Ode to the Lonely Flip-Flop

Ode to the Lonely Flip-Flop

20170113_123932We drive under a telephone line that is completely booked by a row of fat pigeons all squinting in unison in the direction of the orange sherbert glow of morning sun.  “Look,” I say out loud in spite of what the rest of the passengers in the vehicle think. “Dawn Patrol.” From what I gather, these greasy little sky-rats  are here every morning, holding a meeting on the same wire.They remind me of their slacker seagull cousins who squat together on the beach, and all face the same direction waiting for that perfect wind, like surfers who wait for that perfect wave. These guys remind me of a story that I started a few years ago. It’s nowhere near finished, but I need to get back to it soon.

My son in the back seat watches the world float by his window while quietly grazing on dry breakfast cereal. We are on our way to pick up his cousin and drop him off at daycare. En route, we notice a child’s flip-flop in the middle of the road. Actually, it would be more accurate to say we noticed the child’s flip-flop because it’s been there for two days. It doesn’t look abused or broken in any way, just abandoned. Forgotten.

I could smell the slightest whiff of a poem about an abandoned shoe as an allegory about society in general gently rolling in like that perfect breeze meant for seagulls. The beginning of a random metaphor started to form in my head that I planned to use at a later date, when I hear, “I wonder why you only ever see one shoe in the road,” my son’s mother said. “It’s never a pair of shoes, it’s only one. I wonder why that is?”

I can feel the Train of Thought pull away from the station. I had to seriously contemplate when was the last time I saw a pair of shoes abandoned and discarded in a place they weren’t supposed to be. I have never seen a pair of Keds on the ground as if they were some victim of some heinous violation cast aside and left to rot in the gutter. I thought about it longer than I would have liked to. It kind of bothered me, truth be told. Because, not only was it another unknown that might be worth at least a few minutes of research for… I dunno… in case I get swept up in bar trivia at the local Chili’s, but counting this scenario, along with the birds taking in a sunrise, and the cereal munching munchkin in the back seat (whom I’ll come back to in a minute), it now looks like I have a few more ideas to build stories around. The last thing I need right now is to add to my growing list of works in progress.

I mean, is there an epidemic of singular shoes dotting the landscape? Do other people notice this? Does the lost shoe feel a sense of detachment and ennui because its favorite sock got eaten by a dryer and now feels lost without it? Is feral footwear common? What about other articles of clothing? How do they feel about it? How often do they get cast aside?

These things are the sugar in my coffee. These are the things that give me a warm fuzziness in my belly because it feels like my obsessive nature has finally been directed into a more positive, and less destructive path. Over the past few years, I have turned into a storytelling savant. I’m constantly asking “what would happen if..?” and among other things, I try very hard to not use zombies as a McGuffin because I ran out of ideas. “At long last, Frank and Carol could now share that kiss in the happy home of their dreams. But they couldn’t because zombies. The end.

Every week, I eagerly await another Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction challenge. Sometimes I play, sometimes I feel a little too out of shape. Other times I collect story prompts like seashells, and of course, there are those moments when something that can’t be easily explained comes charging into my personal space, like say, figuring out why one shoe ends up in the road and not the pair. Instead of defaulting to logic and reason to explain it (which is really boring and smells an awful lot like bullshit), I prefer instead to faceplant directly into the blueberry pie of “Just Make Shit Up” (which might be tedious to the listener, but dagnabbit, it’s not my fault that you ask the most random crap and expect something extremely insightful and intellegent to roll off my tongue.You ask a rhetorical question, you get a left field answer. Deal with it.). I mean, I’m a storyteller. Storytellers…tell stories. How else do you think this works?

I can’t take on other projects. Not right now. My current first draft is nearly complete, and I’ll jump into revising the beast over the course of the next few days. I have several other half started projects right behind this one that need to be finished. These projects are moving slower than I’d like because writing is only taking up a little of my day. When I’m not writing, I’m taking my son to therapy (details, and perhaps the whole point of this post below), and when I’m not doing that, I’m taking care of the family. Which is why it may be dangerous to draw my attention to something that will cater to my obsessiveness like a lonely shoe.

As a Crime Action Drama

Mr. Deveraux could not stop his limbs and extremities from twitching, while Mrs. Deveraux remained the stronger of the two, and opted instead to chew off the skin around her cuticles. Their home has always been a peaceful sanctuary, they’ve fussed over it for years to get it to that point. But this morning was almost too much to process. Melinda had been missing for a little over twelve hours. Since that time, almost an entire squadron of police officers had taken up residence in their once pristine stainless steel kitchen with laptops and various pieces of tracking equipment that they’ve never heard of, and they weren’t entirely sure, but it looked like there were a couple of FBI agents huddled closely in the hallway talking about something, looking grim.

The Lead Investigator’s voice was soothing, almost hypnotic. “We are all going to get through this,” he said. “We are going to get your daughter back. I have called in our finest to track these guys down. Also, once word got out that it might be the Oaxaca cartel, the FBI became very interested. Whoever did this is going to have a very bad day, understand?” Melinda’s parents do their best to acknowledge. “Good, now when that phone rings, I’m gonna need you to remain calm, and act normal.” Mrs. Deveraux laughs an empty laugh, because her normal felt like it has been trodden under by so many police issued boots in her garden full of mums.

When the phone finally did ring, it was as if everyone started breathing again in unison. As if they were allowed. A technician punched in a code into his laptop, and gave a signal to the Lead Investigator. The Lead Investigator donned his headphones, and gave the cue for Mr. Deveraux to lift up the receiver.

“Hello?” The tremble in his voice choked back hard.
“Do you have the money?” The voice at the other end was computer generated. The expressions on the cops faces let the Deveraux’s know that they were dealing with professionals.
“Do you have my daughter?” Mr. Deveraux sneered, “Is she still alive, you son of a bitch?”

The next voice wasn’t computer generated. It was the sound of Melinda, scared, hopeless, weeping, but very much still alive. Mrs. Deveraux clasped her hands over her mouth to stifle whatever might be pushed out of it.

“You have such a pretty child, Mr. Deveraux,” the emotionless voice continued. “Her eyes are quite captivating. It would be such a shame if she were missing one.”
“You bastard!” Mr. Deveraux bellowed. “If one hair is out of place on her head, I swear to God I will…”
“Do you have my money or not, Mr. Deveraux?”

The Lead Investigator nodded silently to Mr. Deveraux. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, I have your money.”
“Excellent,” the voice replied. “Now, listen very carefully, this is what I need you to do next. I need you to grab an article of clothing that belongs to Melinda.” The Lead Investigator snapped his fingers at a cadet to whisper something in his ear. When he was finished, the cadet ran upstairs to her room. “I need you to take that piece of clothing and drop it on the corner of 5th and Elm. Walk across the street and when a brown Oldsmobile parks in front of you, get in the back seat.”

