Another pass on a reality show

I was recently approached to participate on a reality show. This was the fourth such time I’d been solicited, and don’t get all in a huff. It wasn’t asked to be on something flattering, like America’s shows for modeling, American Idol or America’s Got Talent for my famous hula-hooping, nor was it to showcase my ripped abdomen on the upcoming version in Tahiti. No, this was the ever-exciting, can’t keep your eyes off the television set for ‘top business person.’

Oh, yeah. That’s going to be a hit.

Exactly. The very reason I said no, yet again. And while I can’t give away all the details, for fear of a lawsuit, I’ll tell you this much. Any time a person is willing to give up all semblance of a life and live for six weeks, disconnected from the outside world, living in a hotel, eating McDonalds and getting filmed while brushing teeth and trying to make more money than someone else, is a lunatic. Can you imagine Rog saying “sure honey. Leave our home, daughters, dog, two cats and me and go fulfill your fantasy of being a TV star by dominating a bunch of other Type-As.” Even if he were, the risk of being the first person eliminated, in some horrible, humiliating way, in front of millions of folks is just a little freaky.

Think about it. The reality show world is make up of 99% losers. And nearly every show has some obnoxious way of kicking the losers off and out of the show.

“You’re fired,” (Apprentice), “you’re out” (America’s top model, singer, talent, designer etc) and the other variations of  “you’re off”, including, but not limited to, Survivor, and Biggest loser.

Imagine the dubious honor of being a world class loser in the front the entire country. It leaves me wondering what happens ‘after’ the voted off loser, months after the temporary high of makeup, attention and glamour is gone. I mean, that Richard guy from season one of the Survivor made a million bucks and still ended up in jail. I can’t imagine what the ones who didn’t make a dime are doing now.

Now let’s pretend I had set aside all reason and accepted this recent gig. (I’m currently burned out from writing my manuscript, and can actually go down this tangent for a moment).

My former and present clients would see I clearly have too much time and sense to burn, and therefore, would never pay me another dime in fees. My agent and editor, who both sometimes doubt my serious desire to be a legitimate author, would drop me thatfast, unless I actually won, then I’d get some book deal, but only if I had some amazing breakdown on live TV. My friends would shun me, because my school responsibilities as a class parent would fall to someone else. Oh, then there’s the church crew, who’d see I deserted my family for the unGodly pursuit of personal fame and fortune. I think that leaves my family, who already have me under a non-disclosure agreement for all things personal. That means Rog, the kids and pets, all who’d have to undergo some serious therapy.

So why, I wonder, does anyone, anyone, sign up for one of these reality shows? The money is one attraction. It’s small–ranging from a few thousand a show, on up. If the show is a hit, the money sky-rockets, as evidence by the series genre, like the Kardashian’s, Real Housewives, or the Jersey Shore crew. But those are series.

The one-off shows, like the biggest losers, or the B/C-celeb genre, are less lucrative, and thus, the “stars” are incentivized to be nuts to create a buzz, jump start a career and then launch a new series (see Bret Michaels…what a great story. The entire time he’s doing his “reality” show on hooking up with girls, he has a long-term girlfriend, and two daughters! The “real” story doesn’t hit until he gets knocked with some head injury, and now “realizes” he needs to be w/the mother of his daughters full-time. And before we can saw ‘aawwww’ to the touching People Magazine article, covering his ‘values’, Michael has announced his “new reality series” dedicated to his ‘real’ life. I’m pretty sure Bret can milk this ‘reality’ thing for another few millions bucks. Neither he, nor his headbands, were ever this popular during his prime.

Beyond the money is the fame, which for some, is better than the money. Fame gets free tickets to the Dodgers games, back room seats at top restaurants, an extra smile at the checkout line, and sometimes an upgrade to First Class.

That’s the good fame. The bad fame includes the jealousy-inflicted scratched car, catcalls when a bouncer picks the reality-fame contestant out of a long line and into a packet concert, and worst, friends who disappear.

The upside of reality show life doesn’t sound that great even for the ‘stars’ and the losers are out six weeks of their life, along with their pride and dignity. I’ll hold on to mine a little longer thanks.

Water taste tests and teeth whitening comparison results

On a dismally gray day, nothing says happy louder than a nice, white, set of teeth. Not the glow-in-the-dark white sported by those in LA, or the painted on white I see in commercials. We’re talking the three-shades lighter than normal that are perfectly happy.

After fifteen years of being my own personal Proctor and Gamble focus group, I consider myself something of a teeth whitening authority. If you don’t believe my credentials, ask Rog. When Rog and I were dating, an odd, thirteen years ago, he had the gall to debate my ability to be an objective, third party expert on all things comparative.

“Take water for example,” he said. “You have this stupid preference for Fiji water, and claim you can tell the difference.” Fiji was, and still is, one of the more expensive brands on the market, this, being the reason Rog thought that I had to have it. “You believe if it’s more money, it’s better.”

“No,” I replied. “It simply lacks that gross aftertaste of most bottled waters.”

“Right,” he returned. “Let’s take a test to prove it.”

He left my apartment at the top of Noe Valley, drove down into the Mission district and purchased twenty or so different brands of water. He set the kitchen up like one of those ketchup stands, pouring and a few inches in each glass. To make ultra-sure I wasn’t cheating, he then blindfolded me.

One by one, he lifted the glasses to my hand and had me identify the water.

Aquafina” I said after taking a sip of one. I’d know the Riverside, California bottled water anywhere, primarily because I’ve been to some sorry parts of Riverside, and am pretty sure I’ve got by the bottling plant, too close to a sewage treatment and water run-off facility for my tastes.

