Tuesday, May 14, 2013

High Cholesterol & Low Iron

Ok, I'm now 46 years one month and 9 days old and my doctor says I have low iron, high LDL and high HDL (at least the good stuff is high too!).  According to the letter I got in the mail, I need to "Please follow the enclosed cholesterol diet."  WTF?

Heart Disease???
Somewhere in my head, I am still 31- the age I turned right after having my first child.  I loved having my first in my 30's! I had claimed my youth and arrived at motherhood 10 years older than the age my mother was when she had me!  I had an established career.  I loved to run.  I was well traveled. I'd started saving for retirement while still enjoying the present.  When I turned 30 I told a friend, "30 is awesome because I never thought this is what my life would look like at this age!" I'd always imagined that I'd be weighed down by reality by then, but not so!  That all came at 40!

So here I am- realizing that my mother's genetic predispositions to low iron and high cholesterol are in me and that the potential consequence of not adjusting my eating and exercise habits is heart disease and/or stroke.  This is "old people" stuff!

What do you do with that?  Do you:

A) Make a bowl of chili con queso and a margarita (as acts of rebellion and surrender) while deciding when to go to In'n'Out burger because life as you know it is about to end.

B) Start looking at vegan websites trying to figure out how to make vegan cheese.

C) Reframe this as a blessing, knowing that this information is the motivation you've been waiting for to start moving away from red meat and cheese and begin exercising again.

D) Shit  your pants.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Sunscreen VS Hat

Or: What Happened to My Skin

I used to have beautiful skin.  Really.  I didn't get zits.  My pores were small.  My skin was an alabaster white in the winter and an even, slimming, cafe au lait brown in the summer.   I didn't appreciate it at 15 or 18 or 21 or 27 or any time before I had a baby, got "pregnancy mask",  gained and lost weight, and started seeing the effects of age, sun and stress.  

Age 20 with my juggling sticks practicing to be really artsy for my summer in Europe.
Not only did I not appreciate it, but I would find tiny flaws and focus on them like a laser beam- tearing myself down.  Knowing what I know now I wish I could go back and bitch slap myself!  I wish I could have told young-me that I was a blind, ungrateful whiner who was turning her back on the gift of youth!  "Look at me!" I would say, "Look at me!  See these splotches?  See these jowls?  See these creases?  You are going to look just like this one day and no lotion or potion is going to change that!  You may cover it or bleach it or inject it or pull it or push it around, but while you are pummeling yourself you'll realize how beautiful you were when you were young and then you'll hate yourself even more because you never, ever noticed, appreciated or celebrated the gifts you'd been given!  You might not be a super model, honey, but you aren't old!  Get out there and shake what your momma gave ya and have fun at it because the clock is ticking!"

My real mother never did this.  She herself was self-condemning.  I remember her smoking instead of eating and speaking badly about her skin (she had me at 21 and with me came the pregnancy mask), weight, looks and body shape.  As a child I struggled to understand what she was seeing because she  

My gorgeous mother, Shai, in 1966.  
was so beautiful.  What her eyes perceived was a great mystery to me and I constantly countered her hateful self-talk with words of loving admiration.  I was a child and I saw the truth, but I grew up hearing that kind of self talk over and over and learned year by year how women were supposed to talk to themselves.  I learned not to use kind words about my own face or body and the lens I see myself through has always been warped.

When I had my own girls I swore that I would never use self-condemning language around them.  I wanted them to have years of positive language that would allow them to foster their own self love and self confidence before they went out in the world.  I work very hard to never use negative self-talk around them when addressing the way I look,  my weight or my opinion of myself.  For their whole lives I have told them that they are gorgeous people.  When they'd get all princess-ed out  and asked me if they looked "beautiful" I would remind them that even when they roll in mud or are covered with peanut butter they are beautiful, but all dressed up they sure looked fancy!  Beauty is not conditional- it is their constant state!  This may seem like a mere nuance, but my girls (unlike me!) KNOW they are beautiful!  They are 13 and 10 and their self talk is about beauty, identity, uniqueness and power rather than about inferiority, failure and defeat.  Jesa knows she's awesome (she tells everyone!) and Kiva has no question that she is gorgeous.  Neither of them think this in a superior way because they understand that beauty is intrinsic in all of us. They believe (read: KNOW) that females, all of us of any age, are absolutely amazing and just being part of this club makes us all AWESOME!

Lookin' beautiful for their date with Dad to the Father/Daughter Dance.

