When a peanut isn’t just a peanut…

So about six weeks ago, in a renewed quest for greater health and well-being, my candy- and white carb-loving husband and I embarked on a new adventure: a no-sugar, no-flour diet eating plan. It hasn’t been nearly as hard as we’d both feared, to be honest. The most difficult part has been finding all of the hidden sugar in the foods we eat. Like, the kind that sneaks into mayo and (here’s a favorite) ShopRite brand chicken stock. Really? Sugar in chicken stock? What’s THAT about?

Apparently, ShopRite loves to put sugar into its brand foods. For instance: during this evening’s shopping trip, we picked up a pack of lightly salted dry roasted peanuts. Joe dug into them when he was unpacking the groceries. Then, when I came into the kitchen to start dinner, he said, “I ate some of the peanuts already. We chose wisely.”

I opened the jar and popped a few into my mouth. They tasted good, but not entirely peanut-ty. I checked the label, and this is what I found:


I read the ingredients out to Joe.

“No wonder they were so tasty,” he said.

This reminded me of a very important lesson: ALWAYS READ THE LABEL.

I mean, you can see, nothing about these  peanuts indicates that they are seasoned with both sugar AND corn syrup solids. Nothing screams “extractives of paprika” or garlic and onion powder. Note that there is “natural flavor” added into this mix of very unnatural flavors.

Thanks, but no thanks, ShopRite. These will likely end up on the free table at one of our offices. To whichever co-worker ends up with these in their tummy, I extend my sincerest apologies.


Mobile blogging and other crazy tech things.

I’m writing this on my iPad, using the Belkin keyboard that turns it into a netbook of sorts, driving back to Delaware after a fun afternoon with my stepdaughter. Correction: my husband is driving. I’m just in the passenger seat.

But it’s so crazy to me, the woman who didn’t even own her first cell phone until 2001, that I could be doing something like this.

The iPad/keyboard combo alone trips me out sometimes. I take it to meetings instead of lugging my heavy, work-issued laptop around the building. I take it to conferences for live tweeting. I’ve used it as a mobile hotspot. I’ve used it to watch movies on plane rides. I’ve shot and edited video on it. And yes, I’ve also been known to play a little Candy Crush on it as well.

I got my first smartphone in 2009, balking at first at the high price tag – not only of the phone itself but the monthly service. Up until then, I’d been paying $39 a month. (Goodness, I miss those days!) Keep in mind that I stayed on (free) dial up until 2005, because I couldn’t fathom paying for high-speed Internet.

But now, in 2014, I am all teched out. I’ve got my iPhone and unlimited texting plan. I’ve got the aforementioned iPad of Wonder. I have a 3D television (how did THAT happen?). I have a combo package that gives me fast Wi-Fi, a broadband phone, and a DVR.

Can we just talk about the DVR for a second? As soon as Comcast started offering them, I got one. I mean, fast-forwarding through commercials? No more recording shows on VHS? And with this X1 platform, buggy as it is, I can now recored four shows at once. Who needs this? you ask. I do. Sunday night TV is intense. FOUR SHOWS AT ONCE.

Welcome to the future.

Someday, when we all have Feed-style brain implants connecting us to everyone and everything, I’ll look back on the tech of 2014 and think of how positively quaint this all is.

But for now, as we cruise down I-95, in the car that lets me talk on the phone through its dashboard, I will continue to be amazed.

The dogs in my life.

Yesterday, I wrote about the whole cat people vs. dog people thing. Today, I thought I’d introduce you to the canines who hold my heart in their fuzzy little paws.

Jake & Daphne

JakeIn November 2003, I moved back home for the first time since I was 17. I wanted to save up for a house, and my parents decided to help me out by giving me a place to live and work. That Christmas, the three of us drove to a rural patch of Maryland to pick out two schnoodle pups. When we got there, we were taken to a barn. The seller opened a door and let in a bunch of puppies and told us to pick out the ones we wanted. Looking back, we’re pretty sure the outfit was a small step up from a puppy mill. But at the time, all we could see was their cute, fuzzy faces.

