Certain foods have no substitute. Seitan will never taste like steak, and vegan “cheese” is an oxymoron. I’m not a vegan or vegetarian, but I’m drawn to meat-alternative proteins such as tofu and tempeh (this tempeh is my all-time fave), and have been trying to cut back on my dairy. I also don’t have a sweet tooth… except for ice cream. I hate getting my knuckles all sticky, cajoling enough of the rock-hard confection out of its carton to fill a cup bowl, yet I haven’t the will power to take just a bite or two and put it back. Halo Top ice cream was made for people like me. At least in theory. And when all of their dairy-free flavors were on sale at the store, it was like a sign (there was literally a sign). I’d had the oatmeal cookie dairy flavor and loved it, so I trial-and-errored my way through the non-dairy flavors only to find error after error. Sorry vegans. There’s a reason they put the “cream” in ice cream.
Every flavor of Dairy-Free Halo Top ice cream
See what I did there?
I’ve also tried Arctic Zero, which was another fail. Is there a non-dairy ice cream out there that doesn’t make you feel like you’re being punished? Please share!
I know, I feel like an asshole for kowtowing to this whole unboxing fad, but I was so excited and curious about my first Splendid Spoon shipment that I thought it would be fun to share firsthand:
I just tried the Broccoli Hempseed soup. It was delish. And not just good-for-a-premade-healthy-soup delicious, but actually satisfying.
My one complaint is a common pet peeve I have with portioned foods: When you read the nutrition label, it says that each of these containers includes two servings. C’mon now. Half of this little bowl is not enough to sustain anyone larger than a toddler for more than a minute. So when you’re looking at the calories, etc, you have to double it. This still puts you in at under 500 calories for lunch, not to mention all of the green goodness that comes with it. Both servings in that little container pack 40% of your daily iron!
I’m not under the delusion that five days of smoothies and soups per week alone will get me back to my happy weight, but it can’t hurt. One of the most convincing elements in the onslaught of Instagram ads was the testimonial of one woman who said she dropped five pounds in the first week. Again, not expecting miracles, but it gives me hope. Combining a healthy diet with meditation, less alcohol and more exercise (yoga, walking, and resistance band workouts) will hopefully yield some results in time for swimsuit season. Nothing like waiting ’til the last minute!
If this doesn’t work, I’m going to do my Drug Test Diet. That’s when you pretend you’re about to get drug tested for a new job. Spend seven days drinking as much water as you can and excessive exercise to sweat out as much “THC” as you can from your system and you would not believe what it will do for your figure:)
The other day, I saw this post on Instagram via @fruitloopkeeper, and it totally spoke to me (and made me snort laugh). So I’m going to honor this truth and get right down to it with my mom’s recipes for pimiento cheese and benedictine with just a tiny bit of explanation. No endless scrolling. Promise!
I never liked pimiento cheese until I had my mom’s. She doesn’t use mayonnaise, which is what I think really seals the deal for me.
1 block cream cheese, cut into cubes (the real deal, not fat-free)
1 8-oz pkg sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
3-4 stalks green onion, green parts only, sliced thin
1 tsp salt (add more to taste)
1/4 tsp red pepper (or more if you like it spicy)
1 4-oz jar pimientos drained
Pinch of fresh jalapeño (optional)
1. Add all ingredients to food processor
2. Combine and enjoy!
If you aren’t from Louisville, Kentucky, you probably have never heard of benedictine, but it’s surprisingly one of several recipes indigenous to my hometown. It’s basically a spread made with cucumber, cream cheese and dill that works as well as a dip with veggies and crackers as it does between two slices of rye bread with some bacon. I made it for Derby and had some folks on Instagram ask me for the recipe. Like any good Southern recipe, there are endless interpretations and variations. But this is the only one you need;)
2 8-oz bricks cream cheese, cut into cubes
4-5 stalks green onion, green parts only, sliced thin
1 tsp salt (Add more to taste.)
4 tsp dill (fresh or dry; I prefer fresh, and I always add more)
1. Peel and seed cucumber. Wrap it in a paper towel and leave in the refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight to absorb moisture.
