All the Lemons!

11-26 & 11-27

Happy National Bavarian Cream Day AND National Cake Day!

I have been feeling moderately crummy and put writing pretty far down on the “to-do” list this month… Getting out of bed, putting on pants and maintaining aa look of “I’m fine, I’m not feeling nauseous and exhausted at all!!!” all had to come first…

So here’s a back-dated post and a little health update:

I had no idea what Bavarian Cream was – but apparently it’s only use is in pie.  Stupid fucking pie.   I looked up some recipes and settled on one that seemed fairly straight forward:


What I neglected to take into account with this one is that I don’t know what scalded milk means.. and gelatin is disgusting.  I also took the easy way out on the crust and bought another package of adorable mini-crusts.

The first part of the recipe called for “softening” the gelatin…

Which basically means combining the powder with cold water and watching it turn into a solid-like blob that does NOT look like Jell-o at all.  And all I could think while doing this was “WHY DID THEY GRIND UP THE HORSE HOOVES IF I AM JUST GOING TO MAKE IT SOLID AGAIN!!!!!!”  I also thought “Who was the first person to try using horses hooves to thicken their pie filling?”  Seriously!  Who – decades ago – was working in their kitchen and thought “You know what would make this pie more fluffy and delicious? The hooves of my beloved horse!”

I’ve never actually looked into whether or not gelatin is ACTUALLY made from horses hooves… but  my brother told me it was true when I was a little girl so…. it must be a fact.


I literally gagged while watching the gelatin solidify.

The next step in the recipe was to beat the separated egg yolks…

Which meant I first needed to separate the egg yolks….

I spent some time digging around in our cabinets before starting this recipe and found a magic tool that has been missing from my life: an egg separator!

My angle food cake could have been fucking fantastic, if only I had used the stupid egg separator.

Look how beautiful that is!  No more trying to pass the yolk back and forth between two shells, no more trying to catch the yolk in my hand and dropping it – just beautifully separated egg yolks!


Somehow I still managed to smash an egg on the counter though… I’m not sure why I turn into the Hulk every time I crack eggs for baking – it just happens.  GINA SMASH!


I never knew how beautiful egg yolks could be – they’re the perfect shade of yellow and look so happy and sunny – if you ignore the fact that they’re actually unborn chickens and I’m about to heat and beat some chicken fetuses…


The recipe called for heating and combining the egg yolks, sugar, salt and milk in a double boiler… which I don’t have… so I did it on low in my favorite stainless steel pan.  Same thing, right?

Next I added the blobby hooves and threw up in my mouth.


While the fetus-hoof mixture cooled, I got to work on the egg whites.

Since finding the electric mixture (in the least likely place), I’ve felt like a badass who can whip anything.  In reality, I’m still not very good at whipping stiff peaks in egg whites – but I feel like fucking Julia Child when I try!


I’m not sure if those could be considered “stiff peaks” but they were shiny and fluffy so I checked it off the list.

Things took a turn for the flat when I tried to “fold in” the unborn babies and feet…

It basically undid all the whipping and peaking I had just done!  What was the point of doing that if I was just going to make it into a gooey flat batter anyway?!?!?!  Was it supposed to stay fluffy?  WHERE DID I GO WRONG!!!!!

I tried mining it a little more to see if it would pouf up but that only seemed to make it more flat.  I had to accept that the elusive stiff peaks were still out of reach.


They turned out a little sad looking and mostly tasted like un-whipped cream.  Since I have no reference for what they SHOULD taste like.. I think I did it right?

Next came National Cake Day.

I debated making a cake from a box and going back to bed, but Ryan had been asking me to make a cheesecake ever since I came home with graham cracker crusts so I decided that cheesecake  has *cake* in the name and totally counts.

My blog, my rules.

Cheesecake seems incredibly difficult to make – so instead of finding a fancy recipe online, I went with the one printed on the graham cracker crust package.  Seemed like a safe bet.

The first ingredient was a 1/4 cup lemon juice. I didn’t have a bottle of lemon juice in the refrigerator, but I did have a bag of lemons?  I don’t know why I had a full bag of lemons, but there they were.  In my mind, squeezing enough lemons to make a 1/4 cup lemon juice would be easy – it would take maybe one whole lemon, right?



I squeezed all but one damn lemon to get enough lemon juice. I also forgot that lemons have seeds that will need to be individually plucked from the lemon/the cup of juice… and that it will burn and sting when you put your fingers into a measuring cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice.


Next, the recipe suggested mixing together the cream cheese, condensed milk, lemon juice and remaining ingredients (I forgot what they were – brain fog)

The nice thing about cheesecake is that no stiff peaks are required – just basic mixing.  So I mixed the shit out of it and wound up with a fairly creamy filling.  I added it to the crust and put it in the refrigerator to set.

I felt pretty confident about this and – having never done this before – I thought all cheesecake recipes didn’t require baking…

Ryan quickly informed me that it was “fucking weird” not to bake the cheesecake and was definitely not right….

For fear of an upset stomach, I didn’t try it… but Ryan did… and thought it tasted “mostly like cheesecake” but also that it was sticky and weird and should have been baked….

Now for the fun stuff: (12-18)

After some more blood tests, some more conversations with doctors, it’s becoming more and more likely that my little thyroid buddy is not just a run-of-the-mill lump.  Nothing is official, nothing can be confirmed until the biopsy, but there is a particular antibody (Antithyroglobulin) present in my blood that swings the pendulum a little more towards cancer.  It doesn’t rule out Hashimotos, but when combined with the size and structure of the nodule, the normal TsH levels, there being only one nodule… it adds one more check mark in the cancer column.

