Monday, March 30, 2015

Baking For Myra

Yep.  Baking again.  Sometimes we just have to accept that we are who we are and we do what we do.  I began all the baking to distract myself while the bees were here because having people in and out all day long just made me nervous.  Even if they were super nice guys I couldn’t ever really relax while they were here.  What would they think if they saw me basking in the sun on the couch with my eyes closed?  Or watching TV in the middle of the day?  Or what if Dean scratched himself in the wrong spot just as they looked at him?   It made for stressful days and when I’m stressed I bake.   And then the baking became a habit.  And now I can’t go three days in a row without baking something.  Mostly because I can’t go three days in a row without wanting to eat something I’ve baked.  Which is not good because now there are no worker bees to eat most of what I bake. 

Good thing I have Leslie and Ryan and the grandkids to save me from myself.  Today I am baking for them.  

But mostly I am baking for Myra because over the last couple of weeks Myra has worked harder and will continue to work harder than any of my bees.

Today Myra went back to school – using a walker.  

And I suspect at the end of a day filled with looks and questions and learning to maneuver her walker in her classroom and cafeteria and everywhere else she needs to go during a normal school day she is going to need a cupcake – or two – or three.  She deserves a dozen after what she’s been through because after five days in the hospital, needles poking, people prodding, an MRI that sounded like jack hammers pounding and felt like it went on for days (nothing at all like the medical TV shows depict Leslie tells me) and a spinal tap where she merely wrinkled her brow while they “were pushing a bottle into my back,” Myra has been diagnosed with Guillain-BarrĂ© Syndrome, a rare autoimmune syndrome that occurs when the body attacks the peripheral nerves

Shes making the best of it by decorating her new walker ...  

... which isn’t surprising coming from a girl who made this for her valentine’s box.  

Even though she’s stuck using a walker just when the weather has made it perfect for climbing trees and riding her scooter, she hasn’t let it dampen her spirit.  As Leslie says, her determination and obstinacy and constant questioning, which are the very traits that sometimes made her infuriating, are the very qualities that have so far, and will in the future, get her through this ordeal until she is once again running with her brother trying to beat our car to the corner as we leave after a visit.  It’s still not going to be a piece of cake and her recovery may take months but she will get there because she’s one tough cookie.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Construction With Cookies – Day After Day After Day After Day ….

Has it really only been a week or so since I updated you on my cookie addic uh, our basement remodel?  The intervention … and the therapy …  seem so long ago …

So after we finished the floor I ran upstairs and ……………. have you noticed how often people begin their sentences with so?  I have.  I hear it more and more.  For example, “So tell us about your new cookie therapy practice, Dr. Sweet.”  “So, I’d heard of this crazy lady who was in the midst of a basement remodel and …” I don’t know why Dr. Sweet doesn’t just begin his sentence with I’d heard of ... ? Why the so?  Pay attention people.  So the thing is, when you’re watching the news anchors on TV and listening to the reporters on the radio you’ll start hearing it too.  So I’m pretty sure you won’t be able to NOT hear it anymore and next thing you know you’ll begin saying it yourself and before you know it you’ll be out of control and you’ll be writing it.  So I'm just sayin’ –be careful people.  

So, anyway………………….right after we finished laying the very last plank on the newly remodeled basement floor, I called my head bee to tell him we were ready for the baseboards to be installed.   “The bees will be out next week,” he said.  The next morning a bee showed up, table saw in hand.  Okay, not in his hand, but in the back of his truck.  It was Saturday morning and there was a bee at my door!  And I had no cookie plan!  Well, I had a cookie plan but that was for Monday and I hadn’t been to the store yet to buy the ingredients. 

I offered him my plate of cream cheese crepes covered in cherry sauce but he declined even though I told him I hadn't taken a bite yet.  I understood.  It would have been hard to keep the cherry sauce from dripping onto the saw blade and gumming everything up.  I couldn’t let him work without a treat but I wasn’t sure how much time I had to get something mixed up and in the oven before he would finish.  So I had to fall back on my tried and true brownie recipe.  

I just crossed my fingers and hoped I wasn’t giving him a repeat.  Anyway, even if I’d made them before, I couldn’t think what else would be quick and easy and good.  I just checked my blog and I’m ashamed to say, they were a repeat.  

Baseboards and door handles!

As we got closer and closer to the end of the project, the bees didn’t always come every day or stay very long when they did come.  I never knew if or when they’d show up at my door or if I’d need to bake, so I finally just made sure there was always a stick of butter softening on the counter and a selection of recipes lying nearby.  

Monday morning we knew we’d be gone most of the day but I couldn’t risk having a bee show up again with no cookies so I got up early, baked pumpkin-chocolate chip cookies and left them.  

