Archive | June, 2011

A Defense of Diet Coke, To Your Satisfaction

30 Jun

As far as I’m concerned, the only soda in the world (diet or otherwise) is Diet Coke.  I don’t drink it because it tastes like caloric Coke, I just purely love the way it tastes.  The flavor has got that je ne sais quoi, unnamable quality .  I mean, I certainly wouldn’t describe it as caramel, though I’ve sometimes heard that was the original prototype for the elixir’s flavor.  And the ingredients do include vanilla and cinnamon, but again, that’s definitely not what I would call it.

In any case, I don’t really care that I can’t name the flavor.  I feel like I’ve been catching so much flack for drinking Diet Coke lately, though!  I’ve been making appointments with a trainer/nutritionally minded person as of late, and part of what that entails is keeping records of everything I eat and drink.  Every time that diet soda plays part of the day’s log, the red pen comes out.

And I understand that from a nutrition standpoint, Diet Coke is an empty food.  It’d be better to drink water.  Duh.  But what I think is being discounted here is that – okay, let’s say it’s a given that at some mealtimes you want a beverage that isn’t water.  Now, on the spectrum of Non-Water Drink Choices, hasn’t Diet Coke got to be a lot smarter than many many other options?  Like Coke. Or a smoothie. Or beer.

So what I suppose I’m trying to say is, let me drink my diet soda in peace! Stop telling me that it will make me fat! I took Data Methodology classes in undergrad, and I know that there’s a difference between correlation & causation!

The afore-linked article references a study where people who drank diet sodas were shown to have bigger waistlines than those who didn’t. To that I say – so what! Just because you can prove that the kind of person who is drinking diet soda is more likely to be fat, you can’t prove that diet soda is the reason they’re fat.

Here’s a related example that draws on the same logic: My sociology professor told us in class once that people who read the newspaper report feeling safer & trusting the government more than people who watch the news on television. He asked us why that might be.

Lots of people sat there pontificating on how perhaps the newspaper doesn’t report as much violent crime, or television makes us jaded.  That’s looking for Causation, the same as saying that drinking Diet Coke causes you to be overweight.

The reason turned out to be that, on average the kind of person who reads the newspaper is older than people who get their news from television, and older generations report trusting the government more.  That’s Correlation.

The point is that Diet Coke can, but doesn’t have to, accompany bad eating choices.  If you eat an entire large movie popcorn and wash it down with diet soda, I can see how that would cause your waist to expand.  And plenty of people do exactly that.  But what if I want to eat broccoli with my Diet Coke, can you look me in the eye and tell me that’s wrong?

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Clean Yoga Mats, To Your Satisfaction

27 Jun

I enjoy yoga as much as the next person.  Stretching and contorting and letting the blood rush to your head is always good practice, and nothing gets rid of a headache faster.  But I’m also part of the school of thought that for it to be a good workout, you should be sweating, right?  So I’m a big fan of vinyasa yoga since it gets you moving.  I like hot yoga from time to time (I’ve never encountered another exercise that makes my ankles sweat)

But one, possibly obvious, caveat to this athletic approach to yoga is that you’re dripping all over the mat.  I don’t want to scale back my intensity, but I also am struck by the feeling that a yoga mat is, well, absorbent material.  So basically, a good cleaning method is needed.

a good clean feeling

I tried a few different articles with suggestions { here } {here } ranging from throwing it in the washing machine to diluted dish soap and essential oils in a spray bottle.

I didn’t want to put it in the wash because I feel like the agitation would tear it up. Actually, I liked the idea of the tea tree oil best because it’s a natural astringent.  But I didn’t feel like driving to the store, so I used what I had on hand.

Attempt 1: I have a surplus of face toner right now, the first two ingredients of which are water and isopropyl alcohol.  Sounds like a cleaning agent, yeah?  So I suppose if I’m willing to clean my face with it, then I can clean my yoga mat, which sometimes has my face resting on it.  I used a damp sponge and just threw some toner on the mat and scrubbed it around.  This was not satisfactory, and I do not recommend it.

Attempt 2: I then turned to a solution of baking soda and water. Which is natural, and totally effective!  In fact, I was so pleased that after I finished with the mat, I went to town on my walls, door, and switchplates, and it all worked nicely.

