December 14, 2012

December 13, 2012

12 Days of Cookies: Day the Eleventh
( Ginger Spice Cookies)

I grew up calling these gingersnaps.  Apparently this was wrong.  Apparently gingersnaps should snap.  Apparently anything too soft to snap is merely a ginger cookie.  Apparently some people are too damn literal.

December 12, 2012

12 Days of Cookies: Day the Tenth
(Espresso Tarts)

Sometimes, in the wake of the holidays, with a mountain of dishes in the sink and wrapping-paper tumbleweed rolling through the living room, it can be hard to muster up much enthusiasm about starting the day.

December 11, 2012

12 Days of Cookies: Day the Ninth
(Almond Sugar Cookies)

Sugar cookies are important to the fragile ecosystem of the cookie box.  They break up the miles and miles of brown baked goods: ginger, molasses, chocolate, mocha....all delicious, but not particularly colorful.

December 10, 2012

12 Days of Cookies: Day the Eighth
(Chocolate Cherry Coconut Macaroons)

There's nothing better than a macaroon. 

Obviously, that statement is a date-based opinion.  Tomorrow I might be telling you that there's nothing better than pulled pork.  Or a cruller.  Or banana quesadillas [trust me: it's a thing].

December 7, 2012

12 Days of Cookies: Day the Seventh
( Ginger-Kissed Fudge Brownies)

Let us be clear: the name "Ginger-Kissed" was not my idea.  That's a little too precious for me.  It's the original author's title.  And since this recipe comes from a mangled single magazine page that I found stuffed in a binder in the back of my closet, I felt like it was important to offer up the original title.  In case it would help someone identify the author.  I feel pretty bad about failing to give credit where credit's deserved.    [ Update: author found!  All hail the internet community! ]

December 6, 2012

12 Days of Cookies: Day the Sixth
( Almond Chocolate Thumbprints)

In the hallowed tradition of the cookie box, there are a few elder statesmen.  The Buckeye.  The Peanut Butter Blossom.  The Decorated Sugar Cookie.  And, of course, The Thumbprint.

December 5, 2012

12 Days of Cookies: Day the Fifth
( Oatmeal Cream Pies)

I wanted to spell the name of this recipe "Creme."  With that accent like the French use.  You know.  The backwards one.  Grave?  Aigu?  I don't know.  It's been almost two years since I took French.  It was only my minor, after all.  Who can remember that far?

December 4, 2012

December 3, 2012

12 Days of Cookies: Day the Third
( Bourbon-Raisin Bars with Cinnamon Glaze)

Do you have enough to do this holiday season?  Present wrapping?  Pastry baking?  Tree-trimming?  Here's one more item for the list:   Appreciate Raisins More.

November 30, 2012

12 Days of Cookies: Day the Second
( Orange Cranberry Slices)

When it comes to cookies, I've never really been for what the amateurs call "subtlety."  I like 'em gooey.  And overloaded.  I want 'em hefty.  And chewy.  With at least one layer of ganache and two of caramel.  And if you can squeeze some frosting in on top, well, I'm not going to complain.

November 29, 2012

12 Days of Cookies: Day the First
( Macadamia Double-Decker Brownie Bars)

The holiday season is here for reals, guys.  Snow flurries are falling, cheeks are rosy, and children are penning letters to Santa.  

Which is why I've barricaded myself in the kitchen, brought eight pounds of butter excruciatingly slowly to room temperature, and covered every person, animal and thing in the house in a fine layer of flour dust.

That's right.  It's cookie time.

November 26, 2012

Dear Greek Yogurt:
(+ Figs & Dried Cherries in Vanilla-Honey Syrup over Yogurt)

Dear Greek Yogurt: I don't know what kind of game you're playing, but you're not fooling anyone.  Well, actually, you appear to be fooling everyone.  But not me.  Do you know how many years it took me to get to the point where I could choke down regular yogurt?  Like, twelve.  Other members of the white-and-creamy family?  Not so lucky.  Cottage cheese will never grace this table.  And Fred?  We do not even speak its name.  But here you come, sashaying in, glooping it up like the King of Creamytown.  Ick.

November 13, 2012

Spiders are the 47%
( + Bratwurst with Creamy Apple Compote)

There's a spider on my laptop.  Like, right now.  As I'm typing.

