You Want It, We Got It

Junk

The wife and I are Mr. and Mrs. Just-In-Case. Over the years, if there’s been some small, inexpensive thing that could make our lives easier, we’ve purchased it.  As I bitched about in my ‘Autumn Housecleaning’ post, the problem is that we never get rid of things we no longer use.

Living as we have, in the same houses for decades, we have accumulated the greatest collection of ‘stuff’, some of it fairly non-standard.  We lived for a couple of years beside a single mother with two young daughters.  She acquired a long-term boyfriend who was there for more than just the free sex.  Whenever he tried to clean up, fix up or paint up, she never had any/the right tools, so she would tell him to go next door, and ask Archon if he might borrow something.

A tree branch had grown over the driveway where he wanted to park his car. Would I have a saw that he could use to cut it off?  We used to go camping when the kids were young.  How about a small, light bucksaw? Perfect!

Later, he wanted to clear out a lilac bush which had overgrown a fence corner. Did I have a small axe or hatchet that he could cut out the sucker shoots with? See ‘camping’, above.  Weekend after weekend this went on, many requests common, some, not as much.  A circular saw, a hand drill and set of bits, a pipe wrench(?), tape measure, carpenters’ level, (3-foot professional, or foot-long home version?) a pry-bar, (standard crowbar or 8 inch window jimmier?) all quickly, freely provided.

Finally, she wanted to reward him for the things he’d done around her place, by baking him a cake. For this, she wanted a spring-form cake pan.  “Go next door and ask (Mrs.) Archon if they have one.”  If it involves food, ‘Of course we do!’  As I handed it to him, he asked, “Do you guys have everything?”

I guess she didn’t understand the ‘spring-form’ concept. You’re supposed to unlatch the little clip on the side to increase the diameter and have the cake slide out.  Apparently she tried to remove it with a large butcher knife, ruining the non-stick, Teflon coating, and gouging the aluminum pan.  She felt badly, and bought a replacement at a Dollarama store, but it wasn’t the quality that the wife had found.

Loupe

Even now, there are things in our house that I’m sure few other homes contain. The son owns a jewellers’ loupe, that thing that you stick in your eye and hold in place with your eyebrow, which magnifies things 10 times.  He bought it from a local jeweller after he left high school, but can’t remember why.  I’ve used it often over the years to check the detail on some of the coins I’ve acquired.

Mortar and Pestle

Recently, the wife encountered a recipe that called for powdered ginger. We have fresh ginger root, grated ginger and dried, chunk ginger.  We also have a small, powerful little electric ‘thing’ useful for such tasks as grinding coffee.  It would quickly turn the dry chunks into powder, but the wife decided to go a different way.

(To the son) “Call your sister, and ask her if we can borrow her mortar and pestle.  She just bought one that she uses to crush herbs for cooking, home remedies and aromatherapy.”

The son replied, “Why bother her? When she bought the new one, I bought her old one from her.  It’s in my room.”  It now sits in pride of place, below the overstuffed spice rack in the kitchen, groaning under every spice known to man, and a couple only to Martians.  ‘Eat your heart out bland potatoes, Matt Damon.’

Into each life, a little weird must fall. It’s just that it falls a little harder and faster at our house.  😉

A To Z Challenge – T

april-challenge

This will be a DIY, or interactive post, for the letter

letter-t

Back last April, when I decided to try this challenge, I also decided to cheat (a bit). Each day, I would scan a variety of other posts, to see what words their writers had chosen, to pick one that sparked some inspiration.  Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn’t.  This is a ‘didn’t work’ letter.  I wrote down;

Tough
Tarts
Too much
Think
Treasure
Tease
Trash
Train – (noun or verb)
Torrid – or is that….
Torpid – I can’t read my own writing

I would like to make this an audience-participation, contest-y sort of post. I invite all of my readers to choose one of the above words, or provide any other T-word.  Leave a comment, giving your word, and hopefully some kind of prompt.

We can’t rely on ‘First Through The Door” kind of thing, so I will choose one at random, and use your word and prompt to attempt to compose a short post about it.

So, what do we have for our embarrassed loser lucky winner, Johnny?

Well Bob, first they will receive my undying thanks for pulling me out of a compositional blue funk. They’ll also experience the incomparable joy of seeing their name up in lights on my blog.  I’ll even try to link to their site, so that others can know what they’ve done.

C’mon folks, everyone is welcome to submit an idea. The more, the merrier – I am.  You can’t win unless you enter.  If you don’t, you’ll just get some more;

I’ve claimed that I’m tough. I’m probably not.  It’s more like overcooked, dry, and stringy.  I just finished two of my once-a-year mincemeat tarts.  I should have only eaten one, because I’ve already had too much tryptophan from too much turkey, since I’m writing this at Christmas.

