About Me

My photo
Concord, California, United States
I am a sometimes-writer, everyday mama, creative failure and experimental cook. I am interested in living a beautiful life, spending time with my family and making things that I can feel proud of. When I'm by myself I'm usually outside. Don't bother calling because chances are that I didn't bring my cell phone because I couldn't find it. If you see me walking, it's because I lost my keys and if you see me with only one child... I'm probably in big trouble.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween







this is important.


Speak Now

Pop culture is one of my deep loves in life. I loved Lost. I watch Gossip Girl and Americas Next Top Model. I pick up Us Weekly and read Simon Cowell's autobiography. I devoured the Twilight series in a week and have been sitting on my last of the Sookie Stackhouse novels. Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Selema Gomez, Demi Lovato and Miley Cyrus are all in my ipod. I'm a popular culture junkie.

One artist that my children love (especially Lila) is Taylor Swift. We have both her self titled album and her second record, Fearless. I sort of love Taylor Swift, but until yesterday my love for her had nothing to do with her music. I just think that she's a nice girl and great role model for my impressionable five and six year old daughters. Though a few songs have adult messages, she also sings about the value of coming from a great family and about how much she loves her parents. Most of her songs emphasize loving yourself and having self-respect. Also, she's not stumbling out of Hollywood bars and clubs every night. Though her personal life has been a bit of a spectacle, I get the feeling that Taylor Swift is the sort of girl who spends more time alone in her bedroom with a guitar than she does anything else. Because she's a super-star, this is a choice that she makes and I respect that.

Yesterday we got the album Speak Now, which was released on October 25th. We spent our trips to and from New Jersey listening to all the songs on her new cds. Previous to hearing the entire cd I heard her first single "Mine" and was completely unimpressed. After listening to the whole album I have to admit that Mine is still my least favorite track. That mentioned, I LOVE this album.

I love that Taylor wrote every song on the album "all by herself." I love that the songs are honest and that she's opened up a bit about who inspired them (Camilla Belle, John Mayer, Kanye West, Joe Jonas, Taylor Lautner). I love that her songs are confessional. I love how incredibly well written they are lyrically (particularly in comparison to her last two albums). I can't believe the growth that I see in her as a writer and an artist. The songs are interesting, heartbreaking, storytelling, diverse and engaging.

Here are a few of my favorites from the album:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lila's Belated Birthday Party

We finally had Lila's birthday party today. It wasn't the party that we had planned, but I think she had a great time. We did the best that we could with what we have.

Our only regret was that we weren't able to include all the people that we wanted to and had originally invited to the home-party that we planned. Unfortunately, because we've stretched ourselves so thin financially, we had to be very careful to keep our guest list small. Lila was able to choose five of her closest friends to invite and we all met at the Rockaway Mall Build-A-Bear and then headed over to a local Pizza Hut. Lila felt strongly about eliminating cupcakes from her birthday tradition. In the spirit of Halloween we gave out chocolate lollipops instead.

The Build-A-Bear portion of the day was really special. Even though I worried that it would be too generic, the party host was fun, lively and dressed in costume. Each child seemed to really love the process of Build-A-Bear and seemed genuinely excited to go home with a new stuffed animal. Further, it was actually nice to leave and go to a different place to eat. Lila was so excited that we'd be going out for dinner and including all of her friends. Remeeting up with them at the Pizza Hut seemed to give her a little thrill!

Here are a few pictures from our day:

photo 1-1

photo 1

photo 2

Friday, October 29, 2010

It's Been Awhile...

...since I put up a food post.

After we got home tonight I felt like cooking. I just wanted to have a big dinner that everyone likes. I made a whole, citrus stuffed chicken with roasted sweet potatoes, white potatoes and carrots and snap peas sauteed with shallots and mushrooms. I also made a tangy, blond gravy. Jay and I both had a beer and now we're sitting back with the girls to watch a movie.

It's cold outside and warm in here.

These are good nights.


Big Green Earth Job- First Week in a Wrapper

I finished my first week as a work-outside-the-home mama.

I have to say, I feel great. I worked by myself all day and the hours raced past me. By the end of my afternoon I felt pretty good. There were a few things that I felt uncertain about and got a lot of experience in today. We have a refill center for Sun and Earth cleaning products. People can bring any bottles and we'll fill them for a lesser charge with whatever product that they want. I was pretty shaky about how to ring the refills in when they were weird sizes. I got tons of refills and lots of experience with it today! Also, I just felt more comfortable talking to people about the shop and the different products that we carry. All of our artists are local and most of the companies that we use are small and family owned. For this reason it's important to know about the companies, not just the products. You want to be able to tell people where the companies are and a few things about them.

My favorite products that we sell are by a company out of Queens, New York called First World Trash. They take old billboards and reclaimed seat belts from the junkyard and turn them into beautiful accessories.

Also, I got my store keys today and I'll be opening the shop from now on! Exciting, exciting! I'd feel a little bit better about it if I hadn't set the alarm off this morning when I was trying to turn it off. Yikes!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Field Trip

I went on a field trip with Lila's kindergarten class today (who, by the way, seemed hugely chilled out in comparison to what I've seen previously and heard about them). I am told that there is a boy who was sent back to preschool. We had a really nice time and both Lila and I got to pick a pumpkin and listen to Farmer Doug talk about warm and cool weather produce while on a hay ride.

As we were heading back into the city on the bus it struck me as sort of backwards. In my life, it was normal to go on a field trip TO the city. And when you'd enter the hustle and bustle of any cities downtown you'd feel a little bit grown-up and excited by the buzz of your surroundings. For us, it's completely reversed. We all got excited by the "Welcome to New Jersey" sign, going over the bride out of the city and by the leaves falling around us. When we entered the city again we were all relaxed by the familiarity of home.

