After Because of Winn-Dixie

As I explained in my post about marathon day (no, not that kind of marathon), I had Flora’s Battle of the Books team make a list of 10 things about an important person in their lives. In Because of Winn-Dixie these list are poignant reminders of absent people. Opal asks her father to tell her 10 things about her mother. When Winn-Dixie runs away, Opal makes a list in her head of 10 things she wants to remember about him.

In the book, these lists are poignant, but I think they could serve another purpose, which is why I had the girls make lists. I thought it would be a good way to tell one person about another person in one’s life whom they hadn’t met.

After thinking about it, I decided to list 10 things about my friend Cari (also known around these parts as @mattieflap).

Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Cari has long red hair that she knows how to French braid her own self.

Cari, my red-headed friend.
*Really* long red hair.

2. She has been married to Scot for 13 years, and they have two boys. They also have two dogs.

3. Cari is a wonderful baker. She makes pies, cakes, and cookies. The first time she visited me (after M was born), she brought me like six dozen cookies. And they were all delicious. Her shortbread cookies are amazing.

4. She prefers red wine and Belgian beers.

5. She is originally from Michigan, and her parents still live there.

6. She may love YA dystopian fiction more than I do. Although we both hated Allegient. Here is her excellent rant/review.

7. She has pretty much clothed Michael for the past two years with hand-me-downs from her now 6-year-old.

8. She is of Scottish descent.* Correction: She is of IRISH descent. She’s married to a Scotsman. Oops!

9. She was engaged once before.

10. Cari is a good person, and a good friend. She does stuff for people, and never makes a big deal about it. Before my sister’s wedding, I wanted to get a wrap to wear with my dress in case the beach was cold. I had seen the perfect thing at JCPenney, but I hadn’t picked it up.

Cari offered to get it for me. I had a gift card, so I knew it wouldn’t put her out financially. After checking with her several times (rule of three: I will ask three times. “Are you sure it’s not trouble?” “You don’t mind doing this for me?” “Are you SURE?”), I “let” her pick up the wrap for me.

When I asked Twitter and FB about headshots for LTYM, she offered to come over and take them for me.

She’s just great.

Bonus fact: She gives me good chocolate.

Cari in blue.

If you had to describe someone in a list like this, who would you pick?

Music Monday

Alex at Everybody Loves You asked me to submit a “mixtape” for his Monday feature, and because I love, love, love music, I did.

My “Resistance is Futile” Summer 2014 is on view at his place.

Here’s the video for track 2.

It’s Monday. Let’s all go kick some ass.

Pittsburgh Blogger Guest Post: Green in Pittsburgh

Today’s post comes from Michelle, who blogs about running and sustainability at SOLE for the Soul, and is part of a special day of shenanigans from other Pittsburgh Bloggers. You can see my post over on The Steel Trap, where I mention a few of my favorite places in Pittsburgh for a family day out, date night, and me-time.

Writing about sustainability has its advantages; sometimes you get to visit some amazing places and chat with incredible people! Today I’d love to share one of my most interesting adventures: a tour of Sota Construction near Avalon, PA.


When Ernie Sota, president of Sota Construction, decided to redesign his business’ headquarters, he knew he wanted to do something different. He also knew he wanted his business to have a small footprint and big goals! In the spirit of green building, he set a goal to decrease material costs by utilizing as many local and natural resources as he could. Well, what does western Pennsylvania have a whole heck of a lot of? Straw! Yep, the picture above is a building constructed of steel beams and straw bales. Believe it!

Pittsburgh is full of forward thinking green business owners. I know this because, as it turns out, Ernie Sota is one of them. Not only was his straw purchased locally (it’s actually a really long process; the straw bales have to be dried in a barn for several years before they can be used), but he purchased the clay and sand that was used as a mixing medium in the walls from Greensburg, PA. Additionally, Sota chose to use organic insulation created from mushroom spores.

While it may sound like this building has a short shelf life, it’s actually quite the opposite. The steel beams that frame the building are rust-resistant and less likely to warp than conventional wood studs. The interior walls are cobb, which is a combination of straw, clay, and minute amounts of sand. The cobb combined with the straw bales create walls that end up being between 8–10 feet thick and very well insulated! Straw also naturally decreases the humidity in the space.

