Archives for November 2012

Day 30: Looks like we made it.

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Here it is, the end of November and if thirty consecutive days of writing has taught me anything it’s that… dang, it’s hard to write for 30 consecutive days.

But write I did.

To have had an emotional roller coaster of a month has given me much to say, but to be honest, it’s always hard to find that balance – what’s too much? I get uncomfortable putting too much of myself in this blog, and that’s ridiculous because it’s only ever been a positive thing when I’ve done so.

To write is to dwell, to be seen as complaining, to beat a dead horse.

Or is it?

Writing can also help us process and chase away demons.

So. Which is it?

And the thing is – for me, I’m not sure.

I’m comfortable behind this little wall of mine, but you’re never going to know me if I keep it up. And maybe that’s good. But you won’t know about the struggles – whether it’s with my grandfather’s health and my difficulties dealing with that or whether it’s allowing you to watch me on my journey of running a house on my own (the photos I haven’t hung, the light bulbs I haven’t replaced – and the little victories – including unclogging a sink and figuring out that weird noise in the kitchen).

I have wished away 2012 more times than I can count, it being a year of profound change and tough moments. Those moments can feel excruciating when you’re in the midst of ’em, but I do know that I am going to ring in 2013 knowing that all of this was the way things needed to go. I already feel that way, even though I’m still kind of standing in the middle of a sandstorm at times.

For all the moments I feel worn down, transparent, weak, overwhelmed, I have just as many moments of feeling strong, lifted, like things are going to be the way they need to be. Like there’s potential. Like there’s a whole big world in front of me now with no limits.

That’s a bit terrifying too. But in the best way.

This has been a month of words, of lowering the wall, of revealing.

What will December bring?

I guess we’ll all have to wait and see.

“Writing is both mask and unveiling.”
– e.b. white

Thanks for hanging out with me this month. For reading and not cringing at all the overshare. You’re not so bad, y’know?
’til next month,

<3 sarah

Thursday Ten: End of the Tunnel edition

1. Just one more day of consecutive daily posts. I’ve done it. Almost. Let’s hope I don’t screw it up. I’m probably gonna summarize this month tomorrow – it’s been an interesting experience. I have been considerably more candid, more revealing here than I have been previously – whether that is something I continue to do or whether I dial it back a notch, I’m not sure. What say you, lovely people?

2. It’s been a rough week in terms of my grandfather’s progress and lack of and the rehabilitation hospital (that I’ve been so pleased with so far) has really irked me. Sometimes I really don’t understand things, people, companies, procedures and the hows and whys. Truly frustrated with the latest development. GRUMBLE.

3. I deleted my iPod the other day – kind of accidentally – thus deleting all the stuff that was still living on my iPod but hadn’t moved over to the new iTunes after the old laptop went kablooey. Follow that? Looks like I’m missing, oh…. 800 songs. I am not happy about that development. Little by little I am finding what I was missing. Gah. TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES.

4. I received an awesome card from my friend, Rachel, this week. It wasn’t so much the card – which was beautiful – but what she wrote inside of it. It really was a sweet thing and it was just exactly what I needed. It made me smile tremendously. My friends rule.
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5. I’m still reading the Cheryl Strayed book – it’s taking me awhile because EVERYTHING takes me awhile. I just don’t read as much as I used to. But? I’m loving it. Worth a read.

6. Baked two loaves of gingerbread last night in an effort to clear my mind and warm the house. There’s something about that smell, that lovely gingerbread smell. So warm and inviting and delicious. First gingerbread of the season – won’t be the last.

7. I’ve made a small dent in Christmas shopping. Very. Small. Dent. Most of my shopping has been via Amazon because it’s just easier with my schedule. I don’t really know how I’m going to get everything done in time. I usually aim to be done by December 15 – that feels impossible this year. BUT, I’ll try.

8. I was thinking of printing some of my calla lily shots for my mom for Christmas – they’re her favorite flower. So, I bought two callas, took a ton of pictures and then realized that all of them have this look about them. I’m not entirely sure how calla lilies became the flower of choice for sympathy cards because there’s something kinda… Georgia O’Keefe-y about them.