The cadet reappears holding a tiny, pink flip-flop. The Lead Investigator holds it up for Mr. Deveraux to see. “I’ll be using one of her flip-flops, will that do?”
“That will suffice,” the voice said.
“Will my daughter be in the car? Where are you taking me?”
“Be ready at 10:30. Bring the money.” The line went dead.

As A Middle-Grade Fantasy Novel

It rained the night before, and when the kids were waiting for the bus the next morning, none of them seemed too worried that the sun  was hidden by the clouds. The lack of sunshine made everything look dull, except for Rebecca’s very pink backpack and Mark’s very yellow rain slicker.

On the other side of the street, in the old lot where the old drug store used to be, there sat a very white sneaker. Shoelaces untied, and sitting upright collecting rain. Rebecca noticed it briefly before her friends started talking about lip gloss. Mark didn’t notice it at all because he doesn’t like talking to too many people. Charlie noticed it right away, and he knew exactly what it meant.

It means the Fog Giants have returned. There was going to be plenty of long nights ahead.

~***~

See, things like this are a bone for me to chew on. It’s things like this that make me remember why I should carry a notebook everywhere I go. It’s things like this that yank my attention away from whatever I’m working on at the moment. So please, for the sake of progress, don’t allow me to occupy my mind with such things. It’s bad enough that I’m reminded about that part of my WIP where a flock of blackbirds sitting on a telephone wire.

It also doesn’t help that I have tied that project to the other thing that we are leaving the house for. Let me get back to that.

Recently, I have posted about my son, and how he wants to talk at length about anything, but he hasn’t developed the skill to form words yet. I have always been of the opinion that he will come around to it, but still, there were other characteristics that were telling us that he might need a little help.

The problem was recognizing that he had a problem to begin with. He’s still two, and he’s still trying to get used to things like eating a proper meal, or sleeping in his own bed, or learning words, or not being so focused on certain things. It was hard to tell if he was being difficult, or if there was something more sinister afoot.

To put our minds at ease, we tested him for hearing and vision, and determined that the best course of action would be to see a speech therapist. After a few months of regular sessions, we have made small breakthroughs and tiny miracles. But, for all the progress we have made in regards to getting him to say the simplest words, it didn’t solve the mystery as to why he still flaps his arms when he gets really excited, or why he prefers to walk on his toes.

To REALLY put our minds at ease, we went back to his pediatrician to finally ask the question we’ve been putting off for too long. Is our son autistic? It only took a few minutes of an unofficial yet very effective method of determining he wasn’t to give us some relief. But with that burden taken away from us, and most importantly, from him, we were still in the dark as to what seems to be affecting him.

It took a less than fruitful session with his speech therapist to have her bring our attention to something called Sensory Processing Disorder. It’s a very real condition that affects mostly children. It often mimics autism, but it isn’t autism. It is a very real condition, and the cruelest aspect of this condition is, it’s not recognized officially as a real condition.

To put it simply, SPD is where the person has a difficult time responding or reacting to whatever stimuli they’re exposed to. Think of trying to process something as simple as walking along a beach. Everything you experience, the feel of the sand between your toes, the smell of the salt air, the sound of surf, all collide at the same time like traffic weaving through a poorly attended intersection at rush hour. Everything is snarled and not going anywhere too soon. Reaction times in the individual with this disorder are slowed, or often times, not present at all. Or in the case of my son, happening all at once to trigger this extremely excitable reaction where he flaps his arms, open his mouth wide like a lead singer of a metal band, and have a vein or two swell up in his neck.

It is a very real condition. Unfortunately, no one in the healthcare community can come to a consensus on how to define it. Look, is it on spectrum, or is it another version of OCD? Figure it out and get back to us.

It is quite cruel.

Fortunately, my son isn’t at that level. He’s quite happy, and he’ll respond to things and look you in the eye and talk to you…the best he can. But he’ll still do it on his own terms.

Because SPD isn’t uniform and has a broad definition, and has the traits of something else without being that something else, and it does different things to different people, there has been no formal diagnosis of this condition. That means doctors can’t officially prescribe anything, let alone talk about it. The only thing they can do is suggest Occupational Therapy.

Which is where we were going to this morning, my son and I. This is where we’ve gone for the past few months.20170114_104609

His speech therapy is touch and go. He’ll either be in the mood to say something or nah. Occupational Therapy, on the other hand, is so… much… COOLER! There’s a ball pit! And big bouncy balls! And a tunnel and more toys! It’s a process of learning through playing…or what we used to call it in my day…playing. Occupational therapy is a welcome supplement to his boring ol’ speech therapy. And I think the biggest takeaway from attending these sessions, is my child has to take the lead as to what he wants to do. It’s up to the adults to go along and work with it. So, it’s a learning process for me too.

So, I suppose I could be one of these concerned parents and talk at length about getting your child screened and look for the warning signs and blahblahblah. “I need you to feel empathy for my baby because reasons!” But, I don’t feel like it, and I’m sure he wouldn’t appreciate it either. He’s not sick. He’s normal, he just needs a little boost. And while I could be the loudest crusader to get this condition the recognition it deserves, I really don’t think that’s necessary. It is what it is. It’ll probably stick with him for the rest of his life, but we caught it early enough so he’ll know how to deal with it when he gets older, and that’s all we can do right now. Still though, it would be nice to see him walk normally, talk normally. I love my boy, and I’m happy with my boy. I am proud of every one of his accomplishments every day.

I could complain, but I’d rather deal with it in my own way.

He has several quirks. That’s all they are. Just quirks. Things he does. Most of them are indicative of the condition he has, the rest are all his. And instead of Googling what they all are and fret until I mis-diagnose the hell out of it, I have decided to make him the hero of his own story.

Because, I’m a Storyteller. It’s what we do.

He chuckles in his sleep. It’s the most adorable thing in the world. He also likes to look up at the sky while he’s walking. It’s his preferred activity over anything else to do outside. Recently, I was stringing Christmas lights around the house. I switched them on, and as he was passing by with eyes cast skyward he said, “Bye!” It wasn’t directed to anyone. It was directed to the lights. At first, rationality took over. “Well,” I thought to myself. “Maybe it has something to do with the red bulbs, and somehow relating them to watching taillights move down the driveway every morning as his mom goes to work.” Red light means someone’s leaving, which means “Byyyye! See you laytor!