So slather sunscreen on that middle-aged mug my ladies and don't think twice about getting in your f-in bathing suit for the beach!  I promise you that in 5 years you'll regret giving yourself a hard time for what you look like today.  Gravity, ladies... gravity keeps pulling us down-- don't give it any help!  Learn from the new generation's confidence and get in the damned water!  

Friday, June 1, 2012

Sanity Is Fragile

At midlife...

why do we still get our periods? 

isn't life hard enough without PMS? 

what you lookin' at?
I cracked once yesterday and once this morning... Calgon can't take me away....  
I never got mean PMS until after I had my 2nd child at 35. It started about a year after I stopped nursing.  It doesn't hit every month, but if it did, I'd have identified a pattern and made some progress containing it.  I'd have a ritual by now: I'd clear the calendar, fill the fridge with frozen foods and watch soothing movies about pretty things.  It would be just me, my hormones and my budding rage and hopelessness.  But my challenge with PMS is that it doesn't always hit!  I get fooled into thinking I'm clear when I don't get it for a few months and them BLAM!  It takes over because I don't expect it.  It's like cramps-- you don't get them for a couple of months and you think you've outgrown them and the next thing you know you're doubled over at a PTA meeting.  
I'm a terrible person! Everything is my fault!
It is all so confusing because everything is so clear as I spin and spin into self-hatred, self righteousness, rage or feeling victimized.  But once I've lost myself completely to the evil-twin I'll call "Centrifuge!",  I'll often see what is really happening and think... "uh oh!  how do you put the brakes on this thing??  this is really bad!"  But when "Centrifuge!" is rockin' don't bother knockin'!  Things will spin until they are all spun out. 

Before I realized that I was even getting bouts of PMS, Ben used to say supportive things like, "Would you just RELAX?!?"  and "What is up with you?  What time of the month is it anyway?"  He was so compassionate and caring that"Centrifuge" couldn't resist spinning up to see him and get her hands around his squawking neck.  Since I've realized and admitted that I've fallen victim to The PMS, Ben doesn't go knocking on "Centrifuge!"'s door much any more. Unfortunately, when she's here he'll take her on sometimes... poor Ben.
"Centrifuge!" was here.  I'm so so sorry...
(What a lame 45 year old pouty face!)

This one's is better.
(she's just sorry she got lollipop in the carpet... she had no idea what was 35 years away!)

I realized a pattern today.  When I am in high-stress mode and my "little friend" is around the corner, I'd better get the Sound of Music ready on the DVD.  If I'm focused and wound up, I can't tell if I'm having a strong feeling or a disproportionate reaction.  This month qualifies: end of the school year for 2 schools, room parent, school events several eves for 3 weeks, painting the kitchen, a newly mouthy teenager and a sick 10 year old with a project due... I was doing so well holding it all together.  But yesterday the spinning started and once the PMS-spin starts it is almost impossible to stop the arrival of "Centrifuge!"!  Crazy stuff spits out of my mouth and water squirts out of my eyes!  And just like The Hulk- I survey the damage once I'm back.   I hate PMS.   

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Belated Mother's Day Drinky-poo

A drink to sweeten your life!

Strawberry Fields 4-Evah! 

(created by Michelle last week. cheesy name created today!)

We got these old fashioned glasses at IKEA.  Glasses break and when these attractive, but affordable glasses do, no one sheds a tear!


This drink includes two great liquors that you may not have in your cabinet.  They will spark your creative spirit!  You can get them at your local kick-bootie liquor store (in our area Bev-mo does it!).  This post will explain what the liquors are, what tools you'll need, the recipe and instructions.

From left to right: ice, Gin (Bombay Sapphire), Aperol, Angostura Bitters, Fresh Strawberries,
Maraschino Liquor, Basil Plant, Agave Nectar.

Gin: If you have a thing against gin, I bet it started in your 20's after too many Gin & Tonics and now you think you can't drink gin.  Gin is vodka infused with botanicals...  they are cousins.  Vodka is the long haired, programer with a video game habit.  Gin is his rock climbing, guitar playing, well traveled cousin.  Who would you rather party with?  

