Friday, April 27, 2012

5 secrets I've told my dog

Maggie, who loves you.
Maggie is an awesome confidante. Much like the mythical honey badger, she does not give a shit. And in fact, if you are even in a room with her, she vibrates with excitement because she is lustily desperate for any attention at all. Accidentally make eye contact with this creature and she'd totally marry you, if they allowed that kind of thing (they do not, I've googled it).

So anyway, I tell her things because most of my hours are spent with corruptible, unimpressed children. And, as previously mentioned, she does not give a shit. I could reveal state secrets about nuclear wessels and she would simply blink and gaze at me with adoration. And now, I'm telling you because I might as well be writing these posts inside of a bunker 4 stories under the Russian tundra based on my Google Analytics reports lately. It's like a PostSecret confessional, but with even more anonymity, and less heartfelt earnesty.

1. I can't spell, or use, commas.

For someone who claims to be a writer, this is especially shameful. At this point, I can barely write with a pen on paper because I'm so dependent on my friend, Mr. Squiggly Line.  As far as commas, go, I have given up. Maggie loves me anyway.

2. I still sing into my hairbrush.

You know, that thing pre-teens do (or did, in the 80s, according to every Molly Ringwald movie). I have a hard time passing by an unsuspecting hairbrush and not picking it up to channel my inner Debbie Gibson (who was the better singer but far less interesting than Tiffany). I sing into my hairbrush and make eye contact with myself in the mirror. Maggie pants appreciatively.

3. I hate coffee.

I feel like by age 37, I should be able to drink coffee without rendering it unrecognizable by adding copious amounts of white stuff to it, but no. I am embarrassed to drink coffee in front of people because I have to make the waitress bring more cream and sugar, and I won't order it at a drive-thru because I don't want to ask for "8 or 9 creams and several handfuls of sugar packets".  Maggie stands by patiently while I ruin a perfectly good cup every morning.

4. I only make my children bathe if we are going somewhere.

I just don't see the point. We go somewhere frequently enough. Why waste all that clean? Like the dishes, they are just going to get dirty again. Better to cover up the dirty parts with clothes and forget about it. Maggie likes us better when we are 5, 6 days past clean.

5. I have an irrational fear of gas stations.

I'm relatively sure, as I stand around pumping just an incredibly ridiculous amount of gasoline into my van, that the whole place is seconds away from exploding. I stand perfectly still while peering suspiciously at everyone around me, keeping an eye out for lit cigarettes, bundles of dynamite, and suspicious heaps of fertilizer.  I also nonchalantly ground myself for fear of death-by-static-electricity. Maggie understands, and fears for my safety, as well.

So, what do you tell your dog?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Writing vs. Marketing

Good reminder from this etsy artist.
 "Don't expect applause," a post on Seth Godin's blog today, was exactly what I needed to hear this morning:

"But when you expect applause, when you do your work in order (and because of) applause, you have sold yourself short."

I'm still basking in the glow from the Erma conference over the weekend, because it was such a nice, supportive place to be, but now I'm back to regular life and trying to figure out how to apply what I've learned, at least in fits and starts. I am sure I haven't figured out everything I've learned yet.

One thing that I heard about the conference before I went, and which rang true, is that it was a place to go to learn to be a better writer, as opposed to a better marketer. I mean, it's definitely good to learn a bit about the latter if you'd like to make a living as a writer, but if you start to spin off and become inauthentic because you're writing with a goal of getting praise and attention, that's a good way to ruin the soup.

Lots of the presenters and speakers talked about what I think of as the blurry line between the how and why of writing. The "how" is obvious, I think (at least in theory). You can easily find endless tips and tricks about how to best put one word after another until something that seems like writing appears on the page. That's a thing you can hone. But the "why," and how the "how" is related to the "why"? Ho, boy, that's troubled waters.

Because of course we want to entertain, especially those of us doing human interest/humor writing. There's a lesson, or a punchline, and we want to not only convey that - we're also hoping to resonate in a way that entertains. So, how does one decide where to aim that arrow? I tend to keep in mind the people that already seem to find me funny well, at least amusing. I figure if nothing else, hopefully my warped friends will find this thing I'm writing about amusing, and if they do, maybe a few more people will, too. And, if not, well, at least I made my friends laugh, and I had fun with the process. This is especially true of essays, where I work hard to craft those as best I can.

