to be empty.

Don’t get it mixed up.

Or you won’t be beautiful.

But the thing about lip filler is that sometimes it leaks out of your lips, so all of a sudden, your face bulges in weird places.

They call this migration.

So you’ll think it’s a social movement rather than facial disfigurement.

If you ask me, the filler is migrating to your hollowed-out cheek.

Because cushions gonna cushion.

But the story that broke the camel’s back for me was about Ozempic Face.

Ozempic is a drug meant to treat Type-2 diabetes.

You may have seen the commercial with the Ozempic jingle.

Oh, oh, oh, it will drive you crazy.

But now women who don’t have diabetes are taking Ozempic because it has the side effect of giving you a gaunt face.

Which is called Ozempic Face.

So if you don’t want to carve your cheeks, you can get a shot.

Now we’re talking!

Finally, someone is thinking about us women!

Ladies, you don’t have to slice your cheeks off!

You can just take a drug meant for somebody else!

Never let it be said that corporations do not have women’s best interests at heart.

Because there are so many companies who make money telling you that you’re not pretty enough.

They spend a fortune to convince you that they’re right.

And they do this to women who are younger and younger.

They want you worried about wrinkles in your thirties.

So you can buy whatever they’re selling for longer and longer.

But they don’t love you the way I love you.

And they’re wrong.

You know who’s right?

Mother Mary.

She always told me, Be yourself.

And look, I get it.

We all want to improve a little, especially as we get older.

I’m trying to lose five pounds.

And I color my hair an unconvincing shade of yellow.

But there are limits.

If you find yourself digging snails out of the garden, you’ve crossed the line.

It’s a slippery slope.

And a slimy line.

So give yourself a break.

Moderation in all things.

Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Go easy.

It really doesn’t matter what you look like.

Be happy.

And do good for others.

That’s the most beautiful thing of all.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2023

Stewed

By Lisa Scottoline

Here’s a question for the ages:

What should I make for dinner?

I’ve asked myself that question every night, for as long as I can remember.

Before that, I remember asking Mother Mary, What’s for dinner?

Either way, in our family, it’s always about dinner.

We talk about food the way other people talk about books, plays, and movies.

Our culture was carbohydrates.

We even talked about dinner while we were eating dinner, and I remember talking about comparing past dinners to the present dinners. Like, “Ma, the gravy was better last night, did you add enough salt?”

But nowadays I live alone, and I love everything about it except for the fact that I never know what to make for dinner.

And the only person I have to please is me.

I always thought I was easy.

Evidently there’s a reason I’m divorced twice.

Of course the question is complicated by the fact that I’m trying to lose the seven pounds that I gained over the holidays, so the meal can’t be fattening, but it can’t be a salad either because that’s cold and it’s winter, and also I don’t eat meat and I’m trying not to eat dairy, so feeding me is way too much drama for one person.

God, she’s annoying.

Our story begins when I decide to try and make an actual dinner, instead of just throwing something together. I got the idea because I saw a recipe online that looked good. Organized people like Daughter Francesca have an online file in which they keep recipes, but I don’t.  

I email them to myself and forget about them.

And if I see them in the newspaper, I clip them and forget about them.

Bottom line, I have aspirations.

But no plans.

Anyway the recipe I saw was for lentil stew, and it was in the Washington Post, so this is a well-sourced recipe. And you were supposed to be able to make it in one pot on the stove, which got me excited because a long time ago, I bought a beautiful orange cast-iron pot shaped like a pumpkin, with a fake stem on the lid and everything.

I bought it because it was orange and my kitchen is orange.

Please tell me you’re equally fetishistic.

Meanwhile I never used the pot because the stem doesn’t fit in the oven.

I thought it would look great in the kitchen.

But it only looked great in the cabinet.

See what I mean?

Bad planner.

So I figured I’d use the pot for the recipe, but I didn’t know if you could use it on the stovetop, then realized I didn’t know what kind of pot it was.

What kind of pot is shaped like a pumpkin?

I asked Google, and the answer was a cocotte.            

Wow!

I didn’t know I had a cocotte.

Which sounds dirty.

Basically I forgot I had a cocotte.

Because I haven’t used it in a long time.

I should have known it was down there somewhere.

LOL.

Anyway I followed the recipe, which was putting soaked lentils in the cocotte with chopped onions, carrots, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes. It was a lot of chopping, but made me feel very gourmet, which is fitting since I am, after all, a woman with a cocotte, which might be redundant.

Then I added spices like coriander, cumin, turmeric, pepper, and even cinnamon.

Wow, exotic!

And I let it stew for the right amount of time, then served it to myself, all proud.

