Momover Lady’s Library: THE CAN’T COOK BOOK by Jessica Seinfeld (Ooh, ma famille is l-o-v-i-n-g this)

This is giving me CROCK POTS of confidence.

A crock pot of confidence.

Sidebar 1: FYI to my faithful Momoverettes: If you’re ever reading, and thinking to yourself: Oh my lordy, today’s blog post is positively strewn with typos and MIA words, come back later. I often fix stuff after the fact. Because even though I foist them on the public from time to time, je deteste typos.

Sidebar 2: I hope to make “Momover Lady’s Library” a running feature, à la Beauty Armoire Monday and DRIVEN, my quest to re-learn how to drive after 30+ (gack!) wheel-less years in Gotham. The idea behind MLL is that I extract something super-useful for you guys from whatever non-fiction book I currently have my nose jammed into. This will help both of us. I figure that if I can’t chisel-out good intel for you, I can’t chisel-out good intel for me. And that means bye-bye. I have hundreds of books and I need to clutter-bust in the most major of ways.

Okay, enough with all the sidebars. Allez-y. On y va. Let’s go.

REASONS I LOVE THIS BOOK

1. It’s physically adorable. Have you met me? I live for surface gloss. This is Jessica Seinfeld’s third cookbook, and it is, in my opinion, the hands down cutest of the lot. I didn’t buy her first book – Deceptively Delicious – the one that helps you hide pureed veggies in virtually everything you whip up for your tiny tater tots. (I’ll just come clean here – we were seriously nanny-d up when the Wee Lass was a wee lass, so I didn’t cook for her, or have a need for honing my pureed-veggie hiding skills.) But I do own Double Delicious, which features kitschy, 1950s-era art direction and not-great still-life imagery. The photography in The Can’t Cook Book is roughly a billion times better. Listen, I worked for Condé Nast for almost 20 years; I’m a photography snob.

2. It’s organized really well. Seinfeld doesn’t get into actual recipes until Page 45. The lead up is all incredibly useful – and yes, sometimes incredibly basic – info on tools you need (“Gear Up”); equipping your pantry (“Stock Up”); the best way to prep your work station before you dive in (“Set Up”) and core kitchen skills, like zesting lemons and smashing garlic cloves (“How-to”). 

3. The writing is peppy, and encouraging, and funny. I think I’ve met Seinfeld once or twice in my editor travels – I certainly don’t know her. But from interviews I’ve read in the New York Times and New York Mag, she just seems really witty, and hilarious, and happy. That vibe comes through in this book, big-time. It’s clear and concise, but very zingy.

4. The recipes are unspeakably yummy. And easy. A win-win for nervous newbies. I know this because I’ve made several of them in the last three weeks. Wanna know which ones? Let’s find out…

STUFF I’VE ACTUALLY MADE WITH THIS BOOK

Chicken + Fish + Pasta 

> Roasted Chicken Drumsticks w/ Mustard & Rosemary Sauce

> Fast & Juicy Herb-Grilled Chicken

> Crispy Shrimp

> Succulent Lemon-Thyme Salmon

> Roasted Stripe Bass* & Tomatoes (*The Publix by me was out of bass, so I swapped-in salmon)

> Baked Egg Noodles & Cheese

Vegetables 

> Green Beans with Almonds

> Sautéed Spinach & Garlic

Desserts

> Broiled Honey-Nut Bananas

Before we move on to take-away tips, I have to insert visual proof that I’ve been whipping up these recipes. Behold the raw, pre-oven beauty of last night’s Roasted Salmon & Tomatoes entrée:

Roasted Salmon & Tomatoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 GREAT TAKE-AWAY TIPS FROM THIS BOOK*

(* This stuff was all news to me; if you’re already an accomplished cook, this isn’t the book for you.)

1. Moving the oven racks around makes all the difference. I know, I know – this is soooo basic. But before attempting the Broiled Honey-Nut Bananas dessert recipe (words can’t describe how tasty it is!!!!), I didn’t realize that you need to move the rack to the top slot first. Easy peasy – you are broiling!

2. If you’re swapping-in dried herbs for fresh, use half the amount. This tip came in handy when I’d forgotten to nab fresh rosemary at the supermarket. Still, go fresh whenever you can. It greatly enhances the flavor of anything you’re cooking.

3. To remove garlic’s papery shell, pummel it with the side of a chef’s knife. But don’t stand there pounding away like a lunatic; find some other way of alleviating life’s many frustrations. (“Use one quick pounding motion,” says Seinfeld.)

4. Speaking of knives, you only really only need three. 1) The aforementioned chef’s knife – Seinfeld recommends an 8-inch blade, or 6, if you have tiny mitts, like Momover Lady; 2) A paring knife, and 3) An offset serrated knife. I have to say that the offset serrated number looks a little ominous. But I’ll get one nonetheless.

