Category Archives: Food

Breakfast for Dinner: Recipe for Disaster

SCENE: A messy living room, littered with the dead bodies of an epic battle between the Naked Barbies Battalion and the Funko Pop Regiment. Two young children, a boy and a girl, ages 6 and 4 respectively, are dramatically lying on the floor among the ruins.  

A Mother, late 30’s, comically full wine glass in hand and giving off strong swamp witch vibes, enters the room. 

Mother: Hey guys! What’s going on? 

Son: We’re BORED.

Daughter: SO BORED.

Mother: Ah, well, don’t let me interrupt. Just wanted to let you know I was going to do something different for tonight. What do you guys think about breakfast for dinner?

Son: What’s breakfast for dinner?

Mother: It’s, you know, when you have breakfast for dinner. 

Son: I don’t understand.

Mother: Breakfast. For dinner. I’ll make eggs. Sausage. Oh! Homefries! 

Daughter: But we already ate breakfast. 

Mother: Yeah. I know. But this is breakfast for dinner. 

*sound of crickets*

Mother: It’s fun. 

Son: Why?

Mother: Why is it fun?

Son: Yeah.

Daughter: Yeah. 

Mother: Because…it’s different. It’s, I don’t know. Breaking the rules. Eating breakfast food at night. We’re culinary rebels. Also, bacon. 

Daughter: Can we have chocolate for dinner instead?

Mother: No. 

Daughter: But chocolate is fun. 

Son: But you always say we can’t have macaroni and cheese for breakfast.

Mother: Yeah. And?

Son: And you said we couldn’t have macaroni and cheese for breakfast because it’s not a breakfast food but now you’re saying we can eat breakfast food for dinner. Were you lying?

Mother: No. Look, it’s just something fun.

Son: Macaroni and cheese is fun. 

Mother: We’re not talking about macaroni and cheese. We’re talking about dinner tonight. 

Son: OK. But can we have macaroni and cheese for breakfast tomorrow?

Mother: No.  

Son: Can we have macaroni and cheese as breakfast for dinner tonight?

Mother: No! Look, you guys aren’t getting the whole spirit of this thing. 

Daughter: There is always chocolate. Everyone likes chocolate. 

Son: I don’t understand. What are the rules!? 

Mother: It only goes one way. You can have breakfast for dinner but not dinner for breakfast.

Son: Why?

Mother: Because a society has to have rules or it falls apart. 

Son: Society is dumb.

Mother: Yes, it is. 

Son: So we can have macaroni and cheese?

Mother: *let’s out primal scream*

Daughter: Gummi bears are also fun. 

The Father enters the room, oblivious. 

Father: Hey gang, what are we thinking for dinner? 

The Mother drains her wine glass. She lets out an impressive burp. 

Mother: Pizza. 

Son: Yay!

Daughter: Yay! 

Father: Again? 

Daughter: Can we get chocolate pizza?

Mother: I’m going to get more wine.

END SCENE 

Not all that glitters is marigold

I once was very mean to a marigold. It wasn’t anything personal. It was merely in the name of science.

Specifically, that name was the Fourth Grade Science Fair. The birthplace of so many childhood wrongs. Somehow I had convinced my teacher of the merit of the hypothetical question “Does Being Nice to Plants Help Them Grow?” A fantastic scientific query when you are both lazy but insecure about being lazy and want to make it kind of seem like you care while doing minimal work. 

So I planted two marigold seeds. Once I day I would sing to one and read it books and was on my best behavior. The “grandma is over for a visit and it’s her birthday” behavior. 

And to the other one I was verbally abusive in that unique, dark, unholy way that only a 10-year-old girl can be. 

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I don’t remember my official “results” or even my grade. The only conclusion I took away was the knowledge that the entirety of this one marigold’s life was having a freckled brat angrily try out new curse words on it when her mother wasn’t around. 

This lingering guilt likely explains my current awkward relationship to plants. Why I have never gardened. Why house plants stress me out. Why I prefer to let plants run wild and free in nature. I do not, under any circumstance, want to be responsible for them. As soon as they are in my care, I feel the crushing burden of having to keep them not only alive, but happy. And I don’t necessarily trust myself with the weight of this commitment considering I have seen the immoral results of my former mad scientist self. 

I killed a flower WITH WORDS.

I’m a monster. 

