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YELPING AROUND TAMPA BAY

April 15, 2015

Divide and conquer? Buddy system? Facing a crowd armed with cups and plates I gripped BF Shoes’s hand as we surged through. We were going to face this together.

Salad from Green Mint Asian Grill

Salad from Green Mint Asian Grill

At Yelps Around Tampa Bay hosted by Yelp, businesses from all over the Bay showcased their goods to an eager crowd. Entering the TPepin  Hospitality Centre was a trip itself as the graceful brick walls, dark wood, and grand plants around the parking lot transported us away from our industrial surroundings. But once we entered the ballroom, we were returned to Tampa and all the unique nom-noms only found there.

We entered the longest line by EATS! to sip their Basil-infused Lemon Vodka (what awesome sorcery was that?) and munched on Pork Sliders (hold the bun for me). Green Mint Asian Grill assembled a Peanut-less Salad specially for me yet the dish was still crunchy by the Sprouts and Lettuce paired against the grilled Chicken. Neighbor Ohana featured plates full of mini, gluten-free Cupcakes. Yes please!

[Left] Line for EATS! with the Basil-infused drink up front [Right] I'm happy for Ohana's Gluten-free Cupcake

[Left] Line for EATS! with the Basil-infused drink up front [Right] I’m happy for Ohana’s Gluten-free Cupcake

We explored the Ballroom and took samples from each table and left a trail of silverware in our wake. The band Genghis Flan actually got BF Shoes and me to dance some Latin! Okay okay… they played Rock not Salsa but BF Shoes has limited moves.

Yelp Tampa - LogoWe happily parted with our entry donation to the Children’s Cancer Center. It was worth every penny and the charity help was just a bonus. I filled my belly to saturation despite those darn Gluten and Nut allergies blocking me from some porn-worthy foods. Most of Tampa Bay’s cross-sections were represented. Probably the only obvious cuisine missing was Cuban food which has a strong presence in Tampa. (Or did I miss it?) Meanwhile we drank Cocktails, took notes of businesses to visit outside of the event, and chatted with the restaurant reps.

We wanted a break so we exited the Ballroom and entered the Patio for fresh air… except it was filled with the scents of Hawkers as they grilled their skewers and Capital Tacos taking orders. Back in the grand lobby we passed the non-food businesses and went to the little Trophy Room / Museum which provided an interesting walkthrough of the history of Budweiser as well as little oddities from Pepin’s collection.

I’ll admit those first three restaurants (EATS! Green Mint, and Ohana) made great impressions with me but other notable delishs went to the soon-to-be-opened Hawkers (their skewers served with Kimchee) and Station House for its entertaining, bickering bartenders. Thank you Felicitious—I’m a sucker for Espresso served on Ice Cream. And Capital Tacos attracted a consistently long line ‘til the end.

Yelp Tampa - Hawkers Sign

Even with 500+ in attendance it never became annoyingly packed. Although the food was sample sized, it would’ve helped to have more cocktail tables in the Ballroom to set down my drink. But overall this was an awesome Yelp event organized by Brett and his team. I loved travelling around Tampa Bay without ever leaving the building… but now I’m ready to fill my tank and visit for an encore.

BF Shoes and Piquant Cupcakes

BF Shoes and Piquant Cupcakes

Yelps Around Tampa Bay
At TPepin Hospitality Centre
Tampa, FL
April 12, 2015

THE EVOLUTION OF MY SKIN

April 4, 2015

Suddenly my skin turned the color of sun-burnt stones cross-lined with cement streaks. I was able to boldly stroll into the red-bricked concert hall because no one could see past my natural camouflage!…
Ummm yeah… I wish my true story of skin evolution sounded like something from X-Men but for the all the negativity surrounding eczema, it still sounds cool to me.

I’ve been pretty good since my allergy tests—no Gluten or Nuts. I’ve mostly avoided Coconut, Soy, Legumes, and Oranges. I’ve mostly dust mite-proofed my room but I’m still waiting on my mattress covers. And I still have my skin care routine.

Let me brag a moment. I’m the current reigning champion at my allergist’s office with a record IGE level of 24,000. (What is that? Read here) And my mucus test topped at 52%. (Hehe I don’t even know what that test is about but the Doc said most people with allergies only register at 2-4%). Come on… eczema does not allow me to brag much so I’ll take what I can get.

I’m trying to wean myself off Topical Steroids and it’s been almost two months. Has my eczema lessened? HELL NO! I’m still itching like there’s tiny soldiers trying to escape the prison of my skin.

Skin evolution?
From last year to February my skin tore easily. Red lines that looked like thicker, longer, paper cuts would cross my arms, legs, or neck from where I dared ease an itch. UGH—bed sheets and light-colored clothing suffered from the tiny wounds.
Then in the past couple months my skin got… thicker. It barely tears now. Gone are the paper cut wounds. But it’s still too early to credit any of my lifestyle changes.

That doesn’t mean the battle’s over.

