The Great Cookie Dough Heist

It was a kinder, gentler world back then – a time when salmonella did not rule the bird population, and children could still eat raw cookie dough even if it did have eggs in it. My mother used an old family recipe to make the most wonderful cutout sugar cookies, and Christmas would not have been complete without them. Their one drawback was the two-step process involved – make the dough one day and roll them out and bake them on another.

Mom worked long hours as a bookkeeper at a local gas station, yet she always managed to find time to play board games with us kids, take us wherever we needed to go, and bake goodies for the family. But it didn’t usually happen just when we were panting and breathing for it. It was that way with the Christmas cookies, one year. We made the dough one Saturday, and waited on the baking until the following Saturday. It was more than a little girl could bear.

“Mom, can we make the cookies tonight?” Dead-tired Mom didn’t want to think about it, so night after night the answer was the same. The project must wait until Saturday, which seemed at least a decade away.

Sinister crimes are usually perpetrated in dark places, and this one was no different. The cookie dough, stored deep in the farthest corner of the basement refrigerator, pleaded loudly in my ears, “Eat me! Please, come eat me!”

I answered the call. It was just a tiny sampling at first. No one would have even noticed, especially after I pinched the dough together so the finger marks wouldn’t show. I swore that first dough-snitching episode would be my last, but day after day, evening after evening, the dough continued calling. I could hear it while watching TV, while reading a book, while trying to sleep: “Eat me. Please, come eat me!” And I succumbed, again and again.

A little taste here and a little taste there, and by Thursday night, a horrible truth had dawned: when Mom went to bake those cookies on Saturday, the whole family would know that someone had been stealing the goods. There was only enough left for about three cookies. I had vaguely observed a gradual dwindling of the mound, but kept telling myself it was not very noticeable, until it became so obvious that even I could not live in denial anymore.

What could I do? It was too cold outside to run away and live with the hobos.  Grandma wouldn’t protect me.  She lived with us, and would be mad like the rest of them that there were no Christmas cookies to be had.  I could frame my younger brother. I knew he had sampled once or twice, but he would hotly deny any part in the crime, and besides, my honest face always managed to tell the truth when my lips did not.

There was only one solution: when the day of reckoning came, I would have to own up to my heinous deed and face the music. In the meantime, I might as well enjoy my sin, since I was going to have to pay for it anyway. I ate the rest of that cookie dough. All that remained were finger trails up the sides of the bowl.

Saturday morning I awoke with dread in my heart. I stayed in bed extra long, covers over my head, listening for sounds of impending doom from beneath me. I heard my mother’s footsteps on the basement stairs, the opening of the refrigerator door, the pounding up the stairs again, the seconds of silence before the storm.  And then it blew.

“Lee Ann! Gary! Get down here!” I crawled out of bed and sidled on down to the kitchen, guilt written all over my miserable face. “Who ate all the cookie dough???!!!”

“I did, I guess – but I think Gary helped some.”

“Not much. I only did it once,” my brother defended himself.

Mom did not morph into the ogre that I had expected. She was really annoyed, but after recovering from the initial shock, the novelty of one small girl eating an entire batch of cookie dough on the sneak without being discovered until the last scoop was gone hit her as being a tad funny. She didn’t tie me to any bedposts, lock me in the closet for a week, or put me on a diet of moldy bread and  pond water for the next thirty days, as my young imagination had supposed would be fitting punishments.  She didn’t ban me from eating Christmas cookies for the rest of my life, either. Her lip twitched slightly, as she tried to hide the eventual smile.

“I guess we will have to make a new batch. This time maybe we’d better not wait another whole week before we get around to baking them.”

Moms are wise beings. They learn from their mistakes the first time around. I think I did, too. Not so much as a smidgeon prematurely departed from that cookie dough bowl in the interval before the next baking day.

Ornesta’s Christmas

I love fan mail.  It’s encouraging to hear that other people can relate to my experiences. 

Ornesta Fruggenbotham, of Iron Ore, Michigan, wrote: “I see that you didn’t post any bizarre Christmas stories — again!  Don’t you have any to tell?  Do you want to hear mine?”