“Dasina,” I said after taking a sip of another. When Pepsi finally bent to public outry, and placed “public water sources” on the label for each, the implication was a resevoire. But can we define resevoire please? This could be my little pond on my property, that sometimes serves as the resevoire for duck pooping, deer-drinking, frog-hopping, Sarah and family-swimming hole. Gerrooosss.

“To be clear,” I told Rog, when he gave a shout of frustration, “the number 2 bottler in the world gets this water from common tap water.” If I want to use tap water, I’ll take the filter off my home filter and get it direct, I said (this being back in San Fran).

We continued going through the exercise, though his face was a mask of disappointment as I continued to nail the water. To no-one’s surprise but his own, I picked up the Fiji water with a look of superiority, and drank the whole thing.

This, my friends and readers, is my lone qualification to now get to the heart of this blog: Teeth whiteners.

Experience number one was with a laser procedure that cost me $1,200 in San Francisco. I was single, twenty-seven, and still thinking I had some left-over badness from braces as a teen. The process meant my gums were covered with wax, my mouth stretched so far back I could have kissed my earlobes, goggles were placed on my eyes and bad music covered my ears. Two hours later, I emerged a new woman. No eating chocolate, coffee or wine for 2 weeks, the doc said (I abided by not imbibing the latter two during that time, only eating chocolate with my “back teeth”) and went on my way.

The results were amazing. I had a nice, white teeth. Even my brother complimented me, telling me I was “smiling bigger.” True. My teeth remained bright for about a decade.

Then came the real shocker. I couldn’t do it again. In the decade since I’d had my teeth done, lasers had all but been phased out. I’m sill not clear on why, however. Perhaps the advent of do-it-yourself whiteners had killed the market, like Victoria Secret’s push-up bras hurt the market for those pills from Sweden guaranteed to increase your breast size two times (don’t ask. it’s true. and they are still available).

Nonetheless, when Rog’s teeth surpassed mine in color, something had to be done.

My first foray into home based teeth whitening included the toothpaste. Tried Crest, Aquafresh, and Tom’s Natural. No visible difference. It could have been due to the fact my teeth were already somewhat white.

I discarded the idea for a few more years, then went for the big guns, the Rembrandt set of toothpaste and self-adhesive strips. This seemed to do the trick during the 2 weeks, and I noticed. However, the sets were $32 bucks, and it felt like I was suddenly a man, copping to a haircut every other week. I didn’t want to pay that kind of money.

The smart answer would have been to cut out chocolate, but no. And since I don’t drink coffee, tea, red wine (or any wine), or smoke, I wasn’t willing to get crazy. Thus, I continued my search.

Next up were the whitening strips. I tried Crest Whitening Strips. Those darn product managers at Crest did a good job on me, for I’m nothing if not a brand-loyalty shopper. The whitening strips had dropped dramatically in price (Walmart has good deals-see above), but I’m sure Amazon does as well. In any case, the downside of these strips is that they dissolve and get messy. I hated pulling out the strips, getting goo on my hands, then brushing, then rinsing…blahblah. I found myself not using the strips regularly, only on self-inflicted deadlines, like a wedding, a meeting or getting ready for bikini season.

The journey for tooth enlightening led me to molding. Rog went cheap, and got some molds that get hot, dunked in water or something, then pressed in to the mouth. I must not have a big mouth, for these molds were made for Garganta. After I’d attempted to cut down, shape and hone a set that actually fit, I felt like an ancient stone carver had nothing down on me.

This led me to the hallowed doors of my dentist.

Dentist-molded: @$250 bucks. Dentists also make the trays for hockey players like my husband. So of course, they can do trays for teethwhitening. Most dentists now also sell sets of peroxide whitening, a box of 4 syringes (used to pour into the trays) is $25. Each syringe lasts about 3 treatments. So, for $25 bucks, one gets 12 treatments, give or take.

This is a far superior cost-return solution than any other. The singular downside is the tray needs to stay on 30 minutes, and is used once a day. Initially, my teeth became sensitive to the solution, but it’s gone away. Also, I tend to get lazy about the tray. 30 minutes is an eternity in my world, and I can’t talk on the phone with trays in my mouth, even custom-made ones. This begat, my latest find:

The pen.

For the teeth whitening novice, two types of “pens” exist. The first type of whitening pen is an actual type of ‘paint’ that gets painted on. It was made famous on World’s top model, when that white, spikey-haired gay man whips out a pen and says “open wide girl, your teeth are yellow,” and then paints her teeth white. It would be my personal Maslow table that led me to watch the one moment of the one episode that I’ve ever seen, before or since. God knew I was searching for an answer, and he gave it to me.

I looked on line. I purchased. I used. and then, I threw away. For twenty-five bucks (I succumbed for the two-for-one marketing ploy), the paint was little more than a temporary write-on. It didn’t really work. It tasted awful, and I was worried I’d get some asbestos-side effect like blindness by putting a paint on the enamel of my teeth. Call me a nut, for I’m good with peroxide, which to extend the metaphor, is probably like paint thinner. And that leads me to the second type of pen.

The peroxide pen. This was my latest purchase, just last week. And friends, I’m sold. Here’s why. Unlike the self-applied dissolve strips mentioned above, the goo emitted from this pen is as benign as it can be, and not half as annoying. Because I’m a marketing freak (and you have read this far, and have a right to know) it’s the Listerine Whitening pen. It works like a lipstick, wherein the bottom of the pen turns, cranking out some clear goo at the top. I’m typically driving somewhere when I whip out my pen, turn the nob and run it along my teeth. Its nice, top edges are perfect for getting in the cracks and crevices between my teeth and along the gum line. The two best parts of this include the price: which was $12.99 at the local supermarket (QFC) and the fact I can apply it three times a day. Again, I do it while I’m driving, since one can’t eat or drink for 30 minutes after application. This ensures I don’t eat bad, stain-producing foods.