2. Combine all ingredients in food processor. Enjoy!
Notice that “enjoy” is part of the process:) Now you have two easy, go-to spreads/dips that are perfect for your spring and summer gatherings, or just to keep in the fridge for snacking and sandwiches!
Even though it doesn’t quite feel like spring yet, my internal clock still has the urge to purge my home of unnecessary stuff: toys, clothes, expired food, my husband’s third boat, you name it. As I read stories in magazines and websites offering spring cleaning tips, all I keep thinking about is the cover story from the last issue of Breathe that I put out before I was [dry hard gulp] fired. If I had been braver back then, I would’ve shared what that experience was like. Maybe now I will. But not, like, right this second. Right now, I want to share the best cleaning advice that I keep coming back to every time I get overwhelmed with clutter. Because it really does make sense and it’s totally doable! I was lucky enough to have Kath Younger from Kath Eats Real Food write this piece. She takes very specific, relatable problems in different rooms of the house and then shares her solutions. Breathe has since folded so you can’t read this story in website form, but you can read it as a digital magazine via issuu. Just flip to page 18. Check it out and let me know what you think!
I’m a Coke girl, but there was awhile there in the ’90s when Pepsi had my heart. As a gawky, poofy haired tween (before “tween” was even a word, they called us pre-teens back in the day), Pepsi had a knack for making me feel like I could be just a wee bit cool(er) if I drank their sodas. I’m such a sucker for a smart ad and good design. Thank god they weren’t selling crack… or butterfly clips.
The “Cool Kids” Commercial. People may have gone gaga over “Pepsi girl” Hallie Eisenberg, but this is my all-time favorite Pepsi commercial. It takes a good ad to make you switch brands, and this was that commercial for me, where I decided to give Pepsi a try. It didn’t last long, but then again neither did Bugle Boy jeans.
Young MC and Pepsi Cool Cans. With entire blogs devoted to drink design like Oh Beautiful Beer, it’s easy to forget that cans weren’t always considered an open canvas. I went bananas for these Pepsi Cool Cans and collected all four in the summer of 1990. Now, a six-pack goes for almost $30 on eBay. Maybe I should’ve kept mine!
Crystal Pepsi. I feel like if I search really hard, there might be a few cases left in some dark corner of the dark continent along with a crate of Kentucky men’s basketball 1992 NCAA Champs t-shirts and hats that never saw the light of day (that one still hurts). And just now — like just this minute — I learned that Crystal Pepsi was re-released a couple of years ago for a brief time. How did I not know this? Well, I’m not going to miss another Crystal Pepsi promo, because I’ve joined the “Bring Back Crystal Pepsi” Facebook page. And while this page, with more than 7,800 followers is still active as of February 2018, its petition is sadly closed. So I’ve brought it upon myself to start the Bring Back the “Bring Back Crystal Pepsi Petition” Petition. Oh yeah, you heard that right. I’m imploring the original creator of the Bring Back Crystal Pepsi petition to open back up his plea to the masses. You can sign it here: https://chn.ge/2HhhAgv. They say you should pick and choose your battles. For me, the choice is clear.
So much of my mom life is spent in waiting rooms, lobbies, and my mobile waiting room (aka, the car). Yesterday, I found myself waiting my way through a doctor appointment followed by a haircut. Between books and sick of scrolling through Instagram, I picked up a couple of magazines. I LOVE magazines. Whoever says print is dead, is dead to me. I love the feel of the lightweight coated paper between my fingers. And my favorite magazines mean talented editors at the mast who curate inspiring, beautiful, and sometimes surprising content in a layout that’s at once striking and flowing. I. Love. Print. Magazines.
When I find myself playing the waiting game, and I actually have time to read a magazine or two from cover to cover (I read from back to front, does anyone else do that?), I devour them like a pint of Halo Top ice cream.
When I find articles or helpful tidbits, it’s not enough for my scattered brain to make a mental note. I might as well ask my three-year-old to write it down for me. I wouldn’t be so gauche as to steal an entire magazine from a waiting room or tear out a page, rather I take photos. Yesterday’s bounty was reaped mainly from the April 2018 Redbook with the exception of one recipe from a winter edition of Real Simple. Not as simple as hitting a “share” button, but I want to spread the love. Here are my finds:
What a friend we have in cheeses. I must admit, I borrowed that headline from an editor I worked for years ago in Charlotte. It’s still my favorite of all time. And it suits these beautiful appetizers that I think I could actually make myself. Look how pretty!