Which brings me to last week. There are always consequences when one tries to play God with Nature. Mine came in the form of my friend Melissa, who very sweetly and generously surprised my kids with their very own starter vegetable garden kit. Complete with 15 different seed pods. It was one of those enrichment activities I’d heard so much about but have never, ever done with my children. I wasn’t worried though. At least at first. I assumed like most other things that were good for us, my family and I would talk excitedly about it for 15 minutes and then forget about it completely. 

Oh, but then how their eyes lit up. For the first time in a long time. They were engaged. They were getting along. They were happy in a way I hadn’t seen since school shut down. 

Sigh. 

So we planted the tiny seeds in the tiny pods while the kids peppered me with one thousand questions. All of which I enthusiastically answered wrong because I know zero about gardening but still wanted to encourage their newfound passion.

“Momma! What are turnips!?”

“Sad onions!”

“How did turnips get their name!?”

“They were discovered by Joe Turnip of Indiana!”

“What do leeks taste like?”

“Like celery that is wearing a bow tie!” 

And from there things started to spin out of control. I casually asked my mom to help me find something to put all these seed pods in because she knows more about gardening than her marigold murdering daughter. Before I knew it, a large garden bed, a toolkit, adorable tiny gardening gloves and four giant bags of soil were making their way to my house. Because a Memaw who misses her grandchildren and who has an Amazon Prime account at her disposal is a dangerous creature. 

Then my husband started talking about how we’ll need a trellis for the tomato plants and maybe a tiny fence to keep out the bunnies and maybe we could plant some sunflowers too. 

And daisies, added my daughter.

And tulips, added my son. 

And, lo and behold, I am now the reluctant owner of a garden. Responsible for the health and happiness of dozens of tiny lives. Which means I’m obsessively watching them and constantly questioning if I’m over or under watering and following my husband around the house telling him about all the awful things I learned on Google today.

“Did you know some ancient religions thought plants had souls?”

“Did you know trees make cries for help? Like when they’re in danger or thirsty?”

“Did you know plants know when they’re being eaten? They send out defense mechanisms to try to stop it.”

Sigh. 

I guess the punishment fits the crime. As they say, the arc of history bends toward justice. 

But as they also say, you can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her like it. 

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It’s been a mother of a year

Hey, you know how every year us mothers significantly lower our expectations when it comes to Mother’s Day? How every year you all just skate by on your adorableness, doing the bare minimum? It’s only Mom, afterall. She’s so grateful for anything and everything. Her love is completely unconditional. 

Well, not this year, you filthy urchins. There are now conditions. 

Oh sure, when you were born we played the saintly martyr when you kept us up all night, every night. We faced the fact you wouldn’t let us eat a single hot meal for an entire year with gentle stoicism. And we showed incredible grace and restraint by not throwing you out the window the first time you screamed “I HATE YOU” into our faces. 

We did all that because we love you. And you’re amazing. And we’d die for you. 

But this is 2020, you little wretches. We are done being humble and doting and noble. There is no more “oh, it’s enough of a gift just to be your mom.” It’s not. Not even close. We have spent two months stuck inside this house with you. Two VERY LONG months. With no sleepovers at Memaw’s house, no daycares or schools, no playdates, no library storytime, no playgrounds to give us even one tiny bittersweet gasp of freedom. There is only the constant drowning in your endless waves of needs and demands in a house that is growing more ramshackled by the day. 

Time to step it up, you bitty hellions.  

First things first, do not try to pass yourself off as charmingly incompetent and present us with burnt toast and water mixed with coffee grounds for breakfast. Here’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child. Careful, it’s heavy. Now start studying. That hollandaise sauce better make us cry tears of joy. 

Speaking of studying, your report card is one big lie. You are far from a delight in class. Which is why the card you give us this year better contain a heartfelt three page letter about how friggin’ gorgeous and phenomenal we are, which you will hand deliver to us on a silver tray that also contains a Bloody Mary. 

While we are on the subject of food and drink, you always want to be fed. Note we did not say “want to eat.” Note we did not say “always hungry.” No, you want to be fed. You want us to make you something. 

Well, guess what we want? 

A swimming pool. 

Start digging. 

