Archives for August 2012

Thursday Ten: Last Week of Summer edition

1. Met the girls’ teachers yesterday and… I really think it’s gonna be a good year. The Princess needs a teacher who isn’t afraid to be tough and challenge her students and WHOA, I think she may have that teacher. And Pumpkin’s teacher? She seems to have a great sense of humor which I think will work well with Pumpkin’s personality. Just a few more days til school starts. BRING IT.

2. Two more days of my 365 – TWO! And then year four will be over. Am I doing a fifth year? Yeppers. Join me if you want. Can’t wait to see what you come up with. (Hell, I can’t wait to see what I come up with!)

3. Know what makes me inordinately happy? Pretty cappuccino art. Coffee. Coffee houses. Cups of coffee. Coffee with friends. Talking over coffee. Pretty coffee. Yeah.
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4. Adults behaving badly – it gets old – heard second hand of someone getting her knickers in a twist because she wasn’t invited to a bridal shower. Let’s see: The bride you barely know didn’t invite you to celebrate her impending nuptials with her FAMILY and CLOSEST FRIENDS and you are upset? Just sit down, shush up and enjoy your free afternoon and the extra thirty bucks you didn’t spend on towels at Bed Bath & Beyond.

5. Election season must have been so much more pleasant back before the internet.

6. In book club this month we’re reading Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl – I’m not too far into it, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that it might be the one of the most well-written books I’ve picked up in awhile. The last two books I’ve tried to read, I’ve set aside, unfinished – with no intent to return to them. This one seems to be a good one, though.

7. Pumpkin has taken to asking for another dog. A smaller dog. One who will cuddle with her. I think she had these visions of our pup – he was so tiny at first – but he grew, OH DID HE GROW. But no new puppies for us… I cannot even imagine where the time to housetrain a puppy would come from and I can’t afford to replace all the carpet. Sorry kiddo. No go.

8. The advantage to keeping a container of cookie dough (homemade, of course) in the fridge is making just one cookie to tide a sweet tooth craving and hold you over. The disadvantage is knowing there’s still a container in the fridge and really? JUST ONE? GO MAKE ANOTHER ONE.

9. New music this week – some stuff from the Fleetwood Mac tribute album, The Best Coast covering Rhiannon.

10. I didn’t need a reminder – but cancer? It sucks. Heart is heavy and hurting and I feel helpless and I am committed to keep doing what little bit I can – whether it’s walking in the Avon Walks or talking about cancer or posting links on early detection or talking about cookies in relation to my bake sales to raise funds for my walks. This is probably another post for another day, or many more posts for many more days. As many as it takes. (And Julie, I’m rooting for you)

Kitchen Through the Lens: Vinaigrette

Every once in awhile, I get a little twitchy about the number of things I buy that contain ingredients I can’t pronounce. Ingredients that were probably created in some lab somewhere as part of some science experiment involving beakers and chemical reactions and isn’t that just really gross? [Exception to the rule: I don’t care what science was involved in the making of Cheetos – it’s all good with me, though.]

An obvious place to make changes is salad dressing. I love vinaigrettes and it seems silly to buy them from a store. How hard could it be? Surely it has to be better for me, right?

cayenne, sea salt, cumin

So, I searched Google for vinaigrette recipes that didn’t require a stop at the store for more ingredients on the way home. I found three worth trying. I figured I would try all three, and use my favorite on my dinner – grilled chicken salad. FYI, I marinated the chicken in lime juice, fresh garlic, sea salt and olive oil – it’s my go-to marinade, and I wanted to pick vinaigrettes that would complement those flavors.

I picked a honey lime, honey dijon and cumin lime (seen below, left to right).

three kinds of vinaigrette

I had no cruets for salad dressing – I did have these funky glass jars, hand painted by my kids WHICH IS WAY BETTER THAN SOME STUPID CRUETS.

