this is how it all went, part II.

White Converse

The camellias are popping, the daffodils are in full bloom, and my birthday is around the corner: there’s no denying that winter is coming to a close. I’m going to miss holing up in my kitchen, cooking hearty meals. Not that I can’t do that when it’s warmer, but it’s just not the same when there’s that nagging feeling that I should be outside. And I’m going to miss my sweaters and my tights and my boots!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s still chilly. We’re not quite there yet. Here’s how our winter went down during those long months after we got back from Maui:


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Clementine continues to be a ham. And she is our resident tech guru. Want to learn how to use Spotify? She’s your girl. Want to listen to the Spice Girls {my fault!} 24/7? She’ll hook you up. Want to find your phone filled with 40 of roughly the same selfie in a row? She’s on it!


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Annabelle was late to our family’s stomach flu ball game. It took us all by surprise right in the middle of her stretch of rehearsals for Charlotte’s Web. I thought it was bad when the rest of us had it at Christmas, but my big girl somehow managed to have it even worse. Skelator comes to mind.

I stayed home with her and we each managed to find a bright side. Mine was getting to see the sun come up, as I’m usually in my classroom at that time, where there’s no window, just a skylight. Perfect for film studies, but bad for my mental health. Annabelle’s bright side was watching one of her favorite movies, School of Rock, in between puking.


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When Annabelle is in a show, those rehearsal times are great for meeting a friend downtown. On one school night, Andrea, some lychee martinis, and I met at The Mark to catch up. We gabbed about all sorts of things, like our words of the year {mine: curiosity. hers: open.}, travel, and the awesome renovation happening in the upstairs of her book shop, Browsers. I left with a big smile on my face.


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We added a furry member to our family this winter, and I just sort of stormed in there and named her myself without asking my family. They keep reminding me of this. But I kind of don’t care. You’ll meet miss Gussy in a sec…


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The Mister and I enjoyed a very nice dinner out at Dillinger’s, where they have the fanciest Prohibition-era drinks. Such a hoppin’ place every single night, too. Dinner was a little faster than we’d expected, though, and we found ourselves with an extra half hour until our babysitter was done. And, so, parents – my gift to you: World Market is open until 9 pm!


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Clementine and I enjoyed a very snowy road trip to my parents’ place on the other side of the state to get our puppy. The ride was filled with her talking for over three hours before she ran out of things to say. She had intel on things like, “Hey, Mom? Do you know what density is? I do…blah, blah, blah.” She is like Buddy the Elf, people. There was also lots of road trip food and Coldplay.

It was a marshmallow world on top of Snoqualmie Pass! It was snowing hard, but we managed to stop to throw snowballs at one another. Then it was back in the car until Ellensburg, my college town. I promised to take her to the best coffee shop ever, D&M. I never would’ve dreamed back when I would study there that one day I’d stop in with my kid. It felt good to appreciate the quaintness of that little town on a snowy afternoon.


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And here’s our new girl. Meet Augusta Georgia. Or, as we call her, Gussy.

She’s not named after the location of the famous golf tournament, though they are one in the same. I mean, have you seen me play golf?! Instead, she’s named after the town where I went on my first date in ninth grade, just across the river from where I lived in South Carolina. She’s named after cheerleading, learning to drive, listening to Extreme’s “More Than Words” 50 zillion times, falling in love with “90210,” staying up all night after football games at my friend Shannon’s house, and guzzling gallons of sweet tea. The girls are mad still that I railroaded the entire name situation, but that’s a perk sometimes of being the mom.


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I loved this sign. It just felt like a triple-dog-dare.


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Snoqualmie Pass is getting way more hip. There is actually more than just a pancake house up there now. I totally recommend pulling off the road for some good beer and really awesome food at Dru Bru and The Pass Life. I am actually considering a family ski trip up there now that this is open – only I refuse to ski again. I just want to go sledding.

That’s what we did with Michelle & her guys. Michelle was my BABYSITTER, you guys! Our step-dads were on the same submarine when we lived in Connecticut, and our moms are still friends. It’s so fun that we each ended up in the PNW, one hour away from one another. We had a blast on the tubing hill, followed by cocoa with Bailey’s.


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Awesome pom pom heart, Bon Lemon!


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She’s a stunner. And she can shake “hands.” And she likes to sleep draped over my lap on the floor. What can I say? We are in puppy love together.


