This Post Has Notes Of Raisin and Blackberry (or I Like Chocolate More Than You Do)

Until 1998, I was convinced that the pinnacle of chocolate was Lindt. How could it be otherwise, when it was made exclusively by a handsome, square-jawed man in a giant white hat whose very stare infuses the chocolate with all its flavour?
One day, I will teach this bar how to love.
 And as far as dark chocolate, I didn’t need Hershey to label its dark chocolate bars Special. I already knew they were.

One day, tired of cruising the information superhighway at a blistering 56K, I took the reputation-enhancing 7 mile bus ride from UMass Amherst to explore Northampton, Massachusetts. (If you are unfamiliar, Northampton is the home of unlimited phallic breadsticks at Fitzwilly’s. And Smith College.) I was sugar-netically pulled into Bakery Normand, which over the next four years would take hundreds of dollars from me in exchange for these cookies:


As you can see, these are called ganache cookies. But you know what I called them? Canache cookies. I used this term with about 1,000 people. I told everyone about these cookies. I told my theatre group. I told my roommate. I told everyone in my dorm. No one ever corrected me. I called up the Lindt chef. Even he did not correct me. He’s too classy to be a pedant.
Beyond the canache ganache cookies, there was a shelf of chocolate bars I was unfamiliar with. Namely, bars from Valrhona. They looked something like this:
French AND a giant red checkmark that looks at once artistic and tossed off AND a logo with a red right angle triangle that is a clear reference to the sexiest of mathematicians, Pythagoras?! Ooh. La. La. Maybe there were two bars – something in the 50% range and that red one. Could it have been 3 bars? No. I will swear it ON MY LIFE. Whatever the case, it was far better than any chocolate I’d ever had. How could it be better than Lindt? The only explanation is that Valrhona was handsomed into existence by a team of Adonis-level chefs in even taller hats held up by scaffolding.

It was so good, I immediately called everyone I knew in a delirious pleasure rage. ‘WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME ABOUT THIS?!’ I bellowed down the phone line. I frightened several relatives, many of whom hadn’t heard my voice since I was a child. “Are you Bob and Barbara’s son?” they would ask. I’d say, “Yes and they’re both in rude health!!” and slam the phone down.

I spent $400 on calls. 

I immediately started chasing the dragon of fine chocolate. I mashed the keyboard until AltaVista told me about Chocosphere offered not only Valrhona, but also Bonnat, Pralus, Guittard, Santander, El Rey. Soon, I was carrying around a gallon-sized ziploc bag of chocolate, which everyone considered as cool as me taking a 7 mile bus ride to get weird cookies. 

The lesson is, pay better attention to holes

A couple days ago, I opened the fridge. Cool story right? WAIT, it gets even BETTER.

I was looking for food. I can’t tell you how often I open the fridge, hoping to find food in there that I know is not there and has no chance of being there. Food like pumpkin pie, or a roast chicken, or a roast chicken stuffed with pie. I open the cupboards several times a day for the same reason. I’ll open the cupboards and exclaim, ‘SALTY SNACKS?!’ hoping beyond hope that a Reverse Burglar has snuck into my kitchen for the sole purpose of leaving behind pretty much any food that has been converted into oily salty crunchy crispy form.

In the fridge was some fancy pants mozzarella. It was squeezed out of a buffalo by artisan buffalo squeezers. Mozzarella like this comes in a water bath inside a special plastic container specially designed to cause mozzarella envy in your social rivals. I reached for the FPM and found that the water was gone, thanks to someone having tipped over the envy packaging on its side. Although I’m no fridge scientist, I had an instinctive feeling that leaving mozzarella water in the fridge would probably give us all mad buffalo disease. But there was no water. I said, ‘Well THIS warrants no further investigation or thought!’ and went about my business. My MAN business.

When I came home tonight, our kitchen smelled vaguely shitty. But not everywhere. If you could divide the kitchen into 10 smell segments, 2 of them smelled vaguely like a sneaky someone had spirited away a small shit. The other 8 segments smelled like they always do – wholemeal bread and child-borne exhaustion.

Through a lot of undignified sniffing around, it was determined that the fridge was the culprit. Behind the fridge. Sara thought it might be a dead mouse. Sara decided it would be a good idea to tell me this great story about a friend of hers who found a dead mouse WELDED to the back of their fridge. So with 500% more trepidation than I had before that fine yarn, I pulled the fridge out. And what do you know – a mouse AND a small shit were welded to the fridge!!


