25 August, 2009

The importance of not overcooking your boiled eggs

Lots of great new posts to come, but first I thought I'd write about the incredible, edible egg so let's "get cracking":

A. Theme songs have been catchy for a long, long time. But then, I've also watched this like 20 times in a row trying to figure out what the heck the kids in the first scene are eating - I'm sure they didn't have french toast sticks back in 1980!

It all starts with my older son, whom I fear may turn into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or maybe just peanut butter. In my quest to provide a wholesome and diverse set of lunch options, I have hit the brick wall otherwise known as childhood creature of habit and it's only week 2.

Recently I've had a hankering for egg salad; it is yellow after all. That's it! I thought. Big CL loves eggs, ergo he will like egg salad. Wrong! Luckily, I like egg salad - someone has to eat that large batch I whipped up. In fact, I'm waiting right now for my bread to toast so I can enjoy a nice sandwich.

I've consulted several sources to find a delicioso recipe because, let's face it, there are some pretty bad egg salad sandwiches out there and it's hard to imagine something worse than runny or gray eggs on soggy bread... Joy Of Cooking doesn't cut it - I'm actually quite miffed that one of my most beloved books utterly fails in this regard. The Joy's recipe would be the most bland one ever if not for the pinch of curry powder it calls for... So, I'm still on the hunt for that kick-ass preparation.

Most standard recipes call for Dijon mustard, paprika, celery and/or lemon juice along with mayo and S&P to taste. I always use celery, mustard (either Dijon or mustard powder) and lemon juice but am on the lookout for suggestions. Some of the more intriguing additions I have come across (that go in the egg mix and not just separately in the sandwich):
curry powder
shredded carrot
chopped cucumber
minced/chopped red or green onion
pimento-stuffed green olives
hot peppers

The horseradish reminds me of wasabi, which reminds me of tamago sushi. I'll have to try a Japanese-inspired version using furikake or just roasted seaweed (nori). I have also seen in several places and came to this on my own, too, the substitution of sour cream or Greek yogurt for the mayonnaise - definitely two thumbs up for Greek yogurt here.

A few little egg-cellent tricks I've picked up over the years that make all the difference:
  • Don't overcook your eggs unless you are serving Green Eggs and Ham. 8-10 minutes at a gentle boil is plenty (the moister the yolk, the less mayo you will need).
  • Place the eggs in the water when you set the pot on to boil and not after the water is boiling, or you risk cracking the shells. Better yet, use eggs at room temperature.
  • Dunk the eggs in an ice bath after removing from the water to stop the yolks cooking any further.
  • In terms of egg salad, toast your bread and it won't be soggy (especially if you are packing lunch for school or work).
While 80% of the egg salad sandwiches out there are horrid, a good egg salad on a pumpernickel bagel is very hard to beat, unless you add bacon and then it's game over.

05 August, 2009

Summer bliss

I love Jamba Juice. Actually, I love most kinds of all-fruit smoothies.

A creature of habit, I usually get the 16-ounce Mega Mango or just make my own (see below).

So what could be better than a buy-one-get-one-free offer during the peak of summer? Go to SummerBlissIsBack.com and print. But hurry, offer only good thru August 9!

My DIY Kick-A$$ Smoothie
4-6 frozen strawberries
1/2 cup frozen mango chunks
4 heaping spoonfuls of plain, nonfat yogurt
1 banana
2 T flax meal
1 scoop protein powder
Blend on high with milk or a juice (I like orange) of your choice to desired thickness

29 July, 2009

Are you there, God? It's me, [name]

I was checking my blog stats over the past month, and whoa! My visits and page views are increasing though still meager. But the overall trend is increasing!

Since none of you leave comments, I'm curious - are you lurkers or do I know you? I'm pretty confident most of you must be acquaintances, friends or family since I really haven't done any blog promotion of any kind.

So, I hope you'll indulge this little request - please post a comment upon reading this. Share your favorite movie quote, tell me your favorite book, discuss this article on Mourning the Death of Handwriting, heck, simply say "I'm here!"

Thanks! And stay tuned for more chunkiness and August grab bag...

28 July, 2009

More on the U.S. rate of C-sections

Now I'm just fired up.

Based on the complexity of childbirth and cesarean sections in this country and my hesitation to throw the kitchen sink in the previous post, here is some additional information on C-sections in the United States that may be helpful for first-time moms or others considering/anticipating additional children.

