June 30, 2010

You Know What's Annoying?

Here's one of the most annoying things: when you call a company (such as Blue Cross) and their message says, "Please listen to all the menu options as our menu has changed..." Well, sheesh! do they think we ever remember any menu options for any company we ever call? And just how often do they change those damn menu options anyway? And then you listen to the menu options and you press a button and then you get another bunch of menu options and you have to press another button and then you get a recording that says, "Due to high call volume your wait may be longer than your lifetime. Please call back.

Flirty Cupcakes - Yum!

What a great idea - a traveling cupcake truck with the most delicious goodies! I happened upon them one day on Rush Street and had a Peanut Butter and Chocolate cupcake that was FABULOUS! Check out Flirty Cupcakes and watch for their van on the streets of Chicago. They post daily routes on Twitter and Facebook.

June 27, 2010

Creative Cooking

Do you think the pride I take in my cooking and baking is misplaced? I'm beginning to wonder. I love to experiment, love to try new recipes. Here's a lesson (well three lessons) on how to mess up a recipe, which I seem to be excelling at lately. What's up with that? Am I simply distracted? Getting old? Too much wine? Or maybe it's the heat and humidity getting to my brain.
Lesson #1: So tonight I made Piedmont Pie. It's a recipe from the Piedmont region of Italy and it's a custardy-y quiche-like vegetable pie...sounded great, very rustic. It calls for 1-1/3 cups ricotta and 1 cup mascarpone.
So of course, that's what I put in. And it's smelling delicious as it's baking in the oven and I'm unloading the dishwasher. But wait...what do I find in the dishwasher? The 1 cup measure. Seems I used the largest one in the drawer which turned out to be 1/2 cup. Fuck.
Lesson learned: Always unload the dishwasher before you begin cooking.
Lesson #2: Made a peach-blueberry cake for my book club last week. You know how you mix the wet ingredients separately from the dry ingredients? Well, the recipe said to mix the flour, baking soda and salt and then to cream the butter. So I did the dry stuff, then put the butter in the bowl and couldn't figure out why the flour mixture wasn't working with the butter. Duh...the butter was supposed to be in a separate bowl so you could cream it with the sugar, and THEN add it to the dry ingredients.
Well, I kept going cuz what else am I going to do, and with all those fresh peaches and blueberries how could it be bad?
The book club said it was good - they ate it, so I guess that's the test. But I took some homemade cookies too, just in case (they ate those, too!).
Lesson learned: Read the damn recipe.
Okay, I'll tell the third story another time. This is enough embarrassment for one night. I'm off to watch The Next Food Network Star - something I'll never be.

June 26, 2010

And The Review Comes Pouring In...

"OK, so I couldn't stop reading from last night 'til now standing in my kitchen dying to know how it would end, and thrilled by the ending, how you pulled that saying into the title, the house on the cover, the whole book,
Sam, I absolutely loved it and now that's it's a book, you should send it to publishers, etc. so it gets the national fame it deserves. I LOVED it!! YOU are a fabulous writer, heck I knew that."
Mikki Williams
Professional Speaker

June 25, 2010

My Book Has Been Released!

I'm so excited to announce that I've just released my novel, Mr. Right-Enough. Here's a peak at the cover. Isn't it gorgeous?

Get a copy by clicking the Buy Now button. Let me know if you want it signed.
You can also email me if you'd like to mail a check instead of using PayPal.
Thanks so much for your interest. I hope you'll tell all your friends!

June 24, 2010

Firece Storms in Chicago

It's amazing to live in a high-rise when there's a storm. I'm sort of in a bubble up here on the 22nd floor, sometimes I don't even know it's raining.
But we've had some righteous storms in the past week, ones where clouds of rain whooshed sideways in front of my windows, ones that seemed like a sign of the apocalypse! Here's the view from my windows.

OMG, The New iPhone!

The line stretches around the block on Michigan Avenue this morning, some people have been there all night. Are they feeding the hungry? Clothing the homeless? Offering no-interest mortgages? No...it's the new iPhone.

