How to make the perfect lemonade stand with your kids…

1. Be excited that as a parent your child is motivated to earn their own money and become a small business owner. Tell them how proud of them you are for coming up with this idea and taking their financial situation into their own hands.

2. Look in cabinet and curse loudly and profusely when you realize you agreed to this plan without actually having any lemonade or cups.

3. Go to grocery store for lemonade and cups. Walk out having spent $150 and six bags of groceries.

4. As children are attempting to make lemonade inside , carry out a folding table and two heavy-as-bloody-hell chairs outside in 92 degree heat.

5. Return to the kitchen to find a mound of lemonade powder on the floor, a puddle of water on the step stool and two children who think it is hilarious to dunk their heads into the pitcher to drink directly from it.

6. Together, though really mostly by yourself, clean up mess and fill pitcher with lemonade.

7. Carry all items to table, only to spill numerous times and have to stop when one child hits the other child with the bag of cups.

8. While both children sit in time-out, spend 20 minutes searching for the markers and poster board from the spot you hid them in last time your son drew penises all over his sister’s arm.

9. Have children make signs and stand over them so they don’t write “Lemonass” instead of “Lemonade.”

10. Just as the very first customer walks up, realize that you are still in your pajamas and now you are flashing the new elderly neighbor man your goodies.

11. Feel embarrassed until you realize he just gave your kids a $2 tip.

12. Go inside, change clothes, pour cup of coffee and sit down to read the paper for… 2 minutes. Until the kids come running in asking for more lemonade.

13. Repeat 4 more times until finally they say those words that every parent dreads, “I’m bored. I’m done with the lemonade stand.”

14. Add vodka to you cup of lemonade and go back to reading the newspaper.

lemonade and salami2This is what happens when you ask your kids to smile for a “Nice Lemonade Stand Picture”


A little bit taller. A little bit wiser. A whole lot more happy.

Addi first day of 1st gradeYesterday was my daughter’s first day of first grade.

One year ago, she held tightly on to my leg, begging me to not let her go. Not to leave her as she entered a new school, new classroom, new teacher and a new life.

I tried not to cry as I peeled her off of me and let her teacher walk her inside.

I felt broken. Like a failure.

I tried to do all the things to prepare her for Kindergarten. We read the books, we played pretend games about school, we even went for a classroom visit.

But what I learned afterwards was that it didn’t matter. It was totally and completely normal for her to feel petrified. Heck, I was petrified too.

So when the first day of first grade came yesterday, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Just as the year before, she was giddy on the walk there. She wore her favorite new outfit, proudly showed off her favorite new hairdo, and twirled to show her new Wonder Woman backpack. (side note: how freakin’ cool is that??? A Wonder Woman backpack!!)

And when we got to the front doors of the school, I braced myself for what would come next. I had tissues in my pocket, a lollipop as bribery for later, and a note I would slip into her hands if needed.

But it wasn’t tears that I saw, it was a smile. A big, huge smile that showed that empty adorable spot where she lost her first tooth weeks before.

We kissed, hugged and high-fived. Then she was gone.

Just like that.

In one year she grew a little bit taller, a little bit wiser, and whole lot more happy. Actually, I think we both did. Okay, maybe not the taller part for me but you know, the other stuff…

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A proud mother. Why I cried at my daughter’s first triathlon…

My daughter is a cautious person. She needs to warm up to situations, is hesitant to try new things and finds a safe spot crouched next to me with her arms wrapped around my leg.

When with close friends, she transforms into a leader who laughs a bellowing roar and chants, “Girls rule, boys drool.” But when that comfort zone is not around her, she is timid.

This has been challenging for me at times. “Timid” is not a word that I think has ever been used to describe me.

But this has been a year of firsts for my girl that have filled her with a new sense of confidence. This year she moved to lap lane in swimming where she is gearing up for swim team. This year she learned to ride a bike without training wheels.  And this year she completed her first kids triathlon.

On Saturday, with a thunderstorm looming and my son’s birthday party later in the day, we all went out in the dark of the morning for my daughter to participate in her first triathlon. We practiced transitions from swim to bike to run with her, we got all the gear she’d need, and we talked up the race every single day.  But as we waited the two hours for the older kids to finish before her turn, she clung to my leg a little harder and told me she loved me a few too many times. She was nervous but trying to keep it together.

