Indefinite Hiatus

If you want to know more, I’m going to be attempting to keep a blog about my pregnancy experience here.

My Instragram statement: “I thank each and every one of you who have followed and supported the Picky Gourmet over the years. Unfortunately, I will be going on an indefinite hiatus. I am pregnant, due in November, and to keep it incredibly brief, there are health complications arising with our baby boy that in the best case scenarios will be leading to an extended NICU stay. What it comes down to is I am not able to focus on this project the way I could in the past. It hurts my heart but this is the right decision for me, my family and my mental health right now. I hope this is a “see you later”, but for now, sadly, I have to say goodbye to my fellow foodies.”

Thank You

I said at the beginning of 2018 I wanted to share more on this blog than just recipes, and it’s taken me almost 11 months to really get that resolution started. Better late than never? So sorry foodie folks, it’s another personal post.

Every year, I have a little internal struggle around Thanksgiving. I love this holiday, and I love this time of year, and being a food blogger, it should be easy for me to sit down and write about Turkey Day. The problem is, the past few years, Thanksgiving hasn’t always been a huge event for me. Don’t get me wrong, I always cook a traditional meal with turkey, potatoes, stuffing, veggies and some kind of dessert, but military life gets a little bit in the way sometimes. I haven’t been able to sit down to a huge meal with my whole family in a while.

The turkey the past couple years has just been the breast. Sometimes one of the sides becomes a frugal after-thought, like a frozen bag of sweet corn. I have to cut recipes down to accommodate small groups… like when we first moved to California and didn’t know a lot of people yet. Or when it was just four of us navy wives, missing our spouses on deployment. Or last year, when it was only my husband and me, because (surprise) we were packing up to move again.

This year it’s a similar scenario. It’s our first Thanksgiving here in our Hawaii home, and I’m going a little bigger than I have been, but it’s still just going to be a couple friends and a low-key celebration. It’s still not a reason to practice really big recipes for a family feast and share here on my blog. But I don’t mind. It’s still one of my favorite days of the year.

Do I wish I could be with my family, or fill my house with dozens of friends? Of course. But it’s not in the cards, and Thanksgiving is not about wishing for what you can’t have. It’s about celebrating what you do have.

For the record, I think life in general is too short to be constantly complaining and thinking about how things could be better without working towards change. And this is coming from a gal who’s been diagnosed with anxiety and has panic attacks, one so bad this year, I was hospitalized. I’m only bringing up that tidbit to say I do understand that sometimes life is hard, or scary, or sad, but there’s something about the holidays that genuinely gives me hope and makes me want to appreciate the good things in life.

Plumerias blooming behind my home… a symbol of positivity in Hawaii

Here’s where it’s going to get a little mushy and/or serious. (“OK Lara, like the anxiety/live life to the fullest thing wasn’t mushy and serious…”)

Family is a word you hear a lot this time of year. I wanted to take some time and reflect on what that word has meant to me in my thirty-something years on this planet.

Let’s get the hard part out of the way… there are people out in the world I share blood & familial ties with, but they aren’t welcome in my heart or my home anymore. Yes, that sounds super harsh, but trust me, I tried many times to force those relationships to be something they are not. There’s only so many times you can be vulnerable and give second chances to someone before you realize that sometimes walking away is the healthiest and happiest route, even if it’s hard.

So for me, blood does not always equal family. Love equals family. Support equals family. Being able to be open, honest and your true self in front of someone equals family.

This post is not about being sad for the family members I don’t have in my life. I’ve moved on and know that I am better now. For the couple that have wronged me (mostly one, honestly), there are many more who have lifted me up, even if I don’t get to see and speak to them everyday. This is my chance to say thank you to them.

To my community theatre family that I grew up with: thank you. I spent the most awkward, formative years of life involved with a HUGE group of people who did nothing but encourage me to be myself, tell me I was beautiful when the kids at school told me otherwise, and taught me to celebrate all the little quirks and differences that make people special. I am so proud to have grown up surrounded by a community of people who never cared about gender, race, sexuality or anything superficial. They only cared about how you treated the people around you, and that everyone was able to be themselves. It shaped my philosophy and world view in the best way possible.

