The Texture Of Things

The Incredible, Edible Oatmeal Scotchie

January 31st, 2007

As promised, here are the steps to making Oatmeal Scotchies:

1. Purchase Nestle Tollhouse Butterscotch Morsels. Turn bag over.

No, I’m not kidding.

2. Complete recipe as written on package.
3. Profit.Eat cookies.

For those of you who are simply interested in the recipe and don’t plan on purchasing the bag just to see what they were like, I will now copy the recipe here, with some adjustments to indicate how I have done them. I will leave the post up until Nestle threatens to sue me for copyright infringement or something.

1 1/4 Cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Cup (2 sticks) room temperature butter (or margarine)
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
3/4 Cup packed brown sugar (dark or light works)
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract (or grated peel of one orange)
3 Cups old-fashioned, one-minute oats
1 2/3 Cups (11 oz) Nestle Toll House Butterscotch Morsels

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, cream butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Beat in eggs (one at a time) and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in oats and morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

**I have had the best luck if I beat the flour mixture a bit; otherwise, the cookies tend to spread in the oven. I think that’s the butterscotch’s fault. I’ve also had good results when I use parchment paper. When I made the cookies for KLee, I did both, and they turned out beautifully.**

The bags says, “Bake for 7-8 minutes for chewy cookies, 9-10 minutes for crisp cookies.” I’m pretty sure that is a load of crap. At 8 minutes in, these cookies are still raw in the center. Plan on at least 9 minutes.

Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 4 dozen cookies (unless you make them big, like I do).

Eat them.

Hey, I just noticed there’s a bar-cookie version on this recipe. Given the propensity of these cookies to spread during baking, I might try this method next time. Huh, how about that.

Pan Cookie Variation: Grease 15×10″ jelly-roll pan. Spread dough into prepared pan. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until light brown. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes 4 dozen bars. (We’ll see about that.)

For Anyone Still Wondering, Plus Random Stuff

January 31st, 2007

No, I have not received a WHOYCBE gift yet. Believe me, I will post something in way of celebration when it does arrive. Trust me.

And now, random stuff…
I occasionally sell stuff on e*B*a*y. I have 100% positive feedback score of 99, and I am proud and defensive about it. I’ve been selling stuff lately and I just had my first buyer not pay and not cooperate, so I left him bad feedback, also a first for me. I swear to god, I am downright twitchy about my feedback rating making it to 100 before I get a neutral or negative that I’m checking my stupid “my e*B*a*y” page about 400 times a day, waiting to see if a positive will come through before that loser dude realizes I gave him a negative and retaliates.

Sometimes I really hate people. But I like getting money for stuff I’d otherwise cast off, so I keep doing it. Sporadically.

This post is not spell checked. Normally I write posts in my word processor and paste it over, but it’s early morning and I’m feeling cavalier about everything. The tot is blissfully sleeping the next room over, and I got a full night’s sleep and have had two cups of coffee. The World Is Mine!

Last, I promise that cookie recipe that KLee loved from her WHOYCBE gift. I also promise that you’re all going to be disappointed, because it’s neither hard nor original. Tasty, though, yes.

Ice, Part Three (or The Chainsaw Man Cometh)

January 24th, 2007

When I left off my story of the tree that ice brought down in my backyard, the Chainsaw Man had arrived to cut up my tree.

First of all, I tend to be a person who thinks through things, gathers all the information, overthinks it a bit more, and then acts. Maybe. It felt strange yet exciting to be caught up in this action of “tree falls down and we cut it up today.” I don’t move that fast in reaction to any spontaneous happening – not even cleaning up a hairball. Seriously. I begin by pouting, then telling HG his cat threw up again, then yelling at my cat for eating it (gaaah!), then acting indignant while I clean it up. Sometimes I do get to it more quickly, like when I skip the step of telling HG about the puke.

But the tree – everything happened rapidly, and it felt oddly responsible, like this is what I’m supposed to do for some reason I can’t pinpoint now. Honestly, I don’t think it would have hurt anything to have left the tree there a day or two, but Chainsaw Man was insistent that he come over that day to begin clean up. And who am I to turn down the free removal of a broken tree? Let us not look gift chainsaws in the teeth. (I had a fortune cookie that said that once.)

So he brought a couple of youngsters to help him and he got started, making my neighbors happy, I’m sure.

If you recall, he managed to not damage the deer.* He did this by cutting off much of the major branch, then hoisting the thing over and behind the deer so that it would be out of the way.

As for me, well, I didn’t know what I could do to help, and frankly, Chainsaw Man didn’t want my help. I’m not sure if this was a Knight in Shiny Armor moment for him or if he recognized that I’d be less dangerous to him and less in danger myself if I stayed inside. Maybe both.

So instead of helping, I did the second most ridiculous thing I could think of: I put on my fleecy hat and and a hoodie and popped outside to take pictures of him cutting down the tree for my blog.

