Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I've Got You Pegged

I'm catching up on my "This American Life" podcasts (which is wonderful BTW) while crafting today. Today's themes is "I've got you pegged," assuming things about people usually in error. The first story is about a 21 year old woman on a field trip to a museum with her school age developmentally disabled brother. When a museum staff member mistakes her for one of the developmentally disabled children. It's her story about how she didn't want to embarrass the staff member by confessing he's wrong. This story reminded me of something that happened to me years ago.

My husband and I decided to go to Red Lobster for our anniversary. He was being very attentive this evening. The hostess came to get us and see us to our table. My husband gives me his hand to help me out of my chair. He's being gallant. He then takes my hand and wraps it around his arm and leads me off to the table. The hostess says while pointing, "Watch your step." My husband says to me "Be careful there is a step here." We get to our table and my husband takes me to my seat. Pulls out my chair and makes sure I'm seated just the right distance from the table. Even I'm thinking he's going a bit overboard, but when your husband is being sweet I think just let them.

The hostess points out a chalkboard with the "Specials" on it. I look around and can't find it. She points it out again. My head is swinging wildly around the room this time. Again I have no idea where she's pointing. Suddenly, she gasps and says out loud, "You're blind I'm SO sorry!" She runs away. I look oddly at my husband and he to me. When we suddenly notice the "Specials" sign is a giant chalk board for the whole room to see is sitting at the end of our table. It was so close, so big and so obvious we didn't see it. The old cliche' comes to mind "If it were a snake it would have bit us." We laugh that we missed it. Then we wondered why would she think I was blind. Dear hubby and I think back on the last 5 minutes and realize that it probably appeared he had lead in a blind person. We felt so badly that we had accidentally embarrassed our hostess.

(lobster with seeing eye dog)

At this time the waiter comes squats down and starts talking to me like I'm a child... a blind child I suspect. I held in my laughter. Not laughter at the staff for trying to make me feel comfortable, but laughter at the whole situation. The assumptions that were made that made the hostess think I was blind. (You know nervous laughter that can't be helped some times.) My husband holding my hand. My husband taking my arm and helping with my chair on our special day. And the final assumption made that I couldn't see when all that happen was I didn't know the giant sign was sitting on my table. I thought she was pointing across the room. She never said, "The sign is ON your table bonehead." OK she could leave off the bonehead, but at that point I did deserve it.

Here I was faced with the same problem the 21 year old young woman was faced with. How do I get out of this situation without embarrassing everyone. I decided rather than just ride it out like in the first story to just come clean so to speak. The young man was squatted down being so nice and I just said, "I'm sorry, but I'm not blind." Now the puzzled look comes across the waiters face. He quickly stands up. He's now looking at me like I was perpetrating a fraud. I said quickly, "Let me explain what might have happened." I started from the beginning the hand holding, the arm holding, the pointing out of step, the chair sliding and the bonehead mistake of not seeing the sign RIGHT on our table. The waiter is now laughing and all is well. We never did see the poor hostess girl again though. I hope she didn't get teased too much.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What A Boy Wants

A teenage boy that is, who just turned 18 wants for his birthday treat. I asked Erik want kind of cake he wanted for his birthday. I enjoy decorating a cake for my kids' birthdays. Since he was turning 18 I thought he might want something elaborate. He said when asked the question, "Does it have to be a cake?" I thought, "Oh no what am I going to get myself into." I said, "No, it doesn't." He says, "Can I have a giant cookie?!" I wiped my brow as I knew it was going to be a piece of cake! I have a large round Pampered Chef stone (I see they have a handle now a great improvement) perfect for cooking a giant cookie. I doubled our favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. I wouldn't want my giant cookie to turn into an "almost giant cookie" just because I didn't have enough dough.

How did this become our favorite recipe.... about 22 years ago a friend and I were Ombudsmen for our husbands squadron. We arranged a get together for the wives. She and I each made a batch of chocolate chip cookies for the occasion. As we sat in the empty Naval Hall waiting for the wives to get there I noticed that my cookies were completely different from her cookies. I really liked the look of her cookies. They looked plump and chewy whereas mine were thin and crisp. I asked what recipe she used. She said with her beautiful slow southern drawl, "Oh I always use the recipe on the back of the Nestle's chocolate chips." I quickly said, "No you didn't." She looked at me startled. I had used the recipe on the back of the Nestle chocolate chips and mine were thin and crisp. She laughed and said, "Yes I DID." Again, I said, "No you didn't." I knew she couldn't possibly have used the recipe and have cookies that were so different from mine. We were friends and I knew she wasn't lying, but something was amiss. I went into detective mode.