But it wasn’t that good.

I couldn’t figure out what I did wrong. I tried to be careful. I measured everything right, or at least I think I did. But I don’t know what happened, and it bummed me out.

Long story short, I made it again the next night, and even last night.

It still wasn’t that good.

I find myself back at the beginning, with my empty cocotte.

Sorry.

But I’m stewed.

And I’m on the hunt for new recipes.

Any suggestions?

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2023

Many Happy Returns

By Lisa Scottoline

photo of dogs on furniture

Here’s a question for you:

How old were you when you realized you could return something to a store?

Me, I’m thinking high school.

I say this because I can’t remember returning a single present when I was little.

Certainly we didn’t return Christmas presents.

I mean, to the North Pole?

Otherwise we got birthday presents, and I don’t think Mother Mary would have loved me telling her I wanted to return something she gave me.

I mean, it just wasn’t possible.

We got a present, and we liked it.

We were grateful, truly.

I don’t even remember not liking something my parents gave me.

Either we liked everything, or we didn’t get much.

Maybe both were true.

If something was the wrong size, we’d put it on anyway.

We’d grow into it.

Unfortunately, that’s still true.

But the growing is sideways.

I’m thinking of this now because all I do is return things.

This is part-and-parcel of online shopping.

Mainly, parcel.

And I don’t return stuff just because I’m picky, though I am.

But everything looks good online, but when you get it, the color is wrong, or the fabric is cheesy, or a medium isn’t really a medium, and we used to call this false advertising, but now we call it online shopping.

I saw an article that said returns to online businesses cost retailers $700 billion, but what choice do you have if something isn’t what they said it was?

If you can get a divorce, you should be able to return a sweater.

It’s basically the same thing.

Divorce is just another form of buyer’s remorse.

And believe me, I got receipts.

My latest return drama is a cashmere blanket.

Look, I know this is a champagne problem.

But sue me, I like cashmere.

And I love blankets, especially in winter.

I buy a lot of blankets and I put them on the couches, so I can stay toasty and warm.

Also it would look classy when people come over.

Of course people never come over.

So you see this is fantasy on top of fantasy.

Reality is that I put the blanket on the couch, then the dogs find it, scratch it into a nest, and tear out the threads with their nails.

But still.

So I bought the blanket, and it arrives, and I take it out of the box, but the yarn has a pull in the center.

It’s a tiny pull, but I saw it right away.

I tried to poke the yarn back in, but then it was a pucker.

You could barely see it, but I knew it was there.

Instantly, a question.

Do I return it?

It’s a hassle that comes down to time and money, because I’d have to put it in a box and drive it to the post office when I’m supposed to be getting to work.

So I’m doing the errand I thought I was avoiding in the first place.

Plus my time costs more than the blanket.

Not much, but still.

And honestly, it was the kind of pull my dogs would have laughed at.

The kind of pull they make when they’re just getting started.

It was a rookie pull.

On the other hand, I knew I’d be pissed every time I saw the blanket.

And it wouldn’t look good on the couch at my next cocktail party.

Also I forgot to mention I don’t have cocktail parties.

So we’re well into Fantasy Island.

Anyway, I decided to return the blanket, but I grumbled all the way, so I don’t want to hear retailers whine about what returns cost them.

Because the blanket cost me what I spent, my time and gas, plus the fact that my dogs had to find something else to destroy in the meantime.

And Mother Mary was right, again.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2023

Tiny Little Stars

by Lisa Scottoline

Column 13: Tiny Little Stars image from Shutterstock

Have you heard the bad news?

They’re discontinuing pastina.

Some of you will know what I’m talking about, and if you do, you might be bursting into spontaneous tears, throwing something against the wall, or letting loose a torrent of extremely creative profanity.

For the rest of you, who are normal, let me explain.

Pastina is a small, star-shaped pasta that I was raised on.

It’s babyfood for Italian-Americans.

Not only that, it’s served throughout your life, whenever you’re having a bad day, it’s cold outside, somebody broke up with you, you got a bad grade, or you find out Bradley Cooper is dating somebody other than you.

It’s also served when you’re having a great day, want a snack while you’re watching a movie, have nothing else to make for dinner, or just need a fix of the best food on the planet.

Pastina is perfect.

You can make it in about five minutes, by dumping some in a saucepan and boiling it, and you don’t worry if you overboil it because you don’t mind if it’s soft.

Nobody expects al dente pastina.

That’s against the pastina ethos.

You can eat it when you’re a baby, and when you don’t have your dentures in.

Its food you can gum.

You serve it in a bowl with butter and salt.

A lot, of each.

