I’ve apparently hit a milestone: The age at which women begin to disappear.

It started innocently enough. I walked into Ann Taylor one day, and no one offered their help.

“Maybe they’re busy,” I mused. But to my eyes, it seemed as if salesgirls were stumbling over their younger clientele.

“And who helped you today?” one of them cooed when I went to pay for my purchases.

“Not a soul.”

An assistant manager at our neighborhood grocery patted my arm this week.

“Do you need help to your car, dear?” she asked.

“Uh, no,” I answered, wondering how my appearance had conjured a “dear.” “Dear” is for little blue-haired ladies who stoop and teeter. I do neither, and I have highlighted, auburn hair. (Courtesy of my hairdresser, yes, but auburn nonetheless.)

In my 30s, I used to bristle when the 70-plus crowd at my inlaws’ condominium called me sweetheart or honey. (“Pick up after that dog, honey”; “Do you live here, sweetheart?”)

In my 50s, I’d kill for a “hon.”

Then again, maybe I’m looking at this wrong. “Dear” needn’t be dismissive. Webster’s calls it a friendly form of address (noun), expensive (adjective) or a declaration of surprise (exclamation). Those definitions put the manager’s question in an entirely new light:

“Do you need help to your car, Ms. Highly Valued & Wow! Expensive Customer?”

Why yes, I do. I’m a “dear” after all.

(Now, if someone can just share that with the folks at Ann Taylor …)

carrots-fennel-fronds

Highly Valued & Wow! Expensive-Tasting Carrots

Vegetable side dishes can fade into the mealtime plate, especially when they’re old favorites. But no one is going to ignore these: Golden-roasted, lemon-doused and tossed with finely chopped fennel.

  • 1 bunch carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 fennel stalks, top 4 inches only, fronds cut away
  • 1 tablespoon fennel fronds
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Coat the foil with nonstick spray.

Finely chop the fennel stalks and fronds. Set aside.

Spread the carrots on the foil and toss with a few tablespoons of olive oil. You want each carrot to be well-coated.

Season generously with salt and pepper.

Roast for 10 minutes. Stir, then roast an additional 10 minutes. Stir once more and roast 5 or 10 more minutes, until the carrots are browned in places and quite tender.

While the carrots are roasting, combine the lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

When the carrots are done, remove them from the oven. Immediately toss in the fennel and douse everything with the lemon juice and olive oil mixture. Stir well.

Serve immediately.

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