Are there any cleaning shortcuts that you use?

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Light Summer Reading, To Your Satisfaction

24 Jun

mornings done right

For me, reading is ritual. I like to get my hands on a good hardcover book. Paperback is less expensive, but something about the way I hold the book when I read curls the covers in a way that drives me crazy. I borrowed a book of Peter Gizzi poetry from my boyfriend and bent the front cover so bad that I threw it under a heavy dictionary for a week (trying to recover the damage), with no success!

These first couple weeks of summer, I’ve been reading like a banshee for plenty of reasons, but mostly because the more I read, the more I write, and that’s always a good thing.  This is what I’ve had my hands on lately:


1.) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Have to finish the re-read before the 2nd movie comes out, of course.  Beyond that, I’m starting my studies for an M.A. in Children’s Lit. in about 6 weeks, so I’ve been very into all things Young Adult/Adolescent lately.  Harry Potter is just, a thing, for me; I can’t explain why I love it so much, but there’s substance there!

A very meta-literary 'whodunnit'

2. El Móvil by Javier Cercas

El Móvil (which means, “the motive,” in Spanish) is the story of a young author struggling to pen his first novel about a pair of young newlyweds who murder their elderly neighbor.  Meanwhile, the author himself lives in an apartment complex with a pair of young newlyweds and, you guessed it, a seriously unsafe elderly neighbor.  And the walls are thin.

The detective-esque genre in Latin American literature is always an appealing one to me.  It’s especially close to my heart right now because I’ve been preparing to do a little Columbo work myself.  My (sadly) ailing grandfather has set one last charge to me – research a 60-year old murder case in the San Bernardino microfiche archives.  It’s going to be a strange journey, but I can’t wait to see what I find.  And this book definitely puts me in the mood for sleuthing, murder, mystery, and intrigue.

3. The Green Tea Book by Lester Mitscher & Victoria Toews

I picked up this book in a bargain bin at the UCSD bookstore for $1.99, and it’s given me enough tea trivia to last a lifetime!  Did you know that green tea’s active polyphenols cause carbohydrates to digest more slowly and help regulate blood sugar?  Or that green tea provides flouride for strong, healthy teeth while simultaneously inhibiting the primary bacterial cause (S. mutans) of cavities?  Well, I didn’t, but I do now!  And many more weird facts about the health benefits of green tea.


Have you read any summer-worthy page turners lately?


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The Perfect Glass of Champagne, To Your Satisfaction

21 Jun

life as it should be lived

I believe that champagne drunk is a special kind of drunk, like wedding drunk. And it’s such a delicate, effervescent experience that each glass should be a unique pleasure, you know? While I have definitely spent my fair share of time with a bottle of Andre brut, found at CVS for a cool $3.99 & served in a red plastic cup, when time and resources allow, I like to do any of the following things for a most satisfactory glass of champagne:

1. Move beyond the standard mimosa <orange juice + champagne> into exotic territory.  Cranberry juice is a great addition.  My personal favorites are probably a splash of grapefruit juice, which imparts a nice peachy color, or sparkling blueberry juice (the one from Trader Joe’s is perfect).  Besides, “Blue’mosa” just rolls so trippingly off the tongue.

for the discerning drinker on safari

2. Use the proper equipment.  A champagne flute is the infinitely preferable choice when it comes to glassware.  And that’s not just snobbery talking, it’s science.  The relatively narrow diameter of the glass rim is what keeps your bubbly, bubbly.  Too much open surface area allows the effervescence to escape quickly, which leaves you feeling flat and sad.

your cup will runneth over

3. Keep the faith.  Even if your champagne has gone flat and sad, there can be hope of rejuvenation.  I have had varying levels of success with re-carbonating day (or two)-old open bottles of champagne  by dropping in a raisin or other small, bumpy fruit.  I first read about the raisin trick in a book called Urawaza <> by Lisa Katayama.  Apparently, this can resurrect the life of flat champagne because the highly irregular surface of a raisin gives the carbonation something to bounce off of.

I have attempted this urawaza tip quite a few times, and I think its utility depends on the wine itself, mostly.  Sometimes it’s a complete dud and nothing happens.  But there have been a few occasions where I used blackberries in a half-full bottle of champagne and it literally bubbled over!

