As a five year old, our child was rather entertaining. Add 2 dogs, a pandemic and general stir craziness, and who knows what’s going to come out of everyone’s mouths.
If someone were a fly on the wall in our house, boy would he get an earful! At any given time, you would hear any of the following:
Little Mister: “Wow, Dad! You were able to pick up Mom without hurting your back!” After Mr. KK hugged me, then squeezed and lifted me off the ground. Thanks, kid.
“No, we don’t kiss with our teeth.” Me, to Bruno, after he lick-bit my nose.
“Wait, is that poop? It looks like poop. Why is there poop? Can you pick it up and smell it?” Me, to Mr. KK, after seeing something brown and suspicious on the floor.
“I’m not very happy with you right now.” Little Mister, to me, about 25 times a day.
“Do you smell that? Was that you?” Me, to any one of the humans or dogs living in my house.
“Ugh, another hug? All you want is hugs.” Little Mister, eye rolling until it hurts, to both of us, constantly.
“Wow, Mom, this is a really good dinner.” Little Mister to me, complimenting my exquisite grilled cheese cooking skills. (Something I do “right”!)
Me: “The rules of the game say that the youngest player goes first, and then next youngest to oldest.” Little Mister: “So it’s me, then Mommy, then Daddy.” Incorrect, but God love ya and I’ll milk it as long as I can.
And bonus point if you’re playing at home for every time you hear an “UGH!” and “Moooooom!” and “That’s not fair!”
You owe it to yourself, just once in your lifetime, to sit in on a remote classroom with 20 kindergarteners (all of whom cannot read yet and haven’t learned how to navigate Google classroom).
For the first week of school, about 15 kids sat on the Meet NOT on mute. So we heard 15 households’ conversations. Everything from parents’ arguing in the background to Grandmas telling kids the answers.
Once everyone got the hang of the computer, the kids got really comfortable really fast with their teacher, sharing all sorts of things. Now, I know this sort of uncensored sharing goes on in schools all the time, however, parents are never privy to what’s said behind the classroom door. Now, we have a front row seat.
And kids share everything, especially when they don’t have a grown up next to them who can jump on that mute button to save face if need be.
Overheard in the kindergarten classroom:
“My parents are always yelling at me. So I scream back.”
“The only thing I like to do is watch Youtube.”
“I’m bored. When is school over?’
“Why is your hair like that? What did you do?” (to the teacher!)
“Can you pause the video? I have to pee!”
“I don’t like this part, can we do something else?”
“HEY! PAY ATTENTION!” (a parent, to their child)
We are on live learning for almost 5 hours each day (with breaks). Kids do not have an attention span for that long. And when their minds start to wander, all of the verbal gold comes out.
Though, I feel as adults we can learn a thing to two from these kids. I have been on more than one video call just this week alone where I wish I could have unmuted myself and asked, “I’m bored. When is this over?”
Is it just me, or is it hard to eat healthy when the weather cools down? I don’t know about you, but when it’s 25 degrees outside, I find it difficult to eat a salad.
Cooler temps call for warm, comforting meals. And in year when we’ve been dressing for comfort, there’s not reason we shouldn’t be eating for comfort, too.
I thought I’d share some of my favorite comfort food recipes for the upcoming winter season.
KK’s Top 5 Comfort Foods
Ina’s Penne Vodka
I’ve shared this recipe before by Ina Garten, but it’s worth sharing again. This pasta is rich and creamy – with a hint of heat from the red pepper flakes – and hard to eat just one serving. You will overeat this pasta, but it will be worth it.
There are days when I just crave a big bowl of steaming, satisfying soup. I found this recipe in a Skinnytaste cookbook I bought after I received my Instant Pot. The meat and pasta make it hearty, and the half pound of parmesan cheese I put on top makes it’s kk-worthy.
I know it’s bad for you, but it’s SO SO SO good. Tyler Florence’s version of spaghetti carbonara is a lighter version, the “sauce” coming from the egg and the pasta water. It is velvety and creamy and perfect on a cold night with a glass of red wine. Sometimes, when I’m feeling crazy, I’ll make this recipe with bucatini.