I made oatmeal raisin cookies last night for the kids and we shared them after the picnic lunch. When we got back I dropped the rest off at our new Big Green Earth Store location and headed over to Jay's work. Then I walked home and picked up the car so that I could use it to pick the girls up. I probably walked about five miles today... which feels good.

Here are some pictures from the day:

Lila was just as excited to discover morning glories as she was to pick pumpkins.

This is Farmer Doug, who told my excited daughter that they call Morning Glory's "nuisances" and don't like them as she was caressing and admiring it.

The hay ride:



And finally, pumpkin picking!


Gleek, I am

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stomach Flu 2010

Dear My Immune System,

I know that you've been working hard for awhile and that times are tough with stress, bed bug bite flareups and whatnot. And I know that the thought of putting your feet up and and taking a little break from the constant battle of germs and bacteria whose armies just get bigger and stronger by the month must be a serious temptation.

I just want to tell you how much I appreciate your hard work through that first month of school when my children inevitably act as vehicles for the illnesses that they pick up, bring home and pass around.

And though I know it's nearly Halloween and we're all very fortunate to have avoided viral gastroenteritis until now, please don't let me catch the crummy, pukey, poopy bug that Lila had yesterday and Bunny has this morning. Please, please, please fight it.

I promise, if you can just do me this one favor, I'll disinfect every inch of my home with Lysol. No holds barred.

With love and admiration,


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In an effort to be responsible, I put my phone on vibrate and left it in my purse while I was at work today.

Just before noon the shop phone rang and I saw Jay on the caller id.

I was like, "Hi. I can't talk." And just in case he didn't realize where he was calling, I added, "I'm at work."

I'm not sure why I did this. Jay's not really a social call kinda guy. In retrospect I can't imagine him calling me while I was working if it wasn't urgent. At the time I was taken off guard.

So he was like, "Lila puked. The school called. I just picked her up and we're at home now."

I felt like the worst mom ever.

Of course, the ONE time one of my children gets sent home from school, it's on day three of my new working mom status.

I felt worse when I saw Lila and she was like, "I told the doctor at my school to call you at the Big Green Earth Store and she did but you didn't answer."

Hopefully Lila will be able to go back to school tomorrow.

And hopefully it's just the power of suggestion that is making me feel green. I can't get sick now!


I just got the strangest email:

Amy Summers

to me
show details 9:06 AM (12 minutes ago)

To launch into acting or modeling, call (212) 244-7161 OR reply to this email.

Set-up an evaluation in our Manhattan office now!

Amy Summers
One Source Talent
Talent Coordinator
amy.summers@onesourcetalent.com / www.onesourcetalent.com

Monday, October 25, 2010

Big Green Earth Job- Day 2

Admittedly, I'm exhausted.

It's only day two and the drain of keeping up all of my normal momming around combined with my part-time job has got me yawning a few hours earlier each day. I'm sure that this is exasperated by the fact that I'm walking 17 blocks to work and then 17 blocks home.

Here's the thing about me: I stick with things for long periods of time because I HATE the feeling of not knowing what I"m doing and I REALLY HATE making mistakes. It's so humiliating.

Tomorrow I'll be there on my own, which is scary... but I can do it! I'm a little worried about the pricing of refills and I'm still uncertain how to use the refill cards where people are able to purchase refills for their laundry detergent or surface cleaner in advance. That said, I have faith in myself. I'll be able to do it. Everything will be fine.

I continue to love the people who I work for and I'm excited to start the writing portion of this job. I'm going to head up a bit of the online social networking, which will be awesome for my writing portfolio.

Seriously, I feel like this is a place where I will work for years.

Another great thing about my job

Today is the first day that I'm working while the girls are in school.

I was able to drop them off, come home, have a cup of coffee, IM with Jay for a few minutes, load the dishwasher, flip the laundry, take some meat out to defrost for dinner and vacuum my house before hopping in the shower to get ready. It couldn't be more convenient, could it?

I'm really looking forward to going in today! It's going to be a good day!

Lila woke up this morning and said, "My back feels funny. It's pains me."

I said, "Maybe you slept on it funny..."

and she responded, "It's probably because I woke up on the wrong side of the bed."

Oh, and in other news, we are 7 days with no bug bites. It doesn't make us free and clear (they say 55 days is the magic number), but it makes us 7 days closer.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Big Green Small World

So, I don't want to toot my own horn or anything, but my manager Larry told me that when he met me he immediately knew that he'd like me. He told the shop owner about me right away and even though there's a new batch of employees, I'm the only one who isn't there on a temporary basis. Hooray! I feel like it's sort of a match made in Heaven.

Also, it looks like I'll be staying at the South Street store, which I love. I don't like Center City. I really love South Philly though.

So anyway, my first day was great! I honestly think that I'm going to be really at home there. I felt a little bit useless because I'm not as familiar with the products as I hoped to be. By the end of the day I was completely comfortable on the register and I enjoyed getting to know my managers and co-workers. There isn't anyone who I don't like a lot. Every person was very warm and welcoming. It was difficult to resist the urge to buy stuff, but that would defeat the purpose of getting a job!

So, my prediction is that I'll work at the Big Green Earth Store for years. Once I get to know the merchandise I imagine that it will be the funnest job ever.

By the way, my manager reminds me a lot of my friend Mathew in Denver. It's probably one of the reasons that I warmed up to him so quickly.