I have protocols in place for dealing with this sort of thing.  Well...I have wadded-up Kleenex.  Same diff.  But this guy isn't skittering around.  He's just sitting there being leggy.  And violence in the face of such passivity seems sort of rude.  

But that doesn't mean I'm not concerned about his agenda.  In fact, given his behavior over the last couple of weeks, I think this might be the spider version of being on strike.  So far he hasn't made any demands, but I feel like this prolonged lurking must be a prelude to some kind of extortion.  If I start offering up recipes for cardamom-fly smoothies, please come save me.

October 30, 2012

Fact: Zombies Love Applesauce
(+ Roasted Applesauce)

Sometimes it's nice to sit back and let someone else be the crazy one in the relationship.  It's not that I don't take my responsibilities seriously, but all this neuroticism doesn't just happen; it's hard work.  And I've been a little tired lately.  So you can imagine how pleased I was when I made some applesauce last weekend and Mr. Bear's response was to worry that I was going to eat his brains.  You know.  Because, Obviously.

It started out with my Fall cravings for apples, nutmeg and cinnamon reaching epic proportions.  So I pulled out my favorite applesauce recipe, which roasts the fruit whole, which made the whole house smell like a Dickens novel (Obviously, not the the one with orphans and poorhouses.  No, not the one with child endangerment and recluses.  The nice one.  The one with a mahogany-roasted goose the size of a cripped child.  Geez, Dickens.  Even your pleasant similes are spiked with pneumonia and grime.  What a downer.).

October 11, 2012

Taking Candy from Babies, Part II:
An October Public Service Announcement

( + Fresh Mozzarella, Prosciutto, and Fig Jam Panini )

Earlier this week, I announced the Bearfrau's foolproof plan for reclaiming your lost youth.  I don't want to bore you with the high-tech details, but mostly it involves eating the Halloween candy you bought for the neighborhood kids.  Of course I'm not actually advocating taking candy from babies.  What am I, a monster?  I'm advocating taking it from grown children.  And not even really taking it - just creating a series of obstacles to it.  If the child decides the challenge isn't worth the reward, well, that's just a commentary on the decline of tenacity and drive in the youth of America today.  It's no fault of yours.

October 9, 2012

Taking Candy from Babies, Part I:
An October Public Service Announcement

( + Tuna Panini )

Imagine it's 1987.  An elementary-school cafeteria, the day after Halloween.  A swarming madhouse of glucose-addled children, gearing up for recess after a healthy meal of half a bologna sandwich and as many fun-sized Butterfingers as it takes to fill a Thundercats lunch box.  Gods and heroes are being made today.  Ryan Finnegan is telling the Homeric epic of how he grabbed an entire bowl of Sweet-Tarts off an unattended porch and ran.  Vanessa Simmons brought so many Chuckles that she can't finish them all - the entire 3rd-grade class is singing Tiffany's "I Think We're Alone Now" to compete for her leftovers.  Are you enjoying the nostalgia?  Good.  One of us should.

I myself have trouble enjoying Halloween because it always reminds me of the bleak hellscape of misery and despair that was my low-sugar childhood.  No Pop Rocks.  No Pop-Tarts.  No Ring Pops.  And definitely no pop.  It was a dark time, filled with lies and misdirection.  For years, my brother and I labored under the false impression that sliced dried pineapple was a "treat."  I didn't have my first Dorito until the age of 16.  And I still wake up sweating in the night with the taste of carob in my mouth.

September 27, 2012

Nothing Says Romance Like a Pterodactyl
(+ Key Lime Cupcakes)

I suspected my wedding was doomed long before the pterodactyls showed up.

When Mr. Bear and I pulled up at the venue (read: Local Park) that morning in a U-Haul, I had been awake for 27 hours.  I would not sleep for another 14.  In the time since I had last felt the soothing coolness of a pillow, I had frosted three types of cupcakes and a host of initialed sugar cookies; violated countless unsuspecting dates with wedges of good Parmesan; topped mini cheesecakes; suspended blueberries in delicate single cups of matching gelatin; Cajunized a mountain of popcorn; and made gougeres, two batches of caramel corn, a vat of tabbouleh, a swimming pool's worth of chilled cucumber-mango soup, and a batch of whimsically heart-shaped soft pretzels.  In retrospect, this sounds suspiciously like madness.

