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In response to my recent Road Trip! post, several people mentioned snacks – a couple offered specifics; others were more general.

But it made me realize that I am Very Eager to discuss Road Trip! snacks. 

When I was a kid, my dad would buy rolls of Necco Wafers and hand them around. We had to take the wafer we were offered, so there was always the immense danger of getting the licorice flavored one. He was also a big fan of Planters Heat Peanuts. My mom, I seem to remember, perhaps incorrectly, enjoyed things like Chex Mix. 

For me, a Road Trip! is all about the chips. Aside from tortilla chips (which I eat occasionally), I hardly ever buy chips. This is because I LOVE chips and will eat an entire bag in one sitting. So chips are a real treat for me, and that’s my go-to snack for Road Trips. My favorites are Barbecue LaysMiss Vickie’s Jalapeno, and Doritos Salsa Verde, the latter being a variety I don’t see in gas stations that often anymore. 

I have also recently become… well, obsessed isn’t the right word for it. Infatuated with? Yes. I have recently become infatuated with Skinnypop, despite the irritating name. My daughter got me into it; I think parents often buy individual bags of Skinnypop for birthday party snacks, and maybe they offer Skinnypop as one of the snacks at school; I’m not quite sure about anything that goes on in my kid’s life when I’m not around. Anyway, she liked Skinnypop first and asked for it enough that I ended up trying it. Now we buy it by the giant package at Costco. I love it. Don’t get me wrong – I would much prefer a giant bowl of freshly popped popcorn drenched – drenched – in butter, but Skinnypop is really quite delicious. So I might consider adding it to my Road Trip! snack repertoire.

While I am much more interested in salty things than in sweet things, sometimes the best chaser for a bag of spicy chips is a bag of Twizzler Nibs. Or maybe a Milky Way Midnight bar. 

And I rarely ever drink soda these days, but I do love a nice frosty bottle of Diet Mountain Dew. 

I may or may not indulge in my traditional Road Trip! snacks on this particular Road Trip!. They are not, as you might have already intuited, keto friendly. But my husband has already decided that he is NOT sticking to keto while we are on our trip, and that makes it much harder for me to stick to it. 

If I stick to it, though, I will survive by eating copious amounts of Zero Sugar York Peppermint Patties and Zero Sugar Reese’s Miniature Cups which Swistle has been recommending for a long time and I just recently tried. They are SO GOOD and do not taste like keto food; they taste like treats.

(I have yet to find keto chips I like. I tried the Quest Chili Lime chips, which were WONDERFULLY crunchy and had a nice chili lime flavor. But the chili lime flavor, though strong, was not strong enough to disguise the flavor of the chips themselves which I find to be oddly bitter.)

Speaking of my husband: I feel like I should KNOW what kind of Road Trip! snacks are his favorite. But I… have no idea. Maybe he doesn’t have one or two repeat snacks that he always eats? Maybe he goes for a wide variety? Maybe I am so hyperfocused on my own snacking that I become completely oblivious to those around me? I am not sure. Honestly, I don’t even know what I would buy for him if he sent me into the gas station with instructions to pick him out a snack. Some.. Sun Chips? That seems like the wrong answer. 

My daughter LOVES snacks and LOVES treats, so you know she is going to have many, many requests. If I were to choose something for her, I’d probably pick a trifecta of Cheetos or Cheez-Its, something weird (like a plunger shaped lollipop that you dip into a toilet bowl filled with sugar – yes, this is something she purchased with her own money recently), and something sweet. She likes most (all???) sweets, so I’m not even sure what I would choose for her, but I think she would probably like it.

Now, I have been speaking mainly of gas station treats. But Road Trips! are an opportunity to eat fun fast food, too. If you like fast food. I don’t particularly care for it, I have to say. So usually I vote for Arby’s so I can at least order curly fries. When I was a kid, Subway was our fast food stop of choice, and I do enjoy a six inch Spicy Italian sub on whole wheat with no cheese, plenty of spicy mustard. I don’t know if I would enjoy it quite as much now. But I suppose we will have a chance to find out! 

So now it is your turn! Tell me, in detail, your FAVORITE Road Trip! snacks – sweet, savory, and any other category. 

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We tackled a little home project over the weekend that was very satisfying: we replaced several of the window shades.

The previous owners had installed these soft, white cellular shades on all the windows on the upper floor of our house, and we never changed them. They are the kind that have a plastic tab at the bottom, and you use that to pull them down or push them up. They are inoffensive looking (to me) and they filter the light nicely – by which I mean they dim the rooms but don’t make them dark – and they offer privacy. 

Over the past, oh, year or so, they have begun to show signs of age. The shade in our bathroom stopped working fully. You can pull it down to its full length, but it declines to rise more than halfway. Then a little horizontal tear appeared in the shade in Carla’s room. And then, this weekend, the one in my bedroom just collapsed, fully, leaving the entire window naked. I wish I had taken a photo of it. It was quite comical, like an old timey slapstick film where a character’s old timey bathing costume pools around his knees. 

Typically, household failures of this sort follow a trajectory of “oh no!” and some poking and prodding to see how to correct the issue, maybe even some light googling, and then we learn to live with the thing, and now everywhere I turn things are broken. It’s not a great way to live, but it is difficult to deviate from so well-worn a path. 

However. This shade failure was, to me, an emergency. The shade is in our bedroom and the window it covers looks out over our street. And in no way do I want my across the street neighbors or any passersby on the sidewalk to be able to look up and a) see me in bed or b) witness me crossing the bedroom in my pajamas, which is often only a T-shirt. My husband tried to duct tape the shade in place the first night, but it kept falling off in the middle of the night. So we googled and I pushed and we went to Lowe’s and bought replacement shades. 

I would have purchased the same shades again, but ours came from J.C. Penney and I don’t know where a J.C. Penney is, in relation to my home; nor am I sure they currently sell home goods. I suppose I could look it up but I am choosing ignorance. What we did purchase were the shades our local Lowe’s had in stock. They look virtually identical to the ones we had. 