I like to think that I can compose the occasional little linguistic treasure, but it’s just a tease. Too often, it’s only another example of taking out the mental trash, which I use to help me train to write better. ‘Torrid’ must have been a typo, because I’ve never had ‘that much’ passion about anything in my life.  With my rotund tummy stuffed full of Christmas goodies, I’ll just become torpid, and hibernate until New Years comes along.

Your suggestions are welcome, because my inspiration is….also hibernating.   😛

Silent Treatment

alarm

THE SILENT TREATMENT
A man and his wife were having some problems at home And were giving each other the silent treatment. Suddenly, the man realized that the next day, He would need his wife to wake him At 5:00 AM for an early morning business flight. Not wanting to be the first to break the silence (and LOSE), He wrote on a piece of paper, ‘Please wake me at 5:00AM.’ He left it where he knew she would find it. The next morning, the man woke up, only to discover it was 9:00 AM and he had missed his flight. Furious, he was about to go and see why his wife hadn’t wakened him, When he noticed a piece of paper by the bed. The paper said, ‘It is 5:00AM. Wake up.’ Men are not equipped for these kinds of contests.

WIFE VS. HUSBAND
A couple drove down a country road for several miles, not saying a word. An earlier discussion had led to an argument and neither of them wanted to concede their position. As they passed a barnyard of mules, goats, and pigs, The husband asked sarcastically, ‘Relatives of yours?’ ‘Yep,’ the wife replied, ‘in-laws.’

WORDS
A husband read an article to his wife about how many words women use a day… 30,000 to a man’s 15,000. The wife replied, ‘The reason has to be because we have to repeat everything to men…. The husband then turned to his wife and asked, ‘What?’

CREATION
A man said to his wife one day, ‘I don’t know how you can be so stupid and so beautiful all at the same time. ‘The wife responded, ‘Allow me to explain. God made me beautiful so you would be attracted to me; God made me stupid so I would be attracted to you!

CIGARETTES AND TAMPONS
A man walks into a pharmacy and wanders up & down the aisles.. The sales girl notices him and asks him if she can help him. He answers that he is looking for a box of tampons for his wife.. She directs him down the correct aisle. A few minutes later, he deposits a huge bag of cotton balls and a ball of string on the counter. She says, confused, ‘Sir, I thought you were looking for some tampons for your wife? He answers, ‘You see, it’s like this, Yesterday, I sent my wife to the store to get me a carton of cigarettes, and she came back with a tin of tobacco and some rolling papers; ‘cause it’s sooo-ooo-oo-ooo much cheaper. So, I figure if I have to roll my own ………. So does she.

UNDERSTANDING WOMEN
(A MAN’S PERSPECTIVE)
I know I’m not going to understand women. I’ll never understand how you can take boiling hot wax, pour it onto your upper thigh, rip the hair out by the root, and still be afraid of a spider.

MARRIAGE SEMINAR
While attending a Marriage Seminar dealing with communication, Tom and his wife Grace listened to the instructor, ‘It is essential that husbands and wives know each other’s likes and dislikes.’ He addressed the man, ‘Can you name your wife’s favorite flower?’ Tom leaned over, touched his wife’s arm gently and whispered, ‘It’s Pillsbury, isn’t it?

 

Old Food

Pioneer BBQ

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found another old place to eat.  This one is in Kitchener.  It wasn’t, when it started, but it is now, because the city has eaten it up, and people from the city are going out there to eat up.  It first opened in 1927, so it’s three years older than the Harmony Lunch I wrote about earlier. 

Currently owned by a Greek-Canadian and his wife, it has changed hands several times over the years, getting bigger and better.  It’s called Pioneer BBQ, because it’s near the Pioneer Tower memorial, from my Magical Mystery Tour.

From center to center of many towns in Southern Ontario is five miles, because that was as far as a set of horses pulled a stage-coach, thus, the “stage” in stage-coach.  Five miles south of the center of Kitchener, there used to be a small village named Centerville, long since annexed and existing now only as a subdivision name. 

Five miles further south, there was never a “village”, but always a point of commerce.  This is just about five miles north of the center of our neighbor city, another stage-coach hop.  The two burgs have sprawled towards each other, till now the boundaries abut.

The area has grown into a conglomeration of hotels, various bars and fast-food joints, restaurants, big-box stores, Cineplex and gas-stations.  Poor little Pioneer huddles behind/between the Tim Hortons/Subway strip mall which faces one big road, and the tire store/furniture/ electronic games store strip mall which faces the other main street.  It fronts on the main access road to the next town, fighting for its business with the Golden Arches across the street, and can be seen from the back of the Costco parking lot.

