Something wicked this way comes

Ready or not – it may happen. What exactly ”it” is?…I’m not sure.

Way back in 2004, September was declared National Preparedness Month. The preparedness initiative is especially intended to encourage residents of high-risk regions to be prepared for whatever natural disaster may occur in their area – earthquake, tornado, hurricane. But the call for preparedness reaches far beyond forces of nature – catastrophic events, such as The Blackout of 2003, September 11th and Hurricane Sandy, have required everyone to redefine the word “disaster”. Truth is – in today’s world, everyone everywhere should be prepared for the unexpected.

Whether your home is located on a fault line or in the middle of nowhere, it’s important to have some level of preparedness. That’s what preparedness month is all about: Taking time to make sure you equip yourself with a plan – just in case. No need to build a bomb shelter or plan for an apocalypse. Just take some time to tuck away a few emergency essentials for yourself, your family and your piece of mind.

Basic Stash, including cash

Think of it as emergency swag – pack it up now and forget about it until you need it.  If the day ever comes, you will be ready. Trust me – you will thank yourself a million times over for making the effort.

Assembling a disaster stash sounds like a big deal and a big job, but it’s so not. It’s as simple as three containers. Plan for seven days of water and food for each family member, including pets.

1)   Water ~ one gallon per person per day, change the supply every six months

2)   Food ~ non-perishables. Check-out places like for ideas, including MRE’s (meals ready to eat) with a shelf-life of more than three years.

3)   Supplies ~ waterproof flash light, waterproof matches, small tool kit, phone chargers, batteries, etc.

Bonus swag:

~ More batteries: Cuz you go through them super fast

~ Head lamp: Enables you to keep hands free to complete tasks

~ Cash: OMG, yes! Why? Power outages render credit cards and ATMs useless. BTW make it small bills – not many places will be able to provide change for large bills.

~ Radio: Battery or hand-crank. Without a phone, TV or internet, it’s your window to the world.

~ Personal documentation: Copies of personal documentation – birth certificates, insurance policies, proof of address, along with a list of emergency numbers and contacts, pertinent medical info, medication lists, etc. Keep these all in a Ziploc bag inside the basics kit.

~ First-aid kit: Most useful if fully stocked…

Remember, once you pack your stash, don’t touch it – with the exception of replacing expired items. This will ensure you are always fully stocked.

For more tips on how to be prepared check out these links: American Red Cross, FEMA, and

Beyond Band-aids: Putting the “aid” in a First Aid Kit

Bottom-line: Make sure you have one. For a complete list of recommended contents, refer to the list provided by The American Red Cross. Better yet, buy one already assembled. Don’t forget to include hand sanitizer and instant cold packs. You’re not a candy striper?  Take the guesswork out of treating injuries by throwing in a first aid manual.

Super Important Note: Include seven days worth of your personal medications, as well as necessary medical equipment, like a glucometer or blood pressure monitor if required for a family member. Ask your healthcare provider for assistance in acquiring additional meds to keep in your kit.  Think insulin, blood pressure meds, seizure meds and asthma inhalers….

Here’s why: Pharmacies are not permitted to ‘stockpile’ medications, so they only have a certain amount of certain medication in stock on any given day. During a state of emergency, people are usually caught unprepared, then they rush to the pharmacist to request refills on prescription medications. As a result, pharmacies run out of things quickly, and depending on the circumstances, they may not be able to restock what you need for days. Keeping an emergency supply of your meds with your first-aid kit is genius life-saving planning.

Leave the cannoli, take your pet!

Don’t forget Fido. ALWAYS take your pet if you are evacuated. Also, plan ahead for the kitty and for the pooch.

1)   Micro chip cats and dogs – in case you get separated

2)   Back-up plan – someone who is capable and willing to retrieve and keep your pet for you, in the event disaster strikes while you are not at home. Not all shelters accept pets. Think about your options now and have a plan in place.

3)   Pet food and pet meds need to be included in your supplies

For more animal preparedness tips check out the ASPCA website for preparedness.

Cover Your Bases

Emergency home stash? Check! Now, what if you aren’t home when the chaos hits the fan? Keeping a small kit at work and in the car is smart planning that would put MacGyver to shame.

Work and car kits should both include: Small waterproof flashlight, small radio, batteries and a small first-aid kit. There are additional unconventional items it wouldn’t hurt to add…


Shoes: Comfortable walking shoes. You may need to walk a long way to safety thru God knows what…

Dust Mask: To filer out dust and debris.