And no, we will not watch you dig. A full one third of our lives is now devoted to “hey, mom watch this!” and then watching this. It doesn’t matter if we’re cooking, or if we’re showering, or if we’re on fire. We must watch. We must watch and then watch again and again, every time acting just as delighted as the first time you jumped off the couch and onto the couch cushion. 

Which is why we’re gonna need a life-sized chocolate sculpture of ourselves. 

Then there is the issue of the farts. We have smelled all your farts. All of them. On a constant rotating basis. There is just a constant low hanging miasma of fart essence wherever we go in this house because there is nowhere else for you to fart. So there’s tiny baby farts and gross boy farts and gigantic dad farts and ancient unholy dog farts, all mingling together and creating horrifying new scents. 

Buy us our own island. 

Oh, you can’t afford to buy us our own island? Well, we are the sounding board for every single thought that crosses everyone’s mind. We don’t get to have our own thoughts anymore because we’re too busy listening to all of yours. So you best find someone to bankroll this entire operation. No one’s cuteness is getting them out of this. We are on Week Eight of this crap. Ain’t no one cute around here anymore. 

We moms have not only kept this household going in a global pandemic, but, more importantly, have kept everyone from killing each other. We are freaking warrior goddesses. 

BUY US AN ARMORED UNICORN TO RIDE ON. 

So, in conclusion, we love you all so much. More than life itself. You are the best thing to ever happen to us. Don’t mess this up or we’re setting your room on fire. 

 

Quarantine Letters from the Home Front

March 12, 2020

My Dearest Husband, 

It feels like yesterday I held you in my arms, only for us to be ripped apart by this cursed virus that is sweeping across the country. What I wouldn’t give to see your face again. Alas, I know you must do your duty, though it is a most difficult one, and figure out how to turn our diminutive bedroom into a viable home office. 

Though only a door separates us, it may as well be an ocean. For you are a world away, valiantly battling the Zoom app with its broken video link and internally struggling with the weighty decision of whether you care if your boss sees you in your pajamas, whilst I stay on this side, taking care of hearth and home in my yoga pants. We are walking an unknown road together yet apart, my love. But never doubt where my heart lies. 

The children send you their deepest affection and this drawing of a pirate ninja unicorn. 

With All My Love, 

Your Devoted Wife

 

March 13, 2020

My Darling Husband, 

I thought perhaps I saw a glimpse of your unshaven face shuffling around in your robe early this morn and my heart leapt at the sight of it. But by the time I called out, this specter had already refilled his coffee mug and disappeared back into the murky depths of the bedroom. Oh, my beloved, when will the world return to normal? I fear we will not come out of this as the same people we once were. 

To distract myself, I am helping our eldest learn to read. His teacher has been most accommodating, sending numerous worksheets to be printed out at home and link after link after link of educational things we ought to be doing. I admit it is most overwhelming but I find courage within myself by imagining how burdensome it is for families across this nation of ours and knowing I must do my part as well. 

Eternally Yours,

Your Faithful Bride

 

March 16, 2020

Dearest Love, 

I am trying, somewhat in vain, to remember how hard all this must be on our children. The world has gone mad and if their mother cannot make much sense of it, what chance have their young minds?

Yet, I still do not feel that is a reasonable excuse to steal all my lipsticks and paint the dog in various vibrant and long-lasting hues. Oh yes, that is indeed what your children just did. The little one also blew a raspberry in my face when I divulged to her that there would be no cookies for breakfast. 

Well, as you can imagine, it took everything I had to spare any and all rods. But as it says in the scriptures, children are a gift and a reward. Although if I do recall correctly, Jesus never had any children of his own and God stopped after one. 

I feel my delicate constitution cannot take much more of this, dearest. Which is why I drank all your beer. 

Love,

Your Temporarily Jovial Spouse

 

March 17, 2020

Dear Husband, 

As I write this, it is late morning. A dreary, rainy morning sure to turn into a dreary, rainy afternoon. Already the children have broken a chair and the hound has vomited on the rug before deciding to poop in the only room that has carpet. ‘Tis not quite the auspicious day I was hoping it would be. 

But I strive to take heart in the small things, such as it being the Day of Saint Patrick. I felt it only appropriate to participate in the festivities, if but alone. And early. 

Relatedly, we are out of wine. Also the vodka from the freezer is gone. 

