you can’t fail wearing argyle

I feel like I’m literally blowing dust and cobwebs off of this blog, as I haven’t posted in ages. My most recent post was in 2019, but I haven’t blogged regularly since 2018, but probably really since we moved to Denver in 2016.

But I’m back with a new reason for writing: I’m going to culinary school! If you happen to have been around for the first iteration of this blog, you might not be too surprised– some of the most popular posts used to be my weekly CSA boxes and what I’d do with all the produce inside them. I love food. I love to read about food, watch shows about food, plan trips around food, and make food. And now I get to spend the next 15 months getting really serious about food and cooking. 

But before we start on that new path, I want to explain a little bit how I got here.

I graduated college in 2007 with a shiny BA in English and Political Science. I wasn’t immediately sure if I wanted to go on to grad school in English literature to pursue becoming a literature professor, or if I wanted to follow my poli-sci heart to law school. What *was* certain was I’d be following new husband Jon to Charleston, SC for his pediatrics residency. I got a job as an administrative assistant in a real estate firm. Yeah– I got my first post-college job IN REAL ESTATE. IN 2007. Remember what happened to the real estate market in 2008?

I found myself laid off in fall of 2008. Unemployed, I dedicated myself to volunteering for the Obama campaign, and by the time he was inaugurated, I was working as an administrative assistant in the Studio Art Department at the College of Charleston. I watched the inauguration with a crowd in Marion Square. The biggest perk of the college job was, I got to take one free class per semester. I immediately started taking classes in the English department master’s program. Stuff like “Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement” and “18th Century Women Writers.” I loved it. Reading tons of books, writing papers, talking about books, going to an 18th Century Studies conference (nerd alert!) were all extremely my jam.

And when our 3 years in Charleston were up and Jon matched for a Pediatric Emergency Medicine fellowship in Little Rock, I knew I wanted to go to grad school for English and pursue becoming a professor one day. And for the next two years, I went to the University of Central Arkansas and made all A’s and won writing awards and generally thought I was well on my way.

In my second year of the program, I got pregnant. And then that pregnancy turned out to be a twin pregnancy. And then that twin pregnancy turned out to be a very complicated twin pregnancy. I popped a Zofran and went off to school every day of the fall semester, my belly growing slowly to a point where I had to sit sideways in the desks in order to fit. I wisely took the spring semester off, knowing my babies would be born somewhere in March, most likely, and that bed rest was a strong possibility. 

Because you can go read the whole story if you want to, I’m going to make a long story short and say I had a very traumatic post-childbirth near-death experience that involved my heart “catastrophically” failing due to a previously undiagnosed heart defect. And one of my babies is disabled and was also having a major neurosurgery and recovery in a hospital a mile away from the one where I was with the other twin. 


Bless my heart, guys. I had a new chronic health issue, a major case of PTSD (though I didn’t know it at the time), AND NEWBORN TWINS, one of whom has a disability. And still I took my 5 month olds to daycare and tried to finish my degree. I finished all my coursework with straight A’s that fall, and kept the babies in daycare so I could study for my master’s comprehensive exam that spring. In my program, the comps had basically two sections, essays and “ID questions.” I knew I could rock the essays, but I was particularly nervous about the ID section, because I’ve never had a great memory for things like the dates things were written. It was basically going to be a trivia free-for-all based on a list of literally hundreds of great works of English literature. Example: they list a character’s name or a quotation and you have to identify the work, author, when it was written, and say something else you know about that work. 

When I went to pick up my scores a few weeks later, I had, as expected, aced the essays. I can connect works to movements, compare and contrast them with other works, close-read, make thoughtful analysis, talk about meaning and symbolism, and make connections to other disciplines like psychology, religion, history and economics, no problem. But I failed the IDs. The kind of stuff anyone could Google. 

I felt defeated, but told myself I was under a lot of pressure and just needed to study more and try again. I studied and studied and studied, and then I retook the ID portion of the test. I remember putting on a nice outfit to go pick up my scores for my second attempt. I remember sitting on the floor of a hallway, crying, when I found out I failed again.

