O my God, thank You for my beautiful grandsons with their sweet, innocent faces. If they told me, as they did their mother, that they did not keep raw bacon in their pajama drawer, I would believe them. OMG, wouldn’t You?
December 16, 2016
Then the Fudge Monster decided to double her Christmas fudge output. Having bought one bag in November, she bought me in December.
She hasn’t found the November bag yet.
Perhaps it languishes where she stowed four boxes of Christmas cards, her mother-in-law’s present, and a missing gallon of egg nog — plus all that extra money she thought she’d stashed.
December 24, 2016 – Christmas Eve
Sadly, the Fudge Monster delayed making fudge until Christmas Eve … after stores closed.
No double batch.
The Fudge Monster wept.
But did she let a little senility stop her?
She considered borrowing from a neighbor. But six cups of sugar? On Christmas Eve?
So the Monster used me — the December bag — plus sugar salvaged from various bowls and a Cool Whip container she took camping last summer. Finally, she located a bag with cement-like contents probably bought when a Bush was president.
As she chipped sugar, her husband questioned her wisdom.
Thankfully, the Fudge Monster, wielding wooden spoons like a kitchen samurai, chased him out.
She hacked chocolate and pecans like firewood. She measured and boiled. The Monster stirred and stirred, finally pouring my smooth mixture into a buttered pan. She filled another. And another. Whoa, unlimited chocolate power!
If I solidified.
The Fudge Monster stuck in a spoon. It sank deep into my thin syrup.
Sixty seconds later, she checked again.
I objected. Would she like someone poking to see if her core was solid?
The Monster called to Hubby: Did he think half our county would like chocolate sauce for Christmas?
From the safety of his locked truck, he answered, “Certainly, dear. Everyone needs a gallon or two.”
Later, she dared sample a corner.
Voilà! I am the best fudge she’d ever made!
Later that night, a gooey kitchen returned the Fudge Monster to reality. Even the toaster was glued to the counter.
With hair marshmallowed to her face, the Fudge Monster could have intimidated Bigfoot.
With 10 guests due within hours, she coat-hangered Hubby’s truck door and dragged him inside to help.
Together they whipped the kitchen into shape.
December 25, 2016 – Christmas Day
Their family arrived to celebrate and eat fudge.
Snarfing creamy, chocolaty chunks, the Monster was in such a magnanimous mood that, instead of hiding my extra pans under her bed, she sent fudge home with them.
And they say Christmas miracles don’t happen.
After Christmas, the Monster celebrated New Year’s Eve with fudge. New Year’s Day. Every single football game on TV. Her dryer’s completion of a perma-press cycle.
However, a January Judgment Day, when she finally mounted the bathroom scales exiled my remaining yumminess to the freezer. …
Until her dryer’s perma-press cycle buzzed once more.
What kind of Goodie Monster lives at your house every Christmas?
In the history of mankind, has anyone ever recorded a zucchini shortage?
My husband and I certainly have not suffered such famine. Which is odd, because in April, the seeds we bought reflected our zucchini prejudice: lettuce, spinach, green beans, and cucumbers.
Steve did not place zucchini in the same class as lima beans — he declares God never meant them to be eaten — but he dislikes zucchini, even in sweet breads welcomed by most zucchini haters.
Besides, we heard frightening tales about this squash intent on world domination. Our pastor warned the congregation to lock their cars during zucchini season, as desperate gardeners had been seen stuffing boxfuls into back seats.
What next? Would innocent citizens be forced at gunpoint to accept a minimum of two oversized zucchini per mugging?
Enough corruption existed in the world. We would never plant zucchini.
Actually, I planted nothing, because my workload doubled. My less experienced husband attacked gardening with great enthusiasm. Steve faithfully followed every jot and tittle of planting directions, identifying vegetables with empty packets.
Soon long, green vegetables emerged from yellow blossoms. But they sported speckles instead of bumps. Slices of our firstfruits confirmed the truth: The seed packet said “cucumbers,” with the corresponding picture, but we planted zucchini.
Three hills. With several plants apiece.
I hated to break the news to my hardworking husband. Perhaps weeding made him crack, because when I did, he refused to believe. He had sown seeds from a cucumber packet, and those long, green things were cucumbers. End of discussion.
But not the end of the zucchini.
In our hour of need, I called on our grown children, waving one in their faces: “What’s this?”
Our daughter didn’t hesitate. “A zucchini.”
Our son, married to a master gardener, agreed. “Besides, those are zucchini plants, not cucumber. Zu’s are bunchy.”
The kids’ verdicts shook Steve, though he didn’t visibly back down. When I skewered zucchini chunks on beef kebobs, he said, “You’re grilling cucumbers?”
