Saturday, April 4, 2009

It's Time!!!

I have decided to move. My blog that is. This pea soup decor has worn on my nerves so please visit my NEW BLOG at

Hope to see you there!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Warts but With No Frogs to Show For It

The fact that I wore huge bifocals as a kid wasn't enough for "God" to gift me with. He apparently was feeling generous on the day of my creation and decided that one deficiency wasn't enough for me to overcome. So, to add further injury to my optically challenged insult, I was also stricken with mountain sized warts.

My first one was the size of an eraser head and, since it resided in the palm of my left hand, was hide able. I reasoned that it began one day when a rose thorn pricked me in the exact spot that was now adorned with a scalloped wart. Upon it's discovery I contemplated moving away to an island for rejects, but I found my life could continue as per usual. I quickly adapted and learned how to hide my wart. When washing my hands in public I was careful not to tilt my hand so that someone could spot it. And, given my huge bifocals, I surely wasn't going to be holding a boy's hand anytime soon so I didn't have to bother worrying about being discovered that way either. It wasn't long before my mom took me to the doctor and with his Frankenstein-like contraption he burned my wart off with a beam of electricity. The smell of victory was sweet and similar to the smell of burning flesh.

And then, in a matter of a few months they spread. Little by little the cauliflower offenders began to sprout up like a canvas over the top of my left hand. One wart was manageable, but now, every morning I awoke to find another cluster. They would start out as little unoffensive bumps that quickly grew in size. They reminded me of the sponge capsules you would put into a dish with water that would expand into a huge sponge creature where the little pill once was. I would stare at my hands every night before bedtime trying to commit their size to memory. Every morning I awoke to find the clusters were growing larger. I had dreams of them overtaking my entire body until I was one huge wart monster terrorizing the town folk.

As they grew they inevitably became harder to hide. When I was in class writing at my desk I would cover my left hand with my right hand as I wrote, successfully masking all 8 warts that covered the top of my left hand, but looking autistic and strange as I did so. Being left handed called enough attention to me, now I was the strange lefty who held the pencil with both hands. I was able to do this for one grade level and then, over the summer, they began sprouting up all over my right hand.

By the end of summer I looked at my plagued hands and cried. It was the end of my 5th grade year and I had hoped, in vain, for a new beginning in junior high. Unlike most other girls who would wish on stars to kiss a boy or get a pony, my wishes were for pretty hands and 20/20 vision.

I had tried everything to get rid of them. Given, this was many years before the invention of the Internet, I was reliant upon simple here say about how to eradicate warts. Since it was a topic that I would only talk about to my family, my main source was my grandfather. His advice - wait for a night when there is a full moon and on that night cut a tomato in half and stand naked in the backyard smashing the tomato onto all of my warts. Spin around in a circle and scream as loud as I could, "warts be gone, warts be gone". Thankfully, had it not been for my fear of public nudity, I may have attempted this ritual.

The thought of returning from summer as an even uglier 6th grader had reduced me to tears. Soon I was crying so hard, the kind of crying that you make that funny stuttered breathing sound, that I hadn't noticed my dad had walked into the room. If you knew my dad, you would understand that his ability to deal with an adolescent girl was right up there with his ability to swallow fire. There was nothing more out of his comfort zone than trying to deal with emotions, let alone mine.

Given that modern day health care escaped my father and that his idea of first aid was sewing his own finger back on with a needle and fishing line, it was no surprise that I found myself driving with him in his van to his "doctor friend's" office with a Thermos in my lap. I didn't question where we were going, all I knew was my dad was determined to get me to stop crying and that was enough for me. So I followed him, like a trusting and hopeful puppy into the waiting area as he gave the receptionist his name and muttered something about being a friend of the doctors and that, "he would know what it was regarding". Within minutes the doctor asked for us to come back and we were ushered into one of the patient rooms. He came in behind us and asked me for the Thermos. I hoped he wasn't asking for it because he was thirsty and cursed myself for not thinking to fill it with something before we left the house. Quickly my Thermos and the doctor left the room. I sat there in silence wondering what sort of exchange my father had worked out with this strange doctor and why the doctor was more interested in my Thermos than he was with seeing my warts. Soon he came back in the room and handed me the Thermos which was cold to the touch. "Be careful not to spill it on yourself" he said to me with a chuckle which was a cause for concern on my part. He and my dad exchanged awkward pleasantries and my dad and I left.

