Fat Friday (french for "the day after Thanksgiving")

What better way to celebrate Black Friday than to lounge in yoga pants (better known as "pajamas"), laugh with family, and eat the food of the gods (peanut M&M's) out of a holiday dish for the good part of an entire day?  If there is a more perfect method of cultural rebellion, I don't know what it is.  Retail warfare can kiss my ever-widening ham hocks - there is no doorbuster in America that can beat a quiet morning in the woods and hiding snug under a warm quilt past eight.

C and I are visiting with my in-laws at their lake house in the Adirondacks of New York, a place which practically hums with hospitality and radiates with cozy goodness.  The solitude of this small town along with the perfectly quiet atmosphere (no TV buzzing, no stereo cranking, no logging trucks releasing their air brakes) pairs seamlessly with the clarity of the cool blue lake, transparent window panes and as of Wednesday, the delicate layer of snow garnishing the not-quite frozen ground.  Think Call of the Wild meets the North Pole workshop meets HGTV's Dream Cabin.  It's brilliant.

I took a little walk with my mother-in-law this afternoon up the road a bit to a snow-covered beach.  The sun was so warm that we could've comfortably worn short-sleeves, while the snow crunched under our shoes as we stomped down the shoreline, picking up pieces of beaver wood and enjoying the sound of water lapping on the sand.  There is something astonishing about the collection of sounds, smells and sights that define this brief marriage of fall and winter.  It's especially stunning because I know that by the time that C and I get home, the bears will have already built their ice huts and the neighbors will be crawling into their dens to hibernate until June.  It's just another reason to savor these moments before we fall off of that proverbial cliff known as winter.

I hope that your day was as beautiful and inviting as ours was, but honestly, I doubt it was.  Better luck next year.  

I guess if you really think your day was better than ours, you can just go ahead and tell me off in the comments section.  I'll read it. 



Hope Smells Like Smoked Meat

There’s hope for us, and we found it in an old bank.

C and I drive about an hour for church on Sundays, to another small town on another lake after another car ride littered with enough moose, deer, bear and small animals to both raise your blood pressure to an unhealthy level and draw out a very real fear of an automobile-accident related death.  The drive is usually followed by either attending church or going grocery shopping.  Fear of death, followed by God or food.  Huh.

Well, yesterday after said drive and said church service, we stuck around to have lunch with the church pastor.  He chose the restaurant, and I can tell you now, in hindsight, that it was undeniably the right choice.  You know the quote from Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken that says it was the decision of taking the less trodden path “that made all the difference”?  Well, we followed a new friend down an unknown trail, and when our path ended, there was pork.  Frost is a genius.

Meet Bacon, Ham Steak and Brisket.  Cute now, but extra yummy later.

They have a meat smoker at this particular establishment, and the juicy brisket to prove it.  To me, pig products are a crucial component of successful dining, so to understand my excitement, just imagine me rolling around on the hardwood restaurant floor, kicking my legs in the air and laughing hysterically, with dark barbeque sauce dripping from the corner of my mouth.   Or if you want to sleep tonight, go ahead and skip that.

I, of course, refrained from the above actions yesterday, due to the fact that we were in the company of someone who didn’t really know us yet, and well… I was wearing a skirt.  I’m not about to embarrass myself by giving the other diners a peek at my panties – I've got more class than that.

Here are some other signs that we found a promising restaurant:
  • Liberal use of fresh jalapenos and a nice pico de gallo
  • Cracked pepper on freshly fried kettle chips
  • A Cuban sandwich, which is startling, because Dorothy, we're not in Miami anymore
  • I can’t recall any that item on the menu had a moose theme
  • Coleslaw served in the pulled pork sandwich, which means that someone did their homework 

In a world of meatloaf (albeit, good meatloaf) and baked chicken breasts, eating yesterday’s meal left me feeling like I was watching a new morning sun rise over the horizon.  In a land of snow and ice, it compares to catching a glimpse of the North Pole workshop.  In a lifeboat, it would be a white sand beach.  In our case, it’s just a little thing called hope, wrapped in prosciutto and drizzled with honey. 

