Thursday, April 17, 2014

Who Wants A Playdate?

"Mom's going to run off with another guy," my 11YO announced to Specs as soon as he walked in the door the other evening. "She wants to kiss him."

"I did not say anything of the sort! I wasn't even thinking that," I said.

Specs looked at me with an expectant expression. My cheeks burned. I giggled against my better judgment (I often laugh when I'm uncomfortable). Specs knew who the guy was. He'd just met him.

"I will admit I noticed he was tall," I said. "But since when can you read my thoughts?"


Back up two hours or so, to kid pick-up at my daughters' school. I went to retrieve them and my 10YO asked if she could have a play date. Normally, I don't like scheduling such things during the week, but she is such a social child that I hate denying her the opportunity to hang out with her friends (all of whom are boys). I assumed she wanted to go over to a particular boy's house. I asked if she'd spoken to his parents.

"No, not him," my 10YO said. "I want to go to Andy's house."

Andy (not his real name) is an adorable, sweet boy whom I met when I chauffeured a field trip for my 10YO's class two years ago. Andy and my 10YO were like two peas in a pod on that excursion; and the way he looked at her...sheesh. I know I shouldn't project adult emotions onto children, but I swear I could see the love between them. If arranged marriages were still a thing, he'd be the one I'd pick for her.


"Okay," I said. "Where is he?"

My 10YO flagged Andy down. He was halfway to his car with his little sister and his dad, whom I'd seen many times in the chaos that is pick-up time, but I never thought anything of him.

Until now, up close...

I repeat: All I noticed was that he was really tall. Okay, he had a decent head of hair and a nice smile, too. And goddamn, was he friendly. Not only was he happy to have my 10YO over, he didn't even specify an end time to the play date ("Tonight's the only night we don't have anything," he said.). He offered to drive my 10YO home, too.

I couldn't let him do all that (I'm Minnesotan, after all, and we always protest kindness), so I said I could come back and pick her up.

"Why don't you follow me home so you know where it is," he said. So I did. Andy's house was pretty close to school, in a well-to-do neighborhood. Corner lot, three garages, the works. Not that I cared. (Been there, done that, went crazy and got divorced living that keep-up-with-the-Joneses lifestyle.)

Andy's dad came around to the driver's side of car. After getting startled by the mad dog in the passenger seat, he scratched out his phone number on the back of a spelling test. He wrote down the address, too.

We had a brief chat about how schools don't bus anymore unless you pay for it, which is why we both ended up doing the school pick-up thing. He told me he'd probably make spaghetti for the kids, since they like to eat dinner as soon as they get home from school (mine do, too). It was a totally tame, friendly parent conversation.


I'd been having a really good day. I felt like my old self again, meaning: optimistic, light, free. (Maybe all that "Power of Now" business is infiltrating my psyche!) I didn't care that I was dressed in total Soccer Mom uniform: Boston Marathon jacket, bulky beige hoodie, jeans that had gone baggy in the butt, and slip-on sneakers. I didn't have makeup on. I was so not in Come Hither mode. I was just enjoying the moment and pleased that my daughter was able to play with a good friend.

Although...

You know how you can sense loneliness on a person? Yeah, I felt that. It wasn't off-putting so much as "Hmm...there's a story here." But if Andy didn't have a mom, I'm sure I would have heard about it. (Kids are terrible secret-keepers, as evidenced by my daughters.) I later realized I didn't even check to see if he was wearing a wedding ring. I guess I just wasn't that curious.

Because Andy's house was practically on Specs's way home from work, I sent Specs the directions and asked him to pick my 10YO up. Then I sent Andy's dad a text communicating the change of the plans. This should not have been a big deal.

But once Specs arrived home with my 10YO in tow, my 11YO wouldn't let up about how I was going to run off with Andy's dad.

I stuck to my story of "All I was thinking was that he was tall!" but no one seemed to believe me.

"If I were 'plotting' something, why would I have sent you over there?" I said to Specs. "I would have kept him to myself!"

"You have such a rich inner life. I would love to know what's going on in there," Specs said, stroking my head.

"You will never find out!" I told him. "It's in the vault!"


The fact is: the world is full of good-looking people. I am a sexual being. What am I supposed to do? Walk around blindfolded? (It wouldn't matter; it's a pheromone thing. Can't hide from the pheromones!)

Specs didn't expect that, but he couldn't hide his sensitivity to my flirtatious nature.

"All I said was that he was a nice guy!" I said. Aren't all parents syrupy-sweet when meeting their children's friends?

"You think I'm not aware of how many attractive people come across your path on any given day?" I said. (Specs works in the city and takes public transit.) "But I trust you, so I don't even think about it. I, on the other hand, hardly have any human interaction. Maybe the 11YO's just not used to seeing my social persona and she mistakes kindness for flirtation."

Rehashing the events of the afternoon, I suppose I could see how this situation could be misconstrued. Yes, Andy's dad invited me to follow him to his house instead of just jotting down the address. Sure, he gave me his phone number. But come on! If he had been a mom, would we suspect anything untoward? Of course not!

"You should tell Andy that Mom likes his dad," my 11YO said to my 10YO.

"Hey, now," I told her. "That's called a rumor. And rumors hurt people."

