Do Not Read This

Shame on you for checking this. It's Memorial Day. Go to a parade. Barbeque with friends. Visit the park.

Get off the web.

Above all, and this is for you, sister, let the laundry wash itself. Go to the ocean, lay down your towel, pull out a your latest copy of Epicurean or Food & Wine, and eat a whole bag of Smartfood. Do it for me.

Then take a moment to thank the people who have forgone these holiday celebrations in lieu of service on our behalf.

You know who you are. Thank you.


I Hope They Serve Pork Shanks In Heaven

Yesterday I talked to a friend about our two families going in on a pig together. Not sneaking up on one, but as in buying a nice, happy, grass-fed, free-range pig now… with the intention that it will become crispy deliciousness later.  The question is not whether or not doing this a good idea. 

It’s undoubtedly a great idea. 

I love me some bacon, and C is a monster when it comes to pulled pork, ribs, sausage, and even pork fried rice.

Have I told you about the time I had an applewood-smoked bacon chocolate bar?  Raved over my brother-in-laws barbequed pork butt?  Mentioned the pork shanks that they sell at a restaurant here in town? 

You city folk can keep your Starbucks and even your sushi, as long as you don’t lay a hand on my pork shanks.  They are spicy, messy, and perfectly unbecoming (especially when the check is paid and you are still gnawing on the bones).

Anyway, like I said, the question is not whether buying the pig is a good idea.  The question is…

Do I name it? 

Or more realistically, how do I not name it? 

Ever since I can remember, I have formed intense, irrational bonds with inanimate objects.  I used to wrap up my toothbrush in clean toilet paper (mummy-style) before throwing it in the garbage, all so that it didn’t have to touch any of that dirty stuff.  I once dug through our outgoing trash to recover the old salt and pepper shakers my mom tried to sneak out of the house.  I waded through multiple bags and emerged from the mess victorious, shakers in hand (Mom must have bleached them for hours before returning them to the dinner table, which I insisted she do).   I was unreasonably infantile when it came to stuffed animals.

So since my relationships with kitchen utensils went so well, how do you think I’ll fair with a live, pink, curly-tailed pig?   

Yeah, I agree.  It’s going to be a disaster. 

But I'll get through it somehow, as we all should: one crispy bite at a time.


Could You Please Pass The Awkward?

The other day I was telling a friend about another friend who cleans his hair solely with baby shampoo, and mistakenly said he swore not by washing with baby shampoo but by washing with baby hair.

Last night I ordered a veggie sub.  I asked them to make it with turkey.

I once told a friend with a glass eye to sleep with one eye open.  

The glass eye was always open.

Do these things happen to everyone, or is it just me?  There are days when I feel like I might have hatched on the face of another planet and stowed away to earth on the underbelly of the mars space rover.  After so many foot-in-mouth moments and ridiculous physical happenings, you start to wonder if maybe it’s only you that seems to need around-the-clock safety gear and a shock collar muzzle. 

I’ve mentioned the eating tuna under the dining room table episode, as well as the toxic poisoning from feeding dolls cough syrup incident.  Other happenings include sliding underneath a horse while riding behind the saddle and having a tiny deer tongue a twenty-dollar bill from the depths of my pant pocket while visiting the zoo (the first time my parents let me hold my own money).  I’ve skied into a metal pole and had the ice cream machine in my college dining hall explode on me.  Twice.

In elementary school I talked to frogs and my toothbrush, but not to men with beards.

I used to unravel paperclips and wrap them around my teeth to pretend I had a retainer like my sister.  I must have envied the way she had to clean out food debris after meals and soak it in Fixodent before bed, which as you know, is totally understandable.

When I was a sophomore in college, I sported a hairstyle that is now commonly referred to by my friends and husband as the crow.  It was an attempt at a short, hip cut, but looked more like I had gotten gum stuck in my hair, and had to chop off all the sticky bits.

Another danger contained by the good work of the New York Football Giants.

Only they were everywhere.  I looked like an inverted tulip after a terrible rendezvous with a weedwacker.

As children, my sister and I might have lacked all common sense and any grip on reality.   During much of our youth, half of our house was in the framing stage of construction, and rather than play with dolls or stuffed animals, Renee and I would nail or staple lace veils to random timber slats and draw faces on them.  While Ken and Barbie were hitting Rodeo Drive in her pink convertible, our wooden babies were getting married in a construction work zone. 

