It is my fervent belief, based on very little evidence, that even the strongest marriages have points of irreconcilable division. 

Perhaps you agree, based on marriages you know. 

I’m not talking about political or religious divides, or disagreements on number of children, or financial philosophical misalignment.  

No. I’m talking about the little things that don’t matter at all and yet make you so incandescently angry that you cannot imagine how you ever married someone so incompatible with your values. 

You know, like how you hang the toilet paper. 

Here are the top three things that my husband and I CANNOT AND WILL NEVER AGREE ON. (And by “cannot agree” I mean that he refuses to see any sort of reason or logic.) 

1. Speeding Technicality: If you are driving in a car, and the posted speed limit is 35 miles per hour, you are speeding if you go above 35 miles per hour. That means that if you are going 36 miles per hour, you are speeding. The limit is 35. Anything above that is speeding. 

I acknowledge that most police officers are not going to pull anyone over if they are going a few miles per hour above the posted limit. You could probably get away with driving at 40 mph – even 42 mph! – in a 35 mph zone and not risk being pulled over or ticketed. I acknowledge this. There is a practicality gap between what the LEGAL DEFINITION of speeding is and what an officer feels is worth her time to address. 

And yet, I stand firm: 36 mph in a 35 mph zone is speeding. 

2. Don and Dawn: My husband and I grew up in different states. But by and large, we have similar “accents.” And yet he maintains that “Don” and “Dawn” have different pronunciations. Anytime this subject comes up, my husband pronounces each name slowly and clearly for me so I can hear the obvious to him only difference between them. I do not hear any difference. There is no difference at all. I acknowledge that perhaps there could be a slight diphthong that I am not processing, and yet, even so, both names would be pronounced the same. 

3. Steak Temperature:  I like my steak on the cooked side. This is a texture issue; steak that is not cooked enough is too gooey for me to handle. I like a steak that is cooked through, with a hint of pink in the middle. A HINT. For most of my life, if I ever ordered steak at a restaurant, I ordered it well done. This has never worked out well for me, because there is a bias against people who like their steak well done. Even at very fancy steak houses, most chefs choose the worst cut of meat – like the shriveled end of a tenderloin with the only bit of gristle in the entire cow – and then cook it until it is black. This is not well done; this is a travesty against meat. Because of this, I have trained myself over the past decade or so to enjoy steak that is cooked less well: medium to medium well. It still only works out some of the time. Usually the steak is undercooked and I have to send it back – which is The Worst. 

But if I am paying for a steak in a restaurant, why can I not have the steak prepared the way I want it to be prepared? I pay the same exorbitant price for a steak whether it is cooked medium rare or well-done. Why should my temperature choice result in a sub-par steak? I do understand that perhaps – PERHAPS, I say with immense skepticism, because I think if you simply used a thermometer you could avoid any issues – it is difficult for a chef to know exactly when a steak is well-done. (Although again, when my husband and I make steak in our home, we achieve the exact right temperature every time.) But temperature aside, I should not get a crummy, shriveled end piece of steak while the medium rare folk get the juicy, tender, gristle-free cuts. 

My husband says it is my fault. He says I am asking for a crappy cut of meat. When I order medium-well or well-done steak, I am implying that I don’t like steak (I DO, very much, I just like it NOT SQUISHY) and so the chefs think they don’t need to give me a good piece. If you like steak well done, don’t order it, is his thought. This is a dumb take, I say. I am paying for the steak, I should be able to ask for it to be prepared the way I like it.

WITHIN REASON, of course. I am not asking a chef to change his whole recipe. And also, if you know that you are going to produce something crappy, then maybe give me a chance to change my order? I feel like the staff should say, “We don’t cook steak to that temperature. Would you prefer it medium, or would you like to order something else?” Don’t just throw an old slab of tire on a plate and charge $56 for it and call it filet mignon. 



Well. Now I am very fired up. 

If you are in a relationship, what are your silly but still completely irreconcilable debates? What are the small, semi-ridiculous topics on which you refuse to give an INCH? If you eat steak, how do you like it cooked?

My brain is doing that periodic thing that it does which is to torment me with things that happened long ago about which I can do nothing. And then dwelling on those things until I cannot think about anything productive. 

HOW do you stop that? I am not even talking about middle-of-the-night perseveration, although that has been happening too. I am talking about straight up driving home from taking Carla to school and then BAM, “Remember when you did this totally awful and stupid thing? No, but do you REALLY remember it? Let’s go through every moment in excruciating detail.”

There WAS a stupid thing I did, last fall, and I’d managed to forget about it. Until my brain slapped me with the memory.

It was one of those horrible errors that is totally preventable and has an actual cost to it. Like forgetting to return a pair of shoes that don’t fit before the 30-day return period ends. Or backing your car into the garage wall. Or leaving your car windows open all night during a rainstorm. Things that could have been prevented had you been slightly less lazy or more proactive. I can feel my face heating up with residual shame. Such a waste! A preventable waste of money! And not a SMALL amount of money, either. We were so fortunate to be able to pay for my mistake, and my husband was extremely kind about it even though he would NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS make that kind of mistake. Why? Why did I let that happen? And why am I thinking about it NOW?

I would say that it’s because I just did another stupid money-wasting thing (My phone has been disconnecting from our wi-fi, and I didn’t notice, and I have just willy nilly been watching Instagram videos and scrolling through apps and downloading – good gourd – a ONE POINT NINE GIGABYTE package of bird sounds from Merlin Bird ID, all while connected to the cellular network. We do not have unlimited data, and in fact only use about 5-6 GB of data per month among the three of us, and I have used NINE GIGABYTES, all by myself, in five days. And we have 25 days left in the month before our data resets. And yet, we can buy more data, a GB at a time, but each GB costs $15 which is not nothing!) but I have been torturing myself with the earlier money-wasting thing for weeks now. So who knows. 

Anyway, it’s good for internal piling on: I am the worst, stupidest person, totally oblivious to important things. I am costing our family money for NO REASON. No one else would make such a dumb mistake! I can see that I’m not connected to wifi just by looking at the top of the phone, and I am on my stupid phone all the damn time! I am a drain on our finances and worthless to boot! 

It’s not even just things I DID, it’s all sorts of things, like how I was going through old yearbooks a few summers ago, and discovered that this boy I’d had a crush on for years had written something filthy in my sixth grade annual. I had no idea what it meant at the time, but I can imagine all the other middle school boys giggling about it. And WHY did he write such a thing? We were friends! I may have had a crush on him, but there was never anything but friendship between us. And I was friends with him for YEARS after he scrawled that crude suggestion in my yearbook. 

Should I throw out my yearbook? Scratch out those awful words with permanent marker? Re-evaluate all my relationships?