It’s cholesterol you eat with a spoon.

Or high blood pressure in a bowl.

With a side of Lipitor, you’re good to go.

You can suck it down.

It’s the easiest-to-eat food in the world.

They could probably make a pastina drip.

I know some people add egg to pastina, but we didn’t.

And some people add cheese, but we didn’t do that, either.

We were pastina purists.

I grew up loving pastina, and I served to Francesca as her first solid food, and she grew up loving it. My best friend Franca loves it too, and she was raised on it as well, and she served to her daughter Jessica who is my godchild, and our bestie lives are so intertwined with pastina that her mom Kippee made pastina for my daughter.

It’s the carbohydrate circle of life.

Ronzoni announced last week that it would no longer be making pastina, not necessarily for lack of demand, but because its supplier couldn’t make it anymore.

I don’t get this.

I’m pretty sure I can make pastina.

How hard can it be?

After all, I gave birth.

Ronzoni said on its Twitter account, “This wasn’t a decision we wanted to make.”

They tried to let us down easy.

I’ve divorced people with less regret.

I’ve thought, “This is a no-brainer.”

I didn’t say it out loud.

I’m not mean, just certain.

And I thought that with Thing One and Thing Two.

I was doubly certain.

Meanwhile Italian-Americans are reacting to the news with outrage.

To be fair, Italian-Americans react to a lot of news with outrage.

It’s part of our charm.

There’s a reason that most great opera is Italian.

Like, we’re an emotional bunch.

And after all, this is the Age of Outrage.

These days we’re all going from cranky to vaguely homicidal over something, and I would suggest that the cure for a bad mood is pastina, but that would only make you madder.

And I’m hoping you can relate.

I wonder if there is some food that’s so much a part of your childhood, identity, and soul that you couldn’t imagine if it didn’t exist anymore.

No?

You might have a healthier relationship with carbs than I do.

Ronzoni said that it had searched for options, but could not find a supplier that would make pastina “in the same beloved small shape, size and standards you have come to expect.”

Reading that, I felt better.

Pastina truly was “beloved.”

My feelings were officially validated by a corporation.

So I’m trying to move on.

RIP.

Rest in Pastina.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2023

Triple Double Dimensional Chess

By Lisa Scottoline

Wow.

Suddenly everyone is smarter than I am.

Especially Equinox gym.

You may have read about their new campaign, which is that they don’t accept memberships from people who join the gym as a New Year’s Resolution.

What a campaign!

These people must be geniuses!

In fact, they’re so smart that I can’t figure out what they’re doing.

Because practically everybody, including me, resolves to lose weight in the new year. If it wasn’t true before the holiday, it may be after the stuffing that stuffs all of us, not to mention my newfound love for whiskey sours.

Happy New Year to me!

And everybody else!

So the year turns to 2023 and we all decide to get healthier, the gym’s website says, We Don’t Do January.

Really?

As best I can tell from the website, their theory is that they do not want people clogging their gym in January, because these people do not keep going to the gym and are not sufficiently committed.

Like, these are January people.

And nobody likes January people.

Except I would’ve thought that these are exactly the type of people they do want.

In fact, I might be a January person, in general.

After all, I have signed up for plenty of subscriptions, not only in January but plenty of other months, and not only gyms, but various TV streaming services and other dopey things that I start to do and forget I signed up for. They go on auto-pay and keep getting auto-paid.

I auto-forget.

Or auto-didn’t-keep-my-resolution.

That’s exactly what I would do if I joined a gym, but I’m not going to join a gym now because they won’t let me.

But it got me thinking.

Maybe this is some triple-ninja reverse-psychology spin with a cherry on top.

By that I mean, maybe Equinox is thinking that if they say they won’t let me join in January, then I will go crazy trying to join in January.

Like the gym is playing hard to get.

If this is their plan, they got the wrong girl.

I am not one of these women who loves unavailable men.

Bradley Cooper doesn’t count.

Because in my mind, he’s not unavailable.

I’m pretty sure if I met him, I could convince him to love me, after I gave him a lot of whiskey sours.

Or I could just drink a lot of whiskey sours and forget about Bradley Cooper altogether.

By the way, have you tried a whiskey sour lately?

I know I’m dating myself, but somebody has to, and this is the world’s greatest retro drink. I re-discovered them recently, and it’s a delicious and sweet and comes with a cherry.

Who doesn’t love a maraschino cherry?

It’s like you won something!

And it’s so much fun to chase around the glass with your finger.

Plus I discovered you can buy whiskey-soaked cherries, so even my cherries can party.

