Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cookies and Messy Kitchens...

So 2009 has pretty much come and gone, and I was lucky enough to come up with the brilliant idea of making sugar cookies from scratch - now don't get me wrong, I am pretty handy in the kitchen, and have an awesome recipe for a Hot Pocket omlette with microwave waffles that will make any hungover individual instantly feel better - but most of the work is done there - this was purely a routine spur of the moment thing to try and come up with some inexpensive gift ideas for folks, (I will get to the inexpensive part later), and to spend some quality time with my two little elves creating Christmas Memories together - and boy did we create memories...

So first - when you are making sugar cookies from scratch, you must go to the web, and you must find the recipe with the least ingredients.  Now, I thought sugar cookies probably only contained three, maybe four ingredients - but no - every Grandmother from here to Missoula, Montana has come up with their respective twist on sugar cookies.  What the fuck is lemon zest anyway - and why would you put something that sounds like dishwashing detergent in a cookie - I was unable to figure that one out - but I imagine that it is a perfectly good cooking item - just one that they don't put in Hot Pockets...

A couple of the strange items that I found that you can add to sugar cookies - peanut butter - why in the hell would you add peanut butter to sugar cookies - does that not make them a peanut butter cookie? Do they have some sort of internal conflict - no, these really are sugar cookies, they just look and taste like peanut butter.  Vanilla Bean seeds - I understand why one would want to use Vanilla Bean seeds after purchasing Vanilla Extract - at the current price of extract, I could afford to actually buy gifts, and not deal with shit sticking to every corner of my kitchen floor.  Lemon Zest - see above.  Mint extract - nothing like having that just brushed feeling after wolfing down a dozen sugar cookies.  Cinnamon - once again - SUGAR COOKIES - pure simple sugar cookies - if you add cinnamon, you have a snickerdoodle - not a damn sugar cookie.  Perhaps on those dictionary websites someone should really set the record straight about what a sugar is, and why you just use flour, eggs, butter, SUGAR, and vanilla - not fruit, liquor, bark, or other spices - it is a sugar cookie. 

Needless to say, I did find a fairly simple recipe, and set off on my journey to find the ingredients and necessary tools to work with my children on these wonderful creations...

Step 1 - You might as well take the Tylenol now.  Going to any grocery store two days before Christmas is pure insanity.  Women and children clogging every artery of the store with shopping carts full of raw turkeys and hams and chips and candy and wine (I don't mind that part) - and that was just the parking lot. 

Step 2 - Make a list.  Make a list of the things you wish you had done right in life so that you could hire someone to make the damn cookies, and you and your kids could be skiing in Switzerland somewhere.  Then, make a list of everything you need.  If you don't, the Grocery Manager will KNOW that you are on a sugar cookie expedition, and that's where the trouble starts.  For some reason, every grocery store (of the three I visited) was out of the cheap plastic cookie cutters - but every single one of them had the copper keepsake cookie cutters.  Yup, now I have two damn sets of gingerbread men and angels, and trees, and doves and bells.  I am going to rent them next Christmas, so give me a call if you need them. 

Step 3 - Stop in the beer aisle, drink one or two, then go back to the baking section.  This not only calms the nerves, but typically gets people off your ass.  If they see you, they know you are having a really bad time at this whole thing, and just need to give you some distance and time.  The women with their little bastards also move further away from you.  (Of course during this entire excursion, my two children were perfect angels - except for the color combinations that we had to list as necessities)

Step 4 - Enter the baking aisle.  Buy Powdered Sugar, Vanilla, Copper Cookie Cutter, Flour, Sugar, writing icing, (hopefully you remembered the butter and eggs after you chugged the two beers in the refridgerated aisle) - and as a man in the baking aisle, be prepared for the disdainful stares and tsk tsk tsk sounds coming from the grandmothers who see your cart and realize you are not going to put Lemon Zest in your cookies.  Oh and don't forget the little candy things, that, when properly placed on a tile kitchen floor, feel just like walking on a bed of nails.

Step 5 - Escape the Grocery, give the kids a dollar for the Salvation Army Bell Ringer, and pray that you just purchased the winning powerball ticket.