That’s when a professor in another department found me, asked me what was wrong, and after a sob story about my failure, said to me, “But you can’t fail! You’re wearing argyle!”

Except I did. And at the time, I was so used to basing my self-worth on my academic performance that I was convinced that this was shameful. That I was A Failure. I could have petitioned and begged for a third chance at the ID part of the exam, but I was so ashamed and convinced that it was all my fault, and I had so little support in the department, that I decided not to bother. 

It took me almost the entire intervening decade to realize that while yes, I did fail that part of the comps exam, I was also failed by that English Department. I was obviously a student in the midst of a family crisis– trying to parent twins, while married to someone in an academic medical fellowship (read, working like a dog), while learning to care for my disabled child, while learning to live with a disability myself, while dealing with untreated anxiety and PTSD. I even later realized that both PTSD and the specific medications I take for my heart defect can cause short-term memory issues, like, say, making a former quiz bowl team captain struggle to pass what is essentially a trivia exam. LITERALLY anyone should have suggested that perhaps I needed a leave of absence, and some help. I wish so hard that I had had any inkling back then that it was not actually all my fault, and that I wasn’t “a failure.” 

Wanna know something ironic? The program doesn’t even have the ID section on the exam anymore. They removed it because it was “unfair” and, I suspect, because being able to regurgitate googleable facts isn’t actually nearly as important as the kind of knowledge measured by the essay questions. 

So, I didn’t finish grad school, and I felt like a shameful failure. And I threw myself into being a stay-at-home parent to my girls. And now they’re about to be 10.

In that intervening decade, we’ve moved to Denver and put down some roots. Jon got his “dream job.” I finally got diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety disorder and PTSD and started getting treatment. The girls grew, and we did too. I no longer look at myself as a grad school failure, but a person who was failed by grad school during a very vulnerable time in my life. I wish I could go give that girl crying in the hallway a hug and let her know that she’s gonna be ok. 

So here I am, a decade later. I recently mended a hole in that argyle cashmere and it occurred to me that I’ve done a lot of mending of myself in the last 10 years. I know myself a lot better and like myself a lot more than I did a decade ago. I don’t need good grades, or fancy degrees, or an impressive job to make me feel worthy. And it’s from this place of self-knowledge and worthiness that I’m ready to go back to school. This time for an associate’s degree, not a master’s. I’M GONNA BE A CHEF, Y’ALL. Follow along, will ya?

so what the heck have we been eating?


So, in my last post I mentioned that Whole 30 (ish) had inspired a radical change in our diet. Jon and I have both been researching why we’re feeling so good, and are pretty committed to eating a more paleo-ish diet, or as Dr. Mark Hyman described it, a “pegan” diet that takes the best of paleo and veganism and combines them. Lots of good protein, healthy fats, and veggies, with little sugar or grains.

Breakfasts pretty much always involve eggs. I learned the perfect hack for awesome scrambled eggs: crack eggs into blender, blend them until frothy, and bam, you’ve got perfect fluffy scrambled eggs. We’re also into fried eggs with sauteed greens or veggies plus a side of sugar-free bacon or some breakfast sausage. I’ve made breakfast casseroles full of veggies, and also omelets full of veggies. A particularly decadent topping for scrambled eggs? Crisped proscuitto! Sometimes we have hash browns, because we’ve been sort of using potatoes as a crutch to get away from grains, but we’d like to eat those less often, too.

Coffee-wise, we’ve discovered we love black coffee. I also made cashew milk for the first time, and have been loving it in coffee as well.

Lunches are almost always giant salads. Mine always involve arugula and maybe some romaine for crunch, or some “cruciferous crunch” mix from Trader Joe’s that has kale, shaved brussels sprouts, and radiccio. I throw in tomatoes or cucumbers or peppers, add avocado, and then some chicken breast, leftover steak, or canned salmon or tuna. Usually I put almonds or pumpkin seeds on too. Dressings are usually homemade vinaigrettes. I truly love salads with lots of vinegary dressing, and don’t really see myself getting tired of them anytime soon. This is also basically what I did for lunch before all our big changes. Leafy, crunchy, bitter, salty things are my fave. If I don’t have a salad, I warm up some leftovers.

