There’s a Ninja in My Kitchen

For years, I’ve slowly been collecting an assortment of kitchen implements for various cooking needs. Last year, I finally got tired of whipping things by hand and broke down an invested in a stand mixer. The year before that, I bid farewell to shedding tears over onions and invested in a good food processor. This year will go down in culinary history as the year a Ninja joined my kitchen family.

The kind folks over at Ninja sent this guy my way to take for a spin…er, blend. This little blending beast can do pretty much everything and anything you ask of it. (Except maybe fold a fitted sheet.) It has a superpower called Auto-iQ which gives it the ability to automatically figure out what needs to be done to deliver the blend you seek. (Apparently we’ve come a long way since the olden days of trying all the settings in a fit of frustration only to wind up wondering, “Hmm. What’s that smoking smell? Oh. I just ruined another blender.”) (Confession: I am that person.)

Also, this is probably the point at which I should confess that while the Ninja rocks at juicing, smoothie-ing and other healthy, wonderful things, my first thought was, “Finally! A blender that can handle ice. I’m going to hostess so many margarita parties!” But I digress.

For now, we meet somewhere in the middle. All the yums of a frozen beverage with none of the booze. With months and months of winter ahead of us here in Ohio, I’m counting on this concoction to tide me over until I’m back on the beach in Mexico…frozen margarita in hand.




  • Strawberries (frozen)
  • Raspberries (frozen)
  • Pineapple (canned)
  • Mandarin oranges (canned)
  • Scoop of vanilla yogurt or ice cream
  • Ice
  • Orange juice

Directions: Combine your ideal proportions of the above ingredients in a Nutri Ninja blender, then let Auto-iQ do the rest for you. Add the juice in small increments until the smoothie reaches desired consistency. Pour in a glass,  thank your Ninja for all its hard work, sip and enjoy. It doesn’t get any easier than that.


*This post was sponsored by Nutri Ninja. I receive compensation in the form of free product from Ninja in exchange for a review. Opinions expressed this post are my own. 

What I Learned From an Evening with Monica Lewinsky

1105I was 17 years old when “the Monica Lewinsky scandal” broke. Like most of the world, I drew conclusions based on the storylines the media was spinning day after day. Social media didn’t exist back then, but wherever you turned (newspapers, magazines, late-night television), Monica was the topic of conversation. (Note: we’re all trained to politely call it “conversation,” but if we’re being honest, it was plain ol’ gossip.)

When I say the name “Monica Lewinsky,” you probably have a certain storyline you default to. I did, too, at least until last week when the Jewish Federation of Columbus invited me to attend an event at which Monica was the guest speaker. Turns out, that storyline we’ve all grown familiar with is probably the least interesting thing about her. Some things you might not know about Monica: She has a great sense of humor. She’s a talented storyteller (and brought the audience to tears at one point). And she’s using what is arguably one of the most difficult experiences any person has endured as a catalyst to do good.

I’ve never fully believed in the notion of mistakes. I believe in accidents and I believe in choices. Most of the things we label “mistakes” fall into the latter category; choices in which the outcome wasn’t what we intended or actions that had unexpected ramifications. I don’t like the word mistake because it suggests some sort of hashmark on our permanent life record. And despite the fact that we all make questionable choices at some point, labeling them “mistakes” gives those things more power than they deserve. It gives us permission to define each other based on past history rather than we are today.

As I mentioned, I was 17 years old when Monica Lewinsky became a household name. Monica was in her early 20s. Through the eyes of a 17-year-old that seemed so adult. Looking back at everything as a now-34-year-old, I have a whole new perspective. As I listened to Monica speak last week, I tried to imagine what my life would have been like had my 22-year-old choices been plastered across newspaper and televisions, paraded across an international stage.

Remarkably, Monica has endured a decade of criticism, harassment, judgment and accusation only to come out the other end with a sense of grace, humor and a determination to make something good come from something awful. Today, she’s an advocate against cyberbullying, a rampant and growing problem amongst young people.

A few stats:

  • 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online.
  • Girls are about twice as likely as boys to be victims and perpetrators of cyber bullying.
  • Bullying victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider committing suicide.