Step 6 - Here is where the real fun begins - you mix all of this crap in a large bowl, and you realize you just made something that resembles and tastes like pizza dough.  No problem, just add more sugar until you have sweet pizza dough.  I would recommend taking a shot of the vanilla extract, but expensive tequilla is cheaper - so do that. 

Step 7 - Remind yourself that you should have wrapped everything in Saran Wrap - the couches, the carpet, the utensils, yourself - as little dismembered angels and gingerbread men and bells and doves fly around the kitchen at lightening speed whilst little hands work furiously to create these gifts.  Now, I can understand shoving nickels into a slot maching at breakneck pace while sucking down well vodka - but kids, they can understand rolling dough, cutting dough, licking dough, cooking dough, eating dough, and wearing dough faster than I could ever possibly feed nickels into a slot machine (and trust me, anyone who has seen me in Vegas knows that I am pro-freaking-lific at that).

Step 8 - First batch in the erroneously non-preheated oven.  Note to self - when baking, ignore all instructions about sea level.  I never believed that crap - and the fact that I just watched the cookies until they looked okay seemed fine to me.  Last thing I need is to actually have to be an engineer to bake cookies (even though, based on my experience, it probably will not hurt) - anyway, I digress.  You must continue to cut and shape cookies while the first batch bakes.  This way, your little helpers do not constantly say, "Can we make frosting now, how about now, are we ready to make frosting now, not right now, can we make it in a few minutes, when do we make frosting...." you should get the point.  After cutting about fifteen dozen shapes of mangled innocent cookies - the first batch comes out the oven, and the cooling begins...and the second batch and third batch and fourth batch and fifth batch go in the oven...eventually you will tire of hearing the question above, and you move on to step 9.

Step 9 - Frosting.  You must make the frosting.  These recipes are just as complex as sugar cookies.  Keep it simple.  Add milk, add vanilla, and add powdered sugar.  Done.  Don't add anything else.  Don't add anything else for multiple reasons - first - you already spent $94 on the ingredients to make the simple recipe.  Second - you may not be at sea level.  Third - by the time you get done making fourteen different colors based on the four food coloring bottles that you purchased, you will not have any clean bowls left to handle any additional ingredients, extracts, flavors, booze, grindings, shavings, nuts, fruit, or whatever they make suggest to liven up your cookie frosting.  For Pete's Sake (who the hell is Pete anyway) - they are SUGAR COOKIES.  Anyway, mix the simple ingredients, and watch your children slowly stain their teeth blue and green and red and turquoise and burnt umber etc etc etc - be sure to make two batches - because the first batch generally gets eaten mysteriously prior to making it onto the cookies.  Another reminder - keep the Benadryl handy - this is a safe and effective way to negate the sugar high that both you and your children are experiencing, and it keeps the neighbors from thinking that all of you are amped up on crystal meth and freaking out to Christmas music.

Step 10 - Decorate the little cookies.  Now the amazing thing here is that those mangled chunks of dough, once they swell up in the oven, actually come out looking like little bells and angels, and trees and whatever the hell those copper things were - so you have a pretty clean palate from which to work - and you know - step 10 is the best step - that's when the kids buckle down, and start sprinkling and painting and giggling and laughing and making birds that look like deformed bats and gingerbread men that look like they just got off a three day binge.  Step 10 is by far the best part - they laugh and they are enjoying the hard work you just did - and for about half and hour, you forget about steps one through nine - and hope that they don't remember you saying "Why in the fuck did I just not buy these folks a damn box of Chocolate"...

Now with all of that being said - the real story is simple.  It was great to make a mess, and get my hands sticky and gunked up with sugar cookie dough.  It was fun to watch my little girl gingerly cut out angels, and watch  my son knead cookie dough.  It was a wonderful experience to watch them paint each gingerbread man, and talk to each other about the color of the buttons or the eyes of each of the cookies.  It was a reminder that the season gets into every ounce of their bones.  It was refreshing to me to see my eleven year old son hedge his bets on Santa, and my eight year old daughter eyes sparkle as she wondered what was going to be under the tree this year.  The best part - were the smiles in the photo above - and the joy and pride they felt in making cookies with their Dad for their family - and the pride and joy they will feel when their family bites into them - and knows that every single bite is a little bit of youth and love -

Merry Christmas everyone -


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Where DO I go?

