True Life Stories & True Life Issues
Today I have a yummy 5 star secret recipe for you that comes from Copenhagen Pastry in Culver City, California. Copenhagen Pastry is a Danish bakeshop offering traditional breads, cakes and pastries. One of the tasty treats they offer are the Napoleon hats. Butter cookies with an almond flavored filling and a rich chocolate coating. You can easily recreate these cookies at home using the recipe below.
2 1/2 cups (300 g) flour1
1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon (150 g) powdered sugar
1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks, or 200 g) butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (66 g) water
In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, mix together the flour and powdered sugar. With the mixer running, start adding the butter cubes and continue mixing until all the butter is added and the mixture has a wet sand-like consistency.
Make an indentation in the middle of mixture and add the egg yolk and water. Mix just until all of the ingredients are combined to
form a dough. Form the dough into a flat square and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill until the dough is firm, at least 30 minutes.
Remove the dough to a lightly-floured work surface and roll to a thickness of about 1/8-inch. Use a 3-inch round cutter to cut 20 circles from the dough. Arrange the circles on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets and refrigerate for at least an hour.
8 ounces (275 g) raw slivered almonds
1/3 cup light agave sweetener
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons (20 g) egg white
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the almonds until they are very-finely ground. With the processor running, add the agave and almond extract in a slow stream until the mixture comes together to form a ball. Add the sugar and pulse until it is incorporated, then the egg white. Continue running until the mixture again forms a ball, stopping and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl once or twice if needed.
Refrigerate the paste for at least 30 minutes to cool, then divide the mixture into 20 balls (each using a heaping tablespoon of paste).
Almond paste balls
Prepared dough circles
Melted chocolate, for coating
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a ball of almond paste in the center of each dough circle. Fold the cookie dough around the ball and press in three places using your fingers. Bake the cookies until the tops of the balls and edges of the cookies are golden brown.
Place the cookies on a rack until they are cool, then dip the bottoms of the cookies in the melted chocolate. Invert the cookies so the chocolate can dry.
Makes 20 Cookies.
Source: LA Times
Over the past year we’ve shared so many great-tasting secret recipes from some of the most popular restaurants around. To recap a fantastic year, here are our Top 10 Secret Recipes of 2015 based on popularity.
Get them all now – click here
Gosh, can you believe it’s only two days away from Christmas?! Tell me, where has this month gone? Hell, where has this year gone?
Actually though, for as fast as it’s flown by, this holiday season has been a special one for me and I really hate to see it end. I think because of what I went through in October with my health and feeling so blessed that everything worked out, I have not allowed myself to get wrapped up in the tension and hecticness associated with working in retail this time of the year. Usually at this point, I am so tired and OVER the insanity of retail, I can’t wait for it to end. But things are different this year because anytime I start to feel tense, impatient or annoyed, I tell myself, “Remember what you went through Ron, and be grateful. And remember what really matters in life.” And amazingly enough, I immediately feel more in the holiday spirit – the true holiday spirit of JOY.
I’m determined not to allow what I learned back in October to be lost, now that I’m well again. Because that’s very easy to do. Once our lives get back to normal, we often forget to bring forth the lessons.
So yes, this has been a very special Christmas – one of immense gratitude, humbleness, and heart.
Over the past few weeks, I took some photographs of Christmas in Philadelphia.
I spotted this delightful gentleman on JFK Boulevard dancing to Christmas music. And I wish you all could have seen him in person because he danced with such joy and abandonment. You could tell that he was having the time of his life!
Wishing you and your loved ones a very MERRY and JOYOUS CHRISTMAS!
As I shared in a previous post, ever since my break from blogging over the summer, I seem to have reconnected with my creative muse. And lately, my creative channel has been through the use of my camera. Over the past month and a half, I’ve been experimenting with manual mode instead of relying on auto-pilot. These next photographs were shot in manual mode, which means I adjusted the settings (aperture, shutter speed, etc.). But that doesn’t mean I didn’t tweak them a bit (crop, sharpen, color adjust) in post-production. So, I guess you could call these photographs semi-manual.
