Combatting Stinky hair, dry scalp & no wash-shampoos

It’s Wednesday–a day for beauty and working out, but I’ve got stinky hair on my mind. Isn’t it awful when you are standing in a line and are assaulted by a foul smell, one reminiscent of stale cigarettes or that musty, funky odor that occurs when one hasn’t bathed? Women are particularly guilty of not washing the hair for days, overlaying one stink with another, believing that a nice hairspray or perfume will mask the fact that the hair is simply dirty.

Let’s be clear. Oils on the hair attract odor like flies on paper, and is just about as attractive. Nothing cuts through a possible amorous interlude than stinky hair, even with one’s spouse. Eeeewwwww. The good news is hair I know what the campers and hikers are thinking–‘you can’t help it in the wild.’ Not true. Even in the wild, stinky hair can be helped.

JASON Natural Cosmetics Dandruff Relief Shampoo, Rosemary, Neem & Tea Tree, 12 OuncesStinky hair culprits: smoking, overuse of hair oils (for shine and smoothing), men’s hair gels, hairspray, camping, living by a compost, exhaust fumes….

Common excuses for washing hair daily (or more than several times a week)…

  1. styling (women pay good money to have a blow-out once a week, why throw the money away)…
  2. camping (no water)
  3. dry scalp. A subject in and of itself. 
  4. drying the ends of the hair
I spoke with my fabulous hair and make-up guru who has worked on thousands of heads of hair. I also consulted another professional stylist and this is what they had to say:
Styling. If you are going to sacrifice looks for smell, you aren’t left with a lot of choices. Anti-hair smell products like the Neutrogena Anti-resiDue Shampoo only works when you use it. The stylists I spoke with like this to give the hair a “good cleaning” once or twice a month. A fair amount of enlightened men get pedicures once a month to deep clean their scruff paws. They need to do the same with their hair.
Camping. This area of hair advancement has undergone revolutionary changes in the last few years. All sorts of waterless hair shampoo, from TRESemme Waterless Foam ($7 bucks), No Rinse Shampoo ($9 bucks) and my fav for the folicly challenged, the Sexy Hair Big Sexy Hair Volumizing Dry Shampoo ($10).
Dry scalp. the Jason Natural Cosmetics Dandruff Relief shampoo w/rosemary, Neem and Tea Tree oil works great. I won’t reveal who used this and had great success, so you’ll have to trust me. However, the downside is it has a rather pungent smell itself, like mentholatum, tho the rosemary is intended to mask this. A different solution? Years ago, when I was in my teens, a hairdresser noticed I had lots of dandruff and he said this:
“You need to dry the scalp better when you are blowing out your hair. It’s the moisture that’s left on the scalp that causes the oils to create and increase the dandruff.” Because my hair is extraordinarily thick, my problem was multiplied. He also recommended I use less shampoo on my scalp and more on the ends. Sure enough, when I started drying my hair at the scalp, the dandruff was dramatically reduced. I went further and cut back on the volume of shampoo I used as well, and this pretty much cleared up the problem.
Dry Ends. This common excuse is done away with by eating more Omega 3 oils or eating fish. The hair and skin show what you put in your body, not just what you put on your hair. 
And one final tip. If you are stuck on the plane, in the middle seat, and have a neighbor with stinky hair, you could always open your computer and do a search on the subject. Or would that be rude?

Stealing Rembrandt-Fast, interesting read

Since I’ve been asking others to review my books, I should return a universal favor and post a review or two myself. But let’s be clear. No one (author, agent or other self) has actually asked for my opinion. I’m giving it up for free, so that establishes the weight of my opinion in the world of literati. My only qualification is I read several books a week.

Great book-4.5 stars. Fast, interesting
read of art heists, solutions and lots of
factoids. Read this and sound interesting at
your next cocktail party.

For my 4 day vaca this summer (3 days of rain + 1 afternoon of sun) I chose Stealing Rembrandt. On the surface, a truly boring subject–art heists. Yet I like ‘heisty-type’ movies (that was a Sarah-don-king-ism), like The Italian Job, and for three days in a row, I was pelted with new reports, an interview on the radio and then a replay of same. The author gave great soundbites (the thieves weren’t brilliant, they were ballsy) and I liked the factoids (Rembrandt is the most stolen art) and a person in Sammamish Washington (a stones throw away on the ‘plateau’ for locals) actually owned one that got swiped. More fascinating to me were the stories of reclaiming the pieces, how the wealthy don’t report thefts, and how many museums actually pay the blood money to get the art back. What a racket! I had to read it.

I got the Kindle, download the book moments before we went a-trailering, and read by flashlight when the lights from the campfire dwindled. It took two days of soaking up most every word (I admit to skipping some of the boring details of art) but overall, I enjoyed learning about the art in a reporter-style writing. It was informative without being cumbersome. The best aspect of Stealing Rembrandt was the MI6-James Bond-meets Robert Ludlum approach in the narrative. This is due to the co-authors. The informative part was from the head of security for the Gardner Museum of Art and his co-author, an investigative reporter. The editor(s) did a nice job balancing the two. Only once or twice did I have to resort to skipping over art-professor sections. Now I can speak intelligently about wood carvings, originals, metal plates and plate making, the period pieces for portraits, how the Dutch led the world for a while in all things monetary and artistic and ultimately, how Rembrandt died pretty much broke. (And FTY, I had no idea his true love died quite young. Why is it so many artists have such tragic personal lives? What a curse. But then, I must not be a true artist. I have a pretty good life, my health, no deaths, but no fame or riches either).

The only complaint I had wasn’t something the authors or editors could do a darn thing about: the lack of more art resolutions. For instance, many of the museums (or private collectors) that had art returned wouldn’t acknowledge how or why. Those that did chose to announce the recovery months or years later (if at all). This is due to the desire to keep thefts (and return money) out of the press. I’m a girl that likes closure, but I understand the issues. The book includes enough resolutions to make it  worthwhile, the most interesting experiences coming from 2 thieves directly, after months of interviews from within (and outside) of jail. Kudos to the authors for the years of work on this thing. I’d definitely recommend it anyone who likes a fast, interesting read (the art is a bonus).