Needless to say, I'm very happy!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

amazing people

Tonight, while I was mixing and pre-heating the beginnings of what would become our "breakfast burrito" dinner night (Bunny's personal favorite), I saw someone at our front door. Jay was like, "Oh, it's Jack," and hopped up to the door so that he could let him in. Jack is our good friend, but he's really like family at point. Also, he happens to be Jay's boss at Nasdaq.

He came through the door with giant bags full of toys! It was AMAZING.

Normally, Jack comes over during the fall on Thursday night for what has traditionally been called "Pie Night." Pie night is a big deal to B and L. They love the formality of it all. We have company and a huge dinner that I generally spend hours working on. Also, we have a fresh cooked pie or some sort of frilly dessert. The grown-ups drink wine and the kids get to watch movies and eat appetizers. It's just a special night and usually lasts from the beginning of fall until Christmas. This year, for obvious reasons, pie night has been canceled. Boo.

But this evening Jack came over with his Santa sized surprise. We ate dinner, broke out the new monkey play-doh and sang Lady-Gaga songs.


On one hand, I hate feeling like a charity case. On the other, our worlds have really been rocked. Jay and I are doing our best to make life okay for our children... and they've been incredibly understanding of the sacrifices that we've made as a family. But it feels good to see them with new things, happy, playing, being imaginative and genuinely carefree.

No homemade costumes this year.

But still super-cute (if you ask me)!

We're all ready for our Boo at the Zoo. Now we just need PapaJay.

Also, I picked up a little bottle of egg nog (the the good kind)
(the rumalicious kind) yesterday and I'm excited about sipping a glass of it while watching movies and cuddling up with my family tonight. Mmm...

Hooray, weekend!

Another one bites the dust

Bed Bug victims lay poisoned and dead all around our new home. I have found four so far.

Today I found this one. He's currently encased in tape and after I took the picture I smooshed his belly with my fingernail. He was already dead... but I just don't want to take any chances.

This is the biggest one I've seen.

I put the penny next to him because before I had ever seen a bed bug, I was expecting something much bigger. The pictures on the internet are usually blown up to make the bugs look like they're the size of a fingernail. In reality they're the size of an apple seed. That said, I've never seen a live bed bug, and the dead guys are usually curled up a bit.

Lack of bites and the number of dead bugs I'm seeing gives me some hope that our troubles are on their way out.

Early Birds

Why is it that from Monday through Friday I have to peel Bunny out of bed with her eyes closed as she clutches her blankets to her chest. Then, I carry her downstairs and tuck her into a groggy, grouchy, tired ball on our couch. Inevitably she'll walk out of the house without so much as a sip of water, completely ignoring the spread that I've laid out on our table. But, come Saturday, six thirty hits and she's like, "cockadoodledoo family. Rise and shine. What's for breakfast, Mama? I'm thinkin' pancakes and bacon and fresh fruit salad, thanks."

Here's what's on my plate today:

I need to clean my house and wash the bedding.

I need to make a chicken Parmesan that Jay can pop into the oven tomorrow evening while I'm at work.

I need to get the girls in their costumes to go to the Boo at the Zoo this afternoon. Jay is working until one and we're heading over at two. This only gives us a few hours there, but a few hours is better than no hours! It's safe to expect pictures later.

On the bright side:

We are almost 1 week post bed bug bite.

Bunny came home yesterday with 100% on her spelling test. Last week she got half of the words wrong. This came out of no where for me and I was really concerned. Her teacher sent me the words that she'd have on this weeks test and Bunny and I worked on them a lot throughout the week. What a parenting wake-up call.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I Love My Shop!

I stopped in at the Big Green Earth Store after school pick-up today. I have a few dates that I can't work. One is Lila's birthday party, one is Lila's field trip and the other is a Saturday that Jay has to work. I HATE telling people that I can't work. That said, the people who own this shop are seriously the warmest people on earth. I feel so comfortable there.

The people I'm working for are so nice. They were happy to see me and so friendly and kind to the girls. We bought a little mouse flashlight that Bunny's had her eye on and they even gave me my employee discount!

I just know that I'm going to be so happy with this job. I'm really looking forward to my first day on Sunday. Also, I work Monday and Tuesday as well. I like the schedule because I have time to come home after I drop the girls off at school. I can do things like make the beds, clean a little, take a shower and maybe put dinner in the crock pot (after I replace my crock pot, of course) before leaving the house for work.

Today I learned that Klean Kanteen bottles preferable to Sigg bottles because stainless steel is better than coated aluminum (which is coated and can leak). After I work there for two months I get a free Klean Kanteen bottle. I will probably replace B and L's water bottles before that point though. My discount there is 25%. It should be a very green Christmas for the Holler House.

In other news, I found another dead bed bug today. Dead is good. Dead is good.


Every so often our elementary school sends home a link to something awesome.

This week, the school sent home a link to an online library of animated story books (which theoretically seems similar to TV, but in practice is not). It's called the TumbleBook Library and it rocks my universe. There are endless books on this site and my children LOVE it. Because we've recently lost all of our books (heartbreak) I also swoon a bit for this site.

I really like that the sentences are highlighted as they are read and the narration is a throw-back to "Free To Be You And Me," which I tend to go a little crazy for.

You have to put in a user name and password which I'd love to post here but am too much of a clucker to do. That said, if you ask me for it... I'll tell you what it is. Also, I think that they offer a free trial of thirty days too. If you've got kids and love books, I recommend giving this a shot.


After investigating further I discovered that only schools can sign up for this. So, write to me at annapholler (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll tell you the secrets of the universe.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Trick or Treat

Yesterday I spoke on the phone with my childhood friend S. I caught her up sobbed my way through the long, distorted, miserable tale that has become the story of our recent past. She's probably the strongest, most grounded, earthiest person I know. I sort of consider her fearless. She's the sort of person who's like, "What's the big deal about lice? Sprinkle a little Cayenne Pepper and some organic apple cider vinegar on your head and yer good to go."

