The Winner!

And the winner of the perler bead naming challenge is…McStreamy! She was not only the contestant with the most correct answers, she was also the most beautiful, smartest, most talented, the tallest, the shortest, and the dumbest contestant. She was the only contestant! Her answers were alarmingly correct. The only thing she messed up was the grenade (#4) and the teacup-near-a-fence (#5) which, to be fair, is pictured sideways. How she ever knew that #2 was a happy seal and #7 was a Skittle are beyond me. She most definitely should see a therapist.

perler beads

LMK what recipe you want, McStreamy. Since you entered your answers twice, you can pick two: entree, salad, or cookie.

Now for the Covid 19 update from Mrs. Mouthy’s house.

Rocco’s hair is not handling the quarantine as well as the rest of us. It has some very strong opinions about where it would like to be.


Every time I look at him, this is what I see, which makes me laugh.


But this is what I remember, which makes me smile.


His hair is as strong-willed as the penguin—er, boy—whose head it sits upon.


Never change, Rocco. Never change.

Fettuccini with lobster sauce
Garlicky green beans
Fresh fruit
Butterscotch poundcake

To Market, To Market

Leo got it in his head he wanted to do a Student Market  on Friday where we all make things and sell them to each other. We tried to reason with him. There are only 5 of us here and we all share everything; what are we possibly going to sell to each other? The more we explained, the more we logicked, the more we resisted, the more Leo insisted until we finally threw our hands up in the air. He spent many hours in his room making perler bead creations. Here’s a picture I pulled from on-line for those of you who don’t know what perler beads are.


All week Leo’s eyes would light up as he came up with the “perfect idea” for someone in the family, then he’d dash to his room to make it. Ready to see the result of over 10 hours of work?

perler beads

They’re a little bit, what’s the word? Homogenous? Art nouveau? Bad?  There’s everything here from a happy seal for Kevin (who has started insisting everyone call him Baby Seal for some reason) to a Skittles for me (because one time I must have eaten a Skittle). They also include a ball for happy seal, an Easter basket, a ninja blade, a grenade, teacup next to a fence, and a sword.


I know my comments section is a dark, dank, cobwebby place to go, but if you want to take a guess at which perler bead creation is which, leave it in the comments. I recommend using one of those randomizer websites to help your decision-making process. The winner will receive a recipe of their choice of my favorite entree, salad, or cookie recipe. I promise, it will be worth it!

Picking up where I left off, Rocco’s shady looking booth made it feel more like we were buying stuff from the black market instead of the student market. He baked 3 dozen cookies to sell. You know, to the 4 of us.


Leo bought 2 dozen of them.

Vincenzo, in typical Vincenzo fashion, said, “Market? Oh, that’s today?” and then spent 2 minutes getting ready for it.


If you zoom in, you’d see it says “Deals available!” only he spelled it “avaliable,” also in typical Vincenzo fashion.

As for me, I sold contraband.


At the bottom, my sign says, “price: negotiable.” Spelled correctly. Not that I would point that out to anyone who has a sign taped to their shirt or anything.

I also sold one dollar bills for $2.00 (or best offer). Please note the misuse of quotation marks on my sign, in the name of authenticity.


The boys laughed at my dollar bill booth, but they weren’t laughing so much when I sold my first one.


At the end of market, I slashed prices by 25% and sold dollar bills for $1.50. Talk about deals avaliable!

Leo also sold sit-time in his unicorn chair. There were different packages, from just sitting in the chair with no extras (3 cents for 1 minute) to “the works” where he piled on every blanket and pillow from his room, let you hold his turtle and llama, and gave you a head and back massage (for 6 cents).


As ridiculous at this seems, he was the only one taking this whole thing seriously.


I guess it paid off.

Butter chicken
Basmati rice
Roasted asparagus
Cookies (if Leo’s in a sharing mood)

Very Much Not The End

And the million dollar question is…did she or didn’t she finish the novel? Did an act of God call the whole thing off? Was that The End of our hero’s journey?


No, it wasn’t the end because YES, Mrs. Mouthy finished the draft of her novel!!!

Okay, now that we’re all done celebrating, let’s look at how she’s feeling about it all.

First of all, I wish I could just say, “I finished my novel!” But I can’t bring myself to do it. I’m too wizened for that. I say, “I finished a draft of my novel,” which doesn’t feel nearly as nice because there’s a huge difference between a draft of a novel and a novel.

My friend asked me if I had a romantic moment like happens in the movies when the movie-star-pretending-to-be-an-author types (always on a typewriter, for some reason) T-h-e    E-n-d.

Doh! I forgot to write The End! I missed my chance! But I couldn’t bring myself to add those words to the draft because it feels anything like the end. There’s soooooooooooooo much work to do. Am I a pessimist or a realist? I don’t know, but either way, I wish I were an optimist.