As most of you guys and gals already know, I love architecture. And Philadelphia has some of the most gorgeous architecture, which is an amalgamation of historical fused with modern. However, it is primarily the rich, historical architecture that speaks to my heart. I guess you could say that I was born with an old soul because all my life I’ve been more attracted to old than new.
You will also notice from these photographs that I enjoy shooting buildings at an angle; looking up. And I particularly enjoy photographing the corners of buildings.
So please enjoy some Philadelphia urban architecture…
Oh, hush up! I can hear you all laughing from here.
Now give me some credit, at least it’s a cell phone. It reminds me of the first cell phone I ever got (in the early-90’s). Back then very few people had a cell phone, so I felt special.
And OMG…you should have seen how everyone at my job reacted when I told them that I had a cell phone. The were ELATED. And then you should have seen how they reacted when they saw it was a FLIP PHONE. They looked at me as if I were Wilma Flintstone, who had just been transported from the stone age…
But hey, they were still very happy that I HAD a cell phone now.
Anyway, as soon as I got home with my new Go Phone, I immediately entered the names and numbers of my friends into my Contacts so that I would have them there, just in case of another emergency and needed to contact them.
And I have to admit, after not having a cell phone since the early-90’s, I really liked having one again.
About a month later though, when it came time to place more money on my Go Phone account, I kept eyeing the Smartphones in the showroom and thinking, “Do I dare upgrade to a Smartphone so that I can have access to Internet service and a touch screen?” Because even after having a basic cell phone for only a month, I was already getting sick and tired of how long it took to type a text message on the keypad.
So, do you know what I did?
Yup…I found a Smartphone at a great price (an Android) and upgraded my Wilma Flintstone phone to this…
Don’t ya just love the cushioned faux leather carrying case? I got it at Five Below (a discount store that sells everything at $5.00 and below). I only paid $5.00 for it!
Yes, I have to admit…I am sooooooo loving my new mobile phone!
However, there is one thing I need to work on because I’m having MAJOR issues. You see, I find that my fingertips are too wide to type on the touch screen; therefore, I keep pressing the wrong letters/numbers and spend most of my time screaming four-letter obscenities at the phone.
So please folks, tell me that texting does get easier.
“Challenging times are like a washing machine. They twist, turn and knock us around. But in the end we come out cleaner, brighter and better than before.”
I found the above quote online and thought it was positively brilliant! And it’s perfect for what I am about to share with you.
Part Two: The Lessons
As you know from my previous post, I had a challenging two weeks in October. It was a month in which my insecurity buttons were pushed because my life suddenly changed, initially leaving me frightened with uncertainty and feeling powerless. Yet, I should know by now after going through many bumpy times in my life that challenges happen for a reason and that there is always a lesson or two (or three) I need to learn. And I could sense as I was being wheeled into the emergency room that this was going to be a challenge with some very important lessons.
One of the greatest things about getting older is that I’ve learned (and am still learning) how to step outside myself when going through life’s challenges and observe myself in relationship to the challenge. When I was younger, I would often get so overwhelmed with my emotions that I was unable to see what was really going on. I was only able to see and experience the drama; therefore, couldn’t see why the challenge was in my life and what I needed to learn from it. I’ve also learned that moving closer to the experience instead of trying to fight and run away from it, makes the challenge so much easier to move through.
Pretty much all of my life I’ve experienced excellent health. Sure, I’ve had certain things happen here and there when it comes to illness, however, I’ve never experienced anything quite as life-threatening as I did in October. This experience taught me to never take my health for granted by just arrogantly assuming it will always be. Because that’s what happens to some of us who have had good health most of our lives, we sometimes take it for granted until it’s no longer there. This experience also taught me to have more compassion for those people who have life-long challenges with their health.
As I shared in my previous post, prior to getting sick and ending up in a hospital, I was running myself ragged and stressing out over things that I should not have been stressing out about. This experience taught me to be more conscious about living a balanced life and to stop worrying over things that are not worry-worthy. I think on some level I perpetuated this illness because of overextending myself and stressing out. But I also think it was necessary so that I would finally stop, look and listen.
