Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dealing with adult acne

My friend Kirsten asked me about dealing with adult acne, so here we go.  Now, I'm not a doctor.  I'm not a nurse.  I'm not an esthetician.  I'm someone who has been dealing with breakouts as an adult, which are frustrating.  Especially so as I didn't really have any skin issues as a teenager.

First, what is a pimple? gives the following definition:

A pimple starts when a pore (an opening in 
the skin) gets plugged up.  The pore has a tiny 
hair in it and oil glands at its base (Picture 1).  
The cells which line the pores are so small that 
they can only be seen with a microscope.  
During adolescence these cells are shed 
quickly.  In some people the cells and oil stick 
together and form sebum which plugs the 
pore.  If the pore is open, the result is a 
blackhead.  If the pore is closed, a whitehead is 

The whitehead is the beginning of a pimple.  
It forms when the sebum escapes from the 
pore wall and gets under the skin.  The body 
tries to clean out the sebum and brings in the 
white blood cells to do the work.  The result is 
a pimple.  When the sebum gets deeper under 
the skin, a cyst can form.  A cyst is a deep and 
uncomfortable swelling of the skin. 

Unless they are squeezed, blackheads do not 
usually cause pimples.  Blackheads are not 
black from dirt, but from certain skin 
pigments (coloring) in the cells of the pores

In other words, there are skin cells inside your pores that shed.  They get stuck with the oil your skin creates and gunks up the pore.  If the pore doesn't have a lid, you get a whitehead.  Your bod tries to clear out the gunk with white blood cells that turn it white.  If the pore doesn't have a lid on it, you get a blackhead.  The dark stuff isn't dirt, it's the pigment from your skin.  I've also read that they turn dark due to oxidation, like an apple turning brown when you cut it open. 

Okay, now we know what it is, how to deal with the buggers?

My first bit of advice is to stop smoking if you do.  I recently gave them up (yes, again.  I know, I know. But it's something I'm going to struggle with my entire life I'm afraid) because they were making my skin gross.  

And, it's been said it's a myth, but drinking plenty of water really helps.  When I was consuming a gallon a day my skin looked outrageously good.  

You'll want to be careful with how much you wash your face.  Twice a day is good.  Make sure you get all your make-up off and change your pillowcase regularly.  A woman on Oprah once said you didn't need to wash your face in the morning because you hadn't done anything to make it dirty.  Uh, do you know how gross your pillow case gets?  Damn right my face is dirty!  Wash it!  

If you wash too much, you'll damage the inner wall of your pores, which is where the cells that plug things up come from.  That'll make the cells break off and muck things up more.  And, washing too often will dry things up and make your oil glands freak out and go into overtime production trying to get things back to where they think the oil level should be.  

One of the things that's hard for me is to not pick at my face.  I love to squeeze 'em.  There's very little in the world more satisfying that popping a zit.  There's even a website dedicated to videos of popping called "Pop That Zit".  I'll let you google it.  :)   However, it'll just make things worse, give you scabs that will scar and make your gorgeous self unattractive.  If you can't keep your hands off your face and you do get a scab, use an anti-bacterial cream on it at night and a drying treatment during the day.  This can be a horrid process because the cream blocks your pores and can cause a zit under there which means you have to top it off with the spot treatment stuff.  Meanwhile, you have this pimple you want to squeeze.  And the world goes 'round and 'round.

You're going to have to experiment with cleansers and such until you find one that works for you.  Go to the library and get a copy of Don't Go To the Cosmetics Counter Without Me by Paula Begoun.  She reviews a huge number of products and has a nice list in the back with the ones she finds to be the best for treating acne and stuff.  

Start with Cetaphil.  You can get it in the drugstore or the supermarket and it's cheap for how much you get.  Use the one for all skin types first as I've found the one for oily skin can be too drying.  Combine the Cetaphil with an exfoliating technique twice a week.  You can use a washcloth (I prefer a baby washcloth), baking soda or the Olay cleansing brush that runs on batteries that I'm in love with right now.  Make sure to be gentle and not scrub.  Be nice to your skin!  

If that's not working, move on to something inexpensive.  Clean and Clear products are quite good and not much money.  Stay away from Noxema and cold cream, they just clog up the pores and make things worse.  Not the goal.  

In regards to benzoyl peroxide, I like the stuff.  Only use it on the pimple itself, not on your whole face.  It will dry things out and that can make things go in reverse.  

You can also talk to your doctor if you've tried everything and it's not working.  My cousin has had great success by using a birth control pill to level out her hormones that were causing the breakouts.  There are topical treatments that can be prescribed as well.  I will warn you that these are not always covered by health insurance and they can be pricey, but, if you can afford them they can be very beneficial.  

To recap:  

Don't smoke
Drink water
Wash your face with a cleanser that works for you twice a day
Exfoliate gently twice a week
Don't pick at it!
Use drying treatments only on the spots and not all over
See your doc if you're not finding relief on your own.  

Since today was just one big beauty tip I'll give you a household hint:

To keep your drains flowing treat them with baking soda and vinegar down the drain followed by a kettle full of boiling water. Always try this on clogs before you break out the Liquid Plumber.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Something I look forward to every year

Every Christmas my grandfather sends me a check.  I've always gotten money from him for Christmas.  Before my grandmother died the checks were signed by her.  (The Christmas after she passed away, we all received the gifts she'd already bought and wrapped.  She'd also written out our gift checks so it was signed by her.  There was much crying.)

And this year, as I do every year, I squandered it.  I figure that's what Christmas money is for, squandering.

As I've discussed before, I'm a sucker for gadgets.  I'm especially fond of grooming gadgets.  A while ago I saw a gadget in the supermarket made by Olay that is essentially a motorized brush that is used to exfoliate one's face. Check it out here I will embrace the fact that it had me at hello.  But, at thirty dollars it's ridiculously overpriced and not something on which I would spend the butter and egg money.  But I have Christmas money!  I can squander it!  What a fun word!  Squander! Squander!  Squander!

And squander I did!  The first thing I put into my basket at Target yesterday was that overpriced gadget that promised me a bright, shiny, clear, radiant face that would make me irresistible to the opposite sex and the envy of all the women who saw me!  It even came with a sample of their cleanser!  There are not enough exclamation points in the world to express how excited I was!

When I opened up the box I wasn't surprised to see that the box was a lot bigger than it needed to be, I'm sure it's to make me think the gadget was bigger than it actually is.  And no instruction manual!  What the hell?  I mean, I know I can figure this out on my own, but to not include the little pamphlet that suggests the other products I might enjoy and coupons for them?  What the hell?  But, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it got left out.

I used it right away and I love the damn thing!  I don't know if it works any better than a washcloth but I don't care.  It feels luxurious and I'm going to enjoy it.

Anyway, I got that little gadget and some new eyeshadows in the cosmetics aisle.  Then I moved on to music and got myself a Journey CD.

Shut up!  I like Journey!  (I saw Journey was touring earlier this year, but Steve Perry isn't signing.  Well, what's the point of that?) I'm going to listen to it in the car at the appropriate high volume and sing along to Open Arms and Don't Stop Believin' and Wheel in the Sky and you know you would too!  Journey is one of those bands that people say "eh" about but when they come on the juke box in the bar where you're hanging out everyone sings along.  It's like the song "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown".  No one but me admits to liking it but everyone sings along.

With my face clean and my throat sore from shouting along with Steve I'm very happy with my holiday spree.  Cheers!

