Friday, June 20, 2014

Mushrooms aren't the only things that get mixed up

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

“I have a reservation.”

I was at the front desk of the Fairfield Inn in Smithfield North Carolina – a welcome position after the day’s drive, which had taken us through states crippled by an early ice storm.

“You are in room 106”, said the angelic young man behind the counter – who was most certainly fresh out of finishing school – courteous, well mannered and highly manicured.


The lobby was lovely, with soft colors and an accent wall behind the counter depicting tree limbs. Or a spider web. Or maybe capillaries.

Photo: Fairfield Inn

Either way, it was stylish and also hypnotic. I felt instantly in harmony with my guest services agent who - in the time it took to write down my license plate number - walked me through three of my past lives. Twice.

Then the phone rang.

Opposite to the check-in zone, was a seating area, plucked straight out of an episode of Mad Men, season 5. Very modish with a long low table, orange lounger, and a jaunty lamp. There was also a teeny tiny horse in the fireplace. Because, artists.
Photo: Fairfield Inn

After completing the gargantuan task of transporting our overnight bags, colossal snack cooler, pillows, laptops, toy bags and stuffed animals from truck to room… we gathered in the hallway, planning our next move, which – on this trip - most often, (but not always) involved a Cracker Barrel, since we’re all about consistency and also, buying trinkets.

One problem. Because of power outages associated with the ice storm, the local neighborhood Cracker Barrel was closed.

So instead we went to The Outback where our pre-dinner conversation sounded something like this…

Me: I wonder if they have mushrooms.
Jan: I’m sure they have mushrooms. 
The 5 year old: I LOVE MUSHROOMS!
Geoff: Let’s order mushrooms. 

We don’t get out much.

We placed our orders with our server Jill making sure to ask for a dish of plain, cooked mushrooms for the kid.

Shortly after, our food arrived. Steak for Geoff, chicken for Jan and I and a big plate of veggies for the littlest one who always amazes me with her preference for greens over grilled cheese. Not to mention her penchant for kippered herring.

Then, the mushrooms appeared. They were grilled, brown and drenched with wine sauce. I took a bite and became immediately drunk.

When Jill came back to ask how things were, we said everything was great. Still, since we were hoping to keep our kindergartner sober for the evening (after all, she was really looking forward to a swim in the hotel pool) we asked if she could take back the mushrooms and instead bring us some just like those, only without the booze.

She obliged and within minutes, brought a pile of covered, smothered, battered and deep-fried mushrooms.

Kind of the opposite of what we were hoping for.

We gave up on the mushrooms, finished the rest of our supper – which was actually pretty good - and decided that our server was just a bit muddled in the head so we tipped her anyway.

Poor confused, mixed-up Jill.

Driving back to the hotel, our after-dinner conversation sounded something like this…

Me: How hard is it to cook a plate of grilled mushrooms?
Jan: Maybe nobody there actually eats mushrooms.
The 5 year old: I really love mushrooms. 
Geoff: Maybe Jill was into the wine sauce. 

Remember, we don’t get out much. Which also kind of explains what happened next.

We walked into the hotel lobby and made a beeline for the hallway leading to room 106. There was only one problem. The hallway wasn’t there. Not only that, the fireplace was gone and along with it, the horse.

Photo: Sleep Inn

My transcendent guest services agent and his mesmerizing wall mural were missing and instead there stood a woman with brown barrettes in her hair. There wasn’t a mural behind her but there was a sign that said: “You are in the wrong hotel. This is a Sleep Inn. You are staying at the Fairfield Inn – down the street and to the right.” 

Photo: Sleep Inn

This, was our hotel.

Photo: Fairfield Inn

This, was not our hotel.

Photo: Sleep Inn

We, were most certainly mixed-up.

My only defense is that it was dark, both hotels had automatic sliding doors, I had eaten one of those boozy mushrooms and most importantly, Geoff was driving.

No, really.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Spot the missing roof

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

My time in art school seems like it happened an eternity ago. Mostly because it's been an eternity since I attended art school.