Kid lunch note: I still pack sandwiches on Dave’s Killer Bread. Sometimes they get chicken noodle soup in thermoses. We’re not making the kids be completely grain free.

Snacks! I’ve discovered I like a simple smoothie made of frozen berries, kale, coconut milk, almond milk, flax seeds, and almond butter. Berries are super good for you, and I don’t eat them (or fruit really) very often. We’re also into beef sticks, these little fruit and nut rounds from Trader Joe’s that are either just apricots and cashews or dates/cashews/cacao. Homemade kale chips are a fave, but I will eat an entire massive bag of kale turned into kale chips in one sitting. Jon loves to snack on plain nuts. My late night love is just a giant bowl of arugula with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and I’m also obsessed with pickles and olives. We’ve also been going through honeycrisp apples, with or without almond or cashew butter, like whoa. Guacamole with plantain chips or gluten free tortilla chips is a forever fave.

Dinners! Here I’ll share some recipes we’ve really liked. I must say, the kiddos have really enjoyed this change and have been eating more dinner than they usually do. Very rarely I make them a side of rice or pasta to round out their meals. Below are embedded pins from Pinterest, so if you don’t see them in your RSS reader, click through.














There’s a zillion more recipes if you click through to that “What the Heck Should I Eat” pinboard. Any questions?

dealing with a summer skin freakout

dealing with a summer skin freakout |

In my mind, summer is a season of barely any makeup and glowing skin. Instead, lately my face has kind of been freaking out. It’s not an all-out breakout, but my face is more congested than I-70 traffic. My forehead and chin are covered with little bumps thanks to clogged pores. It makes sense: sunscreen, sweat, still using my heavy cooler-weather moisturizers… my face is not handling it well.

Luckily, I know how to take care of this issue. Counter-intuitively, the first step is OIL. Specifically oil-cleansing. I know. When your pores are plugged up, you’re probably thinking oil is just going to make the issue worse, but “like dissolves like.” When your pores are clogged up with oils, sunscreens, and makeups, oil can dissolve it. I like to use either Trader Joe’s Facial Cleansing Oil or Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Oil. Put a pump or two into your hands and massage into your dry face for a good minute. Really go in on the bumpy areas, massaging in circles. Don’t be weirded out, but you might feel actually gritty stuff coming out of your pores. That’s normal! Great, even! Then remove oil with a wet washcloth (I use flannel baby wipes) and wash with your usual non-foaming face wash. Definitely try an oil cleanser. Recently, I was staying with a friend and convinced her to give it a try. I ended up leaving her my bottle of Trader Joe’s oil cleanser.

Next step: clay mask. I like the Captain Blankenship Petal mask or the L’Oreal Detox and Brighten Clay Mask. Tip: apply your clay mask with a foundation brush. Leave the mask on until it feels dry and like your nose might crack off. Remove with a wet washcloth.

dealing with a summer skin freakout |

Then: ACID. I’m a fan of the Pixi Glow Peel Pads, but I would absolutely not recommend 20% glycolic acid for acid beginners. I’m also a big fan of The Ordinary’s Lactic Acid. Start with the 5%, or if you’re used to using acid exfoliants, go for the 10%. Apply all over your face. If you use the peel pads, rinse after a few minutes. If you use the weaker acids, you can just wait a bit (I go with 15 minutes to whenever I finish whatever show I’m watching and remember to do the next step) and then move on to moisturizing.

Speaking of: I’m back on my old standby while my skin adjusts to summer life: Clinique Moisture Surge. I love the cooling gel texture and the way it makes my skin feel plumped in a baby-cheek sort of way. It feels extra soothing on skin that’s seen a little to much sun, too, and it doesn’t clog my pores. I’ve been using the stuff for over a decade now, and am still super loyal.