Maraschino Liqueur:  Maraschino is an italian liquor made from marasca cherries and sugar and adds a light, dry, cherry, sweetness to your drinks.  Luxardo is the top selling brand of the stuff, but we got Stock Maraschino to try it out- your call.  Our bottle is large, but there may be a smaller one to start with.  It tastes great with any kind of hard liquor so as you evolve, you will use it (I promise- and I'll help!).  I find it makes a difference in this drink, but as I mention below, you can skip this ingredient for $ reasons if necessary.  Then again if you paid for this drink at a bar, it would be at least $15 a pop.  If you do choose to skip the Maraschino, add more Agave to taste (or substitute triple sec).  Go lightly on the agave if you use it instead of Maraschino.  Too much sweetener and you won't taste the ingredients-then you may as well wait and just get a strawberry daiquiri at Chili's on kids-eat-free night (nausea).

Aperol:  Aperol is an Italian aperitif similar to Campari. It has a zingy, plate clearing quality that wakes you up!  It has a naturally vibrant red color with a bitter, orange like flavor.  I love Aperol!  Its sweetness and tang teases at bitterness, but never quite gets there.  It is refreshing on its own, on ice or with sparkling water.  It adds a vibrance to mixed drinks.  When you hit the cash register to buy these liquors (and the Angostura), remember this isn't wine- they will last a long time.  You will enjoy many a drink before you empty either bottle.  


If you've decided not to try this drink because you don't want to shop for the ingredients, you are so busted.  We are midlife-ers!  Are you just going drink a Cosmo like its 1994?  You gonna wear a crop top and talk about the OJ trial?  The kids who were born while you were drinking that '94 Cosmo are now the Class of 2012!  That was EIGHTEEN years ago! I'm asking you to try something new. You won't pull a muscle or tear an ACL going to an f-in liquor store!  Q: Is this different than other drinks I might make (or pour)  at home?  A: Maybe.  Q: Might I need to visit new and different places to get everything I need for this drink?  Perhaps.  Q: Will I smell or taste the Angostura Bitters and think: no way?  Yes, but you don't drink bitters.  You use a few drops or some dashes in a shaker full of other liquids to add complexity.  Would you give someone a teaspoon of cayenne if they asked you what your chili tasted like?  That's nuts!  Give it a try...  and drink the whole drink before you decide if you like it or not.  You may end up drinking them all weekend!   *One caveat: If you decide for financial reasons that you don't want to purchase something- skip the Maraschino.  It adds nice nuances to the drink, but I get the $ thing.


Cocktail Shaker, measuring jigger and cocktail strainer.
It's nice to have a shaker, a measuring jigger and a strainer, but if you are just getting started, you can make it work without these tools- shake a ball jar or stir, but be sure to strain out the ice after shaking/stirring or it will dilute the drink.  One thing you must have for this drink is a muddler.  See below.

Our wooden, two sided muddler.  This end is "toothed" and the other  is rounded.
A muddler is used to macerate the strawberries and basil before adding the liquids.  Try to get one long enough you can muddle in your shaker without having to put your hand inside of it.  My muddler could be a little longer since I have a tall shaker, but you know what they say: its not the size of your muddler, its what you do with it!


Strawberry Fields 4-Evah (makes 2, 4 oz drinks or 1, 8 oz drink) :
  • 5-6 large Strawberries
  • 5-6 large basil leaves
  • 3 oz Gin
  • 2 oz Aperol
  • 1 oz Maraschino (if you don't have maraschino, you'll have to sweeten w/ more agave) 
  • 1/2 oz Agave Nectar ( or simple syrup or to taste)
  • 2 dashes (not drops- 2 determined shakes for two streams of bitters)

1) muddle the strawberries and basil well in the shaker.

2) add Maraschino, Gin, Aperol, Agave and Angostura Bitters.
2.5) The small end of the two sided jigger is 1 oz (the other is 2) and the cap of most shakers is 1 oz as well.

3) Add ice to shaker, cap it and shake well until exterior of shaker frosts.  

This is a picture of the appropriate way to grip the shaker.
DON'T hold it in front of you like this.
Hold it over your shoulder as you shake.

3.5) Be sure to hold the shaker over your shoulder (not in front of you) with both hands as you shake. 

This may seem showy (a la Tom Cruise in "Cocktail"), but it's the easiest and most efficient way to shake a shaker.  If you hold it in front of you while you shake, you'll look and feel like you're using a jack hammer to mix the drink. Without a jog bra, you'll put on quite a show. Try it both ways yourself, the correct way is much more comfortable.   Shake the shaker like yo mama taught you until it frosts on the outside.  That's cold, but two hands can just manage it.  One handed shaking will not allow you to tolerate the cold long enough to get to the appropriate temperature.  As you shake one of your hands should cap the top of the shaker and the other should hold it at the bottom (see above).  The bottom of the shaker should face forward and the top should face back and you should shake over your shoulder at about a 45 degree angle.  

