Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas gifts from a five-year-old

"Miss Maegan, I need you to make a project with me."

"What do you want to make?"

"Well, I mean I need YOU to make it."

"Okay. What do you want me to make?"

"I need some envelopes. I have presents to put inside them for you and Mr. Brian."

"How big do the envelopes need to be?"

"Well, the presents are just pictures that I drew of you and Mr. Brian. So just normal-sized envelopes that they will fit in."

"Alrighty."

So I cut and measured and glued and produced three picture-perfect homemade envelopes. They were, of course, destroyed when her little hands stuffed the pictures in.

No matter. The real prize was inside.

She really captured Mr. Brian, didn't she?
(Mr. Brian wasn't thrilled with the scrawny depictions of his arms and legs.)


I, on the other hand, think the massive eyebrows were RIGHT ON.

But then she realized that Mr. Brian wears glasses. And that he is tall.
So she drew another one.



And I think that all I can say for Miss Maegan here is that she must really like her earrings.


And I think she got my frazzled, baffled look DOWN.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas sojourn to the hometown

While Brian froze his fanny off in Kansas (and brought down a fine buck to show for it), I spent the week in Michigan with my family. It was a VERY wise last-minute decision on my part, if I do say so myself. Perhaps I have the Spirit of those darn Magi to thank for it.

The week was wonderful – just what I needed to feel excited for Christmas. After all, it’s easy for the month of December to become a string of oops-I-forgot-to-mail-the-Christmas-cards and oh-my-gosh-I-haven’t-done-any-Christmas-baking-and-it’s-the-night-before-the-last-day-of-church-before-we-leave-for-Michigan and what-a-loser-I-am-it’s-five-minutes-before-we’re-supposed-to-leave-for-Michigan-and-I-forgot-to-pack-the-presents or oh-no-it’s-three-in-the-morning-on-Christmas-Eve-and-please-God-don’t-let-me-fall-asleep-at-the-wheel-on-the-way-up-north-and-kill-us-all kinds of days. And it’s a shame, because I love Christmas. But being in Detroit made it feel like the holidays.

Saturday morning, my grandpa woke us up with a hearty crack on the front door and a sack of McDonald’s sausage biscuits and a couple gallons of chocolate milk in his hands. Though he claims to be the Ebenezer Scrooge in the family, we all know better: he’s even worse than that. We gave him lots of hugs and smiles and after eating breakfast with us, he left, as charmingly grumpy as ever.

Somehow, then, all six of us had the day free. We took a family Christmas shopping outing and followed it with a trip to the deli, where I tried a Reuben sandwich for the first time. It was so big and delicious that there was no WAY I’d possibly be able to eat it in one meal. So I guess there’s no good explanation why I somehow swallowed it in seven bites.

And all the while, we sang Christmas carols as only the Kleist kids can. Matthew did the beatboxing and Joel sang the crafty harmony, while Erin went for the Celine Dion sound and I perfected the sliding nonsense way up high and way off key. Yes, all at once, and we sounded like delightful, crumpling train cars.

After church on Sunday, while I gushed to a couple friends about my sweet and well-behaved dog Bo, my Dad announced with a sour face that Joel and Matthew had discovered a very rare and unpleasant Bo-surprise all over the basement floor. Though I still insist that this has NEVER happened and that he MUST have been sick while we were gone, the family has still given him a new nickname: Puddin’. But yes, we salvaged the carpet.

Other highlights:
  • Having Becca pick out her Christmas gift at Penney’s and then dragging her across the mall to the Macy’s Christmas tree display, where I gave it to her.
  • Perusing the mall with Joel, Matthew, and Erin, and sneakishly buying gifts behind backs.
  • Drinking coffee each morning with my mom.
  • Watching The Christmas Carol in 3D as a family.
  • Decorating the Christmas tree and watching The Christmas Box.
  • Brutally and ruthlessly winning Monopoly while my family suffered.
  • Experiencing the Michigan cold and realizing that until we move back someday, I’m just fine in North Carolina, thanks very much.
  • Spending time with my ultra-busy Kathleen.
  • Missing, missing, missing Brian.
I am very blessed. Of all the problems in the world, the greatest one to have is a terrific family that’s just a little too far away for my taste. And a husband who likes to take long hunting trips so I can see them every two weeks during the fall, all the while wishing I was with him, too. It’s a wonderful middle place to be.

Monday, November 9, 2009

I'll show you moderation!

Today, while I was babysitting my neighbor’s son and daughter, the four-year-old girl brought me the 2009 Target Christmas Toy Catalog (with Over 500 Gift Ideas, Plus Coupons to Clip!) and began to show me what she wanted for Christmas.

“I want this kitchen,” she began, starting on page three. “And this Barbie, and this toy dog,” she continued, pointing to every other item on the page. She continued to flip the pages, listing each toy she saw as an item on her Christmas wish list.

I stopped her on page seven. “Amy, that’s like five hundred dollars!” I exclaimed.

“I know!” she replied excitedly before turning her attention back to the catalog. “I also want this, and this, and this,” she pointed. Every new toy that caught her eye was added to the list.

Now for the fun, witty correlation between this charming anecdote and my life: this is exactly the way I am behaving as I plan my Thanksgiving menu. I may cause my oven to explode this season. Best case scenario, I may only triple our gas budget for the month.

Let me explain. I love Thanksgiving. I thrill to see Halloween decorations in the stores because this is the first sign of its coming. But compared to Thanksgiving, Halloween is like the ugly stepsister who tried on the glass slipper before Cinderella came down the stairs and happily-ever-after-ended the story. Halloween is the “turn off your cell phones and enjoy the show” moment of the holidays, while Thanksgiving is when the show really begins. Thanksgiving is all but heaven – fall, football, family, a day off work, and a chance to unabashedly express the greatest American love of all: food. No need to hide it on Thanksgiving. We love food, and Thanksgiving is all. about. food.

(I think there might be another reason we celebrate this holiday, but it escapes me… I want to say it’s “thoughtfulness”? No, that’s not it. “Thoroughness”? No, I don’t think so. Maybe it’s “thankfulness”. Hmm. I also have this vague idea about boats and Indians and… something. I’ll figure it out one of these days.)

Anyway. So. Back to the food. This year will be the first year that we’re spending Thanksgiving with my family, and I am thrilled to be having more than two guests for dinner! I am so thrilled, in fact, that I am going to attempt one of the greatest culinary achievements ever:

I am going to pull a Sandy
.

