2014: My Year in Review

It’s New Year’s Eve, and like many people, I’ve been in a reflective mood today. So, I thought I would take a few minutes to revisit 2014. Here’s what happened in my world:

Remember the Alamo

January: Fly to Austin, TX for Wendy’s and my annual best friend birthday trip. Drive to San Antonio and spend a few days there before heading back to Austin. Chase the quintessential Texas experience. Hit nearly every area except for Texas Two Stepping and the mechanical bull. Highlights: I don’t even know where to begin! Best girlfriend getaway EVAR.

Lara Loves Alton BrownFebruary: The shortest month is also my most boring month. BUT, we did get to have an early Valentine’s Day with Joe at the Grand Opera House, where we got to see THE Alton Brown and his Edible Inevitable Tour. Slip one of the stage hands a copy of The Sweet Life of Stella Madison for Alton’s daughter. (Yes, I’m that cheesy. Sue me.) Oh, and this was the first time I cooked with the Delicious Dishes.

March: Celebrate 2nd anniversary with Joe at Supper. Launch this blog! And then promptly become World’s Worst Blogger. Drive to Bensalem for a special fan screening of The Veronica Mars movie. Take Joe to see Man of La Mancha at the DuPont and end up in the Best Seats Ever (that no one else would ever want – it’s got a partially obstructed view BUT gives Joe tons of leg room AND there’s no seat directly behind his 6’4″ self so he doesn’t have to scrunch down). Decide to get season tickets for those seats next year – goal achieved!

Funny Seder

These are my cousins, Zach and Josh. They make me laugh so hard my stomach hurts. Here they are riffing on the 10 plagues. No, I’m not kidding.

April: Another Passover seder with the Rosens (my favorite of the Jewish holidays). Then Easter dinner with the Kinna clan. Have the most amazing idea for a novel and start outlining it. A few months later, discover that I have inadvertently come up with almost the exact same plot as the new Jodi Picoult novel, only minus the elephants. It’s okay; around this time I have my first talks with Fab Editor about my next YA novel. Oh, and I get a big promotion at IRA.

May: Off to New Orleans for IRA’s Annual Conference! Get to see some of my favorite people that I don’t cross physical paths with all that often, like Julie D. Ramsay, Jen Scoggin (aka Mrs. Mimi), and my Crazy Reading Ladies, Mary Cotillo and Erin O’Leary. Discover the deliciousness that is chargrilled oysters from Drago’s. Survive my first Mother’s Day without my momma. Trip to NYC to see Heathers: The Musical with Wendy and Jenna. Corn Nuts!

June: Hire a whole new staff at work. Fly to Chicago for Confab Nonprofit and stay for the honeymoon Joe and I never got to take. Eat (and walk) our way across the city. Highlights: Buddy Guy showing up at Buddy Guy’s Legends and doing an impromptu set; spending the better part of a day at the Chicago Institute of Art; dinner at Girl and the Goal (with a Carl Reiner sighting to boot!); getting to hang out with Jaime and John our last night in town.

Us and the Bean

It’s hard to take a selfie when your husband is 14 inches taller than you are.

July: New staff arrives, rounding out the most kick-ass communications team a gal could ever hope for! Get back on a plane, this time to Tampa-adjacent Brandon, FL for IRA’s Council Leadership Academy. Talk to a lot of awesome educators about communications and social media. Later that month, splurge on a new Flexsteel couch, since our cheapie one is falling apart. Definitely worth the investment!

Jen JumpsAugust: Start the month off bouncing at Stratosphere Trampoline Park with Sadie and the McLaughlins (on Jen’s 40th birthday, no less!). Smurf up my hands later that weekend making Tardis blue velvet cupcakes for William’s birthday party. Start going on double dates with other couples. (Why didn’t we do this sooner?) Get an official offer on the YA novel I’ve been working on for HarperCollins. Woot!

September: Relaxing, post-Labor Day beach vacay with Joe in Ocean City, MD. Our hotel has an ice rink in the middle of it but Joe’s feet are too big for the rental skates. Doesn’t matter. Spend hours bobbing in the warm ocean, reading on the sand, and checking out new restaurants. Have my first Fractured Prune donut (amazing) and more chargrilled oysters (unremarkable). Make out with my husband all over town. Magical.

Wendy, Wylie, and MeOctober: Head to NYC with Wen to see Lips Together, Teeth Apart (a week before the rest of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants attend to support their good pal America Ferrara). Dinner = the supremely decadent tasting menu at the soon-to-be-closed WD50. Foodgasms abound! Also: pay off Joe’s student loans (yay!).

November: Hello, NaBloPoMo! Commit to writing one blog post a day for 30 days; miss the goal after accidentally skipping 11/29. Spend a lot of time thinking about/writing about Mom as the Year of Firsts draws to a close. Celebrate Sadie’s birthday by feeding monkeys and a bear at the Pocono Snake and Animal Farm. Spend Thanksgiving with the Royers and Mannons at Brenda and Brett’s. Spend Black Friday with the Rosens playing several heated rounds of Celebrity. Love ALL of my family.

