Secret cookies.


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Thank you, Daddy, for your marvelous photography.

Today I needed chocolate surrounded by a cookie. Yes, “need” is relative, but because I know the joys and comforts of a warm chocolate chip cookie made with our family’s secret (soon to be not-so-secret) twist on the Toll House recipe, I needed the cookie.

Every time I make this cookie recipe, which I now know by heart, I think of being just taller than the countertop, over which I now tower. The sweet, floury smell of the dough brings me right back to my childhood, right back to baking with my mom.

Oh, that time when I started the mixer while she was on the phone… without having it in the dough. It sprayed all over the kitchen. Yes, that was part of the beginning of my baking career.

I remember her asking me, “Do you remember the secret recipe?”, and my reply would be “Real butter, extra vanilla.”

Real butter, extra vanilla. The mantra still goes through my head each time I add these.

Real butter. Extra vanilla. Mmmmm.

To this day, I don’t know what the recipe would be like with margarine or no vanilla. We’ve learned that a quarter cup extra of flour helps, too. I’m just unwilling to try the recipe as its written because the way we make these cookies…. oh, you really can’t eat just one.

We used the hand mixer because our Kitchenaid stand mixer was an unthought of luxury in the far-off future at that point.  So after mixing up everything but the chocolate chips, my mom would get as much of the dough off the beaters as she could with the rubber scraper, then hand them to me to lick (salmonella, schpalmonella). Something about cookie dough pre-chemical reaction is so tasty.

Or maybe I’m just conditioned to like it. Either way, that slightly salty, sweet dough is so good. I have to remind myself to wait for the real cookies.

These are some of the things that I want to pass on to another child. Maybe mine, maybe Brooke’s. Maybe someone else’s. I want to share the love of putting ingredients in a bowl and mixing them up and creating something that none of them could become on their own.

Okay, one more cookie.

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My food people.


I wrote an article for RELEVANT, kind of hoping that they would snatch it right up and declare it the best piece they’ve ever had submitted. But alas, they already had an article on the same subject ready to go.

Oh well. Better results next time, perhaps.

So, instead I read my eyeballs out for American literature and wrote a short story while sitting on the deck on the third floor of my building. It’s sunny and in the high 60s today, which is a welcome introduction into spring weather. I think I got a little pink while I sat out there with my laptop, typing away about two old guys who are regulars at a coffee shop.

It’s probably not an amazing story, but sometimes you just have to sit down and write something that you might know a little something about, even if it’s mediocre. Because if you try to write something you know nothing about, then it will not only not be amazing, it might really stink.

Here’s the other news: we’re talking about what an American is in my American lit class. It’s funny because most of the people in there are European, so there’s a very different lens than I’m used to. Also, I’m realizing that I’m not sure what an American is. I’m not sure what we are historically or if you can even put a label on what is really “American.” I like what one of Dickens’ character who traveled a lot said; rather than being from a specific place, he was “a citizen of the world.”

I also like cookies. So I decided to bake some, because baking feels like home, even though all the tools and ingredients are foreign.

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Meet Austrian ingredients. Can you read any of that? Kudos if you can. Also note the recipe with grams as a measurement. WHAT?DSCN5519

The lovely dough balls, waiting to have a chemical reaction in the oven.DSCN5520Mother dough lump.

The after picture of the cookies is basically the same shape as the before picture. They weren’t anything particularly beautiful, but my flatmate said that they were “soooo good.” And I think I agree.

On the list of great food items of the past 24 hours: crêpes. Yes, crêpes. Made by a French person and eaten with French people. And a Canadian. And a West Virginian.DSCN5528

Photographic evidence of friendships. I think true friends eat together, and this group embraces that. We hadn’t even gotten up from the table before planning what we were going to eat together next.

Oh, I like food people.

 

Go before.


There’s something to be said for asking God to go before you to a new place. What does a person who goes before you do? He scopes it out. He finds you a group of Christian students that you can meet with on a Thursday night in March and feel so at home that you want to come back. He finds you coffee shops all over the place and prompts you to go buy a cappuccino when you arrive over there… over there are the good ones.

He picks the right dorm with the nice flatmates and the wonderful friend upstairs who helps you so much and has a soul much like yours. He makes you run into the right people at orientation so that you can be friends and shoves nice Canadians and French people into your path at lecture so that you’ll have even more friends.

He provides sunny days when you need it most and a bicycle that you are allowed to use when the key to the bike lock is on the shelf. He makes sure that there are lots of parks in the area and that there is a Hofer (Aldi) close to you so that you can save money on groceries.

He makes the laundry free and puts you in classes with nice people who actually like literature.

He makes sure that you don’t miss all the amazing Austrian treats (like you would ever miss those).

He actually went farther than you expected and planned out your next semester in Chicago for you. Oh yeah, the classes weren’t going to be enough for a semester, so how about an internship? Oh, and here’s a perfect place to apply. Have at it.