And then it was her turn.

From the second she jumped into the water, my heart soared. My daughter transformed into the most confident human being I have ever seen. She dominated that swim. Crushed that bike ride. And ran to the finish with the biggest smile on her face.

I can honestly say that I never felt so proud of someone in my entire life.

It wasn’t because she did a sport or anything like that. It was because she was afraid of something and conquered that fear with confidence and a fire I hadn’t seen before.

All day I would find myself just looking over at her and smiling. She might be wearing the finalist medal but I feel like I won that day. I won the chance to see my girl shine.

Shine on, sweet baby.

kids tri pictures

(PS. The triathlon was the Hy-Vee Pinky Swear Kids Triathlon. They are an AMAZING organization doing their part to help those families fighting childhood cancer. So so impressed by them. If they come to your city, definitely jump in and be part of it all. You won’t regret it.)


What to expect when your child goes to Kindergarten…

first day of kindergartenLast year at this time, I was feeling all kinds of emotions.







Because my first child was going to Kindergarten. I was a ball of mixed emotions and uncertainty. I wondered how she’d adjust. I wondered how I’d adjust.

And together, we learned.

With that knowledge, I decided to help others. I mean, I’d come deliver a mommy mimosa if I could, but the logistics of that seemed impossible. How do you keep it cold? How would I not drink it in route?

So instead, I decided to write about it.

Come check out my latest post on The Washington Post’s On Parenting section for 5 Things To Expect When Your Child Goes to Kindergarten.

I’d love it if you checked it out and maybe it shared it with someone who can use just a wee bit of reassurance (and probably a cocktail…)


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Flat Martini helped Kristen get her groove back!

He’s back! And WOW! Our little cocktail of love not only got his groove on, he helped Kristen Daukas get hers on as well!  Kristen is the awesome blogger behind Ten to Twenty Parenting – a site that is chock-full of insanely helpful parenting information. Seriously, check it out. It’s awesome. And you can find Kristen on Twitter and Facebook too. Go tell her I said hi!

Without further ado – here’s Flat’s adventures with Kristen!

kristen ten to twenty

There’s a running joke among moms that the only thing that gets them thru the day is Mommy Juice, which can come in a variety of flavors, but most typically it’s wine. Mommy Juice is a perfectly good remedy when your kids are younger and their needs largely revolve around schedules, play dates and breaking bad habits like binkies.

But just you wait dear mommy friends. There’s going to come a time when you’re going to need to call in the big guns to get your bearings about you and that special time is called the teenage years.  You will be trading in your wine for a much stronger elixir – a double vodka martini, extra dry. Shaken. Not stirred. You will want that martini firmly in your manicured hands as you cry to your husband, your friends and even the checkout lady at the Harris Teeter (if you think she’ll listen) about the this strange, new creature who looks a lot like the sweet baby you birthed but who’s suddenly turned into a creature with more mood swings than that ride at the fall fair. And you will wish for the days when you were stressed out  over whether Junior should play soccer or softball this spring.

Or you can do what I did and grab that martini and get the hell out of dodge to restore your sanity and your marriage…leaving nothing more than a trail of dust behind!


“Fend for yourself kiddies!!! You’re teens now and according to you, I know nothing and you know everything!! HAHAHAHA!! Have fun and I’ll catch ya on the flipside!!!”

Okay.. so I didn’t really leave the teenies to themselves, but I did get the hell out of dodge for a couple of trips this year.. believe me when I tell you that the smartest thing you can EVER do for yourself is to leave your kids and possibly your partner and get some YOU time. Nothing makes you remember that you are not just a taxi driver, bill payer, schedule organizer than taking a break. Perfect timing for Flat Martini to show up on my doorstep and since he doesn’t talk back or cost me money – the perfect traveling companion.

Talking Stick Resort

Hey Flat! How’d you like to go to Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, AZ?? That’s a loooooong way from Winston-Salem, NC!! Mom and Dad … errr… Steve and Kristen have an anniversary to celebrate and some workie-work stuff to do! We promise to protect you from the pricks and you might even get to meet a few babes!!


