What are you?

2014-04-10 07.25.00Hello Darlings,

LaDiva here.

At a dinner for a civic group, of which I am on the board, I met someone new.  Instead of introducing myself, a colleague introduced me as a dietitian and plant-based.

Now the fun begins.

The new friend begins to tell me that they don’t eat that much meat.  I am now trying not to look bored and interested in their meal choices.

Here’s the scoop:

I am a vegan2013-07-30 13.43.39
I am a woman
I am a mother
I am a gardener
I am a business owner2013-02-02 14.18.55
I am a cook
I am a skier
I am a film professional
I am a car driver
I have traveled around the world
I am a liberal with a libertarian streak
I am an actress
I am a home owner


I am a wife
I am a guitarist
I am a teacher
I am a sister
I am low maintenance
I am an author
I am a backpacker
I am a companion pet to my cats

All of these things are a part of me.  They all define a part of myself.  None of is all of me.  When we meet, let’s not start with one that makes you feel uncomfortable.  When we meet, give me your list and I promise to discuss whichever one you want.



Two ears and one mouth

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 6.24.46 PMDarlings, LaDiva here.

Just got back from the North American Vegetarian Society’s Summerfest.  This is a 5 day veg affair in Johnstown, Pennsylvania for everything vegan or raw.  It is where everyone in the plant-based food land launches their books, hangs out and gives presentations on nutrition, environment and activism.  I think even mosquitos are safe here.

I gave 3 presentations – You’re Not Dead, Yet; Why do I have Stubborn Belly fat when I do a Million Crunches a day?; Pregnant? Vegan? FAB! – and was part of a panel on raising vegan kids.

At this conference dietitians [RD-registered dietitian] are royalty.  Which is a good/bad thing.  Great that people respect you enough to ask questions, bad if you want to eat hot food or meet friends.  But I am with the creme of the dietetics world – Brenda Davis, RD; Jill Nussinow, MS, RD; Mark Rifkin, MS, RD; Juliana Hever, MS, RD; Dina Aronson, MS, RD and Myriam Parham, MS, RD and I know I am leaving other folks out.   Then there are the MDs.  Well, who really cares about MDs?  Their wives, and don’t get me started on male MDs telling us all how to eat and cook for families!

Anyway, there I was listening to everyone talk about their book deals and festivals.  And I had nothing to say.  Mainly because there was so much great information about publishers, book deals and other folderol that I have never dealt with.  One RD looked at me and said, “Are you okay?  You’re not saying anything.  You are so calm.”

Well, I was calm and also overwhelmed by the fact that all these people were doing thingsLaDiva outside cooking demo Sanctuary I want to do.  And I was fairly clueless as to how to get into their league.  I felt like a teenager allowed to sit at the adult table. They have “people” like publishers, book designers, literary agents.  I do goofy dancing on videos and LUV immersion blenders. So, I decided to be a sponge.  Also, to use my 2 ears and 1 mouth in that proportion.

Later that day, I ran into one of my esteemed colleagues.  I told them about my email to the publisher for my book because it had been months with no communication.  The publisher did respond to my “maybe we don’t have a fit” email.  They said that they are still interested, but they aren’t picking up anyone’s book at the moment.  My colleague said that they knew this publisher had a reputation of dragging their feet.  My colleague gave me some good advice – Publish it yourself.  I nodded, not totally in agreement.  I mean who wants to do ALL the work?

They said, “The publisher is going to take a large cut.  They are dragging their feet.  You could put together the book as a PDF, sell it, put up the cooking videos yourself and keep all the profit.  Why are you going to wait to make money and then give so much of it to someone else?”

It did make sense, but what about getting me out on a publicity tour?

They said, “Book yourself.  Sell some books.  Get some good response.  Then, go to someone, a publisher, when you have sales to show your worth and have them together the print version.”

For a split second I felt stupid, like I should have known that.  But, then I thought, how cool that these folks think of me as a peer.  There was no “please, god, don’t let that LaDiva person sit at our table.”  There was an expectance that my book would be worth reading and that my presentations would be interesting and well-researched.  One of them even said, “I want to be you!”  And I thought, no, you don’t.  That made me think, maybe I don’t want to be them, either.  But I don’t think I’ll mention it.

One mouth and two ears.  That’s what Abraham Lincoln was thinking when he said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”


The Quill is Mightier than the Keyboard

Grab you quill and get enrolled.

Grab you quill and get enrolled.


You may have been feeling adrift, but every time I sat to write a blog it appeared to be another development in the land of I-Got-Mine-Now-Get-Yourself-Elected-to-Get-Yours.