Even when I don't "hear the applause" - even when it feels like I'm delivering jokes into an empty cave, I know I wouldn't ever stop this.

Writing is the thing I do. The thing I am compelled to do. Not everyone is going to agree that I have even a granule of talent, but I like to sing in the shower, too, and Clive Davis is yet to show up. It doesn't mean my children won't continue to be delighted when I belt out Roger Miller songs while soaping up my hair. OK, well, there will come a day when they will probably cower in humiliation because I breathe air near them, but I digress.

Humans are artists by nature (even you, trust me), and we're better people when we can express that art, in whatever form it takes.

So, I have to agree with Seth, and it was a needed reminder. I don't want to write for the applause, though I greatly appreciate it when it comes. That's a pretty freeing guideline.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

No more cool breeze for you

If you are still allowed to enjoy cool breezes, you
might like these neat windchimes on etsy.

Overheard in the backseat during our excruciating tour of the tri-state area yesterday:

"David, if you don't stop saying those things immediately, I will not share my cool breeze with you."

(David continues ranting about something inane, clearly just to irk Anderson)

"That is it, David."

*whir* Up goes the window.

"No more cool breeze for you. I hope you realize this was your own choice."

Monday, April 23, 2012

Seniors rule!

Today, Anderson joined the four-eyes club. He is OK with this so far, but did ask me how long he'd have to wear them. I did not deftly dodge that one, instead choosing to stumble and falter, as is my way: "well, you know, like probably maybe forever?" Ah, well. Many of the frames wouldn't work because his eyelashes were too long and it made it look like he had spiders on his eyeballs.

When we got back from this whole adventure, the power was out, and it stayed out all day long, thanks to some asshole tree that fell down right at the entrance to our neighborhood, creating mass confusion among the elderly and teens who ramble around up in here during the day.

I was only slightly satisfied when the kid who cut in front of me at the four way stop turning off our road narrowly avoided slamming into the back of a Duke Energy truck when he tried to go around it only to encounter a Gray-Hair (that's what I'm calling them now) driven Cadillac turtle-crawling up the hill in the other direction. Apparently, seniors do rule, as per the shaving cream message on the little line-cutter's back window.

At least something was happening around here. It's usually so boring an occasional squirrel will commit suicide-by-school-bus when he realizes it's not going to get any better than the near-constant buzz of wood chippers occasionally punctuated by the swishing of a hot pink (garbage bag?) running suit on an 80-year-old power walker.

I'm still recombobulating after being away for the aforementioned-in-great-excess Erma Bombeck workshop, but I have big plans. Big plans, I say.

Big plans that I will start on tomorrow. ish.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop Wrap Up

It is proving very difficult to describe why the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop was a life-changing experience for me without it sounding all hyperbolic and starry-eyed, but I have to admit that I'm all starry-eyed, anyway.

Sitting among 400 people in the same place who get it, who understand the thrill of writing humor and human interest for the sake of writing it, and not necessarily just to sell it, is validating, energizing, and a little humbling (in a good way). Getting encouragement not just to keep writing but to stay authentic, kind, and earnest in our work, from people who have achieved so many impressive milestones, was more than a little inspiring. I walked away with new purpose toward completing my writing goals, but also with new purpose toward being the person I want to be. I can't imagine asking for more.

OK, more chairs in Kennedy Union Room 222 would be OK.

But otherwise? Nope. I assumed I'd enjoy this workshop and that it would be awesome to discover people who might tick a little bit like me, but I had no idea it would lead to such a soul-searching, life-affirming experience. And that's on top of the slew of practical tips I will studiously... er, study.

Yesterday I wrapped things up with a session on developing a distinct blog presence and voice (which I lack since I'm pretty scattered) with the super sharp and very personable Anna Lefler, and presentations that I found incredibly inspiring by Kyran Pittman (I barely took notes because I was mesmerized by her lyrical Canadian accent), and Karen Walrond, who thinks you (and you, and you) are uncommonly beautiful.