Change of clothes


Water and energy bars


Jumper cables

Shovel, ice scraper and kitty litter or sand – for traction on ice

Disaster? Yes, there’s an app for that.

The American Red Cross and FEMA both have free apps that provide a wealth of information, such as what to do before, during and after a disaster. The American Red Cross has different apps for different disasters – including earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes. The FEMA app has one-stop app-ing, with a drop down menu containing info about common natural disasters, as well as volcanoes, landslides and terrorism.

Seriously, this is simple stuff. Take an afternoon to make a list and go to Costco, Home Depot or wherever. Don’t wait for the weather advisory followed by a rush on AA batteries and jugs of water. Better to have your emergency swag in place and not need it, than to need emergency swag and not have it. No one plans on disasters happening, they just happen.  So, prepare ye self, for they are wicked.

14 Carrot Glow

Sweater weather is here! So long summer, don’t let the door hit you in the….Hey wait! Could you leave me a tan to remember you by? Or not.

Tans may look good, but tanning is bad news. Indeed, the deep dark Hawaiian Tropic tan may be passé, but almost everyone appreciates his or her appearance with a sun-kissed glow. I do!

As a kid, I used Crisco in place of tanning oil. Yep, I basted myself like a butterball turkey. Then, for a short time, I loved me some Jersey Shore-style tanning bed tans.  Today, however, I schedule yearly skin checks with my dermatologist, and use sunscreen daily. Quite the sunny disposition turn-around, eh?

Truth is, Ultraviolet (UV) radiation, from both direct sunlight and tanning beds, causes sun spots, wrinkles and skin cancer. FYI, tanning beds triple the risk of melanoma.

Then there’s the injectable tan. Melanotan, aka afamelanotide, the “barbie” drug, or “tan jabs”, is a synthetic hormone injected twice daily to increase skin’s melanin production – all the glory of a George Hamilton tanorexic tan without UV radiation.  Initially developed as a tiny absorbable subcutaneous implant for use in treating skin pigmentation disorders, such as vitiligo, Melanotan is not FDA approved – thus super risky, and oh so sci-fi creepy. It is not illegal to buy or use Melanotan, but it is illegal to sell or import it in many countries….this has ‘yet to be discovered side-effects’ written all over it.

Lest we forget the tan-solution-family’s crazy cousin, bronzing. White couches, stained clothes and bath towels everywhere hate body bronzers. So do I, because they are gross. Slather a filmy layer of brown goo on my skin? It’s body make-up. C’mon! No. Just, no.

I must admit, even the slightest sunscreen-filtered tan is more desirable than the pasty white winter face I’ll be sporting around for the next few months.

Me, my friend Sheryl (from my Toe-ron-toe post) and Mehmet Oz

Me, my friend Sheryl (from my Toe-ron-toe post) and Mehmet Oz

Idea from Oz

Just when as I was about to surrender to the idea of long seasons as a pasty-face, I attended a taping of The Dr. Oz Show. I was reminded of the harmless phenomenon of carotenosis – skin turning yellowy-orange from eating too many carrots. My college roommate who drank daily carrot juice had carotenosis, only we called it a “carrot tan”. Inspiration ala Mehmet!



Project Carrot Tan

The yellowy-orange hue of hypercarotenosis is caused by excessive consumption of carotene found in many vegetables including pumpkin, sweet potato and….carrots. I decide juicing a lot of carrots will give me a lot of carotene without overdoing it on the fiber. Year-round glowing skin, sans the sun? Worth a try. Bring on the carrots!

Carrot Factoids

~ High in antioxidants, carotenoids (which turn into Vitamin A), and low in fat

~ Vitamin A is good for vision and skin. Carotene protects the body from free radicals

~ Super large or twisty curly carrots tend to have less nutrients

~ Originally grown as medicine for stomach problems and topical wound care

~ Served with the last meal on the Titanic – my carrot will go on

~ Nine carrots contain the same amount of calcium as a glass of milk

~ Rabbits in the wild don’t eat carrots

~ Mel Blank ,the voice of Bugs Bunny, was allergic to carrots

14 Carrots a Day for 14 days 

I am a girl on a mission with a juicer. Fourteen carrots (approximately two pounds) yield roughly 16 ounces of juice. My trusty Breville juicer delivers the daily orange stuff. Photos are taken every morning at approximately the same time in indirect sunlight to document my progress. Carrot tan here I come!