Johnny Rockets goes down

What happened to my favorite hamburger joint? Once upon a time, Johnny Rockets was the purist form of culinary fornication. The food at the “international hamburger chain” doesn’t even rate a heartbeat on a human. Yes. It’s that bad.
Check out these pictures. I ordered a bacon cheeseburger and I had about an inch and half of bacon, a half of a slice of tomato. All of this, for eight dollars US. The only glimmer of hope was going to be the chocolate shake, extra thick. Does the picture of this chocolate shake look either chocolate or thick? The toast was so toased, this is post-scraping to get the black off.
Date: August 12th, 2010
Location: Kent Station, Kent, Washington
Time: 2:45 PM, PST
Server: great
Food: beyond bad
Now, in the history of this blog, I’ve never trashed a food joint, music venue or rarely anything at all. I think bashing, trashing or otherwise dogging on someone or someplace is evil karma that goes back out to the universe and eventually, will come back to bite me. But I have never, to this day in my 43 yr old life, have I actually gotten so mad after being delivered a meal that I whipped out my phone, took pictures, and am now blogging about it.
For the record, I have been, and used to patron, Johnny Rockets all over the place. Wherever I can find them, and for years, the quality of the food has been declining. The staff are as great as ever, but what’s going on behind the counter? No wonder many connosoiuers of the big beef patty are going straight by, rolling on up to the In and Out Burger for a REAL hamburger, amazingly fresh (everything) and a real shake.
An epilogue to this blog: did I ask for my money back or a re-do. With 2 children under the age of 5 with me? No. Of course not. If they’d been gone, would I have done so? Not even then. When food is as absolutely bad as what I received, I didn’t have the patience or moral fortitude to wait for round 2, and go through the massive disappointment of getting more schlock.
As my friends in San Fran say when they are done, over and out with an item, Buh-Bye.
I’m now going to take a hot shower and stand on my head to cleanse the badness of this experience. Wash-off, wash-off

Sugar free = more energy

A real Boehms Frualine–
I actually no her! She works there!

To satisfy the unwashed masses who have afeared for my safety, I’m here. In spirit that is. My physical body is beaten down, an inch smaller from this new naturopathic program that eliminates sugar from the ol’ diet. Sadly, this includes Boehms chocolates. It’s been 8 days and 2 hours that I’ve been away from it. But like a dog to its vomit, an hour doesn’t go by where the craving doesn’t rear it’s ugly head. I’m sure meth would have been cheaper, but I’d have teeth loss, Starbuck’s more expensive; I’d have my teeth, but they’d be black. (I know, I have a fixation with teeth). (FYI-Boehm’s has great father’s day selection. I got my dad the toffee and an assortment of milk chocolate…and FYII…on Saturdays, all the young girls actually wear the traditional Swiss outfits. Apparently, Julius, the founder, was quite a ladies man with an eye towards….busty, young woman. Don’t hold that against him though. Apparently he was a great skiier, and that has to count for something).

In other news, I’m ready to throw my husband out for invading my space. Ok, not out as in, out-out. But out of my little hobbit hole I call my writing space. He’s announced he’s taking July off to focus on “my business,” which, loosely translated, means the business of Sarah Gerdes writing. What business, you ask yourself? 3 national orgs have come on board to have in-store events in July, though I can’t announce the names. The studio is going to give away 3 walk-on roles to people who register by downloading Chambers. Great idea. $2.99 gets you a shot at hanging with Angie and Brad. It’s surreal actually. One day, I’m typing away in anonymity, the next, I’m on the phone with a division vp who runs entertainment and merchandising for a national chain, then I’m talking with the producer, who will be signing autographs.

“What about security? do you have a hander to move people through? how many seconds for each autograph? where will the stand be?..”) All good questions, for which I have no answers. Yet. Will I know it soon? “You betcha” (my one and only channeling of Palin).

This week has been full of the minuteau of things like trying to track down a videographer, a photographer, extras, what to put on the registration cards…blah blah. If you have a vision that “authors” arrive at an event, sit down and look glamorous, perish the thought. Reality is perhaps a bit less exciting (I’ve heard that truly famous authors ride around in limos until the last minute, whisk in, smile and leave), but as my Dad says “I don’t want to hear it!! Don’t diminish my vision of you!” Yeah, whatever. This is bloody hard work, that’s all I’ve got to say.

On the bright side, I’ve never been so motivated to get rid of the stuff and puff that lines my muffin top and jawline, leading us full circle back to the no sugar thing. It’s actually working, by the way. Good thing. I need the energy!

Death and grieving etiquette

The Perfect Stranger's Guide to Funerals and Grieving Practices: A Guide to Etiquette in Other People's Religious CeremoniesI’d never thought about grieving etiquette until yesterday. For the last two weeks, I’ve had the feeling to call a fairly recent acquaintance. A tall (6’2″), gorgeous woman, thin, after five children, married to an emergency room doctor, all of 42. The type of woman that would engender the hatred and jealously of all others were it not for the simple truth she’s funny, outgoing and self-deprecating. Our friendship began when she invited me to speak to a group of young women in her church, basically about keeping standards high in a world where standards are low. Our conversations were brief but fun, and I showed up with few expectations about the event or her. I was surprised on both counts, glad I recorded the 40 minutes and left with a new friend.

These last two weeks, I refrained from calling until the bitter end. Sometimes, impressions start out quietly, then get louder, progressing to the point where I think I’m starting to lose my mind. It’s reminiscent of not being about to get Born this Way out of my head actually; a rhythmic beat that won’t begone. Eventually, my will gives out. I emailed her three days ago, then called several times. A day later she responded, told me that her sister (also named Sarah) had unexpectedly died 10 days prior. She’d gone to the funeral, assisted with Sarah’s 6 children and husband, and provided much needed assistance. The day I contacted her, she had returned from the trip. She invited me to come to her house and I jumped on it, having never been. She said she’d “appreciate the distraction,” and though I had no idea what to do for a person who’d lost her sister and best friend, I went. No food. No flowers. Just me and my young daughter.

