Broad, red, raging gulps
Puffs of steam rise heavenward
A rainmaking dance

Green Ridge State Forest



Had I known adulthood primarily consisted of comparing insurance policy premiums, weighing how much I dislike a bed frame against how much I like its price tag, and sweeping the floor with a broom that’s far too shabby not to itself be in the garbage, I may never have grown up at all. At home, it’s the endless cycle of creating of your own filth and cleaning it up again; at work, it’s the saving of the day by a thread (and sometimes not), and, in either case, often by no merit or fault of your own but simply by blind luck; in the world, it’s the breathtaking gap between the information and experience you’re expected to have and what you’re actually familiar with, which not that long ago was limited to that you’re supposed to brush your teeth twice a day and wash your hands before dinner.

I’m pretty sure nothing could have prepared me for most of this stage of my life, except what I’m doing now, which is merely living it. Periodically as a kid and teenager I would ask my dad to explain to me what insurance was. I’d always end up frustrated, never having made headway in comprehending it at all. While I don’t pretend to fully understand those damned institutions (does anyone? do they?), after a few years of exposure to their various forms I at least have a basic understanding of what they’re for, which kinds are required, and which ones are scams.

There are very few specific things I can point to and say, “Yes, this prepared me for adult life.” I learned how to fill out a check in seventh grade math, a skill I now use at my job and to pay rent. My sister was in third grade and just learning cursive when I signed my name for the first time, copying the shapes of the relevant letters off her homework as best I could. The next day, I presented the result proudly to my kindergarten teacher, from whom I received a light rebuke for attempting something too far above my grade level. From the very beginning, it was Leslie Mae Howard written everywhere, on everything. Every assignment page had my full name at the top (in third grade, followed by a smiley face, a star, and a heart). I even loved to spell it aloud. In fifth grade, when we learned to type, it was all about typing it as fast as I could, and in as many fonts as possible. To groom myself for official intentions, I practiced signing in fancy cursive, trying to imitate the spidery precision of my grandmother’s checkbook handwriting. Today, the hurried signature I scrawl on invoices resembles my name less than ever, about half the syllables having been abandoned, and my past self would be utterly shocked to see that I’ve dropped my middle name from the mark altogether.

My past self would be utterly shocked by many things, some about paths I’ve taken, some about paths the world around me has taken. She would be proud that I still make time to write, and pleased that, careless signature aside, I do still love my name. She would not dare to believe that I’m acquainted with what PIP insurance is or that I go braless in public, often. She’d be gratified that I refuse to back down on my status as a nerd, and surprised that it has actually helped me in a lot of social situations as an adult and rarely—if ever—harmed me.

I’m very fortunate that it has been a relatively slow and steady transition for me; I know many others whose shift into adulthood was more of a hard shove than a gentle progression. I imagine the rest of life must just be like this, too: practicing until it’s natural. Or just pretending until it starts to make a little sense.

IMG_6422 2
Nerding it up since 2002.
(They clearly omitted my middle name here against my will.)


April showers brought May flowers, and I don’t need the weather channel to tell me that I “may feel allergy symptoms” this week. I’ve given up trying to keep pollen out of the house, faced with my partner’s protests that it’s far too stuffy to have the windows shut. But despite the fine layer of allergens around the house becoming ever thicker, I’ve decided to actively introduce more, in the form of flower cuttings from outside.

Will I regret having brought in flowers tomorrow when I “feel allergy symptoms”? Yes. Will I need to neti pot twice a day for the foreseeable future because of it? Also, yes. However, May flowers only come once a year, and since I can barely go outside in that thick yellow air, I intend to bring a little May inside to me.

This is probably the third or fourth round of blooms here since winter left (the cherry blossoms are long gone, the magnolias and tulips have turned). But even though I knew spring was here before, May with its unfurled leaves and perky, bright little yard flowers means there’s no turning back. Spring has grabbed the spotlight, with summer running headlong behind.