Okay, so it is my lunch break here - and after getting through one conference call, and about to bounce to the next, I looked around my home office (yes, I am actually in Jacksonville this week - and am amazed at how disciplined I actually am with regards to working a full day - sometimes my motivation sucks - but it is much easier to work from here, get my work work done, and avoid doing the things that I should have done last night prior to going to bed at the same time my kids went to bed - i.e. dishes, laundry, more work, exercise, clean, pay bills - so the best motivator for me to stay focused on work is the fact that all of the other crap is just too damn dreary to worry about right now...)  Boy that was a long digression - anyway, I looked around my home office - that consists of a built in cubby space with my computer, three empty Starbucks cups, stacks of correspondence from the ex (I really really really like reading and printing those emails - those are always a good time), legal research, checking account statements, work papers, and a couple of pens that may or may not work anymore - and I decided today that it was about damn time that I find a place more suitable than a freaking apartment for me to live.

I have a two bedroom two bathroom apartment - and as far as apartments go - it is nice - it is a gated community, and is fairly new, and has one of those all purpose buildings, where, if I was not so lazy, could walk over and get free coffee and bottled water, or even use the business center over there to print more shit to stack on top of my already cramped "office space" - my kids share a room - it is decorated and adequate - a little too small for two kids of eight and eleven, but they use it for television and sleeping - and for now - before they hit puberty, they can deal with being in the same place for longer periods of time - I have a kitchen that is comfortably appointed, a screened in patio (that feels more like a prison cell than a patio), and my bedroom is large enough to put everything that I came out of the marriage with into a space (that means I bought new stuff, because I came out with a couch, a loveseat, a broken ottoman, and a broken television stand), and the living room has enough room for the stuff mentioned there, plus some wrought iron furniture that has been converted into a dining room table (of sorts - it hurts your ass to sit on it, so generally, I just eat on the floor and use the broken ottoman as a table - assuming that it is not piled high with folded laundry that I refuse to put away).  The apartment is one of those waiting places - where you have to be for a short period of time until things smooth over - I hate waiting places (reference to another Seuss book) - it is a place to store my crap, have my children, and sleep occassionally when I am home.  In the decorative spirit of Christmas, there are trees and lights and some decorations - but still, it feels like whipped cream on a pile of shit -

So that is the next question - where in the hell do I go - I am dating a girl from Seattle, work in Toronto, am headquartered in Omaha, and have two beautiful children here in Jacksonville - so what to do - you know, I continually toy with the idea of getting one of those POD storage units, putting everything in there, and just moving to one of those daily rent, daily pay places you see along the side of the old US Route Highways - that way, maybe it would not feel so permanent, and I could actually convince myself that I am in between houses right now - or just sell off everything, store my clothes at the parents house, and when I am in town, use some of those accumulating sky miles and hotel points to rent a room the weekends I am home.  There are really not very many alternatives - everyone told me this when I first started to get divorced - and it brings new meaning to "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" (hence the above video....perdy damn good music...), that I needed to protect myself a little better, to hell with doing what I usually did - and get myself a place to live with a backyard ample enough for bar-b-que, beer, fireworks, and falling down - (falling on pavement in my parking lot just is not that great) and let her figure out the rest of the crap - but me, being the intelligent genious that I am just said to hell with it, got a new apartment in the sticks right across the street from the dog track - and ten months later, I still have no earthly idea where to end up.

Do I go to Seattle - the Northwest has more there than any city that I have ever lived in - waking up and driving to the top of the hill in Main Street Edmonds and seeing the Olympics in your window, hiking at Deception Pass, heading for Breakfast downtown with the heroin addicts and night shift workers out for a morning beer, laying at Gas Works soaking up the occassional sun - it offers alot...