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For years, I have had zero luck locating any Babysitter’s Club books for Annabelle. I loved them in elementary school, so I was so bummed. But, lo and behold, they’re back as graphic novels. I bought Annabelle the first four for Valentine’s Day, and she read them in one day {!!}.

Also, I can now make London Fogs at home. This is thanks in part to stealing Annabelle’s frother and vanilla syrup that Grandma gave her for Christmas. They’ve both busted me on it, but I keep doing it…because y’all know I’m a rebel.


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In part I of this post, I mentioned that this year I got the best Christmas present ever. I was not exaggerating. Matt got me a food writing class taught by Molly Wizenberg {Molly! Wizenberg!} up at The Pantry in Ballard. I was so worried I would totally fan-girl it, but I think I did okay. Even when she sat by me the first day. Even when Ashley Rodriguez of Date Night In walked in right before things got started and took a seat. Phew!

Molly gave us some different bits of her favorite food writing pieces to study up on ahead of time. Some were beautiful, others were funny, some just weren’t my bag, but I learned something from each of them. I met ordinary women with extraordinary writing talent. I got called on a few times as the resident English teacher of the group {!!}. I gave Molly an essay that Clementine wrote for her about her podcast. She was delighted and shared it aloud with everyone. I wrote two pieces that I loved and got to share them aloud – something that always terrified me in the past. Now? Not so much.

I left feeling more than ever just so fortunate that I have a tiny little flame that I get to feed within me.

Between classes, Emily and I ate at Essex {and drank!}. And we ate {and drank!} at Le Pichet late in the afternoon and it was magnifique. We walked and walked and got seduced by Anthropologie and that crazy evening winter light at Pike Place. I bought treats every morning at Honore. It was such a gem of a weekend.


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My walk to work most mornings this winter has been shrouded in this kind of fog. I’ve loved it. I’ve been listening to one of my favorite Podcasts, The Simple Show, with Tsh Oxenrider lately.  I always learn something new and cool, even when I think I won’t. I am spending a lot of my {rare} quiet moments pondering episodes 20 and 23.


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I had my first Moscow Mule! I loved it! It didn’t make Friday come any faster, but for a half an hour it felt like it could.


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I am so confused by this poster in my school. How do today’s teenagers know the words to Walk on the Ocean by my boys Toad the Wet Sprocket?! And what year is it? When I walk by this each day, I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone.


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This guy was sort of Lloyd Dobler-ing it on Valentine’s morning. Very cool.


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These are scenes from a day I claimed as my own over our mid-winter break. After a morning at Whole Foods in Tacoma {I came prepared with my cooler!}, I went to the Grand Cinema to see Spotlight, then grabbed a treat next door at Corina Bakery for the drive home. It’s one of my favorite little outings.

Speaking of Spotlight {reviewed here}, it has stuck with me. I can’t help but remember how badly I wanted to be an investigative reporter when I first got to college. The desire to dig in and do the hard work and tell the world about the stuff they should hear is still very much there, it turns out. It’s just a little thread, but I feel like it’s going to take me somewhere.


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Loved this “snow moon.” And I loved that it was not raining so I could actually enjoy it.


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I call this my “polka dots on polka dots” outfit. I love it more than I should.


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I have the best new para-educator helping me for 1/3 of my work day. She is absolutely perfect at what she does. She has made my professional life much easier. And she made me these kick-ass flowers.


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Annabelle’s been devouring her Food Network Magazine each month. She subscribed with her own moolah, and she cooks so much from each issue! Loved these banana split parfaits! {We have had many, many versions of parfaits lately. Thank you, Food Network.}


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Mama Nature ain’t messing around, people. Spring. It’s real.


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Best idea for dinner after a busy day: antipasto platter. All the odds and ends save the day! So does a glass of wine! It’s not pictured because it was in my hand. Which reminds me: Vito Corleone: “I like to drink wine more than I used to.” Michael Corleone: “That’s okay, Pop. It’s good for you.”

That’s right, Mikey. That’s right.

Drinking wine.

Sometimes it gets me from winter to spring. Almost there. Now go smell some daffodils.

xo, Mrs. Fresh Scratch

the skinny on all the films nominated for the oscars: best picture.

Fresh Scratch, Kelli Samson, Shelby Payne Photography

It’s a first: as of this afternoon, I have officially seen each of the eight films nominated in the best picture category for the 2016 Oscar ceremony…before the ceremony takes place. It’s been a gluttonous time for this movie-goer.

