Crockpot lentil soup

Kai didn’t eat any, but I bet he’d have liked it if he did. Anya ate every bite. I didn’t even have to strain the liquid out this time. (Though I did, as always, have to pick out the carrots for her.) And this one was even easier than the last lentil soup I made.

Crockpot Lentil Soup

2 cups dry lentils
4 cups water for soaking
4 cups broth
2 carrots
3 celery stalks
1 onion
1 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
1/2 cup white cooking wine

Rinse and sort the lentils, then soak for 2 hours. Drain and combine in the crockpot with all other ingredients except the wine and simmer for 5 hours.* Add the wine and simmer another half hour.

*The recipe I based my soup on said to cook the mixture on medium for 8-10 hours. I don’t have a medium option on my crockpot; as I was going to be in and out of the house all day, I opted for low. Low kept the mix at a simmer, and 5 hours was more than sufficient to cook the veggies until they were tender. Cooking much longer or at a higher temperature likely would have turned the lentils to mush. Your crockpot may vary.


Lies mirrors tell

You may notice a lack of goal updates lately. This is not an oversight. I’ve dialed back the goal work recently. This is why.

I’ve heard the term “body dysmorphic disorder” bandied about quite a bit, but I never thought I had it. Not until I read Lindi Ortega’s Lenny Letter and recognized myself. The way I’ve picked apart my skin, my hair, every small feature of my body since I was old enough to start noticing the way I was different from other people. So, like, age 6 or 7.

So young, you say? Yes. Which is why I am dismayed, but not shocked, to hear my daughter obsess over her lack of a six-pack. I have no idea where she heard the term; I’ve never been fixated on having a six-pack. (I just want a flat stomach. It doesn’t have to have definition.) But I did learn, finally, where she got the notion that she, at the age of 6, should have one.

384517_2858208169180_112976356_nThis is me at Anya’s age. I did not do anything special to earn those muscles. I wasn’t especially thin — no thinner than my daughter, at any rate. I just have natural abs. I still do; I can feel them in there, above the endometriosis bloat and beneath the pregnancy-loosened skin and the breastfeeding pudge. I can make them stronger, but they’re already pretty strong; after months (okay, let’s be real — years) of inactivity, I can work up to doing 100 jackknives in less than a week. I can, if no small child decides to sit upon my back while I’m down, go do a 3-minute plank right this second, in my piggie slippers. I can’t do anything about the bloat or the pudge or the floppy skin, but the core strength is still there.

My daughter got a lot of things from me. Her hair, her eyes, her long legs, her smile. But she doesn’t have those abs, and she feels she should. Just as I, at her age, thought I should have a more feminine face and blond hair and more dainty hands and an even tan. (It was the 80s. Tan was a thing.)

When I got older, I fell victim to the Stridex and Clearasil marketing that was suddenly ubiquitous. So much so that I had Clearasilled upwards of 20 chickenpox blisters before saw one on my knee and realized they weren’t the world’s ugliest pimples. (I was 12, and I never really had acne. I didn’t know any better.) I obsessed over my (clear) skin at 12. And my suddenly thick, frizzy, wavy, unruly hair. I didn’t, at least at first, give a thought to my body.

Then I did, because boobs were everywhere. Except, it would appear, on me. I was flat until my 20s, when things shifted a bit to give me a somewhat balanced figure. But I still didn’t fill out shirts. And my calves were like sticks, no matter how much I exercised. I once did so many heel raises that I had to coat myself in Ben-Gay for days just to lurch to class. I had a flat stomach, slim thighs utterly free of cellulite, and a perky butt, but I had a small chest and tiny calves, so I felt hideous. I would buy clothes in the plus-size section, trying to mask my grotesque form.

The funny thing is that back then, everyone thought I had an eating disorder. I was in fact trying to gain weight; I was just unhappy, and when I am unhappy, I can’t eat. But the criticism I received from well-meaning people trying to save me from the eating disorder I didn’t have didn’t help my self-esteem one bit.

Such has it always been. I have picked myself apart my whole life, and people have helped me do it. But the loudest, cruelest voice has always been my own. And to watch my daughter start to do the same is devastating. Even more so because I’m still doing it — only now I’m comparing myself not to others, but to my former self. I put on clothes I wore before I got pregnant with Kai and look at the fat that bulges up around my waist and across my back. I look at the splotches on my face and wish for the skin I had at 18 — pimples and all. I look at my dimpled thighs and wonder why I ever thought bigger calves were such a big deal.

It’s not just my appearance, either. My house isn’t clean enough and I’m a horrible mother and a worse wife and daughter. I don’t work hard enough, and what work I do is laughably bad. I waste my free time doing things that don’t matter instead of finishing my book or working on Anya’s blanket or taking a class.