When I think of winter date night’s in, I immediately picture a juicy ribeye steak, onion rings and roasted broccolini and a full bodied cabernet. When it’s too cold to go outside and grill, I’ll prepare the steaks with the sous vide, and then sear them in a hot cast iron skillet with butter until there’s a crust. There is no recipe here. I simply vacuum seal the steaks in a bag with fresh herbs, salt and pepper and garlic, then sous vide them until the perfect medium rare. I then heat a cast iron pan until it’s screaming hot and I sear the steaks on each side for no more than a minute or two, and finish by basting with melted butter. OMG, heaven.
Spicy Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich
I know fried chicken seems like a summertime dinner, enjoyed outside on a picnic table with a checkered tablecloth, but if you have the means to fry inside, fried chicken is one of those foods that just hits the spot and makes you feel good all over.
This recipe for fried chicken sandwiches is my girl crush Ina’s. And it was delicious. Don’t skimp on the pickles; I used homemade bread and butter quick pickles I made earlier in the day. Goes wonderfully with a hoppy IPA.
When schools shut down in March, the sh*t hit the fan for working parents. When we couldn’t send Little Mister to daycare, we found ourselves juggling who was going to watch/entertain/be at his beck and call every hour of every day. It was exhausting, and we weren’t even dealing with Chromebooks and Google Meets and meltdowns like parents with school-aged children.
We endured the pandemic through spring and summer, while the fall school scheduled loomed over our heads. Would the kids be going back to school? What would learning look like? Did the package stores have enough wine stocked for parents??
As August started and the first day of school drew near, we started getting communications about the school year. And the plan changed by the day. Sometimes by the minute. For the most part, the decision on what the schools would be doing was being driven by the county’s health district. Plans were shared. Parents voted. And finally, options were presented.
And let me tell you: there was no good choice:
• Send your child to school full time and risk expose them to the virus of the century • Keep your child home and risk your sanity while you try and work full time • Opt for a hybrid model and have a combination of the worst of both worlds: exposure and remote learning while you were trying to work
Plus, our Little Mister was starting kindergarten. This was supposed to be the year to experience riding on the bus, learning to share and making friends. But that wasn’t going to happen this year. If we sent him to school, he would be sitting 6 feet away from the next kid, masked and solitary, not interacting or playing or sharing. He was being robbed of a true kindergarten experience.
Since I always work from home (pandemic or not), and it seemed like Mr. KK was going to be my coworker at least through the first half of 2021, we needed to find a solution that fit our work schedules. As a self-proclaimed crazy person during the pandemic, I had ZERO desire to send Little Mister to school. We had been SO diligent all summer and the thought of sending him into a classroom filled with other kids who could have been licking each for all I knew, was terrifying. Plus, we had just started integrating with our parents so they could watch Little Mister, and I didn’t want to bring any risk to our little pandemic bubble.
Our options from our school district were: a hybrid model where kids were in school 2 days, then home for remote learning 3 days, or a fully remote model.
For us, the hybrid model wasn’t going to work. I know Little Mister, and having him be in one place for a few days then transitioning not only his environment but how he was learning, was not going to work. Plus, on the days he had school at home, there would be no live learning; instead, assignments would be posted for the kids to complete. (And if asking him to do schoolwork on his own was anything like us asking him to do workbooks and practice his writing in the Spring, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t survive. Did you know it could take 1 1/2 hours to write your name 8 times?). Plus, we were lucky: we had been strict with our activities all summer, and we had resources in our corner: my mother-in-law was a retired teacher and willing to help us out with teaching, and my parents would help with after school care.
So we closed our eyes and jumped feet first into the fully remote model. And we haven’t looked back since.
We started by setting up a classroom at Grandma’s house (in Mr. KK’s old bedroom!). We set up a desk with all the supplies he’d need. And Grandma (in full teacher fashion) hopped on Amazon and dug through her teacher boxes and found decorations that would put any in-school classroom to shame. Days of the week! The alphabet! Vowels! Seasonal accents! We had it all.
We wanted to make this experience as close to reality as possible so we created a schedule: we got up, got dressed, ate breakfast and packed our lunch and backpack and went off to “school”. Grandma sits with Little Mister 3 days a week, I do one day and Mr. KK does one day. And while he could navigate pretty well on his own, having someone next to him as a cheerleader and keeping him on task has been beneficial. From what I can tell, Little Mister LOVES school. He raises his hand and participates. He quotes his teacher back to me, which is like the holy grail: he is actually listening to her! He loves being on the computer and learning how to read and spell.