"Well, I already told my friends at school that you had 50 boyfriends and they were all like, 'What's wrong with your mom?!'"

"I told you it was 40!" I said (a woefully inaccurate estimate, but she doesn't know that). "And those were dates, not boyfriends!"


The morning after all the Dad Candy hullabaloo, I couldn't help myself: I did some digging. It's not that hard to put together the pieces of someone's identity thanks to the school directory and Facebook.

The bummer about online stalking searching is that people are rarely whom you presume them to be in your head. Meaning: they're often coupled-up conservatives who like to camp and hunt with the same bros they've known since grade school. Such was the case this time. (This was also true when I looked up Mr. Tree, another one of my momentary crushes, online.)

And there goes the buzzkill...

But I did discover that Andy's dad and I have a mutual friend: a rapper...whom I dated briefly. (Not the musician previously obsessed about here.) Andy's parents apparently attended one of his shows not too long ago. Have I said this town is too small? It is too motherfucking small. Sandbox small.

**

I tend to pair juicy posts with fudge recipes, but this time, I used cookies as the add-in, because what says "wholesome homemaker" more than a dozen chocolate chip cookies?

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE FUDGE


Ingredients

2 cups chocolate chips
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 dozen chocolate chips cookies (homemade or store bought), crumbled, divided

Method

• Line 8 x 8 inch pan with foil. Set aside.

• Combine chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk in medium saucepan; heat over low heat, stirring often until chocolate chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat; add vanilla extract and crumbled cookies to saucepan, reserving a handful of crumbled cookies for topping.

• Transfer mixture to prepared baking pan and spread evenly with spatula. Top with remaining handful of crumbled cookies.

• Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. Lift from pan by edges of foil. Remove foil and transfer to cutting board to slice into squares.

• Share this sweet after-school snack with your favorite classmates. And their parents...?

(Note: To make gluten free, substitute gluten free cookies.)

**

While this "They All Want You" tune from Lissie is awfully emotionally loaded for this post (and seems to be inspired by a musician-ex-boyfriend?), it does address longing and the issue of "everyone wanting you"...which must be a nice problem to have.



It was dark, maybe you couldn't see me
Braiding her hair, her name's Tiffany
I know that girl she lives on my street
And she wants you, they all want you
That kind of girl's only after one thing
You want it all, to see and be seen
To show you chose her all over me
Like she won you
Baby, I want you

But they all want you when you're shining
Like a bar fly who's always buying
The one guy who never says no
But I'm the one that sees you in the party; people leave you
And my heart breaks watching it takin' its toll

Up on a stage with your precious guitar
Everyone wants to be where you are
To bathe in the glorious light of your star
They all want to
It's 'cause they want you
It's closing time when your boys show up
They got a keg of beer in that pick up truck
Egging you on to go out and get drunk
You know you want to
Baby, I warned you

But they all want you when you're shining
Like a bar fly who's always buying
The one guy who never says no
But I'm the one that sees you in the party; people leave you
And my heart breaks watching it takin' its toll

You said I was different, stood in a class of my own
You said you'd follow me home
But here I am all alone
Because they got you

Boy, you're shining like a bar fly who's always buying
The one guy who never says no
But I'm the one that needs you
In the party people leave you
And my heart breaks 'cause baby it's takin' its toll

They all want you
But I do, too

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hot & Cold

“How many cups of coffee until you finish that thing?” a man asked one morning as I typed away on my laptop.

I looked up and smiled. Jax was a regular at the café I frequented, though we’d never spoken. Until now. My stomach somersaulted and my breath lodged in my throat.


“Uh…a…lot?” I finally stuttered at the stud. “You drink a lot of coffee yourself.”

“Gotta keep the energy up,” Jax said. His hair was perfectly disheveled, highlighted a honey hue, and often held back with sunglasses. He always wore a bright blue sweatshirt branded with his construction company’s logo and stonewashed jeans that hung loosely from his slim hips.

I’d often ogled his six-foot-plus frame from afar, but that day, his sheetrock-hard body turned invisible when he smiled. Holy shit, that smile. Who knows how, with all the coffee he consumed, he kept his teeth so white.

“So what do you do?” he asked.

“I’m a writer.”

He shook his head at his own stupidity. “Of course. You’re writing. You’re a writer.”

“That’s what I do.”

So far, our flirtation was as stimulating as a cup of decaf. Jax toed the door open. He always ordered one hot coffee and one cold coffee, though it wasn’t clear if they were both for him.

“Well, gotta go work on my tan,” Jax said, craning his neck toward the sun. My eyes scanned over his skin. It was the shade of fried chicken.

“I think you’ve got that covered,” I said.

“Nah. You should see my feet. They’re so pale it’s embarrassing.”

I’d like to see more than your bare feet, I thought.

“I didn’t give you writer’s block, did I?” he asked.

“Not at all,” I said, raising my cup in salute. Jax’s gorgeous mug could have fueled pages of sappy love poems.


Jax stopped by my table the next four days in a row. Each time, he moved in closer, progressing from standing to crouching to sitting across from me and finally sidling up beside me, all without invitation. In the world of coffee shop romance, sitting side-by-side was a big step.

We shot the breeze. We bullshitted. I held my breath, waiting for those magic words, “Would you like to go out sometime?”

They never came.