On the way home I held the Thermos tightly wondering what magical liquid the good doctor had filled it with. Was I supposed to drink it? Maybe it was a syrup I would drink and would kill all the warts. I imagined with great satisfaction the warts drying up and falling away from my hands leaving silky skin in their place. When we got home my dad positioned a chair over the sink in the kitchen and then dropped a handful of Q-tips on a paper towel next to the Thermos. "Just dip them in the dry ice and then press them on your warts. I'm going to watch TV, call me if you need anything." And with that my dad left his 10 year old daughter with a Thermos of dry ice and shaky hands.

I dipped the Q-tip cautiously into the bubbling frosting liquid and then stared at it for a moment before lightly touching it to the surface of the largest wart. It didn't hurt as much as I had imagined so I pushed the tip down with more force and it made a sizzling sound. I grit my teeth tightly together as electric jolts of pain radiated in my wart and up through my arm. At first, the pain caught me off guard but then, the hatred and anger towards them and all they plagued me with took over and I began finding joy in the possibility. I imagined myself wart-free for the first time in years. I imagined writing papers at my desk with ease, with nothing to hide from anyone. First, I focused on the warts on my right hand since I was naturally a lefty and could hold the Q-tip with more precision. After 40 minutes, I held my shaky right hand up and admired the beauty. The white cauliflower masses were now purple and blue suffocated masses encircled by red inflamed rings. Then my shaky and battered right hand enthusiastically grabbed a Q-tip and retaliated with brutal force. By the time I was done my hands looked more tragic than ever but I knew it was a sign of greater things to come.

I went to bed that night with throbbing hands. Stronger than my desire to cry from the pain, was my satisfaction. That night I dreamt of the town folk raging up against the wart monster that had plagued them for many moons. Tired of being the victim of his torment they carried flaming torches into the night. They tracked down the wart monster and backed him into a dark alley. The wart monster screamed as they burned him with their torches and then the screams began to fade...the wart monster was dead.

And they all lived happily ever after...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Worry Wart

On weekend nights, when my mom was out on a date, I would sit in the stairwell and cry. I would do it quietly so that my grandma couldn't hear me, and so she wouldn't ask questions. I worried that she would hear me and ask what was wrong and I wouldn't have a good answer. I was born with worry lines already etched into my forehead. I was an incessant worrier and my earliest memories were plagued by worst case scenario thoughts. In addition to my red hair, I also inherited my pension for worrying from my grandmother.

I never knew what set off the bad thoughts. Most likely all the TV I watched made my brain think life had to be drenched in drama for it to be interesting and live able. On this particular night, I was tormented by the Highway to Heaven episode. Michael Landon had come to earth to be there for a little girl whose mom had died in a tragic car accident. Ten minutes before my grandma sent me to bed, my eyes were glued to the televised image of a bloody hand hanging outside of the smashed upside down station wagon. In my adolescent mind Pandora's Box of possibility opened and I couldn't ignore the fact that my mom was out there in the scary world, and even worse, driving. It was then I decided her fate was undoubtedly going to be the same as this drama series actress' fate...enter incessant worrying.

So there I sat in the stairway with dreary images circling my influential mind, my eyes glazing over as I fought off sleep, waiting for the inevitable late night phone call. At least that is how it always happened in the movies. The phone would ring, my mom would be in a coma and my grandma would rush my brother and I in our pajamas to the hospital to muster our last goodbyes. Just when I was about to score the music for my mental drama the key turned in the door and my mom was home! I quickly and quietly scurried up the stairs into my bedroom and drifted off to the kind of deep sleep that only 3 hours of crying could bring.

Out of everyone I worried about, my mom was the starring and recurring role. When I was away from her I would worry it was the last time I would see her. Right after she dropped me off at school I would watch her drive away as I tried to fight away the surge of fear that gripped me. Every day was another attempt to make it through 7 straight hours consumed by thoughts of how I was going to handle being an orphan.