Daphne was hands-down the prettiest puppy I ever saw in my whole life. I couldn’t stop staring at her on the ride home. And Jake?

Well, he peed on my shoe.

They are funny dogs. Jake always looks a little depressed. I call him Eeyore. He loves playing with bouncy balls. In fact, one time when we got tired of playing ball with him, he ran up the stairs with one in his mouth, spit it out at the top landing, and then chased after it. And then did it again. And again.

DaphneDaphne sometimes acts like more of a cat – like she can’t be bothered with you. She’s moody and at times neurotic. For a while, they had to give her Prozac daily, to keep her from gnawing at her paw, OCD-style. (I forgot to mention that Jake has massive panic attacks whenever there’s a thunderstorm and/or fireworks. It’s bad enough that my mom used to have to give him Valium to keep him from having a complete meltdown. The holistic stuff, like the squeeze machine shirts, just didn’t work.)

Jake was totally a mama’s boy, and Daphne is definitely daddy’s little girl. I love them both like crazy. I helped raise them from tiny fluff balls into grown up doggies. I was the one who removed Daphne’s first tick. The one who took Jake’s temperature when he had his first cold. When I eventually bought my house and moved out, I would come back to my mom’s almost every night just to see the dogs.


Chester was a new edition to the family. My mom brought him back from Florida, after a month-long visit with her neighbor and close friend Charlotte, who has a summer house down there. She saw him at some sort of craft bazaar – a pet adoption thing – and fell in love with him. He’d been badly abused before he got rescued, and he needed a lot of attention.

ChesterAfter my mom passed, my stepfather Mark found it difficult to care for all three dogs on his own. He commutes to his job and is out of the house a lot of the day. So, he hired a dog walker to come each afternoon. Even with the extra help, Chester struggled. He still wasn’t fully housebroken. Mark realized Chester needed more attention than he had to give and tried to find him a new home. There were no takers.

This summer, Mark went to visit his family in Connecticut and asked me to watch the three dogs. I of course said yes. Chester was mostly housebroken by that time, which helped. He was kind of obsessed with me, though; whenever he and Jake and Daph would come stay with me, Chester would sit in my lap and constantly try to lick my face. He’d kick Jake away from me. He wanted me all to himself.

When Wendy came over for our Friday night scrapbooking date, she met Chessie for the first time. And, like my mother, she felt instantly in love. Later she texted me, “If Mark’s still looking for a home for Chester, tell him I’ll take him.”

So, the following week, Chester found a new forever home with the Kinnas. They love him and Wendy spoils him rotten…which is exactly what he needed. They recently added another rescued wire-haired dachshund to the clan: Toby. All dogs are happy and thriving at Case de Kinna.


ScoutMy baby. The World’s Cutest Dog. The first month of his life, I wanted to wring his tiny neck. He bit me. A lot. I would have to hold him in one hand every time I took out the trash, because if I didn’t, he’d escape through the front door and I’d have to chase him across the neighborhood. He was crazy hyper and I was certain he was untrainable. Whenever I went to leave the house, he’d have a complete canine meltdown. I remember going to see the vet and saying, “You’re going to have to give him something to calm him down. He’s crazy. It’s like we’re not on the same team!”

The vet talked me down. He gave me some tricks to try for Scout’s separation anxiety. He told me Scout would grow out of this phase. I didn’t believe him.

He was right.

Now, at nine, Scout can still be hyper. Strangers always ask, “How old is your puppy?” and I’ll say, “Nine,” and they assume I mean months, not years. And he still hates it whenever we leave the house. About a year or so ago, he started biting us on the ass whenever we walked out the door. He’s definitely a pack dog. If it were up to him, Joe and I would be total shut-ins.

These are not the only dogs I’ve ever had or loved, but they’re the ones who populate my now. And they are why I am and always will be a bone-a fido dog person.

Four Barking

My standing Friday-night date.