Down the hatch, Hope.


Into The Wild

Yesterday as I was driving downriver to run errands, a huge bird swooped out of the ditch on my side of the road and flew into a leafless tree at the edge of the forest.  It was a bald eagle.  Cool, right?  I turned the car around to go take his picture, which was primarily intended to share here with you rather than bolster my photo library, because to be honest, seeing bald eagles is not totally out of the norm now.  We even had one perched at camp's waterfront a couple of weeks ago, drying off after a plunge in the lake.  

Life is full of surprises.  I don’t think I had ever spotted a bald eagle in the wild until a year ago.  It’s just one of many unexpected things that have come to be normal.

Some others:
  • Noticing that a new “custom meat cutting” sign has popped up in town.
  • Our outdoor moose thermometer.  I don’t even see the moose anymore.  
What moose?
  • The Chevy Suburban in town that Maaco painted in Mossy Oak camouflage.
  • That our grocery store is a Quonset hut.            
  • Canadians.  Seriously.  
  • This view:
Ok, you’re right.  Something this breathtaking can’t feel normal.

  • This view:


I guess some things are still pretty special.  

Oh, you’ll like this.  Remember the mice that Kiwi has been catching lately?  Well, we found their trap door.  

Hidden behind one of these moose flags was a perfect hole the size of a nickel that our little field mouse was popping out of at two in the morning.  Remember our moose flags?  We found the escape hatch because Kiwi heard the little guy scrambling his way out of the hole and ran to grab him, but quickly she realized that she can’t climb walls.  We were both a little disappointed.  I’ll let you know how long the strip of duct tape keeps the vermin out.

Also, I added a survey gadget on the upper right-hand side of the blog, so check it out.  I'll get more creative with the questions in the future... you'll be begging for an easy one like this.


7 Billion Strong

I've been thinking lately about the world.

Really, the whole world.  Seriously.

Do you know that earth's population has (or will imminently) hit the 7 billion mark?  Can you even imagine it?  Seven billion people sharing this one spinning ball.

I also recently saw on some checkout magazine headline that the Duggar family is expecting their 20th child (don't worry, I checked their website - it's true).  In a matter of months, as long as Jim Bob and Michelle tend opposing goals, the family could start playing a weekly Saturday afternoon regulation-sized soccer match.  Or they could run a 3 team round-robin volleyball tournament with Mom as head referee and Dad calling the net, plus they'd have a couple of pint-sized players on the bench.  In this case, distributing the under-12 crowd amongst the other kids would be crucial, since no one wants to be the only team player that can see above the base of the net.  Underhand serves for all!

Now before you arm yourselves with pitchforks and fiery blog comments about me bad-mouthing the Duggars, hear me out.  Both of the above statements are what we as humans call fact, and are also known in some circles as "truth" or "reality" (the sports-related points are a stretch only because it's tough to call it "dribbling" when an infant is crawling around a soccer field on all fours).  We all have opinions on the overpopulation issue, and so far I've only hit the bullet points, but maybe even that doesn't set well with you.  I can understand your frustration - perhaps you're from a large family, or you don't believe in birth control or dangit, you just like the Duggars - and this upsets you.  So to make you feel better about your plan to draw and quarter me, here are a few of my own thoughts with which to feed that fire you're building around my feet.

And why am I tied to this pole?

I'm 28, in the prime of my baby-booming years, but somehow I can't make up my mind on the "kid" thing.  I'm lucky to have a husband who is sweet and patient and hilarious, and seems able to handle a wife who can't find a maternal bone in her body [or that second pair of glasses I lost somewhere in the five moves since getting them].  I have an increasing number of friends with little cherubs at home, others with cheerio-wielding monsters, and still other friends that are either single or are couples who live alone with an actual animal in the house.  It seems like that last category, the one that C and I belong to, is fading away within my circle, and soon I fear we'll be the only pair left, spending our Sunday afternoons watching football, featuring an overweight black cat sprawled across our laps with her face in the nachos.  Add to all of this the fact that our human population that is growing like a water balloon under pressure and you start to feel my frustration.  So, what's a girl to think?

