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!

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Cat people vs. dog people.

This is a picture of me and my fur-child Scout, circa fall 2011.

This is a picture of me and my fur-child Scout, circa fall 2011.

According to a semi-recent study by Carroll University, cat people are smarter and more sensitive than dog people.

To that, I say: bullshit.

Maybe this is because I myself am a devout dog person. I have always preferred them to animals of the feline persuasion. Cats are smelly. They are rude. And they’re just too aloof for my liking.

Dogs are way better. They are loving and loyal. They are super cuddly. They get crazy excited to see you when you come home from work (or even come in from taking out the trash). When you’re sad, they can sense it, and give you extra love. I’ve had more than one dog lick tears off my face.

The Carroll University study also says that dog people tend to be more extroverted and prefer to follow the rules. Okay. I am kind of a rule-follower. But insensitive? Extroverted? No. Not at all.

If you clicked the link above, you know this study came out in June, which yes, was almost six months ago. So why am I writing about it now?

Because I spend a lot of time thinking about the differences between dog people and cat people. A lot of time.

There are several cat people in my life, including my stepdaughter Sadie. (She is kind of obsessed with them.) And, to be honest, my husband Joe is one, too. If you ask him, he’ll tell you he’s an equal-opportunity animal lover. It’s true that in his life, he’s had both types of pets. But when you take him to a pet store, all he wants to do is play with the kitties. He can spend hours shining lasers into their cages, making them go crazy as they chase the red light.

We do not have a pet cat, nor will we ever. Not because I’m a mean cat-phobe, but because I am horribly allergic. Like, if I spend too much time in a cat-filled house, one of my eyes (usually the left) will turn into a cherry tomato. If I’m heading to a house of cats, I will often take Benadryl preemptively. It’s really that bad.

Joe and Scout - Halloween 2013

Joe and Scout, Halloween 2013. Joe walked around and asked people, “Have you met my sous chef? He eats more than he makes!” Like, all night. To everyone we encountered. (It was pretty cute, though.)

What we do have is a dog. Our fur-child, Scout, a nine-year-old Schnoodle. He is my heart, this 11 lb. ball of love. I got him when he was just eight weeks old and small enough to fit in the palm of my hand. He’s so adorable and funny and smart that even people who don’t typically like small dogs fall in love with his fuzzy little face.

Scout adores Joe. He was only about a year and a half when Joe and I started dating, so really, Joe’s helped raise him from a pup. My cat-loving husband is so enamored with our pooch that he once told me, “I didn’t know I could love any animal as much as I do Scout.” (Reason #42 why I married him.)

My canine proclivities are likely genetic; I come from a long line of dog people. The one exception is my father, who is more of a cat person. But everyone else is all about the dogs. At a recent family get-together, my cousins Zach and Josh riffed for like 13 minutes on how cat people are the worst. (I got secret video, but I think they’d kill me if I uploaded it.)

For Sadie’s sake, I am trying to grow more tolerant of cats. And even I have to admit that kittens can be pretty cute.

You know, if you don’t inhale too deeply.

Saturday with Sadie.

We have Sadie, my almost-10-year-old stepdaughter, for the weekend. This morning, we walked over to the Newport Restaurant for breakfast. It was less than a mile and a half round trip but Joe and Sades were dragging their feet. Afterward, we took Sadie thrifting at the big Goodwill on Kirkwood Highway, where we speed-shopped our way around the store because we only had about 45 minutes until Sadie’s first-ever eye doctor appointment.

Girlfriend has been convinced she needs glasses. Like, she’s been actively campaigning for them. All of her friends have glasses, she told us more than once. Her mom’s boyfriend’s daughter has them, too. She really, really, really needed glasses.

Eye doctor disagrees. Her prescription is so slight, she says, that Sadie should be able to see 98% of everything without the glasses. If we opted to get her glasses, they won’t do any damage. But she really, really, really doesn’t need them.

Sadie is crestfallen. “But I do really need them,” she tells us again. “I need the glasses.”

Our vision plan is fairly solid. It doesn’t help ME much, because my prescription is too strong (whenever I need glasses I’m looking at easily $300 a pair or more, and that’s WITH insurance). Joe fares better; his last pair only cost $165. When it comes to glasses for Sadie, I’m thinking it’s going to be at least $100. I brace myself for the estimate.

It comes to a total of $23.99 (plus another $10 copay for the exam). That’s less than $35 for the glasses.

We get the kid some glasses.

She picks out this very studious brown pair, which surprised me. I was eyeing up the blues and the pinks and other fun frames. “I like the brown ones best,” she informs us.

We get the kid some brown glasses.

Later, after two rounds of bowling with my friend Candace and her three little ones, and after a trip to Salad Works that Sadie requested specifically, she gets a call from her mom.

“Did Lara tell you I got glasses?” she says excitedly. “They look just like [her mom’s boyfriend’s daughter’s] glasses.”

Joe and I exchange a look. So THAT’s why she insisted on the brown ones.

The next several minutes of conversation center on the glasses: when they’ll be ready for pick up, how she they’ll need to be fitted to her face, how she can’t wait to tell her teacher that she got glasses, how she can’t wait to tell her mom’s boyfriend’s daughter about them, too.

Meanwhile, in the front seat, Joe and I are stifling laughter the entire time.

When I got my first pair of glasses, I was one of the only kids in my class who had them. And they were dorky. Simply having glasses, I mean, not just mine (though mine were SUPER dorky – clear frames, tinted blue at the top and pink at the bottom, which I selected because I thought it would look like makeup). They were not fashionable in 1986. At least not with the Caravel Academy middle school set.

But this kid –

It is ALL about the glasses. You’ve never seen a kid so excited to need get corrective eye wear.

Now we’re about to tuck in for some pumpkin spice tea and a family friendly movie. All in all, a lovely little Saturday with Sadie.