Wen and Me at the Crayola FactoryOne of the reasons I became a Girl Scout co-leader was because of Wendy, my BFF and lifelong Girl Scout. She was starting a Daisy troop, and I was looking for a volunteer opportunity. The idea of having a weekly night where I could hang out with her was appealing. You know, because once you become an adult, weekly face-time with your friends is no longer guaranteed. (Well, technically in this day and age you may be able to secure weekly FaceTime, but it’s not the same thing.)

So when I stepped down from the troop after three years, to start writing books again, we were left wondering how we were going to log that regular time. Wendy, who’d wanted to get back into crafting more regularly, proposed a standing Friday-night scrapbooking date. At first, I was like, “Really? EVERY Friday?” Because Fridays were always kind of my bum day – the kind that called for pajamas, Grotto’s pizza, and camping out on the couch to power-watch all of the things that had been building up on the DVR throughout the week.

But I (begrudgingly) agreed to give a go.

Now, 18 months later, I find myself really disappointed on the Friday nights we don’t get together. In fact, when one of us has something else going on (like when Joe and I drive up to Fort Washington to have Shabbat dinner with my family), we’ll often reschedule the Friday for a Saturday.

We have these scrapbooking dates at my house, because I turned the second bedroom into a Tiffany blue office-slash-craft room (really a craft room-slash-office). This was a process in and of itself (another post for another day), but suffice it to say that Wendy was instrumental in whipping the space into shape. This is why she has her own dedicated table and drawer unit. She leaves her work in progress here for the next time we get together.

Wendy scrapbooking

Currently, we’re working on our scrapbooks for our last birthday getaway, which was to Texas. We have something like 400 photos (the one downside to digital photography), so I’m finding the process completely overwhelming.

Working on the Texas Album

The last album I did was a gift – a scrapbook of Sadie’s first trip to Disney World. It took me, like, over a year to complete.

Clearly, I’m not spending nearly enough time scrapbooking. Like right now.

If you’ll excuse me, my “date” is waiting.

100 Things for Which I Am Grateful, Part 2.

I’m still feeling the gratitude! In addition to the 50 things I listed yesterday, I’m also grateful for:

51. My house (even though it needs some work, it’s served us well)

52. Heat

53. Hot water

54. Clean water

55. Air conditioning

56. Toilets

57. High-speed Internet

58. Being a woman

59. Being literate

60. Being a woman in a country that grants me the right to literacy

61. BOOKS (duh)

62. Photographs of my mom

63. Photographs of my childhood

64. The ocean

65. Airplanes

66. Anyone who will either drive you to or pick you up from the airport

67. Vacations

68. Best-friend birthday getaways

69. Puns

70. Joe’s kisses

71. Mornings when I can remember my dreams from the night before

72. Really good dreams, the kind you wish you could linger in longer

73. Uni-ball Vision fine point pens in black

74. Coupons

75. Free shipping

76. My savings account

77. My mad budgeting skills

78. Long skirts

79. The purple down-filled throw that keeps me warm in the living room

80. When the scale goes down

81. Twenty-plus years’ worth of music mixes (every single one of them deeply meaningful)

82. A cappella (and a ca-fellas)

83. My sense of humor

84. Times when Joe and I narrate our lives as if we were in a musical

85. Affordable season tickets to the DuPont Theatre

86. Restaurant Weeks in big cities

87. That the people at Soybean Asian Grille will always make me the pumpkin curry with chicken even when it’s not on the menu

88. Reese’s Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs (and Pumpkins and Trees)

89. Philly soft pretzels

90. Whenever I find boneless skinless chicken breast for $1.99/lb.

91. Fireworks

92. My dog’s snorts (he’s got the best comic timing in the business!)

93. Caller ID

94. Shea butter (or, rather, my psoriatic skin is grateful for it)

95. Corrective eye wear

96. Every time Joe says, “I [bleep]ing love you, woman.”

97. How I feel after a good massage

98. Love

99. Second chances

100. New beginnings

[Read Part 1 (the first 50 things) here.]