As an aside, everything in that home was tall and big (including her ceilings, high enough to accommodate her 6’6″ husband, 6’8″ fifteen year old son, 6’2″ 14 year old daughter, and so on). I felt my body grow taller and slimmer being in the environs. In any case, the woman kept me talking, non-stop, for over an hour. It was slightly odd, being turned away from directing the conversation to her. She successfully thwarted every attempt I made to ask about her in any way. Finally, after I’d been going on with diarrhea of the mouth, I put an end to it. This took the conversation in a surprising turn.

“Normally I wouldn’t do this,” she began, “but I want to hear about other people, other things, anything but myself.” She went on to ask me if I’d ever lost anyone close to me. No, not really, I’d replied. “I’ve been doing everything wrong!” she said emphatically. “All wrong–I’ve left everyone alone, thinking they needed ‘family time’ she continued, “when in fact, that’s the last thing they want–or I wanted. Cards, flowers, phone calls, from people I don’t even know made me feel so good. But most of all, I want company.” She proceeded to explain a person suffering from a loss doesn’t want more alone time–“I’m already alone in my heart, I want company.”

Ever the cataloger of all things helpful, we talked about advice for the support group. It came down to a few tidbits she’s learned:
1. don’t be shy about calling, writing or just dropping by. A person in grief won’t ask for help, and won’t want to bug anyone else. Don’t call and ask if a casserole is needed. Just bring it by. If no one answers, leave it on the doorstep with or without a note.
2. cards and notes and calls are all welcome. doesn’t matter if the person who passed was a distant acquaintance or friend of friend. The memory and thought counts and helps the grieving process.
3. next to food, babysitting is the most helpful service to provide. Picking kids up from school, helping out the spouse of the person with the loss is appreciated (taking the kids home from church so the husband can attend to his duties).
4. coming over, and like I learned, being comfortable with talking at length about fun things. “Don’t forget the fun things!” she said. This was particularly hard for me. It was a big week, what with the ebook and movie stuff being announced and launched. Yet time and again, it was what she kept coming back to (her husband even got in the game, asking questions to assist in the novel he’s writing). a person dealing with hardcore issues wants to hear about fun, exciting events, not more depressing stories.
5. don’t worry about empathizing and crying. Enough tears have been shed. It’s okay to be happy. The funeral for my friend’s sister Sarah was a joyous occasion, as much as it could be. A celebration of life rather than mourning over the death.

The entire conversation was extremely helpful to me, and though I won’t look forward to death, I’ll definitely keep this etiquette in mind when it comes my way.

Easter fun with Cake Pops

spooky halloween cakepops

With Easter Sunday coming up, families around the world will be celebrating all things religious and egg-oriented. I suggest trying out a relatively new, rather digusting but fun edible family project.
Cake Pops.

Never heard of them before? You aren’t alone. I too, was Moses, wandering in the dessert desert, wondering how my life could get richer when lo, an angel appeared to me in the form of a Christmas present from my Las Vegas-based cousin who realized I was without the mother-of-all sugar formations.

This is what you need:

  1. The book:The Bible of Cake Pop books. Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks and Recips for morethan 40 irresistible mini treats.
  2. Box of your favorite pre-mixed cake mix
  3. 9×13 cake pan
  4. mixing bowl
  5. 16 oz ready made frosting (this is America, home of the packaged and parceled after all. all my wonderful, incredibly civilized European readers will gag, but you have to understand this isn’t just food. It’s an experience).
  6. wax paper and 2 baking sheets
  7. Plastic wrap and toothpicks
  8. Plastic or paper sticks
All the recipes are the same. Basically, here it is. Make the cake, let it sit out overnight and get slightly dry.
Take it out and crumble in a bowl. Slightly microwave the ready-made frosting and put it in the cake mix.
Get grimy with your fingers, make it in to a ball (or whatever shape you want), place on the wax paper, cover with plastic wrap and chill.

When you are ready to decorate, pull out and get creative. We used 6 different kinds of decorative gel (found in most supermarkets) and lots of easter egg type glitter.

A month or so ago, I gave this a whirl with my five year old, attempting to make Easter Pops. They turned out like mutant pops, so sugary my face puckered and even Porsche spit them out. No matter. The girls loved the decoration part and proudly displayed their egg pops.

The final product. A bit scary for Easter, but gets the point across.

The entire production was less than 20 dollars, and provided hours of fun. the book has amazing ideas for all holidays….do what my cousin did and get someone the entire set of items (from cake mix to sticks). It makes for an inventive gift as well.

Russian Tea Cakes– the 18 min, impressive treat

I’m not Russian, nor do I drink tea, so its strange we somehow went from mother’s Swedish Pancakes to Russian Tea Cakes. She loved to serve the fancy little dollops of sugar and fat on silver plates, but I liked them warm. Never could wait until they cooled, as is the proper way.

The batter-mix until it barely sticks together
The oddity came in handy today, when, in a panic, Porsche reminded me I had to make “something Russian” to go along with her world report on Russia (at 5! yikes). As she talks about how Tsar Nicholas and family were murdered, the sturgeon are slaughtered for caviar, and how Fabrege eggs are in museums (oh, and can she pleeese have more ballet), she is going to be giving out tea cakes.
I must say, they don’t go over well at parties, even though they look as good as they taste. I don’t know if people are averse to trying something new, especially when coated with powered sugar. I will say this: they taste great, are so easy a 5 year old can do it, AND take less than 5 min to make and 9 min to cook. if you are EVER in a pinch, make these.
Once again, the Sarah version, to use portions that are meaningful instead of wasteful.