But nobody came.  Until Tuesday.  I’d made the rash decision not to get up early and bake that morning which meant when my bees pulled up just as we were putting on our coats to leave again for the day, all I had to offer were the day-old pumpkin cookies – which is what I shamefully gave them. 

If only they would have come the day after when my electrical bee came to put in all the lights and plugs and switches.  I was ready for him.  I made him Irish Lace Cookies in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.  

And when he came back the day after that I baked him lemon cookies.   

Once the electrical work was done there was nothing left but the handrail.  Once again my bees showed up unannounced even though when I’d handed them those day-old cookies I had specifically asked them to tell me ahead of time when they’d be coming so I could be ready for them.  Honestly, this erratic work schedule made construction cookie-baking tough but you know what they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get baking.  So I did.  I baked the lemon cookies – again – because I still had lots of lemons and I knew they hadn’t eaten that cookie. 

And that was the end.  Of them.  But not the end.  Nope.  A couple of days ago we finished laying the flooring in my sewing room.  And that’s the end.  Of the flooring.  


But not the end.  Of everything.  I’ll be posting some more.  Some day.  We've been moving furniture.  And organizing.  And I’m still baking.  Pumpkin muffins for Leslie and Ryan and the kids.  

Banana bread for our neighbors.  

You didn’t think I could stop cold turkey did you?  Wait, when did Leslie and Ryan and the grandkids show up?  And why is everybody sitting on the couch together … holding hands … looking at me ….?


Friday, March 20, 2015

Construction With Cookies – Day Cookies, What Cookies?

One morning Dean noticed Angus had egg shells dangling from his tail.  He’s sometimes seen brownish bits dangling near his tail (Angus’s tail, not Dean’s) which he removes after encasing his hand in a plastic bag, but these bits were white and they were stuck on Angus’s tail so, sharp guy that he is, (Dean, not Angus, although Angus is pretty sharp for a dog) he realized right away they were egg shells and since he didn’t need any hand protection he immediately reached out to grab for them.  But Angus kept walking away from him and as Dean followed the drool dripping from his tongue (Angus’s tongue, not Dean’s) it led him to the kitchen where he found flour coating the walls and mounds of cookies falling off the counters and onto the floor.  When he stepped on the cookies, which had mixed with Angus’s slobber, he slipped and started falling so he reached out to grab my arm to save himself.  But my arm was covered in cookie dough, which wasn’t an optimal gripping surface, and as his fingers slid down my arm he slowly crumpled to the floor.  But at least it was a slow crumple so he didn’t really hurt himself.   

The good thing was the slick slobber-cookie-crumb covered floor made it easy for me to slide him out of the way with my foot so I could get to the oven to take out my 732nd pan of cookies.  Or maybe it was only 573rd.  I was losing track by then.  Once Dean pulled his greasy, crumb-covered body up from the floor he looked me square in the eyes – which I’m sure was hard for him to do since they were hidden behind the globs of butter hanging off my eyelashes – and said, enough!  Stop baking!  And he took away my spatula and my bowl and hid the cookie sheets.  And then he made me clean up all the smears of butter and hunks of dried-on egg, and wipe up the sugar, oatmeal, nuts and anything else that crunched when you stepped on it.  And that’s why I haven’t been blogging.  It’s Dean’s fault.  Because he wouldn’t let me blog until the kitchen was clean.  And it took me days and days and days. 

Or … maybe someday I’ll tell you the real reason I haven’t been blogging.  But not today.  Today I’m just going to tell you (if I can remember, that is) about the floor.

Floor day (days actually, there were three of them) we were both stressed and tense because we’d never done this before and we didn’t want to screw it up because it’s really annoying when everything else looks professionally done, mostly because it WAS professionally done, and then that one last little bit looks amateurish, mostly because it WAS done by amateurs.  We’d read the directions, watched the videos and read all the reviews that said “this is so easy my 12-year old did it”, and “it is as easy to layout and install as it sounds in the directions”, and my favorite, “…we also found it forgiving of mistakes.”  Ha! I say to those people.  HA!  YOU must have had perfectly square rooms with no door openings or TV alcoves or curvy rock walls. 

Dean got all his tools out, prepared his work area .... 

... and after a mere thirty minutes we had the first three pieces laid in the corner.

 “I think there’s too much space between the seams here,” I told Dean.  “Thank you for being such a good quality checker,” he responded.  “Please gently pull the two planks apart and re-attach them carefully.  The directions said we have ‘10-15 minutes of open time in which you can re-work the seams before any damage occurs to the adhesive on the GripStrip.’”  Actually, he really just huffed and said, “If you don’t like it, fix it.”  So I started pulling the two sticky planks apart.  I tried really hard.  And then Dean tried.  We tried so hard we broke part of the sticky edge.  Thus began the ruined planks pile.  