I will never live up to who I think I should be.

The thing is, I don’t want to. Not entirely. I enjoy setting goals and meeting them. I love always having a challenge before me. I’m not sure how I would derive any sense of self-satisfaction without that. But I also wish I could just be happy with me for five minutes. For my daughter. We can’t continue to compare ourselves to my former self and find ourselves wanting.

For starters, I never thought my former self was all that great to begin with.

But I Googled Lindi Ortega photos, and I don’t see any of the stuff she’s picking herself apart for, either. She’s absolutely beautiful. So it’s entirely possible that my mirror is lying to me, too.

I don’t know how to strike a balance between constantly having some goal to work towards and being forever uncomfortable in my own skin. But I need to find that balance, and soon. Because my daughter is watching.

I have reading envy

I’m knocking out a short survey snagged from Lorna because I miss reading. Kai yanked my bookmark out — again — and I have been working too much to sit down and figure out where the heck I left off. Which is why I dog ear, people.

Author you’ve read the most books from: Oh, Stephen King, no question.

Best Sequel Ever: The Drawing of the Three (Dark Tower series, so not technically a sequel)

Currently Reading: The Obsidian Chamber, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Drink of Choice While Reading: Ginger tea

E-reader or Physical Book? Both. I don’t have to dog-ear Kindle books. And thanks to the app on my phone, I can take a whole library with me wherever I go. But I am never going to convince my parents to buy me books online, let alone e-books; also, half of my to-read pile/shelf/bookcase are books my mom read and gave to me. So physical books are still on the menu.

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School: Holden Caulfield (gotta get my lit cred in there), though I likely wouldn’t have been cool enough for him. Joe Goffman from The Book of Joe probably would have dug me, though.

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance: Where the Heart Is, by Billie Letts. So not the kind of book I normally like, but I fell in love with it, and her writing. I just discovered she died, and am sad now.

Hidden Gem Book: gods in Alabama, by Joshilyn Jackson. I don’t know if it’s all that hidden (I’m quite out of the reading loop, as you can probably tell by the books I mention), but I certainly didn’t expect it to stay with me the way it did. Also The Book of Joe because I’ve read it until the pages literally started falling out; it’s one of the books that reignited my desire to write.

Important Moment in your Reading Life: This is one; I’ve happily(?) set aside my reading to read to my kids (or just snuggle them and watch the same Disney movie for the 111th time). Another was when I was about 7 months pregnant with Anya and had to start seriously censoring my reading material because I just couldn’t handle anything with dead, dying, or endangered children. (This has not really changed.) Actually, since becoming a mother, I simply cannot handle as much horror as I used to, because…well, I just can’t stand to read about people being mean to one another. Make of that what you will.

Just Finished: The Crimson Shore, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read: War. Sports. Anything involving dead, dying, or endangered children. Jodi Picoult, while I respect her as a writer, is pretty much a no-go for me. Family biopics spanning generations. Romance. Most biographies. And unless I am deeply, deeply interested in the topic or the author, nonfiction.

Longest Book You’ve Read: The Stand. It’s over 1000 pages, I believe. And I’ve read it so many times that Mom bought me a new copy. I still have my original, though. It’s covered in notes from when I wrote a paper on it in grad school. I would teach college English if I could teach King. Just saying.

Major book hangover because of: Hearts in Atlantis. I was upset for days, and it took several rereadings to get to the point where the ending didn’t make me sob.

Number of Bookcases You Own: I have narrowed my collection considerably, because I realized I was going to have to buy a bigger house just for my books and some of them weren’t worth all that. So I weeded to make room for better books. (I plan on living a really long time.) Right now I have four 5-shelf bookcases that have wiggle room. And an ever-growing Kindle library.

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times: The Stand, obvs. Also Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding and Ticktock by Dean Koontz. (If you are a fan of supernatural thrillers or slapstick comedy, read that one. It’s hilarious.)

Preferred Place To Read: Snuggled up on the couch under a blankie.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read: I forget what book it’s from, but Robert Fulghum wrote it. “Things were never ‘the way they used to be.’ Things never will be ‘the way it’s going to be someday.’ Things are always just the way they are for the time being. And the time being is always in motion.”

Reading Regret: Red Dragon. I had to read it for a class. Had nightmares for weeks. (Yet still watched Hannibal. I make no sense.) Also Moby Dick, and anything Emerson. I was an English major in undergrad and grad school, so I read those a lot. Never did get to the point where I enjoyed either.

