Saturday, July 31, 2010

We all fall down

Right foot Busted up

So once again my great big horse of a dog managed to physically injure one of us in the house with his overly enthusiastic bull headed self.

Whilst walking to the front porch to let the do out for our afternoon break, my dog Kayne suddenly lurched in front of me.

Thus knocking me sideways causing me to step partially out of my shoe, become tangled in a potted plant, step sideways onto my right ankle and then fall to my knees.

The same ankle I have broken three times.

The same ankle I have sprained so many times I have lost track.

The same ankle that is so screwed up and badly patched that after one x-ray y my doctor he took back my handicap tag application and wrote "disfigured right foot" under reasons for needed a handicapped tag.

So back to the front porch.

I am on my knees when the pain of my right foot hits me and I think I a about to throw up. I pull it out in front of me and look at it and immediately know that if its not broken its badly sprained.

Trying to move my toes and I have to suck in breath. I feel tears begin to sting my eyes and suddenly think. Didn't I used to compete with broken limbs?

Pulling out my cell phone I call my fiance Chris. I get his voice mail and I sit there for a moment wondering what to say.

It has come to the worst case scenario. I am trapped, on my front porch, with my anti-social dog. I have fallen, and I can't get up.

Hanging up the phone, I throw my flip flops at the dog who is sleeping peacefully in the sun.

Then I remember, my laptop is plugged in just inside the door.

Reaching inside the screen I drag my laptop to me by the cord and boot it up. using my arms and left leg I lever myself into a patio chair and set myself up with my lap top and set to distract myself until Chris comes home.

He calls and I pick up my cell phone, trying to hold back tears.

"What happened?" he says sounding annoyed.

"The dog tripped me and I fell down and hurt my foot and can't put weight on it, I am stuck on the front porch, but I have my phone and my laptop." I say, voice wavering with tears.

I hear him start to swear and rant as he puts the phone down.

Hearing myself begin to apologize for calling saying I didn't know what to do because it hurts really bad. My inner voice is whacking my head with a newspaper screaming "Don't apologize! Why are you apologizing?!"

"What do you want me to do about it?!" he yells.

I am shocked. I am no longer upset. I am deeply, passionately, pissed off.

"Thanks you for calling, it was so kind of you to be concerned." I say and hang up.

Seated, unable to get up and throw things, unable to yell because I am outside in front of the neighbors, unwilling to cry,ankle throbbing in time with the beat of my heart I try to pull myself together into a state of calm resepctability.

I take some deep breathes and try to focus on anything besides the deep, burning, throb that is my right foot.

I try to think schematics of my house. Where is the nearest cane? Chris has a skateboard in the living room maybe I could sit on it and scoot to the kitchen for an icepack? did I need an x-ray? did we have ace bandages? How was I going to make us dinner? Did the dog need to go potty? hell we lived on a 2nd floor walk up! How was the laundry going to get done?

Suddenly the reality of what just happened fell on me like a bucket of water and I was in a panic. There was three cats, a dog, and a redheaded human male to take care of and I couldn't just trust that he would pick up and take over the things that I did because I couldn't walk.

Just as I was trying to psyche myself up to try to crawl inside and find my old foot brace or an ace bandage the dog did his "ZOMG! Daddy came home and he brought the car!" song and dance.

Chris came upstairs, came out to the patio, looked at my foot and said "Wow, you aren't going to be able to walk on that for a few days, let me get ice and find an ace bandage."

So I lifted the death threat I had put on him. He actually helped me get inside, set me up comfy with an icepack and a book. Even went and bought me an iced coffee.

It wasn't until 3 hours later that he started complaining about being hungry and asking if we really were going to eat Peanut butter and jelly, cereal, and ramen for the next few days because that was all he could make.

To be fair he did set everything out for me and got me a chair to sit in while I cooked. And he does help me get things so I don't have to move around a lot, and he makes me ice my ankle.

Still, I see the wheels turning in his head on how to get me to the laundromat with the 4 baskets of laundry and not need to stay himself.

So yes, I have probably further screwed up my foot. Possibly done irreparable damage but in this comically hard luck life of mine, nothing comes as a surprise to me anymore.

I hope by the end of next week that my foot is significantly better, I'm not holding my breath.