The installation is simple enough: You drill a couple of little brackets into the window frame (we were able to use some of the holes from the previous shades’ brackets) and then you clip the shade into the brackets and voila! All done. (I wonder if my husband would want you to know that clipping the shades into the brackets is NOT as simple as it should be, and that the brackets can be stiff and difficult to clip into place. But in THEORY it is very simple.)

We got a kind of shade that you can cut to size. We measured the windows so we could cut them, but when we were standing in the shades aisle of Lowe’s, I got a little nervous about altering the shade permanently before we were able to see if we could hang them. Luckily, the shades they had in stock were only about five inches wider than our windows, which I figured wouldn’t look too weird. Also in the plus column for not cutting them to size was the fact that there was a cutting station in the shade aisle and it said “Out of Order” on a big red sign. 

We got the shades (they were more expensive than I expected – about $80ish a piece) and brought them home and my husband and Carla installed them while I made dinner. They look fabulous (by which I mean they look exactly like the previous shades did) and the one in the bathroom WORKS and I am very pleased. 

Extra pleasing is that we got a blackout shade for Carla’s room. We have been talking about getting blackout curtains/shades for her room since she was about a year old, which is when we discovered her propensity for rising with the sun. And now we DID it, and I am writing this at 8:30 in the morning and she is STILL ASLEEP, which is unheard of. 

We have yet to install curtains on any of the windows on the lower floor. But maybe the success of this little project will spur us on.

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I am about to recommend a product to you that I now find indispensable. But I want to include a couple of caveats before I do so.

The first is this post’s unfortunate proximity to Mother’s Day. I can (sigh) imagine some people (not you, but I bet you can think of the type of someone I mean) reading this post and leaping up and shrieking, “That’s it! That’s the perfect gift for A Mother!” And while yes, I love it because it is extremely useful, and while I do in fact use it during the execution of tasks that are often left exclusively to mothers, I would argue vehemently that products which make it easier/simpler/more efficient/better for a mother to execute her duties should NOT be given at Mother’s Day gifts, but instead should be considered legitimate business expenses, and items required to do the work of a household, and should be categorized with things like cleansers and mops rather than lumped into the gift category. Just as an office would not consider an ergonomic chair or a wireless mouse to be GIFTS for the person using them, an air fryer or a new washing machine or a new zooper should be considered tools that make it easier or more efficient for a homemaker to complete the work of running a household. Not. Gifts.

I know – I KNOW – that sometimes a big extravagant purchase like a washing machine can put a strain on a household budget. And yet I would still argue that it should not be re-categorized as a gift. Unless and only if the washing machine is also counted as a gift for Father’s Day as well. 

So I am not recommending this as a gift. Maybe – maybe – I could see it as a stocking stuffer, IF multiple people of multiple sexes and familial roles received it all at the same time.

Okay. So that is the main caveat. 

The second caveat is that this is a single-use item. At least in my household. I see that the product manufacturers/marketers have tried valiantly to come up with alternate uses, but please note my Raised Eyebrow of Skepticism and Uh-Huh, Sure. I don’t usually like single-use products, but I like this one. It is so effective at its one job (and so small and easy to slip into a drawer) that when I somehow lost mine, I immediately ordered ten more. (To be fair, I ordered ten more only because it comes in a pack of ten.) 

Anyway. All caveats aside: the product is a pan scraper. It is made of a stiff plastic and it is about the size of a credit card. I use it to scrape the egg off of a pan when I have made scrambled eggs.

(image from amazon.com) I don’t know that I ever really noticed the different shaped corners? But sure, whatever.

I do not particularly LIKE eggs, but I eat them a lot. And the egg never fails to form a thin veneer across the top of the supposedly non-stick coating of my pan. A veneer that is so adhesive, it’s a wonder that the folks at Elmer’s haven’t patented it. 

I use a stiff-bristled scrubber to clean my dishes. But my scrubber does not work well on the egg veneer. Sometimes, after several soakings and applying lots of elbow grease, it will come off. But then the egg transfers to the bristles of the scrub brush and refuses to come off. REFUSES. It pains me to admit that I have thrown away more than one scrubber due to stubborn egg scraps.

Even the miracle that is Dawn Powerwash has little effect on the egg veneer. 

But the scraper clears the egg in a few seconds! It is magic! You just… scrape the egg off, rinse the pan, and you’re done. No soaking necessary. Because I like to hand wash things as infrequently as possible, I drop the scraper itself into the dishwasher and I am done. MAGIC. 

As I said before, this scraper is small enough that I tuck it inside the front face of my kitchen tool drawer. It is very unobtrusive and waits patiently until the next time I make eggs. 

(image from amazon.com) The pan scraper marketing team is really scraping the bottom of the barrel here for alternate uses. See what I did there?

The scrapers come in a pack of ten, and they are ten for $9.99 right now. NINETY-NINE CENTS FOR A RELIABLE AND USEFUL TOOL IS SUCH A DEAL. I have already gotten far more than my money’s worth out of this little product, and I measure that by number of stiff-bristled scrubbers I have NOT had to throw away, which are apparently $7.99 apiece, and also in minutes of grumpy scrubbing.

The first scraper I got was from a friend. I went over to her house to pick up Carla from a playdate, and she said, “Here, I have a pan scraper for you.” I was skeptical, and yet it has been one of the most useful products in my kitchen. I use it way more than I use my Instant Pot, that’s for sure. If you bought a ten pack, think of how you could casually hand a few out to friends, and BLOW THEIR MINDS with this tiny unassuming powerhouse?!

Okay, and now I want to know if YOU have any little heroes in your house that I have been overlooking.

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It is a blustery Friday. Carla is at school, my in-laws have all headed home. Teriyaki chicken breasts are cooking in the crockpot. My house is quiet, except for the wind bumping up against the windows. I have laundry to do and flyers to fold and a few groceries yet to put away, but I am in a Very Good Mood. 

Here are some of the things that are contributing to my pleasant mood today.