Honestly, I was hoping that she'd offer me some sort of refuge. Not that I'd necessarily take it. But yesterday was a low day and the thought of dipping my children into tubs of hot water, spraying my car with pesticides, popping some strong antihistamines in my dogs mouth and us all quietly escaping Philadelphia at some point in the middle of the night did cross my mind once or twice.

But even my fearless friend S was like, "BEDBUGS ARE MY WORST FEAR. Don't go anywhere. You'll take them with you."

I cried and cried and cried.

And she was like, "It's okay to call me crying. Do it as much as you need to. But remember, you're the mama. You're the lighthouse (I think that she said lighthouse... but it could have been flashlight or lamppost or porch light or maybe even life force... something to that effect) and you've got to hold it together for your family."

This isn't the first time that someone has said something like this to me in reference to the bb's. And I have been trying VERY HARD to hold it together. I lay in bed with my girls and tell them that everything is going to be alright. I tell them not to worry and I recite all of the good things in our lives. I tell them how much I love them and I tell them about all the great things that we have to look forward to. I spend a lot of time on the dinners that I make each night and I try very hard to create a homey atmosphere of safety, sanctuary and peace.

Realistically, this is just a show. And every so often I slip and I snap or I break and I cry.

I cry more when they are in school than when they are at home and I cry less this week than I did last week.

But, sometimes I fall apart.

I am going to work harder to make things better for the girls. No matter how much money we owe and don't have. No matter how much stuff we've lost. No matter how victimized we feel by the stupid bed bugs or how long it's going to take us to recover from them... our kids have whole lives ahead of them and they need to walk away from this unscarred.

So, although it probably seems small and silly, I took a little step towards happiness and normalcy today by decorating our fireplace with a few of the Halloween party decorations that V passed down to me (from her party a few years back). It's just a couple things, but I know that she'd probably rather see something from my house incinerated rather than have it back in her house right now. I know that my girls will come home this afternoon and be completely thrilled to see this!

I am going to do more happiness and less complaining. I'm going to be more grateful that we're alive and that nothing irreparable has happened to my family. This, eventually, can all be fixed.

The thing about Lila

photo-110Even though Lila is completely normal in the respect of having typical 5 year old meltdowns and tantrums, she has got to be the happiest person in the world. Nothing brings her down. Her little spirit is so free and flighty. For me, she's such a joy to be around.

This morning she said, "Mama, let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time there was a little girl who didn't like herself. And she said, 'mama. I don't like myself at all.' And her mama said, 'HAHAHAHHAHHAHAAHHA... what do you mean you don't like yourself? You're perfect. You're a bright light in the dark bedroom."

So, I hugged little Lila very tight and and squeezed her very hard and kissed her all over her little pumpkin head and said, "Hold on. Stay just like that. Let me take your picture of you for my blog."

To all the children out there with Mommy bloggers: Being adorable will lead to photos (no matter what you're doing, where you are, who you are with or how inappropriate it is to take them.)
I woke up feeling a little bit better this morning. Actually, I felt better after speaking with the exterminator. My big fear was that our new furniture could be infested. The dead bed bug that we found was on a blanket that was sitting on our new couch. Though I realize that bed bugs aren't likely to travel downstairs when we all sleep upstairs (they like to stay close to where they eat) I was scared that that little jerk did just that. It what if it laid eggs there?

It's totally possible that it died on a floor upstairs and got stuck on someones sock as they were walking around. I think that's likely. Then that person came downstairs and cuddled up in a blanket on the couch.

But the uncertainly of this was really messing with me.

The exterminator told me that the bb's aren't going to make nests in my couches because tehy can't. He sprayed something in our house to prevent them from reproducing. So, our problem is only the existing bb's who survived the first extermination. He said that if we had different floors that we wouldn't have to worry about them at this point. They'd just be gone. It's our floors that have done us in.

But he told me that from this point forward our problem should be over and that though we may find more bb's, they shouldn't be strong enough to bite us and will all be dead soon. On the off chance that we do continue to be bitten, he said to call him and he'll come out and exterminate again.

Bunny told me that she was only sad yesterday while going into the school. I really hope that this morning goes more smoothly. She has a dentist appointment this afternoon that Jay's leaving work early to take her to (Jay is the dentist guy. I do shots. He does fillings.)

I'm still really excited to start my new job. I'm going to spend a lot of my day on their website reading product descriptions so that I can be knowledgeable about the merchandise from the get-go. I also think it's great that I get to be a part of the new store from the set-up. I will know where everything is because I probably put it there! That's exciting. I'll also get to know the products better before having to sell them.

Please let our lives turn around now.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'm having a really hard day emotionally.

Bunny was practically dragged into school crying this morning. This is getting worse, not better. We found a dead bed bug last night. The lawyer told me that we need to get information proving that our building was aware of and poorly handled a bed bug infestation previous to ours in order for him to take the case. The exterminator didn't pick up and hasn't called me back.

...and I just feel completely overwhelmed.

I just want to run away.

But I have no where to go.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Big Green Earth Job

I'm super excited!

I didn't want to say anything earlier, but I had a job interview this afternoon with the Big Green Earth Store and I got it!

This is a very small business. It's actually a crazy-cute little shop on the hippest strip of South Street. I didn't think that I had any hope of getting a job here because of my crappy resume (which the owner told me he liked a lot)! I'm ridiculously excited and enthusiastic!

