Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Baking Blunders

It is 1:41 am and I am sitting here waiting for my bread to rise before popping it in the oven so we can have fresh bread for breakfast Christmas morning. I have only begun baking bread since this summer, but I have fallen so in love with the smell and feel and taste of freshly baked bread that I can hardly stand to eat store-bought bread anymore. I feel so... wonderfully domestic when I bake bread. A few years ago I made a mental checklist of things I would like to be able to do before I get married:

a) use a sewing machine
b) develop a house-cleaning routine that I follow on a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly basis
c) get out of debt
d) bake bread from scratch

Well... at least I've been able to scratch d) off of my list. Some things take more time, I suppose... although I'm not married yet, so I still have time to scratch the other three items off my list. I'm getting close to completing c), which is wonderful!

I used to think that all of these domestic little traits that were lying dormant in my soul couldn't be awakened until I had a man in my life and four little kids romping around in the backyard. Fortunately, early this summer, I had a revelation. I deserved the same attention that I hoped to some day devote to a family. Why shouldn't I be able to bake bread for myself? Why can't I maintain a happy home environment for ME? And don't my parents deserve to be fed a delicious home-cooked meal? Absolutely. So I started a gradual release of these held onto dreams and I discovered... I LOVE IT!

Baking and cooking are definitely two of my favourite domestic hobbies. Ever since I knew how to cook, I was watching cooking shows, trying out new (and sometimes scary) recipes on my unsuspecting family, and experimenting with flavours and foods. This has developed over the years, and my experimentation skills have definitely improved (including one of my happy accidents... the best gourmet brown beans you have EVER tasted!)

My cooking skills have occasionally ventured into the dangerous, however. There are two moments I can recall that still make me cringe and giggle all at the same time... the first story takes place in college. My roomate and I were preparing food for a Russian themed meal that my drama team was hosting. We were putting up the play, The Seagull, and I was supposed to make potato cakes. This involved deep frying the patties of shredded potato, onion, etc. The only problem was that we didn't own a deep fryer.

Not a problem, I thought, I'll just use a frying pan! The first few batches of potato cakes went off without a hitch, but gradually the little pieces left in the bottom of the pan began to blacken and smoke. In a panic, with black smoke billowing from the pan, I grabbed the handle and pulled the pan off of the stove... spilling grease and oil all over the hot element. Instantly, red flames leaped from the stove top, licking the ceiling of our tiny apartment kitchen. I grabbed a pot lid and slammed it down over the flames. Unfortunately, this only encouraged the flames to enter the oven, and a fire show danced behind the oven window.

Luckily, my roommate happened to be a little more level headed than I, and was also trained in the use of fire extinguishers. She grabbed the extinguisher and blasted the tar out of the grease fire. Good news: fire was out. Bad news: there was a fine yellow dust coating our entire apartment. Everything was covered, the stove, the dishes (even the ones inside the cupboards), the tv, the couches, even our bedrooms had dust in them. It took us hours to clean up the mess, and months later when we were moving out we were still finding residual dust in nooks and crannies. It was quite the adventure.

The second story occurred back in my home... ironically with the same friend, plus another girlfriend. We hadn't seen each other in some time and decided we would do breakfast together. We got up early in the morning (which we NEVER do. I am a night owl by definition.) and gathered everything we needed for pancakes. Not just any pancakes, however. We made the most amazing, fluffy, soft, juicy blueberry pancakes any of us had ever seen. We made tons of them. Probably close to 30 pancakes. We were so hungry and so excited.

To keep them warm, I used my mothers pyrex cake dish (which happened to be a wedding gift from, at that time, almost 25 years ago). Thinking simply that Pyrex was indestructible, I placed the pan on the warming element of our stove top. Any of you who know anything about Pyrex can probably guess what happened next.

Everything went smoothly for the entire time we were baking the pancakes. It wasn't until I placed the last pancake on top of the pile and covered the batch with tinfoil that the inevitable happened. I turned my back to walk away and heard the loudest BANG I had ever heard in my life. All three of us dropped to the floor, certain that we were under attack by a rogue band of pancake stealing pirates!

After I realized that my life was not in immediate danger, I stood up and was amazed by what I saw. The Pyrex dish had literally exploded. Fragments were strewn all over the kitchen and into the dining room and living room. The dish was destroyed. None of us knew what to do so we simply burst out in anxious laughter. We were so relieved that none of us were hurt, and so shocked by what had happened, that we couldn't do anything but laugh so hard our sides hurt. How none of us were skewered by flying glass fragments I will never know. I guess God had mercy on my ignorance and decided to keep me around a little bit longer.

The plus side of that story was that we were actually able to salvage some of the pancakes. Since I had covered the pan with tinfoil shortly before the explosion the top pancakes were untouched. We ended up having a lovely breakfast and now have a story that will likely pass down to our children's children's children.

It is true. Cooking together is a great bonding experience. Especially when it is a near-death experience.

Well... I should probably go put my bread in the oven. And if any of you ever have the chance to have a meal prepared by me, I promise that my skills have become far less... dangerous. :)

Blessings and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


It takes quite a bit to get me charged up to the point of using expletives. While a passionate, competitive person, I like to think I have a fairly level head when it comes to most things. There is, however, one thing in particular that pushes past the point of complacency, and that is idiot drivers putting my, or anyone else's, life in danger.

