November 30, 2022

 

Mrvos Christmas cookies, baking holiday cookies in October, eggs
                                                                                                                                             Photo: Simply Recipes

A LITTLE HOLIDAY COOKIE DRAMA  

I bake holiday cookies in October.  Way before Halloween.  

People look at me as if I'm crazy, but honestly, this way I'm not rushed during the holiday season.  Getting a head start and doing one batch a week makes baking more fun for me.  

I make five holiday favorites, beginning with the easiest recipe, the chocolate crinkles.  Then, I move on to the more time-consuming recipes.  By mid-November, the Christmas baking is finished.    

I rarely have trouble making the holiday treats, but this year, I decided to add a new recipe:  Grandma's butter cookies.  I was shocked to see a pound of butter is used (that's four sticks!) so I halved the recipe.  Referring to my late mother-in-law's recipe, I noticed that the baking time was missing.  It only read to bake until brown.  Okay, most cookies take about 8 - 12 minutes to bake, so I put them in 10 minutes.  And afterward?  Pale, blah-looking cookies.

I kept them in the oven for 5 more minutes.  That ought to do it.  

Nope.

I baked them an additional five minutes.  

But they never turned brown, even after 20 minutes in the oven.  I was getting frustrated.  

My husband Jim asked, "What's wrong?"

"I can't figure out why these butter cookies didn't get brown."

"Did you follow the recipe?" 

"Of course," I said indignantly.  

And then I remembered...

I had separated the yolks from the eggs and added them to the batter.  But I had forgotten to brush the cookies with the egg whites before baking. 

This was like the time I set out three eggs to come to room temperature to make a pound cake, and then forgot to add the eggs to the batter.  In my defense, I was distracted by two hungry cats and I didn't realize something had gone wrong until after the oven timer went off.  Needless to say, the finished product looked like toffee. 

I thought about the sad pound cake while staring at the failed butter cookies.  Jim told me he'd work on them.  He found a basting brush and covered the already-baked batch with egg whites and put them back into the oven.  The batch browned nicely, giving Jim another cooking story to lovingly tease me about. 

Trying to forget about the butter cookies, I turned my attention to more familiar recipes like peanut butter blossoms, bird's nest cookies, nut horns, and sugar cookies.  Since I had been making these for many years, I had no fear that they'd turn out well.  But of course, Jim taste-tested them, just to be sure.

Photo: Cookie Connection
After baking each batch, I freeze them for the holidays.  When Christmas rolls around, they will be ready to be placed in tins for our family and neighbors.  With six different kinds, there will be plenty of variety for everyone. 

Sometimes, I get defensive when people ask why I begin baking so early.  They just don't get it.  It's what I do.  For me, October is the perfect time to start holiday baking.  Having baked two months in advance allows me more time to enjoy the holidays...

and I bet you were thinking...more time to go shopping for gifts.  

Actually, that's not the case.  As you might guess, by August, half of my shopping is done! 

  

To my faithful readers, thank you for reading my blog. 

Wishing you a sweet holiday season. Joyeux Noël! 


November 1, 2022

a writer takes care of an injured stray cat

BANISHING FEAR WITH LOVE

Putty was injured and I didn't know how to help him.    

Nine years ago, this gravelly-voiced, black and white stray showed up on our deck begging for food.  My husband and I have been feeding him ever since.  

Over the years, I've noticed minor cuts on Putty, nothing serious.  But one day not long ago, I noticed Putty was limping.  At first, I thought he had broken his leg.  There wasn't an apparent wound, yet he could only walk on three paws.  Putty squinted.  His wounded leg quivered.  He showed little interest in food.  I could sense his pain.  Being Sunday, I had to wait a day to call my vet.  But when Monday rolled around, the veterinarian was unable to make a house call until Friday.  I didn't think Putty could wait that long. 

I called my neighbor Sherry who also feeds Putty.  She gave me the name of her vet because he makes house calls.  But when I phoned him, I got an answering machine.  Dr. MacDonald wouldn't be back in town until Wednesday.  I left him a message about Putty's condition.  My poor kitty appeared to be suffering, he was barely eating, and he would have to wait two more days for help.  

On Wednesday, I noticed a smear of blood on Putty's hip.  As he limped on our patio, I finally saw the cause of his injury.  There was bloody abscess about the size of a half dollar on his hock.  I was sick with worry.  This did not look good.  Luckily, Dr. M. returned my call.  He could come out to our house, under one condition:  I'd have to trap Putty.  

This was easier said than done.  

"Can you pick him up?" asked Dr. M. 

"Uh, no."  And in my head, I'm thinking:  Are you kidding?  This is a semi-wild cat who didn't always trust me.   

But the vet needed Putty in an enclosed area so he wouldn't run off.  I told him I'd try to trap him.  I loved Putty and was determined to get him the medical attention he needed.  

My husband and I backed our cars out the garage.  I moved bins and tubs around on shelves and blocked places where a cat could hide.  When every area of the garage looked safe, I pulled out a can of tuna.  Putty was in the backyard.  I wondered if I could tempt him with the tuna and get him to hobble over to the driveway and into the garage.  I worried how to keep him contained in the garage once he was inside.  Luckily, he did manage to follow me.  I got him as far away from the garage door as possible so he wouldn't make a run for it and motioned to my husband now, quick, close the door.

And we had him safe inside.  Dr. M. arrived in five minutes.  Finally, Putty was going to get some attention.  But when I opened basement door to the garage, Putty was nowhere in sight.  Sh*t!  I walked the perimeter of the garage.  No Putty.  I was so embarrassed.  Where was that cat?  Had he squeezed out of the corner by the garage door through an impossibly narrow opening?  I looked again on the verge of panic.  But there he was, trying to hide against the back wall of a shelf.  After coaxing him down, he moved to another corner of the garage, where the vet could work his magic.  

I was concerned Putty would not be a cooperative patient.  But Dr. M. wrapped Putty in a blanket and then in a calm voice, he told me I'd be his assistant.  My job would be to hold Putty while he prepared the injections.  I slipped on garden gloves to protect my hands, but Putty hissed at me.  The vet said the gloves were probably scaring him, so I had to help bare-handed. 

Putty's razor-sharp claws had scratched me more than once and now that he was scared, he was likely to bite.  I was terrified.  Mortified.  I really, really did not want to do this.  And there wasn't much time.  Who knew how long Putty would stay put?  I was a nervous wreck.  But I had to pull myself together.  So rather than stressing, I focused on how much I loved Putty and centered my attention on helping the vet. 

Dr. M. showed me how to grab onto the scuff and wiggle it to distract him as he inserted the needle.  Believe you me, I wiggled the hell out of the scruff.  After the antibiotic and the pain shots were given, he removed the blanket.  Putty was free to go.  With that, I opened the garage door and he limped away.  

Before Dr. M. left, he handed me an oral antibiotic that I would need to give Putty twice a day.  Good luck, I'm thinking.  If Putty was traumatized, he may never come back.  I could have scared him off for good.  My sweet little stray.  

But that night, Putty returned and he wolfed down all of his food with the antibiotic in it.  I was so relieved to see him come back the next day and get more antibiotic into his system.

Surprisingly, within a day after the injections and a day's worth of oral antibiotics, Putty looked better.  His eyes were brighter.  He could put weight on all of his paws.  

Putty still has a long way to go, but he'll get the care he needs and all of the food he craves.  Looking back, I was surprised how frightened I had been.  I was scared of being hurt and afraid of letting Putty down.  But through this experience, I found determination can conquer fear.  And anything is possible with love.

 À la prochaine!