In the end, everyone falls at one point or another, it take a strong will, and the support of someone who care to lever ourselves back up to soldier on.

Right foot swollen, left foor normal

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Makings for a home manicure

My fiance met me and loved that I loved kitties. Loved that I could play acoustic guitar. Loved that I had more compact discs and vinyl records than him (which is saying a lot) What he didn't love so much is my habit of biting my nails.

Yes I admit it, I was a nail biter. beyond just biting, I would literally bite my nails until they were so ragged and destroyed I needed band aids.

So after a few failed attempt with acrylic nails, which I literally felt like I was wearing something that needed to be taken off because it felt so weird on my fingers.

My lovely fiance came home with a bunch of nail files, a bottle of Sally Hanson "Hard as nails" and a promise that for every week I didn't chew my nails I could get a new polish.

How he is regretting his offer now.

I never take into a bet halfheartedly.

Nails are actually made out of a protein called Keratin. Nails grow fastest during the summer (just like our hair, because its the same stuff) and the rate of growth is largely dependent of factors such as diet, exercise, heredity, and gender.

In addition to diet many have resorted to supplementation to thicken their nails. There are several dermatologists and nutritionists who say taking 2.5 mg of Biotin will help to grow out nails that are thin, brittle, or peeling.

There is also the long standing advice of housewives everywhere:

Wear plastic gloves to do dishes.

Always moisturize after you wash your hands.

Use a really thick moisturizer at night.

Avoid constant wetting and drying of your nails.

With the advent of hand sanitizer this seems easier than ever, but be wary not to overdo with the alcohol based hand sanitizers. Alcohol draws water from the skin and can make hands and nails dry.

So after learning about the anatomy of a nail I went online and into the drugstores to find the most cost effective products to give me an awesome manicure.

Here is what I bought for my arsenal:

Hydrogen Peroxide, Baking Soda, and Denture cleaner ($6)- Yes, you have read the previous correctly. I have the previous in my collection of manicure supplies. If you mix a TSP baking soda with just a drop of peroxide to make a paste and apply to nails between dark polishes it will keep them from yellowing. Additionally once every 4 weeks I give myself a soak bare nails in denture cleaner. You can get this cheap at the dollar store. This whitens my tips and removes any trace of yellowing or discoloration from my nails. I have to thank my friend Garnet for this tip!

Cotton pads($1)- Dedicated only to your nail polish stash. You will use up these little babies like they are going extinct.

Polish remover($2-$5)- I have heard the arguments "No use non acetone on natural nails" "No acetone is fine!" It is a personal preference. Personally I would like to not spend 20 minutes removing polish from my nails. Acetone polish remover takes it off like no bodies business. However, I have heard from many beauty guru's that acetone is very drying. But every Non- acetone polish remove I have used has sucked! So until I find a non acetone polish remover that removes polish at a speed I am comfortable with I will be continuing to use Acetone based polish.

Orange sticks/Cuticle pusher ($2)-
I have a rubber cuticle pusher as well as a few orange sticks and a metal under nail cleaner (what the pointy part of the orange stick is for) I have to use this routinely on my fiance and his ingrown toenails. The great part about metal is that after you are done you can sanitize it. Orange sticks are not as sanitary, but are entirely disposable and cheap. I recommend having at least a few.

Creative Nail Design Stickey Base Coat($6)
- A base coat that came highly recommended. I'd tried Orly Ridge Filler, Sally Hansen Ridge Filler, and Orly Orlon base coat and Orly Bonder. All of them began to chip and peel by day two no matter how carefully I applied my nail polish. The only one that I managed to get more than 5 day wear from was Creative Nail Design Stickey Basecoat. I think you have to do your own testing and find out what works for your nails, but this seems to work for several.

Several Nail Polish colors! My favorite brands are Sinful Colors and China Glaze. China Glaze I have only found at Sally Beauty Supply. I do have some OPI colors, some Sally Hansen,and Some Scherer Petites.

Sally Hansen French Tip Pen($5)- This has made doing a french manicure SO MUCH easier for me. I have shaky hands, don't want to mess with tiny strips on my nails, and want to be able to do touch ups with no trouble. This pen makes it so easy. Available in wide tip or fine tip its easy to find one to suite your needs and the look on the nails is natural.

