Life after 50

Life after 50

Curious about life after 50? I started FiftySister for myself primarily, somewhere to write down my thoughts about ageing and life after 50. Creating content for this blog and social media channels is a lot of effort, but I really enjoy writing and taking photos for other women. After all, that’s where I started my journey, spending time online, seeking out new ideas and inspiration to make the most of my life after 50. Being over 50 isn’t all Tena lady and support pants, there’s a lot more on offer to women of every age, in fact, it seems that age is no limit at all to some women.

Ask the Doctor

I’ve told this story before but if you are new here its’ definitely worth reading on… I met a doctor who looked after senior patients, he was in his 70’s himself. I asked him “What’s the number one thing you have learned from working with elderly patients?” He didn’t hesitate with his response. ‘People who thought they were old, acted old and expected to get sick. They didn’t take care of their health or exercise. They had resigned themselves to illness and early death and therefore decided there’s no point limiting their intake of food or alcohol,  they’d spend all day watching TV, eating crap without limits. Those who didn’t think about the number on the scoreboard (their age) continued to live their life as though it would never end. They took care of their health by limiting alcohol, exercising daily and eating lots of the good stuff, like colourful fruit and veggies’. “Did it make a difference to their final years or health?” I asked. With a hearty laugh, he boomed ‘Of course! The ones who looked after their bodies for the long term, lived longer and weren’t so sick. They didn’t expect or want to be sick, so when they showed signs of illness, they took action immediately’.

These are the Doctor’s words, not mine. This conversation happened on my 50th birthday. Those words have stayed with me to this day.

What are you worth?

What are women over 50 worth to companies who market on social media? To many companies, our demographic is strangely worth less than that of younger women. Which is surprising, as we have time to shop and money to spend. Recently a hair care company contacted me, asking me if I would make videos and posts for them in return for a free bottle of shampoo. My response – “Do you think I can pay my electric bill with shampoo?”  – ‘What?’ – was the reply of the hair care company. “Well, you are asking me to perform like a monkey for a banana or a handful of nuts.  My work is worth more than a banana, so unless energy companies start accepting bananas or shampoo instead of money, I am going to happily decline your ungenerous offer”. From my own experience, if I work for free, that’s what a non fee paying customer’s value of my time is. Nothing. Zero. Not even a banana.

There’s no magic pill.

I’m worth more than that. Even though I’m quite partial to a banana. I value my time, so I will never work again for free.  I also value my time on earth and I know there’s no magic pill. I take care of myself by eating lots of plants, nuts, seeds, beans and fruit. I exercise daily, I don’t drink alcohol very often (2 glasses of wine or cider per week) and I spend as much time as possible with my dogs and in nature. I could still get sick of course, but I am doing everything within my power to make that less inevitable. In my head (and heart) I’m still 18. My face isn’t playing along, but I’m completely happy with my wrinkles, age spots and creases. I’ve enjoyed many days outside hiking, swimming and lazing in the sunshine. Laughter lines are to be celebrated. Those happy moments are written on my face for all to see. I hope I get many more belly laughs and lines before I return to, and become part of, mother earth again.

Thanks for stopping by, have a beautiful day!

Gail x

To get in touch click here.

Anti Social Media

Cutting down on social media time was much more difficult than I thought it would be. A few months ago I suspended my FaceBook account, tired of all the notifications beeping on my phone or flashing up on my screen. I have a UK phone and a Portuguese phone. That’s two lots of messages/Whatsapp/Telegram notifications to contend with. I had Facebook and 3 Instagram accounts; my own personal account, FiftySister and an account for my art. I have several email addresses which I monitor – receiving hundreds of messages per day. It was just too much noise all day every day and my brain was slowly frying, from the effort involved in constantly managing contact via so many apps on my phone.

My first post on Instagram 2019 after deciding to ditch the dye and embrace my silvers.

I didn’t start my Instagram account to make money or to promote anything, I made it to hopefully inspire other women to enjoy ageing as much as I do and to embrace their silver hair sparkles. What started as a bit of fun, became a full time unpaid job. I was offered lots of promo and sponsored posts from a huge variety of companies, but I never accepted any paid content as it didn’t fit with the lifestyle I was promoting. For example, how can I promote products that aren’t vegan or cruelty free? Or products which can stop incontinence if I don’t have it? Or menopause creams and potions which are irrelevant for me as I take HRT. I got very frustrated watching women my age promoting products for wrinkles etc when it was clear they had botox or fillers. Nothing wrong with any cosmetic procedure of course, we are free to do with our bodies what we choose, but it’s unrealistic to expect the same results as someone who clearly has regular botox injections.

My photos are always unfiltered using natural light to show my wrinkles in all their glory.

