Sunday, June 30, 2013

When your bikini days are numbered

[Alternate title: Gravity is bringing me down.]

I have a love/hate relationship with summer. Mostly it's love.

I love the warm weather. I love seeing leaves on the trees and flowers everywhere. I love the extra hours of daylight. I love not hearing the teenager bitch about school. I love being able to sleep a little later in the morning. I love watching baseball (or I do when the Mets don't completely suck). And I love taking long walks on the beach.

Or at least I used to love going to the beach. Before we all became paranoid about skin cancer -- and the annual ritual of trying or putting on a bathing suit didn't make me depressed.

Fortunately, there are lotions and sprays (and clothes and hats) that can protect you from the sun's damaging UVA and UVB rays. Sadly, however, there is nothing, at least not yet, that can truly prevent or alter the effects of gravity.

Gravity is a bitch. No matter how healthy your diet or how much you exercise, or avoided the sun and nicotine, you can't fight gravity -- or old age. Unless you are one of the lucky people who inherited anti-gravity genes. Which, sadly, I am not.

Even so, I had hoped that having worked out regularly since I was 16, having eaten a healthy diet for over 20 years, having drunk alcohol in moderation all my adult life, not smoking, and wearing sunblock (and not staying out overlong in the sun) would ward off or delay the onset or onslaught of wrinkles and sagging. Wrong! (Note to self: Buy rum and pina colada mix in town tomorrow.)

Now it is summer again. Time to unbox my swimsuits and figure out which ones stay and which ones go. Each year, the decision gets harder -- as I take a longer, harder look at myself in the bathroom mirror and silently weep at the extra folds of skin that were not there last season. And I think to myself, am I now too old, and too saggy, to wear a bikini? Do bikinis have an expiration date, or just the women wearing them?

Monday, June 24, 2013

We're all a little racist, y'all. Does that mean we should be fired?

So as many of you know, this past Friday, the Food Network announced it would not be renewing the contract of its popular Southern chef Paula Deen. The Food Network did not provide a reason, but most people assumed it was due to the revelations that Deen had repeatedly used racial slurs, including the "N word," and told racist jokes in front of and to employees at her restaurants.

Personally, I thought the Food Network should have fired Deen years ago -- for crimes against arteries and the pancreas, or, more specifically, for concealing the fact that she had Type 2 diabetes for four years, due to her incredibly unhealthy lifestyle, which she encouraged millions to emulate, and only revealing the fact that she had Type 2 diabetes and had changed her diet after she had inked a lucrative deal with drugmaker Novo Nordisk. That, to me, and to thousands of other Food Network viewers, ruined any kind of goodwill I had in regard to Paula Deen.

That Paula Deen occasionally told an off-color joke or occasionally used a derogatory word in the company of fellow white Southerners? Not so much.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not condoning racism -- or sexism. But there is a difference between telling the occasional politically incorrect joke (which WE ALL have done) and truly believing that one race or sex or religion is superior or inferior to another.

But even if Paula Deen was proven to be a racist (and I'm not sure how you'd do that), or have racist opinions, is that grounds for being fired? Maybe if you are an elementary school teacher. But the host of a Southern cooking show? (And, btw, the Food Network did not fire Deen. It just decided not to renew her contract at this time. Which means it could re-sign her at any time. Which it may very well do.)

By the way, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if Fox, a network that seems to consider racism, sexism, ignorance, and intolerance job qualifications not disqualifications, gave Paula Deen her own cooking show. Nor would it surprise me if the Food Network re-hired Deen a few months or a year from now. Because as we all know, what's a little racism compared to big ratings, y'all?

THIS JUST IN: Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer (and here I thought that was Congress), has just fired Paula Deen as its spokeswoman. The reason? Per a company statement, Smithfield "condemns the use of offensive and discriminatory language and behavior of any kind." (I'll believe that when pigs fly. I think it's just one more company jumping on the politically correct bandwagon.)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Flower Power

After countless days of rain and being stuck indoors, I decided to play hooky yesterday and go to the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. In particular, I wanted to check out the new Wild Medicine exhibit, which discusses the healing power of plants. (Just visiting the New York Botanical Garden always makes me feel better. There's something incredibly soothing about walking among all the beautiful flowers on a sunny day and taking photographs.)

The Wild Medicine exhibit was very educational. However, this sign midway through the exhibit -- which I captioned "This way to the marijuana!" -- may have been the highlight of the exhibit for me.

Note: While the Garden provided demonstrations and samples of many of the plants in the Wild Medicine exhibit, they were not forthcoming with the marijuana or ephedra, nor did they provide munchies in between the exhibits. Bummer.

