Every bunny loves candy — April 5, 2023

Every bunny loves candy

Of all the holidays, Easter offers the best candy.

You might be saying to yourself, “Self, has she forgotten the existence of Christmas, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day?”

No, but for the most part, those holidays simply slap different wrappings on the same candy available to us every day of the year. (Heart boxes are one of the exceptions, of course.)

Easter offers Brach’s fiesta pastel malted milk balls, Reese’s eggs, Cadbury eggs, and Cadbury mini eggs.

The malted milk balls are technically the only candy among these that can’t be found in stores the rest of the year. What’s more, it’s not always easy to find them at Eastertime. Indeed, you can more readily find imitations, but they are not worth your taste buds’ time.

Although the Brach’s crunchy malted milk balls are scrumptious, this year I had to know when to say when. I ate so many they caused a furious pain in my left jaw. Until I figured out the cause of said pain, I feared I was having a heart attack.

Next, we have Reese’s eggs. You might be saying to yourself, “Self, I thought she didn’t like peanut butter? And doesn’t she know you can buy Reese’s trees and pumpkins?”

Firstly, you’re right. I don’t eat peanut butter. But I can eat soft peanut butter cookies – do not try to serve me hard peanut butter cookies – and Reese’s Cups. Although I’ll eat a regular Reese’s in an emergency, I prefer the minis and the eggs.

Secondly, I’ve tried the Reese’s trees and pumpkins, but I don’t like the way they taste. They’re not nearly as scrumptious as the eggs.

Yes, I realize that makes me sound like a lunatic. I sound like the folks who refuse to eat certain colors of M&M’s because they claim they taste differently. I know the trees and pumpkins are legit the same as the eggs but in a different shape. That’s not going to convince me to eat them.

We close with the Cadbury eggs and mini eggs. The mini eggs remind me a bit of the Brach’s malted milk balls, but without the jaw-breaking pain. Due to their small size, one can pop the mini Cadbury eggs into one’s mouth like popcorn. Thankfully, I eat them sparingly or I would have mini egg elbow and be in a coma.

When I started eating regular Cadbury eggs all those years ago, they were so rich that I had to take copious sips of milk to finish one. Nowadays, I can make one egg disappear in two bites and without help from milk or water, and not just because they have decreased in size. I think I’ve built up an immunity to the richness.

You might be saying to yourself, “Self, doesn’t she know they sell those eggs at Halloween?”

Eggs at Halloween? That’s unnatural.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Double dip — February 15, 2023

Double dip

I am a woman of an advanced age and I eat Fun Dip.

To be clear, I don’t eat Fun Dip every day or even every year. Also, I’m not sure anyone actually eats Fun Dip. Instead, it’s more like one consumes Fun Dip, a powdered candy that comes in different flavors and is accompanied by a crunchy candy stick that is equally delicious. By the way, whilst researching the candy for this-here column, I learned that Fun Dip is similar to the powdered candy found in Pixy Stix. No, I hadn’t put that together on my own.

Anyway, whilst strolling the aisles of a store, a box of Valentine’s Fun Dip caught my eyes. Whilst on a video call with my adorable great-niece and great-nephew (emphasis on great), I asked if they liked Fun Dip. When they answered in the affirmative, I then inquired about their favorite flavors. My niece prefers the red flavor – cherry aka my favorite – and my nephew prefers “boo.”

Firstly, I had no idea what flavor boo aka blue represented. Secondly, I immediately decided a box of Fun Dip packets would make the perfect Valentine’s Day present for these adorable children.

The next time I strolled the store’s aisles, I grabbed a box of Valentine’s Fun Dip. I learned that boo is RazzApple, a combination of raspberry and apple, and that the packets could be personalized.

With the Fun Dip in my possession, I set to work personalizing the packets for the children. I decided to address the red packets to my niece and the boo to my nephew.