I’ve known this for about two weeks.  And for two weeks I’ve been having an internal breakdown with a smile plastered on my face.  I know that regardless of what the biopsy says, this isn’t going to kill me.  Thyroid disease will not be the end of me, thyroid cancer will not be the end of me.  I’ve spent two weeks reading about the odds, the outcomes, the treatments, the success stories.  This is all very treatable.  Knowing that I will be fine doesn’t make it any less scary.  It doesn’t remove the fear and anxiety that comes along with any medical situation.

As I start to come up from air following my quiet breakdown, I’m beginning to feel calm again.  I’m beginning to feel like everything will be okay eventually.  I know that I will feel worse before I feel better, I know that change is in my future, but it feels manageable again.  It feels less scary.

Here’s what I need you to know:

I feel shitty 99% of the time, but not any more that I did a month ago or two months ago.  I’ve had these symptoms for awhile now.

I need patience from others more than anything.  I’m not fragile, I’m not dying.  I’m not incapable of functioning and I’d like to not be treated like I’m going to break if I work too hard.  But I’m exhausted and forgetful right now.  I’m irritable and nauseous, I’m emotional and I’m stressed feeling.  Have patience with me – give me a minute to remember what I’ve forgotten, leave a stack of post-its for me so I can write myself a note,  forgive me if I need a nap sometimes or if I’m quieter than usual.  Some day I will be back to normal – or as close to it as I can.

Neck-Dicks and White Trash Doritos


Happy National “Eat with a Friend” Day!

Today happened to fall on Black Friday – a day I typically spend shopping with my friend Ruth.  We both opted to skip it this year – mostly because Ruth had to work but also because neither of us felt like battling the crowds at the mall.

So instead, the kids and I spent some time cleaning before I got to work on the annual “Hays Day-After-Thanksgiving Turkey”!

Better known as the day I declare “I’m going to cook a turkey all by myself!” then beg Ryan to help my halfway through….

I’m a sucker for traditions – I grew up in a household that celebrated every holiday almost identically each year.  We visited the same places, decorated while playing the same records, ate the same foods… we’re tradition people.  I really want my children to grow up with the same love of traditions – with the same warm fuzzy feeling I had as a child, knowing that each holiday meant participating in something that was special to just our family.

I have been dreaming of the time when I got to make up lame and weird traditions with my kids that they will love as children, rebel against as teenagers, grudgingly go along with as young adults, then look back on fondly when they get older.  NOW IS MY TIME!


The after-thanksgiving turkey started three years ago on a whim.  It was Ryan’s idea (he will adamantly deny that but we both know it’s true.)  We were at the store together and he insisted we buy a turkey.  He REALLY wanted to attempt Alton Brown’s turkey recipe and felt pretty confident about it.  To be honest, I can’t really remember how it turned out, but it must not have been that terrible if the memory isn’t burned into my mind.

The following year (last year), spatchcocking (dirty) was all the rage, so naturally I thought it was a good idea to try it.  I didn’t really know what went into spatchcocking a turkey… I thought maybe you just cut the breast meat apart and the turkey magically lays flat…

Wrong. So very, very wrong.

There’s bone cracking involved and the cutting out a backbone…. as hard as I tried I was not physically or emotionally capable of cracking the damn turkey’s breast bone.  And don’t even get me started on trying to cut out the backbone… it all ended with me in tears and Ryan with his hand under the turkey’s skin saying “it’s like a skin glove!”

So this year, I was going to do it myself!  No spatchcocking (still dirty), no bone cracking, just a normal roasted turkey.


Then I unwrapped the turkey and remembered the neck-dick that someone thinks is a good idea to insert into the middle of the turkey.  It gets me every year – it’s the most disgusting and also most ridiculous looking thing I’ve ever seen and instantly turns me into a 12 year old boy.  We all know that some 19 year old guy at the turkey packaging place gets a kick out of placing the neck in just the right position so that when it’s opened, it looks like the a giant turkey penis.  Kudos, neck-dick man!

After I contained myself and removed phallic neck, I moved on to the first step of the recipe I chose (It claims to be THE BEST!): insert your hand between the skin and the meat of the turkey, separate it and stick some “butter pats” inside

It’s worded way less awkwardly in the actual recipe, but you get the idea.

Here’s where things went downhill for me.

I tried.  I really, REALLY tried to stick my hand between the skin and the meat of the turkey.  I tried REALLY HARD to stick some “butter pats” in there, but I only made it halfway through both steps…


The skin makes a weird sucking/ripping sound as you’re pulling it away from the meat – so  halfway through doing that I thought “fuck this, I’m a monster” and gave up.  Then I tried to stick some butter inside the tiny crevice I had made…

I’m not really sure what is considered a “pat” of butter, so I guessed and just cut slabs of butter from the stick.  They were approximately a tablespoon each – which is probably close enough?

Because I had half-assed the skin torture, the first butter piece only slid in 1/4 of the way – so I just shoved the second one in next to it and thought “good enough, the turkey ass will be extra moist.”

Next I started on the seasoning portion.  Half the spices in our cabinet are unlabeled, but I’m moderately good at smelling them and deciding which contains the sage and the thyme – aka the other two spices that Ryan hates!  I’m 99% sure I rubbed sage on the turkey and 75% sure I found the thyme.  It may have been rosemary. Or marjoram, I’m not sure what that smells like.

During this process, Ryan came downstairs and declared my butter shoving “terrible” and offered to help.  He also sniffed around a little and decided that I definitely used too much thyme.  Using his giant man hands, he moved the butter to where it needed to be, asked why I had used so much butter, then “helped” season the turkey.  He also helped put the celery and onion inside the carcass because I was done putting my hand inside places it wasn’t meant to be.