9. My dog doesn’t shut his eyes all the way when he sleeps and it’s creepy as hell.

10. Tonight The Princess has an event at her school. It requires that she bring an entree she’s made. It starts at 5:30. What the hell are they thinking? Even if I could make it on time, the cooking part creates drama. This schedule, this event, is not very friendly to many schedules – namely…MY OWN. With some juggling, everything will happen as it should and everyone will be where they should be when they should be there but UGH. (Don’t get me started on the school Christmas program for Pumpkin – it’s in a few weeks. That one is also going to take some juggling. Who plans this stuff?)

Day 28: On cooking

The other night, I had an amazing dinner prepared by people who truly love the process of cooking. While I love watching other people cook (which is why the Food Network appeals to me so much), there’s something amazing about sitting at a counter while food is being prepared, watching people who truly enjoy themselves in the kitchen, preparing a meal that will eventually leave you so full you’ll be grateful for the stretch in your jeans.

When I spoke about cooking, I said as I always do, “I’m not a cook, I bake.”

I make a lot of self-deprecating comments in general about my cooking abilities and how I dislike it but I guess that’s not entirely true.

If I had all the time in the world (or, y’know, a free hour or so) to prepare a meal without twenty other things vying for my attention? I think I’d enjoy it more. Coming home after a long day of work when my children are already hungry and trying to get a meal on the table before hungry turns to “hangry” is less fun. I feel I’m on a race to beat the clock in order to feed the girls (and me!) before tempers flare.

Kind of sucks the joy out of it all, if you must know.

It’s part of the reason I started the Kitchen Through the Lens project in the first place. What I have been finding is that it’s not that I hate cooking, or even that I’m bad at it (quite the contrary, I have made some stuff that I’ve been pretty darn pleased with), it’s that I just want to slow down. I want to cook with enough natural light streaming in my windows that I can take pictures of the food if I want to.


Those were taken with my phone in a kitchen at night before being sauteed with olive oil, leeks and garlic. It was amazing. And how beautiful, right? I want to buy all of the vegetables and take all of the pictures. And then let someone who loves to cook make magic out of them.


I want to feel confident enough in the way that I cook that I move around my kitchen with ease and am not so flustered with the details of the processs that I couldn’t enjoy company sitting with me as I cooked.

I’m not there yet.

I grew up in a house of hurried meals thrown together at the end of the day – well, that is until I got old enough to cook. Then I grew up getting dinner started for my mom to finish throwing something together at the end of the day. Or then I started making dinners to have ready when she got home (never anything fancy, always gross boxed meals – I’m probably still full of preservatives from those years). I certainly had no example of my mom enjoying the process.

Will I ever be a good cook who truly enjoys it? I have no idea. I’m hoping, as the year (and this project) goes on, though, that I gather more confidence and less reluctance to flex my skills in the kitchen.

We’ll see if it happens.

Kitchen Through The Lens: Homemade Dog Treat

I swear I'd have taken the sticker off the cookie cutter if it was for people
Yeah. What of it. I like my dog.

What I made was a variation on the #7 Beef Dog Treat – I say “variation” because I realized as I was getting ready to start making these that the bouillon powder had garlic powder in it – and I just didn’t want to chance it because garlic is not good for dogs. Soooo, I swapped out the bouillon powder and the milk for some chicken broth instead. And I can’t know if it was a good or bad switch because basically? My dog eats anything.

I admit – I even bought a special cookie cutter…shaped like a dog.

even food for my dog gets baked on parchment

The thing is – the reason I added a homemade dog treat to the list, knowing I wouldn’t test it out myself (though the ingredients are both dog and people safe) is kind of the same as why I don’t use boxed cake mixes: it’s good to know what you’re eating. And hey, it’s good to know what your dog is eating. I know, I know… if your dog is anything like mine you’re thinking, “He licks his own butt, why do I care if I can pronounce the ingredients in his food?”

Okay, well, fine. Maybe you don’t. But hey, it matters.

I admit – I buy the mass produced Milkbone type treats for my pup and probably won’t stop – mainly because this is not something I can see myself doing on a regular basis, but you know, sometimes it’s a nice thing to do.

Even if your dog never says thank you.

homemade dog biscuits

Day 26: Answers

Ah, writers’ block. Ah, being tired of the overshare. Ah, being tired of emotions and talking about my grandpa and hurting over all of that stuff. SO, I asked people for questions to answer for today. My brain feels less hurty now.


