Mommy and Me Horror Movie Reviews: Nosferatu

Billy Crash has struck again… posting the second film in our review series. My almost-fourteen-year-old daughter and I are chronicling her journey into watching horror movies on Crash Palace Productions’ blog. I think, if people like them, Eva and I could commit to two a month.


Fire Up the Ninja

While I was recovering from my minor winter ailment, somehow I stumbled upon Gaz Oakley, the Avant Garde Vegan on YouTube. I’m not even sure how or why, but something mesmerized me.

I spent eight years as a vegetarian before my daughter was born and went vegan for six months back in my twenties. I never was a big fan of meat and I hated touching it. I also disapproved of factory farming practices and the use of hormones and antibiotics in our meat. Basically, I never had a problem with eating meat, but I did have a problem with the big business of food production and the amount of processed foods and chemicals in the standard American diet.

When my daughter was young, I made 90% of her baby food, most of our bread products and bought a lot of our food from local farms. Not the Farmer’s Market but the actual farms. I also gardened and preserved our food in the almost-lost art of canning.

As life got busier, I lost some of my good food habits. And I burned out a few food processors making homemade nut butters, blending dates for use in snacks and grinding my own flours. Oh and I made ridiculous amounts of hummus.

Something about Gaz and the way his cooking style incorporated the types of foods I like had me hooked. It was his high protein meal prep that truly mesmerized me and made me want to eat it all. I needed to cook again. Really cook.

And he did the things I used to do when I destroyed my blender.

So what did HE use?

A Ninja.

I read all the comments on his videos about the blender system and its comparison to a Vitamix. Now frankly, I don’t want a Vitamix. It’s a blender. I have a nice Black and Decker blender with a glass pitcher that suits me. I need a food processor.

Then I saw it at Target. The Ninja Professional. $199.

I wanted it so bad. So I made a Facebook comment. Suddenly, my family is offering to buy me a Ninja.

I had no choice.

I bought a Ninja. And started cooking again.

I have cooked for four days straight. My husband teases that I can’t make a meal without firing up the Ninja.

I am in love.


Gaz’s Sriracha Meatballs and my spinach yogurt sauce


Gaz’s Sriracha Meatball Mix


Salad in the Ninja


Breakfast smoothie


Gaz’s Falafel, Hummus & Flatbreads


Hummus Mix

An Open Letter to American Society

I am home today battling a hand-me-down cold from my daughter. It’s not a bad one so far, but I am doing everything in my power to keep the damage to a minimum. With flu season ravaging everyone out there, I will take my little cold.

I have a part-time job in retail, a job that pays the bills and allows me the flexibility to live my life with the quasi-freedom a writer’s life should have. It is not ideal, but few things are in today’s world. It’s an overpopulated, under-resourceful place, this world, or maybe we waste too much of what we have.

I have traveled enough to understand what “first world problems” really are. I have talked to enough people from cultures more or less the opposite of mine to see how selfish many people have become.

So, today, I write a brief letter to my fellow Americans. This letter is based on things I see everyday. Too often.

  1. Please stop giving babies iPhones and junk food. If your child isn’t old enough to walk or talk, he or she does not need an icee. And I know it’s not easy to drag an infant everywhere you have to go, but believe it or not, they are fairly easily entertained. Giving your baby an electronic device to watch movies or play games while you shop prevents your child from interacting with the world. That’s how they learn. I saw a mother recently apologize for the fact that her child was mesmerized by a toothpaste box. Good for that kid! Good for that mom! Let your child see things, touch things and meet people.
  2. Get off the phone. A lot of people are busy. We get it. But perhaps that also is a sign that you are misusing your life. And it’s not just people on their lunch hour. It’s the elderly who sometimes can’t hang up the phone to go through the check-out line. It’s just rude and it dehumanizes the person helping you. My daughter recently asked me how you could receive calls at a pay phone. I told her it had a number listed on it so if you really wanted to hang out and receive a call, you could. I also reminded her that this was also the time period where you had to answer the phone to find out who it was and before answering machines and voicemail, if you weren’t home or missed the call you would never know…
  3. Stop buying useless stuff. I think the only reason people buy half the things they own is because of an impulse that starts with “this is cute.” We buy too many clothes, too many knick knacks, so many things. Why?
  4. Live within your means. Be careful with your paycheck and try to save those credit cards for emergencies. Buy the car that fits your budget, not your lust. Not everyone needs the big house. Not every family needs more than one car. Consumers in debt are the playthings of big business.
  5. Eat better. You don’t “need” pizzas and burgers and soda. You don’t need fancy sugar-laden coffee drinks. You want them. You need water (lots of it), fruits and vegetables and healthy protein. I’ll spare the full lecture, but the better you treat your body, the better it will perform for you.
  6. Stop acting spoiled. Or entitled. Or privileged. Whatever word you prefer is fine. You want the random stuff and the fancy coffee drink because you feel you deserve it. And that’s fine. But when they run out of your favorite flavor ice cream, or things don’t work out the way you want, remember everyone usually is doing their best and it’s not the end of the world.
  7. Treat each other kindly. Be gentle. The more we share patience and kindness with our families and those we interact with, the more it will spread. I see too many people get nasty to the sweetest people honestly trying to be the best at their job, and when I see truly good souls fighting tears because someone (who probably has their own demons to fight with) decided to be mean, I don’t question why teens are seeing guns as solutions.
  8. Take care of the elderly. I live in a rare neighborhood. We lost our 90-year-old neighbor last week. Several neighbors helped care for her as she became more and more of a shut-in. The children would all visit. I would always help her carry her groceries or send my daughter to help when I saw the opportunity. That woman died very loved. And my daughter learned how to be a neighbor.
  9. Let your children grow up. Let your children solve their own problems. Have their own experiences. It’s hard to let go. I know. Start small. Let them do meal planning and cook dinner. We saw a team of teenagers working on a school project in a store. They were amazed at the cost of laundry soap and a tad befuddled. Remember, parents are training children to be adults.
  10. Appreciate other cultures. The more you value other cultures, the more you learn about yourself. I think Americans are particularly bad at this.