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Don't get me wrong, you can easily exfoliate your skin without a gadget.  A washcloth, baking soda, sugar or salt will work just fine.  Just don't use the super chunky kosher salt.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The happiest and sometimes saddest of holidays.

Today is Christmas.  I'm sad today.  It's just the four of us this year, not the first time we've spent the holiday with just our children.  We enjoy watching them open their gifts enormously.

This morning, Zoe screamed with excitement and joy at the things Santa left in her stocking.  She got more and more excited until she had to be told to take a nap.  Even then, she had to be held down until she fell asleep.  Will melted down pretty early but was much better after a rest.

As I do every year, I made french toast and bacon for breakfast and now the kids are going to be able to play to their hearts' content for the rest of the day.  They'll have to be inside because it's 42 degrees outside.  With windchill it feels like 35.  But there are new things to play with and they'll be happy until it's time to watch America's Funniest Home Videos at 6.

I get sad on the Christmases we spend without family.  I get homesick and miss my family and my friends in Cali.   I worry that the low-key, mellow nature of our small celebration isn't making memories for my kids.  I feel like I'm denying them something without the big gathering or massive piles of gifts.  We have our small traditions.  I just have to hope that they'll remember them fondly.

Maybe I need a nap too.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Looks like I'm going twice a month here

It was pointed out to me by my mother just before she left for a 3 week holiday in Germany that I never posted how I did on my crazy exam and how is she supposed to know what's happening to me if I don't update my blog?

Okay mom, here:  I got an A!  Go me!  I went 5 minutes over but I completed everything.

On to other things.

My son is having his tonsils out on Wednesday.  They've been enlarged for some time and as of right now, they're trying to touch each other, usually succeeding.  It's been causing him to wake up in the night and it makes him a picky eater because he can't swallow chunky stuff.

We did the same thing with his sister 3 years ago.  The procedure is out-patient and recovery is about 10 days.  We opted to have our son go in just before the winter break at school starts.  He'll miss the last three days, but those are generally light on the learning.  We don't have any family coming in to town.  We're not traveling.  It's really pretty ideal.  We'll set him up on the sofa with movies and popsicles and keep repeating the process until he's feeling better.  He should be feeling fit and fine in time for all the Christmas festivities, low-key though they will be.

Our daughter has voted for a local buffet restaurant for Christmas Eve dinner.  We're cool with that.  Honestly, I think she likes to slide the tray along.  I'm wholly supportive of practicing these small joys whenever possible.  I like to make pasta because I like to shake the pasta in the strainer.  There's just something about tossing it around that's pleasurable.

We've got something interesting going on this year.   Last year, Zoe and I had the Santa talk. You can read about that here.  However, she's back to the Santa thing this year, asking questions about how he gets down the chimney and how he makes it to all the kids in one night.  The owner of the bakery where I'm doing my extern hours assures me that this is normal, kids will go back to it for a year or so and then will accept it.

She pointed out that Santa and the Toothfairy are the two things they are expected to take on faith, but then are told they don't exist.  They will try and go back to recapture that before they decide they'll accept it. It's one of the first steps to adulthood, figuring out that this aren't always what they seem.  (up there with the "I thought he was a nice guy who liked me" statement that is the beginning of many stories of heartbreak)

I was incredibly lucky and got to believe in Santa until I was almost 12.  I remember those holiday mornings fondly, with great appreciation for how much fun it was.  I love doing it for my kids now.  The whole ritual is great fun for me.

The next thing to do is actually procure the stuff Santa will be leaving.

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  The ELF zit zapper actually works quite well.

Friday, November 25, 2011

How I am tested on my knowledge every 2-3 weeks.

My school teaches classes in blocks.  This week we finished up 2 weeks of potatoes, grains and pasta.  Once we reach the end of a block we have what's called our 'practical exam', a test where we demonstrate what we've learned about the cooking methods.  We also have a written exam that includes kitchen math, identification of product and other information out of our textbook.

My practical is coming up this Monday.  It looks like this:

Boil 1 waxy potato

8 oz. duchesse (4 rosettes)

Risotto (1/2 c. dry)

Pilaf (1/2 c. dry)

8 oz. gnocchi

8 oz. grilled polenta

1 bundle of fresh fettucine/spaghetti

5 raviolis with butternut squash filling, cooked in brown sage butter

5 tortellinis/tortellonis with spinach filling

I have 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete all the dishes.   I'll also need to turn in a time-line, my list of needed equipment and list of ingredients.  This practical is going to be all about time management.  A good part of my grade will be based on my game plan, what I choose to start first, second, etc.

The polenta needs to chill for a while before I grill it.  The potatoes duchesse need to be mixed warm.  Pilaf can be left alone to cook but the risotto requires babysitting.  Once the pasta dough is made the cranking out of the actual noodles is pretty easy.  The gnocchi can be made ahead and then poached later.

Whatever I bring to my chef instructor needs to be hot.  The bundle of fettuccine and the tortellini won't be cooked, but everything else will.

Today, I'll be spending some time getting my list together of when I'm going to start what.  Once that's done, I'll put together my ingredient/equipment list.

After I've gotten that done, I'll be practicing for the rest of the weekend.  My instructor really wants to see us prepare our pasta dough by hand instead of in a food processor.  Mixing it up by hand involves mounding the flour on a work surface, making a well in the middle and putting the liquids in the well.  Then, using a fork or your hands, you gradually pull the flour into the liquid to create the dough.  When I tried this in class my wall of flour failed spectacularly and I got egg all over my table.  I was able to smoosh it all together and save it, but I still need to get it right.  I'm going to be doing this in a pie pan at home because I don't want to have to scrape egg and flour out of the grout on my counter top.

Carbs at my house this weekend!  Text me if you want some.

I have an odd desire to yell "Abbondanza!"

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Honey can be used as a good, clarifying face mask.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Some soul searching

Yeah, so I've been off the ethernet grid for a while.  The whole mid-life realization got me bummed out and I spent the last few weeks moping around.

Before I decided to admit that I'm in the middle of dealing with the fact that I'm forty I let myself do what my instructor calls "coasting".   Doing the reading but not really studying, going through the motions in lab but not really engaging and generally putting in just enough effort to complete my tasks.  For me, this means my final grade for the last block was in the 80s.  I know, I know a grade in the high 80s isn't anything to be disappointed with but I know I could have done better.  We're currently in the middle of potatoes, pasta and grains and I've got myself back up into 'A' territory.

I'm practicing a lot at home.  I went out and got a cheapie, hand-crank pasta maker so I can make pasta from scratch.   Once you get the hang of cranking it out it becomes something of a zen exercise.  Zen and the art of pasta making.  Because I'm doing so much practicing I'm going to be update my food blog, Life and what I ate , more often.

I've been practicing a lot at home because when I get into a tizzy about my age and what that means and all that stupid crap and I don't know what to do, I've been cooking.  I know how to cook.  I'm good at it.

And I can write, I'm good at that too.  I take pretty okay photographs.  So, I've been combining those altogether into my food blog.  And it's fun for me.

Raymond Carver's short story A Small, Good Thing ends with a couple whose child has just died eating cinnamon rolls and drinking coffee with a baker who has been calling them in the middle of the night to harass them about not picking up their son's birthday cake.  When the devastated couple arrive at the bakery to scream and vent their anger at his behavior, he apologizes and then gives them the sweet, fresh baked rolls, telling them "Eating is a small, good thing in a time like this."