I followed my writing coach’s advice and took a month off after not writing The End. The month was up, and I couldn’t bring myself to print it because I knew it would open the door to a particularly violent, ruthless crowd of mean voices, so Leo did it for me.

Ctrl + P, and there it was, in my hands:


After 2-1/2 years you’d think I’d have a manifesto, but here instead here is my draft, weighing in at 9-5/8 ounces and standing .5 centimeters high.


Pro tip: If you ever write a novel, do not weigh and measure it. This is a masochistic thing to do.

Then I read my first chapter. I was happily surprised that my comments included a lot of, “Wow!” and, “That’s really good!” Me? Saying that about my own work? What is this—a  post-apocalyptic world?

I should have stopped there though. I read the second chapter and my comments were all, “This sucks! You suck! Everything sucks!”


McStreamy suggested I tell the “you suck” voices to put a sock in it because they’ve never written a novel. McStreamy is a good friend.

It’s hard because with the quarantine and home schooling my boys, I have just enough time to realize how much work the novel needs but not enough time to fix anything.

I’m full of worries and doubts. What if it’s too hard to edit the novel? What if I’ve gotten everything wrong? What if this takes the whole rest of my life? What am I going to write when this one is done? Do I even like writing novels? Will it get easier? Can I both be a writer and be happy? Was I born to do this or was I born to only do it once? Will anyone else like my book? What about the haters? What is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of my life?

I’ve decided that yes, I like writing. I love writing. I write pretty much every day of my life. Do I like writing novels? Jury’s still out on that one. I want my words and stories to be shared with a big audience—to make that connection and to create connections between my readers, to make them think and wonder, to learn something, sometimes to laugh, sometimes to cry, always to feel something. I want the payoff. I just wish there were a way to make the hard work part of it more fun and less Medieval torture chamber-like.

In the meantime, while I figure all that out, I guess I might as well go ahead and edit the novel because despite all my doubts, behind all my pessimism, under all the self-deprecation, at my very core, are a whole bunch of words waiting lovingly and patiently for me to let them out.

And also because, as proven earlier, I am a bit of a masochist.

Grilled salmon with Indian spices
Garlicky asparagus
Crusty brown bread

Almost Done…

Prologue: I drafted this blog over a month ago but  never published it because of Reasons.

Okay guys, this next thing I’m going to write is too scary to say out loud so I’m going to whisper it here.

I’m almost done with my novel.

I’m afraid that by writing it down, it won’t come true. I’m afraid you all have big expectations of me now. I’m afraid next time I see you you’ll ask me if I finished it, and I won’t have finished it.

For the past six months, I’ve been close to the end, but the closer I got the farther away it went. Now I’m getting closer to the end…and closer…and…closer. I’m winning the race. Anytime I say this out loud to someone, I start listing off all the problems with it, the things that need fixing, the long long loooooooong way it has to go after this draft is finished.

I know all that.

But I also know, and let me whisper this again:

This draft of this book is almost finished!

I no longer wonder if I’ll finish it. It’s like when you’re working on a puzzle and you’ve gotten to where the undone part is just a little puddle and the only way you won’t finish it is if some natural disaster happens in the next 15 minutes. That’s where I’m at.*

Yes, it will need a lot of work. I’m still at the beginning of this journey. But I’m not at the very beginning. I keep thinking about what I’ll do when I make it to the end. Even though I have a long way to go, I keep reminding myself that this is a milestone. It’s one ending; it’s one success. It’s a reason to celebrate, to cheer, to run around the house yelling, I DID IT I DID IT!

I hope when I finish that last paragraph, I let myself do those things. I hope I take a week off, or even two. I hope I fill those weeks with scrapbooking, gardening, hiking, reading, running errands I don’t even need to run, playing pickleball with my dad, just being instead of doing.

But I also know myself. I was going to take a whole year off of everything when Leo went to kindergarten, and that lasted for exactly 48 hours before I started expecting things of myself.

In a few weeks I will print the draft out and rant and rail over it again, I will rip apart and piece back together, yell at it, apologize to it, and occasionally love it. The mean, nasty voices in my head will start up again and I’ll feel beat up at the end of every day.

So for now, I want it to be something I stick up on that mantel and tell everyone who comes over to look! Look what I made! I want to let myself feel all the way happy with myself and proud of what I did. I want to sit on the side of the road and watch everyone else rush past me while I take whole, complete breaths and think about how lovely the grass smells today.

And then I would like to saddle up my horse and keep on riding, not knowing exactly where I’m going. It will be hard, dirty work.

But at least now I have a horse to ride.

Almond chicken
Brown rice
Roasted cauliflower

*As we all know, it did happen. The natural disaster did happen. Did Mrs. Mouthy finish in time? Or is this The End of everything but her novel?

