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Confessions of a Nail Biter

April 8, 2016

This post was originally written and published in December 2010. I decided to revise and republish since many of you have not read the piece before.


My name is Leah, and I bite my nails.

Yes, that’s right. I’m a nail biter. I’m not proud of this habit. I’ve been doing this since I was a kid and I want to stop.

nail polish

How does one become a nail biter? Did I one day decided I needed an oral fixation and decided to bite my nails? Maybe it began in childhood when the pacifier was taken from me.

In the writing class I took last summer, each student had to reveal to interesting things about themselves. I told the class that I can’t stand clutter and I bite my nails. My writing teacher made an interesting observation that perhaps the two idiosyncrasies are related. Maybe I bite my nails to get rid of the excess nail or skin around the tip; to even out the area, if you will. Essentially, to remove the physical “clutter” on my hands.

This little girl who went to daycare with Sophie was a thumb sucker. One day she just stopped, but in it’s place, she started biting her nails. So perhaps our minds look for one habit to replace another. I wonder if kids are able to naturally grow out of their oral habits, would they take up another one? Sophie was a thumb-sucker, but luckily she didn’t take up an annoying oral habit when she finally stopped two years ago. And so far, she hasn’t inherited my nail-biting habit either.

My mother used to bite her nails. I once asked her how she stopped, and she said her grandmother told her when she was a teenager that no man would marry her with bitten fingernails. That was enough to stop her. Clearly that threat didn’t work on me (although I know Bryan finds this habit quite annoying).

I notice I bite my nails most when I’m sitting on the couch watching television. What’s interesting is that I don’t even realize I’ve chomped my fingers until after I’ve done it. My mind is so entranced in what I’m watching and then suddenly I realize I’ve been biting my nails.

I won’t bite my nails when I’m in public, or when they’re freshly manicured. The thought of wasting money and ruining the polish trumps my biting obsession. But I can’t afford to have my nails freshly manicured every week either. Don’t tell me to give up television, or to get acrylic nails either. I did that before my wedding and ended up tearing off all the fake nails while on my honeymoon. Romantic, I know.

So what should I do? Maybe I’ll put a nail buffer board on the couch. And anytime I notice myself biting when I watch television, I’ll use that tool instead. Maybe I should try hypnosis. Or wear gloves. All I know is it’s a nasty habit and I want to break it.

My name is Leah, and I bite my nails.

Do you bite your nails or have an annoying habit you want to break? How did you break a former habit?

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Monday Musings ~ March 28

March 28, 2016

Happy Monday! How was your weekend? Did you celebrate Easter? The photo below describes the extent of my festivities. Sophie is on spring break this week (translation: I get to sleep in). And when did it become almost April? Let’s get started!

mini eggs

1. We watched “The Big Short” this weekend, which I thought was a fantastic movie. But I couldn’t help but feeling disgusted the entire way through. Seeing all the greed, arrogance and irresponsibility that permeated that entire period of the housing boom and bust is sickening. Back in 2005, I went into the post office to mail documents, and the woman behind the counter told me she was also a mortgage broker and could help me buy a home for no money down and at a mortgage interest rate of only 1%. I didn’t even know this woman and she had no idea who I was! But there she was, a mortgage broker in a post office uniform, selling shady loans and making big money doing it. Spoiler alert: good thing she didn’t quit her day job at the post office.

2. Moving on to a happier topic: books. Absolutely loved this literary map of the United States! It shows the best books for every state. California is broken up by southern and northern, so my half is apparently represented by the book, The White Boy Shuffle by Paul Beatty. What is your state’s recommended reading?

3. This article about what the things on your desk say about you is freakishly accurate. My case in point: #2. The fact that I have a physical to do list means I prefer physical books to e-books, cooking to eating out, watching movies on Netflix over going to the movies, and a sensible work uniform over trendy garments. Yep, sums me up perfectly!

4. There are two types of people in this world: those who love adult coloring books, and those who feel crippling anxiety at the thought of undertaking that project. I belong in the second camp. So naturally I thought this article about the lessons learned from a failed adult coloring book experiment was a breath of fresh air.