A few days before Valentine’s Day, I told them I would give them a surprise after they ate supper. My niece actually asked if it was a good surprise or a bad surprise. As if I, their great-aunt (emphasis on great), would give them a bad surprise.

They seemed pleased with the surprise. My nephew was almost as excited to read his and his sister’s names on the wrappers as he was to make that delicious stick disappear. My niece, an avowed fan of the red, decided to try the boo flavor.

As did I.

Firstly, it had been a few years since I’d consumed Fun Dip. Secondly, I wasn’t prepared for the sourness of the apple part of RazzApple. As a result, when that powdered candy hit my taste buds, my lips puckered and my eyes closed tightly. When I opened them, I saw my nephew with his hands clasped over his adorable face.

I’d made him laugh.

Happy Valentine’s Day to me.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Carb appeal — December 21, 2022

Carb appeal

Every year at Christmas, I view the spread of appetizers, desserts, and other snacks and goodies displayed at the Goff Estate, and proclaim, “We have to quit making so much stuff.”

Then, around mid-October the following year, my sisters and I start sharing holiday-themed recipes with one another, following up with such messages as, “Let’s try this at Christmas!”

Which is why I just inhaled several of those little pretzel/Hershey’s Hugs/holiday M&M’s treats. I ran across the recipe weeks ago, but apparently forgot to share with the class. Thankfully, I remembered the recipe a few days ago.

Of course, finding the three (only three) ingredients proved much harder than one would have predicted. One store had the Hugs but didn’t have the Ms. The other store had the Ms but didn’t have the Hugs. Locating the right pretzels turned out to be so controversial that we had to follow in the steps of that insurance company and the NFL and check the replay.

Anyway, I eventually assembled all three – only three – ingredients and tested the new (to me) recipe. It’s a good thing I made only several or I would have had to borrow my cat’s insulin. Yes, they were that delicious. And also filled with carbs.

I basically subsist by snacking, depending on one’s definition of snacking, during the holidays, mainly on sugary i.e. carb-filled snacks. I balance my diet with generous portions of dip and cheese ball, though. The cheese ball even contains nuts. Nuts are good for us.

Oh, I slather dip and cheese ball on, respectively, chips and crackers, both of which I believe might contain carbs.

Hmm. Have I mentioned the punch?

Seriously, I’m going to turn into lump of glucose. Or is it sucrose? Or maybe I’ll become a carb.

It wouldn’t be as bad if I was one of those people who would stop after eating one or two of whatever. Here’s my question to those of you who do: If you like it, why stop at one or two? If I like something, I will eat until it’s gone. That is why I don’t bake as much as I did in the past. It’s why, when I feel the urge, I buy a small bag of chips. Yes, I know it’s more economical to buy the big bag. But that big bag will disappear as if by magic almost as soon as it enters my house.

Christmas is my Achilles heel because it’s the only time I eat the cheese ball and drink the punch and make many of the sweet treats. Now, if only I would quit looking at recipes.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Not boxed in — December 14, 2022

Not boxed in

For the past few months, a section of my home has resembled a warehouse. Indeed, it’s filled with various sizes of cardboard boxes. No, I haven’t fallen behind on recycling duties. Instead, this year I finally remembered to stock up on boxes so I wouldn’t be forced to empty my closets and cabinets in order to box gifts and goodies.

What’s that, you say? The post office and stores sell boxes.

I’m going to assume this is your first visit to this-here space because I do not buy boxes.

In fact, if you ever receive a gift or goodie from me in a purchased box, please know that I have recycled said box. There was a moment of weakness a couple years ago when I considered buying a box from the US Post Office. I had trekked to the post office in the rain. There were only a few mailing days left before Christmas and when the postal worker told me the box I wanted to use wouldn’t work, I said to myself, “Self, I’m going to buy one of their fancy boxes.”

To which self replied, “The expletive you are!”

So, I slogged back home in the rain, looked through the cabinets, emptied my box of nails and screws, placed the goodie inside said box, and returned to the post office. (No worries, the nails and screws eventually found a new home.)

