Should I Try Martha Stewart Marley Spoon?

So, last week I decided that Home Chef would be my Dinner Kit of choice.

However, the choices, especially ones that at least one of my kids will eat, already feel repetitive. Like, each week they are pretty much getting a kind of burger, a kind of steak, and a random third thing they won’t eat. Considering the fact that they don’t eat any of the special sauces/toppings/sides that come with each meal, they are essentially having burgers for one meal and steaks for another meal every week. I could make burgers and steaks every week without needing a meal kit. I do, however, prefer it with the meal kit because then I make the sides and there is at least a wild chance that someone will eat a vegetable.

I’m now wondering if there is another option. Something that would have a bigger variety of kid friendly meals.

Full disclosure: for my kids, the only friendly meals involve a blue box and/or hot dogs.

Still, I’m looking at Marley Spoon. It looks yummy, and has more of what I would consider “borderline” kid foods. Things that are adjacent to foods my kids might eat, so if they are really hungry and tired of PB&J they might give it a try.

It seems to have the same issue as Gobble, however, what with the sauces being pretty rich and therefore being higher calorie than what you would sometimes expect. It’s not as egregious as Gobble, however.

The other drawback to Marley Spoon is it does not have the ability to customize meals. With Home Chef, for example, we are ordering chicken thigh tostadas but are changing out the chicken for steak. With Marley Spoon you don’t have that option.

Hmmmm . . . I might be running double meal kits again.

And really, do I like Home Chef because it’s awesome, or because it’s the first one I tried so it feels “right?”

Dinner Kits

Both of my kids are picky eaters. I won’t get into the details of how we got here or of the ongoing conflict in my house.

I will say that I have, at this point, worked myself into the terrible position of regularly making dinners that nobody eats. Which is soul crushing. Nothing like spending an hour cooking while two kids complain they are hungry, only to have them refuse to eat the meal that you then throw in the trash before facing a kitchen full of pans and dishes to be washed, to make you want to curl into a ball in bed and stay there indefinitely.

I need to make dinner for my family, and I need to not crumble when the dinners do not get eaten.

Enter the dinner kit.

At first I desperately searched for premade family dinners, and have not found that. I can find premade individual dinners, but having everyone pick out a heat ’em up dinner for the microwave every night doesn’t sound like it’s the right direction. Finally I succumbed to the idea of the meal kit, even though it felt like it would be more work than I could emotionally take.

I started with Home Chef, because they advertise a certain number of heat and eat meals.

Okay so you know how the ads say something like “pre-portioned ingredients?” Well, somehow my brain had inserted the word, “pre-prepped.” I thought the veggies would be chopped, burgers would be patted out, etc.

It’s not that way. My kit for some fancy burgers and fries contained, among the other ingredients, a pound of ground beef and a potato.

A whole ass potato.

To make fries.

As I’m patting out the burgers and cutting up the potatoes, I realized that I had been tricked into COOKING. I was just cooking! Like before! What in the actual heck?

By the end of my first week, however, I realized that it did help quite a bit. The method of selecting the meals complete with sides, having them delivered, and just needing to pull a bag out of the fridge to cook saves so much of the mental load of meal planning and cooking.

Also, it is super easy with most of the dishes to make half of it ‘plain’ by leaving out some things. So for example, I can make two servings of buffalo chicken cheesy penne, and two servings of cheesy penne. That is huge for me, and is something I haven’t been able to manage with most meals I pick for myself from cookbooks. I was pretty much sold on the concept at this point.

I then set about deciding which meal kit system was the best for me. I was pretty happy with Home Chef, but I wanted to shop around. I tried Dinnerly and Gobble as well. This is a little summary of each

Home Chef and Gobble are extremely similar.

  • Multiple meal options to choose from each week, including premium options for added cost
  • Many meals are customizable with different proteins, which does affect the cost
  • The meals are sold as pairs, essentially, so if you get a four person plan, you will receive two meal kits with two servings each for each of your selected meals.
  • The ingredients are separated into bags for each meal. You put the bag in the fridge, and then pull the bag out when you are ready to cook. (The meats are packaged separately from the other ingredients.)
  • Each meal comes with a nicely printed recipe card.
  • Both of their recipes seem to use up every pan in the house.