In junior high and high school I passed on a lot of the antics that my friends were wrapped up in. I didn't want to smoke because I was scared it was going to fill my lungs with Cancer on the first inhale leaving my mom with the pain of caring for a dying child. I didn't want to sneak out of the house because if my mom found out she would be plagued with worry and driven to searching for me in the night, which would undoubtedly lead to her getting in a fiery car crash (seriously, that Highway to Heaven episode really stuck with me)!

I was always worried about losing the things I cherished most and my mom was on the highest tier. I couldn't imagine my life without a mom who would break out into "I Feel Pretty" mid-laundry folding with underwear on her head. Life without a mom who threw the coolest Gingerbread House making birthday parties for me. Life without a mom who would make microwaved fluffy butter eggs for me when I was sick. I couldn't imagine it, but I did, every second of every day.

As an adult, I still worry. I have learned how to manage my worrying so it isn't all consuming and I have done my best to try and flex my optimism so that my positivity muscles become stronger than my doom and gloom tendencies. But each day is a battle...I shall not lie.

When I was younger, I would tell my mom that when I grew up I was going to live with her forever. This sentiment was probably less about my wanting to live with her and more about making sure I was ever present so I could attempt to keep anything bad from ever happening to her. While it was a sweet gesture it was only that, I moved out of the house when I was 17.

When people find out that I moved out at such a young age they assume it was because I couldn't wait to get away from my mom. It was, in fact, the exact opposite. My mom is the epidemy of strength and Independence and in that sense I wanted to be just like her. I wanted to be just as strong as she was and the desire to take care of myself and be independent was more important than my irrational fear of being away from her.

I have come to realize that my unrelenting fear and worry over my mom was simply because I couldn't imagine life without her. As an adult, I still can't. About six years ago my mom moved 5 1/2 hours away. Coming from a family that is relatively small and one that always resided 10 minutes away from each other, this was a huge and scary adjustment. It is tough not having her around. Not only is she one of my favorite people, but she is also so much fun to be with. I miss being able to see her all the time and being able to do mom and daughter outings with her. Sometimes I will see mom's and their daughters together shopping or having coffee on a Sunday afternoon and it makes me ache for my mom. I wish she was close enough for me to drive to her house or to make last minute plans with.

Like any mom and daughter, we've had our share of ups and downs but my love and admiration for her is constant. Sure, I poke fun at her...the way she dances, the way she cackles when she laughs, but that is only inspired by sheer awe because with each passing day I become more and more like my mom and a beautiful thing.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Veggie Grill

