Browsing Archives for July 2010

The Rat Takes the Cheese

July 17th, 2010

Dear Charles,

As you know, cheese is delicious. Fortunately for the people of earth, there is a vast, vast variety of cheeses available to us for consumption by mouth, including soft, hard and caraway flavored. I am unaware of the types of cheeses available for consumption via other methods of enjoyment. Some cheeses are more naturally appropriate than others for particular dishes; for example, Velveeta would not be my first choice for pairing with fresh figs and balsamic vinegar, but perhaps it is quite delicious? Cheese is so tasty, after all. 
I am married to a man whose first and second languages are not English, and who has a great love of cheese because he is European. Just so that you know how serious this is, he also asks the organic cheese counter person for rinds, and eats those as well, as a snack and evening chewing distraction. I therefore frequently announce my intentions with cheese loudly and in clear simple language, often assisted by hand-made visual tools and signage where appropriate, sometimes in song or with interpretive dance, to which he seems to enthusiastically respond. 
Last night I made several clear announcements, but this time without dance or song, regarding my cheese intentions for this evening’s meal, which involved Emmentaler, and checked my work by asking questions to which he replied, apparently confirming receipt of my intentions. But, as a thousand times before, when I went to use the cheese, it was gone. Rind and all. All that I had, Charles, was a dried bit of Parmesan. It wouldn’t do! It wouldn’t do at all!! So I had to run to the store, but my bike has a flat tire, which meant I had to use my legs and feet, which meant it took 45 minutes I really didn’t have in the first place, especially with things on the stove. Also I have a blister, and he REALLY SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT. 
Also, he refuses to buy slightly too much cheese because he knows he will eat it all. We are both quite busy and do the shopping together, leaving little opportunity for nefarious extra cheese purchasing. 
What can I do? Oh please help me.


Desperate for Cheese

Dear Desperate for Cheese –

Common interests are often regarded as one component (a polymer, perhaps) of the glue that holds a marriage together, so it’s a good thing that you and your husband have an abundant supply of your shared love of cheese to offset the apparent absence of at least one of a couple of other key glue components, effective communication and mutual consideration for each other’s well-being. However, a common interest can take a marriage only so far on its own before that common interest begins cracking under the strain and behaving erratically and attracting the attention of the tabloids, so let’s take a look at what might be done to keep your sharp and aromatic but thinly spread mutual fondness for cheese from meeting this wretched fate.

First, let’s try to determine whether we can chalk up the problem to communication. You say you checked your work by asking your husband questions and that his answers apparently confirmed that he understood you. Were these yes-or-no questions, and did you look at him with an expression of hopeful anticipation of affirmation and vigorously nod when you wanted a “yes” answer, and was there an ominous quality to your demeanor when you asked a question to which the correct answer was “no”? If so, you might want to start asking essay questions and stop grading on the curve. Ask questions whose correct answers leave no room for doubt that your message was received, and don’t let up until you get a correct answer to each and every one of them. And don’t forget to include a question that will ensure that he understands that your intention to use a given cheese in the evening’s meal means that he must not use that cheese as his afternoon snack. It’s possible that he hasn’t connected these two things, or even that he thinks you’re urging him to consume the cheese under discussion as soon as possible. To judge from the picture you paint in your letter, its not inconceivable that your husband is not even aware that he married you and is not entirely certain why you have a key to the house he lives in and sing and dance for him and delight him with your signage and visual aids and seem to be able to magically produce a nice meal each evening but that he’s not particularly curious about these things, perhaps because he’s pleased with the current state of affairs and is willing to accept it at face value, so you may want to clear these points up for him too, while you’re at it. If it turns out that he cannot satisfactorily demonstrate a grasp of what’s going on, at least as far as the cheese is concerned, then you might want to try new communication techniques or embellish old ones, perhaps obtaining a phrase book for the easiest of your husband’s first two languages and mastering all of the cheese-related phrases in it, perhaps reintroducing song and dance to your attempts to put across your cheese plans but with the aid of an accompanist or a small band. Whatever you do, though, don’t stop doing it until you are absolutely certain that he understands what you are trying to tell him.