And to be clear, (disclaimer coming) I don’t get any money from these endorsements, nor am I a Listerine bigot. It was the only pen on the supermarket aisle. Perhaps others exist. If I were a thorough focus group, I’d know this, but I don’t! (and since no professional reviewer am I, it eliminates any obligation I might feel to give you alternatives. sorry)

Now, do even more alternatives exist? YES. Rog swears by the Listerine whitening girggle. Specifically, this is a Pre-Whitening Rinse, that has lightened his teeth by at least five shades that I can tell. Here’s the deal with it–he uses it in the morning and night, BEFORE brushing his teeth, per the directions. Yet, when I tried it, it was like acid on my gums. Yes, acid. It wasn’t that it physically hurt my gums, it disintegrated them. Truly. I could literally feel the top layer of my gums skimming off like the top layer of grunge on a bog. Rog’s gums then, must be the teflon-caoted kind, because his gums had no ill affects. Go figure.

Now, for people who don’t want to mess with trays, strips, pens, mouthwashes or toothpaste, you can do the permanent route. Get your teeth filed in points like a dragon and have veneers attached. Depending on the quality and doctor, you’ll be paying a grand on up per tooth. Some are thick veneers, and the more expensive ones, that are look more natural, are 2-3 grand per tooth. The results are instantaneous. Wedding in Vegas tomorrow? No problem. The downside, as I’ve witnessed with some friends and associates, is that veneers are nearly as susceptible to stain-causing elements as natural teeth.

Then guess what. Veneers can’t really be whitened. The only choice at that point, is to get the veneers replaced, or, as one friend did, knock out the entire set of teeth, and have an entire bridge screwed in to the bone. Sometimes it’s hard for me to look at him, knowing he’s ripped through three sets of teeth, real and not, and now has long screws keeping in his pearly whites. I’m a visual girl, and he’s like dracrula. And some point, his choppers are going to drop in the soup at our dinner table, and it will be all she wrote.

The good news is that you have lots of options. Since I’ve “mostly kicked” my chocolate habit, my teeth might stay a bit whiter longer. But I keep the pen handy in my purse. Love that thing.

PS: Today, our water is from a well, two hundred feet in the ground that comes down from a mountain. It comes out tasting pretty good, though we have a filter that removes some of the metal taste that has a nasty side effect of damaging the neurological health of small children. Thus, I still have my nice, thirty-day supply of Fiji water in the garage, though I have been known to slurp a Smart Water no and then.

Little hypocrisy(s) and other moral annoyances

At the beginning of my last voice lesson, I asked Ross, my red-haired fireball of a teacher, for an extension of another week on the loan of his Christmas songbook. I’d not been able to find another like it on-line, I said, and didn’t want to purchase the songs individually. As such, I’d photocopy the thing, but, “my toner went out,” I said. “I’d just copy the song we’re learning and a few others if that was ok.”

“Sure,” he said, “though I’m getting a bit more sensitive to an artist than I was before.” At the time, I thought nothing of the statement. It wasn’t until the drive home that the full force of his comment struck me. I’m an artist (a writer), wanting, and expecting consumers (readers) to purchase my works (books), not photocopy someone else’s, and here I am, giving no thought to essentially taking money out of a songwriter’s pocket by doing the same.

I am such a hypocrite, I thought. Worse, Ross knew this, and was being oh-so-kind in his hint about photocopying the book (that he paid for) without giving me an outright ‘no,’ which he was well within his rights to have done. He probably made the assumption I was an intelligent, sensitive individual endowed with free will that would figure it out on my own.

Before I hit my doorstep, I’d gone through a moral and ethical inventory of all the times I was skating across the lines of hypocrisy. Let me count the ways:

  • photocopying a recipe and redistributing it
  • copying a piece of music (from a song-book) of friends, relatives, church
  • downloading a piece of sheet music (plus lots of cds etc)
  • borrowing a friends gigabyte drive (they he’d borrowed from work) full of 300+ movies, to download on my own gigabyte drive
  • copying and pasting photos on line for this blog
  • doing the same for powerpoint presentations
I’d go on, but I’m getting concerned about incriminating myself further. Let me assure you, dear reader, that each and every one of these items are not only in some legal gray area, but are definitely over the line of my own moral code. However, until Ross pointed it out, I’d never thought of it that way.
Many, or all of the items, are done with such regularity, be it in school, church or in my circle, it’s not even a question “can you make me a copy?” “Sure!” Of course I want to save some coin, or $21.99 if I want a singular recipe instead of buying an entire book. Yet I’m not completely stupid. That recipe, soundtrack or photograph is the result of another’s intellectual property, or in other words, hard work, persistence, intelligence and probable copyright. I have a moral and ethical obligation to recognize this, not to mention some amount of legal promise.
If I were my own version of the pre-legitimate Napster, I’d be prosecuted to the fullest. But I’m a small time offender. One or two things, here and there. It’s not like I’m reproducing 50,000 CDs that I’m selling from a shop for 2 bucks in India, nor am I redistributed some church hymnal to a bevy of swaying, hands-in-the-air Bible thumpers. I’m “just”…
And that’s the hypocrisy. There is no “just.” “Just” is a justification for crossing the line between right and wrong. There is no just, or…well, anything. It’s black and white. Take for example, my contractual agreement with one of my publishers, McGraw-Hill. It states that I can’t reproduce more than 15% of the content in my book without their express permission. And that’s for me, the author. The rest of the world is supposed to cite and source references. However, I’m not about to get sued by my publisher, so you can believe I’ve counted out the pages and words to make sure I don’t near that 15% threshold.
The one little footnote is when a note on the manuscript or music says: “no photocopying except for personal use.” That means, in my home, me only. No one else. I find this only in the church songbooks. It implies my church has already paid some exceptional fee to the owner of that song to reproduce the song in that book in the first place.
I will tell you, this little moral correction cost me over a hundred dollars within two days. I literally threw away my on-line version of a bunch of songs, including Bella’s song (and just about every other piece of soundtrack sheet music I own) that were ill-gotten (e.g. free on line). I went down to the local music store and sucked it up. It was $121.00.
Then I made the conscious decision to NOT copy Ross’s songbook, instead, purchasing the sheet music from authorized, on-line retailers. I’m sorry to say, the state of the economy has absolutely devastated the retail music business. Most of the best music stores have folded. So on-line is now my source of choice.
The commitment to become morally correct has afflicted the rest of me as well. Now, when someone asks for a recipe, I have to say “you can get it from X book,” unless it’s my own, then I’ll happily pass it along gratis. I feel so bad when I turn someone down, I then go into a 10-minute apology-slash-justification that it’s really the right thing to do. It’s hard to shut up when I feel like I’ve got my own personal explaining to due without coming across like a preachy born again something-or-other.
I figure if Karma has anything to do with it, someone down the line ‘may’ not photocopy one of my books, use it in a powerpoint, or quote me without a source. Whether or not that actually happens is out of my control and out of mind. Now when someone offers me a freebie of the copywritten type, I say “thanks, but I’ll go get my own copy,” thus appreciating the offer while showing the creator the love by putting my cash behind my newfound moral backbone.