They started letting people in at 7:00 a.m. So exciting. Isn't it? But wait...they're not GIVING it away. You have to buy it. How do I break it to these people that I could walk in the store today at noon, without a line, and buy the same damn thing?

June 21, 2010

Vote For Mikki

My audacious friend, Mikki Williams, is auditioning to become the next TV Star on Oprah's OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network). Check out her audition and VOTE FOR HER!
If you don't immediately get Mikki's page just scroll down until you see the Browse Auditions window, type Mikki in the search box, watch the video and then VOTE! You can vote as many times as you want.

June 20, 2010

Lemon Pasta with Roasted Shrimp

That's what I'm making for dinner. My favorite kind of dish...impressive and easy. It's a recipe of Ina Garten's that I adjusted a bit. Here's the recipe.
1 pound large raw shrimp, peeled and de-veined (I like to take the tails off, although Ina leaves them on…I don’t want to play with my food, just eat it)
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Herbes de Provence
1/2 pound angel hair pasta
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 lemon, zested and juiced

• Preheat oven to 400 degrees
• Toss the shrimp with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and a couple pinches herbes de Provence. Toss well, spread a single layer on a baking sheet, and roast for about 6 minutes, just until pink.
• Meanwhile, drizzle some olive oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add the angel hair, and cook al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking liquid.
• Quickly toss the angel hair with the melted butter, a little olive oil, the lemon zest, lemon juice, a teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon pepper and a little cooking liquid.
• Add the shrimp and serve hot.
Serves 3, unless you're a pig like me, then it's about 2 yummy servings.

June 18, 2010

Coming Clean for Father's Day

My father taught me to tell the truth so I have a confession to make for Father's Day (the real Father's Day this time). You know that cute story I posted last week (on faux-Father's Day), the Daddy's Girl story about the pencils? Well, I wrote that story to submit to one of the Chicken Soup books, and they like sweet, heartwarming stories, thus the Ozzie and Harriet ending. But it's not quite the way it happened. Oh, the story's true alright, right up until the end. How it really ended was my mom was furious when she came home and found us painting with our new watercolors and saw that we'd spent almost all the money on ourselves. She yelled at us, told us we were very selfish little girls and made us take everything back to the store, even though we'd used everything except the pencils.
What a bitchy way to teach two little girls a lesson.

June 15, 2010

How to Fix an Air Conditioner and Feel Like a Moron at the Same Time

I had a G.E. repairman out last week to fix my air conditioner because it wasn't cooling properly. After he left it was fabulous - cooling great, more evenly, more consistently. But then it started making a hell of a racket when the compressor came on. Like a fighter jet breaking the sound barrier. Before he fixed it it was pretty quiet. So I called back and scheduled another appointment. The guy came back today. He listened, turned it off, turned it back on, then...
he gave it a good whack on the left side and, voila! It quieted down. Thank god it's under warranty.

June 13, 2010

A Poem to My Dad

There was nothing my dad liked better than being surrounded by family and friends so for his 85th birthday I threw him a big bash. He loved it. He was in his glory.
My dad was a joyous soul. He was fun and funny, kind and loving. He rarely got mad and when he did it was over quickly. He didn't hold grudges. He hated the word "hate," never used it and admonished us when we did. But he hadn't met my first brother-in-law yet. Whew...that was one person he hated. Rightfully so...he treated my sister like shit.
I digress...anyway, it was a fabulous party and here's a poem I wrote for him for the occasion:

When I was just a little girl my daddy seemed so tall.
I looked up to him in every way.

He was the best of all.
When I grew to seven or eight he shrunk somewhat in size
But still I looked up to my dad -
He was a hero in my eyes.

Then a dreadful thing occurred: I became a teen!
I realized dad was just a man
and didn't know everything.
In fact, I thought, "he's not so smart and he's not even tall!
Why he can't tell me what to do
because I know it all!"