If it turns out that your husband’s comprehension of the situation is perfect and he still eats the cheeses you earmark for meals, it’s hard not to conclude that he’s inconsiderate. Unfathomably, egregiously, amazingly, inexcusably inconsiderate. One possible way to get him to consider the consequences of his actions is to make him suffer them. The most astonishing part of your letter, which contains many astonishing parts, is the part where you say that you ran to the store on a blistered foot because he had polished off the cheese you had told him you planned to use. Never do that again, even with pristine feet and a functioning bike. Check for the cheese before you start cooking, and if it’s not there, have your husband go get some more, or if he’s not home have him pick up some more on the way home. If he’ll be unable to deliver the cheese in time for you to incorporate it into a meal, heat up a frozen dinner and eat it, and then when he gets home, explain (icily or tearfully or cheerfully, whichever approach you judge will have the most impact) that you were unable to cook because he ate your star ingredient and that you’ll be happy to cook the next evening if he’d care to replenish your supply of that ingredient. Then, either brood sullenly for the remainder of the evening (works best with the icy approach), retire to a room whose door can be locked and lock that door (best with the tearful approach), or go watch TV or read or build a pillow fort or take a walk or see if your husband wants to play Scrabble or do whatever you normally do after meals (cheerful approach). If you think confusing your husband will make paying the price for his offense more unpleasant for him, mix announcement styles and follow-up activities (for example, a cheerful announcement followed by sullen brooding). Only a world-class rat would be able to maintain your husband’s current behavior patterns under such conditions.

Hoping your husband doesn’t turn out to be a world-class rat,



Have a pressing problem?  Or even a problem that is not particularly pressing, but just want to see it displayed on a blog on the internet?  Or maybe you just like to write letters to strangers?  Might I then suggest writing a letter to Dear Charles?  Because you’ve probably suffered long enough.

You can write Dear Charles at Dear Charles at live dot com.

He’s been waiting his whole life to hear from you.

First of all – I much prefer the hand written invite as it is far more personal.

Second – Remember to include the crucial details like the date!

Third – It helps to draw the eye to the date with fabulous illustrations.

Don’t forget time and place!  Try to be as particular as you can, but if you can’t be super particular, you might want to add in some more awesome illustrations.  This will help to distract your guests from their frustrations.

Instruct your guests as to what they should contribute.

Don’t be afraid to be specific.

You may even have to get a little snippy about it, but don’t worry – it will only make the party better.

I like to give my guests options.  Not a lot of options, but enough to make them feel a teensy bit empowered.

Always include a map.


Cross out any bad maps that you may have drawn by accident.

I struggle with RSVP’s because I hate to obligate people with my party invites and let’s face it – an RSVP does have a certain Nazi like obligation to it.  So I like to give people an out.  I tell them that it is perfectly okay to NOT RSVP, but if they don’t, they may not get any food.  This puts us all on the same page.

This is the hand drawn map that I slaved over for this invite, but I tried to make it look like I just threw it together!  Because that helps people to relax!

Always include a key with your maps.

Because what hell is map without key?

Help your guests with pronunciation.

That way when they stop and ask for directions, they won’t sound like idiots.

Promise to be smart for them!

Be specific in your directions!  This will help your guests to arrive in time to help weed the pepper patch.

How exactly could you resist an invitation such as this?

But remember  – there will aways be people who are threatened by your genius.

But you’re friendly so go ahead and invite them anyway!

It’s just not that hard to give them a faulty map.

The Secret Daylily Farm

July 16th, 2010

About twenty miles (as the crow flies) from my house, there is a daylily farm.  A daylily farm that I did not even know about.  A daylily farm that was like a secret daylily farm.  So I set out with a few friends to unearth this daylily farm so that it would be a secret no longer.

We drove through some pretty country to get there.

And then we saw the daylilies.

Hundreds and hundreds of daylilies…

Thousands of them all dressed up in their prettiest dresses.

This one was called Hawaiian Party Dress.

I don’t remember what this one was called because after encountering Hawaiian Party Dress’ my mind sort of went blank.

But I do know that this is an ‘Asiatic lily’ not be confused with a daylily.  Asiatic lilies will keep their blooms for three or four days while a daylily bloom only lasts for a day.

Did you know that dayliliy blooms only last for a day?

It seems kind of obvious to me at this point, but prior to my visit to the daylily farm, I was under the impression that the name ‘daylily’ was just a name – kind of like ‘Hawaiian Party Dress’ is just a name.  I mean it is not a literal dress is it?

Horticultural is a labyrinth of puzzling factoids.

This is the lady who grows all the daylillies.

After we browsed among her blooms, she offered us pie and lemonade.

We felt it would be impolite to decline.

It was homemade apricot pie.  Made from apricots that she had picked just the day before.

And that was when I decided to move in with this woman and live with her for the rest of my life.

You can find me here. Sitting by her beautiful water garden eating a piece of pie. Watching the daylillies bloom for a single day.

Because someone needs to watch them.

I have decided that it should be me.