Thursday, March 25, 2010

In The Woods

Neal in the woods, taken by my sister Annie

"What I am telling you, before you begin my story, is this – two things: I crave truth. And I lie."

For tonight's book club meeting, I read In the Woods by Tana French. I don't usually read mysteries, but I loved this book from the beginning, and since I waited until Tuesday to pick it up from the library after work, it was a good thing that I couldn't put it down. The prologue pulled me right in, and I had to find out what had happened, I had to. I read and read, and the block of pages between me and the end became thinner and thinner, and finally I began to realize, with a touch of desperation, that I was never going to know.

And then it broke my heart.

I finished the book around 12 last night, closed it, told Aaron I hated it, threw it across the bed, and started to cry.

It's true that I have a bit of a dramatic personality, one that enjoys romance, but I also believe that I have some form of separation anxiety which makes it very hard for me to cope with the idea that two people, real or fictional, who have been very close, may never be near each other or even see each other again. I don't know if this is simply a factor of my own personality or if it comes from the frustrations I experienced during my own long-distance relationship. In any case, I felt devastated.

I woke up this morning still feeling sad, but no longer hating In the Woods. I couldn't let go of it - I turned it over in my head, playing with and testing it like a small pebble held in my mouth. I read a few reviews online this afternoon, and many felt bitterly disappointed about the ending. I did too, when I finished it.

But I almost love it again because goodness, that's life. Sometimes important things are forgotten, sometimes the bad guy gets away. And sometimes we utterly screw up, and by the time we stop ourselves, by the time we've realized what we've done, it's too late. Sometimes a handful of small choices accumulate into only one chance, and sometimes we blow it.

And for me, that was the saddest thing of all.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


This morning was warm enough for bare feet on the deck. Our snow is almost gone and the temperatures are in the 60s, so unusual this time of year. But the temperature is supposed to drop again this weekend, and I'm sure we'll see more snow. At least I'll know, when the flakes are falling, that it won't last long.

I'm in love with my new strawberry pajamas. My mom found them for me on Monday, when we spent the day together in our favorite thrift stores.

I would like to be a thrifty person, but in many ways I'm not. I love pretty things and usually collect more than I need. But I'm trying to improve myself - though I must admit that much of that improvement has come from necessity as Aaron and I work to pay off my student loans and save for a home and a family.

I'm much more conservative with money now, and mindful of what I spend it on. But when I walk into a thrift store, I feel no restrictions - only a great sense of choice. I can easily afford the quality items I'm drawn to, which would far exceed my budget if new. And I find pretty things that show signs of use and love, and that seem to tell a story of their own.

Certainly, I have to sort through a lot of cheap plastic knick-knacks and stained clothing, but I treat every visit like a treasure hunt, and spend hours happily searching for the gems.

Like strawberry pajamas. Lambswool sweaters. Vintage dresses made out of silk. And for Aaron's soon-to-be one-year-old cousins, a UK edition of Winnie-the-Pooh.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cookies and Rain

We're having our first rains of the year, along with the kind of gray skies that make indoor spaces feel cave-like. It's the kind of weather that makes me want to just migrate from bed to couch, watch Colin Firth play Mr. Darcy, and make something sweet.

My dad and I love these cookies. They didn't quite turn out this time - they never really set. I don't know if it's because I tried adding less sugar, or because I let the sugar mixture boil a little too long while I was measuring out the other ingredients. Despite the flawed presentation, they are still delicious!

Here's the recipe. They're so easy and hardly make any mess - perfect for lazy mornings or quick weeknight desserts.

Unbaked Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk (regular or evaporated)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup cocoa
3 cups rolled or quick oats
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter (optional)
1/2 cup coconut (optional)
1/2 cup nuts (optional)

Bring sugar, milk and butter to boil in saucepan. Boil exactly 1 minute. Remove from heat and add oats, cocoa, vanilla, and optional ingredients if desired. Quickly drop by tablespoon full onto waxed paper. Let cool.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


I have never loved March more than I have during its first week this year. It's been sunny and mild, and in the afternoons when I pull into work, I hear water dripping off of the roof.

In northern places, March is never very pretty. All of the trash and far-flung gravel hidden beneath a season's worth of snow begins to reveal itself. The ground is sodden, muddy, and brown. The trees are still bare and tired looking, like old bones.

But the sunshine is intoxicating. It's impossible for me to walk out of the house without a smile, whether I am trudging through the slush in the afternoon or slipping across patches of ice in the evening. The sound of gravel under car tires, the feel of soft ground underfoot, the dripping of water - all of these are sensations I have not experienced in months. They feel new and exciting.

People will always complain about the mud, and I'm sure I will too, as the month drags on. But this week, I am in love with it. Walking the dogs along the road, the snowbank was still thigh-high, but my boots sunk into the ground. That give, the soft suction, was a wonderful feeling after three months of ice and snow.

This week, our dog Hannah began her old habit of asking to be let outside, simply to stretch out on the deck and soak up the sunshine. Soon we'll keep an old towel near the door to wipe off her paws before she comes into the house - the first habit of ours that grows out of spring.