And I agree.  When my grandmother died and we were all sitting around in the living room of what was now my grandfather's house instead of my grandparent's house not knowing what to do we were able to focus on meals.  Neighbors and relatives came by with so much food we packed both the inside and outside refrigerators.  There was the question of what to serve at the viewing and wondering what the congregation would make for the reception after the funeral.  It gave us something to talk about.  If the garlic bread was good or if the sandwiches from Subway our cousins brought had too much mustard.

Therefore, I've been getting through this process of accepting that Im becoming middle-aged with cooking and, of course, lipstick.  I put on my lipstick and rattle pots and pans around in the kitchen.  I hug my kids when they tell me they like what I cooked.  Will isn't such a fan of the cheese souffle but Zoe loves the stuff.  They both dig homemade pasta and I'll be making them try Potatoes Duchesse pretty soon.

So, the Scorchin' Student/Hip Housewife has been looking around her house at the dog hair that gathers at the baseboards, the massive disaster that is the upper level of her home where the kids' rooms are, at the dishes in the sink and the laundry piled on the chairs in the living room and mounded on the floor of the laundry room and comforts herself by knowing that she is learning and can make a small, good thing for her family and any friends she can convince to come over and share in her experiments.  It means that she can accomplish something in a day that is of a good quality, to do something she's good at that won't be undone inside of half an hour of children playing in the house.

Today, being Thanksgiving, she's making a mince pie for the Hip Husband because it's his favorite.  The process will be up on the food blog later today.  And that's plenty for today.

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Pour a gallon of milk in your bathwater and you'll end up with wonderfully soft skin.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Taking a break from my crazy schedule to share something silly

For those of you who don't know, I love infomercials and infomercial products.  If the packaging includes the "As Seen on TV" graphic, I'll will stop and look it over.  Usually, I need to be convinced that there is no reason why I need to make pancakes in a ball shape or that I am perfectly capable of washing the bottoms of my feet without a brush that sticks to the bottom of the bathtub.  Once in a while I'm without supervision at the right moment that I end up with the Lauren Hutton Face Disc or the Epil-Stop Hair Removal System.  By the way, the Ronco Pasta Maker?  Popiel-tastic!  We had that thing for years and used it multiple times a week until it finally just gave it up.

Anyway, I'm a year late but this is my new favorite infomercial:  The Tajazzle!

Self-esteem in a sticker!

The Tajazzle isn't just a product, it's a three step system to knowing that you look good, smell good and (shhhhhh........) taste good.  First, dusting powder to keep you dry where it gets hot!  This powder will also make sure you smell good.  Then, you rub on the flavored oil stuff where you think someone might want to taste you.  (Oooh! naughty naughty!)  Finally, you slap one of their crystal stick-'em tattoos anywhere on your bod to give you that extra boost of confidence!

According to the infomercial, it will make good looking men want to have sex with you.  And, as a woman who put on talcum powder, rubbed artificial flavoring on her neck and slapped a sticker on her ass before she went out, you know they can't resist!

Because, you've Tajazzled!  Go take a look, it's 15 minutes but well worth it.  And, oh, the acting is a little added bonus.

Happy Thanksgiving my fellow Americans!  Eat sandwiches!

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Don't buy a Tajazzle.

Monday, November 7, 2011

There's food over there.

I've been alternately pissed off and depressed about this whole midlife thing.  Yesterday I combined three things I'm good at, taking photos, cooking and entertaining and had some friends over for dinner so I could practice what I'm learning in school.

I took photos and slapped them up over on Life and What I Ate:

The food's back here.


Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  get yourself some lip balm and start using it regularly now that the cold weather is coming.  Don't get chapped!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Oh for god's sake!

It's been contemplation time for the mistress of Casa de 'burbs.  As I've told everyone who will listen, I'm forty now.  Forty.  The big 4-0.  Forty.  If I had a font that dripped green slime I would use it for the word forty.

I've been informed by someone close to me that I'm experiencing midlife right now.  As in "midlife crisis". Are you fucking kidding me?  I'm the Hip Housewife!  I'm the Amazing Amanda and there is no one in this world better than me!  Midlife?

Well, yah, maybe.  Let's look online and see if we can find a list of some kind.  Okay, here we go.

1.  Change for the sake of change.

Hmmm, maybe.  I've experienced a lot of change in my life and I have the philosophy that change is good. Scary, but good.

2.  Impulsive behavior and impetuous decisions, especially about money and/or their career.  

Not seeing this one so much, but I do spend money on lipstick.

3.  Questioning everything in one's life and saying that they feel "trapped".  

Yeah, ya got me there.

4.  Changes in the sexual relationship.

My parents read this so I'm going to skip this one.

5.  Sudden obsession with appearance and spending inordinate amounts of time in the mirror. 

Sudden?  No, not sudden.

6.  Excessive reminiscing about their youth and previous loves. 

I wouldn't call it EXCESSIVE. And I don't think I do this out loud.  Do I?  Oh geez, if I do I'm so sorry.

7.  Increase in alcohol consumption.

No, not this one.

8.  Sleeping more, loss of appetite and general malaise.  

I thought that was a sign of being tired.

9.  Obsession with mortality. 

Mortality is something I try not to think about because I start to freak out..........

10.  Self-admission.  Saying "I think I'm having a midlife crisis".

Why the hell would I 'fess up to something like that?

I'm not supposed to have something as pedestrian as midlife for the love of all that is holy to whoever.  Midlife?  Jeziz.  

Now what do I do?  

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Wash your goddamn face!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Scorchin' Student vented

I met with my instructor yesterday.  It ended up being mostly a vent session on my part along with letting her know about the conflict that's developed between the other female student and me.  My teach has advised me to keep doing what I'm doing.  Since homework is now turned in, that's not going to effect me that much but I'll get credit for it now.

She did let me know that she knows she can count on me to answer questions in lecture.  My GPA tells me that I'm doing just fine.  I have to admit this stroke my ego and gives me the validation I need (I was about to lie and say occasionally) on a regular basis.  (Yeah, yeah I should be past that.  Don't judge me!)

And I'll confess I felt like a whiner, a tattle-tale and a general attention-sucking asshole.  I'll also say that yesterday's class was much more focused. Still not quick, but more efficient.  When I walked in everyone was reading their books, making sure their homework was finished and generally preparing for our day of sausage-making and cheese preparation.

But, Will threw up at school yesterday and Scott woke up with the flu.  I'm home caring for my men instead of working on pate and terrines.

I'm optimistic that things will continue to improve.  If not, I can stay calm and professional.  I'm still practicing at home.  This week will be ricotta and mozzarella.  Remember,  it says in my syllabus that I'm to be practicing on my friends and family so if you're in my area we just need to schedule a time for me to come over and cook for ya!  You supply the ingredients, I supply my new knowledge.

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Now that it's getting colder, monitor your skin for any dryness that's coming up.  You may have to swap your cleanser to something less drying if you have oily skin.  For dry skin, you'll most likely need to use your moisturizer more often.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I'm so too old for this crap. This sucker is LONG so get comfy.

My education is continuing on track.  I'm maintaining a very nice GPA and I'm enjoying the actual cooking.

My class started with 16 students and we're down to 10.  Of these ten I'm the oldest.  Next youngest is a woman who is 30.  Then it drops down to 25 with the youngest being 18 or 19.  This makes me old enough to be the mother of the majority of these guys.