Inside, Sota was able to integrate some recycled building materials into this renovation, such as cabinets that were salvaged from a lawyer’s office. The counter-tops are paper-based, made from recycled materials. They were able to use some of the extra wood for doors as well.

As you walk through the building, there is an openness in the design of the building. In fact, there are several vents between the first and second floor, which naturally provide airflow without using energy. They also pull sunlight from the skylights in the roof. Essentially, the skylights in the roof are passively lighting the first and second floors!

View of vent from first floor.

If you’re into the geeky side of green building like I am, read on!

One of the coolest things in the building is a monitoring system that senses the temperature and humidity both outside and inside the building (according to five orientation zones). This system will flash a red or green light that notifies occupants when conditions are ideals to open the windows/skylights. For example, if the humidity outside would cause less than ideal working conditions inside, you get the red light!

Getting sticky in here!

The structure is heated radiantly using geothermal coils that are in the floors and covered in poured concrete, which in theory is meant to save on energy costs. The six geothermal wells are drilled 450 feet deep. The extensive network of compressors and the pipes/returns are located in the basement, but highly visible, which allows for detailed monitoring.

I hope you enjoyed this mini-tour of Sota Construction, a local green building. If you want to talk more about sustainability, pop over to SOLE for the Soul and leave me a comment! It will get me talking about something other than the Pittsburgh Marathon for a change!


Here’s a list of participating #PGHgbe blogs. Go check them out, and see more of the awesome Pittsburgh has to offer:

Sean’s Ramblings

Small Town Dad

Sole for the Soul


Tall Tales from a Small Town

The Firecracker Blog

The Pittsburgh Mommy Blog

The Steel Trap

West of Mars

Ya Jagoff

Yinz R Readin


Yum Yum PGH

You and Your Racist Friend

I am fascinated (and quite a bit heartened), by what I see going on on-line in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death and George Zimmerman’s acquittal.

It’s an honest conversation about conversations about race.

We’re not a color blind society, and I don’t think we should be. People are different — different colors, different sexes, different classes, different religions, different sexual orientations.

The point in having these conversations about people’s differences is not to cover up the differences.

For example, a goal, as a parent, is to get my children to treat all people the same. I am not striving to do that by pretending everyone is the same — that would be silly. Each person is to be accorded, by the simple fact of their humanity, respect and love.

If my kids want to talk to me about the color of someone’s skin or a friend’s sexual orientation, I can do that in simple, age appropriate terms. And I can do it in such a way that doesn’t erase color or orientation. I think it’s important to acknowledge that people are not all alike, while at the same time reinforcing the fact that no one is better than anyone else.

It’s basically what my parents taught me.


Here are some of the things I have read this week that struck chords with me:

Two from Slate: William Saletan talks about talking about race. And at The Root, Jenee Desmond-Harris advises a guy who’s racist but doesn’t want to be.

The second piece reminded me of this post by my friend Carpetbagger. Powerful stuff going on here. If you tune back into some Pittsburgh blogs on Thursday, there are going to be a number of posts about thoughts regarding the Zimmerman case. (I’ll just link back to yesterday’s post, maybe with a little more.)

Mocha Momma (aka Kelly Wickham) has been pushing people — especially white women bloggers — to listen first and then to speak up. I’m new to her blog, but she’s been making me think, and think hard, about how to have these conversations, how not to, in her (admittedly paraphrased because I can’t find the quote) words, be the white friend that others can talk to about their racism.

And this post, by a writer I’d not encountered before, which gave me chills and held me spellbound until the end. This quote pretty much sums up what I was trying to get at the other day:

Listen, my open-minded, concerned, and sensitive white friends: I know I’m not telling you anything you haven’t considered before, but misogyny runs deep. Racism and white privilege run deep. We are socialized from birth on the ways of the world: we live years, decades, before we come to and start the lifelong work of change. We’ve got work to do, and it’s going to take all our lives, because it is part of our lives. It’s in us, this coded language, these world views, this privilege. We are it. Our work will never be done.

I don’t know about Kate (the writer at this blog), but I know for me, part of this work is teaching the children, especially my children, well.