INM: Out the door fast dry top coat ($5)- So everyone I know says "I LOVE Seche Vite top coat! oh its so great!" I was able to try it for free from a friends bottle. I'm sorry but the shrinkage, the smell? and the fact that it dries up so fast in the bottle! for almost 10 bucks for a bottle I was not colored impressed. Enter INM "Out the door fast dry top coat" from Sally Beauty Supply. This 5 dollar a bottle, thinner liquid, super fast drying, and not NEARLY as terrible smelling Top coat is great at drying my polish, and maintaining my manicure.

The best part is it isn't too thick that I can't reapply a coat every other day to freshen my mani.

Emery boards ($2)- Basic must. Have a few of these in a grit for natural nails. And always keep one in your backpack or purse. Something that drives me crazy now is when I break a tip or have an edge and no emery board in site.

Crystal/stone file($3-$12)-
You can find these at any Beauty supply stores. I was stupid enough to buy one at the Mall of America for 20 bucks. Its a stone nail file that files the nail and you can use it to seal the nail edge as well as buff off dried cuticles.

Thick hand cream and/or cuticle oil($3-$12)-
I happened to find Barielle cuticle oil on clearance at a Big Box store for 3 dollars. So I use it every night along with my super thick old lady cream that I haven't been able to find recently and am using sparingly. But there are several great thick hand creams that either have oils already added in, or are specifically for hands. Find one that works for your skin type and use it religiously.

Its an arsenal right? But once you find your go to products and arrange them in a neat little bag, you find out that it really isn't that many things.

So looking at the list is "seems" like a lot of stuff. In reality it fits into a small plastic bin. Once you have your Mainstays like basecoat, topcoat, polish remover, emery boards and other tools, you will learn how best to organize it and the only thing that you will continually need to find space for is nail polish colors.

Consider this, setting up your own at home Manicure set will cost nearly $35-$60 to set up and that doesn't include Nail Color. But going to a salon and having your nails done 52 times a year for $20 not including tip would be $1040 a year. Even just having a once a month Manicure for $20 would still land you $240 a year.

Where as you add in toe separators and a friend and you have a Friday night pampering session that leaves you beautiful and saves you money.

So go forth into the Beauty supply stores, drugstores, and dollar stores of the world and gather your arsenal and prepare to get beautiful.

The Mills Rose Garden is one of ten AARS accredited public display rose gardens in New York State.

I have always driven by The Syracuse Thornden Park Rose Garden and said "I have got to get there and see the roses"

For 8 years living in Syracuse I have been there twice.

Once for the tackiest wedding ever. And once to break up with a boyfriend.

Ah sweet, sweet memories.

I needed to get back to the garden and make it less of memory seeped in evil.

The one great thing about this greenhouse weather we have been having is apparently it has made for absolutely robust and stunning roses.

So I grabbed my handy Panasonic, my Keen sandals, and Deep Woods OFF! and went to smell the roses.

A small bit of trivia I learned boning up on the M. Mills Rose Garden. The Mills Rose Garden is one of ten AARS accredited public display rose gardens in New York State.

The Syracuse Rose Society is in charge of maintenance of the roses in the M. Mills Rose Garden and it is the third Syracuse Rose Society garden founded in Syracuse by the society which was started in 1916.

This garden is located in Thornden Park, Syracuse, NY. A park that is located on land donated to the city by M Mills, a founding member of the Syracuse Rose Society and Rose and Garden enthusiast.

Thornden Park still boast the M Mills Rose Garden and the Syracuse Rose society continues to perform maintenance every Wednesday and some Saturdays throughout the late spring through early November.

I have this vision of the Syracuse Rose Society being a select group of people converging on the rose garden in the early morning when the park is still misty armed with pruning shears and hand misters. Wearing straw hats and khaki shirts silently moving across the garden like devoted monks at prayer. I am informed by a member of the SRS whom is 25 years of age with a laugh that my visions are fanciful and couldn't be farther from reality.

In truth they are always happy to have a hand weeding, pruning, spraying, and hand picking dead heads off flowers. Often there is music, laughing, and refreshments in the gazebo that sits in the center of the garden.

With this new insight shattering my ninja-assassin secret society of rose enthusiasts I still find the enthusiasm to go sniff the local flora.