I considered asking Jax out for coffee, but we were already drinking coffee together. (And women asking men out is fucking lame. Don’t be that girl. Make him work for it!)

“I could never text or e-mail you,” Jax sighed one afternoon. “You’d criticize my grammar.”

He was right; while Jax was physically immaculate, his resume left something to be desired.

“You’re a contractor, right?” I asked.

“Roofing, siding, plowing, yeah.”

Hmm...plowing. I liked the sound of that!


Jax pointed to the bright orange emblem on his shirt. “I own the company.”

“You own it?” I gawked, unable to contain my admiration for a man with initiative.

“I used to be a cook,” he said, dropping the name of the venue where he donned his chef whites. “But that was a dead-end job.”

“So naturally you went to roofing,” I said.

Jax smiled. “Speaking of which, I’ve gotta get to work.”

When he stood up, I saw he was wearing my favorite pair of jeans, the ones with ratty holes scattered across both sides.

“I like those jeans,” I said.

“What?” he asked, spinning around on the heel of his boot.

I glanced to either side of me. No eavesdroppers in sight.

“Those. Jeans. Are. Sexy.”

“They’re my hole-y jeans,” he said, “’cause it’s Sunday.”


The next day, as soon as Jax slouched into the chair across from me, he said, “So I’ve been thinking about this memoir thing. Aren’t you too young to write a memoir?”

“It doesn’t cover my whole life,” I said. “Just a section.”

“What time frame?”

“From the time I was 16 up until last year.”

“That long?” he asked. (I was around 25 at the time.) “You’ll have to stop living in order to finish it!”

“I write shorter pieces, too,” I said. “I had an article recently in the Star Tribune.”

“Oh yeah?” Jax asked, his spine suddenly erect with attention. “What about?”

“My love-hate relationship with the Minnesota weather.”

“Do you have it with you?”

“Not right now,” I lied. Though the article was on my hard drive, I wanted a reason for Jax to stop by my table again, so I said, “I have a copy at home.”

“Bring it in some time,” he said, standing. “I’d like to read it.”

Jax took one step toward the door, then whipped around.

“You must have the article in there,” he said, waving at my laptop with his hot coffee hand.

“Um…” I stammered, my cheeks flushing.

“I mean, you must. It would be stupid not to!”

(This is why I never lie. I'm so bad at it!)

“Hmm…I guess I do,” I said.

“So let’s see it.”


Jax sat back down and rubbed his palms together with anticipation. (Minnesotans get really excited about the weather.) I retrieved the file and turned the laptop around, unable to steady my shaking hands.

As Jax’s eyes worked their way down the screen, his smile faded.

“Wow,” he said. “I see why you don’t want people reading this.”

It was then I remembered that aside from the weather, my essay waxed reminiscent of my married days and the birth of my two daughters.

“Uh-oh,” I said. “I’m going to regret this. You’ll know more about me than you ever wanted to.”

“So you have kids?” he asked, returning the laptop to me.

“Yup.”

“Well!” Jax said, practically leaping from his chair. He raised his cold coffee hand toward me. “I’m sure I’ll see you tomorrow!”

We didn’t see each other the next day. Or the next. The man whose path I’d been crossing daily was getting his caffeine fix somewhere else.


A few weeks after the article incident, I pulled into the cafe's parking lot as Jax lumbered out to his pick-up. I craned my neck to catch his glance over the Land Rover between us.

“Hey,” he said with his Hollywood grin. After the extended absence of that smile, I couldn’t help but gawk.

Ask me out, ask me out, ask me out! I silently willed him.

Jax squinted through the sunshine. “Did you say something?” he asked.

“No,” I answered, hoisting my bag onto my shoulder with newfound urgency. “I, uh…was just…uh…looking at you.”

(Insert excruciatingly awkward pause here.)

“Oh,” Jax said with a pained expression.

Of course I couldn’t help but make things worse.

“You have such a gorgeous smile,” I added breathlessly.

Jax nodded with a furrowed brow.

“See ya,” he said.

Jax’s mood was like his coffee—-hot and cold. Though we continued to bump into one another on a regular basis, he never smiled at me that way--or sat down at my table--ever again.

About a year after that last encounter, he got married. How do I know? I heard him bragging about the honeymoon with the barista (on whom I also had a crush and who also got married around the same time). *sigh*

**

Of course it's gonna be a coffee cake. Share only with hotties, not cold fish.

COCONUT COFFEE CAKE (GLUTEN FREE)


Ingredients

For the Topping:
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup gluten free flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Cake:
1 3/4 cups Gluten Free Bisquick mix
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2/3 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Method

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9-inch cake pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

• Make topping by combining coconut, brown sugar, Bisquick, and cinnamon. Stir until combined. Add melted butter; stir and set aside.

• To make cake, combine Bisquick mix, sugar, water, and vanilla in large bowl; stir until combined. Add eggs; stir. Fold in coconut.

• Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving—with hot or cold coffee.

**

I narrowed today's song selection down to three "Good Morning" tunes: one from the musical Singing with the Rain, one from John Legend, and this one from Kanye West. My 11YO made the final decision, saying, "Kanye West is the real singer" of the bunch.