“Sure, Ornesta.  I’d love to,” was my prompt reply.  “It’s not that my extended relatives can’t produce plenty of fodder for a good yarn.  But they’d all get awful mad at me if I told on them.  If you’re not afraid to tell on yours, let’s go for it!” 

Y’all might remember Ornesta.  She did a guest appearance in this blog months back, with the story of searching her (not-dead) brother’s house for his corpse.  You can read about it at Hold the Hysteria, Mom!   (Not to worry, home school mother reading this blog to your kiddies for your cultural studies class.  We’re totally family-friendly here.  The tale is bizarre, but not scary.  It will give you a keen insider look at what life is like in Upper Michigan.) 

So, here’s Ornesta’s Christmas memory from yesteryear.  Once again, it’s an “as told to” piece, so if it sounds like my style, it’s because I polished it up for her.  Remember, these are Ornesta’s relatives, not mine


The four of us got to Mom’s place on Christmas at the traditional 4:00 p.m. and were surprised to find the house already full of all the bodies that normally show up an hour late — plus some fresh ones we’d never seen before.  Apparently Mom had either sprouted a new crop of relatives, or else she had invited a homeless cowboy and his wife home from the grocery store.  

We brought the buns, but everyone had already eaten without us.  Maybe the buns hadn’t been necessary.  Apparently we hadn’t been necessary either.  I steered Mom off into a corner of the kitchen for a private word.  

“Mom!  Who are these people, why are we the last ones here, and why did everyone eat without us?” 

“They’re your brother Sid’s in-laws.  They dropped in unexpectedly, and they decided we should have Christmas at 1:30 instead of 4:00.” 

“Let me get this straight.  Sid’s in-laws drop in unexpectedly, invite themselves to your house, and tell you when to have your Christmas celebration.  Am I smelling the aroma of a  control freak?” 

“I couldn’t refuse to let them in.  They dogsledded all the way from Hibbing across Lake Superior to get here.  Besides, they brought three crock pots full of weenies and beans, Swedish meatballs, and pork hocks drowning in sauerkraut.” 

“I would have had a hard time refusing the Swedish meatballs myself, Mom, but the beanie-weenies and the pork hocks aren’t worth it.  And it’s only December.  The lake doesn’t freeze over solid until January.  I’d ask to see the dogsled before I’d believe that one.  And how come everyone else knew about the time change except us?” 

“I got so flustered I forgot to call you.”  Mom sniffled into her potholder, and it dawned on me that the pork hocks and weenies weren’t adequately compensating for the sudden change in plans after all. 

We made our belated salutations and introductions as best we could.  The cowboy and his wife were quite cordial, and invited us to sit down and make ourselves at home.  There was not a square inch left to fit ourselves into, what with the space they and their Christmas presents occupied, so we graciously declined. 

“That’s all right, we’ll just go sit in the bedroom and eat.  Call us when it’s time to open the gifts.”  

Life was about as delightful as it could get, sitting at our card table in the spare room.  The situation would have made an effective ad for a buffet restaurant: 

“Grandma’s home-cooked ham and potatoes, PLUS three other kinds of meat, including our world famous Minnesota pork hocks, all served in your own elegant private dining room next to the clothes hamper.” 

The food was lukewarm, but the conversation was plenty hot enough.

Having stuffed the intruders’ delicacies, along with our lacerated emotions, into our innards, we rejoined the family circle.  They must be into line dancing or the rodeo, I decided, based on the boots, fringe shirts, and the guy’s flowing mustache.  But if they yodel, I will know it is just an obsession with Roy Rogers or Gene Autry.

I observed that Sid’s father-in-law was remarkably well preserved.  He looked younger than Sid.  It turns out he was.  Mother-in-law, cuddling up to hubby, announced proudly that she had robbed the cradle the second time around.  Father-in-law grinned sheepishly, looking way too handsome for his own good.  I wondered what had attracted him to his adoring old feedbag.  Must have been SOME horse she was riding when they first laid eyes on each other.  Either that or the line dancing had gone to his head. 

Mother-in-law decided to win over my teenager with charming conversation.  “So you’re Ellen!  I’ve heard so much about you!  Stand up, honey. … Five-nine.”

Ellen’s eyes popped.  “Excuse me, ma’am?” 

“You’re five-foot nine.” 