One of these days all of my bad stories, incoherent jokes and bodily accidents are going to catch up with me, and humankind is going to put me in a permanent time out.  Which will be followed by an awkward, uncomfortable silence, because even Mars won’t want me back.


It Seems Like We're Walking In Circles...

You know that feeling that you get when you are walking down a street or making pancakes and you just swear that you’ve done it before?  In that exact place, at that exact time, in that exact way?

Déjà vu, right?

Well, this past Saturday night, I experienced the most intensely strong déjà vu of my life.  I found myself in a warm, dark room, surrounded by moose décor, lifting C’s folded t-shirts out of one of many black garbage bags on the floor. Out the window I could see that I was on the second story of a building, and my ears could faintly make out the sound of quiet voices and clinking dinnerware.   The savory aroma of pot roast hung in the air.

But no,

It couldn’t be.

My mind must be playing tricks on me.  I looked at my watch.  It was ten minutes after the alleged rapture, so maybe this wasn’t déjà vu at all?  Maybe this was some strange take on an afterlife?  We’d done this before – we’d been here, we’d left here – how could we be back??

On occasion, the truth hits like a twenty-ton steamroller, and at that moment I was about to get flattened.  This was no déjà vu, no afterlife, no joke, no kidding.

We were back. 

Yes, C and I have returned to our favorite former stomping grounds.  We have again taken up residence above our local restaurant.  Gone are the mornings of sun streaming through the skylights and frying a couple of eggs on the gas stove.  Say hello to the daily spritz of bacon body spray and making coffee in the bathroom.  Good-bye to hosting dinner.  Hello take-out pizza.  We are returning to the realm of multi-function everything.  Need to shave your legs and do the dishes?  No problem – pull a Kramer and take it all to the shower – just don't trip on a spoon.  Want to eat breakfast and pick out today’s clothes?  Great, just turn around from the table and grab a hangar.  The only thing we can’t do here is watch TV from the bathroom, which I guess is ok considering all of the things we can do. 

Even as I throw it around as a dramatic foil for most other living arrangements, we’ve got it pretty good.  We can walk to almost anything in town (which now includes the only-open-in-the-summer ice cream stand – a hazardous personal vice), don’t need to worry about paying for oil heat (someone throw another log on the deep fryer!), and... (big finish)…  it’s not -10 degrees out, which it was the last time we lived here. 

Everything is better above freezing.   Even déjà vu.


E.T., Phone Home. I Mean, Text Me

Gone are the days of rotary telephones and live operators.  Say goodbye to the wall phone with your neighbor on speed-dial #1 and the police on #2, or for that matter, when you actually knew what number to dial for your local fire department.  Kids will never again wrap the cord around their fingers as they talk to their 8th grade crush, and your phone-talking leash will no longer snap less than ten feet from the kitchen wall.

Folks, you can bury your clunky receiver next to the fifteen feet of fiber optic cable connecting you to the wall. 

Get ready to txt ur bff.

I’ve been making a lot of phone calls lately for work and it’s got me thinking.  Do we know how to talk to people anymore?  In an age when convenience is king and you’re more likely to email your grandma than call her at home, have we lost the ability to be cordial?  To be pleasant?  My sister and I text message back and forth constantly, and very rarely do I think, “man, I should really call her”, but really, perhaps I should.  The fact that I get the sweats while I wait to hear if someone actually picks up my work call is a good indication that I need to start having some real live phone conversations. 

C and I don’t have a home phone.  Well, actually right now we do, but it belongs to our landlord, and I’m pretty sure that only she and the U.S. Census Bureau have the number.  We haven’t had our own home phone in years.  There’s no point.  When you can carry your computer, map, radio, calculator, television and cookbook in your back pocket, why in the world would you still have a number solely responsible for receiving telemarketing sales calls?  It would be absurd.

In the same breath however, I do admit that it is a little sad to recognize that we are slowly losing our ability to communicate well with others, like an animal losing it’s ability to hunt as it becomes domesticated.  Without a reason to maintain our skills, they are slowly being dulled and driven away.  I won’t even get into our shortening attention span.  Using the phone to order pizza seems cumbersome when you can just click a few buttons and schedule your delivery online.   Why would you call a technical support employee when you can live-chat and have them connect to your computer remotely and fix it for you?  We are at a real technological intersection right now.

