House of plague

Image from

With Rachael beginning kindergarten, it was only a matter of time before she brought home disease. Mike seems to be the only one who hasn’t caught this cold. The three of us girls have sore throats and congestion. Both Rachael and Zoë have attempted hacking up lungs.
So I’m spending the day attempting to rid our house of germs and general grodiness. I wish I could just set off a bleach bomb, like one sets off bug bombs. But Mike informed me that it would kill us. Typical Mike; always squashing my brilliant ideas with facts and reasonableness.

Have you ever started your regular cleaning routine, only to suddenly discover that you didn’t scrub in the right areas before or wipe down things often enough? Today I discovered that my walls were covered in dust. Not just a little bit. We’re talking abandoned haunted house levels. It took two Swiffer pads just to clean the walls in my bedroom and bathroom. It may be the grossest thing I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen placenta! I mean, how could I not have noticed this before? I’m not the best of housekeepers, between the fibro and general laziness and procrastination, but come on! I need to find some way to invent a Roomba for walls. I’m sure, like all my other brilliant ideas, it’s already been done or would cause accidental slaughter. *sigh*

Pumpkin chocolate chip bread pudding


It’s that time of year! The time to bake everything pumpkin. I can’t think of any other time of year that would be better for making pumpkin treats.

…..November. November would be better.

Really, it boils down to me needing to clean the frozen pumpkin purée out of my freezer before I bring in more pumpkins for new purée.
Last year I told Mike that this pumpkin bread would make a fantasmic bread pudding. I’ve never met a bread pudding I haven’t liked, and this was no exception. It was soft, without being mushy. The top had a nice crunchy texture from the caramelization of the sugar sprinkled on top just before baking. The chocolate combined well with the pumpkin, but I believe it would have been just as scrumptious without it.

Pumpkin chocolate chip bread pudding

Pumpkin bread recipe, doubled
Make sure you do a really good job buttering your loaf pans. When you think you’ve buttered the pans enough, butter them some more.
Oh Hannah Hart, you’re so wise.
You may even want to put some parchment on the bottom of the pan. I’ve tried doing butter and flour, and that didn’t stop the massive breakage.

I made the bread yesterday, so it was all nice and ready to go today. Usually bread pudding is made with old, crusty bread. Since our pumpkin bread is neither old nor crusty, you need to make it crusty so it will absorb all the yummy custard mixture we’re going to pour onto it.

Cut up loaves into 1 inch cubes. Place cubes on baking sheets that have been sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until bread feels toasted. Set aside on cooling racks.


4 large eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of ground red (cayenne) pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with nonstick spray.
Place bread cubes in baking dish. Sprinkle with 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips.
Using electric mixer, beat eggs, 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend. Gradually beat in 1 1/2 cups cream and milk. Mix in cinnamon and red pepper. Add cream mixture to bread mixture. Let stand 30 minutes. Gently press on bread to make sure the bread has absorbed the custard.
Drizzle with remaining 1/2 cup cream. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 tablespoon sugar. Bake pudding until edges are golden and custard is set in center, about 1 hour. Cool pudding slightly.
Adapted from Epicurious

Clearly, it was awful.

Lembas, bitch.


On my last post, Mike commented that he now expected lembas. So, since Barney Stinson is my spirit guide…


2 1/2 cups of flour (I used whole wheat)
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 Tablespoons cold butter
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat over to 425 degrees.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Chop butter into mixture with a pastry cutter or pulse with food processor until you get a crumbly mixture. Add sugar and mix. Add milk and almond extract and stir with a fork until dough forms.

Roll the dough out about 1/2 inch thick. Cut out 3 inch squares and transfer to a cookie sheet. Criss-cross each square from corner to corner with a knife. Bake for about 12 minutes or until set and lightly golden. Makes 10 to 12.

Rustic: from the Latin for “not as pretty as you’d like”

For fancy packaging, copy and cut out leaf penis.