P.S. Did you eat my leftovers? They were clearly labeled with my name, darling. If you wanted eggrolls, you should have ordered some for yourself when I asked what you wanted from Golden Dragon yesterday. 

Signed,

Your Hangry Wife

 

March 18, 2020

Husband,

Supplies are low and morale is flagging. I had to squash a coup d’etat when word got out that there were no more fish sticks. I know it is a fraught journey to the grocery store in these awful and uncertain times but seeing as how I am hungover (you know my delicate constitution) I feel it is essential that you go. 

I will miss you, oh husband of mine, as you embark on this treacherous voyage. But how lucky am I to have such a considerate partner who leaves behind dirty socks all over the house as a constant reminder of his presence in our life during these troublesome days. 

Regards,

Wife

 

March 20, 2020

To Whom It May Concern,

I’m going for a walk. I threw an entire box of Cheerios on the floor so the urchins should be occupied for awhile. I am uncertain of when I shall return. 

P.S. The children set the kitchen on fire.

 

When life hands you spoiled milk, make bathtub gin

Ask any parent what their worst nightmare is and then immediately cancel any plans you had for the next three days. Because that’s how long they will take to answer you. Because parents are worried about everything.

For instance, among my top worst nightmare scenarios are:

A serial killer named Meatclaw kidnaps my children.

My daughter dies of scurvy because all she’ll eat is plain noodles. 

My son turns out to be awesome at soccer and all my weekend days have to be spent sober and pretending to like soccer.

My grandchildren will have to participate in The Hunger Games in the dystopian future, which they will lose because no one in my family knows how to shoot an arrow OR how to do a fancy side braid.

I get cancer and die. My husband, overwhelmed with grief, gets tricked into marrying my vapid, bimbo nurse Trixie after my funeral and she then raises my kids to be the kind of humans who genuinely enjoy keeping up with the Kardashians.

Prohibition comes back and I am arrested for Googling “how to make bathtub gin”.

And none of those things address the daily onslaught of new things we as parents are told to be afraid of, like haunted YouTube shows that possess children and studies that prove babies who didn’t learn Mandarin in utero will never get into college and that helicopter parenting is causing rebellious kindergartners to start snorting pure uncut sugar.

Of course, it’s not all death and delinquency and illicit moonshine runs. The mundane can be almost as terrifying when you have kids. For example, at some point on that mental list that every parent has, probably down around No. 37, is the nightmare of the missing sippy cup.

Oh god, the dreaded missing sippy cup. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s been on the back of your mind for awhile, the fact that you can’t remember the last time you saw it. And even though you’ve been known to struggle with anything above second grade math, you instantly do some fancy algebra in your head and deduce that there are two in the dishwasher, one in the cupboard, two they’re currently drinking out of and one being used as part of a load-bearing wall in the Fortress of Generic Blocks in the living room. 

Which leaves one completely unaccounted for. And after some more fancy mental calculations, you realize it’s been unaccounted for since Tuesday. And nope. Not that Tuesday. Last LAST Tuesday.

That’s not even the scariest part. The scariest part is that, unlike all of the tiny missing socks (which is about 1/3 of the total tiny sock population) and all those missing pens from the junk drawer, which I imagine are living blissfully together on some tropical island with all 12,000 of my missing bobby pins, sippy cups never stay lost. Oh no. They will mysteriously show up again. Right when their contents have ripened to their peak of nightmarish horror.

And despite the fact that when you asked your children to help you find this very same cup two weeks ago and they just did a series of figure-eights around your legs while repeatedly asking “where did it go? huh…”, it always, inevitably, reappears in their little hands when it makes its grand re-entrance, not yours.

Then, when that moment comes, that moment when one of your precious angels that you spent 36 hours bringing into this world on the sheer power of creative curse words alone runs up to you with a brightly painted cup of toxic sludge, a million more horrific questions run through your mind:

What unholy concoction is now in there? And has it gained sentience yet?

How much spoiled milk can a 30-pound body take before permanent damage occurs?

What strange alchemy must take place to turn apple juice that shade of green?

Or…wait…I think this used to be orange juice?

Does grape juice ferment into alcohol after so long? And if it does, how much prison kiddie wine did my child just drink before he alerted me that he found the missing cup?

How worried do I need to be about mold, because there are no less than 11 blog posts littering my Facebook feed at any given moment about the dangers of mold growing in sippy cups?