To my tight little group of girl friends who I have known since elementary school: thank you. Thank you for the sleep overs, the games, the dance parties and the stories we wrote. We weathered bullies and school yard anxieties and were there for each other if the guy we were crushing on passed us over at a dance. When we were together, we were able to be unabashedly silly. I know some of us drifted apart in high school and college, and we went down different paths, but I love that we found each other again. I am grateful for the way we support each other, and can still share stories, and at 30+ years old, we can still get down to some boy band jams when we need to. The reunions are few and far between sometimes, but it always feels like we are picking up right where we left off.

To my guys (and a couple girls), my high school friends who I ran around our hometown with like the lost boys: thank you. The memories we made are some of my favorites, from our parties that seemed to last all summer long, to our wintertime snowed-in adventures, to sharing music and deep thoughts in the parking lot of a 7-11 when there was nothing better to do. I don’t keep up with a lot of you these days, but I know some have found success, some have turned their lives around after falling on hard times, and sadly, some aren’t with us anymore. I still think of you and wish you the best.

To everyone who impacted my life at the Savannah College of Art & Design: thank you. No matter how much or how little we interacted, my times at SCAD were when I truly found myself and learned many lessons about the real world, relationships and adult friendships. I broke some hearts and had my heart broken and eventually found my soul mate. Some of you I luckily still talk to, if just in passing on social media. Some I see when we meet up at weddings or when we are in each other’s towns “on business” because we are all growing up. Some are on group messenger chats that have lasted years, and I get to talk to you all the time. I love seeing where everyone’s creativity has taken them and how much we all still support each other’s endeavors, and especially all the little families that have come from our years spent together in Savannah.

To my current Massachusetts friends, a lot of whom I met because of my job there: thank you. Some of you I worked with, some I got to know because of people I worked with, and some I knew long before and re-met (because of people I worked with, ha). Thank you all for helping me grow up while still having the time of my life. I’ll always cherish the standing open invite Friday parties at my house, backyard fiestas, taking over bars (especially on karaoke nights), and even the quieter hang sessions, on the couch, binging Netflix or just talking about life. I have known a lot of you for the least amount of time, but sometimes you feel like my oldest friends. The guys all became like brothers to me and the ladies, you accepted me into your lives and always made me feel like a true “gemstone”.

To everyone I’ve crossed paths with because of military life: thank you. While sometimes it takes me a little too long to warm up to new groups, I love that this community understands that it’s hard to move around and constantly say hello and goodbye to new friends. The strength of the people I have met in the navy, spouses included, never ceases to amaze me. A special shoutout to the ladies who stuck together during deployments and kept each other feeling positive and never, ever alone.

To my husband: thank you. For being my one, for being my best friend and partner, for never letting me doubt that you have my back, for teaching me to be spontaneous and seek adventure, for always holding my hand, and kissing me good night, and never forgetting to say “I love you” before hanging up the phone or leaving the house. You’re the best.

And of course, there’s my family. Thank you to my sister’s husband and her kids, for always being fun, and bold, and hilarious, and taking good care of her. It’s hard to imagine our family before you came along sometimes. Thank you to my in-laws who have become like second parents to me, my sister-in-law and her beautiful, growing family, and all the aunts, uncles, cousins & grandparents still with us on both sides, who are always a joy to be around and make things so fun. Thank you to those who aren’t with us anymore too, for many happy memories.

The biggest thank you goes to my mom and my sister. It absolutely sucks sometimes that I have missed so many holidays with you and the rest of the family these past few years, but you never make me feel guilty. It feels like both of you and your support got me to all those wonderful places to meet so many wonderful people, from the schools I went to, the theatre community I fell in love with and, yes, even my old job. You are proud of my husband and support our unpredictable, semi-nomadic life, and I’m so grateful for that. Thank you for being crazy (in the best way), and for always finding a way to have fun, and for being able to say everything we are thinking to each other with just a look sometimes. Thank you for being on my side, no matter what, and giving me the tools I needed to become a strong woman. And thank you for being strong women.

I love you all. Sometimes life gets weird and lonely, but man, I’m so lucky to have met so many fantastic people and seen so many amazing places. And on a lighter note, I’m lucky that I live in an age with technology that makes it easy to stay so connected. Facetime & Skype are lifesavers and I still have group texts going with a least a couple people from almost every group I mentioned above. So thanks, iPhone, even if you are spying on me!

This wasn’t the easiest thing to write, but being truly open and honest isn’t usually easy, even if it is coming from an optimistic place. I’m not always good at reaching out, and showing affections, so sometimes I am afraid to start. There’s always the fear that someone will want to rain on the parade, but I am reminding myself that to be a stronger person, sometimes you have to vulnerable and reach your hand out to others. Best case, you touch them and they reach back. Worst case, they turn away, and I’ve learned that that is their problem to work on, not mine.

