Monday, April 4, 2016

Country Crock in cookies? Not as heretical as I thought!

Influenster recently sent me a coupon for a free tub of Country Crock. I've used it in the past, but never for baking, know, it's not butter! But this afternoon I had a mad craving for chocolate chip cookies and all the ingredients on hand except butter. Necessity is the mother of invention (and the queller of cravings, I guess!) because that nearly-full tun of Country Crock produced the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had!   Although I don't usually post recipes, I'm going to make an exception. It's your lucky day!
  • 34cup  granulated sugar 
  • cup  brown sugar
  • 1cup  Country Crock Spread
  • 1Tbs vanilla
  • 2eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3cups flour
  • 34tsp baking soda
  • 3cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • Optional: 1 cup of walnuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream sugar, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl. 
  3. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one.
  4. Mix the dry ingredients separately, then gradually them add to creamed mixture.
  5. Stir in chips and, if you're using them, the walnuts.
  6. Roll into 1 1/2 inch balls and place them on non-stick or greased cookie sheets, about 2" apart. This will produce thicker, bakery-type cookies. Alternatively, if you like your cookies thinner,  you can plop tablespoons of dough on your cookie sheets and they'll spread more as they cook. I don't know the science behind why it cooks differently, I just know it does.
  7. Bake for about 15 minutes if you rolled the dough, or 10 to 12 minutes if you used he tablespoon method.
Playing "Time in a Bottle" is optional, but will remind you of Cookie Monster, which is never a bad thing! 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


She can still scratch the thin film between this life and the one before,
and she has stopped negotiating with space about her size.

She recognizes each day is a lottery win
       the right numbers (now) in the right combination (today);
The luck was that she could still read the ticket she discarded
before the draw. Once she ironed out the wrinkles.

She nods when the stars speak
“She is infinitely small. The universe, infinite.”

Summer has just ended and gravity still ignores dust;
the driest, brownest leaves; the winged seeds
(weeds find life this Autumn too);
and for now, her –                                                                                                

This year she would still bet on weather over gravity,
because for now,
the wind still howls as though it knows
she is still listening.
And time?
It breathes the seasons she ran through like a sprinkle.

 She nods when the meteors respond
“She is finite. The universe, intimate.”

Small discrepancies
(the parentheticals between her brows, for example)
acute metaphors for the time between book-ended years.

She knows she heard the seasons blink when she called back
“There is so much more to learn."

Now, the universe nods.

               ~Mari Nichols-Haining

Related:  Fifteen and Forty

Friday, January 11, 2013

Random quote

Most people think that shadows follow, precede, or surround beings or objects. The truth is that they also surround words, ideas, desires, deeds, impulses and memories. -Elie Wiesel, writer, Nobel laureate

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Life's Stories

My brother collects dirt in tiny vials
keeping samples of so many places
lined up on a shelf in his hall.
I collect air with awed inhales
breathing stories in and hoping
to remember them long enough to write them.

I remember,
although my memory is more solid than my language.
I can't ever find the words.

How do I line up the flamenco dancers
on the streets in Spain?
The Belgium stars that stretch as endlessly
as the canals in Amsterdam?
How do I tell
of the widower in Frankfurt
who explained the war he lived through

without mention
of the dirty vile air
he must have tasted?

How do I hold the voices of the little man in Italy
who sings opera on the streets
in a filthy tuxedo?
 I can't,
so I take nothing home.

In the end we all take nothing,
not even our borrowed skin
or the air we've shared but left behind.
We leave only the stories,
and filtered too many times,
the stories are retold.

I want you to gather my memories,

pluck them from me
as though you were gathering blackberries.
Taste them, consume them
then tell them as though they were your own;
Spread them like my brother's sons
will sprinkle his vials of dirt in their gardens.

Let these people and their stories pass through your own
and yours through them,
And when you cannot find the words either,
let the resonance and tone of their languages
be the breath you exhale.

Then, at the end,
though you will take nothing, too,
you'll have left my life and their lives,
 and yours,
 to live and live again.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Time in my junk drawer.

Wow, I've been really slacking in the upkeep department here! It's mid-March and this is my first post of the year. Is anyone still reading--aside from the spammers, who weren't really reading in the first place?

It's not that I've stopped writing creatively; I've actually been writing more. I've been posting less because I've been worried about that "must not have been previously published" clause that most contracts contain. As my audience grew, I feared I'd soon be unable to submit my work for publication anywhere, because the size of the audience is often what determines if something is considered published. Really though, as 'problems' go, that isn't a bad one to have..

Not coincidentally, my posting also started slowing down after I started a new job in October.  Although my writing continues, I seemed to have much less time than I previously did to cull through what I'd be submitting to find what I wanted to share here whether I planned to submit it or not.

Lately, time has been my most precious commodity. The new job, a new grandson, a husband a few hundred miles away, a son about to graduate high school, my 'baby' entering the toughest of all jr. high years,  and other life events swirling around me make me desperate to experience each moment. Yet it's ironic that I spend so much time trying vainly to slow down time.