Prep time: 5 min (if butter is soft)

Cook time: 9 min


2/3 cup soft butter

3 full tsp of powdered sugar

1 tsp of vanilla

3/4 cup flour

pinch salt

(walnuts if desired)

  1. Place butter and vanilla in a mixing bowl, and using paddle attachment, mix well (a minute or so) on med
  2. Add the powdered sugar.
  3. Add the flour and salt until just mixed (the dough will come off the sides of the bowl). If not, add a bit more flour
  4. Form small balls (ab nickle size around
    for kids. Larger for adults)
  5. Remove and form in to small balls. As you can see from the picture, 2/3 butter recipe made more than enough for 13 5 year olds and teachers, or a silver plate.
  6. Bake for 9 min or until the cakes are bouncy on the top
  7. Remove and allow to cool
  8. Roll again in powdered sugar
Bake, then sprinkle w/powdered
sugar (can roll in sugar  instead)
A note on NUTS: so many people are allergic to nuts of all kinds, I make this in 2 versions–with and without. Works either way. If you want some nuts, walnuts are best, and not much-about 1/4 cup, or else you need to change the recipe.
The finished product, 18 min later!

Another note on dryness: this recipe is interesting, in that the ‘best’ tea cakes, according to the mother-of-all-cooks, (mom), are flaky to the point of nearly falling apart. I’m not a fan of the falling-apart anything. It’s messy. I’m sure she meant crumbling in the mouth. Regardless, play around with the measurements to fit your liking. These are by far, the easiest, tasiest morsels you’ll make.

Veggie balls even a meat eater can love

I’m a proud carnivore that has rarely encountered a piece of flesh I won’t try at least once. Due to slowing matabolism that now proceeds at the pace of a sap oozing out of a tree in fall, I rarely eat red meat, perhaps a few times a month (red meat takes 3 days for the bod to process). My husband is more fussy with cheeses and cholestoral-rising food than I, so together, we make a crazy combo.

Several nights ago, we both had a nervana experience that brought us one step closer to near red-meatless diet: vegie meatballs. Sounds lame, and that’s what I thought when I bought a pack at Costco. Lured in as I was by the “organic and natural” packaging, and oxymoron for most items sold at the big box chain, I figured the five bucks was going to save a cow, reduce Rog’s cholesteral and help me lose weight in one.

Tired of my day old lasagna (my favorite actually), Rog tore in to the package, cleaned up one plate without offering me so much as a bite, and proceeding on his second. I think he had about 20 of the poppers. Shocked, I stole on, ignoring his screech of dismay. In two chomps it was gone and I knew we had a winner. No sauce, only salt and pepper. We then went on to dissect the ingredients–all commonly found vegies.

The next step was seeing if I could replicate the experienced. Five bucks is cheap for 30, but I thought I’d be able to improve on the health factor a tad. The on line recipes were/are awful, in my opinion, since they all want some type of grain. The only one I went for was brown rice, though this gave the balls an odd aftertaste. I don’t like oats in anything other than my cereal or chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, so that was out. I settled on old fashioned bread crumbs. The rest of my experiment included celery, carrots, potatoes (a wonderful, though starchy addition), onions–always sauteed in butter, though purists can go for oil), and then whatever else I wanted to throw in (a bit of colored peppers gave it a zing, not unlike my crab cakes).

I went French on this recipe, going by feel and texture than a singular recipe. When it came time to roll it all together, I added in an egg balanced this with the bread crumbs. (always do these last two at the end). You know what? The recipe was near identical to crab cakes, save for the spices and oils I put in both. The wettish mixture is dry and formable (my donkingism for the day), awaiting my glad-handing shake of the salt and pepper bottle, some Hungarian Paprika, oregano, thyme and a few other mish mash items that sound good at the time (e.g. celery salt).

Raw, the mixture was good (yes, I always taste it raw. I’m not a nut about the whole avoiding-raw-egg thing). Sauteed the balls in a pan covered with a thin layer of oil. The next time I make these, I’ll add some pics or something. Verdict? Rog ate more of my homemade than he did of the store bought. AND, without the butter (and depending on the crumbs, if vegan) the entire dish can be vegan as well. (My mom is going to vomit now), but I’m quite proud of myself.

Here is the recipe, as best I can remember.

Prep time: 15
Start to finish: @45
Makes: @30 veggie balls

1/2 onion
1/4 butter (salted)
3/4-1 cup bread crumbs
1-2 eggs
cheese (if desired)
1/2 of a red, yellow and/or orange bell pepper (you can sub w/green if you prefer)
2 carrots
3 celery stalks
1-2 potatos (cooked, w/or without skin, depending on preference)
choice of herbs, such as oregano, thyme, celery salt, hungarian paprika


  1. Boil the potato.
  2. Sautee the onion in the butter, adding the carrots and half way.
  3. Remove and drain the potato, chop fine, or mash and add to the onion mixture (add more butter or oil if necessary).
  4. Blend with salt and pepper, hungarian paprika and other dried herbs. Mix well (the aroma is divine)
  5. Finely chop the peppers. (If you want a bit of zing, throw in a jalepeno, Rog loved this variation)
  6. Remove the onion mixture, and add the peppers. Conduct a taste test for blandness, a common issue with vegie balls. if you want more zing, douse it with some cayenne pepper and/or tobasco. I use both and they are awesome (you can get vegetarian-friendly equivalent for hot sauce, though Rog, the purist he, refuses to use them).
  7. Add the egg, mix well, then add the bread crumbs bit by bit. Test the consistency for molding, and add the other egg, and or more bread crumbs as necessary.
  8. Heat the oil on the stove over medium heat, or if you have an old-school pan set at 300 degrees. (I have this huge, Italian metal frying pan with a temperature gauge that is perfect for all things meatball).
  9. It takes about a minute to cook on each side, and I’ll use tongs and/or forks to turn and cook. Another cooking technique is to use a cast iron bacon press and make the balls more like pancakes. It makes for a more even cooking job, and great for adding a topping but not technically, ‘balls.’

