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November 16, 2015

Side view of the Scotch flight

How often are you given the opportunity to sample six different single-malt Scotch paired with five crafty Seafood tastings on a weekday? Better yet… surrounded by friends? Answer: Not enough times.

I heard about the tasting via a mere Yelp mention—not even an official Yelp event. Somehow a group of my friends all snagged places at the limited-seating Balvenie Scotch tasting. I’m pretty Scotch-clueless but this was to be a Scotch tasting paired with Seafood goodies from SeaSalt—one of the hottest Seafood restaurants in Downtown St. Petersburg, Fl—count me in!

Contained too many ingredients for me to remember.

Contained too many ingredients for me to remember.

We marched through the new SunDial plaza and through the rustic yet hip décor of SeaSalt’s interior. Almost immediately a Scotch-based cocktail was handed to me. I wish I could tell you what was in it… but a rounded Berry sat in its center mixed in with what seemed like a dozen ingredients.

David Laird, Balvenie’s Ambassador with a charming Scottish accent!!! (Yes, I know mentioning the accent wasn’t necessary), vocally prepared us for the evening before leading us into SeaSalt’s private room. Every place contained a flight of Scotch presented upon a wooden frame.

The menu on the left contains all the Seafood and Scotch pairings

The menu on the left contains all the Seafood and Scotch pairings

Although I had tried to read online about Scotch prior to the event- researching was different than doing. As our night proceeded, a few of the Scotch we tasted included Balvenie’s Caribbean Cask, Doublewood, and an unlabeled glass containing Scotch aged for 21 years. Was I becoming inebriated or was the 21-year-old Scotch really that smooth against its siblings?

First courses from left to right: Oysters, Wahoo Tartare & Peekytoe Crab, Octopus

First courses from left to right: Oysters, Wahoo Tartare & Peekytoe Crab, Octopus

The nibbles provided by SeaSalt began with three raw Oysters. We also tried a Wahoo Tartare topped with Peekytoe Crab and even an incredibly soft Octopus—all presented beautifully in its simplicity. Through Laird’s suggestions, we added drops of Scotch to the dishes which allowed some of the subtler flavors to open up. Or we’d rub Scotch on our wrists to breathe in wood scents.

2nd half from left to right: Glass of Scotch, Hawaiian Tuna Tartare, Tiramisu

2nd half from left to right: Glass of Scotch, Hawaiian Tuna Tartare, Tiramisu

In between stimulating our taste buds, we learned how Balvenie was one of the few distilleries to still prepare Scotch the traditional way. Laird added when he returns to Scotland, his other duties include working inside Balvenie’s warehouse helping to overturn the wet malt on the floor.

Ready to TasteAm I a Scotch expert now? Definitely not. But I’m now less inclined to pass it over in favor of other drinks.

This was a great event and I’m glad Yelp announced it. I just wish the event was shorter… we spent close to three hours there; Scotch and Seafood bites just made me crave more food.

But first… SLAINTE! (That’s a Scottish way of saying ‘Cheers’)

Check out another view of the event from my friend Dena Loves.

I apologize for the picture qualities here. I forgot my typical mirrorless Sony and had to rely on my phone’s camera instead.


September 4, 2015

Bum ba da daaaaaa! TSING!
(That’s the rumble of a bass drum followed by a cymbal in case you couldn’t figure that out)

Introducing… EczeMAD!

EczeMAD will be my video blog about living and dealing with eczema (Read here). I plan to produce those short videos alongside this blog. Both the typed and the video will complement each other.

EczeMAD cartoon

I like writing. I prefer it.
But there’s some things you just can’t quite capture with words.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then imagine how many a video is worth.
Woohooohoo I know by going on YouTube I’m really putting my skin out there. I’ve watched videos as simple as an animal dancing– and the video’s comments would range from supportive to downright hideous- the YouTube community can sometimes be crazy. But at the same time I hope this will be therapeutic for me as well as create a community with other ‘itchy skin friends.’

And as always– I’ll most likely be inconsistent in posting videos. So please be patient.

So follow me as I rant and muse, experiment and succeed, and try and fail through my life with severe eczema… and hopefully heal.



August 27, 2015

Warning: a few very real and somewhat graphic photos ahead

“Tomorrow. Tomorrow. I love ya… tomorrow,” like the little orphan Annie I’m very hopeful for my future. Hopeful enough to sing-type!

A few days after my last post I was prescribed CellCept (gen name: mycophenolate) a low-dosage oral immunosuppressant which I’ve been taking daily. In addition I was given an antihistamine (gen name: Levocetirizine) to help calm my itching.

This past month has given me a ride.

I was in a miserable place before I went on CellCept: thinning skin, weeping wounds, dryness everywhere. I had heard good things about CellCept. I was ready to rise from the eczema depths…

… and instead found myself in a deeper hole.

2 weeks into CellCept. [Top] These hot dog knees look kinda burnt. [Bottom] Oh my poor poor arm

2 weeks into CellCept. [Top] These hot dog knees look kinda burnt. [Bottom] Oh my poor poor arm

Two weeks into this promising medicine my legs became a wreck. Every morning I hated looking at the mirror because spider-web-like lines of dry skin crisscrossed my body everywhere. Sleeping sucked—my body was strongly emitting heat and having the blankets around would create an insulation of humidity too hot to be comfortable, but then I’d freeze as soon as I removed them.  Adding insult to injury my body was strongly giving off an unpleasant odor that seemed to become more evident as I laid in bed; probably the smell from my weeping wounds. Every few nights I had to change my sheets from it absorbing all the smell. I was a zombie at work living off four hours of sleep a night.

