Places to Go/Things to Do - A Few, Quick Days at Universal Orlando


I know I don't share much in this space much anymore, so I should probably check in. And, honestly, I'm not sure about the future of No Monsters in My Bed. I've started blogging more on my professional website and I'd love it if you would follow me/check in over here.

I'm hoping to keep No Monsters as a place to share longer posts and opinions - book reviews, random links, etc., while moving my personal photos to Darcy Troutman Photography, but, truthfully, I haven't felt like sharing as much as I used to. My kids are older and entitled to more privacy and, like everyone else, sometimes social media just seems overwhelming.

We will see.

In the meantime, LOTS of photos from our trip to Universal are online here (I find squarespace's photo uploader to be much more user-friendly than Blogger's uploader) - please stop by!!


Things to Eat - 6 Week Meal Plan (mid-November - December 2017)

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Okay, so it is already February and I'm finally posting our dinner plan from two months ago. I basically took January "off", but now I'm back and blogging . . .


MONDAY - Plated (soy-glazed steak with crispy brussels sprouts and yuzu vinaigrette).

TUESDAY - Sheet pan chili (recipe here). This was good but it didn't taste that different than regular chili.

WEDNESDAY - Dan makes venison stir fry.

THURSDAY - Plated (Za’atar chicken schnitzel with Israeli salad).

FRIDAY - Hot dogs while camping at Sky Meadows State Park.

SATURDAY - Dinner club with friends and neighbors.

SUNDAY - F makes mac and cheese for the kids; Dan and I eat snacks before Angus and Julia Stone at the 9:30 club.


MONDAY - Plated (creamy pumpkin baked rigatoni with mozzarella, fontina, and fried sage). I'm sure this wasn't our healthiest Plated, but it tasted amazing.

TUESDAY - Plated (Thanksgiving cheeseburger with caramelized onion aioli and roasted butternut squash).

WEDNESDAY - Pizza with neighbors.

THURSDAY - Thanksgiving at Dan's brother's house.

FRIDAY - Dinner out at Marble & Rye with Dan's family.

SATURDAY - Dan makes chicken.

SUNDAY - Eggplant parmesan after setting up the Xmas tree. The kids complained, but eggplant parm is one of my favorite dishes so every once in awhile I force them to suffer through it.


MONDAY - Pasta with tomato sauce and garlic bread. Because sometimes easy = awesome.

TUESDAY - Black bean chilaquile (recipe here). This has become the kids' favorite recipe (which makes me so happy as I love it too).

WEDNESDAY - Dan makes fish.

THURSDAY - Plated (sheet pan flounder with harissa, crispy scallion potatoes, and dill aioli).

FRIDAY - Appetizers before Mean Girls, the musical (so good!).

SATURDAY - Plated (butter-basted steak with sautéed brussels sprouts and garlic-parmesan fries).

SUNDAY - Dan cooks fettuccine alfredo.


MONDAY - Turkey, sweet potato, and black bean chili (via Gwyneth, recipe in this book). On a cold day, this is the best recipe ever.

TUESDAY - Dan makes venison steaks.

WEDNESDAY - Everyone pigged out on popcorn during Coco, so we have grilled cheese and eggs for dinner.

THURSDAY - Plated (gnocchi pomodoro with swiss chard, goat cheese, and sage-toasted pine nuts).

FRIDAY - Dan makes a venison roast.

SATURDAY - Plated (miso salmon and quinoa bowls with roasted sweet potatoes, cucumber salad, and sriracha mayo). I'm not usually a salmon fan, but these bowls tasted incredible.

SUNDAY - Dinner at a friend's party.


MONDAY - Order out pizza.

TUESDAY - Family dinner out at Boru Ramen.

WEDNESDAY - Plated (potato latkes with horseradish sour cream, roasted carrots, and spinach salad). I mess up the latkes big time.

THURSDAY - Frozen pizza before a Christmas Carol at Ford's Theater.

FRIDAY - Plated (chicken tinga tostadas with cabbage-carrot slaw).

SATURDAY - I photograph a wedding, the rest of the family eats dinner at our neighbor's Christmas party.

SUNDAY - Taylor Gourmet carry-out.


MONDAY - Plated (moroccan chicken with cherry tomato sauce and couscous).

TUESDAY - Plated (spaghetti squash and turkey meatballs with whipped ricotta).

WEDNESDAY - Black bean chilaquile (recipe here). This has become the kids' favorite recipe (which makes me so happy as I love it too).

THURSDAY - Farmers and Fishers for the solstice.

FRIDAY - Make you own pizza night before we leave for Christmas in Chicago.


