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.”