I’ve tried a whole lotta sauces, from aeoli to dipping sauces ideal for vegies, and then some savory, though meat-verboten ones–like spicy teriyaki. Not bad. I’ve not settled on one perfect one, although I did whip up a cream cheese, roasted red pepper thing that some guests loved. That is probably my favorite thus far…

I used (these are rough measurements, as I’m becoming more French by the day-as in-winging it)…

  • 1 8 oz package of full-fat (eg original)
  • Red pepper, in the oven–convection or broil for a few minutes, until soft and quasi brown/black. remove and let cool.
  • Put both in the blender (Cuisinart) and pulse a few times until just blended.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste and wala!

PS–this sauce is meant to be a little bland–to cut the spiciness of the vegie balls.

Strengthening fingernails-the Trainers Choice

Dad has been on my mind a lot lately, and for all the oddest of reasons: His hard, ripply fingernails that resemble the top of an old, metal washboard, except a whole lot smaller, though not at all lacking in the steel-like quality. He nails could cut a lot of things, skin included.

Just don’t ever do this,” he said, filing his nails with his bottom teeth. I greatly admired my father’s soft, round edges, the kind a professional manicurist would envy. Unfortunately, his Superman fingernail genetics skipped right over me, for I have thin nails, normal to ugly shaped, and not at all feminine looking. He did manage to pass me his thick, cow-milking fingers, nice and wide for gripping those ‘teeeets’ as my family says, and palms the size of a bear claw. Ever shake my hand and you’ll recognize the grip of death followed by a quick retraction before you can actually verify I’m a man and not Pat in disguise.

All manliness aside, I strive for long, lovely, hard nails, and realized magazines make millions of dollars accepting ads for all types of nail hardeners (this is what I think about when I’m stressed). Don’t go there. Instead, go out and buy yourself a small round of Heathly Hoof nail hardener. I was turned on this by my very first college roommate, oh-so-long ago. She hailed from Colorado, had horses, and said it was the oldest trick in the book. “Women have been using this stuff for decades!” she said. What? you say, in disbelief? It’s true, the same way it’s true that male hockey players wear women’s nylons (preferably in the natural tan color) because it reduces the hair getting caught in all that stinky gear. “The Trainer’s Choice,” is the tagline for Healthy Hoof, and so it should be. In a matter of days, my nails were noticably harder. A few weeks out, the nails were long and strong. No breaking, chipping or flaking.

Usage tip–take a bit of the cream and rub it at the base of the cuticles, then around the top of the nail. Do this a few times on each finger-one hand then the other. A couple times a day for faster results, but once a day will do the trick just fine. Soon you won’t need anything else on your nails–except a color now and then to mix it up. However, it doesn’t work on nailpolish–so that will have to come off when you apply the cream. Now all I have to do is figure out how Dad keeps his hair so nice looking. 

10 minute appetizer- Mozzarella and Tomato bites

A heart palpitating, nausea-inducing moment is realizing you are supposed to bring an appetizer to a party 20 minutes before you have to leave. This happened to me over the weekend, but my inner-self was ready. On a whim, I’d purchased pre-made, organic, marinated mozzarella. I happened to have mini tomoatoes in the fridge. I stared. I wondered. Then I made a dish in 5 minutes– and it was vegetarian to boot. FYI, I have vegetarian friends, some of whom don’t know that ALL Horizon products are certified vegetarian– I’ll skip over the details of what constitutes vegetarian cheeses, but the above link gives a great description. (It’s all about the ‘rennet.’)

These apps were te first to be cleaned up at the party..I’m expecting it was because they appealed to the masses, were flavorful and naturally healthy.

Tomato and Mozarella bites
5 Minute appetizers
Tomato and Mozerella bites
Prep time: 10 min
Start to finish: 15 min (maybe less)
Ingredient cost: @$7 bucks
Pre-prepared, organic, Formaggio all natural Fresh Mozzarella. I purchased mine from Costco.
Light olive oil
Rosemary or thyme
Dash of salt
Cut the cheese balls and tomatos in half
Cut the balls in half
Take the tomatoes, cut in half as well
Using a toothpick, slide the tomato on first, then a half of the mozzarella, flat side down
To serve…
Drizzle the bottom of a serving platter with oil
Sprinkle either rosemary or thyme on the bottom to add color
Place the final apps in rows
Cover and chill until serving
Drizzle oil in the platter and add herbs

Unexplained hair loss

cousin_it01thumb.jpgAhh, what a topic for a Thursday morning. Yet, unavoidable. After showering, I brushed my hair with a pick, and it seemed as though an 1/8 of an inch closest to the handle was covered in a wet, black mat. Don’t gasp in horror. For me, this is not unusual. Rog’s nickname for me is “cousin it.” I suppose telling the world gives everyone the right to yelp out “Hey! Cousin It!”at the grocery, and be rewarded with a smile and a cheery hello. It’s a compliment after all, to have hair sprouting out the top of my nose (ok, not really), but close. I’m one woman who must get a full facial wax every few months, or look like Grizzly Adams without the Adam’s apple. The saving race is I’m relatively blond, which is helpful for arm hair, for I could never wax such a large part of my bod. Yet, as follicularly blessed as I am (was that a word?), even I suffer from weird bouts of hair loss. So let’s address this subject head on (sorry) and get to the root of matter (sorry again. this subject is just so ripe with funnies).

Normal, explainable hair loss…these would be age, genetics, menopause…things that have been proven to affect a person’s hair quality and quantity. I don’t look forward to dry, brittle, thinning hair as I age that won’t take color, but I think I’m doomed. What women escapes this…kind of like the imminently balding man. It seems that every article I look up on the subject of hair loss discusses to DHT, which stands for Dihydrotesterone and is a chemical that is five times more potent than testosterone and blocks the pathway of certain nutrients getting in to the hair, causing the hair to fall out. That’s all well and good, but it’s silly to think that extreme events in ones life doesn’t play a huge role.