Continuing in the fight to confuse locals and visitors alike, two-lane, little Pioneer Tower Road comes up from the river.  When it reaches the old highway, it blossoms into a 4/6 lane street, now named Sportsworld Drive, where our eatery is located.  A half a mile south, it passes into the city of Cambridge, and becomes Maple Grove Road.

Just at that border, in 1927, the Preston/Kitchener Street Railway ran.  Folks used to take an electric-trolley ride out that far for a Sunday trip in the country, and stop in for some fine eatin’.  At first, it was just the parlor of the home of the wife of a Railway Manager, which got turned into a dining area.  Later their living room became the sit-down counter.

 In the 70s and 80s, a liquor licence was obtained, and a large roofed deck was added to the other side of the “house”, to segregate the smokers.  It could only be used for a few months each year, so, in the 90s, it was closed in, insulated and a fireplace and heat vents added.  Smoking in Ontario restaurants has since been banned.

This is Home Cookin’ at its best, or pretty darn close.  Pulled pork, beef, or chicken sandwiches, with pickles almost as good as ours, sturdy salads, onion rings with onion, not tons of coating and a whisper of onion, thick, crisp, browned steak fries.

They serve a variety of burgers and combos.  They have steaks, spaghetti, fish and chips, cold sandwiches and hot sandwich plates.  This is a real Mom and Pop diner.  At an ordinary restaurant, a turkey sandwich would contain a couple of thin slices of processed turkey loaf.  The wife ordered a turkey sandwich and was asked, “White meat, or dark?”, and got slabs of turkey thigh meat.

They must employ at least one, or more, near-world class bakers – doughnuts, tarts, muffins, brownies, 5 or 6 kinds of pies, and CAKES, with caramel and/or chocolate drizzled over them.  Ya gotta keep moving past the display case, or you gain weight.  Everything, including the pastries, is available for take-out.

SDC10617SDC10615Like Harmony Lunch, I’ve never seen or heard of Pioneer BBQ advertising.  They’ve survived by word of mouth.  Slowly, as more and more people grow familiar with the area, because of the surrounding shops, their clientele increases.

The food is delicious.  The service is tight and friendly.  The prices are reasonable for the healthy blue-collar size servings.  The noise level was low, the day we went there.  Even with the (relatively) new owners, they still like doing things the old-fashioned way, which is fine by me. I took a business card as a reminder to compose this post.  The first thing I noticed is that they don’t have a website.  Our waitress told me that some of the young preppies ask where the Wi-Fi section is – and everyone laughs!

(It’s inevitable, and unavoidable. Between composing and publishing this post, we invited the son out for lunch here during his vacation period.  It gave me another great restaurant meal, and a chance to take photos of the pastries.  They still don’t have a website, but as we approached the door, we could see the new sign, “FREE WIFI.”  A couple almost as old as us sat next to us, not saying a word, but each diddling a new Smartphone.  The son said, “If I ignored you, at least I’d do it to your face!”)

We sometimes take the daughter out for lunch before we all go shopping at Costco.  We’ve hit a nearby Wendy’s a couple of times, and have been thinking about the all-you-can-eat Indian buffet, across the highway, but this place is definitely on our go-back-to list. 

They’ve got old-fashioned food for us old-fashioned fogies.  It’s nice to know another local eatery is still going strong after almost 87 years.  I’m willing to throw myself on a plate of poutine to keep them going.  (And that gold cake with caramel sauce, could we take a slab of that home?  Please?!)  Diet??!  What diet?  😕

😉

Minutia II

I don’t know whether or not BrainRants wears his when he’s driving, but I saw a post the other day which said that the worst of the bad drivers out there, wear hats.  It could be Dapper Old Dude, with his outdated fedora.  It might be Society Doyenne, the Red Hat lady.  It could even be DUI Doublewide, the reckless redneck, with the bill of his Busch NASCAR cap down his neck.

If they’re going too fast, or too slow for driving conditions, if they’re blocking the passing lane or weaving in and out, cutting people off, there’s a good chance they’re wearing headgear of some type.  If you pull up behind one of them, you might have an urge to try another street or road, but it’s no use.  Their cap-wearing compadres are on that one too.

I saw Doublewide in a video the other day.  He was trying to watch a ball-game, with the extra-long visor of his ball-cap covering his red-neck, and holding his hand out from his forehead, to block the sun, so that he could see what was happening on the field.  Hey, Dummy, that’s what visors are for; you got your head on backwards!  Are you so dumb you can’t even drive a hat?