Some of you have kids.  Some of you can't have kids. Some of you want more kids.  Some of you might not want the kids you already have.  If you are a mom or dad that has pint-sized bodies flailing about your house at the moment, I have to tell you that at times, I'm a little envious of you.  On the other hand, if you want kids and aren't able to conceive or carry them safely, my heart breaks for you. I've often wished to myself that you and I could somehow switch wombs in the universe.  If you are still desperately waiting for that guy or girl to come along with which to build a family, I wish you all the best in your journey (but please take advantage of having the bathroom all to yourself, and practice putting the toilet seat down at 3am so that you won't one day have that inevitable "he left the seat up and I fell in" experience, courtesy of Mr. Right).  And for those of you, like myself, who can't seem to figure out where the good Lord hid your mom genes (c'mon, get the pun... get it), lift your chin off the floor and enjoy where you are, right at this moment.  Because for as many of us as there are, there are Duggars.  But there better not be too many Duggars, or I'm afraid that we're going to have a water balloon situation on our hands.

I'd like to know what you think about all of this.  Today's post isn't as cohesive as I'd like it to be, or as fact-filled or compelling, but try and understand.  If you could dip your toe into my mind, you'd find yourself getting pulled under by a current of half-construed thoughts like these - thoughts that were also run through a blender.  It's not pretty, but the fact that stuff like this keeps me up at night is totally real.

So what do you think?  Are we too many, or are there never too many?  Should we even bother thinking about it?  Comments, please...


Finger Lickin' Good

Monday I celebrated my 100th post with a little dance and an astonishing ginger pumpkin mousse made by the excellent chef at Lake Parlin Lodge.  Last night, Kiwi, our cat celebrated my milestone by catching a mouse in our living room and gnawing on it for 15 minutes until its faint shrieks prompted me to snatch it away from my then-fanatical feline and chuck it out the front door with a pitcher.  This morning, Kiwi attempted to rouse me by burrowing her face near my neck and filling my air supply with her nasty rodent breath before attempting to clean me with a mouth that I had last seen with a tiny foot and tail poking out the front.  I know that licking the area around my nose is her love language, but considering the circumstances, you can imagine how it went this morning.  She flew.

It's important to know a few things about our cat.  This is only the second mouse that she has apprehended in our 5 year history together.  In all truth, you could probably consider it the first, because Kiwi is what C and I like to call "lazy and totally infantile".  The only other time she's had the opportunity (that I'm aware of) to catch a field mouse was in a small cabin we lived in for the first year and a half of her adopted life.  It was a nice grey box nestled into a wooded hill, which probably made it an easy case for a pack of Italian Job forest creatures small enough to dig into the floorboards and walls.  It took place, as last night, at about 3 o'clock in the morning, and in similar fashion,  I awoke to Kiwi scrambling about, tearing her claws into the carpet, only on that occasion the crime scene was our bedroom.  It was as pleasant as it sounds.

So the scenario played out in roughly the same fashion as last night's event, barring the fact that our vicious cat with razor blades for fingernails was totally unable to catch her prey.  She looked like a blind gorilla playing whack-a-mole, throwing her hairy arms wildly in every direction, smashing the blue carpet with more spit and vigor than I'd ever seen her demonstrate anywhere.  This is the cat, that when the vet needs to use the rectal thermometer to read her temperature, responds by purring loudly and rubbing her chin along the latex gloves of the lab tech holding her in place, which is a totally needless assistant in this particular instance, might I add.

Crackers are another strong love language for our fish-breath angel.