This means I am going to try to follow in the footsteps of Brian’s mother, who every year serves up a menu so extensive and abundant that it is the stuff of family folklore. It means that there are so many dishes on the table that at the end of the meal, there aren't more than a couple spoonfuls gone from each. It’s the standard to which Brian measured the potential of each wifely candidate, and it may just be that I was chosen because he believed I could one day do the same thing. And after three Thanksgivings together, I am going to try. Oh, it’ll be risky - this I know. It may be presumptuous and even downright crazy. But by golly, I am going to try.

So like Amy, I am flipping through my cookbooks and my bookmarks and my magazines, poring over recipes for the meal. “I’m going to make this, and this, and this,” I say, with wild abandon. And as I stack the recipes, I make a pile so massive it catches Brian’s eye as he walks by the table. “Maegan, that’s going to cost like five hundred dollars!” And I look up in excitement and say, “I know!”

Maegan’s 2009 Thanksgiving Menu. So Far.
Herb Brined Turkey Breast and Boneless Braised Legs
Classic Roasted Turkey with Hearty Raisin Stuffing and Roasted Pan Vegetables
Pan Gravy
Cornbread Pecan Stuffing
Cranberry Cherry Chutney
Cranberry Orange Relish with Apple
Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potato Streusel Casserole
Baked Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Wild Rice
Corn
Baked Spinach and Gruyere
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Dinner Rolls
Buttermilk Biscuits
Cheese Bread
Honey Butter

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Roll
Cinnamon Apple Pie with Ice Cream
Cranberry Cheesecake
Pumpkin Pie
Pound Cake
Fudge Brownie Torte
Whipped Cream
Raspberry sauce

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Throwdown

“I won’t have cell phone service, you know,” Brian warned me on his last phone call before heading out into the Montana wilderness for a hunting trip. “I won’t get to call you every night to tell you I’m okay.”

“Well then, I guess no news will be good news,” I said. “I’ll try not to worry – at least until I get a phone call from a strange hospital.”

“Sounds good,” he replied.

“Stay safe then,” I said. “I love you.”

I’m not usually a worrier – thank the Lord that He didn’t saddle me with that particular problem (along with the others, of course). So the next few days that passed were an interesting experience. I didn’t hear from Brian, because he simply couldn’t call. I felt sort of like an 1800s pioneer woman – no phone, no news, and a burly man out stalking winter game.

Then came a call from my friend, whose husband was out hunting with Brian, and who lives just a few hours from the place they were camping.

It wasn’t bad news. But let me tell you – it could’ve been bad.

“The guys are staying in a hotel,” she told me. “They’ve been there for a couple of days. The weather has been unbelievably cold, and they just can’t camp out anymore. Here’s the phone number to the hotel room – usually they get in from dinner at 9:30, so try calling then. When I talked to them last night, they hadn’t gotten anything – but they’re doing well.”

At first, I was relieved to know that Brian was safe and warm at night. What a comfort.

And then the evil witch, the Old Maegan, showed up and booted that comforting thought right out of my brain. And the Old Maegan started to get mad. “He’s been in a hotel room?!” she shrieked. “And he hasn’t called you once?”

The Old Maegan can get really angry, really fast. So I, the New Maegan Who’s Read The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, had to think quickly. “There’s got to be a good explanation,” I responded calmly. “Maybe his friend is hogging the phone. Or maybe the time difference is the problem – maybe he doesn’t want to call me so late and wake me up. So really… isn’t he sweet?”

No. I didn’t think the Old Maegan would buy that. “Ha!” ‘Sweet’ is not the word I’d use to describe that sort of behavior, missy,” she steamed. “No matter what excuse he has, it is not going to be good enough. And you know there’s not even going to be an excuse. He’s just going to shrug and say, ‘Sorry, honey – didn’t think you’d want a phone call’. Ugh! What a lousy, uncaring, selfish-”

“Now you stop right there!” said I, the New Maegan Who’s Read The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. “The fact is, Old Maegan, that Brian doesn’t need an excuse. Even if he comes home and tells me that the reason he didn’t call was because he was too tired, or not interested in talking, or just plain enjoying the absence of my conversation, that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a good man, and I am lucky to have him. And I am not going to let you yell at him the first moment that I do talk to him on the phone. He does not deserve that.”

“Baloney,” she shot back. “I’m always right about that Brian.”

“Actually,” responded the New Maegan Who’s Read The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, “you are never right about him. And you are no longer going to make his life miserable just because you don’t feel like a princess.”

She was quiet.

Two or three days more passed. Each night I tried to call the hotel room, the phone would ring a dozen times with no answer. Two nights I heard from my friend, who related all their news. And each time, the Old Maegan rose up in anger (“You mean to tell me that her husband is calling her while Brian lays on that hotel bed watching television? Just you wait until I get a hold of him-”). But each time, the New Maegan Who’s Read The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands shot her down. I was bound and determined not to whine to – or, God forbid, yell at – Brian the moment he DID call.

The next night, I tried calling again. It was later than I had been trying before, and to my surprise, his friend picked up the phone. “Brian’s just getting out of the shower,” he said. “Your timing is great.”

And I heard Brian’s warm voice on the other end. “Hi, honey.” He sounded weary.

“Babe!” I said happily. “It’s so good to hear your voice. How has it been going?”

“Tiring.” He told me about the last couple of days, long days of walking and stalking, to no avail. “Nobody’s gotten anything yet.”

“Yeah, I figured I would have heard from you, if you had.”

“Oh! I’m sorry I haven’t called. I couldn’t. I don’t get any reception here, and this hotel phone doesn’t dial out long-distance numbers. I’m glad you caught me.”

Ahhh. There it was. The New Maegan Who’s Read The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands had known there would be a good excuse. “I told you!” I gloated to the Old Maegan. “I knew it. You are no good around here. You should just beat it.”

She had nothing to say. And as I hung up the phone with my good man, the one I don’t deserve but somehow got anyway, I smiled. The Old Maegan used to cause all those arguments, I thought. But someday, she won’t even bother showing up anymore.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

'Tis the season to go hunting, fa lalalala, goodbye Brian...

“What was today’s blog about?” asked Brian the other day.

“Um, I didn’t post a blog today.”

“Why not?” He paused. “Oh my gosh. Do you still have ‘Granny Bread’ up there?”

“No!” I snapped. “But I don’t remember the last one I wrote. So much has happened lately that I can’t really write about… and when I sit down to write a blog post, I can’t think of anything.”