First, I freely admit my bias, as previously stated, that pregnancy and childbirth are natural processes that require minimal-to-no medical intervention in most cases, but I have attempted to provide good representation of the facts.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the reasons for a C-section include multiple births, failure of labor to progress, concern for the baby, a problem with the placenta, or a previous delivery by C-section.

Vaginal birth after C-section carries a risk of 1-4% of uterine rupture; that's serious, no question. At the same time, cesareans are not without their own risks, to both mother and child.

The U.S. has one of the highest C-section rates of any developed country, and one has to wonder why we're different. I'm not convinced that doctors or our healthcare system bear all the blame, though the latter certainly plays a big part. Consider:

Once reserved for cases in which the life of the baby or mother was in danger, the cesarean is now routine. The most common operation in the U.S., it is performed in 31% of births, up from 4.5% in 1965.
With that surge has come an explosion in medical bills, an increase in complications -- and a reconsideration of the cesarean as a sometimes unnecessary risk.
It is a big reason childbirth often is held up in healthcare reform debates as an example of how the intensive and expensive U.S. brand of medicine has failed to deliver better results and may, in fact, be doing more harm than good.
It's true: scheduled, repeat cesareans are not "medically indicated," at least not according to the research evidence. After a cesarean birth, a woman is left with a scar on her uterus, and there's a small risk of that scar rupturing in subsequent deliveries, which has led to concerns about vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). But a VBAC baby has excellent odds—the risk of severe harm or death is 1 in 2000—the same odds as for a baby born vaginally to a first-time mother.
The cesarean delivery rate rose 3 percent to 31.1 percent of all births, another record high. The cesarean rate has climbed 50 percent since the 1996 low.
Obstetricians' rising malpractice insurance premiums may play a role, too. Individual doctors in many states now pay upwards of $100,000 a year for coverage, a figure that can spike if they're sued for something that goes wrong during labor, regardless of the legal outcome. "If there's no labor, there can be no lawsuit related to labor," says Flamm, who points out wryly that parents rarely sue over unnecessary C-sections.

For more information, check out these government agencies and other organizations

WOW. Refusal to have C-section = child abuse and neglect?!

Women take note! Especially those of you of child-bearing age.

I cannot believe this report, but it's true. Sort of. On the surface, a New Jersey woman's newborn child was removed from her custody because she refused a C-section and "behaved erratically" while in labor.

Show me a woman who is not erratic while in the throes of labor. Seriously, the baby was born vaginally and was fine, yet still removed from the mother's and father's custody at birth. Also, the hospital in question apparently has a C-section rate of 44%, while the national average is around 30% (and of which as much as half may be medically unnecessary). Hmm...

Not being a legal expert, I can only imagine what kind of precedent this case might set for women across the country, if these were the only facts in the case. However, there is more to this story than meets the eye (isn't there always?). While the lower court judge sided with the state of New Jersey that the mother's refusal to cooperate (i.e., have a c-section) was evidence of child abuse and neglect, upon appeal the court reiterated that there was "substantial additional evidence of abuse and neglect."

Nonetheless, one of the issues before the appeals court was the question of whether the refusal of a C-section is tantamount to child abuse/neglect/endangerment. And on this question, I believe the appeals court, in its majority opinion, fucked up punted:

Where we part company is his discussion of whether V.M.'s [the mother's] refusal to consent to a cesarean section (c-section) can, as a matter of law, be considered an element of abuse and neglect.

On the record before us, we do not agree that the issue need be decided.

I guess I can't say I am surprised by this or that I blame them for dodging the question. But I wish they'd had the balls to address it, like Judge Carchman did in a concurring opinion:

I concur in the result reached as to both V.M.[the mother] and B.G. [the father]. I am of the view that even with the limited concession of DYFS as to the narrow utility of V.M.'s refusal to have a c-section, the issue remains extant and requires a level of judicial scrutiny.

Consideration of V.M.'s refusal to submit to a c-section, in my view, is improper and beyond the legislative scope of the child protective statutes.

Here is the post from Momlogic; you should also check out the post at the NY Times blog Motherlode. As a rule, I don't generally read the Huffington Post but this is actually a pretty good analysis. And here is the New Jersey court ruling (pdf) for those so inclined to read.

Regardless of the details in this case, what this illustrates to me is the vast geographical differences in doctor's attitudes and hospital procedures. The approaches to birth and the predominant medical attitudes are not uniform across the country in the least. Meanwhile, the U.S. has one of the highest C-section rates of any developed nation. Bottom line: PREGNANCY IS NOT AN ILLNESS OR A CONDITION NECESSARILY WARRANTING TREATMENT. Delivering a baby (or babies as may be the case), for a great many women, is a natural process that requires minimal-to-no intervention.