September 20, 2012

Dispatches from the Bathroom Floor
(+ Chicken Milanese with Sage-and-Lemon-Butter Sauce)


Editor's Note:  A little something I wrote for you on Monday, my post-writing day, while lying on the bathroom floor - because I suspect that this, written in the midst of delirium, has just as much chance of being understandable as anything I would have written later in the week:

Okay, here’s the deal.  Today we’re all going to concentrate on how we’re lucky, because otherwise I’m not sure how I’m going to make it through the day.   I’ll go first.  I’m lucky because even though it's my first wedding anniversary and I’ve decided to spend it on the floor of what surely must be the first bathroom ever constructed with moving walls (because how else could they be spinning in such an unattractive fashion), thinking thoughts I’ve never thought before (mostly about how glad I am we never decided to wallpaper this room in stripes), I nonetheless have a husband, a wonderful husband, who is  not only keeping me supplied with both orange Gatorade AND mint tea, but is willing to make the countless trips to the microwave that are necessary to keep the tea exactly at body temperature, the better to sneak it past my esophagus, who has decided that this is the optimal time to play East German Border Patrol.

September 13, 2012

Fun with Torture
(+ Coconut Lime Squares)

Actual Conversation with my Husband Last Night

Me:      I can't believe you just sat there and let me put my finger up your nose.  Who does 
          [A lot of our conversations start this way.  Try not to let it derail you.] 

Him:    [Shrugging]  It seemed like you really wanted to.

Me:     I was bluffing!  Nobody wants to put their finger up someone else's nose.  It was a 
            ploy.  You were supposed to beg for mercy and offer me a cookie if I'd leave you 
            alone.  [Brandishing finger accusingly]  Now it's all gooey!

Him:    I would've gotten you a cookie if you'd asked.

Me:     But then I wouldn't be asserting my dominance.  You'd just be being nice.  It's not as 
            good.  [If I wasn't so dominant, this tone might be described as petulant.]

Him:    Ohhh.  I didn't know begging was an option.  I thought it was like a mandatory 

Me:     A payment?

Him:    Since you're letting me touch your butt.

          [Yes, we're going to talk about my butt in this post.  No, it's not going to get marital.]

September 6, 2012

I Am the Destroyer
(+ Rosemary Apricot Squares)

So look what I made:

I’m guessing some of you might be having identification problems at this point.  I’ll give you a hint.  You’ve probably used it.  It makes a gorgeous roast chicken.   It’s equally lovely with roasted potatoes.  And it's usually substantially greener than this.


Okay.   It’s kind of like one of those Magic Eye puzzles.  You have to sort of squint, and take two steps back, and relax your eyes until it’s juuuuust out of focus, and –

Yes!  That’s right!  It’s thyme!

And I killed it.

August 30, 2012

Mozzarella Done Killt My Pa
(+ Raspberry-Chipotle BBQ Chicken Pizza)

Mozzarella Cheese and I are just starting to come to terms with one another again.  This is one of those epic feuds, like the Hatfields and the McCoys.  But with cheese.

Mozzarella cost me a tooth.  An important one, not one of those wisdom teeth they’ll yank anyway.  Side note:  has it ever occurred to you how messed up it is that we call the teeth we’re going to toss “Wisdom” while keeping the ones called “Canines?”  Seems like human nature writ small, methinks.  Anyway, Mozzarella cost me a tooth – and, more importantly, taught me that things fall apart – and that sometimes, those things are you.   And no one should have to live with that kind of knowledge.

Once upon a time, I managed a movie theater: a job which offered no mobility, pay or dignity, but did offer all the free popcorn and fountain beverages you could carry.  At the time it seemed like a good idea.  Which is how I came to spend a full year with a Dixie cup of Cherry Coke in my hand.  Because if you can turn down a free Cherry Coke, you’re a better human than I.  Well, let’s face it, you’re probably already a better human than I.  But now you can point to a specific reason.