He started firing off suggestions. “Tell them about my poison ivy. Or write about our anniversary.”

“Yeah. I could do that.”

“Or tell them about framing that picture, how it costs a million dollars. Or write about Bo. You can always write about Bo. Or the beginning of hunting season.”

“Okay, honey.”

“Just write something. Gosh.”

So I’m breaking the silence here, announcing that yes, hunting season has arrived. After a hot and humid evening, Brian arrived home late last night with lots of bug bites and a case of the grumpies. He did not, however, have a deer. But that’s okay! After all, what’s tonight for? And tomorrow night?

So in honor of the season… get ready for more frequent posting, everybody. :)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Random thoughts for August 5th.

Bo is pacing around the house like a crazy person, and I have no idea why. Do you think a dog can get brain damage from the heat? It's so darn hot in North Carolina that I wouldn't be surprised.

I am doing everything in my power to excuse myself from working out. My friend told me the other day that she never wants to work out but never regrets doing it. It's true for me, too. Unfortunately, I can't get myself to act on it right now. But I've told myself that after I get this blog post finished, it's off to pop in a DVD of good old Jillian. Watch out. This might be a long one.

Bloggity blog blog.

Brian's been attacked by chiggers. I told him this is one downside to living in a tropical paradise, and he laughed bitterly. "I hate this place," he said for the four-hundred-and-thirty-fifth time last night as I dabbed calamine lotion on each bite with a Q-tip. The pink, runny lotion dried slowly and as he turned over, pink streaks covered the couch. "I really hate this place," he repeated.

Let's take a moment of silence for his itchiness.

Itchy Brian
Disclaimer: This photo is not a photo of his current condition. This is from last summer. But it's not much different this time around.

Thankfully, he wasn't too miserable for MOVIE TUESDAY!, something that sounds like a tradition but is really just one way of enjoying being grown-ups and picking our own bedtime. We watched Doubt, the sort of movie that I rather like and that Brian does not like very much at all. In fact, I think I could have only liked it more if the nuns were the singing kind and there were some Von Trapp children thrown into the mix, but then the hope of getting Brian to sit through it would have vanished completely. Ah, well, he can pick the movie next time MOVIE TUESDAY! rolls around.

Okay. I have run out of random thoughts. I'm going to go do this. I'm going to add years to my life. I'm going to go give myself a natural high from workout endorphins. I'm going to go make myself look great.

AUGHH! I don't want to go work out.

Monday, August 3, 2009

And I think to myself, "Self, what a wonderful world."

So it’s Saturday afternoon, not too hot, which is shocking for August 1st in North Carolina. And I’m taking Bo out front to pee, since our yard isn’t fenced, and I decide to walk uphill to the end of the driveway to get the mail, which thankfully still comes on Saturdays even though rumor has it that costs are going up too high for the USPS to keep on doing that.

And I grab the mail and muscle the mailbox closed because ever since Bad Drivers #1 through #14 turned around in our driveway and slammed into it with their cars it won’t close very well, and I turn and call Bo who’s walked a ways down the road. And he turns back and leaps toward me and picks up a stick on the way, so as I start walking back down the driveway, he’s hopping around me with his new toy and I ask him, “Do you want to go see Brian?” and he darts away toward the house to get back to his favorite person in the world.

And I look ahead of me and I see my happy, handsome dog dashing toward my home – my cheery blue house with the bright red door, the house I own and live in – and I see the sunlight glimmering through the bright green trees onto the gravel below, casting spectacular shadows, and I feel the breeze in my hair. And I’m walking up my driveway, knowing I have a husband inside who loves me and a few bills in my hand that we have to pay this week and a few chores inside that I have to finish, and I think to myself, this is exactly what my eight-year-old self pictured being an adult would feel like, and it’s perfect.

And I walk inside and tell Brian this realization and he says with conviction, “That’s right! I’ve given you everything you could possibly want.”

And I know he’s joking in his manly, Brian way, but it’s true.

Friday, July 31, 2009

She awakes!

“I’ve been looking at ‘Granny Bread’ for three weeks,” my mom told me over the phone yesterday. Ever my faithful reader, she’s set my blog as her home page so as not to miss a single post. And I have let her down, along with everyone else who's checked my blog hoping to learn more of my Wonder Wife secrets.

It’s been rather a busy three weeks (!), but I think the worst problem is my blog-writing process. Seriously. At night, while I’m lying in bed, I think of lots of things to post. But in the morning – my “blog posting hour” – I sit lamely in front of the computer with not a thought in my head. It’s the same mindset that makes it supremely difficult to get absolutely anything done before 9 AM. Tiredness. And complete uninspiration. So I tell myself I will post later, when I have something good to say, and then I find myself zonked out on my keyboard.

Speaking of tiredness, I’ve been absolutely exhausted lately. I gave up coffee, for one thing… and I have decided that I’m going to start drinking it again. From start to finish, if I don’t drink that coffee, I am more tired throughout the entire day. It’s really shocking that giving up this one single thing can have such a noticeable effect on my body, for such a long time. I remember betting my dad that by my eighteenth birthday, I would not be addicted to coffee like he and my mom were. I won that bet, because I guess at eighteen I was still powerful and strong – the real Wonder Wife - but now at twenty-one I have apparently begun my physical decline.

Secondly, and thirdly, we had VBS at church last week. I list this as two reasons because not only was I supervising a class of about a dozen three- and four-year-olds every evening from 6 to 8, but I was also in the process of catching what I think was the swine flu from one of them. I know I sound like a total wuss – “Maegan, wait till you have three or four kids of your own and then you will understand what true tiredness feels like” – and that’s fine. All I’m saying is, thank GOD IN HEAVEN that my husband has been so knightly to not impregnate me yet. Also that I could hand those kids back to their parents after two hours, fun as it was to hang out with them for an evening. (One of the women at church who is desperately excited to see us start a family said to me, “Isn’t this fun?” and after I nodded sincerely, asked me, “And seriously, doesn’t it make you determined to have children of your own pretty soon now?” I admit, I wasn’t exactly truthful when I nodded again. That did not make me excited to have a family soon, but instead made me excited that we still have at least two years before we’re planning on starting one.)

We’re kitten-sitting this morning, and I’ve put the poor, scared little thing in the bathroom so she can get some peace. And this is what’s been happening now for several hours:



Bo and kitten 1

Bo and kitten 2

Kitten on bed 1

Kitten on bed 2

Friday, July 10, 2009

Granny Bread - Printable recipe at bottom.