Is it perfect? Nope. Is it working for our child right now, during this particular time? Yes. And that is all that matters.
Plus, we get to hear phrases like, “Don’t worry, Grandma, I’ll get us back on The Meet” and “Ugh, don’t they know how to MUTE?” Ah, a smartass, just like his mom.
Let’s be real, the minute we all started working from home, our wardrobe went downhill. If you had previously worked from home pre-pandemic like I did, you likely had already developed comfortable work from home attire. However, it’s possible even your casual WFH clothing started to deteriorate, along with your sanity.
There are 3 stages to the WFH Wardrobe:
Newly Working From Home. At this stage, you are putting in some effort! Possibly jeans or casual dress, a nicer top with statement jewelry for the ladies or a button down for the men. Daily shower. Perfume or cologne.
Working from Home, 3 Months In. You are up and dressed today! Still casual, but leggings have replaced the jeans (buttons? on your waist? this isn’t a prom, people!) Gone are the jewelry and cute/button down tops, replaced with t-shirts and athleisure (I love that this is a term!). Hair is in a ponytail and you likely showered within the last 36 hours.
Working from Home, 6 Months In. Do I have any video meetings today? No? Feejays and a fleece it is! Or possibly your workout gear from the morning, sweat included. Bonus points if you change out of both your pajama tops AND bottoms.
If nothing else, you likely saved some money on your spring/summer/fall wardrobes this year. I know that when I changed over my closet to my summer clothes 80% of them went unworn. Oh, well, there’s always 2022.
If you’re like me, you needed to buy a few key pieces – not because you needed them, but because having new clothes for a new season just makes you feel good. And who couldn’t use a little more “feel good” this year?
I’m very public about my love affair with Target. And this year, when it came to my casual WFH wardrobe, Target didn’t disappoint. With every retailer shifting their summer and fall lines to have more “cozy chic” options (let’s face it, no one is putting on a rayon dress or stilettos right now), Target was on point with their wardrobe staples.
7 Items You Need to Buy From Target Right Now
I love every one of these items and could not recommend them more. I also think I have a slight addiction to camouflage. (NOTE: camouflage items should NOT be worn together. Ever.)
This camo sweatshirt can be dressed up or down! (Hahahaha, who am I kidding? Who is dressing up a sweatshirt right now?) This literally goes with anything. Your jeans and Uggs need this sweatshirt.
Hey, what do you know, more camo! These joggers are perfect for those days that you don’t have any clean leggings, and you’re feeling like you’re better than pajama bottoms.
When you need a break from camo, this flannel shirt is perfect. I love it with leggings and tall boots. Warning: you might feel you need to hit up a brewery for some outside drinking when you wear this, so plan for a day of no meetings!
A girl can never have too many ponchos, that’s what I always say. Surprisingly, I didn’t have a black one (though I have about 3 cream colored ones), so this black turtleneck poncho was perfect. It goes with jeans, leggings and everything in between.
Bring on the camo footwear! These little slip on sneakers go with anything (except more camo). But, if you’re like me and your entire wardrobe is black and gray, you’re golden!
As much as I detest the phrase coatigan, that’s essential what this little number is. This cardigan is part coat, part cardigan and 100% cozy. It’s the perfect thing to throw on when it’s chilly out and you’re too cheap it’s too early to turn on the heat. If you live in a city and you have to run to corner bodegas or down to get your mail, this is what you would wear.
(Please – for all that is holy – pretend this model isn’t wearing these shoes with these pants.) Back to camo! I used to think I hated high wasted jeans and couldn’t wear skinny jeans. Well, these high rise jeans proved me wrong. They are SO comfy and stretchy and fit perfectly. And, these jeans are suitable for those WFH days when you’re feeling a little too fancy for yoga pants.
Each one of these items is in rotation in my WFH wardrobe. Paired with my other wardrobe staples: dark denim, black leggings, high top sneakers, tall boots and gray long sleeved tops, I can mix and match until my heart’s content. Plus, I can be incognito on my video calls wearing my camo!
