Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Four Blunks and Swishy

My mom was born in Romania where she learned to bake astonishingly marvelous desserts. When people are done weeping for joy after consuming one of her pastries, they usually ask me, "Did your mom teach you how to make this?

The answer is no.

 Not because I lack interest in baking. I love to bake.

Not because I lack ability. I'm actually not bad in the kitchen.

And not because she won't share her recipes. She's thrilled to give them to anyone who asks.

The problem, my friends, is that her directions are impossible to follow. You doubt me?

Let me illustrate the point:

Me (eagerly): So, you're finally going to teach me how to make your famous torte.

She (cheerfully): Sure, sweetheart. It's easy. First, get out a big bowl. No, a bigger bowl. Now add a couple of eggs. 

Me (confidently cracking the eggs and then carefully writing): Two eggs.

She: Those eggs look small--add another one.

Me (amending my recipe): Three eggs.

She: Now throw in some flour.

Me: How much flour?

She: You know. Just put flour in until there's enough.

Me (pause): Yeah, um, how about I just add flour, and you tell me when to stop, okay?

She (watching me pour the flour in the bowl a half of cup at a time): That's about right.

Me (meticulously writing): Okay, three and a half cups of flour.

She (stirring the batter and then throwing in another handful of flour): Maybe more.

Me: Mom! How much was that? A fourth of a cup? A half of a cup?

She: Yes.

Me: Yes, it's a fourth of a cup? Or, yes, it's half of a cup?

She (shrugging): Sure. One of those.

Me (protesting): Mom, you can't add anything unless I measure it so I'll know how much to use next time. 

She (waving me off): I can't waste time with all this measuring. Now, you need four glumps of milk.

Me: Did you say 'glumps'?

She: You know, 'Glump, glump, glump, glump.'

Me: Wait, what?

She: Then two bangs of salt. But not from the clear salt shaker--you need two bangs from the silver salt shaker.  

Me (perplexed): Two bangs?

She: And then mix the batter. If it's too thin, add half a handful, maybe a handful, of flour. If it's too thick, add half a glump of milk.

Me (completely confounded): Half a glump?

She (lowering her voice to a mysterious whisper): The secret...

Me (leaning in): Yes?

She (looking deep into my eyes): ...is to stir only in one direction. If not, you confuse the batter.

Me (massaging my forehead): The batter is confused? 

She (resuming her normal voice): Then add a swish, swish, swish of white sugar.

Me (bewildered): How much is a swish of sugar? 

She: No, no! I said a swish, swish, swish of sugar. You need three swishes or it won't be sweet enough.

Me (completely lost): Three swishes?

She: Then a quick wooshy-wooshy of oil and a bloomp of vanilla. 

Verse of the day: (Ecclesiastes 8:1) "How wonderful to be wise, to be able to analyze and interpret things." Indeed.

Anica's Egg Nog Cream Puffs
(the easy version for us mortals)

For the puffs: 

1 ¼ cups of water

¼ tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
½ cup of butter or shortening (but not margarine or oil)
1 ½ cups of flour
4 eggs 
  • While stirring, bring the water, salt, sugar and butter to a boil on the stove.
  • Add the flour and stir vigorously. Cook and stir until the dough leaves the sides of the pan and forms a ball.
  • Take the pan off of the stove, cover the dough with plastic wrap, and let it cool in the pan.
  • When cool, add one egg at a time, stirring well by hand with a wooden spoon. Expect the dough to be difficult to mix. Mix it only in one direction or you’ll "confuse the dough."
  • Drop egg-sized clumps onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
  • Do not open the oven door, but turn the temperature down to 325 and bake the puffs for an additional 15 minutes.
  • Cool.
  • Cut the top off of the puffs, making a lid. Scoop out excess dough in the middle leaving the hollow shell.
  • Fill puffs with cream and replace the lid. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or drizzle with chocolate glaze.
For the Egg Nog Cream:

3 boxes of Instant vanilla pudding (3 ¾ oz. size box)
4 envelopes of dry Dream Whip
5 cups of milk
1 tsp. of rum flavoring (or vanilla)
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg 
  • Beat all the ingredients together with an electric mixer for three minutes.

For the Chocolate Glaze (optional):

2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. corn syrup
1 tsp. rum or vanilla flavoring 
  • Melt butter and chocolate on the stove in a double boiler (or in a regular pot on low).
  • Add corn syrup and flavoring, stirring continuously.
  • When blended well, drizzle sauce over filled puffs.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Panic-inducing Pamela--Post from Jay

I adore my wife, Pamela. She's sweet, loving, and generous. She's good-natured and doesn't complain (even though she's often in a great deal of pain). She's kind to animals, children, and the elderly.