Last Saturday I saw four {4! FOUR! f o u r!} of them in one sitting with my college bestie Shara and her mom. So fun. So much popcorn. So many junior mints. So many kleenex.

Because it’s me, you know I have thoughts on each for you:

The Martian

It’s weird to me that it was in the comedy category at the Globes. It is not a comedy. It’s funny at times, yes, because even in trying times – such as being abandoned on the planet Mars – we need humor, but it’s no comedy! Matt Damon just keeps getting it right, doesn’t he? He really transformed himself for this role. In the beginning, some said it was like Castaway on Mars, but it’s not. Damon’s character has a lot more to work with than Hanks’ character did, fo’ sho’. And Jessica Chastain? She is amazing in every role always.

I learned so much about science by watching this – and that is thanks to the author, Andy Weir, who took his time to do his research. This story was a true labor of love for him, and, as a writer, I salute him.

The Revenant

Not gonna lie: this was my favorite of the eight. Leo had better finally get his Oscar, because he was amazing. When I first saw the preview, I had decided there was no way I’d go see it. It looked too brutal. I thought it would tank because the previews weren’t giving enough enticement to get people to the theater {people like moi}. Boy, was I wrong! My brother and I went to see it one chilly January night, and I left just feeling frigid – it was all so real that I felt like I was in the middle of a Wyoming winter. My feet were so cold!

This was quite possibly the most beautiful movie I have ever seen in my life. I am not lying when I say this. It was stunning. Even though it was about loss and vengeance, it felt like a tribute to the triumph of the human spirit. There were so many quiet scenes of twilight and dusk that just left me in awe and quieted my soul. In case you haven’t heard, the entire thing was filmed in natural light. No shiny reflectors, nothing. Just real light. So it was hard – things had to happen at exactly the right times to catch the perfect light or to keep consistency. Amazing! And when they ran out of snow in Canada {they couldn’t film in the American west where it takes place because the terrain is too altered due to the damming of rivers} , they finished up in Argentina, where the terrain is much like that of the American west. What?!

And in the middle of all that survival was my favorite moment: Glass {Leo’s character} and a Pawnee sitting under a bush in a snowstorm, catching snowflakes on their tongues and smiling shyly at each other.

So, yes, Glass was a real man. This is not his completely true story, but it’s based upon it. That’s a fancy way of saying the screenplay could veer from the truth without having people get mad. And, yes, it was a very violent film, but all of the brutality was warranted given the situation and the time period.


Given that this is a film about the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists who broke the truth open about the Catholic Church’s history of covering up priests’ acts of child molestation, I figured this would be really difficult to watch. It wasn’t. From a writer’s perspective, the process of investigative journalism and the dedication that this team showed to their story was beyond impressive. It was inspirational.

Mark Ruffalo’s performance was so nuanced – his character had tics and subtly distinct physical characteristics that even the journalist whom he was playing did not notice about himself. Ruffalo deserves an Oscar for his work here. He is one of the most talented actors of our time, and I feel like this is his best work. Why Rachel McAdams was nominated is beyond me. Her character did not stand out to me at all.

One thing I really enjoy about films that are non-fictional is that they truly teach me about their subject matter. I learn well in this visual manner. When this story about the Catholic priests broke, I wanted to bury my head in the sand. This film sort of jerked me back by the hair. The level of cover-up was disgusting. The number of victims {probably way more than we will ever know} ALL OVER THE WORLD is also disgusting. This film really sheds light on something we should all be aware of.

Bridge of Spies

Tom Hanks, I love you. I mean, need I say more than “Hanks and Spielberg” for you to see this film? They did it again, man.

This is cold war espionage at its best, but Hanks’ character is an unlikely spy. The film takes us from New York during the Red Scare to behind the Berlin Wall just as it was getting sealed up. Hanks plays a lawyer who becomes a tool for the government in securing a prisoner swap with the Soviet Union {based upon a true story}. Along the way, he befriends his client, a captured Russian spy, and the way in which they manage to see one another’s humanity during this time in history really touched me.

Plus, I loved the simple spy tactics: “Memorize this phone number, then I am going to burn it,” or sitting on a park bench and reaching beneath it for a message…that kind of thing. I was on the edge of my seat, but crying by the end. I can’t wait to get to Berlin again this summer – I will see it in a new way.