Honey lime vinaigrette-
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
dash cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Honey dijon vinaigrette –
1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. olive oil
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper to taste

Cumin lime vinaigrette –
1/4 c. lime juice
1/4 c. olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Ultimately, they were all fine – but the honey dijon is the only one that felt like a true vinaigrette to me – perhaps because it’s the only one that actually HAD VINEGAR IN IT. I put that on my disappointing salad along with a little bit of the honey lime and kind of mixed the two and it was tasty. All three are now in covered dishes in my fridge where they will go bad in three days because I no longer have any salad to put them on.*

grilled chicken salad is NOT pretty


*Bagged salad. What a pain THAT is. I don’t know if you can tell from the above picture, but there’s a spot in my fridge that freezes lettuce. And so it’s wilty and soggy and not so yum. I threw away SO MUCH LETTUCE and was left with a pretty puny salad. Also, you’ll note from the above salad that I even grill the cloves of garlic from the marinade (I use a grill pan). Yeah, so, grilled garlic is delicious and fabulously smelly and I love it, so there.

On Teeth and Time

It wasn’t until the day after her first birthday that I felt Pumpkin’s first tooth graze the surface of her otherwise gummy smile. I’d waited, not always so patiently, to feel that first sign of sharpness, to see that first glimpse of white. I’d asked her doctor on more than one occasion, “Is this normal? This not getting teeth thing? How can she not have teeth?”

“Don’t worry,” our doctor told me. “This is better, actually. The longer it takes for her teeth to come in, the healthier they’ll be.”

And then one by one her beautiful little teeth appeared, filling in what was already a beautiful smile.

Last night Pumpkin said to me at bedtime, “I have a loose tooth but it hasn’t come out yet.” I thought she was kidding. I don’t know why – her friends have holey smiles and the first awkward appearances of too big adult teeth growing in.

“Let me see!” I said and she pointed it out and I touched it lightly and yes, it had the give of a tooth at the early stages of wiggly-ness. “Look at that! Wow! Soon it fill fall out!”

She smiled at me hugely, her lovely little teeth straight and even.

Later last night I said to The Princess, “Did you know your sister has a loose tooth?!”

The Princess gave me a look. “Mom,” she said, “it’s been loose for like A WEEK already.”

A week? No. A week?!

I have struggled this summer with it being my first summer in seven years where I worked full time outside the home – and while I caught the big moments, it’s the little moments I’ve missed – taking The Princess to gymnastics practices, random middle of the day ice cream cones, loose teeth.

I’m not the type to get sad and mournful when time passes – because (as I’ve said before time and time again) each new phase brings new exciting changes and developments and I love to watch who my daughters are becoming – because they are becoming such AMAZING people.

I hate missing the little moments though, and I’m not sure how to catch them all or if it’s possible and I know it’s just a tooth, but it’s A TOOTH. A tooth I waited so long for. A tooth that has been smiling at me for years.

It’s all just life. And I’m going to miss some of these little moments.

But dammit, I don’t want to.

They’re asking me to make bruschetta again

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I swear I’m not turning into a food blogger. It’s, uh, just easier to write about food than real life these days. And everyone likes food…real life? Not so much.

My story with bruschetta starts about three years ago.

I was hosting my sister’s bridal shower and I wanted a menu that was summery, bright and fun. I didn’t want any of those mayonnaise based salads my family is so fond of, and I didn’t want any jell-o molds with vegetables and fruit suspended in them (Related: Jell-o…salad? Welcome to the midwest, and NO THANK YOU).

I sought help and found great menu ideas including some awesome caprese skewers and bruschetta. The bruschetta was such a hit, one of the guests asked if she could take home any leftovers. Since foodwise I’m not exactly known for anything other than baking, it was a bit of a personal victory.

Since then, I’ve made it for several events and several showers. When I made it for a bridal shower in June, my cousin took one bite and said, “You’ll need to make this for my bridal shower.” (See? Even when I’m not hosting the darn things, I get wrangled into doing work for ’em. Bleh). And so I did. And it was good.

And then everybody ate it all up and there was nothing left which stinks because I had gotten it into my head how amazing the basil-y tomato-y goodness would taste served over some pasta.