Dad’s are a daughter’s training ground

Dad’s are their daughter’s training ground for dealing with the world of men. So it was with my Dad, and already is with Rog and our daughter Porsche. It happens like this: Dad is hard. Daughter is born. Dad makes daughter cry. Dad apologizes. Rinse repeat (many times). Daughter admires Dad. Dad shows girls how to handle men. Dad and Daughter have a special bond. Daughter goes on to be attracted to a man like her dad.  Daughter gets what she wants in the end. (Ok, so I made that last part up. It’s still a journey in progress).

We have a video tape of the birth with Porsche. Out she comes, healthy and crying, when Rog said hello. I turned my head to see him extend his mammoth-sized paw to her little hand, white from mucous and red with blood. Four little fingers wrapped around his one large forefinger, and she quieted immediately. The doctor, a wonderful, non-practicing Jewish man, stopped stitching me up, and said, “that’s a miracle,” then said, “did you catch that on film?” (ever the practical man was he).

That’s been a symbol of their relationship for the last five years. A unique relationship that defies words or description.

My own kind of unique bond with dad is seen in pictures.

Take my buck-tooth self at left. This was when I was eight. I loved coming from behind, playing with his hair, teasing him and snuggling. In a crowd of six kids and three horse-sized mastiffs, attention-getting was impossible. From-behind assaults worked better.

The next pic was when I was in my early thirties, visiting Arizona, hanging by the river during Thanksgiving vacation. Decades has apparently changed nothing. I loved being near him (dad) and once again draped my arm around him and give him a few, heart-attack inspiring bear hugs. Note we are both fatter-of-face and bigger of hair. Hidden under dad’s stylish hat is the Onassis-size shades he started sporting in the Jackie-O days. While my mom left her pillbox hat in the storage closet, dad defies fashion trends.

The last photo was taken this summer. My dad, surrounded by his humongous Onassis glasses san dark lids, has the same look of ‘why me’ that he’s had in the others, but clearly has given up trying to fight the photo-taking moments I’ve made him endure over the years. I still tease him, but now it’s about his hair–we are both impressed and amazed he still has quite a bit, AND the fact that it’s not completely grey.

When a family member sent me the two earlier shots in the last month, I was amazed I had this same picture-taking routine. Always from behind, invariably wrapping my small arms around his big-ol’ body as it, clammering for his attention, giving him my adoration with a sassy smooch on the cheap.

I always expect dad to remain dad. Strong, vigorous, boisterous, immovable, athletic, with a perfect memory and ability to eat prodigious amounts of onions-laden tomatoes, an entire jar of capers spread atop with a quarter smoked salmon for breakfast or midnight snack. The Dad who goes to church to relax (e.g. sleep) because it’s the one place on Earth he is free from fellow seventy-something industrialists who call, fax, email, text or show up, ready to “do a deal.” He sings off key, can fly a plane, snow ski like a pro, and is still so unabashedly, unpolitically correct, even Rog can no nothing but guffaw outloud and look both directions when my dad letser-fly about each and every off-limit, taboo topic.

Only Dad would set up his latest business venture by one of the most famous brothel’s in the country, his defensive, yet legendary mantra “wait to you hear the deal I got!” immediately invoked as a limousine full of ‘guest stars,’ pulls up.  My Dad, the lovable, former Canadian turned long-time American, who, like the local cougars, used to be afraid of my pitbull Penelope, and now just sees her as a mush. Together, they wrestle, cuddle, and generally speaking enable one another as one sifts through the fridge and the other sniffs approval (I’m not always sure who performs what duties).

That’s Dad. Of course, I’m going to throw my arms around his big, burly self and give a squeeze. Others may be intimidated, even a bit put off by his demeanor. Us daughter’s know different. I think that the big, gruff guys are the softest around. Having dad as a male-training ground was perfect, just as Rog.

Asian Style Crab Crepes

If you want an incredible tasting appetizer that is also beautiful, holds until the next day AND is fun to cook, this is it. For the carnivores at my gourmet cooking class a few weeks ago, this won top awards. (The vegetarians loved the artichoke bruschetta that best). When I say ‘hold until the next day’…to be clear, the batter must be separate from the filling.