1. Spring Springing Up. Earlier this week, Carla and I saw the first popcorn tree of the season. (I think the trees we refer to as “popcorn tress” are really Bartlett pear trees.) Most of the other trees in our area are still skeletal, with only the tiniest buds appearing on their branches. So it was delightful to see the frothy blooms, bright and happy against the persistent gloom of our very rainy April. That was Saturday, maybe? Today, I noticed that that single blooming scout has been joined by an array of blossoms. Cherry trees! Magnolias! Forsythia! It is really and truly spring. Also, one of the houses in our neighborhood bought and installed one of those enormous house-sized skeletons last Halloween. They have kept the skeleton up since October, and simply decorate it for the season. It is currently wearing pink garland and bunny ears, which delights me to no end. 

I feel compelled to tell you that I did not take this photo, I pulled it off of Canva.

2. Spring Flowers. My regular grocery store had a disappointing array of flowers this week. The tulips were all already on the far side of blooming, and were $8.99 besides. But I went to Trader Joe’s this morning and found lots and lots of tulips (for $4.99 a bunch!) and a bouquet of calla lilies (also $4.99!) to buy. Yay!

3. Tiny Tomato Plant. Speaking of Trader Joe’s, the last time I was there, I bought this little tomato plant on a whim. It is bringing me so much joy! Firstly, it has SO MANY tomatoes already growing! Plus, it keeps blooming with more and more little yellow flowers that will grow into their own fruit someday soon. My niece was obsessed with the plant, checking it daily, asking if the tomatoes were ripe enough to pick and eat. I wish I had been able to capture her little earnest, hopeful voice saying, “Aunt Suz? I really think this one is ripe now.” She and Carla both LOVE finding and eating a ripe tomato. So fun! Each plant was $9.99 and I should have bought more than one. Like… five of them.

Do not worry – the tomato does not live on the piano. I simply set it there because that was the only spot in the house that was getting decent light. Please ignore how filthy the planter is. Sheesh.

4. Strawberries and Mascarpone. While I realize I am skating very close to turning this post into an ode to Trader Joe’s, I was enraptured by their produce section this morning. In particular, they had beautiful looking strawberries. I grabbed two packages along with some mascarpone cheese. One of my family’s favorite summer desserts is strawberries and mascarpone. You add some honey to the mascarpone cheese, whisk it up, and dollop it on top of cut fresh strawberries. I skip the honey these days and I find the whole thing just as satisfying and summery. 

5. Kirkland Brand Prosecco Rose. This is my current favorite fun drink. I buy it for the ridiculously inexpensive price of $6.99 a bottle at my local Costco. It’s tasty. (Please note I am not a wine connoisseur, so I’m not saying it’s GOOD, just that I like the taste, which is really what matters when a person is drinking a beverage.) And IT’S PINK. A pink drink is automatically fun. Well, unless it’s Pepto Bismol or some sort of antibiotic, but that doesn’t really count as a “drink,” even though you drink it. I am getting off track. This sparkly drink makes any random evening into something that feels cheerful and celebratory.

I realize this is not a champagne flute or coupe, but I have to wash those by hand and this glass goes in the dishwasher.

And we have reason to celebrate (with more than cheap bubbly): my mother-in-law is in remission! We are all so happy and relieved. I know the prospect of the cancer remaining or having spread was weighing heavily on my in-laws minds and this is just the BEST news. A big part of the reason they were visiting this time was to see her oncologist surgeon, and do a bunch of tests and scans. I am really glad we could be their home base while they underwent this ordeal. Her good news was the perfect note to end their visit on.

Hoping you have a wonderful weekend, and if you are celebrating Passover or Easter, that you enjoy your holiday, and that if you aren’t participating in any holiday that you find SOMETHING to celebrate and a pink drink to toast with.

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It’s been a long while since I’ve done one of these posts. Yes, I have done a lot of complaining, and honestly, I plan to continue complaining here in the future, but that doesn’t mean I need to complain AT ALL TIMES. Plus, there are many many blessings in my life, including of course my wonderful family. But there are also material things that bring me joy.

Fabric Resistance Bands: Yes, I know I know, I have recommended these before. But they are SO GOOD. Carla has been exercising with me lately (both super cute and VERY DEEPLY ANNOYING), and she brought up my old non-fabric resistance bands for us to use. Why can I not think of the word that should go where “non-fabric” is? Well. The mind is a mysterious junk heap in which sometimes you find Babysitter’s Club plot lines and Garth Brooks lyrics instead of the word you are looking for. I used them for several workouts, hating them all the while, before I remembered that I own FABRIC resistance bands! So now I am using the fabric ones again, and all is right with the world. They are just as resistant, but they are wider than the other ones AND made of a thicker material, so they don’t roll up into a tight wad that cuts into your leg flesh. Plus, they stay in place rather than traveling up and down your legs at their own whim. 

image from amazon.com

Caramel Almond Clusters: While one of the keys to my current “success” at remaining on keto is that I am sticking to real foods that I like rather than trying to find keto versions of everything, I do occasionally crave candy. And these caramel almond clusters really address that particular craving. They do not taste exactly like a candy bar, mainly because of the odd taste of whatever sweetener is used to make them (I just looked; it is erythritol), but they are so close. The caramel is nice and chewy. The almonds are REAL almonds, and give an excellent crunch. And the chocolate is real unsweetened chocolate. Best of all, each one contains 2 net grams of carbs, which is an amount that I can work into most days of eating. (It seems like a lot of other keto sweets are 5 or 6 or more net grams of carbs per serving, which I almost never have at the end of a day.) They are about the circumference of an Oreo, so they aren’t huge. But I find them extremely satisfying from an “I Need a Treat” perspective.

image from amazon.com

Treadmill DeskElisabeth mentioned that she has a desk that attaches to her treadmill, and I immediately wanted one. My husband got me one for my birthday and I LOVE IT. He chose this version because it has a nice, textured surface. My laptop seems very secure on it, and I don’t really worry at all about it falling. I have used it several times and the time flies – I will be writing emails or doing revisions to my manuscript and all of sudden ninety minutes will have flown by. So far, I walk at about 2 to 2.5 miles per hour – it takes a little while to get used to typing while your body is moving. My only complaint is that the keyboard is not at an ideal position in relation to my hands, so I do have a teeny bit of wrist strain. But I suspect I will get used to that. And I feel so much less sedentary when I can stroll along while doing my normal work. 

