Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Good Thing #43: Chocolate Covered Almonds in Oatmeal

A bowl of hot oatmeal is a great way to start the day. It's cheap and good for you! Unfortunately, it tastes good for you, too. 

So, here's what you do: toss a handful of chocolate covered almonds into your oatmeal. Do it in the bowl after you've dished it up and is cooling, not while it's cooking. The chocolate will melt in lovely, fudgey trails through the oatmeal. A little goes a long way, so you won't totally kill the healthiness of the oatmeal, and you won't need any extra sweetener. You can really do it up and throw in some coconut flakes, too. 

You can thank me later. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Good Thing #42: Marmite

Marmite is concentrated yeast paste from the UK and it tastes exactly like that. If you took fresh baked bread and captured the smell from it, and did the same from a hundred thousand other loaves, until you had a sticky black sludge that was so intensely flavorful that it hurt to eat, and then mixed it with way too much salt you'd get Marmite. I don't think it's possible to describe it accurately and actually have it sound like a pleasant experience.

The first time I tasted it I hated it. I met some Brits who had come to Portsmouth, NH for summer work and they needed a place to stay for a few days so I put them up. By way of thanks, they shared their Marmite with me. It was disgusting. Maybe the worst thing I ever tasted. I shuddered for hours. Maybe there's something infectious about it because years later I had a craving for it. I hunted down a bottle and spread a thin layer on a toasted bagel with plenty of butter. It was amazing. Like good coffee or fine Scotch, you taste it with your nose as much as your tongue. It awakens the senses and charges the mind.

Try it. You probably won't like it. Some foods are worth the effort, though. Good coffee and fine Scotch taste pretty awful the first time, too, but they can offer a lifetime of enjoyment once you learn to appreciate them. Maybe Marmite will become a food you crave, too?

Good Thing #41: The Terrible Twos

I hope I don't jinx it by talking about it, but so far the terrible twos have been a lot of fun. Incredibly exhausting, but my daughter gets to be more fun every day. Maybe I'm incredibly fortunate to have a relatively mellow and communicative child, or maybe it's my own temperament, or maybe we're just four months into the 2s and are in for unspeakable terrors.

The first year was like a video game from the 80s, where you had to perform arbitrary tasks, and much of the game was spent just trying to figure out what you were supposed to do, and when you did, it really didn't have much to do with the plot. You had to keep doing these repetitive tasks in the right order and when you did it enough you won. The first year the goal of the game was to get the baby to stop crying and your options were "rock gently," "go for a walk with the stroller," "put her in the car seat and drive around," "feed: bottle," "feed: breast," or "random thing you haven't tried yet." Sometimes one would work. Sometimes it would take all of them, several times over, in varying patterns. And then the reward was just an absence of crying instead of something truly enjoyable.

Of course there were all the joys of the "firsts." First laugh, first sitting up by herself, first steps, first words, and all that. Those have been miraculous and fascinating, but it's really all just getting started. In the twos those all come together to form an actual, interactive being.

The twos are like looking after a friend who is having an acid trip. Their reality is constantly changing and you have to keep up with through whatever cues they provide. One moment they're a princess and then they become a superhero a moment later. You might find that you've become a princess too, but then turn into a cat as the story demands. A plastic tube starts as a cup of coffee, then turns into a microphone, then a lollipop. You just have to keep up as reality shifts. Anything can become a source of entertainment and you never know what will suddenly become infinitely fascinating. Last night it was smells. My daughter and I spent an hour opening every bottle and tube in the bathroom to find out what the contents smelled like. Just sniffing things became a source of fun.

The twos are a whole lot more work than the previous years. It's not just infant babble anymore. They're learning to communicate with words and sentences. That means they can argue. And whine. But it also means they can joke and tell stories. We goof around and we crack each other up. It's exhausting and crazy and continually changing, but at the same time, the twos are more fun than any time before. I'm embracing the chaos.