Ugh. Very difficult to watch both as a woman and as a mom, but very well done. The Oscar buzz around Brie Larson is warranted. She plays a mom to a 5-year-old son. Her character was abducted at 17, and this boy is her child with her captor. She has been locked in a crude garden shed for seven years. It has a small sky light, a bed, a sink, a toilet, a bathtub, a tv, and a makeshift kitchen. It also has a digital keypad for opening the door; a keypad to which she does not know the code.

To protect her small child, she raises him to think their situation is normal. He thinks everything from tv is fake, that their room is the only thing that exists. It’s heartbreaking. Eventually, she uses him to escape, but in a way her harrowing experience just takes on a new chapter.

It was crushing to watch. We cried all the way through. It kind of takes your breath away by making you think about all the things we don’t like to think about as parents.

Mad Max: Fury Road

{SPOILER ALERT!! WARNING! IT’S COMING!} I just don’t get it. This movie sucked. It sucked worse than the first Mad Max movies, and those sucked pretty badly. This is just not my kind of film. It has freaky characters, boring scenery, and terrible music.

Just when I felt like there was nothing to grab on to, Tom Hardy’s Mad Max rinsed off with some water, and I was like, “Hello, Tom Hardy! Nice to meet you. You are a handsome fella.” But that was it. Even the fact that Elvis’ granddaughter was in it couldn’t keep my interest. And just when the characters reach their destination…THEY TURN AROUND AND GO ALL THE WAY BACK. What the Dickens?! I have a co-worker {a dude} who has been talking about this all school year. He loved it. We do not understand each other’s opinions on it at all. I am convinced he is from another planet. That, or everyone who likes it is full of crap and part of some kind of weird conspiracy to see if such a terrible movie can dupe people into giving it some awards.

The Big Short

Awesome. The ensemble cast thing is a big draw for me. You’ve got Ryan Gosling playing a fake-and-bake banker, Steve Carrell looking like a spokesperson for Sun-In, Brad Pitt as a Wall-Street-guru-turned-tree-hugger, and Christian Bale as a math whiz who doesn’t understand why people are idiots. The best part? They’re all based upon real people – the people who first saw the 2008 housing crisis and “economic downturn” coming. They bet on all those bad loans, and they made a killing. Which is a pretty crappy thing to do when you think about it, so don’t think about it.

I learned so much. It was explained perfectly for someone like me who hates to think about economics. I had a lot of moments of, “Ooooh! So THAT’S why my friend lost his job,” and, “Dang! I am so glad I did not let that builder of my dream house swindle me into actually going for it on a house that was way more than I knew we could afford, just because he said we could get a great sub-prime mortgage and have really low payments for a while before they started to balloon {but we could save for that, he said! haha!}” Sadly, though, I was left with this thought, “It is going to happen again.” It left me feeling dirty and uneasy, but oddly kind of high on the fact that this story is getting out there.


This was just a lovely, lovely film, with a layer of complexity that I didn’t see coming, but sure did appreciate. It follows a young Irish immigrant as she journeys to Brooklyn to start a life for herself in the 1950’s. She lives in a boarding house, works at a department store, takes night classes in book keeping, cries because she is so homesick, and she meets a nice Italian boy who sort of makes you wish you were younger so that you could hold hands with him, too. Is she going to make a go of it in America with him, or will guilt bring her back to Ireland?

It was a beautiful story to watch unfold because it was very real. It’s a true coming-of-age story; Eilish learns that the simple things in life really aren’t all that simple. And she does it all in a gorgeous 1950’s wardrobe.

This was the first time I took Annabelle to see a more grown-up movie. I figured, PG-13 for a mild sex scene? No biggie. She knows about this stuff, and we could talk about it on the way home. I felt some guilt when she looked at me with those big brown eyes as our main character, Eilish, lost her virginity. So on the way home I asked her why she looked scared during that scene — soooo glad I asked, because it was not at all why I thought. She said she has read so many science fiction and fantasy books where the boy the girl falls in love with can’t be trusted that she thought for sure the reason why our main character was breathing so hard was because she was worried she would be knifed or something by this boy whom she thought was the one. Wow. Just, wow. I couldn’t have seen that answer coming if I’d tried. Thank you, fine literature, for making my daughter think this way. Kidding.

There you are. I’m hoping this helps you put these films into some sort of order on your Netflix. I’d say skip Mad Max unless you are one of those people whom I really do not understand. Don’t watch Room without a lot of tissues. And be careful with any new mortgages you are about to acquire.

Have fun watching the Oscars!