It’s raining chocolate. Now that’s my idea of an ideal weather forecast. Especially if it’s drizzling white, milk and dark chocolate over organic cashews, almonds and pecans flavored with 100% organic spices.
This is just one of three nutty concoctions that you will find in a jar of “bobbysue’s nuts.” Perhaps you’ll choose “The Original” or the spicy “Some Like it Hot” recipe. Whatever your preference, as the old adage goes, good things come in threes and in this case there are three varieties to choose from, all containing three types of nuts, thanks to three Westchester, New York women with three shared commitments to organic food, the environment and the homeless animal population.
In fact, the latter is what brought Deb Mehne, Sue Spiegel, and Barbara Kobren together four years ago. Mehne and Kobren and Spiegel were and still are volunteers for the Westchester New York SPCA. Mehne is chairman of the board, Kobren is secretary and Spiegel is a filmmaker who met the other two while shooting an SPCA “Top Hat and Tails” fundraiser aimed at helping raise the three to five million dollars necessary to knock down the ailing facility and rebuild it.
"We all clicked,” explained Kobren. They were all crazy about canines and determined to make the Westchester SPCA a better environment. “We do everything to make every arrival who crosses the threshold feel loved,” Kobren continued. “We care for them as we would if they were in our own homes.”
These civic-minded baby boomers also care about cooking and the environment and decided they had the makings for a fabulous recipe that could fulfill their passions and accomplish their mission at the same time.
“Bobby Sue is Actually Nuts”.
As a child Barbara Kobren’s uncle nicknamed her Bobby Sue and her Aunt Freda gave her niece a secret recipe for, you guessed it-nuts. (Only one other person in the United States has the recipe.)
Just as any good mother packs her children with snacks when they go to school or camp, Kobren loaded her son Ben up with Aunt Freda’s nuts when he worked on the Presidential campaign trail with Hilary Clinton. The nuts went all over the U.S. and were received with rave revues, so Kobren, Mehne and Spiegel decided to bottle and sell them with a portion of the profits from every recyclable jar going to help make the lives of homeless animals better.
Like it says on the jar, “bobby sue is actually nuts…nuts about good food, nuts about the environment, and nuts about the plight of homeless animals.” Kobren believes nothing in this journey has happened by mistake. “The animal shelter and the nuts intertwine like a figure eight in my life,” claims Kobren.
The partners' venture began on April 25th, 2009 with plenty of help. They cook their product (Spiegel drizzles the chocolate by hand) in a commercial kitchen in Ossining, New York at Matt Miller Productions. “He gives us his kitchen to cook for free!” Kobren gushes, “All along this journey so many people have offered to help.” At first the nuts were sold in just five stores. Now, 55 stores throughout the tri-state area carry the product as well as the Cowgirl Creamery in Washington D.C. and a specialty shop in Oklahoma.
Bobbysue’s nuts are even sold in bulk for catering and they are featured in Ralph Lauren’s daughter’s Dylan Candy Bar. “This venue allows us to branch out to SRO’s- socially responsible organizations…they get us, they get what we are all about,” Kobren continues: “If you join forces you can make a difference.”
You can also purchase these outrageous nuts on line at www.bobbysuesnuts.com, but let me warn you, they are addictive. Even before I wrote this story I met Barbara Kobren at a tasting in Armonk and I brought home a jar of “Some Like it Hot.” My husband and I opened them on the kitchen counter and, well, lets just say they never even made it into the cabinet. When I told Barbara of my fear of eating the entire jar she had a great suggestion. “Buy them for the holiday,” she advised. “Serve them to friends with a fabulous cheese and a great bottle of wine. Your guests will love them and you will be forced to share!”
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Even on a damp dreary day in April, Shobha Vanchiswar’s home is bright and inviting. Flowerboxes are brimming with sunny yellow daffodils standing attention above blue and orange pansies. The front walkway is sprinkled with spring blossoms and a pot of hydrangea welcomes you at the front door.