24 July, 2009

The news about Sarah Palin is like the Energizer bunny, it just keeps going and going...

News media outlets such as CNN are covering a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll on Americans' attitudes about Palin and her perhaps future presidential bid. The relevant bit here:

Fifty-three percent of those questioned in the poll view Palin negatively, with four in 10 holding a positive view of her. The survey is the second this week, following a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll released Thursday, to find more than half of all Americans viewing Palin in an unfavorable light.

The ABC News/Washington Post survey suggests that there is doubt about Palin's leadership skills and her understanding of intricate issues. Fifty-seven percent say they don't think Palin understands complex issues, and 54 percent do not feel she is a strong leader.

I'm just curious, wtf is up with the more than 40% of the American public that views her positively, thinks she understands complex issues, and/or is a strong leader?

Just in case we've forgotten:

Exhibit A. Strong leadership

Exhibit B. Grasps complex issues

And my favorite:

Exhibit C. Ah, proof of the vast left-wing, liberal media conspiracy.

22 July, 2009

The power of wonder

Oh where, oh where has this gone?

There's an interesting piece today in the LA Times ("The final American frontier" by Ted Anthony of the AP), exploring our waning wonder for space exploration. It's not really remarkable anymore when the space shuttle launches and images of astronauts space walking and doing other astronauty things are no longer broadcast live (or even at all). But it ought to and they should be. I mean, how many people do you personally know who have orbited our planet (one of the estimated trillions in the universe)?

We are 40 years older now, we Americans. And many things have changed.

The final Apollo mission came home before Nixon resigned. Skylab fell to Earth. Challenger disintegrated going up, Columbia coming down. Kennedy's New Frontier ethos — space as a kinder, gentler Manifest Destiny — slouched into the "Alien" catchphrase: "In space, no one can hear you scream."

Today, the reasons for Americans to pay attention to the ground, rather than the heavens, can be rattled off like a parody of a Billy Joel song. Terrorists. Global warming. Swine flu. Economic collapse. Nukes in North Korea and mass shootings in the heartland.
We didn't (couldn't?) keep the fire going. And then the $64,000 question: "Is space, the final frontier, still the American place to aim for?" Well, you can guess my answer. The article cites a 2006 Gallup survey, in which nearly half of Americans said the money spent on the space shuttle program would have been better spent on something else, and 13% basically said "hell no" to funding any space exploration.

$how us the money. But first a slight segue...

I didn't fully get the story of Pandora and her box the first time I read it in middle school. I thought Hope should have been set free along with all the plagues, since escaping is what activated them - how could we hope if it was still trapped in the box? But then I realized we don't hope, we have it. You can't own something unless you have a place to keep it. Which brings us to the National Air and Space Museum:

Walk past an actual Apollo landing module and think: How in heaven did we land on the moon in something like this? It looks like a foil-and-tarpaper float built for a homecoming parade.

And then, if you can get to the front of the circle of people ringing it, stand in front of the actual Apollo 11 command module, Columbia.

Then pause, and listen to the voices around you.

"... actual re-entry capsule ..."

"... Collins stayed in the command module ..."

"... looks like a beehive on the bottom ..."

"... can't believe someone did that ..."

In German and Chinese, Japanese and Hindi and, yes, American English, they marvel still at this conical piece of mottled metal that traveled so far. They pose for pictures, shoot video.
The fire isn't dead, the embers just need stirring up.

You see, it's what I like to call trickle down science. It's not just science that benefits from funding science. Thanks to space exploration we have satellite technology (tv and radio), global communications, pacemakers, better golf balls, solar photovoltaic energy, Tang (and by extension, KoolAid, Crystal Light, etc) and Velcro®. Of course, we didn't exactly know all that at the time exploration and the Apollo missions were being funded, but we've all benefited in these and countless other ways.

Some middle of the week space shenanigans

Wednesday is "hump" day, and I'm finding it particularly difficult this week. So in case you're likewise in need of a little R&R, here's a space stroll down memory lane...

A. Space Ghost, Jace, Jan and Blip rocked! I think I may have had a child crush on Space Ghost.

B. Do you remember the three-part series when the cast of Star Wars joined the Pigs in Space crew (double space points!)?

C. The best arcade game IMHO.

21 July, 2009

Space baubles

Because you know I can't let another week go by without some chunkiness...