2. Seedy. I can do so well with my diet, but lack of a good snack in the car or at night always gets me in the end. This spin on sunflower seeds sounds so munch worthy.
3. Leaf conquers all. I’m forever in search of a salad that sounds better than pasta or a sandwich. This one fits the lunch bill, plus it makes enough for four days!
4. Something in ramen. This recipe for ramen looks way better than the stuff I made in college (and let’s face it, still sometimes make late night), and it sounds like it could actually live up to its “easy” promises.
5. Shake what your mama made ya. They describe this meditation jar for adults, but I want to do this craft with my kids and make one for each of them as well!
6. Here comes the sun (screen). And I say, it’s more than all right. All this time I’ve been looking for a daily SPF lotion to wear under my makeup. Why didn’t I think of something like this setting mist? Brilliant!
I love websites, but print magazines will always hold a special place in my heart. Do you prefer print magazines or websites, or both?
I love home design. But I know that my expensive taste doesn’t match my current life. So until my children are older (possibly moved out of the house) and I stop feeling the need to add new, poorly trained animals to our brood, I have to set limits and get my design fix through blogs like Design Milk and my new favorite Instagram account, @hunkerhome. If money were no object, my floors would be smattered with statement rugs from Thomas Paul. It’s just hard to rationalize investing in furniture or decor that will get peed, pooped and puked on. This is not a mere possibility, it’s an inevitability.
I have a rug rule: If it’s 5×7 or smaller, it has to be under $200. And all rugs must be under $300. We just said goodbye to our cowhide rug, which was layered over a natural jute rug. You would be surprised how well cowhide handles stains, but in the end it had more bald spots than an Olive Garden at 4pm. And the jute rug had seen its share of set-in stains, like the one from last summer when Dave decided to see what would happen if he squeezed a fully engorged tick he pulled from one of the dogs. He couldn’t have stepped three feet to the left and done this over the very wipeable hardwood floors (no furniture rearrangement could hide that one).
We already had a blue/brown thing going in our living room, and certainly didn’t need any more brown added to the mix. I love how the pattern almost welcomes messes, as it kind of looks like a loosely orchestrated Rorschachian spill itself. Dave and I have a bet on how long it will take for Thatcher to “christen” the rug. He only gave it a day, and I bet three. We are on day four with no accidents, so everybody loses and yet… winning!
In other home design news: Did you know that Canadians refer to all sofas as Chesterfields and not just these? Totally rethinking the Barenaked Ladies lyrics now. Mind. Blown.
OK, so one of those is Robert Downey, Jr. But the rest have to do with the endless challenge of not looking tired all of the time. Everyone’s response to my sallow complexion and chin acne is, “Oh, well you have kids.” And until my youngest turned two (yes it took until she was two), it was, “You just had a baby! Don’t be so hard on yourself.” While I appreciate the blind support, this is not something that just started when I became a mom. There was the time I came off the plane from a bachelorette party in my mid-twenties, and I was mistaken for a young woman (then prominently in the news) who had been held captive in a third-world country for several months. While I love the idea of self care, and can even rationalize buying cosmetics and skincare products, they always seem to add up so quickly. So I’ve made a wish list that I can reference when I’m ready to treat myself:
Though Weleda’s self-proclaimed “best beauty secret” has been around since 1926, I’m just finding out about it. (Hence the secret, I suppose.) But if I had a product that was an all-purpose, cure-all skin cream, which gave that dewy glow with the tap of my fingertips, I’d be shouting it from the rooftops. Customers rave about Skin Food for their hands, feet, cuticles, lips, and even to add shine to dry, curly hair (um, hello!). And I probably should have led with this, but Rihanna and Victoria Beckham don’t leave home without it.