Adapted from



So, I wasn’t going to eat a cupcake for second breakfast.. But then I thought, What would Pippin do? I’m pretty sure that he would think it was the right thing to do. I mean, it was there.


Okay. FI-YUN! Then what would Jesus do? He would feed the hungry, and I was starving!

But seriously, if LOTR is not a good enough reason to do something, then this may not be the blog for you.

Anniversary cupcakes


In just a few days, Mike and I will celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary. I feel really lucky to have married my best friend. I know that may sound cliche, but he really is my best friend. We were friends long before we ever started dating. We could hang out without pretense and just be ourselves. I enjoyed his punny humor and I could make him laugh and relax. We often went to a hole in the wall Chinese restaurant down at Tech. It was sandwiched in between a guitar store and a laundromat, and the food was fast, cheap, and amazing. We can’t remember what it’s called because we always called it Sketchy Chinese. Every once in awhile we’d go drinking together downtown. I made him start falling in love with me because I would sometimes wear overalls to go drinking. Loose pants mean I have room to drink more. *nod* He watched me date a bunch of other guys who were in no way right for me. I watched him pine over other women with whom, for one reason or another, he had no chance. After a couple of false starts trying to date each other and some growing up, we got our shit together by finally realizing we belonged together.

We pretty much knew after a few months of dating that this was it and we wanted to marry each other. So, as it is in my personality to do so, I waited for him to pop the question with a patient and calm spirit. Not once did I ask him to more narrowly define the time table. You see, I absolutely love it when I know really big surprises are coming and I have absolutely no control over what will happen with them. Just. Frickin. Adore. It. So, he finally proposed on an absolutely gorgeous day in May on campus at Virginia Tech. I knew he had the ring, (we had gone down there to pick it up) but he still managed to surprise me. In the middle of the Drillfield, as the bells of Burruss Hall rang out to toll the noon hour, Mike called out my name. I turned to find him on one knee with my gorgeous diamond ring. And in response I yelled, Holy shit!

After seeing Mike’s childhood church in Greensboro, I asked to be married there. I loved the pyramid shape of the sanctuary; its windows let in soft sunlight and brought the outside in with the view of old, towering, leafy trees. Of course that meant a long engagement to allow enough time for long distance planning. Fortunately, one of the easiest points of planning was choosing the bakery for our cakes. Maxie B is a small, yet mighty, bakery, which was recommended to us by my mother-in-law. Not only did they have a delicious version of the wedding cake I wanted, (white cake with raspberry filling and white chocolate buttercream) they had cake that would fit in perfectly with the fact that it was fall for our groom’s cake. Pumpkin chocolate chip with white chocolate cream cheese frosting. I have yet to find anything nearly as good that claims to be the same cake. It is so delicious and rich that you will gladly ride that sugar coma train straight to hell!20130924-204205.jpg
First person to guess what the cake says gets nothing. Well, the glory of winning, but…

Most awkward cake cutting ever

In honor of our anniversary, I wanted to recreate that delectable groom’s cake.

Pumpkin cupcakes filled with cinnamon chocolate ganache


Yield 18

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Add dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin puree. May use mixer with whisk attachment.

Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Bake until tops spring back when touched, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.
Rachael said, “Look mom, they’re small and sweet, just like me”


1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Bring whipping cream to a simmer in a saucepan. Pour evenly over chocolate and let sit for 1 minute. Gently whisk, add cinnamon, and whisk until incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Beat chocolate on medium with hand mixer until ganache is light and fluffy, about 1 minute.

White chocolate cream cheese frosting

1 1/2 packages (12 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
6 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 ounces fine white chocolate, melted and cooled

Melt white chocolate in the microwave in 20 second intervals, stirring after each interval. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and cream cheese together until well combined. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the confectioners’ sugar. Mix until combined. Add the vanilla and white chocolate. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes.


Cut a cone from the center of the cupcake. You can achieve this by running your knife in a circle at an angle.