“I’m five-seven … and a quarter.”  Ellen is very sensitive about her height, partly because all the boys in Iron Ore come on the short side.  The severe winters stunt their growth, but our family genes must be dominant over the weather. 

“No, don’t argue.  You’re five-nine.  My other daughter is five-nine, and I’d know.  You’re the same height as she is.  Take off your shoes.  … Yep, still five-nine.” 

We endured through a couple more hours of Christmas pleasantries before escaping.  Ellen obsessed about her height all the way home, whenever she could get a word in edgewise between my snorts over the ham hocks we had just been visiting with — not the ones in the crock pot, either. 

“Ellen, just because the rodeo queen said you are five-nine does not make you five-nine.  You haven’t grown a millimeter in four years.  She may be controlling, but she’s not THAT good.”

She was unconvinced.  We had to haul out the yardstick and measure her when we got home, to set her mind at ease.


I was confused by the time I finished putting Ornesta’s story together, so I asked, “Ornesta, I thought that in the other story Sid lived all alone.  What happened to the wife?” 

“Oh, I forgot to tell you that part.  She was so happy to see her mama and step-daddy that she decided she couldn’t live without them anymore.  She hopped the dogsled home with them and never came back.  For all I know, they all fell through the ice somewhere on Lake Superior.”

(For more Ornesta-related adventures see Simply Ornesta! in the sidebar, under Archives.)

Merry Christmas and a Happy Newsletter

Dear friends,

We  wish you a very merry Christmas!  I hope everything is going well with you and all your family.

We’re all ducky and ecstatically happy with each other at our house, as usual.

Having Paul home, now that he’s retired, has taken a bit of getting used to, but I am thoroughly spoiled.  I love having him around the house.  He keeps pretty busy with household projects, and he likes to go downtown and share Jesus with people on the street at least once a week when the weather isn’t frightful. 

He is done with one year of Bible school, and has one year to go yet.  After that he plans on being a televangelist.  He really likes class a lot.  Our pastor is a fine teacher, so Paul gets into it.  He is a bit of a godzilla to live with in the week leading up to exams, though.  He frets that he will not do well on the tests – but he always does.

Paul is a good sport about me picking on him in the silly blog posts I write. If one gets too outrageous, I always let him read it before I put it up for the world to see, just to make sure it isn’t something he objects to.  He has never refused to give his stamp of approval.  I think he likes the persona I have created for him.  Perhaps he enjoys having a fuss made over himself.

Beebee is a sophomore in high school now.  She is learning to play guitar from one of my friends, and she sings on the worship team at our church.  We will home school her until she is forty or marries and has ten children, whichever comes first.

We are thinking of going to Pittsburgh the day after Christmas to spend a week with Susan and her husband Chris – if the forecast is clear.  It’s a long drive for such stay-at-homes as us – about twelve hours – and we’d rather not hit a blizzard in Indiana.  (Encountering the highway patrol there isn’t such a super experience, either.)  So, if it even hints of snow, I’ll plant my feet firmly in the home snow banks and refuse to budge. 

Susan’s little boy Ezekiel is almost five and Rachel is two.  The parsonage that they live in is very large, so we have enough room to spread out and have space to ourselves if we all get too much for each other.  After several days together, we always get to be too much for each other!

They have a woods and a creek behind the house instead of a backyard.  It’s nice for a walk at this time of year, since the poisonous snakes and disease-carrying ticks are all asleep right now.  There is a beaver dam on the creek, and they have seen a beaver.  Chris said it is just a woodchuck, but they probably don’t know a beaver from a woodchuck in Arkansas, where he comes from.  Beebee saw it and said it had a big old flat tail – beaver, not woodchuck.  Other than the woods, they don’t have a lot to do there.  Perhaps I will bring popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue along and entertain myself making a fruit bowl out of them with Ezekiel, so that I feel like a proper grandma.  I don’t have the grandma stereotype down yet, somehow.

(Oops! This just in: says forget about Pittsburgh.)

A few days ago, Ezekiel told Susan that he wanted to “fire” the house.  I would have freaked out, but she manages to stay calm under such astonishing announcements.  She asked him why he wanted to burn the house down.  He said he wanted to get rid of the clocks.  When she probed further, he said they don’t say it’s lunch time often enough.  I hope she finds a constructive avenue to steer his inquisitive mind into, so that he invents useful things to keep himself occupied as he gets older.  A chemistry set would probably never be a good idea.