8 of the students have cliqued together in high school fashion.  The self-appointed leader of this group is a young woman, 15 years my junior, who has discovered she really likes giving me grief.  If I'm at a task that she feels I'm not doing correctly, she'll step in and take over.  I've fielded snotty comments from her about why I'm not working events held at our school, which are followed up by the words "Oh yeah, you have CHILDREN."

My classmates have also decided that they're not going to prepare for class by doing the assigned reading.  Thursday, my class was given a lecture about preparation and how it's not acceptable for me to be the only one doing homework.  (No, that's not conceit on my part, our instructor actually said that.)  Then she piled a bunch of homework on us, including upping the word count on an essay that's due Monday from 200 words to 1000 words with two works cited.  I'm anticipating more pop quizzes coming up.

I'm in class with a bunch of kids who aren't performing and have closed themselves up in a little group.  Since I'm not the leader's friend and these people are still in the Oh-my-god-don't-anger-the-popular-girl mindset, I don't get very much support from my classmates.  I'm currently teamed up with a couple of guys who, when our instructor asks why something was done a certain way, will simply stare at her with their mouths open.

Thursday, after our lecture from the professor, the popular girl felt it was appropriate to tell me "No.  I'm going to wait here."  after I told her I would bring her a piece of equipment when my team was done using it.  I asked politely five times and she kept saying no. She only left because our instructor was going to demonstrate something.  As we walked over she was going on about how I spoke to her, I'm assuming because I wasn't listening.

I turned to her and said "Okay fine.  Your supervision is not needed.  Please stop offering it."  This made her wave her arms around and shout about how she didn't need this from me today.

My class is currently a day behind our syllabus.  We've skipped things in the past because we're not keeping up with what we're supposed to be doing.  I'm not getting the most out of this program.

I could have gone back to work and taken some pressure off instead of taking out a student loan, putting us into yet more debt.  I've secured my externship position.  I've gotten started on the 400 hours I need to complete by March.  Between those hours and classes I'm up at 5 in the morning 6 days a week, plus I'm doing the homework.  But, my classmates have decided they don't need to do that.  This fucks me up.

I'm not going to cook for any visiting VIPs with this bunch.  Classes are asked to prepare meals based on the performance of the whole class.  These guys can barely cook enough for our lunch break and rarely on time.  We regularly miss our 15 minutes for family meal because we're behind, not broken down, not cleaned up.  I've started just skipping the snack to get ahead on my assigned cleaning task because I'm sick of having to stay 20 minutes longer to finish up cleaning.

I'm having all those thoughts one has when a person younger than you has decided you're an idiot, comparing what I was doing with my life to what they're doing with theirs. When I was 25 I'd been married for 6 years and had gotten Scott through 2 years of community college and 2 years of undergraduate school as the sole income earner.  I kept us in health insurance and Pasta-Roni while my parents helped with school fees and books.  We were a year into graduate school with 2 to go and we got through all of it with no student loans.  

I've moved from one state to another with a 2 month old baby.  I've moved from one country to another with a 4 year old and a 7 month old.  I was in labor with my daughter for 22 hours.

I've already had 2 careers, this is going to be my third.  I sold new homes deep in the recession of the early 1990's and I was nominated for awards in the industry.  I was Sales Associate of the year in 1992 at my company.  I was a manager with Barnes and Noble, dealing with the nut-jobs who came in on Friday nights and a wacky store manager who would close herself up in her office during her shift.

I can rock this program and I am rocking it as best I can with the group I'm stuck with.

I've scheduled a meeting with my instructor after class on Monday, which may end up being a vent session on my part, but I really need some advice on what I can do differently to get the most bang for my buck.  Maybe nothing, maybe sit in on other classes when I can or maybe I need to transfer to another class that has a higher level of performance.

As of right now, I'm frustrated.  I want to learn to cook.  I want to learn as much as I can and I feel like I'm being short changed right now.

I anticipate tears at my meeting on Monday because I'm a crier.  *sigh*

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  putting a little white eyeliner on the inside corners of your eyes will brighten them up, making you look a little more awake.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Scorching Student surfaces!

I've gotten through a full month of school!  In that time I've gotten my Servsafe certification, meaning I know how food can kill you and how to prevent it. I've learned how to clean the kitchen. I've learned the basic principles of cooking and the 13 cooking methods:  braising, stewing, simmering, boiling, poaching, steaming, baking, roasting, pan frying, deep frying, sauteing, broiling and grilling.

And I've learned a whole bunch of other stuff.  You know?  Stuff.  I did learn that I have to keep my thumb tucked under while slicing to prevent nearly cutting off the tip of my left thumb.  Yeah, it was gross.  My knife skills are coming along.  Practice is the key.  Practice practice practice.  Now that we've moved on to stocks, soups and sauces I need to practice at home.  This family will have the best eyes on the block based on all the carrots I'll be cutting up.

I got through my first written exam and my first practical exam.  The written exam involved short essay questions and a lot of kitchen math, some of which tripped me up.  As soon as I have it back in my hands I'm going to be asking my instructor for some assistance.  The practical exam required I demonstrate four cooking methods (stewing, deep frying, sauteing and grilling) along with my preparation, how clean I worked, how I handled the time issue, presentation and taste.  I completed the four dishes in time to take on the bonus dish, pan fried zucchini.  For that one, I got to choose between breading and batter dipping.  I selected bread crumbs and then had to go take a look to see what we had to cover with crumbs.  Zucchini it was!

I did B work.  I messed up french fries.  That's just a fact.  They were underdone.  But, I won't make that mistake again.  Next time, my fries will be brown and crisp.

My class started with 16 and has dropped to 11.  Of the four women who started, three of us are still hanging in.  Our fellow female broke her foot the first week of school, which wasn't treated quickly, had to be re-broken to be set but swelling prevented that for a long time.  I'm hoping she'll be starting with a class coming up in the near future.

This week we've been making stocks.  White chicken stock, white beef stock, chicken stock where the bones are roasted first, beef stock where the bones are roasted first, we've made it all.  Our meal at the end of our cooking time has been soups all this week made from whatever stock we're working on and whatever we have among our supplies.  Tuesday was chicken, veggies and macaroni in veggie stock.  Yesterday, we pulled the meat off the chicken bones we'd pulled out of our mass of chicken stock and turned it into chicken soup.

Between the increase in physical activity, the fact that I'm not great about breakfast or dinner I've lost six pounds.

I am pleased to say that in-fighting among my class is minimum.  There is sometimes an issue between a couple of students who take issue with another student who waits to be told what to do instead of asking what requires attention.  But that's pretty much it.  There's a group who've gotten friendly and they tend to chit-chat during lab (our time in the kitchen) which drives our instructor nuts.

The things I need to practice are my sauce making skills and clarifying butter.  I see macaroni and cheese in the future made with a true bechamel.  Anyone wiling to be my guinea pig?  Anyone?  Anyone?

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  If you find that a lifestyle change is causing you to wash your hair more often, be sure to swap to one that provides deeper moisturizing.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My book, Red Lipstick and How It Saved My Life My Journal From the Year I Was Crazy is now being 

offered by me as an ebook. If you'd like to read it send $5 via paypal: and I will 

email you a copy. It's currently in ODT format so send me a message if you'd like a different format.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Hip Housewife's gotta study!

This weekend is going to be all about studying because, you see, I have what's called 'practicals' next week.  These are tests where I demonstrate that I know the information and techniques we've been learning during the block we've just completed.

We are at the end of block 102.  This includes kitchen math, knife cut vocabulary, knife skills, kitchen vocabulary, wet and dry cooking methods including deep-frying, pan-frying, sauteing, steaming, poaching and boiling.