Hot New Thrillers: I have read two truly excellent thrillers this year (so far). The Night She Disappered by Lisa Jewell and The Burning Girls by C. J. Tudor. Both were extremely well written with engaging plots and relatable female characters. Plus, even though both were predictable in some ways, they were told so well and crafted to be so satisfying that I loved them both anyway. They are thrillers, so there is disturbing stuff in each of them. But if you like really good murdery books, I highly recommend both.

Decorative Tile: Lauren has been writing fascinating accounts of how she and her husband are finding cool pieces at estate sales and reselling them. During one of these accounts, she showed a photo of a decorative tile featuring a skier, by a Montana artist. I fell in immediate love and had to have it. My husband and daughter do not understand it, but I know you will. Someday I will find some proper way to display it (maybe on the gallery wall of my imagination?), but for now it’s sitting on a shelf in my office, where I can admire it often. 

What are you loving lately?

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Carla is being so utterly charming these days that I figured I better write it down, for posterity. As my mother-in-law keeps reminding me when I am experiencing frustration/difficulty with my child, often frustration/difficulty precipitated by said child trying to entertain her grandparents rather than doing what I have asked her to do and aggravated by my reluctance to raise my voice in front of my in-laws, I will yearn for these days when she is a teenager and think longingly of these frustrations/difficulties because they will pale in comparison to the frustrations/difficulties of the teen years. 

BE THAT AS IT MAY, the current frustrations/difficulties are no less frustrating/difficult in comparison to a future I have not yet experienced.

I am getting off track. What I want to say is that just-shy-of-eight-and-a-half, while far from perfect, is in general a wonderful, charming, delightful age. 

The first thing that comes to mind is the clothing, possibly because Carla’s ensemble this morning is fresh on my mind. She was wearing a normal shirt and pants, but had rediscovered a leopard print hat with cat (leopard?) ears and was wearing that, to breakfast. She had also unearthed a pair of dangly black and red clip-on earrings and was wearing those. 

She has very distinct ideas about clothing, is what I’m saying. And I’m Here For It. All of it. Like how she recently learned about complementary colors in school and so prefers to wear complementary colors when possible. Purple pants and a yellow shirt. Green dress and red leggings. Maroon skirt and pale green shirt. It’s a whole look. 

Speaking of things Carla has learned in school: I guess they have been talking about homonyms? Or homophones? I don’t want to look up the difference between them. I know that homophones are words that sound the same, but may have different spelling/meaning (except/accept, write/right, ring/wring, etc.)… so maybe homonyms are words that are spelled the same but have different pronunciation (tear/tear, bass/bass, bow/bow, close/close )? When I was a kid, I learned that those were homographs, because they look identical, but someone told me homographs aren’t a thing anymore, and that stuck with me. Okay, I have looked it up: homonyms are words that can be spelled OR pronounced the same way, but have different meanings; it’s a blanket term that encompasses both homophone and homographs.

What I was TRYING to tell you, before I got all caught up in elementary school language specifications, was that Carla and I have been having a lot of fun lately thinking of homonyms together. I don’t know why I find this so delightful, but it is. Partly is that I love our language and its quirks and intricacies, and so I enjoy someone else actively enjoying those things. Partly is that it feels like a game, and there are so SO many examples to share. I was filling my car up with gas the other day and got back in, and Carla said, “Bear and bare, mommy!!!!” She’ll just announce a pair of homonyms randomly throughout the day and I’m loving it.

A less-but-not-UN-delightful thing about Carla is that she is Always Right. Now, this is not always true, technically. She is always confident, but occasionally her facts/reasoning will be wrong. But I swear, if you tell this child a fact even in passing, she will remember it for the rest of her days. Her grandmother showed her a video of a red-headed woodpecker on a tree in her backyard, and Carla said, “That’s not a red-headed woodpecker, that’s a pileated woodpecker.” And then she went to her room, retrieved her bird book, and proceeded to walk her poor grandmother through every single woodpecker in the book, and then compare the pileated example to the one from the video. (Carla was right, although, to be fair, a pileated woodpecker 100% looks like it would be called a red-headed woodpecker.) (That’ll teach her grandmother to try to share something interesting with her grandkid!) (Carla’s affection for facts comes across in a very didactic and “well, actually” kind of manner, but also I find it rather pleasing. We are working on the delivery of this kind of knowledge, but I appreciate the knowledge itself.) (While I am parenthesizing, I will say that the red-bellied woodpecker is very inaptly named. Whoever decided which woodpecker was which seems like they went about it in a very slap-dash and poorly thought way. “Eh? Another woodpecker with a red head? Let’s just pretend its pale white belly is red instead.”)

This is also the year when Carla is really starting to get into reading. I feel as though I have claimed that in the past, but it seems to be ramping up now. She’s certainly interested in books; whenever we go to the library, she will search through the shelves, peeking at tables of contents and flipping through the pages before handing me the book to add to a stack, and we will check out a dozen at a time. She has even discovered the joy of asking a librarian for help, and has marched up to the help desk for advice on a) books that feature animals (we got a HUGE stack that time) and b) a specific book she’d heard about in school. The thing was that she would check out this huge pile and then never read any of the books. Over the summer, my husband and I tried to bribe her to read: $15 per chapter book she finishes by herself. We paid her $0 over the summer, so I thought it was a wash. But NOW she has been bringing home library books from school and reading them in their entirety in an afternoon! This is unheard of! And I mentioned to her the other day that I wished she would READ the books she checked out from our local library, and she said she feels like she never has time to read, so I suggested that she devote fifteen minutes to reading right when she gets home from school and SHE HAS DONE THAT EVER SINCE. She finished a whole chapter book by herself and, of course, remembered that we’d once promised to pay her for reading, so I am out $15. Listen, when my husband and I came up with the bribe we were imagining her reading The Magic Treehouse books or Charlotte’s Web or something, and the book she read had more pictures interspersed throughout, but I don’t care. BEST $15 EVER SPENT. I will gladly reimburse her for reading. She still adores Shel Silverstein poetry, but she has also become fond of the Bad Kittybooks. Otherwise, she kind of dabbles in whatever appeals to her from the shelves. 

