Thanks for the Heads-Up

Someone looking after the health of our nation wrote a warning article last week that gave advice concerning holiday food. One of the cautions was, “Eggnog, not surprisingly, contains eggs and dairy.” Seriously? I could have been fooled on that one. Who would have guessed that something with “egg” in the title contains eggs?

Further attempting to mess with holiday menus, the author warned that:
a) Gingerbread contains gluten.
b) Ingredients in holiday cookies include nuts, dairy, eggs, and gluten.
c) Potato latkes are full of eggs, nuts, and gluten.
d) Hidden in pumpkin pie are wheat, gluten, dairy, and eggs.
e) Secreted in the green bean casserole are dairy, gluten, and wheat.
f) Many sauces and salad dressings have fish and shellfish as ingredients.

Concerned Lady somehow overlooked mentioning the most hyped of all food allergens, peanuts. Maybe she has never heard of Scotcharoos, Peanut Butter Pie, Coco-peanut Butter Bars, and Peanut Blossoms.

Not happy with just listing the potentially offending ingredients in the old stand-bys, the article concluded by warning that dishes containing any of the listed allergens might contaminate even allergen safe dishes just by being in close proximity to them on the table.

Guess what, Ms. Concerned. I didn’t let you ruin my holiday feast.  But I do think that while you were passing out warnings, you really should have warned everyone that Avocado Cheesecake might contain avocados.


It’s the High Altitude

Moving to Colorado provided me with the perfect excuse for cooking failures. Pie crust not tender? It’s the high altitude. Cake falls? The high altitude is to blame. Brownies gooey? High altitude again. Candy too hard? You guessed it, high altitude.

Our family loves homemade candy, so once again making candy was my seasonal challenge. After six years of trying to figure out candy making in Colorado using the old-fashioned cold water testing method, I decided to purchase a very nice (interpret pricey) candy thermometer. The first batch of fudge cooked to “soft ball” stage on said designer thermometer proved to be a dismal failure.

My next step should maybe have been my first. I searched the web and located the following directions on the Colorado State University website: “Both humidity and altitude affect candy making. To prevent excessive water evaporation during the cooking of sugar mixtures at [high] altitude[s], cook to a ‘finish’ temperature that is lower than that given in sea-level recipes. If you use a candy thermometer, first test the temperature at which your water boils, then reduce the finish temperature by the difference between the temperature of your boiling water and 212 degrees. This is an approximate decrease of two degrees F for every increase of 1,000 feet in elevation. You may also use the cold-water test, which is reliable at any altitude.”

Turned off by directions that reminded me of math story problems from my elementary school years, I decided to forget the thermometer and go back to the cold water method. But one set of directions caused extra stress. The cooking time for the syrup is to be “exactly twenty-three minutes.” This is a Kansas recipe. What to do? How much time should be added (or subtracted) at over 6000 feet? That candy is now done and I can tell you that I still don’t know how many minutes it should have cooked.

After midnight last night, during my staring at the ceiling time, I was wondering if my family would notice the difference if I made a visit to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory™. It’s located right down the street and they have the high altitude cooking times down to a science.

Maybe next year!


Please Tell Me I’m Cute

I read this week about a nine-year-old boy who was suspended from school in Gastonia, North Carolina, for sexual harassment. It seems that a substitute teacher overheard him say that one of the teachers in the school is “cute.” Yikes! Might they have charged him with a hate crime if he had said she was “ugly?”

This news story caused me to reflect back over my many years as a teacher, and I started to wonder where such a kid as this one was while I was teaching. I had many first graders call me “mommy,” a fifth grader who wanted to know if I might be planning to get a divorce  because she wanted me to meet her dad, and a second grader who asked me if my age was seventy-five. (I was thirty-nine at the time.) But never did a student say that I was cute.

While thinking about school systems where I taught and about what is going on in schools across the nation now, it occurred to me that absurd punitive measures have been administered all too frequently over the years. These actions are not the actions of the majority of educators, but rather a tiny minority of administrators and teachers. Unfortunately, the actions of these people sully the profession as a whole and cause children to dislike school.

For the small minority of educators who apparently know little about children, I have some advice. Get your semi-educated minds in gear. Go back to the university and retake the Child and Adolescent Development course. The little people you have been charged with educating are not miniature adults. They have experiences based on the years they have been on this earth; they think as children think; they understand as young minds comprehend; they analyze as immature brains process information; they act as children act. Get off their cases and let them be children. Better yet, find a new career.

I know stupid can’t be fixed, but ignorant can be remediated. Get to work on it, teachers and administrators!

Now that I’ve vented, I feel better.  But I’m still upset that at least one child I taught during my career didn’t think I was cute.


Credit Card Village

Many people have beautiful Christmas villages that they purchase one piece at a time, carefully selecting each building, figure, vehicle, tree, and then choosing “can’t live without” pieces from among a gazillion accessories. That would not be my village. My village is an after Christmas leftover that was purchased at a pitifully small price. I’m sure the little gift shop lost big time.

I like after Christmas sales, though I do have a “no shopping the day after Christmas” policy. So by the time I get to the mall, “The pickins are slim,” as they say.

Thirty years ago, during my after Christmas shopping spree, I went to a little gift shop at the mall to see what might be left over that I really needed. The final sale shelves were almost empty, but I did find a complete Christmas village still sealed in the original packaging. A small picture of the village was on the front of the box. Having wanted to change it up under my tree for a couple of years, this village seemed perfect. I decided I needed the village, and so it made its way home with me.

Still in the sealed box, the new Christmas village was packed away in basement storage with the rest of my Christmas decorations. Out of sight; out of mind.

As happens with each calendar year, the next Christmas arrived. When I got my decorations out of storage, I discovered an early gift – the long-forgotten village. A trip to the mall yielded the perfect staging material for my village, Buffalo Snow™. This soft, fluffy product provided a beautiful cover of “snow” under my tree and I set about unpacking my early present.

Five buildings were in the box, along with several accessories. My first task was to set each building in place and connect the lights so the cords were hidden in the soft snow. A church, two houses, a bank, and WHAT? Yes, I had read the sign on the last building correctly – a tavern. Not a bakery or candy store or any building one might consider Christmas related. A tavern! But after some pondering about this selection for the village, and considering making a new sign for the building to hide this drinking establishment from my minister hubby, I decided I would just name my village, “Credit Card Village.” What better place than a tavern to forget how much one racks up on credit cards during the Christmas season?

Credit Card Village

December 26th Drinking Establishment