 I hope you have a lovely Christmas, and that the new year is full of good things for you!

Random Twisted Thoughts

Random thoughts:

If we could find a way to preserve all this lovely, pristine snow until next July, we could make a Warren Buffet-sized fortune selling snow cones.

75% of all Wisconsinites buy underwear for their loved ones at Christmas.  85% of that underwear purchase is long johns.  It is just too cold here.  Suggestion for the white collar worker: buying long johns for your boss is not going to help you climb the corporate ladder — unless they are the frosted kind you find at the bakery. 

Wisconsin postal customers who buy long johns of either type for their mailman for Christmas will be adored.  In addition, have a hot coffee for him when he trots by, and you’ll receive premium treatment all year long.  Your mail will get delivered on time whether your neighbors’ does or not.

Funny article about Alan Greenspan’s solution for the economy.  Yes, it IS buying underwear for everyone at Christmas!  (We’re ahead of ya here in Wisconsin, Alan!)

I have proof that evolution is not true.  Fossilization does not take millions of years.   When my teen does the dishes, the dinner remains fossilize on the plates in the mere hours’ time before she gets around to washing them.  No more Hogan’s Heroes videos for you, Beebee!  Dishes first from now on.

Putting your holiday turkey outside the back door to cool is not a good idea.  The Great Dane next door might saunter over and have it for a snack.  I know.  Anybody want beans and weenies for Christmas din-din?

The Santa Claus at the mall makes $30,000 for approximately six weeks of work.  I know two of him personally and got the scoop.  There are a lot of overhead costs, though.  Eating at the Old Country Buffet five days a week in order to maintain his portly figure taxes his wallet.  And the gout medicine needed as a result of all that buffet eating is expensive.  Not to mention that Santa’s arteries won’t make it to ninety years of age.  Next time you see the old codger, sympathize a bit.  His life isn’t all that jolly. 

Regifting is not only acceptable in Wisconsin; it is our duty — to save on landfill space.  No one should have to permanently hang onto Grandma’s rummage sale purchase of three-feet-tall plastic butterflies, still shrink-wrapped.  It may be her way of saying “Merry Christmas” this year, but it’s going to be mine next.  If she waxes real forgetful in the coming twelve months, I’ll just give them back to her next December 25th.  She’ll never know the difference, and at last the butterflies will have a happy home.  Grandma will love them!

Bah, Humbug! 

Not to be an Ebenezer Scrooge, but I don’t like Christmas.  It’s not that I’m a terrible grump, or stingy, or any other of Scrooge’s faults.  No, my reason for disliking the season is that it gets so busy that Jesus gets lost in the shuffle.  Years ago, I used to try to work up some kind of euphoric feeling about Christmas, and I’d do everything in my power to try to make it wrap all around the Lord. 

I have given up.  There is just too much stuff to do — and we keep it simpler than the majority of folks do.  Christmas time does not mean that my schedule lightens up.  We just add more things to the to-do list than we already had before.

I write four Christmas cards — yes, just four.  I know you are feeling waves of sympathy for me right now.  Paul has his own list and does his own newsletter, so between the two of us our Christmas card mailing looks more impressive.  He is very conscientious.  His were mailed just after Thanksgiving. 

Two of my Christmas mailings go all the way to India, to our sponsored children, so they need to be sent out by the first of October to get there on time.  Actual mailing date is about December 1, which means they’ll arrive at the end of February, if the trip goes smoothly.  The kids are used to this by now, I’m sure. 

The other two cards are for a couple of relatives.  There used to be more, but everybody else either became irrelevant or died off.  Once people have become irrelevant or have died, you no longer need to send them Christmas cards.  Those two went out today.  But at least they were personalized for the individuals they were sent to. 

One year I tried to make my life easier by sending my Christmas greetings via e-mail.  I figured, “What’s the difference?  I put a little Christmas border along the side, just like if I snail mail it, and it’s good to go!”  It wasn’t good to go.  There were definite snorts from a couple of folks, and a third suddenly became one of the irrelevant ones that I don’t need to mail to anymore. 