So much for having 10 to 15 minutes to rework the seam.  It was really more like 10-15 seconds.  They need to re-write those instructions to say get it right the first time, Bubba, or you’re screwed.  After regrouping, some deep breathing and convincing each other that we can do this! a mere hour and a half later we had that corner laid again.  After that I kept my mouth closed — mostly.

Dean was true to his methodical, meticulous, deliberate and unhurried manner.  He read about his fancy door-casing-cutting tool before he used it.  Then he thought about what he'd read.  Then he read some more.  And finally he got down to business.

He measured carefully.

He thought about what he'd measured.  He measured again.  And then he cut.

And made all the edges perfect.

Sometimes he swore. (This is the air being blue).

And then he measured again and cut again until he got it right.

I was not true to form.  I patiently waited.  I offered only a few suggestions.  I rarely spoke.  I did whatever he told me to do and hardly even questioned it. 

And then it was finished.  

And we did it all with no cookies.  Which is really sad.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Construction With Cookies Day – Heck, I Don't Know – A bunch.

The frenetic energy of the first week or two of basement construction has mellowed as we’ve entered the final stages of this project.   And with the pace of construction slowing, I’ve had bit of a respite from my frenzied baking.   A day or two break from the oven gave me all the more energy to bake for my painter bee Thursday.  While she was covering the basement with paper and plastic 

and tape, I was upstairs mixing and baking that day’s construction cookie – cream cheese cookies. Since I had cream cheese in the fridge I thought I should use it.  But I didn’t have a tried and true cookie recipe using cream cheese.  Actually I had no cookie recipe in my stash requiring cream cheese.  So I googled for recipes.  What a mistake that was.  Do NOT bake these cookies.  I repeat.  Do not bake them.  I wish I never had.  They are cookie meth.  Especially warm.  The soft chewy center and seductive tang of cream cheese ...  I need to burn that recipe.  Burn it now!  But I can’t. It's on the web. It's going to be there foreeeeeeeever.  Taunting.  Teasing.  Daring me to bake them just one more time.....  

The next day my bees arrived with paint in hand and I pulled myself together long enough to bake Friday’s construction cookie – Chocolate Oatmeal Crunchies.  

Even though my bees taped plastic over the stairs to try and contain the fumes, as they sprayed paint, my head filled with headache-producing vapors, although it seemed to have no effect on Sophie who intently contemplated the springiness of her very own trampoline.

I don’t know how they stood it down there in what must have been a white haze of paint particles.  No wonder they wanted to leave the cookies up on the ledge rather than taking them downstairs with them.

It took them all day, but my bees got everything painted and THEY took their garbage with them

and left the basement nice and tidy.  All that’s left is for Dean and I to lay the flooring, have the bees come back to install the baseboards and the electrical odds and ends, have carpet put on the stairs ... and then ... we’ll be finished!!  

At the end of the day, as I handed my paint bees a baggie of the last of the cookies, they told me that we were the nicest people they’d worked for and we were not the norm.  Gosh.........I knew all that cookie baking was going to pay off.....unless it was just the paint fumes talking ...◦

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Construction With Cookies – Day 20

There were no worker bees yesterday.  That was probably just as well because after reading my friend Art’s comment on my last post I began to realize that because of all the taste-testing I’ve been forced to do, it's getting harder to get MY cookie/brownie/cake/lemon squares/apple bars butt through the doorway.  If this basement isn't finished soon I may need to hire my bees to widen all of the doorways in my own house which would mean more days of worker bees which would mean more days of cookies which would mean I might not fit through the wider doorways so I’d have to hire them again to widen the doorways even more which would mean more days of worker bees and more cookies and … oh, no ... come back my worker bees!

I got up bright and early this morning to mix up today’s Black Walnut, Cranberry and White Chocolate Chip construction cookie.  Head bee had told me they would be over today but I didn't know how early they would arrive.  After I looked outside, realized how cold it was and saw the blowing and drifting snow, I wasn’t sure they would come at all.  I decided to put the dough in the fridge and wait to bake the cookies if/when I heard my bees buzzing at the door. 

In the meantime, since we used the blowing snow as an excuse to skip the gym this morning, Dean decided to clean the splattered texture from inside the light fixtures while I got comfy on the couch and read.  It wasn’t long before he came up and asked if I could do something for him downstairs.  It’ll only take ten minutes. 

Really?  I’d just spent hours down there vacuuming on Sunday.  After I vacuumed that mess he decided to go find his trusty MacGyver tool and scrape up all those little floor splats, so I got to vacuum those up too.

He pulled out his trusty Boy Scout knife when the scraper just couldn't do the job.  Right after I took this photo he looked up and said, “you’re going to make me look bad, aren’t you?”  

Since splats of texture on a cement wall are unsightly, Dean decided those had to be scrubbed off, by me because high school football makes raising his arms very high for any stretch of time painful – or so he says. 

