January 2018 Reading List

Now that Mom is gone and radiation is done, I’m back to my books! Oh, books, how I’ve missed thee!

As a treat for myself, –’cause I love to organize my books, ya know– I’m going to try to chronicle my books for 2018. If I do it, then maybe I can piece together my 2017 reading list from my library history.

JANUARY (so far…I guess I’ll just come in and edit each entry as I read more books…)

1) Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande -NON-FICTION – Started this in December but then my loan expired and I had to get on the waitlist for it. Grr. A really straightforward discussion about end-of-life care for the elderly and those with terminal illnesses. I’ve told many people over the years about the documentary “How to Die in Oregon” which centers around assisted suicide. It’s a beautiful and moving film. I remain baffled at how Oregon remains the only US state with legal assisted suicide. Anyway, this book only *briefly* touches on assisted suicide and is all about assisted *living. How can we improve the quality of life for people who are at the end of life? The doctor talks very frankly about death and dying in ways I’ve grown used to during this whole sickness saga. There is no cure-all solution offered. We’re all gonna die eventually so, sometimes rather than following the lead of pharmaceutical and healthcare system to “fight” a disease at all costs (both literal and figurative) for futile cases, families and doctors can learn how to better manage the quality of life with the knowledge that the definition of “quality” is different for each of us. I learned a lot from this, so thanks to whomever here on FB recommended it to me. I can’t remember!

2) Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg (FICTION) – My sister-in-law posted something about this some time ago. I hadn’t heard of it or Flagg, or so I thought. Duh! That’s the woman who wrote Fried Green Tomatoes! AND she was on Match Game. Get outta town. So I checked it out. It was cute, grabbed my attention right away, and I thought it was gonna get a little preachy when it started talking Bible stuff but, not only did it not, it had some twists and turns that were just…what?! I did NOT see that coming. I enjoyed it (and LOVE Fried Green Tomatoes enough that I put Flagg’s book The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion on hold to enjoy in spring or summer maybe.

3) The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish (MEMOIR) – I’d never heard of her before she was on SNL. I actually didn’t see the episode but wondered how I hadn’t heard of her given the pretty big platform of SNL. I should get with the program. So when I saw her book while browsing my library app, I snagged it. Oh my god, she is *ridiculous* and I loved it. Jaw dropping, head shaking and guffawing mixed with some “Mmm hmmm!” and “Preach it!” Holy smokes she had it rough growing up, too. So throw in a few “Bless your hearts”. I’m also gonna grab a copy or two to sell at QED. Funny, honest and bold.

4) Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham (NON-FICTION) – Only two chapters in and I’m already, “What the heck are you doing with your life?!” ETA: Sigh. I love him. I found myself getting choked up as the end neared and then full on sobbed after his death, his funeral, etc. What an incredibly brilliant and beautiful man. Ahhh, why did he have to be a slave owner and have children with one of his slaves? Fuck. I spent time afterward, reading up on his views on religion and his book, “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth” (a book literally ripped from the pages of the Bible. All the good stuff that Jesus taught minus all the myth and magic) and found out it’s currently on display at the Smithsonian until mid-June. I hope to see it before it’s put away again.

5) Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar – a slim little gem recommended by Lauren Hope Krass that I finished in a jiffy. I am going to go through it again, this time doing the little exercises throughout. I generally already know or subscribe to many of his concepts, but it was nice to hear them again. Especially now after my cancer bout has me feeling down and asking the Universe, “What is the point?” I just looked it up to confirm his name and see that it was published in 2007 and there is now a book of his called Even Happier. Maybe I’ll check that out instead of re-reading this one.
6) Stinker Lets Loose! by Mike Sacks – The concept — the novelization of a long lost 70s trucker genre comedy film– is comedy gold and goddamned brilliant. It captures that weird window of time when movies like Smoky and the Bandit and Every Which Way but Loose were big hits. It’s so unpoliticially correct and delightfully ridiculous. I’m jealous I didn’t think of this and am so excited to see all the buzz Mike is getting via the live reads and such. It’s absurd and smart all at once and has so many tiny, perfect, rich details that reading it is like mining for comedy diamonds.
 