Why am I thinking about this? I didn’t even find the yearbook recently; it was AT LEAST two years ago, if not more.

Or the other day, I was out for a lovely walk in the snow and instead of enjoying the feeling of snowflakes kissing my cheeks and the sound of my boots crunching in the snow, I started thinking about another awful boy, this one in high school, who once mentioned he’d seen me outside my music teacher’s house after my lesson, pacing back and forth on the sidewalk, waiting for a parent to pick me up. He told me I looked like a hooker. A HOOKER. We were in high school. Why would his mind go there? And why would he TELL me such a thing? And why am I furious about it NOW, a million years after the fact? 

Why are schoolage boys so awful? Not all of them – not yours, surely. But enough of them to make a difference. Will Carla have to deal with boys like this? Will they write grotesque things in her yearbook? How am I going to protect her heart from being infected by terrible people? I have no idea how to protect her or prepare her. I really have no business being a mother if I can’t help her understand that there are people who are mean and hurtful for no reason… but without crushing her spirit.

And then there are more examples of me being a terrible person and parent. Like how last summer, there was a mortifying incident involving another mom and her kids of the sort that makes me a) wonder how, when a child knows The Rules and has shown that they know them and can follow them, they can occasionally not just forget The Rules but flaunt them? And b) how am I possibly equipped to be a parent if I can’t convey the importance of The Rules and how they are meant to be followed always, not just on a whim? I’ve been going over and over that event (which turned out fine! everyone is fine!) and coming up with The Exact Perfect Thing that I should have said or did at the time, instead of saying and doing what I did say and do, which was nothing is except standing in gape-mouthed mortification and letting the other mother take the disciplinary lead. How is this helping anyone, to go over and over it? 

Oh, lord, and there was that other time? With this same mom? When I saw her kid on the sidewalk, by himself, two blocks from home. I was in my car and stopped and asked him if he was okay and if his mom knew where he was, and he said yes and yes. So we kept driving. I pulled up my phone so I call his mother but before I could do so, we saw her on the sidewalk. She was frantic with worry, because she’d lost him. I was able to tell her where he was, but I keep kicking myself for not STAYING WITH HIM and calling her. I could have just stayed right there in my car! But I didn’t! I kept driving! Why? Why did I do that? It all worked out okay, but WHY DID I DO THAT?

You see? It’s not enough that my brain torment me with one thing. It’s got to get right in there with hit after hit after hit. Why can’t it just leave the past in the past and focus on doing the best job possible NOW?

I got so many wonderful, thought-provoking questions from lovely readers during NaBloPoMo, but I took a rather lengthy break from answering them and still have a few to address! 

Gigi of Gigi’s Ramblings asks:

A follow up to the How I Met My Husband – how long was the engagement? 

Once we got married, friends and family alike said, “FINALLY.” We met in fall of our junior year at college and fell in love rather quickly. We moved in together in two years later while I attended graduate school, and then moved together to a different state two years after that so my husband could start medical school. We finally got engaged in September of the second year of medical school, and then got married halfway through his final med school year. That’s seven years from meeting to marriage. Seven. Years.   

One of these days I should post about our engagement. And maybe I should post the story of my engagement ring, which is a “fake” family heirloom.

And, I’d love to hear about the wedding too. Based on the description of your dress at the college formal, I’m guessing that your wedding dress was pretty amazing too. 

My wedding was a dream wedding. My parents offered us a down payment on a house or a wedding, and we (I, probably) chose the wedding. I am cringing at that now, because WHAT A POOR FINANCIAL DECISION?! I suppose I was 25 at the time I (we?) made this decision, and should have been capable of making a wise choice. But looking back, WHAT was I thinking? And yet, it was a fairytale day and I have (mostly) wonderful memories and everything worked out okay and I don’t regret it.

We got married in my home state, in a space that has been special to me since I was very young, and which I had been able to share with my husband in the many years of our courtship. We had a fairly small wedding – I think we invited about 75 people, and I’m guessing about 50 were able to attend. We got married in a tiny, non-denominational church, its alter backed by enormous windows that overlooked the snow covered mountains. Then we had the reception in the restaurant of a ski lodge.

The food was spectacular. Our dinner menu included a make-your-own pasta bar, tiny shot glasses of perfect creamy butternut squash soup, and miniature Brie grilled cheese sandwiches. We had huckleberry mimosas and a candy bar at which guests could fill up their own favor bags. Nearly all of our college friends attended, which was special to us; my husband and I met at college and we had a very tight-knit group of friends that we shared. We spent the evening dancing together in a big happy group enfolded by warmth and candlelight while outside enormous snowflakes drifted down from the sky.

My dress was strapless, with a sweetheart neckline, a lace bodice, and a full, satin skirt with a long train. Do I have a photo of it? No one had iPhones back in 2008, so it seems unlikely… Oh, right. Our photographer gave us a big binder full of thumbnails of all the photos he took, so here are photos of a few of the thumbnails that at least give you at least a sense of the dress. I never had a “this is it!” moment with my dress, and in fact ended up working with the designer to create a custom dress that I loved by piecing together parts of other dresses. And then I got sick in the weeks leading up to the wedding and lost so much weight we had to do an emergency last minute fitting session and my dress was QUITE baggy in the boobage area. 

Looking back at these photos brings back some of the angst of the day. The person who did my makeup was running late, so we were late to the church and ran out of time to take proper photos. So I don’t really love ANY of the photos from that day. I’d wanted the kind of artsy pictures you often see of the dress hanging in gauzy light in front of a window, and pictures of the shoes and rings, and fun photos with the bridesmaids. But since we were so behind, all our photos took place in the basement of the church. I don’t know if you’ve been to many church fellowship halls, but they are not known for their beauty, and this one was no different. (My husband and his groomsmen got to take AMAZING photos outside the reception venue, and they are very cool and beautiful.) Also, while I had a hair trial with my stylist that went perfectly, something was wrong on the day of the wedding and she could NOT get a good curl in my hair. So when I look at photos, I haaaaaaaate my hair. Apparently I am still salty about wedding imperfections nearly fifteen years later. Obviously, none of it matters at ALL, then or now.

Here. Look at a slightly blurry photo of of a thumbnail of our cake. It was vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream (NO FONDANT) and huckleberry jam in between the layers. I loved it; my husband wasn’t as big a fan, unfortunately.

Much to my mother’s horror, the candles had real flames. Our best man gave his toast in front of that stone fireplace and as he talked, he kept backing closer and closer to the candles lined up on the stone, filling my head and my mother’s, I’m sure, with visions of imminent conflagration. He did not knock any of them over; there were no fires.