So, instead of freaking out, I just think of the lonely flip-flop…

Untitled Story Idea…

A family moves to a haunted house, and it’s a house that hasn’t been lived in for a very long time. The ghosts that reside there, mainly an old married couple, have been there for a very long time, and haven’t found a way to leave. The only person in the family that knows it’s haunted is the toddler, and he isn’t saying much. The ghosts aren’t very good at scaring people out of the house, because no one has lived there for such a long time, and they couldn’t find it within them to scare them because they were grandparents at one time. So, they spend most of their time looking after the children to make sure they don’t get into trouble. Somewhere along the line, the ghosts figure out that if they can get the baby to laugh, then the hold that this house has on them begins to loosen. Good deeds remembered, they are allowed to pass on once Christmas lights are hung and illuminated.

~***~

Another one of his quirks, and this is something his mother and I need to focus on, is that he has this obsession with doors. The way they open and close, if they latch or not, if they have a lever or knob, do they squeak, how much effort is needed to go through it. We REALLY lose him at the grocery store where the doors open on their own. *GASP! What sorcery is THIS?* He will literally spend the better part of an hour opening and closing doors. It’s something that we learn to live with.

I’m not sure how to break his fascination with them. Once he gets on a door binge, it’s hard to stop, and that’s something that we are slowly learning at Occupational Therapy. It appears that both of my children have their father’s obsessive nature.

There are good days, and there are bad days. But mostly, they’re good. His OT is quite adept at getting him away from his door habit and directing him to playing with blocks and puzzles, and as a result, his obsession has diminished. What hasn’t diminished is my own curiosity. “Why doors?” I ask to myself…in the same tone as “Why one shoe?”

Revision to ‘Kids of St. Anthony’

Story so far:

A social worker who has lost her child to cancer, and as a result, going through a divorce, is now set to task for finding homes for three young siblings. They reside at St. Anthony’s Home for Wayward children; an orphanage. For the most part, all the children that reside there are normal children, but there is a wing of the church that not a lot of people know about. It’s the wing where they put the “special” children.

The oldest of the three (based on my youngest daughter) has a habit of drawing what appears to be circles on paper with crayon. The middle child has hushed conversations with people who aren’t there, and the youngest cannot cope will unless there is an animal present.

To the system, to the nuns that run this place and to the social worker, these children are perceived to have special needs.

It turns out, they’re partially right. The youngest needs to be in close proximity to animals, because they can talk to him, and that’s how he has been in touch with the outside world. The middle child as actually holding conversations with ghosts. They warn her of danger and teach her history. The oldest, who looks as though she draws in anger and frustration with every circle getting deeper as each crayon gets ground down, is actually drawing very intricate talismans that are crafted to protect all of them. All three children team up with the social worker to solve mysteries and stuff. She ends up adopting them…until zombies…the end.

UPDATE:

First of all, enough of the frickin’ zombies.

Second of all, it might be wise to turn this into a series and expand the universe. Because all the cool kids are doing it!

Why not have this orphanage be home to other children with secret abilities? Maybe it’s been a home for children like this for a long time. Like this one child who shows no attention to the world around him, except when it comes to doors. He might come in handy in a pinch.

The bad guys are closing in on our heroes, and the youngest child is feverishly opening and closing a door to a closet; essentially, opening a door to nowhere. At the right time, he opens this door to nowhere, and it turns out that it’s a door to somewhere. They all escape danger because a toddler opened a closet door to reveal a field of wheat somewhere on the other side of the world…next chapter.

Conclusion

This is me blogging because I need a kick in the ass. This post has taken a week in re-writes and has ended up being approximately half the length of my current first draft. It feels like I’m stalling, but I need free up the log jam in my head.

It’s important to let you know that I haven’t gone anywhere.

I would love to write a short story a week, as I’ve pointed out previously. Respectfully, I’m not sure when Mr. Bradbury laid down the gauntlet about doing this, but I’m fairly certain he didn’t have to take care of kids and household at the same time. Right now, I’d be satisfied if I could finish a chapter a week.

This year will be the year I wrangle all of these ideas that land in front of me and turn them into something interesting maybe. I’m hoping that I will be able to find more time to get to them, but the chances of that are quite small. As much as I’d like to lock myself away in a shack in the middle of the woods, my kids need me right now.

And they are most important.

More to come.
Watch this space.

©2017 AA Payson

Zen and the Art of Pizza Making; A Study (WARNING: May Contain Recipes)

Zen and the Art of Pizza Making; A Study (WARNING: May Contain Recipes)

Circa 2009

The Old Way; The Way I’ve Been Doing it for Years…

Make Dough the Night Before I Need It.

When I first started, I made the dough the day of instead of the night before. I could get away with it, technically, it was totally possible to do so. However, while it would make a deliciously puffy (albeit difficult to work with) dough, it wouldn’t have that same nutty, yeasty, gluteny flavor that is achieved when the yeast and the sugars have time to mingle for at least 18 hours. I eventually learned to make enough dough to be divided and bagged in freezer-proof Zip-Lock bags; using what I need and freezing the rest.

Remember the Ratios

When I first started, I used a scientific approach to my dough making; accumulating various methods and recipes, putting them all in a bowl and mixing it up with previous experience. The first few results were as expected…awful…my notes reflected as such, “next time, do this instead of that…use more of this and less of that…”  There was a time where I just gave up. I was presented with a choice; spend time and effort on something trivial, or just give up and order out.

I pouted for a few months.

Then, one day I realized that the little things mean much more to me than the bigger picture, and I jumped right back into it. All I needed was a little more knowledge, a little more finesse. Bread is a living thing and it cannot be constructed as one would build a bookshelf…it must be nurtured. It took a few tries, but I finally hit my stride. The result of which was making dough regularly. So much to the point where I no longer relied on any recipe on paper, it was a “sense memory” thing. Something more akin to a chef or a baker who actually knows what they’re doing.

I’ve been making dough for over ten years now, and still I rely somewhat on measurements. In the beginning, I relied on my chicken scratch notes because it wasn’t automatic yet. Then dough making turned into a Friday night ritual to prep for my Saturday night ritual of making it. As the weeks and months pass, I just knew that this much flour meant this much yeast which that much water and so on. For years now, the result of my labor has just been…sustainably adequate. Maybe I got bored. Maybe my taste buds have gone blind and have given up trying long ago. Whatever the reason, I’ve made no secret that I wanted to change it, but I never dared to do anything for fear of something falling apart. Remember the ratios. Remember the crushing failures of the past.

For years, it has been fairly consistent. And I’ve been silently indifferent.

Never Get the Sauce from a Jar.