Wolf Blass Yellow Label - surprisingly affordable

4. You don’t have to break the budget.  I got a bottle of really great champagne for $5.99 this weekend at the San Diego Wine Company <>.  I went in looking for a Father’s Day gift, but this Wolf Blass Yellow Label Brut was positioned right near the register and in a testament to impulse shopping, I decided I had to try it.

It didn’t disappoint!  It made for an awesome strawberry bellini that comforted me greatly, as I was nursing a cold all weekend.  I would definitely recommend this champagne if you need to get a good, inexpensive bottle for a party or just for personal consumption – can’t go wrong!




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A (Relatively) Low-Carb Pancake, To Your Satisfaction

19 Jun

Who knew you could put 30g of protein into pancakes?

I’ve been doing the whole limited carbohydrate lifestyle lately. And while I feel healthier and more energized than ever before, it’s definitely a love/hate relationship. The hardest part for me? Finding satisfactory substitutes at breakfast time. I never used to be an “egg person” (unless part of French toast). And on its own, I find the blandness and texture of cottage cheese just offensive.


But in my quest to include lots of protein and healthy carbs in my diet, I’ve had to find creative ways to prepare and eat this stuff. I actually did grow to like eating eggs at breakfast, but I miss the sweet things. And with these cottage cheese pancakes, I think I really stumbled upon something that would make anyone happy to leave the old, flour-laden cakes behind forever!! It’s really hard to believe that a mixture of mostly eggs and cottage cheese would result in something that has the general, satisfying texture of pancakes, but I swear that it does. And they cook up beautifully just like “real” pancakes, as long as you keep them at medium heat.

Yes, Virginia, there really are 6 grams of protein in there

Cottage Cheese Pancakes

2 whole eggs, 1 egg white

1/2 c. cottage cheese (1% milkfat)



1/3 c. dry instant oats**

en route to being pancakes

1. Mix all eggs, cottage cheese, and assorted flavorings together with a fork. You could also add orange or lemon peel/extract if you happen to have that; I think that would be a nice addition.

2. After you beat the cottage cheese mixture, stir the oats in and let them absorb for a minute.

3. Drop batter onto heated skillet and cook pancakes until you can tell that the egg is cooked through.

4. Serve with syrup, sugar-free syrup if you’re feeling virtuous, or heated up orange marmalade if you’re feeling French.

I used blackberries and apricot jam because I was feeling... Croatian?

** I’m a big fan of steel cut oats, and I tried using them for this recipe, but they were terrible because all the non-processed resilience that makes them so healthy also makes them stay very crunchy in a pancake. Quakers instant or anything comparable works a lot better.

photo credit 1: personal

photo credit 2:

photo credit 3: /a> also, a very instructive history of egg cups

photo credit 4: personal

photo credit 5: personal


A British Spelling Primer, To Your Satisfaction

18 Jun

Now is the Thyme fore all Good Children to Learne how to Spelle

I have really liked the idea of primers ever since I read about them in the Little House on the Prairie books. A big, blank yellowing notebook to practice soothing, repetitive pen strokes, and make 50 lowercase l’s in a row. Aw, yeah.

If my bibliophilic tendencies don’t come across strangely to you, then perhaps we will also share a mutual anglophilic interest in the divergences between A’Murrican English and British spelling. With a few exceptions, I usually prefer the American versions, so I’m not trying to be a hipster by collecting these here because I don’t really intend to use them. But it’s kind of an interesting meditation on language, at least for me.