I also saw a lot of women jumping on the cruelty free beauty bandwagon, and then 2 minutes later sharing a photo of their roast leg of lamb or their ‘ethical’ leather jacket….how can a leather jacket be ethical? I doubt the cow willingly gave up their skin for that biker jacket. I am not a militant vegan. You are free to choose your own path in life and take what you want and need from the planet.  I choose not to take a life to improve my own. I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, once I became vegan, and I felt a physical difference in my body within a week or so. To be completely honest I was shocked how quickly a plant based diet changed everything about my body. But more on that another day…

Creating delicious plant based food is another one of my many passions.

Time spent on social media was time away from real people – ironic eh? It really should be renamed antisocial media. It also took time away from my creativity, which had been a great source of stress relief for me. Looking back, I’d stopped seeing people, let go of all my recreational activities and replaced it all with screen time and arguing with strangers. Social media is a drug that you just can’t wean yourself off easily.

Doing something I really enjoy – creating art. A waterside cafe in Tavira.

Reels is the worst thief of time, or so I thought until I discovered TikTok. My plan with TikTok was to upload content already created for Reels and to just throw it on the TikTok feed and ignore comments and messages. But… of course that wasn’t the case. I uploaded about 8 videos and left them unattended. I checked again to find I have a few hundred followers. Weird given that I had zero interaction with the app. I decided (I have no idea why!) to upload another couple of videos specifically for TikTok and boom! Within 24 hours I have thousands of new followers. At this point I panicked and decided to suspend my account. If I can’t cope with Instagram followers, why the heck would I try to make my situation worse? I also temporarily suspended my Instagram account to give myself some breathing space. Within 1 day of not posting on Insta I have emails asking where I have gone. What to do…? I reinstated my Instagram account but at the moment I am not posting anything new. I don’t really want to delete all the content yet….but maybe that time will come. I think it’s impossible to wean myself completley off it as I enjoy the creativity of it. I really like editing videos!

Now available as a download on my Etsy Store. Click image to view

Since stepping away from all social media and taking an extended break, I have picked up lots of my creative hobbies again. I made Bird a new collar using Para-chord which was really therapeutic and completely distracted me from all that is going on in the world. I started creating art using photos I have taken whilst out on my bike. You can see this on my new Instagram account @ginandbird (I’m just posting and not monitoring that account at all) and I’ve collected lots of shells and driftwood to make wall art. I design T shirts for my FiftySister store and I’ve also started designing digital art like screen savers/wallpaper (like the one above) based on my own need for something fun and colourful. So I’ve been very busy – oh and I’ve been building my house here, which is going very smoothly. Busy, busy, busy, just the way I like it.

My house loulehills.com is progressing nicely. A detailed update coming soon by popular request.

I shall continue writing and sharing my thoughts here, with potentially YouTube videos in the future, but I still don’t know whether I will do this so please bear with me. I have to find a balance that gives me a platform to connect with like-minded women, which doesn’t steal so much of my time. If anyone has any suggestions about how I can achieve this, please get in touch. I am a very private person who loves taking photos, writing and making videos – I’m a complete contradiction.

Social media is great for finding ideas and seeking out like-minded people. But you will stir up a hornet’s nest if you voice an opinion. I lost 7k followers overnight when I posted a reel regarding my feelings about informed consent. The reel was taken down by Instagram and that’s when I decided that I couldn’t continue to invest time on a platform which is so biased and fragile. One mistake and you are shadow banned or worse still deleted for ever.

Thank you for continuing to follow along on my life journey here. I love writing about anything and everything, so be prepared for varied content. I hope you have a beautiful day.

Gail xxx

New sweetie heart design published this week. Click image to view.

In Algarve you can truly taste the sunshine all year around.

Before moving my life to Portugal, I day dreamed of gathering fresh oranges each morning in the sunshine, wearing my pyjamas and flip-flops, and snacking on sticky, syrupy sweet figs, straight from the tree whilst hiking the rugged, dusty, mountain trails with my dogs. 

Straight off the tree and into my belly.

Finding good vegan places to eat, off the tourist trail or away from the coast can be very challenging. Even though there are; mangoes, avocados and figs in abundance, it’s very hard to find a mountain restaurant which serves an attractive or tasty vegan meal. The chef will always oblige with a vegan plate, but don’t be surprised if you receive; a bowl of hot cabbage stew on a summer’s day, gazpacho with cheese and ham generously sprinkled on top, or avocado toast topped with two perfectly fried eggs. 

FiftySister designs available on T shirts and accessories. Click here to view

Summer sunshine treasure

In late summer, the fig tree boughs are heavily weighed down with an abundance of soft, ripe, delicate green or black fruit. Some have gone past their best and are drying naturally on the tree, others are simmering perfectly in the warmth of the day, oozing sweet, blushing, cerise, strawberry jam-like goo, completely beyond comparison to shop bought fruit.

Saturday is fresh produce market day in Olhão.

