beauty · COVID-19 · food · slice of life

My Allegiances Have Changed

Recently, Marc and I took our kids into one of the local Giant grocery stores since we needed several items that couldn’t wait for the big Sunday shopping. (If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, then you know I’ve been a loyal Giant customer ever since we moved to Central PA nearly a dozen years ago.) Moments after walking into the store, Isabelle and I spotted three people without masks and several more who were wearing them incorrectly. At every turn, there were noses and mouths in our line of sight. Seeing as my kids aren’t vaccinated, Isabelle and I split up from Marc and Ari so we could get what we needed as quickly as possible and get out of the store.

Now, you might think, just call the store manager. Well, I’ve done this at more than one of the local Giant grocery stores. Nothing seems to change. Things have gotten worse ever since the vaccine came out. Therefore, when we needed more deli meat this morning, I told Marc, “I’ve had it with Giant. I’m going to Stauffers today and I’m going to buy several kinds of turkey for you to try. I refuse to put the kids at risk for a preferred brand of deli meat.” (We’ve been discussing the deli dilemma for a while so this announcement didn’t come as a shock to him.)

The kids and I arrived at Stauffers and were greeted by this sign at the entrance:

I had heard Stauffers of Kissel Hill, which is a local grocery and gardening store chain, has been strict about masking in the supermarket during Covid. In fact, the couple of times I’ve been there in the past year, I always noticed how clean it was. But they don’t carry our preferred brand of deli meat, which is why I haven’t shopped there consistently.

I looked at the sign and declared to the kids, “This is my kind of grocery store.”

As we walked inside, I cleaned my cart (pulling from the ample supply of cart wipes) and walked to the deli with the kids where I proceeded to buy multiple kinds of turkey breast for Marc to sample at lunchtime. Then, we moseyed around the store since people were following the masking guidelines. Imagine that!??!

* * * * *

In the late afternoon, I went downtown to a new stylist for a haircut. NOTE: There was nothing wrong with my former stylist. She’s given me great cuts for the past decade! However, she works in a salon that’s located in a health club where masks are optional. Last fall, I told her I needed to find somewhere else to get my hair cut until I was vaccinated and the case rates came down. (I didn’t want her to think it had anything to do with her on a personal level.) She understood. I saw a new stylist in November who worked in a salon that’s Covid-safe, but the cut she gave me was mediocre and the one she gave Isabelle was dreadful. Therefore, I made an appointment another stylist, but I had to wait five months to get in!

This afternoon, I donned my mask and drove to downtown Lancaster for a fabulous curly cut. Before I sat down in the new stylist’s chair, I told her who’s been cutting my hair for the past decade and why I made a switch because of the mask-optional building she works in. She seemed shocked since she, too, didn’t feel that masking in an indoor space should be optional during a global pandemic.

I got a precise cut that brought my curls back to life. Once I was out of the chair I made an appointment for Isabelle to see this new stylist in late June. I’m confident she’ll work wonders with Isabelle’s curls too.


The grocery store in the early morning and the haircut in the last afternoon have me rethinking my allegiances. And while it may seem like a no-brainer to some people, this has been hard for me. I’m a brand loyal person. (I haven’t willingly used anything other than Colgate toothpaste since I was old enough to make my wishes known to my Crest-loving parents as a young child.) However, the pandemic has made me put health and safety first. While I’m vaccinated, I am unwilling to take unnecessary risks since I understand one could still get coronavirus, albeit less severe, after vaccination. Plus, it’ll be months before my kids get their vaccinations. Therefore, I’m choosing to support businesses that are doing their part to keep me and my family safe.

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food · slice of life

Breakfast for Dinner – Again!

I’m in the midst of two professional book reviews. I’m prepping for an upcoming webinar. I’m in the midst of laying out the Author Spotlight Series on TWT. That’s a lot of I’ms…

I have a manuscript I need to read and a blurb I need to write about a forthcoming professional text. I have a short story to revise for my high school’s literary magazine (which I was invited to be an alumni contributor for). I have a blog series post to write. That’s a lot of I haves…

Ari double-checks to make sure I’ve left out a pound of bread.

My neck is achy. It’s been bothering me for nine days. (Well, 22 years, but who’s counting?) There is just no way that I’m having an argument with anyone over dinner tonight. So, tonight is BREAKFAST FOR DINNER!

Most weeks, we eat breakfast for dinner — usually on Thursday nights. But this week, I have more plates spinning than usual so breakfast-for-dinner night is TONIGHT. Who cares if it’s only Tuesday!?!? (Trust me, my children will not care.)

Right before Passover, I found a recipe a gluten-free French toast casserole on All the Healthy Things. I tucked the recipe aside for use after the holiday. Today felt like the day to whip it out. Since it’s a make-ahead recipe, Ari and I made it soon after we finished breakfast.