4) Once your shaker is frosty on the outside, remove the cap and put the cocktail strainer over the shaker cup.  The shaker comes with its own strainer in the top part, but all of the macerated strawberry will clog the strainer right away.  This cocktail strainer will allow more strawberry bits to come through (yum) and allow the liquid to escape without issue.  When you use this for other drinks, you won't have to battle the ice in your shaker.  This is a useful tool.  Every so often you will want to turn the shaker right-side-up and swirl the drink so more liquid can escape.  You can always double strain it if you want less strawberry meat (yes, I said MEAT... clean up, please.).

4) Strain the drink into an old fashioned glass.  While this drink is appealing to both men and women, I chose an old fashioned glass because it balances the red, strawberry, girly-ness with a more masculine glass.  You could put it in a white wine glass if you want to go all-out, ladies night, but be sure to smash some ice (with a mallet) and add it to the drink.  The fresh strawberry bits that will sit on the side of the glass as you drink can look unattractive and smashed ice will improve the situation. Cubed ice just won't cut it.  On a hot day be sure to add the ice to the old fashioned as well.  You could always default to a margarita glass, but this isn't a margarita-- you worked too hard for someone to assume that this is a strawberry margarita!

5) Garnish the drink with a strawberry on the side and a small basil leaf in the drink.

6) Sigh... sip... enjoy....

7) Ask someone to start making another one right away!

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake Recipe!

I never understood the draw of the strawberry until I moved to California.  I grew up overseas and ate my first "fresh" strawberry in Connecticut at age 12.  It was sour and the seeds got caught in my teeth.  I didn't like strawberries.  5 years ago (at age 40) I had a field ripened, farm fresh, groan inspiring strawberry.  During strawberry season we buy them by the flat and finish them in a day.

This is the our neighborhood, outdoor stand.  The season kind of starts in late April and we eat until they stop selling them in mid-July! Yummm!

The Recipe:
While eating this strawberry shortcake at Boccali's in Ojai (yesterday's post), I broke a golden rule of etiquette and implored the waiter with a brimming mouth "o ma ga! wha kinda cake z dis?"  He smiled wryly, raised one eyebrow and mumbled surreptitiously, "it's Bisquick."  I will forever and ever patronize Boccali's! What a generous gift! Their pizza is forever, but strawberries will be gone too soon. Here is your gateway to sweet, savory, creamy wonderment! Unless you want to hit Boccali's!

Bisquick Shortcake Recipe: 

(used to be printed on the outside of the Bisquick box, but now printed on the inside!)

Bisquick biscuits:
  • 2 1/3 cups Bisquick baking mix
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
Heat oven to 425°F. Stir baking mix, melted butter, milk, and 3 Tbsp of sugar in a mixing bowl until soft dough forms. Drop by 6 spoonfuls on to a greased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
Makes 6 biscuits.

Strawberries and whipping cream:
  • 3 baskets of fresh strawberries (the more the better!)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Whipping cream
  • Vanilla


Remove the stems from the strawberries. Slice into thin (1/4" to 1/8") slices. Put into a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of sugar (depending on how sweet the strawberries are to begin with) and mix into the strawberries. Set aside at room temperature to macerate (which means that the sugar will soften the strawberries and help release their juices).
After the strawberries have been sitting for 20 minutes or so, take a potato masher and mash them a little. Not too much, just enough to get more juice out of them.
Whip the cream, adding a drop or two of vanilla and a teaspoon of sugar.
To serve, break up one biscuit per person into big pieces into a bowl. Ladle strawberries over the biscuit. Add a dolop of whipped cream.
(copied from simplyrecipes site, but original shortcake biscuit recipe is from Bisquick)