I recently posted about what Canada isn’t.  It’s interesting, and sometimes disappointing to see what grabs people’s attention.  When I checked, I found that the tag, “Igloos” had caught 27 views, but the “Patriotism” tag had yielded zero.

I’m not a fan of blind, Jingoistic Patriotism.  Like religion and politics, it often goes too far.  In 1775, Samuel Johnson said that, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”  But really??!  No views for Patriotism?  It’s why guys like BrainRants are necessary.  As long as the cell phones are charged, and the lattes are hot – let someone else worry about it.

Back when I first set my blogsite up, and before I knew about luring visitors with tags and categories, one of the labels I put on my posts was Printed S**t.  I used that to not look uncouth.  When I found out about search terms, I changed it to Printed Shit.  I might as well have just left it as it was.  Like Patriotism, I’ve never seen anyone else ever use it.  ….maybe if I changed it to Porn??

I recently watched a video of a wedding.  Instead of the instrumental Wedding Processional, the preacher sang them down the aisle – and did a great job of it too, sort of a Katholic Karaoke.  As the videographer panned from the minister to the bridal party, the shot took in the front of the lectern.  I don’t know what church it was, or where, but the name apparently had the initials S and H, superimposed.  It just looked like a giant dollar sign to me.   $

Dictionary.com, my electronic source of linguistic values, is beginning to seriously disappoint me.  Five times in the last month, it has shrugged its little shoulders and told me the word I was asking about didn’t exist.  I’m not talking about monster words like sesquipedalian.  The last one I tried to look up was cyser.  It’s a good thing that Google and Wiki know about them.  Cyser is merely an apple-flavored mead.

Speaking of shortbreads, (We weren’t??!) BrainRants recently emailed me for some assembly/cooking details of my mother’s/wife’s shortbreads.  Apparently Mama Rants is willing to have a try at making some.  So used to only making them at Christmas, it threw me for a bigger loop than I’m usually in.  I told him to contact us for any further help, and possibly make the bake the subject of a post.  I haven’t heard from him, or seen any results, but, if you smell something nice baking in eastern Kansas.  ….just sayin’.

Everything old is new again.  I made my grandson aware of Lonnie Donegan, a 1960s, British singer of nonsense songs, like the Americans, Ray Stevens or Jim Stafford.  Now he has chewing gum on his bedpost, and a passel of similar songs, in his computer’s music files.

His Mom mentioned the great British comic, Benny Hill, from twenty years before his birth.  Soon he was trolling YouTube and laughing his ass head off.  She has got us DVD sets of British programs like Lewis, and Poirot, and promised that she would get him a big Benny Hill collection for his birthday.  Oh wait, was that supposed to be a surprise??

Music lovers are going back to vinyl records, and more and more artists are releasing in that medium again.  The grandson picked up what, at first glance, seems to be a small, overnight suitcase but, when opened, is an amp/turntable combo which can play 45s and 33 RPM albums.  Of course, it can also burn a CD of the record being played.  I plan to offer him a good-quality pair of ear-muff type stereo headphones which we haven’t used for years.

 

Mom’s Shortbreads

At the behest of the illustrious BrainRants, GranmaLadybug has graciously consented to divulge the recipe for The Scottish shortbreads we make at Christmastime, along with some tips and hints she’s learned over the years.  Rants, and anyone else who wishes to, can add this to their cookbook.  Happy baking, and eating.

1 pound best quality butter (salted)

1 1/3 cups icing sugar

4 cups all-purpose flour

Knead everything together until butter & icing sugar has infused the flour.

Archon’s mom taught me how to make the shortbreads by putting everything on her kitchen table. She put out the flour first, then the sugar and topped it with the butter. She kneaded it together; adding flour a little at a time as she kneaded the dough, until it showed cracks at the edge.

Her philosophy was that the heat of your hand melted the butter & sugar, and was absorbed by the flour.

I started mixing my shortbread in a large shallow bowl by hand, but when I started with arthritis in my hands, this step was done with a KitchenAid mixer.  Usually over-mixing cookies is a no-no.  This recipe only improves with over mixing, but only use a heavy-duty, slow mixer, not the smaller, faster, egg-beater style.

Pat the dough out (small amounts at a time) using the heat of your hand to smooth the dough out to about ½ inch. (DO NOT rush this step. Just use the heat of your hand to do this, and a light touch.)

You can use a wooden board, or your counter top. I use a marble board for this step.