It's early in the morning. The dishwasher is running, I've watered the garden, and the dining room chairs are up so that I can mop. I'm feeling home-y today, and in celebration of this home-y feeling - and the fact that it is Friday - I am posting one of my favorite recipes.

Granny Bread

This is what Brian calls "Grainy Bread," but the first time I heard him call it that, I thought he said "Granny Bread." And that's what I've been calling it ever since. It just reminds me of something my grandma would make - lots of fiber and straight-up delicious.

Let's get started.

I make this in my KitchenAid. If you don't have a KitchenAid, you can use beaters - until the dough gets too thick - and then knead by hand. But that is not fun.

Empty KitchenAid bowl

Next, I add the grains. I have to stress, I never make this bread the same way twice. In fact, although I am adding a lot of grains in this post, sometimes I only put in one. The bread will turn out just fine - it all depends on how much flour you add when you are mixing it up. I'll explain that a little farther down the page. Just remember that part of the fun of making yeast bread is that you can really just wing it. It's not a science. (Actually, I guess science does play a part, but that wasn't my strong point in school and we're not going to start getting ambitious now.)

Dump in 1/4 cup of flax seed. Or more. Or less. It's up to you. I bought this at Food Lion in their "natural foods" section.

Flax seed

Next, 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds. I make sure to use unsalted, because then it's easier to control the salt amount in the recipe. I bought these at Walmart.

Who the heck calls them sunflower nuts?

Here's 1/4 cup flaxseed meal. Don't ask me why it's important. I just thought it looked healthy and I bought it when I was at Food Lion.

Flaxseed meal. Supposedly, it has a lot of good fats or something.

My sweet mother sent me some millet one day when I told her I couldn't find any in stores near me. It adds a crumbly crunch to the bread. Whatever that means. Let's add 1/4 cup, shall we?

Millet, aka what birds like to eat.

Here, I'm adding 1/4 cup bulgur. Usually, you're supposed to cook this like barley or something, but I think it tastes really good, raw, in this kind of bread. It gives it a hard, nutty crunch. And it gets stuck in your molars so you can keep getting tiny bites of your bread as the day goes by!

Yeah, that's kind of gross.

Bulgur. Good luck finding this anywhere!

I hope this isn't already getting old. Next up, we've got 1/4 cup of wheat germ and 1/2 cup of wheat bran! The wheat bran is cheap to buy, so I use more of it. Also, a ton of fiber never hurt anyone.

1/4 cup wheat germ

1/2 cup of wheat bran

We're almost done with these grains. Bear with me.

Here's a cup of plain old oatmeal. You can use quick oats or old-fashioned... whatever! I bought quick oats for Bo but he's not crazy about oatmeal, so now I have this crap sitting in my cupboard. I think I'll use it in this bread.

One cup of oats

Let's see what we've got here. Hmm - almost done with this stuff.

A plethora of grainy things

Ah! And there you have it! Granny bread!

Just joking.

Finally, I add a cup of whole wheat flour. Now, I ONLY add one cup, even though we're making two loaves of bread. For one thing, there's already enough stuff in here to make it healthy. Secondly - and most important - it is vital to the success of your bread that there be lots of gluten. Gluten forms the strands that make it possible for the yeast to create lift. If there's no gluten in the bread, you could add a cup of yeast and it wouldn't do a thing. And none of these grains have any gluten, and whole wheat flour doesn't have much. That's why, from now on, we're adding plain old white flour.

But first, the wheat.

Healthy-but-not-very-glutenous whole wheat flour

Now, for the wet ingredients.

Heat up two cups of water in the microwave until it's very warm - about the temperature you would want your shower. NOT BOILING HOT! For my microwave, this is about twenty seconds.

Then, after testing the temp with your finger - I repeat, it should not be so hot that you can't keep your finger in the water - add a tablespoon of white sugar.

Sugar water

Next, add a heaping tablespoon of yeast. I think this is instant yeast - I'm not sure how "rapid rise" yeast would turn out so I don't use it. This was actually all the yeast I had left, and I wasn't sure if it would be enough. Oh, but it was. Never underestimate the power of instant yeast.

Yeast, the might of the operation

This is what the yeast looks like after you've sprinkled it on top of the water.

Yeast, part one

This is what the yeast looks like after you've stirred it up. (But then, leave it.)

Yeast, part two

And THIS is what the yeast should look like after you let it sit for at least five minutes.

Yeast, part three

Pour it on in, and keep that cup for the next step.

Yeast goes into the bowl

Pour in between 1/3 to 1/2 cup oil. I use canola.

Oil in a dirty dish

Next add about 1/2 cup honey. You can use brown sugar if you want, or white sugar. Or molasses. Remember, this recipe was meant to be changed.

Oil and honey

Pour it in the bowl with everything else.

HEY, BY THE WAY! There's no picture, but you also need to add one cup of milk! Warm it in the microwave so it's not refrigerator-cold.

Finally, ADD SALT! If you don't, your bread will not taste very good! I give it a big old handful. This might be almost two tablespoons.

The salt of the bread

What do we have here?

So far...

Get your white flour all ready to go. We're going to be adding it into the dough while it mixes. Right now, the dough should be really wet... it doesn't look like bread dough.

I use bread flour, which has more gluten than all-purpose. I buy this because I often make bread. But you can use all-purpose if that's all you've got.

Bread flour

Now, to mix it up. Here, I've added about three cups of white flour and it is still too loose. It shouldn't look like batter.

After about three cups of flour

We're going to go ahead and add more. Here, I've added about five cups. And it's good! Now, I know this might look too loose, but it's not. You don't want to pack this bread full of flour to the point that it's so dense it won't rise. When it's a little looser than your basic loaf of white bread, it'll rise nicely and won't be hard to handle.

Almost there...

Now, let the mixer go (mine is on speed 2) for another five minutes. Or knead by hand for 8 - 10 minutes. And here, it looks done.

Lookin' good...

Now, grease a bowl and scoop in the dough. (I won't tell anyone if you don't wash all of your dishes right away.) Next, spray the top of the bread with cooking spray.

Dough unrisen

Cover with plastic wrap and a towel.

Go to sleep, little doughball...

Let the bread rise up like this...

It is risen!

...and then punch it down, like this.