5 years ago, when C finally relented to my pleading and reluctantly accompanied me to the nearest Humane Society, it didn't take long for us to find our special friend.  This was a remarkably well designed and beautifully maintained facility, and there were a number of glass-walled cat rooms for us to visit, including the unusual chamber we found Little Miss Einstein in.  Going into the process, I was already leaning toward adopting a black cat or kitten.  I'm not entirely sure what went into my decision, but considering my overwhelming reputation for donning predominantly obsidian apparel, it's probably due to something that happened to me as a child.   So not surprisingly, I entered into a small room that was filled exclusively with black cats.  I'm not certain of what message this particular establishment was trying to send, or if there was actually some kind of evidence-based motivation for this state of segregated affairs, but there they were, with every pair of lime green eyes flashing in our direction.  The only exception to the color palate was a single mostly-white calico cat that was hiding under a chair, hissing wildly.  It was hard not to read anything into the scene.

I knelt down onto the pale linoleum tile and waited.  I was there for maybe a full minute before I was greeted, no - accosted by this one small, ratty-looking animal that was suddenly mounting my chest and summiting my shoulder.  Within seconds, the tiny beast was smearing drool onto the side of my face and working it into the crevices of my left ear.  I don't even think I was holding her up as she clung to my chest like a magnet on a refrigerator.  Instantly, I knew that the search was over.  This was my kind of animal.

As I should have suspected, there was more to this package than tattered fur and dual fountains of saliva and love.  As we filled out paperwork at the front desk, the employee helping us explained that, "all of the volunteers adore her", and that they take turns bringing her home on the weekends.  This is a good sign, I thought. "There is one thing you should probably be aware of, though", said the young fellow as he proceeded to inform me of her condition.  You see, something went wrong when our hairy ray of sunshine was a kitten.  She wasn't weaned long enough, or perhaps it was that she was weaned too long, but either way, she developed a certain coping mechanism to deal with stress.  She suckled.

She what?

Suckled.  As in, finds the nearest finger and latches on like a newborn.  Well, I thought as we signed the papers, how bad could it be?


5 years later she still does it, sniffing through the bed sheets like a pig searching for truffles and nosing around in your sweatshirt for the hands you've crammed into your kangaroo pocket.  She will find them, and she will not relent until she has done it. We've been worn into giving up pretty easily, but I think we're going to start keeping a pair of deer-hide mittens on the coffee table, just so we don't have to scramble around like we've entered a game of capitol-punishment Twister where you're playing against ten rottweilers and your hands are made of bacon.

All I know is that after last night, I will do whatever is necessary to keep that dirty mouth from finding one of my fingers.  And please, whatever you do, don't come over today.

I won't be able to open the door after I tape these Cheerio boxes to my arms.


Let Me Count The Ways

Today is DoesThisParkaMakeMyButtLookBig's 100th post!  It's a good thing you aren't here to see my happy dance, because despite the scientific advances of the 21st century, you still can't erase something like that from your memory, even if you desperately want to.  It's better this way.


At this particular time of year, there are some things that I miss about our old neighborhood.  

I miss scampering through the local corn maze with my sister, cackling loudly as we race through the crisp fall air and trick small, rosy-faced children into marching down dead ends. I yearn for my kitchen, with its sharp knives, miraculous dishwasher and double sink.  Here, when I load the sink with dirty dishes and greasy pans, I don’t have a second bowl to fill my coffeepot in, and rearranging the mountains of glass and knives is like a kitchen version of running the gauntlet  – one of these days, I am going to reach in, flail about, and emerge not with ten fingers, but with two fists of what appears to be ground meat.  I long for the vegetable stand a mile up the road, with its locally-made ginger and eggnog ice creams and perfectly inspired cherry tomatoes that almost never lasted the 3-minute drive home.  I crave a yoga class, a match with my volleyball team, my washer and dryer, and the company of my parents.   I even sort of miss the way the local McDonald’s employees recognized my face as I drove through for yet another vanilla ice cream cone.  I’d try not to frequent the same franchise more than once per day, but there were times when I cared less about my reputation and more for my craving.  They probably had a nickname for me, and rightfully so.  