By the way, dear readers, the US Post Office will allow us to reuse boxes if we remove the old addresses from said boxes. Although I had done so, there was another issue with the box. I cannot remember the issue at this moment. All my other reused boxes have passed inspection.

Anyway, when it comes to wrapping presents, I’ve stuffed gifts in whatever boxes I can find in the house. You know, like envelope and cereal boxes. One year, my great-niece (emphasis on great), opened her present from me, which was in an oatmeal box, and put it aside. When her mom asked her what Cook – that would be me – got her, she said, “Oatmeal.”

I don’t know what made me happier – that she didn’t question why I had bought her oatmeal or that she didn’t throw a tantrum. As I mentioned earlier, she is great. But let’s face it. Some kids would have thrown that alleged box of oatmeal back at Antie Cook, demanding a toy or, at the very least, a pair of wacky socks.

But I like to think she said to herself, “Self, it’s on brand for Cook to buy a kid oatmeal for Christmas.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Oh, Christmas tree — November 30, 2022

Oh, Christmas tree

I have a public admission to make. When I hear friends talking about the multiple Christmas trees in their homes or see the photos of said trees, I say to myself, “Self, what is wrong with these people?”

And, no, this has nothing to do with my inherent thriftiness.

I’ve heard some mothers – note the use of the word some – joke that they forgot the pain of childbirth, which is the reason they had subsequent children.

That’s the way I feel after decorating a Christmas tree. Every year I’m so mentally and physically exhausted that I have to recuperate in a bacta tank. I cannot imagine being so energized by the process that, after finishing a tree, I say, “The living room tree is up. Let’s move on to the kitchen tree so we can decorate the bathroom trees.”

It’s not so much the stringing of the lights or the hanging of the ornaments. It’s the shaping of the branches. I’m always surprised when I assemble the sections of the tree and they don’t magically take shape. We have phones that can take photos. We can, if we choose, tell someone named Alexis to turn off our electronics. We can watch our front doors from anywhere in the galaxy. A self-shaping Christmas tree is not too much to ask for.

This year was especially exhausting because I bought a new tree. No, I did not pull off a heist. At my advanced age, I had purchased one full-sized tree. When the branches on that tree legit fell off, I inherited a hand-me-down tree. This year, I agonized over the decision to buy a tree. Then I remembered one day several years ago when I took my mom shopping. As she agonized over whether to buy a tree, I encouraged her to do so, telling her that she and my dad had worked hard. You deserve that fancy-adjacent new tree, I said to her.

With those words echoing in my memory, I decided to buy a fancy-adjacent new tree.

It wasn’t as easy as it sounds. I didn’t want a pre-lit tree, which limited my options. I found a couple trees online that met my eligibility requirements, but I couldn’t really tell anything about them because they were, you know, online. I made several trips to five local stores before I finally said, “Expletive it!” and bought a fancy-adjacent tree whose price was drastically reduced. That last part made the process a tad easier.

And it is a good-looking tree. A good-looking tall tree. It’s so tall it could be the National Christmas Tree. It’s so tall I have to stand in the back yard to get all of it in a photo. It’s so tall I considered renting a cherry picker so I could decorate the top branches.

Okay, maybe it’s not that tall. But I did have to drag out the step ladder to reach those top branches. The good news is that decorating the tree qualified as my daily workout.

Now that I’ve made this admission, I’m going to forget all about climbing the ladder and shaping the branches. That way, I’ll want to decorate that tall tree again next year.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A sticky bun situation — July 6, 2022

A sticky bun situation

Prior to my annual Fourth of July Jubilee, my guests and I compile a list of stuff they need to bring to the event. You might be saying to yourself, “Self, what kind of hostess tells her guests what to bring?”

This kind of hostess.

Besides, we also compile a list of food they want to eat as well as soft drinks they want to drink. Then, I go to the store(s) and purchase said stuff.

