Monday, January 30, 2012


The get-along gang.

I caught this moment as the kids were watching a movie at my cousin Cindy's home. Cindy's two adorable daughters, Emma and Janie, flank Caden on both sides. Meanwhile, Izzy is off in her own world, loving every minute of her cousins' Barbies, Disney princesses, and Hello Kitty.

It's wonderful watching these kids grow up together. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Journalists: truth vigilantes?

Now why on earth would a journalist be considered an outlaw for truth? The word “vigilante” means someone who takes the law into his or her own hands. Is that what journalism has come to? I thought that was part of a journalist’s job—-to seek the truth—-and not have to be apologetic about it.

The fact that the Times even had an article about this is embarrassing…

Should The Times Be a Truth Vigilante?
By ARTHUR S. BRISBANE/The New York Times/January 12, 2012

I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.

One example mentioned recently by a reader: As cited in an Adam Liptak article on the Supreme Court, a court spokeswoman said Clarence Thomas had “misunderstood” a financial disclosure form when he failed to report his wife’s earnings from the Heritage Foundation. The reader thought it not likely that Mr. Thomas “misunderstood,” and instead that he simply chose not to report the information.

Another example: on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney often says President Obama has made speeches “apologizing for America,” a phrase to which Paul Krugman objected in a December 23 column arguing that politics has advanced to the “post-truth” stage.
As an Op-Ed columnist, Mr. Krugman clearly has the freedom to call out what he thinks is a lie. My question for readers is: should news reporters do the same?

If so, then perhaps the next time Mr. Romney says the president has a habit of apologizing for his country, the reporter should insert a paragraph saying, more or less:
“The president has never used the word ‘apologize’ in a speech about U.S. policy or history. Any assertion that he has apologized for U.S. actions rests on a misleading interpretation of the president’s words.”

That approach is what one reader was getting at in a recent message to the public editor. He wrote:
“My question is what role the paper’s hard-news coverage should play with regard to false statements – by candidates or by others. In general, the Times sets its documentation of falsehoods in articles apart from its primary coverage. If the newspaper’s overarching goal is truth, oughtn’t the truth be embedded in its principal stories? In other words, if a candidate repeatedly utters an outright falsehood (I leave aside ambiguous implications), shouldn’t the Times’s coverage nail it right at the point where the article quotes it?”

This message was typical of mail from some readers who, fed up with the distortions and evasions that are common in public life, look to The Times to set the record straight. They worry less about reporters imposing their judgment on what is false and what is true.
Is that the prevailing view? And if so, how can The Times do this in a way that is objective and fair? Is it possible to be objective and fair when the reporter is choosing to correct one fact over another? Are there other problems that The Times would face that I haven’t mentioned here?

Throughout the 2012 presidential campaign debates, The Times has employed a separate fact-check sidebar to assess the validity of the candidates’ statements. Do you like this feature, or would you rather it be incorporated into regular reporting? How should The Times continue a function like this when we move to the general campaign and there’s less time spent in debates and more time on the road?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

This one is staying with me

This book kicked my ass.

Finished the last pages last night. It's one of those reads you just can't put down. McCarthy took me on a completely frightening post-apocalyptic journey. I lived inside the souls of this father and son, tripping through the lifeless terrain, groping in the dark, completely terrified by a Godless landscape. 

Its brilliance was in the contrast: a treacherous world so beautifully written; love and devotion against a completely hopeless backdrop; the will to survive when everything else that surrounds is completely devoid of life.

So utterly brilliant. I was equally crushed and inspired. This book kicked my ass.

Monday, January 23, 2012

My little fashionista

Those Vogue supermodels ain't got nuthin' on this cool kitten.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

From my table to yours: veggie and fish stew

Best on a cold, rainy day.