Stress and eating
Work stress, life stress, baby stress, are all major, disruptive events that can cause hair loss. A dear friend suffered a late-stage miscarriage and her thick, auburn hair fell out in clumps. Another girlfriend went on a radical diet, and she too, lost hair, though it was in the front–around her hairline. A relative changed jobs and gained weight—she lost hair, also in clumps around her entire head, her hair thinning and her body expanded. Life changes, like moving can take a toll on the hairline, and of course, eating badly. In October, I read a piece that covered how bad eating habits lead to hair loss…processed foods take a toll on hair, as does drinking soft drinks and eating too much sugar. The short version….processed foods strip out nutrients, as does high quantities of sugar. With the system out of whack, the adrenals go in to overdrive, leaving skin and hair to show the damage.

What to do…what to do….beyond surgery for those wanting transplants, changes in diets are a no brainer. If not for the body and waistline, for the hair. It’s the first thing people see isn’t it, and the one part one can’t hide with clothes (though I have male friends who wear hats out of bed and take off as they slip the covers over–or so their wives tell me). For the rest of us…

Nature Made Super Vitamin B-Complex with Vitamin C - 300 TabletsSupplements…Omega 3 fish oils, Biotin and Vitamin B. In our stash, we also have Prenatals, which I’ve been advocating for years thanks to positive fingernail, hair and skin results. Now, in this wild and wooly search for things hidden in the cupboard, I found a few other things Rog has been sneaking in…

  • Garlicin for cardiovascular health
  • Glucoasime-highest potency for joint care
  • Cranberry tablets, for a healthy urinary tract (always important when “peepsing” as my daughter says)
  • Cholesteral Shield “proven to help reduce cholesteral’
  • Maximum Strength Resveratrol with red wine extract, a “protective antioxidant”

This was more enlightening than finding out Rog is eating a cup of nuts a night for good oils. In any case, whatever voodoo the man is injesting/doing, is working. He keeps getting younger looking I age. He’ll be glowing like a yellow flashlight in three-thousand years but no matter. At least he’ll have his hair.

Spiced Pecan Cake w/Marscapone Cream Cheese Frosting

Pecan pie is divine. Great hot or cold, for breakfast or dessert. But every so often, it’s nice to mix it up. Do so with style this year. Get a twist on pecans. The following is outstanding, and perfect for any type of party–it can be dressed up or down, dependng on how it’s served. For feeding a crew, serve in the fla sheet. For a cocktail party, chill, then cut in to bite size squares or triangles and serve on a cool platter. Using fine ingredients, the party members will adore you.

Spiced pecan Cake
4/12 cupes candied pecans (recipe at bottom)
8 oz (2 sticks) soft sweet butter
2 1/4 cups cake flour
2 1/ cups all-purpose flour
3 TBS baking powder
1 1/2 tsps salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 TBS vanilla extract
4 egg whites
Three 9-inch cake pans or 1 large sheet pan (or you can mix it up and use both)

To make the cake
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Line the bottoms of the cake pans with parchment paper
Put 3 cups of the candied pencas in a food processor and finely grind.
Reserve the remainig 1 1/2 cups of pecans for decorating the top of the cake.

  • Put the butter and 2 cups of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. With paddle attachment, cream on medium high speed until light and fluffy.
  • Sift together the cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • Combine the milk and vanilla. On low speed, alternately add the milk and the dry ingredients to the butter mixtur. Fold in the ground candied pecans.
  • Put the egg whites in a clean blow of the electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip the whites on medium speed until frothy. Increase to high speed and whip the whites until soft peaks form. Continuing to mix, add the remaining egg whites. The batter will be quite stiff (don’t worry though. It’s supposed to be this way).
  • Spread in to prepared pans.
  • Bake the cakes for about 40 minutes, until a prick comes out clean. Cool the cake layers before unmoding them.
  • Frost the sides, tops and center with the marscapone cream cheese frosting (recipe below). Decorate with reserved pecans.

Marscapone Cream Cheese Frosting
*Note on this–do NOT overbeat. Did this once, and the entire cake slid off in layers, right in the middle of my fridge, and right before I was going to take it out to serve at a wedding shower!!! I later learned that overbeating breaks down the composition of the marscapone. Who would have known?

3/4 pound cream cheese
4 ox (1 stick) soft sweet butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 pounds marscapone

To make the frosting, put the cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium until smooth. Decrease to low speed and add the marscapone. Beat JUST UNTIl incorporated, about 30 seconds, or it will separate. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Candied Pecans
These are also wonderful plain, over ice cream or in cakes.
Yield-4 1/2 cups
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 TBS ground cinnamon
1 large egg white
2 TBS vanilla extract
14 ounces pecan halves


  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  • Combine brown sugare and cinnamon until frothy. Stir in vanilla extract, the pecans and then the reserved brown sugar mixture.
  • Spread the pecans evenely on a baking sheet and bake them for 30 secons until they are dry.

Sorry no photos. I really to start taking more photos as I’m making dishes, but usually what happens is I don’t think about writing the blog until the food is eaten, and a guest says–hey! write a blog on this one! Will add later (I think!)

Preventing break-ins with 9 solid home security tips

This morning Porsche ran upstairs, screaming about the deer in our yard, alerting the house to the intruder at exacty 6:34 in the AM.

“Is that all?” I yawned. Thankfully so. I needed to get up anyhow, so down I went, in to her room that once held a cougar (the previous owner had a pet cougar, and the room as a 20×20 cage. we’ve turned it in to a bedroom, and it offers great views of the surrounding wilderness). In remembrance, we lovingly call it ‘the cage.’ (though admittedly, this is in-family only. Otherwise we’d come across all S&M)

Sure enough, a wonderful buck with four points (as Rog verified) stood right outside her window, eating what was left of my 2010 garden. I took a few pictures, then put on my slippers and helped it get out of our enclosed acreage. It now has only one path of entry, up three acres of six foot high blackberry bushes. Anything that can make it through that terrain deserves to eat my food. Nonetheless, I supposed this to be the same buck that previously came on with his dearess and fawn, got confused and we had to help off before my dog got in on the act. This was done by slowly walking behind the animal, encouraging it to find the only exit.

