Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Trading Juno for Hugo

We were planning a trip to Alaska this year (see prior blog post) but instead, we bought a pure breed french bulldog puppy, whom we named Hugo. French Bulldogs are known as the clowns of the dog world ... and Hugo delivers! For example, he loves to carry a squeaky ball in his mouth while simultaneously playing soccer with a tennis ball

We got him at 8 weeks old and now he's about 12 and we are having little success potty training - especially because he's too young to get all the shots he needs to go outside. I'm home during the summer and I've probably said "go potty" 2 million times - only for him to pee on the wee wee pad for a cookie and then hop off and go wherever he wants 2 seconds later. Hopefully outside training will be easier.

But despite that frustration, he is such a beautiful addition to our family. He likes to be carried cradled on his back like a baby, and no lap is safe if your sitting down. His grey eyes could melt an iceberg, and his prancing gait is more graceful than a reindeer's. So the trade was worth it. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Carcinoid Syndrome Flushing

Not very pretty: melted mascara; mangled brows; sour-puss expression; no foundation, cover-up, or blush of any kind. But carcinoid syndrome ain't pretty. This is tell-tale flushing (which happened while relaxing on the couch - no rhyme or reason to it). My other symptoms are on high alert too. No one likes an ugly picture of them blasted on social media, but I made a commitment to be honest about my journey.
Carcinoid Syndrome Symptoms
Flushing feels hot and uncomfortable - like an internal, tingly sunburn. It starts on my cheeks by the bridge of my nose and spreads across my face and chest in a matter of minutes. For me, it usually happens in times of stress or when eating too much sugar. Lately, however, it happens for no reason at all. (I don't drink alcohol, but many have a reaction to that as well.) It is not menopause - got tested for that. Nor is it Lupus, got tested for that too. So it's not rocket science to put carcinoid cancer and carcinoid flushing together.

In the past, doctors have remarked how "good" I look... maybe now, with photographic evidence of clear flushing - everyone can get on the same page medically. Advice for zebras: gather as much evidence of fleeting symptoms as possible - you may just look too fabulous for doctors to consider you ill!

Admittedly,other than regular Sloan Kettering appointments, I've avoided my recent follow up visits with specialists. I feel a bit guilty about it, but sometimes you feel even more sick staring at yet another set of plastic chairs and fanned magazines on a faded coffee table, waiting to be called - only for the doctor to shrug and order more needles, more tests. But now it's time to get back on track and get my symptoms under control again

Monday, September 1, 2014

Cupcake Tour of NYC

When a Groupon deal came along for a cupcake walking tour of the West Village, complete with food, I jumped at it. To my great delight and amazement, my future stepson Michael (14 yrs old) said he'd like to go with me. This was our first solo outing without Victor, so I was a little nervous ... but what the heck, what kid doesn't like cupcakes?

NYC Cupcake Walking Tour Review (Great NY Tours)

So we set out for Manhattan and joined about 15 other tour goers in Union Square. Our guide, Jessica, was an outgoing bundle of trivia and enthusiasm. Our tour included 6 delicious stops, and historical facts along the route to each confectionist.

First up was Baked by Melissa in Soho, which packs diverse flavor profiles into their signature mini cupcakes. Michael was kinda quiet, so I asked what cupcake flavors he liked ... He responded quickly, while looking off into the distance, "vanilla with vanilla frosting." Uh oh, this might not be the slam dunk outing I was hoping for.

Luckily I had a secret weapon... Melissa's was the only place on the tour that I had visited in the past, and I knew exactly the cupcake I wanted him to try. As part of the tour, we each got their flavor of the month (vanilla cookies and cream) and an additional cupcake of our choice... I whispered to Michael, "get the peanut butter and jelly" - one bite and his eyes lit up. And just like that, we started having a great time. Thank you Melissa!

Next up was Amorino, an absolutely amazing gelato place which is a French chain (after all a tour can not live on cupcakes alone). The tour included a heaping sample of their most popular flavor: mango. Before Amorino, the best mango I ever had was straight from the street vendors in Nicaragua ... the gelato's creamy rich mango power punch, however, topped Nicaragua's fresh fruit.

Mango gelato

We left mango heaven and headed over to Bisous Ciao Macaroon. This was the tour's one slip up in my humble opinion. The tour included a double chocolate macroon, which was very heavy and rich ... I'd suggest switching the stops so the gelato could be a pallet cleanser for the macaroon. Just a thought. But the macaroon colors were like an artist's palette and hard to resist - so Michael and I bought some fruit flavors to go, which were all much tastier (and prettier): lemon, blood orange, pistachio, salted carmel, and green tea.

We also visited Milk and Cookies, and were given giant white chocolate macadamia cookies to try. Child's play. Michael went ahead and bought a bacon, chocolate chip cookie to go - despite the girl behind the counter telling us "it kinda tastes funny, I don't like it." Well, she was right. I've had some scrumptious sweets that incorporated chocolate and bacon before, but this tasted more like baking soda and gristle. But that brief bacon let down was soon replaced by my favorite stop - Molly's Cupcakes on Bleaker.

Molly's Cupcakes was founded as an homage to the owner's third grade teacher, Miss Molly, who used to bake cupcakes for the class when a student had a birthday (in a time before peanut allergies and school approved snacks). Inside Molly's, there are lunch boxes on the walls and swings at the counter. We got to make our own cupcakes - for our cake flavors, Michael chose a carrot cake base and I chose banana, but we both got the brown butter frosting, which is their signature flavor that helped them win Cupcake Wars on Food Network. The cake was dense yet soft, and frosting was creamy yet fluffy. They even had a sprinkle bar.

Michael and I finished every crumb of our giant cakes, only stopping every few moments to gush "this is so freaking good!" We vowed to go back to try some signature flavors like the Ron Bennington (dark chocolate with peanut butter filling and chocolate butterfinger topping).

The last stop was Magnolia Bakery, made famous by Sex and the City. We got to try a mini sample of their red velvet and in short, it was very disappointing. The frosting was too airy - like the end of a whip cream can, and the cake hard. If it was a full sized cake we would have thrown it out.


While Magnolia was disappointing the tour was great. We learned all kinds of interesting NYC facts - like Washington Square was built on a potters field with 10,000 bodies under it, and the "hanging tree" for public executions was conveniently near by. We also saw famous buildings like Eleanor Roosevelt's residence, the TV show Friends house, and the narrowest building in Manhattan - only 9 feet wide, which was built during prohibition to prevent crowds from gathering in the alleyways outside a famous speakeasy (after all they couldn't call the cops). This "little" building was also used in the Stuart Little film ... a movie both my little sister and Michael like a lot.

The afternoon was so successful that at the end of our 3 hour walk, Michael said we should sign up for their pizza tour. All in all, a very "sweet" afternoon with my wonderful future stepson. Can't wait for our next adventure.

FINAL FUN FACT- cupcakes were invented in the Babe Ruth era of baseball when outfielders would stuff cake into cups that they would keep in their back pockets to snack on while waiting for fly balls.






Saturday, August 30, 2014

Confused Marketing

On my recent travels, I was reminded of the power of language (or misuse of language). One more reason for my students to pay attention in English class. (hotel do not disturb and airplane snack).

Where am I going that I can't be disturbed?
Def "A Hail Mary pass or Hail Mary route is a very long forward pass in American football, made in desperation with only a small chance of success, especially at or near the end of a half."