Nearly eight-and-a-half is an age of great independence and confidence. Carla still loves to ride her bike around our neighborhood, and has befriended all our neighbors – especially, as you can imagine, those with dogs. She is so friendly and cheerful to them all, and I love how outgoing she is despite her parents’ tendencies toward introversion. 

She is also at an age where she is beginning to like to discuss and analyze various topics. I remember Swistle writing about this, as her older kids moved out of the elementary school years, and I feel like we are just at the beginning of this phase and I already like it (even if I am not as thorough or patient a thinker as Swistle is). The other day, for instance, I mentioned to Carla that we might be driving a friend of hers to Girl Scouts, depending on a possible conflict the friend’s mother had. I stressed the might, because I didn’t want Carla to get her hopes too far up. She was very excited about the prospect of spending extra time with her friend (and in the car! for some reason being in the car together (masks on and/or windows wide open) is thrilling to the third grade set). After her initial delight, she asked, “Can’t we drive her ANYWAY? Even if her mom doesn’t have the conflict?” She persuaded me to text the friend’s mom, and I did so. But it was a long text. I said something like, “We’d love to drive your kid no matter what happens with your conflict” but then I went on to hedge a little bit, just in case: no pressure, if it doesn’t work out, we understand. (Maybe the mom really wants to attend Girl Scouts [in which case she can go in my place], or maybe they have a family commitment right afterward, or maybe she only wants her kid to ride in someone else’s car if it is truly unavoidable; I don’t know.) 

Carla read my text over my shoulder and said, “Send it!” when it was done. But then she wanted to know why I didn’t simply say, “Please let us drive the friend even if you have no conflict.” I explained to her that sometimes there is this invisible pressure that people feel to do what others request, even if they don’t want to. And she agreed, she understood; sometimes she will be playing in a small group of girls on the playground, and another friend will ask to join, and she will feel pressured to agree even if the game they were playing won’t accommodate another child. So we talked a little bit about how that may be a good type of pressure to feel, because you don’t want to exclude friends if you don’t have to, and you don’t want friends to feel left out. We talked about how to handle such a situation: you can be honest about how the current game won’t work with another person, but maybe you could play something else or maybe you could play together a different time. That was a nice conversation. 

Then I told Carla that sometimes with grown-ups, there is a slightly different kind of pressure – a pressure not to offend, a pressure to be easy-going, a pressure to make things happen even if it’s difficult or not exactly what you want – and that I am susceptible to that kind of pressure, and so I try not to make others feel that way. Plus, in this case, there was a potential additional sort of pressure that the mother might be feeling, to not be imposing on us to take her child. So I wanted to be CLEAR, in my text to the friend’s mom, that we wouldn’t be at all upset if it didn’t work out, but that we sincerely would love to take her child with us. Carla seemed to understand the nuances of this thought process, and I liked being able to discuss it with her. This makes me think that perhaps my sister-in-law was speaking directly to me when she mentioned recently that she has explored, in therapy, the effect of her mother’s anxiety on her, and how she can work to keep her own anxiety from affecting her own child.

She still occasionally breaks into an accent. Sometimes a really odd Cockney/British mashup, sometimes more of a pseudo-Australian sort of thing. 

Her vocabulary is enormous and delights me. It tickles me when she uses a word or phrase that strikes me as particularly grown-up. For instance, sometimes she will leave a room – a room still occupied by a person – and accidentally shut of the light. She invariably says, “Whoops! Force of habit.” I don’t know what it is about that phrasing that cracks me up, but it does. 

Carla is also getting to an age where she is REALLY interested in makeup. She is always pawing through my collection of eye shadows and lipsticks (I wear eyeshadow once or twice a year and lipstick never) and asking me what things are and what they do and wondering if she can try them or at least unscrew the lid to see them in greater detail. While I maintain that she cannot wear makeup until she is sixteen, I love this stage. I never in my life pictured having a daughter, and this is one of those overwhelmingly delightful aspects of having this particular daughter that feel so fun and exciting to share. She did, however, “borrow” my tweezers, which I did not love. I loved even less the possibility that she may or may not have been using the tweezers to remove dead skin from her feet. I think I will be gifting Carla with my tweezers and finding myself a new pair. 

She is constantly thinking of creative pursuits. She can turn anything into a project, and squirrels away dead glow sticks, cardboard boxes, sheets of bubble wrap, tiny plastic containers, beads, string, wire, pinecones, rocks. Anything and everything can be reused or repurposed to turn into something wonderful.

At nearly eight-and-a-half, Carla still wakes up singing. I love to hear her muted songs through the bedroom wall. It is such a happy morning sound. Will she still do it when she’s thirteen? I hope so. 

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Nicole posted last week about her favorite life-changing purchases, and I have been inspired to copy her. Here are some of the LIFE-CHANGING purchases I have made in the past year. Some of them may be familiar, because I have recommended them to you here before. Because they are LIFE CHANGING. (For details on one of my most enduring life-changing purchases, click here.)

Hanging Detangling Comb for ShowerThese come in all different colors, but the little curling tail that allows you to hang it over the towel bar in your shower is essential. This has been a GAME CHANGER for me. I comb through my hair when I apply conditioner, and then again after I’ve rinsed and applied smoothing serum or curling serum or whatever other thing I want to put in my hair. Keeping my hair detangled seemed SO MUCH EASIER now that I have added this one little thing to my regimen.

Hair Towel: Technically, my sister-in-law purchased this for me, but still. It is a LIFE-CHANGING item. Again, I think you can find your one true hair towel; I don’t necessarily think that this specific one is the best. Just get you a hair towel, of any type. Well, as long as it has a button to hold it in place. Gone are the days of wrapping my hair in a bulky towel, only to have it collapse on me. Gone are the days of needing two towels, one for my hair and one for my body. I love this hair towel. LOVE. IT.

 

 

Blow Dryer Brush: This is a pricy one, and once again, I don’t know that this particular brand is The Exact One you should get; this is the exact one I have, and I like it plenty. (I got mine at Nordstrom.) But being in possession of a tool that allows me to brush and dry AND straighten my hair with one hand has been transformative. For one thing, I don’t have to deal with a hair dryer and then a straightener. But, even better and more life-changing, I can now read while I dry my hair! I don’t have to look at myself in the mirror while I brush my hair, I have a hand free to turn the pages or scroll or whatever. It’s amazing. I love it.