Perhaps this video will give you a sliver of insight into why Isabelle has nicknamed my mornings with Ari “baking preschool.” (I can’t shoot videos when we’re using measuring cups or the kitchen scale since that would probably lead to a disaster.)
We made some changes to the recipe so I’m hoping it tastes good because I don’t have a plan B for tonight if it doesn’t.

It’s nearly 5 p.m. My work isn’t done. (Does anyone ever really finish with all of their to-dos in a day!?!?) My neck still hurts. But, my oven is preheating and I’m about to put the casserole in the oven. All I have to do is slice some fruit, set the table (Hey, kids! I have a job for you!), get the drinks, and sit down to eat at six.

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CONVERSATIONS · food · slice of life

There’s Nothing to Pick #SOL21

Ari and I were sitting outside talking about his upcoming half birthday.

“Can we have cupcakes after lunch and after dinner?” he asked.

“We’re just going to celebrate with cupcakes after dinner on your half birthday.”

“Can we go apple picking like we did on my birthday?” Ari asked.

“Apples aren’t in season,” I replied.

“But I liked picking apples on my birthday. What can we pick?” he wondered.

“There’s nothing to pick,” I responded. “Nothing is really growing yet.”

There were stuffies involved in the conversation too!

Ari looked at me with big eyes. “Nothing?!!?”

“Not yet. Soon, but not in time for your half birthday.”

“What about bars? Can we pick bars?”

I burst out laughing. “Granola bars don’t grow on trees, silly.”

He smiled, knowingly. “Can we eat bars then?”

I suppose granola bars would be better than cupcakes for the morning part of his half birthday…

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food · slice of life

Pho Happy #SOL21

This afternoon, just before I put Ari down for a nap, I said, “We’re ordering from Rice and Noodles tonight. What would you like?”

His face perked up. Rice and Noodles, which is a Vietnamese restaurant, has been his favorite place to eat — dining in before the pandemic and take-out since the pandemic began — in Lancaster. (We found it a few days before it was featured in a New York Times article about Lancaster’s global cuisine scene.

“I want my usual and I also want my own pho,” he replied.

“Sure, I’ll get you your own pho. This means I won’t have to share mine!” (Ari loves pho and lands up eating a lot of my noodles and broth every time.)

“Good!” he declared.


Marc unpacked the take-out bags from Rice and Noodles this evening only to discover something was missing.

“Did you order Ari’s chicken and rice?”

“I think so,” I replied. “The receipt got emailed to your phone. Would you pull it up?”

I checked the receipt. Sure enough, a kids’ com ga nuong was on the bill. I called Rice and Noodles, explained that it was missing, and asked if Marc could pick it up in 45 minutes. They said yes.

As luck would have it, Ari had an appetizer (i.e., the pho) that was ready to eat. Since he’s four, he got annoyed since he wanted to eat his entree first. We explained the soup would come first, that it wasn’t a big deal, and that they must’ve been extremely busy tonight since this is the first time in almost two years that the restaurant has ever made a mistake.

Begrudgingly, Ari began eating the pho. Before long, he completely forgot about the missing entree since he was slurping the soup and lapping up the noodles like an animal. (Hence the reason he was sitting in his old booster seat, wearing a bib, while eating the pho.)

“Mommy, I think I like this better than what I usually get.”

“That’s great, buddy! But you still have an entree coming.”

“But what if,” more slurping, “I want more pho later?”

“If you finish your chicken and rice, then you can finish the rest of the pho later.”

He smiled, seemingly pleased by that idea.

food · slice of life

Bundled-Up Date Night #SOL21

Thank goodness for patio heaters or we’d never have been able to make it through dinner outside this evening.

I found myself on Resy moments after my husband said, “My mom offered for her and my dad to watch the kids so we could go out on a date night.” It’s hard to reserve outdoor seating at local restaurants so I was shocked when I found a 5:45 p.m. reservation at Luca. Naturally, I booked it, then texted my husband to make sure Luca was okay. (It was.)

The confirmation email arrived a few minutes later and that’s when I realized that I inadvertently booked a table for Sunday night, rather than Saturday night. (Nothing was available on Saturday night.) While Marc had no problem dining out on Saturday night, he told me it was supposed to be windy. I checked the weather. Sure enough, he was right. BUT I DID NOT CARE. Wind isn’t rain so I believed I could hack it.

As we got ready for tonight’s date night, I found myself dressing in layers (e.g., long sleeve tee beneath a sweater, knee socks). The wind was already blowing 10-20 MPH and gusts were predicted up to 35 MPH. I brought a hat and sweater just in case. I asked Marc to bring a blanket, which he thought was a bit much.

“I really could care less if people think we look crazy sitting outside with a blanket on our laps. I’d wrap myself in fur Snuggie if were socially acceptable.” (BTW: I’m anti-fur and anti-Snuggie. I invoked both of those things to make a point.)