My skin may be thicker, but maybe it’s to make up for all the paratroopers of dry skin I suddenly received. Sometimes I hate getting up from my dark, office chair at work because I look down and see a tiny pile of dry skin piled around like dandruff.

And the itching is just as bad. There has been no easing up there yet. At least my itchiest areas don’t have torn skin but instead look like huge rashes. The skin there is thicker, more folds, and often drier.

I’ll take this skin evolution over thinner skin (which I assume resulted from all that Steroid Cream use)

The Eczema Experience continues… what is the cause of all this itchiness? Hmmmm.

AWAY WE GLOWBASH

March 19, 2015

I’m passing you! And you! We were shooting stars zipping past regular souls who strolled by. We were on a mission to conquer. We were at Glowbash. Glowbash had a glowstick theme, was part 5K race/part scavenger hunt and all around a beautiful evening in Downtown St. Petersburg—of course we were in!

Photo of us

Okay– we’re not as costume-d up as we typically are for races…

Well… kind of. It was like dragging my BF Shoes into a living nightmare. He whined how this race would end our relationship especially after last year’s bicycle scavenger hunt race where all the dreary elements really tested us. Hence our team name—Team Breakup. On race day, Ferg’s Sports Bar and Grill was a zoomanity of excited participants. One staffer mentioned 1200 registrants although it only seemed half that. Luckily Team Breakup had picked up our race packets the evening prior (providing us with a race shirt, bib, and a few glow gear) allowing us to just wait around for the festivities. Even Friend Ace decided to stop by and hang out even though she wasn’t racing.

Crowd waiting

The crowd behind Ferg’s just waiting for everything to begin.

Finally all team captains were called towards the stage to hear the rules. We’d have two hours to complete any 10 out of the 11 missions. Then pandemonium hit. A stampede occurred as the captains ran over me in a brutal attempt to grab the paper of clues being handed out. I was a confused pinball until I too shoved forward, parted the sea of bonking, glowing head pieces, and grabbed my paper. Between me, Friend Ace, BF Shoes, and our smart phones, we mapped out an attack. Let’s go! We hugged Friend Ace good bye and AWAY WE GLOWED. From Central Avenue we went deeper into Downtown. We immediately grabbed a sticker from a Glowbash member at the 635 Central address (the first mission straight out listed the address). Along the way we saw groups of racers mobbing the State Theatre but since we couldn’t figure out which mission that referred to we pressed on.

American State Theater

In front of the American State Theater acting out a Musical pose

We thought the Princess Martha Hotel was the ‘renovated, events building built in 1924’ but no one greeted us there with a stamp. We were wrong! Oh wait—a quick search told us the 1924 building’ was the State Theatre. Ah- that explained all the racers there. We’ll just get it on the way back. Another mission had us photograph ourselves acting out a scene in front of the theater showing Gutenburg the Musical! (American Stage Theatre). BF Shoes and I found an image of the musical on Google images and imitated it. Meanwhile we knew the nearby Sundial center would be the perfect place to find someone with an out-of-state driver’s license. Bingo—the first couple we spoke to were from New Jersey and happily took their pictures with us.

The next missions were easy because they all referred to St. Pete landmarks. We grabbed a stamp from the place ‘housing artifacts from civilizations 4,500 years ago’ (The Museum of Fine Arts) and another one from ‘SPMOH’ (the St. Pete Museum of History). And sometimes you ‘just need to walk off the ___’… the Pier— easily St. Pete’s most recognizable building. While waiting for a Pier photo, I noticed one team laughing into their camera as they all leaned into a huge plant. “This is a Bird of Paradise but it’s kinda dead right now,” they yelled. Bird of Paradise? I glanced at the clues again. Yes! The ‘Bird of Paradise’ mission was the one we planned on skipping since we didn’t know it was a flower (we thought it was a sculpture). Thank you other team! We took our photo there as soon as they left.

Run.. run... run...

Run.. run… run…

Now that we found the Bird of Paradise, we decided to instead skip the Dali Museum mission because of the distance. We had 7 out of 11 missions completed and all remaining items could be found on the return trip.

Then disaster struck! We arrived at the State Theatre only to have two bouncers tell us “No… we have no stamps for you… we’re not part of this race… You have no idea how many people like you we’ve had to tell…” OH NO! BF Shoes and I retreated to our phones. The clues—built in 1924; many renovations; held many events. What was it? We wasted too much time researching before deciding the worst… skip that mission and instead go to the Dali Museum after all.

ARGH! Complete opposite direction! We passed many glow-stick bedazzled racers yelling encouragement as they reached the State Theatre—I wanted to tell them they were wrong but instead I jogged past them. Eventually we reached the Dali Museum and took our photo in front. We also had to recreate a pyramid pose photo so we completed that as well.