I’ve decided that drag queens have the best makeup and skincare secrets. A former drag queen and makeup artist did my makeup for an event the other week. I told him the chin acne he was covering up had been plaguing my face since I was pregnant with my daughter four years ago. “Magic Pads, Magic Pads, Magic Pads,” he replied with confidence. “Say it three times, and you will remember it.” I did, and can’t wait to try them.
My face is SO dry and dull, it’s like the skin equivalent of watching C-SPAN. This moisturizer doubles as a day and night cream, plus it hydrates and reduces fine lines. For the win: Drunk Elephant “never takes into account an ingredient’s synthetic or natural status, but instead chooses based on its safety and bio-compatibility.” That speaks to me.
I was first drawn to The Ordinary through a post from The Cut about an easy, affordable skincare routine. Their product called The Buffet appealed to me the most because it’s the only one without a super sciency sounding name. Putting honesty and integrity above all else resonates with me, but if I’m being totally honest, I found the whole brand very confusing. However, after reading this The Ordinary Cheatsheet, I’m starting to wrap my head around what they’re all about, and I’m still on board. Now my sights are set on their sunscreen, which is supposedly due out anytime now. I LOVE a good, affordable daily sunscreen. Their site says “coming soon.” I will keep stalking them until it comes out. It has to be out before pool season, right?
In the movie About A Boy, Hugh Grant’s character explains how he divides up his days into units of time. Taking a bath: one unit. Exercising: three units. I also measure my day in increments, but rather than the arbitrary units of a bored, rich playboy, I view my minutes in a very specific, valuable commodity called sleep. Choosing sleep over anything else almost always results in a sacrifice of some kind, be it my appearance or basic hygiene. What used to be a fun party game (Would you rather eat shit that tastes like chocolate, or eat chocolate that tastes like shit?) has turned into my daily life. And I always lose. Maybe I love sleep more than the average person. Maybe I’m more ambivalent about showering than the average person. You tell me. How would you answer these questions?
My answer: This is a tough one. Five minutes more of sleep in the morning is gold, and if I’m drinking coffee on the way to the bus stop, it’s going to immediately counteract my fresh breath anyhow. There used to be nothing I hated more than morning teeth (that nasty filmy feeling) and my own morning breath… until my kids started crawling into bed with us at 2am, stealing the covers, waking up the dogs who then need to go out, and jumpstarting my anxiety at an ungodly hour. It honestly depends on the morning. Though if I’m going to do one thing (besides get dressed, which is not a given if I’m coming back home after taking the kids to school), this is it.
My answer: First, 15 minutes is a conservative estimate given how thick my hair is. It almost takes five full minutes just to get it all wet. And then if I dare to shave my legs (it will have been at least a couple of weeks since the last time), add another five minutes. Not to mention all of the product I have to lacquer myself with from head to toe when I get out. So let’s call this 30 extra minutes of sleep, and let’s say that when I do shower (which is not often enough) it’s usually in the evening after my husband gets home.
My answer: I hardly ever wear makeup even when I do have the time to put it on, although I love the idea of any product that will make me appear well-rested and all dewy and glowy. And I do love my Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm. I really do need a morning skin care routine, but right now I usually end up hitting the snooze button a second time, rush to make the kids’ lunches, curse myself for not making their lunches the night before, and maybe slap on some moisturizer with SPF (I’m not a savage) before running out of the house with my stank morning breath.
My answer: Ok, this one has nothing to do with sleep, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot and still don’t know which one is worse.
After you’ve decided to take the plunge down the Disney rabbit hole, the next big decision is where to stay when you get there. On or off the property? A room at a value resort or deluxe suite inside one of the parks?
How much should you spend?
Now, I LOVE love hotels. In fact when we go on vacation I sometimes wish our destinations were secretly more boring so I had a better excuse to sit in my hotel room all day wrapped in my white hotel robe on the white bed (white does not exist at my house even where it should) and watch hours of HGTV in between my mid-morning and mid-afternoon naps. HOWEVER, when planning our Disney trip, I made an exception to my hotel snobbery for a few reasons, and they are ones I suggest all parents who fall on the Mickey Meh side of the spectrum should consider:
If you are sharing a room with small children, it doesn’t matter if it costs $120 per night or $500 per night. It’s going to be a shitty night’s sleep.