Later, after everything had been scraped and washed to Dean’s satisfaction, he remarked on all the dust we’d been tracking from the splats on the stairs.  I sighed, grabbed the bucket of water and rag and scrubbed the treads of the stairs.  In all fairness Dean did offer to help, but I knew his shoulders would hurt if he scrubbed, and I didn’t want to hear him complain see him in pain.  And then, like an idiot, I scrubbed the whole basement floor, on my hands and knees.  A couple of hours later when I finally finished and crawled up the stairs, starving, expecting to be praised, Dean pointed out to me they’re going to make more of a mess when they come you know. Not only was there no “atta girl,” there were no construction cookies to reward my hard work because since my bees still hadn’t arrived, I still hadn’t baked.

Finally, about 2:30 they knocked at the door and as they got right to work putting the casing on

the doors, I got right to work baking the cookies.  20 minutes later I carefully carried a plate of

warm cookies down my scrubbed steps to the basement and stopped short.  The floor was covered in sawdust.  I recovered quickly and I don’t think my bee even saw the tear in my eye when I handed him the plate of cookies.  Or maybe he did, because later I heard my vacuum cleaner running.  Of course, before I took my bees the cookies I had to taste one first.  And just in case the cookie I ate wasn’t indicative of the quality of the entire panful, I felt obligated to try another.  Then I remembered I’d had a salad for lunch which meant I deserved just one more.

I wonder when it will be a good time to discuss door widths with my bees.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Construction With Cookies – Day 19? Already??

I forfeited sleeping in Saturday so I could get up early to get the construction cookie – Glazed Apple Bars – in the oven before Dean wanted to make us breakfast in our tiny kitchen.  I know,

we’re retired and every day is Saturday for us, but for some reason, Saturday and Sunday still feel different than a week day.  Maybe because we get two days off from the gym.  Or maybe because during the week, breakfast is yogurt and granola but on the weekend Dean makes us an awesome breakfast – pancakes or waffles or crepes or German pancake … except for this Saturday.  This Saturday my worker bee was here at 8:30 to TEXTURE the walls!  It seemed a bit weird to be eating breakfast at the dining room table while he was running up and down the stairs and working his little bee butt off, so it was coffee and oatmeal in the family room with a Glazed Apple Bar chaser.

I had been bracing for a dust storm, especially when I saw my bee taping up plastic.  

The dust from the trimming and cutting and hanging of the wall board had been bad enough so I was not looking forward to a fog of dried mud dust.  But as it turned out, there was none.  He used a damp sponge to sand.  Who knew?   By noon my drywall bee had completed the sanding, had textured all the walls, had rolled up his hose and loaded that plus his compressor in the back of his pickup, gently placed a plate of Apple Bars on the seat next to him, and driven off.  Leaving his neatly folded and packed garbage behind.  

I really think he was concentrating so hard on trying to unobtrusively wipe the saliva from his chin as he watched me pack up his plate of Apple Bars that he forgot to go back down and throw it in the back of his pickup. 

We’re getting so excited see the light at the end of the tunnel that we bought our fake-wood-looking vinyl plank floating floor yesterday. Carpet just isn’t practical for our household.  Angus has been known to barf up grass or purple plastic chunks from an indestructible toy or the stuffing from a plush animal or wood chips from a stick or long strings of a braided rope.  He does it so quietly we don’t realize he’s even puked until we slip in the slime.  Sophie and Maisie like to barf up hairballs, although they do make very loud retching noises so we are forewarned and rarely step in a pile of cat puke.  And Dean likes to spill  eat in front of the TV now and then.  

Dean and I plan to install the floor ourselves (gulp) and I'm already getting nervous and stressing about it. (If any of you have installed this flooring before and have any tips, please, please, please, share.)  The reviews say it will be easy and relatively fast to install.  But everything is more complicated for us and absolutely nothing is fast for us.  Dean already told me I need to scrape up any texture left on the floor so it will be perfectly smooth when we start.  It doesn’t matter that I’d already spent hours on Sunday dusting ...

... as well as vacuuming and mopping the basement floor.  It doesn’t matter that the directions state specifically you only need to worry about any difference in the floor of 1/8 inch or more.  It doesn’t matter that I am planning to fill any small holes or cracks with some special cement leveler

Really?  I have still have to scrape those tiny splats?  Seriously?
just like the directions say I should.  It doesn’t matter that most of those splats are just that, a splat that can barely be felt with my finger.  No.  Our floor will be smooth as silk before we begin.  I’m just taking deep breaths and telling myself that when we finish the floor it will be perfect because, while I just want to get it done, Dean does everything really, really meticulously and methodically and deliberately and it always looks really, really perfect when he's done.  I just wish he didn’t also do it really, really, really slowly.  And now....I must go search for a texture-splat-removing scraper.