But, like us all, the woman does have limitations. Her underdeveloped sense of danger is giving me gray hair before my time... 

(Walking into the kitchen in time to see her standing on top of the counter, slightly swaying as she starts to lean over...)

 Me (near panic): What are you doing?!

She (covering her guilty look with a disarming grin): Oh, hi, darling. I didn't realize you were in the house.

Me: What are you doing?!

She (shrugging): I couldn't reach this bowl. It was on the top shelf of the cupboard. 

Me: You're supposed to use a chair. Why didn't you use a chair? Or call me?

She (patiently): I just said I didn't know you were in the house.

Me: No excuse. Use a chair.

She: I don't need a chair; you're here. Catch me.

Me (lunging to grab her before she hits the floor): Next time use a chair. I mean it!

She (agreeably, as she walks away): Next time...you hope I...use a chair. Got it.

Me: I heard that! Use a chair.

I'm not just worried about her falling.

Me: What's that smell?

She: What smell?

Me: I smell something burning.

She: That's a Tahitian Vanilla candle.

Me: I'm a firefighter. I know when something other than a candle is burning.

She (sniffing): Did you change your clothes after you got home from the fire station?

Me: It's not me. Something is burning.

(Walking into the bathroom just in time to grab a scorched and smoking towel before it burst into flame...)

Me: Pamela! You can't put a lit candle on a shelf right below cotton towels!  

She (ambling in, unconcernedly): Oh, was the flame too close? Oops. Relax, darling, next time I'll put the candle somewhere else.

Me: No! Don't light candles!

She (frowning at the burned towel): Great, now I have to buy a new towel. I doubt they still carry this color.

Me (exasperated): Forget the towel, and listen to me. No more lighting candles!

She (agreeably): You don't like me lighting candles. Got it.

A week later... 

(Walking into the kitchen in time to see her with one foot on the steel wiring of the bottom shelf of the pantry, hauling herself up with fingers entwined in wiring of the top shelf...)

Me: What are you doing?!

She (innocently): What? Oh. I couldn't reach.

Me: Then use a chair! Or call me!

She (patiently): Honey, you said I couldn't climb on the counters. This isn't a counter.

Me: Don't climb the shelves either!

She (dismissively): Well, this is your fault, anyway.

Me: My fault?

She (with female logic): Yes. You put the Cheez-It box on the top shelf. If you didn't want me climbing, then you shouldn't have put it out of my reach. See? Your fault.

Me: Use. A. Chair.

She (eying the kitchen chairs dubiously): They're too far away. I have limited energy.

Me: Pamela! Those shelves weren't made to hold your weight. If they broke, then you could get hurt.

She (with a feigned injured air): So, you think I'm too heavy? Fine. I'll lose weight if it makes you happy.

(She walks away cramming Cheez-Its into her month.)

Me (calling after her): Use. A. Chair. I mean it!

In the evening...

Me: What's that smell?

She: What smell?

Me: I smell something burning.

She: Oh, I sprayed perfume in our room.

Me: I'm a firefighter. I know the difference between perfume and smoke.

(Walking into the bedroom just in time to snatch a scorched and smoking scarf off of a lamp before it burst into flame...)

Me: What is this?!

She: Oh, that? I felt bad about climbing the pantry shelves, so I was going to apologize in a romantic way. The scarf was for mood lighting.

Me: Mood lighting? Burning the house down is not the way to put me in a good mood.

She (dismissively): Well, this is your fault, anyway.

Me: My fault?

She (with female logic): Yes. You told me that I couldn't light candles. So, I had to improvise with a scarf. See? Your fault.

Me: Pamela! 

She (frowning at the scarf): Now I need a new scarf. 

Me: Listen to me. You can't put flammable material near a light bulb. 

She (blithely): Relax, darling. Next time I'll use a scarf that isn't flammable.

Me: No! Don't put anything over a light bulb, whether you think it's flammable or not. Just stay away from candles, light bulbs, lighters, matches or anything else that produces light or flame.

She (agreeably): Sure, honey. Don't climb on counters or use shelves as a ladder. Don't light candles or put things, flammable or otherwise, over light bulbs. Got it.

  A few days later...

(Following the odor of smoldering cloth into the kitchen in time to see Pamela standing on the stove, reaching into a top cupboard...)

Me: What are you doing?!

She (patiently): Relax, darling. I used a chair to get up here, and I am not climbing on the counter or up the shelves.

Me: I don't want you climbing on the stove either! You could get burned!