You’re going to be so busy and exhausted from your days at the park that even if you are able to get everyone asleep and stay asleep without major meltdowns and musical beds (see number 1), will you have time to enjoy the amenities at one of the nicer resorts?
If you have a set amount to spend on the entire vacation, more money spent on the hotel means less money spent elsewhere. I dare you to tell your 4-year-old that she can’t have the $25 bubble wand because you wanted to stay at the place that has made-to-order sushi.
I have friends who say it’s worth staying at resorts like the Contemporary because of the convenience of the Monorail. They can hop on and off and quickly get back to the hotel for kids’ naps without losing precious park time. I have other animal-loving friends who have no regrets spending money on the Savanna views at The Animal Kingdom Lodge. There are always packages available that can save you money, so if staying somewhere nice or with a unique ambience is important, ask your Disney Travel Planner if she can work her pixie dust magic.
On or off the property?
I think it’s worth staying on the property simply to avoid parking at the parks. Now mind you we went at Christmas, the most wonderful crowded time of the year, but those driving in from hotels in Kissimmee and Orlando had to park so far away, that if Clark Griswold had imposed his first ones in/last ones out theory at Magic Kingdom, he would’ve been closing in on a marathon. There is transportation from the parking lots, but if I had to wait in traffic, then wait to ride from the lot to the park, then wait in line to get into the park all before waiting in line for rides, food and the restrooms, I think I’d lose my patience before Morning Extra Magic Hours were even over. Which you can’t even get unless you stay at a Disney resort. Which is yet another fun rule you will try not to learn before you go, because you’ll swear you won’t care that much, but then you won’t be able to help yourself and you’ll get. Sucked. In.
Where we stayed
I eschewed my predilection for all things modern, white and mini-bar, and stuck to my budget-friendly guns with a value resort on The Property. My first choice, the Art of Animation Resort, stood out from the other value resorts for its pool, or I should say one of its pools. The Finding Nemo pool is the largest of any at the Walt Disney World resorts with a zero entry and music pumping through underwater speakers. Plus, it has a splash pad, which I prefer every time over petri dishes cleverly disguised as baby pools. I hear their Cars-themed pool isn’t too shabby either. Alas, they were sold out. So we opted for the neighboring Pop Century Resort (and then just snuck over and used the Nemo pool). I should say that aside from amenities, decor and variations in the food court menus, all value resorts boast the same basic model masked in a different over-the-top Disney theme. The “cast members” at each one offer unparalleled customer service and the rooms are clean. At Pop Century, the theme is nostalgia, with each building representing a decade from the ’50s through the ’90s. When I found out that the rooms were getting refurbished at Pop Century, I thought I might be getting the modern room I wanted. Our travel agent said I need not request a refurbished room, because they were all scheduled to be finished way before we got there. I should’ve made the request, because of course they ran behind and we ended up in one of the old rooms. There’s really no comparison. But I’m going to do it anyways:
Our room was located in the ’60s section, which was closer to the main building than the already refurbished rooms of the ’80s and ’90s, but I would’ve happily walked a couple of extra hundred feet or so for the obvious upgrades and super cool second Murphy bed (I’ve always wanted one of those, and can we fold the kids up in that when we want privacy?). Then there was the overwhelming decor of the ’60s section. They did a little too good of a job simulating an acid trip. Upon entering the psychedelic pool area with giant water-squirting flowers, yo-yos and a three-story Play-Doh container with a blue elephant popping out the top, I was felt the anxiety rise into my slowly tightening chest and throat as my breath quickened. I could swear I even tasted metal in my mouth. With the help of a frosé from the pool bar, I eventually acclimated. The feeling never went away the entire stay, rather I leaned into it and just went with it. Whether we had started our Disney experience in the ’60s at Pop Century or at the BoardWalk Inn (which I could never, clown-themed pool slide, yikes), I think the drugged feeling was inevitable. Going to Disney is truly entering an alternate universe and you have to adjust and go with the flow or you’re going to have a bad trip.
Also, if you do stay at Pop Century in the ’60s on the second floor and spot a squirrel with an unnatural amount of bravado lurking around the vending/ice area, be wary. He does not back down.