My exams will include a written exam where I will need to calculate new yields on recipes, costs per unit, costs per portion, how much a product costs per pound after it's been trimmed as compared to the original cost per pound.  Another written exam will test vocabulary and cooking techniques such as mise in place, mirepoix, deglaze, carmelization, Maillard reaction and refresh.

Then we move into the kitchen where I show I can cut product into the specific cuts in the correct dimensions.  From a large dice, a 3/4 inch cube, to a fine brunoise, a 1/16 inch cube along with the 2 inch strips that range from 1/4 inch square to 1/16 inch square.  I'll also need to dice an onion and chiffonade some type of leafy herb.

I'll need to use whatever I cut to demonstrate 4 cooking techniques, which I won't know until I'm given the recipe.  I'll need to quarter whatever recipe I'm given, set up my station with all my ingredients and equipment, use the proper ordering of preparation and successfully produce an acceptable finished product.

Part of my grade is going to be how clean I work.  Is my cutting board crowded?  Is my area a mess?  Do I have things out that I don't need?  Are my apron and tunic spotted?  (They shouldn't be.  I shouldn't be spattering stuff all over me. )

I know the cooking techniques.  I can set up my mise en place (you know how the chefs on telly have everything set up in little bowls with all the stuff they need?  That's mise en place.)  and work efficiently and cleanly.  I know the proper order of breading and batter dipping.

The challenge I'm facing?  Making my cuts even.  When I try to julienne I end up with a rectangle instead of a square at the end of the strip of whatever.  This weekend the family had better be looking forward to fries because I'm going to be cutting up a LOT of potatoes.  And onion soup as I'm going to dice a bunch of onions.  And carrots.  They better want some carrots.

Pass the knife steel, I'm on it!

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  When you're going to be working, keep your hair pulled back so it doesn't rest on your forehead.  It will make your hair greasy and if you have product in your hair it can cause breakouts on your forehead.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Hip Housewife has a bit of a freakout

I've been actually cooking at school!  This is super exciting.  We get to eat what we cook and taste each other's stuff after we get the comments from our instructor.  I'm getting consistent "Well cooked, needs a little more seasoning.  But good."  I'm usually able to tell my instructor what I need to correct before she tells me.  When I hear her giving feedback I'll try listen and take a look at what she's talking about.

Today, I had a quiet little freakout in class.  Part of my program is completing 200 hours of externship in a commercial kitchen by March.  This equals out to about 10 hours a week, not totally un-doable but I have to find the place.  I'm pretty sure I have one in the bag, a bakery near my house.  The owner is also a mom who is running a niche establishment where she does one thing well instead of trying to do too much and sacrificing quality.

One of my classmates told me that she heard from another student that the culinary students couldn't complete their hours at a bakery.  I knew not to take that as gospel and decided I needed to heel-and-toe it over to career services to find out for sure.  But, I had myself a private little moment where I said to myself "Oh dear lord.  My resume needs serious work.  It's a big portion of my grade.  How the hell am I going to do this?  I'm forty fucking years old.  What the hell am I thinking?  This was a dumb idea.  Maybe I should drop out."  All that bullshit.

One thing I need to be very, very careful of is not self-sabotaging myself.  Not practicing, sliding on the homework, not applying myself in the kitchen, I need to make sure I don't do that.

Today, our instructor asked me to be the person to set up her demonstration station and yell out when a demo was about to happen.   I know what I did well and what I need to do differently next time.

This was good for me because the class as a whole didn't do very well in the organization department and the team I was going to be working with in particular.  We didn't clean as we went along or work neatly so there was no room for anything.  Things were done out of order so eggplant sat around and oxidized before we were ready to bread and pan fry them.  It took forever to do dishes and clean up and by the time we were done chef was pissed.

We stayed an extra twenty minutes past the twenty minutes we went over to finish the clean up.  Then I went over to career services to ask the counselor for clarification.  Turns out that as a culinary student, it's a *maybe* that I could do my externship at a bakery.

When I heard this my hormones, which are being wacky right now, kicked in and I started to cry.  This embarrassed me to no end.  Great.  Once I got calmed down and I was able to discuss how I could turn it from a maybe to a yes.

I'll need to send in a quick paragraph stating why I wanted to extern at this particular bakery and why I think it would be a good fit for me.  I can do that easily.

I also have the task ahead of getting my resume and cover letter into shape.  I've been at home for ten years, I'm going to need a LOT of help.  Luckily, there's the career counselor who's job it is to do that.  she won't do it FOR me, I'll need to bring one in, get feedback and make changes before meeting with her again.

And all of this scares me to death.  It'd be so much easier to go back to Barnes and Noble and schelp books for the rest of my life.

And if it's scary it's probably what I need to do.......

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  If you are suddenly in a situation where you are sweating more than usual, be sure to wash your face at least once more a day.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

After a long absence, the Hip Housewife emerges!

And I'm feeling much better.  I'm pretty much healed up, but all my ab muscles have gone mmmm-bloop, a big bummer.


Today is a tough day for me, not for the obvious reasons, but because it's the day my grandmother died in 1999.  If there wasn't the huge reminder of the date I'd just do my general missing her, but I end up spending all day being weepy and feeling like she just died all over again.

A week after she died I wrote this:

The ferry left for Catalina today with you on board.
I stood on the beach and waved and waved and waved
And the swing band got softer and softer

You raised two sons, but I was your girl
You held me as I was christened
You watched me emerge from childhood
You saw me wed to a good man

I help you tend your windowbox garden
I laughed when we fed the ducks
I believed you would help me feed my children

And now all I know is that 
you boarded the ferry with your hat
pinned on tight and your hair just so.

I heard the band fire up and
I saw you foxtrotting as the ferry pulled away

And I waved and I waved and I waved

Long after everyone had left
I sat on the beach with the 
still and silent rusting behind me
and the lights of the pavilion floating 
in front of me like fireflies.

Wishing I could hear the Glenn Miller 
getting louder and louder as 
the ferry brought you back to shore
correcting this heartbreaking error. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Well, at least I won't have to do that again

It all started with me saying to myself "Gor, my back hurts."  during class on Wednesday.  I thought it was aches from sitting on a folding chair for three days.  Then my tummy got upset, which I chalked up to the room being hot and the fact that my uniform is made of polyester.

But, I did very well in class that day, getting myself some bonus points on an oral pop quiz and getting several right answers.

When class was finally over I got out of my uniform jacket and started on home.  As I was driving I got a horrid pain up under my ribs that had me bent as close to double as I could get behind the wheel.  Once I was home I laid in bed, hurting and crying.  I threw up a few times, didn't feel any better.  I felt worse.

I was able to cripple myself up to school to pick up the kids and told them I needed them to entertain themselves since I didn't feel good.  And I have to say, I could not have asked them to be any better.  They got themselves snacks, took care of each other, came and checked on me and I was able to talk Zoe through making dinner for herself and her brother.

Meanwhile, I was texting with Scott, telling him what was happening.  Of course, it was a day he'd gotten a ride to work, thinking I'd come pick him up.  That wasn't going to be happening.  I was going to be either lying in bed or lying on the floor.

After I'd been doing this for five hours I decided I needed to go to urgent care.  My excellent friend Chris agreed to come over and watch my kids.  She ended up staying until one in the morning.