I’m stopping my list here. I just wanted to give you something to think about.

New Adventure: Reviewing Horror Movies with my Teen

It’s probably been a decade since I met William Prystauk at an after-party of sorts when Kaylie Jones came to the Lehigh Valley to promote her memoir Lies My Mother Never Told Me. My attendance at that book signing was itself a convergence of factors, primarily two: my attraction to Paris and my experiences with parents dealing with alcoholism.

The party in question was hosted by a former work colleague then involved in an MFA program as one of Ms. Jones’ students. She invited me to her home after the event and that’s where I met Bill, also in the same MFA program. And we discovered we had similar interests and were practically neighbors so somehow we ended up meeting for coffee.

At some point in the last week or two, Bill suggested my teen daughter write for his web site, Crash Palace Productions,, reviewing horror movies. Except, I pointed out, that my daughter doesn’t watch horror movies due to bad memories of The Walking Dead.

That request got me thinking and I proposed doing a joint review. Last night we watched Netflix’s I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House. And this morning, I wrote and submitted the review.

My next hope is that my daughter will watch the 90s classic The Craft and examine whether it holds up with today’s generation. I might even consider that a project for today.

Journaling across generations

I started keeping a journal after a writing workshop at University of Pennsylvania that I attended as a high school student. I kept them faithfully for at least a decade, tapered off in my consistency after the birth of my daughter, experimented with forms (most recently adapting a bullet journal style) and renewed my habit in the last few years but still not with the same devotion I once did.

I used to fill a standard cheap journal in a month. Larger, fancier volumes took longer. I color coded a lot of my text. One color for fiction, one color for poetry and another for personal experience. That sort of thing.

The blank ones included sketches. Briefly, I used calligraphy pen and even briefer a fancy fountain pen.

My current fascination is Alphabooks, blank journals in the shape of alphabet letters. I found the A on clearance. My husband had recommended his mother buy me the N for Christmas as it is the second letter of my name, but I fooled them and mentioned if I had the chance I would continue the series with B and write alphabetically.

I also have an affinity for Sharpie pens. I bought a set in August 2016 and they are still going strong.

Eventually, my journals ended up in a box in the attic. Or, several boxes, more accurately.

My now 13-year-old daughter has always been captivated by the written word, always written in notebooks, constantly starting projects and ripping out pages (and never finishing). She has started working on her own stories, but journaling hasn’t held her interest.


But she keeps asking to read my journals. I cringe.

I tell her she needs to remember that journals have a lot of angst in them, a lot of unfiltered, unedited thoughts and that what I say in these journals might not always be… well… nice or even what I would say on a different day. And some of my tales might color her opinion of the people she knows, even her own family.

But she keeps asking.
I bought her a nice journal for Christmas. And a HUGE set of Flair pens. She has journaled for 15

days straight. She starts on her journaling journey as I wonder if mine has been worth it. Who wants to read that drivel? There are so many volumes are they worth sifting through? Do I say hateful things?

She asked again. She volunteered to get them from the attic. We sorted through the boxes and at some point I had labeled the cover of the journal with the major events of that time period. I selected a pile of about ten I said she could read.

She started with the journal that included when her father and I got married.

She’s read me excerpts: story ideas I’d forgotten about, adventures and misadventures,

my life as a vegetarian. My favorite thus far has been a poem about my nephew when he was about 3, and a page where he scribbled in my journal. Then my daughter found a journal where she was 2, and I let her scribble in my journal.

So I guess those journals are worth something.

In Training

My teen and I have officially begun training for our 5k in April. In the past, we have always participated in walk/runs but this time it’s just a run.

My girlfriend Gayle registered us, and I could say she tricked me. I agreed without remembering what I was agreeing to. But Gayle knew this was on my bucket list.

A lot of things are on my bucket list, like seeing Syria and Afghanistan. Learning Arabic & Afrikaans & Euskara. Cleaning my damn house. Building a stealth camping van and living off the grid.

Running a 5k was one I thought of when I was thin and in shape. Since then I’ve gained ten pounds and broken an ankle.

So my teen and I have started the LiveWell program 3 weeks to a 30 minute a day running habit. We had to repeat week one as child came down with bronchitis.

She hasn’t really trained with me in a week, so I’ve reached the interval of run 2 minutes/walk one minute x 7 sets.

We train at the local college so instead of minutes we do laps around the indoor raised jogging track. One lap = 1/10 of a mile.

The last time I trained (I ran a mile with child on rest day), I did this routine: 2 minutes running/1 minute walking x 5; then 1 minute running/ 1 minute walking x 5. The first mile I can complete consistently day after day in 14 minutes.

On my last training run, I thought, “why is this taking so long?” 30+ minutes and I wasn’t done. Then I realized, I ran 2.5 miles in 39 minutes.

And I’ve also realized I don’t do well with the cold, uneven terrain and hills. The jogging track fixes that. And even better, I like logging/tracking distance versus time.