St. Patrick’s Day night found me at home, wishing for a creamy drink to sip on while my partner and I played Civ V (because I refuse to adapt to the updated features of Civ VI). A go-to drink of mine at one of our favorite cocktail bars is the Brandy Alexander – a drink I discovered through a classmate my senior year of college. It’s simple and divine – equal parts cognac, creme de cacao, and cream – a nearly ice creamy taste with the subtle bite of brown liquor. That’s what I wanted. But we are not yet old/refined enough to stock cognac in our cabinets, what even is creme de cacao, and, as you know, we only drink our coffee black. So, I improvised.

I present to you Brandy Alexander’s vegan little sibling:

Bourbon Sasha

  • Your favorite bourbon (Bulleit, in this household)
  • Unsweetened almond milk (expired, in this household)
  • Maple syrup (homemade by my amazing in-laws, in this household)
  • Lowball glass (Bulleit brand, “borrowed” from a honeymoon hotel in Dublin, in this household)
  • Jigger (a “LIVE FREE OR DIE” shot glass, in this household)
  • Shaker
  • Ice


  1. Fill shaker with about a cup of ice.
  2. Measure one shot of bourbon and pour into shaker.
  3. Measure one shot of almond milk and pour into shaker. Fair warning, it tasted pretty boozy at this ratio (but still delicious), so you could definitely up the almond milk a half or whole ounce, if you wanted.
  4. Measure 1 tsp. of maple syrup, or to taste, and pour into shaker.
  5. Shake vigorously for about 5 seconds. Strain into lowball with a few cubes. Is it wrong to drink a shaken drink on the rocks? Maybe, but I’m only reporting where my inspiration led me that night.

After doing a little research on the Brandy Alexander, I found that it’s often served with a grated nutmeg on top, although it’s never been served to me this way. I discovered in recent years that I prefer allspice in lieu of nutmeg (in pies, on eggnog, etc.), so I sprinkled a little bit on top. It gave the drink character, but I ended up preferring the taste without any added spices.

My favorite “pumpkin-y” spice, with attractive branding.


So, there you have it: the Bourbon Sasha. It’s obviously not going to be quite as creamy as a its big brother, but I was pleasantly surprised with the results for a cocktail that has nut milk in it and that was invented in five minutes. Let me know if you try it, or comment variations below! Cheers!


For Lent this year, my partner and I have given up eating meat at home for dinner. If that doesn’t have enough caveats for you, I’m sure I could come up with some more. Neither of us being Catholic, we didn’t feel particularly compelled to adhere to a strict code during this time; but I will say that I have been impressed with our success thus far. (We got ribs one week in, but since we were eating out we decided it didn’t count. I believe this is when we amended the rule to explicitly apply to “meals at home”.)

The decision to cut out meat was primarily environmental, although our preferences have been leaning away from meat-centric meals for years now. I admit, it’s not much of a “giving up”, since an amount of revulsion was already involved. However, I’ve never really deprived myself of a food group on principle for this long before, and I’ve found the exercise in somewhat enlightening.

Brussels sprouts hash – a dish so delicious, I’d even eat it on Mardis Gras

For one, it has forced us into new and under-used recipes. There are so many dishes that don’t lose anything by losing the meat. I found a delicious tortellini recipe that calls for chicken (which I omitted), and I think it actually would’ve tasted worse had I included it.

In the same vein, since we’re saving ten to thirty dollars each week on groceries sans meat, I’ve been open to recipes I would normally overlook because they contain too many specialty items. I bought pine nuts for the first time yesterday and didn’t even feel that bad about it. (The miser in me still cringed, but not as badly.)

The exercise has also reminded me how much more I enjoy cooking when I don’t have to worry about raw meat. One cutting board. One knife. And you don’t have to wash the dishes quite so vigorously. (I feel like that’s true? No?) The enjoyment stems not only from the psychological easement of not having to handle raw meat, but also from the relaxing activity that is chopping vegetables (I, as a contact wearer, in addition to just being better at it, am the designated onion cutter) and the visual stimulation of so many colors in front of me at a time. I’ve even caught myself smiling at a pile of multicolored carrots.