And since it was wicked, wicked, wicked, wicked cold outside, I came inside and did the single most ridiculous thing I could think of: I made hot chocolate and stood in my kitchen drinking it with my hat still on. Because, you know, I was cold. In my house. With my hat on and my feet on the heat register.

Thanks, Mother Nature, for the blog fodder!

The payoff for Chainsaw Man and his youngsters is a pile of lumber that they’ll use to heat their home, so in the end, it works out for everyone.

*It’s not that I actually hate the deer. I just resent it. My home’s previous owners were supposed to take it with them, and two years later they have yet to do it. They promise this summer they’ll get it, though. Let’s wait and see.


January 22nd, 2007

Can you hear them chirping? Well, okay, it’s January and it’s frozen solid in my part of the country, but if it were warm, you’d totally be able to hear them chirping on my front porch. You know. The place I’m watching, hoping for a WHOYCBE package to arrive.

It’s not here yet, and while before I figured it was a delay on the delivery side of things, I’m beginning to worry something went wrong.

I’ll keep watching and I’ll post a celebration when it arrives. Meanwhile, I’m working on a follow up to the downed tree from last week, with pics.

Texture Status: Paper

January 20th, 2007

I’m coming to understand that the tot is unusual in that she can be trusted in ways many toddlers cannot. She is very carfeul when it comes to books, for instance. WIth the exception of a small window of time when she was fascinated with bending the covers of board books backwards until the binding pulled apart a bit, she has been the kind of kid you could hand one of your prized novels without too many heart palpitations.

It’s not because she has some innate love of books (well, okay, maybe she does); rather I think I can trace it to a dislike of and anxiety about the tearing of paper. It is most evident in her reaction to the unwrapping of gifts.

She was roughly 6 months at her first Christmas: looked at paper, patted paper, not enough coordination to participate in unwrapping gifts.

At first birthday: in addition to refusing to touch any part of the cake or ice cream, her reaction to wrapping paper was to turn away and try to leave. Her attention returned when the item was fully unwrapped.

At 18 months, her second Christmas: hid face, cried out when witnessing the tearing or other removing of wrapping paper; greatly distressed; refused to touch it wrapping paper once it had been torn and refused to reach into a gift bag stuffed with tissue paper; only participation in the unwrapping of gifts was to trepidatiously take a gift that I had 99.7% unwrapped – fully unwrapped gifts were fine.

At her second birthday: still refused all cake and ice cream products; was mostly fine watching me unwrap things but not much interested in doing it herself; played with the paper scraps but would not tear or pull the paper.

Now, before I talk about this past Christmas, I have to confess I was nervous. I honestly don’t know what my family thinks about the tot’s texture sensitivities, but I imagine it parallels what the tot’s pediatricians think – that I’m making it all up, that I was too soft on the tot and didn’t “make” her do the things she was supposed to do (like, I don’t know, eat), that I’m imagining it, that I’m doing a poor job.

Any of these things may be true, or they may not. What is true is that I was concerned about how the tot would react to the opening of presents this year (at 2.5). So, I did what any other overachiever/nervous mother would do: I planned to practice with her before the gauntlet of holiday gift-exchanging gatherings*. It paid off.

I sat the tot down with the two presents her babysitter/care giver gave her and just watched. She touched the presents. We talked about how the presents looked, what the paper was decorated with, etc. She smoothed her hands across the paper. Then I told her they were for her and she could open them. She was intrigued, so she watched me turn the first one over and pull/tear at the main seam.

To my amazement (and total delight), she tore right at the paper. She struggled getting it all back, but we wiggled it around together to reveal a water color paint book.

This is where it got a bit weird.

She sat back, put her hands on her cheeks, and said (I kid you not), “Awwww. A Christmas present! For ME.”

I swear it only happened this way because I didn’t have the video camera nor were there any other witnesses.

The next gift was a large flat parcel, about an inch high. She saw it and – this is where it got more weird – promptly lay down on it. She rolled around on it, and although it was a strange sight, I let her do it under the pretense that she was fulfilling a whole-body tactile need at the moment. It’s the same kind of experience as when she crawls right into the tub of beans. It demonstrates that her hypersensitivity is lessening to the point that she can seek out more sensory input and that said input is pleasurable. (This is a good thing.)

She shimmied around on it some more and looked up at me with a sudden realization that – hey, maybe she could open this one too! Same thing. She tore right in once I helped get it started.

And that is how the rest of Christmas went. She saw a present and was rarin’ to go. She was also restrained, I should add. She didn’t simply take any present and rip into it. She always asked first, “I can open this present?”