Marc found a fleece blanket, folded it, and packed it in the car.

It was 56 degrees when we arrived at Luca. If there weren’t any wind, I doubt we would’ve needed the heater turned on beside our table. But it was windy.

Marc was reluctant to don the blanket, but I insisted. He was happier with it on. Marc didn’t think he needed a hat, but eventually covered his head with it.

We may have been cold, but the time together was worth it!

Our appetizer and pizzas were delicious. (If you’re gluten-free, you’ll want to make your way to Luca at some point. They make the most delicious gluten-free pizza, using Caputo’s Fioreglut Flour, I’ve ever tasted!) Even though Luca makes one of my favorite desserts, Budino, I couldn’t stand to be outside any longer since it was so windy that the heater beside our table blew out twice during our meal and needed to be relit.

We ended up driving to a local ice cream store. We took our ice cream back to our heated car where we ate it with our heat seats blasting.
food · slice of life

Brunch on a Friday Should Be a Thing #SOL21

You’ve heard of Sunday Brunch, right? Well, thanks to Ari, I’ve come to realize that brunch doesn’t have to be relegated to a Sunday. Since I work in the afternoons, there were many days (in our pre-pandemic life) that Ari would insist on going out for brunch in the middle of the week. Why not?

This morning, Isabelle and I went out to brunch… just the two of us. She had a day off from school and I wanted to make sure she did something independent of her brother. Therefore, I asked the kids’ sitter if she could come earlier than usual so Isabelle and I could go out for brunch. (We fibbed and told Ari that Isabelle had a medical appointment since we knew he would’ve been upset if he didn’t get included.)

I haven’t dined indoors, at a restaurant, since March 10th, 2020. Therefore, I was delighted to learn Commonwealth Kitchen & Cafe was only open for outdoor dining. It was 64 degrees and sunny when Isabelle and I arrived at Commonwealth. We grabbed a table, placed a contactless order, and enjoyed each other’s company.

“When was the last time we ate outside? Was it October or November” I asked Isabelle.

“I think it was early November,” she replied.

“I can’t even remember where we ate since it feels like it was an eternity ago,” I said.

She nodded, knowingly.

We had a leisurely brunch — on a Friday! We chatted about the summertime and about some of the outdoor things we hope to do as a family. Nothing earth shattering was discussed, but it was so lovely to be out with my daughter.

food · slice of life

The Juice Was Worth the Squeeze. #SOL21

“I wanna do the orange thing like I do with Daddy!” Ari declared.

“What orange thing?” I asked.

“I’ll show you,” Ari replied.

Ari walked ahead of me, went into the kitchen, and laid out the following items:

I took note of the immersion blender cup. “Are you doing an experiment?” I asked suspiciously.

“Not an experiment!” he said.

“Are we juicing a clementine?” I asked as if it were the most preposterous thing I could imagine.

“Yes!” he said with delight.

“Why?” I asked.

“Daddy lets me,” he said. Then he added, “It’s the truth.”

(The addition of it’s the truth usually means it isn’t, but I knew my husband was working in the OR today so there was no way I was going to reach out to ask him.)

I traded the blunt knife for a sharp one and told Ari, “I’ll wash and cut, you juice.”

“Okay, Mommy.”

“Why are we doing this?” I asked.

“So, I can drink some orange juice.”

“But you drank orange juice for breakfast. And, besides, this isn’t going to give you that much juice. Also, do you really need a 16-ounce cup for a tiny amount of orange juice?

“Yes,” he replied with certainty.

After the clementine was juiced, Ari grabbed an enormous straw, stuck it in the cup and slurped up the fruits of his labor.

I had to laugh since I was in a Zoom meeting just yesterday where I heard someone ask, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” I understood what she meant, but hadn’t heard the expression before (and subsequently looked it up to learn its origin). In today’s case, the juice was worth the squeeze for Ari.

* * * * *

A few hours after the juice squeezing, I texted Marc.

Ignore Marc’s typos. Looks like a classic Siri error.

Apparently, Ari was telling the truth.

Also, I’m buying Marc a juicer for Father’s Day.

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food · slice of life

Breakfast for Dinner #SOL21

Everyone is happier on breakfast-for-dinner night. There’s less whining. I don’t hear how much do I have to eat or what’s on this chicken? I started making breakfast for dinner on a weekly basis about a month or two ago. I consider it an act of self-care. (Seriously.)

Ari requested cornmeal pancakes when he overheard that I’d be making breakfast for dinner. The thing about cornmeal pancakes is that you have to make the pancakes and the syrup FROM SCRATCH. Then you have to stand over a hot griddle making six pancakes at a time. It’s a lot for a weeknight.