Use a thin metal blade to get your cookie off the board onto your cookie sheet. If the dough is sticking, gradually add more flour to the dough.  If you have to use too much flour on the board you can get a floury taste to the cookie.

Now to bake:  Heat oven to 275°F (using a slow oven helps to meld the flour, sugar & butter.) and bake for 25 to 30 minutes with your oven rack in the middle of the oven.  The cookie should show a lightly browned bottom.  Most recipes say not to brown, but to us the resulting cookies have a pasty taste to them.

Mom’s always had a brown bottom, and they were so rich they made you want more.

We store the cookies in a metal tin, and they are guaranteed to go with tea, coffee, hot chocolate or just on their own.

This guarantee is not valid if you changed the amounts, rolled the dough out, used old decrepit cookie sheets…….etc.  I once shared a recipe with a neighbour.  Her cookies did not turn out because she used the bottom oven rack and really abused cookie sheets.

The quality of your utensils, and attention to detail is what will get you the best results.

Oh I forgot, you have to also infuse the cookie with a lot of love……………..tks Mom.

Xmas Cookies – Rebake

Back by popular demand….  Well, only one person, but she’s the Empress of Arkansas, White Lady In The Hood – what am I gonna do??!  Lady asked if we had made some more of the yummy Christmas cookies, as we had last year, especially the decorated, look-alike sugar cookies we provide for our chiropractors adult “kids”.

Always happy to showcase the abilities of wife and daughter, and make you jealous that you weren’t here, ruining your diet, I took a few more photos to show you what may be the last time we do this.

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This is one of two Christmas/fruit cakes we baked, just before it got wrapped in brandy-soaked cheesecloth, to age.

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We’re still making the thumbprint cookies, with green and red glazed cherries.

SDC10501And we made up batches of decorated spritz cookies, Yule logs, cookie nests, regular and Maple shortbreads.  This year, the wife thinks she finally achieved the perfection of the Scottish shortbreads that she attributes to my Mother.

One of the Chiropractor’s married daughters (and her husband) had SDC10478a baby girl this past year.  We found a “baby” cutter, and included a replica of sensibly-named Alice with each kid’s batch, plus one un-iced one to the parents, for the little one to gum.  S D is “Superdad”, and his track pants, like mom’s apron, are a bit messy with handprints, spit-up, etc.

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This is the other married couple’s matched cookies.

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The third, unmarried daughter has a steady guy, and they’re looking to set a date, right after they finish their matched cookies.

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SDC10487The son, the youngest, is currently studying hard to be a pharmacist.  Here is his voodoo-cookie, first alone, and then with all the boys.

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Of course, each of them got a stocking with their names on.

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We made a few extra “men and women”, in case one for the kids broke, or was ruined.

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We made and decorated a few non-people sugar cookies as well.

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We “adopted” the sweetest little Chinese snowgirl, and made sure she had lots of friends to play with.

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And finally, tired and hot from watching others be creative, and from slaving over a hot keyboard to tell this tale, I kicked back and cooled off with a bottle of my reserve signature beer.

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CREDITS

Producer/Director – GranmaLadybug

Set Decoration – GranmaLadybug, LadyRyl

Assistant to Producer/Director – Shimoniac

And a little bit Archon

Gaffer, Bestboy, Gofer, Etc, Etc, – Archon

Photos – LadyRyl

Technical Assistance – GranmaLadybug, LadyRyl

Liz

The couple of recent posts about cookies have reminded the wife and me about an ex-neighbor.  Far from stupid, she just suffered the all-too-common affliction of not noticing and not thinking.  A stay-at-home mother like the wife, she sometimes visited back and forth.

The first odd thing we noticed about her was strange eating habits.  She claimed to be Scottish, but no Scots ever acknowledged her.  Scots are frugal, for they’ve not got a lot to be frugal with.  One of her favorite snacks was to burn, not toast, two slices of bread.  Then she would slice pickled beets, and make a sandwich of them.  Maybe this treat had originated because of a need to consume food which would otherwise be wasted.

Perhaps a precursor to today’s entitled generation, she wanted what she wanted, Right F**kin’ Now, without the bother of work, or study.  Long an accomplished gardener, the wife had the entrance to our house nicely landscaped.  Liz complained that her place was so plain and bare.  The wife instructed her how to prepare a garden area, and told her to plant flowers in it.  She and her 14-year-old son prepared the bed, then she picked up some marigolds at a local nursery and planted them.

When the son came home from school, his first question was, “Mom, where are the flowers’ legs?”  She had buried them in the ground, up to their little chins – stems, leaves and all.  The little garden looked as if someone had plucked the blooms off and strewn them on the earth.