Looking deflated

You can do that one or twelve times. Usually, I am not in the mood to deal with it after the first couple of times, so I just keep punching it down until I'm ready.

Scoop out the dough, cut it in half, and fold each piece a couple of times. Then pinch it all together at the bottom and use your palms to make it more oblong that round. Voila! A formed loaf.

Lightly spray two loaf pans and put in your bread dough. I didn't take a picture of this, but after that, spray them lightly with more cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. You don't want it to dry out right now.

Make sure you cover with plastic wrap!

When the loaves have risen like this...

Busting at the seams.

Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes!

These look a little deflated on top, because I let the dough rise a little tiny bit too high in the pans. But when we cut into it, it looked just fine. Soft, healthy, and delicious.

BREAD!!!

This bread freezes great. Once it's cooled, you can wrap a loaf in plastic wrap and throw it in the freezer. Or, you could slice it first. OR, you could slice it frozen- it's easy to do. So many choices!

I can honestly tell you that this bread is WAY better than store-bought. Yeah, it's more work. But in my opinion, it's definitely worth it. Plus... it's kind of fun to make bread. Just you wait and see.

Granny Bread
  • ¼ c. flax seed
  • ½ c. sunflower seeds
  • ¼ c. flaxseed meal
  • ¼ c. millet
  • ¼ c. bulgur
  • ¼ c. wheat germ
  • ½ c. wheat bran
  • 1 c. oats
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 2 c. water
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of yeast
  • 1/3 c. oil
  • ½ c. honey
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons of salt
  • 4-5 cups of bread or all-purpose flour
1. Throw the first 9 ingredients into your mixing bowl.
2. Heat the two cups water until very warm but NOT hot. Mix in sugar and yeast. Let stand until foamy.
3. Measure next four ingredients, oil through salt, and add them to the bowl.
4. Start mixin’.
5. Blend in up to five cups of flour (I usually use four) until the dough is NOT batter but still clings to the sides of the bowl while it’s mixing. You should be able to reach in and pull out a chunk. It shouldn’t slide through your fingers.
6. Mix on speed 2 of your mixer for 5 minutes more.
7. Scrape into an oiled bowl. Oil top of bread and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit until bread is risen (45 minutes to an hour).
8. Oil two 9x5 loaf pans. Scrape out the dough and form into two loaves. Let loaves rise in pans until about one inch over the rims.
9. Bake at 350 F for 35 minutes. If tops are browning too much, cover loosely with foil.
10. Remove loaves from pans and cool on a rack. Butter tops, if desired.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Weigh in.

Your opinions, please. No, this is not my weekly weight total.

The following picture - there's something about it I really like. This building is old, it's red, and it was in the middle of the woods where Brian shot a monster buck. Brian took this picture, and I've always liked looking at it.

But should I blow it up and hang it on my wall?

I remember walking through the flea market with Brian a couple of months ago and noticing chipped, beat-up antique windows stacked up in a cart. "How cool would one of these look," I asked Brian, "as a mirror?" I held it up and he scowled. "That thing is a piece of junk," he said.

A few weeks later, my family was in town. When my mom and sister and I visited the flea market, I dragged my mom over to the same booth and excitedly told her my idea. "They're cheap, rustic and cool-looking," I explained, "and all I'd have to do would be remove the glass and stick a mirror behind it."

She inhaled. "Oh, boy." Her face scrunched into an I'm-trying-to-be-polite-and-don't-want-to-insult-you-but-it's-not-a-good-idea smile. "Honey, this might be a big project. You'd have to strip this old, dirty paint off, repaint the window, and then distress it. I don't think it would look very good if you left it this way." I shrugged and set it down. "Okay."

Later, we walked by a booth where an old man had done exactly that. He had bought some of those antique windows and had really spiffed them up into distressed mirrors. But those mirrors looked good. My mirror would have looked like crap. (If I had actually completed the project, which is doubtful.)

All that to ask: would hanging a picture of this barn in my dining room be cool, in a comfortable, rustic way? Or would it be like buying an old, dirty window and hanging it on my wall?

Red Barn 2

And which do you like better - the one above, or the one below, which has a warmer color cast?

Red Barn 1

Be honest.

Oh yeah, did I forget to tell you guys that I TOTALLY ROCKED IT?

I'm sure you've been on the edge of your seat this past weekend, wondering whether I did it. Wondering if I got my list done before we left on our car trip. Wondering if I'd walked hand-in-hand with my husband out the front door, humming a vacation tune, or if I'd crumpled into the front seat an hour behind schedule, unshowered and unhappy.

Well, ha! I don't call myself the Wonder Wife for no reason.

Let me tell you, one of the most buoyant moments of my life, to this day, has been meeting Brian at the door of our clean house with a kiss and a June Cleaver smile and saying, "Let's go!"

My hair was clean. I wore clean clothes. The garbage was beside the curb, and there were no dishes in the sink to grow moldy in our absence. The bags were packed neatly in the trunk, and a cooler of chicken caesar salad wraps, ice water bottles, and fresh, clean produce was zipped up tightly on the floor of the car. I had even turned the car around, so as to get a better start out the driveway.

I did it all, friends, with the exception of scrubbing the tile grout and putting on makeup. Instead of these, I finished the laundry and trimmed and shaped my toenails. Both decisions, in retrospect, were much better uses of my time. For one thing, my self-pedicured toes looked cute at Brian's ten-year high school reunion. (Of course everyone noticed! Gee.) Secondly, the pile of laundry that came out of our suitcases was daunting enough. Thank God there wasn't an existing pile on the basement floor already.

Being organized in this way was a feeling I cannot remember ever experiencing. Even the morning of my wedding was a blur of nearly forgetting the wedding bands, leaving my bedroom strewn with clothes and other junk, and hustling around upstairs, crowding into the bathroom with my dad and brothers to brush my teeth. (Yeah, the special moment I'd envisioned - you know, the teary-eyed scene where my daddy would see his little girl walk down the stairs in her wedding dress for the first time - never happened. But thank goodness he was there to keep me from spitting toothpaste all over my pretty gown.) Walking out the door calmly and happily and coming home to a clean space - these are not things I have ever done.

And I've got to tell you, doing it felt darn good. Maybe that was the gateway drug to a life of cleanliness, of organization, of happiness. Hoo. It gives me shudders.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

So I don't forget to mention it.