  • Gray versus Grey.  I really have to go with the British “e” on this one only; “gray” just reads so… uncouth, like “crayfish.”
  • Favorite versus Favourite.  (Also see: Flavor/Flavour; Color/Colour; etc)  All I know is that when I see words spelled with the “ou” version, like on my tin of Tazo tea that includes “natural flavours,” I feel like I’m being patronized.  Hard to put my finger on why.
  • Analyze versus Analyse (See, too: Criticize/Criticise; really any word that ends in “yze”).  I can’t help it – “analyse” looks so ****ing weird!!
  • Pajamas versus Pyjamas.  I guess because I grew up watching American television, I’m conditioned to believe that “bananas” needs to rhyme with “pajamas” if they’re going to be coming down the stairs together.
  • Diarrhea versus Diarrhoea. …… HAHAH, what do they call it? HAHAH
  • I’m sorry, I’m still laughing from the previous.
  • Donut versus Doughnut.  Okay, stop thinking about diarrhea, gross, this is “donut”s time. Well, I really am a hater of deciduous tree nuts like walnuts or pecans, and the only thing I fairly well like is peanuts (which apparently, are legumes not nuts) and the Brit spelling only emphasizes some strange, imagined relationship by separating the dough from the nut, while the U.S. version flows seamlessly, not unlike the perfect eternal circle of the donut itself.  Donut.

A Haircut, To Your Satisfaction

16 Jun

Nikki, making good hair happen

I’d like to think that I know good hair. I’m not always the owner of it, but when necessary, I can make it happen. To me, it’s an exhilarating process to enact change in my own appearance, whether that be through a bottle of peroxide or a run-in with scissors. Though there are bound to be experiments that prove less than fruitful (hello, stagnant magenta bangs) in general, I’ve had a pretty good time of it with my hair over the years. While even the most cringe inducing styles won’t last forever, I started thinking: What steps can one take to ensure a “good” haircut experience?

1.)  Be able to tell your hairstylist what you want.

Lighting up my life, and my hair, since 2006

This one seems like a given, but it’s really not.  When I think back on the few times in my hair history that I’ve gotten a really atrocious cut, it was usually because I went to a new stylist or one who I could not communicate with comfortably.  If you are going to trust a person to make you look good, you have to tell them, honestly and exactly, what you want.  Think one side looks uneven, or you really wanted the bangs about half an inch shorter?  Say so.  It isn’t bratty or princess behavior; be assertive but polite.  The person cutting your hair may have no idea that their execution doesn’t match up to your expectations unless you make your feelings known!

One thing that has made communicating my list of hair-related likes & dislikes to my stylist easier in the past years has been the fact that I am lucky enough to have a close friend who is going through beauty school.  My good friend Nikki always keeps me (and my sister, and her mom, and a bevy of other beauties) looking fresh.  Aside from the great conversation, though, I keep going back to her because I know that she understands exactly what I mean when I say things like, “short but not too short, long enough for a ponytail but leave the front layers alone since my roots are growing out, yeah?”

But you don’t have to have a best friend in a vocational trade in order to receive a satisfying haircut.  What you do have to have, is the balls to speak up and say exactly what you want!

2.)  Bring visual aid(s)

Case in point: Good hair on Nicola Roberts

Of course, in order to tell someone else what you want, you have to know what that might be.  I’m usually in possession of some kind of visual aid.  Pictures of celebrities printed out from search engines are always good, but usually hair salons also have “look books” with simple headshot type photos of hair models demonstrating hairstyles for short, medium, and long hair.  Like the layers in the back of one cut, but the bangs from another haircut?  Cool.  Bring two or more pictures, then!  Include all the angles.

Aside from just a picture – what other ways can you use to explain how you want your hair to look?  Get creative, think about geometry and shapes, even reference cartoon characters.  I have a friend who wanted her hair to look like Jessica Rabbit, the foxy animated vixen from Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  If you have an awesome lampshade at home that flares out at the bottom just like you want your A-line bob to do, then maybe you should bring it with you.

3.) Bear in Mind

It's Not His Fault

Even the best hairstylist isn’t a magician.  When looking for a style to aspire to, keep your natural hair texture/body, current length, and styling habits in mind.  If your hair is super fine and low on volume (as mine often is) don’t ask for a super blunt cut, for example, that lays flat on your head.  Also, if you hate blowdrying your hair, don’t get a haircut like straight-across bangs that only looks good when blow dried.  Try to work with what you already have going on, not against it!

With that all said, it can’t hurt to repeat that your hair isn’t like your teeth – it can always come back!  So if you got a bad haircut, don’t lose too much sleep over it; but try these simple how-to’s in the future to ensure an experience that is To Your Satisfaction!

photo credit 1 & 2: personal

photo credit 3: here

photo credit 4: here