I'm not sure when I'll be able to trap more than a few consecutive moments in a row, but when I do, you can be sure I'll be digging through my journals and will go on a wild posting spree.

Tonight though, I've wasted a good number of minutes in random thought. So here I am, typing them out. I think if you follow this maze of randomness to the end, it'll make sense.

The pseudo-start of all of this is probably easy to figure out: I was thinking about time (obviously) and how I wish I could just reach into a toolbox or junk drawer to grab a few extra hours whenever I need or want it. On those nights that I work until 2:30 in the morning, it'd be great to pull out four extra hours for sleep.

But that odd thought wasn't really the start. It came last night, as I dug through the junk drawer for the drywall screw anchors that I was certain  I dropped in there one hectic morning long ago. I remember I was about to use them to put up a curtain rod, but dropped them  there instead of the toolbox  as I dashed out of the house to pick up a child up from an event. I stashed those anchors with every intention of finishing the job when I got back home.

Scissors, tape, pens, post-its. But no time.
After spending nearly half a year thinking about how much curtains would save me on the heating bill (while staring through the bare, uncurtained windows into the winter outside), now I remembered the anchors.  I   decided to get to the job done, even though the winter draft has been replaced by the warm, sweet smell of electron-infused spring rain. To do that, I had to wade through the lost coat buttons, spare batteries, and odd-shaped plastic doohickeys that must go to something!

So of course, because it's spring, cleaning out the junk drawer also seemed the right thing to do. By the time I was done, it was 1:30 a.m. and I was wishing time could be packaged and stored among the pens, tacks, glue, and random 'junk'. And the screw anchors, of course.

Just in case you're wondering: Yes. When I was done, I stole a half hour from the darkest end of sleep  and hung the curtains. But I wished I had found just an hour or two crammed into the junk drawer.

Besides the button to your coat or the screw anchors you tossed in there last year,  is there anything you wish you could store in your junk drawer? Also, because I found some odd things in mine (for example, a set of dice with 6 dots on every side?) and because I have a secret voyeur streak, what is the weirdest thing in yours?

Monday, December 12, 2011


There is no particular moment when loss becomes common place,
love becomes a black and white movie,
or a person becomes a memory.
Things like that just happen to the living.
Even the optimist realizes that


the glass overflows and the liquidity of life
drips all over the morning paper.
Even she has doubts about the outcome of belief,
envisions romance in color,
and wishes there were a moment,

when she would recognize a memory for what it will be-
before it formed.
                         ~MNH June 2006

Sunday, December 11, 2011


A woman's outline was painted urgently onto the body of a girl
  in slashing red brush strokes.
She didn't notice then: the adults observing,
  deconstructing meaning in thoughtful stage whispers. 
It wouldn't have mattered.
She had no appreciation for art or animus
  and no patience for the obscure.
Yet she believed all abstraction was obscure.

   Girls mature faster...
 A vague warning when she first heard it,
  but by then she knew it as a vile lie.
Already the boys wanted mature things
  with an urgent curiosity once kept hidden behind oak trees.
Now it slithered up their legs, tangled in their hair,
  and marked them with its musk.

   The girl?

She wanted only to know
  how pigment gave art life,
  and why the woman was so frantic to escape
  that she rained in long, sad droplets from the girl's pores.
She wondered why a vine grew from nowhere
  binding her innards before emerging through her throat.
In retrospect, she will note the moment
and call herself ma'am.

                      ~Mari Nichols-Haining

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Twenty-six and Five. (Or: Unscripted)

The day had been foreshadowed by that year,
  so my words were well rehearsed.
Yet I hadn't thought to practice your response.

  you were curled on my left thigh, your head against my chest.
Two siblings hugged a leg, while another,
  only nine,
  sat beside us. Afraid to listen.

 He knew.
He understood the meaning of the groaning sobs
  that escaped despite myself as I cradled the phone.
I didn't even try
  to learn how not to cry.

I spoke. Then you.
 He's dead-- ...?
 you were repeating more than asking.
Then you deflated into me.

Santa came on schedule one night later,
yet noone tried to catch him sneaking in.
You were all too busy with grownup concerns
too large for me to reach and too strong for me to fight.
And with grief.

Perhaps it was the grief who stole my memories
  of your sixth birthday only a week later.
     I pray I made a cake.
But that entire year is lost to me now
  --hidden in hole dug by the details of a moment.

My senses are my memory.
  Without effort, I smell blackened tomato soup forgotten on the stove;
  I see the shadows in the corners flinching from our grief;
  I hear a thousand pieces of your sister's heart;
  as they fall like rainstick seeds inside her chest.
 I taste the anguish in her questions
  and feel your brother's fear when he pulls away,
Angry and overwhelmed.
And you.
 Your tears still cauterize where they fell into my heart,
 watering the animal fierceness of maternal instinct.
Yet as important as wrestling bears (or battling grief)
  is my duty to show you life and beauty
  and teach you to recognize and to feel.
Because life is emotion, anguish and elation alike.