I decided to test her to see if the paper tearing was an experience she reserved solely for its consequence: present acquisition. She and I have been doing little projects lately where I cut out shapes from paper and we glue them onto another paper. Ideally, she’ll start to use the glue stick on her own and start exploring with that sticky texture, but for now, I do most of the work. Our test the other day took the form of me tearing the shapes instead of cutting them. The short report is that she not only tolerated that, but she also tore the construction paper into little confetti pieces and helped me “rain” them down on the table top. Hopefully, this is the beginning of some important exploration we missed at an earlier age.

Hopefully I’ll remember to start keeping my good books up high.

* I only did this to discover what her reaction would be this year. If it had been an anxious one, I would have had a few days to work on some language and some relaxation cues that we could use during the gatherings.

An Evening Snack

January 20th, 2007

I come home from an errand. It is almost 9 p.m. I say my hellos, get a drink of water, and sneak back to the computer, leaving HG and tot in the living room. Soon, I hear the telltale sounds of the tot realizing I’m not in the room.

Tot: Blah, blah, blah – “Hey.”
(thunder of small, running footsteps coming down the hall, toward the office)
Tot: “Hey. Mommy. No, no no no NO. Wait.”
(running out of the room, returning with two stuffed birds)
Tot: “This is, this is a Mlamingo. This is a crane. Come on! Come on, Mommy! Come to the living room with Daddy and eat Cadgews! Hurry!”
(running out of the room)

I can’t believe she likes cashews.

Making a Gift

January 19th, 2007

This entry is a total scroll-a-thon. No, I’m not sorry. You should see how much I edited out.

It began with an email from Andrea at a garden of nna mmoy, in which she revealed that my WHOYCBE Spoilee was KLee of Reluctant Prophet. I had not read KLee’s blog before, but I quickly hopped over to read the questionnaire. I learned a lot. And then, I still had no idea what I was going to do for her.

See, Andrea is crafty and most of the people whose comments I’ve read on her craft entries are crafty, and those names looked to me an awful lot like the list of Spoilee names. To top it off KLee is crafty and I am, well, I am not. I can bake. That’s about it.

I dedicated myself to reading all of the Reluctant Prophet archives and scouring the blog for details. Some themes emerged: a love of holidays (particularly Christmas), reading, crafting (many varieties of), penguins, and baking; a love of teaching, her family (of course), and the color royal blue.

The holidays are a busy time of year, what with the end of my semester and the steep increase in work at my mom’s store, so I often find myself stretched thin come the middle of December with grading and helping out at the shop. Fortunately, I do my best thinking while immersed in white noise, like road noise or, say, the noise of the sewing machines at my mom’s embroidery shop. EMBROIDERY SHOP?! OMG, I could SEW her something! Genius!

Oh, I could totally make her a scarf or a sweater – no wait, I don’t know her size – so, a scarf or a blanket or something with snowflakes on it, and it would be toasty and snuggly and…

Crap. She lives in the south. /sigh.

Start over.

What could I sew? I went snooping around in the archives, looking for posts about baking, to see if she really is a cooker/baker, and I found a post from Thanksgiving weekend, in which she describes the process of decorating for Christmas. Ah, I know. I could sew some Christmas towels. I wouldn’t have to know what color her kitchen is because with a Christmas or snowy picture on it, it would hopefully fall outside the ironclad color coordination rules of home decorating because it would fall under the easy-going, festive rules of holiday decorating. Meh. It was what I had to go on.

The quest for towels began.

I personally own lots of off-white kitchen towels, and I hate how they always show everything and I don’t care to bleach things if I don’t have to, so white and cream were out. Besides, if I picked a darkly colored towel, something like snowflakes would show up. But what color?

Oh. Of course. Royal blue.

Do you know how freaking hard it is to find royal blue anything? Let alone towels? I can’t even remember how many stores I looked at before I found some beautiful bright royal kitchen towels at Meijer.

Along the journey to find them, I also decided that the gift should have some kind of unifying theme. I chose penguins, ergo when I found the towels, I sewed penguins on them.

Here are some shots of the towels coming together. Pardon the quality of the in-process ones, taken with my econo-camera phone.

the machine.

penguin, 70% sewn. the plastic stuff is water-soluble and keeps the towel loops from sticking through the embroidery.

penguin, nearly done. i’d like to say i purposefully chose a dark pewter thread for the penguin in order to make it look more like a fuzzy, juvenile penguin, but really, i didn’t realize when the book called for “charcoal”, it meant “nearly black.” sheesh.

penguin, still in the hoop, but finished, with plastic peeled.

With the towels done, I turned my attention to gathering the other gifts (to be shown a bit later) and then to making the cookies. But there was a little problem of the $25 limit. By the time I got to making the cookies, I had hit the limit, which meant the cookies had to be made from ingredients existing in my cupboard. Because I had depleted my stores making holiday cookies before Christmas, only one cookie could emerge from my pantry: Oatmeal Scotchies.