Another thing I loved about our wedding were the flowers. I adored my bouquet. Irises are my favorite flower, and it turned out exactly as I wanted it to. My bridesmaids each carried a bouquet of pure white flowers, each one chosen because that flower was special to that bridesmaid.

My something old was a handkerchief from my husband’s grandmother’s wedding. It was tucked into the wrap of the bouquet stems.
Roses, tulips, hydrangeas, and calla lilies.

Okay, that’s enough reminiscing about our really very magical wedding! On to the rest of the questions!

Any siblings? And are you close? 

I have one sibling, a younger brother. We love each other, and I enjoy his company, but I don’t know that we are “close.” He is six years my junior, which means that he was in middle school when I went to college. That’s a big gap. It also means that I perpetually think of him as my baby brother, with glasses that were too big for his face and skinny limbs and straw colored hair that stuck up on the top of his head. In reality, he is a six foot tall former soldier in his mid-thirties. He and his wife live four thousand miles away. We got to see them twice last year, which was wonderful. But it may be several years until we see them again. We never talk on the phone but we do text and email occasionally. (More about our relationship here.) He is in law enforcement, so he very patiently answers all the ridiculous questions about policing I come up with as I’m writing my silly murder mysteries. He is brilliant, hilarious, brave, and one of the most level-headed people I’ve ever met. 

Are you on Twitter? (Is this even a relevant question since Twitter seems to be in free fall as I type?) 

Technically, I am on Twitter. I have a Twitter account – one for this blog, one for the book blog – but I don’t really tweet. Twitter makes me VERY nervous, like I’m forever on the edges of a conversation other people are having. I do have a book-focused Instagram account, and I am more active there… but “more active” is not active active, if you know what I mean.

I know for this particular type of question the answer will vary (or, it would for me) depending on various factors. If money, school/work obligations, time, etc., were not obstacles where would you go for your dream trip/vacation?

If money/family/time were not obstacles, I would go on an extended trip to Europe with my husband and Carla. It would be so fun to rent a house in different countries for, say, a month, and then drive around to various cities in each country to really get a sense of what it’s like to live there. It has been my great good fortune to visit Europe several times and I love it and want to go back. There are a bunch of countries I’ve never visited, and a bunch that I would love to revisit, and old favorites (like France and Germany) that I have visited multiple times and still want to enjoy again.

Thanks for all the fun questions, Gigi! If anyone else has any questions or topics you want me to touch on, please feel free to ask me anything.

One of the disadvantages to my particular brain is that I have a terrible memory. TERRIBLE. An unanticipated benefit to this blog is that I have a record of lots of things that I might otherwise forget. (If only I were more disciplined about writing daily! Or if only I could STICK TO JOURNALING.) 

My poor memory extends to food as well as life in general. Outside of a handful of meals, I feel like my mind goes blank when I try to think of things I’ve enjoyed eating. That persists despite my (mostly) regular Dinners This Week posts, which theoretically should offer a ready list of great options to put on my meal plan each week. 

And yet… sometimes I see a meal I have planned and presumably eaten (although – Confession Time, it is quite rare that I make all the meals I plan each week) and I cannot for the life of me remember whether it was a hit or not! 

For a while, I tried to post updates on the blog, so that I could go back and read whether a certain dinner recipe was a hit or not. But I have not been consistent about doing that. 

So I am going to try something new. If I make a recipe that my husband and I both love, I am going to post it here. Just a big ol’ running list of dinners that were excellent. That way I have a go-to resource of meals that I have made before and enjoyed. Will I keep this up? I’m going to guess “not reliably.” And this isn’t to say I won’t continue to find and try brand-new recipes! Novelty is one of the main reasons I am able to keep plugging forward with making dinner night after night after night. But sometimes it’s nice to pick from a list of Tried And True Options.

Anyway: here’s a list of Reliably Delicious Dinners and Other Culinary Hits to start from, along with any notes I included with my follow-up of the recipe. (There has to be a better way to organize the lists, but I sorted the recipes out into some rough categories and then alphabetized them by recipe name.) 


  • Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce: This has become my immediate family’s traditional Christmas dinner. Double all the sauce ingredients because the sauce is amazing.
  • Chili: I should post a recipe for this.
  • Garlic Herb Marinated Oven Roasted Steak: I use top sirloin steaks, which I prefer to flank steak.
  • Instant Pot Hamburgers: We put these in the oven to broil for a very short time before putting them on buns.
  • Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Ragu: Decadent and rich. I use tomato puree instead of crushed tomatoes.
  • Spaghetti with Meat Sauce: Brown a pound of ground beef – say that five times fast – with half a diced onion and as much garlic as makes your heart sing. Add a jar of Ragu pasta sauce, a small can of Hunts tomato sauce, a palm-full of each dried basil and dried oregano, a few shakes of Tabasco, a few shakes of cayenne, and some salt and pepper. Simmer for as long as you can stand it. Eat over pasta of your preferred shape.




  • Best Ever BBQ Ribs: You can make these a day or so in advance before slathering them with sauce and grilling them. I highly recommend using your favorite BBQ sauce in a jar instead of making the sauce from scratch per the recipe; I find the recipe version to be quite salty and it’s just an extra step when you can use perfectly great sauce in a jar.
  • Chipotle Marinated Pork Chops: I double the chipotle in the marinade so that there is a little extra “pan sauce” to drizzle over the cooked pork. I love me a pan sauce.
  • Crispy Pork Carnitas: Definitely best when you crisp the shredded pork in the oven before serving.
  • Oven Baked Pork Chops with Potatoes: Most often, I make these without the potatoes although they are delicious together. The sauce is what makes these pork chops sing. 
  • Slow Cooker Balsamic Pork: I serve the tangy shredded pork over rice with caramelized onions, feta cheese, and I do Kalamata olives and my husband does sun-dried tomatoes. Sometimes if I am feeling fancy I will include some hummus and pita, and maybe some artichoke hearts.
  • Slow Cooker BBQ Pork: Add a pork tenderloin, about a cup of BBQ sauce, a diced onion, and as much garlic as makes your heart happy to a slow cooker. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Shred. I slather the pork onto a baked potato. My husband prefers it on a King’s Hawaiian bun with coleslaw
  • Soy Ginger Pulled Pork with Tangy Sesame SlawThe slaw is essential.