I love to make art, but I also love to write and I find that the words don't ever seem to flow at the same time as the paint.

To give you an example, it took me approximately 17 and a half minutes to write that last sentence.

In other words, here's what I've been up to lately...

Did you spot the disappearing (and reappearing) roof?

Artists are magicians.

No, really.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Coastal expression

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

When I'm writing, I'm not painting and when I'm painting, I'm not writing.

I haven't been writing much lately...

Friday, May 9, 2014

These run on sentences have been written for writers. And mothers.

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

It’s approximately five years ago and you - feeling particularly blank and sweaty - are feeding your pudgy infant for the umpteenth time that day when, in an exhausted stupor, it occurs to you that you haven’t changed a poopy diaper in oh I don’t know, 2 or maybe 6 days.

So you panic and immediately call the exclusively-breastfed baby help line at the hospital and the woman on the other end of the phone – who sounds inexplicably like your Aunt Trix – asks you if the baby seems happy. “Yes”, you reply, “I suppose so.” I mean, how are you supposed to know, right? You’ve never been in charge of a three-month-old before and sure she seems content. I mean, she eats constantly and sleeps whenever she wants, so yeah, she’s freaking ecstatic. Wouldn’t you be Aunt Trix?

“Does her belly hurt?” No.
“Is she passing wind?” Yes.
“Is she curled up and writhing in pain?” No.

You’re told that your child is not constipated and her bowel isn’t twisted and no, you aren’t a horrible mother. Your baby is just busy absorbing all the nutrients from her diet and breastfed babies are known to go as many as 12 or more days without a movement, so relax, keep on feeding her and when you’re nearing in on day 10 watch out, because you’ll be dealing with a soft serve ice cream machine.

All of this is reassuring until several days later when you’re walking through a TJ Maxx in Florida, longing for a time when you might possibly be able to wear a pair of low cut jeans again when you look down at your daughter just as she makes THE FACE.

That’s when you realize that today is day 10 and what the hell were you thinking going shopping with a time bomb who could blow at any moment but that doesn’t matter now because now you are running out to your car after forgetting to pay for the maternity t-shirt draped over your shoulder and who cares about a shoplifting charge because a horrific beast is about to unleash itself in a diaper with a surface area slightly larger than an international postage stamp.

But before you can get the car door open something unspeakable happens as your teeny tiny innocent smiles and coos while the odor overtakes you. So you begin to unravel the puzzle that is her onesie inside of which you know is a cross between a jumbo sized can of cheap dog food and death, but by the time you get to the diaper, your face is so scrunched up - kind of like a dried apple doll -  that you can barely see and by the time you open your eyes you stare in amazement and say to the child – your child - “What? That’s all?” 
This is exactly how I feel about writing at the moment and judging by the first lines of many of my favorite blogs, many of the writers in the world are feeling pretty much the same way.

As in: 
Sorry I haven’t posted in a while…
I haven’t had a chance to blog…
It’s been too long since I blogged...
Why I haven’t posted in months... 
I know, I know. You’ve been busy. Life has taken over. You’ve lost track of time.

Lies. Lies. All LIES! 

The truth is, you’re blocked. I know because I’m in the bathroom stall next to you.

Sure we’ve been tooting out 140 characters on Twitter, but our usual 500 word blog posts are nowhere to be seen as we keep absorbing our surroundings, waiting to squeeze out a monster sundae worthy of a Pulitzer. Or at the very least something we can upload to our blog this week that doesn’t include the words wordless and Wednesday.

But what if the sundae never materializes? What if at the end of day 10, all we end up with is a tiny, melted malted milk ball?

And it’s then that you realize you no longer know how to spell the word Wednesday without help from spell-check and so you decide that maybe it’s time to turn off the computer and go for a walk to unplug yourself.

If you need me, I’ll be at TJ Maxx, longing for a time when I might possibly be able to wear a pair of low cut jeans again.

No, really.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Peep goes the weasel

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

I was in the kitchen, baking a loaf of artisan bread, while clarifying butter and extruding rigatoni pasta from my noodle machine. Probably. Or, I might have just been drinking a glass of water. Ok so I was only sneaking a handful of chocolate chips but really that’s completely irrelevant to this story.