Ever. Always make it fresh. I will not bend on that. Always make it fresh. Make it with real ingredients. Forget that the price of fresh produce is going up, grab that basket of Roma tomatoes from the Farmer’s Market and get back in the kitchen. So what if it tastes a little…funny? It’s fresh! It’s…organic ‘n stuff! It’s supposed to taste like this.

While trying to be as accurate as possible with the construction of the dough, I would “eyeball” the ingredients for the sauce. It would taste different with every batch. That would be okay, because honestly, the dough would vary in taste and consistency every time too, no matter how much attention I paid to it.

This is how its been for years. Homemade pizza would be our Saturday night thing. It would be the thing that holds the family together. It would teach the kids that daddy can cook too, and he can do it better than anything pulled out of a microwave. There was even a moment in time where my ego was so bloated that I considered opening a pizzeria of my own. The problem was that even though I looked forward to every Saturday night and making something that everyone could eat and hopefully enjoy, the end product that I was pulling out of the oven was good. And that’s not a complement. It was good. I was shooting for great.

It didn’t taste good. I mean, it didn’t taste awful, it just tasted…well…off. It wasn’t enjoyable. My feelings were confirmed when my daughter takes her slice and picks at it. She usually eats half of it before she quits halfway through, up until recently, she couldn’t even do that. I mean, it’s PIZZA for cryin’ out loud! PIZZA!! If your kid picks at a slice of pizza like some kids push lima beans to the side of a plate, then congratulations, you just made something so horrible that they would rather choke down a Papa John’s pizza rather than endure eating what you made. Way to go…you suck.

Things had to change. In doing the same thing for years, I have become slave to the action, I had become complacent. If I took a step outside myself and observed my pizza from another point of view, it didn’t matter that it was good enough or not. It was pizza, and it was fresh, and daddy was making it. There could be no wrong coming from this. Only, I could tell. It wasn’t right, and I couldn’t go through another week foisting a sub-par product to my family. I mean, if I’m not wowing them on a weekly basis, how would I hypothetically survive opening up a shop?

Things had to change.

And so they did…

~***~
Circa 2014

Old Dough Recipe (prep time: 2 Days):

  • 5 Cups High Gluten Flour
  • 1 tsp. Dry Active Yeast
  • 1 Tbl. light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbl. olive oil
  • ~3 Cups warm (between 95° and 110° F) water.

I recommend starting off with clean water. If you don’t have access to a Brita Water Filtration System, then a jug of filtered water, the kind you collect in your shelter in case a hurricane rips through your neighborhood? The store brand kind? The ones that are like under a buck each? Yeah, one of those will work nicely.

You’ll need around 3 cups, not exactly 3 cups. The reason being is that there is a crucial point in dough making when you have to slowly incorporate wet to dry ingredients. Too much wet, and it’ll turn into paste. Not enough, and it’s a modern art sculpture. I’ll get into the details later.

Warm the water to around 110°. Heating it in a microwave safe vessel is okay, I prefer to warm my water the old fashioned way of pouring it into a small saucepan, placing it on the back burner of my stove, turning the burner to low and busy myself with other things while it gets up to temperature.

While that’s working, place flour, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of a KitchenAid Stand Mixer. If you don’t have one of these…well…don’t fret, the gift giving season is right around the corner. I used to mix by hand for a few years until I got one of these and realized how much my wrists have turned to stone. I recommend the stand mixer, it’ll save a lot of time, and it’ll save your arms…unless…ya know…you’re into that whole “beefy arms” thing.

Anyway, as stated previously, place flour, yeast, and sugar in the bowl and mix on low speed using the whisk attachment. The yeast and the sugar need to do their happy dance in the flour, so you need to play the tune by mixing for 2-3 minutes. Once they’re all incorporated, add the salt while the machine is running, and continue mixing for another 2-3 minutes. Not only are you making the yeast happy, you’re also incorporating a little air to the mixture…let’s get to that later…maybe.

Stop mixing, and replace the whisk attachment with the dough hook. Dump the olive oil into the flour mix, and turn on your machine to a low speed.

Now, here’s where you’re undivided attention is needed. Not on me, your mix….although…I wouldn’t mind some attention…maybe sometime…go out for coffee? Or, I dunno…an invitation to join TSŪ…maybe a gift certificate to Harbor Freight Tools…a Macbook Pro?…HEY! Pay attention!
The reason you need to get your water as close to 110° F as possible is that you need to transfer that water into a measuring cup. Doing so (especially if you’re using a Pyrex measuring cup) will drop the temperature of the water by a few degrees. You’ve removed it from the heat twice (once from the stove and once from the hot cooking vessel), so you’ll end up with water that’s closer to 105°…WHICH IS OKAY! any lower, and the dough will go stiff. Hotter than 110° and you have a sticky mess on your hands. 105 is the Goldilocks Zone. (You might want to keep one of these babies handy.)
Slowly pour 2 cups of the water into mix while your dough hook enabled machine is running. Increase the speed of the machine slightly. Your goal at this point is to make gluten; to make sure the dough is at the right consistency to work with. Now, there are many different ways to tell if your dough is ready, but the easiest way is to peek inside of the bowl and make sure that the sides of the bowl are cleaned by the dough as it moves around inside. To do this, you’ll need to pour more of the warmed water into the mix, a few drops at a time. Once the sides of the bowl are clean, you should be close. Don’t worry if the dough sticks to the hook and/or to the bottom of the bowl. A little is workable, if it’s too wet, keep mixing and incorporate more flour into the mix with the machine running. Let the machine run for at least 5 minutes, then remove the bowl from the mixer, loosely cover the bowl (they say to “loosely cover the bowl in plastic wrap”. I use a clean dinner plate. Works just as well, and its more versatile…stay tuned) with the dough still inside, and let it rest for 5 minutes.
Turn out your dough onto a flat, floured surface and knead by hand. There are many recipes out there that tell you to hand need for at least 10 minutes. That’s a bit excessive since the more you knead, the stiffer and unpleasant the crust will be. You will need to…um….knead…but only until there’s a good amount of give to the dough; it’ll contract (bounce back) if you press down on it. Knead and roll the dough into a ball.
Next, you will need a dough scraper, and a kitchen scale. Your dough ball should weigh in the neighborhood of 3lbs. Use your dough scraper to equally divide the dough ball into 4 smaller balls. These should be around 12 oz. a piece (if you have extra, divide it and spread it evenly as you can amongst your balls… stop laughing).
I could go into a step-by-step on how handle the dough at this point, and I may someday revisit this subject complete with video instruction starring me (you have been warned). But for now, let’s see how the pros do it…

//www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/he-V1J86REA

After you roll them up, use your plate that you used to cover up your dough earlier and drizzle some Extra Virgin Olive Oil in it. Roll a dough ball around in it so it receives a lite coating. Then you should, as Mr. Gemignani pointed out, place each ball in individual zip lock bags (gallon sized will do the trick). Make sure you get as much air out of the bags as possible, and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Place your balls in the freezer. The longer they stay in there, the better they’ll taste….stop LAUGHING! If making pizza the next day, take as many as you need out of the freezer, and place in the refrigerator. Remember to take them out at least 2 hours before baking.

