Sunday, August 31, 2008

Culinary Artist Appreciation Day!


That's right. It's Culinary Artist Appreciation Day at the Pond! Can't you hear the trumpets blaring, the people cheering, feel the confetti sprinkle on your face?


Well, ya'll know I have the technical knowledge of a flea. Let's meet the nominees shall we?

1) Marie of A Year From Oak Cottage. Nominees said:
  • "Not only is she a wonderful cook but she is so wise and you leave her site contemplating not only yummy food but the goodness of life."
  • "I feel like I'd be well fed and cheerful if I ever made my way to her kitchen."
  • "She makes me crazy happy with her recipes!"
2) Prudy at Prudence Pennywise. Nominees said:

  • "Her music makes you want to dance and her food makes you want to stuff yourself to the gills!"
  • "She's the best!"
  • "These are simple, family-friendly and budget friendly recipes that even a moron like me can cook!"

3) Bunny at Bunny's Warm Oven. Nominees said:
  • "An amazing baker..."
  • "She has a chocolate bread that has me drooling in my slippers! Pass me a napkin!"
  • "An encouraging friend and creative baker that comes up with the most delicious treats..."

4) Gattina of Kitchen Unplugged. Nominees said:

  • "Simply exquisite."
  • "She has the skills of a chef and a talent of an artist. You can see her creativity not only in her recipes but also in her photography. I feel strangely refreshed every time I visit her site."

5) Deep Fried Kudzu at Deep Fried Kudzu. Nominees said:
  • "One post had scrambled hot dogs. How can you not like a blog about the South, food and frying things?"
  • "I love to read her blog. She is so well informed and so well traveled."

6) Lidian at Kitchen Retro.
  • "Her old recipes are fun and scary at the same time!"
  • "It makes me feel like I'm having lunch at my grandmother's house. Not only do I get to travel to a different era, but I feel all cool and retro!"
What wonderful nominees!! While these are all wonderful artists who leave us drooling into our keyboards daily, like American Idol, there can only be one. The winner of the Blond Duck Culinary Artist award (you can copy the duck at the top to post to your blog if you like) is.....


Marie from A Year From Oak Cottage!

Congratulations! Marie was chosen by all the lovely Invisible Friends out there to be the winner of the Blond Duck Culinary Artist award!

In recognition of your award, your prize is that you get to take over the Pond for the day! On next Friday, Sept. 5, you get to do whatever you want in the Pond! You can request that I write a specific story, submit questions for me to answer, write your own guest post or make me stand on my head and post pictures of it. Whatever you like!

Congratulations to all nominees! You are all wonderful culinary artists, chefs, cooks and bakers and I feel blessed to know you.

And Marie--decide what you want to see on your computer screen Friday!

Thanks for participating!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Miss Pickles gets her hands dirty

Mason had never seen a creature like it. Towering over Miss Pickles, the beast had to be at least seven feet tall. Its skin was a pale beige dotted with darker splotches of brown and grey and shone in the light every time he shifted. The colors reminded Mason of his mother's granite counter tops in the kitchen. Instead of hands, thick claws of stone hung from itsarms. A rope-like tail with a pointed tip on the end dangled from its backside and the bright green light shone from its forehead like a third eye. Blinking wide black eyes, the creature stared at the children. The children stared back.

"What are these?" the creature whispered to Miss Pickles, crouching behind her as it peered at the children.

"Jasper, this is my class at Ordinary Elementary," Miss Pickles announced, clapping him on the back. "Class, this is Jasper. He's one of the Rockies."

"The Rockies?" Beatrice squeaked, clutching her backpack strap. "We're in Colorado?"

Miss Pickles laughed and Jasper blinked, looking confused. "No, no," Miss Pickles clarified. "The Rockies are a group of creatures that live under the Earth's surface."

"A group?" Mason asked, surprised to hear his own voice as his lips spoke. "You mean there are more--creatures--that live around here?"

"Of course," Miss Pickles said, her frizzy hair bobbing wildly around her. "There's the Rooties and the Magnetics and the folks over at the sand dunes and the Icicles..."

"No, they moved," Jasper interrupted. "They went to the South Pole."

"Right next to the Poles? Why?" Miss Pickles asked in surprise.

"Global warming," Jasper answered with a shrug. "So what are you doing down here with these kids?"

"We're having an adventure," Miss Pickles announced cheerfully.

Jasper nodded, the green light on his forehead shaking up and down. "Have they ever been Under before?"

Miss Pickles looked at the children, who shook their heads. "I don't believe so," Miss Pickles replied. "Would you mind showing them your hands and telling them what Rockies do?"

"Sure," Jasper said. He held out his hands, letting the children see the light gleam off the sharp end of his claws. "Rockies get their food from the minerals in rocks. In fact, we're made out of mostly granite, limestone and some marble. These claws and this drill"-- he waved his tail at them, "help me dig through the rock. As I dig, my skin absorbs the nutrients and gives me energy."

"Like an earthworm," Beatrice supplied. The other children glared at her and turned back to Jasper.

"What about that light on your head?" Mason asked. The class gasped and stepped back, crowding together so only Mason, Ralph and Don were left in front of Jasper. The last thing they wanted was a mad rock monster at them.

"It's a laser," Jasper said, tapping his rough skin. "Pretty cool, huh?"

"You're running around with a unrestrained laser on your head?" Don sputtered, his eyes wide. "Aren't you asking for a lawsuit?"

Jasper grinned, revealing a row of silver block-like teeth. "You have to go a few more miles down to get to the lawyers," he said.

Miss Pickles laughed. Don did not.

"So, Mr. Jasper sir, what kinds of things do you Rock people eat?" Ralph asked, his stomach growling audibly. "Just out of curiosity's sake of course." Mason stifled his giggles as Jasper answered.

"Normally, we just munch on minerals," he said. Ralph's face fell and he looked at his backpack.

"I'm already down a pie," he muttered to Mason.

"You got four left," Mason reminded him.

"They'll be gone within the hour," Don interrupted. Ralph glared at him.

