Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bag It!

My gym friends and I were having a good laugh about the size of my handbag and what it contains in it today. While they said it wasn't as big as I made it out to be, they couldn't believe the stuff I pulled out of it.

I can definitely commiserate with Nora Ephron who wrote similarly of the wacky things that she finds in her handbag. Aren't we all guilty of using the bag as a black hole at one time or another? For me it is every time someone hands me a receipt that I don't really need. Instead of finding a garbage bag, I stick it into the abyss of my handbag.

Speaking of the term handbag. My bag should more appropriately be called a shoulder bag. You see one hand could not freely carry such a load. Instead, I need my sculpted gym shoulder to shoulder that burden.

So what do I have in my handbag today? My wallet, my planner (a big planner for big plans) my cell phone, my cell phone charger (which I now carry ever since the time Thing 2 broke his arm and we were in the hospital for nearly 12 hours with my dead cell phone, staring at the electrical outlet which would have charged the phone if only I had had my charger.), my pashmina (for the many times I am too cold and without other outerwear to throw on), a bag of almonds (good and good for you if you have nothing else to eat and no possibility of eating soon), lip gloss, chapstick, nail file, random wrapped mint, random now unwrapping tampon (dont worry I threw it out upon finding it), a pen, my checkbook and check register, various restaurant and bookstore gift cards, hand cream, hand sanitizer, tissues, a small sack that turns into a reusable shopping bag, sunscreen (I swear this is a very small size), shea butter tub (again, sounds big but is actually small), a wrapped Walker's short bread cookie and several tea bags (well I had to make it worth my while when I was lucky enought to visit the business class lounge!), and I think that is it.

You probably thought I would mention a bunny somewhere in there, like a magician who pulls one out of a hat. Alas, I don't think that would get through airport security. My friends were laughing about the almonds and said the airport search dogs must have sniffed those out. I pointed out that because neither were they real sharp, nor at all liquid, I had no problem getting those nuts through.

Speaking of airport security, because I have a few liquids in my bag, I accidentally forgot to put my handcream in the clear plastic bag on the way to London. Turns out they never caught it. My friend Sheila from the gym said she had forgotten a half filled water bottle in her bag and no one caught that. Yikes! Any similar stories to share?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

In A Pickle

For several years now I have been making my own housecleaning products or using all natural ones. The fact that my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer in February, at 45 years old, has just ramped up my paranoia about environmental factors which lead to cancer. So, I have accordingly ramped up my efforts to live a more chemical free life.

So, that is why these days, I smell like I live in a pickle, or that I have just put up jars of pickles for the winter time. You see, I am addicted to the wonder fluid, vinegar. I was already big into vinegar for an organic and cheap way to deal with weeds and moss on walkways and patios and was able to deal with the fact that the yard smelled like a jar of pickled jalapenos for a few days afterwards. However, after reading more and more about the myriad of uses of vinegar inside the house-from laundry (instead of fabric softener!) to glass cleaning, to you name it, I had to go out and immediately build my arsenal of vinegar. I supplemented it with baking soda as it also has fabulous cleaning properties without chemicals, while being cheap. Did I mention it doesn't smell like pickles?

Don't worry I am going to fiddle around with this vinegar thing. Experiment by putting some essential oils in to cut that smell, and see what happens. All I need is a bunson burner and it could be like chemistry class all over again, except this time without the chemicals, and thus goggles (though as I remember making the old volcano with vinegar and baking soda in school, goggles might not be a bad idea, I wonder if they come in fashion colors?)

I just bought some fresh keffir lime leaves to go into the homemade thai food I am making tonight and can't help thinking that maybe one or two of those in the vinegar would make the whole thing smell better. I could be onto something, or maybe just creating a pickled condiment (in time for christmas presents?). Only time will tell.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Back from the Food Holiday

Well, by now I should be over my food lag, so it's back to salad plate size portions of only health foods (with the exception of the leftovers of my daughter's birthday cake-homemade and can't let that go to waste, only to waist). It was fun while it lasted, and it usually lasts a few days after the actual vacation.