They are opening a new shop in the business district of Center City and I'm going to be setting up and working in that shop. I'm also going to be writing for them!!!! It's a small company so the pay isn't great, but I don't honestly care and I doubt that Jay cares either. This isn't our primary income and it looks like a wonderful place to work. I can tell that I'll enjoy going in each day and I'd much rather work for a small business than a large one. The best part is that I will be able to start work after I drop the girls off at school and leave before picking them up each day. I will need to sacrifice some weekends with my family, but themsthebreaks. It will be more time with their dad, which I'm sure they'll all love anyway.


I feel like maybe my luck is turning around!

Cancelled the Party

For obvious reasons we have to cancel Lila's fifth birthday party at our house.

I feel so sorry for her. My poor daughter is robbed of her birthday party for one reason or another each year. This year we celebrated her birthday while in Florida. It's on August 25th. We had a family party with my mom, dad, Lila's Great Grandmother and Great Grandfather. I promised her that after we returned home to Philadelphia and we were settled into our new home that we could have a big, Halloween birthday party that we'd invite all of her new, kindergarten school friends to. As soon as we got home I designed and ordered cute birthday invitations and sent them into her teacher to go in each child's folder on the first week of school.

Then we found out about the bed bugs.

We've held off on canceling the party because a.) Lila talks about it every day. And b.) I'd hate to have cancelled it and then have no bed bugs and no reason not to have it on October 30th.

But, really, we should be bb free for a long time before allowing families into our home. It's not fair to risk passing this to someone else.

This doesn't make my daughters heart any less broken.

So, here's what we're doing. We booked a little Build-A-Bear party at a mall in New Jersey. We invited five of Lila's close friends to the party (I honestly wish that we could invite more friends, but it gets very expensive very quickly). Each child will go to the party and be able to make their own bear, while celebrating Lila as a guest of honor. Then, we'll find a little pizzeria outside of the mall and everyone can get a bite to eat together.

And that's that.

It's not perfect, but it's something.

I was looking at my husband yesterday and saw how beat up and downtrodden he seemed. Life has been very hard for us for quite awhile now. Between Jay's health problem, bed bugs, financial suicide and Bunny's broken arm and general anxiety issues... it has taken a toll on our family. I'm worried about us.

...and the bites go on

Yesterday, both of my girls woke up with bed bug bites. When is this going to get better?

I seriously feel like I could cry (again). I wasn't even able to send Lila to school because the bite on her foot is so terrible that her foot was too swollen to fit in socks and shoes.

The exterminator said to give it until the end of the week and if we're still getting bites at that point he'll come back to spray again. Killing bed bugs isn't instant. They have to crawl around in the poison and then it takes time for them to die.

Also, Bun is struggling in school. I wrote to her teacher a few times yesterday... but she didn't write back. Granted, it's only 6:30 am and my daughter's issues and struggles in school undoubtedly feel much bigger to me than they do to her. That said, the school that kept us in Philadelphia, that seemed like the only great thing about Philadelphia... is disappointing me and failing both of my children this year. GREAT.

More than ever, I just want to run away to the burbs.

I'd better go now so that I can go fetal and cry before my kids need to get dressed and out the door.

And for your viewing pleasure:

Lila's normal ankle.

Lila's bug bitten ankle (one day after the fact).

Monday, October 18, 2010

Oh no!

In our haste to become bed bug free, we accidentally threw out our "important documents" folder that held things like our social security cards and birth certificates. All of this can be replaced, but it will take time.

This morning while filling out online job applications I realized that I can't actually prove who I am. Not even the address on my drivers license is current.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

...and exhale

I took Bunny to church this morning (for the second week in a row) and then we went to Target to buy a few new toys (thanks Victoria)!

As soon as we got home we worked, worked, worked. Finally, we are unpacked. I found many treasures from college that my mom had tucked away for me. This included many pairs of black pants in a size 10, coincidentally. They are a little big, but I can get away with them. Today, this meant that I actually had something to wear to church. Also, I don't remember buying so much at JCrew when I was in college. Likely, this is because I didn't have to pay for anything then. It is also likely that my mom kept these things because she DID have to pay for them. Further, I'd like to thank my 20-something self for dressing like a soccer mom. Who knew that I'd still like strappy, angora sweater sets at 34 years old.

Here are a few new pics of our downstairs! There is so much great kitchen gear that I didn't take pictures of. No doubt that there will be many dinner pictures to come that will showcase my stemware! We're still holding off on our bedrooms. Minimal is better. Less to lose if we have a reinfestation (bite my tongue).

Look, we even have a few books!!!! Too bad that they mainly focus on the GRE and pregnancy.

Toy box that will eventually go in Lila's room.

Bunny, overstuffed chair from my mom that will eventually be put in Bunny's bedroom with a very old tv! lol

TV set up. I love this. We have a little tv stand that we're going to use in Bunny's bedroom. I like this so much more!


This living room set will also be welcoming a new storage ottoman and end table on the 19th!



We are making some progress, but we had an insanely long yesterday.

We were up at 6 to leave Philadelphia at 6:30. Surprisingly, my children were up and excited to leave (even Bunny- who I have totally given up on calling Kaitlyn). We got to New Jersey, picked up our UHall truck, dropped off the girls with an incredibly generous friend who showered them with toys (so appreciated and needed). I met Jay, his friends CK and JP over at the storage unit and we emptied it into the truck. Then, I picked up the girls, dropped the keys to the storage place off and headed back to Philadelphia. This was a LOT of time in the car for the girls (about 5 hours in the car with an hour and a half break). I was incredibly proud of them for being so understanding. When we got home, Jay's friend B was here to help us unload our furniture.