"However," Jasper continued, ignoring the boys' bickering. "We do have festivals. We have a whole day where we do nothing but eat ice cream."

"Ice cream?" Ralph perked up and leaned forward, his eyes sparkling. "What kind?"

"Rocky road of course," Jasper said, scratching his chin with one of his large claws. "And mud pies are quite popular." Ralph smacked his lips together and drool ran down his chin.

"When does this festival occur?" he chirped, patting his pockets for his favorite spoon.

Before Jasper could answer, the earth around them began to shake and quiver. Children cried out as they fell. A giant crack split in the ground. Mason felt himself sliding across the dusty rock and lurching over the side.

Miss Pickles reached over and grabbed his hand as he dangled over a ribbon of molten lava. Pebbles fell around him and sizzled as they smacked into the red lava below.

"Hold on, duckie!" she cried. "I'll have you right up! This is just a tiny earthquake!"

"It's those dratted Rooties again!" Jasper cried, scooping up children in his arms and draping them over his shoulders. "They're playing their music too loud!"

Mason grunted and squeezed his fingers tighter around Miss Pickles' hand. The heat from the lava below was making his skin slick with sweat. His shoulder screamed with pain from the strain of supporting his dangling body.

"Miss Pickles," Mason cried nervously, gasping for breath in the stifling air. He grasped for her hand and felt himself slipping from her grip.

"Hang on, duckie!" Miss Pickles shouted. "Jasper, help me!"

"His parents will sue you if you lose him!" Don shouted as Jasper flung him onto the top of his head.

"He'll never get to eat pie again!" Ralph added mornfully from Jasper's back, where he was clinging with both chubby fists.

"I'm coming!" Jasper yelled, stuffing the rest of the class under his arms. "Hold on, I'm coming!" As he pounded towards Mason, the ground jolted and Miss Pickles was jerked into the air. Her arm flew up and Mason slipped off her fingers.

"Miss Pickles!" he screamed as he fell towards the lava below. "Miss Pickles..."

To be continued....

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Fear

"I'd ask for a penny, but I'm afraid I have nowhere to put it." I shaded my eyes with my hand and squinted into the sun. The butterfly floated in front of me, the bright morning light glinting off his brilliant blue wings. I slowed and held out my hand. He landed in it and waited expectantly while I strolled under a shade tree.

"I think you'd get a lot more than a penny," I said, trying to keep humor in my voice. The butterfly twitched his antennae at me.

"What troubles you?"

Biting my tongue, I took a deep breath. It felt like steel bands had been welded across my chest. My mind was racing and the words tumbled onto my tongue in a emotional frenzy. "I'm worried that I'll fail. I'm worried that I've built this up and gotten so overexcited and gone to all this trouble and I'll have nothing to show for it. What if I get branded a no-good hack for independent publishing? What if no one takes any interest? What if I pay all that money for Web site design and five people visit? What if..."

"What if you let fear control your life?" the butterfly interrupted, sternly pointing a tiny black foot at me. "You are your own worst enemy and your only downfall. You always have been."

"I know," I muttered, averting my eyes from his piercing gaze. "But I can't help it. A few days ago I was so excited and I believed...truly believed. I know I can do this, I've got the feeling in my gut that I've never had. But I can't control who picks up the book. I can't control who likes it. I can't control its success."

"As well you shouldn't!" the butterfly admonished me, crawling up my arm with delicate tiny steps. "If you had control, it would be forced. You are an artist, with words as your medium. Your purpose is to create, not to control."

"But what"--

"There will always be whats and maybes and unseen possibilitiess," the butterfly interrupted, stepping onto my shoulder. His wings brushed my hair. "But that's not what's important. You are doing what you love and doing what you need to do. Not what you should do, what you need to do. That's who you are. That's what you do. You are a writer. If nothing comes of it, you're a better person for doing it. Without your writing, where would you be?"

"But what about the industry"--

"The industry is a collection of nitwits and scared people trying to control what everyone reads," the butterfly reminding me, entwining my golden hair around it's icy blue wings. "It's about money. You write stories. It's what you do."

Huffing out my breath in a long sigh, I sulked as he nestled on my shoulder.

"I'm just so overwhelmed sometimes," I muttered. "I feel like everyone is dedicated to one purpose. Like cooking or sewing or art. I'm just a big mix of them. I feel like there's a million things to do and no time to do them in. And I think I confuse people. I don't have a typical writer blog, I don't have a typical food blog, I don't have a typical artist blog"--

"Because you're not normal!" the butterfly teased, flicking me with his wings. "It doesn't take a genius to see that."

I narrowed my eyes at him. "Oh get over it," he said in an exasperated tone. "Quit making excuses for yourself. You tell stories. You like food. You do scrapbooks. You like dancing and you like making collage picture frames. Why limit yourself to one thing? Why try to define yourself? If you hate boxes and labels so much, why are you trying to shove yourself in one? You spent years trying to be and do everything. It's only now that you're writing that you've found something. Why are you being so flighty?"

For a moment, I was silent. "You've got a point," I said finally. The butterfly grinned and stepped closer, gently tickling my chin.

"You can always learn new things or rediscover old talents," the butterfly murmured. "But if you wanted to do them, you would have already. You can get excited about new things without committing to them. Just like you would have done those bellydancing classes Ben bought you last birthday. I don't recall you ever stepping foot in a studio."

I grinned wryly. "I guess I've got a one-track mind, don't I?"

"A single focus, yes," the butterfly corrected. "One-track, no. You have way too many stories dancing in your head for that. Speaking of which, who is Miss Pickles' friend?"

I threw back my head and laughed. Giggling so hard tears ran down my cheeks, I waved goodbye and headed for the door to my office building.

"This isn't funny!" the butterfly shouted. "I listen to you whine and mope and act all crazy and you won't even answer a simple question? Do you know what's it's like to be in agony like this? You aren't just crazy and weird, you're mean!"

I paused, placing my hand on the door handle. "You'll find out soon," I promised, wiping the tears from my cheeks.

"How soon?" the butterfly demanded.

"Tomorrow," I promised.