I was in the kitchen.

That’s when I saw it.

Something small and wild was sitting on the deck, peering in through the sliding glass door.

By the time I tiptoed over for a closer look, the long tube of white sped off in hot pursuit of a gust of wind and disappeared around the front of our garage.
Me: Are rats white?

Geoff: What?

Me: Or maybe it was a ferret!?

Jan: Maybe WHAT was a ferret?

Me: The thing that was just on our porch. It was white and long and fast and…

The 5 year old: Is it an animal? Can I keep it?!! Pleeeese?!

Geoff: Maybe it was a mink.

Me: There are no minks around here. Wait, are there minks around here?? 
That’s when this Leonardo da Vinci painting I studied long ago in art school, popped into my head.

Me: WAITAMINUTE! Lady with an ERMINE!!! Ermine! That's what was on our porch!
Let me just say, my family is pretty used to my hallucinations imagination. I mean, in the past three years alone, I’ve witnessed an ostrich running through a field off the highway (old oil tank), seen an alligator sunning itself on a rock (a tree branch) and spotted a baby llama laying on the beach in front our of house (seaweed).

Still, I knew what I knew. I had just seen a creature from the Renaissance.


Not long after the porch episode, Jan and I were in a friend’s kitchen and found out that a weasel had made his way into our neighbor’s basement via a drainpipe. He had also been seen hanging around the chickens. After curfew.

That’s when I realized that my ermine was actually a weasel, which - according to the big book of animals I immediately went home and consulted – are the exact same beasts as stoats. And maybe even polecats.

Which begs the question, why do these little buggers have so many names and anyway who cares because for once I hadn't been seeing things.

That's him!!!
But none of that matters because the most important thing to note here is that ermines (or stoats or weasels) are pricks. And vampires.

I'm not kidding.
Once a potential prey is identified, the ermine approaches as closely as possible. With incredible speed it grasps the back of the victim's head and neck with sharp teeth, and wraps its body and feet around the victim. The victim dies from repeated bites to the base of the skull. (From the NB Trappers Website) 
Um, what?

So, you can imagine my horror when, the other night, while working alone on my computer, I heard an ermine screeching at me from beneath my office window.

I turned off the lights and pressed my face against the glass, to see if I could catch a glimpse of the furry monster who (according to the big book of animals) "confuses its prey by prancing before them in a deranged fashion, lulling them into a baffled reverie".

Which is not unlike how I approach dancing at weddings.

I couldn’t spot anything from the office window but I did hear the sound move towards the front of the house.

I switched on the outside lights and sneaked into the bathroom – determined to get a photograph of the little bastard who was taunting me from the lawn.

That’s when I saw it.

The shrieks were most definitely emanating from the corner of the yard where something small and white sat on the bare grass where the snow had recently melted.
Geoff: What are you doing?

Me: I'm about to record the call of the ermine.

Geoff: That’s not an ermine. It’s a bird.

Me: It can’t be a bird. It’s nighttime. Only owls come out at night and that’s not a hoot. It’s a squeach. Plus, I just googled “ermine sounds” and “weasel noises” and they sound kind of sort of like what's going on out there.
Geoff: I'm going to make popcorn. 

No sooner had I captured this incriminating video of my window screen, than the eerie sound disappeared. (Turn up your speakers.)

I spent part of the night convinced I was hearing weasels scuttling around in our basement – a place where some have entered and even fewer have exited - until I sent Geoff downstairs to put a rock on the drain.

The next evening, the little bastard was at it again.

Squeach. Squeach. Squeach.

I followed the sound as my eyes slowly adjusted to the blackness. “Screw you, you little bloodsucking stalker!” I yelled into the darkness.

That’s when I saw it.

The tiny creature making such a ruckus, looked at the house, stamped his feet and flew (yes flew) off into the night sky, squeaching (ok, peeping) as he soared.

So now the question is, do ermines fly?

No really.
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