We had some time before anyone would be showing up. I decided that if she had indeed used the same recipe as me she had to have used a different ingredient. I asked did she follow the recipe precisely. She said, "Yes, I did." I wanted to loudly blurt out "NO YOU DIDN'T" but I could tell it was getting old and I didn't want to hurt her feelings. I was on a mission to discover her secret to such beautiful plump tasty chocolate chip cookies. Something had to be different. So, I went ingredient by ingredient. I said, "I use the Nestle chocolate chips in the yellow bag." She said, "So do I." I said, "I always use unbleached flour." She said, "So do I." I said, "I used unsalted butter." She hesitated and said, "I use shortening." AHA! There is a difference. I asked her what possessed her to use shortening when the recipe calls for butter? In her beautiful slow Arkansas drawl she said, "I guess I use shortening cause my mama always used shortening." She asked me why I used butter? I said, "Cause the recipes asks for it." We both laughed. Ever since then I've always used shortening in my chocolate chip cookies, (said with a slow southern drawl) because my friend Karen from Arkansas' mother always uses shortening." They make the tastiest plump chocolate chip cookies. Right about that time I found this recipe on the insert to Crisco butter flavored sticks and have used it ever since.Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 3 dozen cookies

3/4 cup Crisco® Butter Shortening OR 3/4 stick Crisco® Butter Shortening Sticks
1 1 /4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 (6 oz.) package semi-sweet chocolate chips (1 cup)
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans (optional)

HEAT oven to 375ºF.

COMBINE shortening, brown sugar, milk and vanilla in large bowl. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended. Beat in egg. Combine flour, salt and baking soda. Mix into shortening mixture until just blended. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.

DROP by rounded measuring tablespoonfuls 3 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet.

BAKE 8 to 10 minutes for chewy cookies, or 11 to 13 minutes for crisp cookies. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet on a cooling rack. Remove cookies to rack to cool completely.

I vaguely remember a Pampered Chef consultant telling me years ago to use parchment paper to help keep the cookie dough from spreading and running off the stone. So, I cut a circle the size of the stone. Then a spread 3/4 of the cookie dough I made to within about an inch of the edge of the stone. (The rest of the cookie dough I froze in cookie sized balls ready to bake if there is a cookie craving emergency.) I spread the dough probably about and inch thick. I then put it in the oven. Heated as directed in recipe. I baked it the amount of time bar cookies take which is 19-21 minutes. More on the 21 side than 19. As I watched it bake there were a few nail biting moments when I realized 1 1/2 inches from the edge might have been better. All was well though and it did not spread beyond the parchment paper. Magic secret? I don't know. I personally think that's just how far the dough would have gone.

Another satisfied customer. My son was very happy with his cookie. He had a few friends over and I was in the kitchen when one of his friends saw the cookie. The palms of his hands flew to the top of his head. He just stood there for a minute arms dangling from his head and finally said he'd never seen a cookie that big! Mission accomplished. My job was done.

Lynne's Note:  Use 1 1/2 times cookie dough recipe for just the right about of dough.  What looks great is to buy a regular sized bag of dark chocolate kisses.  Unwrap the Kisses and stir them into recipe instead of regular chocolate chips.  This makes the cookie really look giant when the "chocolate chips" are in scale to the size of the cookie.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Industrial Craft Accident

OK it was more of a embarrassing craft accident that nearly sent me to the emergency room. I'm not even joking about that. Here's what happened...

Once upon a time there was a crafty young woman named Lynne, who was doing a little organizing in her craft room. Noticing her crochet hooks were frequently sliding out of her crochet case she purchased a more secure case. The original case was lovingly stitched by her mother and gifted to Lynne when she was a teenager. So, she enjoyed using it. It just had one flaw. It needed a top to stop the crochet hooks from sliding out. Since Lynne has many projects in the works she purchase a new leather case for traveling and would leave the beloved cloth case at home with the extra needles.