"Fine," the butterfly grunted, looking annoyed. He perched on a tree branch and twitched his wings back and forth. "I'll wait."

"Thank you for the advice," I said, smiling to let him know I'm sincere. "I do appreciate it."

The butterfly flicked his hands at me. "I'm waiting," he reminded me, a smile tugging at the corners of his face.

Grinning, I stepped inside to the cool air. Ignoring the phone calls and e-mails and work duties, I sat down and placed my hands on the keyboard.

Mason had never seen a creature like it...I typed.

For the butterfly was right.

I had another story to tell.

P.S. Scroll down to Wednesday's post and vote for the Culinary Artist Appreciation Day!

P.P.S. Check out Tuesday's Miss Pickles so you'll be caught up for Friday's edition!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Berry Delicious



It's late Saturday night in the pond. What do you do when you're craving something sweet and pie-like with the smooth cool taste of ice cream? When one part of your brain desperately screams for ice cream while the other shouts for pie? You're torn you're confused, you're desperate. Wailing and screaming, you hit your knees and pray for divine inspiration.

And there it is: mixed berry cobbler.

That's right. You dig out every oven safe dessert dish/ ramekin and set about mixing and baking. After following Alton Brown's Berry Crisp recipe (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/individual-berry-crisps-recipe/index.html), I had these to look forward to.


The recipe says you can use any type of berries, but I used raspberries and blueberries. I love blueberries and raspberries.


Crumbly topping, sweet mixture of berries, a couple of pecans for crunch...but something is missing....


That's more like it! I love ice cream. Especially cobbler and ice cream. It's like pie and ice cream together....I think it even matches my love for hamburgers. That's a big deal people. That's a big deal.


So, I could torture you some more and carry on and on about how good this is, but instead I have a offer you can't refuse.

You see, most of my Invisible Friends are talented bakers and cooks. You manage to whip up creations that leave me drooling in ecstasy. I've been getting a lot of weird looks lately at work when I visit your pages. Someone even handed me a bib once.

And you're not just cooks. You create. You tweak. You invent things that I couldn't even think of. It's such a wonderful talent, and you have all been so supportive of me and my little tales. I've visited mom blogs, artist blogs and random whiny blogs. And every single "foodie" I've befriended has been nothing but supportive and kind. You are all darling people.

Therefore, I've decided to hold Culinary Artist Appreciation Day. I'm going to give one lucky Invisible Friend the Blond Duck award for Creative Cooking.

To enter, I want you to nominate someone (it can be yourself) for the title of Pond Culinary Artist. You have to tell me why they deserve it and what your favorite thing about them as a culinary artist is. Not only will the competition appear in some kind of story, but the winner will receive a prize.

A secret prize.

Curious yet?

All entries are due Friday at 5 a.m. Central United States Time.

Let the comments begin!

Meanwhile, I'm going to have some more cobbler...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Miss Pickles has strange friends

As Mason waved the dust swirling around his face away, he peered at the darkness around him. In the small crack of light from where he had fallen, he could see the deep rich reddish brown of pure earth. There were soft piles of dirt and jagged plateaus of a pinkish-brown rock that sparkled in the soft light. Rugged columns of a thick white rock stabbed the earth in random patterns, like toothpicks through a tortilla. It was the strangest place he had ever seen--completely natural but entirely otherworldly.

"Mason!" Miss Pickles bellowed from above. Mason looked up and saw her frizzy head bobbing up and down several miles up. "Are you all right?" Her voice echoed in the cavern around him.

"Yes," he called up. "I'm not sure where I am."

"Of course not!" Miss Pickles shouted, sounding shocked. "This is an adventure after all. Give me a few minutes, duckie. I have to outfit everyone with parachutes. No, Ralph, don't eat that. That's not candy."

Mason grinned and returned his attention to his surroundings. He took a few steps forward, gingerly tiptoeing across the cinnamon-colored Earth. Roots twisted from the ceiling and brushed the top of his head as he crept across the dusty rock. He was surprised that there weren't any worms or giant bugs scuttling by him. Not that he was complaining.

Suddenly, he saw something green sparkle in the darkness. Without thinking, Mason rushed forward after it.

"Look out below!" Miss Pickles bellowed from above. "I'm sending Ralph and Don down first!"

"Ok," Mason called, his eyes focused on the shimmer of green. His feet sank in the soft earth as he loped towards the captivating light.

"Masssoooonnnn!" he heard Ralph scream behind him. Cursing, Mason turned around to see Ralph floating to the ground under a large parachute. Don was right behind him, muttering something silently to himself.

"Don, what are you saying?" Mason yelled.

"I'm simply making a note of how many safety and environmental regulations we're violating," Don yelled. "I've got to figure out a defense while we're still down here in case they call the police while we're gone." Giving the green sparkle a longing look, Mason moseyed over to his friends.

Ralph shrugged out of his parachute and unbuckled his harness with a gasp of relief. "Gosh, that was tight," he breathed, rubbing the thick lines embedded into his stomach. He held out a mass of silver paper and black goo. "Chocolate bar? It melted a bit in the sun."

"No thanks," Mason said. Ralph shrugged and scraped the goo into his mouth, plucking out the offending wrapper from his lips. Don crinkled his face in disgust as Ralph searched for the Twinkies his mother had zipped somewhere in his shorts.

"Hey guys, come look at this!" Mason led his friends over to the green light as one student after another floated through the hole. They stood over it, staring down at the tiny green twinkle nestled into the darkness.

"What do you think it is?" Mason whispered, ignoring the chatter of his classmates as they shed their harnesses and began to explore.

"Could be a rock," Don said, looking around at their surroundings.

"Maybe it's food," Ralph whispered, licking his lips with anticipation.

"I don't know," Mason said uncertainly, squatting down. "It feels like something....different."

"Different?" Ralph asked.

"Different," Mason repeated, nodding. He reached out towards the light, leaning down until his fingers touched something rough and warm. A scream rumbled under them and the ground began to shake.

