Mighty Life List
Dec 31 2010

1,000 Songs Project: Friday Mixtape

I’ve always wished I knew more about music, and this is part of my Life List project to listen to 1,000 new songs. Right now I’m up to 976, and on Fridays I share some of my new favorites. If you’d like to share some music with me, please link to your picks in comments, and I will listen to them.

Those to Come from The Shins

Two of Those Two by Maria Taylor

Doo Wah Doo from Kate Nash (Thanks, Molly.)

That Day from The Villagers (Thanks, Jan.)

Firework from Katy Perry. I know you’ve heard this. I don’t care. Let’s do this.

Still looking for more music? Here you go: Mixtape 1, Mixtape 2, Mixtape 3, Mixtape 4, Mixtape 5, Mixtape 6, Mixtape 7, Mixtape 8, Mixtape 9, Mixtape 10, Mixtape 11, Mixtape 12, Mixtape 13, Mixtape 14, Mixtape 15 , Mixtape 16 , Mixtape 17 , Mixtape 18, Mixtape 19, Mixtape 20, Mixtape 21, Mixtape 22, Mixtape 23, Mixtape 24, Mixtape 25, Mixtape 26, Mixtape 27

Dec 30 2010

10 Little Black Dresses Under $100

The beauty of the little black dress is that you can score one cheap, without looking cheap. Here’s to a little more celebration in 2011.

Velvet Tee Dress, $80

Silence & Noise Crepe V-Back Dress, $68

Blackout Batwing Dress, $70

Short Sleeve Sequined Plus Sized Dress, $47

Watch Me Shine Sequin Dress, $45

Emily Dress, $40

A Cheerful Sip Dress, $80

Baby, Come Back Dress, $48

Sleeveless Knit Dress with Bow on Waist, $40

Sleeveless Fringe Plus Sized Dress, $77

Dec 30 2010

Getting My Health in Hand, Part II: Acupuncture

Photo by Helene Goupil.

When we last left our heroine, she was eating steamed broccoli and vegetable broth, crying silently into her herbal tea while a drum circle sounded in the distance.

I couldn’t maintain that diet, I was attracting hippies. Well, I’ll be more truthful. Sleeping 15 hours a day and being covered in itchy hives seemed more appealing than maintaining that diet. The cleanse did make me realize, however, what an idiot I’d been about my health. Be ye not so stupid.

The Western Approach

I scheduled an appointment with one of the best allergists in the city. In contrast to the first allergist who told me I was allergic to everything that brought light to my eyes, this one told me I was allergic to nothing except olive tree pollen. This meant I would have to stop sprinkling the sheets with olive tree pollen, and snorting it as a chaser to the aforementioned crushed cookies, but otherwise no problem.

He also “diagnosed” me with idiopathic uticaria, which means “you get hives, we don’t know why,” presumably in Latin. He said whatever was causing the hives was in my bloodstream, so I noticed more of them when I had wine and coffee because caffeine and booze increase bloodflow, which means more of those irritants were flowing past hive points. Huh.

I told him I was going to try acupuncture, though I didn’t believe in it and had a needle phobia. He told me he didn’t believe in it either, but to drop him a line if it worked. Man, I need to send that guy a letter.

Photo by Helene Goupil.

Needle Napping

Because I’m afraid of needles (and apparently of making appointments), I put off my first appointment until I moved into an office with an acupuncture studio that literally shared a wall. (Okay, universe, I hear you.) Eva, the practitioner, was willing to work in trade, which is how I ended up having about 24 sessions before I really believed it worked.

At that first appointment, Eva asked about my whole body. How were my teeth? British. In fact, I had a chronic infection in a tooth right that moment. How were my joints? Barbie. I’d had non-injury related knee surgery when I was 25 because my knee just stopped working — my shoulders, elbows and hips were uncooperative when it came to simple things, like bending. What else? I had telltale tingling and pain in my forearms from all that time clicking around for my shopping sites. I had patches of (sexy) eczema that I thought was ringworm for years, relatively frequent (and sexy!) cold sores. And also? I was sleeping my life away.

Eva stuck me with needles and prescribed herbs for six months before I was convinced. I gradually slept less, and my hives were subsiding. In that time, and in the two years since, acupuncture has dramatically improved my health. I sleep like a normal person, I hardly notice the few hives that pop up, and now only on my chest and neck, instead of all over my face. I’ve come to realize my joint issues flare up in periods of stress (later, we’ll talk about why I’ve been limping around lately). I have very little arm pain, no eczema, and I’ve only had two or three cold sores in two years. The improvement has been slow, but better than I could have hoped.