Tula Cooling Eye Balm: I have already recommended this to you, but I am here once again to say that you NEED this in your life. I have been especially grateful for it this summer, when its cooling effect is a breath of fresh air when I’ve been stuck in a hot and steamy bathroom trying to get ready. And it wakes up my expression without any makeup, which I am sure would either melt off or sink into my eye wrinkles or both. It is magical. 

 

Vince Camuto Underpants: I am pretty sure Linda at All & Sundry recommended these. And lo, they are wonderful. I only have the three pairs but I think I will buy more because I paw through my underwear drawer looking for these ones first every single day. They are so comfortable and yet cute and not a million dollars.

Running Belt: I love this stupid thing so much. I wear it under my shirt whenever I go out walking (not running as the name implies). It has little pockets where I can stow my keys and phone and, before I was vaccinated, a mask. It’s less bulky than a fanny pack. Nothing jiggles. And it’s totally hands free. Game. Changer.

Fabric Resistance Bands: When I first began my resistance band journey (LOL), I bought the elastic bands. They were inexpensive, which was good when I had no idea whether I’d even use them. Turns out I like the added resistance quite a lot, but the elastic is no bueno. It twists and bunches and slips and I spend more time adjusting the bands than I do resisting them. But the FABRIC bands do not bunch or slip! They stay in place and make my workouts much less stressful.

Ninja Blender: I know for sure I have talked up this blender before in this space. It was a pandemic purchase, made when my husband and I determined that our old wedding-gift blender was incapable of blending ice well enough to make daiquiris. While we are no longer making weekly mixed drinks, I make near-daily smoothies and this blender is AMAZING. Party because it is just All Business when it comes to blending things. And partly because it comes with a separate smoothie-making apparatus, with its own blade and its own cup, so you don’t have a whole huge blender to clean every day. (Or, when you are in the middle of a pandemic, you can make a blender full of daiquiris for yourself and your spouse and a smoothie size virgin daiquiri for your child without worrying about cross contamination!) The smoothie cups even come with their own lids, so you can remove the blade, pop on the lid, and drink from the blender cup without dirtying another glass! LIFE CHANGING. I use the smoothie maker, as I said, almost daily and I am grateful for it every time I use it.

 

Sparkling Watermelon Juice: This is a brand new life-changing item, as in I just learned about it last week! But this watermelon seltzer (Harry Styles voice) is SO DELICIOUS. And I cannot stand watermelon! I am guessing it would be excellent as part of a cocktail, but I have yet to experiment with it. Hie thee to your nearest Trader Joe’s and get some now. (Or apparently you can also order it via Amazon, but it is WAY less expensive in person at TJs.)

Phone Case with Card Holder: I have technically had this phone case since 2017, so it’s not a NEW purchase. But I did just order a new one (not the case’s fault; I am just a butteryfingered person who drops my phone constantly, and the case took one for the team. It did its job by protecting my phone, though.) so I feel like it counts. Anyway, this is A LIFE CHANGER TO END ALL LIFE CHANGERS. It completely ended my reliance on purses. I keep my ID and my credit card in the little sliding pocket, and then all I need to take anywhere is my phone! It fits snugly around the phone, so it’s not bulky at all. And it does keep the phone safe. If you tend to drop your phone a lot, the little sliding door will eventually give up, but who can fault it, really?

That’s a lot of life-changing for one year, no? What life-changing purchases have you made recently?

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My house looks like the scene of a collision between a LEGO truck, a dinosaur themed party supply warehouse, and a JoAnn Fabric. LEGO bricks and crafting supplies and dinosaur-themed things are strewn through pretty much every room. And our beloved housecleaner comes TOMORROW, along with the long-awaited plumber, so I need to de-toy-ify the floors at the very least. I am DREADING the act of finding a home for all these new things. WHERE will it all go? I’m sure it will lead to one of those things where you open the craft cupboard to put in new supplies and you decide the only way the new things will fit is if you reorganize the whole cupboard and I am not up for that.

Instead, I think I shall type up a blog post. 

New Nail Polish: I have been admiring some of Essie’s summer nail colors, but I have two problems with Essie nail polish. First, it is expensive. Second, it takes too long to dry and I am impatient, which means that any time I DO spend the $9 it costs to acquire an Essie nail varnish, I end up wasting a bunch of it because I smear my nails every time. Every. Time. I’m really a Sally Hansen Insta-Dri nail polish kind of girl, you know? Despite the absolute ridiculousness of spelling “dry” with an I, the Insta-Dri line has a wide variety of colors, dries in seconds, and costs under $5 per bottle. Done and done. But when I saw that Essie now has a quick-dry line of polish, I was very intrigued. The name of said polish – Essie Expressie – made me heave a deep, exasperated sigh, but what can we expect from those poor beleaguered nail polish marketing folk who have to continually pump out name after name for slightly different shades of pink? (In the Time Zone? Mall Crawler? Mic Drop-It-Low? How are these names? At least Get a Mauve On has an indication of the actual color.) This is all to say that I was intrigued enough to shell out $8.99 for a bottle of Crave the Chaos and I am very pleased indeed. The exact right shade of pink and it went on smoothly and with nary a smudge. Now all I need is a nail polish that sticks only to fingernail and repels instantly off skin. 