I am liking Stephanie Carbone's designs "inspired by sky and sea" over at SpaceMermaid. Not sure I've been completely converted from my disdain of brass-plated jewelry, but at these prices I can afford to give it a try. I mean, have you seen the sea horses - how cute are those?!

A. This design is sold out. Damn!

B. Bubble Pearl necklace, 18/24/30 inches, $65 at SpaceMermaid.

More space-inspired items with which to adorn yourselves or the loved ones in your life:

C. These might be the cutest aliens ever depicted. Orbit Girl sterling silver charm earrings, $32 by marmar on Etsy.

D. A little love for the guys. The T3 (you can choose a polished or matte finish), $779 at Jeweler's Touch. The tension setting is ultra cool, and I think titanium is a pretty bad ass element.

You want the real deal? NASA has meteorite jewelry in its online store.

20 July, 2009

A plug for The Intersection of science and policy (via communication)

Lots to show and tell about space this week, this is only the beginning.

A blog I read pretty regularly is Chris Mooney's and Sheril Kirshenbaum's The Intersection. I had to re-post this video - it is a freakin' AWESOME marriage of pop culture/entertainment and science!
"The LHC is super duper fly."

For the rest of Mooney's post, which details a radio interview you may have heard on NPR's Living Earth, click here. May I also suggest you check out their new book (I haven't read it yet, but it's on my list!), Unscientific America:

"Viva Pluto!"

"Stop Planetary Discrimination!"

"Pluto Was Framed!"

"Dear Earth: You Suck. Love, Pluto."

"Pluto is still a planet. Bitches."

So read a small sampling of the defiant T-shirt and bumper sticker slogans that emerged in late 2006 after the International Astronomical Union (IAU), meeting in Prague, opted to poke the public with a sharp stick. The union's general assembly voted to excommunicate the ninth planet from the solar system, thus abruptly stripping Pluto of a status as much cultural, historic, and even mythological as scientific.

In the astronomers' defense, it had become increasingly difficult to justify calling Pluto a planet without doing the same for several other more recently discovered heavenly objects--one of which, the distant freezing rock now known as Eris (formerly "Xena"), turns out to be larger. But that didn't mean the experts had to fire Pluto from its previous place in the firmament. In defining the word "planet," they were arguably not so much engaged in science as a semantic exercise, meaning that instead of ruling Pluto out, they could just as easily have ruled a few new planets in, as a group of scientists, historians, and journalists had in fact proposed. But the IAU rejected that compromise for a variety of technical reasons: Pluto is much smaller than the other eight planets; it orbits the sun in a far more elliptical manner; its gravitational pull is not strong enough to have "cleared the neighborhood around its orbit" of other significant objects and debris…

People were aghast. Not only did they recoil at having to unlearn what they had learned as children, and perhaps the chief thing they remembered about astronomy. On some fundamental level their sense of fair play had been violated, and their love of the underdog provoked. Why suddenly kick Pluto out of the planet fraternity after letting it stay in for nearly a century, ever since its 1930 discovery? "No do-overs," wrote one cartoonist.

Soon websites started sprouting up encouraging people to vote on Pluto's status and override the experts. A Facebook group entitled "When I was your age, Pluto was a planet" drew a million and a half members. New Mexico, the state where Pluto's discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh, had built an astronomy program, took particular offense. Its House of Representatives voted unanimously to preserve Pluto's planethood and named March 13, 2007, "Pluto Planet Day." Surveying it all, the American Dialect Society selected "plutoed" as its 2006 word of the year--as in, "you plutoed me." The society offered this definition: "to demote or devalue someone or something, as happened to the former planet Pluto when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto no longer met its definition of a planet."

Even many scientists were upset. "I'm embarrassed for astronomy," remarked Alan Stern, the chief scientist on NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto and beyond... (keep reading this excerpt)

Space week

A. Earthrise 1968 by William Anders/NASA (Video of the Earth rising and setting was captured in HD by the Japanese space agency and released last year. You can view it and other images, as well as geek out on how they caught the events on camera, here.)

I can't help but be curious, awestruck and inspired when I look up into a clear night sky. Unfortunately, I find I must go further and further now to see a starry sky.

The 40th anniversary of the first humans landing on the moon is as good as any moment to pause and reflect on how much we know, and how much we don't.
B. Dr. Sylvia Earle's TED Prize wish to protect our ocean (February 2009). This grandma kicks some serious science butt.