No, what I found was that the small drainage hole that I’d previously spotted inside the fridge actually went somewhere. Where it went was a plastic collection tray. It would appear that 100% of the mozzarella water disappeared down the drainage hole and came to rest in this tray. The tray, by design, sits on top of the hot fridge compressor. Ordinarily, plain water drains down there and the heat evaporates it away. However, through the terrifying magic of chemistry, the mozzarella water was, now, at this moment, decidedly Something Else. The plastic tray was nearly overflowing with a pungent semisolid liquid combo that was about 37 shades of brown. The fridge manufacturer apparently did not envision that this plastic tray would become the accidental staging ground for a bioweapons precursor, and so did not design a way to remove said tray. Therefore the only way to clean it up was to soak a tree or two’s worth of paper towels into the tray until the nearly-sentient gloop was gone. The series of faces and sounds I made may prevent me from sleeping until the solstice.

Well. There’s no good way to close a post like this.

…got milk?

For all you know, I solved Kryptos


That was me mashing the keyboard. It helps to do that sometimes. Or maybe it’s a secret cypher that I just made up. You have no idea.

Weather report: It rained in the beginning of the week. Then it was really warm. Then it wasn’t as warm. There was a lot of sun. I got that sun on my body. My body felt good with sun on it. The sun and warm made flowers and trees come out.

Exercise report: No exercise in the morning on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. See, what happened is, whenever I tried to move my body from the bed, I couldn’t. Even though just 5ish hours before, I said to body, ‘Now, listen here, body. Look, this exercise thing’s going great. We gotta keep it up. At this rate, we’ll see an ab in just 5 to 7 years. So. When we wake up an unreasonably short amount of time from now in what is a debilitating pattern of sleep deprivation, we’re going to SPRING out of bed, do some stretches, say a mantra, and skip down the stairs, ready to clock in some Sweat Time. Okay?!’

My body replied, ‘You’re probably causing a cortisol build up that’s going to – ‘

‘GREAT, see you in the morning.’

Then, a REM-infused 5 hours later, my brain mostly soup and blankets, the only part of my body that would move is the single finger it took to press the snooze button. Here I am, giving a motivational speech that Kyle Chandler WISHES he could deliver, only to be completely betrayed because blankety soup brain was more concerned with bringing closure to my dream where I was playing a pan flute in a field of skulls.

However, my speechifying worked; I walked at an unrelenting pace every day at lunch this week AND exercised Thursday and Friday morning. Coming soon, my annotated thoughts as I do my Bas Rutten routine.

Ethan report:
Ethan is sporting the cutest freckles since the warm weather came in. It’s a shame that all of us can’t develop some physical attribute every spring that makes us more attractive.

‘Hey, Jason! Your spring triceps are poppin’!’ That’s how people talk these days, right? Talking about muscle groups poppin’?

I don’t get out much.

Rose report:
Rose is showing fantastic aptitude for falling over.

Memory of the week report:
Last night, the children, nude, danced around with Sara in the paddling pool. (Sara was not nude.) After dancing a circle in the water, Sara jumped out of the pool to run to the apple tree, whose apples we shamefully do not know what to do with. But to be fair, the apple tree has to take some blame here. If it could just hold on to the apples until we’re ready to pick them, it’d be fine. The problem is, the apples drop from the tree as soon as we’re not paying attention. One day, all the apples are on the tree. By the following morning, there are a dozen apples on the ground, all of which are brown and flecked with white bumps, having been dissolved and attacked by every strain of bug and bacteria in Cheshire.

But so, the kids followed Sara out of the pool, shouting and laughing. Sara shook the branches of the tree, making apple blossom leaves rain down on the children. ‘It’s snowing!’ Sara said. (Our children knew it was not snowing.) Then back to the pool for more splashing and screaming, as the evening sun gave us its last 10 minutes before disappearing behind the houses.


Look, all I wanna know is

Did I successfully change this theme?

I sure did.

I’m typing in a font called Lako.

Did you know that Lako rhymes with Mako, as in Mako shark? I don’t know if that’s true.

What I’m trying to say is – this blog? It’s full of lies.

This is a post I’m making so that I can get over the hump of a familiar feeling I’m sure we’ve all had, the feeling that says, “It’s been years so I have to write a comeback post SO STRONG that it literally makes the hair on people’s heads fall straight off  and if they don’t have any hair then their bald heads turns red and then newspapers would pick up on the story saying, ‘Local Blogger Restarts Blog; Causes Baldness, Scalp Redness in the Hairless.'”

You know what I mean? That feeling?

It’s 8:17 on Good Friday. The sun is shining. I’m downstairs in the living room. Sara is upstairs with the children, showing them essential, life-teachable videos about the power of music via Queen and Michael Jackson.