The New Recipe. The One I Discovered a Month Ago:

  • The same as above, except add another teaspoon of yeast and divide the dough to 1 lb. portions. Much better; nice chew, very tender, wonderful aroma and mouth feel.
Now, the dough has been modified for the better, why stop there? On to the sauce!
~***~

 The Old and Busted Sauce Recipe:

  • Roma Tomatoes (I highly…HIGHLY recommend going to your local Farmer’s Market for these. The bigger, the better. The ones you get from a supermarket or “Wally World” are just way too small and flavorless and…gross.) Depending on the size, you’ll need anywhere from 6-8 (slightly over a quart). Make sure they’re ripe. If they’re slightly orange and/or not as squishy, the sauce will give a very “bright” flavor, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
  • 4-5 cloves fresh garlic roughly chopped
  • (2) 5.5 fl oz (2 small cans) tomato juice
  • 1 tsp. sugar

I’d like to take a moment to point out that the rest of the recipe is not in exact measurements…remember… “eyeballing” So, just like you’re Nonna did in the old country…follow your nose…it always knows…the flavor of fruit (that’s a 70s reference, kids. Go ask your parents).

  • dried basil
  • dried oregano
  • fresh basil & oregano (optional)
  • garlic powder
  • kosher salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • Lambrusco

Peel your tomatoes. Again, not getting into how to do it here, so here’s an informative video…
//www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/bgjJZRnpS24
Add all the ingredients to a pot and introduce an immersion hand blender to the party and blend until saucy. Place pot back on the stove (the warm part where you boiled the water) and cover until room temp. The residual heat will cook the sauce gently.

Now, this has been my sauce for years. This is the sauce that I’ve been convincing myself that is the best thing in the universe. The thing is, and I’m basing this on experience, it has a tendency to turn on you the longer it stays in your fridge. I recommend freezing what you don’t use. This sauce, while made with fresh ingredients, isn’t that good and will turn sour within a month. This is the sauce that I’ve been fooling myself with. This sauce…for lack of a better term…sucks. So, in order to get out of the suck, I turned to the internet while swallowing the fact that sometimes, I just don’t know what I’m doing.

New Hotness Sauce Recipe:

  • (2) 15oz. cans of tomato sauce (30 oz.)
  • (1) 12oz. can of tomato paste
  • 1 Tbl. Italian Seasoning (I know, I know, “how could I?” you gasp,but it’s better this way. Trust me.)
  • 1 Tbl. dried oregano
  • ~1 tsp. crushed fennel seed
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. salt

Combine sauce & paste in a large saucepan over medium heat. While that’s working, crush your fennel seeds. Don’t have one of these yet? Remember…gift giving season…Macbook Pro…FOCUS!

Add remaining ingredients, mix well. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly (making sure not to burn). Reduce heat, cover and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool, apply to pizza….yadda yadda yadda.

Now, the consequence of turning “mouth blind” as it were, is that when you apply something new to something established, there are bound to be repercussions. If done wrong, your family and friends will turn on you quicker than my old sauce taking up way too much room in the ice box. You will become a pariah and turned away from your next book club meeting. If done right, you will witness the initial shock, then the inevitable expression of “what have you done?, then the denial…then the acceptance…then the moment where you forget about the old sauce altogether.

Honestly, I didn’t know how everyone would react as I presented my pizza v. 2.0 for my family. My girlfriend went through the stages mentioned above, my infant son raged and fussed until he got a piece of the pizza crust, but the icing on the cake…the image that made my night, was to see my baby girl, fussiest eater on the planet, not only ate the ENTIRE slice of pizza, but it was intact as she was eating it; no picking, no pruning, no uck face… just devoured. Silently. Whole. Proud papa came back that night when a clean plate was in front his daughter.

My reaction upon eating it?

IT TASTES JUST LIKE PIZZA!

Pizza at last, pizza at last, great googly-moogly, pizza at last. I had forgotten what it tasted like. After scalding the roof of my mouth, I was brought back to the pizza of my childhood; I was brought back to the pizza shop on the other side of town that we used to go to on special occasions. I also wondered why I’ve been denying myself this for years. Why I was so resistant to change? Philosophical quandaries aside, I was finally where I want to be in my pizza-fu. It was wonderful.

~***~
It took me years of muttering to myself of how dissatisfied I was in order for me to get to the point of doing something about it.
And then I actually did something about it.
I was going to title this post, “Defining Madness” or something to that effect. It took me years of muttering to myself like a madman to come to the conclusion that I’ve spent a lot of time muttering to myself like a madman. Like someone lost in madness. Like someone who does something over and over again thinking the outcome will be different every time.
I was going to frame this revelation in the scope of how my attitude has been changing as of late…
If you can’t find it, make it.
If it’s not right, change it.
If it’s bad, walk away.
If all your good intentions and intelligence and talent aren’t putting you in the place you want to be, like say, every time I apply for a job, then perhaps its time to re-prioritize, re-think and recognize other paths in front of me.
If you don’t recognize your own talent and capacity for change, then I don’t know what to say. It’s inside you. It always has been.
What you do with it is up to you.

WIWW: Cloud-Busting (for the Tell Me A Story series)

Okay, before I get down to business, let me get down to business. The above picture belongs to Maurizio Fecchio and is available for purchase here. I claim no ownership of this image and have no plans to profit from posting it…period. Wherever possible, I give credit where credit is due. I will go out of my way to do so; I make it a habit. The only reason I’m reinforcing this is that I’m currently looking for a way (other than AdSense) to monetize my blog and I don’t want to be mired in any red tape while I’m trying to pay rent. 



The above is the inspiration for another writing prompt provided by +MJ Bush in her “Tell Me A Story” series. Yes, it is a few weeks later, but I’ve been letting them accrue and saving them for my Wednesday story just in case I’m drawing a blank on Tuesday. Let’s see what I can do with this one…

 

~***~
Three days ago, they sat face to face in a diner on the outskirts of Flagstaff discussing the terms of their arrangement. William would point John in the direction of the treasure. John would sell it to a very interested and extremely wealthy party from China, William would get paid handsomely for his Sherpa services. They would go their separate ways.