Prep for veggie stir fry
Prep for veggie stir fry

With the question of whether this discipline is legitimately Lenten aside, I am glad for a change in habits, and not only for the sake of the body. Sometimes it’s also good for the soul to skip the beef in favor of beans.

Vegetarian chili, Cook’s Illustrated style. Lose the meat and turn up the heat!


My partner and I recently watched the Netflix series, Dark, on my sister’s superb recommendation. It’s a German show, best watched with the original audio and English subtitles, with a hauntingly beautiful theme song, and writers who somehow got away with creating a story that improved upon Stranger Things in almost every single aspect (less-lovable characters, but equally excellent casting). I know; I didn’t think it was possible, either.

Nothing captivates me like a sci-fi plot in an unexpected place. Cowboys & Aliens may have gotten a garbage rating, but I can’t deny that I was utterly charmed by the idea of aliens wanting to get in on that gold mining action (as I cross my fingers behind my back that the charm had nothing to do whatsoever with the fact that the movie co-starred a certain scruffy-lookin’ silver fox). You expect sci-fi plots in space ships, on other planets, and in the far future. But give me one with mundane surroundings, on earth, in the past or present, and I’ll eat it up. This might partially stem from my early introduction to Lois Lowry’s award-winning book, The Giver. My teacher read it out loud to the class when I was in third grade. After that I read it myself once a year until my second year of college. It always sits prominently on a shelf next to other influential books from my childhood. It smells old and musty.

The Giver is a coming-of-age story set in a pseudo-utopian future. But the science-fiction behind the story makes this exhausted topic, in my opinion, extraordinary.

Aliens invade the Old West, starting with a small desert town? Yes. Youth defies fascist government and escapes small brainwashed town to truly experience human perception and emotion? Yes yes. Telekinetic, telepathic kid hides in a small town in Indiana in the 80s? Yes yes yes. Time infinity knot possibly connects a string of kidnappings in a small town in Germany and also there’s a nuclear power plant? Even more yeses.

I’m not asking you to trust my reasonably questionable taste; I’m asking you to look me dead in the eyes and tell me that last one doesn’t sound cool as shit. Dark has a little something for everyone: even if you don’t like science-fiction, there’s enough drama, crime, mystery, suspense, adventure, indie, foreign, period, and romance to intrigue any audience. I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be left praying for a second season.

And, based on the above descriptions, if you live in a small town, please keep an eye out. Strange things seem to happen there.


Last night my friends and I were discussing the phenomenon of how certain relatively tame images or scenarios can stick in the consciousness of children, and haunt the subconscious throughout life.

For my partner, it was a mysterious glowing object that he saw out his bedroom window one night. He admits it must have been the glow-in-the-dark ball he lost somewhere on the property, but when he looked around for it the next day, there was no ball to be found. The apparition returned the following night, mysteriously vanishing when he searched again in daylight. It’s perhaps not the greatest mystery of our time, but the glowing object became a frequent and sinister visitor in his dreams for many years after.

My friend, as a child, was disturbed by the cave in Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin. According to the storyline, the cave is supposed to have the shape of a skull, although my friend saw it as a grisly, screaming face. I’ve only watched this movie as an adult, and when the suspenseful reveal of the cave happened, my friend gasped (from the imprinted shock of it from his childhood), but I could only see it as a plain old cave. We had to pause the movie for me to begin to see a semblance of a face.

One of the most memorable phantoms from my own childhood came from a book of illustrated Bible stories for children that we had growing up. One of the last pages had a drawing of the Son of Man as he’s described at the beginning of Revelation:

“The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.”

My advice would be to avoid the temptation to draw a metaphor, especially if it’s for kids. It’s not helpful, and you’ll only end up with something truly terrifying (which, now that I think about it, might have been what they were going for). My sister and I used to open up the book just to look at that one page, because it was the kind of macabre you wanted to look at for longer. Jesus, levitating, blanched face and hair, red, vacant eyes, the blade of a sword protruding from his open mouth. I searched everywhere for the picture online, but this is the closest I could find. The internet may not know what it looked like, but I will never forget.

