Thursday, April 30, 2009


After many years, numerous doctors offices, medicated bandages, intense itching, occasional raw and bleeding skin, and the stigma attached with a skin disorder, we finally have an accurate diagnosis. For over 20 years, what WE knew could not be "just a bad case of eczema", as numerous doctors continually informed us, has finally been diagnosed, by my sons allergist nonetheless. "I'm not a dermatologist", he said "but this looks like...ICHTHYOSIS." It doesn't have a cure, but to finally have some answers makes a huge difference. My mother, after more than 20 years of suffering, finally feels "empowered". My son's allergist is her new hero. He did in less than 5 minutes what no other doctor, including many dermatologists, has been able to do. He gave her a new lease on life.

When she mentioned that she had bad eczema, he, knowing that allergies and eczema are often connected, asked her to describe it. At a loss for words, she lifted the hem of her skirt slightly to reveal the skin on her legs. He asked her permission to touch her, and he rubbed her legs to see if the skin was smooth, bumpy, scaly, etc. Then he asked her what made her think it was eczema. She informed him that is what she had always been told by other doctors. He made the classic "Oh, really, let me not say anything" face. He recommended that she see a dermatologist for confirmation, but he was pretty sure.

We, of course, went home and googled "ichthyosis". What was amazing was the pictures. We saw some that we could have taken ourselves over the years. We read the symptoms, which extend beyond just the appearance of the skin, and she was checking them off, one by one. I can not recall ever seeing my mother so excited. She really and truly felt like a burden had been lifted off of her shoulders. She was not crazy, or wrong, or a hypochondriac. All of these years, all of the creams and lotions that never worked, all of the intense itching and discomfort, all of the suffering, and now, thanks to her grandson's serious food allergies, and her daughters persistence that she go to the allergist with them, now there is an opportunity for her to bring all of it to end. To finally be able to control her skin disorder.

Isn't it amazing how things work out?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Takeover

Vegan Double Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

I took some over to my neighbor, and she loved them. "Mm," she said "these taste like cupcakes." Of course! "You'd never guess. They are so moist." Yipee! Her one year old daughter enjoyed hers too (she got a mini heart cupcake). My three year old niece liked hers so much she nearly ate the paper in her attempt to get every last drop of cupcake. My mother wants me to make some to take to her job. Vegan cupcakes are taking over my world!

I used the recipe for Basic Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes from (which they got from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World). I threw in some chocolate chips (allergy friendly, from enjoylife) and made one or two minor tweaks. If you are a recipe person, the recipe will yield great results, I just don't like to follow directions and always have to add my own little flair. These do have wheat and soy, but could be made with rice milk and a different flour and then they would be free of the big eight. As they are, they are free of 6 of the big eight, totally safe for vegans, and absolutely tasty. Seriously, there are only 4 left and I'm already eyeing them...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Back in the Kitchen

I like to read (and see) what other people are whipping up in their kitchens, so I'm sure you'll enjoy reading about what I'm fixing. Today I made fragrant jasmine rice (with cilantro, coconut milk and a little onion), orange glazed carrots, string beans, baked tilapia, and sweet potato biscuits (made with soy milk and vegan margarine). It was delicious. A good mix of sweet and savory IMO. And completely dairy free! I was going to use bread crumbs on the fish, but bread crumbs contain milk and eggs, so that was out. I have never baked fish fillets with nothing but the seasoning before, if we are going to do that then we use the whole fish and braise it. So, I was a little nervous, but it turned out fine. So, for your viewing pleasure, here's a plate of food:
I'm going to make some more vegan cupcakes. When I do I'll try to remember to post a picture or two of those also. Bon appetit!

CNN - Urban Homesteaders

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Going Green

It's official, I am not a yummy mummy. I am an earthy mummy (and still a bit yummy, if I may say so myself).

I have started composting. Yipee! My mother is trying to grow a lemon tree, and I figured that with the horrible sandy soil down here, it could use a lot of help. I actually started composting a while back, but the rest of the family is getting into it now, saving our kitchen scraps and other bio-degradable stuff. Spending my early years in NYC meant that there were not a lot of gardens, trees and general greenery, so all of this is new to me. I am so glad I can google "composting" and get some informative videos. We are low tech for now, we put the kitchen scraps in an old butter containter, but better low tech than nothing at all. So, we'll see how it goes, and how the lemon tree grows. I'm hoping that eventually I will be the proud owner of a green thumb.

For years, I have preferred to buy natural and organic produce, but haven't always had the income or opportunity. The little one's food allergies has definitely helped in that area, as most allergy free foods are also organic. More expensive? Yes. But now I don't have a choice, so I have to find other ways to save. I can't really eat less, being that I'm already hungry ALL the time (or so it seems)...but I do try and find good coupons and shop sales. Buying organic foods makes me feel good. Good about what I'm feeding myself and my family. I took my sister shopping with me, and pointed out that the organic foods had ingredients that we could - drum roll please - pronounce. Tri-color pasta was made of wheat, and beets, spinach and tomato to get the red, green, and orange coloring. Although she, like many of my family members, has her reservations about "health" food (mostly concern that it tastes bad) she will admit that it is nice to know exactly what is in your food.