The good news is that there is hope. More than hope, actually. There is a foolproof method to never losing another sippy cup again. And that method is to only let your child drink water from here on out.

A sippy cup full of water has never, ever been lost in the whole, long, sordid history of parenthood.

 

A glass of astronaut juice

She wasn’t my grandma. I should probably start with that. Officially she belonged to my cousins. The matriarch on their father’s side. 

But Grandma Knapke’s screen door always opened just as wide for me as it did for her verified grandchildren. On those blazing blue summer days, the five of us would spill out of the van and pour into her house, stirring up small whirlpools of chaos and sound in our wake. 

She was a small but vital part of my childhood, her face looming large in my memory. And her laugh. That very distinct laugh is forever seared into my brain. I loved that laugh. I remember wishing I was funnier as a kid just so I could hear that laugh more often. 

This was the angel who introduced me to Tang. The drink of the astronauts. Flashy space juice. It was the most exotic thing I had ever had. No one in my life up until then had loved me enough to let me have Tang. Grandma Knapke let me have it by the pitcherful.  

Her house smelled completely different from my biological grandma’s familiar smelling house. It smelled foreign and therefore fancy in my eyes.

My very intense but short-lived skateboard career began and ended in her driveway. 

She took a bunch of us into town one day. Her hair was in curlers, secured in a hair net. She didn’t care. That was the day she became my personal hero. 

Her kitchen is the kitchen I always think of when I’m reading a book and the characters are standing in a kitchen. She’d probably be surprised to know it was featured in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” “The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio” and “Little Women.” 

I remember one lunch in particular, a mob of us sitting around her table. My plate was piled comically high considering I was 7-years-old. She cocked an eyebrow at me and said “your eyes are bigger than your stomach.” I nodded sagely at her, like I knew what that meant. I had no idea what she meant. But I remember thinking how wise she sounded right before I spent the rest of the day with an agonizing tummy ache.  

I got the news a few days ago. Grandma Knapke passed away at the age of 93. Leaving behind a large and loving and wonderful family.

And one freckled stray whose eyes are still too big for her stomach. 

It takes a special kind of person to open their doors to kids that aren’t theirs. To make them feel loved. Make them feel like they belong. It’s hard being a kid. It’s so easy to forget that as an adult. Which is why kids need all the open doors and hugs and special astronaut drinks as they can get. 

I was luckier than most. I had the best grandma in the world. But I also got a Grandma Knapke. A woman who took in an only child whenever she showed up and made her feel like one of the pack. 

And as I get older, and raise my own family, I can only hope I have it in me to emulate her love and spirit. That in the end there is a person who, when they hear my name, thinks back with a smile and remembers sitting at my table in perfect happiness. Fancy astronaut drink optional. 

 

My Thanksgiving Google List

How big of a turkey do I need?

Idiot proof recipes for Thanksgiving turkey

What is a brine?

Is a brine necessary?

Things I can brine a turkey in besides a bucket

Is Alton Brown single?

Pictures of Alton Brown

Alton Brown’s wife

Did Guy Fieri die?

People you’d be surprised are still alive

When are grocery stores the least crowded?

How late is Trader Joe’s open?

Why are there so many people in the world?

How expensive is it to have Thanksgiving catered?

Should I buy a backup turkey?

Videos of how to remove turkey guts

Do gutless turkeys exist?

Thanksgiving cocktails

Thanksgiving cocktails you can make with simple ingredients

Thanksgiving cocktails with three or less ingredients

Wine with the highest alcohol content

That funny Thanksgiving song, not the Adam Sandler one

That funny Thanksgiving song about jail

Thanksgiving playlist ideas

Thanksgiving sweaters for dogs

Thanksgiving sweaters for women

Thanksgiving sweater sets for families

How to make sweet potatoes not suck

Why do people put marshmallows on sweet potatoes?

Recipes for normal potatoes

What is the point of parsley?

Why aren’t there more Thanksgiving movies?

Forgot to thaw turkey

Are turkeys microwave safe?

Can you blow dry a turkey?

Recipe for cheesy vegetable dish, possibly included cauliflower?

How to trick children into eating Thanksgiving dinner

Good responses to ‘I don’t want to eat this’

How to make vegetables taste like not vegetables

Thanksgiving sides you can deep fry

Recipe for deep fried stuffing balls

Recipe for deep fried stuffing balls not on a food blog site featuring long stories

How can you tell when a turkey is done?