Actually, the main reason I went to the New York Botanical Garden yesterday was to visit the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden before the bloom was off the rose, so to speak.

As it happens, I got there just in time, as you can see from my photos.

Moses supposes his toeses are roses,
But Moses supposes erroneously,
For Moses he knowses his toeses aren't roses,
As Moses supposes his toeses to be!

(That last photo, of these gorgeous peach and pink roses, is my favorite.)

If only I could have likewise captured the smell inside the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, too. (I am not a fan of perfume, but the scent in the garden was heavenly.)

I also managed to catch the last of the irises....

Purple haze was in my brain,
lately things don't seem the same,
actin' funny but I don't know why

'scuse me while I kiss the sky.

 And it is waterlily season...

Sigh, I wish I was there right now.

If you live in or near New York City, or plan on visiting this summer, I highly recommend a trip to the New York Botanical Garden. I know I'll be back.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Irony, now available in cans and bottles

When I first saw this new ad for Coca-Cola on obesity, I thought it must be a joke.

But the new Coke ad, titled "Coming Together," is the real thing, baby. And it is a joke.

Coke's claim: by adding artificial sweeteners and offering consumers smaller serving sizes, it is fighting obesity, which, by the way, the American Medical Association just recognized as a disease (albeit an easily preventable one, if you don't drink sodas like Coke and Sprite and Fanta).

The problem: artificial sweeteners have been closely tied to obesity and Type 2 diabetes, and are worse for you than sugar. Instead of satisfying your sweet craving, artificial sweeteners make you crave sweets and rewire your taste receptors to dislike healthier, not sweet foods. Which is why so many folks who guzzle Diet Coke and other diet beverages wind up gaining rather than losing weight.

I know. When I met the spouse over 20 years ago, I was a Diet Coke addict -- and weighed almost 30 pounds more than I do now, even though I exercised every other day. When I gave up diet soda (and other "diet" processed foods), I immediately lost 10 pounds. (And when I kicked out sugar and pasta and white bread, I lost another 10 pounds.)

So if you really want to fight obesity, folks, avoid Coca-Cola and other artificially or otherwise sweetened beverages (such as Crystal Light, which is almost as addictive and as bad for you as crystal meth) and stick to water.

And remember, Coke doesn't add life. It just adds pounds.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Don't ask, don't get

[Alternate title: Would it kill you to buy a t-shirt?]

As many of you know, I recently launched my first ecommerce business, a clothing line called Prepster Pineapple. The brand and logo were the brainchild of my teenage daughter (who has since turned her attention to food blogging), who loved the idea of mom turning her doodle of a cute, preppy pineapple-headed Hawaiian boy (at left) into a line of clothing for teens and tweens.

Since launching, I have learned that writing about small business (my day job) is waaaaay easier than creating and running a small business, especially a clothing brand.

Indeed, in the past few months alone I have re-shot all the website photos (most of which were taken on the Big Island of Hawaii and feature local teenage surfers), added a blog, and launched my first PR campaign (which landed Prepster Pineapple in the New York Times, as well as several other newspapers, and in the upcoming back-to-school issue of Girls' Life magazine).

I've also added new products, like these adorable Prepster Pineapple 100% Cotton Bucket Hats (available in White and Khaki)...

and these very stylish, vintage-looking, 100% cotton, garment-dyed Aloha t-shirts for him...

and the Aloha tee for her...

So why is this post titled "Don't ask, don't get"? Because I need your help getting the word out about Prepster Pineapple. And as anyone in marketing will tell you, a recommendation or referral from a friend or colleague is worth more than any ad.

So whether you have already bought a Prepster Pineapple t-shirt or a Prepster Pineapple polo shirt (in which case, THANK YOU), know someone who would look sweet in a Prepster Pineapple t-shirt or polo shirt (And who wouldn't? They are awesome) or bucket hat (Don't go out in the sun without one!), or want to help out your old friend J., please take a minute to tell your friends about Prepster Pineapple and like the Prepster Pineapple page on Facebook.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Some summer 2013 reading suggestions

I have read so many good books lately, I just had to share!

All of the books below, which I have listed alphabetically by author (and linked to Amazon, so you can read more about them) would make for excellent summer reading. Books with an asterisk (*) are ones I highly recommend, which I am planning on including on my Favorite Reads of 2013 list.

To see previous book recommendations, click here -- or on the Book Nook label at the end of the post.

And if you recently read a book you would recommend (not just to me but to other readers), please leave the title and the author's name in a Comment.