Old fashioned or new - I won’t say whether one communication style is better than the other, or whether I disapprove of your rotary phone or the iPad you just bought, but I will say this.  Text some, call some. But maintain your humanity and do both with every level of kindness and sincerity you can muster.  I promise you, there is a real human on the other end of that number who deserves your respect.

Of course I’m lying.  It’s just these guys.


Boy, Am I Feeling Old[er]

I thought about taking this morning to address the fact that fewer than five people have looked at our [for sale] home down south since the first of the year, but then I thought, hey – people don’t need to start today with a scowl. 

Or strained, depressing laughter.


Remember when we were young and svelte? 

I love this.  Are we out of our minds?!  Oh, of course McDonald's wants kids to be fit.  My bad.

Can you recall the days when our miniature bodies could flex and bend into back walk-overs or be launched effortlessly over the bar of a high jump?  Even more impressive was the ability to spend a day hiking or skiing or even roller-skating without waking up the next morning unable to sit up in bed.  These days I'm lucky if only my back is sore when I creep out from under the covers, and I feel like a champion if I can jog to and from the car at the gas station without getting winded. 

When my sister and I were young, we were quite the athletic display.  When I say this, I mean that we were the embodiment of one concept (athleticism) applied to two startlingly different cases.  Renee was lean and graceful; I was stocky and awkward.  Starting in middle school, she competed in track and field’s 110-meter hurdles and the high jump – events generally performed by light, agile competitors.  I didn’t run, jump, or move more than ten feet in any direction - I threw things.  At the local ski hill, Renee would don a feminine, belted, rose-colored suit.  My outfit was an asymmetrical smattering of safety yellow, neon orange, lime green and reflective silver trapezoids, not unlike a hazmat suit crossed with an emergency space blanket (on a positive note, my mom could see me running into mesh fencing and hitting metal poles while sipping coffee on the base lodge deck).  Renee could pull off leggings and a side ponytail.  I spent 6th grade wearing sweatpants and rastafari Tweety Bird shirts.  If you’re a praying person, thank the Maker that your child has not followed in such dangerous footsteps.  This phase of life was awkward, physically straining, and grossly unbecoming.  And that’s only the material reality.  My mind was turtle soup. 

Although I lacked all grace and any beauty, I still marvel at the way that I was able to 1) maintain physical stamina through hikes, bikes and jog-a-thons, 2) recover from said activities with no fatigue or muscle pain, and 3) do splits.  What I wouldn’t give to be able to do one of those or a set of inverted push-ups right now. 

As I continue in my spring work-out venture, I am constantly (painfully, repeatedly, embarrassingly) reminded that I am no longer a child.  I know, I know – I’m only 27 – but I’m telling you, my twenty-seven year-old body feels pretty far from the functional frame of my youth, and it only seems to be getting farther with each year.

On the plus side, at least I’m wearing sweatpants less often.  And as a grownup, no one can make me get back into that ski suit.


Take Your Summer By The Horns: 5 Things Not To Miss

A recreational revelation.

Remember that hamster ball you/your kids had years ago?  Well, some engineer had the brilliant idea to take that plastic sphere and supersize it, and we all get to be the recipients of such genius.  Zorbing is generally performed on grassy hillsides, but I say take it to the water.  A great sign that this is going to be a good time:  Zorb balls come with or without harnesses (harness = guaranteed blast).  Best news?  The closest course is probably not far away.  

Play Bocce

Everyone can do this one.  I don’t care if you’re twenty-five or a hundred and five, you can toss a resin ball on a front yard.  However, if you’re feeling ambitious and you have three other players that share your fun-loving aggression, take your game to a new level: All-Terrain Bocce.  No limits, no boundaries, no whining.  Play a game in the woods, down the street, at the mall, or if you’re really feeling bold, in your mom’s garden. 

Lobster Ice CreamBen & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium, Bar Harbor, Maine

What are the two best foods of summer?  Seafood and ice cream.  What happens when you combine them?  I’ll tell you:  magic happens.  I’ve had it, and the next time I find myself in Bar Harbor, I’ll have it again.  This is butter-flavored ice cream with cooked, locally-caught Maine lobster chunks folded in.  Not a cheap ploy at lobster-themed dessert, this spoonful is the real deal. Don’t knock it ‘till you try it.