Being in a different diet mindset has its freedom and fun, but it also has its cold hard consequences, and that has become apparent on my scale and in my closet, with its narrowing (ironic word in this context) options.

It was great saying yes without hesitation to the clotted cream and scones, having a drink on most days instead of more like twice a month. French pastries every morning while in Paris? Isn't that de riguer? Full fat British yogurt which kicks the Greek kind's butt? Well, I was only there for a short time, and it is the best yogurt and you can't get it in America... No need to go on with the rationalizations, it is very obvious how I find myself in my current position.

Nevertheless, if I nip this in the bud (or butt) and get back to reality (and pitch out the rest of that cake) I'll be fine. Off to have my breakfast of nonfat greek yogurt in a tiny cup (think playdough sized container. Yes, its back to reality at my house and hopefully in my closet soon too!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Puff Mommy

Early to bed, early to rise. An old expression, and now I know why. Lately, I have been waking up and my face, with the humid New England weather, summer allergies and the fact that I sleep with my face in my pillow, can best be described as a puff ball.

I look as if I have gone three rounds in the boxing ring and am definitely not fit for human consumption. So, what to do? My solution is to wake up an hour earlier than I normally would if I need to go out in public (fortunately we family members don't really look at each other very carefully in the morning, and just go about our catatonic morning rituals). This gives my face time to shrink back to size, and hopefully all of the overnight wrinkles fade away (away, away instant old lady!).

The exception to the rule? Going off to the gym for my 6:00 am class once a week. Frankly, at that hour, the public has to accept me as is. Fortunately, the ladies in my gym class also just roll out of bed and stagger in. One of the gals who used to go to my gym even proudly boasted that she slept in her gym clothes to save a few minutes in the am. My kind of girl!

You might be wondering what I do during the new found time in the a.m. while I wait for my face to return to its normal size and shape. Why, blog of course. Or read the paper, check email, or whatever keeps me productive and upright. I do feel a bit like Chicken Lttle, except my line is not "the sky is falling," but rather, "my face is falling." As long as it stops at my neck, I am okay with it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Girl Gone

For some reason, my gym teacher likes to refer to biceps as "guns." She also likes to refer to breasts as "girls." Lately, I have been thinking of what my older sister has been through, now that one of her "girls" is gone. It is really hard to believe what we as a family have gone through emotionally, and my sister, emotionally and physically, since February when we first learned that her surgeon suspected breast cancer.

The thing that has kept us going I think through the emotional roller coaster of her initial (worse) misdiagnosis, and her stroke, her long awaited mastectomy and lymph node surgery, has been a serious sense of humor. Breast cancer doesn't seem like a very funny topic, but we managed to make it that way anyway, so that we could laugh together and share that emotion, instead of the more traditional emotions of fear, grief and shock.

At the beginning of this journey, I would joke with her that she needed to keep me abreast of any developments, that she could talk to me anytime if she had something to get off of her chest. When it became apparent that she was in this for the longhaul, surgery, chemo et al, in came the chemo jokes. Whenever she forgot something we would accuse her of having chemo brain before she actually got chemotherapy.

In her state of shock, she let her roomie and I do all the research about her initial diagnosis and immerse ourselves into the language of breast cancer. Her initial diagnosis, was inflammatory breast cancer, the worst possible type of breast cancer. For almost a month, we were lead to believe that her cancer was IBC. One day she was on the phone with a friend or family member and she paused to ask me what IBC stood for. Without hesitation, I replied "idiot with breast cancer." It sounds really harsh as I write this, but she got the joke and laughed with me. Cancer and all its tons of information, drugs and darkness, had rendered her numb and unable to think. The only thing to do was to acknowledge this with a dose of humor and move on.

When she was held in limbo at Memorial Sloan Kettering for one month with delayed appointments and finally a last minute refusal to perform her surgery, we joked that we would do the surgery ourselves armed with a steak knife and a bottle of brandy. She would need to bring her own drink, the brandy was for the "surgeon."