(It’s on my menu for next week. Cannot get it out of my head)

It’s ridiculously easy to make and the worst part is the chopping of the tomatoes. I usually use about ten roma tomatoes and rinse ’em and dice them up. I throw them in a colander so that I can rinse off some of the seeds and gobbledy-gook. I then toss the tomatoes in a large bowl with some extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt. Not too much oil because that would be gross and not too much salt because our arteries are our friends.

Get some fresh basil. Bring it to your nose and inhale – a big whiff. Isn’t that amazing? Yeah. It is. Chop a bunch of it up (it’s a personal preference thing – I think I mighta had a quarter cup – maybe – of chopped basil. [Note: I wanted more and made the mistake of buying basil at Target. It smelled fine in the store and when I got home it was soggy and stinky and it went RIGHT IN THE TRASH. EW.] Then garlic. Fresh cloves of garlic, and not the junk in the jar. Two cloves? Three? It’s your call. You can dice it or use a garlic press. I have sloppy knife skills so, y’know, the press works.

Mix it all together and voila. Deliciousness. I serve it on slices of french baguette that have been toasted with a drizzle of olive oil. But next time? I’ll be serving it over pasta.


The recipe was originally sent to me by Joe of The Hungry Dudes and I’ve probably butchered it a little, so if my lack of precise measuring messes you up, blame me and not him. Also, if you taste as you go, it’s really hard to mess it up. You’ll be fine. Don’t worry.

Kitchen Through The Lens: MARGARITAS


This is what it is like to be wrangled into participating in one of my projects, and this is only my side of the conversation over several days:

“I’m going to make margaritas! You want to have margarita night with me?”

“I’m looking for margarita recipes! How fun!”

“Did you know Emeril puts pineapple juice in his margaritas? EWWWW!”

“Going tequila shopping!”

“Simple syrup? No. I hate when margaritas are too sweet.”

“Hey, I made simple syrup. Better to have it and not need it.”


“Oh, hey – why don’t you do all the work and make the margaritas?”

Yeah. I’m a little bit of a pain.

But here’s the scoop: I love margaritas. The problem I have with margaritas is that often they’re too sweet, and two sips in, I am SO OVER margaritas because ugh, sugar coma. In fact, I have thought on more than one occasion that a margarita shot would be a better idea… just a lil bit of that great taste, but not enough to make me sugar sick. Also? NO MIXES ALLOWED.

(Also? I think margarita glasses are dumb)

I sought “the best margarita recipe” on Twitter, and received this gem from my friend, Danielle:

4 parts 100% agave tequila
2 parts triple sec
2 parts fresh lime juice
1 part simple syrup
course sea salt for the rim of the glass

four parts

Buying the tequila? WAY easier than buying cachaça. I coulda bought more tequila for less money, but what do I need with more tequila? (Patron Silver. It was good and the bottle was pretty and those things matter)

all the puny limes

Here’s the thing: if you have a drink that involves math, maybe you should start the math with the tequila versus squeezing a bunch of limes (I squeezed the limes! Whoohoo! Go me!), and then saying, “Okay, well, let’s call this two parts of lime. If this is a half cup, then four parts of tequila would be… one cup.”

Oh, the margarita math.

And what’s up with the limes? They were all ugly. I coulda used some nice photogenic limes.

These? They were some strong margaritas.

Next time I’ll:

  • make them myself (though I did salt the glasses and that is TOTALLY IMPORTANT)
  • make a pitcher of them and perhaps pour a smaller drink
  • realize that it will take one margarita before I can’t entirely feel my teeth
  • take more pictures

In short: margaritas are delicious, this recipe is a winner, and I’m lazy and if I invite you to join me for drinks you will probably do most of the work. The end.


Here is Grace Potter and Kenny Chesney singing “You and Tequila” (Did you know that there are way more songs about tequila than there are about cachaça?) Okay, the end.