Vanshiwar is a garden designer extraordinaire and writes a weekly column for her town's local Internet publication entitled, “In the garden with Shobha Vanchiswar," but gardening is not her only forte. Vanchiswar is a molecular scientist, an artist, and has been passionate about poetry her entire life. It has been her dream to use her talents to help others. While she has always been involved in community service, Vanchiswar told me she wanted her family to get involved in a bigger way. She feels fundraisers are not the answer because, she insists, the money spent on the event should go directly to the cause. “I want to use what I do normally in life to make a difference,” she explained, “ it’s the power of one.”
And with that in mind, the scientist/artist/ poet has now become an author of a book of poetry and images of orphans in her native India; a project aimed at raising money directly for children inflicted with HIV or the AIDS virus.
Vanchiswar admits she could not have accomplished this venture without the help of another resident in her hometown of Chappaqua New York; namely former President Bill Clinton.
“I was folding laundry one day and watching him (Clinton) on TV.” The way Clinton spoke about the AIDS Initiative of the Clinton Foundation, and getting money and medicine directly to those who need it gave her goose bumps. “I’d never seen a person of that stature talk about what’s going on in MY head!”
While it was not unusual for Clinton’s daily exercise routine to take him down Vanchiswar’s street, it was a bit cosmic that he picked that same day to walk right by her house.
“I flew out of the house, camera in hand,” she gushed as she held up the picture of her, Clinton and her daughter Mira. This was in the fall of 2007 and Vanchiswar was planning a Thanksgiving trip home to India. She explained to the former President her desire to help with the AIDS Initiative in her native country and he not only listened, he orchestrated her entire experience. At the request of the former President, foundation officials worked around Vanchiswar’s itinerary to set up visits with the Asha Kirana Hospital in Mysore and two orphanages dedicated to treating children with AIDS or who are HIV positive.
After meeting the children who danced and sang for her, Vanchiswar knew she had to do something. “They were all orphans whose parents had already succumb to the disease … they were in orphanages where no one will adopt any of them.”
So the artist pooled her skills and took pictures of these bright eyed children and created a poem from her heart to go with each photo of the beautiful, vivacious orphans who had changed her life. She put the poems and images into a book and, while it may seem ironic, she called it “The Lucky Ones.” The author maintains she was intent on “creating an awareness in a hopeful kind of way, rather than by showing sad stories…I didn’t want people to feel they can’t make a difference,” she explained.
“I learned about hope today
from ones thought to be
Vanchiswar glows when she speaks about the children in her photos, their vibrant faces lit with brilliant smiles. “They seem just like regular kids,” she insists, and Vanchiswar credits the Clinton Foundation for making that possible by providing the medication these children so desperately need. This is also why she calls these children, and her book, “The Lucky Ones.”
“What is so lucky
about my strife
I am fed and clothed
I am medicated for life.”
The author marvels at how Clinton took the time from his busy schedule to help her, and it’s a gift that keeps on giving. Vanchiswar has published 300 copies of “The Lucky Ones” and Bill Clinton promised to personalize 250 of them and he has already signed more than 100 copies. They are being sold through the New Castle Historical Society in Chappaqua, New York and Vanchiswar says nearly half of the copies may be sent to the Clinton Presidential Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas. The sticker price is $24.95, and many people are contributing more than that since all of the proceeds go directly to the AIDS Initiative of the Clinton Foundation.
“WE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD”
It is Vanchiswar’s belief that anyone can make a difference simply by using the talents and passion she or he already possess; and when you sit down and talk with this inspirational woman you believe her. “We’re in a community where people have exceptional qualities,” she states as a matter of fact, “If we all pull our talents in, we can change the world."
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OUCH! I don’t care what anyone tells you, photo rejuvenation (IPL) is NOT painless. This was the third session in a series of four aimed at getting rid of my freckles, wrinkles and tightening my skin. The sequence included a Vi peel and dermaplaning, (both of which I loved) but I must say that photo rejuvenation, definitely hurt the most. The technology is described as “intense pulsed light” which zaps unwanted pigmentation, and let me tell you; “intense” is the operative word.
Once again, I relaxed horizontally onto a bed, but the relaxation only lasted for a few brief moments. The doctor covered my eyes with glasses and preceded to blow soothing cool air on my face while she simultaneously shot high plasma, energy filled laser beams through my epidermis. The bright light made me jump and the stinging sensation made me glad that I had the doctor apply numbing cream before subjecting my face to this. The treatment is apparently able to target the deeper layers of the skin without disturbing the surface, in order to remove age spots, acne and freckles as well as promote new cell growth. Sounds good, right?? We shall see.