One of the best things we did during our trip to Charlevoix was go on a fishing charter - with Brian's dad as captain and Brian as his mate - with Erin, Matthew, and my parents. I must have taken a hundred pictures, including some of an incredible sky that I may just retouch, blow up, and frame for our bedroom. I captured each person catching their big ol' trout, captured goofy moments and captured memories that make me smile. And these pictures - some of which I'll post tomorrow - would have been just imprints on my own memory if it hadn't been for Brian, who saw my disappointed face when I turned the camera on early that morning and noticed that there was no battery left. He saw me disgustedly put it back in the case and scold myself for failing to charge it.

Then he said, "There should be a charged battery in the other pocket."

And there was.

I know that sometimes I villainize my husband on this blog. It's the least I can do - and I do mean the very least - for a man as wonderful, as perceptive, and as forward-thinking as my Brian.

I thank God for a man who puts a charged backup battery in the front of the camera case.

NC 70 to NC 147 to US 40 to NC 52 to US 74 to US 77 to US 80-90 to OH 20 to OH 2 to M-23 to US 75 to M-32 to M-66.....

There's something about the strange buzz of caffeine energy mixed with the heavy weight of exhaustion - it's a feeling I've gotten used to over the past few years. Last night, while Brian slept into the wee hours of the morning and I ate sunflower seeds and bobbed my head to techno-dance-pop in order to stay awake on the road, I tried to estimate how many hours of driving we've logged in trips to Michigan. Let's see, thought my sleep-addled brain. We take about two thirty-hour round trips to Charlevoix per year, on average. Add in approximately two more trips to Detroit, and that's an additional forty hours. So one hundred hours a year is spent in the car, watching the hours on the clock slowly pass while nothing changes but the scenery around us. (Last year, though, we made four trips to Charlevoix. One hundred and sixty hours. Almost an entire week, out of fifty-two in a year, spent simply driving up to Michigan.)

And when I take over for Brian around ten at night, we trade places, switch the radio station, and take turns with the water bottle so that he can take his downer (NyQuil) and I can take my uppers (caffeine pill). Sometimes the buzz of the caffeine does nothing more than make my heart beat faster, which only pumps more blood to my eyelids and makes them heavier, heavier, heavier. That's when I start eating - which always helps, as long as I keep eating. So by the time we get home, I've got a queasy stomach and that weird, tired caffeine buzz. But the good thing is: we always get home. Although it often feels as though we'll never make it, that we'll just keep driving and driving until we run off the edge of the earth, we somehow always manage to reach our quiet, dark subdivision, where I roll down Bo's window and smile to see him recognizing all the smells of home. After all, even though we say we're leaving "home" when we drive past the Michigan-Ohio border, it feels incredible to walk into our house together and know that this is the only spot on earth that's ours alone - just Brian's and mine.

When people hear that we've driven up to Michigan again, or that we're planning another trip, they tell us that we're crazy. Or young and chipper and full of energy. Or wasting days of our lives. But I have to admit that I don't hate the long car trips. I complain about them, sure - and it would be nice to have some extra hours in Michigan after a short flight - but there's something about them that is really special. It's our time to sit quietly and hold hands or to listen to a talk radio station until we drive out of range and the signal disappears. Sometimes we listen to music on the radio - "You like this song? This was what my parents listened to!" "How can you like that? You can't even understand the words." "Michael Jackson sings this?" - and talk about memories that some songs bring to mind. Sometimes, Brian serenades me with a sing-along to George Strait. ("I've got some ocean-front property in Arizona...") Most of the time, the radio's off, and we talk. Sometimes we hash out an issue that's been bothering us me. Sometimes we fight. Mostly, we don't. Every now and then, we'll get slap-happy, and I'll hold my stomach, laughing, while Brian cracks joke after inspired joke. Sometimes I'll read articles to him from books and magazines that his grandma has passed on to us - I'll read from issues of Alaska and Western Horseman until the articles get boring (to me). Then I'll pull out Reader's Digest and Ladies Home Journal - "Do you want to hear 'Thirteen Things your Mother-in-Law Won't Tell You'?" "Sure." Our favorite feature in LHJ is "Can This Marriage Be Saved?", an article that lets us wallow in delicious criticism and judgment of some strangers' marriage. ("Brian, we're in for a treat!" "Oh boy. What's that?" "You and I get to sit in on a counseling session for Lisa and Phil!" "You're going to read that whether I like it or not, aren't you?" "Yup.") We usually both agree that the wife needs to chill out, but at least I always try to take her side.

There's no TV, no laptop, nothing but the road ahead of us and the dog, curled up sleeping, behind us. (He's a great traveler, by the way. Except for when he throws up all over the back seat. For the record, I blamed Brian for feeding him that morning, and he blamed me for not holding Bo's head over a mess of napkins. I suspect the true culprits were the Kia, the Smoky Mountains, and the stretch of West Virginia road that winds around like a plate of spaghetti noodles.) In my opinion, the car trips are a testament to our relationship - proof that we really do love each other and that we can make even the mundane fun. There's not pressure to carry on stimulating conversation the entire time - all we have to do is sit together. And we do it really well.

I have a feeling that one day, I'm going to look back on these trips as some of the best days of our lives.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The trip is beginning. Before we even leave.

Hoo boy...

Today may not be as seamless as I envisioned. The departure time has moved up to 10:00 AM, and while I am happy that this means we will be pulling into Charlevoix around midnight instead of 2:00 AM, I am also frantically working to GET THINGS DONE.

Still to do:
Put my things into a suitcase (they are laying out on the dresser)
Pack up the car
Run with Bo
Water the garden
Shower
Finish making lunches
Scrub the shower... not entirely sure this is possible this morning...
Drag the garbage out to the curb

I'm sure I will think of even more as soon as I post this. Oh, road trips... bane of my existence!

I will let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Don't get me started on how previous car trips have begun...

Tomorrow, we are leaving for a four-day trip to Charlevoix. The car, Brian has informed me, is pulling out of the driveway at noon. And I am determined to take my passenger's seat calmly, at 11:55, wearing a smile - and maybe some makeup - on my face. No tears, no gasps of panic.

I'm also determined to:
Be completely packed
Have the garbage cans emptied and the trash on the curb
Scrub the shower grout so that it can air out during the trip and so that I can seal it when we get home
Not be in an argument with Brian over who lost the cap to the water bottle (BECAUSE I am going to get the water bottles ready tonight!)
Have the garden thoroughly watered
Have a delicious lunch packed in the cooler - a lunch that is NOT beef jerky, dried fruit, and nuts
Bathe and groom Bo
Leave the house in pristine condition - no dishes in the sink, no clothes on the floor, no vacuum hoses strewn around the living room

Don't laugh. It's possible - I know it is. My strategy is to do as much today as I possibly can. This is huge. Stay posted.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The "Fixing Maegan Project" begins.

