Great Play For Not A Lot Of Dough

Buying a gift for a little person is not as easy as it seems. Especially if you want to purchase a gift that provides an “educational component”. The electronic games like Leap Frog, Wii and Xbox are mind blowing and I can’t help but think that so many little people are developing superior skills in button pushing.  Advocates of electronic toys claim that eye-hand coordination are tuned, brains are stimulated and cognitive skills are enhanced. Truthfully, some of those electronic toys give me motion sickness, but then again I grew up on Play-Doh.

I loved the smell of fresh Play-Doh and looking back, I think that it was my favorite toy. I remember cracking a can from a four pack and fighting with my sister to see who could get the first whiff.

The Play-Doh Fun With Food set was awesome. I was never a fan of green beans, but in my pretend restaurant we made them pink. My sister and I created the best menu’s ever. Occasionally my little brother would get into our “always-returned-to-the-right-color-can” set and mix all of the colors together. Since that created an ugly gray-brown color of Play-Doh, we would call that the “doody batch” and give it its own can. As it turns out, my little brother had several of his own special 4 packs of “doody”. He never complained. In fact, he opened his own restaurant with it.

My mom bought us every single Play-Doh set out there. We were the house of Play-Doh and it provided hours of fun. I don’t think that she realized it at the time, but that toy helped to improve our fine motor skills, engage in pretend play, and become expert storytellers.  I’m not lying when I say that my little brother’s restaurant always had some creative, gray-brown shit on the menu.

(If you’re stuck on what to buy for little people, check out the National Toy Hall Of Fame‘s inducted toys. Note: In 2005, they inducted the cardboard box.)

Sugar Babies At Bedtime

These are the kind of old snapshots that make the Throw-Back-Thursday posts worth a billion dollars.

Every picture tells a story and this one makes me laugh out loud because it is says so much about my Mom. In order to understand this photo, you have to understand the circumstances.

My Dad, may he rest in peace, was a Dentist. Candy was seldom seen in my house unless given on a special occasion. It was a rare treat. Never at bedtime because sugar would “stick to your teeth and rot your enamel”. In this photo, my brother and sister and I are freshly bathed, in our pajamas, tucked into my parents bed, watching their TV and eating SUGAR BABIES. This says one thing to me…

My Dad wasn’t home.

I can tell from our ages that my youngest brother was probably just about a couple of weeks old and down the hall in his bedroom, and…in all likelihood, wailing his ass off.

My Mom, who was a devoted candy worshiper, was most likely exhausted and probably needed us to behave, so I assume she raided her own stash and whipped out the big guns. Does that picture look like well behaved kids or not?

I am just so grateful that my Mom snapped this photo. It’s a rule breaker and an honest parenting gem.

Room Temperature

I’m hot, but not in the good way. Although not scientifically proven, I think it’s because of the extra weight that comes with middle age.

As much as I like to embrace the going green ethos, my mental health necessitates turning on the bedroom air conditioner in late April and letting it hum through October. That being said, bedroom windows also stay cracked in the winter. It’s my own twisted version of Save The Whales.

My husband is so dramatic. He came into the bedroom the other night dressed in a down jacket, wool hat and mittens.

“It’s so f**king cold in here”, he said.

Did I see vapors came out of his mouth? I have always had a high internal thermostat but lately, my hormones are going into overdrive and according to my husband, my core body temperature seems to be off the charts.

Well the easiest, non-medication way to fix that is to open the windows, but that only works if it’s cold enough outside. Come springtime, I’m dimming city blocks with my a/c.

It’s a known fact that a lower core body temperature initiates sleeping. Ask any insomniac. Covers on, covers off. Tossing and turning is your way of trying to adjust your internal thermostat.

I  love my cozy comforter, but I need a cold bedroom to fully enjoy it’s benefits. Sweating is for exercise, not for sleeping.

“It’s 50 f**king degrees in here”, mutters my husband.

I did a little research and discovered that the optimal sleeping temperature is between 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures in this range, it seems, help facilitate the decrease in core body temperature.

I tried 68 and it wasn’t cold enough. Mr. Blue-lips and I are working on a compromise. Fingers crossed for 64.


As much as I believe that getting up super early in the morning is the best thing in the world, I would be doing a disservice to you by not highlighting a certain truth…


Early rising can have some drawbacks. Right about the time 4 pm rolls around,  I feel like a dog looking for a place to curl up and get cosy. Hmmm…somewhere quiet, but in pinch, even my desk chair will do. All I need is 5 minutes. Just 5 minutes…okay, maybe 8 minutes.

If I can’t find a spot, I somehow find a way to land on the doorstep of the nearest Dunkin Donuts. A medium size coffee usually gets me all perked up again, until about 9pm, where I instantly crash on the sofa in the family room– snoring– with reading material across my chest. It ain’t pretty. (My kids have frequently snap-chatted this event)

It took one of my sons, fresh out of a college Psychology class, to tell me about the benefits of re-charging your brain through napping. You may think it’s an activity for babies and old people, but the more I looked into it, the more I think it’s critical to keeping your brain fit.