Wake up, Mr. West, Mr. West, Mr. Fresh
Mr. by-his-self-he-so-impressed
I mean, damn, did you even see the test
You got D's mother fucker, D's, Rosie Perez
And yes, barely pass any and every class
Looking at every ass
Cheated on every test
I guess this is my dissertation
Homie, this shit is basic
Welcome to graduation

Good morning
Good morning
Good morning
Good morning

Good morning
On this day we become legendary
Everything we dreamed of
I'm like a fly Malcolm X
Buy any jeans necessary
Detroit Red cleaned up
From the streets of the league
From an eighth to a key
But you graduate when you make it up outta the streets
From the moments of pain
Look how far we done came
Haters saying ya changed
Now ya doing ya thing

Good morning
Good morning
Good morning
Good morning

Good morning
Look at the valedictorian scared of the future
While I hop in the Delorean
Scared-to-face-the-world complacent career student
Some people graduate, but we still stupid
They tell you read this, eat this, don't look around
Just peep this, preach us, teach us, Jesus
Okay, look up now, they done stole your streetness
After all of that, you receive this

Good morning
Hustlers, that's if you're still living
Get on down
Every time that we hear them
Good morning
Hustlers, that's if you're still living
Get on down
Every time that we hear them
Good morning
Hustlers, that's if you're still living
Get on down
Every time that we hear them
Good morning
Hustlers, that's if you're still living
Get on down

Get on down
Get, get on down
Get on down
Get, get on down

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Powerlessness of Now

Not gonna lie: It's been a hard week. Blame it on some toxic cocktail of depression, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, and springtime ADHD if you like. The outcome is the same: crying in the car for no particular reason, the desire to collapse into bed at 6 p.m., the massive consumption of cookie pies. Good times!


But it'll be fine. My friend Eckhart Tolle has been keeping me company on audiobook, telling me: There are no problems! The past is dead and the future is an illusion! Time is a construct of the mind!

Tolle believes that within each of us is a "pain body." It is dormant or active to varying degrees. It feeds on negative energy. (Side note: This all sounds a little creepy, doesn't it? Like there are demons hanging off our shoulders or something.) When we feel the pain body get activated, we're supposed to observe it non-judgmentally. We don't resist it. We just watch. We let go of any "illusory expectations that anything or anybody will save you or make you happy." (Isn't that the definition of depression?) The observation of, and refusal to engage with, the pain body makes it lose its power. As long as we don't cling to it, we can break free from it. Then we can come into the now and bring joy, ease, and lightness to everything we do!

I hope my sarcasm is coming through. It must be nice to live in the mind space where everything is "deeply okay" all the time. I am not that girl. For whatever reason, my brain chemistry is whacked. But it's not so bad that I can't function. Everyone has their version of an Achilles heel and this is mine.

Ahh, but Tolle would say I've taken the pain body on as my identity. To quote him directly: "Once you have identified with some form of negativity, you do not want to let it go, and on a deeply unconscious level, you do not want positive change. It would threaten your identity as a depressed, angry or hard-done by person. You will then ignore, deny or sabotage the positive in your life. This is a common phenomenon. It is also insane."


He goes on to say, "Humans are a dangerously insane and very sick species." Thanks, man! So helpful! And what are you, exactly? Some perfect non-human entity? Jesus Christ! (Exclamation point. Not a question.)

Seriously, though, I understand what Tolle is saying about coming back to the present, and I even like his question, "What problem do you have at this moment?" because most of the time nothing is actually wrong.

But you know what? Sometimes the now fucking sucks, for no particular reason, and there's nothing powerful about it. Can't we just acknowledge that? And when we do, what's wrong with a little short-term symptom relief? Why can't we numb out temporarily? If I suffered from migraines, I wouldn't think twice about popping a pill and drawing the shades. If I had diabetes, I'd give myself a shot of insulin. If I'm depressed, I give myself a motherfuckin' break. I return to the tried-and-true lifesavers: going for walks, taking pictures, taking baths, watching dumb sitcoms, and getting as many hugs as I can get. That's called self-care.


Specs observed that I was having a tough time, and he responded with several cliches. "This too shall pass" was one of them. (After which I groaned and told him to never say that to a struggling person ever again.) Later, he turned to me and said, "Keep hope afloat!" He was totally serious, which made it that much funnier, and I laughed harder than I had all week.

So. What's the moral? Hell if I know. Depression can be a sneaky bastard. Its arrival still surprises me after years of intermittent bouts with this affliction. But after you've been through the cycle a few times, it becomes predictable. And therefore manageable. There's no way around it; you just have to wait it out.


There's a saying that goes, "Emotions are like children; you shouldn't let them drive the car but you can't lock them in the trunk, either." You could say my "kids" occasionally beat each other up in the back seat. So I pull the car over to the side of the road and wait for their fury to fizzle out.

Eventually, the melancholy goes away. (Mine tends to last 48 to 72 hours every two months or so.) Maybe depression gets bored with us, too...

(If you are interested in learning more about this topic, I highly recommend Krista Tippett's conversation with author Jennifer Michael Hecht from OnBeing here as well as The Woodmans, a documentary about the late photographer Francesca Woodman, seen in the first photo of this post, who took her own life at the age of 22.)

**

After that semi-dark post, how about a light, bright recipe?