But despite the wonder of NPR, wireless internet, and comprehensive fitness centers, there are also a few things that I don’t miss.  For example, I don’t miss traffic.  For you friends who doubt the existence of traffic in the neighborhood, boy do I have news for you.  I can identify between 40 and 50% of the vehicles driven in our current town.  The other half is made up of either Canadians or logging trucks.  The last time I had to stop behind a car was about a week ago.  It was on the 3-mile dirt road to camp, and was because we all knew each other and were stopping to have a chat. 


I also don’t miss shopping.  C and I have developed a very brief retail half-life, which seems ironic since before the move, I worked in that industry.  Perhaps it was always this way, but I suspect that making our direct purchases almost exclusively at convenience and grocery stores for the last nine months has exacerbated our impatience.  The only exception I make to the above statement is that I have retained an insatiable love for shopping with my sister, which categorically falls somewhere between Halloween-costume hunting and raiding a candy store, and is perhaps better known as the eternal quest for the most revolting frock.

Lastly, among the things that I have gladly left behind me are traffic circles.  If you believe in such a place, I am convinced that these, friends, are what Limbo is made of: circle after badly engineered circle of misery and anguish and panic.  I dread them.  There is a special, particularly abysmal roundabout near our old house that was recently re-designed, which means that they decided after a dozen years or more to abruptly change the traffic pattern.  I completely agree with the decision, because the vehicle interactions were backwards and inside out for years (inside out, I tell you!), but this is exactly the problem with traffic circles: there seems to be no universal way of constructing them.  Another loop I know of has two lanes – two lanes­ – something that simply cannot produce a safe or predictable traffic pattern.  I am certain that a preschooler somewhere took red crayon and drew a set of fiery concentric circles, then crammed the paper into her city planner/mommy’s briefcase, only for it to slide out onto the office floor and get pushed through approval and funding by some recently-promoted department intern.  It's particularly infuriating considering that the circles were probably drawn to be a giant apple, or maybe Buzz Lightyear.  Bottom line: a two-lane roundabout is ridiculous

Just try to get out of this inside circle without reaching for your Paxil.  Kiss your sanity goodbye. 

Mercifully, I haven’t driven in a circle in months, hardly ever see a stoplight, and buy my gifts online.  This softens the blow of not being able to watch my sister kill a bag of 75%-off Halloween candy or nosh on my mom’s salsa while listening to Simon & Garfunkel with Dad at the dining room table.  It’s is a good thing, because life without the joy of those two events has the potential to really bring me down. 

But no traffic circle Limbo?  This just might be worth it.  


November, You're O.K

 Here's why:

It may be gorgeous, but I'm not ready.
  • From where I am sitting right now, I cannot see a puff of snow anywhere on the ground.  And I can see a lot of ground from here, so this is a proof-positive miracle from heaven.  Thank you.
  • Tomorrow morning in our county, there will be dozens of hunters’ breakfasts hosted by supermarkets, camps, outdoor outfitters, and snowmobile clubs.  Do you think that they would let me attend?  I’d be the girl wearing a kitten t-shirt under her camo fleece and masking a [not-so] slight aversion to guns by smiling awkwardly and making pistol gestures with my hands.  Can’t you hear my high-pitched shots?  Peuw… peuw… peuw-peuw!  Blow those guns out, hot shot!!  I’d fit right in.
  • November is the month of my sister’s second-favorite candy holiday, The Day After Halloween, as well as Thanksgiving (I am waiting for stuffing like a turkey for a pardon), my niece’s fifth birthday, and an upcoming trip-to-die-for to the equator with my sister and mom.  I’m on the verge of making a paper chain to help me count down the days before the madness begins. 
On top of being adorable, my niece has killer moves.
  • Black Friday.  My joy in Black Friday has nothing at all to do with joining the masses as they assault salespeople and destroy retail fixtures across the land.  This is the first year in a little while that I won’t be the smiling elf on the other side of that register counter, and unless you have ever been that elf, you have no idea how excited I am for this day.  I might stay home.  I might go out.  I might shop online.  I might hole up at a cabin in the woods and not cross the threshold for anything except some glazed doughnuts and a walk in the woods.   And I will not wear a sparkly headband with antlers.
  • My first fall has come and winter is almost upon us, and I still do not own a camouflaged fleece.   In fact, I don’t own anything in camo, except some incredibly thick Smartwool socks I bought a couple years back.  You were right to doubt me in the second paragraph – I totally lied when I wrote that description.  Well, not totally.  I do have a kitten t-shirt (two, actually), and I love pistol hands. 