Several days ago, I was talking to a friend about my ambivalence about having children. As much as I'm looking forward to someday starting our family, I sometimes doubt whether I'm going to be good at the job. Being a full-time mom is, after all, a job - and from what I've heard, it's challenging to do it right. And one of my biggest concerns is whether I'll be able to even do the minimum at home - keep the house clean, get dinner on the table, and be a happy mom.

It's always been a challenge for me to use my time efficiently, and that has become even more difficult since getting married, now that I spend most of my time at home. When I wake up in the morning, the hours of the day stretch on before me and I feel as though I've got all the time in the world. Before I know it, though, it's three in the afternoon and I've managed to push most of my to-do list down to the last two hours before Brian comes home. The most frustrating thing about this is that I know most people would realize they're making this mistake and then would just decide to get everything done in the morning. But I can't seem to get my butt in gear. And so I wonder - am I just going to get worse when kids come along?

So I was voicing these concerns to my friend, whose kids are mostly grown and out of the house and whose life and routine seem very well-organized. "You waste time," she pointed out, "because you have no one to answer to. There's no baby waking up at this time, who needs to nurse at this time, and who needs to nap at this time. You'll see that you'll have to manage your day better just because you know that all that time isn't yours anymore."

"I think I would feel more organized if I could just get a good dinner on the table within a reasonable time after Brian got home," I said. Recently, Brian has been coming home, nine nights out of ten, to me racing around the kitchen trying to come up with something to make for dinner. And more often than not, it's been eggs. What kind of wife am I, I ask myself, when my list of responsibilities is so short and yet I consistently fail to get it done? Even the most basic - dinner - when cooking is supposedly one of my favorite things to do? "Did you always have dinner ready at the same time every night?" I asked her.

She nodded. She explained that her husband was always starving when he came home from work at the same time every day and that it just made sense to feed the family at 6:30. "I just figured out in my head what I was going to make for the week and then I'd shop for those meals. I never wrote out an actual meal plan, but I have friends who do and it works really well for them. I just had the same fifteen meals that I sort of rotated every couple of weeks. It was sort of comforting for there to be a meal that everybody liked."

Several days later, I got a free issue of Cooking Light in the mail. Of all the cooking magazines that I've tried, this one is my favorite. The recipes are creative, affordable, and always spot-on (the ones I've tried, anyway). So last night, I sat down to pick out new recipes to add to my new "Meals We Eat in the Summer" list. A cardboard insert in the magazine caused the pages to flip open to some place in the middle, a beautiful picture of a garden-fresh meal. Over it, in bright yellow type, were the words, "Make a meal plan." I laughed to myself. I guess this is something I just should be doing. I'll let you guys know how it goes.

Meals We Eat in the Summer
  • Whole chicken on the grill / salad or grilled vegetables
  • Venison kabobs / grilled vegetables and sweet potatoes
  • Barbecued chicken thighs / grilled vegetables or salad
  • Cuban black bean patties with pineapple rice / salad
  • Salmon cakes with dill yogurt sauce / salad
  • Chicken caesar salad
  • Barbecue venison / coleslaw
  • Stuffed chicken breasts with basil and sun-dried tomatoes / potatoes and broccoli
  • Chicken breasts with roasted cherry tomato sauce / grilled broccoli or asparagus
  • Venison steaks with herb butter / grilled vegetables or salad
  • Pecan-crusted chicken and mandarin orange salad
  • Omelets with spinach, ham, and mushrooms
  • Chicken marinara / grilled broccoli
  • Still in progress...
  • Monday, June 29, 2009

    Things that happened this weekend.

    1. I realized we needed some color in our living room, which is currently decorated in several shades of brown, beige, and tan. With highlights of beige and tan. So I bought a few things to hang on the walls, things that might bring in a touch of color.

    Well, I found out that Brian’s decorating opinions are very strong. Here’s a conversation that took place yesterday regarding the thing that you can see to the right of that handsome puppy.

    DSC03397

    Brian: “I hate it. There’s no point to it. It’s ugly.”
    Me: “That’s not true! Look, it’s got fall colors and it brings out the colors of our living room. Look – the brown in our couch and the red in the chairs.”
    Brian: “It looks like 1970s disco d├ęcor.”
    Me: “Noooooo. It looks like… like nature. Like I gathered the autumn leaves from the forest and covered them with a river and brought it into our house. It goes perfectly.”
    Brian: “No, it definitely does not. It’s ugly. There’s no point. Art should have a point.”
    Maegan: “Not necessarily. The point of it is to bring in more color and it does!”
    Brian: “Why can’t we put up pictures?”
    Maegan: “We don’t have any kids!
    Brian: “Put up pictures of Bo! I don’t care!”
    Maegan: “I’m not going to be one of those people who puts up pictures of her dog all over the house. I don’t understand what’s wrong with this. It’s pretty!”
    Brian: “Not in our house, it’s not.”
    Maegan: “What kind of house would it look good in?”
    Brian: “Have you ever seen That 70s Show?”

    What do you guys think?

    2. I tried not to wonder whether I was pregnant. Told myself I didn’t want to be pregnant. Kind of hoped I was pregnant and kept counting my cycle length in my head. Then realized I truly didn’t want to be pregnant, because that would put me at about eight months pregnant for our trip to the Bahamas in February. Began desperately telling Brian that now was really not a good time to be pregnant, that we couldn’t be pregnant until at least after February. Mentally slapped the girl inside my brain who kept talking about how nice it would be to be pregnant. Finally, found out I definitely wasn’t pregnant. Sighed with relief and stuck out my tongue at the girl inside my brain, who was carrying on with her "maybe next month" foolishness.

    3. I went shopping with my friend, who dragged me into the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory between stores and insisted that I let her buy me a piece of chocolate. And I loved her!

    So I stood in front of the case of chocolates, feeling like a child in a custody battle who had to choose between her parents. Only here, there were fifty different kinds of parents, all equally perfect. But after great deliberation, second-guessing, and consternation, I chose. I chose a piece of thick, crunchy toffee, dipped in milk chocolate and covered in macadamia nuts. Now, I could tell you it was delicious, if "delicious" meant “caused me to understand why crack addicts resort to crime” and “made me fantasize about drugging Brian with sleeping pills, sneaking out in the dead of night, and breaking into the store in order to steal the rest of that toffee". Ohhhh, that toffee. That toffee...