Thursday Ten: Doggy Antibiotics edition

1. After the whole dog pee catching debacle for my puppy who had suddenly been peeing in his crate (when he’s NEVER EVER DONE THAT), the vet let me know that he had a bladder infection. Poor little dude. It’s been an interesting learning experience of how to give a dog pills (he prefers ’em wrapped in turkey) and even just to gain the knowledge that a) dogs CAN get bladder infections and b) apparently dogs can also get kidney stones so your vet may want him to get an xray to make sure he doesn’t have stones and if you’re lucky, he is stone free but you won’t find that out before spending $60 for an x-ray. Ah, no matter. Glad he’s on the mend, really. 346 | 365

2. The concert last week was a good one – Grace Potter & The Nocturnals put on a great show. Is it the best concert I’ve ever been to? Meeeeeh, not so much. But The Princess had a great time, despite the fact that we got caught in an AWFUL downpour, and her joy made it fun for me. I love live music and if I can share it with my daughters, I’ll be happy.

3. In my Kitchen project this week, last night I was able to cross margaritas off my list. I, uh, didn’t take very many pictures. It was a very good margarita. Look out for that post soon. Know, when I write my post I will not make you do margarita math (one parts this, two parts that, blah blah blah). I get the point but everything tastes better if you don’t have to think too hard.

4. Annnnnd because I have some tequila left from this week’s adventure, I already know what I’m making next week. Hint: There’s also tequila in it. Might make a fun snack for next Saturday’s U of M season opener against Alabama (GO BLUE). Hmmm… Perhaps I need to cross a few other things off my list as well. Michigan football might be an excellent occasion to try out the stout braised beef tacos (also on my list).

5. Writing this post is making me hungry.

6. I wanted to write more of a post about my dinner with Lisa the other day – and I may still – but one of the things I love most about her is that she is so creative and sweet-spirited. It’s really uplifting to be around her. I’ve struggled in my thinking about my photography often – because the market is pretty saturated with people and their cameras – and I struggle sometimes in the feeling that I should be comparing myself to others. It’s an awful feeling. Lisa was tremendously encouraging and she gave me some great ideas as well as perhaps an unintentional pep talk. I took her words to heart and will be trying some new things – including perhaps (soon?) opening an Etsy store to sell some of my photographs. I’ll post the information when I do it – and I fully hope y’all will kick me in the ass if I start taking too long. {And Lisa? Thank you.}
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7. Dear West Michigan theaters: Why do you not have the movies I want to see showing anywhere? I have heard NOTHING but great things about “Beasts of the Southern Wild” annnnnnd… looks like I’d have to go to Detroit to see it. Pfft.

8. Politicians need to stop talking so much.

9. The other day I needed a lift so I went to visit my sister and my niece. My niece puked all over me. I think that means she loves me.

10. Just over a week left for year four of my 365 project (366 this year?). Any ideas for what I should shoot on August 31 for this year’s final picture?

Thursday Ten: Playing an Ice Bucket in a Hotel Room edition

1. A few months ago when tickets went on sale, I picked up two to see Grace Potter and the Nocturnals when they were in town. Figured it might be fun to have something to look forward to, and I love Grace Potter. And then my sister couldn’t go. So. I’m taking The Princess with me tonight to see the show. This won’t be her first concert – as we muddled through the Jonas Brothers/Miley/Hannah Montana concert a few years ago, and frankly… she’s a little underwhelmed about going (“Hey! Want to do something special and go to a concert with mom?” “Uh… do I have to?”), but… I’m hoping that ultimately she has fun. And if not, oh well, as long as I have fun. Here’s one of my favorite songs by GP – I love how the guy is playing an ice bucket and a hair dryer. It makes me giggle.

2. So, my dog who has been crate trained and has never had a problem with said crate has recently occasionally been peeing in the crate. I called the vet yesterday – wanted to be sure it wasn’t some sort of infection. They told me I’d have to bring in a doggy urine sample. They gave me very little instruction as to just how to do that. Frankly, the dog was a little underwhelmed with me, but I AM THE BEST PET OWNER EVER. Waiting for a call back from the vet…

3. The Princess has been in physical therapy for a week now for the gymnastics injury to her shoulder. It still blows my mind that my ten year old needs PT. Last night, she texted me a picture of her shoulder which has started to bruise. The physical therapist has been kind of digging around the shoulder with her thumb to attempt to break up possible scar tissue – and it’s bruised my kid’s shoulder. Slightly underwhelmed by that all.