Now with the surgery finally behind her and chemo half over, we have naturally moved on to the Kojak jokes in honor of her hair loss. "Who loves you baby?" Is our new motto. We also make a point of watching funny movies together.

Not every conversation is laced with humor of course, but we try to make the conversations as titillating as possible. We don't want to run out of jokes, because we decided that the person who can't see through to the humor in this is, well, just a boob.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Back from vacation! Just got home in the early hours today (more like last night!). Poor hubby had to drive the 3 hours from the airport to our house in a wind and torrential rain storm while the rest of us slumbered (or in my case tried to, the waves made by those eighteen wheelers going by can be pretty noisy).

We got home to total darkness at 1 am. The storm had caused a power outage. The only benefit of this was that because we couldn't see a thing, I felt justified in declaring that the luggage (0r lug-age as I like to call it) should just remain in the car until morning unless we wanted to do a clumsy impression of Helen Keller hauling her bags into the house.

The luggage was heavier on the way back because of what I like to call forced merchandising. You see, once again, I did not pack the right wardrobe for the climate. You would think that after living in the UK for three years, I would remember what the weather was like there in the summer, but I goofed, or had retail-induced amnesia. After about 45 seconds of waiting outside of Heathrow for the rental car shuttle bus in my sandals, it became immediately apparent that I had packed the wrong things. I knew immediately that the sandals weren't going to cut the blustery weather. Nor the capri pants I was wearing.

Unfortunatley, the only other warm options in my luggage were my hiking boots and hiking pants. An okay look out on the trail, but around London? At parties? In Paris? Mon dieu, absolutment impossible! Day 1, arrival day, I grinned and bore it hoping it was an unseasonal cold snap, despite what my friend told me: that the entire summer had been like that thus far. Day 2, I did what I had to do, what any self respecting, indeed, self preserving woman would do in my shoes (yes, literally, except swap that to sandals), I went shopping.

I know, I know, clothes shopping in the UK? In the land of "pay twice what you would in the US?" But, I am happy to report, that ever resourceful, I found a trendy Danish label being sold at an antiques center (hubby says only I could find such a thing). The best news, the prices were affordable by US standards. Add to this that not only was I helping myself out in a pinch, but probably single handedly curing the sluggish world economic condition, and I felt pretty proud.

This feeling of euphoria was only further enhanced the next day when I found a pair of closed toe Clark's shoes for only twenty pounds. I think forty US dollars for a pair of sensible and stylish shoes is more than reasonable under the circumstances. In fact, even if I had packed the right shoes, I would still have been sorely tempted to buy these shoes and probably would not have passed them up.

Speaking of "sorely", unfortunately there is a downside in instant shoe buying in a moment of extreme need. There is no "breaking in" time for the shoes. Thus, the sore blisters when one is forced to walk around Paris in the cute, stylish, bargain Clark's in an effort to find a cute, stylish bistro in which to dine. C'est la vie as they say there.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Pack It Up!

We are off to London tonight. Of course, I haven't packed a thing yet. I have, however, started piling. This is my usual approach to the whole "taking the things I will need when gone" issue.