The local markets are filled with fresh produce, grown, picked and sold directly by the farmers. Honey available in every shade of amber, gathered from bees feasting on carob, rosemary, orange blossom and wild herbs. Summer fruits and salad are grown and harvested all year round. Crumpled skinned ‘Rosa’ tomatoes are huge and heavenly. It’s a foodie paradise! 

Wild flowers start to appear from January through May before the heat of summer.

Village stores filled with local artisan produce

Ask most people about the best Portuguese food, and they will tell you all about the ‘Porco Preto’ which is Iberian black pig and ‘Javali’ which is wild boar. Or perhaps the huge variety of delicious local artisan handmade fresh, cured, or smoked cheeses, (mostly from sheep or goats) available in every village store. But for me, as a vegan, it’s all about the fruit, veggies and wild foraging. On the trail, there’s easy pickings of black mustard, wild asparagus and nettles, with the scent of wild herbs such as thyme, fennel, rosemary and water mint in the air.

Wander the pretty cobbled streets of Olhão behind the market halls.

Make time to visit the farmer’s markets

Head over to Olhão market on Saturday morning to find chillies in every shape, colour and heat for around €4 per kilo. I use a handful of freshly pounded chillies and plump purple garlic to make Sambal Belacan. Or, chillies dried at home for a few weeks, chopped then scalded with peanut oil, make an ideal coating for noodles or blanched carrot tops.

Straight from the market and into my dehydrator for a few days to gently dry the fruit.

Mountain life

I lived for several months last year in the mountain village of Salir, 20 minutes north of Loulé. The days are warmer inland than the Algarve coast in the summer by several degrees, and in winter we enjoyed beautiful crisp, frosty, early mornings. A glassy frost carpeted the vibrant, green, grassy floor of the mountain orange grove. Small frozen puddles and dried carob fruit crackled underfoot as I made my way past the mill pool, to the heavily laden orange trees, which look out towards the table top mountain of Rocha da Pena. Some oranges dispensed lots of juice and were packed with seeds, some were almost seed free but unwilling to surrender their liquefied treasure. At -2℃, the oranges are cold, the juice is already chilled to perfection.  

View from the millpond towards Rocha de Pena, Salir. Algarve. Portugal.

You can truly taste the sunshine all year around. Oh, did I mention the wine? Maybe next time!

Intermittent fasting and Keto with vegan diet

Intermittent fasting and Keto with vegan diet

I’m as lost as everyone else in my midlife journey, so don’t follow me thinking I have all the answers. Every day is an opportunity to learn something new. Over the past few months, I’ve been trying different eating patterns including intermittent fasting and Keto to keep my weight within a more healthy range. I’d noticed that my jeans were getting tight in October and my face looked puffy aka chubby! At my starting weight of 11stone 5lbs/159lbs/ 72.12kgs, I was definitely moving outside of a healthy weight range for my height of 5’6”/ 167.64cm. Most importantly I felt heavy and wanted my jeans to feel less snug.

Lots of fresh veggies available daily at the local produce markets in Algarve.

I decided to try intermittent fasting as I’d heard lots of success stories about not only weight loss, but also that the body puts its effort into repair mode when calories are scarce. I went full ahead but without doing any research regarding best times to eat etc, I just thought I would wing it to see what worked best for me. I don’t like eating large meals later in the day anyway, as I don’t have the time to walk off the full belly feeling at night and feel less inclined to exercise after food. I planned to eat breakfast, lunch and miss out my evening meal all together. The first thing I noticed was that I wasn’t in my usual good mood first thing in the morning, I was grumpy, impatient and short tempered, but this was short lived and quickly remedied by eating breakfast. I normally eat a wholefood plant-based diet, rich in fresh fruit and veggies, nuts, seeds and beans. Breakfast could be nut butter on toast with extra toasted seeds and sliced banana. Lunch would usually be rice or noodles, with tofu, seitan or tempeh as the substitute for animal meat protein, lots of veggies with some fruit afterwards.

My homemade vegan fruit curry

In the evening, I opted for a large glass of freshly squeezed/prepared watermelon or orange juice. I felt hungry occasionally, but a cup of matcha tea would dull that feeling until the next meal. For me, the intermittent fasting approach meant that I could continue eating exactly what I wanted, carb heavy with pizza, pasta, toast (lots of wheat!) with no extra meal planning or major change in diet. I quickly lost 16lbs/7.26kgs without much effort or inconvenience. My energy levels remained high during the day, with only a notable dip first thing in the morning before breakfast.

Freshly baked Portuguese corn bread.

My weight stabilised at 144lbs/65.31kgs and didn’t budge any lower. I had plenty of energy for hiking, swimming and cycling with little thought or concern for what I was eating. I’d highly recommend this way of scheduling food as it’s as simple as only eating two meals per day.