Series You Started And Need To Finish(all books are out in series): A Series of Unfortunate Events

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books: That I haven’t already mentioned: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (I have the compilation, so I tend to think of it as one book); The Talisman, by Stephen King; Maybe (Maybe Not): Second Thoughts from a Secret Life, by Robert Fulghum (though choosing just one of his is like picking my favorite child)

Unapologetic Fangirl For: Stephen King, Douglas Adams, Preston/Child (though I think they need to stop churning them out quite so quick), Nick Hornby, Robert Fulghum

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others: I am so out of the loop that I can’t even answer this.

Worst Bookish Habit: There are those who would stone me for the dog-earing, but I’m not even sorry. I only dog-ear my own books, though.

X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book: It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It, by Robert Fulghum

Your latest book purchase: Confessions of a Funeral Director, Caleb Wilde. It obviously breaks my rule of dead babies, but it was light on the emphasis of them because, usually, people are much older when they die.

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late): See above.


Mashed baked potatoes

My kids refused to eat these, but I’m sharing the recipe anyway because it was absolutely delicious. I hope when they’re older I’m allowed to make these again.

Basically this is an unrecipe. I simply made mashed potatoes with cold baked potatoes instead of with boiled potatoes. Baking the potatoes instead of boiling them gives them a richer flavor, I think, with very little trade-off in texture. It was slightly lumpier, I noticed. But I don’t know if that’s because the potatoes were baked or because the potatoes were baked, refrigerated, then warmed up in the microwave before mashing. YMMV, in other words.

How it started was this: I have been craving baked potatoes, but baked potatoes take forever. So I got the brilliant idea to bake a bunch at once so I could eat the leftovers for lunch. Only this week was crazy, and I didn’t have that kind of time for lunch. (I know, right?) I thus found myself at the outside edge of food safety with five baked potatoes. So…I mashed ’em. And they were delicious.

I’ve seen some pretty fierce discussions online vis-a-vis foil/oil coatings on baked potatoes. This is how I do mine. Again, YMMV.

Mashed Baked Potatoes
serves 4-5 people who eat mashed potatoes

5 large Russet potatoes
Olive oil
salt to taste
milk, as needed (I think I used about half a cup)
Butter to taste (I used 4 tablespoons)

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Scrub the potatoes, then prick the skins with a fork. Lightly coat the skins in olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt.
  2. Bake the potatoes for 45-60 minutes or until tender. Let cool slightly, or refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Peel the potatoes, leaving the browned bits of potato just under the skin, and place in a large mixing bowl with butter. Sprinkle with salt. Mash until crumbly, either with a hand masher or a hand mixer.
  4. Add the milk slowly, blending after each addition, until the desired consistency is achieved.

My closet’s love affair with ThredUp

Historically, I have had the tendency to skip makeup and wear the same 10 or so outfits week in and week out. I thought this meant I wasn’t terribly particular about my appearance. But shifting from a cubicle drone to a WAHM who gets out less and less frequently has thrown me into a funk, and I finally figured out it is because I don’t feel attractive anymore. Before kids, I used to at least go out on the occasional weekend; now thanks to Kai’s threeness, I pretty much don’t go anywhere that doesn’t offer curbside service. And it’s wearing on me.

Anya got me back into the makeup habit when she was a baby (she is that girly), and I have kept it up except when my allergies are in full flare. But I tend to slide into a t-shirts-and-yoga pants rut — sometimes because they’re just comfy, but usually because I intend to exercise and don’t see the point in dirtying a second set of clothes. The problem is that I don’t feel all that attractive in workout wear. Especially since these wacko periods and the progesterone they keep giving me to deal with them have caused my stomach to swell. Spandex is not a good look on me right now. But most of my other clothes don’t fit, or do fit but are cut to emphasize a small waist, not camouflage a belly.

Enter ThredUp. While I do draw the line at some items (shoes, bathing suits, underthings), I have zero trouble wearing vintage clothing. My wedding dress was vintage, and some of my favorite outfits were picked up from Etsy sellers. ThredUp does vintage one better — these are current styles, in great shape, from brands I’m familiar with (so I have an idea of how they’ll fit me). The prices are definitely easy on the budget. Returns (available on most items) are easy. And it’s recycling!

Thanks to the sudden influx in new duds, I’ve been making more of an effort to dress nicely each day. I’ve even started incorporating colors into my wardrobe, which was starting to look very Morticia. My outfit choices are still limited, of course, by circumstance: I have to be able to nurse in it, it has to be easy to care for, and fancy fabrics are out because someone is eventually going to snot on it. (Velvet, I miss you.) But that leaves a surprising number of options. In my size. In colors that are flattering on me.