The Marrying Season by Candace Camp. Great name for a romance writer, no? I hadn't heard of Candace Camp before reading The Marrying Season, but I would definitely check her out again. What is the book about? Does it really make a difference, people? It's a romance novel. Meaning, it takes place in Regency era England (or around that time), where there's some beautiful aristocratic woman in trouble, who is rescued by an unlikely (yet noble and, of course, extremely handsome) suitor (who happens to be quite skilled in the art of love), even though she doesn't think she wants or needs to be rescued, and, in the process of falling in love, they have some stupid misunderstanding or impediment that temporarily keeps them apart, before they realize they cannot live without each other and/or work together to overcome whatever obstacle(s) lies in their way. And they live happily ever after. (Or not. We never really find out.)

When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James. Another romance novel. See above. (About romance novels. I've been a little stressed out lately. And whenever I am stressed out, I go in search of a romance novel. Hey, it's healthier than drinking or doing drugs.) 

*Together Tea by Marjan Kamali.I know it's cliched, but I really did laugh then cry reading this fabulous, heartwarming book about an Iranian mother and her Iranian-American daughter -- and their quest to belong in the United States after fleeing Iran in 1980. Indeed, I found it hard to believe this was Marjan Kamali's first novel, it was so beautifully written and flowed so effortlessly.

I think any woman who has lived in a foreign country -- or far from where she was raised -- especially if she raised a family in a new place, will relate to this story. The book also gave me a fresh prospective on what it was like to be an Iranian in Iran in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as well as what it was like to be an Iranian in the United States just after the hostage crisis.

Above all, though, the book is a warm and often funny love story, between a wife and a husband, a mother and a daughter, and the daughter and the boy she meets while visiting Tehran in 1996 (when much of the novel takes place). I cannot recommend this book enough.

The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz. My gratitude to Laura from my local Book Buzz group. Even though she barely knows me, she knows what books I will like. In fact, I liked The Spellman Files (aka Document #1) so much, I read the other four documents immediately after -- and placed a hold on Document #6, which is coming out in a few weeks.

In brief, the documents, I mean books, are accounts of the Spellmans, a family of private detectives (except for son David, who abandons the family business early on to become a lawyer), as narrated (primarily) by Isabel "Izzy" Spellman, the socially maladjusted older daughter who has been working in the family business since she was 12. While each book contains a whodunnit, it's the side stories that make the books so much fun and keep you turning the pages. (My favorite in the series was Document #4, The Spellmans Strike Again, but you should really read the books in order, starting with the first one.)

In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules by Stacy Perman. WARNING: This book will make you crave a hamburger, constantly. Specifically an In-N-Out burger. And fries. And a shake. East Coasters, you are screwed. That said, I thought this was one of the best business books, or books about a business, I've ever read, up there with The Emperors of Chocolate. While I have never had an In-N-Out burger, I knew about the chain -- and greatly enjoyed Perman's most recent book, A Grand Complication, which I recommended in my last book post. If you are at all a fan of the burger chain or enjoy a good nonfiction book about business, in this case an iconic family business with a side order or scandal and intrigue, check out In-N-Out Burger.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. Another first-time novelist. Another great read. I don't know where Wecker got the idea for this book, but she clearly did a lot of research on Jewish, Yiddish, Syrian, and Middle Eastern history, religion, customers, and mysticism. If I were to categorize this book, I'd say it was a work of magical realism that takes place in turn of the (20th) century New York City.

Part Arabian Nights, part Kabbalah, The Golem and the Jinni tells the tale of Chava, a golem, a woman made of clay, and Ahmad, a 1000-year-old (give or take 100 years) jinni, a being made of fire, who has spent most of his life trapped in a bottle, both of whom wind up in New York City in 1899 due to circumstances beyond their control. But really it is a story about the immigrant experience and how often hard it is to adapt to another culture when you feel other -- and how important kindness and friendship are.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

This Father's Day, show him you care with...


Bacon, is there any meat more noble... or delicious?

So this year, forget the golf sweater, or the tie, or that goofy sign for his man cave, and instead give dad the gift of bacon. Because a plate of bacon is forever... (in your arteries).

(Sorry, Oscar Mayer. Love your ad "When Words Aren't Enough -- Say It With Bacon" and your cute bacon gift shop. But I'd rather get the spouse, aka the father of the teenager, this Beer & Bacon Gift Box from Vosges Haut-Chocolat than a package of Oscar Mayer bacon from the supermarket and a pair of bacon cufflinks.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

When cars fly or how The Jetsons is responsible for almost every cool gadget we have

Forget Star Trek. You want to know which 1960s television show has had the greatest impact on technology, inspiring or foreshadowing the creation of many cool gadgets? The Jetsons.

