Thursday, December 20, 2012

Baking Lesson

Middle Minion came over to do some holiday baking. Now Middle Minion’s idea of baking involves things that come in a package and all you need to do is remove the plastic cover from the chicken and poke holes in the part covering the brownie.

He wanted to make chocolate chip cookies, rice crispy treats, “and maybe some fudge.” Yeah, I’m all over that. Yay.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I loathe baking. I’m not good at it. I am easily frustrated when I’m working from the recipe and all of a sudden I discover I was supposed to be doing things in separate bowls about three steps ago. Recipes are not written for lazy cooks. Personally, I’d like important stuff written right above the list of ingredients.

“Get two bowls, big and small, because you’ll be mixing the dry stuff in the small bowl and the wet ingredients in the large bowl.” This is apparently done for no other reason than increasing the pile of dirty dishes exponentially. Yes, yes, I’m sure there is a valid reason for this other than the misuse of our cleaning resources, and Tam would be happy to explain them, but not to me because the last time she tried, she got mad when I stuck my fingers in my ears and kept saying, “la la la la, I can’t HEEEEAAARRRR you.”

So, it remains a mystery, and shall continue to be so because who cares?

Back to the kitchen. It took me two days to gear up to the big event. I griped and groused and carried on for quite some time, then got down to hauling all the crap out to make cookies. These were going to be regular cookies because there was no way I was going to attempt non-gluten cookies. No. Way.

I called my son to the kitchen, spoke to him the words “here’s the recipe. Here are the bowls. Make cookies.” I stayed close in case he needed help because I’m not THAT heartless, and wow, did he need help. His idea of measuring flour involved not stirring it first, not leveling it off because the measuring cup wasn’t full. There was fussing and squawking and a quick “do over.” Then he added the rest of the dry ingredients and we started on the not-dry ingredients (although, and he had a very valid point, sugar IS a dry ingredient, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying over my finger and me saying la la la la, I can’t hear yooooou”).

Then he got out the vanilla. We get a very high quality vanilla, so we measure it over the bowl so we waste nothing. He measured it and I said, “Ok, add it.” “Here?” he asked. “Yes, just dump it in.” So he did. He dumped it into the bowl with the flour.
“ACK! NO!”
“But you said--”
“I know, I know, my mistake. Don’t worry, it will be fine,” I promised.

I stuck the hand mixer into the wet ingredients in order to fluff the butter and sugar. The butter was really hard; I had just pulled it from the fridge, so it wasn’t easy. It took a long time to mix and there were several pieces of butter flying about the bowl and onto the front of Middle Minion’s shirt. Despite the difficulty I managed to get it done and we were able to add the dry ingredients.

He watched carefully as the dough thickened and he worried that it wasn’t looking right. But I picked up a small piece and pinched it to show him it was holding together just fine and it was now time to add the chocolate chips. The package was dumped into the dough and I handed my son a wooden spoon. “Stir it up, boy.”

And he did. And, according to him, it was good. It was so good, he took another sample. And another. “You do realize you’ll need to bake some of these, right?” “Oops.” He decided he preferred to make the pan cookie variety because it’s not such a pain in the ass. He spread the dough (the very sticky dough because I forgot to spray his hands with oil first) and we popped it into the oven.

Despite them being slightly burnt, he assured us they tasted great. We sat around for a bit, mulling over what else he wanted to make, when he decided he wanted to make more cookies. “Only this time,” he said, “I want to do it myself.”
“Ok,” I said with more than a little trepidation coloring my voice. “Let me know if you need any help.”
“I will,” he said. Moments later, we could hear the sounds of someone doing interesting things in the kitchen. Things like; swearing, grousing about something he needed being in the sink, cabinet doors and drawers being opened and closed while the incantation for finding things was uttered over and over.

“How’s it going?” I asked as I worked up the courage to see for myself.
“Great,” he answered, “I’m almost done.”
I walked into the kitchen just as he was about to put mixer to creation. Only the novice baker had added the chips with the dry ingredients. Granted, I could have just told him to use the wooden spoon (the one that was still in the sink waiting to be washed), but instead I said, “Dude, no. You added the chips at the wrong time.”
“But they’re dry, so I added them with the dry ingredients.”
“Is that how we did it the first time?”
He thought for a minute. “No?”
“I’ll show you why we don’t add them now. Give me the mixer.”

Ping! Ticka-ticka Whack! Thup (which was followed by an “ow!”) Shrapnel, people, chocolate chip shrapnel is what we had. Those damn chips went flying EVERYWHERE. Lesson learned, and I laughed my ass off.