Upon entering the garden and visiting rows upon rows of riotous color, the careful dedication of his small group of volunteers shows.



Hundreds of people use the Rose garden During June through Early August for Weddings, Photo shoots, and parties. When others are not using it for these reasons you can still find people walking around simply enjoying the relaxing atmosphere of the blooms.


The sheer amount of colors is enough to keep you wandering around in circles for hours on end.


I found colors that I had to check the camera and take off my sunglasses because I wasn't sure I was seeing correctly.


Unusual shapes, colors, scents. Flowers that I couldn't confirm were roses except for the placard set at their feet.



And roses that reminded me of loved ones like my grandmother who used to tell me how she had once received a perfect blue rose and always remembered it as being so beautiful.


However the most interesting thing about the rose garden is not the roses themselves. It really isn't. It is the age of some of the bushes that are still blooming there.





Those are just some of the oldest placards that I took a picture of and not all of them.

I was thoroughly exhausted, sore, and had no power left in my camera by the time the light faded from the sky and I trooped back to my car to head home with my camera full of pictures and my nose full of heady perfume.

It occurs to me though the M Mills Rose Garden is more than a place in Syracuse with pretty flowers. Its more than a beautiful place to get married, more than a nice area to soften the blow of a breakup, more than a romantic spot to walk and hold hands.

It is a sacred beautiful space where anyone can come and still find something to be in awe of. A place where people with a common love for a very old flower still join together to keep it beautiful for our future generations.

So if you are near, don't wait for a special occasion to visit these pockets of beauty. Its our responsibility to enjoy them, share their beauty, and revel in their splendor.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Musicians road map.

So we consider the source. I am a music snob. Truly no holds barred, I will have heard some of the best singers, songwriters, conductors, composers, and true masters on stage, in churches, on street corners, in smokey bars,in hot basements, crowded community centers, dives, plazas, hotel rooms, tour buses, and my life is half done.

I love music and developed an ear early because I was lucky enough to have parents who loved and appreciated music, a knack for picking up instruments, and now a partner with my same ear for the sweetness.

Also pervert my sensibilities with a father who ran a kitchen in the most popular night club in Minnesota. A classically trained vocal performance mother with a poster of Rick James in her closet. And a Southern born and bred grandmother who would drag me to every orchestra concert she could, and also taught me every burlesque song she knew.

I was doomed to be the kid who played the ukelele at camp and had a collection of autographs of famous Old men like "John Ritter" and "Sir David Wilcocks" (who knew me by name and always sang one christmas songs to me and wrote it out to me on sheet music before he left to return to England saying "Keep music close")

Kool and the Gang, Prince, The Times, and Chaka Khan! I don't even remember who else. Combined with Susan Battle (The opera Worlds Naomi Campbell) Sarah Brightman (nicest woman in the world), Andrew Lloyd Weber, John Milfrod Rutter,and Sir David Wilcox.

These moments burn themselves into your memory and come back in waves hearing the familiar opening notes.

If you have been touched by it you know what I am talking about.

That feeling when you hear a musician, or performer start their set and the entire audience in gelled together into one cohesive heartbeat and one song glides seamlessly into another.

Everything around the audience and the musician disappears and you are led through a series of stories. Muscles in your arms and legs twitch involuntarily in beat to the rhythms, maybe tears come to your eyes or you have to fight not to sing along.

I personally hate it when you sing along. But I remember once at a Dead Prez rap concert. One of the most magical concerts I have ever been to. I was in the middle of the crowd dancing, singing along, and the lead artist stopped mid track and put the microphone out to the audience, and the audience spit the lyrics to the rap verbatim without skipping a beat. It was heart stopping how powerful it felt.

"Hell Yeah"

I actually really love this group because of the social commentary and how much the group and grown up personally and professionally. I had the chance to meet them and talk about growing up, being vegan, drugs, inner city youth, and even cancer. A great bunch of guys don't let this video make you think they are a bunch of Street thugs. You couldn't be more wrong.

No one was violent, no one was angry. Everyone was there with a mutual appreciation for a great group of rappers and a desire to hear them perform.

The first memory I have of being absolutely mesmerized was when I saw Placido Domingo and Sarah Brightman sing Hosanna in Excelsis Deo. Part of the great music piece "Requiem" If you never get a chance to hear this piece....