4. Despite how wretched my 35th birthday was, on the 16th of each month, I can’t help but think towards the next birthday. For those of you playing along at home, I’ll be 36 in exactly two months. I will have a better birthday this year. I am determined that there will be no crying this year and that I can start aging gracefully… at least until I turn 40.

5. We’ve got another few months until the election and I’ve gotta say that I think a good percent of y’all that I follow on Twitter and Facebook are going to drive me ABSOLUTELY bonkers before November. Even those of you on the same “side” as me. OY. I appreciate being informed and being passionate about your beliefs and your candidates. But beyond that, I’m just easily annoyed. (I also hate the people on Facebook who tell everyone else to work out. Like all of the sudden someone is going to read your status update and say, “OH? Exercise is GOOD FOR ME? I never knew that. Here! Let me put down this Twinkie and Mountain Dew and go for a run! Oh thank goodness someone was there to tell me how unhealthy I am!” Never happens. Be a good example, sure. Be a nagging pain in the ass? No.)

6. And I should just follow up that whiny rant with a video because FAT BABY FLAMINGO LEGS.

7. Just over two weeks until the kids begin a new school year. They’re ready. They are SO READY. A fight this morning over who got to hold the television remote went into dirty territory with one daughter insisting she is cuter, the other insisting she is smarter and funnier. And me ready to pull my hair out. All of it. They’ve had a smidge too much togetherness.

8. I’m still having fun with my cooking project. I thought for sure I’d be tired of it by now. Thinking it needs to be margarita week soon though before summer is gone. Do you have a favorite margarita recipe? My goal is to not use any mixes or yuck.

9. This is one of my favorite shots I’ve taken lately. I really love sunflowers, if you couldn’t tell.
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10. The plan for 2013 was to do the Avon Walk in Denver – as we were trying to do a different city every year. UNFORTUNATELY, the Avon Foundation decided to eliminate the Denver walk. Boo. My team and I will be walking in Chicago in 2013 (NYC in 2014!). I love Chicago so it’s not a total heartbreak – and since a trip to Chicago doesn’t require air travel, maybe I can start saving for a different trip somewhere else (I really really think I need a vacation). It’s going to be awhile, but I may just throw a dart at a map and see someplace new.

Lose Yourself


“Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity
to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip?”
– Eminem


I never stop being amazed at some of the people I’ve met and opportunities that have come my way via the internet and social media. Through blogging, I have met some of the most amazing people that have become some of the closest friends in my life (I briefly thought about tagging and linking to y’all here – but figured it would take too long, you know who you are, y’all know I love you and would move a body for you). I’ve gone to some great conferences. Had some great exposure to some great brands. I even learned how awful I am at doing laundry while getting to meet Tim Gunn at the same time. Y’know? Not too awful.

And as I have fallen in love with photography over the past several years, I have continually been exposed to photographers who showcase their work and mad skills on line – people with more talent in their little finger than I can shake a stick at. There’s an inspirational bunch of people out there – people who make me want to be better, people with such a clearly defined eye that just a glance at a photograph on my screen and sometimes I can identify who shot it (That KILLS me, y’all – when I can recognize someone’s art like that with absolutely nothing but the visual? Ah-maze-ing).

And sometimes those talented people reach out and give people like me an opportunity to come out and assist shooting an outdoor wedding in Detroit on a gorgeous eleventy-billion degree day.


stay hydrated


Admittedly, I have only shot a few weddings – all small, intimate events. Typically, I’ve shied away from them altogether. I knew a photographer a long time ago who never shot weddings – absolutely refused – because, as she said, “You get one chance. That’s too much pressure.”

That’s kind of a cowardly way of thinking – but I see now what she means. There’s a whole lot of margin for error when shooting a wedding, and it IS stressful.

A good wedding photographer? Y’all don’t have ANY idea really JUST HOW MUCH TALENT it takes to shoot a wedding and shoot it well. And I give mad mad props to those who can, because not only are you charged with capturing the happy couple’s special day – face it, emotions are running high on a wedding day. People are stressed. You have all sorts of elements out of your control (hello WEATHER?). You have to just roll with it – come what may.

splash of pink

I had the opportunity to use some amazing glass that weekend. I had the opportunity to soak in knowledge from someone who has been doing this for YEARS. I had the opportunity to ask questions and really? I learned a lot that I will carry with me as I move forward and with whatever I do.