There's a lot left to do. We unwrapped most of the furniture and unpacked many boxes... but, still, there's a lot to do. Also, furniture that will eventually go into a bedroom (like one of the little love seats and a tv and a few of our chairs) are downstairs. We are a little bit scared to move them at the moment. Our problem is likely over (fingers crossed) but we won't know for sure until we've had two weeks without anyone experiencing a bite... which hasn't happened yet.

Of everything, the girls are the happiest to have their own computer! Jay is happiest to have a couch to sit on. I am happiest to have our patio furniture! Oh, and I got pretty excited when I unwrapped about two dozen of my mother's old steak knives!

Here are some pictures. Like I said, we have a long way to go... but this gives you an idea!







Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Garden State

We are heading to NJ to empty our storage unit this morning!

Tonight, WE WILL HAVE FURNITURE!!!! Hooray.

We've been living without furniture for three weeks now.

I feel like crackin' open a box of sangria and gettin' my celebrate on.

On a side note, I seriously wish that everyone I know had a blog. I don't care how well I know someone... if they have a blog I'd read it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Friday I Hit Someone With My Minivan

I picked the girls up from school as I normally would and called Jay to see if he'd like me to swing over to get him from work. He told me that he was walking to our last management company to drop off the keys of infestation and doom. I said that I'd meet him there.

It was nearly 4 on a Friday, which is apparently rush hour in Philly? Who knew? I've lived here for two years and I had no idea.

Also, for unknown reasons, Philly was insanely busy today. There was auto and foot traffic everywhere. My destination was deep in the insanity of center city. The traffic was gridlock. I saw a parking spot ahead, put on my blinker, checked my mirror and slowly began veering to the left to pull into it.

That's when I hit a young hipster on his bike.

Obviously I stopped my car immediately.

I jumped out.

But he was already running away.

So, naturally, I chased him.

I was yelling, "Are you okay?" sort of repetitiously and frantically. Sporadically I'd add "I'm so sorry." And I remember blurting something out about my insurance.

Believe it or not, he never even turned to look at me.

He shouted, "Yeh. I'm great," sarcastically and kept going.

So, here's what I've gathered from the group of spectators that stood with their mouth agape (one even offered to run and get me some water. But that was after I started crying.)

I guess that he was weaving in and out of traffic, as bike riders in Philly are known to do. When I was pulling into my parking spot he was in my blind spot.

My life is so bad that it's becoming comical.

I'm reminded of that Ani Difranco lyric:

"Life just keeps getting harder and it just keeps getting harder to hide. The darker it is around me, the easier it is to see inside."

Good News

I called the Philadelphia Bar Association today.

They have a service where they put you on the telephone with a lawyer who listens to what you have to say and makes a referral if they feel you've got a case.

I told the lawyer everything that's happened to us and she said that she definitely thinks that we have a case. She gave me a referral and said that if she were in private practice she'd love a case like this. I gave the lawyer who she referred me to a call and am waiting to hear back from him.

I have called other advocacy groups and renters rights groups to find out my rights. They must be swamped because mailboxes always seem to be full and I never get calls back. Granted, I'm not leaving detailed messages and maybe I should be. I might be falling through the cracks. I just hate prattling on people's voice mails.

I've decided to hop, skip and jump over to a lawyer.

I'm going to make an inventory of our losses today.

But first, I clean.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


So, the thing about me is that I love food.

I love to eat. I love to grocery shop. I love to cook. I love to bake. I love to prep. I love to feed.

I just love everything about food.

Here's something that you may not know about me, (though it's possible that I may have mentioned it before). I, Anna Holler, might just be the world's most savvy grocery shopper EVER. I mean, I don't want to toot my own horn, but I suspect that I could make a career out of the skill, THE TALENT that I have for buying food. Grocery shopping is the only kind of shopping that I enjoy. I could (and often DO) do it for hours and am sincerely a little bit sad when it's over and that I only get to do this once every two weeks.

Recently, I turned to facebook to ask people how much money they spend on groceries each week. I found that the majority of people came within about $50 of what we spend. I was also pleasantly surprised by how many comments I received. It seems that a lot of people care about this. It's not just me!

We shop at two different places and buy all organic and mostly locally grown/organic food. We buy all of our produce and meat from the Reading Terminal Market and all of our dairy and general aisle foods from Whole Foods Market (which I would marry if it were socially acceptable and legal). I spend between $300 and $350 dollars every two weeks. The number depends on how many high priced extras that I need (things like dish washer detergent, soaps and household cleaners... which reminds me that I really need to begin making these things on my own again to keep my bills down)!

I think that this is a good place to add that I cook a few meals every day. I make decent breakfasts for my daughters each day. Generally I also do one big breakfast on the weekend. I buy at least 4 dozen eggs each time I shop (between breakfast eggs and baking eggs, I go through at least 2 dozen every week!!!! I realize that this seems impossible.) And I make big dinners each night. Lunch involves more assembling than cooking, but I do send Jay to work each day with a sandwich and snack. At times I'll also send the girls with a packed lunch, though they typically prefer to buy it at school.

The break up of my grocery bill looks like this:

$130 meat
$60 produce
$100-150 dairy and aisle foods (cereal, granola bars, pasta, pasta sauce, school snacks, sorta healthy "junk food," frozen foods).

I realize that I could spend a lot less money at the grocery store and still feed my family. I see articles like this one and know that I could technically spend $100 every two weeks and we could all eat. That said, I could also spend $800 every two weeks if we bought ALL of our groceries at Trader Joes or Whole Foods. I care a lot about things like avoiding HFCS and nitrates. I don't want to eat animals that were grown on shelves or lived their lives in misery under disgusting conditions. More importantly, I don't want to feed these things to my children. As it is, I have an organic, healthy diet on a grocery-chain budget.