We were asked not to record, photograph or socially share the Columbus talk, but Monica’s TED talk hits all the major points…

Monica shared a parable with us that stuck with me. “A man went about the community telling malicious lies about the rabbi. Later, he realized the wrong he had done, and began to feel remorse. He went to the rabbi and begged his forgiveness, offering to do anything to make amends. The rabbi told the man, “Take a feather pillow, cut it open, and scatter the feathers to the wind.” The man thought this was a strange request, but did it gladly. When he returned to tell the rabbi that he had done it, the rabbi said, “Now, go and gather the feathers. Because you can no more make amends for the damage your words have done than you can recollect the feathers.”

Our words can be weapons for destruction or warriors for good. And so can our clicks. In an era when sharing a sentiment is simpler than ever, it’s sometimes easy to forget the human on the other end. They’re not just storylines or screen names. They have complex emotions and complicated lives. They’re real, flawed people just like us.

When you find yourself sitting three rows away from someone whose intimate history you know better than that of your closest friends, you stop seeing them as a punchline and star seeing them as a person. When you get to know the human, instead of the spin, the storyline loses its luster. You begin to discover that you’re just two people trying to make a positive ding in the same great, big universe.

I’d argue there are no such things as mistakes. There are choices and outcomes. Some good, some bad. I’d argue it’s the bad ones that challenge us to define our character, to sharpen our steel, to grow, to learn, to forge onward, to take action. Perhaps those lessons are really the unlikeliest of teachers, calling for us to stand up, stand for something and take a stand.

Pie for Breakfast: A Thanksgiving Tradition

For centuries, pie has been the encore performance of the Thanksgiving meal. Right around the time you’re starting to deeply regret your decision not to wear pants with an elastic waistband, enter the delicious triangles, whipped and ripe for the forking.

There’s just one problem. You’re so full. You’re. So. Full. Like any true American, you dig deep, grab a fork and find a way to shovel it in. (Because everyone knows if you don’t pie, the terrorists win.)

A couple years ago, my extended family decided to rock the gravy boat. As a pie-loving people, it came to their attention that we were not honoring pies by making them the afterthought of the meal. Pies are good. Pies are great. Pies deserved to be the star of their own show. And just like that: the PIE FOR BREAKFAST tradition was born.

Here is how PFB works: Wake up — > gather with family in pajama pants to partake in pie eating and drinking of champagne –> go home to put on real clothes/finish cooking your assigned dishes/pie-induced nap –> reconvene for Thanksgiving meal later in afternoon.

Pie now has a rightful place of honor as the starter to a full day of celebrating. Even the dogs get to partake.

 pie for dogs

This year, I invite you to join us in this unusual, if not a little irreverent, Thanksgiving tradition. If I’m being honest (and a little sentimental), it really is  a perfect way to kick off a day whose hours tend to get whisked away in a flurry of dinging timers, centerpieces and place settings. Plus, I’m pretty sure it’s a scientifically-proven fact that it’s impossible to not feel great about the world when you’re eating pie and sipping champagne surrounded by your loved ones.

Ernestine Ulmer once said, “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.” From my spirited clan to yours, Thanksgiving is crazy. Eat pie for breakfast. 

In honor of Pie for Breakfast, I shall now pass on my personal pie recipe, Good Girl/Bad Girl Pie. One part sweet, one part tart, this is the perfect recipe for anyone who simply can’t choose between apple and cherry. Prepare for all your piecurious fantasies to come true.



One frozen crust. (If you are into crusting from scratch, a quick google should provide plenty of recipes. Good luck with that, you crusty masochist.)

1-2 cans tart cherries, drained (not cherry pie filling)
3 tart apples, peeled and sliced (I use granny smiths, but feel free to go wild)
1/2 cup sugar
2 T. flour
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves

3/4 cup oatmeal
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
6 T. butter, chilled and cubed
3 t. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 F. Combine cherries, apples and dry filling ingredients in a bowl. Stir and spoon into crust.

In another bowl, mix together topping flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter cubes using your hands to blend the butter into the dry mixture. If the mixture is excessively greasy, add more flour. If mixture is too dry, cut in more butter. Lightly pack topping over the filling and place pie on a baking sheet covered with tin foil. Bake pie until topping is golden (approximately 35 minutes. Cover crust edges with foil to prevent over-browning. Reduce oven temperature to 350F. Continue baking until apples in center of pie are tender when pierced with a fork and filling is bubbly and thick at pie edges (approximately 25-35 minutes). Cool and serve.