"Run!" Mason yelled, scrambling to his feet. He jerked Ralph away from a thick root and rushed over to where his classmates were circled. Don followed on his heels, shouting, "Evacuate! Evacuate!"

The class of O.E. gathered close to one another, watching as the roots over their head jiggled in the soft light.

"What is it?" Beatrice yelled.

"I don't know," Mason yelled back.

"It's definitely not food!" Ralph shouted.

"Hopefully it doesn't think we're food!" Don muttered. Everyone pretended not to hear them. Suddenly, the ground split and a form began to climb from the molten lava below. Hot steam scalded their faces and the smell of sulphur filled the air. Mason watched in horror as the figure freed itself and started their way. Just as the creature reached them, Miss Pickles floated down from the ceiling using a large pink parasol. She landed, looked at the creature, then looked at the children and smiled.

"I see you've met my friend."

Mason had never been more terrified in his life.

Monday, August 25, 2008

So lonely





I'm so lonely. Oh so lonely.







Woe is me. Wuffle, wuffle, wuffle.






We used to be so happy together. We had so much fun playing, prancing on the couch and frolicking across the house.







But now she's left me for a big comfy bed and refuses to share. She's a bed hog I tell you--a bed hog! I don't take up that much room. And I only wuffle occasionally. One step towards her and she freaks out on me. Sibling rivalry is a terrible condition to be afflicted with. She's meaner than a one eyed snake, I tell you. It leaves me so lonely....oh so lonely.....BARROOOOO!!







Wuffle, wuffle, wuffle.








Le sigh. Does no one want to play with me?






I'm so depressed I can't even look at you. All I can do is snort and wuffle.







Wait a minute....








I've been saved! Ben loves me! Ben adores me! I've being snuggled and loved and cuddled! Take that, you foul tiny Chihuahua dictator otherwise known as Bitty! It's all about me! Not you--MMMEEEEEE! I'm the top dog now.







Oh, so you're lonely now? You'd like to snuggle and lay on a warm tummy? Is that bed too cold for you, Bitty?






Oh, all right. If you beg. Fine. After all, no one should be denied a soft lap to drape on. Now I can wuffle with joy. I wuffle, wuffle, wuffle for you.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Miss Pickles lives up to her word

Whooping with glee, the children ran down the sidewalk in front of the school. The afternoon was a crisp and clear fall day. It could not have been more perfect for an adventure. Mason shed his parka and clutched it in his hands, wondering where to put it. The coat was too thick to tie around his waist.

"Here, duckie," Miss Pickles said, holding out her tiny pink purse. "Just drop it right along in there."

Mason looked dubiously at the small pocketbook. He doubted he could even get his hand inside. Miss Pickles grinned and plucked the coat out of his hand. Mason's eyes bugged out as he watched the minuscule jaws of the pink silk swallow his enormous parka.

"How does it do that?" he asked in awe.

"Never underestimate a woman's purse, duckie," Miss Pickles grunted as she fished around in her purse. She shoved her arm so deep that Mason gasped as her shoulder bumped the top edges of the purse.

"That's amazing!" he cried.

"What's amazing is that my pogo stick is still in there," Miss Pickles exclaimed, extracting a hot pink pogo stick with purple ribbons wrapped around the handle from her purse. "I've been looking for that for months?"

Ralph widened his eyes and held out his five boxes of pies. "Miss Pickles?" he asked. "Do you have a refrigerator in your purse?"

After the pies had been put away safely, Mason and Ralph scuttled after their classmates. Miss Pickles hopped behind them on her pogo stick, now singing a interesting rendition of "Silent Night." As far as Mason could tell, she had forgotten most of the lyrics and was replacing them with random phrases.

"Silent night," Miss Pickles warbled.
"Holy night,"
"All is calm, all is bright."
"There's a Big Mac,
For every child.
Holy french fries,
so salty and mild.
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace."

"Do you think she'd marry me?" Ralph whispered to Mason, wiping the drool off his mouth. The only thing Ralph liked more than pie was hamburgers. "I love her."

"It's illegal," Don responded automatically before Mason could answer.

"You're right," Ralph said, tapping his finger against his rosy plush cheek. "I need a ring first." He began to scour the sidewalks for dandelions.

"Miss Pickles?" a small girl named Eliza asked. "Where are we going?"

"On an adventure," Miss Pickles shouted as she leaped over a kitten sunbathing.

"But to where?" Eliza asked. She looked around. They had walked far past the school and were now surrounded by cozy little houses and tall trees that shaded the sidewalk. "I mean, no offense, but there's not much of an adventure here."

"If we go two more blocks, we can play video games at my house," a little boy offered.

"Video games are no adventure!" Miss Pickles shouted as she bounced over a mailbox. "It was kind of you to offer, little duckie. But we need a real adventure! The kind you can only find, not plan!"

Eliza looked very frustrated, but nodded. Mason smiled sympathetically. He was beginning to feel restless as well. After so much talk about an adventure, he'd like to be on one by now. What kinds of things could they do in a neighborhood? Another mile or two and they'd stumble upon the same restaurants and stores they saw everyday. And there wasn't any adventure in that.

No, Mason thought. What they needed was something real. Something that had never been done before. They needed something that would be burned in their memories until they were 80 years old and bond them together forever.

Then he saw the sprinklers.

"Hey guys!" he shouted, pointing to a large front yard. Half a dozen sprinklers were scattered all over the thick grass, the cool droplets soaring throughout the air. "Let's go play in the sprinklers!"

"I'm up for it!" Don yelled, running and leaping into the yard. "Even if this is technically trespassing!"

"Maybe the ice cream truck will come by soon," Ralph said, jumping in after Don. "Wouldn't that be a treat!"

"That's right, duckies!" Miss Pickles whooped, jumping in the puddles on the sidewalk as the children twirled in danced in the cold streams of water. "Jump right in!"

Mason beamed as a jet of cold water doused his entire front. He hopped right into a soaked patch of grass. Mud splattered up to his knees and his tennis shoes squished as water and grass soaked into the cloth.

"Hey, Ralph, look!" he cried, hopping to another puddle. "I'm a frog!"