Here's to those who devoted their lives to exploring the great unknown, in space and right here on our own tiny planet. And here's to hoping that once again our nation's science coffers will be expanded as they were under Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy.

UPDATED 7/26/2009 - Here is a roundup of Space Week posts following this one:

14 July, 2009

Gentle giant

They come to gaze in wonder, perhaps, at the sight of a giant seldom seen. One mystery of the deep partially revealed. I like the fact that this video of a dying basking shark is silent, strangely so for a news organization. Far from killers, basking sharks are one of three species of filter-feeding shark that strain tiny animals from the water and are found in coastal waters throughout the world.

24 June, 2009

Toe candy

Here's a bonus chunky post for the week.

I've been looking at toe rings recently, with summertime officially here. Maybe it's because other people's feet weird me out - just a little - but can I just say that there are some seriously heinous feet out there. Acryllic nails, never a good idea on toes.

A. Toe ring made with glass seed beads and Swarovski crystals in many colors, $9 at Darla's Parlor on Etsy.

I stumbled onto stretch rings at Toe Brights and like the quality at Footcandy (one word: platinum). I think the sterling silver blue enamel daisy at Eve's Addiction would look so cute with my hot pink toes, and I am digging the double ladybug and bamboo rings from Best Foot Jewelry. And Etsy too - I absolutely love the flower rings at Darla's Parlor.

For the first time in my life, I'm seriously contemplating a tatoo - I think a toe band would be pretty cool. But who am I kidding? I'd never in a million years permanently ink myself.

Of course, I'll need a new pedicure to properly complete the effect, whether it's a toe ring or tattoo, and probably some new shoes that allow an alluring peek at both the ring and the nails. ;)

23 June, 2009

Not your mother's mellow yellow

Yellow. It's a pretty happy color but also one that can be easily overdone. I think that yellow can be elegant and enduring (see exhibits A-F below) despite its current hotness. This is the post I wanted to give you last week.

From the flowers outside my office window to the glossy fashion mags, I'm seeing various shades of yellow everywhere these days. Back in December 2008, Pantone named "mimosa" (an orangey yellow) its color for 2009, and it is indeed one of the color trends for the current season.

I love yellow, a darn-impossible-not-to-feel-happy kind of color, or hungry which is why a many restaurants opt for this primary color on the walls. Oh, I've had a bold yellow kitchen but in terms of attire, I admit to shying away from it for the most part. Kate Hudson's knock-out dress in How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days made me blink twice, however; til then, I hadn't really given my wardrobe much thought. Now? I love the way a bold yellow top goes with white or a rich/denim blue bottom.

Here are some other ways you can incorporate yellow in your life:

A. Accessorize your indoor/outdoor decor or boldly paint a wall/room (above, Valspar Martha Stewart paint; here, inspiration from Apartment Therapy). For more ideas, check out Elements of Style.

B. Affordable glass and melamine tableware options from Crate and Barrel.

C. Or adorn your fingers, neck and ear lobes (Murano glass ring from Santellial).

D. Yellow almost always makes me think of Van Gogh. Sunflowers, anyone?

E. Shoes, because you know I wouldn't let you down! (Zappos, clockwise from top: Sofft Felicity, Naughty Monkey the Hype, and Santana Pounce)

F. Ed Hardy G'Gte silk scarf. Cute tops on sale at Bluefly and Overstock.

Anyway, you get the idea. This ought to be enough to get you started.

22 June, 2009

Does this fragrance make me look fat?

Of all the five senses — sight, touch, hearing, taste and smell — the latter is the one that has always held the most intrigue for me. Actually, let's be honest, I am captivated by smell and our ability (or inability comparatively speaking) to detect a scent and apply meaning to it whether consciously or subconsciously. We have a lot to be thankful for the role our sense of smell plays in our lives.

A. The secret to womanhood is — mmm, bacon...

First and foremost, in my humble opinion, taste and scent are intricately tied to one another — food would not be nearly as appealing and enjoyable without it. In fact according to one scientist-turned-CEO cited in a recent New York Times article, as much as 80% of what we perceive as taste might really be smell. Any sommelier or wine coinnesseur worth her/his salt, for instance, will tell you breathing in the bouquet and/or exhaling on the finish is so important to properly appreciating a fine wine. I swear to you it is true, based on first hand experience with this flavor-enhancing behavior almost every night. My most memorable and poignant example of this was in Portugal during the Euro 2004; I tasted the smell of olives in a vinho tinto we enjoyed late one night upon returning to our country pousada from a day spent driving through the vast stretches of olive trees during the drive to and from Aveiro.