Per Seinfeld…

“The scalloped blade lets you glide through crusty breads and delicate tomatoes alike, slicing them instead of sliding off or crushing them. The offset handle keeps your knuckles out of harm’s way.”

 5. Pinch and sprinkle salt from your paws, not from the shaker or spoon. When you’re working so intently on delivering sheer yumminess to your family, the last thing you want to do is screw it up at the end with too much salt. Seinfeld wants you to measure the salt (she swears by kosher, so I now swear by kosher), then put it in your palm and dispense, sparingly, with your pinched fingers. Oh, and more great thing about this book: She doesn’t really expect you to painstakingly measure fresh pepper. Instead, many of the recipes recommend a specific number of pepper-mill turns, i.e. (“…about 12 turns on a pepper mill”…). So helpful. J’adore.

 

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I have 9760 emails in my inbox. There’s no way that’s good feng shui. (And I totally want good feng shui.)

A girl can dream, right?

I’ll never get to 0. But I can slice + dice.

In addition to beauty products, and magazines (yup, the actual paper kind…they were a real thing in the 20th century…), I apparently hoard emails.

I say “apparently,” when I should actually be tracking down the nearest meeting of Email Hoarders Anonymous.

This isn’t up for debate; I’m just Jane Q Citizen and I have dangerously close to 10k emails in my Gmail account. I’m pretty sure that isn’t normal.

What to do…what to do…

Are any of you lovely Momoverettes signed-up for my crunchy-crush Leo Babauta’s Sea Change Program? If so, you already know that July is “De-Clutter Month.”

While I’ve definitely chucked a lot of books recently, I can’t seriously crack down on clutter until we finally get all our closets built out – yay! yay! Project Closet starts next week! – and I can see exactly what storage we’ll have here in FLA.

Hubby and I have made a pact (a not iron-clad pact, a pact in fact riddled with escape clauses) that if whatever we have doesn’t fit in the new closets or in shelving units in the garage, it is gone like the wind.

No offsite storage units.

This will be a first for us. We’ve always tucked stuff, whether it was Xmas decorations, bikes or ski clothes – in storage units. We also stored a sizeable stash of ad hoc pieces of furniture for the bigger house we would someday own.

But now we’ve landed in a home that we intend to live in for at least the next 10 years. Will we go bigger when the Wee Lass flies the coop for college? Does anyone go bigger when their tots fly the coop for college? I would think most folks decrease their square footage in empty nest sitches, not increase...

Anyway, I’m losing the plot here – I meant to blog about the scary amount of emails I possess. Not theoretical, a-decade-down-the-road empty nest scenarios.

So what happens when your inbox is overrun with missives from the outside world? Baaaaaaaaad stuff; according to the core tenets of feng shui, hanging on to old emails creates communication blockages.

I’m not down with communication blockages. Instead, I would like to have crystal-clear lines of communication between me and the universe.

Thus, like the Workout Challenge I set for myself in 2010 – that I would exercise 200 times, come hell or high water - I am herewith making a public pledge re: my inbox.

Btw, my crunchy-crush Leo Babauta is very into public accountability; by telling someone you’re gonna do something, you’re more likely to make good on your word.

So here it is…wait for it…

By September 1, I will be the proud owner of 500 or fewer emails in my inbox. That means I need to spike a mere 9k plus.

My head is about to explode just thinking about that.

But I’ll do it.

And I’ll let you know how I fare.

Word.

 

 

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Beauty Armoire Monday: What the heck are sulfates? And why are they (allegedly) so despicable? Let’s find out.

My shower-stall shampoo stash is sulfate-free.

My shower-stall shampoo stash is currently sulfate-free.

Not long before I left New York (someone grab me a hankie, will ya?), I hosted the mega-über celeb colorist Tracey Cunningham at my office to chat about the new Redken line Blonde Idol.

(I blogged about Blonde Idol in last week’s Beauty Armoire Monday, it’s pretty maje…)

Anyway, not to put words in La Cunningham’s mouth, but she basically said that, given how fake-blonde I am, I would seriously be on crack to use any – ANY! shampoo containing even a trace of sulfates.

That’s how evil they are.

I nodded my head in a decidedly “yes, ma’am” fashion and thought to myself: “I should probably know what sulfates are, but I kinda don’t.”

Today, my lovely Momoverettes, we will learn – together – what sulfates are, and why you (might) need to kick those bad boys to the curb.

And we’re off…

7 USEFUL FACTOIDS ABOUT SULFATES

1. A sulfate is a mineral.

2. There are about 200 recognized types of sulfates. Some of them have pretty cool names. Like “celestite” and “epsomite” and “plumbojarosite.” Sensing an “ite” theme here….