Goodness. God is a good trip planner. He’s also a great companion, if I do say so myself. Here, have a Manner cookie, Jesus. You deserve it. It’s the least I can do. No, really. Have one.

I’m feeling taken care of today. On my own in a foreign country, but I’m taken care of.

WYOCR


That stands for Write Your Own Cookie Recipe.  It’s my take on BYOB.  That’s what I’m doing tonight.  I’m thumbing my nose at the plethora of creative recipes on Pinterest just because I feel the need to be an individual.

Whenever I make cookies, I use the base recipe of my family’s secret chocolate chip cookie recipe, just so I can have the proportions of dry ingredients just right.  Then, I do whatever the heck I want to do with it, as illustrated with tonight’s baking endeavor.

My thoughts at 8:54pm as a stirred oats into the dough.  This is what Heaven will smell like.  Or something like this.  MMM, peanut buttery goodness.  I bet Jesus smells like peanut butter – except not to people who have allergies to it – because this smells like perfection.

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I wish that you could have smelled that.  It was the start of peanut butter, chocolate chunk, oatmeal cookies.  I totally winged it, and it ended up being absolutely wonderful.

DSCN5088I’ll be up til about 11 if you want to swing by for one.

 

 

Piggy blessings.


I don’t usually eat pigs, but when I do, they look like this.

DSCN4987It’s a truffle pig.  And the sun is shining, so obviously you know why I’m happy today.  Seriously, a truffle pig!  It’s both adorable and delicious!

Getting mail from the people I love who are far away is one of my favorite things, so I like to honor those care package senders publicly.

You’ll notice that my mom has included a pair of knee socks in this one (one of my favorite things) as well as coffee, cute cards, and homemade cookies.  She knows me so well.

It’s the little tastes of home that warm my heart and remind me how blessed I am.  They make me wish that it was March 8 and that I was on board a plane to Minnesota too, but that will come in time.

In the meantime, I’m still canoeing down that river, and the water’s shallow right now.  But I’ve got Nutella cookies and truffle pigs in my boat to give me energy to shove.

Speaking of Christmas


Air travel is such a weird concept.  I’m still not used to it.  You wake up in one place, hang out for a bit.  Then you go to this magical building, walk into a skinny vehicle of sorts, and walk out of the skinny vehicle to see a completely different landscape.

It’s a Christmas miracle.

Speaking of Christmas, it’s exactly a month from today, as my sister reminded me. I’m about 2/3 of the way done with my gift-buying, which enables me to focus less on that and more on finishing up the semester with a strong work ethic.

It’s so cliché to say that I really want to focus on Jesus and the real reason for -not just the Christmas season but – life, love, HOPE.  But I do.  It’s all fine and dandy to say that, but what does that look like in my life? Does that mean that I do anything differently?

One year, I decided to read the Christmas story every day in December.  It was good to re-read the climax of God’s story, but it became rote after a few times.  And if there’s anything that I don’t want the story of Jesus humbling Himself and coming down to earth to be, it’s boring or mundane or tired.

I want to revel in the story this year.  I want to marvel at the fact that the God that I serve loves a world that rejected Him time and again so much that He would sacrifice for them in order to restore the relationship that they once had.

As much as I enjoy twinkly lights and cookies (which is a key part of the season for me, as I’m sure you can predict) and giving gifts, there’s got to be more to it, more substance, a deeper and richer spiritual holiday.  Not a holiday from being spiritual.

I have 24 hours of Christmas music on Matilda now, on a playlist entitled, “Christmas extravaganza.”  As Stacey, Kathryn, and I finish up our homework from the weekend, we’re ushering in the season by clicking play.

Welcome, Christmas.

Fail.


I was going to have a mouthwatering picture of the cookies my mother has been tempting me with this afternoon, but, due to circumstances that are too dumb to recount, the picture is not here.  So, I want you to use your imagination with me.  You know those puffy sugar cookies with the thick frosting (usually colored in a bright color according to what holiday is coming up) that are sold at Target and Cub?  They’re the ones that kids love to bring in for their birthday treats, the ones that leave you feeling happy and fat.

Well.  My mom made those.  Out of a white cake mix.

I just polished off three of them, and I’m still waiting for the regret to sink in.

Waiting.

Waiting.

Okay, so maybe I just regret that I’ve already eaten my allotted amount of the top triangle of the food pyramid for the day and can’t indulge again later.

And now, in an effort to get my mind off of the container full of those delicious tempters, let’s reflect on failure.  It really isn’t a “nice” topic, per se, but I’ve been realizing how much of a failure I am the past couple days.  Now, don’t go feeling bad for me; don’t start thinking that I have no self-esteem and am going to go around hanging my head and always be on the verge of tears.  Healthy people are the ones who know that they are inadequate.  Even healthier people are the ones who see those inadequacies as ways for God to show how good He is.  To show that He redeems us in the places where we fall short.

