Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Something For ME Every Day

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Carrot Cake Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting And Candied Carrots

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Colorful Easter Eggs, Naturally...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

No Match For Cancer

I watched Frozen last Sunday, and... Oh, while I do think that I am the last person in the world who hasn't seen it, I don't want to take any chances and reveal the ending to those who may have not seen it. If so, skip the next paragraph.

Yes, it was oh so cute and typical Disney in its perfection. And I was overwhelmed with feelings of love, happiness, and pride - I felt so lucky that I have a sister and can relate to that amazing feeling of love towards a sister. An act of love towards a sister totally beats a love's first kiss. And if you don't have a sister, then you won't understand. Sorry!

Unfortunately, though, this post is not about a cute story, but about a real one ~ here it goes:

My sister and I are three years apart and, even though we shared a small room as kids, we fought like crazy... have you seen The Kardashians?... I mean, we, Armenians, are very passionate people...

But then, one day, we had a big fight (I have absolutely no recollection what that fight was about), and our mom, who was fed up with our behavior, said that she will give us both away to people who live at two opposite ends of our city, so that we won't have to ever EVER see each other again.

After a moment of silence, we both started sobbing loudly because we couldn't imagine not seeing each other! Not kidding! Since then, we became the best friends. No life challenges could threaten us with separation... except that thing called cancer...

No!!! Who would have thought?! My sister was only 44! How could it happen to her? Where did it come from?

Luckily, after turning 40, my sister has diligently been doing her mammograms, and cancer has been spotted at the early stage. And we all know that the early diagnosis of breast cancer, or any cancer, can spell the difference between life and death.

We hear all the time that such and such got cancer. And we never NEVER think that it can happen to us. But why do we think we are immune to it? We are not! It can happen to me and it can happen to you! Sorry, that's the truth. It ain't a Disney story.

So I thought to ask my sister a few questions about how she dealt with the breast cancer diagnosis, and we put it on video. Hopefully, this helps.

My sister has always amazed me - she left our homeland by herself and came to America, she became a wonderful mother, she became a great physician, she became a compassionate person... But what amazed me the most was how she fought cancer with all her might, how gracefully she rose above the terror of the diagnosis, and how dedicated she was to survive, so I could be lucky and happy to have a sister.
I know that in this crazy life, we forget about caring for ourselves. But we should not. We should not let cancer win. So pick up your phone (I'm sure it's somewhere within your hands' reach), and make a mammogram appointment. And if your are not 40 yet and don't have cancer (any cancer) in your family history, then write in your calendar, reminding yourself to make the call the day you turn 40.

Please share your stories ~ the chances are that cancer touched your life whether directly or indirectly~ more stories we hear, more women will choose to make their first mammogram appointment, more lives will be saved.

With lots of love,
Zuma A.

Related posts: The Mammogram Race for Cure
For information about Breast Cancer, visit Susan G. Komen and Cancer Shmancer
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Monday, April 7, 2014

Hands That Won't Tell Tales

                                                                        For every woman who lives life and washes dishes...
We do a lot with our hands - we eat, we cook, we carry, we make music and art, we speak sign language, we write our thoughts, we wear our wedding rings... You get the point.

Thank you, hands!

The problem is that our hands age faster than any other parts of our body! And, since we never give in without a fight, we spend big bucks on manicures and hand creams... But do they really help rejuvenate and protect our hands?

Technically, caring for our hands is not complicated since the damage is caused by two things:
1. Sun exposure which causes wrinkling and brown spots, and
2. Constant use of water and soap which causes a loss of protective oil of our hand skin.

Well, there is one more thing ~ natural aging. The skin on the back of our hands is very thin, and, as we age, we lose the fat padding under the skin what causes the bones and veins to be more visible. Agh, how annoying! But there is a way to fix that too, with a dermatologist's help. A pricy solution.

So, for those who haven't gotten to the point of considering Lasers, Peels and Fillers, here are a few things you need to know to get pampered and young looking hands:

1. Pick the right two sets of hand creams - one for night and one for day.
Day cream MUST have ingredients:
SPF, SPF, SPF! Also Shea Butter,  macadamia nut oil (or olive oil), vitamin E, glycerin ingredients.

Day moisturizer won't reverse sun damage or create new collagen, but it will replenish the moisture lost after a hand wash, and will leave skin looking plumper and more youthful.  SPF will protect skin from cancer and premature aging.

Night cream should include ingredients that promote new collagen formation:
Antioxidants like Vitamins A, C, and E, and Retinoid.