I whined. Why was this happening to me? I was doing everything right. I still followed my skin care routine (all here). I gave up gluten for this??? Online research of CellCept revealed it took some people weeks to notice any change so I clung to that hope.

Now four weeks later there’s improvement!

Okay—I’ll admit—externally I still look bad. These pictures still seem to show a rather crispy Pyra-Danny. People who haven’t seen my eczema journey will throw pity eyes my way mixed with shock. But anybody who can compare me from a months ago will know—this is the best I’ve been without Prednisone in months.

[Left] 2 weeks ago. [Right] Taken today and after a cool hair cut. Still dry but not so much that I want to hide my face

[Left] 2 weeks ago. [Right] Taken today and after a cool hair cut. Still dry but not so much that I want to hide my face

The weeping has mostly stopped. No more hideous odor at night. (I’m getting closer to a good sleep). My skin is thicker and rougher—so it still has that blotchy, pinkish, graying color tint—but at least I don’t look sun burnt. My skin isn’t so thin it’d break as soon as my fingernail grazed it. Showering isn’t as painful as before. Before when I stayed in place too long (my work desk, sleeping in bed, driving in the car) often I would leave a trail of dried, skin flakes. Now I still leave a trail of dried skin… but mostly it’s now a fine sandy texture… I consider that an improvement. My body is still sensitive to temperature and certain clothing but not as exaggerated.

Smallest change: [Left] Leg two weeks ago [Right] Leg today.

Smallest change: [Left] Leg two weeks ago [Right] Leg today.

So yes I’m still dry and itchy, but I’m definitely not so miserable. I actually want to face people again. I actually want to work out again. These mental changes are the biggest improvement. I hated being depressed. Of course CellCept still has its worries. Since it’s an immunosuppressant I have to make sure I stay healthy because my chances of getting sick are greater. My allergist also warned me to not try and have kids even for a good year AFTER stopping the medicine.

Although the changes have been slow and small, I’ve seen some improvement during a time when my eczema has been doing the opposite. I’m continuing with CellCept and hopeful for my future.


July 28, 2015

WARNING: A couple very real graphic photos ahead.

I’m bracing myself—I’m nervous. I’m scared.

Why haven’t I posted any eczema statuses recently? I’ve been on drugs for the past month and a half!

After months of mostly following a strict diet and skin care routine, I had hope for improvement back in April. Then suddenly in May areas that were never itchy before (such as the tops of my feet and my belly) started getting rashes yet I hadn’t changed anything in my daily routines. By June my skin was so thin that it seemed if I scratched anywhere, the area would weep a clear liquid for the next few hours. Areas like behind my knees kept weeping despite my not touching it. I had crusts of dried liquid forming behind my legs. This went on for a couple weeks.

During a visit home, my family doctor saw my legs and immediately ordered me to take a bleach bath (which helps kill bacteria) as well as take Prednisone (an oral steroid) and an anti-inflammatory medicine (forgot the name) for two weeks. I already felt miserable and defeated I didn’t care what he gave me.

My Prednisone meds and me-- it makes me sleep peacefully and feel beautiful and confident. Alas... but not a long-term relationship

My Prednisone meds and me– it makes me sleep peacefully and feel beautiful and confident. Alas… but not a long-term relationship

After two weeks the meds dried up and my eczema returned with vengeance. Worse—my face was now affected… I can’t hide my face! My cheeks, eyelids, and jaw line were dry and red. I wanted to vanish into the earth when a young grocery clerk at my Oriental Market looked at me and exclaimed, “You’re sun burnt!” Indeed- my whole body looked toasted and my skin was thicker and drier.

In addition, the weeping had returned. Plus a musky smell started wafting from my skin occasionally mixed in with a vinegar-like odor. My skin was flaking off so much I brought a mini vacuum to work so I could clean the surrounding carpet twice a day. And– was this related?—no temperature felt right. I was shivering in 90-degree weather yet my skin bordered feverish to the touch.

I begged an appointment with my Allergist who discovered I had a MRSA staph infection. He agreed with my Family Doctor and placed me on Prednisone again as well as something to fight the infection. Once again my skin responded almost immediately yet I have continued to be very, very itchy. But at least I’ve stopped flaking, turning red, and weeping.

But the Prednisone ran out two days ago.

Dry and thick skin everywhere.

Dry and thick skin everywhere.

I was told the drug should stay in my system for a while, but why has my itchiness increased three-fold since yesterday? Around my neck and chest my skin has already changed in thickness, texture, and color. But worse are the feelings of sadness and self-consciousness beginning to creep back in.

What’s happening to me? I’ve made so many changes to my lifestyle yet none of it seems to be working. In fact—I’ve been doing much worse than all my 29 years of living with eczema.

I’m bracing myself. I can do this. I have another appointment with my Allergist coming soon—I just have to hang in there and stay the course.


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