And it's not just with food that I'm going green. I've started to research ways to build a "green" house, or convert an existing home to make it more green. Solar power, harvesting rain water, all of it. I might be starting small, but I'm thinking big. Big and green!

Monday, April 20, 2009


My mother calls her grandchildren "bubala". It is interesting, because I just found out that bubalah is a Yiddish term of endearment, often used by grandmothers to refer to their grandchildren. It is usually translated as "sweetheart". It is amazing how words can find their way around the world. My mother does not speak Yiddish, and yet this word, meaning intact, has found its way into her vernacular. It's a small world after all...

And speaking of words, I recently re-read a few of my previous posts. I need to proofread. Please forgive my plethora of errors, I will try to be a better editor and poster in the future.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The woman should wear the clothes

Not the clothes wear the woman. My mother drilled this into my head as a young woman. "You wear clothes, the clothes don't wear you".

Over the years, I have gone from being a conservative dresser, to short skirts and form fitting clothes, and back again. I have noticed the differences in the way that I am perceived, and treated, and the way I feel about myself depending on the way I dress.

In the past few months, I have returned to a more conservative form of dress. My clothes fit well, but are not tight, and most people notice that the majority of my body is covered with clothing (as opposed to a bikini top and mini skirt which is commonly worn in this part of the country). I'm not talking about post-baby frumpy mummy style, with sweat pants every day. I look put together...wouldn't want my style savvy siblings to be embarrassed to be seen with me. But there is an absence of skin and form fitting clothing. In addition to my conservative attire, most days when I leave the house, my hair is covered. The type of covering changes, depending on my mood, but there is usually some sort of fabric covering my hair.

And I have discovered that there is a degree of freedom when I am dressed more modestly. I'm not sure how to explain it, but it is there. I know that women should be free to wear whatever they want, and I support individual choice about how to dress. But in my personal experience, how I am dressed has a direct correlation to the way in which I am perceived and treated by others. And that changes how I interact with those around me. Not everyone, of course, some people are always nice or polite or respectful, and other are mean or nasty or rude to everyone they meet. But I have noticed that as my clothing became more conservative, and especially after I started covering my hair more often, I navigated my way through life a little differently. I've gotten some rude stars and comments, but overall people are more respectful and polite. Especially men. I noticed this when I was a teenager in NYC, how differently men interacted with me when I had on tight jeans versus a summer dress, and the difference is even more pronounced now. It might not be right, or fair, but that is life.

However, it is not only about other people, it is about me. I change also. It takes a different type of confidence to dress modestly. Dressing modestly is not about shame, like many think. I am not ashamed of my body or my sexuality, the opposite is actually true. I think I look pretty good! I spent a few years try to overcome low self esteem and poor body image, and during that time I wore certain things just because I had something to prove. I no longer have anything to prove, and so now I wear clothes because I like them, I feel and look good in them. And for me, that means that my clothing has a little more material than other women of similar stature usually wear.

The thing that has been most interesting to me is the compliments. I get more compliments on my outfits (from women) and my beauty (from men) than I think I've ever gotten in my life. Many people notice that I look nice first, and then that my hair is covered, and then they do a double take and realize that most of my body is "covered" also. And, I think, that is the way it should be.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I know that Chris Brown has fallen out of favor at the moment, but I'm going to quote him (and Keri Hilson, and the actual songwriter) anyway...

I don't know what your love has done to me
Think I'm invincible I see
Through the me
I used to be

You changed my whole life
Don't know what your doing to me with your love
I'm feeling all Super human
You did that to me
Super human heart beats in me
Nothing can stop me here with you, superhuman
Super human

Since I've been flying and righting the wrongs
Feels almost like I had it all along
I can see tomorrow
But every problem is gone because
I flew everywhere with love inside of me
It's unbelievable to see
How love could set me free

You changed my whole life
Don't know what your doing to me with your love
I'm feeling all Super human
You did that to me
Super human heart beats in me
Nothing can stop me here with you, superhuman
Super human

As corny and cheesy and mushy as it might sound, this is how I feel about my husband. Even typing that makes me feel a little funny, a little nervous. Nervous about the responses. You see, so many people don't believe in love, don't believe in marriage, don't believe in love songs like this one. Not just general people, some of you, reading this right now, read those lyrics and scoffed. Maybe you scoffed at me, perhaps yourself, or even the very concept. There are times when the naysayers or the lack of support or enthusiasm get to me. And sometimes, I wonder if maybe I am wrong, maybe it is a fleeting illusion, maybe the other shoe will drop.

