Tuesday, August 30, 2011

That's Just Disturbing

I cannot take naps. They do evil things to my brain.

"It's not forever," I explained to Paul. "It's not noise or mold. It's the sun. When it's summer, I can't sleep. In the winter, the angle of the planet lets me sleep, because it's darker and not lighter, and my brain likes that. Winter is to sleep the way summer is to awake-ness."

I didn't even know what the heck I was saying. When Paul nodded and backed slowly away...it made sense. I would have backed away too. But I was stuck. My brain was inside me, and that meant I was stuck with it and its crazy analogies.

Paul was just trying to be nice. Paul is always nice. That's why when I get angry with him, I feel like I'm Satan, except human and a girl. When someone is nice to you all the time, and you aren't always a nice person, you tend to feel like you're evil and horrible in comparison.

Paul, thinking that my problems with insomnia were caused by external things (noise, allergies, and the like), had offered to switch rooms with me so I could have his much-quieter bedroom. But noise is not why I can't sleep, unless you count Dad's morning I-Just-Got-Gutted-By-a-Fillet-Knife Yawn, which would wake anyone up no matter how well they slept. Evisceration is loud.

What I was trying to do was explain that I go through spells of sleeplessness, but they pass if I'm patient. Somehow, I don't think my meaning was coming across, with my semi-paganistic ramblings.

I had come home so tired, Mom told me to go to my room and sleep. This was because I fell asleep with my head on my purse while sitting at the kitchen table.

But, as I mentioned, naps don't go well for me.

When I woke up, my brain had become soup. Everything I said was, essentially, Word Salad. Did I feel any better? No. Of course not.

If anything, I felt worse. For one thing, no one could understand me. Not even me.

But, to make matters worse, I'd had a terrible nightmare, something so bad it was beyond imagining, and it was all Dad's fault because his dream self was so disturbed and clearly evil.

Let me try to describe it for you.

Michael Flatley.

Dogs of the Dance.

Dream Dad, spurred on by his love for Irish music and his adoration of our dog, Darcy, had decided to, as a Christmas present for the family, take us all to see Michael Flatley's new musical masterwork, Dogs of the Dance*.

Think Lord of the Dance, except instead of people, there were dogs, all of them in traditional Irish costume.

Even if Dream Me had been able to handle the absolute torture of sitting through dogs dancing to Irish music, it became apparent to me from my seat in the theater that the dogs were looking mistreated. Apparently, the humane society had not been present during rehearsals, because those poor dogs looked hungry and sad. I wanted to rescue them. But before I could, Mom was waking me up, so the dogs were abandoned in the horror of my nightmare.

Poor dogs.

It was a bad dream.

I spent the rest of the evening trying to stay awake for a few more hours in order to improve my mood so I wouldn't fall asleep and be plagued by more nightmares involving dogs dancing to Celtic music.

No more naps for me.

Sadly, I can't let this go, because I want to know where Michael Flatley came from. I get the Irish music. Dad plays the Irish whistle. I even understand dreaming about dogs. I love dogs. But why Michael Flatley? WHY?

The only thing I can think of is that Maureen Johnson's Riverdance story emerged from my brain after a year of percolating in my subconscious. But who can be sure?

I'm a little afraid to sleep again.

*Let me make this clear: The REAL Michael Flatley is, to my knowledge, not planning any Irish dancing with dogs at any point in the future. It will not be coming to Broadway or to anywhere, because having dogs dance like Michael Flatley is a horrible, horrible idea and probably impossible.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Brown Driving Mocs

I love my brown driving mocs.

I found them at Target years ago, for, if I remember correctly, around $20. They reminded me of the J. Crew driving mocs I could never afford (unless I sold off some major organs), and I snatched them up and ran to the check-out like I was being pursued by rabid shoe-eating demons.

Women's Merona Micaela Moccasins from Target. Picture yoinked from Kaboodle, your source for shoes you wish you could still buy. Like these.

That is what they looked like back when they were all new and pretty.

They served me well. I wore them nearly every day for...more years than I probably should have.

See, I have this thing with fashion. I like fun, quirky, different things, and I like classic designs. That's normal, I suppose. The thing that may someday get me drug out to face Stacy and Clinton, though, is my firm belief that if I like it, and I think whatever article of clothing or accessory is cute, fun, and ME, then it is in style and no one can tell me otherwise.

Take that, Fashion Industry.