Kyran focused on finding the authority to write. I found her ideas about "writing" vs. being a "capital-W Writer" so eye-opening. It's important to assess what your goals are there.

She also spoke about writer Seth Godin, who has written about the importance of delighting the people who are already paying attention. This would be in contrast to the people who you keep hoping to attract. It's a sure way to keep your voice authentic, and it's not that it's not a fine goal to grow an audience, but sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the stats and numbers, and the further that boat goes out to sea, the harder it becomes to remember why you came to the shore in the first place.

Karen's gorgeous presentation focused on sparking your creativity. She is a mathematician turned lawyer turned photographer/writer, and she is simply wonderful. One idea I loved was "100 paces, 20 shots," which I think is pretty self-explanatory. I'm dusting off my Canon 20D as we speak. Here is what Karen had to say about the workshop.

I will try not to gush on these pages too much, going forward, but I wanted to document a little bit about my experience here. If you've landed here thanks to a google search about the workshop, yes, do sign up. It will sell out, and you should experience it. I wish I could take every one of my writer friends with me next time. It was intimidating at first, but so liberating and empowering by the end.

In the words of Erma: "It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else."

I'm so glad I did.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Erma Workshop Day 2 Wrap Up

I can't begin to distill this day into something readable and not 400 pages long, so let's do this via a list:

1. Serious blogging/social media tips from the Queen of this stuff, Debba Haupert, founder of Girlfriendology. I filled pages of notes with stuff I didn't know or was fuzzy about. She defuzzed with enthusiasm.

2. I had such a great time in Dave Fox's session on travel humor writing that I signed up for his online humor writing class starting in a couple weeks. So excited that the class is limited in size and will be filled with people from this conference.

3. Lunchtime speaker: Connie Schultz. I won't embarrass us both by gushing as much as I want to, but wow. I want to award her the Pulitzer for making everybody in the ballroom feel like she was having a one-on-one conversation with her. Sen. Sherrod Brown is a lucky man and the Pulitzer people are smart puppies. I'm excited that I have so much to read by her that will be new to me. So funny, kind, smart... alright I'm starting to gush so I'll reel it back in for now. But wow.

4. You know that blog Lost in Suburbia, the mommy blog that became enormous and has a massive audience? I went to Tracy Beckerman's session for nuts and bolts tips that I can actually use (turns out she got her start at an Erma conference several years ago and has made it a habit to make an ass of herself at each conference, which I can absolutely respect).

5. Then I napped and ate pretzels, though not simultaneously. What kind of freak show do you think this is?

6. So then, somehow, things got even better. Erma's son Andy read a column she wrote about him and the different beat of his drum. I love that the Bombecks are so involved with this conference. I'm not into mystical woo woo stuff, but her kindness and earnest belief in all people shines through so clearly here. The people involved with putting on this conference are doing good, and needed, work.

7. But then, it got even better. Adriana Trigiani, fiction bestseller and longtime TV comedy writer, gave the most inspiring, wackiest, funniest, completely real speech I've ever heard. I wouldn't even call it a speech. She said she wanted us to use her in whatever way was the most helpful, and she actually meant it. Her stories were hilarious, obviously, but she gets like 45 Brene Brown stars for her authenticity. She left her dress shoes in a hotel in the last city she was in, and had to deliver her speech in black sequins and brown booties, and it was awesome. I got to talk to her briefly about painful shoes, too.

So, the word of the day is wow. It will take a long time to digest this weekend, and I am sore and I am beyond tired and I am surely skipping words and getting the details wrong all over the place at this point, but I am so glad I did this. I'm energized and ready. I may actually die by the end of tomorrow, but let's hope not because I have so much to do now. So much I truthfully feel I'm supposed to do.

Day 1 wrap up
Day 1 preview freak out post

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Erma Workshop Day 1 Wrap Up

Alan Zweibel and Gilda Radner

So tired.