What made you start baking? Cause you rock and make the best cookies known to man.

I’m not sure what made me start baking, but I’m guessing it was a novelty at first, to be allowed to. And once my mom realized I could bake, she stopped! If we wanted anything baked, well… I did it. I’ve been baking since fourth or fifth grade (much like The Princess, actually!), and haven’t stopped yet.

What is your favorite thing to bake besides cookies?

I love most sweets, actually, but I really love cheesecake. I bake what I love to eat and I LOOOOOOOOOVE to eat cheesecake. I have had a fun time finding cheesecake recipes that I love – the one I make most frequently is a brownie mosaic cheesecake, but I also LOVE a salted caramel cheesecake, and last winter, I experimented and made a seasonal type thang, using gingersnaps for the crust and possibly some nutmeg (I can’t remember!) in the actual cheesecake. Clearly it sounds like I don’t know what I’m talking about anymore – I’ll have to try it again.

Why is Pinterest so addictive?

I feel I should point out that this question came from The Princess, the resident Pinterest Addict. And I think the reason Pinterest is so addictive is because it is such a visual medium. We love pretty pictures. Also, when we see something that other people have done, it makes it seem achievable. Like we can do it. Just so you know, kiddo, I’m not gonna be able to do those wicked cool gymnastic silhouette nail art things. Sorry.

What’s your favorite cake flavor?

Cheesecake aside, I’m not a tremendous fan of cake. I love my doughnut cake. I love a flourless chocolate cake. And I adore an angel food cake with a dark chocolate glaze. Traditional cakey-cakes? Nope. No thank you.

What is your solution for world peace?

Cookies and naptime. This would also be my platform if I was running for President. I think part of the reason people are so cranky is because they are so busy depriving themselves of the good things that they just get crotchety. Have a cookie. By the way, when was the last time you got that recommended eight hours of sleep? Yeah. That’s right. You probably haven’t. I know I sure don’t sleep that much. You should take a nap. Also, while I’m at it. Thirty minutes of exercise daily. Yes, cookies and exercise. Generally speaking, self care type things over all will make people less likely to be jerk faces. Hence the positive effect on world peace. That’s my theory. Really? Nothing else has worked, so… y’know… worth a shot.

Ah. I have a good one – how do you explain Santa. I feel like my answer has changed every year and my kids are 8, 6, 4 and 4 – I need to get my sh*t together.

If I had it to do all over again, I WOULD NEVER HAVE TOLD MY KIDS ABOUT SANTA. Admittedly, I don’t love that a fictional fat man gets all the credit for the good gifts. It’s a lot of work. OY THE SEPARATE SPECIAL SECRET WRAPPING PAPER (I’ve amended this: Santa doesn’t wrap stuff). But yeah, I tell my kids – only one of whom is actually still a believer – that Santa comes on Christmas eve to bring presents. The Santa tracker from NORAD is particularly cool. I have tried that whole “Santa is watching you” threat, but it doesn’t seem to work on them like it did me. I will honestly be overjoyed when Pumpkin stops believing. I almost hope her big sister spoils it soon.

What do you want for Christmas?

Uh… World peace? Actually, I tremendously dislike when people ask me what I want because it feels icky to give a list of things I want. I think the best gifts are the ones that come from thought and care and knowing the recipient – when I’m shopping, I LOVE to find just the right gift that will mean something (I hope) to the recipient… something that shows I’ve paid attention. So, I like when others do that. Barring any random holiday work gift exchange, chances are, if you don’t really know me, you shouldn’t be buying a gift anyway. (But since you asked, I have always wanted a pony.)

Do you have a favorite quote?

Have I mentioned that I like quotes? Because I do. A lot. One that has been hanging on my fridge for several years is: “If you really want to be happy, no one can stop you.” Seems a pretty good rule to live by. Is it my favorite? It is in this moment.

Day 25: Family Meetings

Today the siblings sit down and they will talk to my grandmother.

My grandpa’s social workers are saying that the family needs to get into the frame of mind that assisted living is what he’ll require now, and everyone has to revamp their way of thinking, about this stroke, the recovery, my grandfather and his future – tailor our thoughts from whatever they might have been and adjust to a new reality which is that after over fifty years in that little white house on that little street, my grandpa is never really going to be home there again.