Apparently, Talking Stick is THE place to party in the summer time. Something that we old people don’t know about are these epic pool parties that are THE place to be seen. Did you know that people will follow DJs around like groupies?? It’s TRUE!!! Kinda like we did with bands in the 90’s.. apparently if you get a HOT DJ to spin for your party, all the cool kids will be there. Unfortunately for us, we had to leave before crashing one of these pool parties. Flat was sad…


… until we went to a different kind of party where there was a celebration of Native American culture. Meeting Indian chiefs and other members of their tribes was an awesome way to end the time in Arizona and leave the next day for Sin City, baby!!


What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas…

Apparently Flat had the kind of trip to Vegas that makes it a favorite adult playground. We left the proof that we were there on the floors of the casino. Read: I can’t find any of the photos that I took of Flat’s good time in Vegas, but don’t you worry.. a good time was had by all!


Baby, I’m a STAR!!

What happens when you’re called on to do a podcast, you pack up your mic and your martini and you give the people what they want!  It’s always a good time with the boys from The Less Desirables show and this time was no exception.  At times poor Flat felt out of place with all the craft beer in the room, but when you’ve been around as long as a classic like a martini, you pretty much own the room.


Bahama Mama!

Ahh… another classic cocktail and another escape from the crazy teens except this escape was with my mom. Further proof that you WILL survive the teenage years and you will still love your kids no matter what terror they put you thru for a few years.


I have to confess though.. no actual Bahama Mamas or martinis were consumed on this trip.. this was a trip fueled by mojitos and wine. It’s a cruise, yo.. what would you expect?!

Sadly, my time with Flat Martini has come to an end.. there are no more sanity-saving trips planned for this year and considering the amount of travel we did this year – maybe not next year either.

Nah… that can’t happen because as I said in the beginning…sometimes you just have to get away from it all and remind yourself that you are still a pretty cool person. No matter what your teenage kids may say!!

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Haters gonna hate, hate hate…. Shake it off.

Life works in some very ironic ways at times.

While talking to some bloggers new to blogging this past weekend, I got asked, “What happens when you get a hateful comment?”

I told them that I laugh.

I laugh at the stupidity of it all. Because just as it’s been proven through America’s Funniest Home Videos, sometimes stupid is entertaining.

Then, today this theory got tested. printed an article I wrote about choosing not to breastfeed. You can read the article here.

And of course, the haters came out.

But one hater in particular came out and called me a “hoe”.

And did I laugh?

Oh my word – did I ever!

First of all, I laughed at the spelling. I’ve never been called a gardening tool in anger so it was very entertaining.

Then I laughed at the fact that she called me a “nasty hoe” for giving my child formula. Now, I did fool around a bit in college but I don’t think I ever got to “hoe” level and considering that I’m only sleeping with one man now in life, I think my chances of getting that high on the slut food chain are quite low.

So trust me, bloggers and writers, when I tell you that Taylor Swift was actually on to something. No, not about that bright red lipstick she’s always wearing, but rather about shaking it off.

And so, to the person who called me a “hoe” – this is for you.


Bagels, bloggers and bad headshots – 5 Highlights from BlogHer15!

Remember in college when you would have those all night parties and the next day you would sleep until it was time to wake up for dinner?

That’s basically what I feel like today.

Except instead of sleeping all day, I have two humans who actually want to eat food, have me open crap or find a lost item of clothing that they are actually holding, and basically demand that I function as a parent.

So while they are entertained for what will probably be 3 minutes, I thought I’d share my BlogHer15 highlights.

Highlight #1

Being an on-air reporter for Moms Everyday. I absolutely loved stopping bloggers who were mothers to talk about everything from birth control to single parenting. Thank you to all who let a strange girl with a microphone pull you aside for a few minutes and invade your privacy.

Highlight #2

Hanging with blogger friends. If you don’t have a blogger friend, go out and make one. They are hilarious, up for an adventure and guaranteed to attempt to take selfies while laughing hysterically.


Highlight #3

Getting to do a private in-depth interview with Lisa Stone, co-founder of BlogHer and Brianna Wu, Head of Development at Giant Spacekat. Incredible women making big differences in the world.

Highlight #4

Eating my way through Manhattan. From a nutella restaurant in Eately to pasta in Little Italy – my muffin top thanks New York by currently spilling over my jeans.

Highlight #5

Speaking at BlogHer about Twitter. So cool to meet new bloggers and share my experiences and advice. But I couldn’t help cracking up when I walked into the room and this was on the screen. Seems one of these headshots is not like the other….