Next, of all the five senses, smell is the one most closely linked with memory. Have you ever been somewhere else, when a wayward smell immediately transports you back in time to corn dog day in your elementary school cafeteria, summer camp after a light shower, or the weekly visit to a beloved elderly family member in assisted living, etc.? A few years back there was an interesting study published in the British Royal Society biology letters, which noted the roles memory and smell play in elephants' ability to keep tabs on family members near and far. I can imagine how liberating this might be if I had a similar ability to keep tabs on Big and Little CL at the neighborhood park around 11am every Sunday.

Many animals of course use their sense of smell to guide them, sometimes over considerable distances, to a member of the opposite sex ripe for mating. And this brings me to smell as a vehicle for bodily communication, or smell's sensual and sexual sides. I recently brought your attention to one study that suggests women are more capable than men of sniffing out biologically relevant information from sweat. As gross as that may at first sound, odor and the ability to detect it play a crucial role in mate selection, and thus reproduction; this is a biological function of hormone and pheromone production seen in many (most?) animals.

Think about it, body odor is either a turn-off or a turn-on, and a strong one at that. Humans are the only species of which I'm aware that intentionally apply scents in order to be more sexually attractive — dogs do not roll in deer feces to attract other dogs. The company who can develop and bottle human pheromones will make a killing (ever see that X-File gender bender episode?), and those Axe commercials would have you believe that company already has. Is it any wonder perfume is a multi-billion dollar business? And that doesn't include aromatherapy or the myriad other personal care product companies that spend fortunes on developing or acquiring fragrances for their lotions, shampoos, lip glosses, etc.

With all of this in mind, I am pretty sure I'm advertising to Mr. CL that I'm open for business when I wear perfume (personal favorites are Lauren and No. 5, oldies but goodies). Having children has altered the frequency with which I apply fragrance; I don't spritz and dab as regularly as I used to because a mother's scent is very important in the early bonding with baby (and vice versa). My childhood memories of my own mother are tied to Jungle Gardenia, and I can't help but think of her when I smell the real flower.

So, what does your scent say about you —
Can you bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan? I won't hate you because you're Beautiful, smart and a good cook.
Do you have a Passion for Poison?
What's your Pleasure, or has it been an Eternity?

19 June, 2009

Royal Ascot 2009 update

In my humble non-hat-wearing opinion, this year's best (i.e., most chunk light) hat goes to Jordan's HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, seen here. I have searched without much success for a photo of the princess's entire ensemble, but judging by the hat it appears very simple yet sophisticated.

More hat images from the event at the link above; other outlandishly funny ones at Zimbio and a showstopper at TeamSugar — oh, you'll know it when you see it. (Note to self: do not wear g-string/dress combo on a blustery day.)

17 June, 2009

I wanted to give you yellow, but instead it's Barbie

This is going to turn out to be a Barbie-inspired post, but that was not my original intent because Royal Ascot, which opened yesterday, was and is the inspiration today.

I might have skipped over Ascot altogether and instead given you this news from the Barbie Fashion Show 2009, in part because the Christian Louboutin hot pink shoes go so well with the lips in this month's grab bag. Except that I love gawking at all the silly hats, so chances of me not paying attention to Ascot's opening day are slim (Thursday is Ladies' Day, when all the truly wacky ones are on display). Then low and behold I noticed two other very cute CL — one red and one nude/pink — in coverage from Ascot's opening day. And, in addition to the latter of the two (well, the whole ensemble really) reminding me of Barbie...

A. Totally sexy Christian Louboutin 4'' satin platform peeptoe on sale at Footcandy

... this generally got me thinking about hats, which I don't wear. Call it curiosity or rubber necking, but I am fascinated with these hats. I loved Isabella Kristensen's gorgeous purple and green swirl last year and her berry one yesterday is growing on me. It's, um, fresh.

B + C. What do they do with these hats post-Ascot? (photos: Natalya's Blog and Oli Scarff for the Telegraph)

I don't do hats because I can't tolerate something on my head; I have been known to occasionally don a scarf or bandana. I didn't even wear a veil at my wedding. However, I can imagine — in an alternate hat-wearing universe — opting for this cloche from Hatagories in the spirit of the peeptoe pumps above.

I also noted the Queen was dressed in yellow, a color I have been noting of late. (Apparently, you'd have netted 4-1 odds if you had bet on the Queen wearing this smashing color.) I think it's the "it" color of the moment, more to come on this next post...