The cookies were again proclaimed excellent and less burnt. I will admit to being fully proud of my son for taking on the challenge of baking cookies.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

November, a.k.a. The Month That Kicked My...

November, 2012 will herein be known as the month that pretty much kicked my ass under a bus. But, as with all such activities, having your ass handed to you after it has been kicked and run over by mass transit has a silver lining. Lessons have been learned.

Important ones, too. May I? Thanks.

1. NaNoWriMo is important, but not THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ON THE PLANET DURING THE MONTH OF NOVEMBER. There. I said it. And? I meant it! In the past, November has been a favorite month for many reasons, the least of which had become family gatherings for a major American holiday. For me, November was my writing month. My ex (the nice, but kind of clueless guy) would give me November to write without guilt (except for the holiday, but I managed to get my word count in between basting the turkey and chilling the jello. But it was a struggle and for the rest of the year, writing was something I’d have to bargain for or suffer extreme guilt.

Now that Tam and I are together, I get to write with her blessing, encouragement, and occasionally insistence. November is now a month where I can start fiddling around with a new idea of a story (if I want), or take a break from editing The Chronicles (if I want), or spend time with my family and not worry that I won’t get my first draft finished by the end of the month. I loved having my kids over for the holiday. Future Novembers, there is hope!

2. Family: a group of people bonded together through biology and/or love, the members of which can, and will upon occasion, make ridiculous choices that can impact the ENTIRE DAMN GROUP IN REALLY STUPID WAYS. Honestly. Adult children can turn you from a simple eccentric dyke into a whirling maniac of the emotionally upheaved. Seriously children, it was bad enough when you pitched the tantrums as toddlers or had dramatic hissy fits as teens. With one exception you’re all in your twenties (almost thirties)… THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR ACTING LIKE THAT, YOU NINCOMPOOPS. Save the drama for the movies. Your mommas have reached an accord and we have decided we are sick of it.

3. Parents. What the hell? My mother ordered three copies of my book. She’s not read my book, but she wanted a copy for herself and two copies to give away. She doesn’t even read my blog because she does not have a computer. When I called to see if she got the books, she said she was already into the third chapter. She said she was impressed at how good it is. Then? Then she told me she was surprised as how good it is.

She was surprised. I…just… Thanks Mom.

4. We have a new fireplace and it is wonderful. The light, the heat, the joy of sitting in short sleeves and not freezing in the house in NOVEMBER has been wonderful. We also have a way to get rid of all the wood that we’ve collected over the years while trimming the various trees and stuff in the yard. Yay! Once it has seasoned for a year, it will turn into heat. I like it. In the mean time, we must look for wood to burn… and split…

5. Technology still hates me with a fiery red passion. I needed to update my old phone. It was refusing to do certain things. Important things. Things like texting and making calls being two of them (but only sometimes), and considering that’s pretty much all I use my phone for, that rendered it pretty much useless as anything but a timepiece.

Enter new phone: It’s a smart phone and is connected to the internet all the time. Oh, jeeze. I can’t… it just…

My old phones (all of them with the capability) would link up to my bluetooth enabled vehicle without so much as a whimper of protest, but not this one. This “smartest phone I’ve ever owned” gave me no clue. I sat in my car on several occasions and attempted to introduce the two, but there was no magic. No connection. My car would sit there muttering the word “searching” and my phone would just stare into space thinking big thoughts about anything but pairing with my damn car.

Me? I’d sit there, waving the phone in front of the dashboard of the car hoping they’d see each other and go, “Oh, yeah! Hi. Let’s be friends.” The instruction manual for the phone was no better. They kept saying I needed to enter the code and tap “ok.” I tried that. It didn’t work. I was doomed to have to shout at my phone while it was on speaker if I wanted to make legal calls while driving.

Semi-legal calls, because I’d have to dial while stopped. Ugh.

Anyway, after work one day, I had to sit and wait for the parking lot to clear, so I attempted to make the connection again. This time, while it was busy ignoring the car, I tapped an icon and behold! A keypad popped up, and while there was no “ok” to tap, there was an “enter” button. I had six seconds to do as instructed or start the process all over again. Tapping in the code, I hit enter at 4 seconds and at 5 seconds, my car announced that they were paired! I married my car and phone with one second to spare! I celebrated by calling Tam.

November… let’s call it a draw and move along because December is looking pretty decent so far!