Mmmmm, leftovers

Spoon or pipe ganache into the center.
You will have an easier time piping the ganache with a medium round decorating tip. Place decorating tip at the bottom of the hole and life tip as you squeeze decorating bag. Decorate with frosting.

I wish I were a toddler, then I could lash out irrationally

My daughter is an asshole.

Believe me, I love Zoë to pieces, but in the middle of the night when she’s incoherently screaming bloody murder and nothing will satisfy her, she’s kind of an asshole. If you’re sitting there, shocked that I would say such a thing about my own child, clearly you’ve neither had a child with sleep issues, nor a single bad thought about your own child because you’re a saintly parent. And if you’ve never had a single bad thought about your child, you’re either a liar or not a parent.

Zoë was a fantastic sleeper when she was tiny. She slept through the night her first week home. Then, right around 6 months, a switch flipped on and it we’ve never been able to switch it back off. What began as the normal 6 month sleep regression morphed into night terrors. Between 90 minutes to 2 hours after laying her down, like clockwork, Zoë would wake up screaming like a banshee. She would stand in her crib, eyes glazed and fixed on a distant point not in the room, and run from us if we tried to pick her up or comfort her. After a few minutes, she would calm enough that we could pick her up and rock her back to sleep. The number of hours and tries it would take to get her back down to sleep would depend on the direction of the wind and alignment of the stars. As she grew older, we tried to get her to soothe in her crib when it was a normal crying fit, but she would have none of it. Her pissed off screaming could be heard from the street. I was pretty sure our neighbors were going to call social services any day because it sounded like we were murdering her. Nothing we tried helped. From attachment parenting to cry it out and Ferberizing, the little sleep dictator demanded things her way. More nights than I can count, I spent sleeping in our glider because whenever I moved to put Zoë back to bed, she woke up crying. (Also, to the smug assholes who laughed in my face at Babies R Us when I recommended our glider and ottoman to them can suck it. Clearly, this thing was an investment. I hope you had sleepless nights in the cheap ass, uncomfortable rocker you ended up with. It’s call karma!) Mike would take turns with me so it didn’t all fall on me, but Zoë is a mama’s girl, so many times I ended up having to deal with her anyway. Everyone knew of our plight, especially from the Facebook statuses I would post at 3 am. So those people would ask how Zoë was sleeping. It got to the point where we refused to tell them, because after any time we’d say it was getting better, we’d have the night from hell that night. You don’t talk about Fight Club.


Often times when she would be inconsolable, especially if Mike was losing his cool with her, my body would start burning. My arms and legs would sear off better than a roast. Once I had the diagnosis of fibromyalgia, I understood than the stress of the situation was amplifying my pain. The lack of rest was not allowing my muscles to release at night, which led to more aching. I felt like I was living with post traumatic stress. I almost held my breath every time we laid her down for the night. Whenever she started crying, I would essentially panic, knowing the pain and the stress of the night had arrived to torture me.

Each new change brought a new sleeping challenge: coming back from a trip; learning to fall asleep in her crib; staying in her big girl bed and falling asleep. Lately, she has been sleeping in her bed….once we got her to sleep. But last night was the night from hell. She came into our room around 3ish and slept with us for awhile. Once Mike tried to put her back in her bed, it was on. She was up for the next couple of hours, her screaminess dotted with brief periods of calm. Both Mike and I lost our tempers with her, exhausted and wholly impotent, unable to figure out what she needed or wanted. Eventually Mike took her downstairs so I could rest, (I woke the screaming beast because I had the nerve to try and lay her down so I could relieve my spasming bladder.) I woke up this morning with him back in bed and Zoë in her bed, so I know he eventually succeeded.

Often, the next morning after that kind of night, we greet Zoë with a, Hello, Zoë, a la “Hello, Newman.” The next morning, it’s like it never happened. Our exhaustion is the only thing that remains of the hellish night before. After all, how can we stay mad at someone so cute?
I has the cute so my parents don’t eat me

I love my husband

Me: *squeeeeeeeeeeeeee*

Mike: What?