I realize that not everyone has an organic farmers market or organic butcher at their finger tips, but I wonder what kind of other options there are. Also, outside of meat and dairy, I don't think that everything needs to be organic all the time. I feel more comfortable with organic food and I prefer it, but I will eat out from time to time and have something that isn't organic or healthy. All within moderation, I suppose!

Where do you shop? What do you buy? What do you spend?

Here's a little article that I found about ways to save money on groceries! Enjoy!!!!

Thursday- Day One Post Bed Bug Crisis

I finally feel as though we have annihilated all living creatures under 5 lbs who dare to set up camp within our walls, floorboards and roof.

It's cold here today. I really wish that I'd sent the girls to school in warmer coats. Instead I just sent them in their puffy vests.

I'm stuck at home, waiting for UPS to deliver new clothes and school uniforms for the girls. They've attempted to make the delivery two times already and if I miss it today they'll return the boxes to the manufacturer. I'm not even showering until they get here.

I've decided to spend my day cooking (and eating)!

I've been making a super hardy, thick, chunky beef stew and little homemade bread bowls to serve it in. YUM. I'll skip the bread bowl, but the stew smells delicious.

That said, I have missed two things in my kitchen more than anything else that we left behind:
1.) My kitchen Aide Mixer (the pastry hook imparticular)
2.) My crock Pot

I mean, I can do anything by hand that I was previously using these tools for. But, they make everything so much easier!!!!

The peace and quiet feels nice today.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

2d Extermination

Today is the BIG EVENT! We've been counting down the days and it's finally here! I feel like it's a prom or a party or a birthday or a holiday. But no... it's an extermination. Who ever thought that an extermination could be such a joyous occasion?

Here are my plans:

In a few minutes I need to strip the girls beds and get everything in the wash (***which may not be easy considering that Bunny is still laying in her bed begrudgingly, refusing to get out of it).

Then I need to get the girls ready and off to school. Come home, flip the laundry, do a bit of tidying, get dressed (and if I'm lucky I'll be able to shower as well), put my cats in their carriers (something that I've been dreading because they FIGHT) and take them to the vet.

Then, I need to get back to my house to meet the exterminator.

I forgot that tomorrow was picture day. My poor children have nothing to wear. Usually we do dresses and get up early to curl their hair. Instead, due to the constraints of my budget and the fact that I don't have ANYTHING for them to wear or ANY way to curl their hair, I'm going to go out to the Old Navy and buy them each a new dress (hopefully I can find one that is on sale). Though I can imagine some people not feeling that this is sacrificial, it actually is. I generally do fancy outfits and lots of accessories. But anyway, then I'm going to a drug store and picking up two packs of curlers and a few bobby pins.

Unfortunately I'll have Sidney with me for this trip. I'm petrified of leaving her in a car alone. My friend J says that I can pick her up and she'll go along for the ride. She'll just Sidneysit while I do my errands. Phew!!!!!

After I pick the girls up from school we have to get frozen yogurt. We do this every Wednesday. I've noticed that Bunny is especially interested in new traditions lately. She's been asking for all sorts of things to "happen on such and such day." Last night I made a whole, stuffed, citrus, honey chicken and she asked that I do this every Tuesday. I think that they miss pie night a lot... which is the one tradition that we've had and kept. I think that I'll start pie nights again next Thursday!

By the way, it's a little bit early in the day to know for sure (because bites usually don't appear on me until after lunch) but I am 99% sure that it's been over 5 days since I've been bitten by a bed bug. I say this because yesterday I had my first itch free day and I noticed that my bites seem to itch for around five days. I've also noticed that my dog doesn't appear to have been bitten recently either. Bunny hasn't been bitten since she was attacked that night in our old apartment. And Lila hasn't been bitten since the night preceding the morning when I found the poisoned bed bug in her bed (almost two weeks ago). Who knows about Jay. It's tough to say because he doesn't have a reaction to them. He may have been bitten over the weekend... but I suspect it was a mosquito bite. After all, there's no way that they could have eaten him up all summer and he didn't feel anything... and now suddenly he's allergic to them.

I have never hated anything the way I hate a bed bug

***I just noticed that my time stamp is off and this post shows as being published at 3:58 am. Don't worry. It was actually 6:58 when I published this. I wasn't forcing my 6 year old out of bed in the middle of the night.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hitting the Pavement

I hit the Philly pavement today to find a job! I don't need much or many hours. I just need SOMETHING. From now until December I'll put everything away so that I am able to ensure that my girls have a great Christmas. After Christmas I'll work to help chip away at the damage created by our recent crisis.

I targeted bakeries because... well, I love baking. My ability to bake is one of the things in life that I'm particularly confident in. That said, I didn't find much. Most bakeries are only hiring for cake decorators. This is something that I'd love to do but am not experienced in. I've worked as a cookie designer, but never a cake decorator.

I went into the Big Green Earth Store and really liked the manager there. He told me to send my resume in tonight. I told him that my resume is superiorly unimpressive because I've been a stay at home mom for the past seven years. He responded really well to this and made me feel incredibly comfortable. Given my love for green, low-impact living, this seems like the kind of place where I could thrive.

Cross your fingers for me!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Unbelievable kindness

Sometimes, when you feel alone, someone will do something extraordinary that makes you feel loved and supported. Some days this happens on a small scale. A stranger smiles at you or opens a door. A neighbor helps you inside with your grocery bags. A bakery worker gives your child a free cookie while you shop. A lady on the street engages you in conversation about how much she likes your shoes/hair/earrings. Just something that makes you feel good.