What a great dinner. Not only did we get to hear from Erma's widow, Bill Bombeck, who read from her 3rd grade autograph book and made everybody cry, we got to hear some amazing stories from Alan Zweibel, who was one of the original SNL writers among countless other huge things. He was hilarious, self-deprecating, melancholy about his enormously important friendship with Gilda Radner (a very big influence for me), and yes, he did have the infamous Roger Ebert review of "North" in his jacket pocket. I left wanting to WRITE. I also bought his kids book and had him sign it for the boys, and his book about Gilda, Bunny Bunny, for me. He was very nice up close, too.

And the other attendees? Not so scary! The people at my table were funny, friendly, and nice. I love that I have yet to bump into anyone who feels threatening or ultra-competitive, which can happen when people are into the same kind of art. This is a fantastic crowd.

I also think I saw a couple familiar faces from the blogosphere, which is a bizarre feeling! It's like celebrity spotting in L.A. but you're never quite sure if the 2"X2" icon you've been looking at is the same as the real life, actual-sized person in front of you. Tomorrow, I must sleuth.

Tonight, I must sprawl on a giant bed, all by myself. And watch any TV channel I want. And miss my babies a little.

Tomorrow, good googly my day is going to be packed! I'm very psyched about so many of the seminars I'm attending, though. I may need lots of coffee, but it's going to be great.

Live Blogging the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop 2012

Well, not really. I don't really know what that means. But I have arrived, so look out, Dayton? I guess? I doubt I'll cause any really damage, but you never know.

So far I've checked in, got some swag from the Erma people (sweet), made besties with the hotel maid, WHO IS NAMED IRMA (cue "what a coincidence" sountrack), made an unfortunate trip to Walmart after realizing I didn't have toothpaste, because all trips to Walmart are unfortunate, took a bath in the spiky-ass tub (seriously, get some mats, people, ow), avoided the other attendees because I am a socially awkward goofball (but I swear I will make friends at dinner in a few), and stood around on my balcony! I have a balcony, overlooking a beautifully paved parking lot with fresh white lines. I do like to pamper myself, so I indulged in a $4 thing of sunflower seeds from the Overpriced Wall of Snacks downstairs.

Tonight it's dinner, where I'll display my "Sarah Hunt, Vegetarian" nametag, which is totally a lie since I eat meat at least 3 times a week still. The speaker is Alan Zweibel, who sounds extremely interesting. Just in case, I'm going to pack my purse with projectiles. As a paying customer, I feel it is my right to express my displeasure at poor delivery, bad jokes, or an apparent lack of enthusiasm. So, let's hope Alan is on his toes!

I will update this later, unless I am in jail, but maybe they'll have wireless access and I can do it from my phone.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The email that lives in my brain

May you never have occasion to mail this card. But just in case...
I'm a "writer" (please indulge me), so I'm usually sure I'm either about to pen a life-changing bestseller or that I'm a total fraud and everyone talks about it behind my back. "I just can't bring myself to tell her. It's almost embarrassing at this point."

Some days, it's hard to write anything anywhere, especially in an instance where someone is actually paying me, because of the thundering doubt clattering around in my uninspired psyche. On the worst days, I'm relatively sure everyone is getting together to craft an email like this:

Dear "Cincy Sarah" (if that's your real name),

Today, I had the displeasure of coming across your "blog" (if that's what you want to call it). Well, let me just say that I want my money back. This waste of space is part of What Is Wrong with America. YOU are What Is Wrong with America. 

Specifically, I found your description of this thing you did to your children reprehensible. If I could figure out how to spell Cinsinnaty Cinnamonity Cincinaty, I would report you to the proper authorities. Of course, your "city" (if that's what you call that dump) is probably a little too preoccupied with frozen turkeys falling from the sky and murder, so it would likely be a lost cause. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that Someone Like You would come from Somewhere Like that. 

Your cheese-coney-horfing children are doomed no matter what I do, anyway.

Still. The least you could do is keep your nonsense inside, tucked away next to those obscene daydreams about Axl Rose and Bon Jovi (newsflash: that is weird and you are old). Instead, here you are, prattling on about nonsense no one cares about, clogging up my Google searches with inane "commentary" about any number of ideas, all of which have already been discussed more thoroughly and more eloquently 1,100 times.

Do us all a favor and just quit already. We hate you. All of us. 