After giving it some thought, I decided cornmeal pancakes could be made tonight if I made them using the sheet pan method — meaning that I put them in a parchment-lined sheet pan and baked them in the oven. (I like the sheet pan method since it allows me to eat with my family, not when they’re finishing their pancakes.)

Ari helped with every part of the pancake-making process.

Click here for the Cornmeal Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup recipe. If you wish to make this recipe gluten-free, then try Blends by Orly’s Sydney Blend Gluten-Free Cake Flour. To use the sheet pan method, bake at 425°F for 12 minutes. Then, turn the broiler on high for 1 – 2 minutes to your desired level of brownness.

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food · slice of life

O.O.O. for the Planetbox #SOL21

I have an order of operations (aka: O.O.O.) that I believe my kids should use when they eats their lunch at home:

  1. Eat sandwich. Drink juice.
  2. Eat vegetables. Drink juice.
  3. Eat fruit. Finish juice.
  4. Eat dessert (when applicable).

Here’s how Isabelle eats lunch at home:

  1. Gobble up the fruit.
  2. Devour the vegetables.
  3. Nibble at the sandwich s-l-o-w-l-y.
  4. Spend an eternity drinking juice.

Isabelle (and Ari!) has no interest in my order of operations. And that’s fine. Really it is. Though I find it excrutiating to watch her save all of her juice for the end of the meal.

This morning, Isabelle had a medical appointment. Knowing it would end around the time of her class’s lunch, I packed her Planetbox (Yes, the thing I haven’t packed in months due to her doing school remotely!) with a lunch she could eat in the car. Sometime between the doctor’s office and the entrance to the highway, I hit a red light. That’s when I noticed she was eating blueberries and raspberries first. Typical.

At one point, I was checking the right lane before moving into the next lane on the highway. I noticed something strange in her Planetbox. Though I only saw the box for a split second, I noticed her sandwich was still there and she had eaten nearly everything including half of the M&M’s, which were her dessert.

“What’s going on back there?” I asked.

“What do you mean?” she said innocently.

“How come you’re eating your M&M’s before your sandwich? Dessert is supposed to be eaten last.”

I could feel Isabelle roll her eyes at me. “Because I want to,” she replied. Then I heard the suble crunch of an M&M’s shell beneath her teeth.

“Just be sure to eat your sandwich, okay? We’re going to be home soon.”

“I know,” she replied.

We came to a stop about ten minutes later. That’s when I turned around and found this:

In the end, she ate and drank everything.

I laughed.

“What’s so funny?” she demanded.

“You. You make me smile. I know you’re going to eat your lunch, but I’m perplexed that you have a piece of sandwich and an entire juice box left to drink.”

Isabelle shrugged her shoulders and took another bite of sandwich. That’s when I remembered Isabelle’s at-home order for eating lunch. It seems she has a preferred way of eating lunch outside of the house and there’s nothing I can do to change it so I might as well stop trying!

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food · slice of life

Lovely Little Lunches #SOL21

I haven’t packed a school lunch for a year. (Remember, I went into stay-at-home mode two weeks before the rest of America since I had foot surgery on February 27th.) Part of me misses it since I’m a bento box kind of mom. (And the part of me that enjoys reading a novel after putting the kids to bed doesn’t miss it one bit.) Typically, I’d create fun sandwich cut-outs and include animal picks for the bite-size fruit. However, I haven’t made a school lunch in a year.

That’s not to say I haven’t made lots of lunches this school year. Quite the contrary, I can’t even tally the amount of lunches I’ve made. However, after I accidentally ground up one of the animal picks in the garbage disposal a couple of months ago, the at-home lunches have gotten a little less cute.

Ari stood beside me as I made today’s lunches.

“What shape would you like for your cheese sandwich?” I asked.

He considered his cutter options carefully. The sky was the limit since he was eating a cheese sandwich rather than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. (NOTE: A PB&J vastly limits his sandwich cutter choices since the jelly requires a single straight edge cut to minimize oozing.)

“I want a doggie!” he said.

“Great choice,” I replied. “What do you think Isabelle would like?”

“A dinosaur!” he stated.

Isabelle eats sandwich crusts. Ever since last year’s stay-at-home order, Ari refuses to eat them. Don’t ask.

Isabelle was still in virtual Hebrew school, but I was pretty sure she wouldn’t really want a dinosaur.

“I don’t know if she’ll love that one. Since we can’t ask her, I’m going to give you three choices: a star, hearts, or elephants.”

I thought Ari would say hearts, but he surprised me with, “Elephants!” A touch babyish, but it’s not like anyone other than the three of us — and now you! — would see it.

“Elephants it is,” I replied while crossing the kitchen to retrieve the sandwich cutter.

When Isabelle came downstairs for lunch, she didn’t remark about the shape of her sandwich, but she did say, “Thank you for the kiwi, Mommy.” Considering most of my lunch presentations go unnoticed, I’ll take her good manners as a win for today’s lunch together.

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