Things to Read - Six Interesting Articles From Around the Web (on the husband stitch, monstrous men, Woody Allen, raising kids, and cat person).

(1) Raising (Young Children) - I loved this funny, abstract New Yorke piece about life with two kids.

"A year ago, I only had one kid. And I am a-hundred-per-cent certain that my wife has only been pregnant once between then and now. But I look around my apartment these days, and there are babies everywhere. I'm only supposed to have two. We had Simon. And then Sara had one more after that. I remember naming him Jasper. But I got home from work on Friday, and my wife was missing, and there was one kid in the bath, and two were watching Elmo on TV, and one was eating dinner, and one was crying, and they were all calling me daddy. Or at least the kids who could talk were. Some were babies, and some were toddlers, and they all had diapers that needed changing."

(2) The Husband Stitch - I had never heard of the husband stitch before this article, have you heard of it?

I was first introduced to the husband stitch in 2014, when a friend in medical school told me about a birth her classmate observed. After the baby was delivered, the doctor said to the woman’s husband, “Don’t worry, I’ll sew her up nice and tight for you,” and the two men laughed while the woman lay between them, covered in her own and her baby’s blood and feces. The story terrified me, the laughter in particular, signaling some understanding of wrongdoing, some sheepishness in doing it anyway. The helplessness of the woman, her body being altered without her consent by two people she has to trust: her partner, her doctor. The details of the third-hand account imprinted into my memory so vividly that the memory of the story feels now almost like my own memory. Later that year, Machado’s “The Husband Stitch” was published, and sometime after that, I read it, and the details of Machado’s scene were so similar, down to the laughter, down to the words “don’t worry” (though in Machado’s story they’re directed at the woman), that I’m not sure now what I remember and what I read.

. . . .

But this is not an essay about the husband stitch. It’s an essay about believing and being believed.

. . . .

Why are we disbelieved? Why am I skeptical of women’s chatter? Why does my husband think I don’t smell gas? Later, in the same piece, Baldwin writes, “There was a moment, in time, and in this place, when my brother, or my mother, or my father, or my sister, had to convey to me, for example, the danger in which I was standing from the white man standing just behind me, and to convey this with a speed, and in a language, that the white man could not possibly understand, and that, indeed, he cannot understand, until today. He cannot afford to understand it. This understanding would reveal to him too much about himself, and smash that mirror before which he has been frozen for so long.” Maybe this is why we don’t believe women. If their experience is true, we can’t stand to see our role in it.

(3) Monstrous Men - In the Paris Review Claire Dederer asks, "What Do We Do with the Art of Monstrous Men?" (There's a lot to unpack in this article, I suggest reading the whole thing).

"A great work of art brings us a feeling. And yet when I say Manhattan makes me feel urpy, a man says, No, not that feeling. You’re having the wrong feeling. He speaks with authority: Manhattan is a work of genius. But who gets to say? Authority says the work shall remain untouched by the life. Authority says biography is fallacy. Authority believes the work exists in an ideal state (ahistorical, alpine, snowy, pure). Authority ignores the natural feeling that arises from biographical knowledge of a subject. Authority gets snippy about stuff like that. Authority claims it is able to appreciate the work free of biography, of history. Authority sides with the (male) maker, against the audience.

Me, I’m not ahistorical or immune to biography. That’s for the winners of history (men) (so far).

. . .

"My friend and I had done nothing more monstrous than expecting someone to mind our children while we finished our work. That’s not as bad as rape or even, say, forcing someone to watch while you jerk off into a potted plant. It might sound as though I’m conflating two things—male predators and female finishers—in a troubling way. And I am. Because when women do what needs to be done in order to write or make art, we sometimes feel monstrous. And others are quick to describe us that way.

Hemingway’s girlfriend, the writer Martha Gellhorn, didn’t think the artist needed to be a monster; she thought the monster needed to make himself into an artist. “A man must be a very great genius to make up for being such a loathsome human being.” (Well, I guess she would know.) She’s saying if you’re a really awful person, you are driven to greatness in order to compensate the world for all the awful shit you are going to do to it. In a way, this is a feminist revision of all of art history; a history she turns with a single acid, brilliant line into a morality tale of compensation.

Either way, the questions remain:

What is to be done about monsters? Can and should we love their work? Are all ambitious artists monsters? Tiny voice: [Am I a monster?]"


(4) Woody Allen - Speaking of monstrous men, the Washington Post reported on Richard Morgan's reading of Woody Allen's 56-box archive, which, according to Morgan, is filled with misogynist and lecherous musings. (Full disclosure, I've never liked Allen's movies, mainly because I find them boring and I could never relate to them, but I know many people really love his work).