The Internet

Yeah, it's pretty much like that sometimes. It's only a little heartening to read about successful, beloved writers describe the shadowy doubt that still creeps in on them from time to time. For one thing, this tells me that even at the upper echelon of this career ladder, dread and insecurity still creep in (I suppose that's an inevitability no matter what you do, which is just more depressing). For another, I'd be more likely to find $6 million lying in the street in front of my house than to become a truly successful author, so it just means that if I keep writing, I'll get all the fun of writer's block, self-loathing, and panicked stress but without the fame and fortune. Whee?

I think this whole mess is why I'm most excited about the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop next week. I know other writers who suffer from this disease, the one that compels you write even though it's a gut-wrenching, terrifying process at least 40% of the time, and I find it so energizing and reassuring to be around other writers who get it. Not that I'm not about to puke at the mere thought of meeting a bunch of strangers. But I'm going to do it. I'm going to focus on all my Brene Brown mantras, probably make a spectacle of myself in Dayton, miss my children for 3 days, and hopefully, come back wiser and more diseased than ever.

The writing disease, you perv, although hey, what happens in Dayton, stays in Dayton (because nobody wants to hear about you sitting in construction on 75).

By the way, totally not fishing here. I truly appreciate that you read my babble, and I have an incredibly supportive group of friends and family. Partly I'm sharing because I know I'm not alone and I like putting something out into the universe that might help another writer feel less alone when they wind up shipwrecked on the Island of Temporary Suckage.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The summer I became a morbid 10-year-old

This goth-y bibliophile would make a great gift. On etsy.
My friend Jen over at Custom-Built Life posted recently about rereading the Ramona books with her daughter and it sent me on a journey of nostalgia. After I stopped crying like a Gilmore Girl, I decided to share some of my favorite books from childhood.

Now, I did enjoy the old standbys, very much.

I was a huge Judy Blume fan, loved Ramona in every Pest-y respect - I even got into that whole posse of kids - Henry Huggins, Otis Spofford and so on - great world-building, Beverly Cleary! I read a lot of Nancy Drew and even better, to me, Trixie Belden, all the Babysitters' Club I could get my hands on, and eventually moved into a somewhat more shameful period of Sweet Valley High and anything with a dorky guy with feathered hair on the cover.

I dabbled in some sci-fi like Something Wicked This Way Comes and I snuck in a little Stephen King from my dad's bookshelf on occasion (The Body still resonates). I read stuff we had to read in school, too, and liked most of it, especially Vonnegut, half of which was mysteriously absent from our school library, but I digress.

Anyway. I liked to read a lot. But for whatever reason, in between reading books that most of us would agree were at least "age appropriate", I was drawn to the most depressing stuff at the library even at a young age.

For example:

A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry. Yeah, that pretty much sums up this book. It's all about a girl whose summer is spent watching her big sister die from leukemia. Don't get me wrong. There's a place for books like this, and I'm very glad this sub-genre exists (and Lois Lowry was a big part of my emotional growth for years).

But for me, this book sent me on a not-so-whimsical summertime obsession* centered on Death. Specially, Young Death. I had nothing good to say when I entered fifth grade in the fall in response to "What did you do this summer?" I was all, "Oh, me? I contemplated the fragile nature of existence and came to fully understand the idea that all of us, including you, and you, and you, are but one mutated cell away from death at any given moment. Oh, and we went to Sea World."

*See also: A Taste of Blackberries, Bridge to Terabithia...

Friday, April 6, 2012

Missing Lisa

On Easter Sunday, it will be 6 years since my friend Lisa Radtke was murdered.

Even now, it feels completely surreal to write that sentence. It seems unnatural and bizarre, and almost impossible to fully accept, but there it is.

What doesn't feel surreal or unnatural are my memories of Lisa when she was still here. That girl was so great. Have you ever met one of those people who had a genuine smile for everyone, even idiots? That was Lisa. I can still hear her laugh, and I will be so sad one day when that memory fades. She was wickedly funny, whip smart, creatively warped, and above all, one of the most kind-hearted people I have ever met. It's easy to hold people up in an artificial light after they pass away - it's only natural, I think, to focus on the best parts of a person in our memories. But Lisa was so young (23 and a couple of weeks from graduating), so full of brilliant, blinding potential, so alive. She loved this band. She loved being a born-again Christian. She loved everyone. She was a beautiful, vibrant person on our Earth, who had so much to give, and did so willingly and regularly, and she's gone.

