Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Jack O' Lantern Apples

Check these homemade babies out:

My jack o'lantern apples
These were born out of necessity for a homemade treat for my best friend's Halloween/house warming party. I debated doing "Mummy Hot Dogs" but figured that would ultimately bomb since neither of us are big fans of hot dogs. I have an abundance of apples so I really wanted to find a fun way to incorporate some into the meal. I initially thought about taking the easy route and making an apple pie with some Halloween cut-outs but then I remembered seeing carved apples somewhere (probably Pinterest) and decided to combine the two and voila.

I added green food coloring to the apple pie filling and some sugar gems for no other reason than that I wanted to use them. The actual carving was a pain and time consuming. Breaking news- apples aren't used for carving for a reason! I couldn't get too imaginative because 1. I'm just not imaginative to begin with and had to Google pumpkin carving designs. 2. there wasn't much space to really do much. Almost all the apples looked like the one on the right. The one on the left was my exception mainly because it was time consuming and most of the apples I had weren't as tall.

I wasn't going to do anything else to the apples since I figured the pie filling would suffice but I thought the different flavors and temperatures would probably not work well together so I baked them long enough to have them cook a little but not completely bake through so that they would basically melt (think real jack o'lanterns two weeks after Halloween).

I was able to save one for my best friend before they disappeared so it's safe to say they were a success. Not pictured: the vanilla frosting I added cinnamon and vanilla extract to for those who wanted an added layer of sweetness to top it off.

I only got to take a bite off one because sometimes that's what happens when you're the baker. Good news is I can make myself a whole batch. Bad news is I can make myself a whole batch.

My Dog Has Cancer... here's why Pit bulls are the best

I don't like posting personal photos so here's a cute  pit bull that looks almost exactly like my Rocco.
Photo from Reddit

He'd been diagnosed with chondrosarcoma almost two years ago and had surgery to remove his leg and part of his pelvis and that was followed by chemo. He was fine for a little over a year till we took him to the vet last week and they discovered a few small tumors in his lungs. 

Now he's starting a second round of chemo to help slow the growths in his lungs. I didn't take the news well, as you can imagine, but I want this post to be a short but sweet ode to this beautiful breed. 

1. They're playful and loving. 

I've raised four pit bulls and they all  have different personalities but one thing is certain- they love to play and they adore you. I think this is part of the reason why pit bull owners are such vocal advocates of the breed. Once you've had a pit bull you can never not have one because their love is like no other. To this day Rocco- who is about to turn 10- likes to run around with his rubber ball or his squeaky giraffe. It's absolutely precious. He and Dante (my oldest. He's 13) love to gently gnaw on my arm when they're really excited to see me. This gesture is reserved for family and it's super sweet that they intentionally do that. 

2. They're loyal and sensitive to other people's vibes. 

Yes, I know, ALL dogs are loyal but their loyalty is visceral. When Rocco was a pup he once slid up next to me and sniffed  my hair and then fell asleep with his nose covered in my hair. It was weird but Rocky is weird. To this day he likes to sniff me before bed, it's just the way he is but I think it's also his way of making sure that it's really me. He's the gentlest dog and kind to everyone but he's a mama's boy and fiercely loyal to the family. The reason I say they're sensitive to other people's vibes is because they have different reactions to people depending on how that person feels about them. My dog-lovin' friends always get that love right back but the ones who are scared of my dogs end up actually scaring my dogs so they bark and steer clear of that person. It reminds me of the quote, "my personality is who i am my attitude depends on who you are." 

3. They have a spark. 

When we found Bella on the street by our house we already had three dogs at home and couldn't imagine adding a fourth let alone another pit bull. We posted her photo on Petfinder.com and a woman contacted me saying she was interested in Bella because she hadn't had a pit bull since her own died and that she missed that "spark" they have. That conversation solidified my own feelings and I was happy to know I wasn't the only one who felt that way about them. I've only ever had pits but I've known other dogs for almost my entire life and I can tell you (and others can attest to this) there's no dog like a pit baby. Oh and we ended up adopting Bella anyway. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Social Media is Part of the Reason Why Millennials are Single

In the wake of the Tinder/ Vanity Fair debacle the dating habits of millennials are once again under the microscope. Yes, the digital age has revolutionized the dating scene; no, our morals haven’t suffered because of it.