Our program with the Navigator had very few people.  Bummer.  However, the ones that were there had FAB questions.  Our navigator, whom I give the Nom de Plume, Navigator, was FAB.  He explained how the system was supposed to work, what he had been told and problems he had seen,  what we should do between now and December AND he explained what he didn’t know.

What he knew – The system had 3 times the amount of folks trying to enroll which assisted the online crash.

He explained that when you go on to the site it is as if you are standing in line.  Unfortunately, you can’t see the line ahead of you is composed of a few million people.  Might as well bring a sleeping bag and lunch. . . and cocktails.

He had been working to get people on the system from his end and had a lot of trouble.  He had seen folks make an account and then have the account disappear.  He was a very patient, nice guy.  One audience member had been on the phone with Navigator many times and neither one snarled.  In fact, listening to the audience member made the process clearer.

Audience member had an interesting problem.  He could retire and get Medicare, but because of his income fluctuation, it may make more sense to get a plan on the Exchange and cover family members.  He had been to the Kaiser Family Foundation calculator to get a guess-tamate on his costs.  But, because he hadn’t seen exactly what the actual insurance plans and deductibles, he couldn’t make a real decision.

There are different categories of plans – Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.   Bronze has the cheapest premium with the lowest coverage and highest deductible.  These shift to increased premiums and lower deductibles as you move up the metal ladder.  Previously it was thought government subsidies would only be used on Silver plans.  We found out that they could be used on Bronze and Gold also.  Not sure about Platinum.

Another audience member went to the Blue Cross/Blue Shield website, got a FAB brochure in the mail.  Her cost would be $900/month.  Ouch!  However, she and Navigator got onto Healthcare.gov, and saw the same plan [BC/BS] for around $400/month.  She was stunned that different insurance brokers would charge you a different price for the same plan.  Welcome to our FAV broker gambling game – How Much Can I Get You to Pay?  [cue audience applause]

What we should do between now and DecemberUse a paper

As confining as being glued to your computer all day enrolling

As confining as being glued to your computer all day enrolling

application.  Yes, tie up your corset and don your bonnet, we’re off to the 19th century information age to be sure that you will get into the 21st century system.  The Let’s-Get-Every-Programmer-in-the-US-to-add-their-2 Cents-With-No-Company-Responsible-to-Ensure-the-System-Works wonks in Washington waxed poetic that the online program would ease enrollment.  But, if you had trimmed your feather pen and filled out a paper application on October 1, you would have already been part of the paperwork.  Those of us sitting at our FAV electronic online implement in our jammies trying to open an account at 4am every morning for weeks were out of luck.

What Navigator doesn’t know – What happens after your application arrives.  You post your application to London . . . Kentucky.  Then, someone is supposed to get back to you.  However, Navigator had no idea who that would be.  No one in the agency where he works for has been knighted for that task.  His best advice, call the numbers on the application in a few weeks and start figuring it out.  My advice: Make a copy of the application.  Send it return receipt.  Get a piece of paper that states it was received.

I have been thinking a lot about whether Kathleen Sebelius, head of the Department of Health and Human Services should be ousted.  I’m thinking no.  In all confrontations there is the pro side, con side and the third side.  The third side is where you pull out the emotions and look at the whole picture.

Had the Republicans let the Affordable Care Act go on its merry little way or even let it drop after the Supreme Court stated it being constitutional, there may have been enough time to actually put the website together.  But, the on/off-let’s-destroy-this-thing continuing attacks, including the shutdown, left programmers wondering what they should do.  The biggest problem in my eyes – no one company was in charge of seeing the entire project through and testing all systems.

Most new internet programs are done by a small group.  They add someone as needed to keep the project streamlined.  This thing had many companies working on it with no one at the helm.  So, we are left with an amorphous group of Bart Simpsons saying, I didn’t do it. [Luv Bart]

Which leads to Marilyn Tavenner, the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  She was the head honcho who rolled out this debacle.  She Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 2.40.56 PMstarted life as a nurse.  I LUV nurses.  Then, Marilyn goes into administration and earns a Masters in Health Administration.  Great, she knows how to make sure there are enough gauze pads and medical personnel to apply them.  She’s a successful administrator – in hospitals.  Nowhere do I see she understands IT, instituted an electronic medical record system or is the go-to gal if your monitor dies.  She gets 162K in retirement pay in addition to what you and I add for her boat payment.

UPDATE – Media reports have had tech gurus talking about how they basically launch websites for the consumer.  They dole it out in batches.  The first thing is to enable folks to see your product, get them interested.  This is called window shopping. Have the consumer see how it fits with them.  Then, you get to the specifics.  An example is online loan applications.

You put in what you are looking for, some basic numbers about you and the house then you get some quotes.  When you have zeroed in on the loan that looks the best, you put in specifics and make sure of the deal.