Next, she decided that she wanted a hanging basket like we had, and another neighbor went with her to the nursery and helped her pick out a nice one with petunias in it.  The nursery staff instructed her to pinch off mature seed-pods, to encourage continued blooms.  She complained to the neighbor that the stupid flowers bloomed at night when she couldn’t see them.  Turns out, she’d been pinching off all the ready-to-bloom buds.

Like our Chiropractor, her favorite cookies were ginger snaps.  She had to go to hospital a couple of times for extended treatments, and the wife visited with a can of cookies for a treat.  She pulled several of them from the tin, and stacked them within her fingers, like poker chips, all the same size and perfectly round.  She looked at the cookies, and then at the wife.  “I hate you.”  Like me and my Jeep parts, when you’ve made three-quarters of a million of them, you get consistent.

The wife instructed her how to make them, at our house.  After a miserable failure at home, she accused the wife of leaving out some ingredient or preparation step, so the wife agreed to visit her place the next time she wanted to try.  The mixing proceeded nicely.  Then she took out one cookie sheet, because that was all she had.  The wife has four aluminum sheets used only for cookies.  They are so clean and shiny that you can use them as mirrors.

Her only sheet was steel, and had been used for everything from baking squash, to roasting meat.  It was about the color of the dark-chocolate cookie buds.  Oh dear!  Well, if that’s what we have, that’s what we have to use.  When the oven came up to heat, the wife opened the door to insert the pan, and looked at the single rack.  It was down as far as it could go.  “Of course!  That’s where the heat is!” says Liz, and still didn’t understand why she had burned all the previous variously sized/shaped cookies.  The only baking she had done was to make Angel Food cake mix, and that is always baked on the bottom rack.

Her second husband was a police officer.  He went to work at 11 PM on a winter’s Sunday night.  At about 12:15, he got a radio message to call home.  Before cell-phones, he plugged a quarter in a pay-phone and called her.  She told him that the house was getting cold, as were the three kids.  She thought something must be wrong with the furnace.  He asked, “Did you check the fuse-box?”  She answered, “Oh Gord, don’t be stupid!”  He managed to locate a technician who made emergency calls, got him out of bed, paid him almost a week’s salary, and sent him over to the house.

For the week’s pay, the guy took her fuse, and screwed it into her fuse box.  “But Gord, it’s a gas furnace!  How was I supposed to know it ran on electricity?”

When pre-aged, stone-washed jeans were the rage, he decided he wanted some, but the store he went to was sold out.  How a mere man might know, is a mystery.  Perhaps one of his drug informants gave him the info.  You can pre-age bright blue jeans with bleach.  He bought two pairs of very expensive pants in regular finish, and gave them to her with the instruction to soak them with “a bit of bleach.”  She put both pairs in a large pail, poured an entire gallon of Javex bleach on them, and left them for a week.  He got back wet, pale-blue Kleenex.

A fun friend, and a nice companion to my house-bound wife, she was also the source of considerable unintentional humor.  When they sold their house up the street, she told the kaffee-klatch that it had gone to “The Curries.”  Oh, you know their names already?!  We discovered some unexpected racism when she explained, that was another term for “PAKIS– duh!”  Both families have moved several times and we have lost track.  The wife and I are still trying to decide if that’s a good thing or a bad one.

Xmas Cookies (Memories of Christmas Past)

Good morning Peter.  This post is for you, and any others interested in food in general, and our Christmas cookies in particular.  You can’t pull them off the screen, so get your own breakfast before we begin.

I apologise for blurry photos.  This post is a learning experience in publishing pictures.  It runs down a long way.  I wanted large pictures for detail, but there’s not much text.

1

Cookie Nests 2These are cookie nests – chocolate drops pushed into balls of dough.  Our chiropractor and his family prefer milk chocolate, while we like the darker.  I took the picture below first, before I realized we had one light one left.  We also made a batch with mint chocolate drops, but apparently the last of them followed the daughter home.

2

Cookie NestsMore dark chocolate cookie nests.  Even with a fast digital camera, I manage to get fuzzy photos.

3Maple Sugar Shortbreads

These are the Maple Sugar flavored shortbreads.  The wife found a correctly-sized maple leaf cookie cutter, and I used a small steel cookie spatula to lightly carve in fake veining.

 

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Meringues

These are some of the hard meringues, two of each flavor.  Grated dark chocolate and hazelnut ones on the bottom left, almonds and Skor Bits at the top, and chopped cherry and coconut at bottom right.

