Blog Posts by Jessica Ashley, Senior Editor

  • Mike Starr's death proves why "Celebrity Rehab" should stay alive [video]

    When I turn on "Celebrity Rehab" or "Sober House," it's not as a reality TV junkie. It's not even for the big names and dramatic scenes or to see who vomits or cries or spills their painful childhood stories in group. I'm a viewer who loves someone who is a recovering addict. These shows are a reminder of how fragile addiction and even recovery can be.

    That fragility was apparent Tuesday afternoon with the death of 44-year old Mike Starr. The former bassist for Alice in Chains stepped back in the spotlight to bare his substance abuse, guilt over not saving the life of bandmate Layne Staley (Staley fatally overdosed in 2002 at the age of 34), multiple heart-stopping overdoses, and intense (even frightening) withdrawal symptoms. The experiences he detailed -- like being shot up with heroin multiple times by Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley after a show with Nirvana and Red Hot Chili Peppers -- were horrifying to hear. His time in rehab was unnerving to watch. Still, there seemed to be this

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  • Video: Dad-daughter duo's "Be My Baby" is pretty adorable, too

    I'd like to invite viral video celebs Alexa Narvaez and her guitar-playing dad Jorge over for a play date with my son and me. They don't even need to sing (although, I am down with belting out a little Edward Sharpe with them). It's the kid-antics - the little girl opening the video sticking out her tongue at the camera and the dad wrapping it up doing the same - measured with American Idol-like commitment to songs we all love to sing with our kids in the privacy of our own cars/kitchens/playrooms.

    Until they're up for hauling the guitar and camera equipment to our place, I may just make this sophomore hit by the dad-daughter duo into lullaby rotation.



    More kid-friendly vids:

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  • Will you give up something unhealthy for Lent?

    I've wondered aloud before if, aside from the spiritual aspects of reverence and sacrifice, giving up something for Lent is an unhealthy or healthy practice. [Read the full post here.] My concern is that stripping out something you love or have made habitual in your life, be it chocolate or soda or sugar, will lead to a big old binge at the end of the Lenten season. That's certainly tempered by some experience in nixing caffeine, doing a five-week detox, and understanding very well how powerful it can be to hit the restart button on eating.

    I don't think I'm alone in knowing that it might do me good to shake up my diet a bit (I'm talking to you, coffee creamer). I also don't think I am alone in knowing that, at the end of 40 days, I would be really likely to pour myself a bucket of whatever I've cut out (who needs the coffee anyway?). Also, I am pretty sure the intent of the season is not to have a Fat Tuesday, followed by a sacrificial Lent, followed by Easter and wrapped up with Fat

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  • Recall: Skippy could lead to PB-and-Salmonella sandwiches

    How silly of me to be concerned about things like high-fructose corn syrup and buckets of sugar in peanut butter. Apparently, what I really needed to be alarmed about is salmonella in the sandwich spread.

    Several kinds of Skippy peanut butter have been recalled after a routine product sampling revealed possible salmonella contamination. Parent company Unilever issued the voluntary recall of Skippy Reduced Fat Creamy Peanut Butter Spread and Skippy Reduced Fat Super Chunk Peanut Butter Spread. To date, no other products are are included in the recall. The FDA has not received reports of any resulting illnesses.

    Salmonella is an organism that can cause infections, sometimes fatal, and is particularly concerning for children, the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, and other at-risk populations. The FDA recommends throwing away Skippy products that match the UPCs (the series of numbers located under the bar code on the jar) and Best-If-Used-By-Dates noted in the recall.

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  • Who is doing Jazzercise? (Oh, yes, there's video)

    A good friend of mine lives in a small town in Wisconsin. It's the kind of place where the Piggly Wiggly closes at 4 o'clock and where you'd never find a public bus or 24-hour treadmill factory where people are working out at 2 a.m. It's no surprise that she trained for a charity event by pounding out hours walking on the shoulder of the two-lane highway near her house. But when she told me she was into Jazzercise, I was honestly shocked.

    Maybe it's because she transcends small-town-ness for me with her sassy style and adorable haircut and loud liberal opinions. Maybe it's because she's not one of my mom's friends and doesn't wear a leotard. Whatever it is, my Jazzercising friend is challenging my stereotypes of who is grooving to the music to stay in shape.

    To make matters more perplexing, my friend has been teaching Jazzercise for several years. And loves it. Swears by it. Encourages me to give it a go. So far, I've been way too wrapped up in my ballet-bootcamp and Thai

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  • How many flights do you haul your stroller up?

