Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Cabin Story

I don't even know where to begin the explanation of how our family moved from our modest 3 bedroom home into a cozy 1 bedroom vacation cabin. "Cozy" is a word the British use when describing extremely cramped living conditions. It sounds so much nicer than "confining" doesn't it? Here it is in a nutshell: we sold our home and the job we were waiting on wouldn't be available for some time, so we had an interim period of about a month with the question, "What to do?" The options were, drive 1,000 miles to Wyoming and wait for the job to come available in Texas so we could drive back, or rent a furnished place in Texas and wait. We opted for wait.

Our new abode was a one bedroom cabin with bunk beds in the same room as the kitchen/dining room. We were ecstatic to find there was one dresser and a very small closet as well. It was actually a real blessing that this particular unit became available the day before we needed it because most of the "cabins" are studio apartments with no separate bedroom like this expansive floor plan offered.

Here a few things I learned...
-Cooking must be kept to a minimum as the smell of your dinner will greet you at breakfast.
-Locking the bathroom door during your shower is no longer a viable option unless you want to clean up the aftermath.
-You can't sneak a bowl of ice cream after putting the kids to bed, as they are only 2 feet away from the freezer.
-Free wireless internet is not a good medium for watching Netflix instant downloads.
-Fleas and mosquitos love the great outdoors and those who live in it.

I have to mention this one quirky thing about our cabin. On the bedroom ceiling, there was a perfect glow-in-the-dark mural of the night sky. It wasn't those cheesy little stick on stars. This constellation wasn't even visible in the daytime. It was a startling, amazing wonder when we turned out the lights in our "master suite";the ceiling disappeared and the Milky Way and Big Dipper appeared. It was SO impressive, I have to give you the link so maybe you can get a feel for how wonderous it was:

So I'm sure you're wondering what happened next. The contract we were waiting to go through was delayed. After a month, we had to pack our remaining things into our 4 door sedan and drive 1,000 miles to Cheyenne, Wyoming where Dan's mom lives. Here we are STILL waiting for the job to materialize. Sheer madness.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Freestyle Baking

We are living in a one bedroom cabin. It's a long story that has nothing to do with baking, so we'll have to dispense with that tale for now. The important thing to know is that all our household goods are in storage and I was needing to bake 100 sugar cookies for church last Saturday. Luckily, my Momma lives nearby and I volunteered her to let me bake them at her place. She agreed, even though she wouldn't be at home to help. No problem.

My recipe box is in storage, but I had the presence of mind to send an e-mail out to friends and family asking if they could give me my favorite recipe days in advance. From the faraway reaches of England, Tina answered my culinary call and I was able to access it using Mom's computer, quite handily located in her kitchen.

The cookie cutters are all packed away, so I examined all the glasses in the cupboard and picked one that would make the perfect sized cookie. That is only the beginning of the "McGyvering" that goes on in this story. For example, I couldn't find a rolling pin at first, but thought, "It's OK. I'll cover the dough in wax paper and then use Mom's hair spray can to roll them out." Luckily, it didn't come to that, as I found a rolling pin while looking for the electric mixer. Good thing too, because I never did come across any wax paper.

The butter flavored Crisco had been forgotten at our one bedroom cabin 15 miles away, but I had $3 and a very handy Dollar General store nearby that helped to reconcile my oversight.

Upon returning from my shortening run, I began the process of mixing the dough. I vacillated a while between doubling or tripling the recipe since there were so many cookies to make. I settled with just doubling, as I didn't think the bowl was big enough to accommodate 15 cups of flour. So, let's see 1.5 cups of butter becomes 3 cups of Crisco. I laboriously poked shortening into a one cup measuring container three times to ensure the recipe was EXACT, because precision is key to premium results when baking, right?

I think it was at this point that I realized I had left the sugar at the cabin and began rummaging around for enough sugar to make ONE HUNDRED cookies. While I was at it, I figured I'd pull out the electric mixer and opened every cupboard and cabinet door in the kitchen in a fruitless search for the elusive mixer. Oh, but look! I found some vanilla extract, another thing I had forgotten to bring with me. Located the sugar, not the mixer but came across a rolling pin then got back to the recipe.

OK, where was I? Oh yes, I had measured out three cups of shortening, which got me thinking I had tripled the recipe because it was three cups, right? So, um, the recipe called for 2 cups of sugar, multiplied by three, came to SIX cups of sugar, but the one cup measuring container was all mucked up with shortening, so I used the 1/2 cup measure which meant I would need to add 12 half cups of sugar. I counted very carefully TWELVE half cups of sugar into the bowl and only then realized that I had doubled the butter part of the recipe yet tripled the sugar. After concluding I had no business actually applying math in real world situations, I tossed in a stick of butter and kissed accuracy goodbye . Since the mixer was a no show, I used a potato masher to cream the first two ingredients together. By-the-way, I'm only just now getting feeling back in my right hand, so I don't recommend this method of mixing to anyone who isn't already visiting a gym regularly.

At this point, I had to reassess what proportions the ingredients should be. Since the boat had already sailed on doubling, I decided I'd shoot for somewhere in the neighborhood of two and a half times the recipe; then added 10 eggs and a 5 lb sack of flour. Yes, things were feeling a bit "I Love Lucy-ish" by then, and I only hoped I'd have the strength to hand mix those nightmarish proportions into something that resembled cookie dough. It was a miracle on the level of turning water into wine that I was able to mix this disaster into a yummy ball of dough that was the perfect consistency for rolling and cutting. The story ends happily-ever-after with smiling church kids smearing butter cream frosting on their very own cookie and decorating with sprinkles to suit their hearts desire.

As I have proven what a forgiving recipe it is, I've included it for your baking pleasure. Please be sure you have all ingredients on hand as well as a potato masher, hair spray canister, wax paper, and a medium sized drinking glass to avoid any minor inconveniences.

Easy Sugar Cookies

1.5 cups softened butter
5 cups plain flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs

Mix butter and flour and make into crumbs. Add sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix into crumbs. Add vanilla extract. Add eggs a little at a time and bind all mixture together to make dough. Roll onto floured surface and cut into shapes.
Bake in preheated oven at 350f oven. 8-10 minutes.

Butter Cream Frosting

4 oz butter
1 lb powdered sugar
1/4 c milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Mix together ingredients until smooth, spread over cooled cookies and decorate