Me, Sher, and Ad

Me, Sher, and Ad
Bro Adam and sis Sher, my rocks!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Organizing on a Dreary Day

Back in Eastern PA where the weather has been more like Seattle, no yard work was to be accomplished on Memorial Day weekend. Although the temp was cool, I just didn't feel like getting my sneaks wet traipsing through overgrown grass or my knees wet from weeding flower beds. Instead, I decided to pick a project which I had been putting off and finally tackle it.

I spent the 2nd half of my weekend organizing mismatched sets of antique silver plate, a couple sterling, and various serving pieces, some old, some new,  some good shape, some bad. It was the perfect therapeutic activity to calm my mind on a misty, foggy, drizzly day. I enjoy collecting various serving pieces from the Art Deco and Art Nouveau eras. They really only have value to me but I love 'em. Gracefully feminine and delicate features on certain pieces while others showed classically angular chrome Art Deco lines.

Art Deco on the left, Art Nouveau on the right. 
I really like things organized: CDs, record albums, photo albums, books, DVDs all fall into this group. Yes I am old school, LOL I have not yet organized my MP3 files. I organize my clothes by season, then by color. Socks are divided up into work and play. Ties by color. Dishes, Tupperware, pots and pans according to size. Booze on the downstairs bar by type. I think as people, we like a certain structure to our lives. It gives a sense of calmness to chaos.

I'm not talking rigidity to the organization. My bathroom closet definitely gets messed up. My work shirts are sometimes all over the place. Sneakers and dress shoes in one big pile. It definitely happens and I usually trip over that pile of my shoes in the middle of the room. But once you organize that pile, once you line of those books in descending order from tall to short, one you color code those ties ... oh WOW what a sense of comfort.

But what is it about organization that we like to strive for? For me, it gives a sense of therapeutic safety and relaxation. The feeling that this is my stuff, I have touched it, gone over it, and rearranged it into some semblance of order. There is also the satisfaction of going through items such as serving pieces which I have collected over the years and reliving the pleasure and memory of buying them, studying them. Then there is the pragmatic feeling of creating order from a pile of chaos and mess.

The human mind seems to like a sense of order. Looking at a disorganized pile of socks evokes feelings of restlessness, anxiety, and nervousness. Looking at a stack of organized books or CDs gives one a feeling of stabilization, order, and facilitates understanding. And yes, it happens even with a stack of old school CDs or record albums.  :)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

What's In a Name ... Meme?

I grew up with a bunch of nicknames. To my brother and sister, I was Marc the Shark. To my high school friends, I was Marcus. My fraternity name was Schroeder. I was blond, played piano like Schroeder in the Peanuts cartoons, also looked a little like Ricky Schroeder at the time.  During my hotel/bar/restaurant days in Philly in the 90s, I was nicknamed Mitz (long story I will never divulge - unless you buy me a beer or two). LOL

These days, the Internet name generator memes are all the rage. Remember the first one though before the Internet took over? Your porn star name? It was infamous! That was the one where your porn star name was the first name of your first pet and your last name was the first street name you grew up on. Hence, I became .... Smokey Maple. Nice, huh?

The name game memes are ubiquitous on Facebook and other social media platforms. I come across a new one every holiday or season. They have become as annoying as those stories you see on your feed you link into but have to friggin' hit the next button for every new page. I don't have time to hit 'next' 32 times just to see some dude wrestling a boa constrictor! Argh!

I decided to tackle these name memes once and for all. I posted my 15 favorites because I know you are just dying to know what my "stoner elf name" or my "pirate name" is. And I have to admit, it was kinda fun.

Star Destroyer name:  Black Chicken Nugget (now THAT will instill fear in those annoying Rebels!)

Christmas Elf name:  Pixie Glitter-Balls (LOL Yeah, that's me.)

Stoner Elf name:  Buddy Cottonmouth (Nailed it.)

Drunken Elf name:  Lit Snowpee (That is just adorable ...)

Pirate name:  Dead Man Creeper Bart (Nah, I'd rather be Scallyway Squilly Hornswaggle)

Leprechaun name:  Bleary McDoodles (I LOVE this since my Mom's nickname was Abby Doodles!)

Blues name:  Jailhouse Bones Rivers (pretty cool)

Game of Thrones sword name:  Sovereign Spirit (Beware, I'll will strike you down!)