After one night of this, my skin texture was already drastically smoothed out. You want to do this routine once, maybe twice a week. Otherwise, I’m sticking to my usual routine and keeping up with my retinoid (Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum) and 10% Lactic Acid every other night.



a spanking for frances?

We have the book Bread and Jam for Frances. It’s a book I remember loving as a child. A picky-eating badger turns her nose up at her mother’s cooking a few times too many and finds herself eating bread and jam for every meal, until she gets sick of it and decides to try new things. Luckily our girls haven’t been particularly picky, but they seem to enjoy the story, even if to them “bread and jam is just for breakfast.”

bedtime for frances

Today at the library, I saw some of the other Frances books. I asked the girls if they’d like to try them, and they picked out Bedtime for Frances. In this story, Frances keeps coming out of her room after bedtime, because of tigers, giants, and scary cracks in the ceiling. Her parents are at first bemused and then increasingly frustrated. And then all of a sudden, Frances’s father says that if she comes out again, she’s getting a spanking.

“What’s a spanking?” sweet four-year-old Claire asked. “Well, sometimes parents hit their children on their bottom when they do things they aren’t supposed to do. Kind of like how you sometimes get time outs. We don’t like to hit, so we don’t do that,” her dad explained

I’m thankful my kids have made it to four years old and find it unthinkable that an adult would hit a child, that they’ve made it this far and don’t even know what a spanking is. I wish I could say that I find the idea of hitting my children unthinkable, but the truth is, I have wanted to. Children have their ways of pushing you to the limits of your energy, patience, empathy, and self-restraint. I have been so tired, angry, and frustrated with my children that I wanted to hit them, that I felt that impulse. But that’s what it would have been if I had given in: impulsive, angry, and wrong. It wouldn’t have been about teaching them, it would have been about me lashing out in my anger. The only thing it would have shown them is that I am no more capable of managing my emotions and impulses than they are.

I am not one to say “there but for the Grace of God go I” very often, but this is one of those areas where I really do feel it’s only grace that has kept me from that brink. It’s only the whisper in my ear that tells me to walk away, take a breath, make a different choice, hide in my room if I have to long enough to cool down. Because maybe giving a kid bread and jam for every meal for a while is creative parenting, but bedtime spankings don’t make sense to anyone in my family, even in my tiredest, most rock-bottom moments. Thanks for the reminder, Frances.

*Note: I’m not interested in debating spanking with you. I only presume to know what is best for my family.*

big news

Many of you are aware that last summer, Jon interviewed for his dream job at the children’s hospital in Denver, which is his hometown, and is where all of his family still lives. The search process for that position has been long and drawn out. At first we thought we might hear something in the fall, then after the holidays. In all of that time, uncertainty hung over us. I had trouble sleeping, and my neck and shoulders seemed constantly tense. I tried not to consciously worry, but I basically just stuffed all of those feelings into my muscles, apparently.

Well, we finally heard a couple of weeks ago, and now that all the appropriate folks know at his current job, we can tell the world: Jon landed his dream job in Denver. We’ll be moving most likely in July. This is obviously huge, life-changing news, and a big new adventure for our family. I feel like I’m now feeling many conflicting things at once. I’m so proud and excited for Jon professionally, and I’m thrilled that our girls will be getting to grow up near a lot of family who love and support us. But this means we’re leaving my home state, a life we love here, and family we love here. Leaving is HARD, no matter how exciting the place you’re going. And I’ve actually never lived outside the South before. I might have some culture shock in store.

The cousins the girls will be growing up with in Denver.
The cousins the girls will be growing up with in Denver.

Now we are working on getting ready to list our house here, and hoping it sells well. While also trying to throw a fabulous fourth birthday party and enjoy the time we have here with the people we love. If the emotions and worry were making it hard for me to write before, life has been getting in the way of me writing ever since we found out. Still, I hope having the cat out of the bag will make some room in my head to get back to the creative pursuits that give me life. Especially when our life seems to be in a lot of flux right now.

And if you’re one of our Little Rock friends? Let’s hang out. A lot. From now until July. OK?

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