Up until that point, I’d been awesome in the tooth department.  Only one small cavity ever.  Dentist?  Drill away, my good man.  Doesn’t bother me at all.  That is, until a year after I started at the theater, when an ongoing toothache drove me to the dentist.  There I was informed that I needed two root canals and twelve smaller cavities filled.  Seriously.  Twelve.

August 23, 2012

The Best Apologies Come with Bacon
(+ Quiche Lorraine)

Mr. Bear is basically a saint.  Especially in bed.

Wait, wait.  Don’t go.  This isn’t about to get inappropriate or weird.  Well, inappropriate anyway.  It’s pretty weird.  But just quirky-weird.  Not “I want to curl up like an armadillo and un-know all that stuff about your toe fetish” weird.  This isn’t about our attempt to act out 50 Shades of Grey with lunchmeat hand puppets, or anything.*  It’s about how I’m wired wrong.  I panic at bedtime.

The night always starts off perfectly normally: some halfhearted debate over what time to go to bed, then teethbrushing.  Jammers.  Pills taken.  Face washed - because, let’s face it, the days when I could expect to sleep in my makeup without waking up looking more or less like a moray eel are over.  Thermostat adjusted.  Doors and windows checked.  Decorative bed pillows banished.  I swear there was a time when I just went to bed when I was tired.  Now it seems like preparation for some Olympic sport.  Which is probably an apt comparison, because what's about to happen is like a triathlon of crazy.

*If someone were to do this and put it up on YouTube, I’m pretty sure we’d all become famous.  Just something to think about.

August 16, 2012

I Apologize for Your Lack of Ice Cream
(+ Cherry Stracciatella Ice Cream)

They say that animals can tell when a really hard winter is coming.  Squirrels hoard acorns.  Chipmunks gather seeds.  Beavers store away…you know, whatever it is that beavers eat. 

We must have one doozy of a winter coming, because I’ve been stockpiling ice cream.

This week, while searching for a particularly elusive package of bacon, I discovered that my two freezers, combined, contain 6 pints of superpremium ice cream, four half-gallons of mediumpremium ice cream, about a quart’s worth of various homemade ice cream concoctions, and one sad quart of rainbow sherbet, about which Mr. Bear has been heard to say “All the flavors are good, but I like green the best.”  The fact that my husband thinks “green” is a flavor is so upsetting that we’re just going to move on until I can figure out how to discuss it calmly.

For those of you who are mathematically challenged (and don’t think that I didn’t have to resort to Google Measurements for this myself), that’s 26 pints of ice cream.

That’s approximately 26 POUNDS of ice cream.

That’s three babies worth of ice cream.

In the time it took you to read this, I probably ate your baby and those of both your neighbors.  Assuming they’re roughly newborn and made of ice cream, of course.  Don’t take it personally.  You just happen to make delicious offspring.  Really, you should be proud of yourself.  You could go into business.

August 13, 2012

How My Husband Definitely Did Not Get Carjacked
(+ Sausage, Cheese and Basil Lasagna)

Mr. Bear totally got carjacked, guys.

Well, except he didn’t.  But you can see how I could get those things confused.

It starts with the neighbors.  In the grand scheme of things, they’re not particularly awful.  I don’t think they’re cooking meth, and I’ve never had to ask them to turn down their stereo.  But they do have a dog.  And I like dogs, so put down your torches and pitchforks and hear me out.  The problem is not that this is a dog.  The problem is that this is a “When the family leaves me alone in the house, I bark without pause for three hours” dog. 

Because our apartment complex has a 20-pound pet weight limit, we’re used to barking.  The kind of dogs that meet that requirement are 60% hair and 40% yap.  But Downstairs Dog has clearly been bred for the purpose of destroying other dogs on the field of battle.  He’s easily three times the weight limit, and his barks have a resonance unlike anything I’ve ever heard.  When Downstairs Dog barks, birds fall out of the sky and plants wither.

August 9, 2012

Three Things We’re Going to Fix Today
[Participation Mandatory]

(+ Pickled Ninja Cherries)

It’s been a rough couple of weeks at Chez Bear, with a pile of disappointments of the “As it turns out, that dream of yours will definitely not be coming true” variety.  There was some numb household puttering, then some mopey under-covers hibernation, and finally some dull-eyed marathon TV-staring.  Now we’re regrouping.