Ingredients
½-3/4 cooked white crabmeat, shredded
7 scallions, both white and green parts, chopped
3 fresh hot green chilis
2 ½ cups chopped cilantro
¼ cp canola or sunflower oil
1.5 tbsp dark sesame oil
1/3 cup lime juice
1 ½ tsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp chopped or grated fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped or crushed salt
For garnish, peeled shrimp, orange, lemon and lime wedges, dill sprigs and basil leaves.
Preparation
  • 1.     Toss together the crabmeat, scallions, chilis and cilantro (and yes, you will use ALL the cilantro)
  • 2.     Stir together the canola or sunflower and sesame oils with the lime juice, soy sauce, ginger and garlic. Toss with the crabmeat mixture. Add salt to taste.
  • 3.     Cut the crepes in half. Warm them in a pan or in the oven at 350 degrees.
  • 4.     Fill and fold the crepes, arrange on the platter and serve immediately.

Crepes

1 1/2 cup milk
3 tbsp salted butter (melted)
½ tsp salt
¾ cup plus 2 tbsp butter all-purpose flower
Preparation
  • 1.     Sift dry ingredients together
  • 2.     Combine milk and melted butter
  • 3.     Add wet to dry, blend with old-fashioned egg beater or electric mix.
  • 4.  For a thin crepe, use 1/4 cup batter. For a thicker crepe, a bit more-like 1/3.
  • 5.     Pour in crepe pan
Note: to make the crepes look extra exotic, add chopped fresh herbs, such as chives, parsely, tarragon or chervil to the batter just before making the crepes. When serving…cut the round crepes in half. Spread the filling in the center–a little goes a long long way. Start at the corner, fold in, and make a nice folded crepe. If necessary, use a toothpick to hold the crepe together for a finger food. Looks great!!
The intimidation factor….
A few special notes on making the crepes, which freaks people out, but is very easy. If the few first attempts look terrible, read the a few times.
At the class, I used a full-size crepe pan. It’s about 9″ round. This was perfect for cutting the crepes in half, as noted above. I thought that was fine for a dinner, but for a party, the crepes and serving sizes needed to be smaller. So for a baby shower I was giving, I used my small omelette pan as well as the crepe pan, (any non-stick pan works fine) and made crepes about 3-4″ in diameter.
One last note of notes. With or without a non-stick pan, melted butter is a far superior substance than Pam, or even the expensive non-stick products. Better taste aside, the butter simply works the best. My trick is to melt some butter in a small bowl, place on a plate my the stove along with a tablespoon and a paper towel. After putting a tbs of butter on the surface of the pan, I spread with the papertowel, thoroughly coating the bottom and all sides of the pan. THEN pour in the batter, swirl around the bottom and sides of the pan. 
Unlike breakfast crepes, you don’t want the edges to turn brown before turning. Keep an eye on the crepe. It takes only a minute or two so on med-to-low heat on each side. The goal is to have the crepe cooked, but not brown.
When you are done, slide the crepe on to a dinner plate to cool. It will burn your fingers if you attempt to put the cold filling directly in the hot crepe. It will also change the flavors slightly. Of course, you can eat this app warm or cold, and it’s divine either way.

The well-dressed man at the grocery story

allthegood.jpgOnce a month, I visit a friend who shows me how to get back to basics. Quilting, sewing, things I should know how to do in case my electricity fails or I decide to become Amish. I return the favor my showing her how to make bread and cut cuticles. Life saving tips mine.

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed her next door neighbor come and go, driving nice cars-not extravagant German models, but not the All-American mini-van either. The three year old neighborhood is squarely middle-class, full of two-story homes with fences and a playground across the street. Both friend and neighbor are behind on their mortgages, always days away from the foreclosure notice, but each scraping together the money to stave off the banker at the last minute. Both women work part time in different professions. The difference is that while both men have lost their jobs in the last two years, my friend’s husband has started a business (that’s struggling, but revenue is increasing a bit each month) while the other man has yet to gain employment.

Today, when I saw the neighbor walk out of his home in a dress shirt and tie, slack and shiny shoes, I was excited for him (whom I’ve never met btw).

“Looks like he got a job,” I said to my friend. It was an encouraging sign in a dark economy.

My friend shook her head sadly. “No. He’s going to the grocery store.”

She proceeded to explain that he’d taken to dressing up to go out for errands. At first, his wife, explained to my friend, he did it to hide the fact he was unemployed. He’d only go after 6 pm, when those from the neighborhood and church were likely to see him. He refused to go during 8-5, because it was ‘a sure sign he was unemployed,’ he told his wife.

After a year, his wife told him to stop pretending and be honest.

If I look successful, someone might see me and offer me a job,” That made sense, my friend and I agreed. Though I still thought it had something to do with not telling other she saw.

When I left her home, I thought about the image and reality of a provider, be it male or female. I believe another reason to keep up appearances is to avoid the questions…if I see a scruffy, downtrodden male, I don’t instinctively thing “out of work schmuck,” but that might be how the person I’m looking at feels. On the flip side, acknowledging unemployment opens up a whole new world that’s closed with the lie of employment continues.

For example, when I learn of an acquaintance, friend, or even friend of a friend, is laid off or has had work hours cut back, I always try to think of a creative way to re-employ the individual. Even an hour here or there of temp work is preferable to sitting at home and stewing. We’ve all been there. We might be there again. Rog doesn’t believe in much, but he’s adamant about good karma. “You help the world, and it’s (the karma) going to come around and help you,” he has said time and again.

I’ll give you an example. We were new to my daughter’s school when a mother asked me about talking to her son. He was a recent college graduate and “needed a bit of direction.” Would I speak to him, she asked. Sure, I said. An hour after the call, and a few resume changes later, the graduate was interviewed at a premier outdoor company here in Seattle, and thanks to his own skills and intelligence, was hired. What I gave was no more than a bit of direction and guidance so his resume would get past the filters and he could get the interview.