My boyfriend and I attended a Christmas banquet for my company last night. It was a wonderful evening with great entertainment and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was, however, a bit of a drive outside the city, and the roads were a bit slippery from the melted, and thus re-frozen, roads. Since I drive a mini-van, which isn't known for it's incredible traction, I was driving a touch below the speed limit.

As we were merging off the highway onto the freeway, I noticed that it was very bright behind me. A white car had pulled up right to my bumper and had his brights turned on, trying to 'force' me to drive faster through the off ramp. This annoyed me slightly, but I simply took my foot off the gas and tapped my break lights a couple times to politely ask him to back off my rear-end. When he didn't get the hint, I slowed down a bit, trying to be cautious since the ramp was very slippery and I was nervous about how close he was.

As soon as this driver got the opportunity to pass us, he whipped out from behind and moved in front of us. As I began to speed up so I could merge onto the freeway, he slammed on his breaks, forcing us onto the icy shoulder of the road. Luckily, my old van held up under the pressure, and we were able to keep our traction for the most part.

With every muscle tense in my body, my heart pounding, and my blood racing... my mouth released the only words that could come to mind. I won't repeat them here.

How DARE that ignorant young fool put my life, and the life of MY MAN in danger. Do people really have such a low view of human life that they think slamming on their breaks on an icy freeway is an okay way of expressing frustration? I am SO SORRY that I was taking the time to keep myself and the most important person in the world to me safe, but TAKE A PILL and SLOW DOWN!!! The 30 seconds you would have saved by running me down are not something worth risking lives for!

This is a perfect example of the reckless and selfish society that we find ourselves in. People truly believe that if someone gets in their way, or slows down their progress, they have the right to do whatever the heck they want. Well, I'm sorry. No, you don't. This world is not here solely for your exploitation. There are other people on this planet, and their lives and wellbeing are just as important as your own! Treat them with the respect they deserve.

Please, for the sake of all things that truly matter, slow down! Relax. Enjoy the drive.

Respectfully submitted,


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Books Books Books... and Aliens?

I think that many of you will find that we have much in common when I tell you that I LOVE to read!

Since I was a young girl in Kindergarten, books have been the source of countless hours of fantastic adventure, romance, and pondering. I remember one of the first books I read. It was a short picture book entitled "NO GIRLS ALLOWED" and it was about a small band of boys who took over a clubhouse... as you can imagine, no girls were allowed to join the club. My small spirit cheered on the young girls as they plotted and planned ways to break down this unfair system and take back the right to the clubhouse.

As I grew up, my taste in books has both stayed the same, and grown, as can be expected. I have four nieces and nephews, and I still love to sit down and read those children's stories with them, and I must confess that for the short time I worked in a bookstore, I would love to spend my short breaks reading the newest children's book. They are the perfect size to finish in a 15-30 minute period and they often have wonderful artwork and valuable lessons that even we adults can still learn from.

I am about to reveal a bit of the nerd side of my personality when I tell you that I got hooked on fantasy and science fiction books at quite an early age. I remember reading J.R.R Tolkien's The Hobbit in grade five and marveling at the new world that had been opened to me. Dragons, unicorns, winged horses, elves, giants... anything mystical became my new best friend. My play time often took place in worlds that defied the imaginations of many of my peers. I was the Queen of a distant band of elvish mages who controlled magical dragons with their minds. I was the daughter of a Unicorn who dared to defy her kind and interact with the dangerous humans. And I was... as every good child of the 80's/90's was... a friend of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Come on!! What could possibly be cooler than life-size turtles kicking butt with their ninja powers of awesomeness!?

I didn't stop at Fantasy and martial arts though... I loved Science Fiction. Star Trek and Star Wars novels graced my bookshelves, and still do now that I'm finally in a relationship with a man who understands how utterly cool and awesome science fiction is ;)

I know I may be labeling myself a complete nerd here, but the world of science fiction has, in many ways, really broadened my perspective of the world I now live in, and even my faith in God. The God I believe in is a God of creation. I believe that he created this entire universe with purpose and with the intent that we, and all other creatures, would multiply and fill this earth. Now tell me... if Adam and Eve had never eaten that accursed fruit ... if humanity had never thrown creation into utter chaos and sin... if death had never entered the world... this earth that we now live on would not have been sufficient to sustain life. Eventually, we would have needed somewhere else to go. That is why I believe that there are other planets out there capable of sustaining life. The universe is so big, so beyond comprehension, that I do believe that there are other habitable planets out there.

Does this mean that I believe in aliens? No... not really. I believe humanity is unique in its bearing of the Image of God. I believe we are unique in our sentience. However, I do believe it is possible that there is life, in some form, on other planets. However, it is very possible that after the fall of creation in the Garden of Eden, we locked ourselves off from the possibility of ever witnessing and experiencing these other "worlds."

Crazy? Perhaps. Geeky? Absolutely. What does this have to do with books? Nothing, I suppose.

Just the wandering ponderings of a random mind on a winter afternoon.