The session left my face a little lumpy and swollen. Where the laser hit, dark spots rose to the surface and some of them actually stayed there for ten days. They looked worse than the freckles I had eliminated with the Vi peel. Finally, however, they disappeared and while I admit there is very little pigment left on my face, I must say that when I think about my next photo rejuvenation session, which is the fourth and final in the series, my mind screams, "OUCH!"
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I have already told you how pleased I am with my recent Vi Peel which sloughed off tons of dead brown cells from my face and left it pink and glowing. I also told you that I live by the motto, “more is more,” so now I would like to tell you about Dermaplaning, a non-invasive procedure that takes your peel one step further.
Ten days after I lifted my once freckled face to my aesthetician Dr.Anca Tchelebi- Moscatello, I returned to her spa in Armonk New York and eased myself onto a cozy heated bed. This time I allowed aesthetician Svetlana Kouzmetsov to take a tiny scalpel to my already flaking pink face and scrape off even more dead cells. The experience was not at all as traumatic as it sounds, and the results were actually quite gratifying.
Not to say that it was entirely pleasant either. First Lana applied that lovely smelling acetone to my face in order to clean and degrease it. That way, she explained, the dead skin cells are disentangled from the fresh ones and can easily be separated and disposed of. This is a good thing.
Then she took her little scalpel, a 1/12” surgical blade, and literally “shaved” the remaining dead cells off my face; a process that is no riskier than a man shaving his face, as long as you go to someone who is experienced. When the scraping process was completed to Lana’s satisfaction, she applied a glycolic acid peel to my skin to tighten the pores and loosen the cells even more. This stings a little and smells a lot, but only for a minute.
The next step seemed a little futuristic. Its called cryogenic therapy and all I could think of is the rumor about Walt Disney being cryogenically frozen in order to preserve his body for the future. But “preserve” being the operative word, I told Lana to go for it. She then brushed my face with a dry ice, acetone and carbon dioxide combination and the coolness felt great against my skin. It is an anti-inflammatory and it also closes and sanitizes any possible wounds from the scraping and peeling. Again, this is a good thing. Just make sure you go to a reputable spa or dermatologist, because the scalpel can cut you and the peel can blister your skin.
At this point Lana hands me a mirror and I can see that my skin looks plump, smooth, but a little flat. So I allow her to apply an oxygen mist by placing gauze over my face and spraying it with oxygen and water. This was very soothing and afterwards my skin really was glowing.
Now, when I got home, did my husband say, boo? No, but a friend of mine who has the same aging concerns as I do, not only said my skin looked ten years younger, she booked a peel for herself. My next step is Photo Regeneration. I’ll keep you posted.
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One day, two years ago I bought a new digital scale. I took off all of my clothes, every piece of jewelry and, holding tightly to the edge of the sink, I tiptoed on to the high tech weighing machine. The number that popped up in black and white and stared me straight in the face was a solid ten pounds higher than the number my old scale used to dial up.
Now I really resent when people who are over 45 surrender to father time. However, I must admit that I was confused because I had not changed my routine; I still exercised seven days a week and I really wasn’t eating excessively. Still, I refused to hide behind the age card, so I went to Dr. Bruce Bloom, a man who touts himself as the “Health Coach of Westchester,” and he set me straight.
As we age, Bloom told me, “The rules of the game change dramatically. The model we once had is older and less energy efficient.” By the way, that doesn’t only mean you may gain weight, when your metabolism breaks down you can also get more wrinkles – it’s all part of the same degenerative process. “The single most important physiological function of the human body,” Bloom insists, “is to convert fuel to energy.”
The first thing we did to see what was wrong with my older and slower metabolism was to run an electrical current through my body (no it doesn’t hurt) to get a break down of how much of my weight was fat, protein, water and muscle. To my chagrin that extra ten pounds was fat.
Apparently I had killed my metabolism by eating the way I had been since college. Basically, that meant not eating at all until at least four o’clock in the afternoon. Coffee carried me through my errands, and it wasn’t until the witching hour- that would be the time when I cooked dinner for my kids- that I allowed myself some fuel. My body thought it was starving, so the food I fed it was stored as fat. UGH!