So when Target stopped selling knock-off driving mocs, and J. Crew stopped selling not-knock-off driving mocs, and all the other places stopped selling any kind of moc, except for that Minnetonka Moccasin place, I still kept right on wearing my brown driving mocs. Because I loved them.

The think with the little mocs was, they weren't made to last a girl five-ish years. Or six...and that's about how long I've had them.

They stretched. They got dirty. I cleaned them, added an insole, and kept wearing them. The insole rubbed my heels funny, so I got those little heel cushion things you stick on the inside of shoes, and that fixed it. They were fine...until the "suede" of the shoe absorbed the adhesive of the stick-on heel cushions, leaving dark marks on the back of each heel. Sticky dark marks.

I was very sad.


Clearly, I needed to replace the little brown driving mocs.

There was only one problem: No one wanted to sell me replacement mocs. No one. Not even Ebay.

I was ready to pay for these mocs, folks. I was ready. I had already planned it out. See, my love for the mocs was so great, I was willing to pay double, triple, or MORE for a new pair, a nicer pair, one that would presumably last me decades into the known future. I would pay for good shoes and then care for them like the children I don't have, with the kind of love a person only gives to their spawn (or their little furry dogs).

But no one was selling the adorable driving mocs. They were only selling bizarre, animal print ballet flats.

What was up with those? I am glad they are gone now.

The next year (because yes, we're talking years, here), I searched again. This time, I discovered that the flats had become solid colored, but still of the ballet variety. I gave up and bought a pair of those. They hurt.

So at the start of summer, with only the same, boring, solid-colored flats to be seen, I gave up and bought a nice black pair that didn't hurt my feet, thinking that they would be good enough to fill the yawning hole in my heart left behind by the driving mocs.


But then, just after I'd given up hope, I found them.

Frye Reagan Campus Driver in Saddle, via Zappos.

These are not exactly identical to my Target mocs, but they are very similar. In fact, I like these MORE.

So if you catch me admiring or petting my shoes in public...now you know why.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Poor Mom Can't Drive

Mom still has no driver's license.

First, it was because she had her car's brakes die. Then my car lost its brakes. Then Mom had a week of migraines. Then it was the week of my vacation. Last week.

Mom and I went up north to stay with my grandpa, where we planned on eating tons of awesome food (especially my current favorite sandwich place, Penn Station). When you live in the middle of nowhere, you plan your vacations around where you get to eat (And shop).

I drove us the 2.5 hours north. Then I drove us around while we ran errands for Grandpa.

The next day, when Dad called to announce he was having chest pains*, I drove Mom to get dinner out to distract her.

The day after that, I drove us back home, and then, the next day, to pick Dad up from Parkview. Then I drove us to Biaggi's, where we celebrated Dad's return to the land of the healthy by eating things covered in cream sauce.

During all that, Mom realized how...impractical it was to not have a driver's license. So we resolved to renew it on Monday. That was the plan. Nothing could interrupt the plan.

Except for maybe this.

And this.

Do you see it?

Here's a hint. We went on a Monday.

Which means the hour we spent sitting, stuck in traffic was all for nothing.

*Dad is totally fine. He had a HEART SPASM, which he claims I've been giving him for years, so this one is no different from any other day of the week except for the fact that we got this one on an EKG.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Making Cake

Once upon a time, Rachael brought cake to knit night. Raspberry buttermilk cake. She said she brought it for everyone, but I think we all know, deep down, that she really brought it for me, so I could gobble it down like a pig, then beg for the recipe so I could eat the cake at home, thereby hiding the shame that comes from eating an entire cake by myself.

I realized this Monday that I'd purchased buttermilk for another recipe, which meant I had buttermilk LEFT OVER, and in my life, that means I get to make that cake again. This time, I would throw in some of the blueberries we have frozen. I took out a cup and thawed them.

Then I measured out the flower. Then the sugar, then I grabbed an egg, the buttermilk, and I reached for the butter.

We had no butter.

Well, we had a little tiny butter lump, sitting on a butter dish, fused to the dish by the butter Mom had melted when trying to get the butter soft enough to spread.

I could not make my cake.

I really wanted that cake.

Maybe if my urge to bake came at, say, mid-afternoon instead of at 7:00 p.m. when the convenience store has already closed, I would have been able to leap into the car to go GET the butter, but I was screwed. There was no butter to be had unless I went to an actual grocery store, and, as I've complained before, the nearest one of THOSE is 30 minutes from my house.

I really wanted cake. IMMEDIATELY.

Then I remembered: The heavy cream!