Next the recipe said to fashion a little tin foil vest for the turkey to keep the breast from burning.  I attempted this, but mostly just made a tin foil tent so Ryan stepped in and molded the shit out of the tin foil.

While the turkey cooked, I started making all the Thanksgiving sides that I had declared necessary – despite Ryan’s protests.  Aside form the turkey, I’m pretty confident in my ability to make stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and “honey carrots”.  They’re all fairly Gina-proof.  I even remembered to stagger the start times so that everything would finish around the time the turkey was done.  I’m learning!

The recipe definitely didn’t call for this, but Ryan kept talking about “basting” and how important it was to cooking a turkey – so after the first two hours of cooking, I rubbed a stick of butter around the outside of the turkey.  Because that’s what I thought basting meant.


When I (proudly) told Ryan I had buttered the turkey…. he explained to me that basting *actually* meant dipping a brush in the turkey juice and rubbing it on the outside of the turkey…. so he took care of that part.

Another hour or so later, everything was done!  Ryan likes the skin “crispy” on everything – so I set the oven to “broil” for the last 5 minutes of cooking time.  In my head, I thought the turkey would get beautifully golden brown and he would be so impressed by my turkey cooking skills.



It got a little extra crispy…..

Despite that, the whole family loved it!  Nick ate 3 platefuls of everything and Ryan even said, “it’s pretty good, you should feel good about this”.


For everyone who enjoys the weird shit that Ryan says at the table, here’s some special thoughts Ryan had last week – they didn’t fall on a particular food holiday, but enjoy anyway!

I’m not sure how this conversation started – we had already finished eating and the kids had left the table – for some reason, Ryan and I were talking about pizza rolls:

Ryan: …And when they’re hot out of the oven you put cinnamon and sugar on them.

Me: That sounds disgusting.

Ryan: You don’t even know.  These were the good pizza rolls – like pre-89 ones that weren’t shit.  You probably never had those good ones.  You know how some things shouldn’t go together but they do?

Me: Like Doritos and french onion dip?

Ryan: That’s terrible, that’s white trash doritos – I’m talking about the good pizza rolls with the fancy pre-mixed cinnamon and sugar.  Lightly sprinkled, fancy rich-people seasoning.  We would go to my friends house and his mom would make pizza rolls then take out a jar of pre-mixed cinnamon and sugar for them. The good fancy shit

Me: So Doritos with french onion dip is trashy… but pizza rolls with cinnamon and sugar are fancy? That doesn’t even make sense!

Ryan: White trash Doritos sounds fucked up, that’s gross.  These were pre-89 pizza rolls, the good ones.  When were pizza rolls even invented?  I swear something happened to them after the 80s and they’re shitty now. Wikipedia that shit.

So, naturally, I did.

According to Wikipedia: pizza rolls were invented in the 1968 by Jeno Paulucci (or possibly 1951, Wikipedia can’t deicide)  but were sold to Pillsbury in 1985 then rebranded as ‘Totino’s’ in 1993.  Which led to Ryan feeling like the king of the world.

There’s a pretty good chance we both have some fucked up food ideas…..




Cranberries and Grandpa


It occurred to me recently that I write several posts in one day, often ignoring to state the date that everything happened…. I’m working on that!


Happy National Cranberry Day!

I love cranberries.  Like deep in my gut love them.  They’re beautiful, they’re tart and delicious, they keep your pee from stinging, they’re magic.

Cranberries also take me back to my childhood – eating Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas dinner at my grandparent’s house.  My grandma – my dad’s mom – made two cranberry dishes every year for the holidays: a fluffy jello thing with cranberries in it that always freaked me out, and a traditional one for my grandpa and I.  She spoiled us.  I never appreciated the loving gesture of her making that cranberry sauce until my Grandpa passed away and my Grandma began to succumb to Alzheimer’s.  She slowly handed over the reigns of holiday cooking to my Aunt – and the cranberry sauce was no more. Now every year, as Thanksgiving approaches, I find myself buying a bag of cranberries and attempting to make it myself to satisfy the nostalgic feeling.

Being that I’m still the only one in my house who enjoys cranberries, I felt lucky that this fell on a night that Ryan was working late and Nick was with his dad.  I didn’t feel as guilty about making and eating an entire package of cranberries when it was just Maggie and I anyway.  (It’s okay, I can’t really explain the logic behind that either…)

In the past, cranberry sauce hasn’t gone very well for me….

Apparently you have to stir it often and “watch it” or the sugar and cranberries will burn and stick onto the bottom of the pan… and your husband will be furious and you’ll have to throw away the whole pan…



Using the recipe on the back of the Ocean Spray bag (it’s what my mom said to do…) I got to work!

The first step was combining a cup of sugar with a  cup of water in a pot and heating it until the sugar dissolved.

I’m not sure if I dissolved the sugar all the way.. but it started to bubble  a little and I panicked with the thought that it might start to burn… so I skipped ahead to the next step: add cranberries and heat to a boil.

Done.  I’ve got this.  I even remembered to turn the heat down and stir frequently so the cranberries didn’t burn!  This is my favorite pot and I was not willing to risk throwing it out!


At this point, I started to feel extra confident in my abilities and decided I should add two more pans to the stove… most of which needed to be stirred frequently…


I’m not sure why I think I’m some sort of kitchen professional, but when left unattended in the kitchen I start to think that I’m the cute blonde on America’s Test Kitchen… just educating the world on the proper way to cook things.  By “think” I mean that I may or may not pretend I’m hosting a PBS cooking show when no one is around…

That’s totally normal, right?


Lucky for me, everything turned out great!  I didn’t burn the cranberries, and the gnocchi and edamame I made turned out mostly fine!