I could go on and on about the weekend. From amazing friends to hilarious conversations to awesome networking opportunities, it was a blast. So thank you BlogHer and Moms Everyday – I come home feeling inspired by the women I met and can’t wait until our paths cross again soon.



I’m off to BlogHer! Watch out New York!

blogher speaker badgeTwo years ago, I was new to blogging and decided to attend my first blogging conference. Not to do anything half-assed, I picked the largest blogging conference I could find – BlogHer.

It was 5,000 bloggers – almost all women – gathered together for an intense three days of learning, laughing and libations! I was overwhelmed, exhausted and invigorated to really bring my writing to a new level.

I treasured that experience. I met some amazing women that I built friendships with that have endured. I learned so much that a notebook was filled from front to back, and I gained a confidence and a community.

And now, two years later, I’m going back. But this time as a speaker.

I’m leading a workshop on Twitter and how to build a community and not feel overwhelmed by the world of 140 characters.

And what’s even better is that I also get to go and be part of tapings for Moms Everyday. We’ll be taping interviews with parents and bloggers for their amazing new 30 minute television show, as well as for their website. I’m so excited!

So New York – here I come! And the icing on the cake is that I’m taking a plane ride without children, fruit snacks or a purse full of extra underwear and wipes.

Okay, so I’ll probably keep an extra pair of underwear in my purse but they’ll be mine. Ya know, drinking and laughing after kids is a risky endeavor for the bladder….

If you are a blogger/writer heading to BlogHer – I hope to meet you and enjoy some fun and merriment together. Heck, I’ll even throw in an extra pair of underwear for you too….




I’m living with the gray hair. My end to hair dying.

gray hair

Two years ago. When the grays started their vicious attack…

Most women get excited on the day they get their hair cut and colored. But the past few times, dropping $120 and seeing grays again in 3 weeks hasn’t left me feeling that exciting. Plus, the past two times, in an attempt to make the dye last longer, my colorist has made my hair darker than I would prefer. As shocking as this is to hear, I’m actually not attempting to look like a goth-girl so the super dark hair might not be the look I’m going for these days.

So I made a decision today. The day I should be bouncing around the house with beautiful newly cut and colored hair.

I’m done.

I’m done dying my hair. If grays want to be part of my life so badly that they are willing to push their way through so quickly, then I believe it is my duty as their head of choice to give them the chance.

Will I look older? Probably.

Do I care? A little. But not so much anymore.

Of course I care about how I look, but I started to think about why I color. I color because I’m afraid I’ll look old.

But what would I look like if I just embraced the grays? Probably a lot more satisfied and at peace.

And with more money for wine.

And I realized that I’m not coloring so my husband will find me attractive – heck, I hit the lottery with him, he finds me attractive with a Goldfish cracker stuck to my ass.

No, I was doing it for me. And probably how other people viewed me. I was doing it so I didn’t look old.

But I am old. Not “ready to use Depends” old (though those do sound appealing for a night of drinking). The kind of old that has realized that confidence doesn’t have to be tied to youth-looking. That I can be confident AND beautiful with patches of grays throughout my head.

So here we go.

I’m writing it here so I don’t chicken out and sneak to the colorist in 8 weeks. It’s time to stop faking it and start living it.

You and me grays. We’ll show the world what real beauty looks like.

And we’ll maybe part my hair on the other side that isn’t so gray… Ya know, just to ease our way into this whole thing…


Flat Martini returns to one of his favorite places but this time in a new city!

When I got an email from Rachael Koenig, the blogger behind Maxisms, I felt terrible. She had just seen Flat Martini’s latest adventures to the wax museum and her post was next. A post about her taking her sons to the wax museum with Flat Martini! She asked me if I wanted her to do it over, to do something completely new. But I told her what Flat Martini once told me – every adventure is unique and different!

And I’m so glad I did because this one is awesome. You might think it’s because of the celebrity wax figures but it’s not. It’s because of the people in her life she puts in the picture. Like her adorable sons whose facial expressions seriously cracked me up. And her commentary is hilarious!

Rachael is awesome – you should really check her out! You can find her on her blog Maxisms and on Facebook and Twitter.