As some of my fellow country-folk will remember, back in the fourth grade, butter-making was kind of a THING. See, in fourth grade, if you live in Indiana, you learn Indiana history (as opposed to New Jersey history or Oregon history). And learning about Indiana history means herding together a group of ten year-olds, dressing them like pilgrims, and making them SQUARE DANCE. We also learned things like where the Indiana capitol USED to be (who cares?) and teachers try to convince us that, even though Lincoln was totally from Illinois, he was secretly from Indiana, since he lived here for like two weeks or something. After that there are funnel cakes, and you can go home and hurl your bonnet across the room, confident in the knowledge that, no matter how tasty, you will never be forced to pull taffy again.

At any rate, in the fourth grade, somebody had the brilliant idea to teach us how to churn our own butter, something they accomplished by handing out glass jars filled with cream and a single marble. They then forced us to shake the jar around until the marble made the cream turn to butter.

How well did that work, you ask? NOT WELL AT ALL. Imagine getting a group of kids, forcing them to dance, then promising them taffy and a funnel cake, if only the butter could be churned first. Then imagine ten kids, shaking glass jars around vigorously, and, fuelled by hatred (they did have to square dance), imagine the children leaping, running around the table, and jumping up and down rather than continue the shaking, because NOTHING WAS HAPPENING.

Cut to Laura, age 22, sitting in the backseat of a car with her parents. You see, it was Christmas time, and Paul couldn't leave home for whatever reason (probably so he could cling to whatever shreds of dignity he still had left), and we were all headed to Connor Prairie.

If you're not from Indiana, you likely have not heard of Connor Prairie. It is a refurbished farm from way-back-when, and locals are hired to dress up and pretend to be from 100 years ago. Basically, a museum, only the exhibits work and are operated by people acting like they have no idea what a cell phone is, even if they likely have one stored on their person, perhaps under their corset.

It's actually pretty fun.

The church had given us a trip there as our family Christmas present. They thought since Dad secretly believes he would have been a tough-guy mountain-man who trudged through the wilds with a flintlock rifle and killed wolves with a club and a hunting knife, he'd get a kick out of seeing what life was really like back then. And we all got to go along. The church is so sweet to us.

So we drove to Connor Prairie and met up with our guide, a 60-something man who was just snarky enough for me to like him. We spent the evening, along with a few other families, cooking a meal the way meals were made in ages past, then eating our handiwork. I spent my time quoting literature back and forth with our guide in a rather epic verbal-sparring match. It was fun.

The second we walked into the kitchen, they'd handed Mom a butter churn and sent her to the corner. My job had been to shred cabbage. It took like five minutes. Probably less, because, well, I can use a knife. Then I went to help Mom.

To say that the entire group was waiting for Mom to finish churning the butter would be an understatement. No matter what she did, NOTHING HAPPENED.

"Do you think the cream is defective?" She asked. "Maybe it's bad cream."

We decided to take turns.

"The fire is too hot," I said. "It's making the fat in the cream stay liquid instead of becoming solid!"

"The room is too cold," Mom said. "It's making the heavy cream whipped instead of separating it!"

It must have taken 45 minutes to churn that flipping butter. Eventually, the cook took pity on us and grabbed the churn. She had butter in 30 seconds. I think maybe she used magic.

After that, she showed me how to press the remaining liquid--the buttermilk--out of the butter, so it would be ready for consumption. She also showed me how to mold it into a pretty shape.

And after that, I decided butter-making was pretty darn cool.

So when I discovered we were out of butter and spied the heavy cream, I thought, "We are in business."

I broke out the electric mixer. Butter-making is much easier with an electric mixer, I have learned. I dumped the cream into a bowl. Then I cranked that mixer up high.

It should be noted that, when using a mixer to make butter, a splash guard is...handy. In my case, my laptop served as a splash guard, as did my shirt, the fridge, and the wall. It's also helpful to have your bowl chilled to start with, or so I've been told.

As I churned my butter, I noticed something strange. The mixer was dissolving in my hand. Well, not exactly dissolving, but the casing had come un-cased, and the motor was exposed. So instead of the bowl, I started holding the casing together as well as the handle of the mixer. And if you've ever used an electric mixer, you know how important it is to hold the bowl. Oops.

I needed 1/4 cup of butter. My cream yielded 1/4 cup of butter. Exactly.

After all that, the cake went together rather easily. It finally came out of the oven at 10:30 p.m., but it was good cake. And it had vanished by morning.

Make your own butter.

Make your own cake.

Just try to start a little earlier than I did.