I’m writing this on Thanksgiving eve, to be posted late tonight, not sure of what response I will find in the morning. My food prep is done, my wine glass is almost empty, and I’m ready to go to bed with a heart full of love and gratitude, and a mind that feels free and clear. Isn’t this what the holidays are supposed to be about?

I hope everyone can find their own bit of happiness this season, and that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family, near or far.

I’m Not Sorry. #MeToo.

This is not a food post. I’m not sorry.

This might get uncomfortable. I’m not sorry.

I’m disgusted with my country. I’m not sorry.

Today was the one year anniversary of the mainstream #metoo movement and it’s also the day an accused sexual assailant was appointed to the Supreme Court.

I can’t change this today, but I am registered to vote and ready to make a change once November rolls in. I have spent the past few weeks reading and listening to brave women coming forward with their stories and experiences, and I think it’s time to air some thoughts of my own out.

When I was very young, I’d have to guess about 5 or 6, a man exposed himself to me while I was running a lemonade stand on my safe suburban street. Even at that age, my first instinct was to say nothing, that I would be in trouble, that it was my fault. After about a day I spoke up. I remember talking to a police officer at my house. That’s pretty much all I remember.

I went to Mardi Gras one year with a group of college friends. We were walking down Bourbon St one night when I felt someone reach between my legs from behind. Thankfully I had pants on, if I had to find some silver lining in this disgusting situation. Some words were exchanged between him and the guys who were with me, but he ran off as quickly as he could into the crowd. Probably to go grab more girls by their… whatever word you want to use here. The current president know’s how to fill in that blank.

Our favorite spot in college to play pool was almost ruined for us when one night. A group of drunk guys decided to continuously walk by my girl friend and I, blatantly taking flash photos of us, sometimes right in our faces. (This was in the days of digital cameras.) Our boyfriends and a couple other male friends told them to stop, but they wouldn’t. We decided to leave, and as I walked up the stairs to street level in my dress, the guys took pictures up my skirt. My boyfriend (now husband, *swoon*) was behind paying the tab, saw this happen, and told the guy to delete all the photos. When he declined, his camera ended up in pieces on the floor in a puddle of beer. If I had been alone that night, those photos would probably be somewhere on the internet right now.

There’s a member of my family I can’t talk to anymore, for what started as personal reasons, but lately the issues have been amplified. This person openly mocks survivors and wishes harm against females & politicians with opposing views. This person will always be associated with me and it turns my stomach.

And these are just some of the highlights, the things I’m cool with sharing at this point. I’ve had a boss at a restaurant job who had too many drinks after work and said in front of me and many co-workers that he only hired me because he thought I was attractive. I’ve had a guy threaten to kill me when I didn’t want to go out with him. I’ve had guys spread rumors about what I supposedly did with them, sometimes to the point of me needing to provide alibis, because no one was going to just take my word for it. Then let’s add on a million cat calls and creepy comments over the years. Deja vu, ladies?

I’m positive at least one of the men who have shaped my current point of view will read this, and I hope with all my heart they recognize their mistakes and try to be better. For the record, I don’t need apologies or your repentance. But the shallow part of me hopes you wake up in a cold sweat at night the way I do sometimes.

The point is, this shit happens ALL THE TIME. This is what growing up surrounded by rape culture feels like. Although legitimately upsetting, I consider the things I have experienced to be minor in the grand scope of it all. Still, watching Dr Christine Blasey Ford testify, I was sweaty, I was nauseas and eventually so worked up, I didn’t know if I wanted to punch a hole in a wall or cry. Not because I experienced exactly what Dr Ford did, but because I’m so exhausted by story after story of women not being believed.

Even now I feel some weird lingering guilt while I write this post, this feeling like I shouldn’t be talking about this. It’s uncomfortable. It might offend someone. People will think you are exaggerating or looking for attention.

Part of that is right. I do want attention, but not just for my stories. I want attention for the greater sum that my stories add too. If you think you don’t know someone effected but the event this week, you are wrong. Everyone, men included, should be able to share what’s happened to them without being afraid. Why should we be embarrassed? The creeps who did these things are the ones who should be drowning in shame, not us.

I made a promise to myself a few months ago: stop saying sorry when you aren’t.

