Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Monthly Medley: January 2022


I had a challenging December-into-January writing-wise. Most of the people I work with (meaning the people I interview for articles about and communicate with for photos of their businesses, organizations, museums, restaurants...NOT my editors at the magazines) are pleasant and helpful. After all, it's in their best interest to provide me with what I - politely and with plenty of lead time - ask for, because our articles provide them with free publicity. But sometimes these people aren't pleasant and helpful, and I've been dealing with this scenario with one of my articles. I won't call this business out publicly, but the behavior and treatment definitely taints my opinion of both its product and its people. Thanks to a couple of friends,  though, I managed to get what I needed to finish the article and for that I'm grateful!


It took me a full month to read the first 100 pages of Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson...and then it took me just three days to read the final 200 pages. I'm not sure why I have such a hard time getting into books - this is a problem for me with almost everything I pick up. That said, Every Vow You Break was fantastic. Most of the characters were well-defined, the plot was interesting and included a number of twists and turns I didn't see coming, and the ending was satisfying. 


Months ago I bought tickets for Hallie and me to see Rent. It's an adult show with mature content, but the themes of gentrification, homelessness, poverty, disease, drug use, and LGBTQ relationships are both important and relevant, and I believe that the theatre, along with guidance from me, is a "safe" place to learn more about them. And the show's message that the value of life - of any life - can only be measured in increments of love...well, I can think of no better message to share, especially right now. 

In preparation for the show, Hallie and I had been listening to the soundtrack. But because I'd have to stop the music every 30 seconds to answer questions about one of the characters (of which there are many) or explain components of the plot, she was having trouble grasping the overarching story. So this month we watched the movie to help her better understand the storyline. She loved it, and I loved watching her lose herself in another musical story.

I know I don't need to justify my parenting decisions, but sometimes I feel like I should...not so much to defend my choices, but to provide a another parent dealing in a similar scenario with either support or a new perspective to consider. So in that vein... I had a conversation with my SIL - a lover of all things music, theatre, and the two combined, and who has been a part of the theatre community for most of her life - about Hallie and Rent when I was thinking about buying the tickets. I'm paraphrasing her a little here, but this was the message she left me with and what helped me decide to allow Hallie to start learning about this show:

"I think my willingness to learn about the themes in Rent allowed me to make more educated decisions about what was right and not right for me along the way. I don't think you need to shelter her from topics that will inevitably come up*, and I think that if you get to control the narrative - both the content and the delivery - it will have a more lasting impact...more so than teenage kids who want to teach her." 

* This is Erin again...trust me, these topics have come up by seventh grade.

Anyway, all that to say we watched Rent. 😂

Listening To

I'm finally getting the hang of my Echo Auto! The device wasn't hard to set up and isn't hard to use, but positioning it in my car and then remembering to use it, what it can and can't do, and to unplug it were/are different stories. I'm particularly excited about my first-ever playlist - cleverly named, "Erin's Car" 😂 - full of favorites from my childhood and adolescence, show tunes no one but me likes to listen to, and ballads I belt at the top of my lungs when I'm all alone. 


I recently discovered Abdul & Fosters (@abdulscats) and now I love him. He's a great resource - in an informal way - for kitten care and foster socializing, but he also just seems like a genuinely kind and gentle man and I adore watching him and all of his babies. 

"Just a man and his foster cats." 😍


I can't remember exactly who recommended these mesh zipper bags for games, but I'm so happy I purchased them (from Amazon). As the boxes of some of our older games have deteriorated, it's become harder and harder to store them. Additionally, some of the boxes take up far more space than is necessary, given their contents. These bags are sturdy, keep everything related to a specific card or board game together, and take up less space - they're a win, win, win!

Though Will has never been a big fan of Legos, the rest of us really enjoy them. Over break Hallie built the adorable Baking Competition set, Hallie and I built the Winnie the Pooh set, and Hallie and Tom built...the Home Alone set. I bought the Home Alone House for our family for Christmas, and watching them assemble it was my Christmas present. They worked on it night after night for two weeks, and now that it's finished, it's AMAZING. The house is as close to the movie house as I think possible, and it has so many cool moving parts, like the iron that falls through the clothes chute, the sled that races down the stairs, the Michael Jordan cutout that rides the train's circular track, and the basement furnace that glows. I don't think we can ever take this one apart, so now we need to find a place to keep it on display...

front entry and stairway

living room with MJ riding the train

attic space with pullout sofa and plan of attack

basement furnace

Buzz's room

stairs to the 3rd floor

rope from 3rd floor to treehouse


back entry to kitchen and basement


kitchen with pizza box and dog door and basement


It's getting chillier here, especially during the evening hours...which is when, at least twice a week, I'm sitting on metal bleachers watching the Lads play football. My go-to cooler weather boots bit the dust this fall and my cold weather boots aren't designed to go with every day attire, so the time had come for me to shop for replacements. I bought two pairs of every day, cooler weather boots from Target, and I ended up keeping one and returning one. Then my mom sent me two pairs of functional yet fashionable winter boots from QVC, and I kept one and Hallie kept one. The true gift here is that because Hallie's feet are almost the same size as mine, soon we'll be able to share shoes, boots, and footwear of all kinds! 

Link for the Target boots (pictured above) is here. Link for winter boots is here. Hallie's are the black nordic print and mine are the olive snake.


I first stumbled upon this recipe more than a decade ago, and while I probably wrote it down at the time, I have no idea where that piece of paper went. Thankfully, I have the recipe memorized - because it's ridiculously easy - but I don't have a name for this cake...so let's just call it Chocolate Caramel Poke Cake. I don't make it often, but whenever I do, I'm reminded that it's one of my absolute favorite desserts. Try not to eat it all - straight out of the pan - in one sitting! (I definitely ate at least two pieces worth right out of the pan, and the entire cake disappeared in 24 hours.)


  • 1 9x13 chocolate cake (This can be any milk, dark, dutch, or devil's food chocolate cake - from scratch or from a boxed mix. Choose your favorite recipe and bake it in a 9 x 13 pan.)
  • 1/2 - 1 cup caramel sauce (This can be any caramel sauce - from scratch or from a jar, can, or bottle.)
  • 1 tub Cool Whip/whipped topping (This can be regular, lite, or fat free, depending on what you prefer.)
  • 1/2 - 1 cup Heath Bar/milk chocolate toffee bits (I buy these in a bag, but you can chop up actual Heath bars if you can't find the bits.)
  • Bake the chocolate cake according to your recipe or the recipe on the boxed mix. Let cake cool completely.
  • Using the round handle end of a wooden spoon, poke holes in the cake. I poke the cake about 50 times in staggered rows.
  • Pour approximately 1/2 cup caramel sauce over the top of the cake, making sure at least some of the sauce seeps into the poked holes. Use a spoon to push any caramel sauce that has pooled on the top of the cake into the holes. Depending on how much caramel you like, repeat with another 1/2 cup of sauce.
  • Gently - so the whipped topping stays light and fluffy and doesn't mix with the caramel sauce - spread 1 tub of whipped topping onto the cake.
  • Generously sprinkle the top of the cake with toffee bits.
  • Refrigerate until ~ 30 minutes prior to serving. 
  • Don't worry about how to store this cake - there won't be any leftovers. 😉 

Feeling Good About

We made it to the end of January, friends. To those of you for whom this month has been rough - and I know that's a lot of you - I'm thinking about and praying for you, and hoping February takes a turn for the better.

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