Two weeks later; I’m no oompa loompa, but I do have a slight yellow tinge to the palms of my hands, and a barely detectible yellowish hue to my face. I did it! I have a golden glow without the horrible side-effects of conventional “tanning”.  The added bonus discovery: I’m a carrot fan!

Carrots are veggie superstars, but juicing is only one way to get your beta-carotene on. The following are genius recipes starring carrots like you’ve never seen them before.

Beta Balls

Gluten free, dairy free, and soy free. They taste just like carrot cake!Beta Balls

1 ½ cup Old-fashioned oats

1/3 cup unroasted chopped pecans

1 T ground flax

¾ cup almond butter

3 T agave nectar or honey

¼ t ground cinnamon

¾ cup packed grated carrot

1/3 cup raisins

In a large bowl, mix together oats, pecans and flax. Stir in almond butter, agave and cinnamon. Then stir in grated carrot and raisins. Roll into medium bite size balls. Place on a cookie sheet and refrigerate for 1 hour. Store in the fridge in an air-tight container for up to one week.

Carrot Souffle

Easy and divine side–dish.  Serves 8 with only 187 calories per serving. I like it best served cold – better than ice cream.carrot souffle

2 lbs of carrots

2/3 cup granulated sugar

¼ cup fat-free sour cream

3 T all-purpose flour

2 T butter, melted

1 t baking powder

1 t vanilla extract

¼ t salt

3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°. Cook carrots in boiling water for 15 minutes or until very tender; drain. Puree carrots in a food processor or in a bowl with an immersion hand blender until smooth. Add remaining ingredients. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes.

Pizza Carrust

Healthy low-carb crust, the entire crust has only 237 calories. If you’ve tried cauliflower crust – this is even better!Pizza Carrust

3 medium carrots

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 egg

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a pizza pan with parchment paper or I use a silpat. In a food processor, blend carrots until very finely chopped, or use a grater. Using cheesecloth strain as much water (carrot juice) out of the processed carrots as you can – should have about 1 cup of dry carrot. Stir in garlic, cheese, and egg. On a pan or silpat, spread into an 8 inch circle, or two 4 inch circles (like I did). Bake at 400° for 10 – 12 minutes, until just starting to brown around the edges and top appears dry. Remove from oven and add topping of your choice. Place back in the oven for another 5 minutes. Then turn oven to broil for an additional 1 or 2 minutes to make the top crispy.


My Breville juicer and I welcome the coming seasons, and give carrot tans a glowing review. Although, it’s hard to call my carrot tan an actual ‘tan’ when it’s really just the result of utilizing a healthy vegetable full of good stuff. Either way, carrots are my new vegetable hero. Nutritious, delicious and most auspicious – the tan is just the icing on the carrot cake.

Bite me!

The moment I see her climbing the wall, I know – she is the one. She is absolutely huge and having trouble moving with a belly full of my blood. She bit my foot mere seconds ago, and for that she must die before she does it again. Freakin mosquitoes!

Since when are mosquitoes allowed in September? Mosquitoes are annoying, miniature, blood-sucking ninjas. They are the bane of my summer outdoorsy existence, because, I am one of those people who get eaten alive within minutes of walking outside after dark. To make matters worse, the fact that only female mosquitoes bite, somehow feels like a betrayal. Doesn’t that go against the Law of Nature’s sisterhood clause? I get it, they need the protein for baby making; I just wish they were more discriminatory.

My newly inflicted bites swell up minutes after the attack – a sign that this is gonna get ugly. The crazy buggy beeotch leaves me with two extremely large welts just above the inside arch of my foot. The desire to scratch is crazy-making and keeps me awake most of the night.

When mosquitoes bite, they puncture our skin with their mouth, then basically dig around under the epidermis until they find blood.  As you might imagine, the digging-with-your-mouth thing gets a little messy, and saliva gets left behind. The bump on the skin that appears after being bitten, is the human body’s reaction to a mosquito’s saliva – a localized allergic reaction. The result is: Big red itchy bumps that last for days.

Mosquito mouth underneath the epidermis - click on image to watch video

Mosquito mouth underneath the epidermis – click on image to watch video

Most mosquito bites are harmless. But some mosquitoes do carry disease. They are most famous for their work with Malaria, but their resume consists of a long list of credits for their contributions including Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, (a cameo appearance in Saturday Night Fever) and a whole slew of Arboviral Encephalitides, including West Nile, which is popular in my neck of the woods.