We snickered our way through Urban Planning classes (my minor) and various clubs on campus, all of which I joined up solely because she was there. She just made life more fun. She had that special gift of making everybody around her feel better in that moment. And I can't tell you how much it sucks that she isn't here anymore, and for such a tragic reason.

It's especially poignant that the anniversary falls during National Mental Health week, because she was murdered by her mother, who was dealing with untreated mental illness. We used to talk about her issues with her mom, and I remember consoling her when she'd get a guilt-ridden email or voice mail from her while we were in class. She was confounded by how to love her mom enough to see her through the rough patches. I'm sure that's why she went home that weekend. It wasn't to wash her dirty laundry as much as it was to check on her mom. I have no idea how to even parse what would happen on that trip home, no idea (especially now, as a mother) how it could possibly come to that.

I feel conflicted when I read that people who loved Lisa are in touch with her mother in prison, but I know without a doubt that Lisa would approve. I don't know that I will ever sort this out fully in my mind, but I do know that I'm better for having known her, and I will always, always miss her.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Alice Cooper visited me in a dream

Young Alice Cooper via CC license on flickr
I felt it important to mark this occasion, because I have a blog.

Yes, last night, Alice Cooper played a major role in a very long dream I had. It was so long that I even continued on with the extended, boring plot after waking up twice and going back to sleep. I do know why I dreamed about him; my friend mentioned earlier in the day that her daughter had discovered the awesome Muppets episode with him as guest star. Now, why that bit of information churned around in my cluttery brain so much that I wound up with Alice Cooper on my mind for like 7 hours, I don't know. The sub-conscious is weird, yo.

Anyway, so here's what went down. I warn you - for an Alice Cooper dream, this is incredibly boring:

1. Alice Cooper and I are riding on a city bus together, I think in Ann Arbor. We're just hanging out, chatting. He's young and thin (as am I, woot), and in full makeup throughout the whole dream. We ride around town and he is really funny, pointing out landmarks like I'm new to town or something.

2. Alice Cooper and I eat lunch at a restaurant featuring a giant rooster on the front door.

3. Alice Cooper and I go to Urban Outfitters.

4. Alice Cooper and I ride around in the back of a limo, where I say something to him about what a weird coincidence it is that we're together, because my friend's daughter loves his Muppets episode, and we should totally go see her! We don't.

5. Alice Cooper defends my honor repeatedly. We are apparently deeply connected as friends, and he is very serious about taking care of me as we tool around town. He often tells people to screw off if they look at me sideways. I'm a little embarrassed in the dream, but mostly I feel very rosy and grateful toward Alice Cooper. I beam at him a lot, but not in a lusty kind of way. We are just excellent, deeply connected friends.

6. After I wake up because the cat is scratching the bedroom door insistently for like 20 minutes, I go back to sleep and now Alice Cooper and I are having a picnic. Again, he is in full makeup. We are eating apples and talking about this book I've been reading, The Geography of Bliss. He says, "Happiness for Alice Cooper is apples."

7. Alice Cooper and I go to the house where I grew up and he buys it for me. I tell him I can't live there right now, but I promise to let anyone live there who needs a home.

8. I wake up again because of thunder and when I go back to sleep, now Alice Cooper has accompanied me to the dentist. He tells the dentist that if he hurts me, he will sue him and ruin his dental practice. I tell him to go wait in the waiting room.

9. We watch movies all night, terrible movies, and then I wake up.

So yeah, not very exciting, but pretty weird overall. I don't usually remember this much detail from my dreams, and I'm not exactly a big Alice Cooper afficianado. I like some "loud music," as I call it, but not much, really. I do remember going to his restaurant in Phoenix, though! It was so hot there.