It’s been two years since that time, and we recently had the senior hiring manager of the company over for dinner (what are the odds of that right?). He knew we had a girl on the cusp of learning to ski, so he’d also brought along a set of skis, boots and a helmut for her. Rog started talking about the fantastic job the on-line group of the company was doing, and the man said “yeah, and it’s all due to this kid we hired, and he was local.” I asked for his name, and sure enough, the ‘kid’ was the same graduate that I’d previously spoken with abt the job. Rog then informed this man of the backstory of me talking with this young man way back when.

“That’s good karma for you,” the guy said, smiling.

Thinking back to the mom, I’m sure it wasn’t easy for her to bring the subject up to me, a new member of her circle. She might have wondered if I’d think her son was a loser, unintelligent or misdirected. Nonetheless, she forged ahead and asked the question, because, well, that’s what moms do. It’s a bit harder for spouses, who might be sworn to secrecy. Pride, fear, judgment; those concerns and issues stand in the way of allowing someone to help another attain gainful employment.

According to the economists, it’s only going to get tougher for most folks. Perhaps me and my family. One never knows. If you see me in the checkout line all dressed up (and it’s not Sunday, though I shouldn’t be there on the Sabbath anyway, so if I am, scold me), ask away. I won’t take offense. I might be trolling for a job. In the meantime, take a second look at those who are there, looking all sharp. They might need your help one day. Or that day. Be prepared to give it. Good karma comes back around.

Postpartum Recovery

A fun topic, to be sure. But oh-so important, not just for the recovering/new mom. The dad, friends, other’s who get to share the join or listen to the answer to the “how are you doing” question. When your friend, wife etc., says–well, you know, ‘I actually hurt,’ or ‘I’m a bit depressed,’ as I did, you can offer up some natural, effective solutions.

After I had my c-section, a wonderful nurse on the night-shift told me about this book, and mentioned this recipe as one of many to use.
Women's Herbs: Women's Health
Postpartum Compress

I found this recipe in a wonderful book called .Women’s Herbs: Women’s Health by Christopher Hobbs and Kathi Kevill. Of course, my book is now so old (10 years+) and the cover so much uglier-but the content hasn’t changed a bit. It’s still wonderful and effective.

This compress is comprised of 3 Tbs fresh ginger root, chopped fine, 2 tbs comfrey root, chopped fine, 2 tbs comfrey leaf or fresh plaintain leaf, chopped and 8 cups or more of water. My grandmother, the fine Swede she was, used comfrey for healing every wound us 60+ grandkids inflicted upon ourselves. She always had a pot on the stove that she’d use to create a compress. A compress being a rag she’d dip in the water, sponge-out, then place on our wound/bruise etc. In seconds, the pain would go away. Today, you can find comfrey in the local health food stores, and also Arnica gel or lotion, another natural pain reliever. (You know Arnica has gone mainstream when even Target carries the stuff). I also use this Comfrey cream as well as having the Arnica gel in my emergency kits and baby bags.

Directions for the compress
Simmer the roots together for a half-hour, adding the comfrey leaves (or plantain leaves) and turn the heat to low. Steep for at least 10 minutes.

Immerse a clean diaper or towel in the hst mix, wring and apply to the vulva or perineum (if you don’t know what these are, you don’t have to worry about this). A side note on this: you may be surprised at how much heat you can handle in these areas. the hotter the better–but you will need to use dishwashing gloves when dipping or you’ll burn yourself. You can do this several times a day after you have given birth.

Engorged Breasts

Since I had a c-section, I didn’t require this “down there” but did need it on my breasts. I used a thin bath town and wraped it around, and under, the armpit as directed. I continued to do this until the breast was pink with heat. About that time, my chest felt SOOOO much better. This compress soothes sore breasts and prevented mastitis (in my case, anyway).

The brew can be reheated and reused, or kept simmering in a pot for up to 2 days. Then I replaced it. The key was to use a clean cloth with each application.

The nurse also recommended cabbage for engorged breasts. I thought she was nuts, but she had been delivering babies and assisting new moms for 30 years, not me. Who was I to argue? While I was breastfeeding, I had to leave on a two day trip. My breasts were exploding, so I dropped by the grocery store, picked up 2 cabbages (1 for each) and covered my breasts with the leaves, just as the nurse directed. Unbelievable–it worked (and I was in the hotel room, thx very much). I used this for 2 other pregnancies as well–when the compress wasn’t available (the compress worked faster I’ll say).

I’m going to refer to this book again and again in this blog. So if you don’t have the $ or inclination, don’t worry. But…it’s an awesome source for a new mom.

Postpartum sleep aid

One other tidbit….sleep deprivation makes no one happy. Valerian is a superior postpartum sleep aid (and frankly, I’ve used whenever I’m wired up and can’t sleep). It has a very strong smell and gnarly aftertaste though, so I blend it w/other stuff or a meal. I’ve never made my own capsules, but this can be done.

Using a tincture made from fresh valeiran, take 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon every four hours.

Lastly…use a Ginger compress for the lower back, breasts or directly on the perineum if you can’t find the comfrey or other items listed above. Fresh ginger can be had at any grocery story. Like the above recipe, boil it and use fresh, clean towels for every application.

Don’t be surprised that Rog has actually used this for his post-hockey game pain, particularly on his lower back. It’s worked wonders.

Workout Wednesday- Baby don’t got back

The last few days have had more than enough coverage of Kim Kardashian’s rear-end. Who is this you wonder? The daughter of a woman who divorced her now dead attorney husband (of OJ Simpson fame) to run off with Bruce Jenner (well, she ran off with Bruce before divorcing her husband), and who jumped out of obscurity and in to the real world with a reality TV show. Fortunately, I’ve avoided watching all episodes by keeping the tv off. However, I too, stand in line at the grocery store, and as much as I attempt to avert my eyes at the glimmering, intoxitcating photos of wanna-be, have been and presently, are what the world calls ‘celebrities,’ I am now more than familiar with Kim Kardashian.