3. In personal care products –  shampoos, soaps, body washes – the most widely used sulfates are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). 

4. SLS and SLES act as “surfactants.” In people-speak (as opposed to beauty-speak), these are fairly intense detergents that foam. People like foam; they tend to get a little freaked-out if their shampoo doesn’t bubble on up. We’ll get to the “breaking up with bubbles” bit a little later…

5. Of the two big beauty sulfates, SLS is considered less toxic than SLES. In a nutshell, that’s because SLES has been undergone a specific treatment – ethoxylation – to render it less irritating to the skin and, by extension, the scalp. But in the long run, according to the “Skin Deep” data base of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), SLES is more harmful.

6. Still, even the EWG doesn’t consider SLS or SLES carcinogenic. That’s saying something, right? The fact that they don’t cause cancer is good news. 

7. Back to the bad news: Sulfates in shampoos strip moisture and color from hair. Dyed hair is already more porous than “virgin” locks – further reducing hydration is an Rx for straw. Or for tree bark. Or for sand paper. You get the picture; it isn’t pretty. 

3 Sulfate-Free Shampoos I’m Using

1. Carol’s Daughter Sacred Tiare Anti-Breakage + Anti-Frizz Sulfate-Free Shampoo I think the entire Sacred Tiare collection is now exclusive to Target. I also think its geared toward “transitioning” hair. I’m not transitioning, but in the massive FLA humidity, my locks are mad-kinky. I really like this. And I l-o-v-e Lisa Price, the founder of Carol’s Daughter. A doll, and so smart.

2. Mineral Fusion Fortifying Shampoo This is probably extremely healthy for my hair, but I don’t find myself reaching for it nearly as much as the Carol’s Daughter. Probably because it’s not as yummily scented. I’m into fragrances in beauty products. There, I said it.

3. WEN Winter Vanilla Mint Conditioning Cleanser  I totally – 100% – like the concept behind Chaz Dean’s elaborate conditioning cleansing “system.” And please, they smell so, so fantastic. (Again with the scent jazz; to me, it’s really important…) It’s just that in past attempts at using the Conditioning Cleanser, my hair has felt like paste. I’m hoping this time will be the charm. I now live in the Frizz Capital of the United States, if not the world. It would be great if Chaz’s special sauce could help me with that.

On Breaking Up With Bubbles

I mentioned up top that many – but certainly not all – sulfate-free shampoos don’t foam to the same degree as the traditional variety. WEN, in particular, is a foam-free zone.

Still, it’s important to remember that what you’re giving up – that squeaky-clean feel – will yield more hydration and reduced color fade. Who wants to spend a small future on color, only to wash it right down the drain?

Besides, you can always rotate sulfate and sulfate-free shampoos. Or do a clarifying rinse with apple cider vinegar every once in a blue moon. Just don’t keep pummeling your hair with all those industrial-strength “surfactants” all the time. You don’t need them. You’re not some haven’t-washed-your-hair-in-decades Game of Thrones greaseball. 

 

 

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The Momover Lady Olympics: Running, swimming (um, kinda…) and cranking out a few poolside pushups

Drop to the pavers and give me 50. 40? 30?

Hit the bricks and give me 50. 40? Okay 30. 30′s cool.

Before I get rolling, let me say that whatever I’ve been doing lately, exercise-wise, is being thoroughly negated by all the Blue Bell ice cream and Kona Big Wave Golden Ale I’ve been consuming.

We didn’t have either of these yummy treats up north, but that’s no excuse for over-doing it.

One Nike-shod step forward, 10 mega-calories steps back…

Still, there are lots of reasons to work out beyond de-chubbifying. (Besides, according to current medical thinking, exercise doesn’t even really help with weight loss. Weight maintenance, yes. Loss? Not so much.)

But let’s just stay in our happy place, and quickly list all the many ways fitness benefits our lives. When willpower takes a nose-dive in the heat – and family vacays take a toll on our schedules – it’s always good to re-arm yourself with motivation to keep moving.

While I could recite these bennies in my sleep, I did take a fast peek at the websites of the Mayo ClinicHarvard School of Public Health and the U.S. News & World Report to make sure I’m not leading you Momoverettes down the garden path.

Good Stuff That Happens If (When!) You Exercise

1. You’ll stop flying around on your broomstick, and be less likely to experience anxiety or depression. (This factoid is tied to the release of key brain chemicals like serotonin and endorphins. Everyone always talks about endorphins. Those are great. But serotonin? Whoa, you need this natural mood-enhancer so, so, so much.)