Abandon all hope, ye 3-year old thieves

This Saturday, Sara and I discovered a dairy-based crime and had to take parental action.

The children were out of the house, which can only mean one thing:


Mere minutes into our hardcore tidy up, we made a shocking discovery: poorly hidden underneath a bean bag chair was an entire block of butter, unwrapped, with teeth marks in it. Although I am well on my way to a life of permanent wheezy chubbiness, I haven’t yet resorted to straight up chomping on butter; I don’t live in a Midwestern State Fair.

We knew immediately that this was the work of one Ethan Warner. He had the means, in that he could reach the butter, and he had the motive, in that he could reach the butter.

Earlier, just before breakfast, Ethan had been spotted in his indoor playhouse, staying there for a mysteriously long time, and then remained there despite the availability of Marmite-slathered toast. Sure enough, that’s where the butter wrapper was.

Poor quality pictures were taken for evidence/future nostalgia trips.

We had to bust this butter bandit. It may SOUND hilarious – because it is – but what does every single serial killer have in common? Dairy larceny. Look it up.

****SMASH CUT TO****

Dinner time. An unsuspecting Ethan was eating, unaware of the interrogatory HAMMER that was about to crash through his little world.

Sara ‘Firm But Fair’ Jenkinson, former primary school teacher, conducted the interrogation. Jason ‘Poor University Grades Prevented Him From Becoming A Teacher’ Warner observed.

I was staring at Ethan’s face when she asked him about the butter. When he realised what Sara was getting at, I could see the flicker of recognition in his eyes. More specifically, if you can imagine the expression ‘Bemused ‘Oh Shit” on a near-4-year old, you’ll get the idea.

Sara asked him if he had taken the butter.

Ethan did not admit it. Instead, Ethan leaned back in the chair, spit to the side and said, ‘I ain’t talkin’ without my lawyer.’ You know, it’s typical. You try to be a good parent. You try to show your child the complex, morally grey universe we live in by showing him the first season of The Wire and all he takes away is you gotta lawyer up.

Actually, Ethan remained very composed and countered with – and this is nearly an exact quote – “I have a question for you – are you going to put me in time out?”

What a wily evasion. I was so proud. ‘I don’t know if I’m going to put you in time out or not,’ Sara said, ‘it’s important that you tell us the truth.’

Sara and Ethan went back and forth in this way for a good 3 minutes. Finally, on threat of time out AND toy confiscation, Sara asked him one more time why he took the butter.

Ethan said, and this IS an exact quote:
‘Well, I was feeling ill…and my body shouted for butter.’

This is the funniest thing Ethan’s ever said. This is the funniest thing that any child has ever said.

Look, no one’s body has ever shouted for butter. Even Paula Deen’s body – itself 98% butter (with the remaining 2% made of racism) – has never shouted for butter. No one has ever used that phrase before in any language. Just think of all the events that had to transpire, from the Big Bang through that moment, all the coincidences and happenstances, for a perfect, beautiful phrase like that to Butter Bang into existence.

When your child utters a completely new, bananas phrase like that, any hope of professional interrogation standards is obliterated. We both completely failed to stifle laughter. Sara eventually got Ethan to admit that he had indeed taken the butter, because he hoped it was cheese. When he bit into it, he found that ‘it was disgusting.’ He now knows to keep butter where it belongs – smeared on every possible food imaginable.

We let him off with a warning since it was only his first food felony. We’ve averted his serial killer destiny. Just another day on the front lines of the gritty Law and Udder: Special Creamy Unit.

A hunger in the weeds

Ethan has blossomed into a 21 month old. He has most of his teeth. He has contracted and defeated chicken pox with the cutest immune system. (‘Who’s got widdle white blood cells! You do!  Who has the cutest little antibodies to protect you from a future occurrence?! YOU DO!’) His hair is lush and grows faster than two weeds at a weed race.