Urgent Care saw me quickly, just to say that I needed to go to the emergency room, it was probably my gallbladder.  What?  I've never had any of issues with my gallbladder or any of my internal organs for that matter.  I'm really healthy!  My family has a history of being healthy.  As I put it, they go and go and go and go and go aaaaaaaaand drop dead.  What the hell do you mean my GALLBLADDER?

I went home, told Chris what was going on and waited for Scott to get home, which happened about 15 minutes later.  He loaded me up in the car and took me to the hospital.

On the way I was doubled over.  This was worse than labor.  Labor felt......labor felt right, like it was part of the process.  This felt very, very wrong.  Something had gone wrong with my body and I was pissed about it.

First fucking week of school. Scott's motorcycle back in the shop with the bubbas who couldn't figure out how to use the goddamn telephone to tell us what was going on with it.  I'd called them the week before after waiting four days for them to say they'd even looked at to tell them if they didn't call me the next day to tell us if they were going to check it out or not I was going to take it somewhere else.  I was supposed to babysit for Chris and Sam the next day.  I'd planned to spend Friday cleaning and doing laundry since the place was filthy.  I had shit to do!  This was not, I say not, okay.

We got into the ER, I got checked in and told that they'd be happy to see me but there was a long wait.  Huh?  It was Wednesday!  Emergency rooms are busy on Friday and Saturday nights.  While we waited for a very, very long time I laid down on a padded bench and put my head on Scott's leg.  I was freezing cold and got a blanket from the triage nurse.  I covered up and dealt with the pain as best I could.  This involved closing my eyes tight and taking deep breaths.

Finally, finally I was taken back to be looked at.  I waited a while more, got checked out by an RN, then a doctor who prescribed me some Dilaudid.  I got an IV with a bag of fluids and the painkiller was put through my IV.

When it kicked in I said "Whooooaaaaaa".  I still had an ache, but I wasn't doubled over anymore, crying and wondering what was going on .  So, in my Dilaudid haze I was taken to get an ultrasound of my upper abdomen.  The ultrasound room is the same one they use for expectant moms so there are all these cheerful posters of smiling pregnant women holding their swollen bellies.  That was a little surreal, to be looking at those while the technician did her best to not hurt me while she checked out my insides.

I went back to my curtained cubicle where I zoned out some more before I was informed that it was indeed my gallbladder, admitted I was going to be!  I got to have surgery!  Wheeeeeee!

The really great male RN who had been taking care of me let me know that they wanted to get me upstairs because the riff-raff was going to be coming in.  I heard a man was going to be arriving who was suffering from chest pain after being tased.  The nurses were putting in dibs on who got to be assigned to him.

Upstairs I was transferred!  More painkiller I got!  To sleep I went! Then I waited for the surgeon to come talk to me in the morning.  A very nice man who explained to me that the best plan of action would be to take my rebellious organ out.  When I was in labor with Will and talking with the OB about whether to try for a VBAC or have a c-section, he said the question we didn't ask was "If you were my wife what would I recommend?".  I've used this as a guide since then.

I asked the surgeon if I was his life partner, what would he tell me to do?  Take it out.  Take it out we would!  The surgery suites were all booked, I'd get it done on Friday.  I spent another night in the hospital being fed by IV and getting a whole bunch of fluids along with a pre-surgery course of antibiotics and potassium.  Did you know potassium burns when it goes through an IV into your arm.  I woke up freaking out, crying because it hurt.  The nurse who was taking care of me understood, slowed down that drip and gave me some more Dilaudid.  This allowed me to go back to sleep.

Friday morning Scott came to hang out with me and I begged to take a shower.  I was gross.  I'd been sweating.  I smelled.  My hair was matted.  I hate being that dirty and smelly.  The tech helping me got my IV disconnected and covered up the little catheter going into my vein with part of a rubber glove.  This meant I couldn't bend my right arm, so Scott washed my hair for me.

Turned out my timing was good because someone had come to fetch me for my surgery while I was cleaning up.  After my gallbladder was taking out I wouldn't be able to shower for two days.  I got out, dried off and found that my bed had been changed and I had a clean gown to put on.

A few minutes later I was whisked away to be shuttled downstairs.  As soon as I was out of my room and heading downstairs I started to cry.  I covered my face up with the blanket and cried.  I cried in the room where I was waiting.  I cried while I was wheeled down to the OR.  I cried while they put my little cap on and moved me onto what was possibly the narrowest medical table on the face of the planet.  Then they pushed a painkiller that kicked in right NOW and I don't remember anything, just being back in my room with Scott and my mom's friend Jean who lives in the area.

My mom was on a plane to come help me with recovery.  I was drugged up and had adhesive bandages on four spots where the laparoscopic equipment had been inserted into my abdominal cavity.  My mom arrived very soon after that to take over watching me and Scott went to get the kids from school.

Now I'm going to sound like everyone's Uncle Harold talking about his operation.  The gallbladder stores bile, created in the liver, and pumps it into the stomach as part of the digestive process.  Bile is still fed into the small intestine by the liver, so removing the gallbladder doesn't impede digestion.  It's about the size of your thumb, with a very narrow neck leading to the stomach. It's only a few centimeters wide.   I had a stone in my gallbladder half in inch wide that was trying to force itself out.  Since I had such a blockage, I couldn't keep anything down.  No wonder I was hurting.  Jeez.

No, I didn't get to keep the stone but I do have photos.  I was discharged later on Friday night with a very tender upper abdomen and very, very tired.  Once I arrived at home around 9:30 I burst into tears and was put to bed.

Saturday morning, I felt better.  And, as my mom says, the Graminator took over. She has ruthlessly cleaned out Zoe's room, forced the kids to make choices about toys to keep and toys to toss, went to the grocery store, did dishes and swept up dog hair.  

I have been able to study for exam on Monday and I seem to be quite well prepared.  I've been eating lightly, drinking a lot of water and treating my discomfort with ibuprofen.  Mostly, I'm tender.  But I'm better today than I was yesterday and I imagine I'll be better tomorrow than I am today.

Recovery is supposed to be 2-3 weeks of taking it easy, no heavy lifting, not going to the gym or things like that.  I'm hoping I'll be close to back to normal in a week to ten days.  Until then, it's the recliner and naps for me.

How was your week?

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  When you are feeling poorly, being clean can make you feel better.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Two days down!

So, the Scorching Student Chef has two days under her belt.  Book learning is what we're doing in class, learning about toxins, cross contamination, time-temperature abuse and other practices that will make people sick.  I'm never eating out again!

Did you know there's a kind of toxin in fish that will make you cough up worms?  I know!  Anyway, I'm sitting in the front, the picture of the returning student who is desperate to do well.  I'm the second oldest in the class, the oldest student is another woman.  She and I have bonded over these two factors.  Out of a class of 16, there are 4 women.   Three of us sit in the front row.

This week we are plowing through 14 chapters on safe food handling in 4 days.  I'll have 3 days to review and then our exam is on Monday.  The textbook is written at about the same level as a sophomore or junior level biology textbook.  I'm grasping the information, there's just a lot of it.

And I have GOT to calm down about this.  I did well on today's quizzes, which covered the material we went over on Monday.  I'll go over the material for my quizzes tomorrow and anything I have difficulty with I'll know I need to put that info into my head.

Most of this stuff is common sense, like, oh, when should a person wash their hands?  After returning home, when they have been at work for three hours, after using the restroom.  See?

I am dealing with some insecurity and worry and thinking this was a stupid idea.  That will go away as I get positive feedback.

As of right now, I'm going to give my brain a break and have some home-made bbq chicken pizza.