2. You’ll sleep better. (Crucial, crucial, crucial to your emotional well-being, particularly dreaming.)

3. You’ll mitigate the effects of stress. (I can’t begin to tell you how B.A.D. that s–t is for your B.O.D.)

4. You’ll turn into a total SmartyPants. (There has been massive research lately into the positive effects of exercise on cognition. If you’re interested in how it all goes down, I urge you to nab the book “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of  Exercise and the Brain” by Harvard Medical School shrinky-dink John Raley.)

5. You’ll reduce your chances of getting colon and breast cancer, as well as such chronic illnesses / issues as type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. (Notice I didn’t say all cancers; there are just a handful that exercise has shown – so far – to be a block against. But I’ll take it.)

6. You’ll live longer. (And be healthier along the way. Just living longer without the Part II – the healthier bit – is not altogether awesome.)

Uh oh. This blog post was originally supposed to be about my new FLA fitness regime. But Hubby and the Wee Lass are rush, rush, rushing me out the door to go shopping.

So, in a nutshell, here it is:

Momover Lady Olympics 

1. I run.

2. I peel off my jogging togs and switch into my bikini. 

3. I hit the pavers and do as many pushups as I can. (Those are my feet, on my pavers, above. Until I get my pushup mojo back, I’m typically doing 3 sets of 10.)

4. I hop in the pool and practice my swimming. (Can you teach yourself how to swim? I hope so. Project!)

5. I feel super-psyched for the rest of the day. (I have oodles of gold medals already.)

 

 

 

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Why staying hydrated is key to feeling up, up, up + energized (in summer, yes, but always…)

Sunrise to sunset: koffee, kale smoothie, kalm drink, kona beer

Dawn to dusk: koffee, kale smoothie, kalm H2O, kona beer

In my last job, I was in the habit of stopping at the lobby newsstand every morning before heading up to my office, and grabbing a copy of the New York Post and a massive bottle of Smartwater.

I think it was a liter. Though I can be a bit measurement-challenged at times…

Along with a cup of java prepped in the office kitchen, I would chug the Smartwater all day long, typically finishing off the bottle by the end of the day.

Did I have to run to the loo approximately 90 times over the course of the 8 or 9 hours I slaved away at my desk? Absolument.

But I considered that a small price to pay for the constant stream of energy all that wah-wah conferred.

When you’re feeling über-fatigued, like something the proverbial cat dragged in, don’t immediately assume you need more sleep (although you might) or a Power Bar (or worse, vending machine crapola).

Instead, play super-sleuth and try to figure out if you’re adequately hydrated.

For me, personally, I just worked my way through a not-great patch of fatigue and dizziness – days and days of dizziness – right after we landed in FLA.

In part, I think my dizziness was anxiety-related, which may have been triggered by depleted levels of GABA and magnesium. (As well as the fact that I’d turned my ever-loving life on its ass by leaving NYC after 30+ years; I’m not discounting the magnitude of that change….)

I blogged about my insomnia during that time-frame, and how I’d let my stash of GABA-laced Brain Calm supplements run out, and hadn’t been drinking my Natural Calm anti-stress drink, which packs a hefty wallop of magnesium.

If your GABA and magnesium levels take a dive, you’re probably in for at least low-level freaking out…

After penning that post, I quickly ordered a six-month supply of Brain Calm. And I’ve re-upped, big time, on sipping my Natural Calm throughout the day. (Visual proof above, in the blue plastic tumbler…)

But in addition to being a total stress ball, I don’t think I was consuming enough fluids.

Obvi it’s hot as —- down here, and I’ve been running – a lot – in the morning, either before or after I drop the Wee Lass at day camp.

Running is one of the great loves of my life, a positive addiction that clears the mental cobwebs and helps me stay sane and sleep better. But I need to remember that trucking along Snell Isle Boulevard in the blazing morning sun on a regular basis is probably shriveling the bejesus out of my insides.

Thus my new multi-pronged hydration strategy, pictured here.

Let’s work through it from left to right to see if my list of bevvies is actually doing anything to keep my hydrated. I’ll learn something, and hopefully you will too.

1. Coffee: Oh my. Oceans of ink have been spilled about whether coffee dehydrates you. Without question, it’s a diuretic; not to be excessively gnarly here, but it “squeezes” your bladder so you have to pee. Still, according to the Mayo Clinic that diuretic effect is mild. Nothing to get your knickers in a twist about. I will not sweat my one cup per day. Hydration Verdict: Meh

2. Kale smoothie: I’m happy to report that since we’ve moved to FLA, my trusty NutriBullet gizmo is getting a lot of action. I typically just throw in tons of kale and whatever fruit is hanging around. (Just not cherries w/ pits. I tried to de-pit them and it was a big ol’ mess…) Then I add water. Not buckets, but at least a little. Actually, I don’t know if what I whip up is technically a smoothie; there isn’t any dairy or even vegan fake milk or yogurt. Whatevs, it’s a hell of a lot healthier than a shot of tequila. Hydration Verdict: Yes, especially on the days I add grapes or melon to the mix. I could probably stand to add a little more H20. Here’s what the Vitamix peeps have to say on the topic.