our breakfast companion
Mission accomplished, I remembered that I’d recieved a text yesterday suggesting I blog on home security.
Sadly, we’ve been violated several times since moving in to this area. It’s not prestine mind you; more Beverly Hillbillies than Hills. Yet it’s not trailer trash central either. Without giving rise to would- be stalkers, we are within five miles of mass civilization, but the proximity to land preserves means we have bears, deers, wolves, foxes, and an occasional burglar on the property.
When we purchased this home, it was a dump. Five acres of horse poop surrounding a home with an indoor outhouse (I’ll dig up some pictures in case you don’t believe that). It was all we could afford, and figured we had to start somewhere. In any case, we had no need for a fence or gate. The house was worth less than the land, and we couldn’t give our natural compost away. It wasn’t until four years later that we had to erect a gate. I’m all for freedom of speech, and the Jehovah’s Witness marauders are really decent people (plus quite creative: they pair a man with a young girl to remove the threat). They weren’t as bad as the weird breed of Sunday drivers (aka looki-loos) who mistake Private Property signs for Come-on-In, that put us over the edge. Instead of a much-needed trip to Hawaii, I got iron bars with spokes.

That kept out visitors well enough, but not the neighbors. We were cursed with a pond dug by the previous owner. It fills on its own, thanks to being at the bottom of our property. Nonetheless, the old codgers in the neighborhood are vigilant about water usage. A few have feuds dating back decades, a modern day version of the Hatfields and McCoys. These are the same folk that stew about our pond having more water than it ought, (thereby leaving their man-made horse pond dry), then redirect run-off gulleys directly in to a down-road neighbors driveway, just to flood it water. (For no other purpose that being an evil). But I digress.

I grew tired of having my garden hose ‘mysteriously’ turned off in the middle of the day. My solution was to head to Home Depot, purchase green stakes and some fenching material, a hammer, and erect a flimsy barrier. It wouldn’t keep out a determined person, I knew, but figured it would deter a seventy-something busy body.
In truth, it deterred neither.
One winter night, I left Rog in the bedroom and descended to the bottom floor where I could turn the heat up to temperature of the sun without nary a complaint from Rog. Our home is odd, constructed by a Boeing engineer and a few logs, the thing has two internal doors, lots of open space and at its base, is surrounded by concrete. I can’t hear Rog snoring from the depths below, another reason for my choice of leaving him that particular night.
At one in the morning, I noticed the light was on, and I woke up, bleary eyed, telling Rog to turn off the light, then promptly went back to sleep. A while later, three am by my clock, the light was off, but I saw Rog standing right in front of my bed.  I asked him why he was still awake, and if I anything was wrong. He said not a word, left to go upstairs, or so I thought. That pissed me off. I yelled at him to get back and talk to me (and I’m big enough to admit this) sitting up just in time to flick on the lights and see a man dressed head to toe in black running out of our home.
My immediate reaction was a) that’s not Rog b) he’d been in our home at least two hours, c) he’d been standing over me for who knows how long.
I could barely breath I was so terrified. I tried to scream and nothing came out. It was like those horror movies and bad dreams come true. I literally had no voice eventhough I was ‘giving it all she got’ (captain) (Sulu/Star Trek). Rog finally heard me, rushed downstairs but the figured was long gone.

When the detective arrived, we asked lots of questions and we learned a few things.

1-pay attention. Sounds obvious, but it wasn’t. The light on the garage had been unscrewed, as had the lights on all the backdoors. Rog, in his infinite, money-saving wisdom, had been known to unscrew the light(s) himself during the day, (not using the switch so I wouldn’t notice). For the last few days, I’d been screwing them back in, irritated, but thought nothing of it. Turns out, the night we got hit was one where I’d not bothered.

2-check the footprints. Also, the nights prior to this event, the ground had been hard with frost. I’d noticed footsteps around the backdoor, but once again, thought it was Rog. No one was ever that close to our doors. The detective walked us around the house, showing how the intruder had clearly cased the joint.

3-check wiring. At the time, we had one string of low watt flourscent path lights. That night, they’d been cut. The detective showed us where the intruder had hidden his handywork, placing a bunch of pine needles on the cut itself.

His conclusion? “Anyone who got this close to the property was watching you for a while.”

That wasn’t the worse part. Remember I wrote I’d been lying in bed and saw the person at the baseboard? He’d taken our cookie jar, a squat, red-faced porter figure, removed the head and positioned it right in front of me.

“He’s telling you he’s watching you” said the detective with that “straight-from-CSI Miami-look.”

our beast, Penelope the pitbull,
aka, lapdog on a friends lap
Not good.

4- get a dog. That was it. Rog and I stopped fighting about whether or not to “commit” to one another and went to the dog pound. (this was pre-kids. commitment btw, didn’t mean home ownership. anyone could do that. true love meant buying a dog together).

“Even a ‘yap-dog’ is a deterent,” said the detective. I don’t recall the statistical numbers he threw ou at us, but the likelyhood of an burgler (or worse) entering a home with a dog drops over 80% when a dog is present. Here that all. GET A DOG!

We went to the animal shelter, looked at every four legged dog present, then asked for the one with the best ‘ratings.’ In King County, dog shelters are required to test a dog on 8 traits–such as obedience, interaction with cats, other animals/dogs, kids, etc. This was where we found our pitbull. She was a mush (that’s pronunced mah btw), and she went home with us that day. I’ll save my love of this dog for another time. Turns out this pure bred dog was dropped off by a warring couple w/three kids going through a divorce, and couldn’t decide who kept the dog. Thus, they opted out of Salomin’s choice to cut the beast in half and instead, donated it to the local shelter. Suffice it to say she barks at anything around our perimeter, otherwise, she considers herself an 80 lb lapdog. We didn’t set out to get any kind of dog: we just lucked out with her. 7 years later, she’s proven a defender against other attack dogs (I was attacked by 3, with a newborn/another blog), identified a would-be intruder (another blog). Sorry-can’t help myself. love this animal.