First aid for minor burns

My discount meat thermometer melted?

Difference between oven safe thermometers and not oven safe

Can I still eat a turkey if a thermometer melted on it?

Pizza places open on Thanksgiving

 

When you just need a quick recipe…

Well, hello there! Welcome to my food blog! I see you’re looking up a quick recipe to make for dinner tonight. You’ve definitely come to the right place. This truly is one of my favorites to make and it’s so easy and simple you’ll be shocked when it also tastes like it came from a fancy five-star restaurant! And, trust me, your whole family will love it! Yes! Truly! Did I already use truly earlier? Doesn’t matter, because it’s true. Even though your kids haven’t eaten anything other than plain pasta and french fries for the last eight months, they are sure to ask for seconds (or maybe even thirds!) of this simple, easy recipe that is truly SO tasty and uses all fresh ingredients including a couple you’ve literally never even heard of.

As you can see from the much too large photo and bio over there on the side of this website, I am a busy mom JUST LIKE YOU. A busy mom with perfect hair casually holding a glass of white wine and wearing a sweater you can definitely not afford. So, trust me, I get it. Dinner time is always hectic in our house too. So, I know how valuable your time is. So, let’s get right to it, shall we?

I first started cooking when I was seven-years-old. And one of my favorite things to make in my grandmother’s kitchen was this very recipe. Truly! Oh wait, sorry, here comes the first of the pop ads. Followed immediately by the second one. Just hit the tiny little box with the x in it but be careful not to accidentally click on the ad itself…

Hey! Welcome back! Truly, I know how annoying those ads can be but a girl has to make an income somehow, you know? Otherwise I couldn’t afford a nanny to watch little Naiviann, Mckarty and Lakynn so I have the time to write a 12,000 word introduction for every single recipe on this site. 

Now, as I was saying, this recipe is a real crowd-pleaser and uses ingredients that are probably already in your pantry. Just some chicken and organic heirloom tomatoes and spigarello and a ripe kabocha and fresh thyme grown in the manure of a free range alpaca named Larry. Of course, you can always substitute the fresh goat crema for evaporated milk. I mean, I’m not a monster. I once was upper middle class before I became wealthy so I get the struggle. 

Oh, hang on, here comes the pop up video that you can’t find the X-out button to. It’s only 3 minutes and 52 seconds long so just watch it as your rage slowly starts to build. 

Alright, onto the recipe because the kids are getting hungry while you’ve wasted 45 minutes frantically scrolling in an increasingly desperate attempt to find the recipe on this recipe blog site. But, trust me, the wait will be worth it. No joke, over 12 people have sent me messages telling me this was the BEST recipe they had ever tried. Which is why I’m so excited for you to try it! Feel free to sign up for my newsletter for more amazing recipes just like this one that you haven’t even seen yet. Here are also some links you never asked for of my other family-friendly recipes like an herb-encrusted salmon with a white wine sauce and my garlic-infused roasted parmesan asparagus casserole. 

Now you want to make sure that when you are sauteing the vegetables in this recipe that you use sunflower oil and not vegetable oil. I know this tip should be included with the actual recipe but when it comes to cooking, at least in my experience, it’s always better to list the tips and tricks to the recipe way before you get to the actual recipe so that you have to scroll back up when you are in the middle of actually making it. 

Oh look, another ad! For something you didn’t even Google. You just thought about it briefly last week. Creepy, huh? Oh, and bummer. Now your screen is frozen. Don’t worry. I’ll wait. I clearly have all the time in the world even though I am, as I mentioned, a very busy mom. JUST LIKE YOU. Truly!

Hey! It finally unfroze. Welcome back again! Alright, now that your battery is below five percent, here is the recipe. And you better get started. The total time is 3 hours and 45 minutes. 

 

A Nightmare in Elm Trees

It was a cloudless blue day in late summer. The kind of blue that made the heart ache with possibility. The kind of day made for adventures. 

And it was in that spirit of happy potentiality that the little family began packing up their car for a weekend away in the woods. Backpacks full of toys, a small suitcase filled with hoodies and bug spray, a cooler loaded with beer and marshmallows. The father grunting as he loaded the trunk, the children squealing and chasing each other, the mother watching fondly but also desperately trying to remember what she forgot because it was definitely something. 