Veggie tales, carnivores, etc, Part II

You don't have to be drunk to enjoy spinach, but it probably can't hurt. On etsy.
I shared with you a few weeks ago news about our first foray into eating mostly vegetarian, and wanted to update so you'd know if you should still send us that Omaha Steaks gift certificate for next Christmas.

Well, we're still in it! Maybe not to "win it", but by and large, it's still a mostly vegetarian kitchen here. We had a few meaty meals when we were on the road last weekend, but I think we were both (the kids don't notice, really, so they don't count) kind of relieved to get back to our new normal. Last night we had omelets for dinner and tonight it's Mexican night with an awesome bean filling for everything. Easy peasy (and cheapy). Vegan, on the other hand... yeah, we really enjoy eggs and cheese (though we have greatly reduced our cheese intake). Some things wind up being vegan but it's not our goal at this juncture.

I haven't taken pictures lately because I'm lazy, but here are some pics that look very close to some of the things we've tried. I'll even put in a couple of recipes because I'm a regular Betty Crocker over here.

Green Smoothies
Sounds gross. Looks vaguely gross. Smells questionable. But somehow, through some miracle of plant science, a good green smoothie is delicious in a chartreuse kind of way. We tried two kid-friendly varieties in the past few weeks:

Creamsicle Green Smoothie
Recipes and pics are from Simple. Healthy. Tasty.
1 cup water
1 cup Rice or Almond milk
2-3 LARGE spoonfuls of Orange juice concentrate
1 Large bunch of Spinach
1 teaspoon vanilla
Frozen Peaches (about 2 cups)
Place all ingredients in blender. Blend until nice and smooth! 
Personal observation: our frozen peaches were pretty tart and made the drink a little too tangy, I think. Fresh frozen or chilled, ripe peaches might help to cut that a little.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Green Smoothie
Check out this great site for veggie recipes.
2 cups Rice or Almond milk
2 LARGE handfuls of spinach
2 Heaping Tablespoons all natural peanut butter
2 Tablespoon honey
2 or 3 bananas frozen
Ice enough for a good consistency I usually do a glass full
1 small handful of carob chips

Place all ingredients except carob chips in the blender and blend until smooth. Then add the carob chips and pulse until smooth. 

In case you're skeptical, the spinach taste blends right in, and adds a fresh undertone (we used fresh, not frozen - I think frozen would have a more concentrated spinach-y flavor). My boys are green-skeptical, but call it ice cream and they'd probably eat a Volvo.

Here is the Mexican filling I've been using. We actually like this more than the typical meat filling we'd been doing on taco night. I put it in tacos, quesadillas, and our favorite, taco salads.

Vegan Bean Filling
From Allrecipes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 (14.5 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed, drained, and mashed
2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 tablespoons cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup salsa (we like Herdez hot)

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion, garlic, and bell pepper; cook until tender. Stir in mashed beans. Add the cornmeal. Mix in cumin, paprika, cayenne, chili powder, and salsa. Cover, and cook 5 minutes.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The contemplative nature of driving

We drove to Columbus Sunday so Kurt could do some kind of work-related shenaniganry at OSU. The kids were loud and cranky (and subsequently woke up with head colds after sleeping maybe 3 hours in the hotel). The car trips were way longer than they should have been, and everybody was on the edge. As chauffeur, I did my duty by letting my mind wander while weaving erratically through freeway traffic. Not really. I'm such a grandma driver that I recently received the max 30% "Snapshot" discount from Progressive after letting them track me like a wildebeast for 30 days. But the part about my mind wandering, oh yes.

I took some mental notes:

"Oh look! A family! I like families! Doopy doop. I'll just get in this random family's car at the park! Loyalty shmoyalty!"
What would they do with my dog if we all died on this trip, and would she notice that a new family adopted her? Much like David, she just kind of randomly joins other families when we're out in public. Maybe she'd never really realize we were missing. Hmph.

Oh sure, this is loads of fun for Msr. Lobster. "Boil me, eat me, whatevs." Creative Commons licensed by imnotquitejack
Do we really, really know that the lobster doesn't much mind being boiled alive? This whole thing seems very suspect to me. 