FEBRUARY
 
Queued up or on hold at the library:
 
The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein
American Lion by Jon Meacham
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich
The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien
The Emperor of Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
 
#Kambri2018Booklist
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DIY Shower Steamers a/k/a Vapor Discs

Mom and I whipped together these wonderful little shower steamers to give to all my favorite special snowflakes for the holidays. Instructions below the photo gallery.

I love a good bath bomb, but I know lots of folks who don’t like baths and taking one seems more labor intensive. An alternate is to the bomb is this little vapor disc or shower steamer. As the fizzy disc dissolves in your steamy shower, it releases the wonderful aromas of an essential oil blend of your choosing. For the gifts I made, I chose a therapeutic blend for congestion and stuffy noses.

I make my steamers in batches of 12 at a time using the recipe below. To make fewer
I like to make these individually rather than a large batch of just one scent, that way I can use them for whatever use I want or give them away as personalized gifts. This is why the essential oil blends below, are to drop directly onto the dry/cooled shower steamer discs, rather than mix into the mix. I like to use silicon molds and mini muffin pans to make these in all sorts of shapes! Many blogs talk about using muffin liners, but you do not have to use them! If the mixture is not fully dried/hard, it will not come out of the pan or it will crumble out in pieces. All you have to do is allow the mixture to dry for a few more hours, and then turn the pan upside down over a cloth. Knock on the bottom of each of the muffin cups, to help release them from their cup.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 cup citric acid
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 3-5 Tbsp. filtered water (depends on humidity levels in your home)
  • essential oils (use whatever scents float your boat and blends for your needs.(2 per disc if you’re making a smaller batch or experimenting with blends)
  • I used a blend for congestion and stuffy noses:
    • 1 tsp eucalyptus essential oil
    • 1 tsp drops lavender essential oil (2 per disc)
    • 1 tsp drops peppermint essential oil (2 per disc)
    • 1 tsp drops rosemary essential oil (2 per disc)

DIRECTIONS

    1. In a bowl, combine baking soda, citric acid, and cornstarch mixing until no lumps are present and then add and mix in essential oils*.
    2. Add water to the bowl, 1 tablespoon at a time. Add your tablespoons until the mix sticks together and packs like a snowball. It will seem dry but packing it will be easy and possible. You can add powder if you worry it’s too wet. My mix took 4 tablespoons. Any more and it will make the fizz bubble up and you don’t want that.
    3. Once you have the snowball consistency, pack it down into the mold and compacting it into place.
    4. Leave the molds out until dry. They will come out of the pretty  easily. If they are still wet, they will not come out without coming apart.

* If you’re making a smaller batch or want to have a few different types you can add essential oil drops after they’re dried by directly dropping 2 drops of each oil on top of the steamers. If giving as a gift, store in a nifty jar, such as a mason jar.

TO USE: 

Adjust shower to desired temperature. Open pouch and place tablet on the floor of the shower away from the drain, where a steady stream of water will continually release comforting vapors from the tablet into the air.You can sprinkle a little bit on the steamer to get it started, but it will fizz away too quickly if you put it directly under the water stream. Sit in your steamy shower, breathing in the awesome aromatherapy benefits of the blend you chose to use!

 

DIY Crate Coffee Table

Mom & I made a coffee table out of crates and boredom. We crafted a cheap, easy, functional and practical table in about an hour and a half total. Here’s what you need if you want to make one, too:

All done! Now to fill it with records and books!