The hardest bit was dealing with the fact that some of these disasters were entirely our fault.  We made mistakes, and they cost us dearly.  And for a perfectionist like myself, the idea that some mistakes can never be remedied, that sometimes doors are closed forever and no amount of determination and hard work can open them again, is just shy of maddening.

So I’m dealing with my frustration in what I hope is a positive way, by fixing the things that can be fixed.  Squeaky hinges have been oiled.  Lost buttons have been replaced.  And now I’m moving on to bigger challenges.  That’s where you come in.  I’ve found, to my great astonishment, that there are people who read this blog.  People who aren’t related to me.  People from all around the world.  Setting aside my shock for a moment, imagine what we could accomplish with our combined resources.   Well, you don’t technically have to imagine.  If you’ll look at the title again, you’ll see that it’s mandatory. Congratulations.  You’re my minion now.  But don’t worry.  I’ve only chosen three targets, and I took care of the third already.  The other two should be a snap.

July 26, 2012

Mr. Bear Wants to Move to Australia
(+ Peach-Bourbon BBQ Shrimp)

I’m a curious gal.  I love to travel.  And under the right conditions, it might even be possible to persuade me to move overseas.  Imagine the adventures.  Imagine the food.  But in my imagination, there’s always air conditioning.  In Mr. Bear’s imagination, on the other hand, there’s usually a rainforest, a horde of vampire bats, a stolen idol and an appalling lack of turn-down service.

He’s never been able to give a satisfactory explanation of this phenomenon, but I’m willing to bet that if we could plumb the depths of his brain, the phrase “real men” might be floating around there somewhere.  As in “Real men can protect their families from man-eating lions” and “Real Men punch sharks.”  Not a lot of opportunities for that kind of thing at Colonial Williamsburg.  Given the choice, I’d rather go with fewer real men and fewer wild animals trying to eat me on my vacation, but that’s where we agree to disagree.

Now, some of the places that Mr. Bear habitually suggests for vacations are probably very nice places.  But since the only information he’s ever given me about them are phrases like “Did you know that there are over 40 kinds of scorpions there that can kill a man?” I tend to reject them outright whenever the subject comes up.  But I can compromise.  Here, for example, are a number of foreign countries in which I’d be very content to live, and some compelling reasons why:

  Italy.  Mmmm risotto.  
France.  Mmmm crepes.
Germany.  Mmmm wurst. 

Are you seeing what these places have in common?  That’s right.  None of them are Australia.

July 19, 2012

Dammit, I'm a Ma'am
(+ Chocolate Dulce de Leche Bars)

I phased into old age this week while shopping for dinnerware.

 I had driven to Home Goods because my photography could use some improvement.  Since shopping is more fun than practice and learning, I had decided to attack the problem by acquiring a collection of photogenically mismatched saucers and bowls.   This is called logic.  Or laziness.  Sometimes I confuse my “L”s.  As I was packing the newly-purchased props into the car, my brain spoke to me out of the clear blue sky, sighing:

“Dammit, you’re a Ma’am.”

I won’t say this wasn’t disconcerting.  I’m not sure if other people’s brains do this.  I mean, you never really know what’s going on in other people’s minds.  Maybe when Joe looks at grass and Granny Smith apples, he sees the color I call “red.”  How would we ever know?  Brains are weird.  So I don’t know if other people’s brains chat sociably with them.  In books and movies, people always think in “I.”   “I’d like to see the new Batman movie.  I wonder if nacho cheese counts as a fruit.”  But my brain always speaks in “you.”  “I cannot believe you just said that.  If you don’t get in the shower soon, squirrels are going to start falling out of trees as you walk past.”  The voice in my head isn’t really me, per se.  It’s more like one version of me: snarky and hyper-observant and completely without mercy.

This is starting to sound a lot like Son of Sam.  Don’t worry.  The worst thing brain-me has asked me to do is to slap on some lip gloss before going to the store so the stockboys don’t mistake me for a shambling zombie.  The minute it starts asking for ritual sacrifice or reality TV, I’ll be on the psychiatrist’s couch.  The Bachelor is nothing to mess around with.

