Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!
Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Endorsement: Chobani Yogurt


Plain 0% Greek Yogurt
(SOURCE)

I love Chobani Yogurt!  Chobani is a Greek yogurt with great flavor that comes in several varieties. It is perfect for a quick breakfast or snack. Let me just start off by saying that when I grew up, I hated yogurt. Never a fan. But as I got older, I "grew" into yogurt and eventually liked it. I never thought in a million years though that I would develop a taste for Greek yogurt! Out of the several brands on the market, Chobani is definitely my favorite brand. 

Greek yogurt has a different flavor and texture than regular yogurt. It is creamier, heavier, and more indulgent. I feel it has a tangy flavor about it. It's definitely an acquired taste. If you are just beginning to include Greek yogurt in your diet, you might want to try one of the flavored ones first. It may be a little easier to handle on your palate. Some people compare it to sour cream. I don't think it is that sour, just tangy.


Pomegranate 0% Greek Yogurt
(SOURCE)

Chobani has several flavors:  Plain, vanilla, honey, black cherry, lemon, blueberry, raspberry, peach, strawberry, and pomegranate.  My favorite is the pomegranate flavor. Chobani adds whole pomegranate seeds to it for an added punch.  The plain variety is perfect for adding your own fruit, granola, brown sugar, or other sweeteners.

Greek yogurt is also better for you than regular yogurt so says Ohio State University nutritionist Julie Kennel Shertzer. She explains that both Greek and regular yogurt are "excellent sources of calcium and good sources of protein, their bacteria cultures aid digestion, and the unsweetened low- and nonfat varieties are low in calories. But according to Shertzer, Greek yogurt does have a few nutritional advantages over regular yogurt:  'Since it's a more concentrated product, it packs a few more grams of protein per serving,' she says. 'It's also a bit lower in sugar and carbohydrates, since lactose, a form of sugar present in all dairy products, is removed with the whey.'"



So don't be scared of Greek yogurt like I once was! Try something different which is also good for you and you may find you like it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Allergies

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I took off from the blog for the last couple of days. My allergies have been horrendous. When they get that bad, the medicine I take just allows me to barely function. These are not the sniffles that one gets during the spring. These are full blown head-blown-off sneezing exhausting put-to-bed allergies! Besides high blood pressure, it is one more gift from my mother. I used to remind her of this constantly to elicit sympathy. Being better at Jewish guilt than I, she would remind me of the never ending pain I put her through at childbirth.

My allergies stemmed from problems as a babe. As an infant, I suffered from a disorder called autoimmune neutropenia. Basically, my body did not make white blood cells. I was susceptible to infections and if it had gotten worse, I could have become like the “boy in the bubble” story from years ago, cut off from the outside world due to no immune system. Luckily and miraculously, I started producing white blood cells to where my immune system, at age 12, was comparable with others of my age. I had bad allergies though, real bad. The doctor told my parents that this could possibly be as a result of the neutropenia. I was allergic to so many things; I think I counted over 50 different things at one point.

Here is a partial list of stuff when I was most allergic: Chocolate, strawberries, wheat, corn, nuts, mold, grass, hay, pollens, plants, trees, dried leaves from the fall, dust, cats, dogs, and bird feathers. Almost anything that rubbed against me caused me to breakout in welts or hives. It was just not any particular season, it was all year round. Interestingly enough, I was never allergic to any shellfish (thank God). I have outgrown the food allergies, but still have the others.

(SOURCE)
In grade school, I did try the allergy shots, but I was allergic to them as well. My allergy doctor kept trying to lower the dosage but it would still make me sick to my stomach. Years of different medications followed. I would switch medications every 6 months as my body would develop a resistance to them. And oh yes, don’t forget the scratch tests every year where they would prick your back and rub on an allergen to see if you reacted to it. My back would become a landscape of hives. The itching was maddening!

These days, I still suffer. I take allergy medicines for eyes, for skin, 3 types for asthma, one daily medicine, and one nose spray. Usually I only need 4 a day out of the 7. I have developed a resistance to my cats, but put me around other cats and my allergies are triggered! Most days the allergies are an annoyance which I deal with. Some weeks, like just this last week, are absolutely horrible. I sneeze, wheeze, cough, and itch so much that it mentally and physically exhausts me. Any downtime is spent in the shower trying to clean out the allergens or in bed drugged from medication.

I am finally feeling better though. It now takes about a week of recovery until I feel 100% better. Allergies really suck. It could always be worse though so I usually only complain during the really bad weeks.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fall is here!

I love Fall. It has always been my favorite season. First off though, a very Happy Birthday to my Dad! I love you Dad! Hope you have a great day!