As I prepared for our visit from Flat Martini to our home right outside Washington D.C., I began to panic.  Although initially I was certain I was funny and entertaining enough to be an adequate host to a laminated piece of paper, as I have read through his many adventures across the country, I worried I wouldn’t be up to snuff.  For God’s sake, over the past few months, this martini has BEEN places! He’s become a cultured, sophisticated glass of vodka!  He probably started off on the bottom, but he’s reached the top shelf now!

Quickly, I rethought my original hosting plan, which had included a trip to the mall and some homemade potato salad in my backyard. (Potato salad?! What was I thinking!? How offensive to a glass of vodka!) No, I obviously needed something bigger, something more fabulous…. Something with more fireworks……or explosions…… or maybe elephants….

I enlisted the aid of my entourage – my ten-year-old and five-year-old sons – and we hatched a plan to create a fitting reception for our friend that was more shaken than stirred.  Where could we find a group of suitable contemporaries for Flat Martini? A crowd that was just as famous as he had now become, but also a bit two dimensional?

We found the perfect place! Madame Tussaud’s really gives you the best that celebrities have to offer – captured for posterity at the height of their popularity, with good looks, perfect hair and no political commentaries or preachy childcare advice.

We were greeted by none other than Marilyn Monroe, who in a moment of confusion, leaned over my son and tried to drink Flat Martini. Thankfully, I intervened and Marilyn only suffered a small paper cut on her tongue.


Madame Tussaud’s allowed us to introduce Flat Martini to important historical figures. Here are my kids crossing the Delaware with George Washington in search of more olives.


Here’s my son enjoying a laugh with Abraham Lincoln while watching ‘Our American Cousin’.  The play was good, but I heard Lincoln gave this theater a pretty poor Yelp review….


Thomas Jefferson was so taken with our friend Flat Martini, that he insisted on writing him into the Declaration of Independence, adding to the original text with ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident that all martinis are created equal…’ which of course sparked a heated ‘gin vs vodka’ debate between John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.

I think the one thing we can ALL agree on is the unalienable right to a delicious martini.


During the revolutionary disagreement we were battling out, no one noticed that Flat Martini went missing!

Richard Nixon swore to us that he wasn’t a crook, even after we found him red-handed….. Er, actually martini-handed, I guess.


Bill Clinton was really excited to meet Flat Martini. Everything was going great until Clinton asked me if I had a cigar.  Then I knew it was time to leave.

(Sorry, it’s been a while since I’ve heard a Clinton joke…)


Our visit was starting to get a little too political at that point, so we introduced our flat friend to a guy who certainly LOOKS like he knows a good martini when he sees one.  Hmmm…. I’m trying to decide who the best looking guy in this picture is – it’s a tough call….


Speaking of good looking guys, here’s me and Flat Martini swooning over my late night crush, Stephen Colbert.

If I were ever to have an affair, it would be with Colbert.


What I really like best about Jimmy Fallon is that he seems to be a kid at heart. He made my boys hysterical doing one of his famous impersonations – this time of Flat Martini.  Isn’t he just dead on??  He looks sooo glassy-eyed and stiff….just like a martini!


We finished our star-studded visit appropriately enough, with giving Flat Martini an up close and personal examination of Jennifer Lopez’s best asset, which proved we had a great time all the way up until the END.


I really hope we showed Flat Martini a good enough time while he was here with us. Since he’s left, we’ve been hanging out with fewer celebrities as we’ve been banned from Madame Tussaud’s for life.

But, it was all worth it!

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Her first tooth… Entering the Land of the Tooth Fairy.

first lost toothThere are moments in parenting that are just plain fun. Moments like the first time your kid projectile pees on your husband. Or instead of eating their first birthday cake, they simply slam their head down directly into it. Ya know, stuff like that.

And then there’s their first tooth.

For weeks you watch them wiggle it, run away when you try to touch it, push their tongue repeatedly against it, and ask you over and over again, “When is it going to fall out?”

And then, after contemplating getting a pair of pliers when they are sleeping and just pulling it out yourself, you hear the words you have been waiting for. The words that make your heart sing.


And you dance a huge dance of joy. And you scream loudly with glee. And then you brace yourself for what is going to happen next.


It never crossed my mind to maybe explain that when you lose a tooth, there… uhm… might be some blood. Whoops. Parenting fail #7,658.

But after the gauze, the crying, the laughing, back to crying, and then amazement – there is happiness. Pure and utter happiness.