  • Black Bean Burritos: Taco-seasoned black beans wrapped in flour tortillas and draped in shredded cheddar, then oven baked at 425 degrees F for 12 minutes until the cheese is melty. Top with shredded lettuce, diced onion, sour cream, and lots of hot sauce.
  • Chickpea Bowls: I make a bunch of the spice mixture (½ Tbsp each of cumin, coriander, and garam masala; 1 tsp of cardamom; ½ tsp of paprika; and ¼ tsp each of cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne, and fenugreek) in advance, so I can use it on a whim. I also pre-make (and freeze in ice cube trays) a batch of the ginger garlic sauce. When these two things are already in my cupboard/freezer, this is super easy to make. (And the end result is well worth the fuss.) I add sliced bell peppers to the final chickpea mixture, along with sliced jalapenos and a generous dollop of Greek yogurt.
  • Chickpea Curry: My husband and I feel that this doesn’t produce enough sauce, as it’s written. However, I think if you doubled the sauce, it would be TOO saucy. And you can’t do one-and-a-half portions, because you’d be stuck with a half can of coconut milk and I for one don’t want to waste it or measure it out in the first place. So we decided on halving the chickpeas. If you jack up the veggie quotient, I think you won’t even miss the second can of chickpeas.
  • Gigi Hadid Spicy Vodka Pasta
  • Goat Cheese and Mushroom Pizza with Arugula and Onion Jam: I typically use store-bought dough.
  • Grilled Mushroom Salad Sub Sandwiches: I skip the roasted red peppers and use mozzarella for the cheese.
  • Lemon Garlic Veggie Pasta: I make this with Barilla Protein Plus pasta, increase the amount of garlic, and use broccoli, zucchini, red onions, peas, and red bell pepper. Asparagus and mushrooms would be good too. I sprinkle on 1/4  cup of parmesan at the end. 
  • Roasted Artichokes: Not quite sure if this counts as a whole meal, although I love a roasted artichoke for lunch. Trim the edges of the stalks, wrap them in olive oil, and eat them too. I love to dip the leaves, stem, and heart in sriracha aioli



  • Butternut Squash Soup
  • French Onion Soup
  • Guinness Beef Stew: I seared the meat and cooked the onions/garlic as well, before adding those things to my crockpot. I don’t know if the flavors would be the same without, but maybe I’ll try it next time because I really hate searing meat. I used baby potatoes and I didn’t chop ANY of them, which meant I had to eat the stew with knife and fork. Maybe I should quarter them next time. I added two parsnips, a container of quartered mushrooms, and two cups of chicken stock. It seemed a little under-salted, so I also added a big glug of soy sauce toward the end.
  • Garlicky Chickpea and Spinach SoupThis is perfect, but the spinach doesn’t work as well in leftovers as it does the night of.
  • Lentil Soup: I make this without the tomatoes, which means I need to amp up the spices a bit.
  • Mulligatawny Soup
  • Slow Cooker Chicken, Mushroom, & Wild Rice Soup: I use this brand of wild rice and the soup turns out perfect every time. Delicious paired with a loaf of miracle no-knead bread.
  • Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Tortilla Soup: I blend the fire roasted tomatoes and strain them into the soup. I also add a can of black beans and about a cup of frozen corn about ten minutes before the soup is done cooking. 
  • White Bean Enchilada Soup: Yum. I reserve a can of Great Northern beans from the recipe, as well as the corn, and blend everything in the pot. Then I add the final beans and corn for a little texture. It makes the soup very creamy and rich.


  • Beef with Snow Peas: Works just as well with sugar snap peas.
  • Broccoli with Beef: I typically throw in sliced red and green bell peppers as well. 
  • Chicken and Zucchini Stir Fry: Stir fry the chicken with garlic and ginger and then remove to a plate before you add the vegetables. The amount of zucchini in this recipe is only a suggestion. You cannot have too much zucchini. Also, add in a sliced white onion. 
  • Fire Fry: Good with beef, just as good with veggies only.
  • Szechuan Stir Fry: This is good with chicken, shrimp, or beef, or without meat at all. I like using broccoli, zucchini, and bell peppers – sometimes adding water chestnuts, sometimes not. Bean sprouts would be good with this, too. For anyone who, like me, is sensitive to Chinese five-spice powder, I only put in the tiniest pinch. Like, 1/16 of a teaspoon.





Neighborhood Wanderings

Walking outdoors is my favorite form of exercise and mental decompression. (Also, mental expansion: walking is a great way to get the writing ideas flowing.) Most of my walks take place in and around my little suburban neighborhood, and I have to admit that the more walks I take, the more I fall in love with our community. 

NGS’s post about walking her dog and all the things they (she) notice while making the rounds made me think about all the things I see on my walks. I have to admit to a certain level of obliviousness. Especially if I am lost in an audiobook or deep inside a storyline for my own work, the world around me tends to fall away. But I do try to be present, when I can. This is place where I live and I want to be a good citizen.

Carla and I love meeting the neighborhood dogs – and we have such a wonderful variety! Corgis! Pitbulls! Scottish terriers! Bernedoodles! Basset hounds! Beagles! Cockapoos! Greyhounds! All manner of golden retrievers and labs! There is a giant cocoa colored labradoodle that lives on a street nearby, and it is so beautiful all I can do is stare and grin any time I drive or walk past it. 

There is a sprinkling of lockdown babies in the area, too, and it is so fun to see them toddling around now after being little lumps in their strollers for the past few years. And now, siblings are being added to the mix!

I have told you before about the prevalence of fake flowers in some of my neighbors’ yards. And I’ve mentioned the giant Costco skeleton that makes an appearance for Halloween and other holidays. Here are a few other things I’ve noticed when I’m out and about.

The Skunk

Last spring, I came across the body of a baby skunk. It was lying on the sidewalk outside someone’s house, between the house and the (very busy) street. Every time I walked that route, I observed the skunk, which was never removed by the homeowners, never hassled by what surely are dozens of bicycles and dog owners and joggers and walkers that travel along the same path that I do. Of course, I never hassled the skunk corpse either. 

(I did write about the skunk and shared the essay with a friend; his primary reaction was, “WHY would someone leave a dead skunk to decay on the SIDEWALK?” and maybe implied gently that I should perhaps do something about it. A) I feel like it would be far too weird to drive from my house with a shovel to… remove the skunk to a garbage can???? because the skunk’s remains lie a good mile from my house. And B) I am a country girl at heart and a little death doesn’t bother me. I mean, it raises a lot of existential thoughts, which is why I wrote an essay about it. But I am wholly unbothered by a skunk slowly returning to the earth concrete and in fact found it quite interesting to observe how it changed over time. Once its fur and innards had receded, exposing its tiny white bones, I brought Carla along to check it out. She also found it fascinating and we had quite an in-depth discussion about whether or not she could bring some of the skeleton to school for show and tell. Her position was that they were examining owl pellets in science class, why not a skunk skeleton. My position was a hard no; I won that argument.)