Super Hero name:  Chocolate Tornado (Um, no thanks. It sounds like something that happens after bad food poisoning...)

Snarky Super Hero name:  Plucky Dare Devil (Now THIS I can work with.)

Heavy Metal Band name:  Satan's Death (Kind of an oxymoron though, isn't it? I mean if I love Satan and heavy metal, I wouldn't wanna see him dead.)

Country Star name:  Johnny "Hoss" McDean  ... Famous for ... Nothing Matters Than a 12 Point Buck (Well I do live in Schuylkill County, PA!)

DJ Name:  DJ Cracka Ass Banger (HAHAHAHAHA! PERFECT!)

Wrestler name:  Outlaw Viper (And my move would be the "Shaken Martini" lol - I bartend in the wrestling ring, too.)


Zombie name:  Moldy Haunted Soul

That would be awful as I am highly allergic to mold. I'd be the only Zombie in existence with an Albuterol inhaler for my post-apocalyptic asthma. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Dreaded Red Eye Flight

Red eyed tree frog

My sister and I were discussing this week the dreaded "red-eye" flight for our upcoming June trip out to California to see my Dad. You know the flight. You think it's a great idea at the time because it's SO cheap and are so that you are gonna be able to sleep on the plane and wake up all refreshed on the opposite coast at 6 am. Then you realize after you land that you've just had the sleep from Hell! Hence the term RED-EYE.

There is no snuggling comfortably on a red-eye either (unless you are me, keep reading). The guy behind you is kicking your seat. You hear that overhead "bong bong" from two rows ahead of you calling for the flight attendant at 2 am. There is the turbulence. There is the captain telling you to fasten your seat belts lest you get catapulted out of your seat. And of course, if you are on the aisle seat, there is always the person next to you who needs to visit the bathroom at 3 am. UGH!

This brought back memories of my own red-eye flight back in October 2014 when John and I traveled from San Francisco to back to Philly after visiting family. We had wanted to have a drink before the flight at the airport bar. As luck would have it, traffic driving back into San Francisco was a nightmare. We made our flight with only 15 minutes to spare at the most. We were those guys you see literally RUNNING down the concourse screaming at people to get out of the way, each with a carry on slung over our shoulders, holding onto a personal bag with water bottles, magazines, newspapers, and books dropping everywhere.

We made it onto the flight. John took the window seat immediately, taking over the seat rest with his massive meat hooks. GRRRR. I was sandwiched in the center between him and a very Rubenesque older woman to my right. I was the ham and cheese between to slices of bread. The peanut butter between two crackers. The pea between mattresses. You get the idea.

After we lifted off, I ordered a red wine from the flight attendant. John ordered a Scotch. My lady next to me jokingly asked, "Is it happy hour somewhere?"
I replied that I wanted to make sure I sleep like a baby on the flight back to Philly."
"Mmm-hmmm honey, you got the right idea," she replied ordering herself an amaretto on the rocks. "We gonna sleep real well tonight," she quipped.

After the wine, I dozed off pretty quickly. I woke up at 4 am from a sound sleep, jostled from a bit of turbulence. My arm draped over the woman sitting next to me, my head resting on her ample bosom. No that was definitely not a warm pillow. I groggily came to, sitting back into my seat. I was mortified.

"Oh gosh, I'm so sorry!" I exclaimed to which she responded in soothing southern voice (or was it a South Philly voice?) "That's alright honey, you were lookin' so comfortable and peaceful, I didn't want to disturb ya!"
"Gee thanks," I responded nervously and quietly. John was sawing wood next to me up against the window. I don't think I slept the rest of the flight, surprised I wasn't slugged by the poor woman.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Monster Allergic Reaction: Erythritol

Marc with Hives
(Cabbage Patch link)

By chance, I completed this blog post on Mother's Day so I guess I will put it up dedicated to my dear Mother Abby. Not a day goes by where I don't think about you, miss you, and love you. And I guess I will thank my Mother for passing on a whole mess of allergies to me, LOL. It's not so bad, I live with them. Sometimes as you will see below, a new allergy will crop up and be added to my list. As my Mom once said to me, "Your allergies? Well you can thank your Mother for that one!"

A couple years ago, my doctor recommended I stop drinking so much coffee as well as those energy drinks. I drank the energy drinks fairly often like at least once every couple days. It didn't matter the brand, just whatever was on sale or available. He had stated that he thought there was nothing beneficial to them from a nutritional standpoint and he'd rather have me drink my coffee instead. I did not completely give up my coffee but cut back on it as well. 