July 12, 2012

Demon Soup
(+ Cucumber, Avocado and Lime Soup)

I might not have been willing to try this recipe if my internal organs hadn’t been melting.  It’s so hot here, guys.  And it has been for weeks.  My herbs are crispy in their little terracotta pots.  The central air is doing everything it can, and we’re still taking cold showers twice a day to keep our core temps down.  I think I saw a demon the other day.

A not-so-unimportant aspect of having a food blog is making food.  And then writing about it.  This is becoming a problem, since I haven’t wanted to eat in three weeks.  That tends to happen when it’s hot.  So, flailing in desperation, I relented and made this soup.  You should understand that I’ve got nothing against soup itself.  The amount of my freezer space taken up by perfect ranks of sandwich bags filled with it can attest to that.  It’s produce that I have issues with.  It’s such a tease.

Walking through the produce section is like being drawn onto the rocks by the Sirens.   Aisle after aisle, gleaming piles of perfection in every color, brimming with such potential.  Fresh, crisp, and somehow seductive.  And it’s all the better because of the time of day.  I have zero patience for the shopping cart mambo, so I tend to do the groceries at about eight o’clock Saturday morning.  That means it’s me, the senior citizens, and mountains of pristine produce: beautiful and absolutely untouched.  Papery onions, plums with their frosted sheen.  All things green.  They haven’t been pawed or dropped, and their pyramidal piles are so enticingly...precise.  

It’s at this point that I usually decide to bring them home with me.  All of them.  To hell with fridge limitations.  And to hell with precedent, which states that I will collect a cartload of vegetables, bring them home with the most noble of intentions, then discover a pint of Cherry Garcia in the back of the freezer and leave the green stuff to get shriveled and sad in the crisper.  This time will be different.  I’m positively euphoric at the thought of pestos and slaws.

July 5, 2012

Three Helpful Tips for Newlywed Life
(+ Doughnuts with Grapefruit Curd)

It’s July now, which means that we are mired in the blackest depths of wedding season.  (That’s my take, anyway; if you like doing the YMCA in uncomfortable shoes and running interference between your second cousin and “handsy Uncle Leon,” more power to you.)  Since it’s recently been brought to my attention that I’m coming up on my first wedding anniversary, this seems a perfect time to give you soon-to-be brides a few bits of hard-earned wisdom.  There are plenty of books on marriage out there, and plenty of relatives who’d like to give you advice.  The following three matters, however, were never mentioned in any of my sources, and took me completely by surprise.  Lest you be similarly gobsmacked, consider this list my wedding gift to you. 

1.   Nobody Cares About Your Charming Personality 
                (Except Your Husband, and Even His Motives are Suspect)

From the very first second that you are legally married, everyone around you is going to take a sudden and disconcerting interest in your uterus.  If they are especially polite, elderly relatives greeting you at the reception will wait until after they tell you how lovely you look before launching into questions about your sperm-related plans.  But most won’t.

In the weeks and months following the wedding, the behavior of previously rational human beings will become increasingly worrisome.  Potential grandparents with degrees in the field of medicine will try to convince you that pregnancy will help your cramps, your skin, and possibly that ingrown toenail.  Every adult you have ever met, and some whom you have only heard of in passing, will be rooting for you to become impregnated.  This will be mildly confusing, since up to this point your entire life will have consisted of various people warning you not to become impregnated, lest your life be ruined.  Etiquette dictates that you ignore this glaring inconsistency.

The glazed and slightly manic looks on the faces around you and the constant mantra “Baaaaaby.  Baaaaaby.” are going to be unnerving.  You will grow concerned that this is the start of the zombie apocalypse, or possibly some sort of alien virus.  Your first instinct will be to discuss this with your husband, as he is, after all, your partner and helpmeet for all eternity.  Fight this impulse - not because you’re wrong, but because your new spouse probably isn’t going to take kindly to you referring to your in-laws as “the spore people.” 

Unless you actually want to become impregnated, I would suggest bribing an as-yet unattached sibling to become engaged in order to take the attention off of you.  As a long-term measure, you might want to consider adopting a wolverine or some other mostly-feral animal.  One of you may lose a limb or two, but you will develop a reputation for eccentricity that others will feel is incompatible with parenthood; with luck, they may even stop suggesting it altogether.