Marilyn decided 10 days before the launch to yank out the window shopping and make you go straight for plunking in all the specific numbers and having it all checked with the IRS.   This cross-checking caused most of the bottle-neck and crashing.  Who told her to do this?  As far as I can see it was her decision alone.  Thanks, Marilyn.

Why didn’t we use the services of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).  Below is their mission statement

ONC is the principal federal entity charged with coordination of nationwide efforts to implement and use the most advanced health information technology and the electronic exchange of health information.

Ever heard of them?  Not me.  This is headed by Dr. Jacob Reider.  He is a medical doctor who has worked with a number of IT firms.  Think Jacob may know some IT people familiar with the challenges of creating a national online health program?  Maybe even combine work to reduce redundancy?  Could Dr. J coordinate all the info of the Health Exchanges with a national medical database?

Sorry for the horse.

Sorry for the horse.

I think I’ll call Marilyn to schedule a carriage ride around the National Mall replete tea, crumpets, tar, feathers and uninsured citizens tired of being told to check back later.

Talk of My Town? Kim Bell & Marie Johns


What a hoot!  Those girls can dance.

3 of the most FAB gals on the planet


I didn’t forget anything, but how to turn on my iPod.

The crew is great!  I know they will make me look good no matter what I did.  Will keep you posted as to the air date.

The only downer was I didn’t get to make Halloween ornaments with the other kids.  FAB idea for your Spooky Party.

Enter: LaDiva TV-style

Cake with gravestone stencil

Tonight I am taping a cooking segment for a local TV station, Channel 13.  The show is called Talk of the Town with Kim Bell and Marie Johns.  Can’t wait to meet them.

Making Chocolate Covered Apple Cider Cake.  This month’s Planet Pyramid video.  I have 7 minutes to do the cake.  Don’t think I’ll feel rushed, do you?

Make 4 cakes: one test, one for POOF out of the oven, one for POOF you can pour on the ganache and one for POOF final result.  I am sure I will forget something, wonder what it will be?

Oh well, hopefully, I’ll get home in time to take a nice bath and relax.

Velveteen Cupcakes this weekend.

Apple & Mac Support is a Lemon [cupcake, that is]

Lemon Macadamia with Lemon Unbutter Creme

Hello Darlings,

I had some major issues with my MS PowerPoint.  After a call to their support I was told, “it is a problem we have known about and have experts working on it.”  No help, just that the reason I bought the software doesn’t do what sales said it would.  Oh, and they have known about the problem for awhile, but are still selling the program.  Two days of work for nada.  Now what?

I have a mac.  I called Apple Help.  The young lady was fantastic.  She talked about what I needed to to immediately – Fast Food Labels to YouTube – and what I need to do long term.  She got me extra help and got me on my way.  I was so impressed I asked her what was her FAV cupcake.  She said a local joint had a Lemon cupcake that was excellent.

Well Girlfriend, this one is dedicated to you and all the Apple folks, including Curly and crew at the Apple store in Allentown, PA.

Instead of me doing the review, I sent off my camera with my great friends, and incredible babes, Kathy and Liz and, my BFF, Marty.   The girls had a night out finishing up with the cupcakes.  Kathy and Liz give their thumbs up or down and decide what season is perfect for this dessert.  Marty was video-ed after the last bottle of wine.

My toothpick came out clean, but I am making a note to cook them for a few more minutes next time and see how that works.  The cake was not as spongy as I would like and my oven is slow.

Thanks to the Guest Taste Testers and to Apple Girl wherever you are.


Building an internet business, trying to make cupcakes

Had a tough time trying to be part of a twitter chat tonight with the dietitian on Biggest Loser.  I couldn’t figure out how to respond.  However, since I had worked for 11 hours and the last 7 were on a PowerPoint teaching an easy way to read food labels, I didn’t have enough energy to get upset.

I was supposed to make the stout chocolate cupcakes tonight, but ran out of time.  Will have to make them Sat. early AM.  We are going to the jazz festival on Sat.  They will make an excellent dessert with our port. Did buy the stout.

Did a great thing with my website photo.  Can’t wait until people click my hair or martini glass.  Hope they laugh.  I want to make it funnier, but I have to get up at 5:30 and don’t have time.

Tomorrow’s research project food demo is Miso Noodle Soup.  Hope I remember to bring a container for leftovers.

Have new webzine to write for:  OneGreenPlanet.com.  Very different type of column.  Would like to do first blog on it, but am too brain dead and have to be a human tomorrow with the participants.

Will try and research it if I can get internet connection on the set.  Am visiting my buddy, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick on the set of Person of Interest when I come back through Manhattan.

Must sleep!