How could they possibly know under that perfect sky that they were walking into a horror story? (Other than the fact it’s the premise for an entire genre of horror stories?).

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The drive passed quickly and uneventfully. The cabin was small and cozy. They only had one neighbor in this isolated part of the New Hampshire woods. A lone man wearing flannel staying at the other cabin across a copse of trees. The mother joked that he looked like Ted Bundy. The father laughed. Because it’s all fun and games until someone gets murdered. 

For now, it was peaceful. Quiet. Which is probably why the mother was able to hear it. Barely perceptible, but definitely there. She had just sat down and opened her book when a low moan rose up out of the woods. She looked around but when she didn’t see anything, decided to ignore it, managing to read three whole sentences before hearing it again. Only it was a little louder this time. 

“…oooooooommmmmm….”

“Hello?” she practically whispered. “Is…is someone there?”

The woods answered back with the light rustling of leaves in the wind. After a few more moments, she turned her attention back to her book. Finding time to read was a luxury and she refused to waste it. But just when she had finally relaxed, releasing the tension in her shoulders that had been there since the birth of her oldest, there was that sound again. Louder. Much louder. An unearthly wail. 

“MOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!” 

No. No, it can’t be, she thought. But it was. Suddenly, like a pop-up book from hell, her two children appeared on either side of her, loudly complaining that they were already bored. 

They had only arrived 20 minutes ago. 

The mother screamed. 

Meanwhile, the father was in the cabin unpacking. Although beautiful late afternoon sunlight filtered in through the windows, the man couldn’t shake the black, foreboding feeling that something wasn’t right. He checked and double-checked all the bags. Everything seemed in order. When suddenly…

“Honey!” he screamed in terror. “We forgot the graham crackers!” 

There are some who say the inhuman wails of the children upon learning this news could be heard as far away as Vermont. 

After that, it was as though the children were possessed. “S’MORES!” they screeched while clawing, grabbing, tearing at their parents with small but freakishly strong hands. “S’MORES!”

Somehow the father managed to escape, fleeing in dread to the car. Twenty minutes later, he was running blindly through the streets of the only nearby town.

“Help! Someone help! I need graham crackers!” His words echoed off the empty buildings. “PLEASE! I left my wife alone with the kids! I don’t know how long she can hold out!”

By the time he returned, a box of horrifyingly overpriced crackers in hand, he found the children dancing around the fire, having gone completely feral in his absence, dirt smudged on their faces like so much war paint. The mother lay in the fetal position to one side, quietly whispering over and over again “he’ll be back soon, he’ll be back soon, he’ll be back soon…” 

Quickly, the father got to work, roasting marshmallows but trying in his panic not to burn them. May the good Lord have mercy on his soul if he burned them. With shaking hands, he assembled the dark snacks that had turned his children into unrecognizable fiends. But just as quickly as he made them, the children tore into them like a pack of wolves, quickly disemboweling the father’s careful work, discarding the crackers and marshmallows over their shoulders and only eating the chocolate. 

“MORE.” they bellowed. 

The parents quietly wept. 

A few hours later, determined to salvage this family trip, the parents announced in perky but trembling voices, “let’s go for a walk in the woods!” To their surprise, the children agreed, chocolate still ominously smeared across their faces. And for a few glorious minutes, it appeared all might be ok. The children happily scampered ahead, collecting acorns and pine cones. They even let out a few genuine laughs of delight. 

But then the couple made the fatal mistake of enjoying themselves, triggering in the offspring all their most evil and depraved impulses. Because while the children typically loved nature, could spend hours staring at a dead leaf while in the city, they could not stand that very same nature when their parents paid $100 for a cabin completely surrounded by it. 

“This is dumb. Can we go home?”

“My feet hurt. Will you carry me?”

“I SAW A BUG!”

“Can we get an Uber?”

“I hate trees.”

“Did you bring any s’mores? I WANT A S’MORE!”

The parents didn’t die that day. But there are some who say they can still see the ghosts of their expectations haunting the woods to this very day.

On the plus side, the family never did get murdered by their neighbor Ted Bundy. Likely because the children scared him away. Even serial killers have their limits. 