But, we were talking about why Christmas isn’t all that much fun.  Shopping — I hate shopping, 365 days a year.  It’s worse at Christmas.  This year I completely avoided crowds by not going to WalMart at all, so I can’t complain about crowds.  But how do you shop for people who have everything and don’t want anything more that you could possibly buy for them? 

To top it off, we deal with two family birthdays in December, and two more in January, so we have all the birthday and Christmas shopping at once.  My husband likes technology and golf clubs, both of which are incomprehensible subjects to me.  Beebee likes clothes, shoes, and purses, but not the clothes, shoes, and purses that Mom-O would choose for her.  I think I’m going to start giving socks and underwear, like one family I know. 

This year, my husband tried to make it easier for me.  “Just get me braunschweiger.  I love braunschweiger.”  If he’s talked about the braunschweiger once, he’s talked about it with great anticipation twenty times.  He wants a tube of braunschweiger!!!  The stuff is disgusting, and only a German would eat it.  They grind every unmentionable part of the pig into it, and he wants to eat it!  Fine, I will buy him braunschweiger.  But how will that sound when people ask, “So, Paul, what did your wife get you for Christmas?”

But I am doing bunny trails.  Back to why I dislike Christmas.  I must make Christmas cookies and candy.  You are probably thinking, “Big deal.  We all do that.”  Well, maybe you do, and maybe you enjoy it.  I got myself into a trap a few years ago.  Instead of getting socks and underwear for the fringe relatives, I gave them each some of my world-famous Granny’s Grainy Fudge.  I’m going to patent and trademark it someday and sell it for $20.00 a pound to upscale people who love to buy overpriced mail order candy.  It’s that good.  But the friends and relatives came to expect it, and there are quite a few of them, and it became a huge chore.  I’ve cut way back this year.  Some of them just joined the irrelevant list, whether they like it or not. 

But don’t just assume — if you are a friend or relative and you don’t get any candy, it could just be because I’m tired, not because you’re irrelevant.  I’ll clear it with you about January 1, and explain which category you fall into — the “I was just too tired this year to care” category or the “You’ve been selected to be irrelevant” one.  (I’m just being sassy for fun.  I don’t really treat people like this.)   To tell the absolute truth, no one is getting fudge this year.  I made a different kind of candy.  “Granny’s” patience got a little grainy, and there’s no fudge for you!

I have not finished shopping yet.  I still have to do the last minute food gift purchases (such as braunschweiger).  I hope it gets done before the grocery stores close on Christmas Eve.  It looks a little shaky this year.  I have not wrapped a single thing yet.  Beebee and Paul will have pity on me and bail me out as much as they can.  I have not finished making the candy yet (but at least it will be fresh when the folks get it).  I did get the tinsel on the tree, for the first time in ten years.

You are no doubt wondering why, if I am as busy as all that, I am taking time to write this.  It’s a matter of mental health.  If I don’t let it out of my system, the lid might blow off the top of my brain, and that wouldn’t look nice.  Or I might overheat and start manifesting insanity symptoms, like foaming at the mouth and muttering strange phrases in Arabic.  It wouldn’t look good in the Christmas video.  So, I’m doing it for my friends and relatives.  They will thank me in the end.

But I am unhappy that Jesus is not getting the attention that should be all His at Christmas.  It’s His birthday, but I have concluded that it is useless to try to focus on that.  I’m spending as much time with Him as I do all the rest of the year long, but He should have had the extra time this Christmas, and the Christmas must-do’s got it instead.

So, I think I’m with Mr. Scrooge.  We have different reasons, but the same opinion.  Bah, humbug!

Delightful Christmas Presents 

Ah, yes, it’s Christmas time again.  It’s that busy season when we do all the baking, and consequently all the eating, and hence all the blimping out that we really would rather not do at any other time of year.  We write newsletters to people we don’t think about from one December 25th to the next.  AND we buy gifts for each other that nobody needs — which brings me to fond remembrances of Christmases past and how gift-giving tends to go at our house.

My husband is a frugal kind of guy.  He gets his kicks out of presenting us with Christmas presents that he is very happy about, because he got such great deals on them.  He chortles about how cheap they were.  I don’t mind in the slightest about them being cheap.  I don’t even mind that sometimes they are kind of dumb and not of any interest to me.  I don’t have any huge wants in the material line anyway.

