Friday, December 17, 2010

The Sounds and Smells of Christmas

Last weekend Leslie came over and we had a Christmas goodie baking day. She wanted to send a box of home baked goodies to Grandpa (my dad) who, after Mom died, became adept at cooking burgers in the George Foreman Grill, but has not yet figured out how to bake a cookie in it.  She figured he might enjoy cookies made from Grandma’s recipes, so we made Ginger Lace Cookies, Sugar Cookies, Walnut Balls, Mexican wedding cakes and Scotcheroos.

Grandma’s Old Fashioned Fudge was also on the “to make” list but I told Leslie she was on her own for that one. Back before I came to my senses I used to try and make that fudge. I wanted to make it just like Mom’s – perfect. I tried several times, but my fudge was usually more like sand than silky smooth chocolate. The last time I tried to make Mom’s fudge was when Abby needed a treat for a party when she was in grade school. That time I overcompensated for the sand factor and it was too soft. Rather than be discouraged, I was inspired. I proudly handed her a container of “fudge balls” to take to school. Unfortunately the poor child was scarred for life after being teased by her fellow students about the “elk poop” she brought to the party. Not one to be deterred by my experiences however, Leslie valiantly attempted the fudge — which progressed beyond sand to cement and she was also forced to admit defeat.

As we all know, Christmas goodie baking can be a dangerous activity. There is the risk of blindness when spinning beaters are lifted from a bowl of icing. There is the tongue burning hazard resulting from “testing” a cookie before it’s sufficiently cooled. There is the peril of burning flesh which can happen in the blink of an eye when your husband walks behind you with a cup of steaming tea as you are turning with a pan of cookies which were, a mere two seconds earlier, baking in a 350 degree oven. And then there is the risk you will chop off a body part.

Leslie and I weren’t the only ones who were chopping last weekend. While frantic cookie-baking was going on in the kitchen (with occasional “help” from a child)  ...

there was some pretty intense chopping going on in Dean’s art room. Art and craft lessons with Papa have become a Saturday morning ritual at our house.

And sometimes those lessons have involved a paper cutter. A very sharp, very wicked sounding paper cutter. You
know – the kind of paper cutter children are warned away from with sayings of “if you even LOOK at that paper cutter, your fingers will shrivel and dry up and every time you pick your nose a finger will break off.” Of course, if you are the Papa who owns that child-mutilating contraption, apparently it is your duty to “teach the children how to cut paper” without shortening their already stubby little digits.

 My method of dealing with any Dean-led activity which I am positive will (but Dean assures me won’t) result in a calamity, is to just pretend like it’s not happening. For example, when the girls were young and we went hiking, I would see Dean take my daughters up close to the edge of a cliff so they could see “that special rock way down there”; the rock just beyond the depression in the ground where I suspect some previous father’s child had gotten a “closer” look. When that happened I would just turn around, walk away and hum a happy tune to myself. “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” was always a good choice.

Anyway, as the cookie production continued, every time I caught a glimpse of three children, Dean, and a paper cutter, all together in the same room, and heard the rrriiiiiiccccchhhhhhttttttt sound only a wickedly sharp blade can make, I cringed, turned away, and beat that cookie batter to the tune in my head, I They Will Survive” which, as it turned out, was a good song choice. Later in the day when I heard that very same rrriiiiiiccccchhhhhhttttttt sound, it was Pierce, in the art room, all alone, with the very shiny, very sharp paper cutter, contentedly putting all his recently learned skills to work.

After the screaming died down and Dean pointed out that Pierce had NOT cut off his fingers, he somehow managed to twist the blame onto me since I was the one who had made Pierce cry when I bellowed “NO!” — not his Papa, who cooed over him and took him off to watch football in the den with him. A bit later as Leslie and I were spreading the melted butterscotch chips on top of the Scotcheroos, we heard muffled cries coming from the living room. Pierce was on the couch, bouncing up and down, his head shaking back and forth, both hands rubbing the saliva that was dripping out of his mouth all over his face. He was making gagging noises and choking sounds. Leslie grabbed him and kept saying over and over, each question a bit louder, “Pierce! What did you eat? Pierce! What’s in your mouth? Pierce! Show me what you put in your mouth!” Squeaks, gagging, face rubbing, head shaking and smeared spit was all she got in return to her frantic questioning.

Finally, as only a mother can, she interpreted the gurgles and gags to be “it stinks! Stinky! Stinky!” In concert with each other, Leslie and I yelled “Dean! Dad! Did you fart?!” Dean, not even realizing he was now alone watching football, of course denied it. He blamed it on the dog. Pierce meanwhile was still gagging and spitting and holding his nose. Leslie told him to “go downstairs where it won’t stink.” Centuries of genetic conditioning kicked in. If smoke rises to the top, stink must do the same. He covered his head with a blanket, got down on all fours, stuck his skinny little butt in the air and scooted across the floor to the stairs.

In the time it took him to slide down the stairs on his belly with a blanket on his head, then turn around and run back up, he was back in the kitchen. He was still gagging, still holding his nose, and still shaking his head back and forth making more squeaky gurgling noises which Leslie interpreted to be “it followed me! It’s on me! Stinky! Stinky!”

Was it Dean? Was it Shadow? My vast experience with Dean tells me it wasn’t him. And Pierce’s eyes weren’t watering so it didn’t seem that Shadow had let one loose. My personal belief is that Pierce has a strong aversion to the aroma of butterscotch but only Pierce truly knows (and he’s not sharing).  What I do know is the next time I need some entertainment I’m going to have Leslie bring Pierce over, bake something with butterscotch chips and see what happens. But I’ll hide the paper cutter first.

If you have all finished frosting your cookies ...

and still have time for more baking, here is the recipe for my mom's:

Ginger Lace Cookies

¾ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
2 level tsp. baking soda
2 cups flour
4 tablespoons molasses

Roll in balls the size of marbles. Roll each ball in sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for about six to eight minutes.



Jerry said...

got the cookies, and am halfway through the box. I MIGHT last until the 24th,

Deb Evert said...

OMG - you are so totally entertaining...and the Christmas 'song' beat out the letters of the years before. I handed it to Gordon and even he was humming/singing along. He never does that! Cookies look great - will shoot you and email later that is amazing fudge - and it NEVER EVER FAILS!! I have made hundreds of batches, without a candy thermometer (don't need one), and it always turns out perfect. Thanks for the recipe - looks yummy. I have some cookies made, homemade caramel made (that requires the thermometer), almond bark treats, and doing a few more. Jen has a cookie baking business so she is in charge of most of the cookies for Christmas. Its also going really well! In your Christmas letter you said that Leslie was a businesswoman? I 'think'. What is she doing? Bless her heart and best wishes. Take care - be well - Merry Christmas, Happy New Year - tight hugs. Deb

Abby said...

That's the funniest Pierce story yet, I wish I could have been there to see it.

Art Elser said...

Before you go blaming Dean or Shadow, you should check to see if Al didn't drop by for a bit. We had to move from Colorado Springs to Denver or repaint of repaper rooms in our house. Pierce's behavior makes me think it was Al.

Yummy looking cookies.

Have you patented your paper cutter sound? Perhaps a download for iTunes?

Al said...

Who is this Al person of which Art Elser speaks?

Geeze, Cathy. Kinda telling that the first assumption on your part to explain the clearly rabid grandchild is Dean must have farted. I guess we all now know the real reason for you insisting on sleeping with the window open?

Trinity Chappelear said...

The Christmas before mom died I was on the phone with her constantly and attempted her fudge about 3 times before I got it right. Patience is the key. (That is why I still mess it up.)