There were some years, oh just a few, that gave my dad some fits.
And I know dad remembers this
and thought it was the pits.
But then I grew to be adult and I know it seems absurd
But dad became a wiser man.
Some magic had occurred.

I saw how good and kind he was and then it made me sad
that I had been so miserable
and treated him so bad.
He helped me out as best he could and gave me his advice
And if I didn't follow it,
it did make me think twice.

I thank you, Dad, for guiding me and being who you are.
You set a great example
You're my bright and shining star.
The thing I see now that I'm grown is my dad is really tall.
I look up to him in every way
Cuz he's the best of all.

Happy 85th birthday Daddy!
December 15, 1994

June 11, 2010

Daddy's Girl

My Father's Day Homage to my Dad
My sister was eight and I was six the year we gave our dad pencils for Father’s Day (I never said we were creative gift-givers).
Mom gave us fifty cents each and sent us off to Saveway for our first solo shopping expedition. You could do that then, in the 50s, before child abduction was a common news item and, “Don’t talk to strangers,” was drilled into your head in-utero.
We walked by ourselves, waving at neighbors, the quarters in little plastic purses hanging from our wrists. We felt very grown-up going shopping by ourselves to pick out our own gift.
Bunny and I wandered up and down the aisles, surveying our options. What would Daddy like, we asked each other. There were razors, magazines, hankies, ashtrays, books, miniature cars. There was shaving cream and after-shave (Old Spice, Dad’s favorite), there were golf balls, batteries for Dad’s transistor radio, baseball caps and sunglasses. Each aisle beckoned us to buy, but we needed to see everything before we could pick out exactly the right gift. So we continued wandering.
Then we got to aisle five, which was like quicksand. There were coloring books and crayons, Silly Putty, Mr. Potato Head, paper dolls, pop-beads. Bunny and I giggled excitedly. It was a treasure trove of things we absolutely needed.
“You know what?” Bunny said. “We can buy something for us and still have money left for Daddy.”
It was so exciting. “What can we get?”

There was so much to choose from. We spotted a tin of Playtime watercolors. It had eight shiny squares of color inside and two tiny brushes, one for each of us. Oh, what art we could create with that! Then we found colored chalk and imagined the fine-looking hopscotch games we could draw on the sidewalk in front of our house.
Thirty-nine cents for the watercolors, fifteen cents for a pad of drawing paper, eighteen cents for the chalk, and we still had twenty-eight cents left over for a Father’s Day present. We looked around and found a package of pencils for twenty-two cents. Perfect! We even had enough money leftover for a jawbreaker each.
We skipped along home in our little matching shorts with ric-rac stitched along the pockets that Mom had made for us. She was sitting on old Miss Harriet’s porch, chatting, when we walked by.
“Want to see?” we asked excitedly, waving our bag.
“Go ahead on home,” Mom called. “I’ll be there in a few minutes.” 