The differences between Home Chef and Gobble include

  • Gobble seems a bit cheaper, but Home Chef has free shipping on orders over $45.
  • Home Chef has full nutritional information on their recipe cards. Gobble only has the calories, but you can find the rest of the information easily on their website.
  • Gobble allows you to split a meal. Instead of four servings of one thing, you can get two servings of one item and two servings of a different item for your four person meal. Home Chef does not have this option.
  • Both companies offer a good variety of meals, but Home Chef is more of a meat-and-potatoes fare, while Gobble offers a lot more international options.
  • Gobble’s meals appear to average 700-900 calories per serving, while Home Chef is more 500-700 calories per serving.
  • Home Chef does have a few ‘heat and eat’ options every week.
  • Gobble is a bit less honest with their marketing. They claim to have more prep work already done and for meals to only take 15 minutes. They have the same prep work as Home Chef, and every meal I’ve made has taken 45 minutes to an hour.

Dinnerly is a different animal:

  • It is less expensive than the other options mentioned.
  • It appears to be the same cost each week, as opposed to the other two in which different selections may cost more or less.
  • There are plenty of options, but not as much customization.
  • The delivery is much more — I don’t know — raw? Basic? Earthy? They are a company that is more concerned with not contributing to issues of wasteful packaging, so the food does not come organized into cute little kits like it does with Gobble or with Home Chef. The food is not separated into different bags for different meals, and there aren’t sauces or dips in their own little containers. It is more like you pick out the recipes you want to make and they send you the box of groceries you would buy to make it.
  • It is much more ‘from scratch’ than the other options. While Home Chef or Gobble will have a little packet of garlic butter, Dinnerly will send you a clove of garlic and some butter.
  • Again to reduce waste, they do not include recipe cards in their boxes. You retrieve the recipes online.
  • The meat is grass fed. This is healthier, better for the planet, but I have never developed a taste for grass fed beef.

In the end, I am choosing Home Chef for right now. I think their selection of food is more in line with what my kiddos might be persuaded to eat. Also I like the fact that they do have the fast options. The big kicker for me, however, was the calorie content. Gobble has that thing where even their healthier seeming recipes — like a shrimp and rice dish — is somehow 800 calories a serving.

So that’s my assessment. All of this was from personal experience only; it is possible I am mistaken about some details.

Ears and Spiders and Cat Scratch Fever

“Mom, I keep hearing a crackling in my ear.”

That is how it starts. My 11 year old son, K, tells me there is crackling in his ear. I remain calm. I ask him all the right questions. Does it hurt? How long have you been hearing it? Is it all the time, or just when you move your jaw? I file the information away mentally in case he started getting earaches or other signs of ear infections. I tell him it was probably just allergies or ear wax and we will keep an eye on it.

Because that is what a normal parent does.

I, however, a parent who thrives on House M.D., Pimple Popper MD, and YouTube videos of gross medical anomalies, am thinking one thing and one thing only.


WHAT if there is a SPIDER living IN HIS EAR!?!?!?!

You see it, you know — on the interwebs. Videos of people having bugs extracted from their ears. Pictures of a many-eyed fuzzy spider face peeking out from inside someone’s ear canal. I can imagine few things more horrifying.

And I spend an inordinate amount of time imagining horrifying things. It’s like a hobby for me. You should see me on an airplane. You would not want to talk to me on an airplane, though.

A couple of days go by. He hasn’t been complaining and I more or less forget about it, consumed by the demands of day to day life.

Then, in the middle of the night, K wakes me. He holds an immense wad of paper towels to the side of his face. I can see blood on his shirt. “Mom, I think I need to go to the hospital. Loki [our cat] bit my ear off.”

This results in the flurry of activity you can expect. I’ve got the lights on, trying to look at K’s ear. He is holding the paper towels to his face, unwilling to let me see even though he wants me to look at it. During the course of all of this, I do determine that the cat has not, in fact, bitten K’s ear OFF. He has, however, bitten it HARD. Hard enough to cause an alarming gash across the top of the ear and to cause a flood of bleeding.

My son, because he is MY son, is certain he needs to go to the emergency room. He has heard somewhere that cat bites get infected badly and you should always go to the ER if your skin is punctured by a cat bite. I assure him that because this is a tear, not a puncture wound, and it is bleeding and we can put antibiotics on it that it is okay to keep a close eye on it and not head to the emergency room at two in the morning.

Once he lets me look at it, we clean the wound. I put antibiotic ointment on it, and we band-aid it up. I give him some ibuprofen and tell him we’ll check it in the morning. He heads back to bed.