June 28, 2012

I Blame the Ghosts
(+ Tuscaloosa Tollhouse Pie)

Today I’m having chocolate-chip pie for lunch.  I’d like to act like this is some kind of aberration – that usually I eat leafy greens and quinoa and lean grilled chicken breasts, but we all know that’s not true.  Pie for lunch is not that unusual around here, but today’s example is even more grievous than usual – it’s not even a fruit pie, for god’s sake.  AND there’s an ice cream chaser.  Oh, and it’s Haagen-Dazs.  None of that “country churned, half the fat” nonsense here.

For this reason, I’m feeling a little guilty.  So if my ninth-grade nutrition teacher happens to come a-callin’, here’s what we’re going to tell her:

It’s the ghosts’ fault.

You see, I find myself in need of some comfort lately: I haven’t been sleeping at all well.  Finally released from the stress of classes and the sleep-destroying properties of a thesis, I immediately picked up Chris Bojahlian’s recent novel  The Night Strangers and found a whole new reason to up my morning caffeine dosage.  The book is about an airline pilot who survived a crash that killed most of his passengers and crew.  Suffering from PTSD and struggling with crippling guilt, he moves his family to a Victorian fixer-upper in rural New Hampshire for a fresh start – only to have his psychological haunting become very literal.   I bought the book because I admire the author, because I finally have time to read again, and because we’re thinking about moving to New Hampshire.  But mostly, I bought it because I’m a sucker for a ghost story.

If you pressed me, I couldn’t even tell you what I think about ghosts.  On an average day, my belief sits at about a 50 on a 100-point scale.  And yet I’m completely fascinated.  I devour novels about hauntings.  And as long as that book is sitting open in front of me, my belief rests firmly at 157.  Every page is punctuated with a glance over my shoulder.  Every strange household noise is immediately cataloged and evaluated.  And then I find myself lying awake at 3:00 AM, wondering if there’s always been a shadow in the northwest corner of the bedroom. 

Some people live for this kind of manufactured terror; I hate it.  I get no enjoyment from fear.  Yet none of my reactions to these books stop me from seeking them out.  Why?  Who knows.  I assume it’s probably some sort of complex that science hasn’t discovered yet.  Maybe they’ll name it after me.

June 21, 2012

Mr. Bear is Not a Foodie
(+ Sourwood Honey Salted Caramels)

Mr. Bear is frowning at the grocery list.  He’s trying to understand why “caramels” is on there.  You know the ones.  Square, pale, wrapped in cellophane, and about as much bother to unwrap a bag as if you’d made the batch yourself.  It’s not the caramels themselves that Mr. Bear objects to.  He’s remarkably amenable when it comes to food, willing to eat pretty much anything that doesn’t come attached to a set of tentacles or antennae.  It’s the why that’s confounding him, since he spent most of yesterday morning watching me make a batch of caramels from scratch.  I can see him looking surreptitiously from the list to the table, where the offending candies are heaped in their perky waxed wrappers. 

He’s pretty sure he’s missing something - some briefing that would make this all clear to him.  It can’t be that the recipe was a dud, since he’s been listening to me crow about it for 24 hours now.  Because (1) It worked, a quality that is unreliably present in my candymaking, (2) They taste amazing, and (3) I feel like I should get some sort of extra-credit points for winning at Foodie Bingo: not only are they salted caramels, I’ve dipped into my stash of random gourmet gifts and managed to cram into them both Appalachian Sourwood Honey and Tahitian Vanilla Sea Salt, which I’m pretty sure means that the sacred foodie doors will be opened to me and someone will probably send me a copy of The French Laundry Cookbook.