I am a proud last minute packer in terms of actually putting things in the suitcase and going over my mental list of what will be needed. But a few days before the trip, I start "the pile." The pile is composed of all of the things I think of in the course of my day, that I don't want to forget to take, and mostly gifts for people I am visiting (no, the microwave macaroni and cheese is not for snacks, you can't get it over in the UK, so we are bringing it as a present).
It isn't until a few hours before we actually leave the house that I get down to the serious packing, what I am going to take to wear, read, etc. and how I am going to fit it all in that bag to the right.
Inevitably, I vacillate between what I like to call the "kitchen sink approach" and the "bare minimalist" approach. Do I take this vacation as a chance to pare down to the basics and lighten the load and make my life more simple? Or do I pack like I am never coming home again, like I might be subjected to extreme weather patterns? I can't say which I choose as each trip is different (and the amount of time left to pack and my mood often make the decision for me), but invariably, I get it wrong.
If I stuff my luggage with every imaginable item I might need, I come home with 80% of it absolutely unused and no room to take back all of the really neat things I coveted on the trip. If I go the bare minimalist route, I invariably forget several crucial items, causing me to have to find them in a strange land, at an exhorbitent price, not to mention, a new mini-wardrobe because the weather I packed for bore no relation to the weather I actually experienced.
Which way will I pack today? I won't know until this afternoon. Though I have to say, it is always more tempting to go with the bare minimalist approach. Because if there is one thing I hate more than packing, it's unpacking.
Back in a few weeks dear reader, at which time I will let you know how the packing, unpacking and purchasing went.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

"I'm Not The Maid Around Here"

This is my mantra. "I'm not the maid around here!" I use it oh, fifteen or twenty times a day sometimes. Of course the sad truth is, I am the closest thing to a maid that this place is going to get.

I choose to clean my own house because I would rather spend the money on treating myself to nice things like massages, because I like to make my own natural cleaning products without chemicals, and because I have had my share of Polish or Brazilian house cleaners in the past and have had the same communication problems everyone does who can't speak Polish or Portuguese. I also remember that all of those housecleaners, irrespective of their country of origin, were blind from the waste up, meaning they would never clean anything above waste level.

So now I like to joke with anyone who comes to the house that I am the cleaning lady, but I keep giving myself the day off. I must admit though, I have started involving the kids (Thing 1 and Thing 2) in the household chores.

Usually Thing 1 will do the toilets and the sinks without much grousing at all and Thing 2 is an expert duster. In addition they are expected to fold the clothes when I deliver them to the family room where they are then called upon to come to from their TV induced catatonic coma, to fold them. They are also expected to set the table and on occasion (when I think of it and they are within eyesight), empty the dishwasher. I think it is important to engage them in these ways. It teaches them responsibility and also to appreciate what we do for them.

I also want to instill in them the importance of lending a hand in all sorts of activities. Of course, they have had the "hold the door for the next person" drilled into their heads, but I want them to, of their own volition, lend a hand when at someone's house for clearing a table, moving furniture, etc. So, I start at home and try to drill it into their heads in the hopes that it will become second nature.

Of course, all of this takes considerable effort, energy and often fine argumentative skills. I admit, sometimes I don't have the energy to argue over every little thing. For instance, I did such a good job of drilling into their heads that dirty clothes go in their respective hampers, that I don't have to worry about clothes lying around their room. However, though I have mentioned it several times, there isn't a great distinction in their minds between clean clothes and dirty clothes, no matter how many perishing polar bears clinging to icebergs I can conjure up in their minds to show them that cleaning clean clothes is a waste of energy.

So instead, I secretly go through the clothes and send back up, without washing, the ones that weren't actually dirty in the first place. Don't worry, the minute I think they are just putting the clothes in the hamper so they don't have to fold them and put them back in their drawers, I will call them on that behavior. I will call them on it just as soon as I have the energy, because it is tiring doing most of the work around here. Announcing time after time that "I'm not the maid around here" takes a good bit of energy and a lot of drama too.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Damn the Clams

Tum's the Word! That's my motto for today, unfortunately. You see, in a moment of weakness and amnesia, I ordered (and ate most of) a fried whole belly clam dinner yesterday. I took momentary leave of my senses and forgot about my IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and threw caution to the wind. I was taken in by the smell of that yummy seafood and the salty water which the restaurant overlooked.

I even joked about it before I dug in. I announced I would probably regret it later, but concluded with my usual ender for any argument "whatever." My mother-in-law joked that she wouldn't need to do the special preparations tomorrow for Tuesday's colonscopy, all she needed was the clam roll she had ordered. We laughed about it then, but something tells me if I called her around 4 am when I was writhing in pain, rolling around the bed and keeping my husband from sleeping, she would probably be up, and no longer laughing either.