These memories imbed themselves in our minds, lurking there years after we think we’ve rid ourselves of irrational fears and childish ghosts. If any of these had been seen for the first time today, they never would’ve become this weird, concealed part of us. My partner, if he saw a glowing object in the yard tonight, either would go investigate in the darkness, or would vaguely wonder what it was but not care enough to bother checking. My friend might have reacted to the cave as I did, with more observation than astonishment. And if I had seen that illustration for the first time as an adult, I would comment that it was gruesome and not appropriate for children (especially if you wanted them to love Jesus).

But we didn’t experience these things today. So now, occasionally rearing their heads in unexpected places, they live with us forever.


Every January, the new year practically begs us to begin projects and gain habits. These things rarely stick, though, as we know, and I suspect it’s because we try to take on the new things without having fully said our farewells to the old things.

I spent a lot of time this past year purging my belongings, both physical and virtual, in final acceptance of the fact that my college days are over, and in preparation of married life* (*owning nicer things). I meticulously emptied out the trusty cardboard-box-under-the-bed of important papers I’ve had lying around for about five years, sorted it all, and bought hanging files. There is currently nothing under [my side of] the bed, despite my long-held belief that under-the-bed storage is the highest form of storage.

Seeing the tab “Loans” is almost less intimidating, now that it’s perfectly organized.

As I was writing down some of my resolutions for this year, I noticed that most of my goals could absolutely not be met unless they took the place of something else in my life. Given the free time I have, I pretty much can’t read more unless I watch TV less. Something has to give.

So, really, most New Year’s resolutions are actually two resolutions: one thing to start, one thing to stop. It doesn’t even have to be a negative thing that gets pushed aside – just something that has served its purpose. For example, I cannot in good conscience allow myself to own another sweatshirt until I remove my then-boyfriend’s/now-husband’s high school Remedy Drive hoodie from [my side of] the closet. Time to say goodbye!

Why do I have this again?

Happy 2018!


“Have you ever looked at a poppy seed?” I asked my 146 Instagram followers — after some inspiration (instaspiration?) while prepping a cult classic dish of my mom’s, entitled Poppy Chicken — and before a single follower saw it, double-clicked, or cared, I began to blog about it.

If you’ve never looked at a poppy seed, I will describe the experience to you.

First, you see a pile of poppy seeds and your impression is Black. Then, No, blue. And the closer you look, the more variegated the pile becomes, until you begin to see tiny, textured, kidney shaped seeds, each its own color: light gray, charcoal, blue, yellow, cream, brown, pink. It’s delightful, and I highly recommend the exercise.

(best viewed on a phone)


Welcome to my first recipe post, which is also probably my last.

Poppy Chicken
(most likely brought to you by a 1980s Ritz box)


  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 8 oz. sour cream (or Greek yogurt, I’ve found, to reduce some of the dairy for my lactose-sensitive partner)
  • 10 oz. frozen peas (sometimes I parboil some broccoli and add that, too)
  • 2 cans condensed cream of chicken soup (or equivalent homemade – chicken broth, milk, flour, seasoning; can’t really escape the dairy here. That’s what Lactaid is for.)
  • 1 T. poppy seeds
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 2 sleeves of Ritz, crumbled


  1. Cook chicken for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees Farenheit.
  2. While the chicken cooks, mix everything else except the butter and Ritz together in a bowl.
  3. Once the chicken finishes cooking, remove from oven (but keep the oven on!), let cool enough to handle, and chop into bite-sized pieces. I like to do a fairly small dice; it saves on chewing energy later.
  4. Combine chicken with soup/sour cream/pea/poppy mixture and transfer to a 9×13″ casserole dish.
  5. Mix the Ritz crumbles and melted butter until combined. Yes, you will need to use your hands. Distribute over the top of the casserole. Don’t forget the corners and edges!
  6. Bake for 30 minutes at 350, until bubbly and golden brown on top. Serve!