Kindness, Support and Love
One of the things that touched me very much about this experience was that I was reminded of how kind, supportive and loving people can be. With all the things we read in the news about how horrible people can act, it’s easy to become tainted and forget that there are also a lot of kind people in this world. I can’t tell you how kind and loving I was treated while in the hospital. The medical staff who cared for me went way beyond what their jobs required. Both the doctors and nurses (especially the nurses) did all kinds of extra things, just to make sure I was always comfortable and felt well-cared for. They treated me as if I were a close, personal friend or family member, such as stopping by my room (even when they were not assigned to be my nurse for the day) just to say hello and check up on me.
I also got a great deal of care and support from friends, my brother Tom, and my manager at work.
Everyone reached out to support me while I was in the hospital. And they even continued to support me after I got home.
This experience was an incredible reminder of how much I am loved by the people in my life.
I don’t know about you, but I need to be humbled every now and then so I can be reminded that I’m just like everyone else – a human being who has struggles, faults and insecurities. And that my life can suddenly change at any given moment; needing the care, support and love from my fellow-human beings. And that it doesn’t mean I’m weak. It only means that I’m human.
So yes, this was a challenging experience for me. And like a washing machine, my life was suddenly twisted, turned and knocked around. But I had two weeks in a hospital room to reflect and learn from it.
And I feel cleaner, brighter and better than before.
Preface: This is a LONG post, so grab yourself a cup of coffee, tea, or a glass of wine and sit back for a read.
Part One: The Happening
On Wednesday, October 14th, at about 4:30 PM, I walked five blocks from my apartment to the Jefferson Hospital Urgent Care facility and had to stop three times to catch my breath because I could hardly breathe and could not stop coughing. And after the doctor on staff took one look at my lung x-rays he walked into the room where I had been sitting, and with a very serious demeanor and panicked expression in his eyes said, “Mr. Carnavil, from your x-rays I can see that your entire left lung is filled with fluid.There is also a dark mass at the base of the lung which is very concerning. I won’t even allow you to walk to the ER, I’m calling the paramedics so that they can drive you there. You are a very sick man and this is extremely serious.”
I just sat there and blinked in shock. I immediately thought, “Holy shit, I’ve got lung cancer.”
The rest of that afternoon and night were pretty much what I guess many people experience when suddenly whisked into ER and the doctors and nurses are desperately trying to figure out what’s wrong with them. I was examined and questioned over and over again; many being the same questions from different specialists. I also had many (and I mean MANY) tubes of blood drawn from my veins in the hopes that it would detect why I was so sick, why I was coughing, and what had caused my lungs to fill with fluid.
I laid in the hospital bed thinking I was dreaming and would wake up and the nightmare would be over. The only other time I had been in a hospital for an illness was when I was 6-years old for a tonsillectomy, so I was apprehensive and frightened. Yet it’s odd, because I didn’t stay frightened for long. Somehow I knew that I would be okay and was in good hands. I also knew that freaking out about being sick and in the hospital wouldn’t make it any easier to handle. This was one of those situations in life where there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to change it. I just had to accept it by staying in the moment; taking one moment at a time and not jumping ahead to what my fearful imagination was conjuring up as being the worst thing possible.
This was one of those situations in which I was out of control and I hate being out of control. But there was nothing I could do except keep the faith that no matter what was wrong with me, I would be taken care of. And oddly enough, once I accepted that, I felt much calmer. I could sense that this experience not only had to do with the physical, but also (and even more so) with lessons I needed to learn about things beyond the physical.
Allow me to quickly interject here that I was in the hospital for 14 days. Yes, you heard me correctly, TWO weeks. That’s how long it took the team of doctors who worked on me to figure out what was wrong. They could see that I had a very bad infection in my lung (and eventually discovered that it was not cancer), but they couldn’t figure out where the infection came from and how it got there. I literally had a sonogram on all the major organs of my body. I also had several CAT scans. And from what all the test results revealed, outside of my lungs, the doctors could find nothing else abnormal.