For example, this year I bought four kinds of chips. For another example, until this year I’ve been serving steak. I also serve shrimp. Just in case my great-nephew (emphasis on great) decided not to eat – it’s always touch and go – I bought a box of banana popsicles, aka his favorite food, so he wouldn’t go hungry.

So, I can be forgiven if I ask them to bring, for other examples, coffee and onions. (By the way, I also don’t eat ketchup, buy I hoard ketchup packets from restaurants so my guests can slather the condiment on their burgers and dogs.)

Anyway, as we studied the list, my youngest niece asked about buns. You know, for hot dogs and hamburgers. I glared at her and explained that I had already purchased both kinds of buns. When my oldest sister – not her mom – came into the room, I shared the list with her. After perusing the list, she asked about the buns.

What’s with these people and buns!

They think I can be trusted to buy hot dog wieners and hamburger patties but trusting me to buy buns is just too much.

On the subject of buns … whilst in the bun aisle, I once again asked myself a question that has plagued people for decades. No. It’s not if a hot dog is a sandwich. I care not about that. It’s why are there 10 wieners in a pack but only eight hot dog buns in a pack? Shouldn’t those two things match?

I looked to the Internets for an answer and here’s what I found. According to the National Hot Dog Sausage Council (NHDSC), “Sandwich rolls, or hot dog buns, most often come eight to the pack because the buns are baked in clusters of four in pans designed to hold eight rolls.”

If they’re not going to change the pans, then why don’t they start selling wieners in packs of eight, you might ask. Because a standard hot dog wiener weighs 1.6 ounces. I’m not a mathematician, but even I can multiply 1.6 ounces by 10 and get 16 ounces aka one pound. Selling stuff by a pound makes sense.

Regardless, there might be an end to this bun-wiener mismatched pack national nightmare. Heinz has started the Heinz Hot Dog Pact to bring hot dog companies and bun companies together to agree on one number to rule them all. Wonder Bread has already started producing hot dog buns in packs of 10.

Perhaps Heinz can start a pact to get my family to trust me to buy those buns.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Hare pollution — April 13, 2022

Hare pollution

As Clairee says in Steel Magnolias, “It’s almost time for the East-er Bunny.”

If you are familiar with my thoughts and feelings on mimes and clowns, then you probably will not be surprised to learn that the Easter Bunny also creeps me the expletive out.

When I say – or, rather, write this – obviously I don’t mean the real Easter Bunny creeps me out. I’m sure he or she is a wonderful rabbit. Indeed, the Easter Bunny devotes so much time and attention collecting and delivering toys and candies to the good – and no doubt bad – little girls and boys worldwide that he or she has to subcontract much of the pre-holiday work to others.

In fact, one of my nieces played the role of a generic Easter Bunny many years ago at a local organization. She donned a white costume, complete with oversized bunny ears, and posed in photos with children. And, yes, in case you’re wondering, even though I knew my lovely and in no way creepy niece wore that costume, I was nonetheless creeped out.

Think about it. That gosh-darn bunny never blinks. That’s weird.

Something I cannot wrap my mind around is visits to these generic (and creepy) Easter Bunnies so parents can snap photos of them with children. Children who are in some cases screaming their little lungs out because they’re horrified by the giant pastel-frocked rabbit in their presence.

My aforementioned and in no way creepy niece recently took her younglings – my great-niece and great nephew (emphasis on great) – to have their picture taken with a generic Easter Bunny. The children looked traumatized in the resulting photo.

I could relate. Just looking at the photo traumatized me.

Let’s discuss this rationally. The Easter Bunny who visits with children is human-sized and stands on two feet. Perhaps real bunnies do occasionally stand on two feet. I have, however, never seen this occur in the wild. And by wild, I mean my back yard, the side of the road, or the Goff Estate. So, if I, a woman of advancing age, have never seen it, chances are children haven’t experienced this phenomenon. (I have also never seen a human-sized rabbit in the wild and I hope I never see one. That would be more traumatizing than spying a generic Easter Bunny in a store.)