It was during a rehearsal, so I was literally front seat, third row, holding my mom's purse. She and her friend were in the background chorus for the performance with the Minnesota Orchestra.

Imagine a little girl hearing this, sitting by herself in a huge theater.

Needless to say it was the when the drums came in and Placido and Sarah started to encourage the chamber choir to dance with them and the full orchestra came in that I was literally stunned and didn't know whether to stand and dance or continue to sit their with my mouth hanging open.

Since then I have heard many musicians. Some great, many not so great and many that I will carry in my memory forever.

Its a curse, once you hear music that is divine and you receive the gift of being able to sort the good from the bad it is a musician lovers game of mousetrap trying to find musicians these days with something new and wonderful to offer.

If you have not checked them out I have become a huge fan of Muse. Particularly this song.

Musically having your chops, not afraid to take chances, drawing you into their music, and they deliver on CD and in concert. Concerts, remember those? When we used to go to hear music? Not to watch a magic show, or a skateboard demo, just to sit or stand in the audience with your fellow music lover and revel in music.

So this is my small synapses to today. Albeit brief, my play list on my computer is almost 3G and we have over 2 MP3 players, 7 shoe boxes of digital recordings, 6 CD towers of original recordings, and 20 vinyl records worth of music in the house.

I for one am by no means done seeing what the world will put out for me to discover.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Canine Courtesy on the curb.

Walking in the heat of the city streets of Syracuse is pretty brutal in the months of June through August.

You can tell what season it is by looking around you and seeing the mass exodus of people whom move furniture out of their homes and onto their patios, porches, stoops, lawns, steps, driveways and sidewalks.

They sit and enjoy what breeze they can, watch the kids play, catch up on neighborhood gossip, and revel in being out of the house while they can.

I too enjoy this time of year. It is the time I take my dog for late evening walks. Armed with plastic bags, my cell phone, emergency money, and self defense device. I often take to the street with and without the hound to walk to the local coffee shop, pick up a book at the library, or just tool around and check out what is growing in my friends gardens.

When my canine companion is with me on my walks he routinely stops in one of three places and takes a masterfully large dump. I always come prepared and carry three plastic bags.

I pick up the poop, tie off the bag, and off we go.

He continues his walk on his leash, I carry his droppings, to be disposed of in my trash can or a dumpster.

Never does it occur to me to leave his crap on someone else's lawn.

Neither does it occur to me to take off his leash and let his run amok.

Would he listen to me? Yes. Would he come if I called him? Yes. Would I absolutely rely on that? Absolutely not.

So why is it that I am the minority?

Walking around my neighborhood it drives me insane to see piles of dog crap left everywhere. I don't mean here a crap there a crap, I mean everywhere a crap crap.

Walking in the park we passed twelve dogs who had taken massive dumps and their owners smiled, shrugged, and walked away from the steaming pile of poop.

My fiance and I just stared at each other. This is why when we go to the park, we have to mind our step, because other dog owners cannot be burdened to carry a plastic bag and pick up dog crap.

Which brings me to the next issue of canine courtesy that seems to be missing in Syracuse local dog scene. Leash laws. In parks, dogs must be on a leash. This is for your dogs protection, and mine.

Here is a situation. My dog is afraid of other dogs. We keep him away from other dogs. Your dog,who is not on a leash, runs up to my dog, who is on a leash, I have to grapple push, boot, and yell at your dog to go away and get back to you, you whom are standing there holding your leash mouth open gaping like a fish not helping me by grabbing your dog.


Don't count on your dog listening to you. Dogs are dogs. They are driven by instinct and it takes one second and one time chasing something across a busy street and not having a leash on and being hit by a car and suddenly hindsight is 20/20.

Your leash could be made from a shoelace if thats all it takes for your dog to remember to stay within a certain distance of you. But in a park where there are leash laws and rules about picking up after your dog. Everyone has the right to enjoy the park, and if you want to come out and play, follow the rules.

You want to leave your dog crap on the ground and run loose with your dog find somewhere where everyone is cool with it. until then watch out.