SUPPLIES
* 4 x Crates ($40 w/o a coupon, plus tax, but Michaels *always* has coupons.)
* 1 x Base (Plywood about 3/4″ thick, cut to 27.5″ square. $27 for a 4’x4’x3/4″ panel. I used the extra for making shelves on another project. You might be able to get smaller panels for cheaper but you need to cover the entire base.)
* 4 x Casters (2″ or 3″ swivel – I got these for $14 total after tax.)
* Stain (About $4 or $5 for 8oz or $8 for a quart. It only needed one coat, but we got a quart as we had other projects.)
* 16 screws for casters (Cost = pennies! I used ones I had around the house)
* 16 nails or screws to attach crates to the base (Same as above)
* Optional – 4 corner braces

TOOLS
* Drill or screw driver to screw in casters to the base.
* Hammer, drill or screw driver to attach crates to the base.
* Paint brush & paper towels for stain (Same as above, but $4 tops)
* Jigsaw or saw if you don’t have the plywood pre-cut at the lumber store. I have a jigsaw and love any chance to use it, so…

INSTRUCTIONS
* Screw in the 4 casters 2″ in on all sides.
* Stain all 4 crates inside and out and the top and sides of the base.
* Position crates on top of the base and affix them with a couple of screws or nails and THAT IS IT!
ETA: We added 4 corner braces inside the empty center to hold a square “shelf” (I just cut a little square from the leftover plywood) to hold a vase, pinecones, Christmas ornaments or any other decorations we want. Fun!

Jalapeno Lime Cilantro Marinade

I found this recipe for a tasty jalapeño lime cilantro marinade but can’t find the source. Saving here for future use. Good for 4 chicken breasts. Ingredients:

  • 2 limes, juice and zest or 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon – ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1 jalapeno, finely diced (optional)

Cover Girl

“Change is good for the soul,” Mom texted me a few days ago. She was talking about table runners, but she’s right. Change is good, except for pennies. Seriously, why do they still even make those?

In the spirit of change being good, I pitched myself for a makeover for First For Women (think Cosmo for the menopausal). I actually quite like my beachy shoulder-length waves but I’ve been rocking that look for a couple of years now. Opening QED nearly killed me, and I’m finally back to feeling like myself and fitting comfortably into all my old clothes. It’s time for a new look and the pictures that come with it.

The good people at First For Women are kind and efficient and graciously gave my pitch the nod. Today was the day and I had to set an alarm and commute to lower Manhattan during rush hour. I do not miss that one iota.

Cate The editors chose this pic of Cate Blanchett as the inspiration for my makeover. I haven’t had my hair this short since that brat Laura gave me lice in 2nd grade and my inspiration was Dorothy Hamill. Even when 1/3 of my head was shaved to remove skin cancer, I managed to keep it shoulder length.

I emerged with a super short, chic haircut by Sho (a “ninja” as his co-workers call him, thanks to his deft scissoring skills) at James Corbett Studio. I scream, “I’M RICH, BIATCH!” Like a cross between Ruth Madoff and a Fox News anchor but not, you know, an asshole. Cate Blanchett better watch out or else I’ll, umm, be her stand in?

It makes me look and feel younger which is what that whole makeover thing is supposed to do. The cut was followed by a little boost of color to my naturally dirty blonde hair and makeup by Berta Camal. She’s a lovely talent who loves animals and gardening. As if all that weren’t enough, I got to play in front of Eric McNatt’s camera. The pics he let me preview were a knockout. I hope they pick one I love and that I can keep some to use.

Neck pillowI’m ever grateful they said yes to my pitch. What a great day. Now I’m going to wrap my hair in silk and sleep sitting up like those weirdos on planes using these things that look like elephant skin, so I can save this beautiful blowout till tomorrow when people I know will actually *see* me!

Keep your eyes peeled for the September 7th issue of First For Women next to the batteries, candy and horoscope scrolls at your local grocery checkout line!