Garlic & Herb Festival:  Bennington, VT; September 3-4

I know that this falls right at the start of the school year for many families, but please, make an exception for an event of this magnitude.  Adult admission is five bucks, and kids under twelve are only a dollar, so this could be your answer to end-of-the-summer empty pockets (except for the massive amounts of garlicky treats that you’ll be carrying home in your soon-to-be-garlicky car).  You can test garlic bread braids slathered in garlic jams and jellies, sip on a garlic margarita, or even saturate your sweet tooth in garlic ice cream or garlic apple pie!!  If our summers weren’t so crazy and abusive, you would find me hiding out under a table at the garlic brownie tent with my fingers covered in chocolate. 

Whitewater Rafting: Kennebec River, Maine; right now – October 1:

Imagine riding a child’s pool toy down a raging river.  Now imagine doing it with your best friends and/or family.  While rafting is a little different, it’s potential for lifelong stories and embarrassing moments is just as strong.  You might think this is a shameless plug to get you to visit me, but this recommendation is dead serious.  If you want to thrill your family and friends with a wave-riding, adrenaline-pumping experience brought to you by an excellent group of river guides, this will fill your tank.  As will the bacon chicken wrap you’ll attack after paddling half the river.

This small list should begin to get your motor running. Summer only comes once a year, so make the most of your vacation days and your friends' gas mileage.  You know the phrase "I'll do anything once"?  Make it your motto as you take this summer out back and show it who's boss.  


Someone Get That Girl Some Color

I wear a lot of black.  It’s a clean, safe color and works with basically any other shade, even itself.  If I were to wear pink on pink, you’d think I might have a 1995 shamrock limited-edition beanie baby in my back pocket, but if when I wear black on black, I just look like a New Yorker.  If I go shopping for new apparel and am really on my game, I use an important set of criteria to determine the cost-value ration of the item.  

Is it black, grey or brown (and brown is a real stretch)?  


I'll take it!  

This is my uniform for life.  Feel free to laugh, but I’m telling you, it makes my mornings practically chaos-free.  

This Yeti clearly appreciates my taste in apparel.

What better color to wear in celebration of a finished half-marathon?  You guessed it.

Family get-togethers are made for this uniform.  
You’re guaranteed not to outshine your relatives (or even impress them).

Black isn’t just for little cocktail dresses.  It’s perfect for those 90-degree days on an arid cliff.

Wear black when you get together with old friends.   
They’ll see how much you’ve changed stayed the same.

Doing pirate impressions while scooping ice cream?  
Those spills won’t show on black - there's no aaaarrrrrggggguing against it.

In New York at Christmas time?  Obviously.

Predictable?  Yes.  Boring?  Maybe.  Easy as pie?  Absolutely.  While you all are breaking out those bright summer colors and fun patterns (polka dots?  If only I could!), I’ll be rocking out the warm months in my favorite wears.  And next time you find yourself grief-stricken in front of the full-length mirror, take a lesson from my playbook.  Trust me, you’ll never be the same. 

Or rather, from then on, you’ll always be the same. 


Food That Fights Back

Does anyone know why we don’t eat guinea pigs in America?  Or Canada geese, for that matter?  It seems to me that there some very available food sources that we are neglecting to take advantage of.  Insects, anyone?  I’ve never had a fried grasshopper or a chocolate-covered ant, but I like to think that I’d be up for chewing away at those spindly legs if the opportunity ever presents itself.  Think about it, some of the best foods sources in this world are the ugliest and most un-appetizing in their original form.  Let me convince you.

Passion Fruit – This dark purple fruit contains an ooey-gooey substance unnervingly similar to snot or a pile of frog eggs.  If you like oysters, this is for you.  If you’re a texture person, you might want to stick to apples.

Parsnip – I love parsnips.  If you roast them with olive oil and rosemary, they showcase their incredible natural sweetness and earthy tone that makes a carrot seem so minor league.  Don’t think they’re ugly?  What other vegetable could grow naturally into the shape of your face.

I know what you're thinking.  It's a shame it didn't have his teeth.

Chicken – Have you ever seen a chicken’s face up close?  I think because we eat them every week and see them frequently in our neighborhoods (some of us), we have become numb to the fact that really, these creatures came from dragons.  