June 14, 2012

Three Compelling Reasons I am Unfit to Breed
(+ Italian Ricotta Fritters)

Let us be clear that there are far more than 3 reasons.  Entire volumes could probably be written.  But at any given time, there are three that top my list.  For your entertainment, and also as a dire warning for those of you who are encouraging me to breed, here are this week’s winners: 

1.   This Morning I Severely Chastised a Shoe

It definitely had it coming.  Don’t feel tempted to pity.  It had been a crap morning.  I’d had very little sleep, and my run had gone miserably, and all I needed was to get to the post office before 10.   But, as usual, I was running about 3 minutes late.  And that’s when the shoe decided to give me a hard time.  I wanted to slip it on without having to undo the elaborate double knot that is inexplicably necessary to keep a shoe on my foot.  But no; although it had come off just fine without untying the night before, it had miraculously shrunk in the night.  Of course, I could have just untied it, but at that point I had already invested so much time in the slip-on option that it seemed like that would be wasteful.  Plus, I wasn’t about to let myself be defeated by a shoe.  It was at this moment that I heard myself hissing in that mom-tone that pours out super-fast and all in one word:

“AreYouSeriouslyDoingThisToMeRightNow?  IDoNotHaveTimeForThis!  I just got you new laces, you INGRATE!” 

I almost never lose my temper.  The shaky mental state which led to this breakdown was a fluke.  But the point is, given the right set of circumstances, I will scream at a shoe for marring my daily timetable.  An inanimate object, incapable of rational thought or action.  Now imagine what I’d do with a child, who theoretically has some amount of critical thinking skills and empathy.  More than a shoe does, anyway.  I shudder to think.

Slightly less important, but nonetheless noteworthy, was the fact that I attempted to imply to my pseudo-child that she owed me good behavior as the result of a gift.  Not only is that clearly bad parenting, but it’s not even effective parenting.  If I ever reach the day when I give up on my moral compass and bribe my child for good behavior, shoelaces aren’t exactly going to cut it.  They weren’t even glittery or fluorescent.  See?  I even suck at bad parenting.

June 7, 2012

Martha Stewart's Operatives are Trying to Kill Me
(+ Balsamic Mushrooms)

I don’t like to think that I’m a paranoid person.  Paranoid implies a sort of illogic, and I am nothing if not logical.  The world is a dangerous place.  Bad things happen.  Sometimes murderers hide behind shower curtains.  Slithery reptiles are found coiled in toilet bowls.  Those who do not keep all arms and legs inside the vehicle end up nicknamed “Stumpy.”   These situations are urban legends for a reason: it’s because they happened at least once.  So the fact that I warn others of the danger they pose doesn’t make me paranoid.  It makes me a superhero. 

Genetically speaking, my kind is singlehandedly responsible for the continuing existence of humanity.  Sure, cavepeople needed hunters who would dive heedlessly into a gorge after a wounded Somethingsaurus.*   But they also needed somebody who was going to stand at the edge of the ravine, well out of harm’s way, and yell “Duck!” at critical moments.   We need warriors and explorers and experimenters in order to move forward as a species.  But we also need a few of them to survive to breed.  And it’s my job to be the buzzkill that makes that happen.  You’re welcome.

*I don’t actually believe that primitive man hunted dinosaurs.  Logical, remember?

That said, sometimes my skills get away from me.  I like to think of it as my own awesomeness outstripping the bounds of common sense.   Which brings us to yesterday afternoon.  There was a lone, brooding envelope waiting in the mailbox, and it looked like this:

Address blocked to keep all my rabid fans from mobbing Mr. Bear at home.  You two know who you are.

Most people’s first  thought would be: “junk mail.”  Or, if they were of a somewhat more curious bent, maybe “I wonder what that’s about.”  My first thought was:  

“Oh my god.  Mr. Bear has put out a hit on me.”

May 31, 2012

The Bear's Life in a Nutshell
(+ Honey-Cinnamon Ice Cream)

It’s important to me that you understand that this isn’t what I wanted for you.  You deserve a better first blog post.   Something with drama and pathos.  And maybe some flaming llamas or something to really make it pop.  And it almost happened.  I had something super-classy prepared for you.  

But instead you’re getting this.  Because something happened this morning that was such a perfect example of what my life is like and of the sort of stuff you’re going to be exposed to on this blog…well, I felt like I’d be remiss if I didn’t just describe it and let that be a warning to you.

At nine o’clock this morning, Mr. Bear, husband extraordinaire, yelled to let me know he was ready for our morning ritual. In our home, household tasks are divided by our own personal strengths.  Since Mr. Bear is a burly sort of fellow, inexplicably fond of activities involving fresh air and cardiovascular health, he handles all responsibilities involving sweating, movement, and heavy lifting.  My duties run more towards the vital pajama- and chocolate-related tasks.