Fiction Friday: Blueberries and Hotcakes

December 31, 2010 — Another blast from the past.

I wrote this story right after my son was born, and I had just turned 24. It was a tribute to family, more so, to my grandfather (my dad’s father) and my grandmother (my mom’s mother). While the work is fiction, there’s a lot of truth in between the lines.

I wish I could say it’s a story about ringing in the new, since that would be appropriate today, but I’ve never written a story about New Year’s Eve. Maybe I’ll add that to my list of resolutions.

Happy New Year! Enjoy and be safe! I hope you enjoy Blueberries and Hotcakes.

Coping with winter dry skin

December 30, 2010Here’s another piece I wrote for a freelance assignment earlier this year, but it’s quite relevant right now. I can already feel the heat in my home sucking the life out of my skin…

Dry skin is a common problem, especially during the colder months or if you live in a dry climate. Choosing the best dry skin cream generally depends on the severity of your dry skin and where it occurs.

There are dry skin creams formulated specifically for the body and others that are designed to work best for facial dry skin. Creams that are not made with petroleum-based oils are usually best for facial dry skin, as these ingredients can cause clogged pores.

Some good ingredients to look for in a dry skin cream include Shea butter, vitamin E and grape seed oil. Thicker lotions and those with heavier oils in the ingredient list are typically best used as body lotions. Also, if you have allergies or sensitive skin, you may do best to choose a fragrance-free dry skin cream.

Thicker ointments, which are gooey in texture and often come in a tube, may work best as a body cream. The consistency of the ointment helps to seal moisture in the skin and adds a layer of protection. Thicker creams tend to offer longer protection and dry skin relief than watery lotions as well. Some of these types of heavier creams have such ingredients as honey, coconut oil, beeswax, almond oil and jojoba.

Shea butter dry skin cream can typically be used on the face or the body. Shea butter contains important vitamins, such as vitamins A and E, to help skin stay clear. It tends to soak into skin well without leaving a greasy film — it also won’t usually cause clogged pores, so it’s safe to use even on combination skin. Shea butter also is effective on dry, rough patches of skin that can appear on elbows and knees.

If you have dry facial skin, moisturizers made for the body may be too rich to use on the face, as facial skin tends to produces its own natural oils. Natural ingredients, such as olive oil, grape seed oil, aloe or vitamin E can help soothe the skin on your face as well as offering nutrients to keep your skin healthy. To avoid clogged pores, it may be best to choose a dry skin cream that specifies “non-comedogenic” on the label; this indicates it will not clog pores.

Choosing the best dry skin cream also doesn’t necessarily involve spending a lot of money on high-priced brands. There are a variety of facial moisturizers and body lotions that offer reasonably priced solutions. Keep in mind that less expensive brands found in discount stores are often equal to or better than the high-end, department store products. Spending more doesn’t guarantee a product will work better.

Choosing the best cream usually involves narrowing your choices down to a few good candidates, then trying them out to see what works best on your particular skin.

Coo coo for coconuts

December 29, 2010Here’s something that I found a little surprising.

After much coaxing from my family to cook with coconut oil because of the nutritional benefits, I did a little research. I discovered that coconut oil has been appreciated around the world for centuries. It’s only in the U.S. that it’s gotten a bad rap because it contains high amounts of saturated fat.

Still, many experts believe it offers plenty of health benefits, including improved thyroid health. In combination with a sensible diet, coconut oil has the potential to improve thyroid function because it fuels the metabolism. When metabolism is increased, cells throughout the body function at a higher rate of efficiency.

Coconut oil is a medium-chain triglyceride, a fatty acid shown to boost the levels of thyroid hormones, which are essential to metabolism. Some users claim to have dropped weight quickly after adding coconut oil to their diet.


Research shows that coconut oil not only stimulates the metabolism, but also boosts energy. In addition, many users who suffer from up and down mood swings have noticed a positive improvement in their mood levels.


Some organic experts claim coconut oil is a cure for everything from head lice to the flu. In addition, they say coconut oil improves digestion and absorption of other nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. And it’s great for the skin and hair. However, they warn not to take coconut oil on an empty stomach since it could produce bloating and gas.