3. Natural Calm Anti-Stress Drink:  I make a giant glass of this – with water – sooo…Hydration Verdict: Most definitely. Unequivocally. Holla.

4. Kona Big Wave Golden Ale: I should have known that the world’s cutest beer would have an equally adorable website. “Big Wave is an excellent choice after a day of snorkeling, surfing, or just hanging out,” they tell us. How about after a day of none of the above? Still an excellent choice. This was on sale at Publix, so I nabbed it. And now I’m thoroughly smitten. It’s delish. But is it hydrating me? Hydration Verdict: I wish. Although there was a study out of Granada University in Spain a few years back that posited that a pint of beer was more hydrating than water, post-workout, no one really believes that anymore. Sadly, not even moi.

 

 

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Beauty Armoire Monday: Deep conditioners in heavy rotation, used as a (hopeful) hedge against frizz

Starring on the beige carpet: 3 cheap (and not-so) options.

Starring on the beige carpet: 3 cheap (and not-so) options.

Full disclosure: I shipped a psychotic – PSYCHOTIC – amount of beauty products to Florida for our move. If ever I’ve felt like a candidate for an episode of Hoarders, it was when I told the moving guys:

“Yup, all of it is going with us. Lock, stock and barrel. Break out the bubble wrap.”

Hubby was cool about it, probably because he doesn’t know the full extent of what’s still lurking in boxes in the garage.

(I think I’ve mentioned that we can’t fully un-box until we build-out our closet space, which is, happily, well under way.)

Anyway, in order to make myself feel a little less hoarder-y, I’m dedicating myself to using products in their entirety before cracking open new ones.

Trust me when I tell you this is new turf for me; as a longtime Beauty Director, it comes with the territory that you typically try something just long enough to form an opinion about it, and then you move on.

You have to move on; there are eight gazillion new lotions and potions headed their way to you the very next day.

Which isn’t to say that faves don’t exist; I’ve worn the same fragrance for close to 20 years, and I’m a complete and total Lancer addict.

Still, for the sake of my marriage, I’m determined to use it or lose it.

Thus, because I’ve already worked my way through my only tub, there’s one deep conditioner missing from the photo here:

Philip Kingsley Elasticizer Pre-Shampoo Treatment

It is FANTASTIC. Love, love, love it. Just linking to it for this blog post makes me want to order more. But given what I’ve already told you about how much beauty stuff I lugged to FLA, that wouldn’t be prudent. (Understatement of the frigging century…)

Here are the others I’m committing to right now:

1. Matrix Total Results Repair Strength Pak Intensive Treatment  My hair definitely feels softer after I use this. Maybe not to the same degree as with the Kingsley Elasticizer, but less coarse and wiry, for sure.

2. Aussie 3Minute Miracle Moist Treatment Deeeeep Conditioner I like this, and you absolutely can’t beat the price. (Seriously; I think it’s like $4 at your local Walgreens.) It’s a little scent-y for my taste though, a bit Grape Kool-Aid when I lean toward a lighter, fresher, more ocean-y olfactory vibe.

3. Redken Blonde Idol Mask  This is part of a new-ish collection aimed at fake blondes like Momover Lady, who often have to deal with the brassiness and damage that comes along with being such a righteous babe. (Kidding.) This deep conditioner is on my To Do list. But since I already love another Blonde Idol prod – the BBB Spray leave-in conditioner – I have high hopes.

Okay, gotta go scoop up the Wee Lass from day camp. Making a dish from the Can’t Cook Book for dinner tonight. Wish me luck!

 

 

 

 

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Oooooh, chills, The Closet Designer Lady was here yesterday, sizing up the raw-space situation

Not loving this scene right now.

Not loving this scene right now. I need structure.

The good thing about our new FLA house: All the closet space is raw, so we get to design it ourselves.

The bad thing about our new FLA house: All the closet space is raw, so we have to design it ourselves.

Faithful Momoverettes might recall my erstwhile NJ condo walk-in closet slash meditation chamber.

Sidebar: I used the word “erstwhile” correctly in that last sentence, right? I’m always super paranoid about that. I just meant that we don’t live in the NJ condo anymore. So if erstwhile means “used to be but isn’t anymore,” I’m good.

Anyhoo, after we had it tricked-out by California Closets, that NJ condo walk-in was a doozy. It could house my entire wardrobe (summer and winter), as well as a good chunk of my purse collection.