"According to the staff at Firestone Library’s rare-books wing, I’m the first person to read Allen’s collection — the Woody Papers — from cover to cover, and from the very beginning to the very end, Allen drips with repetitious misogyny. Allen, who has been nominated for 24 Oscars, never needed ideas besides the lecherous man and his beautiful conquest — a concept around which he has made films about Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Manhattan, journalism, time travel, communist revolution, murder, writing novels, Thanksgiving dinner, Hollywood and many other things — because that one idea bore so much fruit for his career.

In many ways, Allen frustrates people because he seems to relish dancing on the edge of the outrage. There’s nothing criminal about an 82-year-old’s fixation with 18-year-olds, and it’s not whip-out-your-penis, button-under-the-desk bad. But it’s deeply, anachronistically gross. More than that, he seems not to care about bettering or changing himself in any way. He lives and thinks and creates as he did in the 1970s, nearly a half-century ago. He’s a reminder that our future, however woke it becomes, will not be full of social-justice valedictorians quoting James Baldwin and Roxane Gay. There will be 22nd-century dunces lagging by a half-century or more. Allen is worse than an augury of those trolls of tomorrow; he is a model for them, a validation."


(5) Raising Teenagers - I loved Elizabeth Weil's short essay on raising a teenage daughter.

"The goal, now, is not just to keep your child alive (though there is that, too) but to steer your child through the hormonal hell-waters of adolescence onto the firm shores of adulthood where, with luck, your child won’t be an idiot or an ass.

It’s a tough task. How well do you know your child? How well do you know the situations your child is getting into? What makes it all seem so impossible is that you need to allow your child to get hurt because if you don’t, your child won’t be resilient and will definitely be an ass. But we’re not talking about losing at Candy Land. We’re talking about … it’s hard to say out loud.

. . . .

Hannah is the most competent person in our house, and she’s a puddle.
She wants to know the correct answer, what other people would like her to say, but she’s furious if she thinks the right answer is untrue.

I want to say: I’ll give you all I’ve got, but I wasn’t that great at being a teenager, and I’m a pretty flawed adult, too."


(6) Cat Person - Kristen Roupenian's New Yorker short story, Cat Person, already went viral. But if you haven't read it yet, it is really good.

"Margot sat on the bed while Robert took off his shirt and unbuckled his pants, pulling them down to his ankles before realizing that he was still wearing his shoes and bending over to untie them. Looking at him like that, so awkwardly bent, his belly thick and soft and covered with hair, Margot recoiled. But the thought of what it would take to stop what she had set in motion was overwhelming; it would require an amount of tact and gentleness that she felt was impossible to summon. It wasn’t that she was scared he would try to force her to do something against her will but that insisting that they stop now, after everything she’d done to push this forward, would make her seem spoiled and capricious, as if she’d ordered something at a restaurant and then, once the food arrived, had changed her mind and sent it back."


Things to Do - Project 52, Weeks 43 & 44

Happy January! So odd to start school and then have a snow day almost immediately. But honestly, we all needed a day of relaxation.

Winter break was good but full - we drove to Chicago to visit my mom for Christmas (so much cold!) and spent a day in the city with her at the Museum of Contemporary Art and then the whole family saw Hamilton, the musical, together (which, I must admit, was crazy good).

After we drove back to VA, Dan's parents watched our kids in Richmond so we could escape to our favorite bed and breakfast in Charlottesville for a night (love the Clifton Inn). And then we hosted a huge disaster of a NYE party - full of fights, fireworks, and Fireball - and I learned that in the dead of winter my house can't really accommodate 60+ people.

Then the kids went back and school and I started working at the preschool again (just one day a week because little kids are crazy fun).

Anyways, snow day = awesomeness.

Regarding Project 52, I know it's already 2018 and I'm still posting photos from October 2017, but I'm trying to finish up and move onto the new year, though it is sort of nice and look back and old moments you'd forgotten about.

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(1) Our road trip to Storm King Art Center in NY - this is from our first day there. In retrospect, I should have made this our Christmas card photo. Oh well, hindsight is everything.
(2) Contemplating Nam June Paik at Storm King.
(3) F and leaf.
(4) Love this photo (basically I love Storm King).
(5) Hotel pool happiness.
(6) Storm King, day 2 - meeting up with my friend Jenny and her family.
(7) Kid togetherness.
(8) I love watching my kids play with younger kids.
(9) We returned from Storm King on Friday afternoon, went to a concert on Friday night (the Head and the Heart, so so good), and then left Saturday afternoon for camping at Shenandoah River State Park.
(10) Camping.