 

 

5Oat Delights

These are the Oat Delights.  No-bake cookies, they’re easy to make and yummy.  Put grated chocolate in a glass bowl in a pot with a bit of boiling water in the bottom, to melt the chocolate.  Mix in the other ingredients, dollop out in spoonfuls on waxed paper, and let set.  These, and the meringues above, are the no-flour cookies the grandson can have without allergy problems.

6

ShortbreadsTrue Scottish shortbreads, just like Grandma used to make.  After much practice, Granma Ladybug makes them just as good.  Five different basic shapes – winter mitt, holly leaf, Christmas tree, star and plain circle.  The pictures don’t show as much detail as I’d hoped.  Again, I used the cookie spatula to cut in a cuff line on the mitts, a center vein on the holly, a Chrysler star out to the vertices of the star, and just an X on the discs.  It makes them easy to break into four mouth-sized pieces.  I used the end of a chop-stick to indent small holes in the Christmas trees, to simulate decorative balls.

 

7Spritz

These are some of the spritz cookie shapes I pushed out of the cookie press.  You may notice that some of them were from the first batch, and got a little too brown.  They’re not burnt, but are not cosmetically acceptable as gifts, so we get to keep and enjoy them.  As you can see, different sized and colored decorative balls (dragees), mini M&M candy, as well as slivers of red and green glazed cherries are used to brighten them up.

8

Sugar Cookies 1

A few of the shapes of iced and decorated sugar cookies we made.  Making and baking is quick and easy.  The icing and decorating takes far longer, but we use the time for some family togetherness, silliness and stress relief.  Note the results my steady hands produce on the candy canes.  The wife sprinkled a little of the Maple Sugar on the reindeer to produce a fur effect.

9Sugar Cookies 2

Some more of the iced sugar cookie shapes.  I can slather red, green or white on wreaths or snowflakes.  The son helps his mom dress up the wreaths, bells and Christmas trees after she’s done with reindeer.  She puts names on all the stockings.  The dressing of the boy- and girl-cookies falls mostly to LadyRyl.  These are just the extra ones we bake in case one of the ones intended for gifts might break, so these are the plain ones.  If I’m still around next Christmas, perhaps I could slip a couple of pictures of the more ornate ones in with a post about motorcycles or sewage disposal.

10

Thumbprints

These are called thumbprint cookies, glazed cherry halves pushed down into walnut coated dough balls.  Of all the cookies we make, by a narrow margin, these are my favorite.  I could, but don’t, eat these by the dozen.  There is absolutely no taste difference between red and green cherries, and my mouth can’t see….but I like the red ones. Granma Ladybug is partial to the green ones.

11

Yule Logs

Last, but not least, we have what we call Yule Logs.  The dough is similar to the spritz, cookie nests and thumbprint.  (They are all shortbread types.) Form small cylinders and bake, next day, someone with a steadier hand than mine (see The Wife, above) dips them in more melted chocolate, and puts them aside to cool and set.

 

Granma Ladybug said that my contribution to this industry is my ability to put the cookies in the oven, take them out to cool and then pack them into the containers.  Wife says without this assistance, she would be very hard pressed to do this.

We feel we can do this for at least one more year, and hopefully beyond.  Friends and family enjoy these, but our caring Chiropractor and his family receive the single largest donation.  They are overly generous in return.  Half a fruitcake goes along to ride shotgun.  No photos were available because it’s shy and wishes to remain anonymous.

Something’s Cooking

Baking, actually.  It’s a good thing I have a few posts ahead in the drafts file, or I wouldn’t even have been able to put out the desperate few I did, the last week or so.  We’ve been making Christmas cookies.  We two fruitcakes also made two fruitcakes.  I can’t figure out how to Email the second one to KayJai, so I guess we’ll be forced to eat it ourselves.

In the last couple of weeks, the wife and I, with some help from both daughter and son, have made up 80 to 90 dozen cookies.  First we laid in supplies, a flat of 2 ½ dozen fresh eggs, ten pounds of butter, two 10 lb. bags of flour, plus nuts, flavoring, decorations, chocolate, and stuff even I don’t know about.

We made up 11 different types – two different versions of Scottish shortbreads, three flavors of hard meringues, thumbprints, Yule logs, oat delights, several shapes of cookie-pressed spritz, some decorated sugar cookies, and a batch of ginger snaps.  I know ginger snaps don’t seem like a Christmas cookie, but I’ll try to explain later.  Each different batch yielded 6 to 8 dozen little bite-sized gems.

It all started because my wife is the youngest of nine children in a Bad Good Catholic family.   Well into her late twenties and early thirties, she was treated as if she couldn’t cook, despite her next oldest brother, a trained Chef, admitting that she cooked better than him.  For the summer family picnic, she was told to “Just bring chips and dip.”  For the Christmas celebration, it was, “We’ve got the main courses.  You just bring cookies.”  So she learned how to make homemade cookies.