And you, as a parent, have now entered a new world. A world without governing rules or universal agreement. A world called “The Land of the Tooth Fairy.”

Do you give $1 or $5? Do you get a dollar coin or give a bill? Do you leave a note or does she leave one back? Do I sprinkle fairy dust on her pillow and leave the window open?

You hear all these ideas – all these extravagant ways to celebrate the death and rotting of a tooth the size of a peanut.

So in the end, we settled on $2. No glitter. No fairy dust. No window left open like a creepy stalker. Just $2.

And oh yeah, the damn tooth in a ball of wax. Because for some reason, my girl wanted to keep it. Which, might just be creepier than a miniature fairy sneaking into your room to take dead teeth.

letter to the tooth fairy


She didn’t ask me to do it…

My daughter is six and my son is three. He looks at her like she is the best thing since sliced bread and she usually looks at him like he is an old moldy muffin.

Every single day, he wakes up basically living on this earth to play with her.

And every single day she wakes up cranky and just wanting to watch Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. (Which, by the way, has about 30,000 seasons and yet they never can defeat the bad guys. Seems like it might be time to take the “Mighty” out of your name, guys. Just sayin’.)

So when my son looked up at me with big sad eyes to play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with him, after asking his sister three times in less than two minutes, I decided to take a new approach to parenting.

I sat down my daughter, looked at her straight in the eye and told her the truth.

“I birthed your brother so I wouldn’t ever have play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

She looked confused.

I continued, “I birthed him so that you can be the person who is more fun than I am. The person he’d want to play with.”

She thought for a minute. Sat herself up and said, “I didn’t ask you to do that. You did that all on your own. You always tell me – you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”

Then she sat down with her granola bar and turned on the Power Rangers.

Damn her. And damn me for thinking that something like birthing might actually get me out of having to pretend I’m a freakin’ mutant turtle.

Daughter: 1, Mother:0


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A letter to my poor, poor tube of toothpaste…

letter to toothpaste

Dear sad, sad toothpaste,

Hi. It’s me. The grown up woman you see come into the bathroom everyday. The one who sees you and shakes her head in shame.

I’m writing to say how sorry I am for all you go through. For your struggles and hardships. I see how day in and day out you try to give all you can to my family. You let them push on places you aren’t ready to be pushed. And still, you bring out all you are made of each and every time.

I try to make you a priority when I look around at things to clean. To hold you gently and wipe the blobs off your chin. Or clean up your top so you can close and have your privacy.

But some days it’s just too much.

Some days there is just more toothpaste than even I can handle.

I’ve tried to get you out of this unhealthy relationship. I tried to talk to the little people who leave you open and exposed without even a care. But they don’t seem to care. They don’t seem to realize that their actions have consequences. That one day you might have to leave. To go to that trash can in the sky for being… oh I can hardly say it… dried out.

I’m sorry, I know those are painful words to hear.

Please accept my heartfelt apologies for all you have gone through. I can only promise you this – someday those little humans will go to college and the bathroom will go back to a happy, peaceful, clean place to reside again. Until then, please know that I’m thinking of you every time I see your innards stuck to the sink. I offer my greatest sorrows for your loss.


The mother of those toothpaste-challenged children

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The cookbook that brought me to tears… New Prairie Kitchen by Summer Miller

new prairie kitchenOne of my first writing gigs was as a restaurant reviewer for The Reader – Omaha’s local hipster newspaper. It was an awesome experience. To eat, write and actually be paid to do both – it was pretty sweet. But one of the best parts of the job was meeting a woman named Summer Miller. She was a food writer for the newspaper and we instantly clicked – not just of over our love of food, but on everything – kids, life and alcohol. She’s damn funny and a killer writer – an awesome combination, if you ask me.

I remember her telling me about her book idea. That she was starting on it and what it involved. My jaw dropped. It sounded amazing.

And the coolest part – it IS amazing. And it happened. (I’m suddenly flashing back to Seinfeld when that girl talks about her boobs and says, “They are real and they’re spectacular.”)

So why did I title this blog post the cookbook that brought me to tears? Because what Summer created isn’t just a cookbook. It’s a collection of stories about farmers, chefs and artisans from all over the Great Plains. Stories that literally bring you to tears. Like the young farming couple who saved for years to buy their own land only to have it destroyed the first year from hail damage. You feel inspired by how they built themselves back up and the journey they are on to make it in the world of farming.