Anyway, if a standing, human-sized rabbit isn’t enough to make kids think their world has turned upside down, it gets worse. The bunny has an enormous head and – I repeat – never blinks those lifeless eyes.

Happy Easter!

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Need I remind me — December 22, 2021

Need I remind me

Most of the ornaments on my Christmas tree were hand painted or handmade by my mom, by my sisters, or by me. I’ve also adorned my fake fireplace and my real mantle with a plaster village and other decorations that I painted. Indeed, most of the tree’s hand-painted ornaments are plaster.

Some are wooden, though. They represent my first attempts at craftiness. I can remember the first time I spotted said ornaments in my mom’s craft catalog, which is heavy on needlepoint items. I cannot do any type of needlepoint, but I am a catalog fiend. Hence, that is why I was flipping through the catalog on that snowy day back in the 1990s.

When I spied those wooded ornament kits, I said to myself, “Self, you’re not artistic, but this is like paint by number. What idiot can’t paint by number?”

At first, I tried my best to prove that this idiot couldn’t paint by number. In fact, the first ornament I painted – a gingerbread house – looked so bad that I eventually threw it away.

Although I never put that hideous thing on a tree, I kept it for a while. It served as inspiration.

Take the deformed bunny. (By the way, for reasons I don’t understand, the bunny is hanging out with a polar bear. What kind of bunny befriends a polar bear?) The bunny is shown in profile and its eye sets too far down its face and too close to its nose. This leaves entirely too much of a forehead. Oh, and one ear is too pointy and the pink part of the other ear extends onto that big ole forehead.

I have put other not-exactly-hideous but less-than-pleasing-to-the-eye ornaments on the tree. I still do.

I also created a semi-deformed donkey.

The donkey resides on one side of a house. Not a real house in which humans live. How would I hang that on a tree? A mini house. It’s part of a six-house set. The donkey actually doesn’t look that bad – except for the snout. Not only is it rather large, it has no holes. I’m not sure how the donkey has been breathing all these years.

Another house features a figure whose existence makes my loved ones laugh and laugh. All I’ll say is that he’s supposed to be Santa. Since he does not look a thing like Santa, he has caused tremendous excitement over the years. In this year alone, on separate visits to my house, two loved ones have scampered to my tree and strained their bodies, asking, “Where is he?”

I put him and the deformed bunny and the semi-deformed donkey on the tree each year because they elicit chuckles and because they remind me of how far I’ve come.

Indeed, another visitor this year commented on the village and other decorations adorning my fake fireplace and my real mantle. When I explained that I had painted them, the visitor looked closer at one of them and noted the detail.

I saw no reason to point out the deformed bunny.

Merry Christmas!

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A character story — December 15, 2021

A character story

Of all the great holiday movies, A Christmas Story is my favorite. The saga of Ralphie Parker’s quest for a Red Ryder B.B. gun never fails to entertain me, to make me laugh, and to touch my he

And of all the great characters in the movie – Ralphie, his old man, his mom, the Bumpus dogs – it’s a relatively overlooked character – Ralphie’s brother, Randy – who serves as my favorite.

Most of the time, when I hear people refer to Randy, they call him Ralphie’s brother. It’s as if he doesn’t have a name. And most of the time, when they’re referring to him, they’re comparing something in their lives to the scene in which Randy and Ralphie’s mom dresses Randy in so many layers that he can’t put his arms down.

That is a fantastic scene, but there’s so much more to Randy. Take my favorite scene in the movie. In the voiceover, the narrator (Jean Shepherd, who wrote the stories on which the movie was based) explains that Randy has not eaten a meal voluntarily in three years. Displaying her ingenuity, the mom asks Randy to show her how the piggies eat. Randy, pretending to be a pig, puts his face into a plate of mashed potatoes and does just that. Whilst eating like a pig, he oinks and oinks and laughs and laughs.