Mask-Friendly Mascara: While I don’t really wear makeup, I do have one true love and that is mascara. I almost ALWAYS wear mascara, because my eyelashes are pale and stubby and I feel like I look very odd when I go au naturel. The problem, though, is that mask wearing, especially mask wearing plus heat and humidity, make my mascara melt down my eyelashes and onto my cheeks. (And I am still wearing a mask indoors, in public, so this is a Real Issue.) I recall with horror one incident this past winter where I wore mascara skiing, and when I removed my goggles – but not my mask – to greet some friends I hadn’t seen in many months, I registered the Disturbed Looks on their faces but brushed them off. Only once I’d ambled into the restroom, much later that day, did I discover the Severe Raccoon Eye Situation I’d been sporting. Ever since that day, I have been doing something I SWORE I would never do: I wear waterproof mascara. If you know of a good waterproof mascara, please let me know because I do NOT. And every waterproof mascara I have ever tried is IMPOSSIBLE to remove. I have to practically rip each individual eyelash out of my lids to get that infernal substance off me. But I have found a solution! I got a sample size tube of Chanel mascara when I bought someone  fancy face cream from Nordstrom, and it came with a sample size tube of Chanel La Base mascara base. (A rather redundant name, but at least it isn’t “Taxi Hopping” or “Lose the Snooze” or “All Things Ooo” which a real, live person or persons came up with and slapped on the side of a nail polish bottle.) So what I have been doing is applying the base – which is white – and then putting the waterproof mascara on top of it. Voila! The waterproof mascara stays put, but comes off much more easily with the base than without. I am assuming you can use any base-coat mascara, to avoid paying THIRTY-TWO AMERICAN DOLLARS for the Chanel.

image from nordstrom.com

Good Clean Dino Fun: My mother-in-law brought Carla this soap-making kit, and, best of all, the soaps are shaped like dinosaurs. They did the project together and made little soaps for the favor bags we handed out at Carla’s dinosaur themed party. It was an excellent craft, very easy to clean up, and made very satisfying little soaps. If you have a child in your life who like both dinosaurs and crafting, this should be on your radar. 

image from amazon.com

Dinosaurs and LEGO Unite: While on the subject of the dino-loving child, she received this 3-in-1 dinosaur LEGO set from a friend. I think it will be PERFECT for when we visit my parents later this summer, because it’s small and yet you can make three separate creatures out of the LEGO bricks included. In fact, I have had this in my Amazon cart, waiting until we got a little closer to our trip to order it. (I find it’s nice to have a couple little surprises on hand, to help with the stress and potential boredom of traveling.)

image from amazon.com

Maxi Skirt: I have continued my search for a maxi skirt I like. And I think I found it in this Tie-Dye Striped Midi Skirt from Loft. The fabric is lightweight but sturdier than jersey, so it floats over my lumpy hips rather than rippling magnifyingly along every bump and bulge. I am pleased that it is also white and blue, which means I can wear it for the Fourth of July. 

image from loft.com

More Jean Shorts?!?!?!: Also from Loft, I am really enjoying these Fresh Cut High Waist Boyfriend Shorts. They fit my criteria: high rise, roomy leg openings, not too short, and free shipping.

image from loft.com

I find the name perplexing – fresh cut? like flowers? or a bundle of garden-grown herbs? And I really doubt anyone’s boyfriend would wear these, ever – but they are comfy and long enough that I can roll up the hems if I want to. Somehow I have transformed, in a single year, from a person who owned zero pairs of jean shorts to a person who now owns SIX PAIRS. (The shorts I ordered most recently have a button fly, which I dislike… but they are also very cute so I may keep them. And I also got a pair of these striped denim shorts from Loft that I am pretty sure I will keep as well.) Now that I have these bad boys and two more Madewell tanks, I am thinking my summer uniform is now complete. 

Fun Raisins: Well, this is a post of eating my words, I think. I never thought I would be a shorts-sporter, or a waterproof-mascara wearer, or a person who buys $9 nail polish, but I NEVER EVER thought I would be someone who eats raisins for non-life-and-death reasons. And yet here we are. My sister-in-law had a box of strawberry flavored raisins with her when she came to visit, and I tried some to be polite, and they were SUPER YUMMY. They tasted more like slightly-sour candy than a raisin, which, I cannot stress enough, was always right up there with eating someone’s surgically-removed mole in terms of appetizing. But I liked them so much I bought a box MYSELF, and a box of watermelon flavored raisins to have as a cupcake backup at Carla’s birthday party. They are very tasty and I highly recommend them. Even if you are a raisin hater. NEVER SAY NEVER.

What are you loving lately?

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Ten things I hate about summer:

  1. Sweating.
  2. Never knowing how to dress for the constant fluctuations between instant outdoor heatstroke and freeze-your-freckles-off air conditioning.
  3. Shaving my toes. Or, more accurately, forgetting to shave my toes.
  4. The smell of self-tanner. (I have been using this spray tanner from Neutrogena, excuse me micromist; it has a very mild, very fleeting scent but the scent is there. Also, I cannot tell if it is doing ANYTHING to “build my all-over flawless tan.”)
  5. Persistent debris – sticks, leaf bits, dirt, pebbles – all over my floor.
  6. Relatedly: stuff stuck to my feet.
  7. Sunblock, especially putting it on my child. WHEN will she learn to apply it herself, thoroughly and accurately and regularly? Please say eight, please say eight.
  8. Watermelon, and the abundance thereof.
  9. Wasps. 
  10. How fleeting it is. A friend summarized it yesterday: “We have four weeks of camp, then two weeks of vacation, then a week at home, and then it’s pretty much back to school.” Nothing like packing your entire, much-longed-for summer into three short clauses to make it feel like it’s NEARLY OVER already.

Ten things I love about summer:

  1. Walking in the sunshine, and, whilst walking, stepping into a sudden patch of scent that wraps you in a lovely fragrant cocoon: clover, honeysuckle, lilac.
  2. Freckles.
  3. The near-constant thrum of distant lawnmowers. (Not to be confused with the angry drone of lawnmowers in your own yard, always too early or during a Zoom call.)
  4. Fancy cocktails, fresh fruit, and their delicious intersection.
  5. The thrill of watching pea shoots and tomato plants stretch toward the sun.
  6. Reading outside in the sunshine.
  7. Grilling. I don’t care what it is. Throw it on the grill. 
  8. The opportunity to sleep an extra hour, if desirable/doable.
  9. NO SOCKS NEEDED. 
  10. How fleeting it is. It feels rare and precious, and I spend all summer reveling in its many joys, trying to tilt the bottle of the season to just the right angle so I can savor every last honeyed drop.

What are your favorite/least favorite things about summer?

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First of all, I love you, you are all so very much My People, and I am delighted to know that you are all just as Done With Meal Planning/Prep as I am. I find this meal-malaise to be distressing because I generally LIKE food and making food and thinking about food. But I assume this is A Phase and that someday soon I will get all hot and bothered about some sort of soup or new way to assemble ingredients into a taco.