It looks like we didn't have an Indian Summer this year. Went right into chillier weather. It's great sleeping weather though. Love sleeping with the windows open and hunkering down under a nice warm quilt. I woke up last night around 1 am and heard an owl somewhere in the trees. If it had been the weekend, I might have gone outside and tried to spy it with a flashlight.

My mums are doing well. I got mostly yellow to brighten up the yard.  There is some purple and burgundy colored ones mixed in. Haven't seen the hummingbirds, so I guess they have already flown south. I am going pick up some pumpkins this weekend and get out the Halloween stuff to put up towards the first of the month.

I love displaying pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn, corn husks, and anything else that gets me into the mood for the fall season.  Soon I will be putting away the lawn furniture, deck stuff, candles, turning over the bird baths, etc, in preparation for the coming winter. Spiced cider, mulled burgundy wine, and boilo will be made. What is boilo you ask? It is a Schuylkill County secret! It is a spiced whiskey toddy heated up. Every family has their own recipe and their are contests held to determine the best! I will post the recipe I have once I find it.

Til then, have a good weekend!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How I Almost Died

Death. It's scary and it's inevitable. Older folks often say they aren't afraid to die. From what I understand, mostly it's because they have lived a full life and understand the inevitable. Others who are terminally ill say they aren't afraid to die as they have accepted it as part of their path on this earth. Young people think they are invulnerable and it will never happen to them.  Middle age is when you start to think of it more.

As you get older, in your 30's and 40's on up, you question your life, where it has gone, what you have done, etc. At 40, I realized,  hopefully I am only half way through and I still have 40 years to go. What do I wanna do significant with these next 40 years?  You are also at the age where your parents begin to have more health issues and possibly pass away.  You really begin to question life and mortality.

I wanted to share the three times that I almost died. I have never really discussed these incidents. Every now and then I think about these times and they serve as a wake up call that I am very lucky to be here.

When I was very young, say 6 or 7, my family was eating at the Ellisburg Delicatessen in Cherry Hill, NJ. We always went there. I remember the big Kosher dill pickles than came with every sandwich.  I was eating a huge Kosher hot dog and started to choke.  At so young an age I didn't know the international "hands on neck" symbol to alert others so I just sat there hoping it would stop. It didn't. I couldn't breathe and I started to fade. The last thing I remember was Mom saying "Oh my god, Marc's choking!" She stuck her hand down my throat and pulled out half the hot dog. I started crying and she yelled at me for trying to eat the entire thing so quickly. God love her. She was so scared and so was I. What can I say, Kosher all beef franks are so good.

One summer day in my early 20's, I was walking west on Spruce Street with one of my best friends Grant. We were passing the Touraine apartment building, a very ritzy building, and for some reason I stopped. Grant stopped and said, "What's up?"  Ironically just as he stopped, a terra cotta planter smashed two feet in front of us on the sidewalk. It had fallen from one of the balconies above. If I hadn't stopped, it would have hit one or both of us in the head coming down. After our initial freak out, we just stood there staring at it. We went to a bar and drank martinis the rest of the afternoon.

The last incident involved a Septa regional rail train during winter in the last 90's. Septa is Philly's transit service. It was at the Elwyn platform just past Media, PA. I was running late and was ... of course ... trying to catch the train. It was snowy and icy and I tripped crossing the tracks with the train barreling towards me. The train was about 25 feet from me but could not have stopped in time. I was on my knees and I threw myself onto the platform gasping in shock in front of about 10 people. No one said anything and just stared at me. I was shocked, angry at myself for doing something so stupid, and then angry at others for not asking if I was alright. Some business woman did say to me, "You know you could have got hit!"  I turned to her and screamed, "Ya think?!?!"  I just remember being SO angry at myself.

These three incidents are seared into my mind. Life is too short, anything can happen. Live life to the fullest and don't take anything or anyone for granted. And oh yes, some lessons learned:  I now chew my food slowly; I am actually nervous sometimes walking by tall buildings with balconies; and I never EVER run for the train. I'll take the next one and still be here, thank you very much.

Friday, September 16, 2011

My Embarrassing Tattoo Story

During the 1990’s, my brother Adam was inked with several tattoos. Some of these were done while he was in the Marines. My sister Sheryl even had a couple. I, on the other hand, decided to get piercings. Nothing too crazy and I soon grew out of this phase of my life. I never thought about a tattoo until I discussed it with my brother and sister before meeting them at my mother’s home in the Florida Keys.