Ralph laughed and clapped his hands as Mason hopped from one puddle to another, making loud croaking noises. Mason spotted a enormous puddle towards the sidewalk and took a running leap towards it.

"Ralph, look!" he cried as he flew in the air. "Ribbbbbittt!" His feet touched the soggy earth and suddenly Mason felt himself falling. But he wasn't falling on his back. Instead, his body was twisting in mid-air as blackness raced around him. With a loud thump, he landed on a thick pile of dust and rock. He looked up and saw a tiny bit of light above him, no bigger than the tip of a pen. He must have fallen for miles. Looking around, Mason gulped.

He had found his adventure.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Miss Pickles defeats the terrible Ms. Guenther

"What do you say?" Miss Pickles repeated, looking at the bewildered students. "Are you ready to go?"

One little girl raised her hand. "What can we do?" she asked hesitantly.

"On an adventure?" Miss Pickles spun around, whirling her arms out like she was going to lift right off the grimy tile floor. "We can go anywhere! We can do anything!"

"But what about our reading?" Beatrice Tucker asked in a sensible tone. "And our math and our history? We have a paper in geology due Friday." The hopeful smiles on the students' faces deflated and they slumped in their seats. Curse Beatrice for reminding Miss Pickles about work. Mason cradled his head and felt tears come to his eyes. He had been dreaming about this adventure for so long, and Beatrice had ruined it in one breath.

Miss Pickles raised a eyebrow and waited for the disgruntled mumbling to die down. "What about it?" she said, shrugging. "It'll still be here when we get back, won't it?"

"But"--Beatrice sputtered, her eyes wide. "But, we have homework! We have to study! We have a test Monday on fractions!"

"If you want to know fractions, eat a pie," Miss Pickles said dismissively. "If you want Beatrice, you may stay here and study. The rest of us are going on an adventure. Come on duckies! Let's go!" She skipped out the door, grabbing her tiny bag and a inner tube as she sang Christmas carols down the hall. It was the middle of September.

"Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh," she sang as the class hurried after her, tripping as they dragged heavy backpacks and everything from umbrellas to stick horses behind them. Even Beatrice tagged along, dragging her books with her. "Over the fields we go, laughing all the way!"

"Bells on bobtails ring," Mason continued, feeling bold as he sang in a loud clear voice through the hall. Ralph looked at him with wide eyes, but he just grinned and kept singing. "Making spirits bright..."

"What fun it is to ride and sing a sleighing song tonight!" Don finished, his cheeks pink as everyone looked at him in astonishment. The class laughed and cheered, freedom zinging through them as they hurried down the hall.

"That's right duckies, sing!" Miss Pickles cheered, leaping and pirouetting past the cafeteria and gym.

"Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way," the class sang as they tumbled and ran down the main hallway. "Oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh!"

"MISS PICKLES!" A shrill voice sent a chill snaking down Mason's spine. The entire parade screeched to a halt as Ms. Gunther glared at them.

"We're doomed," Ralph muttered, wiggling his fingers inside the box containing the coconut creme pie.

"I better call my dad," Don whispered, digging in his pockets for his cell phone. "We may need legal counsel."

"Miss Pickles!" Ms. Gunther snapped. "What do you think you're doing?"

"What are you doing?" Miss Pickles countered. The class gaped. Miss Pickles was as unflustered as if they were discussing the weather. She simply smiled at Ms. Guenther and patted her frizzy blond hair.

"Doesn't she know what she's doing?" Don hissed. "She could get killed!"

"Right," Ralph said, munching on a chunk of pie crust. Whipped cream dribbled off his lip as he spoke. "She's so scary even Mr. Bumble is afraid of her."

Mason turned his attention back to Miss Pickles and Ms. Guenther, who was lecturing Miss Pickles about allowing the students to run wild through the halls.

"And singing! How could you let them sing?" Ms. Guenther hissed. "Do you know how disruptive that is?"

"It's not disruptive," Miss Pickles said, wiggling her rain boots across the floor so they squeaked. "It's fun."

Ms. Guenther gasped and shook her head. "Principal Bumble!" she screeched, waving over the ancient principal. All the students groaned. They were doomed now. They would never have an adventure. Miss Pickles would be fired and they'd be forced to deal with one substitute after the other.

"Yes?" Mr. Bumble smiled and tottered over to them. A kind man, he had only three white strands of hair on his entire head, but an entire bushel sticking out of each ear. He wore purple suspenders dotted with stars and khaki pants that came up to his chest. It was rumored he had been principal since the school began.

The school was 100 years old.

"This teacher was skipping through the hall letting her students sing Christmas carols at the top of her lungs!" Ms. Guenther snipped, pointing at Miss Pickles, who beamed. "Instruct her to go back to her room at once. This is absurd and a complete waste of classroom time."

"Christmas carols?" Mr. Bumble beamed. "I love Christmas carols! Is it Christmas already? It seems school already started. Is it Christmas break yet?"

"It's holiday break and it's barely September!" Ms. Guenther roared. "Mr. Bumble, do be serious!"

"What were you doing, then?" Mr. Bumble asked Miss Pickles. He sounded terribly depressed it wasn't Christmas.

"We were having an adventure," Miss Pickles said. Mason groaned and smacked his forehead. They were definitely doomed.

"An adventure?" Mr. Bumble blinked and twirled the hair spewing from his ears. "Lovely. Have a great time." With a big smile, he wondered off to his office mumbling about finding peppermint and cocoa.

"You heard him, duckies!" Miss Pickles cried with a grin. "Onward, ho!" The class gasped and scurried after her, whispering in excitement as they barreled out the front doors.

"This is terrible!" Ms. Guenther shouted after them, pounding her fists against the front windows. "I'll stop this silliness! See if I don't! You've been warned, Miss Pickles!" Mason twisted back and saw her wrinkled face twisted into a scowl, her thin grey hair twisted into a severe bun.