Two days ago, they got lost five times, ran out of gas twice, and proceeded to argue at length over who took the last piece of beef jerky. At around 2 in the afternoon, after the sun was highest in the sky, they pulled off to the side of the road, abandoned the car, and proceeded to walk the rest of the way through the desert. Young William headed north. William reassured John that if they head in the direction of those hills, they will find the treasure they seek. William said he knows because his grandfather told him the story of the Golden Mountain many times, just as his grandfather told him. John trusted William. William is a child of the Navajo Nation.Yesterday, they had to double back because William wasn’t entirely sure if his grandfather said north or south because the last time he actually paid attention to the story, he still had his baby teeth. John didn’t trust William so much anymore. Food and water running out. Patience will soon follow.

Six hours ago, remnants of the Santa Ana winds blew in, bringing with it what ever fog was left that San Diego couldn’t take. It was just enough to veil the setting sun. It was just enough to bring a chill to the air.

Five hours ago, John loosed a string of profanities that bounced off distant canyon walls because of all the things that he needed to pack, a sleeping bag would have been helpful. He would have, but it was too heavy and he couldn’t get passed the thought of snakes or scorpions or worse finding their way inside an enclosed area next to him. Nope. We shouldn’t be long anyway. His exact words coming back to haunt him as he put on an extra layer of clothes.

Thirty Minutes ago, William awoke well before sunrise, walked several yards away as to not awake a grumpy, slumbering John, and knelt towards the east. He pulled out a tiny rawhide rattle from his pocket, and softly chanted a song of his people.

“Hey,”

It was a song that was passed down to him. The only one he could remember, in any case.

“William…”

He never asked the meaning or bothered to learn the etymology of the verses, but it was a song that was performed in time of need. Such as seeking rain in times of great drought, the health of a loved one…

William!

…or directions when you’ve lost your way.

“What the hell, William?!”

Five minutes ago, John woke up.

“Give me a second, would ya?” asked William without looking over his shoulder. “I’m in the middle of something.” He softly continued his chant as the first glimmer of sunrise tired its best to force its way through the fog.

John was never a brusque man, at least, not in nature. In a previous life, John lived a life of privilege. The only child of extremely rich parents, John could have had his future planned, bought and paid for. But, he never liked that life. He dropped out halfway through his second year of college knowing that there was another way to retire comfortably. Twenty years, four continents, several broken bones, and even more broken hearts later, he has never looked back.

William is indeed of Navajo heritage. At least, that’s what he found out after doing a Google search on himself. His mother is Anglo, his father owns a consulting company, and to this day, he has yet to visit a Reservation fearing that the indigenous peoples might be repelled by the stink of the suburbs that follows him.

This morning’s sky was yet another battle in a war that the fog and sun have been waging for a millennia. This morning, it felt that the fog was winning. John could no longer help himself, enough time has passed. “You know William, I’ve been thinking,” said John. “When you answered my ad last week, I was convinced, almost completely convinced that you knew this area like the back of your hand.”

“Oh, you think I don’t?” asked William, already on the defensive.

“You got us lost several times and north and south confuse you for some reason.”

William was steadfast. This was no longer a petty argument over beef jerky, this is the first volley on an assault on his character. William would always be ready for this, except that he’s not in his room in front of his computer, and there’s no wi-fi access out here. “Uhhh…,” responded William, “it happens to everyone?”

“No,” said John. “No, it doesn’t. It only ‘happens’ to snot-nosed, film school rejects who go into the woods with cheap VHS cameras looking for witches. It does not happen to very real, flesh and blood, not-fake Native Americans such as yourself.”

“Oh yeah,” said William with a dry smile.”I hated that movie too.”

“Now, I can understand a little hiccup here and there along the way, maybe take a few minutes to get your bearings, but most of the day?”

“It’s not my fault!” retorted William. “Look, if you wanted to get there quick, maybe you should’ve gotten a GPS or something. But no! You had to wear your ‘white man’s guilt’ on your sleeve and use a Native to guide you to a treasure that may or may not be there.”

“Aw for cryin’…” John cast his eyes to the foggy daybreak. “I told you, there is no treasure map with an ‘X’ on it. There is nothing concrete, no artifacts. All I have is legend and hearsay and some kid who claims that he knows where he’s going, who claims to know about the legend, and yet doesn’t know which way is up without consulting a smart phone, so spare me that ‘white man’s burden’ crap.”

“Oh, whatever, Quimosabe! If you want accuracy in a timely manner while trying to satisfy your Native American fetish, maybe you should have tried one of the old dudes. Maybe they would have pointed you in the right direction while telling you a story of how they bagged a dinosaur or something.” William turned back around and continued chanting quietly.

John gathered himself. “William, what are you doing here?””Helping you, apparently.”

“No, I mean what are you doing here? You are a bright kid. You could have had your pick of any school in America. Any job in the world. Why are you out here in the middle of nowhere on some wild goose chase?”

“I could ask you the same thing, John. You had everything set up for you…yes, I checked…you could have skated right along easy street. Why are you roughing it for no other reason than to satisfy some boyhood fantasy?”

“That’s easy, William. Money. Plain and simple.” John paused. The sun was climbing higher, but the fog was still thick. “I go where the money is, and sometimes that brings me to the ends of the Earth.”

“Yeah,” said William breaking his chant. “Sounds like another white guy trying to take what’s ours.”

“William, I know for a fact that that shirt you’re wearing right now came from Ambercombie & Fitch. You showed up to the meeting with an empty Starbucks cup in your hand. You are not hurting for money in any way. If you’re against another white guy taking another piece of your history, then why did you agree to this?”

William stopped, stood and faced John. “It’s for my Naali, John. My grandpa. I’m heading to college on a full scholarship next year, and he’s rotting away in some trailer park. He’s never had much, but what he had was enough. He’s the one that told me the stories of the treasure. He’s also the only one who never let me forget my heritage. While the other kids were learning how to throw a baseball, he was teaching me The Mountain Chant. My father never cared. He was more concerned about succeeding in a White Man’s world. My grandfather made me care where I came from so I can see where I’m going.”

“So you’re here because of him?”

“He worked his entire life, but he doesn’t have anything to show for it. He had to sell his old pick up truck when the work dried up, and a little piece of him died after that. I figured, if I can get enough cash to get him another one, maybe he would feel whole again.” John couldn’t argue with that. It was an honorable endeavor, and there was no reason to rebut. William turned to face the east again.

“I take it that your grandpa taught you this chant?” asked John.

“Yes.”

“What’s it for?”

“Well, it’s for cloud-busting, actually. We’re lost and he taught me this in case I ever needed to find my way.”