I am grateful that I was asked to assist – it was an opportunity and a lot of hands-on experience I would not have otherwise gotten. The wedding was beautiful, the bride and groom and their family and friends were joyous and beautiful and the occasion was a laughter-filled riot, including a lot of festive touches to incorporate the bride’s Armenian heritage (can I just say that I’m in love with the Armenian dancing? LOVED. IT. Truly).

I could have sat and just watched people all night.

And I did, to a degree – from behind a camera.

bouquets and sass

One of the things I have found more than anything through this experience is that my style of shooting – more by feeling and less by technicalities – doesn’t necessarily lend itself to weddings. I don’t know if I want to juggle and pose and organize and wrangle a wedding party. I want to sit back and catch those moments when a flower girl is grabbing her daddy by the hand and trying to drag him across the garden. I want to capture those moments when people aren’t looking – the backs of the groom’s parents, his arm wrapped around her, as they face the dance floor watching their son’s first dance with his bride. Flowers on a windowsill.

kick off your shoes and relax your feet

The discarded shoes of a bridesmaid who has traded her heels after a long day for a glitzy pair of flip flops. That’s what I want.

And it may not be what anyone else wants. Which, is why I don’t market myself as a wedding photographer, really. Shooting stills, things, candids of people, children being children… that’s what I really love. I love the moments that cannot be manufactured or recreated or staged – because I am simply no good at doing so… and I’m not sure that I want to be.

There’s a lot of criticism for photographers like me, I suppose. People who go by gut rather than a technical understanding of lighting and shutter speed all the clicky little buttons (I know I may have made the photographer cringe SEVERAL TIMES during this shoot! But he taught me a lot) – but, as I figure, you can learn that stuff. And I am. All the time. If you can’t see the world around you with passion and with perspective, though, you can’t really learn that.

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I take any and all opportunities to learn and improve seriously and am grateful for those who are willing to reach out to people like me and mentor and teach and help us improve. I learned more in those hours on my feet than I had in awhile – and even though it was a long, HOT, difficult day I am so very glad I went.

But will I be shooting your wedding? Um. No. Probably not. I may Uncle Bob some moments at your reception, but beyond that? Call me when your ready for baby’s newborn shots. I’m SO there.

Kitchen Through The Lens: Patatas Bravas

Patatas Bravas

There are things I rip out of magazines knowing full well that it’s going to be rough to find time to make them because there’s no way my kids will like ’em. I realize that I tend to like a spicier sort of food than the kids do, which is why I decided to give this recipe a whirl while the girls were away.

Patatas bravas means “fierce potatoes” and the potatoes are fierce because of the red pepper. I’m guessing.

Also because you cook the potatoes in both butter AND olive oil and I read that thinking, “WHOA THERE COOKING LIGHT THIS IS HURTING MY ARTERIES A LITTLE.”

Anyway, patatas bravas is fairly easy to make if you don’t mind dirtying up EVERY FREAKING PAN IN YOUR KITCHEN.


Start with potatoes. Baking potatoes.


Cut ’em up. I cut them smaller than necessary. There’s a reason for this. You know what sucks? Potatoes that aren’t tender. I cut ’em up smaller, almost like some sorta potato hash thing to avoid crunchy potato syndrome.

You can follow the recipe – it’s fairly easy, you boil ’em, saute them in the butter AND OIL. Toss in some spices (FIERCE!)… and move on to the sauce.

The sauce? Also pretty easy – you’re going to dice up some onion and green pepper. Saute them in a bit of oil (Cooking Light likes oil), add salt, red pepper and tomato sauce. Toss it in the blender but make sure you vent the top or – OOF! Sauce EVERYWHERE.

Patatas Bravas

I’m not even gonna lie. I ate all those potatoes up there. And then some. I mean, shucks, this is an appetizer, really, and I called it dinner. They had a bit of a kick to them, but, fierce? Please. Carbs aren’t fierce. They’re happy and lovely and wonderful.