Then he laughed and ran after Miss Pickles. After all, who needed Ms. Guenther? The sun was shining, the wind was warm and there was the scent of a adventure in the air.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Evolution

Being one who likes to do things right, Ben was determined to re-do the glorious meat pies already featured here. His goal was to make them smaller and all the same size. He also wanted to add a little kick to the meat and get it to the right amount of mushiness. Yes, that's a scientific term.




My goal was to eat them. I mean, just look at them.


Oh meat pies and how I love thee....

It's the land of meat pies. Meat pies everywhere as far as the I can see... being handmade with love just for me.



If I don't get one of those pies...you've been warned.

Well, maybe Bitty too.


Oh honey, honey.......

Is there nothing more heartwarming than a man in the kitchen combining the sweet taste of pie crust and meat? Did I mention I love meat? I adore it.


Drooling in anticipation

These pies could extract crazy phrases from my desperate lips. Things like, "I'll give you a thirty minute foot massage. I'll wash your car. I'll eat tofu."


Luckily, I was too busy stuffing my face to utter such terrifying phrases. Sorry darling. No car washing or tofu for you. The foot massage is negotiable.


Yes, that is a cracker with peanut butter stuck to my head.

As most of my Invisible Friends know, I am not a sophisticated person.

My toenail paint is chipped most of the time, I only wear make up once a week and people at work think I've got a big event when I blow dry my hair.

I eat peanut butter every day and offer to let folks pay me in pie. Ben and I spend our days rattling around our house and picking our nose.

And the Noble Pig's favorite--we got married at a barbecue restaurant.

But if Ben can evolve and make tasty things like meat pies, I should ante up.




So I made a quiche.

I've made quiches before, but this time I got fancy. I added pepperoni, inspired by a recipe out of a magazine.


Sizing for photographic purposes only....(right)
It was tasty.

It was wonderful.

It made me feel like a real lady. I had a side of fruit and everything.



However, I don't think it made me any more cultured. While I adore quiche, I'll mow someone down for a bacon cheeseburger any day.





As my dear Daddy always said, act like you've been to town before.



Remember Invisible Friends! Double edition of Miss Pickles tomorrow and Saturday! Stay tuned!

Also, check out Culinarty by Lore's (http://culinarty.sapiensworks.com). She's got a wonderful collection of tales about food bloggers and why they blog--including me, the Blonde Duck! I'm not a food blogger, but Lore was kind enough to post about all my food loving friends and creatures! So go check it out!!! Thanks again Lore!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Last night


This morning, all I can think about is last night.

The house was silent save for the whoosh of breath against my arm. With one dog curled in one arm, the other curled against my side and my husband's head on my shoulder, my mind raced.


I thought of Miss Pickles and where her adventures would lead. I thought of the animals in the Land of the Flowered Bed and Calli and her candy creatures. I thought of Bryant in Missing Wings and the dolphin book poor Emma is editing so I can send it off.

I thought of what to fix for dinner tonight, and what I could bake this weekend. As my mind tumbled and swirled with thoughts of stories to write, works of art to create and things to say, I looked down.

And then I watched.



I watched Bear's peaceful face as he wuffled into my arm, his head slowly inching back until it dangled off my elbow.



I watched Bitty curl up closer to Ben, her tiny head cupped in my hand. She sighed, and her warm breath made my fingertips tingle.


Then I watched Ben protectively bend around Bitty in his sleep, wrapping his arm so it cradled her and sliding his hand over mine.


I thought about how I was the last one up, and I'd be the first one up tomorrow. There are a million things to do, I told myself. Things I could be doing right now while everyone's sleeping.


But I stayed and watched them sleep.




Their soft pink bellies rose and fell; their faces smooth and sweet. My heart swelled and my chest tightened as I realized the three beings I loved the most were all content and curled up next to me. Whether it's afternoon, morning or night, the one thing that always brings me to tears is this sight.


It's not just the fact they're all curled together or that the puppies roll over and paw the air in their sleep, acting out their dreams as I try not to giggle. It's not watching Ben trying to breathe while a dog drapes itself over his face.


It's that at that moment, when I actually stop my whirlwind of production and sit still, it really hits me. I can't tear my eyes off them. I can't get enough of them. It's all I can do to put them in their bed at kitchen tonight. Even after I'm curled up in my own bed, the memory of their sighs and wuffles still haunts me.

Because at that moment, I realize these tiny little beings are not longer able to fit in my palm. I realize that these small creatures are growing and changing every day. Just as our lives are growing and changing every day. One day, it won't be just the four of us. There will be more. And then things will change again. And again.



I won't always have to drag myself to the dull beige world of cubicles. Ben won't always be so exhausted that holding Bitty for five minutes puts him to sleep. The Babies won't always pee on the carpet and race across the living room flinging shredded towels and toilet paper in the air.

They will grow up. Things will change. And while I'm sure we'll love every minute of it, it's at this moment I realize it's going too fast. There will always be a million things to do, a million stories to tell and a million ideas to create.


But for now, I'm still thinking about last night.



And watching them sleep.


Never fear Invisible Friends! Tomorrow will be the evolution of tasty meat pies and the Blond Duck's attempt at culinary sophistication, then Friday and Saturday will hold two brand new Miss Pickles! And coming soon--the Land of the Flowered Bed and Candy Animals return (separately, of course!) Hooray! Keep reading!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Miss Pickles is as subtle as an elephant in the classroom

Later that afternoon, Mason and Ralph climbed off of the bus. Detangling themselves from the sticky hands of kindergartners pawing at their backpacks; they hopped onto the sidewalk and walked a few blocks to Ralph’s house.

“So what do you think we’re supposed to take?” Mason asked, pulling the straps of his backpack down.

“Take where?”

“On our adventure.” Mason looked at him as if he was stupid. How could he think of anything else? Every since Miss Pickles had mentioned it, Mason couldn’t stop thinking about where they might go and what they might do.

“I don’t know.” Ralph squelched his face together so that his eyes disappeared. “Where do you think we’re going?”

“I don’t know.” Mason’s face flushed with excitement and he punched the air. “Isn’t this exciting? We could go anywhere tomorrow! We could go to the ocean or to the arctic. Imagine! What if we went to China or to the mountains of Chile? I mean, we could go anywhere!”