So, today I am going about my routine in a sleep deprived fog. That's what happens when you spend the hours of 3 am-6am writhing in pain, with a few trips to the bathroom thrown in for good measure. I had great intentions of going to my 6 am gym class and to get up early to start adjusting to UK time (where we are headed Wednesday night) to avoid jetlag. Well, it feels like I have the jetlag today, though I have yet to board the plane.

So dear reader beware, in this season of shore vacations, don't be as dumb as me if your stomach does not have the strongest of constitutions. Or at least don't be as piggish. I should have split something healthier with a smaller portion of the clams. Instead, I reasoned, what the hell? How many times do I get local whole belly clams? May as well go whole hog. A squealing hog is what I ended up behaving like early the next morning. Squealing in pain and as bloated as a pig.

Trust me, I am now certain that "whole belly clams" is a double entendre, one refers to the fact that you get the whole belly of the clams, and the other is that your whole belly will be upset and you actually spent a few clams to suffer in this way!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day-We Have Evolved

Today marks my first Independence Day back in America after living in Britain for three years. It will be fun to indulge in the good old American barbecue and we are going to celebrate as we had before we moved, by going to Rhode Island for a party at the shore house my in-laws own.

Before going over to England, we thought it would an exciting adventure to live in a country with so much history, beautiful gardens, lovely tea and especially the same language, though pronounced with a cool accent. We really enjoyed all those things while there (though towards the end my daughter, Thing 1, would announce that she didn't want to "go anywhere historical today"), but we learned quickly that in fact the language was not at all the same.

In actuality the language was similar enough to get you by, but always keep you guessing, or sometimes laughing at the way they said things. I always got a good chuckle when one of the BBC broadcasters would say the word "controversy." They put the emphasis on the second vowel, instead of how we put it on the first. It sounds really really funny. Maybe that was how the whole move towards American independence started, those pilgrims came over hear and came to their senses, and announced "look, we don't want to fight about it, but from now on it is controversy, you ninnies."

Somewhere along the way those pilgrims, or their successors decided to adopt more efficient spelling techniques than employed in England. They wisely decided to drop the letter "u" from the words "colour", "flavour" and a whole bunch of what we would recognize as words ending in "or." However, curiously while they were being real efficient and getting rid of those pesky silent "u"s they somehow lost the plot (to use a brit term) and decided to add the word "the" to the british terms "going to hospital" "was taken to hospital," etc. The Brits are very efficient about getting to the hospital. More so than we are, by three letters at least, to say nothing of the geographic distance.

Another funny difference in terminology is the term for "moving." We Americans just state matter of factly that we are moving and assume that the listener understands that we are moving from one apartment to another, one house to another, or whatever. However, the Brits call it "moving house," Perhaps they don't want anyone to think they might be moving their bowels instead? Speaking of houses, I bet the painters in this country would be jealous if they learned that the painters over there go by the lofty title "decorators."

After three years living there, I could go on and on about the differences in language, particularly the names of certain things, like "beetroot" for beets, "loo roll" for toilet paper, "bap" for a type of sandwich, and of course a favorite of mine, "fags" for cigarettes. But probably the word whose different meaning I will never forget would be "revise."

One day shortly after we moved over, my daughter came home from her new British school and sat down to do her homework. She asked me to explain what she had to do. I took a look at the instructions and it said "Science Homework, revise text, pages 14-19." I looked at the "text" which was really a notebook of science facts and information, etc. prepared by the school. I looked it over in detail and couldn't see any glaring errors. I had no clue. I had expected the British education system to be more advanced than the American system, but revising text? So, in exhasparation, I said, I don't know (a very American emphasis on the "I"), I guess you need to read this and see where anything is wrong or could have been said better and change it, I have to go make dinner." Thus, I escaped into the kitchen.