15 June, 2009

Magnesium rocks

** Note: I am not a doctor or medical expert. You should always check with your doctor before trying any treatment.**

"Menstrual migraine is generally severe, lasts longer, recurs more frequently, results in greater disability and is more resistant to therapy than nonmenstrual migraine." -SD Silberstein and J Goldberg in Journal of Reproductive Medicine 2007 Oct; 52(10):888-95.

If this is you, read on. [Updated 6/18/2009]

In my previous ode to the avocado, I noted it as a good source of magnesium. This may seem an obscure reference — that's not usually the thing one associates with avocados. Let me explain.

A. Me, during horridly horrible migraines at regular monthly intervals. Thank you, Mother Nature.

A migraine sufferer, one might assume that I have devoted much time researching this condition, and one would be absolutely correct. I did not want to take a prescription medication to deal with the migraines, offered a little too quickly by doctors. Over-the-counter pain killers didn't work well (I have tried them all at one point or another), and avoiding triggers like red wine helped but did not prevent my migraines. For a very long time, all of my adult life actually, I resigned myself to lying still in a dark and quiet room, usually until the next morning. This was fine, until I had children and couldn't temporarily drop all motherly duties. "There has got to be a better way," I kept telling myself, as I tried each new natural remedy and browsed the scientific literature. There is.

I have been migraine-free (and virtually headache-free) for nearly a year now, thanks to magnesium (Mg) and vitamin B-2 (riboflavin). This has worked for me and it might help others, too — but let me stress again that I am not a doctor, not all of this information is accepted medical practice, and may not work for every individual.

There are a few clinical researchers looking at the role of magnesium in the pathogenesis of migraines. Briefly, it is thought that some individuals naturally have lowered levels of ionized magnesium (the active form that is able to bind easily to proteins and other substances), a situation which may cause them to suffer migraines and which may also be remedied through dietary intake. Although the National Migraine Association cites the medical community's mixed support for magnesium, it nonetheless says taking the 100% RDA of Mg is probably a "safe and prudent" preventive. If you would like to geek out with the research — hey, I did and there is nothing wrong with that — knock yourself out here, here, here, here, here, and here (all link to the abstracts of published papers on PubMed).

Then I stumbled upon Mauskop and Fox's book in my search for The Miracle of Magnesium, and after a lengthy perusal of its contents at the local bookstore while deciding whether to buy it, I was convinced it couldn't hurt to try the remedy of Mg + riboflavin + feverfew favored by the authors. I figured I'd try this because in the off chance it worked for me, it would be worth avoiding a prescription drug and any associated side effects. And as long as I stayed within the recommended daily allowances (RDA), I couldn't see a downside. This would be the best decision related to treating my headaches I have ever made.

B. This is me now. Really.

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health office of dietary supplements, Mg is essential for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, helping to maintain normal muscle and nerve function, blood pressure, heart rhythym, a healthy immune system, strong bones and more. A lack of energy may also be associated with low levels of Mg.

A few other bits of info you should know before trying this for yourself: The U.S. recommended daily allowances for Mg and riboflavin vary depending on your age and gender (for women aged 31-50 it is 320 mg and 1.1 mg, respectively). As with any vitamin and mineral, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Hence the RDAs.

My own headache/migraine prevention regimen includes:
  • Calcium-magnesium supplement containing 300-400 mg of Mg every other day
  • Daily multivitamin that contains the max for riboflavin and low to no Mg
  • Drink lots of water, eat a balanced diet, exercise, and avoid any known triggers
  • Magnesium-rich foods (pumpkin seeds, spinach, soybeans, Alaskan salmon and halibut, black beans, avocados) during times when I know I'm prone to getting headaches.
While my migraines have ceased, I continue to get headaches although not as regularly and not as severe. I feel it worth repeating my previous admonition to talk to your doctor before trying this or any other new regimen for yourself.

11 June, 2009

Grab bag: Lip gloss

This one is for all my girlfriends and special peeps...

Summer is almost officially here, and that means lipgloss!

My google search for "lip gloss" returned the following music video from up and coming young aritst, Lil Mama (embedding is disabled, so click through and you won't be disappointed).

Whatcha know 'bout me? My lip gloss is poppin'.

Amen! A round-up of my particular favorites is in the side bar - conditioning, free of ickiest chemicals, great color, not too tacky, long lasting or just all around chunky. And for the love of lips, please use SPFeither in the gloss or as a base to protect your pout from the sun's harmful UVA and UVB rays.