One evening while watching a movie with Van Heflin and Joanne Woodward called "Count Three and Pray." Joanne Woodward's first movie by the way. Lynne started organizing her crochet hooks by number. Sliding them one by one into the leather case. Each hook had it's own loop to keep it snug and secure in the case. Problem was the loops were a bit too snug. Each hook had to be wrestled into the loop. Quite a bit of pushing was needed to get it into the loop, but Lynne thought that was fine. She thought the loops would loosen up in time. She continued to read the numbers on the hooks and line them up. She'd been given quite a few tiny lace hooks years ago and it felt good to get them organized. Lynne wasn't planning any lace making sessions, but the tiny hooks were working out great for putting beads into her knitting and crocheting. A new technique she had just learned.
Then the fateful moment arrived. No one would have seen it coming. No one could have even guessed such a thing would happen... could happen. While sliding a crochet hook into it's loop in front of another crochet hook ... I hesitate to state the suspected number of the hook in question as I'm not sure. The number I suspect already has a bad name... so I'll just whisper as to not hurt it's feelings if it's innocent...*number 13." As I forcefully slid the one in front of it I suddenly felt something stick my thumb. I look more closely and I can't believe my dumb luck a crochet hook has pierced the side of my thumb.

It really didn't hurt when it happened. I thought it must have slide into the tough outer layer of skin. As I started to pull it out I realized no it's gone into the flesh and "whew doggy it hurts like a mutha" if I move it. I'm thinking it's just going to have to hurt for a second while I pull it out. I grit my teeth and pull. Nothing. I grit my teeth and pull harder. Nothing budges. Now I examine the other hooks to figure out which side the hook is on so I can maneuver it out of my thumb. Nothing but excruciating pain. I decide at this point to give the hook a twirl and just give it a yank. Yeah I know it's going to pull a plug of flesh out of my thumb, but it will be a teenie tiny plug. Again grit teeth give a firm pull and yank and it won't come out.
(how it was stuck in my thumb)
Now I'm beginning to think "Oh my God am I going to have to go to the emergency room to have this cut out!" HOW EMBARRASSING! A few more yanks and I'm all wet with sweat from the pain. Hook is still attached to my thumb. Now you'd think blood would be spewing all over. No not one drop. With the embarrassment of it all I start to contemplate gnawing my thumb off. Then realize I can't do that I have a picnic the next day. How would I explain my inability to catch a Frisbee with no thumb?!

I calmed down and realize I'm going to have to ask for help. After all I have an RN living right under my dear hubby. By this time of night he's usually asleep on the couch. Tonight he's awake. I said, "Ed are you awake (yes), because I kind of have a serious problem." It's nice that he's an RN, but he's kind of negative and tends to be super cautious. I wanted the "yank the hook out" program and he's not into that at all! He starts stating what might be happening... it could be hooked on a tendon.... it could be hooked on your nail... it could be... blah blah blah and I bluntly cut him off and say again I just need you to yank it out. He states he doesn't want to hurt me... I remind him that there is no way around that. I'm getting super cranky, because of the pain and the fact that he wants to discuss in detail with me at a time I'm in NO mood for details. I ask him to get some ice so I can numb my thumb so it's not so painful when he pulls it out.
I then tell him he might need to put the poodle out of the room. All this time my poodle has been laying on me and comforting me. Funny how they can sense something is wrong. I remind him that she might think he hurting me and bite him. He then tells me it's OK. Erik can drive us both to the emergency room. They won't be laughing at you while I explain why I have a poodle attached to my neck. We both laugh and that does ease the tension. My thumb is now as numb as it's going to get and he forcefully pulls the hook out of my thumb. It was almost a 1/4 of a inch into my thumb. Do you want to see the blood ring on the hook he asks... no I calmly state as I'm putting pressure on my thumb. Still not much blood, but pressure and ice make it feel SO much better at this point.
Ed takes me to the bathroom where he sterilizes my thumb and puts on a band aide. I don't think I'll have a scar ... on my thumb that is... maybe just a scar on my psyche when I'm around small crochet hooks.
So, I must warn that these tiny crotch hooks are deviously sharp. They don't appear that way, but they will slid into your flesh like a hot knife into butter. BEWARE!