In front of Dali Museum

[Left] That’s the window panes of the Dali Museum behind us. [Right] It doesn’t look like a pyramid… but the Glowbash staff knew what we were doing

One more mission to go—Tropicana Field—and it bordered Ferg’s and the finish line. By then my legs refused to jog longer than 30 seconds. We arrived at Tropicana Field’s border just as the race time ran out. Any staff member stationed at Tropicana with a stamp had already left. Defeated, we returned to Ferg’s where I showed the Glowbash members proof of our missions via the photos, stamps, and stickers Team Breakup had collected. By the time they handed me my finisher’s medal and water I was feeling better and started to move among the crowd of glowing people. Glowbash - Medals

Boooo. Because of that ‘1924’ mistake we ended up completing 5.44 miles. Other racers insist it was the State Theatre—maybe they thought you just needed a team selfie (Read the clue—you need a stamp). I’ll never know what building ‘1924‘ was. There’s no telling where we placed because only the first three teams mattered. We didn’t even win the raffle prizes. But we didn’t break up! BF Shoes took our glow sticks and celebrated with Burgers just a walk away.

Glowbash – St. Pete edition
March 14, 2015
Ferg’s Sports Bar
St. Petersburg, FL

THE ECZEMA EXAM ALLERGY TEST

March 6, 2015

Why do I have eczema?

I’m not shaking my fist at the heavens screaming “Whyyyyy?” I know there’s something up with my skin’s inability to get drunk on moisture because it doesn’t want to wake up mysteriously next to random strangers… or something like that. While I can’t control my body’s components I’m sure I can control the reactions. Much like a Kardashian acting out for attention, my skin is causing problems because it wants to be treated in a way I haven’t provided. So instead of just slapping on more steroid cream as a temporary solution, I wanted to get to the source of these issues.

Allergy sign

Ever taken an allergy test? It’s not scary at all. I totally recommend getting one because it’ll give some insight into what crazy items your body decided to hate instead of guessing. Why don’t they have something like this for relationships? For one week I was poked, scratched, and marked by an allergist. Using three different methods I was tested for food, environmental, and contact allergies.

GLUTEN TEST – BLOOD WORK

Nobody was clear on whether I needed to fast for ten hours prior. As a precaution I scheduled my testing as early as possible so I could just skip breakfast and go straight to the labs. All I had to do was give the staff two small vials of blood for them to test. Since the blood couldn’t be tested right there it took more than a week for me to receive results… and my last blog post mourns the results.

FOOD ALLERGIES – SCRATCH TEST

My mind ran wild imagining my arm looking like some nightmare pin cushion. This was made worse when the nurse entered my room with a cart stuffed with tiny bottles—it seemed like 100 bottles– each representing a food to test.

My fear was absolutely silly. After marking my arm to create reference points, one drop from each bottle was placed on my arm. Once my arm looked like human Candy Dots, the nurse took a short needle and very shallowly pricked my skin through each liquid dot. Ten minutes later I could see the skin under some dots begin to swell. Using a guide the nurse could pinpoint which food caused the reaction as well as measure the severity of my allergy.

[left] Getting the dots placed [Right] Wow-- after the liquid is wiped you can see some strong reactions there.

[left] Getting the dots placed [Right] Wow– after the liquid is wiped you can see some strong reactions there.

ENVIRONMENTAL ALLERGIES – SCRATCH TEST

This test was performed in the same way as the food allergies test. Thank goodness this was done on the 2nd day of testing and not at the same time as the food test because my arms needed a rest from getting pricked. This scratch test was to see my sensitivity to things I breathe in such as dust mites, various pollen, critters and building materials.

COMPONENTS ALLERGY – PATCH TEST

Components of… like… the stuff my skin touches. The Patch Test took three days to complete and became a real test of self-control. A large thin, paper-like material was taped to my back where I was ordered not to wet or disturb it for a couple days… and no scratching it!

Patches on my back

Patches on my back

After a couple nights of the most frugal showers in shower history, the allergist removed the paper which somehow magically told him what materials my skin didn’t like. I couldn’t see—it was on my back. The Patch Test took the longest to complete out of all the tests because a third day is needed to read the results in case there’s any delayed reactions.

Paper showing my food allergy results

Paper showing my food allergy results

PRICKLED ABOUT THE RESULTS

So that’s how I became a human testing project. Tests can vary between doctors; my sister’s food allergy tests relied completely on blood work alone.

I’m glad I had these tests done instead of blindly attempting cures without knowing whether they were helping or hurting. Several results surprised me. For months I had substituted all dairy products with Soy or Coconut… and my tests revealed I wasn’t allergic to dairy BUT I had mild allergies to Soy and Coconut. (Side note: you can still be INTOLERANT to dairy but not allergic)

Soy… gluten… Adieu for now. I’m going as cold turkey as possible on foods I’m allergic to and making changes to my studio home to ease my environmental allergies. These changes aren’t easy and definitely cost a bit of money, but to take care of my skin (and therefore my sanity) I’ll work on it. Keep me in your prayers as I try to throw some deuces up to eczema.

About Pyra-Danny
I currently have eczema covering about 80% of my skin. Despite having it for all my 29 years of life it wasn’t until last year (October 2014) I decided to really make changes to overcome it. I want to share my ongoing experience with eczema in hopes that I will learn more as well inspire others.
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