The more we speak up, the more people will realize that this happens everywhere, all the time, to anyone. The more we speak up, the more potential predators will learn that their actions do have consequences and we aren’t putting up with this anymore. The more we speak up, the louder we get. Like those those two beautiful, strong, LOUD women who told Senator Flake to look them in the eye and tell them why he was going to vote for an accused sexual deviant to be appointed to the highest court in the land. Like all the women I see daily on social media, baring their souls and sharing their truth. Like Christine Blasey Ford.

I believe her.

I believe survivors.

I believe we can take this country back.


A Cook Without A Kitchen

Life keeps finding a way to keep me from my blog. I had a post halfway written (now being saved for later) that I got distracted from by the whole Hawaii false alarm missile incident.

If you somehow missed the news, every cell phone in Hawaii went off at 8:07am on January 13th saying a missile was incoming, and 38 minutes later they let everyone know it was a mistake.

Borrowed this screenshot from Twitter

The “this is not a drill” part… what would you think? My husband was trying to stay calm, noting that there were no sirens going off outside, so something seemed off. We both were searching for answers on the news and online, but I remember my mind shifting from “is this real?” and “how do I keep myself safe?” to accepting it was happening and this was how I was going to die. I starting thinking about what to say to my family as I refreshed Twitter one last time before I had to start writing it. That’s when I saw the Hawaii EMA say it was a false alarm.

It was about 15 minutes after the alert message. We drove by and told people who were outside their houses looking for answers that it was safe. Eventually, the correction was texted to everyone, but way too late.

Those minutes felt endless at the time. It was hands down the most terrified I’ve ever been. After the anger and frustration about this stupid error faded, it was this bizarre high. The relief of finding out we were safe was literally intoxicating. I couldn’t stop laughing and smiling. It was a morning filled with intense emotions, covering the whole spectrum.

So yeah, blog post didn’t happen. A lot of quiet and unexpected reflection happened. A lot of random giggling fits, but also some moments of leftover panic. A lot of plans made. A lot of nice time with my little family. Also, after the incident, I ate a whole carton of ice cream that afternoon. And drank a lot of beer. Because that’s my natural response to realizing you only live once.

That’s the story, or rather, that’s as much as I feel like sharing. Half of me feels like I had to tell it, because we really thought we were going to die, and that’s a really unique, intense thing to go through. The other half of me feels like I’m being self-indulgent and boring, since I obviously didn’t die and nothing actually happened. I tried to keep it factual, because I don’t want anyone to think I’m going to start posting inspirational quotes over pictures of sunflowers and tell you how you can live your best life or anything like that.

My one piece of advice from the whole thing, I suppose, is if you aren’t happy, and you aren’t being honest, what’s the point? That’s the short version of the millions of thoughts I had that day and after.

Bringing it back to a more food related topic, the other reason it’s been hard to write is that it’s been hard to cook. We decided to bite the bullet and start our kitchen and downstairs remodel immediately.

For a month, I had this empty kitchen:

There was some pretty great peach colored tile before, but this picture is after we ripped them out

All of our furniture and belongings arrived on a Friday. I had one weekend (the one of the false alert incident, actually) of a fully functional kitchen before they came and tore it out the next Tuesday. Now we’ve started laying down the new floor, so currently the kitchen looks like this:

So much room for activities… kind of

Soon we’ll be able to get the stove back in place so cooking will be a lot easier. I’ve spent the past week getting reacquainted with things like my slow cooker and my toaster oven. It’s annoying having to dig through boxes to find tools and having no real work space, but it’s also a little fun figuring it out. I think I’ll be doing a post reaaaally soon about some of the “hacks” I’ve had to come up with to adapt.

Knowing that soon we will have a brand new kitchen is exciting, but a little scary. This is our first house and we don’t want to go broke, but of course we have to make it our own. My husband and I are both pretty creative people and he grew up working construction in the summer, so we are doing as much as we can on our own. Maybe we could have waited a little longer to jump into fixing it up, but we aren’t going to be here forever, so it makes more sense to us to make the house our own ASAP. Then we can just sit back and enjoy it.

And I can finally, FINALLY get back to cooking again. In my beautiful new space that I get to design myself, for the first time ever. I wish that I had the time and space to work on the recipes and ideas floating around in my head because it’s been such a long time, but I keep reminding myself how awesome it will be when it’s all done.

I’ll keep you up to date on our progress and when I can start busting out recipe posts! It’ll be soon… at least that’s what everyone around here keeps saying… because remodeling always goes perfectly on schedule right?



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