She (clearly offended): I'm very careful. I took precautions so I wouldn't burn myself.

Me (relieved): Well, that's good. 

She: I put a towel over the hot burners.

Verse of the day: (James 1:2-3) "Consider it joy when you encounter tests and trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience." I think of this verse when Pamela casually says, "The good news is that I'm giving you a wonderful opportunity to grow in patience, but the bad news is that while I was accidentally on the roof..."

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Shoe Drills

This conversation (based on a true story) is between two people whom we shall call "Pamelina" and "Jayson" (to protect the guilty) while they empty their master bedroom closet in preparation for new bedroom flooring.

Jayson (putting shoes in bags): Here's another pair of black boots. Did you know you have this many pairs of black boots?

Pamelina (puzzled): Of course. I bought them, didn't I?

Jayson: Let me rephrase that. Why did you buy so many pairs of black boots?

Pamelina (even more puzzled): To wear them. Why else?

Jayson: You have two feet, so why do you need more than one pair of black boots?

Pamelina (patiently): I need different boots for different occasions. I wear the medium-heeled, suede boots with casual outfits and the leather, stiletto boots with nicer outfits. I wear patent leather boots when it's raining, and the slouchy boots-- 

Jayson (shaking his head): That's just the boots! I have a pair of black shoes, brown shoes, athletic shoes, sandals, and work boots. Why do you need more than five pairs of shoes?

Pamelina (fondly reminiscing): I guess they've accumulated over the years. I bought most of them on sale. These silver sandals were originally $385 marked down to $25! These jute wedges were free during a buy-one-get-one-free sale. These red pumps were--

Jayson (persistently): I'm sure you got great deals, but I still don't see why you need to keep all these shoes!

Pamelina: Honey, we have a lot to do, so can I justify my footwear later? If you get a drill, we have time to fix this shoe rack before the flooring guy gets here.

Jayson (long-suffering sigh): Fine, Imelda Marcos. We'll talk about your 85 (or is it 185?) pairs of shoes later. I'll get the drill.

Pamelina (muttering as they walk to the shed): If I'm going to be accused of owning 85 pairs of shoes, then I should at least have 85 pairs of shoes.

Jayson (ignoring her comment and scanning his workbench): Where is that drill?

Pamelina (idly): Here's the drill.

Jayson: That's the cordless rechargeable drill. That's not what I want.

Pamelina (holding up another drill): Is this it?

Jayson (rummaging through a cabinet): No, that's my old battery drill. I keep it as back-up for my newer battery drill. I'm looking for an electric drill.

Pamelina: Here's an electric drill.

Jayson: That's an impact driver drill. I want the regular electric drill. Now, where did I leave it?

Pamelina narrows her eyes for a moment as an illuminating thought assails her brain. Jayson doesn't notice.

Pamelina (brightly): My, you have a lot of hammers! What's this?

Jayson (shifting some lumber): That's a sledge hammer.

Pamelina (feigning ignorance): What about this itty-bitty one?

Jayson (briefly looking up): That? That's a ball-peen hammer. Here's the drill I want!

Pamelina (pointedly): And so many in-between sized hammers!

Jayson (sifting through a box of screws): Yeah. I've had some of them for years. That one used to be my dad's. I should get the grip on the handle replaced.

Pamelina (casually): Why do you need more than one hammer?

Jayson (still distracted): Each size has a different purpose. Hey, could you hand me that level?

Pamelina doesn't move. Surprised, Jayson glances at her. She folds her arms and raises her eyebrows. He mentally backtracks.

Jayson: Oh.

Pamelina (brightly): My, you have a lot of saws! 

Jayson (sheepishly): Okay, okay.

Pamelina (no longer feigning ignorance): Let's see, you have a table saw, a hack saw, a circular saw, a jigsaw--

Jayson (hoping in vain to duck out of the conversation quickly): Point taken. Let's see! Now, I need that level and a pencil--

Pamelina (innocently): I just don't understand why you need so many tools when the pioneers typically only had a knife, an ax, a hammer, and a handsaw.

Jayson (with a grin, drops a quick kiss on her forehead, hoping to shut her up): Yeah, yeah.

Pamelina (undeterred, she muses): With nothing but hand-powered tools, they cut down trees, made boards out of the wood, whittled pegs to use instead of nails, raised houses and barns, fashioned furniture--

Jayson (laughing): Truce! I won't count your shoes if you don't count my tools. Agreed?

Pamelina (with smile that's maybe a wee bit smug): Agreed.

Verse of the day: (Proverbs 19:14b) "only the Lord can give an understanding wife" or an understanding husband. It cuts (saws, and drills) both ways.