His favorite theory: Grow ’em big so we can market them as sports equipment.
Some consumers would have sued the seed company for this serious error. Instead, we share our blessings. As we speak, a dump truck, filled to capacity, speeds on its way to the seed company’s corporate headquarters.
And they don’t lock their driveway.
My church serves doughnuts. No surprise. As a pastor’s daughter and veteran of hundreds of ecclesiastical gatherings, I know “fellowship” is synonymous with “doughnuts.”
Some insist the tradition began when Jesus and his disciples made regular stops at an ancient Krispy Kreme. Despite intense efforts, I haven’t yet found that in the Bible.
Still, my childhood church’s divine doughnut ritual made a powerful impact. What kid does not feel her spirituality increase a hundredfold with a table-level view of big white boxes of fresh doughnuts?
The memory lingers: my favorite chocolate-frosted, Boston cream-filled confections; sprinkles, glazes and powdery sugar like sweet fairy dust. Even jelly doughnuts, my last choice, looked as heavenly as the fellowship they represented.
Today, doughnuts no longer symbolize fellowship to me. Alas, they remind me of a major miscue.
As a young mother, I started a kids’ Bible club in my neighborhood, often serving doughnuts.
One swaggering 10-year-old declared himself the world doughnut-eating champion.
I couldn’t let this untruthful claim go unchallenged.
He sneered, but shook it.
The following week, my excited Bible club assembled. Robby and I stared each other down as a fifth-grader ran the stop watch.
“Ready. Set. Go!”
We stuffed doughnuts with the ease of marathoners running the first mile. But my long-time conditioning began to win out. Robby slowed as I snarfed doughnut after doughnut. (How many? I’m not telling.)
“Ten! Nine! Eight! …” The kids counted down the last seconds.
I felt the rosy flush of victory.
Robby’s face, however, turned green.
“I don’t feel so good.” He went home.
Suddenly, I found my win hard to swallow — especially with a stomachful of doughnuts. What kind of role model made a kid sick? What would his parents think of my Bible program?
After repenting and praying for Robby — and my stomach — I mustered the courage to call his mother. “I’m so, so sorry.”
She’ll sue me.
Or have me arrested.
A howl of laughter erupted from the phone. Finally, still chuckling, she said, “He needs to be taken down a peg or two. Thanks!”
Robby showed up the next week. And the next. Apparently, I had earned his respect.
Although that scenario occurred 25 years ago, it replays every time I see doughnuts.
Writing about it now, however, my spiritual vision clears. Doughnuts do not have to symbolize my downfall. Instead, they recall God’s kindness in fixing even my dumbest mistakes.
What’s your favorite kind of doughnut? Have they taught you a spiritual lesson, too?
Steve and I could not agree on what honest-to-goodness strawberry shortcake was.
I spent two sweaty hours picking the best strawberries. I entered my June-steamy, closet-like kitchen and, like my mother before me, baked a decadent white cake. I covered giant pieces with berries, and plopped vanilla ice cream on each, adding more berries. Finally, I buried my masterpiece with an avalanche of whipped cream.
I presented my magnum opus and awaited raves.
Steve ate in silence.
I hinted for a compliment.
He said, “It’s okay. But it’s not real strawberry shortcake.”
Note to you youngsters: don’t try this at home. Unless you really enjoy sleeping on a sofa.
In the parking lot.
When we were speaking again, he pointed to a picture of “real” shortcake in my Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, his thoughtful gift the past Christmas. “Real shortcake’s like a biscuit,” he explained. “You dump berries on, then pour milk over it.”
“Biscuit?” I stared at Steve in horror. “Milk?”
What kind of person would sacrifice innocent strawberries for breakfast food masquerading as a dessert?
I refused to budge one inch. For our future children’s sake, I would allow only the highest strawberry shortcake standard in our home. Hubby said nothing more.
But at a church potluck, his eyes brightened as he spotted that profane biscuit stuff. He devoured an enormous piece and told the woman who made it, “That was the most delicious dessert in the world!”
I considered moving our sofa to the parking lot again. But it seemed like a lot of work. And Steve had so enjoyed “real” shortcake. …
I decided I would (choke!) use Betty Crocker’s biscuity recipe. Still, compromise was the name of the marriage game — for Steve, too! So I invented a shortcake we both appreciate. I added lots more sugar. I slathered butter on it to raise the cholesterol content to decent levels. Not only did this compromise save our marriage, but it has impacted our children, who actually asked for my recipe before they left home. While our kids-in-law secretly believe Mom Phillips is an alien from the planet Skorkxx, they will come if she makes strawberry shortcake.
Tonight I’ll pile ruby-red berries on my husband’s piping hot shortcake and (this still hurts) pour milk over it. I’ll slather butter on mine, add berries, ice cream and fat-free Cool Whip.