Much coverage is given to her ample chest, narrow waist and rotund bottom, the latter being credited with her current annual income of between $3-5Million dollars. This is an outtrage, is it not? Shouldn’t all big-arsed girls be given the same type of attention by frothing papparazi and glossy magazine covers? Well, no actually. Did I mention the part about the sex-tape “accidentally leaked” by her then boyfriend? Sure. Like when former US spy Valerie Plame was leaked by a pissed off, bald chief of staff.

Kim’s 30th birthday, a recent, inescapable event for anyone with eyes, stuck in the grocery stand, made headlines as much for the shot of her rear than the milestone. I for one, would not want a fanny protuding like two large mellons, nor could I likely afford the custom made jeans designed for a physiological freak of nature. (I’d show a photo but don’t want to scare the young natives off the blog, or worse, get some horrid ads for shows I don’t want to watch).

All that said, Rog had a good point. “Doesn’t matter how bit it is, if it’s firm, it’s not half as bad.”

Spoken like a true pragmatist. Thus, we kick off this inuagural WW blog. How to get a hard butt, small or large, wide or thin.

Due to my desire to keep ridicule to a minimum, I’ve declined taking self-photos for this particular blog. Internet photos are eternal. Someday I might live to regret a picture of my derrier going up and down. (a flash image of the photos, placed to thumping music, sliced and diced ran through my head like a coyote chasing a deer in my lawn. ends with blood and a kill. not good).

Never fear–these exercises don’t require money, equipment, or special shoes. Just determination.

Standing exercises that firm up the outter, back and corner part of your butt (sorry, I didn’t take pre-med)

Leg Description Reps/sets
Right leg up lift Lift foot up, bent at 90 degree angle, then lift up waist high 25 reps/3 sets
Angle right leg lift Keeping the foot up, extend your leg back at a 45 degree angle 25 reps/3 sets
Back angle right lift Keeping the foot up, extend your leg back directly behind you 25 reps/3 sets
switch to left side
Left leg up lift Lift foot up, bent at 90 degree angle, then lift up waist high 25 reps/3 sets
Left right leg lift Keeping the foot up, extend your leg back at a 45 degree angle 25 reps/3 sets
Left angle right lift Keeping the foot up, extend your leg back directly behind you 25 reps/3 sets

A note on this…I rotate the three exercises on each side to minimize the burn on my butt. When I’m talking on the phone, I’ll stand and to these in the kitchen, using the counter for balance.

Just “She” says Workout Wednesdays

‘She’ is gaining popularity. A reputation more like it. She is my She Who Shall Not be Named, as dedicated readers know her, but that long sub-title is getting tiresome. Close as I am to Microsoft, I’ve been infected by the habit of giving everything an acroynym LPJ (Local Pizza Joint), MLD (Much Loved Dog). Rule number one of acronyms is one should not be assigned if it can’t fit in 3 letters. Last night was a breakthrough, because one of the members at the board mtg simply referred to my much talked about anonymous alter-ego as  “She.”

“I want to know who this ‘She’ is” the woman across the room said, as though the individual in question were Madonna. I think She would be flattered of the one-word name, but insulted about being visualized as a non-virgin wearing a see-through white lace corset ang leggings, with a big, fake-diamond-encrusted belt that reads Like a Virgin.



free avatar
It’s lacking the lip-piercing
but I like this pretend image of She

 Then I considered giving her a name like Matilda or Shaquila, but neither fit so well. She’s not the daughter of a couple famous for being an ex-druggy turned quasi author or a semi-successful rock back, nor is she Shaq’s daughter. Further, if I give this person an actual name, readers will assign a visual to her. My suspicion is she’d prefer the ghostly anonymity associated with She, and call it a day. That doesn’t stop me from wanting to create a special avatar for her with blue hair and a spike through her lower lip, just be different.

Yesterday, She called me and said,

“You have to get a system going,” she started. “Socialize readers to certain days of the week so they can get excited and come on those days.”

I pushed back immediately. “But part of the fun is I don’t know what I’m going to write or when,” I said, liking the freedom to choose a topic at the whim of Bill O’Rielly’s rant of the day. It’s like waiting to make  dinner plans until 4:30 on a Friday night. I keep my options open.

“But readers want some sort of regularity,” she argued. Uh, okay. “Like Workout Wednesday, or Family Friday or Thoughtful Thursday.” Ok, I made that last one up. I think she said something like Crazy Tuesday. Her point was my blogs are all over the map, not specialized. This is neither cooking blog, nor workout blog, nor a moaning, day in the life blog, full of the incessant, irritating ramblings that I can’t stand (or is this last part self-delusional?)

Readers might notice I get reflective on Saturday night, offering up stories on family then, as opposed to Friday, when I’m thinking about being outside, having fun, and skipping a blog altogether. On Mondays, I’m typically in a motivated let’s hold hands and climb Mt Kilamanjaro together. Wednesdays are–well–like today. A hodgpodge of activity/motivation/we-can-make-it-until-tomorrow day. Tues and Thursdays I tend to be in a household, frugal, do-it-yourself kind of mold, where I channel Roger’s home projects. On Sunday, I’m just burned out from writing my manuscripts.

I like the WW thing, partially becuase it fits with my philosophy on acronyms. I’m somewhat nervous I’ll have enough to fill a weekly blog on one particular subject. Jillian Michaels I am not, and two hundred million last year I did not make. (I’ve really got to find a way to patent and license my home made sweet pea formula). Until then, I can write about techniques for working out while pregnant, post pregnancy shape, getting a small butt, improving wrist flexibility (a very good one), Thai Chi, yoga…well, come to think of it, maybe I could fill a blog for a time. I’d write on other topics, but no one leaves comments (some do, but very few).

