Longest. Week. EVAR.

You ever have one of those weeks? You know, where you just get unexpectedly hit with…well, with a whole lot crap?

The week started off well. The Monday after a holiday break is never easy, but the Monday after an extended holiday break is brutal. Only, for me, this year, it wasn’t.

I got up at 6 a.m. I wrote for 90 minutes. I almost hit my daily writing goal (was maybe 100 words short). I got dressed for work, went into the office, and killed it. Stayed 30 minutes late to finish up a few things, then headed home, where I made zucchini soup and a tuna and white bean salad for dinner. I also made some “nutrient-dense” muffins for the rest of the week’s breakfasts.

Logged a little time with the husband, watched an episode of Doctor Who on Netflix, and then logged another twenty minutes or so of writing time, during which I beat my daily goal by 51 words. Afterward, I packed our lunches for the next day and nabbed a little more cuddle time with Joe before getting to bed at a decent hour.

All good things, right?

On Tuesday, I had a doctor’s appointment in PA. It’s about a 25-mile drive that takes less than 45 minutes to do when there’s no traffic. But on Tuesday, we had our first significant snow of the season. Joe decided to drive me; an hour later, we’d only made it about 2/3 of the way there. My morning decaf kicked in and I asked Joe to pull off at the first available exit so I could find a bathroom. He did, the brakes locked up, and we slo-mo skidded into a big ol’ HVAC truck. Here, see for yourself:

Crashed Car

So there was that.

Meanwhile, there was all of this Drama (capital “D” intended) with the tow guy that the state cops called to move our car out of a busy travel lane. I won’t bore you with the details but they took our smashed-up Fusion to a collision center in Chester, instead of the awesome Brandywine Body Shop (which is less than a mile from our house). And how the tow guy took off with our car but left us stranded on the side of the road, in the snow, and how we had to wait for over an hour for our rescue ride.

There were phone calls to AAA and State Farm and the Chester collision shop and our body shop and a million other people. There were problems with the rental car from Hertz, not the least of which included starting the car only to discover the low tire pressure warning light, calling the front desk to ask them to fix it, them telling me they couldn’t, and us having to seek assistance from a rival rental company’s techs across the lot.

Oh, yeah, that was a banner day, I tell you what.

But it really SHOULD have been a banner day, since Tuesday was when my new book, You First, was officially published. My first tween novel! My first novel period in five and a half years!

Picture Perfect

These arrived on Thursday. I literally squeed!

Wednesday was all about digging myself out from the hole I fell into with Tuesday’s shenanigans. Thursday was all about meetings – so many meetings, one right after another, my LEAST favorite kind of work day. It was topped off with the discovery that there was blood in my dog’s urine.


In my dog’s urine.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried. A lot.

And then chased this crying with a viewing of Parenthood, which made me cry even harder.

This morning, I called the vet first thing. They could see Scout. Did a clean urine catch with some Tupperware that is headed for the recycling bin. Drove him over to the vet’s office at 8 a.m. Came home to work. Around 10:30, got a call from the vet’s office pointing out that Scout is scheduled for a dental cleaning on Monday, and did I want them to do it today? Sure, I say. Let’s knock it out.

Around 3 o’clock start having anxiety about the dog. The first time he ever went under anesthesia was for neutering. He was really small and had a horrible reaction to the protocol they used. We almost lost him. So now whenever he needs anesthesia, I usually need a Valium. (Not really. But close.)

At 3:30, I can’t take it anymore; I call the vet for an update. They still haven’t done the cleaning OR run the urinalysis. Great. More anxiety. Call the body shop for an update on my car. It’s still in Chester. They got the collision center to release it but asked State Farm to get it towed. State Farm didn’t. Get a call from State Farm. They chastise me for not returning “several calls.” I check my cell. There is exactly ONE missed call from 1:39 p.m. yesterday.

When is this week going to end?

Not before there is more lecturing from State Farm. It’s interrupted by a call from the vet telling me that she wants to do some radiography on the dog. Great, do whatever you have to do, this dog is everything to me. He has to be healthy. HAS TO.