These muffins were a big hit in my house this week. With the consistency of a cupcake, sans frosting-fueled sugar crash, they are the ideal dessert when you want just a little hit of sweetness without knocking yourself out.

COCONUT BANANA MUFFINS


Ingredients

2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut, divided

Method

• Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tin with 12 liners. Set aside.

• Combine mashed bananas, melted butter, and sugar in large bowl. Stir until smooth. Add egg and vanilla; stir.

• Add flour, baking powder, and salt to bowl; stir just until batter is uniform. Fold in 1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes.

• Scoop batter into muffin tins. Top batter with remaining coconut flakes. Bake for 25 minutes.

• Remove tin from oven; let cool completely before serving.

• Enjoy, preferably while soaking up the sunshine and thinking happy thoughts.

**

I know two songs in one week from The Head and the Heart is excessive, but I really like one line in this song: <i>The sun still rises, even with the pain</i>. Amen to that.



These are just flames
Burning in your fireplace
I hear your voice and it seems
As if it was all a dream
I wish it was all a dream

I see a world
A world turning in on itself
Are we just like
Hungry wolves howling in the night
I don't want no music tonight

Can we go on like it once was

Every time I hear another story
Oh the poor boy lost his head
Everybody feels a little crazy
But we go on living with it
Yeah they go on living with it

These are just flames
Burning in your fireplace
I hear your voice and it seems
As if it was all a dream
I wish it was all a dream

Can we go on like it once was
Can we go on like it once was

Every time I hear another story
Oh the poor boy lost his head
Everybody feels a little crazy
But we go on living with it
Yeah they go on living with it

I'll tell you one thing
We ain't gonna change much
The sun still rises
Even with the pain

I'll tell you one thing
We ain't gonna change love
The sun still rises
Even through the rain

Can we go on like it once was
Can we go on like it once was

Everybody feels a little crazy
Like it once was
Everybody feels a little crazy
Like it once was

Can we go on like it once was

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ex-it Interviews

If you could have one last conversation with a certain someone and ask him or her the questions that you've been spinning around in your mind, would you?


When I was initially contemplating this, I thought of it as an end-of-life scenario, though I suppose you wouldn't have to wait, and perhaps you shouldn't, for death to be knocking at your door. I once dated a man who, in lieu of making New Year's resolutions, wrote up a list of all the people he'd lost touch with and with whom he wanted to spend time over the course of the year. What if you could take that same idea and apply it to your exes?

This past-focused pondering didn't come out of nowhere. I'm in the midst of another project, which, of course, involves delving into some high-wattage emotional scenes from my past. I've also been rereading old journal entries and revisiting rose-colored memories and, let's face it, that brings up stuff. (I admit that spending so much time in the past is probably not healthy, but isn't that just an occupational hazard of a writer who culls her own life for material?)


The other night, Specs and I worked on our respective creative projects to the soundtrack of a band fronted by an ex-boyfriend someone I dated a guy I slept with.

"Why are we listening to this again?" Specs asked. He was joking, mostly. Before cueing up the tunes, I fully disclosed the ex connection. We were listening to it because music can take me back instantaneously to those emotionally charged places that feed my writing. I told him as much.

"I don't know why I'm liking this album so much right now," I said. I hadn't been that into it when it was released over two years ago.

"It's a happy album," he said. "And you met him in Spring, didn't you?"

(Gotta love a husband who not only remembers, but isn't intimidated by, your history.)

"Yes, I did," I said. (For the record, Specs met him, too. At a show. All parties behaved like civil adults. We even stayed to listen to him play.) "Maybe this song is about me!"

Specs laughed.

"Okay, maybe not this one," I said. "But that other one, where the girl's always waiting at the table for the guy who has plans that do not involve her...?"


Specs wasn't buying it. I guess I could see his point. The song probably wasn't about me. But goddamn, would I like to ask that man if it was. And even if it wasn't, I was still curious if he'd ever written about me. And if not, why not? So many questions! (Not all of them shallow and self-centered, either.)

"Musicians are selfish," Specs said. "He could have written a million songs since then and none of them would be about you, even if you were part of his life."

Hmph. I did not like that answer. It reminded me of a quote on Pinterest (pinned by an ex of an ex) that said, "Forgetting is the best revenge." Ouch!

"Well, when we're all old and wrinkly and no one cares anymore, I'm totally going to ask him," I said.

Then I launched into my theory about how we should be able to have exit interviews with people from our pasts--particularly with the exes with whom relationships ended abruptly or that left us confused.


Specs seemed less than enthused about the prospect of me hunting down exes and asking them too-close-for-comfort style questions.

"Don't you have any unanswered questions?" I asked. "Isn't there something you're dying to find out? The people don't have to be romantic connections. What about your dad? Or your brothers? Isn't there something you've always wanted to know?"

Specs kinda-sorta nodded his head.

"You're making a big assumption that these guys would even want to talk to you," he said.

Okay, he had me there. Narcissistic me thinks that everyone I've ever been with holds fond memories of the former us. My head knows this is inaccurate. My heart--an eternally forgiving organ--believes that time heals everything, and that eventually, what choice is there but to embrace our pasts--mistakes, triumphs, and everything in between? Yes, when I imagine these exit interviews, I see them as caring conversations between long-lost friends over coffee, full of reminiscing about the fun times, laughter at our own ridiculousness, and an ego stroke or two.