The three of us were visiting my Mom when she lived in Islamorada, Florida. We decided to get a tattoo which would reflect the sibling bond as well as closeness with my mom that we all shared. As far family goes, we have always been extremely close: best friends, confidantes, compatriots, comrades in life, thick as thieves, loyal to the core.  My siblings and I became closer when my parents divorced in the early 90's. We vowed that we wouldn’t ever let each other down and always be there for each other. Twenty-something years later we have kept that vow. 

Adam, Sheryl, and I decided to get a tattoo which would reflect that closeness, that bond. It would be ceremonial in meaning. Mom was excited for us! Something that would tie us together. We decided on the Chinese symbol for "family".  The three of us had lunch on Duval Street, Key West and ended up at a famous tattoo parlor on the island.

My siblings somehow convinced me to go first. This is your first indication that this event wouldn't go how it was supposed to. I suffered through my tattoo. The pain was excruciating. I was traumatized. I felt abused. I knew I would suffer emotional distress from the physical pain for years to come! OK, none of that happened. I was fine and survived. I got a Chinese symbol tattoo about the size of a quarter meaning "family" on my waist.

Sheryl was supposed to go next. In the 2 hours it took to get my tattoo (again, a little fib, it was more like 15 minutes to get the ink splotch), she decided that she wanted to get the top of her ear pierced! Oh the humanity of it all! The treachery! The disloyalty! I took it all in stride. After all, my big bro was next in line to get the now blistering Chinese symbol tattoo weeping on my waist.  I knew I could count on Adam to remain loyal to his little brother.

Yeah right. Adam, during my tattooing and my sister's ear piercing, was busy looking through the countless tattoo photo albums scattered around the parlor. Adam said something like, "Sorry bro, but I want something more tribal."  Eghads! I was thrown under the tattoo bus again! Was our family bond no longer sacred?  I was the only one who got this friggin' tattoo!!! I would have gotten a something cooler! Something like a snake, a scorpion, I don't know ... just something other than this friggin' symbol!!!

The only satisfying part of that day was seeing my brother turn white as a ghost from the pain of having a long tribal tattoo scraped into his mid abdomen down to the thigh along the crotch area. Yes Adam, I went there. Adam, at one point, almost passed out from the pain. And I stood by with a devilish grin on my face.
FAMILY?

So here I was with a tattoo the size of a quarter, which could be mistaken for a large birthmark, if the birthmark was in the shape of a Chinese symbol that meant family. My sister had her ear pierced in a painful place, of which I enjoyed her discomfort. And my brother had a large tattoo over a 1/3 of his torso. Ditto on enjoying his pain. It sort of made up for the fact that my family loyalty now gave new meaning  to the phrase, "Everyone for themselves." But I jest. It made for a good story and over the years, I grew to like my little tattoo.

Years later, while working at the Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia as a purchaser, I found out something out about my little tattoo which could be described as ... the icing on the cake.  I was picking up my work clothes from our uniform room which was run by a very sweet diminutive older Chinese woman named Lucy. I knew Lucy ever since I had started working at the hotel. I don't know why I suddenly chose this particular time to show Lucy my tattoo, but I went for it.

"Hey Lucy, how ya doin'? Did I ever tell you that I have a tattoo on my waist which is a Chinese symbol? It means family because my brother and sister and I are really close! Do you wanna see it? Do you? DO YOU?"  I was so excited that I could actually show someone my tattoo who would know what it means!

"Yeah, OK Marc, show me your tattoo," she said eyeing me cautiously.

I lifted my shirt and exposed my tattoo to Lucy. She looked at it a minute, squinted, then leaned forward awkwardly close about 6 inches from my waist, still looking at my tattoo.  


"Well...,"she began, straightening out,"that means family but not how you think it means family.  It means family like Chinese Mafia!!!"
"WHAT!?!?!?"  I exclaimed. I turned scarlet red and make a hasty exist from the scene completely mortified.  In retrospect, I guess it could have be worse and mean something else!

So if you are ever with me having dinner in Chinatown and we are jumped afterwards in an alley by some gang, allow me to lift my shirt and show them the mark of the Chinese Mafia and I guarantee they won't touch us. In fact, I will probably be asked to be their leader.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Sister and the $4.00 Washcloths

I love my sister Sheryl. She makes me laugh at the things she says. I see more and more of my mother in her. Sheryl has taken to making these inflammatory statements when she wants to drive home a point.