Had Ryan been at home, the kitchen would have erupted in flames and at least two pans would have needed to be thrown away… maybe I’m just bad at cooking when he’s watching?


Grief, Lumps and Baklava

Someday, maybe, I will master the art of writing more frequently! 

Perhaps after this post, my writing lapses will make more sense. Or I’ll just seem like a crazy person… either way, it’ll be fun.

Before I get to the shitty looking baklava that I made tonight, I need to fill the world in on the downward spiral of last week. By world, I mean the 12 people who read this – most of whom are related to me. (Thanks mom, Ryan’s mom and his sister!!!) 

It all started with a sprained ankle. 

Being that I work with very young children, I spend a lot of my time acting like a giant child during the day. I run like an idiot (arms flailing), I do headstands, roll on the ground – you name it, I do it for the enjoyment of toddlers. I’m like a bad one-woman PBS kids show! While running around with the children, I leapt – like a graceful gazelle – over a small tunnel. I’ve done this a thousand times. I’ve done weirder thins less gracefully a thousand times. This time did not go well…

But, like any crazy person, I iced it and hobbled through the rest of the work day saying “I’m fine, it’s fine,” in a high pitched crazy voice.

The next morning, when I could barely get out of bed, I made a trip to urgent care. This turned out to be one of those dr visits that must have been a sign from God. Actually, the ankle sprain may have been Gods way of saying “there’s something wrong with you…” 

God is probably less bitchy than that sounded… right?

Anyway, while getting my ankle checked out, the urgent care dr said the following things to me:

“You’re a young chick”

Thanks Doc.

Followed by: 

“Huh, there’s a lump on your thyroid. Did you know that?”

To which I thought: 

NO?! Why would I know that?! What do you mean?! Why are you saying that so casually sir?! What the fuck is wrong with you?!??!? Are you sure it’s not just my collarbone?!?! 

But said: 

“Huh. No I didn’t.”

The dr was kind enough to help me feel the lump – it really didn’t take much effort, you can almost see it. He then casually went about setting up an ultrasound for that afternoon, wrapped my ankle and sent me – slowly because I was on crutches – down to the lab to have my TsH levels checked. 

Thyroid blood tests are nothing new to me – I was diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism this year and have become intimately familiar with all things thyroid. My dr and I worked out some dietary changes and lifestyle changes to help me manage it and, though not all my symptoms had disappeared, I thought I was doing fine. My TsH levels had normalized. Actually, that’s about the only symptom that went away…

A few days after urgent care, I got a little bit of mixed news from the dr. The tests came back, still normal TsH levels. The ultrasound though, shows the lump is not fluid filled. It’s cellular. It looks like a six week old fetus attached to my thyroid. My thyroid is growing a little buddy for itself that may or may not be caused by one of two things: Hashimotos Thyroiditis or Thyroid Carcinoma. Fucking thyroid cancer. 

Enter Gina panic attack time. Only on the inside though, because I am a fucked up person and don’t allow myself to freak out in front of people.  

In hindsight, I should have known something was going on. But the symptoms that go along with thyroid issues can all pretty much be chalked up to being a bitchy human being. I assumed I was just a crotchety bitch with too much energy. And that I was getting old.

Here’s some of what I have been feeling and how I rationalized it:

Insomnia: meh, I’ll just go to bed early so when I wake up at 2am, 3am, 4am and then 5am… I won’t be so tired.

EXTREME fatigue: well, i haven’t slept a full night in a while. Of course I’m fucking exhausted. 

Mood swings: don’t tell me how to feel bitch! I’ll cry spontaneously then shout “you’re the trump of this household!” if I want to!

Constipation: ladies don’t poop anyway.

Followed weeks later by diarrhea: just cleaning out the pipes!

Nausea: you mean everyone doesn’t want to vomit for no reason sometimes?

Frequent UTIs: obviously my uterus hates me.

SUPER energetic and jittery sometimes: just part of my awesomeness!

Forgetfulness/foggy brain: just another cute quirk of mine! 

Constantly, CONSTANTLY sweating: I’m a sweaty person. Some people are sweaty. I sweat like a delicate, damp flower so shut up.

Those are the big, most annoying ones, but add headaches, my heart beating oddly fast and hair loss to the list as well. 

So, now I’m just waiting for an endocrinologist consultation and a biopsy.

Juuuuust fucking waiting. Juuuuust living with these symptoms AND the knowledge that surgery could be in my future, more dietary changes, and the possibility of having my thyroid removed. 

Juuuuust waiting. 

Meanwhile, in the midst of me having an inner breakdown, we received some news at work that was life changing.

A little girl from our school, 3 years old, passed away over the weekend. Suddenly. Without warning. What the fuck universe.

As parents and as teachers, this hit us all like a cannonball to the stomach. We work in an environment that acts as one big family. We spend more time with these children than our own sometimes, and suddenly we had lost someone. We lost a light in our world. No one at work was prepared to deal with this, or to help the children deal with this, or be the best support for the family. We all just grieved together. We still are. 50% of us are holding us up while the other 50% breaks down. As a school and community, we are wrapping each other in love and comfort, we are surrounding the family with as much love as we can, but boy – it’s hard to laugh right now. As parents, we often want to fix things – make everything okay again – and we can’t fix this. Only time and love can help – it took me until today to say that. 

I spent the week sobbing at home, then going to work and holding my friends and coteachers who needed strength. Then going home and cursing at the world because really?! Come on 2016, haven’t we had enough?! Do we really need to test our strength and resilience some more, God?! 