I may not remember every word my parents said to me. But the way they raised me to believe in equality, mercy, justice, and love wasn’t in their words. It was in the way they acted. It was in the words they never said — N-word (I tried to type it, I did type it, but I couldn’t let it stand, I just couldn’t), faggot, bitch, asshole.

Short of having a penis, I am in the almost the most privileged class of people in the United States (we are not the super-rich). I am white, straight, college educated, pretty solidly middle-class, married, with children. With luck and hard work, we’ll be able to stay middle class. We’ll be able to raise our children to be open-minded responsible citizens, hard workers, and loving adults. With luck, and hard work, and honesty, I’ll be able to teach my white kids about equality, maybe with words, but most definitely with action.

To Believe in Yourself: Motivation to Get Moving

Today’s post is from Becky Willis, who writes at ‘lil Burghers, and is part of special day of shenanigans from other Pittsburgh Bloggers. Each time I have encountered Becky IRL, she’s had a welcoming smile on her face. She’s married to the incomparable Greg, has two adorable ‘lil Burghers, works full time, and runs. She’s amazing, and I’m glad she was chosen to crash my space for the Spring 2013 Pittsburgh Guest Blogger Event.

You can see my post over on Crank Crank Revolution, where I rant about the tiresome moralizing of (and a couple of other things about) the Berenstain Bears.


A little over a year ago, I decided to get a move on and add some exercise to my eating better/attempt to be healthy. I’ll be the first to tell you, this was not easy. Not one bit. But because I believe in myself, I made it work and now am addicted. 

I started off small, doing a 20-minute Bob Harper DVD. It was supposed to be easy. I wanted to die. I didn’t die. 

After a few weeks of working out, I decided to give running a try using the “Couch to 5k” program. Sure, it was a little bit boring at first, but I found 90 seconds of running strenuous, too. It was a weird love/hate relationship. I needed a goal. Then, I got an e-mail that I’d be doing Mud on the Mountain (a 7-mile obstacle run) with my work team, so I knew I needed to get my butt in gear. Two months later, the run was cut from the budget, but I still participated and was glad I did. I met a goal, and felt so much better about myself because I did it. 

A sprained knee/pulled hamstring and a 5k later, I felt like giving up. But I had to keep going and believe in myself. Thanks to Physical Therapy, I was back at it and did the Turkey Trot 5k, a way to earn my Thanksgiving meal. Goals are what keeps me moving! 
Currently, I am training for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. Me, yes me. The woman who works a full-time job and holds mommy guilt like none other — add to that the fact that my husband is a stay-at-home dad and I carry so much guilt about training and leaving him with the kids beyond the work day. The woman who 18 months ago carried around 90 more pounds. But I am motivated. I set a goal and I am sticking to it!

So obviously what works for me is setting goals. And when I meet them? I give myself awards. So far, I’ve earned a new camera, a telescopic lens, two tattoos, and a Kindle Fire. Sure, those things cost money, but I made sure I put the money away because these things were important to pushing me to keep going. My kids are a huge motivator, too. Even though it means I am not spending as much time with them as I would like to, I know I am doing a good thing to guarantee I am around with them for longer. Plus, I am being a good role model for them–they both love to strength train and do yoga with me. 

Everyone is going to have different motivators. It’s not easy to get up early in the morning and go for a run (especially when it’s below freezing). It’s not going to just snap the first time you go out and try to get moving. But the rewards are worth it, you just have to trust me. And yourself.  Believe in yourself! 


I need to take her advice! What motivates you?

And Now for Something Completely Different

Updated to add: We have a winner! Comment 12 came up on the number generator. The winner has 24 hours to respond to myself or Beth via email (I am emailing contact info to her to claim her prize. Thanks, everyone, for commenting, and don’t forget about the Market tomorrow in Bakery Square!

By that I mean: I’m doing a giveaway!

I have been partnered with Grace in Abundance, an etsy business created by Beth Trax. Beth is the mother of two who says she started Grace in Abundance as a hobby.

“I wanted to try my hand at creating an etsy shop, sell some baby burp cloths, quilts, blankets… I had always stitched/created/quilted for fun, and loved fabric.” She says she needed a creative outlet, and Grace in Abundance, named for her daughter, became the way she was able to fulfill that creative urge. “Grace continually inspires me to do what makes me happy!” Beth adds.