Me: How I Met Your Mother starts on Monday!

Mike: Yes, it starts on Monday…..*ominous voice* for the last time.

Me: Meh! You just had to go and kill the joy.

Mike: It was already out there *makes flailing actions*….
It’s like a horse with a broken leg. It will never race again, but it will make a child very happy as a glue stick or a meatball.

The Land of Nod needs to pay to redecorate Zoë’s room and/or therapy

When I was a little girl, I had a doll in my room that my mother kept there for decoration. She was a stuffed country doll with curly gray-brown yarn hair under a puffy red hat. She had a matching country lace trimmed red gingham dress. Her round hands and flat face were creamy white with just a touch of rose on the cheeks. I don’t remember if she had a mouth, but I think if she did, it was an embroidered line in light brown. For eyes, she had simple round dots of clear sky blue.

And I was terrified of her.

Her name was Bessie, and she sat on my toy box, scaring the ever loving shit out of me. By day, she was to be approached with caution. As long as sunlight streamed into my room, all she could do was sit motionless, her murdery hands waiting. Her empty eyes were actually full of whispers that said, I’m watching you. I used to turn her around so she couldn’t look at me, but she was always turned back around, because decorating. But at night, she would come alive in my dreams. I learned to sleep under the covers so she couldn’t leap off the toy box and bounce over to my bed in the dark. But man, did she mind fuck me. I would know she had come alive because I would hear a noise that sounded like a cross between reverb, speaker feedback, and the sound of the asteroids blowing up in the Jengo Fett/Obi-Wan Kenobi chase scene in Attack of the Clones hitting a wormhole. I had nightmares of her chasing me down the hall. I would run, floating through the air, but always woke before she caught me.
I told my parents I was terrified of this down-home, country succubus, but they believed me to be silly. It wasn’t until the summer between 7th and 8th grade when we were packing to move that my mom fully realized how terrified of Bessie I had been. She had been put away at some point, but she had found her way back to me. As she lay there in her packing box, she had all the nonchalance of Sup?, but to me she said with her obscured chin mouth, I’m going to eat your brain!

So now it’s my turn. Now I get to deal with my girl’s irrational fears which seem completely legitimate to them. I get to discern between fears I should indulge, (like a fear of the open closet) and fears I need to help them conquer, (like a fear of the dark.) Zoë is terrified of her pink floor lamp.
Normal, unassuming, overpriced lamp.

It is beyond aggravating, because it means we don’t currently have light in her room. But I get it. Her nightlight would shine up through the bottom of the shade and would create a shadow of the lightbulb with the wire crosspieces behind it, making it look like a skull and crossbones on her wall. For awhile, she accepted the fact that it was just a shadow; we would put on shadow puppet shows to reinforce this concept. But now, if we try to have the lamp in her room, especially at night, (even though we’ll move the location of the lamp) she screams that it’s “skehrwee” and wails like a banshee until we remove it from her room. As frustrating as it is, I really don’t blame her. Even the most developed of minds can be startled by an odd shadow in the middle of the night. As least I know her imagination isn’t broken. Also, one minute it’s a shadow. But if you’re not careful, the next minute you’re Linda fucking Blair and doing the crab walk down the stairs and in desperate need of a barf bag. So really, Zoë’s a natural survivalist.
Not today, motherfuckers!

And as far as


See? And you thought fearing the lamp was just silly.


I feel like my first few weeks of blogging were easy. I had so many things stored up to write about. Once I had gone through those, I had things which presented themselves for the written word. Lately, though, I haven’t had any strokes of culinary “genius”. I haven’t felt the need to write anything down. Nothing terribly inspiring or funny has happened. Days have been filled with play dates, grocery shopping, choosing between peeing and household chores, and repainting our front door.