Tonight it happened for me by way of a gift from an unexpected place.

A friend of mine, Ginger, who 17 years ago was one of my very best friends sent us a care package. What amazes me is that I haven't seen in her nearly 15 years... and yet she managed to send us the most considerate, heartfelt package. She printed photographs of my family from my facebook page and framed them. She baked us a loaf of pumpkin bread and jarred smoked peach and habenaro salsa, sugar free peach preserves, canvases, paints and paintbrushes so that we can create artwork for our new home and a whole craft kit for my girls.

I would never expect this from ANYONE. I have been blinded by the pure love in the generous offering of people... this just totally shocked me.

I can't tell you how much I appreciate such a kind act.

I feel so loved.

Here are some pictures that I took just after opening the package. My girls were so incredibly thrilled! The photos are a little dark because I took them with my phone and it's the evening... but you'll get the gist.





Starting over- Tales of a Bed Bug Warrior

Jay and I have had such a mountain of crap to deal with that we didn't quite know where to start.

For the most part (and take this for what it is because the emotion might be different in 30 seconds) I think that we are both done being traumatized by the idea of bedbugs. This is, in part, because we have our second extermination on Wed. morning. Everyone needs more than one chemical extermination. About 20% of people need more than 2 chemical exterminations. So, we're hoping for the best on Wed.

Before we can sue the panties off of our management group (who are bloodsuckers themselves), we really need to get our here and now in order. We need to know that our present life isn't compromised. This means, we need to know that we can pay our bills and feed our children. Really, not having furniture and rewashing all of your bedding and clothing every day isn't the end of the world, stressful as it may be, if all your other bases are covered. For us, the financial burden of this situation has stung and this has exasperated our already stressed out state of mind.

Step one to recovery: Jay called the credit card companies who were pretty reasonable. The second company suggested we call a number for a credit council. We did a conference and the lady was really helpful. We can use the service and cut our interest rates drastically. It will take us four years to pay off our credit cards (we obviously had some debt before. It was more manageable though. This huge bed bug problem pushed our manageable debt over the edge and made it unmanageable).

Step 2: Have our second extermination. The exterminator is coming at 11 on Wednesday morning. To avoid one of our pets dying, I called the vet who has agreed to pet sit for Sherbert and Pandora from 10-6 on Wed. This should give our house plenty of time to dry and we don't have to worry about our cats being trapped in little pet carriers in our car, totally stressed out with no food water or way to go to the bathroom. It's $30 bucks per pet, but I think that's money well spent. After all... what did our "Sherbert Almost Died" vet visit cost? A whole helluva lot more than $30 bucks. Thatsfersure.

Step 3: I need a job. I applied at Whole Foods, my favorite place on earth. I'm going to go in tomorrow and talk to someone. I'm going to go around from place to place on South street and see if I can find something. Anything will do I will totally work for minimum wage. Honestly, the whole reason that I need a job (outside of digging myself out of this financial hole) is because I'm scared that I won't be able to afford Christmas this year. That's just unacceptable to me. I will NEVER let fucking bedbugs strip the magic of Christmas out of my children's lives. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER.

Step 4: Get furniture. No explanation needed.

Step 5: Organize everything that we need to present to a lawyer to make a case against Philadelphia Management.

Step 6: Sue the MoFo's.

Okay, so this is where we stand. I feel like I'm in a slightly better mental place (for the most part) right this second than I have been since the whole bed bug thing began.

Hopefully I can survive this without running away. Hopefully the worst is over. Hopefully things will just get better from here.


I just called this place and the mailbox was full so I was unable to leave a message. Why does that strike me as bad?

Fair Housing Commission 34 S Eleventh Street, 6th Floor Philadelphia PA 19107 215.686.3237

Fair Housing addresses housing code violations and unfair rental practices

Oobleck on Columbus Day

One of the great things about The Please Touch Museum is that they have this giant craft room with all kinds of cool, experiments and mushy, gushy, sticky stuff that you can make at home.

Last weekend when we were there they had Oobleck. It's a strange liquid that you scoop up with your hand, run through your fingers and and drop on the table. As soon as it hits the table it solidifies and you can peel it up and mold it. Also, it's liquid on your hands... but it can be peeled off as a solid. The moment that you put it back it's a big batch of liquid again. It keeps moving between a liquid and a solid- ENDLESSLY. The museum had the recipe posted and we made a batch of it yesterday. After the girls played with it we put it away and they got it out again this morning. It kept surprisingly well and I'm going to guess that it's the kind of stuff that lasts FOREVER. The best part ever, IT WAS SO EASY TO MAKE.


Here's the recipe, plus a few more. They are easy, snappy, craft experiments that your kids will love and are fun for a rainy day!


1 part water
2 parts corn starch.
Mix it with your hands and have fun playing.

Finger Paint

1/4 cup corn starch
2 cups water
food coloring
mix corn starch and water in a saucepan and boil until it thickens. Let it cool and distribute into jars. Add desired colors to the jars. Viola!


1 Cup plaster of paris
1/2 cup water
Popsicle, ice cube tray or other mold (5 oz paper cups will also work)
Powdered tempera paint or liquid craft paint
Mix plaster of paris and paint
Add water in mix
pour into the molds and allow to dry


1 part water
1 part flour
food coloring (optional)
Mix water and flour in bowl
add food coloring to your glue

Silly Goop

1 cup liquid starch
2 cups glue
food coloring (optional)
Start with liquid starch in a bowl. Add glue. Mix with hands. Add food coloring and mix well.