Why it Worked for Me

Now, I’m not saying it was the needles alone that did all this, I also credit acupuncture with causing a paradigm shift in how I think about my body, and that led to all kinds of profoundly effective changes. Intellectually, I’d always realized my body was an ecosystem, but our medical system gives overt signs that you should think of your body in chunks, in terms of the specialists you see. Problems with your teeth are for the dentist, problems with your skin are for the dermatologist –- and except in extreme or unusual cases, neither of those specialists will ask you about what’s going on with “unrelated” parts of your body. Acupuncture’s message is that your tooth problems might be caused by the same thing that’s irritating your skin — everything is connected. And that realization changed everything for me.

I also found that once I was committed to a regular course of treatment for my body, I was more willing to do everything I could to improve my health because I didn’t feel so hopeless. If I’m getting acupuncture for carpal tunnel, I might as well also get a decent chair, and turn my track pad to touch clicking. If I’m getting acupuncture for jaw pain, maybe I should go get a damn mouth guard already. Maybe I could get a few books on how my diet affects my body and make some more informed decisions about what I’m eating.

But let’s not discount the treatments, I became a real advocate for acupuncture about six months into treatment, when I felt a woosh run down my forearm. It was like someone had poured warm water over me. There was a rush, a slight tingling, sort of an internal purr like an engine revving. It felt incredible. After that, I stopped having shooting pains, and now I only get tingling if I’ve been overtly stupid with computer use. Magic.

What I Learned

Together, Eva and I figured out that my hives come and go with my period — they’re worst the week before. When Eva moved to China with her wife, my new acupuncturist Kien looked over my charts and pointed out that a hive on my tailbone usually precedes a cold sore, so I need to take a Lysine supplement and meditate on healing for twenty minutes or so to head that off. I had intense itching on the web between my thumb and forefinger, and that turned out to be a sign that something very upsetting was happening with my teeth, so now I’m on the lookout for that. I know much more about the supplements I need to take that are particular to the problems I have, grape seed extract because I bruise easily for example, and now I take vitamins and herbs every day.

I always asked questions while Eva worked, so I gradually gained a small body of knowledge. Each needle placement has a specific purpose, there are “channels” that affect parts of the body or address particular emotions like stress or anger. Acupuncture needles are teeny so they’re mostly painless, you can’t even feel them go in, but once in a while you get a real zinger if something is amiss.

“OW! Owowowowow. What was that?”
“Oh,” she said. “Tooth channel.”

On Monday, let’s talk about oral surgery. And party hats!

Dec 29 2010

Get Health Issues in Hand? Let’s talk.

A few years ago, I was pretty sick — sleeping 17-20 hours a day, covered in hives, nightmare dental issues, joints not working, dust and moths billowing out my mouth when I coughed, that kind of thing.

I needed to address it, but the symptoms snuck up on me so gradually that I wasn’t conscious of how bad my health had gotten. I was overwhelmed by how many doctors appointments I needed, which is how “Get my health issues in hand” eventually made it to my Life List. But in the meantime, I made sidecars and baconsteak for dinner, while maintaining a strict regimen of sitting still at a keyboard.

I’ve resisted going into my health issues too much here, because I like this site to be a kind of scrapbook of stuff I want to remember. “Oh my sciatica” doesn’t make for great memories or memorable reading. But as I’ve slowly returned to life among the ambulatory, I thought some of you might like to know how. So if you’re into that, keep reading. If not, here’s that video of a kitten being surprised repeatedly.


My extended family has health struggles. (Hi, family!) One by one we’ve developed exotic autoimmune disorders, and one by one we go to doctors who first say nothing is wrong, then eventually stick a close-enough label on our symptoms and begin treatment. As a group, we’ve been diagnosed as having Maybe Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Probably Lupus, Possibly Chron’s, Could Be Epstein Barr, Looks Like Fibromyalgia, Arthritis, plain old allergies, and, the old standby in the face of medical confusion — hypochondria.

A few years ago, I started getting hives that looked like mosquito bites all over my torso. I ignored it, because I am stupid. Then they moved to my face, at which point vanity sent me to the doctor who sent me to an allergist. The allergist said I was “sensitive” to a zillion things, so I tried to cut all that stuff out of my diet, which didn’t work.

I eventually figured out that wine and caffeine exacerbated the hives, so I tried to eliminate those. Then I tried getting rid of gluten, then pesticides, and then dairy. Then I sobbed uncontrollably while my joints ached and people asked if I had chicken pox.

Around this time, Heather wanted to do the Oprah cleanse from Quantum Wellness with a group of us who were doing an online book club together. The cleanse meant:

– Adopting a vegan diet with no meat, dairy, or eggs.
– No gluten — so no breads, pastas, crackers, or joy
– Cutting out caffeine and booze
– Eliminating refined sugars (yes to fruits, no to snorting crushed cookies)

So essentially, you can have air. And quinoa.

Anyway, the cleanse made a lot of the girls sick, supposedly because their bodies were clearing out toxins or something. One the other hand, I went from sleeping 17-20 hours a day to bedtime at 3 a.m., sleeping four hours, and awaking refreshed on no caffeine. My hives cleared up, my joints felt better, my skin was amazing. And suddenly I realized how grave my situation had been.