“Oh, well that’s helpful.” John thought about what he was going to say next and for a second, considered biting his tongue. John can’t help himself sometimes, “Any idea what you’re saying?”

“No clue. All I know is that it’s supposed to bring clarity.”

His chanting grew louder as he felt the first rays of sunshine warm his cheek. Warm on top of warm. Heavy moisture thins to light atmosphere. The fog lifts, and the sun paints its target a bright, sparkling gold; a majestic wall of stone carved by the slow hand of time. John’s eyes widened. He has been to the far corners of the world and has seen nature at her finest from Mumbai to Anchorage. He has never seen this. “Well, I’ll be damned,” was all that could come out of John’s mouth.

“I know,” William replied in silent amazement. “I’m just as surprised as you are.” The higher the sun would climb, the more beautiful the scene, and they both marveled at the splendor just a moment longer. “Well,” said William. “we should probably get moving if we want to get a jump on the day.”

“No,” said John. “You stay right there.” William froze hard as he saw John frantically rifle through his backpack. For a brief moment, William thought he should run because he heard John’s voice drop two octaves. He thought he should run because he heard a distinct metallic click from his backpack. Run because he’s seen this movie before; the innocent one leads the villain to the treasure, only to get shot for his trouble. Run because it’s been a long night, and this guy’s got a look in his eye that could drop a tiger. Run. Now.

He couldn’t.

He froze. He felt that this is the end, and he closed his eyes in preparation for his destiny. “Hey,” said John plainly. “You okay over here? You look like you’re gonna faint.” William opened his eyes. John held no weapon. Instead, this privileged white man held a very expensive digital camera around his neck and smaller dufflebag in his left hand. “I need you to help me with this,” John said, giving him the bag. William unzipped the bag and inspected what was assuredly a collapsed tripod. John had no intention of killing anybody, or taking any treasure to speak of. “Quickly now. I need to switch lenses before I lose the light.” After quickly getting a general idea, William extended an locked every leg and guesstimated the general height of where a camera would go. “Thanks a lot, William,” said John with a smile. “You should teach me that cloud-busting chant. It came in quite handy.”

“Yeah,” said William through nervous laughter. “I’ll have my grandpa get in touch with you.”

“You’re…how did you say…Naali is a good man,” said John, adjusting his focus.

“So, is this it? You’re not going any further?” asked William flustered.

“Hunh?” grunted John. “Oh, the treasure?” John had to laugh in spite of himself. “I’m sorry, William.There is no treasure. If there was, it would be long gone by now. Besides, I’m not Indiana Jones; I don’t raid other peoples’ history for my own livelihood.” The camera’s digital “shutter” flitters away. “Don’t worry, I’m not taking advantage of you for sightseeing either. We have a business arrangement, you and I, and I take that very seriously.” And with that, John continued to fill up two memory sticks worth of pictures of the purple mountains majesty. Not much else was said after that. They relocated their car, they drove back to where they started, money was exchanged, and they both parted ways.

~***~
It has been two weeks since this adventure. William has since settled in with finishing high school. Back to his regular life. As he pulled into his driveway, he barely acknowledged the truck parked on the side of the road. Thinking it was a friend of his fathers dropping by after work. “Hello,” said William as he walked through the door. “I’m home!”
“Hey, William,” replied his mother’s voice from another room. “How was school?”
“Good,” Back to his regular life. “Hey mom, who’s here?”
“No one dear, why do you ask?”
“Well, there’s this truck out here. I thought someone was here.”
“No, nobody here all day except me. Funny, I didn’t hear that truck pull up.” William gazed hard at the vehicle. Little things get taken for granted when you don’t pay attention. For instance, William noticed the truck, but didn’t notice the temporary plates, or the showroom glow of a factory paint job, or the tape marks on the passenger window indicating where a dealer sticker was. Little things get taken for granted, like the envelope wedged under the windshield wiper. He walked out to inspect further, and just as he expected, the envelope was addressed, “William”. He opened the note inside and read,
Dear William,
I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said. About another White Guy coming along and taking your treasure. Well, I just wanted to let you know that in a way, you were right. I took something from you. The wonderful view of your golden mountains. It was a sight to behold and I’m afraid I won’t be able to give it back. Please forgive me.
 
What I said about the treasure being a legend, well, I was mostly wrong. There is a treasure, and my Chinese buyer was quite impressed with it. The buyer works for a film production company, and they needed someplace they’ve never seen before to be worked into a movie. They were impressed not only with the pictures, but they were also enamored with the tale of how I befriended a young Navajo warrior and how his perseverance brought me to this place of wonder. So thankful they were for my services and for being completely swept up in the story that they decided to sweeten the deal, as it were. 
 
Tell your Naali ‘thank you’ from me. I hope he likes it. The keys are under the seat.
 
All the best,
John
William neatly folded the note and placed it back inside the envelope and ran back to the house. “Mom!” he called out. “Call Grampa! See if he’s home!”

©2014 The Writers Bloc/Tony Payson

Whatever I Want Wednesday: Oh…So That’s How You Do It. (Warning-Contains Ice Cream)

If you can’t find it, make it.

For the passed 10 years, I have been slowly nurturing my need to make things from scratch. Okay, some guys fill their garage with a wall full of tools, and I hope to one day do so as well. Some guys save up for a fishing boat, or a motorcycle, or golf clubs. Me? I’m on a constant quest to have a fully stocked kitchen. Maybe I should have been watching more football instead of Good Eats. Maybe I should have paid attention to the normal things that boys usually pay attention to, rather than leaning the nuances of my mother’s Sunday Gravy as I watch her put her spice rack through its paces. Maybe I should be satisfied to have my dinner prepared in a microwave. Perhaps I shouldn’t care.

But I do. And it’s important to me.

Last year, I received an ice cream maker from Santa because I finally admitted to myself that if I didn’t have any in my freezer at any given time, I’d get really sad. Sure, there are times (like now) where there are at least two cartons in the back of the chill chest taking up valuable real estate and are getting more frost bit as the days wear on; impulse buys of flavors yet to be tried, only to be filed in the “Well, It Seemed To Be a Good Idea at the Time” Folder after a couple of scoops. I’m not knocking the Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Latte flavor.

…if there is one…

…I’m sure there is…

There’s pumpkin spice everything.

Sometimes though, chocolate and vanilla are all you need.
The model I received was the Hamilton Beach 68320 1-1/2-Quart Capacity Ice Cream Maker, White. I don’t know about you, but a quart and a half is just a tease. Still, it has a sturdy motor, it’s easy to clean, easy to assemble/disassemble and no rock salt is required. Also, the price point is right on. Not having to invest in rock salt helps out a lot and the machine itself slides in under the $30 mark.