Perfect example:

I was driving home from work and talking with her on my cell as we often do. She was finishing her day at the office. I was so excited that I had just purchased a couple washcloths from Kohl's which were 60% off on sale, or $4.00 each. They were soft and fluffy. I always love a good sale! Not one to ever let me have my balloon. Sheryl popped it with a three foot needle.
"UNBELIEVABLE!!!  You could have bought a pack of them for $4! You spent too much!" 
I started howling and mimicking her, "THAT'S UNBELIEVABLE! YOU SPENT TOO MUCH MARC! A WHOLE $4.00 ON A WASHCLOTH! THAT'S JUST UNBELIEVABLE!"
Sheryl retorted,"I am frugal!!"
"But Sheryl," I pleaded, "They were originally $10.00 each and I saved $6.00 on each!"
"$10.00? Who spends $10.00 on a washcloth!"
"But I only spent $4.00 on each!"
"Marc, that is still too much!"
"You are becoming our Mother!" I exclaimed laughing.
And she admitted she was. 
Haha! I love her. :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sadness over 9/11

I have been rather melancholy this past week. I figure most of the reason was that this weekend was the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. I thought about it and mourned for those that were lost. I prayed for all the families, spouses, and children who lost a brother, sister, child, spouse, or parent. I didn't want to graphically "relive" the events online or TV because I just didn't want to go there again. But I did.

How could you not? My sister and I were talking and found ourselves once again, riveted to the news reports. Overwhelmed with emotion as the buildings were hit and then, one after the other, fell. I gave more attention to what happened in Shanksville, PA, and the Pentagon as I did not know all of the stories, survivor accounts, stories of rescue, and the stories of lost souls that came from those two events.

I didn't realize until after the fact and reading some of my friend's online posts, that several of my friends knew people that were lost in the World Trade Center. It definitely hits close to home, even 10 years later. Of course being as emotional as I can be, it carried over to missing my Mom. It was a rollercoaster weekend of emotions.

Therefore, my thoughts and prayers go out to those that have lost someone or knew of someone who passed away in the events of 9/11. It may be cliche' to some, but we really must never forget.  But in the same breath, the worst of humanity brought out some of the best in humanity with the compassion and caring that people showed as the events unfolded.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Endorsement: San Pellegrino Aranciata and Limonata

I LOVE San Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water. I find it very refreshing on a hot summer day. With a slice of lemon or lime, it is perfect. Some mineral waters has too much of a mineral taste to them. Dating back to 1899 and still from the same source in the Italian Alps, San Pellegrino has a light flavor without any distracting or overpowering smell. It's delicate effervescent bubbles will tantalize your mouth.

San Pellegrino Aranciata and Limonata takes it to another level! Aranciata was first produced in 1932. It contains real orange juice from concentrate but just enough for flavor and not enough to bog it down. And again, you have that tickling effervescence with each sip!  Limonata was produced later has 12% real lemon juice. It has a full flavor, not overly sweet like lemonade. Slightly tart and yet it is light and refreshing enough that you will want to grab another can!

I personally like the Aranciata more. Both flavors have 140 calories per can. I would rather drink this though, than the sodas, fruit drinks, or iced teas which contain high fructose corn syrup. Instead, flavored San Pellegrino contains real sugar. If you are still worried about the sugar, buy the original San Pellegrino and drop in a lemon, lime, or orange wedge!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Baby Calf

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On Saturday, I was on my way to the city to meet my sister for a Labor Day trip down to the shore.  Sheryl would drive us down to her friend Edna's condo in Atlantic City where we would meet up with our friend Marie for a day of drinking, beach lounging, fun, and the sun. Sher was staying over the holiday. Unfortunately I could only get away for the day, but a day away at the beach was sure to be relaxing enough!

I had just connected with the PA Turnpike towards Philly and was busy chatting away on my cell with my Dad out in California. On long trips to work or Philly, I use those times to catch up with friends and family.  The countryside along the PA Turnpike is either the hilly farms and countryside that PA is to famous for or miles of woods and fields.

I glanced over to my right as I passed a dairy farm. The herd of black and white dairy cows were lounging in the grass resting in the late morning sun or standing around eating their daily fill of grass. Standing in the middle of the field was a particular dairy cow which before my very eyes gave birth to a calf! It had just happened. I slowed down as best I could and exclaimed to my father, "Oh my God, hold on a second Dad! Just hold on!"  I drove slower past the field.  The black baby calf was lying in grass still attached to the mother with about 3 feet of placenta and membrane. I was in shock and amazed at what I had just witnessed.  I quickly told my father excitedly. Dad responded, "You had better put this in your blog!" Haha, so Dad, here it is!

The miracle of birth never ceases to amaze me. Whether it be human or animal. I have been able to witness, either on video or in person, a baby elephant being born, a beluga whale, a dolphin, puppies, kittens, foals, little chicks, ducks, and calves. Seeing it happen just takes your breath away. Here is one of a form of life taking it's first breath. Just amazing, every single time.