Do I go to St. Augustine - Buy the little duplex, rent the upstairs, live downstairs, and wake up in the mornings to the sound of waves and watch the tourists stroll by on their way to the beach.  Spend long nights sitting on the porch, walking in the sand with kids to the Beach Comber, enjoy long nights of beer and blues at Aaron's place -

Do I go to New Orleans - Rent one of Aunt Myrlene's duplexes, and spend my weekends lost in Zydeco and good food and smoke filled bars crowded with other folks looking to hide out for a little while, sipping coffee and chickory and DuMonde while listening to the steam boats blare loud pipe music -

Do I just go someplace else - that's the biggest question - do I throw three darts at a map of the United States, and tell myself that is where I should end up - leave it in the hands of Kharma, and see what choices the petty arm of fate has?  If it works for stocks, maybe it will work for living arrangements as well.

My lease runs out in another two months - and I guess it is time for me to start looking at alternatives - and all of them are churning around in my head - the truth is, I can't stay here - not a good place for staying, a good place for adjusting - but not part of the long term plan in the life of George.  (Hell, long term for me these days has been two weeks - that is about as far ahead as I am able to plan...)

Anyway - that's enough sharing of the confusion that I have right now, besides, lunch hour - it's over, and I need to get back to ignoring those thoughts, and get back to drowning my angst in work...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Not nearly as Prolific...

This year as I was last year, I let the writing go for a little while, there were three active and aggressive acquisitions, things were hot and heavy on the home front, and sometimes I just ran out of material and desire to do any typing...

That does not mean my brain is wired to think somewhat incorrectly - I just have not had the gumption to sit down and pen anything.  Some folks are pretty good about describing situations that happen to them everyday - there is one blog that I read, the dude actually wrote a four page deal on putting on his running shoes - not the emotional part of putting on his shoes, but describing the intracacies of his New Balance sneakers right down to the label on the tongue of the shoe - I suspect there was a lid of weed involved in that thought process, or he really really liked those shoes.  Me, I am more of an abstract thinker (see photo above - that is me - getting ready to rock the house baby) and besides, it makes it a hell of alot easier when no one is really sure what I am talking about - and can form their own damn opinions about what I put here - you know, if I feed you too many details - then you actually may read and picture - consider my blog an exercise for your brains - or better yet, just consider my writing a way for me to pass the time, you just happened to click on the link - (hey, speaking of clicking on the link - I am now up to $6.88 cents in AdSense revenue - at this rate, I am thinking that I may get that first check by February - of 2012- assuming the world does not end in a catastrophic warp of storms and stuff - shameless plug - I know, if I put content in this damn thing that was actually worth paying for,then perhaps I would be getting paid for it - but consider this my contribution to bad literature - and your inspiration to avoid writing at all costs.  It is much easier to steal ideas off the web anyway....)

But I figured it was time for a top ten list...so what the hell, David Letterman puts one together what,once, twice a week, me I ain't so sharp as to know that much, but at least I try...

Top Ten Life Lessons in 2009:

1.The personality profiles on the web are rigged.  I am not an extroverted asshole, asshole - yes, extroverted - no.  Go ahead and take a few of them, and you too can get emails from people just like you.  For a small fee.

2.  Too much fabric softener=skin irritation.  Too much skin irritation = uncomfortable moments standing in front of crowds of people trying to explain system tools to them.  To many uncomfortable moments standing in front of crowds = a wierd sort of ritualistic dance to ease the irritation.

3.  Milk does separate after three weeks in the fridge.  Not a please separation either.  A science experiment like gaseous odiferous separation.

4.  Soup really is good food.  Soup and xanax, well that's good food too.

5.  Living in an apartment is not all that bad.  Living in an apartment with me as your neighbor is only bad when I am here.

6.  Canadian Bacon really is just small slices of ham.  Salty, small, slices of ham.  I can no longer tell the difference between a ham sandwich and Canadian Bacon sandwich. I can tell the difference between swiss cheese and cheddar cheese, but I cannot tell the difference between Canadian Bacon and Ham.

7.  Coffee is good.  Very good.  I mean the kind of good that gives you goose bumps all over. It is really good with soup and xanax too.

