Monday, February 27, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies

What is my best life experience ever?

Sunsets and shooting stars, flowers and laughing babies pop to mind first. But the hands-down, top-dog absolute best experiences are the ones I enjoy over and over whenever I want. So today my best life experience award goes to the warm smell of homemade chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven. Or maybe it’s the sight of dozens and dozens of fresh cookies cooling on the counter. Or maybe trying to pick up the hot and gooey goodness before it has cooled and savor the sweet flavors in my mouth.

Some bakers pick regular size chocolate chips. That’s okay, I would never complain about chocolate. Most often I make a double batch for sharing and pour in the square chunk-sized chips and the mini-morsel chips so every bit of every bite contains chocolate.

I changed my mind again. I love sharing my cookies and seeing my friends and family gobble them up. They disappear too fast to go stale. The simple things make the best experiences. I love a good cookie, don’t you?

Thanks to Jamie & Chynna Laird for inspiring this post. Now is a good time to bake some cookies.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lost Lasagna

At 6:15 this morning the contents of the oversized pan slid into the kitchen trashcan at last. The red sauce of untouched lasagna coated the side of white plastic liner while the pasta and cheeses lay in a congealed pile at the bottom, still molded into the shape of the dish. The Italian sausage and seasoned ground beef lurked inside the bed of discarded ricotta and pasta. What a waste.

Last Friday I made twin trays of lasagna, one for a dear friend who lost her mother to cancer and another for my family. Easy comfort meals, both families were set for the snow-forecasted weekend. A tight schedule only allowed for assembly; they would bake closer to dinnertime in separate kitchens.  One settled into the fridge, the other hitched a ride for delivery.

That evening we stepped out to attend the premier gallery show of a friend. My teenaged daughter baked the lasagna as instructed and left it to cool. When we returned home, the kitchen was dark and cold with no hint of the warm tomato sauce and oregano.

Saturday morning I headed downstairs to start the day and feed the animals. The forgotten foil-covered pan waited on the counter. With sinking disbelief I reached for the smooth silver foil and peeled it back. How long did the food sit at room temperature? Ten or twelve hours? Somehow calculating the time might validate the lack of proper storage and render it safe for consumption.

Alarm bells should have started ringing when I carried that pan to the basement fridge instead of dumping it right then. Later in the day, I confess to a friend, Dawn, and ask her opinion.

“No way. Pitch it,” she says with no hesitation. I tell my family not to eat the lasagna.

For days I longed for a piece of  lasagna instead of the cold ham sandwich I settled for in its place. For days the pan sat ignored in the basement. Not forgotten, but not discarded either. I could not stomach my efforts being chucked out in vain. I don’t usually get attached to leftovers, but this lasagna never achieved leftover status.

Today marks trash day. The five-day old heartache has to go. With heavy feet, I carry the heavier tray up the stairs to the trash.

Check out the photography of local artist Tracey Grumbach at her new website here or now showing at Arts by the Bay in Havre de Grace.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fun with Words

Writer play with words. But how often do writers find toys for their words? Check out my favorite sites to tinker with words.

I Write Like
Ever been curious about your writing style? What famous author do you write most like? Paste at least a few paragraphs into the text analyzer at the I Write Like site. The statistical analysis tool will determine which famous writer matches your word choice and writing style.

I selected the Ancestors blog post and the badge below appeared. Then I checked several other samples with results including Cory Doctorow, Dan Brown, Ann Rice, J.R.R. Tolkein, Stephenie Meyer, and H.P. Lovecraft. Some authors are familiar, others are new to me. So what started as a mild curiosity is now adding new material to my reading list.

Whom do you write like?

Badge created at I Write Like website.

Wordle creates word clouds based on your text. The more frequently a word occurs in the source, the larger that word appears in the word cloud. Fonts, orientation, shape and color scheme customize results for a stunning presentation.

Wordle images make interesting title pages and provide a visual representation of the work to follow. Selecting key passages of historical literature allowed an immediate analysis of the tone and word choice.

In another example, the private school where I teach compiled a word cloud based on the results of a community-wide survey.  The online survey, sent to students, graduates, parents, donors, faculty and trustees, asked recipients to spend sixty seconds free associating about the school and recording their words. The responses generated a word cloud featuring the school's most prominent attributes.

Harford Friends School Word Association developed at Wordle

Compile a list of characteristics for your grandfather, your kids, or anything you like. Paste the results into Wordle and play with the intuitive design features to create a work of art. Whether you want a thoughtful gift or an analytical tool, Wordle provides endless ways to capture your words in clouds.

Do you have any favorite word toys?