The other day, I was amazed I have readers from South Africa, Russia, Singapore, India, Germany, Malta, (where’s that?) and so on. Who are these people, how do they find me, and what in the world could I be writing about that’s of interest to someone from any of these areas? My husband suggested the Russians were interested in my piece on thin thighs “all those tall, gorgeous Russians,” but as She hypothesized, “perfect eyebrows are universal? Who wouldn’t want to know that?”

There is it. The secret to my success is the number one read blog, perfect eyebrows. I can die happy now, knowing I’ve edified people around the world with a cheap way to color and maintain brows.

Thanks She. Keep the good ideas coming. Now I must go write something useful, crank out some thigh lifts and check my eyebrows.

The necessary note

A good friend of mine up and disappeared one day, cut off all communication without warning. Nothing precipitated this event; no fights, disagreements, bad hair days. It was out of the blue. Sure, he owed me some money, but it was a small amount. It couldn’t be the reason he went dark.

He wasn’t dead. I checked on that with friends close to his home. He hadn’t left the country. He was seen driving in and out of his garage, and his coworkers verified he was at the office. My calls were left unreturned. Emails went in to the oblivion. I have long had this vision that some software start-up is collecting unanswered emails, and will in some way figure out to monetize the contents, either through some nice identify theft software, blackmail, or a really good gadget we all seem to want, like cowboy-themed Christmas lights.

In any case, I went through a cycle of mourning my mother calls the emotional pinwheel. This friend, who is older, portlier, and male, had been my friend for seven years. We’d worked at two companies together, sat on the same board of a non-profit, and even visited each other during holidays. We email or talked several times a week about all types of stuff. It was reasonable then, that I was at first worried to the point of sickness. Upon learning his routine hadn’t altered, I entered the confused/denial state.

“Was it me? What did I do?” This phase was short. A few days. I hadn’t done anything, and he was the one that owed me money.

This commenced the anger state and lasted a solid six months. According to the world of shrinks, anger is a second emotion to hurt. And since hurt is harder to manage that anger, anger lasts longer. (I think anger is a lot more fun actually. Get the scream out vs the tears, but then maybe it’s a Swede thing).

Then begat worry again, then disgust, then apathy. The entire cycle, a solid 2 years. It ceased being in the forefront of my mind. And since he lives on the east coast, and I on the west, I wasn’t going to stage an intervention.

At the very end, I was reading a talk on forgiveness, and of course, it hit me hard. I’d gotten over it, but not forgiven the guy. I had to be bigger than that. I knew he was good and kind, and really didn’t seem the type to ditch a friend. BUT, on the off chance I had done something, I wanted him to know it was unintentional. Thus, I pulled out my stationary (printed after my marriage to Rog, but before he’d freak on the cost of custom cards), and wrote in a note.

In so many words, it said the above….hope you are well…the family is well…if I did something of offend, I’m sorry. I hope we can regain what we had etc etc.

What do you bet, a week later, I had a long email in response. He was incredibly kind, gracious and apologetic. What he told me broke my heart…The gist was that his teenage son killed himself in a terribly sad way. He left a suicide note that broke my friend (and his wife’s) hearts. Because of the stress on the family, the man lost his business, his live savings having been poured in to the venture. The ripple effect had continued, the house was foreclosed upon, and he, his four children and wife, moved in to a rental. In the grand scheme of things, maintaining friendships–even telling anyone outside his immediate family–was  not a priority.

A few things happened to me when I read his letter. I felt incredibly ashamed of my feelings towards him. An image of his son, who’d I seen at a recent sporting event, came to mind. He was the kindest of the children, sensitive to his mother and wonderful with my young daughter. Now that I considered my own reactions, I’d given him the benefit of the doubt for a period of time, it wasn’t indefinite. At some point, my concern went inward, on myself, and my feelings (how could he do this to me? After all we’ve been through, me me me…etc). While Rog and mom told me this was natural and just, it didn’t lessen the self-hateration that I then endured (see how I made it about me again?).

More recently, this happened with another male friend. He went dark and left me and a lot of business associates in the lurch (took money and didn’t do the work) etc. Instead of blaming him or engaging in bad-mouthing, I counseled our mutual acquaintances to have patience and understanding, providing reminders that “this is not the person we know, or the behavior we’ve seen for seven years.” It worked. It helped him keep a job in one instance, and a few friendships. The tragedy in this case is that he’s now too ashamed to renew the relationships he tread on, even though we are all here, ready to welcome him back with open arms.

These experiences, now over five years ago, have helped me be a lot more understanding when someone-anyone–in my circle of friends or work associates goes dark. I don’t know their life, their situation, their problems, challenges. I’m certainly not the first or last person to consider if the world is shutting down. It was an incredible life lesson I wish I’d had in my twenties, and not my mid-thirties. It would have saved me a lot of wasted emotional cycles.

A woman, far more attuned than I, recently sent me a note of thanks for a mini-seminar I gave on a Saturday morning. It wasn’t something I longed to do–the topic was on motivation–and the group was small, only 11 women. The title of my presentation was “Stepping it up,” focusing on not simply achieving, but doing that little bit more than makes all the difference. The group was mostly silent, no questions, no comments afterwards. I left deflated, thinking I’d wasted my time, and theirs.

The note I received told me she was going through a divorce, her husband leaving her and the children after 22 years together. It was just the message she needed at such a horrid time in her life. I could not have been more surprised. She was the model mom, half of a picture-perfect duo that I’d envied as the entire family attended events in a way I never would with my own immediate family. How little did I know.

The power of the little note is great. And it doesn’t have to be on anything but a piece of scratch paper. I’m convinced that human nature demands attention. Demands love and harbors the desire to be loved. Sending a note to someone that has fallen out of touch or out of favor or needs forgiveness. Try it. Good karma means it will come around.

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