I love fish and I love soup and I love veggies. My experimentation with the three naturally led me to this delicious stew. Perfect on a cold, rainy day with a freshly baked baguette. Also great in the summer with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.


veggie and fish stew

What you’ll need:

  • 1 ½ lb white fish (ex: Tilapia, Swai, Halibut)
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ onion
  • 1 12-oz can stewed tomatoes1 12-oz can white beans (ex: Navy beans, Great Northern beans, Cannellini beans)
  • 3 12-oz cans chicken broth 
  • 2 bay leavesbunch of spinach, kale (you can also use collard greens or Swiss chard), and cilantro
  • salt and pepper

What to do:

  • Season fish with salt and pepper, both sides. Cut into 3-inch pieces. Set aside. 
  • Chop carrot, celery, onion, and kale (I like chunky pieces) and place into large pot with 2 tbsp olive oil and minced garlic. Place over medium-low heat. Cook for 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally (until veggies soften). 
  • Add tomatoes, beans, chopped spinach, and cilantro. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. 
  • Add broth and bay leaves and increase the heat to medium. Cook for about 15 minutes. 
  • Lay fish in the mixture and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. 
  • Add salt and pepper to taste. Take out bay leaves.

Enjoy with baguette and bottle of your favorite white wine. Serves about 6.  

Monday, January 16, 2012


"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough
places shall be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

Friday, January 13, 2012

Favorite beauty products: my picks

What do girlfriends do? They share beauty secrets! OK ladies, here are some fantastic (and must-have) beauty products. Try these 12 in 2012. 

If I were on a deserted island, I could not live without:

clairsonic mia 
This is the single product that has CHANGED MY LIFE.

I’ve struggled with skin problems since I hit puberty (I got my first zit when I was 12 and now, at 37, I still have to deal with acne—-ugh!). Over the past 20 years, I’ve seen numerous dermatologists, taken every prescription drug out there (from oral antibiotics to Retin-A to Accutane), and tried countless beauty regimens—-all with varying results. But nothing ever stuck. Until I received this miraculous sonic brush last Christmas.

I never realized all the make-up, dirt, and gunk I still had on my face, even after washing. But the Mia gets everything off—-even MAC’s heavy glue-like foundation. I don’t know exactly how the technology works, but after you use it, it feels like you have a new layer of skin. Baby soft. And whatever you put on your face afterwards-—lotions, creams, or topical medication—-your skin just drinks it up. Hence, your products become more effective.

OK, I know I sound like a commercial, but take it from someone who has tried almost EVERYTHING… This thing works! I haven’t had a major breakout in over a year!

You really do sacrifice your body when you decide to become pregnant and birth a child. After having two, there are days when I mourn my pre-baby body. Back then, I actually had a flat stomach, a tight butt, and a tiny waist. But the most annoying part is that I never appreciated it. I was too busy fussing over my thighs or my lack of a bust. We women can be so stupid!

Thankfully, I can rely on my Spanx to help me “keep it all in.” It’s like shrink wrap. Heaven.

fresh sugar lip treatment
Yes, it’s $22.50 a pop, but it’s worth every penny. It feels so delicious on your lips!

bedtime balm by dr. andrew weil for origins 
I always sleep better after I use this. Call me crazy, or maybe it’s the soothing blend of Lavender, Chamomile, and Mandarin essential oils. Zzzzzzz…

shiseido oil-blotting papers
Yes, it may seem stupid to spend $18 on tissue paper, but I have been using these for as long as I can remember (my mom turned me on to them when I was 13) and I simply cannot leave home without them. Would you rather look like an oil slick? Not me, thank you very much.

she laq by benefit 
This make-up sealer works like a shellac (hence, the clever name) for your face. It seals in your lipstick, eyeliner, mascara, anything and everything. But alas, our friends at Benefit have discontinued this amazing product (but I think you can find it on eBay). Hate you, Benefit!

smith's rosebud salve
The good people at the Rosebud Perfume Company have been making this original-formula lip balm since 1892. Making customers happy for 120 years. Can’t beat that.

essie nail polish
10 reasons why I love Essie: my thumb, pointer finger, middle finger, ring finger, pinky…

gloomaway grapefruit body souffle by origins
Slather this on right after a hot shower. Smells so yummy you might take a bite out of yourself.

lovely by sarah jessica parker
I think the whole celebrity foray into perfumes is pretty ridiculous (I mean, why would I pay to smell like J-Lo or Paris Hilton?). But I admit, when I encountered this perfume, it was love at first smell. With notes of mandarin, bergamot, rosewood, lavender, apple, paper whites and orchid, how you possibly be in a bad mood wearing this?

aldo shoes
I love shoes almost as much as Imelda Marcos. One day, when I can afford it, I will build myself a shoe closet-- complete with mirrors, a display case, and filing system (I told you I'm obsessed with shoes). 