Granted, I am not overly cultured and I don't consider myself to be one of "those kinds of people" who gravitate towards the finer things in life BUT I do know one thing...and that thing is food.
My mother raised me on a fine diet of ice cream breakfasts and Hungry Man dinners doused in butter and salt. Over the past 10 years, my eating habits have become healthier and thankfully, more well-rounded. The more I have learned about food and how sugar/chemicals and preservatives come into play with long-term health, healthy food has become even more delicious to me. Knowing I am eating good food that is good for my total wellness makes eating it so much nicer.
Years back I attended a seminar about Candida at Mother's Market. During the speakers presentation she spoke about her son who suffered from ADD and Autism. Her journey into wellness was started through her desire to increase her son's quality of life. As she began researching autism, she found overwhelming studies which showed how red food dye #40 a.k.a Carmine, Crimson Lake ,Cochineal, Carminic acid, Carmines ,and Natural Red 4 as additive E 120, Cochineal, Natural Red 4, C.I. 75470, and E120 (present in MOST processed foods) was a huge factor in manifesting symptoms of autism and ADD. She decided to eliminate her son's intake of all processed foods containing red food dye. This isn't an easy thing to do because it is present in so many foods everyday children eat such as; Cheetos, Jello, Chips-a-Hoy Cookies...pretty much anything you find in the inner isles of the grocery stores--contains red food dye. She successfully managed her son's food and within 6 months his symptoms were significantly decreased and she was able to take him to a much lower dose of medication.
I liken food to being like the fuel or oil we put in our cars. The cheaper the gas, the less efficient our cars run. The lower the grade of oil...well to be honest I am not sure what that does to cars, I am a chick and my car knowledge only extends so far. But metaphorically, you see where I am going here.
Eating healthier is a tough thing to do in today's world. Organic foods are more expensive, fruits and veggies have a shorter shelf life. Packing lunches for your loved ones requires more preparation and sometimes, I agree, it is easier to throw a Lunchable in a backpack than it is to make a salad or sandwich. I don't think healthy living means you have to do away with all foods you have grown to love, but it does require a healthy balance. If you put healthy food into your body 80% of the time and the other 20% is filled with food you eat during birthdays, holidays and the occasional weekends you are still doing a great service to your body and to your health.
One of my biggest current food loves is a delicious and magical place called Veggie Grill. While there are only 3 locations currently, 2 in OC and 1 in LA, I would venture to say there will be more sprouting up soon.
Veggie Grill is fresh and vegan cuisine made up to be so yummy that the non-vegan patron would be none the wiser. Their menu ranges from hard core vegan tastes like the All Kale Salad (which, mind you, I would eat every day 3 times a day if I were a millionaire and could afford to do so) to their more mainstream cuisine like Sweetheart Fries which when dipped in the chipotle ranch is AMAZING.
My boyfriend has even found something he loves there, which is saying a lot since his idea of culinary magic is Mountain Dew and Slim Jim's. While it took him a moment to warm up to the idea of eating Vegan cuisine (for a while he would eat next store at Chipotle's while I ate Veggie Grill) he has discovered something he enjoys, the vegetarian chili. Veggie Grill is a wonderful alternative to eating fast food and given that it is fresh, chemical free and organic it is very reasonably priced. Try Veggie Grill and let me know how delicious you think it is!
And, if you are feeling frisky I would suggest the vegan carrot cake. It is delicious!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

In the wee morning hours of my boyfriend, Paul's birthday and after his friends broke in to kidnap him to take him golfing and after they dressed him in a sexy black dress, I sat in silence after the mayhem and thought, "what better way to greet the morning then to bake him something yummy to help him welcome 30!"

The only thing more inappropriate than the name of these cupcakes (that's if you are easy to offend) is baking these cupcakes for say, a work function. Although they don't have enough alcohol in them to give you a buzz (1 cup of Guinness, 1 shot of Bushmills and 2 shots of Baileys) the Bailey's frosting does taste potent enough to give you a placebo buzz.

These cupcakes combine all the things that make up delicious; beer, chocolate and Bailey's. I knew they were perfect for Paul's birthday as his b-day theme seemed to be Irish Car Bomb shots. Being the good girlfriend I am, I thought I would make a cupcake that could serve as a chaser.

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes -

Adapted (barely) from

Most of the alcohol in this recipe gets baked out since the Guinness is mixed into the cupcake batter, the Bailey's frosting however is potent, so if you are making these for people who aren't fans of delicious alcohol - - then let me make 2 suggestions, 1. you may want to use cream instead and 2. you may consider new friends.

I love cupcakes with tons of frosting and found that this recipe didn't create enough so I was left frantically scrounging to find enough butter to make a second batch. I heed you this warning to let you know that if you are like me and love mountains of frosting on your cupcakes, buy enough ingredients to double or even triple your icing recipe.

Makes 24-30 cupcakes

For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Ganache Filling

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (optional)

Baileys Frosting

3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 shot of Baileys (or milk, or heavy cream, or a combination thereof)

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Make the filling: Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can put it for 20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully) Add the butter and whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.

Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Meanwhile, using your 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes-- I found that equally as easy is to press your index finger into the cupcakes being careful not to poke too far down--and also after washing your hands as I am sure you have been licking them at some point. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top. (***see my Ziploc bag suggestion below)

Make the frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time. If the icing begins to clump up - don't worry once you add the Bailey's it will smooth back out. Once the icing is thick enough it is ready to be spread onto the cupcakes awaiting!