Simplyrecipes also offered a copy of the Bob's Red Mill gluten free version (follow my Bob's link to more gluten free recipes)!  I am going to make it this weekend.  We've recently gone gluten free as an experiment.  And the results are marked!  Kiva is noticing the difference and recently ate only the cheese off a pizza to stay loyal to the program on her own.  She's seen Ben and I on the South Beach before-- she figures that if she can all still have fruit, ice-cream and potatoes in her life, it's do-able!
Gluten-free biscuits:
  • 1-1/2 cups Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour (Bob's Red Mill)
  • 1 Tbsp. Sugar
  • 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp. Xanthan Gum
  • 1 tsp. Guar Gum
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 cup Shortening
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1 large Egg White
Preheat oven to 350ยบ. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or grease lightly.
In food processor, pulse dry ingredients (flour through salt) with shortening until mixture is consistency of small peas. Add milk and egg white. Blend until dough forms ball, scraping down sides with spatula, if necessary. Dough will be somewhat soft.
Place dough on parchment-lined or greased baking sheet that’s been lightly dusted with rice flour. Gently pat to 3/4-inch thick circle with hands or spatula. Lightly dust dough with rice flour. Cut into ten 2-inch circles with floured biscuit cutter. Shape remaining dough to 3/4-inch thick and cut again. If dough is sticky, lightly dust with more flour. Arrange evenly on baking sheet.
Bake 12-15 minutes or until nicely browned. Best when served warm or gently reheated in microwave oven. Serves 10. (Recipe from Bob's Red Mill)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Muh huzbund

Sorry I missed posting on Monday and Tuesday... 

I was away with muh huzbund, Ben. 


Yes, you heard right... awayeeeeeeeee!!!!  Just the two of us.  We got an online, daily-deal months ago for a two night get-away in nearby Ojai.  It almost didn't happen.  We completely procrastinated.  I called to make reservations 2 weeks before it was set to expire and discovered that the deal was only for school nights (I say weekday nights).  HUH? I didn't read the fine print. We have 2 school aged kids who go to different schools!  We talked about swallowing the $$ and not using the deal.  Each time we discussed skipping it each of us had an anal clench.  SQUEEK!!  Lose the $$?  Ok, ok, but that would suck.  Accept that we are in a really, really deep rut?  NO! We bucked complacency and with the help of ANGELS who swooped down to take our girls, we did it!  Thank you, thank you, thank you, Angels!!   It takes a village to help pry the "age" out of marriage!  What a rejuvenating couple of nights! 

Ojai, Ventura County, California.
Hometown of the bionic duo, Steve Austin and Jamie Summers.  

 First stop: Boccali's!  A highly recommended pizza joint.  

The pizza was amazing, but when we saw the strawberry shortcake 
we knew we had to save room for dessert!

Can you tell how HUGE this is?  
Strawberries are in season and Boccali's is generous!

 This motha fills a man's hand!!  I'm sharing the recipe tomorrow!!  

 We went on a hike the next day
(before we went back for more strawberry shortcake!).
Can you see the baby avocados on this avocado tree?
They are the strawberry shaped green bulbs at the end of the branches.

2 bigger avocados... hanging masculinely 
Yucca flower! 

Yucca! I read on a blog that using different picture formats
in your blog is a bad idea.  Is this bugging you?  

 Red leaves of the avocado trees.

Sunset over the Ojai Valley.

It is amazing how fun a husband can be when he's on vacation!  Maybe it was because he was well fed, flexible, h*r^y, the center of attention and not concerned with punctuality (read: we didn't fight about my chronic tardiness!)?  Or maybeI was just relaxed enough to notice his good qualities. That's Ben's opinion.

I was definitely more relaxed than I usually am at the beginning of a vacation.  I am the travel agent here.  Imake plane and hotel reservations, arrange for the dogs and the house, make sure everyone has clean stuff to pack and finally I have to double, triple check that everything has gotten done.  It was such a treat to just throw things in the car and drive off!  There is a lot to be said for "around the corner" vacationing. It really fed my need for independence. Another bonus: you are close enough to go home for the Bad Boy suit when your husband misbehaves:

Ben wants me to mention that this isn't him. It is a mannequin.  He also wants me to tell you that this was in LA not Ojai... Jamie Summer's hometown wouldn't have a store like this.  

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cocktail Friday!

Cinco de Mayo Tipple: Mexican Firing Squad!

Cinco de Mayo doesn't always have to be Margaritas and Dos XX.
Kick-start your revolutionary spirit! Try something new.
Arriba, Arriba!  Viva La Revolution!

Mexican Firing Squad!
(originated:  La Cucaracha Bar, Mexico City 1937) 

2 oz Blanco Tequila
3/4 oz Lime Juice (preferable fresh)
3/4 oz Grenadine (the higher quality the better)
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Splash Soda Water (after shaking)
1 wedge Lime (garnish)

Place all ingredients except soda water and lime wedge in a shaker with ice.
Shake briskly and strain into an ice filled collins glass.  Top with a splash of soda water and garnish with lime.