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February 10, 2015

Baking Thanks

Going to bed Wednesday night, I suddenly realized that I failed to bake.  My subconscious, mental checklist caught me off guard and in a moment of clarity I became aware that I forgot to whip up a baked good for Reggie's carpool.   (I attribute my scheduling mishap to the fact that after collapsing into a two hour, midday nap earlier in the week, I dragged myself to the doctor to receive medication for a sinus infection.  A two hour nap plus time at a doctor's office and pharmacy soaked up the time necessary to complete my to do list.)  I intend to bake for this woman, who I barely know, but who has graciously agreed to pick Reggie up every Thursday and transport him to the North side of Chicago for ceili practice.  Why this nine year old, recreational dancer is involved in a World Championship ceili team is a blog post for another day.  When all the stars align, I promise to carve out enough time to document the intensely mind-blowing nonsense that is grossly and inseparably interwoven into the world of Irish dancing.  Due to the intense, politically-charged experiences I have survived, I will most likely need to publish my future best seller when my children have officially retired from the sport.  Of course it would make sense to begin writing it now since transforming my first hand account into a reader-worthy, tell all will undoubtedly take years.  Perhaps I will begin to hammer away at it after I share a bit about my interesting, but typical Thursday. 

I slipped into a deep sleep after assuring myself that I would mix the dry ingredients in the morning before work, therefore making it entirely possible to still provide car pool super mom and her family with a tasty treat.  Always good to have a plan.  Coach handled most of the kid duties while I measured, poured, mixed and eventually scrambled out the door for work.

This is only my third year at my part time job.  Because dull doesn't work well for me, I have only held down newly created positions.  (I suppose my high school days at Burger King are the exception.  To be more specific, since I graduated from college, I have stepped into various evolving roles).  Last week I attended a workshop for other individuals who work in a similar capacity in other area Catholic Schools.  These presentations always leave me recharged and ready to accomplish many tasks.  Therefore, I approached my Thursday work day with energy and zest.  My day would be productive, and I would rush home to complete my infamous chocolate chip cookies.  Much work stuff was handled, but time failed me.  My goal to escape before 2:00 evaporated.  At last I found myself speeding down the interstate calculating what time I would have to get the cookies in the oven in order to have them pop out presentably.  My mind raced faster than the minivan while I sorted thru the duties and the order I needed to do them when I arrived home.

Reggie would need his dinner in a thermos ready to go at 3:30.  Awesome car pool lady initially offered to grab him a bite to eat on the way to dancing.  I drew the line.  Driving is enough of a gift, no need to also feed him.  I utilize both the microwave convection and the oven when I make cookies, so I made a mental note to warm up his leftover pasta before I preheated the convection for incoming cookie sheets.   While the pasta reheated, I searched for a clean thermos.  Challenging.  The kids left the dirty thermoses from last night's dinner-on-the-run in the dance bag.  Fished one out of said bag, washed it, filled it.  Gathered the eggs, vanilla, and butter and began tossing ingredients into my professional grade mixer.  I always double the recipe when I bake cookies, so I purchased this enormous, top of the line machine last year.  Love it.  Turned the switch to mix and grabbed a stick of butter to grease the cookie sheets.  Only glanced at the clock a few dozen times.

First I heard it.  A loud groan.  Then I saw the results.  A steady stream of white smoke rose ceremoniously from the top of the kitchen aid.  No!  I turned it off and unplugged it.  Damn thick dough!  As a side note, my cookies are thick and quite popular, but this is in large part due to the extra flour I add to the recipe.  Yummy.  No time to cry or panic - although either would have proven therapeutic, I plunged my buttery hands into the dough and began to knead.  I tossed in piles of chocolate chip morsels and scooped balls of dough onto the prepared sheets.  Two cookie sheets in.  Twenty four dreamy cookies would be out of the oven in 13 minutes.  Left to cool for a bit, they'd be warm and loaded on a paper plate in time for carpool superwoman.   

Reggie and Curly walked in from the bus.  Their excitement over my cookie creating deflated somewhat when they asked the usual, "Are they for us?"  I rarely make cookies 'for us'.  Instead I serve this dessert to kindhearted souls as a thank you whenever I think a standard 'thanks' won't cut the mustard.  You could say this form of thanking people is in my genes.  Well, I suppose gratitude baking isn't really hereditary as much as it is a learned behavior.  My mom delivered her very popular baked goods to other people as a congratulations, a welcome to the neighborhood, or a thank you when I was growing up.  Kids on my brothers' baseball team came to expect a plate of cookies at the next game for an awesome play or a home run.  My mom used the same mix-master for about 18 years.  I'm on my second . . . possibly third?  No time to think of my defunct stand mixer, although I must admit the reality continued to fog my already cluttered head. 

Before I directed kids to after school jobs and homework, I promised that everyone could have one of my cookies later.  Reggie quickly changed his clothes and ate the first installment of warm pasta that sat covered with tin foil on the table.  I positioned him at the piano where he practiced his pieces until the teacher arrived for his abbreviated lesson.  Curly was posted at the family room window as a look out for the car pool SUV.  "She's here!" she called and we sprung into action.  Still filling, removing, and rotating cookie sheets in the ovens, I stopped and shuffled outside in my work clothes, house slippers, and apron.  I grabbed Reggie off the piano bench, and ordered Curly to jump up for her lesson.  Outside I swung Reggie's backpack into the back seat and handed the confused mom a plate full of warm cookies.  She insisted that it isn't necessary for me to provide her with home baked treats each week.  I smiled and acted like I understood.  I am already planning Irish soda bread for this Thursday. 

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