With our Little Mister, once if forever. We played Pet Store one day where we set up all of his one million stuffed animals like a store, and I was the customer and he was the owner, and I had to pick out an animal to take home as a pet. He loved it so much, that or the next TWO MONTHS we had to make his bed every morning will all of the animals lined up as the “pet store” for the customers.
Did I mention we had to do this every day? The same animals? In the same order? Did I also mention we likely had to change leaked on sheets a few times a week so we had to strip the entire bed and I had to memorize where the animals went?
Our Little Mister takes after Mr. KK: type A and very particular about everything. One time we were all in the bathroom brushing Little Mister’s teeth and he had little animals positioned around the toothpaste. Well, I knocked the toothpaste over and stood it up, and the Little Mister had to stop brushing his teeth to turn the toothpaste 1/4 millimeter to the right so that it was in the exact right place. I looked at Mr. KK like, “Can you believe this kid?” when he said to me, “I mean, I didn’t want to say anything but you did put the toothpaste in the wrong spot.”
There are two of them!
Back to the stuffed animal toy store.
For two months, the daily making of Little Mister’s bed looked something like this:
There was a method to the madness:
Put on fitted sheet
Line up animals in a very specific order NO CHANGES
Put on flat sheet
Put on comforter
Fold over sheet and comforter on each side to reveal animals
And once everything is in place, the toy store could open its doors and I could go in and buy a new pet for the day!
I will remember this silly game fondly, as it was the beginning of April and we were all home together for what would be a very long time (unbeknownst to us!). But it was new and fun and something we would never have done otherwise.
It’s not surprising that liquor stores are up like 35% in sales during the pandemic. This has been a crazy year.
There have been many beers shared in the KK household over the last 8 months after a stressful day.
My drink of choice is usually seasonal – is there anything better than a cold, hoppy beer on a hot summer afternoon? Or a glass of red wine on a chilly winter night by the fire? But I have a problem that I’ve shared before: I don’t have a go-to cocktail.
And while I don’t have a cocktail, I believe I have found my spirit (animal): Aperol. First, I single-handedly kept Aperol afloat with all of the Spritzes I consumed this summer. Then, during the summer storm that took down half the trees in our yard, right after the power went out, we tried a new Aperol drink: Intro to Aperol. GUYS, this drink is amazing!
Intro to Aperol
Let’s start with how gorgeous the color of this drink is. A vibrant not-quite-red but more of an orangey-pink.
2 ounces Aperol
1 ounce London Dry gin (we used Tanqueray)
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice, from 1 lemon
1/4 ounce simple syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
Garnish: orange twist
Fill a cocktail shaker 2/3 full with ice. Add Aperol, gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and bitters. Shake until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with orange twist.
Then start making another round because these beauties go down SMOOTHLY and you’ll need another in no time. (I mean, these craft cocktails are so small, am I right?)
This year, I’d like to skip right over Thanksgiving and dive antlers first into Christmas. I mentioned this constantly casually to Mr. KK who replied, “It’s not even the middle of November.” Well, seems the Grinch came early this year at least!
It goes without saying that this year is unlike any other year we’ve experienced. I remember being on a neighborhood walk in April and a house was decked out in holiday decor, with 3 different Christmas trees in the windows. Everyone’s mantra is basically, “Because, 2020.” And I’m totally down with that.
As COVID cases continue to rise, schools move to remote learning and states threaten to shut down, I saw my opportunity for one last hurrah before the sh*t really hits the fan. I took the day off from work to run a few errands on a weekday to avoid the crowds. And, in true KK style, I made sure I was at the stores waiting for them to unlock their doors for the day.
My agenda for the day included Target, Homegoods and TJ Maxx. I broke my Target hiatus in the summer, but I haven’t been to Homegoods or TJ Maxx since before last Christmas. I was looking forward to a day of me, wandering down empty aisles with a highly-sanitized cart.
Before I left the house this morning, Mr. KK lovingly said, ” Have a great day off today! Buy everything you want, but remember that we already don’t have any room for more Christmas stuff in the basement! Love you!”
Talk about a pep talk.