My budget doesn't allow for a collection of Christian Louboutin's, Jimmy Choo's, or Manolo Blahnik's (not yet). In the meantime, Aldo never lets me down. I must have a dozen pairs: wedges, platforms, boots, sandals. Their designs are beautiful, the price is right, and they are actually very comfortable. 

cherry chapstick
It’s a classic. Enough said.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Celebrity CULTure

We are celebrity-obsessed. There should be a drug to combat symptoms of such cult-like behavior. 

I read the article below and although I enjoy Beyonce and Jay-Z as artists, they totally lost cool points for the way they and their camp handled the birth of their daughter. As a parent, I was especially appalled that other parents were denied access to their newborn babies. When someone else’s rights are infringed upon, only because you think you’re more important than everyone else… Well, that’s just tacky.

And now the media is going bonkers over who is going to snag the first baby photos. They say bids for the first snapshots of Blue Ivy Carter could go up to $2 million. Meanwhile, Angelina and Brad Pitt reportedly received $10 million for photos of their twins and Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony reportedly fetched $6 million for theirs. I don’t know about you, but selling photos of children (no matter who the parents are) kind of feels like prostitution…

Have we, as a society, lost our minds?

It’s just another reason I think we should stop deifying celebrities. They are just human beings, people. Yes, they’re beautiful, talented, and rich… But let’s not forget they need to eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom… Just like the rest of us. 

After Beyoncé Gives Birth, Patients Protest Celebrity Security at Lenox Hill Hospital
By NINA BERNSTEIN/The New York Times/January 10, 2012

The couple were visiting their twin daughters in the neonatal intensive care unit at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan on Friday night, as they have done daily since the babies’ premature birth on Dec. 28. But when they tried to leave the sixth-floor unit to go home to Brooklyn at about 11 p.m., the new mother, Rozz Nash-Coulon, recalled, a burly security guard suddenly blocked their way.
The familiar area outside the neonatal unit had been transformed: partitions had been put up, the maternity ward windows were completely covered, and even the hospitals’ security cameras had been taped over with paper. Guards with Secret Service-style earpieces roamed the floor.
“We were told we could walk no further,” Ms. Nash-Coulon said Monday. And when she and her husband, Neil, demanded an explanation, she added, the guard claimed, unconvincingly, “ ‘Well, they’re handling hazardous materials,’ ” even as a large group of people screened from view were passing through the main hallway he had declared off-limits.
It was just the first of a series of indignities that they and several other noncelebrity maternity patients say they experienced over the weekend, as Lenox Hill Hospital went all-out to protect the privacy of Beyoncé Knowles and Jay-Z, whose daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, was born there on Saturday.
At one point, another father, Edgar Ramirez, 25, said, security guards kept him out of the neonatal unit for three hours while his wife and newborn were waiting for him. At another point on Saturday, a guard declared that “the floor is on lockdown,” Ms. Nash-Coulon said, and told her that if she left the neonatal unit, she would not be allowed back in to see her babies.
“It was just really disgusting,” said Ms. Nash-Coulon, 38, who is still recovering from her C-section, while one of her twins remains in the hospital. “We really believe the hospital is culpable in this because they didn’t let us know what was happening. And the security of our children is at risk when you cover security cameras.”
Ann Silverman, a spokeswoman for Lenox Hill, part of North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, said the hospital had received no formal complaint about security measures, while taking care not to confirm or deny the birth of Blue Ivy, who was celebrated in a rap song released on Jay-Z’s social Web site on Monday as “the most beautiful girl in the world.”
“We have been in control of the security detail, and we remain in control of it,” Ms. Silverman said. “The security plan was designed not to limit access to patient care areas.”
“We’re dedicated to providing high-quality care to every patient,” she added. “And we’re dedicated to everyone receiving the privacy that they deserve.”
But the State Health Department was concerned by accounts of the disruptions, which were reported in The Daily News and The New York Post on Monday.
“We have received no formal complaint, but we have had compliance staff reach out to the hospital to ascertain the facts and see whether there were any violations,” a department spokesman, Michael Moran, said Monday.
Ms. Silverman denied reports that the couple had paid more than $1 million to rent and redecorate a wing of the hospital as a private labor and delivery suite. But she noted that, like several other New York hospitals, Lenox Hill has “reinstated executive suites,” subject to availability, and at a price she would not specify.
In a statement, Ms. Knowles and Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, said Blue Ivy’s “birth was emotional and extremely peaceful, we are in heaven.” They did not address the complaints from other patients.
A doctor who has often delivered babies at Lenox Hill said that two months ago he learned from obstetrical personnel at the hospital that a sixth-floor area previously used for medical observation before delivery had been cordoned off and was being rebuilt as a private suite, at no cost to the hospital. The physician, who insisted that his name be withheld, said that even at that time, the suite was rumored to be for Ms. Knowles.
To Ms. Nash-Coulon, a choreographer and vocalist who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant and sings in her husband’s band when he is not working as a contractor, the ultimate insult was the wording on the badge worn by the security guards: “Special Event.”
“I guess that was the only special event happening in the hospital,” she said.