Now, for the downside…

It’s a uni-tasker and it takes up about as much room as your average toaster. I know a bunch of people only have room for one toaster in their life, and while I’m on the subject, a toaster is a uni-tasker too. Despite what Alton Brown’s pet peeves are, these are general nuisances that come with the territory of appliance buying and might be considered petty. Let’s label these: “No Big Deal“.

The biggest downside of this machine, as I’m sure many people who owned this can attest to, isn’t in the room it takes up. It’s in the end product that it produces. Now…just bear with me…

Stop me when this sounds familiar…

My first attempt at making ice cream with this thing didn’t go so well. I followed the instructions the best I could, but the ice cream was more like a milk shake. No, I take that back. It was more like a protein drink. Granted, I didn’t leave the mixture in the fridge for as long as I should have, so that time was my fault. Live and learn, move on and do better next time, which (despite my best efforts) didn’t happen.

The second time, I left the tub in the freezer for a few weeks as opposed to the 24 hours they suggest in the instructions. I also left the mixture in the refrigerator a few days longer than recommended. The end result was a porridge. Still nowhere near ice cream…or custard for that matter.

I began to read the reviews of this model online, and the majority seem to experience the same problems I was having: the ice cream wasn’t setting, the tub wasn’t freezing and it was just a waste of machinery. At the time I was inclined to agree. “This thing is taking up way too much room in my freezer to not work. Did we save the receipt? Maybe someone will want it on Craigslist. Piece of junk...” and so forth.

That was at the beginning of the year, back at my old place. Well, now I’m in a new place, with a different refrigerator. Ladies and gentlemen and those unfortunate souls who purchased this machine and stuck it in your attic after 2 or 3 failed attempts, I’m here to testify, it isn’t the machine’s fault.

It’s your freezer’s.

Being of a scientific mindset, I was willing to give this thing one more go to make sure that it wasn’t the machine but in fact the place where I put it that was at fault. This attempt was proving to be just as disastrous as the first couple of times because this new (to me) refrigerator’s door doesn’t close properly unless you kick it shut. Ignoring the feeling that I might be wasting my time, I put the ice ream maker’s tub in the freezer and basically forgot about it for a week.

At that time, this is what I saw…

Ice crystals forming on the outside of the tub. This is something that never happened previously. My hypothesis was proven correct: it wasn’t the machine, it was the freezer. This thing was frozen solid. Perfect!
So, happy endings abound! I made a batch of old-fashioned vanilla and it was delicious and creamy and gone in a hurry (my kids devoured it before the adults could get a chance to enjoy some). Some day, I’ll probably document that, but this time…It’s all about the chocolate…

~Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Ice Cream~

(note: When I made vanilla ice cream, I let it churn for about 30 minutes to get the desired consistency, which is about the average time for this machine. For this one, I had to stop it in under 10 minutes because it was freezing too quickly and the paddle was sticking. The end result was perfect, but it took less time then I was expecting. Just a little head’s up that you may want to keep your eye on this if you make chocolate in this machine.)
(other note: For those of you keeping track at home, yes, this is one of the recipes that are provided with the machine.) 

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups (500 ml) heavy whipping cream
  • 1 Cup (250 ml) whole milk
  • ½ Cup (125 ml) sugar
  • ¼ Cup (60 ml) cocoa powder (you don’t have to use dark cocoa powder, regular will work just fine. I use Special Dark because that’s how I roll!)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

► 1.  Combine sugar and cocoa in a small bowl.

►2.  In a saucepan, warm cream and milk over low heat.
 ►3. When cream and milk mixture is warm (when steam is visible on the side of the pan and a thin skin appears on the top), whisk in the sugar cocoa mix and the vanilla.

Whisk until sugar is dissolved and mixture is well combined.

►4. Allow mixture to come to room temperature, then chill in refrigerator overnight. Seriously. Stick it in the fridge and don’t touch it until the next day. I never said that this is a quick process.

►5.  When ready to make, assemble your machine, place your frozen tub directly from the freezer to the slot where it goes, place paddle in the motor, lid the machine and turn on. Slowly pour mixture through the hole in the lid.

►6.  Churn for 20-40 minutes (seriously, keep an eye on it) or until desired consistency.

Now, at this point, this chocolate ice cream is close to ready. Results may vary, but I had to chisel the product out of the tub.

Place your ice cream in clean containers and freeze for at least six hours.

Conclusion: It was hard as a rock, but totally worth it. Remember to never give up until all possibilities are counted. I was about to chuck this machine when I should have chucked my refrigerator. I shudder to think that all the food I stored for years wasn’t being stored at a proper tempurature.

Anyway, those days are gone. Home made chocolate ice cream, no fillers or by-products, all real ingredients, kid tested and approved…

Lessons Learned From my 12 Month Old.

“See Lainey,” I whisper in my daughter’s ear as we pass by the sparkling plate glass windows. “This is where all the pretentious retards come to graze.” My mood was a little sour today. My girlfriend’s grandparents came to town, and one of the things they love to do when they come to Florida for the Holidays is to go halfway across the state for something as innocuous as a pizza. It’s not so bad because they go on their merry way and take the day to do whatever they want.

This year, they invited the grandkids. Which means the parents of the grandkids had to come too. Fine, I thought, let’s just get this over with. It’ll just be for an hour or two, then I can get back to business at hand.

No. It lasted all day. We met up with a second cousin. And she was catching up for years of not catching up. And she was so impressed with the home made Christmas cards that she makes every year and oh, Micheal’s is having an after-holidays blowout, and oh this is my first time at making artsy crafty crap, and could you give me some pointers andonandonandon…

My belly is full, I’m tired, bored and uncomfortable. I walk out of Micheal’s having seen all I needed to see 5 times over. So I walk, baby in my arms, Momma coming up from behind. Lainey doesn’t care, she’s having a grand time with her daddy and checking out her reflection in the windows. We end up at a coffee shop. We wait for everyone to catch up, which they do, and they proceed to linger and loiter further drawing my ire…I’ve checked out about an hour ago, all I want to do is go home.

I pick up my daughter, and we walk passed the shiny plate glass terrarium of Whole Foods’ cafe. My mood is sour, I revert back to my asshole stage. “See Lainey, these Green Freaks might save the world a lot quicker if they captured the methane from their own pretentious farts and use it as a fuel alternative. The problem is, they can’t find a tube small enough to penetrate their flowery assholes…” I go on like this for a few minutes. As I’m ranting, Lainey just smiles and waves to the people inside. The people, so enamored, smile and wave back.

It takes someone who has a vague comprehension of the English language to say, “Hey, chill.”