Cooking with coconut oil is just as easy as cooking with any other cooking oil, and aside from the tropical aroma it produces as it melts in the pan, it’s virtually tasteless. However, it does smoke a bit more than other oils when cooking at high heat.

Finally, don’t be turned off by the price. It may seem expensive, but one jar should last much longer than any other bottle of cooking oil.

If it’s Tuesday, it must be football

December 28, 2010 – It’s a rare Tuesday start for the Eagles tonight thanks to the blizzard that dumped more than a foot of snow in the Philadelphia area postponing Sunday night’s game. It’s even more rare that it’s the third postponement for the Vikings in as many weeks. Actually, it’s something that has never happened in NFL history.

Whether you agree with the postponement or not — on the Reader Poll is 39.1% in favor and 60.9% who disagree — it’s rather harsh to refer to the city as the “Wussies who stole Christmas.”

Our own Governor Ed Rendell once again confused sports with politics and added fuel to the fire when he agreed we’re turning into a nation of wussies.

“It’s an absolute joke,” Rendell replied when asked his opinion on the postponement. “I was looking forward to this. It would have been a real experience. This is what football is all about.” He also stated that this would never happen in China, and I’m still not sure I get the comparison.

Since the decision to postpone came from the city where he was once mayor and the NFL, perhaps our governor should have kept his options to himself.

I was driving last night and the roads were treacherous and the visibility was poor at 11 p.m. Can you imagine what would have happened if 50,000 more drivers were on the road, some of who had been drinking?

The Eagles already won their division, so if they win tonight all that is up for grabs on Sunday is a bye for the first week of the playoffs. And that would be nice. The Eagles should be able to handle Dallas, even with the short week. The more important question is will the Chicago Bears lose to the Green Bay Packers?

But that’s still a week away. Until then, sit back and enjoy tonight’s rare Tuesday night game.

Get your eagle eye on

December 27, 2010 – Here’s a little information you may (or may not) find helpful.

Copyediting and proofreading may seem like one in the same. But to those who work in the publishing industry, they are completely separate editorial functions.

Copyediting generally includes reworking content and correcting style conformity and accuracy. Copy editors check for factual errors and inconsistencies in addition to the basic spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes. Proofreaders check for typographical errors, commonly known as typos. They typically review copy that is already typeset to correct any missing or incorrect characters before a document goes to print. These processes are often used interchangeably outside of the publishing industry because they serve a similar purpose – ensuring an error-free and accurate document.

Solid copyediting and proofreading skills are valuable in any career you choose, whether you work in the corporate world, retail, or run a small business from your home. Typos, misspellings, grammar problems and inconsistencies reflect poorly upon the writer, so it’s always wise to check your work carefully.

The good news is that basic copyediting and proofreading skills are not difficult to master. And while technology has made it easier (think spell check), it should never be the only system you depend upon to ensure an error free document.

Learn tips on how to proofread like a pro by visiting helpful Web sites like Grammar Girl.

Your copy editing skills can be improved, too. Pick up a copy of William Strunk’s Elements of Style at your local bookstore. This handy little reference guide is reasonably priced and is considered a must have in writing circles. Written in plain English, it is an asset to anyone who wants to improve their writing and editing process.

With good copyediting and proofreading skills, dare I say it, you can rule the world!   🙂

The day after

December 26, 2010 – Few things puzzle me more than folks rushing to the mall the day after Christmas, whether it’s to return gifts or find the best bargains. Still, it is an incredibly popular thing to do on December 26. For me, shopping the last thing on my mind, and my wallet appreciates that.

Perhaps shopping for some is a way to avoid the post holiday blues. It’s common to feel letdown when Christmas is over. You put so much time and preparation into Christmas, and the day passes much too quickly. In fact, psychologist say the more you prepare and the more exciting the holiday is for you, the more you may feel letdown the day after. Our brains need to establish equilibrium, and the higher we are, the lower we must fall to settle back into that middle space.

The letdown may also be why many countries around the world celebrate Boxing Day, a day after Christmas tradition that started in England during the Victorian era when the wealthy would box up gifts they didn’t need and bring them to the poor. What a great thought. As a child, my mom and dad asked us to pick one of our gifts to give to baby Jesus. On Christmas night, we had to place that gift back under the tree and it was gone the next morning. I found out when I was older that those gifts actually went to less fortunate kids.