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(1) Leaving the campground at Shenandoah River State Park on a very rainy Sunday morning.
(2) P and her friends dressed as 80s' girls for Halloween, which involved a lot of early morning hair crimping.
(3) Just some of the trick or treating group.
(4) T on Halloween.
(5) P at her last grade school Halloween parade (it all goes by so fast)!
(6) F and Happy, bonding in the hallway.
(7) I took T and two of his best friends to dinner at Silver Diner. Three boys = a lot of energy.


Things to Do - 10 Things I Learned this Year (2017)

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On Friday A Cup of Jo posted about yearly lessons, which made me think about my own 2017. Funny how we spend so much time coming up with resolutions for the next year and maybe not enough looking back seriously at the past year.

Here are some things I learned, in no particular order:

1. Kids need to leave the nest. I think I always believed this, so in some ways it isn't a new lesson. But part of me secretly hoped that if Dan and I created this wonderful environment, full of family book clubs and crazy vacations that my kids would never want to leave.

But this year, their friends became really important to all of them. After five weeks in Europe, they all begged me to limit next year's vacation to 2 week (I'm caving at 2.5 weeks). F went off to summer camp for 10 days and barely seemed to notice we weren't there. Now that they have phones, the girls spend hours calling/texting friends. T has been "adopted" by two of his best friends' families and on weekends is rarely home. One of the moms sent me a photo of her 4 kids at Zoolights and T was next to them - all with their light-up ears.

Some of this has been hard. I miss them. And I'm slowly learning that I have to take the moments when they come rather force them to occur.

2. Grief is not predictable. A few weeks ago a good friend from college died. I had not seem or really heard from him in almost 20 years, but a few days prior to his death he tagged me and 10-15 other people in a random Facebook message full of photos of cocktail napkins. The next day the whole account was removed and I learned through Facebook he had passed away.

Honestly, I'm still not quite sure how to process this. But Dave's death brought back memories I wasn't aware I had and the past all of a sudden seems like something right next to me. As if I could open a door and just step into it.

Perhaps this is how it always feels when death comes without resolution. As horrible as it was when my father died (and wow, was it horrible) I never felt like there were things I needed to tell him, nothing was left unsaid.

Whereas with Dave the thought that he died without knowing how much our friendship meant to me - it has been tough. My last year of college, Dave and I were inseparable - bartending together, leaving shifts at 2 am and going out for breakfast/staying up all night, watching stupid movies together (remember Spice World?), etc. And then I graduated and moved and there wasn't really anywhere for a friendship like that to go. Through the grapevine I learned that life wasn't going well for him - struggles with addiction, an inability to ever really "adult". I'm not sure what I could have done to help. But still, so much left unsaid.

3. Women's stories need to be told. From Cat person, to #metoo, to the Neapolitan Novels to Harvey Weinstein to the Women's March to rereading Lives of Girls and Women - I feel like I spent 2017 hearing voices that I've never heard before. And new words that didn't exist (mansplaining, male privilege). And so much of it resonates with me. As if something I've been told to keep silent for so long (how silly women are, how trivial their thoughts) is all of a sudden everywhere. And it's bold and real and controversial and (not to over cheese this) but seriously AMAZING.

4. Running a business is hard work. Even though I've owned Darcy Troutman Photography for a few years now, 2017 was the first year it became more of a full time job than a hobby/part time gig. I spent the last four years learning to be a photographer and I'm realizing that I need to spend 2018 learning how to direct my business forward - dealing with difficult clients, itemizing everything, better email response and client guidelines, marketing to my "ideal" client, etc.

5. Kids come pre-programmed. As an only child (and only grandchild on one side), I'm still a little in shock about how much my kids differ from each other. Hard to believe they all grew up in the same house, with the same value system.

6. I don't understand America or what it means to be an American. Not that I ever did. But this year more than ever - I'm at a loss. The country is way more racist than I ever realized. And hateful. And while I haven't become an activist by any means, I'm more likely than ever to share my opinions and to speak up. Having a voice matters and I need to use mine.

7. Marriage is hard. And wonderful. And full of constant surprises. Dan and I are not the same people we were 12 years ago, we're continually re-meeting each other. And trying to grow together. Neither of these things is easy, but they are both worth it.

8. One vote really does make a difference (not sure what I'm talking about? read here).

9. Warm fuzzy socks make everything better.

10. Don't Stop Believing has stood the test of time. It really is a great song. And no matter how often I've heard Body Like a Backroad this year, I still sing along. Every time.


Anyone else want to chime in? What have you learned this year?


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