Now, nearly a year later, I can still see the place where the skunk found its final repose. The sidewalk remains changed, for having ushered that creature into another realm, a little darker, a slightly different texture to the concrete. The people who live in that house – people who never once noticed, it seems, the funerary cast to their sidewalk – have now put the house up for sale. I don’t think the two events are related, but I suppose one never knows. 

The Cereal

(I swear that I have shared this before, but maybe I haven’t? Either way, I am going to share it here now. If you have heard it already, I trust that we are at the point in our relationship where you will smile fondly and say, “Oh! Isn’t that nice!” rather than rolling your eyes and sighing loudly, “You have told that same story SO MANY TIMES!”)

Once, as I was huffing my way up the street east of mine, I spotted a man leaving his house. He stopped near the edge of his yard, and then poured something from a box onto a tree. As I drew nearer, I saw that it was a box of cereal. He was feeding cereal to his tree.

I cannot remember if I stopped immediately, or if this happened a second time – at which point I refused to continue my walk without knowing WHAT was happening. The man, in a half matter-of-fact, half slightly-embarrassed way, said that the squirrels love the remnants of a bag of cereal or crackers. He beckoned to me, and sure enough, there was a small hollow in the tree trunk that acted as a natural cereal bowl. (No milk.) 

The Companion

For as long as I’ve lived in this house, I’ve been aware of a woman who frequently takes walks with a companion. She is a petite woman, slim as a tree branch, her back slightly bowed with the gravity of time. Her companion sits in a wheelchair and wears a brightly colored blanket on his lap. She propels him down the street and up the street, the slope of which is almost imperceptible when you are walking briskly but must surely be much more evident when you are pushing a person twice your size in a wheelchair. 

I know her well enough to wave or smile; we have never once exchanged words. I don’t know her name. I don’t know where this woman lives, although I know her house isn’t on my street. Which means she pushes her companion a good distance; our street is half a mile from stem to root. 

Earlier this winter, I noticed the woman out walking. She was by herself. And then again, again alone. This winter has been so mild that I’ve been outside much more than on a normal year, so I wondered if maybe she simply doesn’t bring her companion outside in the cold. Although it hasn’t been so cold. 

Aside from the neighbors on my little cul de sac, I’m only on a “comments about the weather” or “compliments to your dog” conversational basis with the people in my neighborhood. I don’t know people’s names. I don’t wish to know their business. But oh how I wish I knew her well enough to ask if he’s sitting in his chair, at home, watching for her from the window. Or whether he’s departed this plane for the next. 

Dinners This Week

Houseguests have departed. I am getting my hair trimmed and my grays browned. These two things have nothing at all to do with one another. 

As is usual for me, an introvert, after six days with someone-other-than-my-husband-or-child in my home, I feel scooped out. Like a spaghetti squash. (Which I don’t eat, incidentally, because I think I have an intolerance to it.) Thinking about making food sounds… not great. And yet! We all must continue to eat! 

Old standbys are usually good for getting through this kind of meal planning blockage. But not even tacos sounds appealing. So I will go in the opposite direction and find totally brand new meals to hopefully spark a little cooking excitement. 

Okay, here’s what I’ve come up with:

Dinners for the Week of March 6-12

Roasted Cauliflower, Lentil, Currant & Herb SaladI honestly have no idea where I will find currants, but this salad sounds AMAZING. (Plus, the addition of roasted cauliflower makes me think of Nicole – HI NICOLE!) I just… cannot wait to try it. Will my husband eat it meatless, or will he require some sort of shredded chicken to go with it? 

Thai Ginger ChickenI am always in the mood for a stir fry, and this one is new to me and sounds fresh and tasty. I will probably throw in some green beans or broccoli or snow peas, depending on what looks good at the grocery store. 

15 Minute Curry with Chicken and Peas: YUM. I mean, I haven’t tried it yet, but it sounds good! And anything that claims to take fifteen minutes (I will believe it when I experience it for myself) is worth a try in my book.

Lemon Garlic Veggie PastaI have had a serious pasta craving lately and this looks so fresh and delicious. I will probably add a little sprinkling of parmesan at the end. And way more garlic. 

Five for Friday

It’s the first Friday in March! 

1. I have finally, finally, FINALLY crossed “summer camp” off of my to-do list. It has been there since… October of last year, I think, which is when I first started hearing about it. Yes. Friends were already scheduling their kids for sleepaway camp back in October, which just seems absurd to me. Camps were already reaching out with info sessions and early bird discounts and sign up incentives. But I could not bring myself to think about summer camp nine months before I would need it. I just couldn’t. 

The thing is, summer camp is not (for me) one of those to-do list items that can be accomplished in a few minutes. It requires research and buy-in from the child, and coordination with family schedules, and coordination with other potential trips. It’s not a small undertaking. But then I fretted about it for months. By “fretted about it,” I mean that I occasionally looked up summer camp ideas, and occasionally ran said ideas past Carla, and occasionally moaned and groaned to my friends about it (most of whom had already signed their kids up for summer camp; maybe I need more procrastination prone friends?), and lamented to my husband out loud that all the spots would be full. 

I did this until last week when I finally sat down with my husband and looked at the calendar and looked at the possible camps and asked Carla for her thoughts and signed her up. I feel SO RELIEVED. Carla is a kid who really thrives at summer camp. She’s an active, social person and – as I always intuitively knew but then proved to myself and my child during that lockdown summer of 2020 – I am unable to provide her with what she needs, physically and socially, on my own. Plus, let’s be honest: I need time to myself, otherwise my internal batteries become depleted. I am a better wife, parent, and person when I have a few hours to myself every day. 

Anyway! Camp is done and dusted. 

2. Cupcake Update! My husband made lemon cupcakes with lemon curd filling and cream cheese icing for me for my birthday. They were everything I wanted. Despite all the birthday-cake-whining-evidence to the contrary, I am not a huge cake fan. But I loved the cake batter my husband made. (He followed this recipe, except he used Trader Joe’s lemon curd and followed a different frosting recipe.) It was genuinely lemony and fluffy and just so good. He filled each cupcake very generously with lemon curd (the Trader Joe’s lemon curd is deliciously tart, not too sweet, and has a sturdier consistency than the Bonne Maman lemon curd, in my opinion).

And then he made this cream cheese frosting that was TO DIE FOR. I think it got it from a work colleague who often brings in amazing baked goods. I love cream cheese frosting, but the kind I make is usually dense and cream cheesy. My husband managed to make a frosting that had that lovely tangy cream cheese flavor, but was so light and whipped. It was amazing. I never want to eat another cream cheese frosting again. Once the frosting was set, as an added special bonus, my husband drizzled lemon curd over the top. The cupcakes were so good. So. Good. 