Their immediate concern, however, was to remove the infectious fluid from my lungs so that I could breath properly again. Therefore, I was scheduled for a lung drain the following morning. That night I was transferred to ICU and was closely cared for by a group of very kind and compassionate nurses. I was literally hooked up to every machine you could imagine. I had an oxygen mask on my face to help me breathe, I was also hooked up to a heart and lung monitor. I had two IV’s (one in each arm) – one that administered two very strong antibiotics, and the other was just in case I needed painkillers. I was given morphine once, but not for pain because I really wasn’t in any pain. However, I was given a small dose of morphine by one of the nurses to help halt my chronic cough so that I could sleep. And it worked. Bless that nurse!
I suppose you’re all wondering, “Ron, when the hell did all this start and why didn’t you go to a doctor before it got so bad?”
That’s a good question.
It all started in August when I got that really bad flu, remember? Well, the coughing part of the flu never went completely away – it would return and then go away for a few weeks; then return. And because I felt better, I never concerned myself with going to a doctor because I thought that the cough might have something to do with an allergy. So many people I talked to and work with had been coughing and sneezing throughout late summer and early fall, and said it was allergy’s. So, I thought I had developed an allergy. Or perhaps the start of asthma.
Then, it was during the end of September I started to notice that not only was I coughing, but other weird things were happening. Like my taste buds were out of whack because I couldn’t taste food properly. Also, coffee and wine tasted horrible so I stopped drinking them. My whole body felt “off” and I began to quickly lose weight and developed swollen hands and feet. I also had a hard time breathing and would get easily winded if I walked too far. And although I didn’t miss a day of work, I was very tired and wanted to do nothing but sleep all the time – and that is SO not like me. During this time I took a lot of natural herbs, vitamins and holistic remedies, which helped, but they didn’t completely cure me of whatever was wrong.
Then, on the afternoon of October 14th, I decided that I needed to get myself to a doctor and find out what was going on because it was getting very scary. I felt completely disconnected from my body.
The following morning, I was wheeled down to the respiratory unit of the hospital where I had my very first lung drain. And although it sounds painful, it didn’t hurt at all. I don’t know what kind of drugs they used to numb me, but they were faaaaaaabulous! I wasn’t asleep during the procedure, I was totally awake and conscious yet, I was relaxed, carefree, and completely void of any pain. The procedure took about 30 minutes. And after it was done, I could instantly breathe better, felt better, and was suddenly very hungry. So when I got back to my hospital room, the nurse on duty asked if I wanted some breakfast and I said, “Yes…I’m starving.” I ate scrambled eggs, hash browns, toast, orange juice and coffee.
But even though I felt better after having the initial fluid drained from my lungs, the drain had to stay inside my body until all the fluid had been completely removed, which took many, many days. I had a tube that ran from the left side of my rib cage, down to a plastic reservoir that held all the fluid. So that whenever I had to use the rest room or walk around, I had to carry the plastic reservoir with me.
Everything was going very well until about the forth day, when my doctor informed me that although the drain was working, he noticed from one of my recent x-rays that there was a pocket of fluid on the upper part of my left lung that was not being drained; therefore they would have to go back and put in a second one. So the following day I was scheduled for another drain procedure.
All in all, after the two draining procedures, a liter and a half of fluid had been cleared from my left lung. And after doing some tests and closely examining the fluid, the doctors finally figured out that the infection in my lung was caused from an infection that came from my mouth when I had a tooth abscess last winter. Apparently, the infection traveled down to my lungs and harbored itself there until I got sick last August with the flu and then blew up.
Throughout the following days and week, I got much, much better. In fact, my doctor and attending nurses were so surprised that I responded so well to the treatment. My doctor even admitted to me one day that when he first took on my case and saw what I initially looked like, he was very frightened for me and thought I would need invasive surgery to heal my lung.
And as I got progressively healthier and stronger, I was given a hospital release date of October 28th. However, I was told that I would still need follow-up x-rays and appointments with my doctor, just to make sure I continued to heal. Additionally, I would have to stay on antibiotics for four more weeks to be sure the infection was completely out of my system.