Cycling around Tavira town and Santa Luzia is still very pretty in winter. Weighing in here at 144lbs /65.31kgs.

In December, I started listening to podcasts about the keto diet. As a vegan, this is a little more difficult as I don’t eat animal protein which makes up most of the keto diet plan. I was curious whether it was feasible to follow a keto plan as a vegan. Instead of toast or a vegan pancake for breakfast, I had either an apple or banana with nut butter and toasted seeds. Interestingly, I didn’t feel hungry at all at any point during the day. For lunch, I substituted wheat spaghetti with a sweet potato version, which is gluten free and lower in carbs. I followed a keto way of eating for 2 weeks and within the first couple of days I noticed I was peeing more. I expected to lose a couple of pounds over the first 2 weeks, but actually the result was zero weight loss. I was still exercising 2-3 hours per day, sleeping very well, not feeling hungry and my energy levels remained constant. No highs or lows, just adequate.

https://justtaste.de/

It’s important to note that I stopped drinking alcohol a few months ago as I noticed that after only a small glass of wine, I would feel less than 100% the next day. I feel like I am recovering from poisoning after only a small amount, so it seems pointless to continue drinking. I was a social drinker, enjoying a glass of Gin & Tonic with friends, but rarely drank alcohol when home alone. Giving up alcohol was easy, maybe when we return to a more social way of life I will be tempted to crack open a bottle of Ginger & Rhubarb gin….who knows?

I have become very conscious of my intake of cereal, especially wheat which I am keen to reduce. Trying the keto way of eating forced me to find alternatives which I really enjoyed. Especially the sweet potato spaghetti/noodles. I could happily continue on the intermittent fasting regime without any stress about carbs, but I did like not feeling hungry on a low carb diet.  Going forward I will continue with two meals per day, but try harder to reduce wheat and carbs to combine intermittent fasting and Keto to keep my weight stable.

It’s important to me to stay in shape and to ensure I feed my body what it needs rather than what I want. It’s not always easy as there’s so much temptation, but ultimately, I know that if I want to live a long and active life, I need to invest in my health every day. I will keep you posted and share updates and recipes along the way.

What have you tried which worked for you? Have you tried intermittent fasting?

Vegan fruity curry

fruity curry
Intermittent fasting and Keto with vegan diet

My own recipe vegan fruity curry

This vegan fruity curry is one of my favourites! I know this list of ingredients looks never ending, but I keep all of these things in my store cupboard. I use them often so its worth keeping all these treasures in your pantry. You can substitute the mangoes for peaches and the almonds for cashews etc. This is the way I like my fruity curry but customise it as you wish.

fruity curry

Fruity chickpea curry

Delicious indian inspired chick pea curry with tropical fruit, fresh herbs and toasted nuts.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian

Equipment

  • Pan

Ingredients
  

Fruity curry

  • 2 tbsp mustard oil
  • 1 sliced red onion
  • 2 whole dried or fresh chillies
  • 1-2 cups water
  • 3 whole crushed cardamom pods
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 4 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 thumb grated ginger (or one tablespoon)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 can)
  • 1 veggie stock cube
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • half cup chunky peanut butter

to decorate and present

  • 1 cup fresh sliced mango
  • half cup toasted flaked almonds
  • half cup coriander (cilantro) leaves
  • 1 tbsp fried onions
  • 1 whole sliced banana
  • 1 pinch salt - optional (taste and adjust before decorating)
  • 1 lime

Instructions
 

  • Heat pan and add mustard oil to fry onions and brown dried chillies
  • remove chillies from pan and keep one tablespoon of fried onions back to decorate at the end
  • When onions are browed, add 1 cup of water to soften, stir and simmer for a couple of minutes
  • Add crushed cardamom pods, cumin/nigella/black mustard seeds
  • Add ginger, garlic, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, garam masala, curry powder, chickpeas, mix and simmer for 5 minutes (may need some water, add a little).
  • Add coconut milk, smoked paprika, peanut butter, mix and simmer for 20 minutes
  • Time to dress it up with; mango, corainder, toasted flaked almonds, the cooked chillies, fried onions, sliced banana and anything else you fancy!
  • Enjoy with basmati rice!
Keyword chickpea, curry, spicy, vegan
I buy fresh chillies from Olhão market and dry them to make my own chilli & curry powder.

Make this fruit curry as hot as you like. I buy fresh chillies and dry them in a dehydrator. In this recipe, I’ve used two dried chillies which I fried with the onions and then removed, until you see them again the end when I use them to decorate the dish. The reason for doing this is that my husband doesn’t like hot curry, but I do. So I chop the chillies up and sprinkle on top of the curry on my plate only. It means everyone can enjoy the same dish, which is tasty and fragrant without being spicy, until you add the chopped chillies.

It’s worth the effort and will impress everyone when they see it and taste it. Check back often for more recipes!

Now…cook off!

Gail x