Last year, Paul gave Beebee and me each a pole lamp for Christmas.  Yes, you read that right — pole lamps.  And they were extremely ugly pole lamps, too.  I sometimes gazed for whole minutes at mine, scarcely able to believe that I was consenting to its presence in our living room.  The vertical support pole leaned, unable to bear the weight of the cross-pole with the lamp on the top of it.  The lamp head itself, from one vantage point, looked like an overturned stainless steel mixing bowl on a stick.  From another angle it looked like an alien being with a helmet on its head.  I endured it for about two weeks before deciding I had had enough.  There are just some things that must not be borne!  Beebee could not support the idea of keeping hers either, and those two pole lamps sold for twice as much at the following summer’s rummage sale as Paul had paid for them in the first place.

I get many ugly Christmas gifts.  Most of them come from elderly relatives, who think they are beautiful.  I have a reputation for having no taste.  But even I have more taste in my little finger than some members of my family do.  Case in point: last year’s winner of the Ugliest-Christmas-Present-of-the-Decade award.  It was a decorative plate, vaguely resembling Blue Willow Ware, with wrinkled praying hands dead-center (the straight praying hands, not clasped knuckle hands).  It reminded me of a bit of theology my mom had passed on to me when I was a child: Catholic folks prayed with their hands straight, while we nice little Protestants prayed with the clasped knuckle approach.  (Where DO people get such notions?  I think the only reason little children were ever taught to pray with folded hands in the first place, whether it was the clasped knuckle or straight hand method, was to keep their fidgety little pinkies from doing naughty things when they should have been concentrating on God.  It couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with impressing God, I’m sure.)  ANYWAY, the plate was the epitome of religiosity and was ugly besides.

When I opened it, the giver (name removed to protect the guilty) went on about how pretty it was, and brought my attention to the fact that she had even mounted it in a wall hanging, so it was all set to go.  This meant I could not hide it in the back of the cupboard under a stack of other plates.  Sigh!  In order to keep my name from being expunged from the family tree forever, the plate had to be prominently displayed somewhere for all the world to notice and make mental note of my poor taste.  It ended up in the entryway, as I could not possibly bear to have it in the kitchen.  If my relative had come over and had not found it prominently displayed somewhere, her feelings would have been hurt, and my goose consequently cooked.  I spelled this all out to my dear child, who did not want the ugly plate to be displayed anywhere except at the next available rummage sale.  I said the plate would have to be hung until [name removed to protect the guilty] had seen it and was satisfied.  Beebee gave me a very serious look and remarked that [name removed to protect the guilty] didn’t get out and about as much as she used to, and it might have to hang there a year or more, much to Beebee’s and my mortification.

But on to other examples of ugly Christmas presents.  We received one very grotesque dancing/singing frog from my brother.  In fact Gary was on a roll — we also got a fowl in a Santa hat that sang the chicken song while it hopped across the floor.  It hopped so hard that it threw a rivet out, and I couldn’t figure out where it was supposed to go back in.  But it continued to hop in rare form, even without its rivet.  And, as if we didn’t already have enough mice at all times in our home, Gary also gave us a squeaky-voiced rodent singing, “Oh, bring us some figgy pudding” at the top of its pipes. Yes, my brother has tastes that he inherited from some of the other relatives.  Family genes will do it to you every time.  (Gary will not mind that I did not insert “name removed to protect the guilty” where his name belongs.  He takes great pleasure in his personal brand of tackiness.)

Beebee wanted to immediately relegate all these atrocities to the rummage sale box along with the praying hands plate, but I insisted we keep them out to scare our grandson with when he came.  For weeks, every once in awhile I felt compelled to squeeze the mouse’s foot, just to make her squeal, “Oh, bring us some figgy pudding,” and see who I could startle.

Paul also showed me an item that almost became one of my Christmas presents — but he thought better of it.  It was a label maker.  I was in awe, and wanted to know what on earth I was supposed to have done with this gadget.  So he recited all its lovely possibilities.  I was not impressed, and suggested he make it a Happy Birthday present to himself. 

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