Monday, January 9, 2012

From my table to yours: Chilean lemon-garlic-dill dressing

I love to cook. Next to writing, it’s my go-to form of therapy. There’s something soothing  (yes, soothing) about being in the kitchen. (Disclaimer: I’m not talking about those moments where I’m frantically looking in the fridge for items to throw together for dinner while the kids are nipping at my heels.)

I love the intentional meals—-the ones you put careful thought into (“Who am I feeding?” “What’s the weather like outside—-is it a BBQ chicken drumsticks or fish stew kind of day?” “Would this go well with the new bottle of wine that a friend recommended?”). Recently, some of my favorite meals have included roasts (I made a savory baked sirloin with mushrooms and red onion on Christmas Eve), fusion (last weekend was kimchi hamburgers), and soups (anything with lentils or kale—-sign me up!).

I’m excited to share my culinary adventures with you. It’s a new feature this year, as well as a fun way for me to chronicle what I’ve been feeding my family. Here’s to epicurean adventures in 2012!  

For my first recipe share, I thought I’d pass along my “I can’t live without this” Chilean salad dressing from my wonderful mother-in-law, Sylvia. If you love lemon and garlic, then this dressing will be a home run!


Chilean lemon-garlic-dill dressing

What you’ll need:
·       1-2 lemons (depending on how lemon-y you like it)
·       1 clove garlic (minced or pressed)
·       ½ tsp dill (fresh is best; dried is good, too)
·       ¼ tsp salt (or to taste)
·       ½ cup canola oil
        (Note: the measurements are all approximates, as I never use measuring spoons or cups. I'm a firm believer in using your instincts, and taste buds, as judge.)

What to do:
Squeeze the juice from the lemon(s). Using a garlic press, add fresh garlic. Then add dill, salt and oil. Whisk together. Yes, it’s that simple! Enjoy on salad, use as a dip for veggies, or as a marinade for chicken and fish. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My how they're growing

It's such a privilege watching these kids grow up. Each year, there are new milestones, new discoveries and new memories to be made. I am so thankful I was chosen me to be their mom. They are the most delightful human beings I have ever met!

(The above photos were taken between Halloween and New Year's 2011)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

When in doubt, write write write

As I’m looking over this blog, I am equal parts proud and disappointed. I am proud that I’ve logged in a good portion of hours writing, musing, expressing, observing and ranting. But I’m disappointed because I could have written more—given the fact that I started this blog on April 08, 2010.

I posted 75 times in 2010. In 2011, I only posted 25 times. That’s a 67 percent drop in writing, musing, expressing, observing and ranting. If I were playing the stock exchange, I’m pretty sure those are terrible figures.