The other week I was shopping at the local supermarket after work. I didn't feel like making an extra stop for cup of coffee before the ride home so I grabbed a Monster Energy brand drink. I hadn't had one in ages so I figured I'd save time, grab one, and be on my way. I drank them before with no bad reaction whatsoever: the Regular, the Lo-carb, and the Zero Ultra. I decided to try the Absolute Zero variety to see what it tasted like.

I started drinking it, had about 1/4 of the can and within 5 minutes, my armpits.... YES my armpits, started itching. I started sweating pretty profusely. I was perplexed to say the least. I checked the car temperature, maybe it was on high heat? Nope. I thought about my antiperspirant, maybe a reaction? Nope, I'd been using it for weeks with no issue. I thought about the laundry detergent and my shirt. New detergent? Nope. I was using the same brand for the last several weeks as well.

The itching got worse and I had to pull over to the slower lane. My legs itched, my chest itched, my neck itched, arms, hands, feet, my "nuggets N tender" itched. WHAT THE HECK???? I looked at my arms and I was breaking out in hives!!!

Monster Energy Absolute Zero
I called my sister immediately and gave her the rundown on my itchy situation. After a frazzled conversation, we identified the culprit, the Monster Energy drink! She told me to make a beeline to the nearest pharmacy and grab some Benadryl. That was good advice because the swelling wasn't going down. I bought a bottle of 100 and popped two to start and took off for home.

I wasn't too worried because I've had hives before but in retrospect I should've probably gone to an urgent care facility as my throat started feeling a little itchy. I made it home, popped two more and then passed out on the couch. Yeah, I know a lot of you are thinking I am crazy for that as my throat could've closed up and I would've died on that couch. It didn't happen but rest assured, if I ever have a reaction like that again, I will go straight to a doctor. 

After this energy drink fiasco, I did some online research to see what was the difference between the ones I normally drink and this one, the Absolutely Zero flavor. Luckily, there are many many websites which list the ingredients of these drinks. I've never heard of half of those ingredients though!

One thing stood out which I noticed was not in the other energy drinks I had consumed was the ingredient erythritol. It's an artificial sweetener / sugar substitute which can be used on it's own or used with other sweeteners such as aspartame (think Equal or NutraSweet). In nature, erythritol is naturally occurring in pears, soy sauce, wine, sake, watermelon, and grapes. (link)

In addition, it was reported online that erythritol has been known to cause gastro-intestinal problems, headaches and wait for it ... allergic skin reactions such as hives. From the website :  "Although not highly common, erythritol can cause an allergic skin reaction for some people. A study published in 2000 in the Journal of Dermatology demonstrates how drinks containing erythritol can potentially cause a severe allergic skin reaction. A young 24-year-old woman had severe wheals (hives) all over her entire body after having one glass of a beverage sweetened with erythritol." 

In addition, and this is scary, there is research that erythritol is a "potent insecticide that kills fruit flies which consume it." (link below)

WHAAAT? Put on those brakes and let that sink in!!

This major sweetener which is a genetically modified and chemically processed corn product is now being researched to be used as a "safe" insecticide.  Interesting articles are below (in safe links) laying out the pros and cons. Even if it is "safe" I think I am going to begin passing on these artificial sweeteners. People, we really need to be more proactive into finding out what we put into our bodies!

Now to be fair, websites also state that many of these energy drink companies do not divulge what their natural flavors are, so it very well could be that one of those "mysterious" natural flavors caused my reaction. But I've drank other energy drinks with natural flavors and no reaction so I'm gonna start avoiding erythritol wherever I can.

I went to Starbucks the other day and chose their stevia sweetener for my coffee thinking it would be a safer/healthier alternative. It is actually stevia EXTRACT combined with ERYTHRITOL! Further research shows that a popular stevia extract brand, Truvia, is made with 99.5% erythritol and ONLY 0.5% stevia extract! (link below)

Scratch using that one!

I have seen the "Stevia In The Raw" and "Sugar in the Raw" brand sweeteners which I will now seek out and try instead of the pink stuff, blue stuff, and yellow stuff. I've also heard good things about monk fruit sweeteners. Here is a good link for info on stevia and monk fruit including the pros and cons of both!