5. I’ve said before I’m not a big podcast listener. But when I heard “The West Wing Weekly” is now a show, and Joshua Malina (Will Bailey) is hosting and taking listeners through every episode? Well, let’s just say the episodes can’t come soon enough. Bartlet for America — always and forever!

What’s going on in your life? What are you musing about this week?

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The Most Popular Blog Posts on Leah’s Thoughts

March 18, 2016

I recently mentioned that it was four years ago this month that I left my full-time, secure job to start my own business. But the journey to that point — and to where I am now — really began on December 21, 2009 when I published my first blog post on Leah’s Thoughts. It’s hard to believe it’s been a little over six years that I’ve been writing in this space! While I don’t blog with the same regularity I once did (three posts a week!), I still love creating here and sharing stories with all of you who visit.

I was recently going through my blog, re-reading some of my favorite posts, cringing at certain stories, and marveling at how little Sophie was when I started this journey, and how much time has passed. It occurred to me that some of you reading now may not have seen many of the posts I wrote early on. So as a way to reflect on my old writing – and share them with new readers – I’m going to curate groups of old posts from time to time.

Today I’ve rounded my the top Leah’s Thoughts posts, according to the Google Analytics gods. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m probably one of the few bloggers who is not driven by blog statistics. While I know how many pageviews and visitors I receive each day, I’ve always maintained that I only write for me. I’ve never written for the purpose of “going viral,” and I’m still humbled every day that you care enough to read my words.

Still, I find it fascinating that these are the most-visited posts on my site. Enjoy!

Finished Cupcake

What NOT to Do When Your Car is Stolen (September 7, 2011) — The story of when my precious Honda Civic was stolen for the second time. The post starts out like this: “If I can impart one lesson on you all about what do when your car is stolen – and subsequently recovered – it would be this: DO NOT remove the car from the impound lot. Ever.”

Over the Rainbow to Sophie’s 3rd Birthday (November 9, 2010) — I am super proud of myself for making these rainbow cupcakes. Not sure I’d have the patience to do it today.

Bye, Bye Baby (Monitor) (July 29, 2010) — This piece was featured on the WordPress “Freshly Pressed” page, and was the first post that brought readers other than my immediate family and friends to my blog.

A Memorial Tribute to My Grandmother (May 31, 2010) — I wrote about the memories I have of my grandmother and I shared her delicious apple cake recipe.

My “Secret” Balsamic Salad Dressing (February 15, 2011) — Every time we entertain (translate: never) or we’re invited to someone’s home for dinner, I always bring a salad with balsamic dressing. People love this dressing and insist on the recipe. Here’s the secret. … Are you ready?

The Laryngitis Saga (aka How I Interviewed for a New Job With No Voice) (December 27, 2010) — The time when I was scheduled to interview for a university presidential speechwriting job and I had no voice.

Thanksgiving Stuffing with a Crockpot Twist (November 14, 2011) — Thanksgiving stuffing made easy in a crockpot. You can probably see why this one is so popular.

Make Your Own Pizza — It’s Easy! (September 16, 2010) — Step-by-step instructions for making homemade pizza dough, as taught by me to two of my sisters.

Hanukkah Latkes — Yum, Yum, Yum (December 1, 2010 — This post was featured on the WordPress “Freshly Pressed” page at the time. A bit of history on Hanukkah and an awesome latke recipe.

Baked Chimichangas (February 5, 2011) — These are really good. You should make them tonight!

The Elf on the Shelf Scares Me (December 12, 2010) — It still does! My feelings have not changed on this subject.

So there you have it — my most-visited blog posts of all time! Maybe some of you long-time readers remember seeing those posts when they were first published. And those of you new to these parts, feel free to click around and see what the buzz is about (or if it’s even buzz-worthy!).

If you have a blog, what is your most popular post? Does it surprise you?

Monday Musings ~ March 14

March 14, 2016

Happy Monday! Did you set your clocks ahead? I wonder when the term “set your clocks” will stop being used? It’s kind of already obsolete since phones, computers and DVRs set themselves. I manually changed the clock on my oven and in my car, but that was it. Well anyway, the fact still remains that we “lost” an hour of sleep.

butterfly jungle

1. I’m starting out this week’s Musings with a few writing-related things about me. First off, I finished my novel-writing class that I started in January and I’m so excited that I actually wrote the first and last chapter of my novel. This is huge for me since before the class, all I had was an idea. Now I have completed chapters, a story arc and the motivation to write.