A Review of my Son’s Imaginary Restaurant

It’s a tired old trope and yet still remains a true one. When it comes to so many ventures, it’s all about location, location, location. 

Which is the one thing my 5-year-old son’s recently opened restaurant has going for it. Situated conveniently right in the heart of my living room, this one-couch eatery specializes in unique dishes that are as creative as they are inedible. 

Aptly, or perhaps ironically, named Restaurant, the place has what can only be described as a homey vibe with a shabby chic aesthetic, heavy on the shabby. On entry, you are greeted by a riot of colors and smells, none of which are food related. The cleanliness also left something to be desired for this particular reviewer but the other patron, an elderly canine named Buffy, didn’t seem to mind. 

The owner and head chef (and host and server) Riker revealed to me that he had only recently taken an interest in the culinary arts. Prior to opening Restaurant, he had his sights set on becoming a ninja astronaut. Alas, the lack of experience and passion showed. The service alone was, to say the least, wanting. 

“What do you want to drink?” he demanded soon after I sat down. 

“How about a Diet Coke?”

“We don’t have Diet Coke.”

“You don’t have Diet Coke at this imaginary restaurant?”

“Nope.”

“OK, what do you have?”

“Um…coffee or tea.”

“I’ll take coffee.”

“Actually, we don’t have coffee. Do you want tea?”

Deciding to try my luck instead with their wine list, I summoned the sommelier, who happened to be the owner’s younger sister. At only 3-years-old, she was on the younger side of wine experts and it quickly became evident she had only gotten the job because of family connections. 

“Could you recommend a red, miss?”

“Red what?”

“Red wine.”

“Can I have some?”

“No.”

“Can I have pink wine then?”

The conversation quickly went off the rails from there. Resigning myself to the fact that I would just be thirsty throughout this entire meal, I was surprised, and somewhat wary, when the chef eventually presented me with a pink teacup that sang “Twinkle, Twinkle” incessantly. 

“Here’s your coffee.”

“I thought you said you didn’t have coffee. Also, this is empty.”

“OK, it’s root beer.”

Restaurant’s signature dish is pizza. (Although entree options are subject to change with little to no warning). With no menu in sight, I decided that would likely be my best bet. Even bad pizza is still pizza. Or, at least, it had been up until now. 

“I’d like to order a pizza, please,” I informed the chef. 

“Oh yes, pizza. Pizza has sauce and cheese. And crust. And…um…do you want mushrooms on it?”

“No.”

“Well, you have to have mushrooms on it.”

“Pretty sure that’s not how this works.”

“It is.”

“Oh.”

The kitchen, a converted bedroom in the back of the house, came alive with the sounds of clanging toy pots and pans and what definitely better not be my expensive William Sonoma kitchen utensils stolen from a certain drawer. Luckily, I didn’t have time to ruminate on this long since my dish arrived quickly (under two minutes, in fact, by my count). On the down side, it resembled nothing even vaguely pizza-like. The crust looked like a slab of cardboard (mostly because it was cardboard). The sauce looked suspiciously like Play-Doh covered in dog hair but at least it was red. I was informed by the chef that the “cheese” on my pizza was definitely cheese and not a blank piece of paper. And yes, there were mushrooms as well. Plastic mushrooms. Plucked straight from the toy aisle years ago in the Kmart region of the Northeast. 

“Here’s your pizza!” Chef Riker announced while delicately placing the dish down on my crissed-crossed lap.

“Oh…wow.”

“Take a bite!”

Wanting to retain a fragment of my professionalism, I did as I was told.

“Mmm…this is…interesting.”

But the chef had already disappeared, pitter-pattering off to do more important chef stuff one can only assume. Or perhaps to scold the improper behavior of his sommelier, who was at this point crawling around on the floor meowing and yelling “Momma! Look! I’m a kitty cat!” 

Unsure what to do next, I sat there uncomfortably while my fellow patron at Restaurant started barking and making quite the ruckus. Likely because his pizza didn’t turn out as he expected either. 

To my relief, Riker soon returned with a towering stack of Legos.

“I forgot your dessert.” he apologized. “Here you go. It’s ice cream!”

I’m sure it will come as no surprise that the ice cream was as unpalatable as everything else had been. 

“So, what do you think of my restaurant?” Riker asked, standing there with hope in his eyes and a stolen whisk in his hand.

“Best meal I ever had, chef.”