After a week of feeling like I was walking through cornstarch and water (that goop from science class that’s both a solid and liquid. Nerds know what I mean.) – it was time to put my big girl pants on and go back to life. Some retail therapy at the mall with friends and my kids helped too. 

After a week of quietly celebrating food holidays but finding no joy in them, it was time for some Baklava baking. 

I needed this fucked up baklava. 

I chose a recipe from Food, Folks and Fun because that’s the most encouraging blog name I could find. Fun is in the fucking title, and I needed a little fun. 

I thought I had all the ingredients for this recipe but, like always, I was missing one vital ingredient: honey. Baklava calls for making a sugar syrup on the stove using waster, sugar, honey, lemon juice and zest, whole cloves and a cinnamon stick. 

I had whole fucking cloves hiding in the spice cabinet but no honey! I can’t even explain it. Why do I even own cloves?! What was I going to make that called for these?! They were unopened!!!

Anyway… I dug a little farther in the cabinet and found an unopened jar of brown rice syrup which, when I added it to the pot without tasting it, looked a little like honey.

Why do I have an unopened jar of brown rice syrup? Because I’m Z crazy person who shouldn’t be allowed in Whole Foods unattended.

Next I made the nut mix for the filling. The recipe called for “blanched almonds and walnuts”. 8 oz of each.

I don’t know what a blanched almond is and I only had 2.5 oz of almonds and walnuts so…..

It also suggested I use a food processor to grind them up.

Obviously it meant “smash them with a meat hammer because you don’t own a food processor and you have some feelings…”

When I put the nuts in a bowl… it didn’t look like enough, so I added some meat-hammered pecans. Because pecans are the shit and I do what I want! Also, Ryan wasn’t home to remind me to stick to the recipe… 

I was a little drunk on cranberry beer and feeling REALLY pleased with my nut adding skills at this point…

Next I added ground cloves (because I own that too?), sugar and cinnamon to the nut mix. I could have sworn I had normal cinnamon in the cabinet… but in the moment I could only find the weird jar of “extra fancy” cinnamon. 

So this baklava was about to be fancy as fuck!

Next came assembly. The recipe called for phyllo dough. When I went to Target over the weekend I could only find puff pastry. I don’t know if that’s the same thing or not. I could have asked a nice Target employee to point me in the direction of the phyllo dough, but then they would have caught on to the fact that I have no idea what  doing!

The picture on the box looked a little like what I imagine baklava looks like…. so that seemed encouraging. 

At this point, Nicks step mom came by to pick him up. I love her very much – but she’s definitely better at some mom things than I am. I’m like the fun mom who does weird shit like make baklava incorrectly on a Friday night… she’s the cool step mom who knows HOW to make baklava AND probably has honey in the cabinet. She’s the yin to my yang. I asked her if I was doing this right… she laughed then very sweetly said ” it’s pretty hard to screw up, it’ll be fine.”

Since I didn’t properly thaw the puff pastry… who has time for that… it cracked when I attempted to unfold it…

The recipe called for cutting the dough into small stacks so I tried to pretend like I did it on purpose and started breaking the dough like lasagna noodles…

It didn’t look like the picture on the website… it looked more like a sad nut lasagna…

Since I probably had the wrong dough AND it was still partially frozen… I disregarded the baking time the recipe suggested and just eyeballed it. I baked it at 300degrees (per the recipe) for 30 minutes (per the puff pastry box), checked it, added the sugar syrup, then put it back in for another 20 minutes. When the kitchen started to actually smell good, I checked again and deemed it finished. 

It seriously looked so depressing and sad… but when I put it on s plate and tasted it…. it was delicious! I can’t explain how it happened!! 

Maybe the universe knew I needed a win this week, maybe baklava really is hard to screw up, either way. I’m eating this for breakfast for the whole weekend!

Here’s the lesson in this week: hug a little tighter, love a little more, let go of little things, and don’t assume you’re just a crazy bitch. Get that checked. 

A Letter to my children

My some miracle, there isn’t a food holiday listed for today.  I think this was God’s way of saying “Take a break, have a good cry, today is for more important things than food.”

I will warn you now: if you are not interested in reading a lengthy, rambling post from a mom who is in the midst of a panic attack about her children’s future – this isn’t for you.  Skip this one and wait for tomorrow – I promise to write something funny again after today.  But today.  Today is here and I can’t think of anything else to do but word vomit everything I am feeling.

To my children,

You are my world.  You are my reason for waking up each day – and every day I wake up vowing to love you and protect you to the best of my ability.  Yesterday, I cast a vote with the intent of doing just that: protecting your right to the future you deserve.

But here we are today, about to live with the reality that everything I hope for your future may be in jeopardy.

It’s not Trump that I’m worried about – not Trump in the sense that he is only one man.  A batshit crazy man, that’s for sure.  A sexist, racist, disgusting man – but still, he is only one man.  My fear is his ability to appoint someone to the Supreme Court who will undo any progress we have made in my life time.  A person who may decide the choices you will be able to make in the future – choices that belong to you and you alone.

For the both of you, this means that someone else will get to decide whether or not you have the right to openly love whomever you choose – and that businesses may have the right to refuse to serve you based on that fact.  Nicky: you may not remember this, but we stood together on the steps of our State Capitol on the day that Minnesota became the 12th state in the US and the first in the midwest to legalize same-sex marriage.  We hugged strangers, we cried at the knowledge that your aunts could marry – that “love is love” was really true in our state.  Though you may not remember it, I’m so thankful for that memory.  But a Trump Supreme Court?  It means that as you grow up in a world filled with people of all backgrounds – LGBTQ and beyond – there is a strong likelihood that you will grow up watching their rights be limited and taken away – or your own rights if that is how you identify.  Every day, from this moment forward, I promise to be a better example of love and acceptance.  I promise to teach through example – to be the love that truly “trumps hate”.  I promise to fight with you for all people so that we can keep progressing.