He is in pain, he is depressed. He was too tired for physical therapy yesterday. He won’t eat. He is easily confused.

This is not a reality I like. This is not a reality I know what to do with.

My grandpa has always been a man small in stature, and after his bout with stomach cancer when he had half his stomach removed, he was even smaller. But he’s never been someone I would perceive as fragile or weak. I once carried him in my arms as one would hold a baby – but I’m less sure that it was because he was that small or that I’m that badass.

I just can’t get out of my head the man he has always been. The man with Lifesavers in church, the man who always kept a jar of cookies in his kitchen, the maker of spectacular potatoes (American fries and ohmygod the latkes, so good), the man who always stocked up on red Koolaid for when we came to visit. The man who tells the story of the time I cried all the way down to Carmel when I was little.

I have never for a moment in my life doubted how much he loves me, how much he cares, how proud he is of me, how much he loves my daughters. Since the stroke, he is even more affectionate.

“Do you even know how precious you are?” he said to me and my sister last time.

He constantly says “I love you” and I am so grateful for that. So grateful for his words and that I still feel every bit as loved as I ever did, even though everything is changing.

I know he will resist assisted living. This is a man who well into his 80s has been shoveling his own driveway free of snow every winter. He will resist and he will hate it and I need him to be safe and to be cared for, but I don’t want his spirit to be broken and I don’t want him to give up.

And I don’t know what my grandmother will say – and she’s changed through the past few weeks as well. She’s softened a little bit, maybe. On Thanksgiving, she called me smart. I can’t remember the last unsolicited kindness she’s extended towards me. She told me I looked happier and offered some insight and sometimes I am surprised she is paying attention. This is, afterall, the woman who insulted my sister in the Emergency Room, hours after Grandpa’s stroke.

Today there will be a meeting and then we will all go on, putting one foot in front of the other doing what needs to be done.

Wish it were easier. Wish all of it were easier.

Kitchen Through The Lens: Fortune Cookies

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I have a love for fortune cookies that I cannot begin to explain.

They are a light sweet cookie-esque snack (can we really call it a cookie? I’m not sure), that is just sweet enough to take the edge off a sweet craving but not so sweet that you immediately regret eating one (or five). Throw in the cool notes in the middle and…win.

Except when the fortunes are lame and not really fortunes and you can’t even properly add “…in bed” to the end of them.

fortune cookie fail

I think we’ve already covered that not all of my cooking projects are successful (Pioneer Woman Lemon Pasta, I’m lookin’ at you). Those chicken tacos from two weeks ago were a pretty dismal failure as well.

My attempt at fortune cookies?

Not good.

Too bad, too because the recipe came from Cooking Light and actually tasted okay.

Ugly as hell, though.

You flip the parchment over so you’re not putting batter on the pencil marks.

Not that any of you ate these.

I just felt the need to clarify.

pre baking

Spread the batter.

now what?


And now, you should be able to put the fortune in the middle, fold and fold again.


This stuff does NOT want to come off the parchment.

I can’t say I’m surprised – there’s no oil, not butter, no nothin’ that would keep this stuff from sticking, except the use of parchment itself. So, if you are indeed lucky enough to get the cookie off the parchment, it’s likely a crumbly mess, and if it’s not, it’s probably still ugly.

I dunno.

Tasted good.

I’m not gonna say I didn’t eat all those cookie scraps.

But I have to say, all my fortunes were wasted.

And they were good ones too.


day 23: It’s snowing.

Yesterday the temperature was beautiful enough that I ventured out for a four and a half mile walk (I can’t make myself run these days). As I type this, it’s snowing. Hard. I guess winter is here.

I wasn’t born and raised in Michigan. Even though I’ve lived here longer than half my life, I find myself miserable through winter – I can’t get used to the cold or the snow. I can’t get used to the slowed caution driving on the slippery roads takes. I can’t get used to snow days or how I have to juggle when the kids have one (But oh! I do remember how I loved them when I was in high school – and the year we got such awful snow, we had five snow days in a row! So lovely then).

I don’t like to be cold.

I suppose I should seriously consider moving someday, and maybe someday I will. For now, though, I can’t. Roots have glued me – more so my daughters than my own. This morning my mom’s husband said, “Before you had kids, your mom and I had talked of moving to New Mexico. THANKS FOR NOTHING.” He was joking, but I know he doesn’t love the cold either. I find it interesting that mom would consider New Mexico – I guess I don’t know the weather patterns there. She hated California though – she wanted four seasons. She wanted to be where she grew up.