HOMEMADE PINKBERRY FROZEN YOGURT

Yields: 4 servings
INGREDIENTS
For the frozen yogurt:
  • 3 cups non-fat or reduced-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (from 1/2 a lemon)
For serving:
  • assorted chopped fresh fruit (or your favorite froyo toppings)
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Freeze the bowl of your ice cream maker according to manufacturer instructions.
  2. Whisk all frozen yogurt ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour into the bowl of your ice cream maker and churn until frozen. (This takes about 15 minutes in mine.)
  3. Scoop immediately for soft-serve (delicious!) or store in a covered container in the freezer. My preference is to place in the freezer for 30-60 minutes before serving to harden the yogurt up just a bit and ensure that it doesn’t melt immediately. Top with fresh fruit and enjoy!

Skinny Mint Chocolate Milkshakes

 

Thick & creamy mint chocolate milkshakes without all the calories and fat. Only 5 simple ingredients! Add chocolate protein powder and/or a handful of spinach if you like…so many ways to tweak it.

Ingredients for 2 servings:

  • 1 large frozen very ripe bananas, peeled & sliced
  • 2 heaping Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract

Directions:

  1. Make sure you have a strong, powerful blender that will blend up the frozen banana.
  2. Add all of the ingredients to the blender, in the order listed, and blend until thick, creamy, and smooth – about 3 minutes.

Additional Notes:

  1. The milk can be any milk you like: skim, 1%, 2%, almond, soy, coconut.
  2. The yogurt can be any yogurt you like: vanilla Greek yogurt, plain Greek yogurt, plain yogurt, vanilla yogurt. Non-fat or low fat. Same for milk, of course.
  3. Add more milk to thin it out. You can always add more peppermint extract and/or cocoa powder for a stronger minty and/or chocolate taste.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie

I’ve been making this single-serving of a crazy flavorful, low-fat, high protein smoothie for myself and double it if Christian is home.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 banana, peeled, sliced, and frozen
  • 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (I sometimes skip this and just make it PB&B.)
  • 1/2 cup non-fat, plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 Tablespoon Splenda, honey, maple syrup, or agave…whatever sweetener you like. (I actually stopped adding Splenda as an overripe banana is plenty sweet for us.)
  • 1 Tablespoon peanut butter (Any kind you like but we prefer all natural, i.e., the only ingredient listed is peanuts.)

Directions:

  1. Make sure you have a strong, powerful blender that will blend up the frozen banana.
  2. Put all of the ingredients into the blender, in the order listed, and blend on high until thick and smooth.
  3. Drizzle glass with 1 teaspoon of chocolate syrup (optional) and enjoy!

Additional Notes:

If you prefer a less sweet smoothie, you can leave out the honey. Add more peanut butter for a stronger peanut butter taste. Add more milk to make the smoothie thinner, if desired. Add 1 cup of your favorite greens for added nutrition. So many ways to play around with this simple smoothie!

QED Update

Today I met with three dudes named Z, Fritz and Cyclone. I’m ready to start a boy band or a World of Warcraft team. Also met with Katya an NYC architect now living in Brussels who just happens to be in Astoria for three weeks and agreed to draft up a quick plan for the bar. Serendipitous!

Thanks to Cyclone Jjs for swinging by from Canarsie to donate an XLR cord and microphone covers. Fritz is building the stage and singing to Jamaican dance music as I type this. I’ll paint the third coat on bathroom walls & ceiling once Fritz leaves. Ceiling tiles arrived as planned, and I booked Jenn Dodd for a character building class & graduation show. Details to come.

The stage is almost finished at QED: A Place to Show & Tell! I’m sneaking in early in the morning to “bury” a few things under the stage before it’s sealed up. If the whole thing goes belly up, some dude is gonna find a little gift during demolition.

Stage finished and primed, another coat on about 3/4 of the bathroom, 2/3 of ceiling tiles in place. Huge thanks to John O’DonnellJoe GardenLiam McEneaney & Christian Finnegan for the helping hands and good company. Very satisfying day. Now to fall asleep on the couch sitting upright like the tired, old lady that I feel like.

Oh, yeah, and wires from walls cut and capped, walls spackled, lighting chosen thanks to Eric Vetter‘s friend Tamora and plans drawn by my new architect friend thanks to Cathryn Lavery.