I cannot deal with one more thing going wrong this week. I really can’t.

At 5:02, I call the vet again. Earlier I was told the doctor needed to leave at 5. I’m worried that there have been no updates. They’re still working on Scout, the front desk chick tells me.

This can’t be good, I think.

At 5:12, the vet calls. I was right. The news isn’t good.

Scout has two sizable bladder stones. They should be removed as soon as possible. By a specialist.

I ask questions. A lot of questions. I’m supposed to be leaving town on Thursday, for Wendy’s and my annual birthday trip. I’ll be back on the 18th. Can I get the surgery done on the 19th?

Risky, the vet says. If the stones get much bigger, Scout’s body might try to pass them. This could mean a blockage. Will someone be home with him 24/7?

Emergency surgery it is. EXPENSIVE emergency surgery.

The first specialist center I call tells me my best bet is to bring him in tonight. He’ll hang out in a crate until someone is available to do the surgery. Since he’s stable, he’d be at the bottom of the triage list. The cost? Between $3,000 and $3,500.

I call the second specialist center. They have zero openings between now and Monday. They tell me to call UPenn. UPenn can’t even schedule an appointment until Monday. If I bring him in for an eval and his situation is deemed urgent enough, they’ll call in an emergency staff. That costs money. LOTS of money.

The first specialist center it is!

Joe gets home from work and I fill him in on everything. Then I go over to CareCredit to apply for financing to pay for my dog’s surgery. We’re approved, print out the paperwork, and head over to Banfield to pick up our groggy dog, all so we can deliver him to the next crate at the next vet center, where he’ll wait for someone to cut him open and remove these potentially dangerous bladder stones.

In the car, I hold Scout tight and start to cry. I’ve had so much loss in my life these past couple of years – I can’t lose him, too. The bladder stone surgery isn’t high-risk but it will require more anesthesia, and as I said, Scout doesn’t do well on anesthesia to begin with. This is what scares me more than anything.

We sign in at the animal ER and are taken back to an exam room. A nurse checks Scout’s vitals. All is well.

An hour goes by without seeing a doctor. Bad things happen at the animal ER. A stray that was hit by a car gets brought in. I can see the blood on its white fur. Another dog comes in having had seizures. We hear its owners sobbing.

Scout in Hiding

Scout hiding under the bench in the exam room. We’d brought him a toy for the crate wait.

Another twenty minutes goes by. Joe and I are both starving. It’s been almost seven hours since I’ve eaten and I’m out of water. There’s a Wawa two minutes down the street. I leave Joe there with Scout and make a quick food run.

I am gone at most 15 minutes. But in my absence Dr. Kelly comes to talk to Joe. Scout doesn’t need surgery, she says. The kind of stones he has can be dissolved by the special urinary food that he’s already on. He’s got a UTI, she says, and the UTI might have caused the two stones to form in the first place. Let’s clear up the UTI, do a culture to make sure we’ve diagnosed the right kind of bacteria, and keep an eye on his urine production. Then, in two to three months, we’ll do another round of X-rays to see if the stones have dissolved or not.

When Joe tells me this, I’m relieved. But I’m also kind of pissed. I’ve spent the past several hours in blind panic over my dog’s health. Needlessly, it turns out.

The doctor returns in another 20 minutes to talk to me. Everything she says contradicts what we were told by Banfield. She wants to do a culture on his bladder, for instance. I say, “Don’t you have to put him under to do that?” She says, “No, not at all.” But Banfield told me that they DO put dogs under for that.

Dr. Kelly takes Scout back to get the culture. I feel suddenly exhausted, like I could fall asleep right there on the exam room floor.

Scout is discharged a short while later. We go over the instructions with a nurse. He trots out of the emergency vet center and hops into the car looking happy. The mood in the car is infinitely lighter than that of the drive over.

We walk in our front door at 9:38 p.m. I feed Scout so I can give him his antibiotic. Then I change into my PJs and prepare for some much-needed couch cuddles with my two favorite men.