I see your dog taking a crap and you leaving it, you might wake up to a weeks worth of dog crap on your doorstep with a note saying "Dear inconsiderate citizen, I believe you forgot to clean this up when you walked your dog. I left you some plastic bags so next time you can clean up your dogs poop. We are watching you, next time you leave your droppings on our lawns and gardens you will find it on your doorstep in flames. Sincerely, Citizen Canines"

We are pissed, we are watching, we will your crap at your doorstep.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Coconut London Bars: Test Kitchen Success!

So people who know me know that I have been looking for an authentic version of my Nana's awesome "London Bars" since she lost her recipe moving into her retirement castle.

I have tested several "London Bar" recipes as well as several "Coconut Bar" recipes and while they were ok to terrible nothing came close.

After another EPIC FAIL last night with a recipe involving evaporated milk I went online seeking expert advice.

An online cook friend who happens to work in a baking test kitchen I told her about my Bar quandry. She suggested that we conference online and try to work out ingredients.

Together we came up with a recipe and this morning too excited to sleep I woke up and whipped out a batch.

They came out delicious!

Here is the recipe and I hope that you make some for yourself soon!

Coconut London Bars

KJ's Coconut London Bars



1 c. flour
1/2 c. Brown sugar
1/2 c (stick) unsalted butter

Mix together to form crumbly texture and press into bottom of 8x10 pan
(note: I used 1 1/4 cup flour 3/4 cup brown sugar and the same amount of butter in a 9x13 glass pan with no problems)

Bake at 325 for 10 minutes or until golden brown

Center layer:
1 c. Brown sugar
2 eggs (don't whisk first!)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp flour
1/2 tsp Baking powder
dash salt
1 c. Fresh grated coconut/Frozen thawed fresh cocnut

1 c. Chopped pecans or walnuts

So while the crust is baking put together the ingredients for the middle in a bowl and mix together with a spatula, folding the ingredients together gently scraping down the sides as needed for about 2 minutes.

Pour mixture over crust when it is done and hot from the oven, and sprinkle with nuts.
Bake at 325 for 15-20 minutes, cool on wire rack. Can be drizzled with confectioners sugar icing if desired.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

You make it, you eat it

As an independent foodie and child of a chef and grand daughter of one of the best home cooks in the midwest I'd like to think I know my way around food.

Growing up with a grandmother who knew good food and could tell list the ten top restaurants still running in Minnesota off the top of her head, while banging out homemade cookies in 12 varieties for the neighborhood I was spoiled for quality.

My nana and I still call each other and share recipes we see on television that we thin are ridiculous, or call to gossip about a restaurant poorly preparing a meal.

My nana and I are always going out for dinner at some restaurant famous for their food and giving it the once over.

Sadly, since I had taken her to Matt's Bar and had a Jucy Lucy Burger we hadn't had any restaurants or chef's that we both really wanted to seek out.

So on a whim I told her we should watch some Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. We both enjoy his show and have been to his restaurant in NYC Layla's (Bes Fries EVER.)

My nana even bought me a copy of Kitchen Confidential for my birthday.

Watching his show always whet our appetite to go out and try new recipes and restaurants again.

That was when we saw Chef Edward Tuson.

I have always been a big local eater and our backyard growing up was a virtual forest of vegetables and edible flowers.

The first time I went to camp at nine years old and tasted iceberg lettuce with bottled dressing I remembered asking my camp counselor what it was.

Living in an apartment before I found the farmers market I literally befriended the elderly citizens of my neighborhood and helped them out with small chores just for the opportunity to take a few things from their garden.

Edward Tuson was a chef in Vancover, British Columbia who understood that devotion to food.

He raised his own meat, grew his own veggies, smoked his own fish, (that he caught himself or bought from local fisherman), and harvested local flora, to prepare and serve for 12 years at the Sooke Island Restaurant.

And as Anthony Bourdain said of his food both eating and looking at it, was magical.

Edward Tuson said that everything that he used could be found within 20 miles of Sooke and it consisted of 75-85% of what they served.

Can you look in your kitchen cupboard and find 10 things that were produced in the same state you live in?

Now Edward Tuson is running a smaller restaurant with much simpler but still local and delicious fare in an establishment called "The EdGe" Still finding it packed to the gills and still using his garden, local flora and fauna his reason for leaving is simple.

"I want to cook food that I would eat."

A chef after my own heart.

Visit Edward Tuson at "The EdGe" on Sooke Street, British Columbia, Canada

KJ Callaway