And the recipes. Oh the recipes! And the pictures of the recipes by Dana Damewood! Amazing. Absolutely mouth-watering.

Here’s a pic of the granola my family replicated. Easy, heavenly, and perfect for this completely and utterly cooking-challenged mom.


But I didn’t write this post just to tell you about the cookbook, I wanted to introduce you to Summer. I wanted you to see why I like her so much and why her idea was so damn cool. So I switched gears on her. Instead of her asking the questions and doing the interviews, I decided to interview her!

talking with summer

Summer, growing up, tell me how food affected your life. What are your memories that revolved around food?

My parents always had a large vegetable garden, but cooking was little more than just getting food on the table. I remember as a young child my brothers and I would just eat and snack right out of the garden while we were playing. It was the early 80s. Parents sent their kids outside back then and refused to let us back in until dinnertime so we had to fend for ourselves. : )

What made you first want to start writing about food?

It was practicality. I always enjoyed food. I worked as a journalist and then I had a family. When my son was born food and community mattered more to me than it ever had. I wanted to find a way to merge my passions, meet the needs of my family while continuing my work as a writer and connect more deeply with my community — food writing was how I did that. I also find food and the people involved in food fascinating. I never tire of the subject or it’s tributaries.

What was your first job in regards to food?

Well, when I was really young, maybe 6 or 7, I spent Saturday’s at my grandmother’s antique store. It was always my job to walk up the street and buy donuts from Ferd’s Bakery before they sold out. Many years later, when I was 15, I worked as a grocery sacker at Baker’s Supermarket. It was also my first writing job. At the time, Baker’s was a locally owned family supermarket. I think it’s owned by the national chain Kroger today. When I applied for the job they asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I told them I wanted to be a writer. When it was time to put together the store newsletter they let me write an article for it. I don’t think I had ever taken anything so seriously in my life, I spent a remarkable amount of time on the article. Here’s some perspective — I used a typewriter.  I had to submit it at the corporate headquarters, which was in a shiny office building. They even edited it in red pen and gave it back to me. I was devastated. I had to rewrite it and submit it again. I really felt like I had made it to the big time. I was paid for it too. I remember feeling an immense sense of pride in that accomplishment and I have often looked back on the adults, whose names I have long forgotten, and wonder if they knew how meaningful that investment was to me as a 15-year-old kid. They didn’t have to do that or put in that kind of effort, but they did.

It’s a Sunday morning and the house is filled with family, what’s your favorite thing to cook/make for them?

We try to go to church on Sundays, but usually breakfast is simple — fruit and wholewheat pancakes. I always make a double batch from scratch and then freeze the leftovers between sheets of parchment paper. It makes for a quick, hot and relatively healthy weekday breakfast. I just pop them in the microwave for a minute and if I’m really feeling ambitious — the toaster. You would never know they weren’t fresh off the griddle. If we have our extended family over for brunch, I enjoy making egg strata. It’s a great way to feed a large group and there’s a simple and quick egg and ham strata recipe in New Prairie Kitchen. The recipe came from a bakery in Hastings, Nebraska. I just love it.

Who was the first farmer/local food producer that you interviewed for this book? How did that shape the feel of the book?

The first chef was Clayton Chapman of The Grey Plume in Omaha, Nebraska. The first farmers were Matt and Terra Hall of Rhizosphere Farm in Missouri Valley, Iowa. Both the farmers and the chef had compelling stories to tell. At the time Clayton was just finishing up his first year at The Grey Plume. He had a young family and they were all putting everything they had into this dream of opening a farm-to-table restaurant in a city that, at the time, had only recently embraced the concept. I found that determination, and his commitment to quality especially with a young family inspiring. Starting a business is difficult regardless of the stage of life you are in, but doing it when you have young children involves a completely different level of sacrifice and the responsibility of that success or failure and its impact on your family, I think, adds an extra level of stress to the experience. Not only for the entrepreneur but for the whole family, which is why I wrote his son and wife into the story.

As far as Rhizosphere is concerned, the Halls are favorites among the chefs and Farmer’s Market goers in Omaha. They understand the value of not only providing a good product, but also presenting it in way that is appealing to the end user. They had a tough go of it their first year on their farm in Missouri Valley because of extreme weather conditions. It was crippling for them,  but through perseverance, hope, and community support they were able to overcome a terrible season and continue farming. I hope the stories add depth to the conversations taking place surrounding local food in our communities. New Prairie Kitchen includes the photography and the stories of the people in addition to the recipes because I think it’s important the we understand the human experience that goes into what we eat.