Ancient Druid symbol for “We’re coming for your young!”

Rather than peeling and cracking paint, we now have peeling coating on the lock and handle from the tape we covered them with to protect them. Because, of course we do.

But the truth is, I have had something to write about, I just haven’t been ready to share. I feel certain it will cost me or hurt others, but I don’t feel like I’m being entirely honest about myself until I do share. To put it simply, I’m agnostic.

To some, what I’ve just revealed is a giant anti-climactic ball of “so what?”. To others, like my family, it’s a heart breaking admission. To me, it’s freeing.
I’ve wrestled with this for the past several years. It began with doubt, as these things tend to do. I started taking a harder look at my faith and things slowly stopped making sense. So much of what I had “known” when I was younger was wrong. The more I read and studied the Bible, the more I realized that the “faith” I had was not my own. It was as if I had borrowed a coat many years ago and still had it. It may be hanging in my closet, but it doesn’t belong to me. So I tried to build a faith, convinced that it was something I needed. I immersed myself in Bible study, prayer, going to church, and surrounding myself with others who called themselves Christians. But as time went on and I put myself through the motions, I found myself gripped by anger, fear, and guilt, rather than released by peace. Every time I came to gather for worship, I felt out of place and heavy hearted. Easter was particularly depressing for me. Rather than responding with, He is Risen, indeed! every time someone proclaimed He is Risen!, I wanted to dully quip, Yeah…maybe.

Breaking Up is Hard to Do
I can’t say that finally letting go was like a death, because that would imply there was something worth mourning forever. No, it was more like a breakup. Like a toxic relationship with your college boyfriend, I realized that trying to stick with it was doing more harm than good. I needed to let it go. It wasn’t easy at first. Old habits die hard. I would remind myself as I cried for help during those desperate nights as Zoë screamed that I didn’t believe that anymore. (Incidentally, I felt a lot better once I stopped waiting for the cavalry to arrive.) I did go through the classic stages of grief: “fear, denial, horniness, wisdom, sleepiness, and now, depression.” (You always learn something from 30 Rock!) Now that I’ve let go, I feel so much better. The angst is gone. I finally have the peace I’d been craving.
I kept it from Mike for awhile because I didn’t want to hurt him. Fortunately, given our conversations and his knowledge of my struggle, I think he knew it was coming and has handled it well. At least, I think he has. I usually find out he hasn’t handled something well a couple of months later because of a meltdown over something completely unrelated.

How You’ll React
I tend to have conversations in my head with other people when the subject is stressful. I imagine how they’ll react based on what I say and what I know of them. So, here we go.

1) Agnosticism is just a poor man’s atheism.


No, seriously, swinging from one faith extreme to the other doesn’t make sense to me. Just as I am not confident in declaring there is a God, I am not confident in declaring that there is no God. I’m open to either path, so long as it’s one I choose. For right now, I’m settled and content in the “I don’t know”.

2) I’ll pray for you.

If you would like to do that, that’s fine. Maybe yours will work out better than mine ever did. But if you do, please don’t tell me, I’ll pray for you. Even if you mean well, it usually comes across as condescending. And the times it doesn’t come across as condescending, it comes across as dickish. It’s the Christianese version of Bless her heart. Ooooh, and then there’s the mash up of, Bless your heart, I’ll pray for you.

I was kinda sad when they canceled this show.

3) You’ll go to hell and be separated from God forever!

Fear had always been a motivator for me when it came to being a Christian. While I certainly drank the Kool Aid for awhile, (Oh, yeah!) the main reason I held on for so long was a fear of hell. Growing up evangelical, the fear of hell and Satan was drilled into you. I used to be tortured at night by the fear of demons engaging in spiritual warfare for my very soul as I prayed to God to help me fall asleep and keep me safe. So you can imagine my relief when I came to learn that the devil didn’t enter into Judaism until their captivity in Babylon. The devil was an aspect of Zoroastrianism that they took into their faith and lore. Gone was my fear of hell, demons, a devil, and eternal torture. So you can say I’ll go to hell, but my reaction will be shrugged shoulders, an Mmkay, and something about Pascal’s Wager.