If you are traveling, check with the CDC to find out what kind of precautions are currently advised for the destinations you plan to visit.

What does it look like?

Standard mosquito bite symptoms include –

– hard itchy red, pink or brownish bumps that appear minutes or days after the bite

– swelling of the surrounding area

– tiny blisters or dark dots that resemble a bruise

Small children and people with compromised immune systems sometimes have increased sensitivity with increased swelling, a reaction called Skitter Syndrome with more uncommon symptoms that include –

– hives

– low-grade fever

– swollen lymph nodes

For more serious symptoms like high fever, headache and body aches – it’s time to call your doctor.

What To Do?

I’ve had patients who believe that itchy mosquito bites were a sign that the mosquito injected them with “venom”.  It sounds silly but, with all the diseases mosquitoes carry, it is easy to understand the confusion. However, if you are feeling otherwise healthy and the worst symptom is an itchy bump, trust that symptomatic treatment (see below) and the passage of time will bring relief.

In fact, the swelling and itching of a mosquito bite are signs that your immune system is working like it should. But, DON’T SCRATCH!  Sure, it feels good for a hot minute; but scratching makes it worse. Scratching the bump is interpreted by the immune system as more irritation, resulting in an increased immune response that results in more itching and swelling. It’s a Catch 22.

Oral treatment

Antihistamines like Benadryl, Zyrtec or Claritin may reduce itching

Topical treatment

Ice packs: to reduce swelling

Cortisone cream or topical Benadryl

Alternative Treatments

Feeling green? Give these natural topical options a try. All of them neutralize, in one way or another, the enzymes that cause itching.


Banana peel: Apply the inside of a banana peel to the affected area to stop the itch. It seems the potassium in the peel is magical for itchy insect bites, and eczema too.

Rub the meaty moist side of the peel directly on the affected area or secure it in place for up to an hour.

Baking Soda: Mix one tablespoon baking soda and one tablespoon water together to form a paste. Apply paste to affected area and leave on for 20minutes. Rinse and repeat in 30 minutes if needed.

Vinegar: Apple cider or white vinegar. Soak cotton ball with vinegar and place cotton ball on affected area for 5 minutes. Wait 30 minutes and repeat if needed.

Full disclosure: Banana peel is my weapon of choice. It works, it’s easy and the side effects consist of smelling delicious.

The mosquito munched on me a full four days ago. The itching is gone but I can still see the red dots, although they are much smaller than they were. Thanks Chiquita! They are not my first mosquito bites and they are unlikely to be my last. It is what it is…if only mosquitos sucked out fat instead of blood – a girl can dream, can’t she?

Good for you, to the last drop

Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Shiraz – my list goes on…I love vino! It tastes good, it smells good and it’s good for you.

IMG_0675 - Version 2

It has fewer calories than beer or hard liquor, and regular moderate wine consumption has been proven to reduce your risk of developing a multitude of illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It also reduces your risk of stroke or heart-attack by 50%.  What’s not to love?

Here’s why: Wines are rich — Bill Gates rich — in antioxidants. These antioxidants are where the magic happens.  The most popular of these antioxidants is Resveratrol. Resveratrol hit the mother lode with all the talents it brings to the table – it increases good cholesterol, counteracts the aging process and even stops the formation of fat cells. Seriously? Resveratrol is my new BFF.

Both red and white wines are full of antioxidants, although at lower levels in white wines – or so we’ve been told. Until recently, it was thought that the much desired Resveratrol is most potent in red wine. In fact, French Pinot Noir held first place in the Most-Likely-to-Pack-an-Antioxidant-Punch Contest. Now, however, scientists believe that New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough Valley now owns that title, with a reported, two times as many antioxidants than any other wine in the world! Kiwi’s! Who knew?

Pinot? Sauvy? Enough name dropping – wine snobbery is not my thing. My wine experience is for fun, and appreciation of the craft. I like what I like, which is why I feel so painfully guilty pouring the end of an unfinished bottle down the sink. On a recent trip to Napa, I actually apologized to the waiter for leaving an unfinished bottle on the table, as if he paid for it. It feels like such a waste, because it is. Thousands of drops of precious wine are wasted everyday!…Too dramatic?