Zoom Easter

Happy Easter, everyone! We celebrated the same way all you did: by ourselves at home. We did get all dressed up to Zoom with our family.


Actually, we only got halfway dressed up.


We call it “Zoom casual.” It’s kind of the fashion equivalent of a mullet, and we hope it never goes out of style.

Kurobuta ham
Cheesy potato casserole
Garlicky green beans
Sourdough bread
Sugar cookies

Mrs. Mouthy has AGED!

Q: How was your birthday, Mrs. Mouthy?
A: It was awesome! Kevin and the boys decided to stay home with me all day!

The day started with Kevin making me crumpets, which, he said, was two gifts in one: not only did I get breakfast in bed, but he also used up the last of the sourdough starter that kept creeping out of its container and declaring itself Lord of the Fridge.

The boys made cards. Leo went the minimalist route and wrote all of 15 words on a piece of printer paper.


If this were being sold at a store, it would be in the “Blank Inside” section.


And the back (which was technically the front, as the card opened backcwards.)


Of the 15 words he wrote, one was a brand new one: dishises. I can’t think of a better gift for a writer than a brand new word.

Vincenzo’s card carried through with the graphite-on-white color scheme. He had tried to draw a face mask but decided it looked like a banana, so he drew a series of pictures to show it was not a banana.


If his card were being sold at a store, it would be in the “Awwww” section.


Rocco’s card speaks for itself.


That kid gets me.

Speaking of yeast, thank you to my lovely friends and family who stopped by and left gifts six or more feet away from my front door.


It looks like a lot, but seriously, this stuff is disappearing in my house quick as buttered toast! Next time I blog, I’m going to write about how hard it is to find $100 bills around here.

The boys also made me a cake, all by themselves!


It came complete with its own mess for me to clean up!


But it was worth it, because it was my favorite cake ever.


Not only did it taste amazing and look amazinger, it made them say, “How the heck does Mom do this?!”

The day ended with a board game in which all of us cheated so badly, somehow we all won.

It was definitely my best quarantine birthday ever.

Orecchiete with broccoli and sausage
Fresh fruit
Pink sprinkle chocolate poo cake

Don’t Be Stealin’ My Yeast

YEAST! The stores are all out of YEAST! I was holding it together until they started taking my YEAST!

Hey, listen up all you people who are clicking around on-line for “bread baking for dummies”:  Please return to  aisle 2 with all where you will find the lovely assortment of prepackaged breads and pastries that you were perfectly happy with up until two weeks ago. Thank you for your understanding.

Wait! Stop! You can’t take all the chocolate chips with you! YOU TOOK ALL THE CHOCOLATE CHIPS WITH YOU!

I thought we’d be getting back to normal by the third week of quarantine, but it seems things are getting worse. It’s unsettling to go to the store and see the cashiers we know like friends now protected behind glass shields. It’s eerie to see whole shelves swept clean of their wares.  It’s confusing to follow all the new rules about where to stand and what to touch and not touch.  Kevin got yelled when he walked past someone in the cracker aisle. “SIX FEET!” I put my cloth bag on the conveyer belt and the cashier looked at me like I had placed a hypodermic needle there. The next time, I remembered to not use my reusable bags, I waited until the customer in front of me was halfway across the state before unloading my groceries, I waited for the cashier to ring the last item before stepping forward to pay, when WEET! WEET! WEET! I got busted because my groceries hadn’t been all the way bagged yet. There are so many, many rules and no matter how hard I try, I keep breaking them.

Last week I looked forward to going to the store but this week, it just makes me feel sad and weird. Why aren’t things normal yet? When are things going to get normal again? What is normal even going to look like when all this is over? Will all this actually ever be over?

At our neighborhood grocery store, Kevin and I were standing in the check out line which, due to social distancing rules, now stretches into the cottage cheese aisle. I was staring at my grocery list that only had half the things crossed off because everything else was sold out—eggs, yeast, flour, baking powder, chocolate chips, cereal, TP, paper towels–when Kevin remembered a store that probably no one else was remembering and whose name I won’t write here because then you might start remembering about it, too.

Okay, it’s Cash ‘n Carry.

(Great. Now all 8 of my readers are going to be elbowing me out of there, too, now. You’re welcome.)

Anyway, fast forward one hour and…


Kevin carried the 50 pounds of flour upstairs like he was rescuing it from a burning building. I was at the stove, skimming whey out of warmed milk to make cheese and Rocco was stirring the sourdough starter. Vincenzo came in, surveyed it all, and asked if we were starting on the Oregon Trail tomorrow.

I told him I wish we could, but it’s against quarantine.

I end with a couple more pictures. May they fill your heart with joy the way they fill mine.




Black bean burgers
Butternut squash gnocchi
Buttered broccoli
White chocolate macadamia nut cookies