The next day, she came home and informed me that all they were supposed to have done was read over that section of the notebook. Go figure, to the Brits revise means simply review. To the Americans it means edit and make better, like our version of history. Happy Independence Day.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

One of Da Boys

Ever since I was a teenager and watched those commercials for some panties (or was it stockings?) where they talked about the dreaded VPL-visible panty line, I have lived in fear of having VPL.

So for several decades, I did the obvious and just wore baggy slacks, shorts and skirts. Then along came what I like to call the wedgie underwear which coincided with the realization that all those baggy clothes on my bottom just made me look bigger, VPL or no VPL. I initially looked upon the wedgie underwear with quiet (yes, me) disdain. It looked like some kind of butt floss or definitely something which I assumed would provide one prolonged wedgie. I thought I would stick with the granny underwear, but, as they say, never say never.

My friend Susie convinced me that all wedgie underwear was not the same and some, which measured more than a 1/4" or so in the floss region, were actually quite bearable and took care of the old VPL problem. So I tried them, and I survived. I wouldn't say they are the most comfortable underwear, especially at night when I tend to squirm around, being the belly sleeper that I am. But they do the trick so they comprise about 50% of my undie population.

I thought I was all au courant in the undie deparmemt at that point. However, the folks in the underwear business must have gotten wind of that fact, so they decided to take one from the book of boys, by stealing the look of the new boy (and men)'s underwear, a cross between boxers and briefs. Enter the boy cut undie.

Probably in fear of the medical profession who always tells us to avoid cotton underwear though, the underwearmakers made their boy cut undies for ladies out of a synthetic material (I would tell you the exact fabric components, but that would involve a contortionistic yoga pose, or taking off my underwear. I think by now you can guess where and more precisely when I came up with the idea for this post).

So, I jumped in and bought some of these boy cut undies because they looked more comfortable than the wedgie ones and because they promised a seamless look (read: no VPL). They are comfy and look fine until you bend over to put on your slacks or shorts or whatever, at which point they immediately roll up creating a little border. So much for the VPL. I put on my shorts anyway and figure I will do the contortionistic yoga pose and unroll the boy cut undies once I get the shorts on by a series of movements akin to a covert military operation.

At this point I start questioning the idea of the boy cut undies and try to remember if I have seen boys or men guilty of VPL (like Undiana Jones?). I realize I never see them walking around with a little role of extra fabric (read: VPL), so I conclude it is because of the differen t fabric being used. Of course, because of their outdoor plumbing, those boys and men don't have to worry about getting bladder infections, and thus can wear cotton. Unfair, yes, I know, don't get me started.

Boy cut undies are a nice idea in theory, but they only work with some acrobatic adjustments and even then, whatever you are wearing over them can't be too skin tight or you end up with VPL anyway. Seams funny, so I will wait to see what they think up next.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I'm Not Grumpy, It's Just Gravity

I am thinking of getting a t-shirt with that slogan on it. This way, if I am not smiling all of the time, people will understand that what looks like a frown is really just gravity at work. Or maybe I could put the slogan on a button so I could wear it on different outfits, because the t-shirt might require too much in the laundry department, and then I would have a real reason to frown.

Let me know what you think of my slogan and if you prefer the t-shirt, button, or maybe a hat.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Estrogen (Sung to the Tune of "Yesterday" by the Beatles)


Estrogen, should I or should I not take estrogen?
There's a debate just check my search engine, oh estrogen, should I take thee?
Suddenly, from what I read your all around me, should have plenty, but not apparently
oh, Estrogen, your plaguing me

Why I had to go and dump my pills, I do know, my sister's breast tumor
Now all that seems to get me through is more drugs and some humor

Estrogen, when you were in my pill I slept alright,
Now I'm bloated, hot and can no longer feel my hand
Thanks to progesterone, I'm like a stranger in a foreign land
Oh Estrogen, your plaguing me

Estrogen, my period used to be a trickle, now its like the Red Sea,
single handedly boosting the tampon industry,
yes that's me, oh estrogen, I love/hate thee.