Well, the days of wine wasting are over. Turns out, wine is good for a lot of things. Here are some Sydology tips on how to make the most of what’s left in the bottle.


Household helper

The acid and antimicrobial properties of wine make it a perfect and safe disinfectant. Use it to wipe down surfaces, but be careful not to stain porous materials like grout or tile. It even kills E. coli and Salmonella, making it ideal for rinsing fruits and veggies.

Rub it in my face why don’t ya

Turns out those antioxidants do wonders for skin too! That wild and crazy Resveratrol tightens the skin by boosting collagen, thus reducing the appearance of fine lines and also protects against free radicals. But wait, there’s more: Acids in the wine effortlessly exfoliate, leaving skin radiant. For real! The French have been using wine in cosmetics for years. Cut out the middle-man by trying some of these tricks.


No joke. Right out of the bottle. Red wine can do wonders for acne and eczema. The tannins may irritate sensitive skin and those with rosacea. Therefore, sensitive-types should stick to white wine, which is milder and improves dry skin. Try diluting it with water and making a body spritz.

Body Scrub

This smells redonkulously delicious and it works: Baby soft skin for days!

5 T raw sugar

5 tsp dark brown sugar

3 tsp honey

2 T red wine

Mix all ingredients in bowl until it forms a paste – scrub!

Yields enough for one full body scrub. Store in fridge for up to two days.


Pretty sure I spent quite a bit of money for this exact facial at a spa in Soho. Try not to eat your face.


1 c greek yogurt

1 T honey

3 T wine

Whisk together, apply liberally to face, leave on for 10min and rinse.

Eat it!

These are so simple, they are stupid – in a good way. Try them. You’re welcome!


Best with a sweet wine, think Reisling or left over dessert wine.

Pour wine into ice trays and freeze. Throw the wine cubes and regular ice cubes in the blender when you are ready – slushify to your preference. The end.

All-Purpose Syrup

2 cups of red wine, not too fruity

1/2 cup of sugar

Put wine in pot and boil to reduce by half. Then add sugar. Return wine and sugar to a boil. Keep it at a fast and furious boil until it looks like syrup. 220 degrees on a candy thermometer or until it coats a metal spoon.

Drizzle over fruit, ice cream, waffles, cheesecake, your fingers. Store in a jar, in the fridge for months.

Wine and Cream Cheese Brownies 

Amazing. Know why? They contain the holy food trinity – wine, cheese and chocolate! Amiright?

Sophisticated flavor in a special Jean-Georges kinda way. I call them Perfection Brownies or OMG Brownies.

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup sugar

3 eggs, divided

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup Merlot (any red non-fruity wine works just fine)

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 ounces cream cheese, at room-temperature

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8x8x2-inch pan.

Melt the butter in a small pan over low heat. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the melted butter into a large bowl.

Add cocoa powder and mix to combine. Add sugar and mix well.

Add 2 eggs, one at a time, and blend until incorporated.

Add vanilla, wine, flour, and salt. Combine until mixed.

In a separate medium bowl, blend cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar, and remaining egg.

Pour half of the brownie batter into the pan. Spread the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownie batter. Pour remaining brownie batter on top of the cream cheese mixture. Swirl with a knife.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.



Whether the wine that was saved for later gets forgotten, or the bottle that was just opened isn’t quite what you had in mind – pause before pouring out that nectar of the gods and its wealth of antioxidants.

There are no excuses. Drink it, eat it, drip it, spritz it – or smack its ass and call it Sally, just don’t waste it!

Louis Pasteur once said, “Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages”. I couldn’t agree more! So wine a little, it will make you feel better, inside and out.


Does anybody really know what time it is?

Anyone who says you can’t go back in time has never been to Australia.  I departed Sydney at 2:45pm Friday afternoon, and arrived in San Francisco at 11:00am Friday morning.  Say wha?  I know, crazy huh?

1:31pm Friday August 16th      Sydney, Australia

1:31pm Friday August 16th
Sydney, Australia

1:31pm Friday August 16th San Francisco, California

1:31pm Friday August 16th
San Francisco, California

The beauty of the International Date Line, ladies and gentleman – skip a day in one direction, or go the other way and get a “day-do-over”. Time changes can be fun, but jet lag? Not so much. Beyond fatigue and disturbance of the sleep-wake cycle, jet lag disorder can cause trouble with concentration, difficulty with cognitive function, muscle aches, irregular menses and, everyone’s favorites – constipation or diarrhea. At least two time zones must be crossed to experience symptoms: The more time zones, the worse the symptoms.