Speaking of which, my husband and I recently had an argument over whether something counted as a taco. He spread a pita with hummus, added some sort of shredded meat, and topped it with vegetables. Then he pinched the sides of the pita together, so that the whole contraption made a semi-circular (or should I say taco-shellular) shape, and then ate it. LOOKED LIKE A TACO TO ME. 

The sun is shining and the temperature is supposedly dropping from a sweltering 90 to a much more endurable 67, and I had a lovely morning with Carla, and school is nearly done for the year, and Carla gets to attend CAMP this summer, so I am feeling cheery. Seems like a good day to share a few of my favorite things, no?

1. Plant protectors. This weekend, I finally planted the seedlings that Carla and I started from, well, seed. We had some fledgling cherry tomatoes, some broccoli sprouts, some little baby jalapenos, and, most exciting, some sugar snap pea shoots. The very next day, one of the sugar snap peas had been snapped in half because a very absent-minded or very optimistic chipmunk or squirrel had been digging in the newly planted pot. Arrrgh! Enough! I cannot fathom another summer of carefully painting my plants with cayenne pepper solution only to have half of them be eaten anyway. So I ordered these mesh plant protectors for my containers and so far I am Very Happy with them. I got the largest size and they are truly enormous. More than adequate for my containers. I could fit both snap pea pots inside one bag. They adjust with a drawstring, so they can really fit a wide variety of containers. My only quibble with them is that they don’t have adjustors/buckles to keep the drawstring tight; I had to secure the drawstrings with a knot, which is fine of course but there are better ways. I see that this brand of similar mesh bags does come with adjustors; if the current bags don’t last past this season, I may get the adjustor-included version next year.

2. New dress and pants. I finally found a dress that I like. It’s not QUITE as casual as I was hoping for; I don’t think I’d love sitting on the sidewalk and drawing with chalk whilst wearing this dress. But it’s summery and I like the fabric and I don’t hate how it looks on me. 

image from anntaylor.com

(I also tried this other dress, because I loved the pattern and I thought it also looked summery and casual. But the waistline is even more empire-ish than it looks in the photo, and to avoid the “maybe she’s pregnant” vibe, I need to be cinched in at my natural waistline. So I had to return it.) 

image from anntaylor.com

I also finally found a pair of summer-weight pants I don’t hate. I never in a million years thought I would buy or wear linen pants, but here we are. In fact, as I was looking up the link for these pants I made a snap decision to buy a second pair, so I will have grey and green. These pants are VERY casual. Like, maybe a step up from sweatpants. My husband and I had a discussion about suitable venues for wearing these pants, and he thinks they are fine for wearing to the grocery store or playdates but NOT for wearing to a barbecue in someone’s backyard. Just FYI, for those of you interested in fashion advice from my husband. I could kind of envision a person – probably a younger and/or hipper person – pairing them with heels and a dressy top, but I am guessing I will pair them with flip flops and a tank top. Anyway, these pants are very comfy and I don’t hate them. These are the barriers an item of clothing must clear to make it into my wardrobe, and, lo, so few can make the leap.

image from nordstrom.com

3. Mango smoothies. I have been making myself a mango smoothie on the regular. They are perfect when it is so very hot. They feel like a treat and they are SO easy. Half a cup of plain Greek yogurt. Half a cup of frozen mango. Quarter cup of orange juice. Quarter cup of milk. Squeeze of honey. Splash of vanilla, if I’m feeling fancy. Blend. Pour. Enjoy. 

4. Tula Cooling Eye Balm: I can’t remember where I got this cooling and brightening stick, but I LOVE it. It goes on very smoothly and leaves you with a refreshingly cool sensation and I do think it lifts and brightens my eyes. Now that we’re venturing out into the world more and more frequently, I find myself wearing makeup (mascara, eyebrow mascara, occasional sweep of blush) more often, and this balm is a regular part of the routine. 

image from amazon.com

5. Morning walks with Carla. This spring, much to the chagrin of parents, Carla’s school instituted a late start on Wednesdays. It took me/us a few weeks to adjust to the new schedule; I, for one, felt very off-kilter, always wondering what day it was and often feeling that jolt of forgot-to-study-for-a-test-dream-fear that comes with thinking “Oh no! We’re late for school!” or “Oh no! We overslept!” when really we were fine and on time and everything was okay. Once we got past that initial turbulence, the late starts have been lovely. Carla still wakes up at roughly the same time, which means we can have a leisurely breakfast and none of the frantic pace of normal school days. Best, though, is that we sometimes have time to go for a walk before school. Sometimes we go to a local nature preserve, but most often we walk around our neighborhood, searching for dogs to pet. Carla is a JOY during these morning walks. She’s happy and eager to find dogs. She’s well-rested and cheerful. She skips along next to me, sometimes holding my hand, and chats at me – it’s so different from after school, when she’s tired from a long day of playing and learning, and replies “I forget” or “stuff” to literally every question I ask her. (Although she has started saying “the usual” when I ask her what she had for lunch. Since previously her answer was “I forget” or “stuff,” I have “the usual” NO IDEA of what she actually ate.) But she is fresh and full of ideas in the mornings.

She and her classmates have been learning about birds, a subject she has approached with great enthusiasm, so she tells me all the names of the birds we pass and whistles at them, trying to get them to chirp back. This morning, she started singing the Twelve Days of Christmas, but she called it the Twelve Days of Summer, and for each day “mommy” gave to her an item we spotted on our walk: grackles, chipmunks, dogs, geese, five butterflies, and ending with a squirrel in an oak tree. I cannot fully express just how full I feel of love and affection and absolute delight.

Because I am not in a hurry, I can slow down and devote my entire attention to Carla. I can really see her, and enjoy her, and glimpse through all the shimmering morning sunshine just how precious our time together is. Of course I wish I could be a better and more patient person always. I wish all mornings could be like this. But I suspect it’s partially their infrequency that makes them so special. I know I will remember these mornings and their glimmering, unrushed intimacy as long as I live. I hope they mean as much to Carla, and that she remembers this time together as tenderly as I do, even after I’m gone. 

What are you loving lately?

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