So we scurried on, anxious to play with our treasures.
By the time Mom came in we’d set up shop on the kitchen table. Ever so responsibly, we’d spread newspaper on the Formica and there we sat with the drawing paper, two glasses of mud-colored water and our paint tin. We were busily creating our masterpieces. What fun, dipping the brush in water, swirling it in a pot of color or two, creating hues of our own imagination and artworks of impressive flair.
Mom surveyed the scene. “What have you got?” she asked.
Bunny and I smiled broadly. “Watercolors,” we said. “Look!”
We displayed the works of art we’d already finished, anticipating exclamations of delight.
“Mmmm,” she said, not quite as enthusiastically as we’d expected. Bunny and I looked at each other.
“And what’s that?” she said, her eyes on the box of colored chalk.
“We’re going to make colored hopscotches,” I said, wanting to be excited again, but her expression was like a pin pricking my balloon.
Mom leaned against the counter, arms folded across her chest. She wore a green print sundress with wide, gathered straps on her shoulders. “You went to the store to get something for Daddy and you came home with watercolors and chalk for yourselves?”
Oh, I thought, she thinks we didn’t get anything for Daddy.
“We got a Father’s Day present, too,” I said. “See?” and I held up the package of pencils.
“So, you had one dollar for Daddy’s gift and you spent all but twenty-two cents on yourselves.”
Oh. I looked at Bunny, a look that said, “You’re the older sister. Do something!”
She looked at me with big, sad eyes. But then she came through, ever my hero.
“We can give him the chalk, too,” she told Mom.
“And the watercolors,” I added.
“Used watercolors?” Mom said. She didn’t have to use the word selfish.
The excitement we’d felt was puddled around our feet by now, our sparkling artwork dimmed, hopscotch a faint memory.
Bunny brightened a little.“We didn’t use the chalk and the pencils. We can take them back and get something else.”
“Well, that’s a good idea,” Mom said. My sister’s so smart, I thought, and looked at her with admiration. “But I don’t think that’s necessary.”
I studied Mom’s face trying to figure out if that was good. She smiled gently.
“Why don’t you put your things away for now,” she said and we hastily dropped our brushes in the water and gathered our paintings, relieved to be getting it all out of sight.
“When you’re done,” she said, “we’ll get some paper and you can wrap your presents.” She watched us for a moment. “I think Daddy’ll be happy with the gifts you picked out for him. I bet he’ll even let you use some of his chalk for hopscotch.”

2018 note: I originally wrote this as a creative nonfiction piece. It's a true story but of course there are elements that make it more interesting. The real story is that my mother wasn't what I would call a gentle person, and she believed in teaching lessons, and she made us take everything back to the store and try to return all those used items. 

June 8, 2010

Doorways of State Street

More gorgeous doorways. These are on North State Street.

June 7, 2010

Doorways of Astor Street

The architecture in Chicago is incredible. I'm not talking only about the iconic buildings like Tribune Tower or the Wrigley Building, I'm also talking about homes - vintage apartment buildings, brownstones. Do a walking tour of the city and you'll see some beautiful doorways. These are on Astor Street in the 1400 N. block.

June 5, 2010

Dupuytren's - Enzyme Injection

I just received an email from a woman in San Diego who says:

Samantha--Thank you for your videos on Dupuytrens--very good info. I have been waiting for the FDA approval which came through in Feb 2010. My doctor called in a prescription for 4 vials, without calling me first. You can imagine my shock when I learned that the cost was
$3500 per vial!
My insurance will pay nothing. I don't know what the doctor fees will be on top of that. I guess I will go ahead with NA.

I believe those vials are enough for one injection, and one injection is not enough. When I was in the clinical trials we were able to get three injections, one month apart. I opted out of the last one due to the pain factor but I'm sure (tho I don't have verification) they will use anesthetic now. I'm also sure the cost of anesthesia would be over and above the $3500 per vial and the doctor's fee.
Now I'm no expert but I would venture to guess that it does not cost even close to $3500 to manufacture one vial of the collagenase.
The word opportunistic comes to mind. Who's going to benefit from this new drug, especially if insurance does not cover it?
Here's a link to the first of seven YouTube videos I did during the clinical trials.

June 3, 2010

Getting Old Sucks

Here's the kind of thing that happens when you're a "certain age." I was at Mikki's, my favorite client (I can say this because I don't think any of my other clients read my blog), and we were working in our usual, compatible way. Here's the scene: we're doing our own thing, working side-by-side at our computers, silent for the most part but occasionally talking, sometimes laughing (actually, we do quite a lot of laughing together).
Anyway, Mikki interrupts me on a regular, annoying, basis and I tolerantly do whatever she needs done (picture a halo over my head here).

On this particular day she left the room briefly and when she came back she sat for a second looking puzzled. Then she said, "What did I just ask you to do?" and I said, "I don't remember, but I know I did it."
Is this part of that frigging aging process or the beginning of Alzheimer's? Anyway you look at it, getting old sucks.