Actually, let me retract that statement; most of the purses lived elsewhere, in a shelving unit in my home office. I kind of have a lot of purses, ahem

Trust me when I tell you that my FLA walk-in is nowhere near as big.

Yes, you can physically shuffle in. (Shoes off first, please; it’s carpeted.) But it’s got this weird L-shape, and the door doesn’t even swing all the way open. I know, I know; cry me a river…

Still, my whinging (oh how I love that word, whinging) is not unwarranted. How do I know this? Here’s how: When the local Closet Whisperer popped by this week to suss-out the sitch – we have 7 closets in total that need attending to, as well as the laundry room – she point-blank said to me:

“Yours is the challenge.”

Thank you! Vindication!

My gal is from Closets By Design, and she has no problem – zero problem – talking smack about the competition. And in general, she seems to be a straight-shooter, which I like.

I just need to get her to come around to my way of thinking about closets, and order, and what should be seen and what should remain hidden.

Let me break this down for you by her likes and my likes:

What Closet Designer Lady Wants:

1. Everything out in the open, so I can see it. (She’s in the “what you see is what you wear” camp.)

2. As much stuff as possible on hangers and hooks. (Now that I live in FLA, apparently I need fancy business shorts that will require hanging. We’ll see about that! She even wants me to hang my pashmina-y, shawl-y, wrap-y things, which I have in abundance.)

3. Shoe shelves rather than cubbies. (I forget the rationale for this. I had cubbies in the NJ condo walk-in and they were fine…)

4. Jewelry as performance art. (I.e., on hooks and out there rather than tucked away in umpteen million boxes and chic little bowls.)

 

What I Want

1. Zen calm when I throw open my closet door. (Even though it doesn’t swing all the way…grrr times a million.) The less I see, the better.

2. Very little on hangers. I’m a folder. I like my merch neatly stacked, orged by color.

3. Fewer racks and more shelves. And drawers, lots of drawers. And cabinets with doors. All of which ties into my “the less I see, the better” ethos.

4, A full-length mirror. That is so not happening; there just isn’t space for it. Sniff sniff, sob sob.

After Closet Designer Lady was finished with all her measurements, and walking us through our core materials options (I opted for a warm caramel-y, maple-y finish in mine), she booked an appointment with us to go to the showroom next week to see how she’s envisioning our shelf-y (hopefully shelf-y!), rack-y, organized future.

“It will take me about 10 days to do all these,” she warned. “I work by hand, not CAD.” (That’s closet-speak for Computer-Aided-Design.)

I’m counting the seconds until the big reveal.

 

 

 

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DRIVEN: Miracle of all miracles, I’m actually driving. Like, in a car, not a golf cart. Snap.

Two cars means two drivers.

Two cars means two drivers. Grrr times a million…

Here’s a really BFD:

I just got home from the supermarket. And I drove there…wait for it…

ALL.

BY.

MYSELF.

While I secretly thought this day might never come, all those lessons with Driving Instructor Danny must have paid off. He was a racist, creepy little piece of business, and he started to make my skin crawl toward the end of our time together. But I’ll be damned if he didn’t teach me the basics.

“K” turns and parallel parking, not so much. (Although if I want a refresher on the latter, I can revisit my award-winning blog post about Driving Instructor Danny’s very special sauce for maneuvering into tight spots. Thankfully, tight spots seem to be fairly few and far between in my lovely adopted home of FLA…)

Since our move south, not only do I want to drive, I have to drive.

The Wee Lass’s new school is close enough to walk to. And we have a long, cherished history of doing the school run on foot. Okay, the year she was in Pre-K and I had to stroller her along the Hudson River in the blinding snow to get to the Hoboken campus of Stevens Co-Op wasn’t a lot of fun. But the subsequent years have been fine. If we’re not literally running because we’re late and the headmaster’s bell is about to ring, we solve many of the world’s problems during our daily jaunts.

But that’s just school. Getting to anything and everything else on Snell Isle requires a car. And since Hubby is now working remotely, and flying back up to New York once a month for a few days for his job, the Wee Lass and I will be left to our own devices.

One of those devices will be the shiny dark “Palladian” silver number on the right here, which we bought last week. Because the Wee Lass christened our SUV, left, “The Big Strong Car” when we got it several years ago, we really had no choice but to call the new sedan “The Small Strong Car.”

Hubby, God bless him, does TONS of research before he makes a major purchase. But when he commits, he commits. Bam. The checkbook is coming out.

So I shouldn’t have been even remotely surprised on Thursday, when we scampered off to the dealership in Clearwater (one town over) and he bought a car on the spot.

What did that mean?

That I would have to drive the SUV home while he drove the sedan, bien sur.