So here I am today, after having seen my doctor for a second visit since getting out of the hospital and got a rave review. In his words, “Ron…you look better and healthier every time I see you!”
Next Monday will be my third and final appointment with my doctor.
I learned SO MUCH from this experience. And in my next and conclusive post, I will share what that is.
|Giant 3-Way Plug – Artworks – Philadelphia Art Museum|
Back in 2007 when I first started this blog, I had a completely different job with no set work schedule. I had the luxury of being given a certain amount of hours to work each week and the freedom to choose what days and what time of the day I wanted to apply them. I only worked 5 hours per shift and got paid a very good hourly salary. I had this job for 10 years and loved it because it gave me lots of free time to do other things, such as blog. And back then I was a very dedicated and somewhat obsessive blogger. I posted on a set schedule (three times per week: Monday, Wednesday, Friday), I responded to comments quickly and frequently throughout the day, and I also visited and commented on other blogs quickly and frequently throughout the day. Yes, I spent a great deal of time and energy blogging, but it was time and energy that I thoroughly enjoyed putting forth and never regretted.
Then, a year and a half ago, things changed. I began looking for other employment because my hours were slowly being cut and needed to find a job that was more stable and offered more hours – which I did find and was extremely grateful. However, I went from working a 25-hour flexible work week to a 40-hour set schedule work week. And with that, I lost a lot of the free time I used to spend blogging. But rather than change my blogging routine by cutting back, I stressed myself out by trying to blog like I used to. Slowly, blogging became something that I angsted and fretted over instead of looked forward to. I could feel myself losing a sense enjoyment. Yet, I kept on doing it because I didn’t want to disappoint my readers or want to believe that I couldn’t work a full-time job and blog the way I used to when I worked only part-time.
And that’s when ‘burnout’ started to set in. It happened during last summer.
And that’s what I believe led to my recent long hiatus from blogging. I pushed myself to the point of losing all inspiration. And there were times when I even resented it and would avoid going online and even looking at my blog because I felt completely dry; unable to think of anything to post about. I felt as if I had lost my voice and had nothing else to say.
I also believe that back in August when I got sick with the flu, it had to do with getting rundown from stress and running myself ragged. In fact, the whole time I was sick, all I kept hearing over and over again in my head was, “Slow down, Ron. You’re doing too much.Take a break. And stop moving so fast.”
So that’s what I finally did. I completely surrendered by unplugging from the self-imposed blogging pressure I had placed on myself and actually started to enjoy not blogging because it felt like a heavy weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I even said to myself, “If I go back to blogging, fine. But if I don’t, that’s fine too. I mean, I’ve been blogging for 8 years, so if I quit now…I can walk away knowing that I gave it a good go.”
But that’s not what happened. No.
Because it was during that break, I got some much needed clarity about what I was doing wrong.
You see, rather than change and adjust with my change in jobs, I kept trying to blog the same way I had been doing all along and it didn’t work.
I also could see that I was taking this blog much too seriously and thinking of it more of a strict obligation, rather than a place of enjoyment.
This blog is and always has been intended for my enjoyment. It’s a place where I can express my thoughts and opinions, as well as share my interests and passions. It’s a space where I can also socialize, share, and discuss topics with you guys.
Therefore, I decided not to take this blog so seriously anymore and remember why I started it to begin with – to have fun. I also decided to make some changes. I will no longer be posting on a set schedule, but rather whenever I feel like it. I may post once a week, twice a week, or even once every two weeks. I also decided to no longer stress myself out by compulsively checking my emails so that I can responded to your comments immediately, or checking my feed reader five times a day so that I can immediately read and comment on your posts, but rather take my time and do both of these things it when time allows. In other words, I want to be more laid back and relaxed about this blog and blogging.
And since making a conscious effort to remove the blogging stress I placed on myself, my creative muse seems to have returned, and I feel more like blogging.
It was not only my recent blogging hiatus that gave me a clearer perspective and restored my creativity, it was also a sudden and scary experience that happened last month that altered my perception.
Which I will be sharing on my next post.
So stay tuned!