But your tears still fall,
  and I still want to make this a dream and let him wake you up.

I am achingly helpless.
Rehearsing this would have been a mockery.

  ~Mari Nichols-Haining

Monday, October 10, 2011

You'll always remember that first rejection.

In between school, solving mysteries with my best friend, and staining my skirts, I decided I would be a famous writer. I had no intention of waiting until I grew up though. I was seven years old, and Laura Ingalls Wilder was my inspiration.

A month after I made that announcement to my family, I finished a story. I called it The Sunday Run. It was about a Golden Retriever who chased the family car whenever his people drove to church. Every Sunday night, his paws were bloodied and he'd be near death, yet he would break out of the fenced yard to do it again a  week later.

Having recently learned that 'creamed' could mean dead, I thought I was particularly clever when I wrote about the dog eventually finding God after being creamed by an ice cream truck--on a Thursday--while chasing Mormon missionaries on bikes. By the time I finished writing it, the story had become non-fiction and I sobbed for at least an hour at the memory of  the dog I never had. Seeing my red, swollen eyes when I came out for dinner that night, my Mom asked me what was wrong. I gave her a made up a story about being sad for some fictional school friend whose father had died,  not only because I was creative like that, but also because it seemed less involved than telling her about Thumper. I realize now that I probably was not a fun kid to raise.

Anyhow, sadly I had also just learned the word credibility, and I quickly determined I didn't have enough of it to tell my own story yet, fiction or not. But, longing to see my name on the cover of a book,  I switched role models and decided to admire Dr. Seuss. In a single afternoon, I wrote an atrociously-rhymed  alphabet book on wide-lined school paper, carefully illustrated Apples, Bears, Coconuts, Dogs (and so on) to go with the text, then designed and drew a book cover, making sure "By Mari - age 7" was prominent. I also included a letter  that went something like this:
Dear Random House,
I'm a kid who writes lots of stories like Laura Ingalls Wilder. Please  make this book and send me one. I have lots more stories all kids will like!
Mari -age 7
(At that age, I devoured Highlights for Children and the Scholastic newsletters. Kid-produced content always included the child's age, so assumed it was mandatory.)
After triple folding all 28 pages and using an unheated-iron to crease the whole thick mess in half lengthwise, I crammed it into a small personal envelope, stole far too little postage from my mom's wallet, and secretly mailed it off to Random House. I found the address on the back page of my favorite Little House book.

A few weeks later, mom brought in the mail and asked why Random House was to writing me. After I confessed, she stuck around while I opened the envelope and tried to make me feel better by pointing out it wasn't a form letter. The moment she left the room, I tossed it out. My very first rejection letter. It was kindly hand-written  by a (probably bemused) editor, who told me  there were plenty of alphabet books already published but to keep writing and send her something when I got a little older. I wasn't really upset; embarrassed is a better word.

Thus, at seven and three-quarters, Jodi Foster became my new inspiration and I decided to become a child actress instead. I assumed there was much less rejection in Hollywood.

Of course, by the time my 8th birthday rolled around, I was trying to figure out how to get NASA to let  a kid into their astronaut program...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

An assidental theme

A random page from the sketch pad. I just noticed the unplanned theme. Freud would claim it means something...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Modern Words

Because of words
like doth and thee 
fame forgets to comfort me.

Thine and o'er 
and ere left out-
It's my vocaulary's drought.

Dryden's 'tis 
Shakespeare's 'gainst 
with eloquence expressed their angst.

Alone I stand
with does and do.
Frozen bards. No poet's hue.

No poet's voice
sings modern verbs
No poet's tongue speaks modern words.

A rock.
No poet with me stands.
Yet behind my pen--

a poet's hands.

-Mari Nichols-Haining

Friday, May 13, 2011

Lingering distractions

Well, Blogger appears to be back! This post disappeared for a while, along with all the comments. Though the post has been restored, the comments weren't.  If yours is gone, I'm sorry!

Lingering distractions

Between the waking and the sleeping
were the tiny daily deaths, interrupted
by instances alive with light.
Lingering distractions.

But between the birthdays and last days,
came you, and the instances became years;
All while the dying fell to memory in shards
 just dull enough to handle.

I hadn't thought to value the safety of love
until it granted me the refuge of reflection.

I had forgotten how an entire conversation could be had
in the rapid wordless exhale of a kiss,
or how a story could be told
in the whispering of fingers on my back,

or that electrons in the atmosphere could be excited
by two people simply passing in a hall.
I recall,

and am grateful now for more than love
 and moments that span much longer
 than dawn and dusk or a planet's orbit or a lifetime.

Now, I delight in the human ability
 to define the undefinable
 and to believe, with unpretentious fervor,

  in us and this emotion.

                     Mari Nichols 

I'm five hours late for One Shot Wednesday. Here's hoping it's still Wednesday somewhere!