These ingredients help to renew skin as they exfoliate the dead skin to replenish it with a new one. And, since our skin regenerates most when we sleep, these ingredients give even better effect at night!

2. Wear gloves every time you wash dishes!
I would say wear gloves all the time, but that would look weird. So, unless it's winter, I would wear SPF instead of gloves.

But washing dishes is different. Yes, you can buy a bunch of latex gloves from Costco for about $7, but I found the cutest latex gloves at Sur La Table for about $15. They come in many different colors. They are thicker and more durable too. And they manage to make the dish washing experience a little more fun... if that's possible.

A few tips to know:
- For better results, apply moisturizers to slightly damp skin (after a shower, or bath, or after washing hands)
- Apply moisturizer a few times a day
- SPF should have UVA UVB and IRA-induced aging protection.
- Don't choose moisturizers by price. They all promise tons of benefits, but the reality is not measured on how expensive they are, but what ingredients they have.

Here are a few day hand creams for you to look into:
Deborah Lippmann Rich Girl Hand Cream SPF 25 $28.00  - this cream has sun protection and intensely hydrating and softening. Health Magazine's winner for Healthiest Hand Cream, as voted on by leading dermatologists.
Clinique Even Better $15.00 for 1oz ~ aside from SPF 15, it works on smoothing the complexion.

Prior to doing this research, my favorite day cream was Philosophy Hands of Hope $10.00 for 1oz. I love the feel and smell. But it does not have SPF in it. So I also apply Clinique SPF 30 Sunscreen  $23.00

Here are a few picks for the night hand creams:
H2O Plus Sea Results Anti-Aging Body Moisture Whip $28.00 ~ this is an anti-aging blend that exfoliates, brightens, and hydrates.

Strivectin Volumizing Hand Treatment $29.00 ~ this cream helps minimize discolorations, hydrates and nourishes skin to help prevent loss of elasticity.

Dermalogica Multi-Vitamin Hand and Nail Treatment $25.00  It softens, hydrates, evens skin ton, and helps prevent prevent loss of elasticity.

Hope we are now fully informed and ready to give our hands a new round of pampering they deserve.

xo, Zuma A.
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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Chocolate Swirl Cupcakes

Happy Friday everyone! I hope your week was... better than mine!

After a such an exciting weekend, I had to throw myself back into the real world and spend the entire week writing legal briefs (which tend to fry my brain), deal with an unusual number of things that would not go smoothly, and fight my biggest enemy - the traffic...

Agh. Ain't life beautiful?! Do you ever have days when things just go wrong? Or, at least, it feels that way?

Well, no worries, there is a way to make life better, and if a day does not go your way, you can eat Alfredo pasta, or ice cream, or chocolate ~ whatever rocks your boat!

To me, though, it's the cakes or cupcakes that satisfy my cravings. Oh, they can make anything...  zBeautiful! So, if there are no sweets at home, I bake some. And, since carbomania hits me quite often, I'm a pro!

So, in a desperate search, I opened my fridge to see if I have the ingredients for baking cupcakes or something. Butter - check, eggs - check, milk - I always have milk in the fridge. Then I checked the cabinet for flour and sugar - check and check! And then I saw a giant dark chocolate bar hiding behind the flour.

Oh, yes! This was what I needed. Instantly, I decided to make Chocolate Swirl cupcakes, my new favorite.

To make Chocolate Swirl cupcakes, I make vanilla cupcakes batter and stir in melted chocolate. The results are... divine, if I can say so myself! (and only 300 calories!.. that is if I eat one cupcake...)

Shopping list for melted chocolate:
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbs butter
4 oz dark chocolate, shaved or chopped
batter for 12 vanilla cupcakes
Step 1: Heat heavy cream in a sauce pan. Add butter.
Step 2: Once butter is melted and heavy cream just started bubbling, add chocolate. Stir chocolate until fully combined and melted. Set aside to cool.
Step 3: Pour the cooled chocolate into vanilla cupcake batter and stir. (If you want to serve these cupcakes with chocolate buttercream, then save a 1/4 cup to mix into the buttercream later.)
Step 4: Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups, filling about 3/4th full. Bake for about 16 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
Frost the Chocolate Swirl cupcakes with either Vanilla Buttercream or Chocolate Buttercream. And, as I mentioned here, to make Chocolate Buttercream you beat 1/4 cup melted chocolate into the Buttercream. Yum!
xo, Zuma A.

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