Research highlights the benefits of three kinds of naps:

1) The 20-minute power nap is good for alertness and motor learning skills. You are also less likely to wake-up groggy.

2) The 30-60 minute nap is good for decision-making skills but you may feel slightly fuzzy upon rising.

3) The 60-90 minute nap plays a key role in making new connections in the brain and solving creative problems. Sounds good, but waking up from that sucker will have you chanting “Where the f**k am I?”

I’m all about making new brain connections, but seriously, when do you find the time to really take a nap? You don’t find it…You make it.

Lunch and a quickie anyone?

Beyond The Peckers From Hell

Several months back, I blogged for Mypheme about my nagging pecker problem. My house was under siege by a determined woodpecker. After various attempts to scare him off, he finally gave up and left pissed that some crazy, frizzy haired, robe-clad woman, banging pots and pans, was continually interrupting his orgasmic drilling on the side of the house. Well, I sure underestimated that little pecker because now he has brought back some bigger friends. Friends with a wing span of 57 inches. Friends, who look small when soaring up in the sky, but when they dive 120 miles for my chimney to perch, have me dialing 911.

OMG, attack of the red tailed hawks.

I remember when, a few towns away, an aggressive red-tailed hawk attacked at least five people including a woman who needed medical care after being cut on the head. Officials said the hawk had snatched a hat off a boy’s head, snagged headphones from a man and even attacked a car. Recess and gym classes at a nearby school were held indoors.

I’ve seen this movie.

The Red-tailed Hawk is generally non-aggressive toward people unless there are nestlings present or if you’ve pissed off his friends like I did. Did I forget to mention that the Red-tailed Hawk is carnivorous?

That’s not a weathervane on my chimney, folks. That’s the real deal.

When I pull into my driveway, he eyes my car. Funny how the spring squirrels and other small critters have mysteriously disappeared from the yard.

Electric garage door openers never looked this good.

I may throw the Trader Joe’s Marinated Beef Roast out the window as a peace offering.

Negotiation is key in this situation.

The Ivy League of Vegetables

If you mention Kale to any nutritionally informed person, be prepared for the “gotta have it” speech as they will sing its praises as if the vegetable were good in bed. That being said, I’m trying to include this cruciferous vegetable in my meal repertoire, but I’m struggling with how to cook it and make it tasty and nutritious at the same time.

Let me state for the record that the “Green Smoothie Drink” did not fly.

Non-disputed research shows that there are three standout benefits from Kale. It’s loaded with: (1) antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, (2) much-needed macronutrients (in which the average U.S. adult is currently deficient), and (3) cancer-preventive nutrients called glucosinolates. In addition, Kale is packed with Vitamin K and is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and manganese; a very good source of copper, tryptophan, calcium, vitamin B6, and potassium; and a good source of iron, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin B2, protein, vitamin B1, folate, phosphorous, and vitamin B3.

Seriously, that reads like the back of a multi vitamin bottle and it even has FIBER.

I’ve thrown it raw into a salad, but the one hour-post-meal flossing made it a real chore to eat. How do you cook this stuff that resembles a freshly mowed lawn while retaining all of its nutritional value?

A friend of mine has a snack-like recipe where you chop the kale, toss it with olive oil and cider vinegar, season with whatever spices you like (I used a ton of garlic salt…big no-no) and roast it at a high temperature until it gets crunchy. If you close your eyes, you can pretend you’re eating salt and vinegar chips, but the roasting kills most of the nutrients. Does anyone have a good Kale recipe that tastes good and delivers on all the nutritional hype?

Back-In-The-Day Boobs

For three hours every week, I stand in a large room full of artists, some accomplished, some not and paint with Pastels. I call it my serious group therapy. There’s very little chatter in the class, but the swell of everyone’s focus puts you in an unusual zen that’s tremendously supportive. In terms of group work-outs, this being a mental one, I find it refreshing not sweating and standing behind someone who needs to add more than lettuce to their diet.

When the instructor announces, “Next week we’re having a model”, I’m tempted to raise my hand and say, “Please get a woman cause I hate to draw dicks”, but I hold my tongue and go with the mellow flow of the class, hoping I can secure a rear view of the guy because I just don’t like staring at a dick for 3 hours. Wish I could share that with the class, but it’s so inapropriate and com’ on…it’s true.

Thankfully, we had a beautiful 20 something woman. When she disrobed to set her pose, I wondered what all the men in the class were thinking. When you draw the figure, you really look beyond what is in front of you. You focus on the light, the dark,the cast shadows, etc. but seriously, you do have initial thoughts of which you think, but NEVER share.

My initial thought was, I used to have boobs like that, which was followed by, I hope she wears a good bra when she exercises, and rounded out with, those molded-cup t-shirt bras are a godsend.