You know, it makes me yearn for those days in the 70s and 80s of that pink stuff where you just had to worry about cancer in lab rats.

Or just MAYBE ... I am already sweet enough. LOL :)

Blogger's Note: This is my own experience and point of view with energy drinks. If you wanna drink them, go for it but do some research on what you're consuming and start making smarter decisions on what goes into your body. I have drank many brands and varieties of energy drinks in the past with no reaction whatsoever. I attribute this bad reaction to the erithrytol and/or those mysterious natural flavors. IN ADDITION, the LINKS I have provided above are safe. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Springtime in Lake Wynonah

I haven't written a post in awhile. Those that know me or have followed this blog know that this month is the toughest month of all. April 10th is the anniversary of my mother's passing and I still (and will always) take it very hard. This year was the 8th anniversary. It culminates on Mother's Day of course. I usually retreat to the warm closeness and safety of friends or family, remembering Mom in her best times. I know it's a sad tender time for me so I plan accordingly and try not to plan too much socially.

Some people wonder after 8 years why am I so sad still. With a wave of my hand I brush them aside. If you don't get it, then just move on. My grief from her death is just too exhausting to explain. It will always remain. I just learn how to process it and live life despite it. BUT ... I allow myself this month to get it all out emotionally until the next year.

Garter snake behind house
So back to springtime! My yard has seemed to attract every dandelion in Schuylkill County! After posting that they were the bane of my existence I heard from 2/3rd of you who agreed. The other 1/3 wanted to lop off my head like I wanted to lop off the dandelions adamantly stating I should leave them alone because they are the bee's first food. I get it! I get it! I still don't like dandelions though ... and mowed through them. BUT be happy dandelion lovers, they will most undoubtedly return.

Saw a great 2 1/2 foot long garter snake. Played with him for awhile. The little kid in me came out. Then I felt bad for harassing him and let him go on his way down to my neighbor Leah's house. LOL

I pruned back the butterfly bush, the rose bush, the holly bush, prickly sticker bush, the forsythias, the Japanese maple and then fell into the pin oak tree, breaking off a large branch in the process. I gained a little weight but honestly don't weigh that much. Ha ha! John was diplomatic and said don't worry, it made the view better. :)

Mama Robin's dual nests
A mama robin built a nest and is sitting on it just under the deck by the garage. She then built one right next to it. Subletting perhaps? She needs to fill out the proper paperwork with the property owner's association or otherwise we may be fined. LOL ;)

We had our regular four deer come through the yard a couple times. Haven't seen the hummingbirds yet but my neighbors across the lake have seen them. The bird feeders are still luckily a bevy of excitement. I was so stoked to see three cowbirds come in for a visit the other afternoon with their beautiful brown heads and black feathered bodies. The downy woodpecker is still coming by as well. Lots and lots of blue jays. Charlotte and I hung out on her back deck the other late afternoon and marveled at them flying back and forth between my house, hers, and Leah and Ron's place down the hill. We counted at least 15 separate jays flying about.

The elusive male towhee and one well fed squirrel 

Cardinal couples, mourning dove couples, chickadees, wrens, nut thatches and blue birds all abound. No more juncos though, I think my favorite winter bird has migrated off for the spring and summer. I thought I saw a male scarlet tanager at my feeder next to one of my two rotund squirrels. Turned out is was a male "towhee". Thanks to the Lake Wynonah birdman who corrected me online. I didn't even know that type of bird existed. LOL. Oh well. Chalk one up for the birdman. As I stated on the Facebook page, "Hey man, I'm just happy to be here!"

Two of the hostas
The hostas are coming in so full this year. Have planted some ivy and planted these flower bombs or rockets or whatever they are called. I bought them at Rite Aid for $1.00 a box. Ha ha, we'll see if they work out. I'll pick up some ferns, marigolds, and lavender to fill out the planters around the deck as well. Gonna plant a couple ornamental bushes in the larger urns in the back of the house. I usually plant herbs, tomatoes, and a variety of peppers. Think I'll just settle for the herbs this year and support the local farm stands for the other stuff.

Flower rockets, $1/box LOL

There's my annual garden ramble. I'll probably be sick of trying to keep up the yard by mid July and then be happily looking forward to my favorite season of all, the Fall. Except the raking. The only thing I hate more than mowing the lawn is the raking!