3. The Curse of the Chatty Hygienist: I just got my teeth cleaned. It was the best and most pain-free cleaning ever. The hygienist was new to our dental practice. I don’t know why the scheduler put me with her instead of with my regular hygienist, but it was one of those things where first I called and made an appointment for the wrong time. And then instead of calling back promptly to change it to a better time, I procrastinated and futzed around until I legit forgot about it. And then all of a sudden, I got a phone call that my appointment was two days away at a time I couldn’t make. Did I say, in the moment, “Oh no, I can’t make that, I will reschedule!” No, I did not. And then I had to call back to reschedule, flustered, and apologize. And then the time I was offered was a terrible time and I took it even though I didn’t want to. Could I have said, “No, that time doesn’t work for me, what is another open spot”? Yes. Did I? No. Why am I the way that I am????? 

This is all to say: new hygienist. 

At first, I thought she was fabulous. She talked me through everything she was doing, which was extremely soothing. She listened to me when I said that I hate getting X-rays because they hurt, and went and got me a child-sized sensor, which meant that my X-rays were low-pain for the first time ever in my life. And then she explained to me that I have bony protrusions under my tongue, which is probably why X-rays are so uncomfortable for me, and made me feel like I wasn’t a whiny baby after all. Then, she told me about a new-to-our-practice scaling tool that uses sound waves (I think) to clean plaque off of teeth. It was called the Cavitron which I find unreasonably hilarious. She told me that it was quick and easy, but that sometimes it could bring out sensitivities in teeth. She said that manual scaling could also cause some discomfort, but that she was happy to do whichever I liked. And then, sensing my uncertainty, she offered to try the new tool and told me to lift my left hand if I experienced pain or discomfort at any time and she would stop. It was amazing. I have never felt so calm and prepared. Usually, the dentist office is a source of fear and pain – even with the hygienist I have had for more than a decade. I am always tense and anxious and ready for something to hurt. But this time, the hygienist prepared me ahead of time for what might hurt, and gave me an out, and then it didn’t hurt at all. 

I was ready to ask her to be my hygienist forever and ever amen. But then… Once she had gotten past the informative stuff, she got Real Chatty. Some of the things she was talking about were just on the edge of uncomfortable too. Like, not racist/sexist/bigoted per se, but maybe on the path toward those things. Maybe not! It just felt like a path that wouldn’t go anywhere I wanted to follow, if you know what I mean? Plus, she would stop what she was doing and talk very earnestly, with her hands. I appreciate that she wasn’t gesturing wildly while sharp dental tools were in my mouth, but I do not want to draw out dental work even a second longer than necessary. And my normally 30-45 minute appointment went well past an hour. Is it better have a pain-free, relaxed cleaning experience? Or is it better to be out of the dentist’s office and back to my life in under an hour? I truly do not know.

Then, at the end of the appointment, she asked if she could schedule me for my next cleaning. “Sure,” I said. Would it be okay if she scheduled me with her she wanted to know. I didn’t think on my toes fast enough to say something plausible like, “Oh I need to figure out my work/vacation schedule before I can put something on my calendar.” So unless I call back and reschedule the next appointment – and we know the likelihood of that – I will be seeing this person again.  

4. Find Brent: One of the only ways I get through the week is by setting numerous reminders and alarms on my phone. Reminders will show up on my calendar, which is useful. Recently, my calendar displayed a reminder: Find Brent. What? Who is Brent? Why am I the one charged with finding him? Where do I even begin to look? 

My best guess is that I asked Siri to set a reminder for me and, per usual, she distorted whatever it was I was actually saying into whatever it was she wanted me to say. She is a sadistic being. 

But part of me also wonders if maybe this a glitch in the multiverse, and some version of me in some other timeline is desperately seeking Brent. 

Sorry about the weird font/spacing — I had to anonymize some of the events and am too lazy to make it look perfect. Also I am just now realizing I put “podiatrist” instead of “acupuncturist” because the brain is a mysterious creature.

5. Chopper Overthinking: One of the most boring items on my holiday wish list this past December was a vegetable chopper. I did not receive a vegetable chopper for Christmas, which was a wise choice on the part of my husband. And yet, I continue to covet one. Is this because I follow a lot of Instagram accounts that feature videos of people making veggie-laden salads? Perhaps. I think I’m ready to buy one, but I can’t decide which one to buy! There is a glut of choices, and that is making it very hard for me to order one. 

The Fullstar chopper seems to have enjoyed some TikTok fame, plus it has a bunch of different blades and cutting devices which look cool and useful, but some of the reviews say that it breaks easily or doesn’t last very long. Plus I am not crazing about finding places to store all the different blades and cutting devices. The OXO chopper is very simple, which can sometimes mean better; it’s a brand I know and trust; it’s dishwasher safe; and it has a silicone cleaner thingy that looks appealing. The Mueller chopper looks very similar to the Fullstar version, it gets good reviews, but some of the influencer/buyer-posted videos make it seem awfully flimsy. But even though each of these options gets TONS of positive reviews on Amazon, if you actually read some of the reviews, they all sound like hunks of junk. 

I do a fair amount of chopping, so I know I would make use of this little device… but maybe I should just keep chipping away with an old-fashioned knife. I know I am overthinking this; pretty much any option I choose is around $30 and returnable if it breaks, so I should just buy one and try it out. But if you happen to have a chopper that you like (and isn’t a hunk of junk) I would be interested in knowing about it. 

What’s new with you today? Do the AIs you interact with ever get things horribly wrong? I know at least two people reading this (Hi Nicole! Hi Lisa!) ALSO have chatty hygienists, WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH THAT?

Dinners This Week

We have houseguests this week, so my meal plan is intended to be easy. But also Planned, because I do not like other people cooking in my kitchen and I know if I have no plans, one of the guests will want to cook. Which is a KIND and GENEROUS thing, I recognize this, and yet I do not like it.

So! Onto dinners!

Dinners for the Week of February 27-March 5

Sheet Pan Chili-Honey Chicken and Sweet Potatoes with Cilantro Yogurt: I think I can make the cilantro yogurt in advance, and maybe I can even get Carla to try the chicken and sweet potatoes? Probably I will try to serve some steamed broccoli on the side, just to have something green.

Slow Cooker Balsamic Pork: I have been craving this. I have definitely served it to these particular houseguests before, but that is not a reason to take it off the list. They do not expect New and Extraordinary Meals every time they visit. I am saying this for my benefit; if I write it perhaps it will feel true. (IT IS TRUE.) We serve the tangy shredded with caramelized onions, feta cheese, and I do Kalamata olives and my husband does sun-dried tomatoes. Sometimes if I am feeling fancy I will include some hummus and pita, and maybe some artichoke hearts. There is nothing green with this meal but that is also okay. (IT IS.)