Nicky, for you this means that someone else will get to decide the rights of your friends and classmates.  That someone may get to say that – because they are muslim, an immigrant, black, latino, the child of refugees – they are not worthy of the same rights you are.  That you, as an upper-lower class (there is not fucking middle class) white male, are worth more in the world.  I can only hope that you have heard everything we have taught you – that growing up with parents who have taught love above all else, you will continue to love your neighbors.  That you will stand beside your friends and their families and say “I see you, I love you, we’re in this together.”  From this moment forward, I will be a better example of this – I will be a better example of “loving thy neighbor” like my parents and church taught me.

Maggie, for you this means that someone else will have a voice in your reproductive rights – that there is a chance someone will be able to tell you what you can and cannot do with your own body.  I’m pro-choice – but here’s a little background info.  7+ years ago, I found myself unexpectedly pregnant.  I had not been with Nick’s dad for very long (5 months I think) – I hadn’t even begun to think about a life together.  I had just turned 21, my mind was focused on having fun and enjoying life.  A baby did not fit with that.  Sitting in the living room of the house I rented with friends, we had a very open and honest conversation about the fact that I was pregnant.  We talked about abortion – that if I made that decision, he would support me.  We talked about adoption – that if I made that decision, he would support me.  We talked about having the baby – that if I made that decision, he would support me.  Throughout the entire conversation, there was never a question that it was my decision to make – and I had made my decision the minute the stick said +.  What was important in that was my right to choose.  MY CHOICE.  I’m the child of an unplanned pregnancy who was adopted by the BEST, MOST DESERVING parents in the world – because my birth mother was allowed that choice.  I was allowed a choice and – should you find yourself in that situation someday – you, my beautiful daughter, deserve that choice.  And you deserve to know that your family and friends will love and support you through anything.  You also deserve the right to Planned Parenthood.  I remember being an angsty teenager about to have sex – I know I could have talked to my mom about it and she would have helped me through that phase of life.  But, like any angsty teenager, I needed to do it on my own.  I needed Planned Parenthood.  I needed something beyond the “abstinence only” sex-ed I was taught in high school.  Planned Parenthood was my lifeline as a teenager and as a broke, uninsured college student.  They gave me my first pap smear, my first breast cancer check, my first real and honest conversation about reproductive health.  They empowered me to feel confident in my sexuality and in being a woman.  You deserve that too.  Because you are an awful lot like me, you will likely be an angsty teenager.  You will know that I am always there, but you will need to do it yourself.  And I hope, HOPE that some asshole who doesn’t even have a vagina hasn’t defunded Planned Parenthood.  I HOPE that a Supreme Court made up of mostly men hasn’t decided that they know best.

In this moment, in the aftermath of this election – your mother is frightened.  For this one day, I’m going to feel scared and sad and terrified for your futures.  I’m going to give myself today.  Because tomorrow.  Tomorrow will be a day for planning.  For researching, for fighting, for connecting, for loving, for forgiving.  Tomorrow will be a day for ensuring you have a future filled with choices.  A future that YOU decide.  Tonight, there will be hella wine.  Tomorrow, mommy has work to do.

Cappuccino and Civic Duty

Happy National Cappuccino Day!

It’s nice to have a little break from all the meat squishing – there’s also a sink full of dishes to be washed so it’s nice to have a few easy days to catch up!

I threw off my favorite baristas at Claddagh by ordering an almond-milk cappuccino today, but it was well worth it!  I’ve been a black coffee gal for so long that sometimes I forget how delicious warm almond-milk can be on a crisp fall day!  Combine that with 30 minutes of uninterrupted reading time?  Prefect lunch break.


Today happens to also be November 8, election day.  Ryan and I have been counting down to today for – what feels like – a year.  We caucused proudly for Bernie, were disappointed but not surprised when he wasn’t the nominee, then tried SO hard to tune out the entire election process.  Those commercials… seriously?!  Can we adopt a week long no election commercials leading up to the election policy PLEASE!!

There is nothing more depressing than watching two grown adults (older than my parents) arguing like children.  My toddlers aren’t as mean as our candidates (one more so) have been.

As today grew closer, I found myself really considering the outcome of this election.  Ryan likes to describe a Trump victory as the alternate future in Back to the Future – with Biff Tannen as the future leader of the country.  The more I think about it, he’s probably right!  It also occurred to me that, beyond having the opportunity to vote for the first major party female nominee, this election has the potential to determine Nick and Maggie’s choices in the future.  Our next president will affect the balance of the Supreme Court with the opportunity to nominate the “swing vote” seat that is open.  There’s a lot riding on that.

I’m not a die-hard Hilary fan – in fact, our household borders on being “Bernie or Bust” – but in the words of Bill Maher: “This is not the year for a protest vote. This year is different”.  I will say though, that Hilary has more class in her little toe than a lot of adults I know, and I have an immense amount of respect for her as a mother and a working woman.  And in terms of options, I have infinitely more faith in her ability to continue our country down a path of progress, tolerance and acceptance than the “angry man”.

So, like many of the parent’s from work and several friends, I put on my pantsuit this morning to proudly join the ‘Pantsuit Nation’ in support of Hilary Clinton.


After work, with Maggie in tow, I cast my ballot with hopes of making history.  I know that Maggie will likely not remember sitting at a little table with me while I filled in the bubble next to Hilary’s name, and she will likely not recall the tears in my eyes as I thought about all the women in the world who were looking to Hilary to prove we are nearing a point in our lives when gender is not a qualifying trait for anything – and all the daughters who are looking to Hilary to prove that they really can grow up to be anything they want to be. I hope, though, that she will remember her parents teaching her about love, tolerance and the capacity of all human beings to do great things in life.  I hope that she will remember that her parents tried – really fucking hard – to practice those values every day.