Oh my lordy, that was nerve-wracking. We plotted a non-highway route to get back home, but still, it was pretty far away, and on roads I’d never encountered in my little ol’ life.

Thankfully, he drove like a turtle, and I completely tail-gated him the entire way. He changed lanes, I changed lanes. He veered a little to the left or right, I veered a little to left or right.

But we made it. I made it. And as soon as I walked in the door, I cracked open a brewski to settle my nerves.

And the next day, I signed up for an electronic I Drive Safely course.

Obvi, pecking away on my iPad isn’t the same as my hands-on lessons with racist, creepy Driving Instructor Danny.

But it’s another arrow in my driving quiver. And I need all the arrows I can get.

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Beauty Armoire Monday: I strongly advise against using this on your face. But for your ankles? Brills.

We're talking plusses + minuses.

Everywhere = Not Optimal.

Need inspiration for sticking to an exhausting leg-beautifying running and faux bronzing routine and laying off the damn Fudge Stripe cookies and *&%4!@ Dutch Chocolate Blue Bell ice cream?

Try this:

After you move to a new house, and before you place all your belongings in their rightful homes, have your husband plop a huge mirror on the floor of your master bedroom, leaning against the wall right at hip height. That way, each time you walk past it, you can zoom-in thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis close on every microscopic spider vein and nano-ounce of cellulite on your chubby, Fudge Stripe cookie thighs.

Grrr…such is my lot in life at the moment.

The spiders are mostly (mostly) an age thing, so I don’t beat myself up too much about those. Besides, thanks to a few excruciating but super-effective trips to the Vein Treatment Center in New York last year, they aren’t so bad. And if I’d been keeping up with my New Year’s resolution to drybrush my skin, they’d be even less of an issue.

(It’s one of the Great Mysteries of the Western World why drybrushing helps with spider veins. But just anecdotally – as opposed to empirically, or categorically, or most definitely – it does. Plus it’s relaxing…)

Okay, moving on from this spider vein / drybrushing tangent now…I actually intended to blog about the Dos & Don’ts of using one of those Bronze Buffer self-tan remover spongey thingamajigs…

Last week, after my first close encounter with the giant mirror plopped on my bedroom floor, I went racing for one of the darkest faux-bronzers in my arsenal: Jergens Natural Glow Express (now discontinued, which is why the bootleg bottle I’m linking to here costs $39.99!) and slathered it from hip to toe.

Not head to toe, hip to toe. Since that was my area of concern, that’s what got slathered.

I did this two days in a row, and I have to say that the faux glow provided serious distraction from the spiders and Dutch Chocolate Blue Bell ice cream thigh-jiggle situation.

But inevitably, I spotted little errant self-tanner splotches on my feet and around my ankles. In shorts – and from a distance – I looked fine. Up close it was a different story.

So again I went racing. This time it was for my Bronze Buffer, which you basically just wet and then scrub on the offending area. On the feet and ankles, it works like a charm.

But then I got the not-smart idea to try the Bronze Buffer on my face, on a few dots on my right cheek left behind by new fave formula, James Read Sleep Mask Tan. (Spendy but worth it; a complete compliment-magnet.)

I’m leery of using self-tanners on the face for precisely this reason – they can result in blotches that, while small, are highly visible to the world around you. I don’t know about you, but no one is really inspecting my legs or feet with a magnifying glass. So if I have a faux glow mishap there, it’s usually only me who’s obsessing about it.

Your face is an altogether different story. If anything is going on there, everyone can see it.

Which is why I thought: If I can just find a self-tanner for the face that I love – one that doesn’t collect in tiny brown puddles on my cheeks – I’ll be a seriously happy camper. Or conversely, if the Bronze Buffer works as well on the face as it does on the feet, it won’t matter if it puddles or not.

Maybe I just scrubbed too hard, but I accidentally rubbed my poor right cheek raw. First it stung like a mo-fo. And now, three days later, I still have a rough, sandpaper-y patch that I’ve been camouflaging with my much-beloved Marc Jacobs Beauty Marvelous Mousse Transformative Foundation in 26 Bisque Medium.

I’ve learned a (literally) painful lesson. Although I may try the Bronze Buffer on my face again some time, you can bet your sweet bippy I’ll go easier.

 

 

 

 

 

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WTH is in ZzzQuil? It’s good, but in a really scary, zombie-ish, coma-esque, can’t-wake-up way

It's not a secret that I sleep badly.

It’s no secret that I sleep badly.

Maybe it’s the floor-to-ceiling unpacked boxes in the garage, or the fact that we need to build-out all our raw closet space (project!) before we can even contemplate dealing with the floor-to-ceiling unpacked boxes in the garage, but I’ve had a few dodgy nights’ sleep in row this week.

Sadness. I was doing so well!