Beth will be a featured artist at the I Made It! Market Jr. on April 21 in Bakery Square downtown. She is joining 30 other artists of handmade items for kids and babies. You can see more at her Facebook page.

Beth and I will be giving away a personalized set of a onesie, a blanket, and four burp cloths. If the winner wants, Beth will throw in a bib.

How to win: Leave a comment on this post. For an additional entry, tweet about it and leave a mention of your tweet here. I’ll be choosing a winner through on Friday April 20.

Wanna see the cuteness?


Burp cloths:


Beth can make a set for a boy, a girl, or create something gender neutral. She will work with the winner to customize.

You can see more of Beth’s sweet-looking goods at her etsy shop as well.

Thanks for playing!


BTW: Other people are hosting giveaways for I Made It! Market Jr. The incomparable @scarletfire is giving away a turtle nightlight from Very Merry Glass (and you will be competing with me for it because it is too cute) and the lovely @soulfulleoness is giving away a roll-up crayon pouch from Gillie Beans Boutique! (Again, very cute.)

Project: Food Budget 2.0: Week 4

Food Budget Piggybank

I am off to a rocking start!

Of course it helps that I started with a fully stocked larder and refrigerator.

My first goal this week was to spend under $50, including meals out.
My second goal this week was to use stuff up.

We did well on both counts, though not perfect, as we went over by $12.91.

Snacks and drinks at Patrick’s Moon Township: $21.42
Grocery shopping: $29.24
Farmers market: $12.25, for apples, apple cider, a butternut squash, sweet peppers, four garlic bulbs
Total: $62.91

What I made in my kitchen: guacamole, lentil soup, applesauce and apple muffins, marinara sauce, beet and feta salad. We had a friend in from out of town, and although we talked about ordering a pizza on Saturday, when I looked in my refrigerator, I decided against it. Instead, we had veggie chili burritos, salad, and the aforementioned beet salad. Sunday we had lentil soup and grilled cheese for lunch.

This week I have to use two small eggplants, whatever is in my CSA box (pickup is Thursday evening), potatoes, a ton of carrots, butternut squash, the rest of that marinara sauce.

I had to throw out half a head of cauliflower. I tried really hard to get over the slug I discovered on it — it comes directly from a farm, after all — and I couldn’t do it.

Recipe ideas:
Carrot soup
Eggplant parmesan
Strawberry and banana muffins

Next week’s goals:
Grocery budget (not including formula): $125
Formula: $25
Costco food budget: $100

Let’s go see how everyone else did!

* Emily Levenson
* Dairy-Free Cooking
* Test Kitchen Tuesday
* Acquired Tastes
* Fit Flexitarian
* Warm As Pie
* Katy Rank Lev
* My Inner Healthy
* Little Blue Hen
* xox, b
* What da Health?
* Project Food Budget 2.0
* Ignition Nutrition
* A Nice Heart and a White Suit
* Because Hobbies Happen
* Primary Focus Health Coaching
* Chicken Tender
* Fresh…A New Chapter
* Whole Living Gal
* Chandeleah

Project Food Budget 2.0: Getting Started

Food Budget Piggybank

I’ve signed on to a project that started with Emily Levenson at the {Custom Made} blog. A number of other bloggers are on board, too, and I’ll be linking to them at the end.

The project started Oct. 6, but since I was in the midst of planning for and traveling to my sister’s wedding, Emily gave me a pass and told me to start when I could.

That’s today.

At this point, I do not have a dollar amount that I am trying to buy to, but I plan to develop one over the next few weeks. (This is a year-long exercise.)

As well as reining in the Food Budget for the RPM household, I have some other goals I want to meet.

1. Cook more. As a mom of three who works full time, cooking meals every night of the week is simply out of my ability. However, I do want to cook more on the weekend, with the intention of serving leftovers during the week.

2. Use everything. Part of cooking more is using everything I buy. No more rotten vegetables or fruit to toss; no more moldy leftovers; no more “extra” cans of stuff (or dried goods) in my pantry.

3. Shopping better. I need to make better shopping lists, and pay more attention to what I already have to hand before I send my husband to the store. (I make meal plans and lists; he usually does the shopping. God bless that man.)