At 9pm, I went to sleep – Hilary was in the lead – I had hope.


Nachos and Feminism

Happy National Nacho Day!

I didn’t know that I was good at making nachos… but according to Ryan, I made him the “best nachos he’s ever had!”

Yay me!

We both agreed that “Nacho Night” should be a regular occurrence in our house – it was quick, it was easy, it was nearly Gina-proof – and easy to make a dairy free version for me!


And now, because I have no shenanigans to share about our Sunday night nachos, here is a (probably lengthy) rant about an incident that occurred midday Monday that left me feeling both crotchety and oddly empowered:

If you know me, you know that I like lipstick.  If we’re being honest, I more than “like” lipstick – I fucking love it.  I feel naked without it.  I like bold lipstick, bright lipstick, neutral lipstick, all of it.  I wear as many shades of lipstick in a week as I can because it makes me happy.  ME.  I wear it for me.

At my favorite coffee shop – with my favorite baristas and regulars – I had this encounter with a friend:

Friend (who is a 65+ man): Are you trying to brighten up this Monday with your bright lipstick?  It’s very bright.

Me: Yeah? Lipstick is my favorite.  I just bought this shade yesterday.

Friend:  It’s very bright, it’s a little unflattering.  I like when you wear the dark, moody lipstick.  It’s better, you should wear that more.

This is really a very harmless conversation, and in reality this comment was meant to be helpful and constructive.  What’s fucked up about the experience is how I initially reacted.

Me:  Is it?  I’m trying a new shade and I really didn’t know…

WAIT A MINUTE!!  I started to apologize.  For my lipstick choice.  Like I should be ashamed or embarrassed that I wore watermelon pink lipstick that day because I fucking felt like it.  The magical, saving-grace part of this conversation was that halfway through apologizing and making an excuse for my “unflattering lipstick” – I came to my senses and somewhat politely made my point.

Me: Is it? I’m trying a new shade and I really didn’t know… I like it though.  I mean, I put it on today because I wanted to – I’m at a point now where I stopped caring about things like that.  I just like it.  I like bright lipstick.

Friend: I’ve noticed.

So here’s my thought I’d like to leave everyone with: I don’t put makeup on in the morning for you.  I don’t put it on to look nice or appealing to anyone but me.  I am an artist working in child care – and a mom of 2 – there is little room in my life for creative self-expression other than my clothes and makeup.  I wake up every morning and put on dark, bright, loud, subtle, whatever the fuck I want lipstick for me.  Because I like it.  I wear prints, solids, mixed patterns, bow-ties and thrift store clothes because I like it.  Because I am my own canvas.

I am too old to care about the opinions of others, but sadly still conditioned to feel grateful for someones opinion about my appearance or fashion choices.  And sometimes I need a moment like midday Monday to remind me that I am the only opinion that matters.

Be your own canvas and I’ll be mine – we’ll be “unflattering” together.

Oh yeah, here’s (slightly drunk) me in my “unflattering lipstick”.  I drank one too many White Claws and started taking spiteful selfies.  And vowed to wear ALL the bright lipstick this week!


So Much Meat!

Happy National Sandwich Day!

I had been promising Ryan burgers for quite awhile now… so I made an executive decision tonight that  cheeseburgers and sandwiches are the same thing….

It possibly cheating…

For the second night in a row, I squished my hands in a bowl full of meat and tears.


I don’t know how people do this regularly without being freaked out – it’s literally a bowl full of animal insides that I’m fondling.  “Gingerly squeezing” is a better phrase to describe my method of combining meat and spices.  At least when it’s beef, I can pretend that the “grass fed, step 4” beef from Whole Foods isn’t a complete lie and the cows were treated somewhat better than the Market Pantry cows.  Ryan regularly reminds me that it’s all bullshit and “cage-free” or “grass-fed” definitely does not mean “loved and cared for like a part of the family”…

For being someone who doesn’t like touching meat – or cooking meat – burgers (on the stove) are on the short list of things I know how to make without a recipe.  I’ve watched Ryan prep burgers enough times that I can base my recipe off what I’ve seen him use: I know there’s Worcestershire sauce involved, definitely salt and pepper, and – when in doubt – I use the magic “blackened” seasoning that we impulse bought for 99 cents once.


To spice it up tonight, I added vegan cheese to mine (real cheese for the lacto-lovers) and crispy onions from a can.  Because crispy onions are the shit and should be served on everything.  While the burgers tasted great, there’s a good chance I’m not very good at judging the correct size to make them…. the bun to burger ratio was a little wonky!


Don’t Google Baby Bison

Happy National Bison Day!

I had very few reservations about today.  I’ve eaten bison before – approximately 15 years ago while on vacation with my family… but I don’t remember it being that far off from beef.  And I recall only moderate feelings of guilt and sadness.  There’s a good chance my brother made mooing sounds at me while I ate it though…

I didn’t really factor in the whole “I have to actually touch the bison meat” part of the day though…


I gave the kids the choice between burgers or meatloaf and they voted unanimously in favor of “meat cake”.  I’m not really sure why Mag is on board with a food that she describes as “meat cake”.. but was SO appalled by the idea of meat pie?! At least with meat pie you get a delicious crust and vegetables to cancel out the chunks of meat!