Resurrecting my metabolism took some discipline. First I had to detoxify by drinking a very foul concoction that tasted like sulphur, or perhaps you can identify better with a rotten egg; either way, you get the picture. Bloom also believes in taking natural supplements that he says help your cells burn fuel more efficiently, or as he puts it, “They turn on a metabolic switch.” Still, the most important thing I did was to eat.
For the first time in my adult life I ate breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks. My calories for the day totaled about 1200. I was allowed to eat as many green vegetables as I wanted, but only three ounces of protein with each meal for the first four weeks. After that I upped the protein to six ounces and in a month and a half I had lost 15 pounds. Oh yeah, and my nighttime snack was a glass of red wine!
Now, after we pass a certain age, we have been told by beauties such as Catherine Deneuve that we have to choose between north and south – our faces or our bodies. I am 5’4” and have never worn larger than a size 6, so I was shocked, even embarrassed, that I could lose that much weight and still not look gaunt. According to my health coach that was because my body composition was divided up properly and I had lost fat without losing protein or muscle. So you see- you can have your cake and eat it too!
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To Peel or Not to Peel: If you want to look younger the answer is, yes.
I have had freckles all of my life. I hated them until I realized that freckles could hide a multitude of sins, from pimples, when you are a teenager, to wrinkles as you age, or at least so I thought. But my aesthetician informed me that many of those, what used to be called, “cute little brown spots” that sprinkled my face, were actually age spots, and there is nothing “cute” about age spots.
So I agreed to bite the bullet and subject my freckles, to a chemical peel: the latest and greatest being touted as the “Vi Peel.” I entrust my face to Dr. Anca Tchelebi-Moscatello in Armonk, New York, a woman who has never met a wrinkle or a brown spot that she likes. Dr.Tchelebi also has offices in Rye Brook, New York and on Park Avenue in New York City. She was offering a special on her version of the “Vi Peel” for $300. So on a Saturday afternoon I reclined on a lounge in one of her offices, and lifted my chin while the good doctor painted a substance that smelled a lot like acetone, probably because it is acetone, on my entire face and neck. It burned for a few minutes but, hey, no pain no gain.
Afterwards, I went to the movies and the only problem I had was not being able to get away from myself because I reeked of what can only be described as the scent of nail polish remover. Still, I managed to leave the solution on my face until the next morning. However, if you are a wimp, you can wash it off after four hours, but the peel will go deeper the longer you leave it in contact with your skin.
That night I cleaned my face, what a relief, and applied a Retin A towelette that was provided for me, and went to sleep. When I awoke the next morning my face was tight, a little swollen, and I looked like I was sunburned. However, by the end of the day, my face resembled my favorite chocolate alligator pocketbook – brown, wrinkly and old- but I went to my tennis clinic anyway. It’s funny; people won’t say anything, if you don’t.
Day four, I had chunks of dried brown skin that threatened to fall off onto the tennis court, but I managed to get myself home where I practically immersed my face in a tub of Aquaphor. The Vaseline-like substance made me not only feel a lot better, it allowed me to easily slough off the dead skin and, I must tell you, the line of demarcation between the dead charred cells and the new pink ones was actually remarkable.
Now I have had laser treatments that promise the same result, and I promise, as far as the pain and the gross-out family factor, the peel was a lot less scary. What is scary, however, is getting a peel from someone who is not qualified; you can burn and you can scar. Also remember, everyone’s skin is different. Make sure you go to a doctor and she chooses a peel that is right for you, whether it is light, medium or deep.
At least three people have told me that my skin looks as fresh as a newborn baby’s butt and, while I realize that is an exaggeration, I also know it was a lot easier to look in the mirror on Thursday than it was on the Saturday morning before the peel. One week later, my skin is still slightly pink and a bit flaky, but a little makeup and a lot of moisturizer go a long way.
So, the answer to the question, “to peel or not to peel?” Definitely, go for the peel! By the way, I’m taking this one step further. Next week I’m going for a dermaplaning, where they use a small surgical blade to scrape away even more dead skin; after all, I always say, more is more.
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