Peuw… peuw.  


Give It To Me Straight

Join me as I take a few minutes to step back from the world and reflect.   This is for my own benefit, but it just might be good for you too.  You see, as my sister and I were jib-jabbing back and forth the other day, we got to talking about how absurdly reluctant we tend to be to acknowledge (seemingly) unbecoming self-truths.  For example, I’m a little doughy right now.  I don’t think I’m fat, or that I'm really that unhealthy, or even a horrible person for liking fried cheese and ice cream in bulk, but I do believe I’ve reached that fleshy point in my 2011 experience, which sadly, usually happens on an annual basis in the winter.  Only this time, I have to wear a bathing suit four weeks from now for a trip with my mom and sister.  I have dimples, and they’re not just on my face.  Enough said?

I think that we women are particularly adept at avoiding prickly little realities, but you guys can let me know if men feel this way too.  It stings to recognize that probably I should trim my nose hairs, or I really am sinfully late for everything.  Perhaps like me, you’ve beaten around this bush by employing phrases like the following:
  • I wake up late because I’m naturally a night owl, and 8 hours is doctor-recommended, isn't it?
  • I chew with my mouth open because of my jaw problem (I’ve heard that a million times).
  • Thick ankles are hereditary on my dad’s side. 
  • I have to pee exceedingly often, and I can’t figure out why.  I think my kidneys, neglecting their proper duties, are off hosting speed-dating events or running bounce-house birthdays, and one day they’ll be as trashed as a Foxwoods suite after a bachelorette party, only way more important.  I’ll need an ambulance and dialysis for-like-ever.  Or a catheter.  Ugh. 

Well then, what’s a girl [or guy] to do?  Friends, let’s start a revolution.  Let’s just call it like it is:
  • I stay up hours too late watching Iron Chef and Seinfeld reruns.  That’s why I don’t get up early – because I live like a child.
  • I chew with my mouth open because of my jaw problem (ok, I believe you).
  • I HAVE CHUNKY ANKLES.  No one knows why, and these pegs don’t seem to be going anywhere, so I’m sensitive about it.  Lay off.
  • I need to stop shamelessly drinking 8 cups of coffee.   At breakfast.

I want to remind us that there’s no need to be a martyr to that dark widow’s peak you were born with or that annoying habit of counting the light fixtures when you enter a room.  Just show your cards – “I have a serious widow’s peak, and no one will die over it”, or, “I call it 'my OCD', but really I'm dipping my toe into the Crazy River”No one is going to post your news on a billboard.  They aren’t going to start texting your friends:  She’s a doughy mess!!  Tape this pic to your mirror and you’ll start eating salad, like now.
At least I don’t think they’ll do this. 

So what I’m saying is, let’s call a spade a spade.  Ladies, let’s get a little bit more secure and develop a slightly tougher skin.  It's not worth it when I unintentionally shoot juice through the Michael Strahan-sized gap between my two front teeth and then blubber out of the room when someone lets a fart slip because they’re giggling so hard.  It just isn't.

He really is one of my heroes.  The man's a Fox football analyst, for crying out loud.  His gap is probably insured.  

And what’s so wrong with cankles or gaps or sleeping in?  The earth will continue to revolve, the hungry will still need feeding, our friends will still love us (and periodically laugh when a stalk of celery gets completely wedged in our front teeth), and we will be better off for letting these things - which in the scope of life, truly are small – slide off our backs, so that we can tackle the true joy and work of life. 

And when you have second thoughts on whether thigh dimples are funny, just check out the cheeks on a 6 month old.  Be sure you get the o.k. from their parents first. Otherwise, you didn't hear it from me.

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