Ice and decorate the cupcakes.

*I haven't ever gotten around to purchasing a professional icing bag like my mom uses to decorate her cheesecakes with. I use a large Ziploc baggie with a tiny snip cut out of the corner of it. Voila - MacGyver Icer, works like a dream!

Happy Birthday Paul!

You know you are loved when your friends arrange with your girlfriend to break in and kidnap you in the wee morning hours. Needless to say, are very loved. And also needless to say, I am sure the other refined golfers were taken back by the strange lady with an amazing golf game on the course this morning.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Debt That Plagues Us

I have been struggling - no drowning is more accurate - in debt for the past decade, or so it feels like a decade. A sick dog here, a broken down car there, that pizza back in 1998...I am still paying for all of it. In today's economy, I am paying an even higher price considering that APR continues to climb and minimum payments are on the rise. We are on the verge of a credit crisis and I am on the verge of a financial stress meltdown---my situation is not Madoff worthy, but in my little world it may as well be!

I am trying to stay positive because when I stress about money, oddly enough I care less about money, so I spend haphazardly and we all know that $5 here and $10 there ends up being a tremendous mound of debt if not manged properly. I have let go of the hopeless dreams that I will win the lottery - because - let's be honest, chances are I would just charge the lotto tickets if I could.

Debt consumes much of my thoughts during the day. I write budgets down, I try to create a math formula to manipulate the numbers trying desperately to find some feasible way to pay off all my debt before Easter. And every time, I come up with nothing. Because fact separated from fiction, my only choice is to stop the madness of debt and go about it the old fashioned way (contrary to popular belief - that isn't marrying into money).

Here is what I know about paying off debt:

1. Pay more than the minimum balance owed - if you only pay the minimum you end up paying the debt for the rest of your life and when all is said and done you paid the same amount of money that it costs to buy a small island in Fiji.

2. Try to get them to lower your APR - This process is scarier than calling that special stranger you met in the bar last weekend. You sit there with a script in front of you, you practice your lines out loud before making the call and no matter what it always ends up being an awkward conversation. But in the end it's worth it and can have great benefits...translation-it can potentially save you money.

3. Pay off the lowest debt first if possible - so you can eventually pay a lump sum to just one card - contrary to the popular belief that the best way is to pay off the one with the highest interest rate.

4. STOP using the cards - If I followed #4, there would be no blog post about this matter.

5. Try to hold onto sanity - If I was sane there would be no blog post about this matter.

And the most important lesson I have learned is---

NO matter how much money you make it is never enough - I keep thinking that if I just made $20,000 more a year I would be just and point - I started saying that minus $40,000 ago and I am still saying it. UNLESS you manage your finances and stick to a budget and don't use credit cards to buy things you can't afford, then all the money in the world will NEVER be enough!

I don't have a closet full of expensive clothes or designer purses, but that is no excuse - - even worse - - it's a terrible excuse because all that means is I have nothing to show for my debt but debt itself. The debt has outlasted whatever I have spent it on. Minus my doggy Jack, his health is a big ole' chunk of my debt and he is still alive and well.

What I vow to do:

1- Stop charging - this means no more acupuncture treatments - - which is sad for me because they were really starting to help. It means no more charging that $20 top that I should just wait for the next pay period to go out and buy with cash. It means that when I am broke I am broke and credit can't help sustain me until the next paycheck.

2 - Let go of the dream that I can strip for 2 months to pay it all off because - let's be honest - I am too uncoordinated to walk in Lucite stilettos and black lights are too unforgiving on pale skin. My stripper pole opportunity ship has sailed long ago.

3 - Consider all options - This time I will go beyond consideration of selling my eggs, liver, spleen or kidneys. Body parts aside, there are other areas of spending I can cut. For example, I no longer visit Starbucks daily which has saved me $80 a month - when I first considered it though I was more convinced I could live without my liver than I could without my Starbucks.

4 - Repeat steps 1-3 until all the debt is gone.

I have no idea when I will get to the bottom of my debt but I know there is a bottom and I know I will get there...maybe not by Easter but someday!