Rambutan – Okay, so I’ve never tried this one, but it looked like something that needed to be referenced here. This Southeast Asian native is sweet and slightly acidic, that is, if you can manage to get past the fact that it looks like the eye of a monster with serious cataracts.  

        source                                                                  source
 You know who doesn't seem to care?  This guy.

Snails – Stop what you’re doing right now.  Get in your car.  Go to the nearest fishmonger.  Buy snails.  Braise them in enough butter and garlic to make you feel ashamed, then grab a tiny fork and get ready to have the best food experience of your life.  It helps if you have a little plate with divots to serve them in.  That way you can spoon up all of that liquid sunshine.

This is a very short list of what turns out to be an enormous category of food.  Next time the waiter brings you something that causes stomach acid to creep back up your throat, swallow hard and prepare yourself for what could be simultaneously the best and worst food decision of your life.  Seriously, if you aren’t ready to take unnecessary risks with your food, that’s fine, but could that also mean that you aren’t ready to take unnecessary risks with your life?  I'm right, aren't I?  So grab your meal by its horns and start taking charge today.  


Excuse Me Sir, But You Sing Like An Angel

Beginning right now, I’m planning to post new blog entries on a MWF schedule.  I start a new job today, and no offense, but I don’t think it’s right to wake up at 4:30 every single morning just to hit you with another blast of verbal debris. I hope that you wouldn’t wake up that early for me.  So go ahead and breathe a sigh of relief: she’s finally going to shut up for a day.  Consider this your Christmas gift from me.  Your only Christmas gift.

Sundays are quickly becoming my favorite day here.  Last Sunday we went to church, had an epic bike ride, and ate a fantastic dinner.  This morning, we again went to said church, which was, again, terrific.  Today, while the congregation was singing at the beginning of the service, C and I had one of those special moments as a couple when you find yourselves thinking the very same thought at the very same instant.  What a rare and precious thing it is to realize together that the man who is leading your song is the one and only Johnny Cash.   

Yes, folks.  He’s alive, is in his mid 60’s, and has a mane that flows like MacGyver's. 

When you sing like that, you can get away with anything.

Really and truly, the guy at the microphone sounded just like the Man in Black.  It wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that half of the people attending that church came just to hear him sing.  And friends, sing he could.  It was glorious. 

Following church, we went out to lunch with friends at the Black Frog, an establishment whose menu I’ve recommended checking out in a previous post.  Don’t let yourself get away with only reading a few items, either.  The menu is long, but the first read is phenomenal, like eating your first plate of fried pickles. Once you try them, you'll need to eat them again, like right now.

While these things were enough to make it a spectacular day, I just thought of two things that pushed it over the top.  One, I made spaghetti squash marinara tonight for dinner, a bullet point on last Tuesday’s list of ways to make the week awesome. It took until tonight to do it, but this meal was worth the wait.  Second, C and I watched some of our friends’ kids this weekend so they could have an overnight away.  The best quote of the adventure took place on Friday night when their young daughter was choosing a movie to watch, and referred to one of her favorites (the Princess & the Pea) as the Princess & the Pee in a Cup.   That's my kind of girl.

It happened Friday, but it’s still making me laugh today.  Here's to a week that makes you laugh like that.  


Moms Are Better Than New Toys

The title is an actual phrase said by a camper my husband had in his cabin years ago.  Genius.

To all you mothers out there – I don’t know how you do what you do.  I have a hard enough time keeping track of myself, and can’t imagine being left responsible for the lifelong wellbeing of other, much smaller humans.  You know how they say that when you have a child, you develop a depth of love that you’ve never experienced before – like there’s a secret holding tank hidden in your soul?  Well, I think there’s another secret holding tank, this one for all of the patience, grace, self-sacrifice, and humor that you will exhaust in the care of said child.  Two tanks for the price of one. 

It’s great to be in that stage of life where you can look at motherhood from a couple of angles.  Yes, I am still young and childless, and my perceptions are probably quite infantile, but I appreciate being able to observe the parenting that many of my peers are currently up to, as well as remembering the parenting of my own mom and dad when I was younger.  Don’t worry – they still parent me (they thought my middle school years were bad; just wait ‘till my reckless thirties!), although guess who brought the Easter baskets this year?  This girl did.  Packed in brown lunch sacks, no less.