Truly, for a good solid three weeks – in-between leaving my NYC job and shuffling (with the cats! in the SUV!)  down to FLA – I slept really soundly.

Yes, I had anxiety; moving is a beast, no matter how you slice it. And I haven’t even begun to emotionally deal with how very, very much I’ll miss my New York buddies. Uh oh, tearing up as I type that last bit…

But my point is that somehow, despite all that, I was managing to konk out at night and wake up the next morning refreshed and raring to go.

This week, in the new house (the new neighborhood, the new state, the new LIFE), not so much.

Although I keep a stash of Xanax on hand for flying and emergency situations (like über work stressure and hypochondriac freak-outs while I’ve waited for the results of skin cancer biopsies), I live in mortal fear of becoming dependent on it. Thus, I tread very, very, very carefully with that s–t.

My concern is well-founded: Xanax, which is a benzodiazepine, is absolutely – without question – addictive, both physically and psychologically. According to research by Johns Hopkins, more than one-third of people taking benzos (other brand names are Klonopin and Valium) for anxiety develop a dependency after just over a month.

That isn’t a whole lot of time, right? A month and change!

While I know people who pop a single Xanax every day, pre-emptively, to keep their stress levels under control – and I am in no way judging them – I’ve never gone that route. Rather, I use my Rx situationally – i.e., only when I really need it, and typically only half of one .25mg tablet.

But I’ve certainly made my share of stupid moves with Xanax. At least twice, I’ve gobbled an entire pill on airplanes, right before landing. So lame. Landing is almost always the rockiest part of a flight. I know this. And yet I freak, gobble, and arrive at my destination woozy and completely useless for the first few post-flight hours. Brills…

Obvi, I see Xanax – powerful, addictive Xanax – as a last-resort anxiety fix. I love it and I hate it. And the hating part has led me to buy and try all manner of non-addictive, sometimes-natural, substitutes.

These have included:

1. Bach Rescue Remedy I know tons of ladies and gents swear by this plant-based concoction. And there are now so many riffs on it – spray! drops! pastilles! – that it has pretty much its own entire wall at Whole Foods. But for me, it’s been meh on the effectiveness front. Definitely not life-changing.

2. Total Health Nutrients Brain Calm After I had the Wee Lass, and while I was the Beauty Director at the dearly departed Cookie magazine (awww, RIP gorge Cookie), I met with a brilliant but brutally honest brain doctor who ran a whole slew of mad-scientist tests on me. (Seriously. I had about a gazillion electrodes attached to my noggin.) At the time, although I didn’t want to admit it, I was most definitely suffering from postpartum anxiety and depression.

So here’s how the post-electrode debrief went:

Brilliant But Brutally Honest Brain Doc: “You need Xanax.”

Me: “I don’t want Xanax. At least not every day. It’s so freaking addictive.”

Brilliant But Brutally Honest Brain Doc: “Fine. You can try my Brain Calm supplements. But I’m telling you, you need Xanax.”

The upshot: I’ve been taking Brain Calm for eight years now and I l-o-v-e it. It’s not strong. And it’s more of a maintenance measure than an emergency fix. Please – if I’m on a big ol’ jet plane and it starts to rumble and shake, you can bet your ass I’m not reaching for my Brain Calm.

Still, it’s a great product. And the fact that I ran out of my stash about a week ago is probably a major reason why my sleep is so effed up this week. As soon as I hit “Publish” on this blog post, I’m ordering a case of it.

3. Natural Vitality Natural Calm Anti-Stress Drink This is a recent discovery and I’m really liking it. It’s essentially powdered magnesium that you shake into a fizzy, yummy bevvie. (Magnesium deficiency can trigger our stress responses.) Like the Brain Calm pills, it’s most effective when used on a regular basis. Since our move, I’ve slacked-off on fixing my nightly shake of this – I have the Raspberry-Lemon, and it’s quite yummy – so I need to get back to that, stat.

4. ZzzQuil NighttimeSleep Aid This works, but at what cost to our poor bods? I’ve never taken heroin, but I’m guessing it feels an awful lot like this stuff. I am so, so, so knocked-out by this, even in tiny doses. (Way more so than even after swallowing an entire .25mg Xanax.) I just looked up the active ingredient – diphenhydramine HCI – on the ZzzQuil website, and here’s the condensed version of what they have to say about it: It’s an anti-histamine; it has a 30-year FDA safety track record; it’s meant to be used occasionally and is not habit-forming.

Newsflash: There’s no way in hell I’d form a habit with ZzzQuil. Blech.

Time to order my Brain Calm pills and get back on the Natural Calm nightly bevvie bandwagon. And build-out our closets so I can get those damn floor-to-ceiling cardboard boxes outta the garage.

 

 

 

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