December: Cookiepalooza 2014 = HUGE success. Discovered the gloriousness that is Oreo “coal.” Christmas Eve with the Kinna clan, Christmas dinner with Mark and Charlotte, post-Christmas weekend with the Rosens, Sadiepants, and close friends (Taco Game Night FTW!).

Ending the year in our favorite fashion: at home, in our PJs, watching movies and scarfing up Velveeta bean dip (1 lb. Velveeta cubed, 1 can Hormel Hot Chili No Beans, 1 can kidney beans – zap in microwave until it’s all melted. Sounds gross, tastes delish – trust me on this). We’ll stay up way too late, cuddle down around 3 a.m., and sleep in until noon like we’re people of leisure. It’s glorious, is what it is. (Trust me on this, too.)

Happy New Year, everyone!


My one recurring dream.

An old friend once told me that it was boring to have to listen to people talk about their dreams, because they’re really only interesting to the person who dreamed them. So, apologies in advance.

Lots of people have recurring dreams involving teeth falling out, taking a test you forgot to study for, or – according to Dr. Oz – “filthy, clogged or unusable toilets.” (Gotta say, never heard of that last one, Dr. O.) But the only recurring dream I have involves houses and finding rooms that either A) I didn’t know where there in the first place or B) had once known about but since forgotten.

Sometimes I’m living in an older house, and I discover this enormous kitchen I forgot existed. Other times it’s a spacious bathroom with a claw-foot tub that’s raised up on a platform. I don’t read too much into these dreams, as I live in a small-ish three-bedroom ranch house with a kitchen that’s too small for someone who likes to cook/bake and only one postage stamp-sized bathroom that is always occupied by my husband at the exact moment I need to use it.

But other times, I’m stumbling upon entire wings of my house. I find rooms with exposed brick, rooms with huge windows that flood the room with natural light, rooms you climb many stairs to get to, new rooms tucked away behind other rooms used regularly.

If you research what “new rooms in house” dreams mean, most people say it’s really about you, that you are the house and that the rooms you’re discovering are actually representative of parts of yourself/your psyche. How do you feel about these rooms? the dream analysts ask.

I’ll tell you: I am never once afraid in these dreams. I am always amazed, awed, and excited. I see so many possibilities! I can’t wait to start using these new rooms!

So now, when I wake up from one of these dreams, I wonder: what exactly am I so jazzed to discover about myself? What new facets or capabilities am I uncovering or about to uncover?

Last night, for instance: I dreamed of finding an extra hallway/nook space on the first floor of a multi-floored house. It was longer than it was wide, and there was a small dining table and chairs at one end, nestled near the staircase that led to the second floor. On the opposite end, there was a short fridge and floating shelves, one of which contained a hot dog roaster. (For some reason, there were fresh sausages on there.) The left side of the space was taken up by a large sliding glass door; across from that, adjacent to the short-fridge-floating-shelves wall, sat a tall fridge (stocked with food that wasn’t rotten) and a sink. On the floor – or, rather, in the floor – there was a rectangular charcoal roasting pit. At some point in the dream, another couple showed up (we were apparently sharing parts of the house with them) and started cooking two legs of lamb.

Other random tidbits:

  • There was a backpack that had been left behind, ostensibly by the house’s previous owners, that had a folder tucked in it. The folder contained a black and white photo of Robert Smith (yes, that Robert Smith) and it was autographed. I am not some rabid Cure fan so I have no idea why he made a guest appearance in this particular dream.
  • The light switch on the wall with the short fridge made the room dark and then dance with neon green strobe lights. “It’s a party room!” I declared in the dream. “We need to throw a party!”
  • We lived in a brick building that used to house a school. At one point in the dream, Joe and I parked on the hill and I saw an old sign with the school’s name and said, “Oh my god, this used to be a school. Well, it makes sense why there’s a big ol’ library in the middle of it.” The library looked like a cross between my high school library and the one from The Breakfast Club.

I don’t have any great theories as to why I had this particular dream. I just find it really interesting that out of all of the possible recurring dreams one can have, this is mine.

Do you have any recurring dreams? What do those dreams say about you?

When a bag of tea isn’t just a bag of tea…

I’ve been coming down with a cold for a while now, but it really started to set in Saturday night. Stuffy nose begat sore throat begat fun cough, intense enough that by yesterday afternoon, my chest started to hurt.

Well, this post-Thanksgiving Cold of Doom has officially ensnared my husband, who left work early yesterday with an achy head and raw throat. Today, both of us are riding the couch, pounding fluids and trying not to feel sorry for our infirm selves.

My tea choices are a little limited right now, and I’m too tired to keep drinking chamomile. So last night, when Joe heated up a kettle of water, I settled on Trader Joe’s Candy Cane tea, a seasonal variety that we stock up on every year. Randomly, I scanned the label and was appalled to find this:




In the tea bag itself.

Joe said, “Who puts sugar in tea?”

I said, “People do. But after it’s been brewed. Not before.”

I opted for 100% straight-up peppermint instead.

It makes me so sad how sneaky the sugar can be, even in a Trader Joe’s product.

Where will they stop? When will the madness end?