So she is and now I am.

And it’s snowing and I am curled in bed wishing for spring again. Perhaps a longer autumn.

Anything but the snow.

I’m not ready for it.

Thursday Ten: Gratitude edition

1. No, I didn’t miss a day though I came close – but I have four hours to spare so I have yet to break the streak. Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Thursday. Here is a post.

2. I’m not a fan of holidays without my children. I got to spend a lot of time with my niece – and that was lovely. It wasn’t the same. Adjusting, guess that’s the name of the game.

3. I am thankful for the people in my life, the roof over my head, that I can love and be loved. I am thankful for what is and I am thankful for what isn’t.

4. It’s been so long since I’ve actually sat down to read, but I downloaded Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar the other night and I have been reading ever since. It’s perfect to read in small doses and the advice given in the book is moving me in ways I hadn’t expected and I keep finding myself highlighting passages to go back to again.

5. I woke up this morning, went to the lake and walked around. About four and a half miles on a beautiful fall day – nowhere else I needed to be, nothing else I needed to do. It felt good to take the time to just be. Winter is coming and I need to hold on to these beautiful days and spend the time I can spend outside before snow flies.

6. I haven’t started the “Arrested Development” marathon yet. I did just finish watching “Beasts of the Southern Wild” though.

7. Every year I binge on turkey and potatoes and stuffing and say I will never eat again. Meh. As I type this I’ve got a slice of ciabatta toast with butter. (I love Thanksgiving dinner. It’s my favorite. I’m also very glad I worked out this morning.)

8. This post is taking me a long time to write. Which is fine because… I have time.

9. I can’t decide if I’m going to do Black Friday shopping tomorrow. I’m having a hard time getting into the spirit.

10. I am thankful, I really am… but I’ll be glad when it’s tomorrow.

Day 21: Eat and GTFO

I joked yesterday that the theme for my family’s Thanksgiving meal this year is “Eat and GTFO” and while I am only sort of kidding, all indications point to me being back home, sitting on the couch in my pajamas with a glass of wine and Arrested Development streaming on Netflix by 4:30 in the afternoon.

I am torn between being relieved and wondering what the hell I am going to do with myself with all that empty time.

Besides watch all of AD, that is. Maybe I’ll move on to finishing Breaking Bad, too.

And basically every movie I haven’t seen since the girls were born.

My family gatherings used to be these all day shindigs. I remember Christmases when I was a kid and we’d fly into Michigan and it’d be a marathon, not a sprint, ending late in the night when all the adults were drinking cognac and playing Trivial Pursuit and the evening wasn’t over until my mom and my aunts would drunkenly sing “Sisters” from the movie White Christmas loudly in the kitchen. (You know the song, right? “Lord help the mister that comes between me and my sister and lord help the sister that comes between me and my man…”).

Thanksgiving, while never quite as prolonged an event usually ran much longer.

This year, it sounds like we’ll all eat and go our separate ways. Between my grandfather’s stroke (and that he is now in rehabilitation) and my sister and brother-in-law having twelve bajillion events to go to and my daughters not being around, well… it’s gonna be a low key day. I can’t even imagine we’ll turn the television on for football (Thanksgiving without the Lions game? Is that even done?). I can’t even think of what to bake because I don’t know if there will be anyone there who can eat dessert (diabetic family holidays, whee? I’m not gonna experiement with Stevia or Splenda or whatever the fake-sugar-du-jour is… because I like the real stuff).

[I’m kind of kidding here. You know I’m not too proud to make brownies that only I will eat.

Probably will eat the rest of them with my wine. While Netflix-ing.


Or a sloth.]

It used to be that Thanksgiving would be an all-day gathering. I’d bring a book and curl up on my mom’s couch and I’d read and talk to family and I’d smell the rich aromas of turkey and stuffing filling the house and my stomach would grumble in delightful anticipation of one of my favorite meals of the year.

This year, I don’t imagine that I’ll linger. Maybe I’ll go for a run earlier. A good one. I’ll arrive late. We’ll all tumble out the door when dinner is done, off to separate corners of our little worlds, full of food and thanks, with an afternoon stretched wide open.