4. Bake more. I’m tired of buying “night time treats” for my children, or packing lunches full of pre-packaged goodies. I really need to find the benefits of using my oven.

5. Helping my husband lose weight. I am going to shop, cook, and bake in such a way that my husband will eat more healthfully, learn about appropriate portions, and be satisfied with homemade food and packed lunches.

I’ve been looking at many of the other blogs participating in this project. My household of five includes four ovo-lacto vegetarians, and one omnivore (my husband), with (knock on wood) no known food allergies. Along with my husband Dan (age, 42; weight, undisclosed, but on the heavy side) and myself (age, 41; weight about 130 pounds — we don’t own a scale), I prepare meals for Flora (6, about 48 pounds), Kate (4, about 40 pounds), and Michael (10 months, about 20 pounds).

Here are some things to know about my shopping and cooking habits:

1. I lean heavily on what I refer to as meat analogs, primarily from Morning Star Farms, Yves, and Quorn. I have to examine this in the weeks to come.

2. We belong to a CSA, Krestchmann Farms. We divide our standard share with my SIL. I also shop weekly at my local farmers market, primarily because it’s in the parking lot of Kate’s daycare on Mondays. My kids LOVE it.

3. There are some foods that I don’t buy: pasta sauce and lentil soup, for example. Although it takes time to cook these things, it’s much more preferable to me and to my family that I make them fresh from scratch.

4. We seldom shop weekly, more like every two weeks. We shop at Market District and Costco.

5. I use coupons as often as I can. It’s tough, because aside from the frozen “meats” I buy, we don’t buy a lot of processed food.

6. I obviously have to buy special stuff for the baby (Stage 3 foods, formula). As this project continues, that will slowly be phased out, and I expect my budget to drop accordingly. Formula is expensive, yo! I can’t wait to start weaning him to whole milk from a sippy cup rather than formula from a bottle.

7. The children and I seldom dine out. Dan, on the other hand, often grabs lunch out (I have a work cafeteria that offers free lunch, and I bring leftovers often). I will have to show him the tally of his purchases, and maybe help him rein it in. We’ve talked about it, but I don’t think we’ve seen it in black and white, so to speak.

I think that sums it up! Let’s just go to last week’s expenditures, and work from there.

Eating out total (wow, this is low this week. Dan must not have eaten out!) = $27.07
Thursday’s CSA box: cauliflower, apples, acorn squash, tomatoes, broccoli, green beans, potatoes, CSA cheeses (I am paid up on the CSA for the year. Including the annual deposit, one or two “winter” boxes, and cheese and coffee, it’s about $900 a year — which breaks down to about $32 a week for 28 weeks)
Sunday, trip to Market District: $179.51. (This was a small shopping trip — our usual amount for a big trip can be over $400.)
Sunday, trip to Costco (food total only): $217.89
Monday, farmers market: $16 (2 carving pumpkins, beets, green beans, and sweet peppers)

Other participants:

* Emily Levenson
* Dairy-Free Cooking
* Test Kitchen Tuesday
* Acquired Tastes
* Fit Flexitarian
* Warm As Pie
* Katy Rank Lev
* My Inner Healthy
* Little Blue Hen
* xox, b
* What da Health?
* Project Food Budget 2.0
* Ignition Nutrition
* A Nice Heart and a White Suit
* Because Hobbies Happen
* Primary Focus Health Coaching
* Chicken Tender
* Fresh…A New Chapter
* Whole Living Gal

Tentative weekend cooking (and tentative menu):
Marinara sauce
Lentil soup (for Soup and Grilled Cheese sandwich night)
Crockpot Applesauce
Beets (for Beet and Feta salad)

Smack Talk

I recently learned that someone has been talking behind my back, telling people to avoid me. This person apparently said that I was crazy, and I had no control over my kids, and people shouldn’t be my friend.

When I first was told this, I was angry. But then I just got sad. For the other person, not for me.

Not everyone has to like me or be my friend. I’m totally okay with that. I don’t like everybody I meet either.

And not everyone has to like my kids. I think they’re the bees knees, of course, and — with Dan — the best things to ever happen to me. As to them not being “in control”, well, I have publicly admitted to having trouble with one of them. I’m learning.