We continue to love our Ethan, very much, but he tries out patience with his great fussiness. We believe that we have been trying to raise an unfussy child, yet the report from nursery comes back the same every day. Eats a lot of cereal in the morning, refuses all food from then on. Every two weeks, we’ll hear, ‘We’ve had a breakthrough today! He had his full meal!’ Next day, he’s pushed everything away faster than two weeds at a weed race where weeds are racing each other to be the fastest weed in terms of growing tall, like a weed would. 
Ethan doesn’t only do this at nursery. Ethan does this at home with us. I will present the food to Ethan like a fine maitre d would, explaining to missierueurure – is that how you spell that? – that today he is eating spaghetti with a fine tomato sauce, accompanied by garlic bread and a Deconstructed Salad consisting of one tomato, what colour is that tomato?, red!, and one carrot, what colour is that carrot?, orange! and one cucumber, what colour is that cucumber?, red! just kidding! green! Green cucumber, can you say green cucumber?, and here’s a leaf like The Hungry Catepillar eats! Okay? Despite this excellent educational introduction, Ethan will most often intercept the food before it could even break his personal space. Ethan’s Food Defense Strategy is a crafty three pronged approach: Hand Thrust, Face Whip, Raspberry Of Disapproving Dispersement. The Hand Thrust and Face Whip are often combined. In the Hand Thrust element, Ethan shoves his hands out wildly in a surprisingly strong straight arm, which bears a strikingly similarity to my fighting technique.  For the Face Whip element, he whips his head around side to side faster than two weeds at a weed race where they are really competitive weeds like kudzu and the event is Smother 100 Meters Of That Field’s Native Plants. And then, should we manage to get a spoonful of food past these defenses, the Raspberry Of Disapproval and Dispersement serves two purposes. One, the pftpftpftpftpft sound lets us know that Ethan finds the meal completely detestable so bring forth the yogurt and cake please. Second, were we foolish enough to try to make him taste just one little taste, the pftpftpftpftpft action ensures that the food is effectively shot back at us, but this time in tiny, hard-to-see, spit-saturated pieces that instantly meld with any surface.

When I pick him up from nursery after a long day of self-starvation, he is initially pleasant, for he is happy to see his Daddy, and this pleases me. On the way home in the car, I carry on a mostly one-sided conversation asking Ethan how his day was, expressing my fondest hope that he had a good time at nursery. As soon as we’re in the house and I put him down, Ethan realises that he’s at home, that in the past he has been given food in this home, and RIGHT NOW FOOD RIGHT NOW FOOD RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW! What follows is Ethan’s most annoying cry, a squinty-eyed hyperventilating plea where he manages to whelp on exhalation AND inhalation. When this fails to instantly conjure up food, he resorts to standing directly in front of me, blubbering face in crotch, arms wrapped around me. I try to explain to Ethan that limiting my mobility will ensure the continuation of his self-enforced hunger strike. When I walk away to prepare some other aspect of the meal, Ethan will toddle after, increasing the volume of his cries, which increases the squintiness of his eyes, which often means I will hear a crash, a moment of silence, and then a cry of increased vigor since he is now minorly injured and hungry, a foul combination. (Or, if he was a chicken, a FOWL combination, GET IT?!)

And yet, ten minutes after I put him to bed last night, I was seized with an overwhelming desire to go into his room and look at him sleeping. He had shimmied to the top of the crib so that he can feel the wood against his head, his thumb was in his mouth, and he was breathing deeply. It brought me such joy and tenderness, faster than a weed in a…you get it by now.  

I was just showing Ethan how the Greeks do it

One of the most vital skills to master as a parent is the Holding Baby, Active Arm pose. This is where the child is held against you with one increasingly lactic-acid-laden arm, leaving the other arm free for action.

Ethan, regardless of the level of babyproofing here at the in-laws house, will find a way to subvert all safety measures. You will recall from last week that Ethan knows exactly which cabinets contain highly breakable or dangerous items. But even if Ethan isn’t finding the Guillotine Cupboard, he’s finding other things: a glass of water to soak the carpet and all furniture in a surprisingly large soak radius, a miniature dust+hair+old food living room tumbleweed that is as irresistible as several tons of plankton to a whale, magazines that apparently look far better trampled on the floor than arranged neatly on a table, or pretty much any object that he is just one precarious step away from falling onto, at best creating a hilarious story and at worst a life-altering injury that we will Always Regret.

Therefore, much of Ethan’s time is spent being carried around. I took Ethan to the kitchen to get him some water, like a good father does. I spotted his durable-looking The Very Hungry Caterpillar cup that only comes as part of an expensive set which I am not mentioning for any foreshadowing purposes whatsoever and picked it up with my free hand. I have very successfully done tasks with my free hand whilst holding Ethan, from julienning carrots to boisterous badminton, so I had every right to assume that this simple operation would go as smoothly as the rest. I certainly did not anticipate that I would not so much pick up the cup as launch it across the kitchen. The cup entered into what is known as a Shattery Death Plummet, a well-documented scientific phenomenon wherein an object that you would have very much preferred stayed intact travels at such speed and trajectory that it very much does not. Yet, during the descent, time is altered in such a way that you can make one final memory of your object, intact, helpless to do anything else. The Very Hungry Caterpillar Cup That Only Comes As Part of an Expensive Set broke into 3 jagged pieces and now can be used as Ethan’s first jigsaw puzzle, I argued ineffectually to Sara, who asked that I replace the set.