And I feel just that little bit better about…everything,



I’ll start this post by telling you about my son’s PMS.

Shortly after I started on the Provera, Kai’s mood swings became a sight to behold. One minute he was snuggling me and telling me he loved me. The next he was literally bouncing off the walls and cackling. A moment after that, he was shrieking at me in rage and beating me with his toys. While I was trying to put him in his car seat after dropping his sister off at art class, he fought so hard to get out of my arms that he slammed his face into the edge of the car door hard enough to make his lip bleed. And then shrugged it off and played happily in the front seat for 15 minutes. He sees your Terrible Threes and raises you a 13-year-old.

Because I was PMSing hard, and it sometimes takes me a bit to realize my mind is not my own in that state, I thought my son had gone completely off the rails, and that it was a sign of my utter ineptitude as a parent.

Then I realized that part of the problem was my own hormonal state. So I lifted the sugar embargo. And gave him some, to boot. It worked. He happily munched on candy, then lay down on the floor and passed out. When he woke, he was my cuddle bug once more.

The next day, he had a series of epic poos. I realized that, though his fever was gone and his symptoms had tapered, he was still sick. And he is not a patient sick person. His sister could wake up with the plague and still go to school. Not this boy.

The nurse at my doctor’s office also called me back and reassured me that it was highly unlikely that he was getting enough Provera to cause mood swings; he’s just 3. So that’s a load off. But also not, because he’s going to get sick a lot more frequently than I am going to be on Provera. (Plus I could just refuse the Provera.)

Speaking of the Provera, I’m finally done with the bottle and am now waiting to start. Whether the 3MS is done remains to be seen.

In other news:

  • Now R has the crud. Thus far I have stayed out of the fray, despite the fact that Kai has been sneezing in my face for days on end now. Go go gadget handwashing.
  • Mom is doing well. She’s even shopping again, which is freaking amazing considering she just had a damn heart attack. I bet Kevin Smith isn’t feeling that great.
  • I took advantage of R’s sick day to (finally) update my name on my bank account. And once again butted heads with small-town patriarchy. It is simply inconceivable to these women (yes, every single person who has pushed back against my married name has been a woman) that I would choose a name for myself that wasn’t First Maiden Married. “You’re changing your maiden name?” Um, no. I’m taking a new last name that reflects my legal and emotional bond to the father of my children but doesn’t erase the identity I’ve had for the past 43 years. (I’m working on a whole separate blog post on the topic.)
  • I have abandoned, for the moment at least, the ban on sugar. And the food diary. I can’t seem to keep a food diary without counting calories, and I can’t count calories without trying to keep them to my pre-baby levels, and that just isn’t enough calories for a breastfeeding mom. So I’m just trying to eat 2 fruits and 3 vegetables each day. And just like that, my headache went away. Sometimes I am my own worst enemy.
  • I have been snowed under with a huge work project these past two weeks, so not much else has been going on. But I’m beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel. With any luck, there’s cookies in it.

Southwest Won Ton Cups

This wasn’t even supposed to be a meal to share – it was my lunch, and a quick way to use up some unpopular rice. But Kai begged for one, and then asked for seconds, so I’m writing it up. I’m going to say Anya wouldn’t touch this with a ten-foot pole, but you never know. We definitely consider it worthy of a repeat baking.

All measurements approximate, as I was mushing together leftovers rather than measuring.

Southwest Won Ton Cups

1 cup beans (I used Simple Truth Tri-bean Blend)
1 cup corn
1 cup rice (I used a boxed rice, Cilantro Lime flavored. I don’t recommend it, though. Use a tasty rice.)
1 tablespoon hot sauce (I use Taco Bell Mild because I am a hot sauce wimp)
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350.* Spray muffin tin with cooking oil spray (if you’re using a nonstick pan, you can skip this step). Place one won ton square in each muffin cup. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the beans, corn, rice, hot sauce, and sour cream. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cups. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle cups with cheese, then bake for an additional 5-7 minutes or until cheese is melted and cups are firm and brown on the edges. Garnish as desired. (I opted for a drizzle of hot sauce; Kai preferred just a sprinkling of salt.) Serves 2-3 as a main dish.

*I reduced the oven temp to 350 because I was using a dark pan, but I think 375 might produce better browning, so I’m going to try that next time. If you use the hotter oven temp, remember to adjust your baking times accordingly.

For dessert, we had Chai Spice Shortbread cookies. This is not my recipe, but it’s so quick and easy that I just had to share. The kids went gaga for these. I found the taste a little mild, but that could be because my chai is a bit on the old side. I’m going to try it again with just the spices — fresh ones this time — to see how it turns out.