But I could be wrong. The night after writing the draft of this post, I had a dream about meeting up with KR, with whom I absolutely don't need an exit interview. (We already know exactly what went wrong with that relationship.) In the dream, I was trying to tell him I was concerned about him and that I hoped he'd figure his shit out for the sake of his daughter. Rather than listening, though, he went on a bitter rant about something unrelated to the topic at hand. It was as though his anger regarding all the insignificant details of life had built a wall around his heart. He could hear what I was saying, but he wasn't listening. The conversation left my dream self very unsatisfied.

Still, wouldn't it be a shame to go to your grave holding grudges against everyone you've ever broken up with or been dumped by? Don't these relationships, which were once incredibly intimate, merit a proper burial?


And if the men in question were angry...well, maybe that's something I'd need to hear even if I didn't want to. Don't we all deserve the right to make amends with those we've wronged? I would sure welcome some apologies from men who treated me poorly! And I wouldn't be against doling some out. Bring on the brutal honesty! (Even as I type that, I'm cringing a bit. Maybe "brutal" is going too far...?)

"Wouldn't you be able to die more peacefully knowing that you had expressed everything you wanted to?" I asked.

"Maybe," Specs said. "But by the time you die, maybe those questions won't matter anymore."

True. So, until then, I guess I'll just keep a mental list of my most burning queries. And when it's time, you better believe I'm coming for you.

**

Today's recipe can be made gluttonous or gluten free, depending on your preference. I should have gone to the trouble of making mine gentler on my stomach, but since when do I ever take the saner of two options? My devil-may-care attitude has gotten me in plenty of trouble before, and that applies doubly when it comes to the kitchen.

DEVIL’S FOOD CAKE PIE (GLUTEN FULL OR GLUTEN FREE)


Ingredients

1 box Devil’s Food cake mix (or gluten free chocolate cake mix of your choice)
Egg, oil, and water as directed on cake mix box
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips, divided
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 pie crusts (or 1 tub gluten free pie and pastry dough)

Method

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

• Roll out pie crust (or dough) between two large sheets of wax paper into two circles large enough to cover 9-inch pie pan, plus an inch or two to allow for shrinkage. Place pie crusts into two pie pans; shape gently with hands. Crimp edges. Set aside.

• In large bowl, combine cake mix, egg, oil, and water as directed on cake mix box. Stir until batter is thick. Pour batter evenly into two pie crusts.

• Bake pies for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack.

• Meanwhile, combine butter, 2 cups chocolate chips, and sweetened condensed milk in large saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until butter and chocolate chips are melted and mixture is smooth.

• Pour chocolate mixture over cake pie. Spread evenly with spatula. Top with remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.

• You can enjoy this cake pie immediately when warm, but serving will be slightly messier. You can also chill in the fridge for two hours if you prefer the chocolate topping set.

• Notice how this recipe made two pies? Uh-huh. Yeah. You know what to do.

**

Don't just sit there. Tell me what I want to know.



Don't just sit there
Tell me what I wanna know
what I wanna know

Did you find love?
Have you found love?
Did you find love again?

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Naughty Bits

Ideas abound. Sometimes they turn into blog posts. Sometimes they wither and die. Others remain stuck, cycling through my brain, waiting to be developed into something worth reading. Today, I'm going to give those random things I've been thinking about, but which don't quite merit their own posts, a platform.

Without further ado, I present to you: The Naughty Bits.

TELLING WOMEN TO SNEAK IN EXERCISE

"Mind if I use your tie as a resistance band? I didn't get my strength training in today."

Over the last month, I've seen articles urging women to sneak in exercise during the most ridiculous activities: Try sit-ups in bed! Do a plank during sex! Squat while cuddling your newborn baby! Jog in place while brushing your teeth! Okay, I made that last one up, but the rest are taken verbatim from several different magazines. How about this: Turn off your phone and take 30 minutes to dedicate yourself to exercise. Take a walk. Do a yoga video (there are tons of free ones on YouTube). Hit the gym and pump some iron. Do that every day. You don't have to "sneak" it in. You have to commit to it, then follow through. Don't believe a few squats during the umpteenth verse of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" is going to melt off the baby weight. That's bullshit. And utterly un-Buddhist. Do what you are doing while you're doing it. Especially sex. 'Cause if you're planking while you're supposed to be getting plowed, you're doing both of those activities wrong.

PUTTING WOMEN IN STRANGE POSES

WTF. That is all.

Sharon Stone was recently on the cover of Shape, which is awesome because she's the oldest cover model they've ever had. Bonus that's she's a total vixen at 56. But what the hell kind of poses are these? She looks like she's holding in a queef, taking a piss, and about to insert a tampon in these pics, respectively. She's in better shape than 99% of the population; why not just let her stand up and strut it?


SEXISM ON FOX NEWS

Female anchors are not allowed to wear pants on air at Fox. (No joke.)
The woman on the left apparently isn't allowed to wear a skirt, either.

Fox News is not really journalism; it's right-wing rhetoric. But you already knew that, right? I don't watch Fox News by choice (hell, I don't even have cable) but it's often on at the gym and sometimes the sensational headlines catch my attention. It's almost entertaining to watch how ridiculously twisted the stories are and how unprofessional the anchors act...until they turn their attention to the women. I've heard everything from male anchors praising their female co-worker's ability to run in heels to teasing a woman about how he's going to take pictures of her gams and sell them online. That's not funny. It's offensive. And creepy.