As with nearly all cookie baking projects in this house, the Oatmeal Scotchie Event began with me making Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies. This is a proactive attempt at keeping Husband Guy happy and/or off my case, for God’s sake I’m making cookies here, will you quit bitching that there’s no chocolate in what I’m making? Please. Now, stand back already.

no-bakes in the background. not pictured, cinnamon and baking soda.

Then it occurred to me that it was Saturday afternoon. Saturday, December 30th, to be exact, and the post office was closed for the day, and for Sunday and Monday for the New Year. And, crap. Tuesday, too, for President Ford (may he rest in peace). So the cookies that I made were going to sit around until Wednesday for me to mail them.

I was already kind of disappointed in them. They spread a lot and a number of them caramelized (read: burnt) on the edges and were probably thereby rendered unsendable. I decided to eat a couple in order to boost my blood sugar while I pondered what to do. Ultimately, I didn’t make any decision about the cookies until Tuesday, as I wrapped up the gifts.

The towels:

if you look closely, you’ll see it says “Seasons Greetings” in the ice

I also chose a penguin pin for its whimsy and royal blue sled. I just hope KLee is a pin person. It didn’t occur to me until after I sent the gift that she works with small children who might use it as a weapon. I hope they don’t.

Because I’ve done my time at English teacher conferences, I always have a pile of goodies lying around, suitable for teachers, so I decided to share. Attention: This cost me no money. I am openly acknowledging these things were already in my possession, thus they are are regift.* I chose the sticky notepad because of a post from last year (can’t find it now) wherein KLee was distressed at the loss of all of her post-it pads after a spill on her desk. I added the cd because it is of children’s poems being read. I included the radish seeds because growing stuff with wee tots like those in her classroom is fun and cool. I selected a bookmark that reads “Those who can do. Those who do it better teach” because it’s totally true. Dammit.

The truly risky inclusion in this gift pack are the stamps I found. I ‘m not really sure if KLee does stamping regularly, but I think it’s at least something she enjoys after seeing the picture of the candles she made for people this past Christmas.

very solid, hefty stamps. i was happy to find them, especially mr. penguin in his wee little hat.

Ah, a pile of gifts…

two stamps, two towels, a pin, a pile of teacher stuff.

Then it was time to package up the Scotchies.

“Crap. Is that a tall one keeping the lid from sealing? (sigh.) It is. Okay, fine, I’ll eat it.”

“Ugh. It’s chewy already. It’ll never keep until the 10th. Drat.” Start over.

yes, my counter is clean. not pictured, self-restraint in buying alcohol.

The upshot is that KLee ended up with a LOT more cookies. And since I beat the flour a little longer and used parchment paper, they didn’t spread or burn. Very tasty.

this is a gallon-size ziptop bag.

ah, the power of cookies…

So, come Wednesday morning, I packaged the whole caboodle up and sent it to the south, with love.

may it reach you safely, KLee. may you enjoy it all and may the cookies still taste good.

*KLee, I do hope you’re not offended by the inclusion of this stuff. It’s absolutely fine with me if you regift items. Honestly. Except the cookies. Unless they’re gross.

WHOYCBE Gift Watch Continues… w/ Update

January 18th, 2007

Update: No gift Friday either, although there was an exciting moment when I saw a box on my porch and thought it was mine. It was HG’s. Um, who gave him permission to order stuff while I’m waiting on this gift?

No gift today. Also, no update from my giftee. I have my post all ready to put up and it’s burning a hole in my word processor.

Geez, I hope she liked it. I really really do.

WHOYCBE Gift Update – Updated

January 17th, 2007

Update: no gift yet. Maybe tomorrow. Will post immediately on its arrival.

I’m sitting at my computer doing class prep this morning. I just watched the postal dude (the good one – not the sub who usually screws things up) drive up, deliver mail to the box, and drive on. No package, I think.

I’m going to give him a few more minutes to drive through the sub to see if he comes back with a box. I’ll update after some lunch. (mmmm, bachelorette chow….)

He’s Smirking, He’s Totally Smirking

January 16th, 2007

When I bolted outside with my camera, my chainsaw man used his best bedside manner to warn me that the deer statue (visible in the background) might possibly be damaged a little in the attempt to remove the tree. Maybe. He hoped not.

No big deal, I said. We hate that thing.

Chainsaw Man offered try to move it. I declined. It took 5 grown men to get the thing there. There’s no way it’s scooching over for something as trivial as a tree.

He looked a little relieved (pressure’s off!) and we joked about how I could tell the family that the deer was damaged in the tree’s fall and boy, what a shame. Ha ha.

I wouldn’t actually do that, but sometimes fantasy is fun.

After all was said and done (pictures to come, possibly), the goddamned deer was still standing, unscathed.

I swear that deer planned the whole thing just to get my hopes up and dash them like so many icicles on the ground.

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