5-use your security system. Dumb us. We had one. one of the best in fact. Didn’t have it on. In fact, we’d never turned it on at night. The area hadn’t had a breakin for twenty years. Little did any of us know the largest meth lab west of the rockies had been discovered a mere five miles from our home the month earlier. Nice. Think of the property value increase if we publicized that one.

6-get a real fence and more light. The detective also informed us two second and third detractors to an intruder are lighting and fencing. The lights because they have no where to hide. He pointed out the number of trees close to our house providng plenty of room to hide. Gone. Had those removed. The fencing had to wait, but now we have six foot high fencing. It keeps the dogs in and the deer out-mostly. Of course, if someone really wants to enter and get past my dog then I’m a dead person anyway.

7-hide your passport. Once again, dumb me. I had my laptop and passport in my briefcase. I’d recently traveled and not separated one from the other. It was gone. Fortunately, the passport was found in a ditch, but my briefcase was gone (I’d rather have lost the passport frankly. I loved that hand-stitched work of art. I’m still pining…)

8-post warning signs. I’d never thought this was a deterent, but statistics once again proved me wrong. We now have signs around the property.

Sadly, I’m in the majority of the population that does nothing ‘active’ about protecting the home until after the first breakin. That said, since that time, we’ve had zero break-ins, but homes in neighboring areas haven’t been so lucky. In each case, they shared some of the above items–no dog, no security system, no lights. OH–they were also hit during the day.

IMPORTANT: The #1 time for a home to be hit is between 3-4 in the morning, when the family is dead to the world (sleeping). The trait for this type of intruder is the person that likes a thrill, but isn’t “aggressive,” or in other words, they aren’t looking to kill anyone. They tend to hit homes with two stories (or more) and only go in and out on the bottom floor. In our case, the intruder didn’t make it upstairs for whatever reason.

The second most common time for a break-in is in the morning, when the dad is gone to work and the mom is off taking the kids to school. The detective told of a recent event where the mom came home early, as she forgot an item, and surprised the burglers. They tied her up, ransacked the joint, took her car, and she wasn’t found until her husband got a call from the school her children hadn’t been picked up.

9-mix up your daily routine. Even stay at home moms get routines. If you are in the middle of suburbia, change up the times for the gym, coffee at Starbucks and visiting the neighbor. Get a dog, use the security system, and watch the lights.

In my case, the detective was worried because someone who took the time to get the cookie jar, hover over me and place the figurine by my feet has a sick agenda. We (I) consider myself extremely fortunate. I also feel the Good Lord was watching over me, woke me at that particular moment, for had I not awoken, I know for a fact I’d have been bound, gagged and Roger wouldn’t have heard my screams. The concrete walls assured that, and this intruder probably knew it.
Knock on wood, we’ll be good for a while. Investing in the small stuff is a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes with good security.

Award winning Brownies

With halloween festivities fast approaching, my award winning brownies are a great, easy to make dessert. It can feed an army but is equally perfect for a nice party. This basic brownie recipe is from the original Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Ina Garten, (pg 172/173), though it took only two times for my guests to reject the brownie as overly-sweet.

I had hope however, and started playing around with the ingredients. I’ve cut back on the overall amount of chocolate, substituted sweetened, salted butter (Tillamook) for unsalted, changed the type and the amount of salt slightly (small chunk Kosher), removed the coffee altogether, and am particular about the recipe size and pan. If this ISN’T chocolate enough for you, a) you have a bigger problem and b) you need to purchase her book!

I’ve made this recipe dozens and dozens of times. It was frustrating to me that it required a lot of trial and error to understand the “why’s” behind a few of the originally recommended techniques. At the same time, it’s been fun to change the recipe, and improve the outcome based upon my modifications. (sorry Ina!) The result is a brownie recipe you can serve at a nice dinner or fancy party. See the end of the recipe for serving tips.
Tip and techniques:
Metal bottom sheet cake pans are really the only ones that work with this recipe. Ceramic and glass don’t work. The center will be raw and the sides burnt. Trust me. Not good.
The quality of vanilla is important as well. Most folks probably can’t taste the difference, but cooks and discriminating eaters can. 
A last tip on this recipe. A single batch is too much for a regular size pan. Again, it has cooking issues. I happen to have 2 professional size sheet cake pans. These can be purchased at most cooking supply stores. Increase the batch to a double, and you will have enough for a party, your family, the neighbors…..
1 lb salted butter
1 lb, plus 6 oz semisweet chocolate chips
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra large eggs, room temperature
2 tbs pure vanilla
2 ¼ cup sugar
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 cups chopped walnuts
Note: I leave the walnuts out, or add it to half the pan, since a lot of people are allergic or don’t like nuts.
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt the butter, 1 lb of chocolate chips and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water.
  3. Remove the bowl from the water, and allow to cool slightly. “Slightly” means that the mixture is warm to the touch, but not burning. (the reason? the mixture must be warm enough to melt down the sugar. If it becomes cold, the mixture won’t blend and the recipe becomes more like molten lava).
  4. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat, very important) together the eggs, vanilla and sugar. (the reason behind not beating? This is because over beating puts air in the eggs. The result is a brownie that is fluffy, more like cake, instead of a dense. 
  5. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.
  6. In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder and salt.
  7. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture.
  8. Toss the walnuts and 6 oz of chocolate chips with ¼ cup of flour, then add to the chocolate batter. (very important—if the batter is too hot, the chips will melt and the entire recipe ruined. Make sure the batter is very cool but not hard)
  9. Pour into a baking sheet.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove, and rap the sheet against the shelf or counter. You can’t skip this step!! It forces the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough.
  11. Bake for 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  12. DO NOT OVERBAKE!! You will have hockey pucks instead of brownies.
  13. Allow to cool thoroughly. In fact, I like these warm, or better after they’ve been in the fridge.

Serving tips:

For parties, allow to cool, then put on a Saran Wrap, very very tightly, and refrigerate overnight. This hardens the brownies without drying, ensuring the brownies settle, are very dense, and easy to cut in to all types of shapes. Remove from the pan and use fun cookie cutter shapes.
Your guests will love you!!