But I don’t think it’s cool to tell other people not to like me because you don’t like me. You can say, “Well, I don’t like her.” I have said this about other people. (I’m not proud of this.) But I’ve never said, “I don’t like her so you shouldn’t either.”

Not since grade school, anyway.

And that brings me to this: We often talk about social media or the blogging community as “being like high school” or being a popularity contest. But it’s not. Unless you are actually under 18 and still in high school, don’t treat other people on Facebook or Twitter or in the blog-o-sphere — or IRL, for that matter — as if we are all still in high school.

For the most part we are all adults who will be friends with people we want to be friends with. We will read or not read whom we want; we will comment or not comment, follow or not, “friend” or not as we see fit.

Believe me, I don’t consider myself above the fray. But I don’t talk smack about other people. It’s just not the kind of person I am. I would like the same courtesy extended my way. Please and thank you.

And just leave my kids out of it.

Great minds talk about ideas; average minds talk about events; and small minds talk about people. — Eleanor Roosevelt

The Kids Will Be All Right

After finally hearing and reading all the hand-wringing about Lori Gottlieb’s article “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy” in the Atlantic Monthly, I went and had a read for myself.

And I was relieved. Because you know what? She’s not talking about me. Whew. I am so not one of those “well meaning” (read: helicopter) parents.

Do I want to raise happy kids?

You bet.

Do I think I can *make* my kids happy?

Hell, no.

I can give them the tools to help them make good choices. Good choices, and being self-sufficient can lead to moments of happiness. Will my kids — even with the tools I give, and my love, and my blessings, and good choices, be happy, happy, happy all the fucking time?

Hell no.

No one is happy all the fucking time. (And if they are, check the medicine cabinet.)

To sum up: Gottlieb’s article, on the surface, is about how modern parenting still lands kids in therapy. The fact that the kids of helicopter parents are ending up in therapy full of anxiety or/and depression should shock just about nobody.

If you raise your kid by protecting him or her from EVERY hurt or failure, intervening in his or her interactions with peers and authority figures, guess what? That kid is going to have zero confidence in his or her ability to navigate the world on his/her own.

I’m not saying you should let your kid be bullied by his peers. You shouldn’t let a person in authority over your child (teacher, coach, priest) abuse his or her power.

But geez louise: let the kids go a little bit.


Here’s my favorite quote of the article: “…happiness as a goal is a recipe for disaster.” — Barry Schwartz, professor of social theory at Swarthmore College. Emphasis mine.


Here’s my favorite take on the babble about this article — and helicopter parenting in general — so far, plus a take on the Go The F*ck To Sleep book that engendered everything from insecurity to rage. I mean, people: it was supposed to be funny.


I had great parents. They didn’t hover, and they put their marriage first and foremost. They didn’t protect me from failure. When I came home with my very first D (high school calculus), my dad took one look at the scarlet letter on my test and said, “You better work to pull that grade up.”

They weren’t neglectful and they weren’t helicopter parents. They set boundaries, and they disciplined us. We were expected to do our own homework, although they helped if we asked. (We didn’t ask often.)

When I was in my 20s, I suffered a pretty bad break up. Although I had the support of my family and many of my friends, I had terrible anxiety about my life. I started having nightmares, most of them about being consumed. Literally eaten alive.

So I went to therapy. It helped immensely. We examined my anxiety and where it came from. We talked about my reaction to being in a relationship, my propensity to “settle” instead of getting the love I deserved. We talked about religion, poetry, and life in general.

I always say if it weren’t for therapy, I wouldn’t have married Dan. I wouldn’t have been in the place I needed to be — an open place, a place of security and knowing not just want I wanted, but what I deserved — I would have totally whiffed on my relationship with him.

Could some of this stuff that came up in therapy be pinned on Mom & Dad? Sure, why not. Was it their *fault* that I needed therapy?

No. It’s no one’s fault. Even these earnest, “well meaning” helicopter parents didn’t plan for their kids to be in therapy. (Although my husband and I thank them!) It’s not their fault.

This quest for the perfectly well-adjusted child — or parent or mother for that matter — is futile. People, we are imperfect. We act imperfectly. We aren’t Stepford mothers or children.

And that’s okay.

And if you need therapy to help you figure out that not being perfect is okay, I’ve got a contact name for you.