The laughter is contagious. Just like Randy, I always laugh and laugh during that scene. (I do not oink and oink, though.)

In my everyday life, I also frequently quote Randy’s rant in this scene: “Meatloaf, smeatloaf, double beatloaf. I hate meatloaf.” People respond by looking at me as if I have lobsters crawling out of my ears.

Anyway, when Ralphie finally breaks bad and beats up bully Scut Farkus, it’s Randy who runs home and fetches his and Ralphie’s mom. What a hero! Later, Randy hides under the kitchen sink and cries because he’s afraid their dad will kill Ralphie for fighting. What a sweetie!

By the way, once again, their mom handles Randy like a pro. She doesn’t drag him out from under the sink. She gives him a glass a milk and lets him process his feelings in his own time. She should have written a book on parenting.

Later in the movie, the family goes to a Christmas parade and to Higbee’s Department Store. While there, the boys get an audience with the Big Man aka the Head Honcho aka Santa. Some might say Randy should have comported himself better when he finally got to see Santa, but I retort that Randy was but a child and he had been standing in line for dozens of minutes. Besides, Santa and those elves were scary. I would have screamed, too.

Near the end of the movie, after Randy has exhausted himself opening presents on Christmas morning, he falls asleep with his arm clutching a toy zeppelin. He’s so adorable and so unaware of the B.B. gun- and Bumpus dog-induced drama about to unfold.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Oh, happy day — December 8, 2021

Oh, happy day

My sisters and I have always enjoyed a close relationship. Sure, they hurl accusations of hatefulness my way and I deride Pam’s ear-splitting witch’s cackle and Kathy’s ability to fall asleep whilst holding a scalding hot cup of coffee.

No, there’s nothing like that sisterly bond.

But, a few years ago, a wedge developed between us, a wedge that threatened not only our relationship but my freedom of speech.

You see, I developed a theory, which turned into an idea for a column. I mentioned the theory to Pam, who said, “No, you can’t write about that.”

Since I value her opinion, I decided to remain silent. Yes, I decided to keep my readers in the dark. It’s a decision I grew to regret.

Anyway, a few days later, Kathy approached me and said, “Pam told me about ____. Don’t write about that.”

I held my pen for two reasons: We were celebrating the holidays and I wanted to prove to my family I’m not nearly as hateful as they believe. But I said to myself, “Self, how much longer are you going to allow them to silence you? How much longer are you going to allow them to abridge the freedom of the press?”

But after my sisters once again ordered me not to write about this controversial subject, I thought, “That’s it! No longer will I remain silent!”

So, at the risk of ruining my relationship with my sisters, I shared my theory with newspaper readers and now I’m sharing it with you: I think Fonzie and Mrs. C had an affair.

What, you ask? Arthur Fonzarelli, the cool, motorcycle-riding, leather jacket-wearing, thumbs up-giving, shark-jumping mechanic on Happy Days carrying on with the all-American housewife Marion Cunningham? Surely I jest.

Surely I don’t.

This is the Fonz. This is a man who could make a dead jukebox come back to life just by pounding on it with his fist. Do you think Marion could resist that kind of electricity?

Need more evidence? What about their nicknames for each other? She purred his first name “Arthur” as if she were auditioning for the lead in a Marilyn Monroe biopic and whenever he called her the scandalous sounding “Mrs. C.” she came running.

In a holiday-themed episode I watched around Christmas that year, Fonzie was frustrated because a blizzard left him stranded at Arnold’s restaurant and unable to reach Mrs. C. Meanwhile, she was stuck at her house, equally frustrated yet resplendent in a vibrant green floor-length dress and upswept hair. Oh, some might say her disappointment arose from her physical distance from her children and her cuckold husband, Howard. Not me. I recognize subtext when I see it.

Either my sisters refused to see the truth or they didn’t want me to share the truth with the world. For the sake of our relationship, I have chosen to believe the former.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.