The mysterious “body clock”, aka circadium rhythm, is the biological process a body goes through in a twenty-four hour period. Re-setting the “body clock” can be done by tricking it with timed exposure to daylight, adjustments in sleep time and giving the mind-body connection a well informed helping hand.

So what are the historical and common rules to combat jet lag?

1) Hydrate with water, because your body behaves better when you are hydrated.

2) Avoid stimulants such as excessive eating, alcohol and caffeine. Stimulants…nuf said?

3) Sleep on the plane – resist the urge to watch “Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”.

4) Nap no longer than 20-30 minute during the first few days – longer than that will effect your ability to sleep through the night.

5) Sunlight exposure will remind your body it is daytime – windows work too.

For more on common jet lag info, check out tips from the CDC and Sleep Foundation.

Those are the basics. Now here are some fancy ways to make the trip a little easier.

Jet Lag – there’s an app for that!

Actually, there are many. Most apps have you enter your departure and arrival times, then adjust your bedtime before during and after your trip. Other apps map out timed exposure to daylight, to cue your body to be tired when you should be.  While effective, I don’t want to be a slave to the clock and light exposure thing, which only works if your schedule permits.

Jet-Lag Rescue is different.  It is based on The Meridian Clock theory in Chinese Medicine.  Different points on the body correspond to different times of day. Depending on your travel time and destination, you are given two customized pressure points to massage and naturally reset your circadian rhythm.  Body diagrams included!


Sleepy head

Change your bedtime a few nights before you travel. Takes some planning but you just might arrive to your destination in-step with the local time.  If you are traveling west, make like a night owl, and go to bed a few hours later than you normally do – stay up for Leno AND Jimmy Fallon!  Traveling east?  Hit the hay a few hours early. If you have trouble remembering the east or west thing – just remember E is for East and Early.


Melatonin is a great sleep aid. Naturally released by the body, as a hormone, levels increase after dark, and reduce during daylight. Supplements are sold over the counter. My personal fav is Gummie Melatonin – the insomniac’s ultimate midnight snack.  Note: Caffeine suppresses the release of Melatonin – just sayin. For jet lag, Melatonin supplements should be taken on the day of travel and then for two to three days, a few hours before bedtime. Beware: it can interact with some medications, so consult your doctor before using it.


Sweet smell of sleep

Lavender oil. Simple but true – aromatherapy is crunchy hippie stuff but lavender is no joke. It has a sedative, calming effect and smells heavenly. A few drops on your pillow and voila! Dreams de Provence anyone?

The Black Sheep WARNING

Lots of people say no to prescription sleep aids. I do not judge. They have their place. Truth be told, on occasion, when I have been in need of a good nights sleep, Ambien has been a god send. No z’s about it – over the counter and prescription sleep aids are drugs. Drugs come with side effects, warnings and adverse reactions. NEVER try any medication for the first time, on a plane! If something goes wrong there may be hours, and at least thirty-five thousand feet between you and medical help. Trying out your new script for Lunesta or Xanax? Practice at home! And always get your doctors consent before trying a medication – that means, don’t ‘borrow’ your friend’s meds.

Whether traveling for business or pleasure, no one enjoys the funky fog of jet lag. Not everyone’s the same, so do what works for you.  If all else fails, don’t sweat it. And don’t worry about sleep today; it’s already tomorrow in Australia!

Bon Voyage!

Hell’s bells

Sleep is my favorite past time, more delicious than chocolate and the cure for almost anything. The art of napping is my sleep specialty, and today, in the presence of jet lag, a nap is mandatory.

I arrived in Australia yesterday morning, and slept well last night, but since jet lag is sneaky, I decide to grab a nap before dinner.

My fiancé, Steven and I are staying at the Melbourne Park Hyatt on a quite street near Fitzroy Gardens. Our suite overlooks the stunningly beautiful St. Patrick’s cathedral, famous for it’s gothic revival architecture. In preparation for our nap, I open the door to the balcony for fresh air and, in doing so, can’t help but notice the sun setting behind the cathedral. It looks like the emerald city – minus the green. I leave the door open, jump into bed and curl up under the cozy down comforter. Sleep overcomes me as my head hits the overstuffed pillow.