    It's just one of those realities of being an urban parent, just like traffic jams at preschool drop-off and your child being able to rattle off a Thai take-out order before they can walk: heavy-lifting the stroller (and kid and diaper bag and seven reusable bags of groceries and mail and your to-go chai) up the stairs to your apartment (or condo or townhouse).

    You'd think managing all that stuff and all those flights would mean that those moms would have fabulously toned arms. Somehow, this doesn't happen. You'd also think someone would start designing new-build condos clearly marketed to families to have some kind of stroller corral in the lobby. Sadly, I've not yet seen this.

    Because my own building had a wee little foyer and no convenient place to tuck catalogs and fliers let alone a jogger, I carried the stroller, kid, and all that other crap up 77 steps several times a day for three years. I got good at slinging it around, but it still always felt like a chore.

    Sure, there are

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  • BYU basketball star Brandon Davies suspended for having premarital sex: Is this OK to judge?

    BYU basketball player Brandon DaviesBYU basketball player Brandon DaviesBYU basketball player Brandon Davies is a starter and the third-leading scorer on a team that, until last night, was on a winning streak of historical proportions for the school-ranked third in the nation with a record of 27-2. What you might expect to read is a lucky third component to this story, maybe footage of an incredible half-court game-winning shot or stepping up as a key player in the NCAA tournament or even a comparison to one of the greats on the court.

    Sadly, the press swirling around this 19-year old college player today is not fortunate. It was reported today that Davies was suspended for the remainder of the season for violating the school's strict honor code.

    Here's where you might also expect there to be some flagrant disobedience-drinking and driving, assaulting someone, having something illegal in his pocket or one of those crimes we are all too familiar with seeing lauded athletes commit when their careers seem to be going well. But Brandon Davies is suspected of

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  • The hat that reminds me why it's good to be a single lady

    Ladies and gentlemen, there is a reason I'm single (or four) and it possibly could be this hat.

    How could a crocheted (ir is it knitted? who cares! it has a mustache! AND a full-on grizzly beard!) chapeau such as this be to blame for why I will not be filing a a joint tax return this year and why I won't even have a dinner companion this weekend? Because, as long as these horrific, albeit hilarious hipster logger accessories exist in the world, then they are guaranteed to show up on the otherwise lovely head of the man in my life.

    If I was to meet some guy from Match.com for an appletini tonight, you can bet your cross-cut saw he'd show up right off a plane from the Pacific Northwest (or perhaps the set of "Portlandia") wearing a Beardhead to impress. I have a sneaky suspicion that the guy I've been seeing long-distance might show up on Skype one night sweating underneath one of these in bright yellow. And, oh, how I shudder to think if I had a husband. Because if I did, he'd

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  • One reason to love your hot flashes

    It seems like the cruelest joke Mother Nature could play -- wrapping up years of period negotiating just to make women experience sudden-onset sweating, flushed faces and discomfort all in one hot flash.

    Nearly three-quarters of women experience menopause-related hot flashes that can range from sensations of mild warmth to rapid heart rate and perspiration and, in some extreme cases, faintness and dizziness. A new study says, despite these disrupting symptoms, having hot flashes could be a good sign for women.

    Extensive research conducted by a Northwestern endocrinologist and two Harvard doctors recently found that women who experience hot flashes and night sweats may be at lower risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, and death.

    Previous research suggested that these symptoms of menopause actually were indicators that a woman had an upped risk of high blood pressure and cholesterol, the study's lead author, Dr. Emily Szmuilowicz, said. Because hot flashes are caused by unstable

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  • Is breastfeeding political?

    Any time Michelle Obama says something, there's going to be a reaction from the other side of the aisle. But this time the topic was breastfeeding and the reactions were not as predictable as you might think.

    The first lady announced to reporters recently that she'll be promoting breastfeeding as a part of her campaign against childhood obesity, and will be paying special attention to advocate it among women of color.

    That, followed by the announcement that the IRS will offer tax breaks on breast pump purchases, sent some Republicans -- and Democrats -- over the edge.

    One of the loudest to speak out against Obama's initiative was conservative Representative Michele Bachmann, a Tea Party founder who has also rallied against same-sex marriage and abortions. Although she says she breastfed all of her five children, Bachman called the idea "hard left," an indication of the perspective that "government is the answer to everything," and an effort to create a controlling state.

    Bachmann

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