Saturday, October 30, 2010

Homemade Frosted Sugar Cookies... Are they really worth the effort?

I'd planned on baking yesterday in preparation for my younger son's classroom Halloween party. He'd requested sugar cookies (with frosting) in the shape of pumpkins. No sweat. I had it covered, or at least I thought so, until I went to gather ingredients from the pantry and refrigerator. I quickly discovered I had no Crisco, an absolute necessity for my beloved and much-revered sugar cookie recipe, the one my family has been baking for generations. First of all, I ask you, how does any self-respectin' southern woman get by without some form of "shortnin'" (a.k.a. lard) in her cupboard? I seriously need to get my act together.

Mind you, I'd only been to the grocery store at least 3 times this week already, but I'd failed to add Crisco to my list of items to purchase. If it's not on a list, honey, it simply doesn't exist in my world. I will never, ever remember to purchase anything not on the list.

So... I had to go pick up Crisco and decided to go to Dierbergs real quick (By the way, there's no such thing as real quick in Dierbergs because they have way too many tempting goodies.), and I really should never have gone there, except I'd already been to Target, Schnucks and Wal-Mart earlier in the week, and since the commissary is a little out of the way, and all I needed was Crisco, I opted to go to Dierbergs. Let's just say I spent a considerable amount of time there and left approximatley $150 poorer. But I got Crisco!
Before heading home to begin my day of baking, I made a quick stop at the Starbucks drive-thru for a Pumpkin Spice Latte, my all-time favorite beverage at Starbucks. It's a seasonal item too, so I have to take advantage of its availability while I can. Keep in mind that I moved here just 3 months ago from overseas, where the Starbucks on base (which really is sort of Starbucks wannabe) did NOT offer this favorite beverage of mine, so you can understand how excited I am to be back in the Land o' Plenty where such things can be purchased and enjoyed, at least for a couple of months before it goes away until next fall.

I purchased my Venti Pumpkin Spice Latte, even tipped the drive-thru employee, and was about halfway home when I decided it was time to sample my beverage. I took a sip and quickly surmised it was NOT a Pumpkin Spice Latte, but a Skinny Caramel Latte. It wasn't even the right size, but I hadn't noticed in time to do anything about it, and I didn't have time to turn around and go back. I had baking to do... pronto! You know what they say about the drive-thru anyway (Cue Joe Pesci's character, Leo Getz, in "Lethal Weapon 2").

Note to self: Either go inside to order or check my order BEFORE LEAVING the drive-thru. I drank the Skinny Caramel Latte, but it just wasn't the same experience.

I baked cookies all afternoon, but had to wait until they'd cooled before frosting them. My son didn't want them to be jack o'lanterns, thank God! He just wanted orange pumpkins with green stems, certainly saving me from a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome. I kept having to take breaks to run taxi service for both boys 'cause that's what I do. I'm thinking I have a bright future in taxi driving at some point, since I get to drive all over town and have learned the streets quite well.

I walked inside my oldest son's school at 9pm to retrieve him from the gym after basketball practice and discovered I had cookie dough and frosting all over my shirt and one wrist. Hmmm... I only have like 5 aprons, but for whatever reason I can never remember to put them on when I'm working in the kitchen. I even have a couple hanging on the back of the pantry door, for heaven's sake.By the way, this is not a photo of any of the 5 aprons I own, but I do love bacon. Am I speakin' to anybody here?

I finally finished the cookies around 10pm last night. They were time-consuming, but looked dadgum good and tasted even better.They were a hit at my son's party today and he seemed very pleased. Several kids asked if I'd made them and others commented they looked "awesome." I suppose in this convenient world of ours, where we can drop by the bakery and pick up already-made cookies, it surprises folks when we actually make something ourselves. One little boy asked for seconds and later thirds of our pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies and said, "These cookies are amazing!" Of course he said that about the pizza and everything else served too, but still... I beamed and handed him that third cookie. Yep, homemade frosted sugar cookies are most definitely worth the effort!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Breathe in and breathe out and SLOW DOWN!

I thought I was prepared. I really did. I had volunteered to provide homemade cheesy chicken corn soup for my son's school as they were hosting a staff appreciation luncheon that day. I'd made the soup the night before, so all I'd have to do is reheat in the morning before dropping it off at the school.