Mere minutes pass before it starts – BONG! BING BONG BING!!! The cathedral bells begin to chime. It is 5:10pm on a Tuesday – totally random chime-time. I wait patiently for the bells to stop, trusting it can only last a few minutes. They stop. I look at the clock, 5:12, I shrug and close my eyes. Then- BONG! BING BONG BING! Again? Really? Looking out the window I saw no wedding party or lights on inside the church. Are the bells on a timer? Is the timer broken? The clanging is not musical and sounds nothing like Amazing Grace or The Lord’s Prayer. It is just noise, like a toddler banging on enormous pots and pans.

The second round of ringing lasts a long time. Is it getting louder? We Google for any possible religious significance of the current day. Suddenly, they stop.  But only for a second – BONG! BING BONG BING! For whom does the bell toll? We laugh at the impossibly deafening noise and shut the balcony door. The bells are so close that closing the door does nothing to improve the effects of the noise on my now vibrating brain.

Geez! What are the regulations on noise pollution in Melbourne? It’s not just what noise does to your ears, it’s what it does to your body. It can cause or trigger asthma, ulcers, colitis, headaches, abnormal menses and cognitive learning disabilities in both adults and especially children. Speaking of the kiddies: Pregnant chicks in noisy environments can experience an increase in fetal heart rate, meaning possible premature labor or birth defects. Surely “the powers that be” down under must know that, at low decibels, prolonged exposure to elevated noise levels can result in even generalized health consequences such as: hypertension, tinnitus, hearing loss and…sleep deprivation. Need I say more?

The clock now reads 5:30pm, and the bells have stopped and started five times. My mind is numb, not in a good way. Steven sings, “The bells are ringing for me and my gal…”, a few choruses of the disco fav “Ring my Bell”, then throws in a few Quasimodo jokes.

I decide to call the church and inquire with a respectful, “WTF?”  I get the answering machine.  So, I call the front desk of the hotel. They explain to me that the church has Bell Practice every Tuesday evening from 5:15pm to 6:45pm. This was not on my list of possibilities.

A quick internet search using “park hyatt bell practice noise”, and the bell drama is revealed.

St Patrick’s: will not install bell dampers to muffle the sound because it compromises the quality of the historic ding-dongs. So Pat’s continues to ring with a clear conscience because they claim they are not in a residential neighborhood – forget about the five star hotel next door.

Melbourne PD: maintain that bells ringing more than a few minutes are considered a noise disturbance, and PD would like to be notified so they may go to the church and put the kabash on bellapaloosa.

Park Hyatt: denies hotel guests have complained, about anything. Bell Practice is the new black!

Any hope for a nap is long gone, but another hour of ring-a-ding-ding and I may feed myself to a dingo. Departing for dinner early is the only way out.

I now have a headache, not from the bells but from the big dose of cra cra that is the reality of this bell thing.

Noise is a part of life, but within reason. They write tickets for excessive and unnecessary noise in New York City because we all have a right to a peaceful existence. There is nothing peaceful or irrelevant about the fact the bell ringers at Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral will be over rehearsed and ready to roll in a bell emergency. I am however comforted by the knowledge that next time we are in Melbourne we will be staying somewhere where the only bell is a bellhop.

And they ate it….

In case you haven’t heard….

A scientist in the Netherlands grew a burger in a petri dish, like a throat culture, only more disgusting.  In vitro shmeat is reported to have minimal nutritional value and features a grey slimy consistency similar to scallops or squid. Sounds yummy, right?

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The $330K patty, that took two years to grow, was eaten this week in London. Two volunteers were part of the taste test. One was an American food critic and the other, an Austrian food researcher. When asked how it tasted, they appeared to choose their words carefully, ultimately deciding, it wasn’t as bad as they thought…but neither volunteer said it was ‘good’ or ‘tasty’. Shocker!

This creeps me out. I’m a vegetarian. I love animals but my dietary choices have nothing to do with animal rights. Animals are cute, but feel free to eat whatever you want. I prefer to hang out with my avocados and sunflower seeds, because the nutritional value of what I consume is what is important to me. It is no secret that in order to keep up with demand, suppliers pump livestock and fish with hormones and antibiotics. I don’t want that in my body, so I don’t eat it. Simple.