Francesca came home for the holidays, and she’s a martini person so we made cocktails on New Year’s Eve and she toasted to the New Year and I toasted to the fact that I’m not going to chase the gym that won’t love me tomorrow.

I feel that there is an important life lesson in here.

Don’t let the smarties outsmart you.

Love yourself.

Have fun.

If they won’t let you join their gym, walk away.

Literally.

Instead of joining a gym, I started walking again, which I really love doing.

Basically I told the gym to take a walk.

Happy New Year!

Copyright 2023 Lisa Scottoline

Whoopee Socks

By Lisa Scottoline

So many are missing loved ones around the holidays, but they are always with us. And in that spirit, here is a Column Classic about Mother Mary. Happy New Year!

Mother Mary is visiting, and you know what that means.  More Scottoline family hijinks, most recently in the clothes department.  The change in climate from Miami to Philly has caused major wardrobe drama, and at all times, we have much discussion about what my mother should wear that day.  Turtlenecks strangle her.  Wool scratches her.  Silk snags.  Acrylic is perfect but only in cardigans.  Layers are too bunchy.  Given how picky my mother is, imagine my surprise when she came down for breakfast one morning wearing a white lab coat over her clothes.

My daughter and I exchanged glances. 

Mind you, Mother Mary is 4’11” tall and about a hundred pounds.  Her hair is white and cut close to her head, and with her brown eyes behind round glasses and her nose curved like a beak, she looks like a baby snow owl.  But in the lab coat, she could have been Dr. Bunsen Honeydew from The Muppet Show

Why she was wearing a lab coat, I had no idea.  I didn’t even know she had gone to medical school.

“Ma, is the doctor in?” I asked, setting a mug of coffee in front of her.

“What do you mean?” 

“Why are you wearing a lab coat?”

“I’m eighty-three.  Can’t I wear what I want?”

“But where’d you get a lab coat?”

“What’s the difference?”

“I’m just curious.  Don’t you think it’s a little strange?”

“Why?”

I gave up.  Answering a question with a question is my mother’s favorite thing, and if she wanted to play Dr. Mom, it was fine with me.  Plus I had noticed that some older people get tired of dressing normal and start wearing strange outfits.  Not all older people, but some.  I’m not naming names.  They’ve been getting dressed nice for a long time, and at some point, some of them they just stop bothering.  For example, under her lab coat, my mother had on cotton pants and a Miami Vice T-shirt she’s worn since Don Johnson was hot. 

Who can blame her? 

Not me, not really. 

At her age, I’ll probably be the same way.  In fact, I’m the same way already.  When I’m in first-draft hibernation, I wear the same fisherman’s sweater every day, which I bought for twenty dollars from a street vendor in New York.  It smells like the subway and guarantees I’ll be single forever.  It’s the comfort food of clothes, and since it harms no one, who cares?

I started frying eggs when daughter Francesca said, “I like the lab coat.  Wouldn’t it be funny if we all wore uniforms instead of clothes?”

“It might.”  I decided to play along.  “What uniform would you wear?”

“A trashman jumpsuit.”

“Why?”

“It would be so easy, and if you got trash on it, it wouldn’t matter.”

My mother nodded.  “See, that’s why I like my white coat.  It’s so easy.”

Wrong.  Chico’s is easy.  Lab coats are crazy.

It got me thinking about uniforms.  I remembered with fondness my sash from the Columbus Day parade, but that’s not the same thing.  A mail lady uniform would be cool, because you can carry dog biscuits in the big pockets.  The UPS guy gets to wear knee socks, which are way easier than pantyhose, but who wears pantyhose anyway?  I wouldn’t mind a chef’s uniform, because I could gain three hundred pounds and still fit into those checkered pants. 

Then I knew.  “I’d go with a motorcycle cop uniform.  I like the boots.”

“And the gun,” my mother added.

Francesca looked over. 

Half the time, we get in a wardrobe rut that might as well be a uniform, right?  For example, when I’m in second draft, which lasts three months, I switch to the sweater-jeans-Danskos trifecta common to suburban moms and English majors.  At book signings, I pair a pretentious jacket with pretentious jeans, because they match.  And the little black dress is my uniform for the night shift.  

Maybe it’s not the worst thing.  Uniforms make our life easy.  What we wear reflects the way we see ourselves and sends a clear message about us. 

My mother was saying, “My sister had quite an outfit.  After she lost all that weight, she used to go down the Navy Yard in shorts and high heels, with whoopee socks.”

“What are whoopee socks?” my daughter asked, and my mother lifted a thin, white eyebrow.

“You know.” But maybe not all messages need to be so clear.

Copyright 2022 Lisa Scottoline