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  When you are worrying, try to remember to relax your jaw every now and then.  It will help keep your face from sticking in an ugly, frowny way.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Oh my god this is really happening!  I am starting at the Escoffier School of Culinary Arts tomorrow!  Among other things, this means I'm going to be shifting from the Hip Housewife to the Scorching Student Chef.  

I have to be up early, my classes start at seven a.m. and my instructor has made it clear that classes START at seven.  Arrival time is not seven, arrival time is not later than six fifty-five.  The acceptable way to address her is "Chef".  Answers are "Yes, chef", "No, chef", very military like.

She also made it clear at orientation that she's not going to let anyone coast, once she sees our comfort zone she's going to push us.  Does this scare me to death?  Oh, hell yes.  This means it's a good thing for me to do.  Fear and discomfort are the path to growth.

And learning to make a great omelette.

Today, the family is getting everyone ready to start school.  I've helped the kids get their clothes put away and make sure they have their backpacks and lunch boxes ready to go.  Scott and I will need to fill out some paperwork for their teachers.

I need to hem my chef pants.  Professional appearance is a portion of my grade, if my hems are too long I'll be marked off.  It's an easy way to keep my grade point average up, to not do it is just laziness on my part.  Since the program is so condensed, attendance is vital.  I miss one day I've missed a full 25% of the lessons for that week.

We won't even start anything in the kitchen until I've completed food service certification.  Then we'll get our tool kits and begin knife skills.  I'm anticipating having cuts on my fingers, but I'm looking forward to getting those improved.

I'm reeling, reeeeeelling with the fact that I've made this happen.  I've been walking around all weekend saying "Whoa!"


Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Whooooooaaaaaaaa

Friday, August 19, 2011

Because this helps my ego

Every once in a while I like to list all the things I did in a day to give myself evidence that I'm smart and capable.

This time, it's about yesterday.

6 a.m.          Wake up to find the house is at 87 degrees as the air conditioning isn't working.

7 a.m.          Go to the grocery store, save $10 with coupons.

8 a.m.          Contact everyone I know via email/Facebook to find an air conditioning repair person.

9 a.m.          Take Scott to work as his motorcycle quit on him on Tuesday.  It was towed to the shop we use so they could check the fuses but no one's looked at it.

10 a.m.        Set kids up with a tub of water and bathing suits to keep them cool.

10:15 a.m.   Call recommended person who turns out to be great, he'll be by in about 90 minutes.

10:30 a.m.   Call motorcycle repair shop to tell them if they can't look at Scott's bike (they need to check                   the fuses) tomorrow they need to call me so I can take it somewhere else.

11  a.m.       Tell kids they can have as many popsicles as they want today.  They start with red and green, before getting out washable paints so they can make the outside of the house less boring.  I tell them it looks like a Pollock painting.  They frown.

11:15 a.m.    Make appointments for Will's tonsillectomy and pre-op office visit.

Noon            Greatest air conditioning repairman ever arrives and assures me that the repair is a cheap one.  He also says he's going to bring me the filters that are 3 times as efficient and only cost four bucks.

12:30 p.m.     While greatest air conditioning repairman ever is off getting parts I supervise the kids making their own lunches.  Then I force them to drink big glasses of water.  After lunch they have more popsicles before going back out front to paint the trees.

1 p.m.            Greatest air conditioning repairman returns with parts, filters and has cold air coming out the vents inside of fifteen minutes.  He and I chat about EST for a while.

2 p.m.             Tell kids everyone must nap.  No, you can't just rest.

3 p.m.             Much better, pick up living room and do dishes.

4 p.m.             Find that the kids have drawn glasses and facial hair on themselves and we are going to go meet their teachers for this school year tonight, tell them to take a shower.

4:30 p.m        Leave to get Scott, sing Taylor Swift's "Love Story" on the way because it's Zoe's new favorite song.  Will falls asleep.

5 p.m             With Scott in the car, head to school.

5:30 p.m.       Take Will to see his Kindergarten classroom where he has a long talk with his teacher about Legos.  Scott stays to fill out forms while I take Zoe to find out who she'll have this year.   In the cafeteria, 2 of Zoe's friends run up to tell her they are all in the same class and they are even at the same table!  The girls jump up and down and scream a little.

5:40 p.m.       Go say hi to Zoe's teacher, fill out emergency contact forms, marvel at how young Zoe's teacher is and tell Zoe I'm glad she's in a classroom with her friends.

5:45 p.m.        Go look for Scott and Will.  Can't find them.  Bump into Zoe's girl scout leader who asks me about schedules and events, I reply in affirmative to all and remind her to send me reminders.

5:55 p.m.         Find Scott and Will back in Zoe's classroom.  Head off for home.

6  p.m.            Scott packs up for a jam and heads off.  I make chicken nuggets for dinner.  Well, not make, microwave.

6:10 p.m.        Realize I forgot to arrange a sitter for the kids for tomorrow morning so that I can attend orientation.  Oops, send out a bunch of emails because I'm too embarrassed to call on the phone.

6:15 p.m. -
7:30 p.m.        Watch a movie with the kids before bedtime.  Read them a story, sing them a song, make sure their rooms are cool enough.

8:15 p.m.         Lay on the couch and wonder why I'm tired.

9 p.m.            Have a nice bath before turning in early.  My excellent friend and neighbor says the kids can hang out with her in the morning.

9:30 p.m.      Call it a full day and turn out the light.

There, now I have a list to look at the next time I'm feeling like I'm not able to get stuff done.

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  When faced with heat and stress, hydrate hydrate hydrate!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Life, seriously?

The Hip Husband and I got a chance to go out with friends last night to play trivia at our fave place.  Out of 28 teams we came in 7th, we considered that a victory.

Then we got home to discover our air conditioning moving air around but not making it cool.  Oh no.  This is combined with Scott's motorcycle losing electrical power, probably a fuse, day before yesterday.  It's sat around for two days in the shop we had it towed to without being checked.

I have orientation tomorrow.  I start school on Monday.  The kids start school on Tuesday.  We all must sleep.  No AC makes this a challenge.

All this is deal-able.  Scott can catch a ride to work with a friend that lives around the corner and works at the same company.  My classes are from 7 a.m. to noon-thirty, plenty of time to come home, change and pick up the kids.  We can get Scott from work, but this can't go on for too long.

Air conditioners can be repaired.  I know a woman who's husband does AC work.  I'm hoping he'll be able to come help me out.  It means I'm supporting independent business and hopefully he'll cut me a deal.

I can call and speak to the cycle shop, letting them know we've got to have an answer by the end of today so I can plan my life.

The part that I'm really upset about is that I'm going to be too hot and busy taking the kids to places WITH air conditioning I can't get the house ready for me to not be paying attention to it all day.

Scott told the kids this week:  Life as we know it is over.

I don't know why I'm surprised that everything seems to be happening right before a big change.  I'm glad it's stuff that I can deal with easily.  But, I would prefer to not have to play super-woman right before I have to start getting up at 5:30 in the morning.

Everybody think cool thoughts!  Ice cubes.  Popscicles.  Raspberry Mojitos.  Motel rooms.  Casinos.  The ocean at Natural Bridges in Santa Cruz.  The beer fride at HEB Plus.  Cooooool.  Coooool.  Coooooll.

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Remember, when your pores open up to perspire, it's also cleaning them out.  Celebrate!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

There is a point here, just bear with me

I have a hair on my chin I'm obsessed with, I've been picking at it all day.  I can't quite yank it out with my fingers, it's too short and the kids have kidnapped my tweezers.