Sour Cream Apple Pie

A few years ago, my mom wanted to make this sour cream apple pie she remembered my Aunt Barbara making. Aunt B gave me the recipe, with a note saying, “I didn’t make this up. Origins unknown – think it might be a Joan Spector recipe.” My mom then found a recipe for a similar pie that was labeled Reading Market. She tweaked Aunt B’s recipe and sent me the changes. Then Joe and I tweaked it some more, and now we make this crazy-good apple pie that people go nuts for.

I’m sharing this recipe – and our method – with you. Because, you know, it’s Thanksgiving and all.

It all starts with the apples. It is, after all, an apple pie.

The first time Joe and I went to make this, I remembered my mom’s trick for making the best unsweetened apple sauce ever: use as many different varieties of apples you possibly can. I applied that same logic when shopping for apples for this pie. The recipe calls for six, so make sure you get six different kinds.

Apples for Pie

This year we used (clockwise from top) Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Fuji, Red Delicious, Gala, and Golden Delicious (center). I may have mixed up Fuji and Gala but they were both in the mix.

The second big change we made was to use our mandolin to slice the apples really thin. We set ours to 2, which comes out to about 1/16 of an inch in thickness. To prep the apples, I peel and Joe slices. As we go, we sprinkle the apple slices with fresh lemon juice.

Apple Slices for Pie

After the apples are all sliced up, you toss them with a sour cream mixture that includes flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, an egg, and some vanilla. It’s REALLY tasty. You can fold them in with a spoon or spatula, but this is one time when I agree with Honey Boo Boo and say that sometimes your hands are your best tools. (Don’t worry, they were freshly washed.)

Tossing Apples

So here’s my other big secret: I don’t make my own crust. I’ve tried – seriously, I have TRIED – but I always, always botch it. So now I don’t even try anymore. I just buy the store-bought kind. Besides, I think it tastes better than most homemade anyway. P.S. I don’t even bother to get Pillsbury anymore. I buy the ShopRite brand.

Once you have your crust nestled into your deep dish pie pan, you pour in your sour creamed apple slices. You may need to use your hands again to make sure the slices get into every corner of the crust. It’s messy work, but totally worth it.


You bake the pie at a couple of different temperatures. Then, after 45 minutes, you add the crumb topping, which is made with flour, white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter. I dice the cold butter and mix it in with my fingertips until crumb-like.

Add some sliced almonds, bake for another 20 minutes, and there you have it: the best apple pie you’ll ever make (or eat!).

The best apple pie you'll ever make or eat

The full recipe is below. And because I’m not an actual food blogger, I don’t have some neat recipe widget that gives you a pretty printable copy. So, I made a Word doc for those of you who want to print it out: Sour Cream Apple Pie

Aunt Barbara’s Sour Cream Apple Pie
Adapted by Nancy; adapted again by Lara & Joe


For the pie:
Unbaked 9” pie crust
6 apples (one each of six varieties), pared, cored, and sliced
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (you can use less if you have strong vanilla)
1 cup sour cream

For the crumb topping:
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup salted butter (1/2 stick)
* If using unsalted butter, add 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)


Preheat oven to 425. Take your store-bought out of the fridge to bring to room temp.

Peel your apples. Cut them in half and remove the core with a melon baller. Then make them into 1/16” slices using a mandolin. You can make this recipe just by slicing your apples by hand, but trust me—thinner slices is better. As you go, sprinkle slices with some of the fresh lemon juice.

Sift together flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the egg, vanilla, and sour cream. Fold apples into this mixture.

Arrange your store-bought crust in deep-dish pie pan, hand-crimping the top edge. Spoon sour cream/apple mixture into the shell.

Bake 15 minutes at 425, then reduce to 325 and cook for 30 minutes. You may want to put a cookie sheet on a lower shelf to catch any spill-overs.

Combine all of the topping ingredients in a bowl with fingertips until crumbly. After the 30 minutes are up, sprinkle the crumb mixture over the top of the pie. Then add 1/4 cup of sliced almonds.

Bake at 350 for 20 more minutes. The crumb topping will melt a little around the edges but look dry elsewhere. That’s okay. This is how it’s supposed to look.

Let cool before serving, then enjoy!