Millennials are pegged as the ones who've given rise to hook-up culture as if hooking up just came about with our generation. Really what social media has done is brought color into a black and white world (a la Pleasantville). The digital age pulled the curtain to show the real nature of human beings and that doesn't and never really has align with traditional mores.
What social media has done is shift the attention away from each other and on to our devices. How many times have you purposely ignored phone calls because you'd rather text? Or found it easier to have an emoji-filled conversation on Facebook versus talk face to face? Social networks are communication buffets so why pick one when you can try others?

More than 44 percent of men and 37 percent of women say mobile devices make it easier to flirt, according to a survey of 1,500 people. The ease of meeting someone coupled with our desire to enjoy our individuality before getting serious are what keep us single longer.
It's no secret millennials want to experience the single life and develop their own identity before getting married and starting a family. In 1960 the average age of marriage for a woman was 20 and for a man 23, today it’s 27 for women and 29 for me, according to recent Pew Research Center report.

“You can’t be stuck in one lane … There’s always something better,” said one of the guys profiled in the VF piece.

FOMO is more than just seeing all the amazing things your friends are doing and wanting to be a part of it. The plenty of fish cliché in the digital world has given an identity to each fish, giving rise to a fear of missing out on someone that could be better- at least for some people.
It’s not fair to assume that everyone is looking to get laid, though the web has made it easier to go fish. Millennials are enjoying sexual freedom but before previous generations once again look down on us it should be noted that the average age of male users on Ashley Madison is 41 and 34 for women. The decline of marriage means more people would rather wait to commit instead of getting married "because it's time" or "the right thing to do" but it's not just because social media and dating apps exist.

Alexis Madrigal wrote in The Atlantic,
“And it's not wrong to say that Facebook wants us to do things. But if you stop talking to your cousins because it's easier to update Facebook than give them a call, it's not right to say that Facebook made you do that. If you stop reading novels because you find Twitter more compelling, it's not correct to say that Twitter made you do that.”
Facebook and Tinder weren’t created to help make it easier for people to hook up, people used them to make it easier for themselves. Our generation is often painted in broad strokes (we’re lazy, entitled, sexually deviant etc) but saying we’re all just avoiding marriage to spend more time sleeping around is like saying everyone who gets married is committed for life. Most millennials want a connection eventually, a Pew Research survey found that 53 percent of never-married adults say they would like to marry eventually. It’s really a matter of prioritizing our individuality and being realistic about relationships because we know all to well the damaging effects of divorce.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic wrote in The Guardian,
“This is an important point: we tend to overestimate the impact of technology on human behaviour; more often than not, it is human behaviour that drives technological changes and explains their success or failures. Just like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, Tinder enables people to get along, albeit in a somewhat infantile, sexual and superficial way. It also enables us to get ahead, nourishing our competitive instincts by testing and maximising our dating potential.”

Countless articles and surveys have analyzed the pros and cons of dating in the digital era but at the end of the day it’s up to us to choose how we use these tools.

Friday, July 31, 2015

5 Ways Your Sunscreen Could Be Failing You

Found here 
We approach sunscreen the way we approach diet foods: Both are supposed to be good for you, details be damned. The truth of the matter is not all sunscreens are created equal, and some might do more harm than protection.
The FDA banned companies from promoting their brands as "waterproof" or "sweatproof," but there are still FDA-approved ingredients that could be affecting your health.
Besides being noncomedogenic and water-resistant, these are other important factors to take into consideration:

1. Read those ingredient labels like a cereal box.

According to the Environmental Working Group, a organization that provides a safety guide for sunscreens, oxybenzone can trigger allergic and hormonal reactions. Studies are still in the preliminary stages, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
Also, keep a look out for retinyl palmitate, a form of Vitamin A that allegedly increases the development of skin tumors.
Look for sunscreens that use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, as they score well in EWG ratings. They have few health risks and physically (instead of chemically) block sun rays.