I also made these fabulous pumpkin apple streusel muffins for Bible study as we take turns bringing food, and it just so happened to be the day our class was responsible for the grub. (By the way, both the soup and muffin recipes are courtesy of Southern Living. Need I say more?) I made the muffins the night before as well because I wanted to be ahead of the game and avoid rushing the following morning. It was a great idea in theory.

The next morning I got up and heated the soup in the crockpot. Mmmm... it smelled so good! The muffins were packed away in a Tupperware carrying case, but I ate one to be sure they were tasty, and they were, indeed, tasty. All was going according to plan until...

I showed up at my son's school, reported to the office and asked where I should deliver the soup. The office staff looked at me as if I had two, maybe even three heads. "What? What is it?" I wondered. One of the secretaries smiled and said, "We're not having a staff appreciation luncheon today. It's at the junior high." Seriously? I had taken my soup to the wrong dadgum school. I'd have bet good money that I was at the right school. What's wrong with me?

I had to backtrack and drive to my other son's school, driving very slowly because the crockpot was quite full and I didn't want it to spill, all the while realizing I was running behind and my perfectly detailed plan was beginning to unravel, slowly but surely. I dropped off the soup and then began to make my way to the church, stressed that I was going to be late. Of all days too! I hated being late, especially when I had a responsibility to be there on time with my delicious muffins that everyone was surely going to enjoy.

I was wasting no time driving to the church. In fact, I was driving a tad faster than I should have been, and it turns out I wasn't the only one who noticed. Yep, you guessed it... I got pulled over by an officer of the law. Just fabulous! I sat in my vehicle waiting for him to approach, wondering what he was gonna say and if I was gonna get a ticket. I was mortified that he left his lights flashing. Why do they do that anyway? People were driving by and glaring at me like I was a criminal, a fugitive evading the law. Or maybe I just felt embarrassed because I was so busted, although that's probably a poor choice of words. At least he didn't have the siren going too.

The policeman told me I was going 44 mph in a 30 mph speed zone. I searched my mind for a good excuse, but couldn't come up with anything that sounded convincing. He asked for my driver's license and proof of insurance and took both back to the cruiser to do whatever it is policemen do when they pull someone over for speeding. I guess they run a check on your vehicle to see if the person has other violations or something. I also think it's a great intimidation tactic, but again, I was feeling embarrassed and so busted, remember? And by then I was also thinking I was really going to be late for Bible study.

Bible study! Perhaps God will take control here and have the policeman cut me some slack because He knows I was headed to church for Bible study. Shameful, I know, because I was clearly in the wrong, but I had such good intentions that morning. I felt so defeated. I was just trying to be helpful, but I was also trying to do too much. I sat in my vehicle waiting to hear my fate (ticket or no ticket), when the tears began to fall. I kept willing myself not to cry, but just couldn't help myself.

By the time the officer returned to my vehicle, my sunglasses were all fogged up and my nose was running, and I couldn't stop the tears. I know he was probably thinking I was emotionally unstable or something. He gave me a warning only (Thanks be to God!). I told him I was glad he pulled me over because it was my cue to slow down. The officer looked like he was totally thrown off and he told me that sometimes we overextend ourselves and need to take a break. The poor man! I'm sure when he went to work that morning he had no idea he'd be counseling motorists.

I meant what I said about being glad I was pulled over by the police, and it wasn't to gain favor or pity because I'd already gotten off with a warning. I really do need to slow down and stop rushing like there's no tomorrow. So I'm trying to learn from my experience. I'm learning to breathe in and breathe out and SLOW DOWN!

Oh, and for the record, all that rushing around got me nowhere. I was late to Bible study and most people had already eaten by the time I arrived, therefore I had lots of those fabulous muffins left over. One word... humbling.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Motivation, where are you?

People, it's been over a month since I've visited here, and this is MY blog. What's wrong with this picture?

I've been attempting to get my house in order. Yes, I know we moved in more than two months ago. No, I don't have everything squared away yet. This has been the all-time slowest organization job ever for our family! We still have pictures and window treatments to hang, bins to organize and rooms to decorate. I'm so indecisive about everything. I think I need a professional to come in and just make all the decisions for me.

And the longer this process takes, the less motivation I have to deal with it all. I need some want-to-it-tiveness. I need some creativity. I need some know-how. I need some wine. I need some HELP! Anybody?