Baked Pork Chops and Asparagus: This is another one that maybe Carla would eat. Hard to say. Some days she is a fan of pork and other days she won’t touch it. We can do rice or quinoa or couscous alongside this.

Tandoori Sheet Pan Chicken and Cauliflower: Yes, this yet another sheet pan dinner. Sheet pan dinners are good and easy. I will have to buy a LOT of vegetables this week though. Maybe I will make two trips to the grocery store. 

Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry: This is leftover from last week’s meal plan – I didn’t end up making it because Carla, out of nowhere, decided SHE wanted to make tacos for dinner one night… and she did! I supervised, and helped remove the taco shells from the oven, but she did it ALL, including chopping all the veggies. Anyway, I don’t normally make stir fry for company for some reason. But this sounds good and fairly easy and there’s no reason I can’t make a stir fry for houseguests. (NO REASON.) Also, I want to indoctrinate as many people as possible to the joy of broccoli slaw. 

Do you have any weird houseguest-related cooking blockages? Foods you love but don’t think are “Guest Worthy”? What’s your favorite sheet pan meal?

We have reached another low point in the energy and cheer I have available to devote to meal planning. Sometimes I just viciously hate everything to do with meal planning and preparing food, and this is one of those times. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that today is YET ANOTHER day off from school. We haven’t even had any snow days, just pre-planned days off. Eight, since the beginning of January. She’s had only three weeks of school with no days off. I don’t know why this is making me so cranky today. Usually, I kind of like a day off from school. We get to sleep in a bit, Carla and I get to chill together or run errands, sometimes there’s a playdate. Today she gets to accompany me to acupuncture though, which sounds like torture for everyone involved. And then we will go to the grocery store, which is agony for Carla. (At least, until we get there. She’s very cheerful about helping and asking to buy a million things; it’s just the anticipation of grocery shopping that makes her wail as though I threatened to incinerate all her toys.) Maybe, to balance out all the suffering, we will make brownies. (Yes, I am still trying to get protein into Carla at every turn – as well as calcium, but that is not going well – and also I am still trying to like baked oatmeal. We WILL be adding chocolate chips to this recipe.)

Anyway, day off or no, meal planning grumble or no, we must eat. I think I will do the thing where I pick maybe three meals and then make black bean tacos the other days. My husband will eat a ham sandwich on black bean taco days. Carla, as you know, eats a stunning variety of foods including and pretty much limited to chicken nuggets, salmon, ground beef tacos, steak, and two very specific types of lunch meat, so she will eat one of those things while my husband and I eat whatever it is I decide on.

For lunches, I can drum up slightly more enthusiasm. I have recently rediscovered how delicious artichokes are. They are currently plentiful and also a whopping $3.99 each, but they are enormous and I find them to be such a delicious and satisfying lunch. I will see if I can buy two this week, and then maybe make a batch of Hungarian mushroom soup to eat on the other days.

Dinners for the Week of February 20-26

  • Miso Ginger Soy Salmon Rice Bowls: For awhile, I felt like I kept coming across yummy sounding meals with miso as an ingredient, so when I saw some miso paste at Trader Joe’s I snapped it up. And then of course I couldn’t find any meals that featured miso. But this recipe does feature miso and it sounds really good. 
  • Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry: This is technically called “skinny chicken and broccoli stir fry” but that makes me think of anorexic roosters, so I deleted the “skinny.” Despite the ridiculous name, this sounds really delicious and fuels my recent obsession with broccoli slaw. I think I will also throw in a handful of water chestnuts, which I LOVE. (My husband does not love them, so his portion will be water chestnut free.)

Wow, just deciding on those three recipes felt like removing my own fingernails with pliers. Hopefully I will feel more invigorated for meal planning next week. 

Have you tried miso before? What about broccoli slaw? Does meal planning also currently feel like torture for you?

Five for Friday

Friday already, and looking down the barrel of another long weekend! So here are five topics I’ve been thinking about, beginning with MORE CAKE TALK!

A No-Cake Defense (TL/DR: This Is a Me Issue): I loved everyone’s comments on yesterday’s post about choosing my birthday dessert. One thing I additionally loved was how some readers took issue with my husband’s anti-cake stance. I just want to say: I love you. Thank you for defending my cakely honor. You are a treasure and a joy and I feel so cozy and loved. 

While not knowing his exact reasons for not wanting to bake a cake, I can speculate. And so I do want to defend my husband a teeny bit. You do not have to accept these reasons! You can still glare in his general direction! 

If I am understanding correctly, his first objection is the time. He fears it will take all day to bake a cake, and he doesn’t want to waste a big chunk of my birthday in the kitchen, when we could be doing something else. While perhaps baking a cake should not take several hours, it does always seem to work out that way. At least, it does for me. But then again, I always end up making some silly mistake that requires me remaking some aspect of the recipe.

Also, and this may be projecting, but he might be a little nervous about making a cake. He is not the cake baker in the family; I am. And I am in no way a good role model for The Ease of Cake Baking, in large part because I am always doing something that makes the whole process more difficult (cough cough leopard spots, cough cough rainbow layers). But my husband has never made a cake. I have no doubt he COULD make a cake (he is generally a better direction follower than I am), but for your first cake to be the Replacement Cake for your wife’s birthday, after her previous birthday cake was such a disappointing experience… well. That seems like a recipe (see what I did there) for failure.

However, these perfectly reasonable reasons aside, after I read the umpteenth comment suggesting that maybe my husband should just suck it up and make me the cake I want (I am paraphrasing; everyone reading this is much more tactful), I started to agree. If he has volunteered to make me a birthday dessert, why shouldn’t I ask for the dessert I really want? And I am sure that if I said, “honey, this is what I REALLY want,” he might grumble a bit, but he would make it for me.

So I spent some time looking online for The Perfect Cake Recipe to send him.  But the process looking for a recipe to send him made me realize that there is a secret third reason he may be unwilling to make me a cake.

As you may already know, from reading all my food and cake related posts, lo these many years, I am one of those annoying people who doesn’t necessarily stick to a recipe. I might pair a cake from one recipe with a frosting from another recipe. Or I might make a smaller cake than the recipe recommended. Or I might take a cupcake recipe and turn it into a cake. Or I might choose a recipe that calls for poppy seeds in the icing, but I would exclude the poppy seeds. I am comfortable with this, both because I now have some experience in messing around with recipes and because I am comfortable with the idea that it might not turn out. My husband is NOT comfortable with either of these things. He doesn’t have the cake baking experience to draw on, for one thing. But he is also a Supreme Instruction Follower and would find it blasphemous to deviate from a recipe’s explicit directions. 