Second, I interviewed a Disney animator and wrote a Huffington Post story about his career and work on the new movie, “Zootopia.” I had no idea the intricacies that go into creating these animated movies – fascinating stuff!

Finally, I’m co-presenting a Writer’s Salon: Pitching, Publishing and Platform Building on April 9 here in San Diego. If you’re in SoCal, you should check it out!

2. Speaking of writing, I mentioned earlier that I wrote the last chapter to my novel. That exercise made me really appreciate this article on the best last lines and paragraphs of books. My favorite last line is – and always will be – the ending of Charlotte’s Web:

It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.

I even wrote an entire post about those words.What is your favorite last line/paragraph from a book?

3. Have you ever thought about all the different types of salt that exists? Kosher, table, sea, iodized, coarse … Did you even realize there are so many varieties? Well now you can learn all about salt and where and why they should be used in this “Salt 101” article on A Beautiful Plate. It’s fascinating. I promise.

4. I’m always taking those personality tests to determine what type of person I am. I already know I’m an ISTJ in Myers-Briggs. I had a field day with these 14 different personality tests, which includes a test to determine which Hogwarts house the Sorting Hat places you. I got Slytherin.

5. Let’s finish with what we’re all watching on television. We finished season four of “House of Cards.” I won’t say too much to risk spoilers, but I do think it was a great season. So much better than season three! I feel like they’re trying to come full circle and I’m wondering if season five will be the last. I had a hard time taking Holder (“The Killing”) seriously as a clean-shaven Conservative without a hoodie though.

We’re still loving “Billions.” This show does a great job of ratcheting up the tension level simply through the dialogue and actors. The fact is nobody is getting killed and lives don’t hang in the balance (like other shows). But it’s a great illustration that good writing and acting can still create incredible tension. 

And speaking of those shows, I posted to Facebook that you think your work life is messed up, and then you watch “Billions” and “House of Cards” and think your life is a cake walk.

What’s going on in your life? What is your favorite last line/paragraph from a book? What are you watching?

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Savannah Smiles Lemon Cheesecake

March 4, 2016

I may have mentioned before that Sophie is now a Girl Scout and is selling cookies for the first time. While she did reach her sales goal, we still have several boxes of cookies that need to find a good home. I’ve nearly had my fill of Girl Scout cookies. So instead of consuming the remaining cookies by themselves, I decided t0 use them in recipes. The Savannah Smiles were the first cookies to be used. If you’re not familiar with this variety, these cookies are a lemon shortbread dusted in powdered sugar.

By the way, I cannot say that name or consume one of the cookies without thinking about that 1980s movie, Savannah Smiles, about the little girl who runs away with two criminals because she’s ignored at home. Am I the only one who thinks that movie was kind of depressing? I just emerged from a Google rabbit hole where I realized the young actress died in 1997 from a drug overdose. But I digress (clearly!). …

I decided to make a lemon cheesecake using the Savannah Smiles cookies as the crust. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out. So if you like lemon and are craving an easy dessert, support a Girl Scout by buying a box of cookies, and then make this delicious cake. If you like lemon, this cheesecake will not disappoint!

Savannah Smiles Lemon Cheesecake

Savannah Smiles Lemon Cheesecake

1 package Savannah Smiles cookies

1/4 c. melted butter

2 packages (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 dash lemon extract (if you have it on hand)

1 small container (6 oz.) Greek lemon yogurt

2 Tbsp. lemon curd + 1/4 cup lemon curd

2 eggs

1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.

2. Blend the Savannah Smiles cookies in a food processes until they’re crumbled. Add the melted butter to the cookies. Press the mixture into a greased 8″ or 9″ spring-form  pan. Bake for about 5 minutes.

3. In a mixer, blend the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, yogurt, lemon extract and 2 Tbsp. lemon curd. Mix until combined. Add the eggs and blend together.

4. Spread the remaining lemon curd over the crust so it covers the top. Pour the cheesecake batter over the top of the crust and curd.

5. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until the center is nearly set. I used a cake tester and baked until the tester came out clean. Let the cake cool before serving. Add some whipped cream to the top if you’d like.

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