I'm sure they ended up in the couch somewhere because that's where all my grooming hardware that's been taken by my kids ends up.

I've found that this hair is just long enough that if I tug on it just right it curls up like that ribbon you stretch with scissors.  I find this fascinating.

Now that I've hit forty and my hormones are starting to shift around I have hair growing in odd spots on my face.  I found an eyebrow hair in the middle of my forehead last week.  I am not kidding it was an eyebrow hair smack in between my hairline and my eyebrows.

Instead of standing in front of the mirror pulling my face back to see how I'd look with a facelift or using more moisturizer I'm watching for random, voluntary hairs to appear on my face.  It doesn't leave scars and it doesn't cost me anything.

However, even *I* am finding this a little weird.  Standing in front of the mirror looking for hair?  On your face?  Isn't that a little nitpicky?  Or hair-picky?

Here comes the point.

The last week has hammered home the fact that there are so many things I have no control over.  I can control how I respond, what actions I can take, but I can't make things not happen.  My druthers would be to have none of the drama happen.

I can control this little hair on my chin.  I can decide if it stays because no one will see it and I like toying with it.

I can decide what happens with my own body and I choose to control my grooming regime.  Vain?  Yes.  Shallow?  Probably.  Time waster?  Maybe.

It gives me something to focus on besides the chaos going on around me.  Something to think about besides the burn on my leg and if it's getting better.  Something besides the piles of dishes in the sink, the husband who needs to be watched carefully, not because I'm afraid there's going to be a relapse or whatever but because I love him and I'm worried.  It gives me a small vacation from keeping an eye on my kids and encouraging them to get their laundry sorted and put away so we'll be ready for school next week.

Thanks to this weird little hair on my chin I'm able to keep myself together.  Odd? Sure.  I'm taking any port in this storm though, including a wiry sprout on my chinny-chin-chin.

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Pointy tweezers are the best for plucking specific hairs.  Make sure you keep them clean.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

It's been a humdinger of a week around here


The last several days have been, um, let's say exciting.

To start off, Scott and I were able to go to breakfast by ourselves Saturday morning.  I got off the motorcycle on the wrong side and burned my right calf.  A blister about the size of my fist.  Ow. Ow ow ow.  And I wasn't at home, I soaked a napkin in ice water and held it on my leg while trying to decide between pancakes and waffles.

Sunday, Scott had an issue with one of his meds, causing panic attacks, uncontrollable crying, shakes and generally scaring me to death.

I called my friend down the street, crying and asking if she could take the kids while I dealt with the crisis. Once they were safely out of the house I decided I needed assistance and called 911.  My house was invaded by, I think six emergency guys who whipped out all their high tech equipment to figure out what was going on.

I was given the option of having him transported or driving him myself.  I opted to send him in the ambulance.  Then I got in the car and couldn't find the stupid hospital.  I parked and tried looking it up on my phone but couldn't find the right one. Finally, I followed the blue signs with the big H on them.

I told the person at the window I was there but no one came out to call me.  Can I just say that watching Cartoon Network in an ER waiting room is surreal?

I figured out that I needed to ask to go back and found Scott hooked up to all these machines, his heart rate and blood pressure way up.  He got some Ativan via IV which brought him back down to normal levels.

While this is going on texts are flying fast and furious between me and our excellent friend Linda who was as scared as I was.  She came to the hospital, helped me get Scott in the car, got me a sandwich and hung out at my house while I ran for the 'scrip for Ativan we'd been given.

We'd been strongly advised to follow up with his regular doctor on Monday.  Simple, yes?  Oh, no.  The doctor is on vacation this week.  Try finding a physician to take an appointment for a new patient regarding what is considered a mental health issue on the same day.  Yeah, that's not gonna happen.  Let's try Urgent Care.  Nope.  No dice.  I called our doc's office and the very great receptionist got us in with another doctor who could give us a plan for this week.  Now we wait for our regular physician to have an opening to get this all managed.

This made me really miss the Canadian health care system.  Need a doctor?  Come into the clinic.  Need a specialist?  They'll send you there.  Co-pay?  What co-pay?  Of COURSE we can take care of you.  ARGH.

Then, to put a little cherry on top of the whole thing, the CD player in my car stopped working.  I'd just found my favorite Cure album and had been enjoying singing along and now I don't even have that little pleasure.

However, there is ice cream in the freezer, the kids didn't see any of it, he's feeling better and I've managed to tame the laundry monster.

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  If faced with a crisis, let the whole appearance thing go.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

It's too hot to think

All we've done here at Casa de 'burbs is try to stay cool in the face of 104 degree heat day after day after day.

This is enough thank you.  I know what it feels like to be hot.  Okay, check.  We get it.

80 degrees at 7:15 in the morning is just insanity.

I bow down before my air conditioner.  I give great and powerful thanks to the cool-causing fluid that it contains.  Whoever invented that stuff deserves a big favor from me.

It's too hot to go outside.  It's too hot to move.  It's too hot to think.  It's too hot to do anything but drink water and stand in front of the fan.

My kids, however, have been jumping on the trampoline.  Or maybe that's a hallucination brought on by dehydration.

Is that palm tree?

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Drink water!  Drink lots and lots of water!

Monday, August 1, 2011

While our family visit was good, part of it was difficult

When I was born, I was lucky to be born into a family with a lot of grandparents.  Two grandpas, two grandmas, two great-grandmas and a great-grandpa, all of whom I spent a lot of time with.  

I still have two grandpas and a grandma.  All of them are in their nineties and have enjoyed good health until the last couple of years.  My mom's dad has had two heart bypasses and a hip replaced twice.  But, he recovered very well from all those procedures and traveled extensively well into his eighties.  My dad's dad is going to be 95 this year.

When I go visit my family on the west coast I always visit my grandparents because I really love them and they love me and the kids.  

However, this trip was different.  My mom's dad and stepmom aren't doing all that great.  My grandma (she's my grandpa's second wife but they've been married since I was seven so she's my grandma.)  had a fall that aggravated an old back injury, causing her a lot of pain and making it hard for her to get around.  While I was there she went for an epidural for her pain. And my grandpa is just getting old.  He's starting to have some memory loss but he's still all there.  But going to visit and only being able to stay for about 40 minutes, because that's really all the time they have energy for, was hard for me.  

My dad's dad has looked elderly for a while but he's never looked old before.  Again, he's still all there, some memory loss but no dementia.  He's living in assisted living where he can be around people and his medications are dispensed instead of leaving it to him to muddle through.

After we visited with my grandparents, all in the same day, I ended up having a big cry in the car.  

Seeing that they are, indeed, aging brings up all kinds of existential thoughts for me.  My children are going to grow up.  I"m going to get older.  My parents are going to get older.  I am going to get a phone call sometime in the next five years (probably) telling me I need to pack a suit and get on a plane.  It's not something I'm hoping for, but it is something I'm preparing myself for.  

Maybe that's morbid, but I know it's coming.  

I tell myself that they've all had a very good run.  No dementia and really very limited health issues are a blessing.  My mom's dad has been in love twice.  They've raised children, bought homes, traveled, had friends and lived very full lives.  When is does eventually end, there will be a true celebration of who they were and what they contributed to all the people they touched.  

It's why I'll be devastated.  Again, maybe I'm being overly morbid. 

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  Noxema has too much menthol and camphor to be non-irritating, and it tends to clog pores.  Best to stay away from it.