Mom and I lost in the woods four and a half years ago.

A long time ago I realized that my mom is special.  No, it’s not because of the way she says croissant (cwassohn) or because she collects turtle figurines, although I suppose it could be.  Just now I was about to say that it is because she’s outstanding or incredible or some other tired and empty phrase, but I realize that she’s special for so many reasons.  When I would spend my Tuesday nights sobbing because she would go to work on Wednesday morning, she would hold me in reassurance when really I deserved a slap across the jaw (it was only an afternoon apart – get a grip).  When I would make myself a bowl of tuna and mayo and crawl under the dining room table to eat it like a cat, she wouldn’t laugh hysterically at my expense (that I’m aware).  The times I casually drank cough syrup or dish detergent, she didn’t freak out at me and call the ambulance.  During the years when my sister and I shared a room, we managed to keep it continually under a foot or so of books and/or clothing, and we kicked and screamed at each other amongst jumpers and the Boxcar Children.  Mom didn’t throw us out on the street.  She didn’t even cage us up in the basement.  Though I’m sure it happened at some point, I don’t even remember her getting furious with me.  Ever.  On the contrary, I remember her gorgeous smile.  I remember how she could be practically paralyzed by a funny story, only to come up for little squeaks of breath at random intervals to remind us that she was alive.  I remember how she sat on a bench with our backpacks at the amusement park so we could ride one more rollercoaster with dad before the gates closed.  I remember her swimming with sea rays in Grand Cayman and climbing a waterfall in Jamaica (in a bikini no less).  I remember her almost exclusively in a state of joy.  This could be because I have a selective memory, but in reality, I think it’s because more often than not, this is how I find her.  And if you know my mother, you know that I’m not lying. 

She is the best mom ever. 

In yo’ face.


I'm Not Sweating; My Muscles Are Crying

Happy Cinco de Mayo!!  Go eat some great tex-mex for me - we'll probably be celebrating with  doritos and clam dip.

In the past month, I’ve started a workout program.  It’s along the lines of p90x, and though different, similarly allows me the courtesy of sweating my gut out in the comfort of my own space, namely our cabin in the woods.  I can’t imagine performing such physically grotesque movements within a quarter-mile radius of anyone who could possibly see in my windows.  It would be entirely unbecoming. 

On the first day of this regimen, I took a “fit test”.  It should have been called a walrus test, because the manner in which I found myself heaving on the floor could only be described in such terms.  I was alone in the house, and it was still embarrassing.  The cat was watching me through her loathing, narrow eye slits.   I could tell.  Even she was mortified. 

The first month of training consists primarily of intense intervals of plyometrics disguised in the cover of a cardio workout.  It's relentless.  Even in the rare 30-second breaks, the text rolling across the screen reminds you: 
Do not….stop…..moving…,
and the instructor is commanding  you to “get some water!  You’ve got ten seconds!  You’re gonna need it!!”

I’ll get some water all right.  I'll get it deep enough to drown your chiseled, perfect body in.

Ironically, this devilish dance known as the fit test is actually a wonderful and ingenious tool.  By tracking the number of particular exercises I could (or rather, couldn’t) perform in 60 seconds, I was able, two weeks later, to easily see the progress I’d made.  Very un–walrus-like progress, by the way.

 A few years ago, C and I began using a new phrase to describe losing weight and/or developing muscle mass.  There was a radio commercial on WFAN [I think] that featured a man and woman in conversation about their recent effort to get in shape.  All of a sudden, the woman starts screaming in shock, “My butt!! My butt is on the front lawn!!”  As in, her bottom had been fit-tested right off her body, and onto the Bermuda grass.  Ever since hearing it, C and I have employed this phrase frequently and with glee. 

Is your butt on the front lawn??
Translation: Have you lost weight?

I drew this for you.  You're welcome.

No one needs to be actively exercising for us to ask, either.  We just like the way it sounds.

Well, any significant change is yet to be discovered, and I'm not sure if I've dropped any derriere on the grass, but I do know I've left behind gallons of sweat, some seriously maniacal laughter, and a good amount of infantile tears.  My next fit test is Monday, and I’m already nervous.  I know that walrus is itching to get back in the game, and if you know me, you’re aware that my self-discipline runs at a continuous all-time-low. 

Let the battle begin.   


Stop, Drop and Roll

Cebus apella.  Oreophrynella niger.