Here’s an effort at being relatable: does anyone else have days where they feel like 90% of what they said was

a) pointless

b) seen as random by the person to whom it was spoken

c) incoherent or just not well though out

d) all of the above

That has been my week.  I’m sure that my late bedtimes and early wake ups weren’t helping me either.  I look back on how many things I said that were either a,b,c, or a combo of the three and just want to take a nap, to take a break from being conscious for a little bit.  If I’m not conscious, I can’t say stupid things.

And though the thought of just wanting to escape is enticing, the thought that God can redeem my speech to make it useful and powerful and glorifying to Him is much more inspiring.  That gets my heart pumping blood faster.  It makes me want to take care of my brain better to enable it function on a higher level, to go to sleep when my eyes plead with me to make a day of it.  My calculus teacher has the philosophy that “you can sleep with you’re dead!” — as an exhortation to us to stay up late doing our homework instead of skipping the extra problems for extra hours of sleep — but I think that if you don’t sleep, you’ll die sooner.  Which is, perhaps, the objective of those who refuse to sleep.  It isn’t mine though.

I feel like I’m sitting here, holding out my worthless or inappropriate words in my cupped hands, waiting for God to put His words in my mouth.

 

the help, what-the-heck cookies, and happy feet


new insoles - they make my feet feel like a million bucks.

You know that movie about the penguin who lives in a colony of musical penguins, but he likes to dance?  Happy Feet?  It was probably one of the dumbest movies I’ve ever seen – not counting the Strawberry Shortcake movie or the Wiggles – but the title completely describes how my new insoles make me feel.

I never thought I could feel so affectionate towards something other than a shoe itself. (and people, the normal object of affection. )  These insoles are so supportive of whatever activity I choose to do, they’re cute and lime green, and they fit perfectly in my shoes.

And that wraps up the ode to my insoles.

I’v e been a little behind the rest of the literary world since I JUST started reading The Help two days ago.

And I’m hooked.

Not only does Kathryn Stockett have the dialect and the perspectives of both the two maids and the white writer down, but she’s practically writing what I want my life story to be.  No, I don’t want to be a maid.  That wouldn’t really be a good fit since my room is in a crazy disarray most of the time.  No, she’s writing about a writer who is concerned about the way things are.  She’s going against a social norm and risking everything to tell a story that needs to be told.

There are so many stories in this world that need to be told. they need to be told.  And they need to be told in a way that shows that it’s not fiction, that it really happened.

I’ll be real here: Whenever people talk about the persecuted church or about people in third-world countries not having water or about mothers in China who are forced to abort their children because of their gender, I feel the injustice.  I see the gravity, but I fail to grasp the reality.  I can’t even imagine (and I am pretty imaginative) living a life like the ones I hear about.

And so I file it away as fiction.  Not consciously, of course, but if I had two filing systems in my head: reality and things that don’t seem to concern me, all of that far-away, horrendous injustice would be kept in the latter.  Maybe this is my fault, that I don’t expose myself.   Maybe I have fostered in myself a person who can’t accept oppression and need as something that actually occurs.

That bothers me.

For a long time now, I’ve wanted to be a journalist: to travel all over the world (fill up my passport with stamps), hearing people’s stories, and making them known to people in the privileged land of America.  Because it needs to be real.  The way Matthew West put it describes how my life has been:

In my own little world, it hardly ever rains.  I’ve never gone hungry, always felt safe.  I’ve got some money in my pocket, shoes on my feet.  In my own little world, it’s population: me.

What kind of world is that?  Sure, it’s one that is happy for the most part, has its ups and downs, but is completely unaware that there is hurt out there.  And the answer to someone else’s hurt just might be me.  My $10 could help someone go to school, keep them out of prostitution.  My time spent helping someone make their house a livable home could change the entire course of their life.  To me, they are small things.  To me, it’s just an hour of my time or a portion of my paycheck.

Or two weeks in India.

There are no words for the draw and the calling that I feel.  I’m not always this sure about what God wants me to do, but I know this time.  I just do.  When I met with one of our contacts at the EFCA ministry, she confirmed it as well, telling me that it WILL happen, that she can tell that I want to go, that she knows that God will make a way.

And it will make a change in the way things are.

Just like Skeeter is trying to do.  (I don’t know yet if she’s succeeded, because I’m only halfway through… so NO SPOILERS!)

If you follow me on twitter, you know that I set up a printer today.  Not too hard, but I must say, I’m proud of myself for not having to google anything.  Independent. That’s me.  At least for today.

And I joined Skype:

yay! now I can talk to people that are far away!

And when I got home from volleyball, I made myself a sandwich using the World’s Smallest Spatula – affectionately dubbed by me.

nutella on the left, peanut butter on the right, World's Smallest Spatula pictured center

then I decided to make cookies for the heck of it

mmm, cocoa powder from Penzey's

and here they are, ready to go in the oven - my what-the heck cookies :)

Sometimes I just have to do things when I feel like it, because later I’ll think that I should and not feel like doing it.  Not that cookies are a need here, but, hey, who doesn’t like cookies?

Please don’t answer that if you are among those who don’t like cookies.