I call this painting, Back-In-The-Day Boobs.


First Published Work

In 1964, I self-published my first story on sheets of a drug themed notepad, courtesy of my Dad’s dental office. I’m fairly certain that I used a Bic Pen–known in those days as the pen that “Writes The First Time, Every Time!” Although I’m grateful that my parents saved this little gem, I’m still wondering,  who ate my Title Page?




Not So Good In Bed

I recently sketched this pastel in the wee hours of one morning. A Self portrait, (complete with those ridiculous eyelashes), of how I start every day. Note the time, friends.

That’s me. Ms. Rise-and-F**ken Shine. Each year, I seem to sleep less and less. It’s easy to get anxious about it–especially when people warn you about the dangers of not enough rest, but what if my body just won’t cooperate?

The National Sleep Foundation’s: “When You Can’t Sleep: The ABCs of ZZZs”, is a worthy primer, so I’ve listed it below with some of my personal results:

Set a schedule:
Go to bed at a set time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Disrupting this schedule may lead to insomnia. “Sleeping in” on weekends also makes it harder to wake up early on Monday morning because it re-sets your sleep cycles for a later awakening.

My set time is 10pm, but what happens if you pass out at 8pm “sleeping in” the sofa? 

Try to exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day. Daily exercise often helps people sleep, although a workout soon before bedtime may interfere with sleep. For maximum benefit, try to get your exercise about 5 to 6 hours before going to bed.

Tried this and NO EFFECT on sleep whatsoever. Daily exercise only increases my appetite.

Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol:
Avoid drinks that contain caffeine, which acts as a stimulant and keeps people awake. Sources of caffeine include coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, non-herbal teas, diet drugs, and some pain relievers. Smokers tend to sleep very lightly and often wake up in the early morning due to nicotine withdrawal. Alcohol robs people of deep sleep and REM sleep and keeps them in the lighter stages of sleep.

I’m going to pretend that I didn’t read this one, #denial!

Relax before bed:
A warm bath, reading, or another relaxing routine can make it easier to fall sleep. You can train yourself to associate certain restful activities with sleep and make them part of your bedtime ritual.

I can fall asleep…anywhere…that includes a bathtub, super dangerous.

Sleep until sunlight:
If possible, wake up with the sun, or use very bright lights in the morning. Sunlight helps the body’s internal biological clock reset itself each day. Sleep experts recommend exposure to an hour of morning sunlight for people having problems falling asleep.

I wake up before the sun. Maybe this isn’t my list?

Don’t lie in bed awake:
If you can’t get to sleep, don’t just lie in bed. Do something else, like reading, watching television, or listening to music, until you feel tired. The anxiety of being unable to fall asleep can actually contribute to insomnia.

Anxiety! That’s the magic word! I don’t lie in bed worrying about not sleeping…I worry about the odd mole with the hair coming out of it, my 21 year old going to Vegas, or if that organic lettuce I ate had e coli on it.

Control your room temperature:
Maintain a comfortable temperature in the bedroom. Extreme temperatures may disrupt sleep or prevent you from falling asleep.

The colder, the better. Thank you, hormones.

The last pointer recommends to see a doctor if your sleeping problem continues. My husband’s solution to all of this is just to have more sex.

Well if that were true, it would be on the list, right?

“It’s a typo,” he says.

Born This Way

Many, many years ago, when I was 8, my grandmother slapped my hand at her dinner table for smelling my water.

“It smells bad, ” I countered, “Here, smell it!” and I shoved it in her face. Had I been better informed, I would have known that the sense of smell is the first thing to go on old people.

“Water has no smell,” she scolded and removed my glass for the rest of the meal. “If you’re going to smell your water, then you’re not going to get any,” she declared. Thank goodness she took it away because to me, it smelled like metal. The distinct smell of the tap water in the city of Pittsburgh was my first clue of my acute sense of smell.

To this day, if you ask my Mom about it she’ll tell you, “Susie smells everything”.

I really do. It’s a gift when there is a gas leak, a burning leaf, hidden dog shit on the beach, dead mouse stuck somewhere in the wall (I can always find it), and  a curse when you’re in public and it’s bad perfume (from 100 yards away), random fart, dirty hair, cooked food that lingers on your clothes and the one that drives me absolutely nuts…cigarette smoke. I get that face at the 50 yard mark that reads, INCOMING!

Over the years, I’ve learned to embrace my special ability and not let it get the most of me. In fact, my husband congratulated me last week for not waving-off a stinky cab when I needed to get downtown. (The torrential rain might have helped). I channel my inner-scientist when I’m in a theater which usually entails burying my head in a large tub of popcorn…smelling it first of course, to make sure it’s fresh.

I can’t help but wonder if I too will lose my sense of smell as I get older. That’s the kind of old-age-loss that might be a good thing.