My good Scottish mother taught her how to make real Scottish shortbreads.  The secret is working the dough by hand, so that the skin warmth causes the butter to meld with the flour and sugar, to produce a literal melt-in-your-mouth Ambrosia.  This year, instead of using white sugar, she produced a second batch with Canadian Maple Sugar.  If the Americans ever invade Canada, it will be to get those cookies.

The grandson is allergic to wheat flour, so she found cookies with no flour, not just for him, but he loves them.  Hard meringues are just lots of egg whites and sugar, whipped till they’re stiff.  Three different batches, all with different stuff mixed in, one got shredded dark chocolate and hazelnuts, one had slivered almonds and Skor bits, and the last received finely chopped glazed cherries and coconut.  Dollop on a sheet of parchment and bake low and slow, till firm.

Oat delights are melted chocolate, shortening, rolled oats and coconut, mixed together.  No need for baking.  Form into small globs on a cookie sheet.  When the chocolate solidifies, they’re ready to eat.

Yule logs, thumbprints and spritz cookies all have a shortbread-like base.  Yule logs are rolled to finger-like size and shape, and baked.  The next day they have the tops dipped by hand into chocolate and set aside to harden.  Thumbprints are rolled into ping-pong balls, dipped in egg-white, rolled in chopped walnuts and half a glazed cherry pressed into the tops, then baked.

Spritz cookies are dispensed by a cookie-press, so that they, but not me, are fresh-pressed.  Variously sized and shaped bottom dies give crosses, Christmas trees, and lobed discs.  These have colored sugar balls and other shapes pressed in by hand before baking.

While making cookies for the family gathering years ago, the wife threw out her back.  We had just received a flyer from a new chiropractor, working from the basement of his home, a half a mile away.  I called and he said to bring her over.  It’s 9:30 at night!  You mean, in the morning, right?  No!  No!  Bring her now.  We went over.  He cured the problem, we took along a card-box of cookies as a thank-you, and a tradition was born.

When the wife was forced to give up her family, because they were toxic, en masse, we needed somewhere to put all these cookies.  Each year the number of cookies given to the doctor and his family grew, as his family increased.  Sugar cookies were added to the mix, specifically for the kids, and the Christmas cake recipe was developed for the adults’ more refined tastes.

Sugar cookies, rolled out flat and baked, are bland and uninteresting.  As with so many things worth doing, the wife decided to improve on them.  We began icing them, not just with a sugar glaze, but with a colored, flavored glaze.  Bells are coated with a gold, maple flavor, stars, snowflakes and snowmen get white, almond.  I slather green, mint on holly wreaths.  Stockings get red, cherry, except for a white cuff.  I stripe candy-canes red and white.

The wife makes sure bears and reindeer look natural in brown, gravy?  No. Peanut butter? No!  Sugar beads, bells and bows, along with other shapes, and coarse, colored sugar, are all added to dress them up.  Their stockings all have their names in burnt-sugar coloring on the cuffs.  We cut out boy-shapes and girl-shapes.  The daughter, with the best eye, the steadiest hand, and the most artistic flair, turns these into representations of the kids.  Kids?  Hah!  They were when we started, 25 years ago.  The cookies have grown with them.

Two of the girls are married.  She made one girl-cookie into a young school-marm, with a book on the front of her pretty frock.  Another married daughter is also a teacher, but more of a free-spirit, so her cookie looked more like a hippie in a flow-y skirt.  The third was dressed in a ball-gown, with a string of pearls.  The son, the youngest, and studying to be a pharmacist, got his cookie with a pharmacist’s jacket, and his studious glasses.  One new husband is a painter.  His boy-cookie came with a paint spattered sweatshirt and blue jeans.  The other is a bit of a gamer, so his showed a controller on the tummy.

The kids have loved these personalized presents for years.  Even now, *grown-up*, they and their spouses still want the fun, and the recognition.  Pictures are taken and stories are told to friends and co-workers.  The family has built a Christmas tradition.  First they exchange and open presents, then they all sit down to pots of tea, and our cookies for a family brunch.  While making this mass can be a bit (lot?) of work, it’s also fun, and what we do to release tension.  The joy and appreciation make it all worthwhile….and there’s leftovers till February.

Oops, almost forgot.  We found that the chiropractor’s favorite cookies are Ginger snaps, so we include a canful, for him.  He claims he takes them downstairs to the office, and the rest of the family doesn’t even know about them.