This did not happen. Phew. Creative Commons licensed by The Tire Zoo.
 Maybe one of my tires isn't blown up enough? Does it feel weird toward the passenger rear wheel? What is that noise? Is it highway noise or something else? When do I alert my passengers? Should I? Kurt will be really annoyed when it turns out to be nothing. But what if it is something? Oh good a rest area. At this point, I turn to Kurt and fairly scream "We are stopping at this rest area!! WE NEED TO STOP!" I'm content to just let him assume I'm losing bladder control in my increasing old age.

Is it pervy that I remember my third grade teacher's ample cleavage? She surely had no idea, but man, we all got an eyeful every time she leaned over our desks. I was always blushing when she talked to me, and she wrote "Sarah is a sweet girl, but I hope she becomes more confident this year!" on my report card. Yeah, I was just feeling awkward because of your constant boobs-in-my-face, Mrs. Let's-go-with-Smith! Honestly, she was a great teacher. I do remember more than the cleavage, but wowza.

If only we could all pull off the sunglasses-all-the-time like the Blues Brothers.

 I wear my sunglasses at night. So I can. So I can... I cannot even believe this song is still floating around in my brain. I was pregnant with David when it started and he will be 4 in a few months. This is how people go insane, I think.

Turns out there's a whole flickr category for displaying what's in your bag!
 I also thought a lot about what people keep in their bags. I have a nearly irresistible urge to rummage around in other people's bags. I am dying to know what's in there, even though I'm relatively sure it's just gum wrappers and keys to things that they don't own anymore.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I've got your April Fool right here, foo

Your baby will fool everybody with this brilliant and hilarious disguise.

Maybe I missed a memo, but I'm pretty sure whoever dreamed up April Fool's Day didn't mean to imply that getting pelted with Matchbox cars or told the same "secret" (the secret is "poop") 85 times in a row, would count as acceptable April Fool's Day pranks. I thought I'd been raising these people better than that. Motherhood is a zero sum game on the best days. For every proud moment, like when they actually say "please" in front of another living soul, there is another, less proud moment, like when they sob continuously for an hour at a birthday party because they lost the robot race (sorry, Harry - later, he said it was the best party ever). ;)

I've never really been into this whole April Fool's scenario, at least not on the giving end. I've fallen prey to many an elaborate and not-so-elaborate prank, staring mouth agape at my 54-year-old friend as she describes with tears in her eyes, the sordid affair that resulted in her current, shameful pregnant state. Yes, yes of course I'd sit with her in the waiting room at the OB's office. No, no I didn't judge her. Things happen! Like miraculous pregnancies...hey wait, BAH, screw you, etc. I vacillate between incredible naivety and extreme paranoia. Depending on the day, I'll buy any bridge you're selling or I'm googling the email address you had 10 years ago on suspicion that you're involved in an internet money laundering scheme because you asked me to spot you for lunch.

I digress. Well, that should probably be the name of this blog. Sarah Digresses. Sarah's Digressions? That sounds too close to a dysentery kind of condition. Have I mentioned that a dysentery kind of condition is sweeping through our community? No fools, I promise. It's horrible and disgusting. I guess it's a noro-virus like the kind you get when you unwittingly board a cruise ship with 2,000 other pudgy Midwesterners to sit around in the same tepid swimming pool water (that just happens to be teeming with vacation-destroying germs and 40-year-old men who never left the frat, mentally). I actually like the tacky, cattle herding experience of a cruise, so don't send me mean emails, please. I've just btdt, though thankfully I didn't come away with a "I went on a cut rate cruise and all I got was the opportunity to vomit over the side of the ship until I passed out" t-shirt.

Anyway (I digress), that shit is everywhere. Pun intended, I'm sad to report. Although again, thankfully not here. Knock on wood.

I think the biggest prank that's been played on me so far today has to do with the fact that Kurt is still sleeping, whereas I've been awake since 6:45, shivering in bed under 4 covers in the 64-degree house (this is why you don't let Kurt mess with the thermostat), silently crying as my children race through the house screaming about bugs that aren't really there (April Fool's mommy ahahahaahahaah). All I know is that if any of these people has messed with my coffee, they will be celebrating without me next year because I will be in mommy prison.

I wonder if it will be quiet there.