If you want to get extra crazy, drizzle with some salted caramel bourbon sauce.

Craving something more? Enjoy one of my favorite holiday articles ever, 20 Guests, 19 Pies. 

Citizen Cray


I scored my first post-collegiate job working in government communications for an affluent suburb of Columbus. It was a great job. While most of my friends were busy fetching coffee and frantically filing for eight hours a day, I was photographing parades, pinch hitting city council meetings and occasionally riding along with police officers. (Hel-lo uniforms!) Not a bad gig for a twenty-something.

Our department consisted of a small (but mighty) team of two. My boss and I were a dynamic duo. We managed everything from press releases to employee appreciation gigs, media requests to website management to citywide special events. We also took all the weird calls.

Let me explain what I mean by that. In a city of 30,000+ residents, we were the two people responsible for handling all the calls, issues and problems other departments couldn’t — or wouldn’t. And no matter how bewildering, asinine or just-plain-insane, we had to do it with a smile.

If you’ve never worked in government, it’s easy to dismiss this as no big deal. Like you, I assumed the worst thing I would face might be complaints about potholes or the timeliness of snow removal. Wrong. So wrong.

NBC’s Parks & Rec came along at the tail end of my municipal government career, but I’ve been a loyal viewer since episode one. Their writers have captured the true depths of muni government insanity with such accuracy it regular blows my mind. My favorite scenes — by far — are the “citizen comments” moments in any given meeting episode.

I recently stumbled across a compilation of said comments, and pretty much want to fist bump whoever came up with these.

Everyone laughs, tickled by the craziness of the hyperbole. Those of us who have been through the muni government experience  laugh for a different reason: it’s funny ’cause it’s true. It’s funny because it’s not really exaggerated at all. It’s funny because it’s our daily reality.

My single regret of the time I spent government is that I didn’t write down every “WTF” call and conversation I had over the years. Rarely did a day go by that someone didn’t give me a reason to wonder is this real life? But a few of the classic hits have stuck with me.

Today I share them with you…


Caller: Yes. I’d like to make a complaint. I was just driving down X Street and noticed that [new BBQ restaurant] smells too much like BBQ. What are you going to do about it?


Caller: I was just running through [park with pond] and there are geese everywhere. There’s goose poop all over. It’s getting stuck in the tread of my shoes. I noticed the fire station is next door. I thought you might have them spray the geese with the fire hose. Not enough to harm them, mind you. Just enough to warn them it’s time to move on. 

(Note: According to the internet, water exits a firehose at roughly 30 to 80 mph. I’m not mathematician, but accordingly to my calculations if a train leaves Boston at 3:45 p.m. traveling at speeds of 30-80 mph, those geese are so dead.)


Caller: I’m appalled that the city is letting [upscale boutique] promote promiscuity by selling panties. There are mannequins in their front window wearing lacy undergarments. That’s just indecent! 

(Note: To this day I still wonder about her logic. If people are buying underwear doesn’t that mean they are wearing underwear? And really, isn’t wearing underwear the exact opposite of indecent?)


Caller: What’s the number to a paint store?


Caller: I’m finding feces on my lawn!! Someone is letting their dog defecate on my lawn!! I only have a small dog and this is large feces, so I know it’s not my dog. I’d like the health department to DNA test the feces and tell me what breed of dog is defecating on my lawn. 


Caller: Where is the ice cream man!?!??
Me: Pardon?
Caller: I can hear him, but I can’t see him. WHERE IS HE?
Me: Um, unfortunately we wouldn’t have that information.
Caller: I know you know his route now tell me where he is!! He’s not coming down our street and that’s discrimination.
Me: Ma’am, I’m sorry, we only issue vendor licenses. We wouldn’t have his route.
Caller: I’m calling [local news program] to report you for withholding public information.


Various callers: I need an officer sent to my house because:

  • There’s a bat in my house.
  • There’s a dragonfly in my house.
  • My toddler won’t listen to me.
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