What was the process like working with a photographer for this project? How did you two collaborate?

It was great. Dana Damewood is an incredible talent and I’m fortunate to have her in Omaha with me. So much of what we did was in the field so her ability to work with natural light in various conditions and her technical aptitude with a camera was critical. I would put together shot lists for things we knew we needed then we would go on sight. The circumstances in the field would guide the rest of the photography. In many ways the book is a documentary of that moment in time on those farms. It took us 4 1/2 years to put the book together. Some years, were drought years, which you can see the spread on TD Niche Pork. You can see the this haze in the images, but it was actually dust in the air because the drought was so bad. There was a deep valley in the area and you could see mist trapped in the valley below this farm where water was desperately needed. Dana is a smart and intuitive photographer. She saw the beauty in those conditions from a photographic perspective and was able to create stunning spreads by using what was happening in the moment.

Many of my readers are writers of all kinds of genres, what was your publishing process like? 

First, I looked for books similar to mine — regional, farm-to-table cookbooks. Then I sat on the floor of a bookstore and wrote down the names of the publishing houses who published those books, next I would read the acknowledgments section to see who the author thanked — specifically agents, and write those names down. I took the list, started searching websites, found proposal submission guidelines and began writing and submitting proposals. I received quite a few beautiful rejections before finding a publisher. Each letter was encouraging, so I kept at it. An agent who didn’t represent me, recommended I submit to the publisher I’m with now. You never know where your opportunities are going to come form, so my advice is to cast your net wide. I am fortunate to have an incredibly supportive publisher, who listened and received my input on selecting photos, design, and recipe formatting. It’s been a truly positive experience. I feel like we are in a partnership. I honestly couldn’t be happier.

Thanks Summer! Readers, I want you to know something. I reached out to Summer to do this. That’s how excited I was about her book. So when I tell you that I think you should buy it – it’s because I truly believe that these farmers, chefs and artisans have stories and recipes you should read. That we should support. Cause I believe that deep-down in all of us, we have a Midwesterner just screaming to come out! :)

To find out more about the book, check out Summer Miller’s website Scalded Milk and on Facebook. And you can buy it directly from Amazon HERE.

(Photo credits:  Summer author photo: © Alison Bickel, Recipe image:  © Dana Damewood

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How to Make A Water Blob That Your Children Will Never Play With

how to make a water blob

Step 1. Spend 1 hour on Pinterest researching ways to make a large plastic blob of water. Be excited by the joy on the faces of the children in all of the photos.

Step 2. Drag your own children to two different hardware stores to find 4 mm painters plastic, parchment paper and duct tape. Make sure to bring 7 different snacks because said children will ask for one every 15 minutes.

Step 3. Return home to where your children will “help” you by asking every 3 seconds if the blob is done. Note: The blob will not be done for another 2 hours.

Step 4. Use parchment paper to seal the two pieces of plastic together with an iron. Make sure you burn yourself and proceed to curse loudly in front of Christian neighbors at least 4 times to reach full pissed-off capacity.

Step 5. Leave slight hole in the plastic to put hose inside. However, be sure not to be a dumb-ass and turn the hose on before putting into hole. (cough cough)

Step 6. Be horrified at the ridiculous amount of water you are wasting to fill this thing for the next hour. But not horrified enough to stop.

Step 7. Seal hole with duct tape. Make sure you use your teeth to rip the tape so you can spend your child’s future college fund on dental work.

Step 8. Spray water on the blob to make it slippery in hopes that you can laugh at your children when they fall.

Step 9. Call excitedly to your children to come immediately outside and play for hours on this amazingly beautiful blob of water while you check email, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram while in air-conditioning.

Step 10. Curse profusely at Pinterest when after 3 minutes your daughter yells to you, “So what are we supposed to do on it besides lay down?”

Step 11. Dream about letting all the water out of the blob, filling it with wine, poking a hole in it and using it as an adult-size Capri Sun. (Idea from my awesome friend Molly of Crazed in the Kitchen)

Step 12. Throw out water blob and just go to a pool.