Let’s talk more about that tomorrow. That and cute dresses. Break!

Dec 28 2010

Just Before They Use Your Life Force as a Battery

Hank: Do you see the light is green?
Me: All those lights are green. When that happens it means the lights are timed. That means little robots tell the lights to let everyone go at once.
Hank: Outside robots?
Me: Yes, they live up by the lights.
Hank: We cannot see them. We should go on a walk to see them. And then they will give me robot high fives!

Dec 27 2010

Esquire’s What I’ve Learned

Every month, when I get my Esquire, I flip straight to the What I’ve Learned column. It’s my version of eating dessert first. In January they do an entire What I’ve Learned issue, and these are my favorite moments of insight from this year’s issue with links to the full interviews:

“Some people understand what it is to create something special, and others are thinking what they can get out of it.” –Al Pacino

“There was an incredible power that was against me. And that power, I hope I was able to use it to do something good. Power is power. It’s energy. And if you get big, big energy, you can use that in a good way.” –Yoko Ono

“People don’t remember who the critics were.” –Robert Redford

“Running from something and running to something are the same thing.”

“There’s always going to be someone smarter, prettier, nicer. It’s better to appreciate it instead of being threatened by it or defending yourself against it.” –Mary Louise Parker

I think you ought to treat your spouse like you treat your friends. You clean your house for your friends, you make sure they’re taken care of, and a spouse comes second. I think you oughtta treat him like a friend.” –Barbara Bush

My woman is smarter than me, stronger than me, and within six months would be just fine without me. A motherfucker’s got to pay attention to his relationship.” -Esquire reader, Russell Bryan Love

“I don’t look ahead. I’m right here with you. It’s a good way to be.”

“If you’re going to have kids, there’s only one way to go. They have to know they’re th emost important things in your life, and once you’re doing that, there’s no way that you could not learn from them, because they just give you stuff constantly.” –Danny DeVito

“I don’t want to impress people I wouldn’t cross the road to talk to. I want there to be a strict door policy at my club. I want to go, “You can’t come in. You won’t like this. And I don’t want you to like it.” –Ricky Gervais

“Could you imagine people eating a painting — if they could introduce a painting into their bodies? It’s probably the artist’s dream, and we have the opportunity to do so.”

“I dedicate more than double the time most people do. Thus, at the same level of talent, I have an advantage.” –Ferran Adrià

“In the history of the earth, there’s never been more people writing. Everyone’s a writer. Everybody spends time trying to let people know who they are. Twitter.” –James L. Brooks

Dec 22 2010

100 Parties Project: No. 1, Fall Dinner Party

I’ve been cocooning for a while, so I thought this would be a good time to get started on the 100 Parties Project, to kick start the new year. We threw this little dinner party back in November.

Ten bucks of grocery store mums and daisies, some leftover kumquats, and bam! Centerpieces in 15 minutes. I like to put objects next to my arrangements to make tiny tableaus. This dinosaur fit right in with the color scheme. He is so ferocious. Grr.

I put the kumquats on long toothpicks for the nosegays, and skewers for the larger arrangement, then wrapped with a bit of floral tape so they’d stay put in the vases. Masking tape also works fine in a pinch if your vase is opaque.

The vases are thrifted. These little ones are Hawaiian pottery goblets I picked up in Portland. I’d never seen them before, but for some reason they’re everywhere up there.

The menu:

Pear Sidecars
Melissa and I had these in Portland, and they’ve become a favorite in the Summers and Mason households alike.

Antipasto Tray
We wing it, but there’s a basic outline on the other side of that link.

Red Wine
We weren’t particular about this, but if you have a pairing suggestion that you think fits this menu, leave it in comments and I’ll update.

Winter Veggie Soup with Goat Cheese Crostini
This is one of my favorite soups. It has a granny apple, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper for a little kick. Unexpected and delicious, plus you can make it ahead and pull it out of the freezer.

Honey Tangerines and Kumquats with Walnuts and Shaved Celery
This is crisp and palate-cleansy. It’s also how we ended up with extra kumquats for the centerpieces.

Pork Tenderloin and Potatoes
Bryan usually just does some sort of rub based on a random Epicurious recipe. If you wanted to really wow, you could also do the potatoes separately with some wilted Spinach and bacon.

Bill Granger’s Chocolate Pudding Cakes with Bourbon Whipped Cream
This will end you, it’s my go-to guest dessert. I measure everything out beforehand, then excuse myself for ten minutes to melt the chocolate and mix everything up. It takes about 15 minutes to bake while you finish your wine, and then you have simple, warm flourless chocolate cakes. Plus it makes the house smell beautiful.

Coffee and Tea
It was a Monday night, so we didn’t do port. In retrospect, this was a mistake. Be ye not so stupid.