During a recent episode of Fox & Friends, the topic of parents suing other parents because their kid got bullied was debated. (Because everything on that show comes down to a battle of right versus wrong. And by "wrong" they mean "liberal.") The male "expert" said that the law suits were ludicrous and that parents needed to parent better and punish their children. The female expert said that bullying was a real problem (sometimes with fatal consequences) and that the courts needed to step in for everyone's safety. The male expert went off on some dramatic tangent worthy of a Golden Globe, to which the female responded, "I wish corporal punishment was allowed for you!" "Oh, it is allowed, honey," he replied. Um, excuse me? This is supposed to be the news. A little decorum, please? If you think I'm overreacting, do your own research. There's plenty of bona fide investigative journalism on the topic of sexism at Fox.

BAGGY PANTS ARE BACK

Doubles as a parachute when you jump off the Brooklyn Bridge!
I read an article in Vogue lately that said the reign of skinny jeans has come to an end. Normally, what happens in fashion doesn't upset me, as most of my clothes have been out of style for almost a decade. (They'll come back in any day now!) But this really chafes my hide. A few months ago, I folded and bought my first pair of skinny jeans. I'd gotten tired of my boot cut and wide-leg jeans dragging all over the ground, picking up snow and dirt, then ultimately fraying away. Turns out, I love skinny jeans, especially in the winter. I love them for the same reason I love thong underwear: you put them on and then you can forget about them. They stay where they're supposed to. They tuck nicely into snow boots. I was also surprised to find I felt sexy in skinny jeans, despite being at my un-skinniest weight in a long time. The husband likes them, too. Win-win for everyone!

But now the fashionista bible says they're being replaced by what look like Hammer pants. (Are you old enough to know what those are?) The pair above look barely better than Zubaz. (Remember those hideous things?) I won't have it! This is just another trend that only looks good on skeleton-sized girls, which begs the question: if you're that thin, why cover it up with bloated fabric?

THE FAKE-ASS WORLD OF FOOD BLOGGING

What we really look like behind-the-scenes.

I spend a lot of time surfing the web for recipe inspiration. Some of the food blogs out there are awful, some are awesome, and some are so goddamn perfect they piss me off. Specs recently pointed out a couple that has "dueling" food blogs, in addition to raising kids. "Bet no one's getting laid in that relationship!" I said. Why? Because food blogging is incredibly time-consuming. There's the shopping for ingredients, the preparation of the recipe, the food styling and photography, the writing of the post, the editing, and the social media blast. Yes, it's fun, but you better believe there are mistakes made along the way. But we so rarely see those. (I have a tag called Baking Disasters in case you want to read about mine.) 

Yesterday, I made a batch of Cowboy Cookies that turned out looking more like cow pies. They weren't blog worthy. Now, I know that must happen to even the best of food bloggers, but no one talks about it! Why are we so afraid to be flawed? I wish, just for a day, every food blogger was forced to write a post about their fuck-ups, how long it's been since their husband got any sugah, how bitchy they get when their kids interrupt them mid-post, or some other embarrassing incident that would make them seem more human. Because don't nobody believes that your life is as pretty as it looks on Instagram. 

BENICIO DEL TORO

That's me, pretending to know how to smoke, with the smoking hot Benicio.

I was recently reintroduced to this 47-year-old Puerto Rican via Things We Lost in the Fire, a thought-provoking, if somewhat flawed, film. There's something about his "I just rolled out of bed with a lit cigarette in my mouth and I'm too cool to give a fuck about anything" look that revs my engine. I'd like to be the first woman to make exhaustion look as hot as he does. My under-eye circles are already quite impressive; they just need a little volume. Anyhoo. After my lust for the man was reawakened, I did a "Benicio del Toro bathrobe" image search (for the spank bank) and Google came up with nothing. You have failed me, Internet. Failed.

Phew. Glad I got all that out of my system. I hope you got a laugh or two out of it. Onto the food!

These cookies are quick, impressive, and the perfect chocolate-caramel combo. How is that possible? Psst…I used a cake mix. Some bakers don’t believe in taking such short-cuts, but come on. A girl’s only got so much free time if she actually has a life and there’s no reason you need to waste it baking everything from scratch.

CARAMEL KISSES CHOCOLATE THUMBPRINTS



Ingredients

1 box Devil’s Food cake mix
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 egg
1 bag caramel Hershey’s Kisses, unwrapped and frozen

Method

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

• Combine cake mix, butter, and egg in large bowl; stir until dough forms. Use hands if necessary to incorporate ingredients.

• Roll dough into heaping teaspoon-sized ball. Place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.

• Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and slide cookies (still on parchment) onto wire rack. Immediately top each cookie with 1 frozen caramel Hershey’s Kiss. Let cool completely before serving.

• Notice how I didn’t have any gripes about dessert? Maybe some things are inherently perfect.

**

Here’s a song for which I have no justification except: it’s naughty and I really like it.