I, on the other hand, am really freaked out by meatloaf.  My mom made it when I was little and I remember eating it and enjoying it, but the older I got the weirder it seemed that it was just a loaf of meat.  Like straight up meat cake.  And you just slice a piece of like it’s a loaf of bread?!  The whole concept baffles me! It’s a fucking loaf of meat – no one wants that!   Until a year or so into being with Ryan, I had never even attempted to make meatloaf – but one day I got it in my head that Ryan LOVES meatloaf, therefore I should be a good wife and try to make it.

Having never done it before, I tried using a super fancy recipe from a Real Simple (lies) cookbook that involved layers of bacon and gruyere cheese.  It wasn’t good.  It was greasy (I didn’t drain the fat..), it was weirdly cheesy but lacked all other flavor… and Ryan informed me that he likes meatloaf and all, but not as much as I thought…

Since then, I’ve made it a handful of times – always cringing when I have to stick my hands in a bowl of ground beef and egg.  I’ve learned to drain the fat and SUPER finely chop the bacon – Ryan doesn’t like big pieces of bacon in it because he’s not human – and I’ve *almost* mastered making it without consulting a recipe.

So today, on National Bison Day, I felt pretty confident.

I used basically the same recipe I always use, with the exception of a BBQ sauce glaze on top instead of ketchup.  Ryan was at a work meeting and I REALLY can’t stand ketchup – it worked out in my favor.  I also skipped the bacon – I forgot to buy some over the weekend. I squished the hell out of the meat/seasoning mixture (my trusty pizza seasoning, in case you were curious), added the egg and bread crumbs and re-squished.


After I put it in the pan, haphazardly covered it in BBQ sauce and put it in the oven, my co-worker shared a photo of a baby bison with me:

Because she is a terrible human being – a cruel, cruel woman who sometimes forgets that I  still believe all animals die of old age and are properly mourned by their caregivers before being eaten.  They also all live on sprawling acres of land and the men and women who live there consider themselves “animal caretakers”….

I couldn’t un-see that, but I also couldn’t undo the bison loaf in the oven.  I was a horrible monster about to consume a majestic creature that may or may not have had wooly, adorable offspring!!!  And I touched it’s meat!!!!  WHY CAN’T WE HAVE NATIONAL CAULIFLOWER DAY!!?!?!?!?!?!?

While I was having a mild breakdown, the trusty meat thermometer went off and it was time to take my murder loaf out of the oven.

It looked… like a sad meat cake filled with remorse and guilt…

It tasted … pretty delicious.  Like a delicious hunk of regret and pizza seasoning.  The kids loved it.

And I learned a valuable lesson – turn the phones on airplane mode while cooking meat so I can’t receive any photos that may scar me for life…

Happy Birthday Magdalene!

This one isn’t really a National Food Holiday, but some kitchen magic did happen in our house tonight in honor of Mag’s 4th birthday!

It should be known that I didn’t participate in any baking for this event – Ryan took me off cake duty this year after declaring that the tie-dye cake (from a box) Maggie had picked out looked “Fucking hard” and also “fucking dumb” and that “If  I let you take over we will just have a brown cake.  You tried to swirl once and it turned fucking brown.”

It’s true, I did once try to make a swirl cake and it turned into a shitty brown blob.  BUT in my defense, I did also once make a really amazing rainbow layer cake for Ryan’s birthday that turned out AMAZING!  It was through some strange miracle, and probably because it didn’t involve any swirling, but seriously – this cake looked like a not-quite-professional made it.

Look at that cake, there’s a lot of love in that cake and I probably *almost* followed a recipe or directions on a box!

Anyway… that’s the first and last time I ever succeeded in baking an edible and kind of pretty cake so it’s for the best that Ryan took this one.

He also found the electric mixer!  It was on the very top shelf in our plate/cup cabinet (beyond my line of sight and in the dumbest spot.)

He enlisted the help of the birthday girl – who is potentially better at baking than I am! Mag helped stir in the colors and dictated to Ryan which order they should be added in the pan.  At this point, Ryan pointed out that the whole thing smelled a little like play dough… and for the rest of the evening Maggie and Nicky held onto that fact.


While Ryan and Mag worked on the cakes, Nicky had the unfortunate job of rinsing the bowl.  While he was doing this, Ryan was gloating in the background about his superior cleaning and baking skills.

Ryan: Take pictures of that! Take note of how fucking clean I keep things. Note the silicone spatch, very essential tool to some people.  Then when you’re done, you rinse that shit.. make’s everyone’s life easier…

This was followed shortly by this proclamation from Ryan:

“I’m the fucking cake whisperer!”

Even though saying this goes against all my spiteful feelings and my need to be right all the time…. but he is actually weirdly good at baking.   Maybe it’s because he follows instructions or maybe it’s because he doesn’t subscribe to the “willy-nilly or nothing” baking style that I use – but his creations tend to turn out like expected.

We both agreed after looking at the batter in the pans that it looked exactly like the “food” in the dinner scene from “Hook” – where Rufio and the boys imagine colorful food and have an epic food fight.


While I wasn’t allowed to bake the cake, I did assist in decorating it with a can of frosting from the cabinet, frozen strawberries and some sprinkles.  All things that were nearly fool-proof and were next to impossible for me to screw up.

His tie-dye definitely turned out better than any swirl I’ve ever attempted.. but it did end up tasting a little bit like play dough.  Not the super salty play dough that our neighbors mom used to make from scratch – I mean the weird doughy kind of play dough that tastes  like cardboard and food coloring.


Happy Birthday Little Hays, thanks for keeping our lives interesting!


*Fun fact: tonight is also the night we learned that Nicky is more up on pop-culture references than we are.  Turns out he and his BFF ‘dab’ “all the time to each other”.  Thank God someone in this house is cool.