The few stem cells used to grow the famous shmeat will require artificial growth hormones to mass produce. Yikes! There is talk about possibly being able to add additional nutrients to this artificial meat source, but the jury is still out on any side effects from eating it. How sad it will be if those volunteers who ate the cultured meat grow a tail and utter next month. Pork, chicken, veal – your turn is coming! Ironically, when asked, a rabbi from Indiana stated that if a synthetic pork thing works out, Jewish people may be able to one day eat guiltless bacon. Oy vey!


Stem cells and tissue engineering for medical purposes is nothing short of a miracle and the only hope for people with spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy and any number of other medical disorders. These patients have no other options. However, the world has plenty of other healthy food source options. So, why are we wasting precious stem cell lab-time on creating less nutritious meat? Researchers say there is growing demand, but critics suggest eating less meat would be easier than growing dinner in a meatri dish.


Give me a salad or a veggie burger. I want no part of medical mystery meat. And, I still can’t believe frankenburger cost more that 250K pounds to make, which is about 330K dollars. Now THAT is crazy! Especially when you consider that royal baby, Prince George was 8.6 pounds, which is only like 13 dollars.



I’m in Toronto and obsessed! A week ago, the therapist giving me a Swedish full body massage barely paid any attention to my feet, and I have been unsatisfied ever since. Like that song that gets stuck in your head, my craving for foot therapy will not be denied. I decide it is time for reflexology. And what better place to find it than in Chinatown?

The mother of all satisfying foot rubs is Reflexology. It even comes with a map!

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Sometimes referred to as acupressure or zone therapy, reflexology began over four thousand years ago in Egypt. It is based on the concept that specific areas of the feet, hands and ears represent different regions, glands and organs of the body. Hooey? Well, it depends on who you ask. One thing is for sure: It’s popular. Denmark reportedly uses it more that any other form of alternative therapy.


Massage or science? Call it want you want – it improves circulation and relaxation, which supports the immune system. It is also non-invasive, thus perfect for people with physical mobility limitations (post-surgical, pregnant,or elderly peeps), and those who don’t like mainstream body massage.

Bottom-line: It feels good, plus alternative medicine has been practiced for thousands of years, so I keep an open mind, and adopt the old New York Lotto motto: “Hey, ya never know.”

I emerge from the cab in Chinatown and discover that I am mere steps away from a massage salon called Suiki, which scored four stars and has seventeen favorable reviews on Yelp. And as if that weren’t enough, plastic orchids floating in large glass hurricane vases with price tags still attached, and a small candle burning in a chipped ceramic holder adorn the steps leading to the entrance. The chintzy-ness is somehow charming. My friend, Sheryl, who agreed to join me on my adventure, smiles and gives a nod of approval.


Upon entering Suiki, I am pleasantly relieved to see how clean it is. Knowing my tetanus and hepatitis vaccines are up to date, provides me with an additional sense of security. I am asked to remove my shoes, in exchange for groovy pink rubber sandals. Then we are guided to a dimly lit treatment area with two large chairs on a platform, ala nail salon seating. Easy-listening organ music plays over the sound system – the full-blown bohemian freak factor is delightful.


We soak our feet in plastic-lined green buckets of liquid. It takes a second to realize that the texture of what I am “soaking” in is not identifiable. Not water. Paraffin? Gel? Jello? When we ask the woman for the name of the substance, she responds only, “yes”. Maybe it’s for the best.


After ten minutes in the mystery muck, two sweet little smiling-ladies appear with large square cushions, and in unison lift our feet from the buckets and insert cushions under our legs. It looks as rehearsed as a formal tea ceremony.

Lotion is never used in authentic reflexology, so I am both relieved and disappointed when cream is applied to my foot. Disappointed by the lack of authenticity, but relieved because traditional dry reflexology hurts a lot.

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They knead, twist and knuckle our soles to upbeat versions of “Never On Sunday” and “Zorba the Greek”.  My toes, ankles and even my knee caps get full attention. This woman knows what she is doing!

Areas that normally hurt when my feet are massaged do not hurt today, except for my arches. Reflexology charts suggest that if my arches hurt, then I may have issues in my lower back or colon. However, I attribute this tenderness to my summer flip-flop habits. Who knows and who cares? The sixty minutes fly by, and before I know it, my lower legs are being thumped – the universal massage sign for “I’m so glad we had this time together….”.

Leaving Suiki, I feel relaxed, refreshed and satisfied. There is a buoyant lightness to my step as I walk down Dundas Street. Just what I needed! I’m ready to explore Toronto. Now, if only I could get the song “Zorba the Greek” out of my head.