I'm that flight that you get on, international
First class seat on my lap girl, riding comfortable

'Cause I know what the girl them need,
New York to Haiti
I got lipstick stamps on my passport,
You make it hard to leave

Been around the world, don't speak the language
But your booty don't need explaining
All I really need to understand is
When you talk dirty to me
Talk dirty to me (repeat)
Get jazzy on it

You know the words to my songs
No habla inglés
Our conversations ain't long
But you know what is

I know what the girl them want,
London to Taiwan
I got lipstick stamps on my passport
I think I need a new one

Been around the world, don't speak the language
But your booty don't need explaining
All I really need to understand is
When you talk dirty to me
Talk dirty to me (repeat)

Uno, met your friend in Rio
Dos, she was all on me-o
Tres, we can ménage à three though
Quatro, ooh

Dos Cadenas, close to genius
Sold out arenas, you can suck my penis
Gilbert Arenas, guns on deck
Chest to chest, tongue on neck
International oral sex
Every picture I take, I pose a threat
Bought a jet, what do you expect?
Her pussy's so good I bought her a pet
Anyway, every day I'm trying to get to it
Got her saved in my phone under "Big Booty"
Anyway, every day I'm trying to get to it
Got it saved in my phone under "Big Booty"

Been around the world, don't speak the language
But your booty don't need explaining
All I really need to understand is
When you talk dirty to me
Talk dirty to me (repeat)
Get jazzy on it

What? I don't understand!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Easter Week: Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies

I'm not sure how carrot cake became a go-to Easter dessert. I suppose it's because Easter is supposed to coincide with Springtime, though in Minnesota, we probably won't see carrots coming out of the ground until, oh, July? Snowball Cookies would be more apropos. (I'm looking at six fresh inches of white stuff on my lawn right now! Not a euphemism.)

But whatever. Let's do this freakishly orange, fruit-and-veggie-infused pastry thing. These cookie sandwiches are great to serve if you want the illusion of carrot cake without all the crumbly mess. Today's treats don't even require a plate or utensils; just place atop a napkin and let your guests go to town.

CARROT CAKE SANDWICH COOKIES


Ingredients

1 cup hot tap water
1 box Duncan Hines classic carrot cake mix
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 eggs
1 cup oats
1 container Creamy Home-Style Cream Cheese Frosting
Cream cheese frosting (homemade or store-bought)

Method

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

• Remove packet of carrots and raisins from cake mix box. Place in bowl and pour hot water over mixture. Set aside to hydrate, about 5 minutes.

• Meanwhile, make dough by combining cake mix, butter, and eggs in large bowl. Stir until uniform. Fold in oats.

• Drain excess water from carrots and raisins. Fold into dough.

• Roll tablespoon-sized balls of dough between hands, then place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.

• Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest on baking sheets for 2 minutes, then slide (on parchment paper) to wire rack to cool completely.

• Once cooled, spread underside of one cookie generously with cream cheese frosting. Top with second cookie.

• Serve, ideally outdoors, whilst enjoying truly Spring-like weather.

**

This song, "Aubben," by the Honeydogs just sounds like Spring to me. (There's plenty of bird references as well.) If we sing it, it will come?



There is a craving canary
Who makes all the hawks end up sing
Aware of the murder of crows in your back yard
The bird in you hand's worth more than the flock you don't get, no

And Aubben, Aubben, do you need more than you have?
And Aubben, Aubben, we would love to see you laugh
And Aubben, Aubben, do you feel you may have lost something you never had?

But for the grace of the gods
There, there go I
Gratitude's your ammo
I could learn a lot from watching how you
Feed all the sparrows, good and bad

And Aubben, Aubben, do you need more than you have?
And Aubben, Aubben, we would love to see you laugh
And Aubben, Aubben, do you feel you may have lost something you never had?

Mourning the loss of mornings lost
Forget about arriving, just ride hard
Chameleon in your hair, sea salt in the air
You can fly even though no one can see

And Aubben, Aubben, do you need more than you have?
And Aubben, Aubben, we would love to see you laugh
And Aubben, Aubben, do you feel you may have lost something you never had?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Easter Week: Cadbury Creme Egg Cookies

The best thing about Easter is the limited-edition candy that comes along with it. (Oh, and that whole rising-from-the-dead-and-getting-reborn thing.) Is there any candy that symbolizes Easter bunny season more than the Cadbury Crème Egg? I think not. But rather than gorging on a dozen of those gooey chocolate treats, I prefer to spread out the consumption by packing them into giant cookies. It’s two amazing desserts mashed together into a chewy, chocolately miracle.

CADBURY CRÈME EGG COOKIES


Ingredients

11 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
6 Cadbury Crème Eggs


Method

• Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

• Combine melted butter, brown sugar, egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Gradually add flour, baking soda, and salt to wet ingredients. Stir until dough forms. Fold in chocolate chips.

• Grab a fistful of dough in hand. Press crème egg into center. Wrap cookie dough around crème egg to cover completely. Place on prepared baking sheet. (Limit two to a sheet as these will spread.) Repeat with remaining dough and crème eggs.

• Bake for 18-20 minutes or just until golden. Remove baking sheets from oven and cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then slide (on parchment paper) to wire rack to cool completely.

• Share with the Easter bunny, or equally cuddly substitute.

**

I said this week would be short and sweet, and this "Springtime" song from The Head and the Heart is no exception.

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