The sauce was pretty awesome too, and can I just say that if you’re going to eat a dinner of potatoes, the best thing you can possibly do is have a sauce made of green peppers and tomato sauce and onions because YOU ARE NOT JUST EATING CARBS NOW. No, NOW you are having VEGETABLES FOR DINNER. That’s not so bad, right?

Anyway, it was good. I used three separate pans to make this, though and that freaking sucks. None of those things go in the dishwasher. So, y’know, there’s the flaw in the plan.

But yum. SO. YUM.

Roam If You Want To

a bit of quiet

On a spring afternoon in 1990, my mom, sister and I climbed into her red Cutlass Ciera and began our cross country drive from California to Michigan. The car was loaded with snacks of the mostly chocolate variety and boxes upon boxes of cassette tapes to listen to en route. I followed our course with a spiral bound AAA TripTik, noting unique occurrences along the way (snow, billboards for Winnemucca NV), while my sister smeared chocolate covered hands on the car’s leather interior.

We drove for days, about eight hours each day, with mom at the wheel and me riding shotgun. Just 13 years old, I wasn’t old enough to share driving responsibilities. Just mom and two kids crossing the country.

And this is what I thought of today driving from West Michigan to Detroit to meet friends for lunch. The Princess was with friends – she’d begged off because they were on their way to get a new puppy and that sounded way more fun to her than a day that didn’t involve dogs. Pumpkin, however, opted to come with me. She wasn’t happy about it – she’d have rather gone on the puppy trip – but she wasn’t invited on the puppy trip. She would come with me.

As we pulled out of the driveway, she almost immediately started crying. She’d brought a toy and it wouldn’t sit right on the seat as she’d wanted. It kept sliding. Her tears started. Epic tears. Epic tears with loud wailing. We weren’t even five miles from home.

“You CANNOT cry all the way to Detroit,” I said to her.

“I CAN IF I WANT TO!” she cried back at me.


Immediately, I felt overwhelmed. Face it, who wants to listen to crying for two hours? (NOBODY I KNOW)

And yet, somehow, my mom ventured out on her own with two kids, one a rambunctious three year old, to drive across the country. She was not that much older than I am now.

If she felt apprehensive, I didn’t know it. If it overwhelmed her when my sister jumped from bed to bed in a hotel room in Reno before ultimately flushing my mom’s watch down the toilet, I don’t remember seeing it. I know I lost my cool when my sister spilled drinks on me in nearly every restaurant across the country – but somehow, in my memory, my mom held it together every step up the way, every mile of road, every state we drove through.

And I wonder how.

When I feel so overwhelmed at tears miles in, how did my mom tackle a week long trip with two kids?

I remember when we neared Chicago on a late afternoon. We were driving behind a semi truck and we noticed as he drifted and drifted further to the right side of the road before ultimately driving right off the side of the road. The driver had fallen asleep. I remember mom pulling over then, sobbing. We were stunned – had we just seen what we thought we had? Other motorists called for help for the semi-driver, and we ultimately continued on our way. That is the only time I remember my mom losing it for a minute.

I am told that I am probably stronger than I think, but I have days where I really don’t think so. Days where I wish I could borrow the strength my mom had – or at least the appearance of it.

When I remember that trip, I am more inclined to think of the B-52s “Cosmic Thing” played over and over in the tape deck and the balloons that flew out of the window in Des Moines and hot air balloons in Salt Lake City, and the Chicago Skyway McDonald’s drive thru.

I have a difficult time with showing weakness, with being weak. I want my kids to remember the singing along with the radio and not tears. I don’t know how my mom did it, but somehow, if she had doubts, she hid them.

And yet a two hour drive felt daunting and I arrived home at the end of the day exhausted and completely wiped out.

The thing is, Pumpkin stopped crying within minutes. She didn’t cry all the way to Detroit – she even fell asleep a few times. She was a joy during lunch – all smiles and making jokes and making people laugh and being silly and being just absolutely wonderful like she is. I let those minutes of crying shake me far more than I should. I need more singing along to the radio memories, I think. I probably also need to take up meditation.