    If you can believe it, I restrained myself after eating half of it – it was a big piece – and carefully wrapped the remainder in its wax paper. When I got home, I presented it to Brian as an offering of love, a payment for watching Fireproof with me. I felt like one of the Magi.

    So imagine my distress when, this morning, he shrugged when I mentioned it and said, “Meh. It was okay. But I like M&M’s a lot better.”

    What a weasel. I am totally going to make him watch Hairspray with me next weekend.

    Friday, June 26, 2009

    Two things that grossed me out today.

    1.) Part of the reason I am the Wonder Wife is because I get up in the morning with Brian - at 5:15 A.M - and let him drag me on a long jog around the neighborhood. While I am propping my eyes open in order to tie my running shoes, Bo is beside himself with excitement. The morning jog is just about his favorite time of day. On the last stretch, as we run past the lake on the wet grass, Bo leaps ahead into the water to swim out past the shore for a few minutes. He's got a good life, this dog.

    I have to admit that one of my favorite parts of the day is right after the final sprint, when we cool down and we walk a block back to the house, holding hands. Then, on the front porch, I take a second to towel off Bo. He's not usually a cuddly dog, but when I'm drying him off, he snuggles into my stomach and looks up at me with his big, brown eyes.

    But this morning, towel in hand, I smelled a fresh pile of dog poop. I looked over his body frantically to see if he had somehow rolled in his own mess. Nope. I glanced around the front porch. Nothing. Then my handsome puppy looked into my face with his big, brown eyes, panting. Augh! That was the smell! He had eaten poop!

    Now, I know that some dogs eat poop. That's fine, for them. But my dog does not eat poop.

    2.) Also, check out this spider. We found it by our house while we were landscaping.

    Baby tarantula, yuck

    Thursday, June 25, 2009

    Not to imply that my life is anything but constant, breathless excitement...

    I realize I haven’t updated this blog in several weeks. Which is particularly despicable considering that I first intended to update it every day (save, perhaps, the weekends). Before signing up for my blog account, almost every day would pass with an event or an idea that would strike me as something interesting I’d be able to share on a blog. And the point of the blog, I thought, wouldn’t be so much to entertain others as to sort of mark my way as I traveled through married life, to create a bread-crumb trail of this short time as a housewife.

    See, I’m terrible at keeping a journal. I don’t know how people can write in a diary on a regular basis. If someone were to read through my childhood diary, they’d be well-informed about October of 1995, Easter Break of 1997, the crushes of Family Camp of 1999, 2000, and 2002, and a brief period in high school when I broke up with my first “boyfriend”. (Incidentally, I wish I hadn’t kept such a detailed account of that last event. To my memory, the boy was a socially awkward, baby-talking egomaniac. My family still mentions his name in order to make me cringe, and if my diary didn’t pine so dramatically for him I’d be able to insist – with a clear conscience – that I had never seriously liked him. But… I digress.)

    I started a journal again this past March. I had gone to a job interview at Barnes and Noble and realized, once there, that I hadn’t brought any paper to take notes. In haste, I shelled out lots of money for a simple, spiral-bound notebook. I didn’t get the job, but I did look more prepared holding that notebook. And I was able to write down “contractual position” and “software company.” Whew.

    So after coming back from a trip to Miami with friends, I made myself pick up that fat, empty notebook and start a journal. I told myself I’d keep it up, even for five minutes a day, and even if my entries looked like this: “Chicken for dinner tonight. Went to Walmart. Brian and I bought nectarines on sale. Have eaten four. Also have eaten half a bag of jumbo marshmallows. Bo is cute.” Not a lot of pressure, right? And I did it for about a week. And then I stopped.

    And I realized I needed to start my blog. Also, I’m not sure where my notebook is.

    The point is, I am committing to updating this blog. Every day. Even if the entries look like this: “Spent an hour looking online for gender-neutral crib bedding and baby nursery ideas. Got my period yesterday. Eggs and toast for dinner. Bo is chewing on a toothpaste box. Might watch a movie tonight.”

    I won’t blame you if you stop reading. But to me, it’d be more of a shame to look back at this time in my life and wonder what the heck I was doing. Like how I’m wondering, for example, about July of 1995. Did my batteries run out or something?

    Thursday, June 4, 2009

    Baking cookies, my way.

    Has this ever been you? You've read that cookie dough is best when chilled... but then you find that scooping it out onto the cookie sheet is like chipping concrete out of an old sidewalk. Well, NO MORE!

    Introducing... the way Maegan makes cookies!!! I don't think I invented this method... but I am so proud of myself for figuring it out.

    After mixing your dough, when it is fresh and soft and pliable, pull out your largest cookie sheet and a couple of spoons. If you're lucky, like me, and have your kitchen outfitted with every tool and utensil necessary for baking, you can use one of these nifty spring-loaded scoopers. This one is a #60 - 2 teaspoons - which makes an average, "Chips Ahoy!" sized cookie.

    Start scoopin'.

    Trying not to scoop directly into my mouth.

    Fit them close together, as many in a row as you can manage.

    Pile 'em on.

    Do NOT bake them this way! You'll get a cake.

    Once you've scooped out all the cookie dough, which took me about five minutes since the whole darn mess was soft as butter, pop the cookie sheet, uncovered, into the freezer.

    Cleaned my freezer for this shot.

    Once they're frozen solid, in about twenty minutes (possibly less), use a metal spatula to pop them off the cookie sheet. Store the frozen cookie dough chunks in a Tupperware container (as shown in the above photo, right above the cookie sheet).

    When you want to bake them, heat the oven to 400 degrees and arrange them, fresh out of the freezer, on a cookie sheet. No need to thaw! Slide it right into the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes (for this size cookie), until VERY lightly browned. Let them cool on the cookie sheet. They'll be soft, even when they've completely cooled. If they get to that stage, which is not likely if I am alone in the kitchen.

    (This method has worked for me with many, many cookie recipes. I bake almost all my cookies at this temperature, despite the recipe's instructions. I think it makes them thicker, with crispy edges and a soft center. But... that may be just my preference. Who am I to guess at yours?)

    Many thanks to my Reese's Pieces Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, who were kind enough to pose for this demonstration.