C and I recently purchased the BBC film series Life, a follow up to their incredible work in Planet Earth, and it has been enlightening to watch such gorgeous cinematography used to display the creative and sometimes terrifying nature of the animal kingdom.  We’re only one disc in, which has consisted of three episodes: 1) Challenges of Life (Venus flytraps, cheetahs on an ostrich hunt), 2) Reptiles and Amphibians (Jesus Christ lizard, komodo dragon), and 3) Mammals (humpback whale mating – the rock star of the animal documentary world doing its thing).  Among the dozens of species highlighted in this first disc, I want to relay two of them, my favorites.

1) Tufted Capuchin, Cebus apella.
I don’t like small monkeys.  Unless they are tiny, that is, but we’re talking fit-in-your-hand or in-your-purse tiny.  Capuchins are just small.  They are between one and two feet tall, and weight four to eleven pounds.  You may know them as the little monkeys that appear in almost any movie (Night in the Museum, Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl).  I think of them as sneaky, malicious animals that snarl and bite.  Perhaps that’s because I’ve been listening to the Golden  Compass series, and there’s an angry, cruel monkey in it that I think is just this kind.

Anyhow, the tufted capuchin is the exception to all of my monkey gut feelings.  This little gem likes to eat the innards of the nut palm.  First, it strips the outside husk with its creepy fangs.  Then, it lets the nuts dry out in the sun for a week or so.  When the nut is satisfactorily dried out, the monkey will search out a hard stone, and will take the nut to a large boulder, on which it will sit and hammer on the nut with the smaller, harder stone until it cracks open.  Some of these hammering stones are bigger then the upper body of the monkey itself, and as an adolescent monkey is learning the trade, they seem to often fall off their boulder due to the weight of their hammer.  It is a treat to watch, and check out the divots they leave in those boulders!!

2) Pebble Toad, Oreophrynella niger.

A-mazing.  The Pebble toad lives on top of mountains in the Guiana Highlands of South America, and practically survives in a state completely unencumbered by predators.  That is, except for hairy, ugly, chill-down-your-spine tarantulas.  Yeesh.  These toads are pretty unathletic and have no real aptitude for self-defense against such a disgusting predator, but they do have one incredible method of escape.  The Pebble toad will pull its arms and legs in toward it's body, not unlike a turtle (trust me on this, mine is 19 this year) without a shell, and hurl its body over the nearest cliff.  Hurl.  Cliff.  Pebble.  It's all coming together now.  Just think - the comparable leap would be like you or I throwing our bodies off of the closest ten story pyramid-shaped death trap, but these little guys just shake themselves off and walk away.  Unfortunately, if our toad lands in a puddle of rainwater, it could be curtains closed for the good life.  These guys are awesome, but being unable to swim or hop is decidedly not.  

Can you imagine that?  You survive a jump off the Sears Tower only to die in the shallow end of the city pool.  

In watching the Life series, I've discovered that while I still don't have a stomach for mammal on mammal violence, I can easily enjoy bug on bug violence.  Are insect fighting rings legal?  Probably in Canada.  

Good thing that's so close.


Five Ways to Make Your Week Awesome

I know it’s Tuesday, and that really all inspiring things should be said on Mondays.  My bad.  However, there are still 5 more days this week to make incredible, and just as many ways to do it, so let’s get started. 

  • Win something.  Darts, Monopoly, the lottery, your volleyball game, a chicken fight in the pool – I don’t care what it is - just win it.  If, like me, you aren’t super duper competitive, and you’re not sure that you can rise to the occasion, be sure to set your sights at a lower, more achievable level.  Play 1980’s edition trivial pursuit with a 6 year-old or challenge your chain-smoking uncle to a see who can hold their breath the longest.   You’re smart.  I know you’ll find a way.

  • Play with your food.  The other night, C and I were at Ruby Tuesdays, where I had the most incredible spaghetti squash marinara (I went out and promptly bought a squash for my own attempt – I’ll let you know how messy it gets).  They now give you these cheddar cheese biscuits when you arrive (Red Lobster envy?), and neither C nor I wanted them, so we made this instead. 

Our waiter, Patrick, took it away without cracking a smile.  
We had even turned it to look at him.  Lighten up, Patrick.  Life's too short.