Think about it: flat-screen TVs, online newsreaders, robot vacuum cleaners, video chat, mobile communications devices... and now flying cars. (Though this one doesn't fold up into a briefcase.)

While Terrafugia's new TF-X personal flying vehicle looks pretty cool, and I admit there have been many times I wished my car could fly (mainly while being stuck in traffic on 95 or 495), do I really think that a flying car (no doubt driven by the same people I frequently curse out or you see on those car dealer or car insurance ads) is a good idea? No.

Still, Terrafugia makes the TF-X sound awfully tempting. (You can fly or drive around 500 miles on a single charge or tank or whatever. It fits into a single-car garage. No more being stuck on the Long Island Expressway for hours! And it has a full-vehicle backup parachute system! Though I shudder at the thought of needing to use it.)

So, would you buy a flying car (assuming you could afford it)?

Friday, June 7, 2013

He Deafened Me with Science

I love Thomas Dolby. I love astronomy and space exploration. But astronaut Buzz Aldrin singing "She Blinded Me with Science" with Thomas Dolby? Not so much.

That's okay, Buzz. Not every astronaut can be as musical as Chris Hadfield. (Click on the link to see Hadfield's brilliant cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity.") And I'm pretty sure Thomas Dolby has never walked on the Moon (though I heard aliens ate his Buick).

Personally, I'm hoping NASA launches another Moon mission, if only so some (musical) astronaut covers The Police's "Walking on the Moon."

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Joy of Chicken?

So as many of you know, the teenager has gotten really into cooking, insisting on cooking us dinner every night. (Check out her popular food blog, Yes to Yummy, which has way more Facebook fans than I have. Sniff.)

As a result of her new love, she is constantly ordering cookbooks. And yesterday, this little gem, titled Fifty Shades of Chicken (by FL Fowler) showed up:


Let me just say, this is not your mother's cookbook. (Though it could be my mother's cookbook. Hi Mom!)

And while the cover says it is "a parody in a cookbook," the book does provide 50 mouth-watering, finger-licking-good recipes, as well as instruction on various techniques for making sure your bird is moist and tender. (While no cooking virgin, I had no idea what spatchcocking was, until I read Fifty Shades of Chicken. Thank you, FL Fowler.)

Truss me, people. Once you've read Fifty Shades of Chicken, you'll never look at breasts and thighs the same way again.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

I am so leading the wrong life

As some of you may know, I have a thing for cars -- elegant, classic, sporty, expensive cars that can easily go from 0 to 60 in seconds. The kind of car you would expect Cary Grant to be driving around the French Riviera or James Bond to drive anywhere. (My Aston Martin obsession is well documented.)

Indeed, you would be hard-pressed to look through one of my many photo books and not see a photo of some gorgeous classic car (or several cars) I spied and had to take a picture of.

So you can imagine my delight at finally being able to attend the Greenwich Concours d'Elegance, one of the world's great classic, sports, and touring car shows, this weekend.

I felt like a kid in a candy story. Or, in this case, a Mercedes G3.

(I nearly had to haul some old geezer who got stuck in the driver's seat out of the car so I could have my picture taken in it. I'm not proud. But this is as close to driving a Mercedes G3 that I will probably ever get.)

Here are some of my favorite cars* from the 2013 Greenwich Concours d'Elegance.

First up, a lovely silver Aston Martin DB5 Vantage (sadly, minus Sean Connery). 

I was also rather fond of the classic Porsches, particularly this red Porsche 356A convertible...

And this gorgeous cream-colored Porsche Carrera Speedster.

Porsche, there is no substitute.

Except maybe this stunning forest green Jaguar XK 150S. Me-owrrr!

(One of my fondest memories growing up is of my father having to lend me his brand-new chestnut brown Jaguar the summer after I graduated high school, when I was 17 and had just gotten my driver's license, and toodling around Southampton in it while he had to drive the Oldsmobile he rented, not realizing you had to be 25 to drive a rental car.)

I also would have happily driven off with this gorgeous Mercedes-Benz 190SL convertible.

Until next year...

*Or, more accurately, cars that I was able to get a good or decent photograph of. Many of the cars were so close together, with people hovering around them or with that annoying yellow rope right in front, that it was impossible to get a good picture. I also didn't want this post to go on and on, though I could have easily posted a few more pics from the Greenwich Concours d'Elegance, like this photo of the black 1955 Mercedes 300SL Gullwing...