But the reality is that I do feel superhuman. Even the sound of his voice brings peace to my spirit, clarity to my thoughts, and a smile to my lips. He knows how to make me laugh. He is my fellow adventure seeking, wanderlust loving, on the go liver of life. He might not be perfect, but he is definitely perfect for me. He is my tall, dark and handsome. And if the other shoe is anything like the first, then it can drop.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Vegan Cupcakes

In light of the little ones food allergies, I've had to adjust my diet. I spent three days rather hungry, as I realized that my pantry was FULL of hidden allergens. It is actually a blessing in disguise, because it made me realize that I've slipped off of the fresh food diet of my youth. So, we went grocery shopping and purchased a lot of "ground food". I'll be going back to the cooking of my youth, which my husband will enjoy immensely as it is also the type of food to which he is accustomed. A friend of mine has also offered to purchase me an allergy free cookbook, which I think will be a valuable resource. I've scoured the Internet, and spoken to some friends, and found "top-8 free" and vegan cooking resources. But one area was still coming up short. Dessert. I love my fresh fruit and all, but sometime this woman wants a chocolate lava cake. A friend of mine suggested that I get Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World. So, I found a few of the recipes online, and decided to try one out before I purchased the book.

I took the plain vanilla cupcake recipe, added some vegan chocolate chips, and voila, a vegan cupcake. The thing that I liked about the recipe was that it wasn't a "regular" cupcake veganized. It didn't call for egg substitutes, and things of that nature. I seems that the authors created the recipe from the ground up, without the dairy and animal byproducts. And, it was easy. No strange ingredients that I can't find, or afford. In fact, I had all of the ingredients in my house already. Easy. So, was it tasty?

You bet it was! This is not a healthy cupcake. It is full of sugar and fat and vanilla and lovely deliciousness. If you want a healthy cupcake, this is not for you. If you want a GOOD cupcake (or cake or brownie) this this might be the book for you. I liked the cupcakes so much I ate four! I've never eaten four cupcakes in a row in my life. I only stopped myself because I knew it was a bad idea to eat any more. Everyone else in the house liked them too, a few people liked the vegan cupcake better than its non-vegan counterpart. The flavor is different, lighter, but it tastes like a cupcake. Most people would not believe that this cupcake was vegan.

I'm excited! I can make desserts for parties and celebrations. I can have parties and cookouts and get-togethers, and most people will be able to eat the foods I make. I won't have to cook two different meals for my family. My sister and mother, who love to bake, can still bless us with their culinary skills. We can all eat, drink and be merry, and no one suffers. My son and others with food allergies or dietary restrictions can enjoy everything. My husband, and others that eat everything, will love the well cooked, tasty food, and won't feel like they are suffering or eating tree bark.

I'm having a party...

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


1) Unscrew the green cap of the carrying case and remove unit.
2) Grasp unit with the black tip pointing downward.
3) Form fist around the unit (black tip down).
4) With your other hand, pull off the gray safety release.
5) Hold black tip near outer thigh.
6) Swing and jab firmly into outer thigh until it clicks so that unit is perpendicular to the thigh.
7) Hold firmly against thigh for approximately 10 seconds.
8) Remove unit from thigh and massage injection site for 10 seconds.
9) Call 911 and seek immediate medical attention.

These are the instructions for my son's EpiPen Jr.®.

After a harrowing experience at a local restaurant, I took him to his pediatrician. We had allergy testing done in November, and I was still trying to get the results. After telling the doctor about the experience at the restaurant, which included hives and shortness of breath, he asked his staff why we didn't have the results of the allergy testing. They called the lab, which I had asked them to do 4-5 times in the past 4 months, and got the results. We took these results and went to see the allergist, who also performed some skin testing.

Based on the results of the blood work, skin testing, and his history, my son has a few food allergies/sensitivities, some severe enough to necessitate the EpiPen®. They also require a change in his diet, and mine, as he is still nursing. I was already a label reader, and now my detective skills will be honed. And my cooking skills also. It is a lot to process all at once, and requires a lot of education, and research, especially because of how much we travel. Daunting, but I know that good things will come of this experience. And I'm an Ivy-League grad and earthy mama, I'm up to the challenge.

What is he allergic to? Peanuts. Moderate, but this is a common allergy. Eggs. His most severe. Milk. Less severe, but combined with the others we should be careful. And chicken. Yes, chicken. I wonder if it is because much of the commercially available chicken contains arsenic. Hm, I guess there wouldn't be any arsenic in what is used for allergy testing. I guess.

So, I have a nine month old, and an EpiPen®. Please forgive me if, in the future, I struggle with being overprotective. Forget visions of sugarplum fairies, I have visions of anaphylaxis dancing in my head.