I spent the morning in my glory, wandering aisles and perfecting my anti-social behavior of avoiding all other humans (except for the cleaning aisle at Target, where they were restocking Clorox Wipes; you’d have though they were handing out winning lottery tickets). I wasn’t even there to Christmas shop – as a family we talked about not really going crazy with gifts this year (what do you get for the person who doesn’t leave the house?) – but instead to hoard bottle brush trees and wooden houses from Bullseye’s Playground. Mission accomplished!
And, because Mr. KK has so wonderfully reminded me that we didn’t have any storage room for additional Christmas decor, I smartly purchased a nice red bin to store all of my new Christmas! Problem solved!
While it felt good to be out, between my hat, mask, glasses and Airpods, I’ve never been so decorated from the neck up. I got my fix of Christmas Inspo (and a few small gifts) and headed home. I spent the rest of my rainy day off on the couch with Mr. KK, Little Mister, Rocco and Bruno watching a movie. Which was better than any shopping trip.
Mr. KK and I have always been big fans of visiting Portland, Maine. Aside from the fact that it reminds us a bit of Boston with it’s cobblestone ankle-breaking sidewalks and amazing restaurants (can you say lobstah rolls?), but the beer scene is top notch.
Trips to Portland became a little harder when the Little Mister came along, and as much as we were raising a bar baby, it was getting hard to ignore the stink eye we’d get from the hipsters.
One summer we rented a beach house for the three of us in South Portland, a 10-minute drive over the bridge. We were just close enough to enjoy an afternoon in our favorite city, with the luxury of being walking distance to a great little beach. Our house was conveniently located next to a Scratch Baking Company, a bakery that had somewhat of a cult following. Every morning at 6am people would start lining up waiting for the bakery to open, just to get their hands on their famous bagels. With the line of people came chit chat, so every morning we were up at the crack of dawn listening to everyone in line.
Now, having a husband with a sweet tooth and a toddler who loved all things cake and cookie, being next to the bakery was a very convenient spot for us. I could literally roll out of bed, walk out the front door, and be in line in my pajamas. Not being much a bagel person myself, they had a coffee cake that was to die for.
My favorite item from this bakery, however, was not a baked good at all. Tucked into the cooler with the cream cheese were containers of homemade pimento cheese spread.
Now, if you’re from the south, you are well aware of how life-changing pimento cheese is. If you don’t know what pimento cheese spread is, well, I’m sorry. You’ve barely enjoyed life up until this point.
First off, it’s made with cheese. If you’re a cheese whore like I am, that should be enough of a selling point. Second, it’s cheese mixed with cream cheese. (I mean, COME ON.) But perhaps the best selling point, is that you can eat it on almost anything. Crackers? Sure. Pita chips? My favorite. As a grilled cheese. Woah. Spread on a chicken cutlet on a roll? Shut the front door.
The day I discovered the pimento cheese spread at Scratch Baking Company, my entire vacation changed. I bought a container every single day, and ate the entire thing throughout the day. I had dreams about this pimento cheese. We went back to South Portland a second summer and the first thing I did was go to this bakery and secure pimento cheese for the week.
But you don’t have to live in the south or visit South Portland in order to enjoy pimento cheese. In fact, I have made pimento cheese spread many times (is there anything better to enjoy at a Kentucky Derby Party?). However, I have discovered the best of the best pimento cheese recipe; the créme de le cream cheese, if you will.
And who other to give us this amazing recipe than my girl crush: Ina Garten.
In her latest cookbook Modern Comfort Food, Ina shares her take on this amazing appetizer. In fact, once you make this and serve it, you’ll never need another appetizer recipe again.
8 ounces cream cheese, softened 3/4 cup mayonnaise 1 1/2 tsp granulated onion (not onion powder) 2 large garlic gloves 1 teaspoon celery seed Kosher salt 3/4 cup pickled jalapenos, drained and chopped 1/2 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts (3 to 4 scallions) 1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers, drained (4 ounces) 4 cups shredded sharp while cheddar (10 ounces) 1 tablespoon Sriracha
Crackers and/or crudités for serving
In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, onion, garlic, celery seed and 1/2 tsp salt with a wooden spoon. Add the pickled jalapenos, scallions and red peppers and grated Cheddar. Add the Sriracha and combine. Taste for seasonings and serve with crackers, corn chips or crudités. (Or with my favorite: pita chips).