10 June, 2009

Sharing the love

I [heart] my iPhone. This week, Apple released its spiffiest version, the 3Gs. So instead of posting some totally chunky shoes, I thought I would mark the occasion by sharing the next best thing, if that is indeed at all possible.

Chunky App List
(or, Get Thee to the Apple Store!)

iBags - Brand spanking new to the iStore, 20,000+ handbags, clutches, hobos and more! You can sort by style or label (Marc Jacobs, Coach etc.). Click on a bag to view its picture and details, where to buy, and the app will even alert you when it goes on sale. The images are sharp, and the features are way cool. And - are you ready for this? - there is also iShoes from the same maker.

A. The language of love IS universal. Can you say kid in a [bag and shoe] candy store?

FarmFresh NYC - If I lived in the Big Apple, I'd surely be biting at this app. Good news is that there seem to be San Francisco, LA, Chicago and New Orleans versions in the pipeline. As the maker's description says, this app takes the guesswork out of eating local and in-season produce and seafood. (For more info on sustainable seafood options, check out the app from the folks at Seafood Watch.)

Bloom - This is a generative music app developed by ambient music pioneer Brian Eno. Touch the screen to create your own soothing melodies and patterns, then listen and "watch" your music. As the description says, it's part instrument, composition and artwork all in one.

More Cowbell - Sorry, but for $0.99 this is a bargain I can't resist. "Useless... and a stroke of genius" says the UK's Pocket Picks; "Finally an app that can compete with the light-saber. My wife hates my new iphone" says a reviewer. Yes, this app is exactly what you think it is, cowbell a la Will Ferrell's classic SNL sketch ripping on the Blue Oyster Cult's Don't Fear the Reaper.

What are your favorite apps?

02 June, 2009

Diatomaceous update

Speaking of diatoms, a colleague just forwarded this to me - what a totally chunky bit of reporting!

Through the eye of a needle, a world writ small. In this award-winning image, wildlife photgrapher Peter Parks depicts a single drop of seawater collected at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and magnified 20 times to reveal its living contents.
Go check the rest of it out for yourself at the San Diego Union-Tribune. (Photo courtesy of Nikon Small World and Imagemarinequest.com)

Diatoms are cool and hot, trust me on this

Has this ever happened to you, when you know what you are talking about but unfortunately [dumb ass!] cannot articulate at the time? It happened to me yesterday in a staff meeting, no less. As I lay in bed drifting off to sleep last night, the relevant info - dimethyl sulfide, of course! - that had been locked away in storage in the nether regions of my brain hit me like a bolt of lightening.

My organization has a journal club - once a month, we devote a part of our regular staff meeting to covering oceans-relevant studies and news from pre-assigned journals. I think it's a brilliant idea - from what I understand, it's a tradition borrowed from medical school (but I haven't verified this) - and makes staying on top of a number of journals much easier than any one person could do on her/his own.

While summarizing the microbial oceanography content from the May 14 Nature Insight, I included the what-I-thought-to-be-common-knowledge remark that "diatoms, as you know, are responsible for cloud production."

"Um, no we don't know" was the immediate response.

My colleagues were eager for an explanation, and the intricacies of phytoplanktonic life were momentarily eluding me. All I could say was, "I don't recall the precise biological and chemical processes, but, trust me, diatoms are linked to cloud formation and the regulation of temperature. I'll get back to you on this."

Here is the plain-speak answer I should have been able to articulate:

A. The picture that would have been worth 1,000 words. (courtesy of Oceanworld)

Phytoplankton such as diatoms emit dimethyl sulfide or DMS, a component in the "smell of the sea." Some of this gas ends up in the atmosphere, where it oxidizes and forms particles around which water can condense and form cloud droplets. The reflectivity of clouds (or their albedo) is influenced by the number of these condensation particles. According to my now totally outdated Environmental Science textbook (I see it's currently in its tenth edition), as the ocean warms more DMS is produced. Clouds block sunlight, so more DMS means more potential clouds to block sunlight. This, in turn, would result in a cooling effect, however, less solar energy means less active phytoplankton, which means less DMS and thus less cloud condensation particles. Hot, cold, hot, and so on...

In other words, what we have is a nice little feedback mechanism that is thought to help regulate temperature and keep it within a suitable range for life. Under normal conditions and all other things being equal, which of course we know they are not. (For more on diatoms and the regulation of planetary temperature, see Science Progress.)