“Don says that it’s illegal to take us outside the school building without parental consent,” Ralph repeated dutifully. “So how can we go to the ocean if it’s illegal?” They turned the corner and trotted down Ralph’s street.

“Ralph, this is an adventure,” Mason scoffed. He ignored the tiny twinge of doubt that tickled the back of his brain. They walked up the driveway and Ralph opened the front door. “We don’t need permission. That’s the whole point.” The smell of cinnamon and spices filled his nostrils as he dropped his backpack in the hallway. Mason inhaled deeply, trying to capture the smell in his lungs for as long as possible. His house smelled like cold wood. Ralph’s house always smelled of joy and freedom.

“Hey Mom?” Ralph called, waddling towards the kitchen. “We’re home!”

“Ach, mein liebe!” Ralph’s mother enveloped both boys into a massive hug, squeezing their faces into her ample cleavage. “Come, sit, eat, eat! Dinner is not for another two hours! You must be starving, yes? Mason, eat! You are sehr thin, ja?”

It was all Mason could do not to giggle. Not only was Ralph’s mother the best cook in town, but she had retained her thick German accent even after 20 years in America. It was even funnier when she talked to customers and bakeries on the phone. Mason plopped down at the table and took an obedient bite of the strudel she placed in front of him.

“Mrs. Anderson?” Mason ventured, letting the sugar and spices dance on his tounge. “Have you ever had an adventure?”

“Ja, ja,” she said, bobbing her head up and down. “I’ve had several adventures.”

“Like what?” Ralph shoved a chocolate éclair in his mouth and gazed up at her. “You never told me about your adventures.”

“It was not for you to know,” Mrs. Anderson teased, her blond curls bouncing around her head. “Why do you ask?”

Ralph opened his mouth, but Mason smacked his arm. “We’re just curious,” he said, smiling wide.

“Well, coming to America to marry your father was a huge adventure,” Mrs. Anderson murmured, waving a dough-covered hand through the air. “Then there was learning English and discovering my passion for baking. Then having you and your sister! You see, mein liebes, adventures aren’t just places. They can be time or experiences too.”

Mason bit down on his strudel, chewing slowly. “Time,” he repeated softly. Ralph shoved a cookie in his mouth and grinned at him, chocolate etched in the lines of his teeth.



The next morning, Mason stared at his closet. He had no idea what to pack. Not only could be going anywhere, but he could be going to any time as well. What if he got sent to the Ice Age or the future? What would he need then?

“Everything,” he muttered, tapping his chin. Grabbing his backpack, he began shoving everything he could get his hands on. Working in a frenzy, he stripped clothes off hangers, shoved his mother’s laptop in his bag, plucked snacks from the pantry and pulled on three pairs of socks. Dressing in a t-shirt and jeans, he pulled a parka over his arms and rubbed sunscreen on his face. He slathered peanut butter and jelly on some bread and filled a thermos full of water. Then he dumped an entire box of crackers in his bag, placed a straw hat swabbed with mosquito netting on his head and picked up a baseball bat.

By the time he had shoved his father’s old compass in one pocket and carefully folded a map of Alabama in his pocket (he had never been to Alabama, but it didn’t hurt to be prepared), he heard the bus roaring down the street.

Dragging his backpack by one strap, he hurried to the bus stop and arrived just as the bus was pulling up. The bus driver cracked the doors open and stared at him.

“What is going on?” she gasped. She stared at his overflowing back pack. “Has the apocalypse come?”

“I don’t know,” Mason said. He checked the pocket watch hanging around his neck and beamed. “In thirty minutes, I’m going on an adventure.”

“You’re going somewhere,” the lady muttered, averting her eyes. “Don’t you hit anyone with that bat, or I’ll hit you.” She grumbled as he shoved past her and barreled down the aisle. Ralph peeked over the seat and gasped.

“What is all that?” he asked as Mason shoved his huge backpack next to him. Mason looked over Ralph and raised an eyebrow. He was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, which was normal enough. However, five pie boxes sat on his lap.

“What’s all that?” Mason pointed. He wiped his forehead, hoping Miss Pickles would know if they were going north or not. This parka was hot.

“Apple pie, mincemeat pie, chocolate pie, mixed berry pie and coconut crème,” Ralph said, pointing to each box. He wrapped his large arms around the boxes protectively. “What? I don’t know where we’re going. Mom wanted to make sure we were prepared.”

“I don’t either!” Mason beamed, forgetting about the pies. He looked at the houses streaming past the bus and felt an exhilarating thrill hum through him. “In just a few minutes, we’ll be on an adventure.”

Ralph gulped and reached for the box with the apple pie.

Twenty minutes later, the bus pulled into the parking lot with a sigh and Mason scrambled out, dragging Ralph and his five pie boxes behind him. They rushed across the parking lot and ran through the school hallways, ignoring the shouts of teachers urging them to slow down.

The classroom was buzzing with excitement. Every child had brought something different to take on the adventure. Don had his Dad’s cell phone and a Blackberry. Beatrice carried a dictionary and book on proper etiquette. One boy carried a hockey stick, another his trombone.

No one was as prepared as Mason. Many girls giggled as he plopped into his seat, his parka poofing out like a marshmallow around him.

"Why are you dressed like that?" Don asked, eyeing the pocket watch around Mason's neck. He glanced over his parka, his hat with mosquito netting and the giant work boots he’d shoved on his feet. "What's that for?"

"In case we have an adventure in the 1800s," Mason said, tapping the watch. "They wore these then. I won't stand out."

"What are you talking about?"

"An adventure can be anywhere or any time," Mason said, the words pouring out of his mouth in an excited burst. "Who knows where or when we'll end up?"

"That's crazy," Don said, his eyes wide. "That's absurd. Why that’s"--

"HELLO DUCKIES!" Miss Pickles bounced into the room. She was wearing a billowing pink dress and carrying a tiny pink bag covered in sequins. Her feet were adorned in polka dotted rain boots and various ribbons poked through her frizzy blond curls. "Are you ready?" She turned to Mason and smiled. "And you are right, dear. Adventures are anywhere and whenever."