I highly recommend you make a double batch: one batch for your guests, and the other to hide in the back of your fridge so you can shame it any time no one is looking.
“We’ll have so much time to train him!” we thought.
“The new dog will keep Rocco company!” we hoped.
Gate Houdini. Toy stealer. Chewer of everything.
We are a rescue family. Rocco was rescued last March at 4 months old, and we wanted to do the same for our second dog. Bruno was rescued in July at just 9 weeks old! They said he was a “doxie mix”, and he was available with his litter mates: two sisters, one who was black and brown like he was (but smaller) and one who was completely tan. That, in itself, was a little suspicious. When we arrived at the shelter he was alone, his sisters had already been adopted earlier in the day. He was sleeping peacefully outside, his little round, pink belly rising and falling with each breath. I picked him up and inhaled his puppy smell. Is there anything better than new puppy smell? Probably second only to new baby smell.
We left with “Dallas” as he was named, and the entire ride home, as he slept in my arms, I whispered into his soft, floppy ear: “You are Bruno. Bruno. Bruno.”
Bruno was a surprise for our Little Mister who had NO IDEA we were bringing home a dog. You know who else was surprised? Rocco.
It’s amazing how quickly you forget what house training a puppy is like, even if you just did a year earlier. And, we were right in assuming it would be easier since we were home all the time. But still, house training is exhausting! But my Type A personality ensured we only had a handful of accidents in the house as I watched Bruno like a hawk. The minute he looked suspicious, he went outside!
And, Bruno won himself some bonus points for sleeping through the night in his crate from night one with no crying. He will fit right in here with that kind of behavior.
Rocco and Bruno are still trying to figure out their place with each other. When we first brought Bruno home, he and Rocco (who is full grown) were almost the same size, Bruno being 8 pounds to Rocco’s 10. But any size advantage Rocco had quickly diminished when Bruno started gaining a pound a week. He quickly was taller (and stronger) than Rocco, though he was still a clumsy puppy so Rocco was able to push him around. They spent quite a bit of time wrestling (and still do!), though their interactions have grown louder. And Bruno has become bolder. And Rocco spends a lot of time hiding under chairs.
Rocco – who at the tender age of 2 – is like a grumpy old man. He’s possessive of Little Mister, and getting attention. And most of the time he just wants to be left alone. Bruno – who can’t take a hint – constantly wants to play so he bites at Rocco’s rear end and tail, nudges him off a bed, steals any toy he’s playing with. Basically, he’s an annoying little bratty brother.
Do I love that we have gates up all over the house to contain him until we can trust him? No.
Does leaving a room or going outside cause more drama than we’d like? Yep.
Do we need to each “take a dog” at certain times to keep peace in our house? Oh yeah.
When someone comes in the house does mayhem ensue? For sure.
Is Bruno wiggling his way into our hearts? Absolutely.
When you talk to Bruno, he looks right into your eyes and tilts his head, as if he’s trying to understand what you’re saying to him. Our old dog Vito used to do that, too. Vito was part human, I think.
Bruno is working on learning his commands and how to be a good doggie and a respectful member of our family. He’s scared of strangers and gets nervous in new situations. “You have to socialize him!” the vet said. Well, Dr., I haven’t socialized myself in the last 8 months, let along a dog!
But we’re working on it! Today was a test run at doggie daycare for Bruno. And we didn’t get a call to pick him up 20 minutes after we dropped him off, so to me, that’s a success. Plus, the only other dog there was about 5 pounds and Bruno still behaved himself. Extra treats for him tonight for not eating another dog today!
It’s been 4 months and we sort of hoped that Rocco and Bruno would be besties by now. Spoiler alert: that is not the case. They currently tolerate each other. (Correction: Rocco tolerates Bruno and Bruno annoys Rocco.)
Hopefully things calm down in the KK household soon. And Bruno doesn’t take down our Christmas tree (which is grounds for dismissal, btw).
He’s not a snuggler, or a kisser. But he does like to hog the couch. He’s a little kooky and quirky. But he’s all ours.
You can follow Rocco and Bruno’s shenanigans on Instagram!