Then I panick. All-out freak-out. My heart pounds. My hands shake. I am one hundred percent certain, at this point, that he has a spider living in his ear. It probably emerges at night, and that’s what Loki saw that made him attack K’s ear so viciously. I can picture it. Little tiny spider leg extends out of K’s ear. Loki sees it, pats it, and pounces. I’m so sure this is what it is. I look for our otoscope, planning to sneak into K’s room and try to look inside his ear without him knowing. I CANNOT FIND our otoscope! Where the crap is it?

By now it’s close to four A.M. I find an otoscope that I can order and have delivered that afternoon.

When morning comes, I’m acting normally. I check K’s cut. It looks great – no redness. Meanwhile, I have looked it up and apparently Cat Scratch Fever is not just a song — it’s a real infection you can get from cat bites/scratches.

So now my son definitely has a spider living in his ear and may have a deadly infection.

I am freaking out like nobody’s business. On the inside.

The otoscope arrives. I very calmly tell my son I need to check inside his ear. I do not tell him I am looking for spiders. He’s already going to have a physical scar. I don’t need to give him an emotional one. I steel myself, ready to encounter hairy legs and multiple beady eyes . . .

There’s nothing in there. No spiders. No bugs. Not even any redness. Looks, as far as I can tell from comparing it to Google Images, like a regular eardrum in a regular ear. I’m no doctor, but there’s definitely no bug in there.

Three days later, the cut is already visibly healing.

Quarantine Hair Adventures

I have finally done it. Weeks after everyone else went through their ‘coloring the hair during quarantine’ phase, I finally succumbed. 

I believe I showed remarkable restraint the first few weeks. Every so often I’d call my good friend who is also my hairdresser and say that I wanted to color my hair at home. She always talked me down, reminding me that home color and salon color don’t play well together. I know she is right, 

We are now coming up on five months since things started shutting down, and realistically it looks like there’s no chance that either of us are going to be getting out and about before the New Year. That is why, when I texted her and said, “I’ve been watching Brad Mondo and I want to Live My Extra Life!” she responded, “You should live your extra life!” We then concocted a strategy by which I’d use semi permanent hair color on the ends of my hair that are going to be cut off anyway whenever we are able to get back together.

The Starting Point
This is what I looked like to start out with. (Sorry about the creepy blurry eye thing in this picture.) As you can see, this is much more than five months worth of “out of control.” I am one of those people who realizes it’s been a year and is probably time to get my hair cut. It was already long enough to bother me and I was going to schedule an appointment when all the shit hit the fan. So now it’s really out of control, about six inches longer than I would like, and has the faintest remnants of my pink highlights.
I decided to “lighten my hair a bit so the color would show better.”

The plan we put together for my hair would use gentle products and would not damage my hair.

So of course without my hairdresser’s knowledge or consent, I decided to bleach first.

Please understand — I was the epitome of 90’s college student back in the day. Wide leg jeans, belly ring, the whole nine. This means that I, as all good 90’s college girls did, dyed my hair regularly with henna red.  I know from that experience that my hair is too dark to show color really well. So I thought, hey, I’ll lighten it just a bit. 

Okay, maybe a lot.

So here’s what happened. I fought and fought with the bleach and foils, taking much longer than I had anticipated. Meanwhile, it was dinner time and the kids, you know, wanted food or something. So I knew that the extremely nutritious cheezy hot dog wraps I had planned could be put together in a couple minutes then bake for ten. Perfect. The bleach would set on my hair for ten-fifteen minutes.

Except after 10 minutes dinner was not ready.

After 15 minutes dinner was not ready.

I kept opening the oven to check, which obviously makes food cook faster. It wound up being 30 minutes before I could wash off the bleach. I seriously put the food on plates, shouted, “it’s on the kitchen counter!” and ran upstairs.

Not as bad as I had feared?

You see the result of my bleaching. There were a couple of spots that turned white and cottony and had a bit of breakage, but nothing too noticeable. I’m looking at this and I’m not hating it, for putting color on top of. Like I didn’t want clean red and orange stripes in my hair anyway. I wanted the colors to vary. The idea would be that it would be like fire or lava. I wanted an organic look. Well, skunks are organic, right? 

This image does not do justice to how stripey my hair was.  I missed ENTIRE sections.

That is where I had to pause everything for a week, because after almost running out of bleach I realized I might not have enough color. I bought a second tube of red and had to wait for it to arrive.

I accidentally bought two different reds.

And, didn’t realize until I was getting ready to apply that I had bought a different red. I didn’t let that stop me. I decided to lean in to it. I was already planning to go yellow, orange, red. I just added dark red to the ends. Nothing was going to stop me at this point.