  • Eat something new.  Go buy the spaghetti squash.  Try unagi at the sushi bar.  Cook with liquor (hopefully you do this already; do it again anyway).  Do you know that there is a brand of peanut butter that uses maple syrup in the place of refined sugar??  I found some on the floor of my sister's car, and it is incredible.  Unfortunately, grocery stores in the north (where ironically, much of our country’s maple syrup is produced) don’t carry this. Feel free to send me some. 

  • Get your hands on some of this sticky film, and go climb a building sideways.  So what if it’s only been tested on a four-pound robot - the concept is sound.

  • Have a movie night.  I recommend buying (or renting, if you must) a 3-D flat screen television, because 1) I loved Avatar, and 2) you get to wear cool glasses like these. 

Someone looks faaabulous!  (source)

They might be expensive, but consider it an investment in the future - this is the kind of thing that oozes big returns.  In five years, all of your friends will be jealous. Unless they're still laughing at you.

So, enjoy your Tuesday and your Wednesday.  Aaaannnd your Thursday (and so on).  I wish you luck as you challenge your friends, family, and complete strangers to contests of the wit or will, and as you attempt to play with and consume new foods.  I recommend that you preemptively dial emergency services before taking a crack at a sideways climb of the nearest building, and I also suggest that you sport your hot, new 3-D glasses during the expedition.  Now go out and conquer this week.  Show no mercy, and take no prisoners. 

Taking prisoners is on next week’s list.  No one likes an eager beaver.


Just Like Riding A Bike

The announcement today (last night, really) is significant enough to warrant its own discussion, but I have a feeling that you are being smothered by expert commentary without my help.  I’m not going to talk about the news here, other than to say that it feels strange to revel in the snuffing out of a life, regardless of whose it is.  Maybe I’m just not tough enough.

Yesterday was the perfect Sunday.  The only thing I can imagine that could’ve thrown it over the top would have been getting smothered by a pile of purring kittens.  But since much of the afternoon was spent cycling, I probably would have run them over, so I’m relieved that my day was just normal perfect, as opposed to kitten pile perfect.  Perhaps another day.

First of all, we went to church.  Since moving north at the beginning of February, we haven’t had a Sunday available for it.  We’ve either been working or traveling, except for that one day that I made us so late that we missed church by twenty minutes and went out to breakfast instead.  The bacon was good, but the delay made it that much more exciting to finally get to croon some hymns with a few dozen strangers yesterday.  Also I’ve never seen a church so eager to greet one other at the beginning of a service – it must have lasted a full five minutes and was so enthusiastic that I felt like pawing at the old lady behind me for a bear hug.  It was wonderful.

We did some quick grocery shopping following church.  Yes, this is worth mentioning. Remember when you were a kid, and how going to the bank drive-up window was a thrill because that little bottle would take your money and fly up the plastic tube to the teller, and it was so exciting??  Well, I am that kid and grocery shopping is my drive-up window.  You can’t get chipotle Tabasco just anywhere up here, and we smother this sweet nectar on almost everything.  Thank you, Hannaford Supermarkets, for existing in the north.  An hour’s drive is no price to pay for your bounty.

Later that afternoon, once the post-grocery high had faded, C and I decided to hit the pavement on our road bikes.  A half-mile from our cabin, we can hop on a main drag that heads east, but the next town is like, 27 miles away, so there is lots of open road.  So much open road, in fact, that in our 30-mile ride, we were passed by fewer than twenty cars.  And at least three of them passed us in both directions.  My quads were on fire when we finally made it home, but the ride was spectacular.  We may not be in the Rockies, but - I’m telling you - the views are extreme and stunning.  I didn’t bring my camera along, but it wouldn’t have done justice to the landscape even if I had.  Biking is a perfect way to see the world around you; despite the pedaling, you can hear the birds singing clearly, feel the sweet spring air whoosh by your face, and periodically catch a tire on a pothole and fly over your handlebars.  Luckily we both stayed upright yesterday, and completed our ride without having to hop off the bikes and breathe from an oxygen tank (which is a significant feat for me; C, not so much).   We came home and I promptly did my stretching in a hot shower.  I do NOT recommend trying this at home. 

The day was capped off by the ugly Miami-Celtics game, grilled asparagus, and a lot of lounging.  Can yesterday be bested?  I’m not sure, but I know we’ll try to find out.

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