But the lack of posts is reflective of the kind of year it was. 2011 was a good, but hard, year. Good = it was another great year of marriage and friendship with my husband. Good = my kids continued to blossom. Good = my nephew was born. Hard = working full-time kicked my butt. Hard = my life felt out of balance. Hard = a lot of ups and downs, a lot of disappointments.

My life isn’t operating at its optimum level when I’m not writing. Writing is my therapy. It’s my outlet. It’s my way to gain perspective, and from that perspective I gain wisdom, understanding and appreciation.

This year, when in doubt, I will write write write.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

This year: more quiet, less Facebook

On this third day of 2012, I am pondering the concept of peace and quiet. Peace, being the calm, reflective, tranquil state that has not been a part of my life as of late. Quiet, being the absence of chatter and the soft, undisturbed, inaudible silence that has not been a part of my life since I became a parent.

I am hoping, praying, seeking… more peace and quiet this year. And that will mean resistance against what has become second nature—what I became really good at in 2011: connecting, networking, living plugged in and “on the grid.

This means less time on the computer, which means less time posting and reading posts on Facebook, less time streaming movies on Netflix, less time watching mindless videos on YouTube, and less time constantly checking emails.

My wake-up call came on New Year’s Eve. We had just returned from the ER, where the doc popped our daughter’s dislocated elbow back into place. It wasn’t how I imagined spending our New Year’s (my version included homemade chili bubbling on the stove, the last run of Christmas music, and a nice, quiet countdown just before midnight), yet I was thankful it was the four of us, together, in the hospital.

In a reflective state of mind when we got home, I did the first thing I always do when I’m in that kind of mood: posted on Facebook. “How the Salaffs spent New Year’s Eve,” I wrote. “In the ER, getting Izzy’s dislocated elbow popped back into place.” I wanted to chronicle our adventures, which is largely what I use Facebook for. It’s a kind of virtual Salaff family “scrapbook” of exciting events, missteps, musings, and announcements. It’s my way of communicating with the world.

My husband, on the other hand, doesn’t see it that way.
Husband: You posted about that on Facebook?
Me: Yeah. Are you upset that I did that?
Husband: No, I’m not upset. It’s that now it won’t be just our family’s special memory.
Me: (Pause)
“Dammit,” I thought to myself. “He’s right.”

One thing I love about my husband (and there are a million things) is his proclivity for non-disclosure. As an intensely private person, he enjoys freedom from the attention of others. He’s not the kind of person who craves the spotlight. He doesn’t feel the need to monopolize the verbal landscape. He’s not someone who says, “HERE I AM! NOTICE ME! LOVE ME! LISTEN TO ME! FEED ME!” For him, rhetoric is not the measure of wisdom. For him, true wisdom comes from quieting your soul.

In this day and age of over-sharing and over-stimulation, his perspective is quite refreshing. It’s what makes him a great listener, a great observer, and a great joke teller. It’s also why it was like pulling teeth to get him to create his own Facebook page. “Why do people need to know what I’m doing at every minute of the day?” he once asked when I bugged him to sign up.

One of my favorite comments: “I don’t have time to farm a Facebook page.” It’s true. It takes a lot of time and energy to keep it up. Between updating daily posts, keeping your profile pic fresh, uploading Christmas/vacation/kids/pets/landscape/food photos and letting everyone know what restaurant/café/movie theater/airport/hotel you’re at, it’s no wonder time slips through your fingers.

So, back to the New Year’s Eve post. My husband’s comment had larger implications. I started asking myself the bigger questions: Why do I post? What purpose does it serve? Has my existence been whittled down to, “I post, therefore I am?”

Although I don’t regret letting the world know about Izzy’s elbow (there were a lot of well wishers offering their thoughts and prayers; for this I am thankful), I am re-evaluating my relationship with the Internet, social networks, email, text messages, and even my iPhone.

Finding time to sit and think means a conscious effort to unplug. That doesn’t mean cutting myself off from the world, but being more intentional about finding quiet time for my mind and my soul. Half a century ago, Marshall McLuhan warned, “When things come at you really fast, naturally you lose touch with yourself.”

2012 is the year to unplug. It’s the year to get back in touch with myself.