I enjoy the day after Christmas because it’s when my entire family gets together. With some of us living in different states and others with obligations elsewhere, it’s typically the only day of the year when all 16 immediate family members are in the same room.

Oddly, my post holiday blues start on January 1, the day I should embrace the new start that lies ahead. I’m usually a glass half full kind of a person, but there’s something a little sad about New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The holidays are officially over and the long winter sets in. Thankfully the feeling is short lived.

This year I am determined to focus on the positive and feel excited for what 2011 has in store. A new job perhaps? I will treat New Year’s Day with the respect it deserves. It’s won’t just be the day the decorations come down.

I’ll wait for January 2 to do that.

Fiction Friday: The Loneliest Christmas

December 24, 2010Here’s a ghost from Christmas past.

While sorting through old paperwork to kick-start my New Year’s resolution to organize, I discovered a treasure chest of old short stories and badly written poems.

The Loneliest Christmas is a little gem I wrote when I was a teenager. It’s probably the corniest thing I’ve ever written, but it wouldn’t change a thing.

If you’re brave enough to take a peek, read it here.

Merry Christmas!

Happy Festivus!

December 23, 2010 – “A Festivus for the rest of us!”

When Frank Costanza (the character played by Jerry Stiller) uttered those words on the TV show Seinfeld in 1997, Festivus became an instant hit and secured a place in pop culture history.

So, as a fan of the show, Festivus has a special place in my heart, although I quite merrily celebrate Christmas, too.

Recently, I discovered that Festivus dates back to 1966. It was originally created by writer Dan O’Keefe to commemorate the anniversary of his first date with his wife, Deborah. Years later, he moved it to December 23, hoping to celebrate the holiday season without focusing on the commercialism that surrounds it. It was his son, Daniel, a writer for Seinfeld, who brought it to the series.

We can all agree that Christmas is too commercial, and somehow we’ve lost its meaning. So, Festivus is a great idea – in theory. Still, I like a little commercialism with my Christmas – the keyword being little. I try to avoid going crazy and keep shopping to a minimum, but it doesn’t always work.

If you’re planning a Festivus celebration ala Seinfeld, there are four major components that add a little zip to the original Festivus.

The Festivus Pole, a simple aluminum pole, is a low maintenance holiday decoration, according to Frank Costanza, because tinsel is distracting.

The Festivus Dinner is typically meat loaf or spaghetti, another simple meal.

During dinner participants Air Grievances to share how they’ve been disappointed this year by other participants. What fun!

The Feats of Strength pit participants against each other, and ends when someone is pinned to the ground.

Perhaps the four components aren’t the vision O’Keefe had in mind when he created the holiday; we have his son and Seinfeld to thank for taking it a few hilarious steps further.

And in case you’re wondering what my family and friend are getting for Christmas this year, I’m proud to say that a donation has been made in their name to the Human Fund.

Just trying to keep it simple.

The game show must go on

December 22, 2010 – Whenever I visit my parent’s house I usually find my mom sitting on the sofa watching the Game Show Network. She doesn’t like the newer game shows or the remakes on the network channels, and would rather watch the classics from 40 or 50 years ago.

I often snicker about it, and when I mention it to friends, they say their moms do the same, and we all have a good laugh.

It’s a generational thing, I suppose. The women in my mom’s age group probably had Password, Match Game or the $10,000 Pyramid on in their living rooms and kitchens in the 1960s and 1970s while doing housework. And watching those reruns today brings back fond memories.

Last night, I realized the laugh was on me.

After a long day, I’ll often sit at the computer to play a few games on Boxerjam. The site offers classics like Strike a Match or Know it All, my two favorites, which I recently realized were modeled after the old game shows my mother still watches. I don’t care for the newer games available on Facebook, such as Mafia Wars or Farmville because I don’t understand them.

Who knew?

Boxerjam has been around since 1995, and I’ve probably been playing almost that long. The site isn’t that old – but I guess in Internet time, 15 years is ancient.

Through the years people have told me that I look like my mother, and I know I’ve inherited her sense of humor, among other traits. I just never realized, until now, that I inherited her love of game shows, too.

Like mother, like daughter … we just do it our own way.