After 41 years, we still do shortcake different.
But together, we have a berry good time.
Did you and your spouse experience a similar crucial controversy during the first weeks—days—hours?—of your marriage?
June — and flip-flops — have invaded America for the season, appearing in offices, fancy restaurants and even at weddings. But the change in footwear reflects only a tiny fraction of our monumental summer lifestyle shift.
School is out, graduates have flipped tassels, and parents/teachers/students have flip-flopped their schedules. School buses hibernate, and millions of children remain at home to spend quality time with beloved siblings.
College kids also have abandoned books, eight-o’clock classes and the joys of dormitory living to converge on home. All to spend quality time with their parents’ Internet, refrigerators and car keys.
Flip-flopped Fun Time
We empty nesters change our stodgy ways, as relatives and friends — freed from winter’s icy grasp — target travel in all fifty states, particularly those where mooching a free month’s lodging is legal. Especially if we nesters live near the ocean, the mountains or Disney World.
In view of the above, Congress should enact a law that establishes a ceiling on laundry levels, especially beach towels and sheet changes. No wife, mother or hostess should awaken on a sunny morning to find herself a victim of a hostile laundry takeover.
Also, before Congress adjourns for a well-deserved (?) vacation, why not demand laws requiring automatic shut-offs on kitchen ranges from June through August? After all, salad actually tastes yummy during summer. Although in a dietary flip-flop, ice cream does, too.
I vote for ice cream.
And for s’mores. I dislike marshmallows, yet when summer arrives, I admit an urge to bury myself in bear-infested woods, building campfires whereby I roast them (marshmallows, not the bears) and me. I sacrifice delicious chocolate bars and perfectly good graham crackers by slathering them with marshmallows, even feeding s’mores to my grandchildren.
Dastardly grandma crimes of this magnitude committed in February might evoke stern frowns from nutritionally correct parents. But what can they say, when possessed by similar summer madness, they probably buy them deep-fried Oreos at county fairs?
Occasionally, the carefree, “whatever” lifestyle of summer does us in. Maybe we’ve listened to “Good Vibrations” too many times with the car windows down. Sniffed one too many citronella candles. Carried too many pounds of sand in the seats of our bathing suits.
Perhaps months of wearing flip-flops not only have affected our arches, but also our brains.
But isn’t summer worth it?
How will June, July and August flip-flop your life this year?
For kids in the 50s and 60s, the official nutrition pyramid consisted of three food groups: peanut butter, jelly and Wonder Bread. As a preschooler, I turned up my nose at evil bread crusts, but I never refused the peanut butter that clung to me and my clothes as if it really liked me.
Elvis Presley loved peanut butter and banana sandwiches grilled in bacon grease. Yuk! That would not have impressed me. Plus, his gyrations outraged my kindergarten sense of propriety — I thought he had ants in his pants. Still, Elvis and I shared peanut butter passion. I built peanut butter towers, monumental edifices of crackers cemented with peanut butter and butter, to eat while watching TV.
Peanut butter even entered my theology. The Bible story of a widow, her hungry son, and their never-failing flour canister and oil pot translated into an everyday miracle at our house. When refrigerator raids offered mostly coagulated catsup and fuzzy maraschino cherries, an angel slipped a bottomless peanut butter jar onto the door’s shelves.
Once, I unscrewed the jar, only to gawk at the flawless surface of untouched treasure. That it had escaped my brothers made me bow my head in reverence.
The peanut butter that sustained us starving barbarians blessed my mother with glassware. Companies packaged it in lovely crystal goblets and drinking glasses decorated with flowers, dogs, birds, athletes and cartoon characters. We kids improved geography grades drinking from peanut butter tumblers adorned with state maps, birds and songs. (Did you know the state song of Maine is called “State Song of Maine?”) However, Mom should have focused on hockey glasses because a 1961 York Peanut Butter glass featuring Phil Goyette of the Montreal Canadiens recently was auctioned for $17,925.
If only I had hoarded those jars or the thousands we emptied while my husband attended medical school! My peanut butter habit could have created a substantial IRA. But I wasn’t thinking much about investments then; mostly, we were just trying to eat.
Years after medical school, I avoided the peanut butter aisle in grocery stores. When my brother-in-law, hearing of my acquired “allergy,” bought us two jars for Christmas, I nearly threw them at him.
But in my late middle age (ahem!), I have returned to my roots. I love peanut butter. As I face the misery of a pre-bathing-suit diet, I’d give anything to build a soda cracker tower or stick a big spoon into yummy peanut butter.
Especially if Phil Goyette smiled at me from the jar.
What’s your favorite peanut butter memory?