"You heard that?" Mason gaped.

"I hear everything." Miss Pickles looked like a satisfied cat.

"That's all you're taking?" Violet asked, a little girl in the third row. She clutched her teddy bear and glared suspiciously. "That's a tiny bag."

"Appearances aren't everything," Miss Pickles said. "I have everything in this bag."

"Like what?" the little girl asked.

With a flourish, Miss Pickles reached in her tiny pink bag and extracted an enormous elephant. The elephant blinked at the children and shook its ears, flapping so fast a gust of wind blew back Mason's hat. The elephant blinked and whirled its trunk in the air.

“Thanks!” Miss Pickles said, patting his head. With a smile, she placed her hand on the elephant’s bottom and stuffed the elephant back into her bag.

"So," she said with a smile. "Shall we get going?"

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ode to Laundry and How We Love Thee



Ode to Laundry,

and how we love thee.
The smells, the tastes
and even the tasty stains!



Skirts and shorts,
shirts and jeans,
it doesn't matter what's in the laundry,
For we'll chew on anything.



Whether we crawl or prance,
dig or burrow,
there's nothing better on a Friday night
then sniffing some dirty underwear.



We used to piddle on the laundry,
it was so soft and fluffy.
But now we know better,
it's not for peeing--it's for munching.



Oh laundry, how we love thee,
the dirt, the sweat, and leftover cookies.
Oh tasty tasty laundry,
It's our favorite part of cleaning.



Wait--wait, hold on.
What do we have here?
Why, it's the Blond Duck's underwear!
Oh, glorious day,
when we can chew on a pair of panties!



Panties and boxers,
tank tops and shorts,
We Babies of the Pond,
love dirty clothes.

Ode to laundry,
and how we love thee.
For without these messy clothes,
we would have never discovered panties were so tasty.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Miss Pickles is by no means boring

"SOOO!" Miss Pickles bellowed, skipping down the rows and waving her hands in the air. "Tell me, duckies. What have we been studying?" She did a cartwheel in the back of the room and leaped into the air, perching on the filing cabinet like a bird. Mason stared in fascinated awe. He had never seen a adult who was so crazy. In fact, he had never seen an adult do a cartwheel, now that he thought about it. Miss Pickles kicked her feet against the drawers and pointed to a girl waving her arm.

"Tell me, duckie, what are we doing today?" Mason turned and groaned. Beatrice Tucker was standing up. Her smirk was as wide as the flouncy skirts she wore every day. Everyone hated Beatrice. She was your standard teacher's pet who made it her mission to make everyone do lots of homework every night.

"Well," Beatrice began. The class groaned. "In English we were reading Where the Red Fern Grows. In science we were studying chemistry, in math fractions and in history...." The children heard a strange buzzing noise and looked to the back of the room. Miss Pickles had flopped over and was snoring. Her head hung off of one end of the filing cabinet, her feet from another. She looked like an electrocuted Barbie doll.

"Is she alive?" Ralph whispered. He nervously fingered a packet of chips. "If she's dead, do you think we'll get lunch? They wouldn't let us starve, would they?"

"She's simply making a point," Mason whispered. At least, he hoped she was. Miss Pickles was the only interesting thing that had ever happened at O.E. He would have hated it if Beatrice's monotone whine would have killed her.

"...and in P.E. we were studying dodgeball," Beatrice finished her tirade and took a deep breath. Miss Pickles sat up straight, shook her frizzy hair and slid off the filing cabinet.

"Rubbish!" she bellowed.

"Excuse me?" Beatrice blinked and turned pale.

"Brainless blathering!" Miss Pickles shouted, leaping to the front of the room. Mason watched in wonder as she hopped between the desks like they weren't even there. "A ridiculous waste of air! It makes me want to gag and shove a pencil in my eyeball!"

"What does?" Beatrice asked, slowly sitting in her chair. She looked around nervously, her eyes wide.

"All of--this!" Miss Pickles exclaimed, flinging her arms around. She seized a science textbook off a child's desk and thumbed through it. "Boring, stupid, outdated, terrible!" She flung the book in the trash and picked up a math book. "Bogus!"

The class stared at her in a mixture of horror and delight.

"Is she seriously throwing our books away?" Don whispered. "That's state property. I don't think she's allowed"--

"Let me ask you a question!" Mason suddenly realized Miss Pickles was standing in front of his desk. She peered down at him, waving a ruler with ribbons taped to the end in his face. "What's your name?"

"Mason." His cheeks flushed when he realized his voice had cracked. He heard a few girls giggle and slid down in his seat.

"Mason, duckie," Miss Pickles continued. "Do you actually learn anything in school? That you remember?"

"Is that a real question?" The words were out of his mouth before he could even form a thought. Mason clapped a hand over his mouth and stared up at Miss Pickles with wide eyes. Most teachers would have sent him to detention for that.

Instead, Miss Pickles beamed. "Precisely!" she bellowed. "You children have not learned anything! You're bored, you're tired, you're herded in and out like cattle. You know what I think you need?"


"What?" the class chorused. Every child was leaning forward in their seat, their gaze focused on Miss Pickles. Their cheeks were flushed with excitement and their eyes sparkled for the first time since their first day of school.

"An adventure." Miss Pickles smiled broadly as they whispered and murmured to themselves. "An adventure tomorrow. So pack whatever you think you might need."

Mason slowly raised his hand. "Where are we going?" he stuttered. Miss Pickles stuck her tongue out of the corner of her mouth. Her eyes crinkled at the edges as she smiled.

"No one knows. You don't plan adventures, you find them. That's why it's an adventure, duckie."

A sudden rush of adrenaline flowed through Mason's veins. Don chewed on his tounge as he thought and Ralph tore into his bag of chips, his fingers tapping the desk nervously. As Mason stared into Miss Pickles' wild eyes, he realized she was serious. They were going on an adventure. Instead of memorizing spelling or drawing circles to represent fractions, they were actually going to do something.

He had never been more excited in his life.