And the thing is, when I search for My Perfect Cake… I can’t find it. It doesn’t exist. Okay, it DOES exist, and Kate found it (thank you!) but it is too large and too expensive for just the three of us. BUT, it’s very nice to know it’s there, if I need it! What I’m saying is the recipe for My Perfect Cake doesn’t exist. There is this perfectly lovely sounding cake, but it calls for lemon extract and I am a lemon purist. But I can’t ask my husband to just… exclude the extract. I mean, you probably can’t just DO that anyway, you’d need to track down other lemon cake recipes and compare various amounts of lemon juice and lemon zest and choose an amount that seems appropriately lemony for this specific cake. I can imagine how overwhelming it would feel if I suggested my husband do that. Even if I did the research, and wrote on top of the recipe, “omit lemon extract; use X tbsp of lemon juice,” he would feel worried that it wouldn’t turn out, and that if it didn’t, it would be HIS fault. 

This recipe looks very close to my ideal… but there are so few reviews, and of the reviewers who seem to have actually tried the recipe, it sounds like the cake comes out too dense for what I would prefer. 

I do love Sally’s Baking Addiction, and this recipe sounds similar to what I’m looking for and I trust her recipes, although sometimes the cake is a bit more dense than I prefer. But… there’s no lemon curd in this recipe. I want lemon curd. But I don’t think I could just say, “spread some lemon curd in between the layers” to my husband without him feeling like he needed additional, very specific directions to follow. (I actually used this recipe to make my daughter’s seventh birthday cake, and did put lemon curd between the layers.)

Are you beginning to understand that this is not really a problem with my husband trying to deny me the cake of my heart? That it is, instead, an issue of me being too picky?

Like I said, feel free to continue to feel irritated with my husband. But perhaps you can also spare some irritation for me, as well. I am hard to please. 

***UPDATE***: I wrote all of the above last night, before my husband got home from work. After sending him the link to Kate’s cake, and deciding that it was really too expensive, and explaining to him that I have been thinking about this particular cake for more than a year, I thought we finally settled on him making me cupcakes. That would be great! Lemon curd filled cupcakes. I explained how to do the filling part, and my husband listened attentively and asked if I would object to him putting pink food coloring in the frosting which strikes me as very adorable. And then thirty or so minutes later, cake clearly on the brain, my husband asked me, “Should I just make you the cake you want?” and I said, “but I thought making a cake was too much?” and he said, “but if I’m going to make cupcakes, I might as well make a cake,” and I said, “yes, please.” And then there was some discussion about my favorite cream cheese frosting and whether I would be amenable to him adding some lemon zest to the frosting (yes) and whether I need homemade curd (no). So I think it is happening????? If there is cake in the offing, I will certainly share all the details with you. (Although cupcakes would also be excellent.)

Surely This Is Not Right: I went to the dentist and noticed this poster hanging prominently on the wall. I do not object to the sentiment, which is lovely. But it raises the question: how do you pronounce “hygienist”? 

After spending far too much time listening to online pronunciations of the word, I believe that in British English, the pronunciation is “hy-JEEN-ist.” But in American English, it’s “hy-JEN-ist,” is it not? 

In no way is the first syllable “hahy.” Not that I would even know how to pronounce “hahy.” Hah-hee? Hah-high? (My husband thinks this is a way of representing the diphthong of “hy,” but I think there are better ways to represent it than “hahy.”

I suppose this could be one of those words that you have only ever experienced in print and have not yet heard aloud, and when you do finally hear it spoken, the pronunciation is a shock. (Do you have a word like this? Mine is ravine.) But I don’t think that this is one of those cases. 

Okay, I still apparently have more to say about this. If you were the person buying wall art for a dental office, a dental office in the United States specifically, wouldn’t you be uniquely aware of the correct pronunciation of dental terms? And wouldn’t you find this EXTREMELY ODD?

Freelance Does Not Mean Free: One of the most… shall we say interesting aspects of freelancing is the money aspect. Some clients are very on top of it, saying things from the get go like, “This is our budget,” or “We typically pay this for this type of project.” Other clients seemingly would never raise the topic if I didn’t broach it first. When it comes to invoicing, some clients are very clear to say, “This looks good, send me your invoice” while others drag out projects for months and would probably never even consider that I should be paid for work completed until I finally say something like, “Great, I’ve included an invoice.” (And I realize that I have a unique privilege of allowing projects to sometimes drag on without pay – and do so only with clients I have had for years and whom I know will pay eventually; it’s not something I would advocate when you are just starting out. And also, for big projects, it is important to ask for a portion [I do half] up front before you begin.) It’s just so fascinating to me that some clients seem completely oblivious to the fact that the work a freelancer does has a price tag.

Aspirations Mini-Update: I have been working toward all my aspirations. Well maybe not all, but many. (I have made progress on all but one of my Personal/Self Improvement aspirations, for instance.) One thing I did was start a very simplistic Excel spreadsheet where I could track the things I wanted to do regularly, if not necessarily daily. Playing the piano and writing and exercising and walking outside. That kind of thing. And what I have noticed is that I cannot do every single thing I want to do daily in a single day. There are just not enough hours in the day. I mean, I suppose I could break up my day in such a way that I could get to everything… but that seems overly rigid and also, to be honest, exhausting. There needs to be some flexibility. For one thing, if I walk outside for 30 minutes then it seems like overkill to also walk on the treadmill. For another thing, if I am really on a roll with, say, writing, I don’t want to STOP just because it’s time to play the piano for fifteen minutes, you know? So I am still trying to feel my way through what is a reasonable way to achieve these goals without achieving them simply for the sake of putting a check mark in my spreadsheet. Perhaps I do need to find a way to create some sort of a schedule, though. 

Unusual Snack Foods: One of my all-time favorite snacks is a half a green bell pepper filled with cottage cheese and sprinkled with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. (We called it “carrot salt” when I was growing up, probably because my mother also sprinkled it on carrots.) (Carrots are also delicious dipped in carrot-salted cottage cheese.) 

Neither my husband nor my daughter would touch this snack with a ten-foot pole, but it is delicious and crunchy and full of protein and SO GOOD. I cannot be the only person in the universe (besides my mother) who enjoys it. Have you ever tried this amazing combo? If not, would you be willing to try it? (You won’t hurt my feelings if you say no; I am still very iffy on the chicken thighs situation, so I fully understand New Food Resistance.)

Are there unusual combinations of foods that you like to snack on? 

That’s all I have for you today, Internet! I hope you have a fabulous weekend full of cake and weird snacks and reasonable pronunciations!