4) Scripture! Arguments! Reasons!

I’m not trying to convince anyone to believe there isn’t a God. So I’m not going to argue with you about it.
Ah ha! You don’t want to argue because you know you’re wrong!
Nooo….. That’s kind of the point of agnosticism. I don’t know. I’ve just argued it with myself for so long that I’m kind of done. I’m not about to waste breath (typing power?) in a war of attrition.

5) But the children!

I was raised in the church. For the first several years of my life, my father was a pastor. So we see how well that turned out. I have no intention of discouraging faith for the girls. I still let Rachael say a prayer at bedtime, but I let it be her choice. I will do my best to answer and encourage questions. If they come to faith, great! I feel one of the best things I can do for them is, if they come to faith, to let them have a faith that is authentically theirs.

6) But more scripture and arguments!

Dude, apologetics with clobber verses make you sound like a dick. Seriously, let it go.

Fighting my stage mom wannabe

At the risk of sounding braggy, Rachael was kind of a Gerber baby. Several people mentioned that to me, and I even heard it whispered as I walked with her through the lobby of an Olive Garden once. Some people asked if I was going to get her into child modeling. I was like, Nooooooooooooo. It’s not that I didn’t believe her to be cute, (although I try not to believe the sun shines out of my children’s asses. That way lies the path of Honey Boo Boo.) It wasn’t that I couldn’t take off work to take her for auditions, (even though, I couldn’t have.) It wasn’t just that I wanted nothing to do with that superficial world. It’s because I know something very fundamental about myself: I hate a lack of control. I knew full well that not having any control over what would happen on auditions or any jobs she might have gotten would have driven me mad. I would have become a stage mom.
I can has contract?

I think, to some extent, it’s an impulse that most parents fight. They so desperately want to see their children succeed. It’s unbelievably frustrating or, at least it is for me, to see your child not do something when you know full well that they are capable of doing it.
It drove me insane when Rachael took dance class. She really loved it and did well at first. But after three semesters of basically doing the same thing, (even though they were supposed to be different classes) she got bored and started acting up. Rachael acting up looks like her not possibly being able to do what she’s been asked to do. Rather than sitting and doing a butterfly stretch, she does a butterfly stretch and “loses her balance” and falls over….from a sitting position. Sitting on the sidelines and not really being able to correct her was rough. (As was sitting on a hardwood floor with fibro butt and back for an hour while trying to keep Zoë entertained.) I did it every once in awhile when she started getting really disruptive, especially since her teacher wasn’t at all a disciplinarian. But beyond the behavior, it was exasperating that Rachael wasn’t excelling or trying too hard, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. I praised her good performance. I fussed about her needing to pay attention and try harder, because I knew she could do it. We had to have a sticker chart with reward books to get her through recital practice. And then I finally accepted it; no matter how much I wanted her to love dance and do well, she didn’t love it in the way that she needed to in order to do well.

She looked really stinkin’ cute in a tutu, though.

Now Rachael is trying gymnastics. She’s teeny tiny, wiry, and she likes being on her head.
Watching TV
She really enjoyed class. I really enjoyed watching her…right up until they started doing real things beyond stretching. Every time she she got silly, I cringed. Every time she majorly messed up, (because she should totally do it perfectly on the first try, right?) I wanted to go in there and help make it right. I’m not going to lie, I motioned to her a few times to calm the fuck down while she got impatient waiting in line for the trampoline and balance beam. It’s probably helpful for me that we’re not in the room with them while they practice. Anti-anxiety meds don’t hurt either.
I don’t have any real big epiphany here. I just know that I have to keep the crazy momster in check while Rachael learns and becomes who she’s supposed to be. Also, she looks really cute in a leotard.