2. Slather, Don't Spray It.

You know when you accidentally inhale the mist, and it leaves a metallic aftertaste? The EWG doesn't recommend using it because you can inhale nano-particles. Though no studies have proven it's dangerous, it's still risky.
Turns out the convenience of sunscreen sprays also makes it a less effective source of coverage versus lotions since it's easy to apply less than the required amount. If you do choose to use it, spray multiple coats to ensure coverage especially on windy days and avoid spraying your face altogether to avoid inhalation.

3. The Two Most Important Words Are "Broad Spectrum."  

According to a recent TIME article, only 43 percent of people know what SPF stands for, it's like MSG- you don't really know what it means but you know it's important. The sun protection factor measures a sunscreen's ability to filter UVB rays however, it doesn't measure UVA.
What's the difference? Glad you asked. UVA darkens the skin and leads to aging because of how deep it penetrates your skin. UVA rays affect us daily without leaving evidence but the affects can show up over time. While both can lead to skin cancer, UVB rays can leave you looking like the Kool-Aid man. The only way to filter UVA and UVB rays is to use "broad spectrum" sunscreen.

4.  Pretend your shot glass is a measuring cup. 

Everybody is a different size and shape but a shot glass worth of sunscreen should suffice. Studies have shown that some users only apply half the amount of sunscreen recommended so even if you're using SPF 100 you can wind up with coverage as low as 3.2.  Just pretend you're toast and your sunscreen is peanut butter- you want a nice, even coating.

5. More isn't always better.

In a recent survey on consumer knowledge of sunscreen labels, the main factor taken into account when purchasing sunscreen is the SPF value.  As opposed to what you might think, SPF 100 doesn't offer twice as much protection as SPF 50.  SPF 50 blocks 98 percent of sun rays while SPF 100 blocks just one percent more.
The higher the number, the greater the sense of protection which might lead people to stay in the sun longer without reapplying, a problem the EWG highlightsDermatologists recommended SPF 30 filters 97 percent of sun rays and if used properly (reapplied every two hours) it's sufficient. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Top 5 of the Week

Yesterday it rained ALL DAY, I'm talking  torrential downpour with lightening and thunder that had my Dante barking like crazy at the thunder gods. Today? It's 86 degrees. Welcome to L.A.

It's Sunday so I wanted to post a fun list of the top five things of this past week... written while listening to BBHMM by Rihanna cause it's just that kind of Sunday.

1. I decided to make Greek salad for lunch (sans the bell peppers) and it's perfect. I paired it with a chicken, kale and mozzarella patty that I slathered with labneh (another nod to my Middle Eastern roots). It seems like rather odd pairings but trust me, they work. Chopped judges would agree. 

2. I decided to take advantage of the current deal Fabletics has (50% OFF for a whole outfit) and bought the Kona (with a white bra instead). Note: when they say size 6 know there is NO give- it's a tight fit. I ordered size 6 pants and they fit perfectly- too perfect. Good thing is they have a great return/exchange policy so I don't have to pay for return shipping. Suh-weet. What I paid would've just covered the pants so it was a great deal. The jury is still out on whether or not I'll keep the subscription but for now I'm happy. 

3. Rainy day fun included watching Chocolat for the first time. Chocolate looked good, Johnny Depp looked better. Also reading Life of Pi and let me tell you, the movie was beautiful but the book is beautifully written. It explores religion and faith in a very straight-forward way that makes you think outside the box and really contemplate faith also, there are zoo animals. Sold yet?

4. I collected two bags of clothes after learning H & M has a garment collecting service where they recycle gently used clothing and in exchange give you two coupons for 15% off. Win-win, people. 

5. I learned Ms. Fizzle was voiced by Lily Tomlin (!!), Boo was on an episode of FRIENDS (she hit on Phoebe at the wedding in the episode where she's "possessed" by Rose), and Clueless turns 20 this year! 

Bonus: My latest Buzzfeed Community post

Photo via Cambio