100 Things for Which I Am Grateful, Part 1.

Inspired by a recent post on Mostly True Stories of K. Renae P. (which was inspired by a post on a blog she follows), I present to you my own list (also in no particular order):

1. My husband, Joe, who despite driving me crazy a lot of the time also manages to keep me sane (go figure)

2. Snuggles with Scout (a.k.a. the World’s Most Adorable Dog)

3. My friends, who have always been my family

4. My job at IRA, not only because I believe in the organization’s mission but also because I genuinely love the work that I do

5. My co-workers, who are some of the smartest, funniest, most creative people I know

6. The fact that people still want to pay me to write books

7. My editor, Kristen, who believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself

8. Friday dinners with the Rosens, especially when my cousin Josh is in town

9. My family in general

10. Weekends with Sadiepants

11. Writing dates with Carolee

12. Excellent health insurance coverage

13. Sync, the thing that allows me to make hands-free calls from my car (what did I ever do before it?)

14. Taylor Swift (don’t judge)

15. Facebook (ditto)

16. The Paderno World Cuisine Tri-Blade Plastic Spiral Vegetable Slicer (oodles of zoodles!)

17. My Koncis garlic press from IKEA (on sale this month for $2.99)

18. The Superior Auto mode on my camera (I want to be a world-class shutterbug but am not sure if I’ll ever get there)

19. My iPad

20. My iPhone

21. Google


23. Audiobooks in the car

24. Date nights with Jen and Brian

25. The Delicious Dishes

26. Fuzzy slipper socks

27. Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Rooibos tea


29. Smart, funny sitcoms like The Mindy Project and Parks & Rec

30. Smart, poignant and/or thought-provoking dramas like The Good Wife and Parenthood

31. My DVR

32. Friday night scrapbooking sessions with Wendy

33. Xyron sticker makers

34. The three years I spent as a Girl Scout co-leader

35. The time I had with Marian, even though it ended much, much too soon

36. Coupland Campers

37. The self-confidence I’ve managed to cultivate, even if it took me 38 years to get it

38. YNAB

39. Alton Brown

40. The fact that I can do 4o push ups (!)

41. Natural peanut butter

42. Grandpa Witmer’s Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Mixer

43. My mentor and friend, Cruce Stark

44. My education

45. Online banking

46. Lip balm

47. K9 Advantix II

48. Tim Horton’s Decaf K-cups

49. Days I can sleep in

50. Nights I can stay up late

To be continued…

The importance of doing nothing.

After a long day of back-to-back meetings, the last one of which was four hours long (yes, you read that correctly – a half-day offsite during which my butt stayed glued to an uncomfortable conference center chair), I came home, dropped my things by my loving husband’s feet, and proceeded to collapse on the living room floor.

“Stick a fork in me,” I quipped. “I am done.”

Okay, so I was being a wee bit melodramatic. Or maybe more than a wee bit. All I knew is that I felt weary. Mentally, physically, and spiritually worn down.

This is what happens when you go-go-go for days without stopping.

So tonight, I forgot about my to-do list. I didn’t even attempt my 500-word a night writing goal. I sat my butt on the couch, curled up next to the dog, and shut off my brain. DVR’d episodes of The Walking Dead helped zombify me for two delicious hours.

Then I got up, put away the leftovers from dinner, packed Joe’s and my lunches for tomorrow, wiped down some counters, and retreated to my office to write this.

In other words, business as usual.

What I’m trying to say is this:

I needed those two hours of mindless being. (I mentioned the four-hour-long meeting, right?) I needed to power down, check out, and let my metaphorical batteries recharge before I could go back to the nightly routine. Even though I fell 111 words short of last night’s writing goal, and even though I desperately needed to update my YNAB budget, and even though there are a bajillion constructive things I could’ve been doing with my time –

Sometimes, doing nothing is just as important (if not more) than checking off items on a to-do list.

Sometimes, you just need to be.