Saturday, November 10, 2007

Saturday Surprises

Today's been a pretty good day, so far. After a wonderful pancake breakfast, the kids and I went out in the backyard for the first time in many days. It's just been too cold, and often rainy, to play out there. (OK, the kids could probably have played out there just fine. I just don't usually have the energy to do much outside stuff after picking them up from daycare at 3 pm.)

While they played (SillyBilly got out some of his tools to hammer on something or other, Napoleona made leaf/dirt stew at the play kitchen. I don't know where they get this gender-specific stuff from!) I decided to try to tackle the leaf situation.

Our yard is ringed with maple trees. They are quite beautiful, but it is truly shocking and amazing how many damn leaves there are. And how heavy a leaf pile is after it has sat out in the rain for several days. After trying to budge the medium-sized leaf pile I had made before Halloween, which needed to merge with the main large leaf/brush pile in the corner of the yard, I decided to give my arms a break and sweep off the steps leading to the basement.

As I was sweeping off the sidewalk at the bottom of the steps, I had my first surprise of the day when I saw this wildly trying to get away from me and my evil broom:

I think I was more excited than the kids were, especially after I told them they couldn't touch it! After looking at far too many herpetology websites, I think I've narrowed it down to an Ambystoma jeffersonianum (Jefferson salamander). It was probably enjoying living under all the leaves piled up next to the house, where the hose occasionally leaks and keeps things nice and moist. I deposited him (her? It's hard to tell with salamanders.) in the thick leaves at the edge of the brook, where I figured it was most salamandery.

After SillyBilly and Anthropapa went to run errands, Napoleona and I went inside because the leaf pile had turned my arms to jelly. I decided to make cookies, from the wonderful Waldorf Kindergarten Snack Book. Wonderful, except some of the recipes clearly assume you already know how to bake. I decided to make the ginger snap recipe as a test run for possible Christmas cookies, and (second surprise) it simply stated to mix all the flour, spices, molasses, and butter in the bowl to make dough.

Now, I didn't think that somehow mixing a stick of cold butter into flour and molasses would work! I knew I shouldn't cut the butter into the flour, because ginger snaps aren't flaky. I clearly had to cream the butter and molasses together.

Then I realized the error of my decision to make cookies -- whenever I try to cream butter with an electric mixer, the butter just either flies all over the place or clumps up annoyingly, so I like to cream the butter the old-fashioned way, with a wooden spoon. With my leaf-defeated arms.

It all worked out fine, and here's a nice picture of Napoleona, rolling up cookies all by herself, thank you very much. I tried to help her with some, and she complained LOUDLY. So, she made a whole sheet of cookies all by herself.

7 comments:

Kerryn said...

I'm not sure whether it's the creaming that stops me from loving baking or the need to be precise and exact but I suspect it might be the creaming.

If only I could teach the cat (and give her some opposable thumbs while I'm at it) how to cream butter and sugar while I do all the fun stuff!

Papa Bradstein said...

Did the salamander get a cookie?

Theo Huffman said...

I got chills the moment I saw the photo of the salamander. I always associate them in my mind with fire elementals. Mystical literature often says they look like salamander-shapes flames crawling and dancing around.

A wonderful encounter. Lucky you!

Henitsirk said...

Kerryn: Precise, exact? What's that? We're always berating our cats to go out and earn their keep. They won't even fetch ice cream from the fridge!

Papa B: No, sorry.

Theo: I was terribly excited when I saw him moving like a little flame across the ground!

I did some research on elementals a few years ago, and was always a bit puzzled by the fire being the home of salamanders. Not that mystical/alchemical symbols always have to make overt sense, but correspondences usually do, like dandelions/yellow/round stem/strong growth/leaf rosette shape = sun. But except for their movements, I don't get why these slimy little mud-dwellers live in fire!

Anonymous said...

To cream butter and sugar,simply soften butter on top of stove. A very easy way to soften butter so that creaming is easier!

Henitsirk said...

Anon: I've never been able to soften butter that way, it always melts too much! I would normally have the foresight to leave out the butter to soften at room temperature, but I seem to always want to bake on the spur of the moment.

Anonymous said...

It only takes a minute to soften the butter, you don't have to liquidfy the whole amount that you are using.........or use the micro !!