8. I like going to Value Village in Edmonds.  I can wear dead peoples clothes for really cheap.

9.  Expense reports in foreign currency suck.  I am good with spreadsheets (someone actually suggested that I become a fan of Excel on Facebook - and I was oddly drawn to it like a bus accident on the highway, but I resisted) but converting and then figuring out the vig the credit cards charge and then putting it in the system and then, and then, and then...it would be easier to invent an algorithim that explains why paint dries.

10.  It is good to have an attorney in the family.  It is better to have an attorney in the family who has been divorced.  It is even better to have an attorney in the family who has been divorced, and who is free.

I give myself a four on this effort - but between smears of peanut butter on my keyboard (yes, I am eating a granny smith apple with low fat peanut butter - it seems to be the only way I can ingest fruit these days - slather cheese sauce, peanut butter, or meat drippings on it) I was slightly distracted. 

Y'all have a good week. 


Saturday, December 5, 2009

The First Christmas...

There are a few things these days that make you want to get a bottle of wine called Serenity - a sweet white table wine with little color - and just sit down and try and figure out where that sinking feeling is coming from - Bovril - the perfect advertisement for right now - unfortunately I have a funny feeling that a meat paste is not going to take away the awkwardness of this Christmas - this is essentially the first time I have been a single person since about 1992 or so - there have been Christmas's in St.Louis, and Kansas City, and Shreveport, and Jacksonville, and Orlando over the past 17 years - married young couple, married young couple with children, middle aged couple with children - there have been parties at houses throughout the Country, there have been fake trees and real ones - but this year, I don't know what there will be at the "other house" but I do know that in the apartment, there is a cheap pink tree with Princess ornaments, a cheap fiber optic tree with sports ornaments, and a cheap family tree with colored lights - I was never allowed to do colored lights - Christmas became a chore, because everything had to be white and pristine - it was silly really to get to that point- that I hated to do the Christmas tree because I had to do white lights.  I remember times when I would put an ornament on the tree, and Christy (she was born on Christmas) would move the ornament to a more proper location - I suppose a more proper location.  I was given a box of ornaments, and of course the expensive, dainty ornaments were not in the box - I mostly got the sports related ones, or the chintzy ones that did not fit into Christy's grand scheme of Christmas - but there were a few nice ones included - mostly the ones my parents gave to us - you know - The White House annual Christmas Ornaments - brass, gold, shiny intricate -they are beautiful, and every one of them reminds me of Christmas Past - and I look forward to a new one that signifies Chrismas future -

I remember the first Christmas with Gabe and Gray, I remember the second Christmas, buying a ring wrap for the engagement ring (a piece of advice - buy diamonds from the pawn shop - selling them there as well isnot a bad idea...) I remember the Christmas Eve parties and the hectic rush of going to six different houses and then changing into pajamas and putting out carrots and cookies - Christy in her new Christmas pajamas - me in boxers - struggling to put some toy together with stickers and more parts than an artificial heart -

It is a tough time of the year - you get that sinking feeling - this was the time of the year that we were actually closest - where there was hope that the things that had happened in the past year were gone - I think that is why I am feeling what I am feeling - I cannot be with Cadence on Christmas morning, but I do get to see the kids faces light up when they come out and see their gifts - I look forward to that - I look forward to the Orlando trip and seeing my brother, I look forward to Disneyworld and dinner and having somewhere that I can be with family -

I don't think that feeling is going to go away anytime soon - asking myself if I made the right decision for me, for my kids, for Christy, well - when you are hanging ornaments that basically cover the only life you know - you ask those questions - and you do miss those good times.  I miss them now - probably only temporarily, I am sure that something will be said that will piss me off, the house will be renegotiated (Christy actually asked if I would "split" the debt with her so she could qualify for a mortgage - I guess I could do that if I could "split" the child support...), that will answer the question if I made the right decision - holding hands with my kids, or Cadence, that let's me know the decision that was made was the right one- but still, there is the reminder that at one point in time, I had a nuclear family, I had a house, in the words of my best friend, I was living the dream.

It was good to put up the tree- it was good to be reminded -