I don’t know how to do foils.
I REALLY don’t know how to do foils.






Holy crow that took FOREVER! I didn’t want to miss spots like I did with the bleach, so I just kept hearing Brad Mondo in my head, telling me my sections were too big. So I sectioned off my very thin hair into about twelve thousand sections. The amount of foil on my head probably interrupted air traffic control patterns. By the end of it my roots were sweaty and my back was aching but I didn’t want to have a big blonde streak in it so I suffered through it all.
Gloves? Oh those were all the way downstairs.


Out of the shower – cautiously optimistic?

Here you have it — the FINAL RESULT!  I am well aware that normal hair blog protocol dictates that I should wear makeup and style my hair for this final shot, but I’ve got crap to do so this is as good as it’s going to get.

I know that from a technical perspective it’s a hot mess, but I honestly kind of love it. I really like the lighter red in the middle and the darker at the bottom, so happy accident there.

If I had to change anything, I would have less orange and more red.  And I might forego the yellow altogether because IRL it kind of looks like I just didn’t color that part. 

But I’m not about to go through all of that again.



It’s Been Three Weeks Since I Looked at . . . Any Other Human

It feels like we’ve been under lockdown forever, but it’s only been three weeks and four days.  It’s astonishing how completely my world has transformed.

Let’s go back before the stay at home orders, before social distancing, and look at where we were just six weeks ago. We’d had the first American death, international travel restrictions had been expanded to include European countries, and we were seeing evidence that the virus was showing up in people with no international travel at all. American life, however, was largely unchanged.

I live in the Seattle area, so at this time all of the American cases were within roughly fifty miles of me. I was frightened by what I was seeing on the news, devouring every word from the White House and from Governor Inslee. My friends and I worried about sending our kids to school, but were still going about our daily routines. Over the next three weeks, nearby school districts shut down as students or staff were suspected to be positive. Tests were not available. There was no way to know if a teacher or friend or coworker had the virus. There was no way to know if you had the virus. If you got sick with a fever, your household was to stay home in voluntary isolation for fourteen days. Otherwise it was business as usual. Wash your hands. Sneeze into your arm. Hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes disappeared from the shelves. So, inexplicably, did toilet paper. But those who were not sick were told not to worry. If you’re not sick, you can continue with your routine.

But you know all of this. We all know all of this.

Of course we know it, because it was LAST MONTH.

Even three and a half weeks ago, even in Seattle, we didn’t really GET IT. Late in the week, they announced that Friday would be our last day until further notice. We all still sent our kids to school. They had to pick up their stuff, right? Say goodbye to their friends? I picked my kids up among joyous declarations that we were Out Of School for a three weeks!  We dropped by a convenience store, at which point I told the kids that this would be our last trip to the 7-11 for a while.  I said that since they are going through the hardship of closing the schools, it is our job to follow the intent of the rules and stay away from other people for at least a couple of weeks. Already I’d had a couple of other parents contact me about playdates, and I was the weirdo who said no, who said we would not be engaging in social activities.

Let me state again: Three weeks ago, in the Seattle area which was the hot spot at the time, parents were planning PLAYDATES. And study groups. Getting together at parks and playgrounds. Just three weeks ago.

I was not much better. It sounds like I had a good handle on things, right? I rejected offers of socialization. But still I didn’t GET IT. The day after the school closed, I took my kids to get their hair cut. It was an appointment I’d set up days before, and didn’t want to cancel. It’s a small shop. I’m supporting local business. It’s not social.

Over the next week I also kept my appointment to get my car’s oil changed. I sat in a waiting room with six other people in close proximity. No masks. I had a tiny bottle of sanitizer in my pocket. It had been the only sanitizer left at the convenience store. I used the sanitizer constantly, kept my head down, tried not to interact, but I was still there. Also that week I went to the grocery store to stock up on what I thought would be two weeks of food. Spoiler alert: it did not last two weeks. I also kept my appointment with the tax guy, because IRS.

At the time it felt like I was being super cautious, hardly leaving my house at all.

Three weeks ago.

Now I look back at that in horror. How could I be so irresponsible? I now take all of my groceries by delivery. I have the delivery driver leave them on the doorstep. I bring everything in to a staging area where I wipe everything down as I put it away. The one time I left the house to get some items I’d pre-ordered, I wore a mask and a jacket which went in the wash the second I got home. We go outside to work in the yard, to walk the dog, etc. but instead of stopping to chat, we wave at other people from across the street.

Very quickly, the life I led last month feels alien and dangerous.

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