Thursday, December 30, 2010

Burning the Christmas Cookies

... Again!

My woeful attempt to portray Julia Child at Christmas time is normally met with some traumatic experience either on the part of me or my family.  Although I do enjoy experimenting a little in the kitchen and am grateful to my loyal subjects for their willingness to sometimes act as my guinea pigs, one would think the simple tasks of Christmas Cookies would be met without incident.  Here's what happened one day when my phone rang:

Me:  "Ahlooo-oh!"  (That's my best Julia impression!  I'm really good at it!  Just ask Dan!...  I do it all the time!)
Caller:  "Uh, hello?  Mrs. Hott?"
Me:  "Who?  Oh, you mean me?  Yes, speeeeaking!"  (It's my Julia Child again!  I'm still not used to being called Mrs. Hott.  That name is reserved for Dan's 89 year old mother.  I really do forget it's me after 14 years.)
Caller:  "This is Morgan County 911 Emergency calling.  Is everything alright?  We got a call from one of your neighbors."
Now, I can hear a fire whistle zooming up our hill.
Me:  "My neighbors?  Are they okay?"  (I am confused.  All the Hotts are fine, present, and accounted for.)
Caller:  "Yes mam.  They are fine.  But they have called to report a fire."
Me:  "Fire. Really?!!!  Where"
Caller:  "Well, at your residence!  We have received a report of billowing smoke emitting from your home."
Me:  "Smoke... where?  Are you serious?  Can you see me at my house?  How do you know there is smoke?"  -- Like 911 has some magic eye;  I really thought they were looking at me talking on the phone via satellite or something.
Caller:  "Yes.  Emergency services should be there any second."
Me:  Finally realizing what in the world was going on, "Oh, oh, oh!   Smoke!?  Oh no.... that's just me.  I was burning the Christmas cookies,... again."

Oh! eat these cookies!  They called the Fire Department on me!  Yikes!  When they showed up, I had to give them the only good batch I had.  Talk about feeling like a fool!  There was NO fire!  The only smoke coming from the Hott house was a tray of Christmas cookies I stuck out on the back porch.  Well, they nearly did go up in flames before I got them out of the oven.  But the house wasn't on fire, for goodness sakes.  You probably don't believe me; so, I'll show you a picture:

Doesn't that look yummy?  You see, Julia Child (although I love her) I am not!  And for some unknown reason, I manage to ruin 90% of everything I bake and/or cook.  Although I am kidding about 911 and the fire truck, I seriously DID have to set out quite a few trays of smoking cookies on the back porch after my kitchen was engulfed in smoke and our house alarm went off.  Even the cats won't touch them. 

Each holiday, I get really nervous about the annual family dinner at the Hotts where everyone brings a dish thanks to my cooking skills.  Let me tell you in case you didn't know, my husband has a HUGE family.  There are 13 brothers and sisters.  One time I counted everyone, direct descendants, of the original Riley and Violet Hott and got 164!  That was in 2006.  I am sure by now there are at least 12-15 new babies.  For these special meals, dishes show up by the dozens.  After a few years, I realized that of my many sisters-in-laws, they each bring the exact same thing every year!  Except me.

So, after 16 years, it only took me 32 holidays to figure this out.  As much as I enjoy entertaining, bringing a dish to the Hott Family Holiday is my least favorite of all!  Normally, they tease me and criticize my creation.  Occasionally, a nephew or two has faked stomach poisoning.  Sometimes, it's just easier not to bring anything at all!  So, why is it I don't have my "regular" dish to bring!

Until this year!  We were having this conversation about what would be interesting to prepare and Dan, my husband, mentioned that his mom really likes molasses cookies.  He even had her original recipe written down by his older sister.  Molasses cookies.... hummmm... I've never heard of that.

Well, neither did our 10 year old Violet; because she erupts with an looooong "Eeeeeeeeeewe!"  WHY would you want to make those?"   I thought she was just pinpointing my unique cooking skills.  "Isn't that what COWS do?  Yuck!" 

What?  She thought it was "manure" cookies!  Now seriously... why would I make cookies out of manure?  Don't answer that!

So, I proceeded to purchase the ingredients, finding that molasses is some pretty nasty looking stuff.  But I made the cookies anyway.  After burning, well, a few, I managed to salvage enough to take to the holiday family event.  Secretly, I snuck them in the kitchen and placed them with the mountain of other cookies on the table.  And I told Caity, "If anyone mentions my molasses cookies, don't say who made them."

After a hike near the Potomac where Dan's nephew scared the cr** out of me (or molasses) with a dead raccoon (aren't these Hotts a hoot!), we made it back to the house for dessert.  I sat down with my sister-in-laws famous chocolate pie when I hear someone say, "Where are those molasses cookies?"

I froze.

Oh no!  Here it comes!  I was never going to live this down.  Beginning to perspire, I glanced at Caity out of the corner of my eye and whispered, "Don't say a word."  I was NOT about to admit I had made yet another dish the Hotts would find fault with!  Oh no!  Then I heard:

"Wait!  Here's the pan!  They're all gone!  Oh no... I wanted another!"  Much to my amazement, they emptied every last one of my molasses cookies.  "Who made them anyway?"

Silence.... which doesn't happen often at the Hott house.  I was as quiet as a mouse.  They didn't need to know it was me!  Really, wouldn't it be more fun just watching them enjoy the molasses cookies?!  In the meantime, Dan's looking at me and wondering why I'm not saying anything.  And he says, "Well, Ang made them!"

Busted!  All 164 Hott heads turned to me in shock!  Oh.come.on!  They were all completely surprised that the molasses cookies came from Angie's kitchen.  Guess me and Julia DO have something in common after all!  So, I said "Awe shucks you guys... it was Mrs. Hott's recipe!"

Guess what?  I was so proud of myself, I made another batch for Christmas.  For the life of me, I am not so sure why they like them so much because they are about the strangest tasting cookie I've ever come across.  But they do grow on you. 

Now, I look at that tray of burned cookies and I am reminded of all the dishes I've burned; crazy things I've done and silly mistakes I've made both in the kitchen and over the years.  And you know what?  It's just cookies.  Each crispy chunk of carbon reminds me of a disappointment I've had over the year 2010; another mess in the kitchen; mountains of laundry; numerous trips to the grocery store; boo boos needing band aids; noses to wipe; miles of trips to town for school events; more gas for the car; midnight runs to the ER when Levi fell out of bed; mountains of bills waiting to be paid; medical needs that never quit; to mouths to feed again and again.  2010 brought us the word "Brugada" - a rare and fatal heart arrhythmia; progressing symptoms of Parkinson's Disease; a mother-in-laws failing health; school bullies; financial strains; and lost college financial aid. 

But like I said, they're just burned cookies.  Let's count blessings! Here's mine!

Happy New Year from the Hott Family!
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33

I send all my troubles (a.k.a burned cookies) to God.  He doesn't mind!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Song of the Day: “Christmas Time in West Virginia”

Song of the Day: “Christmas Time in West Virginia”

This is a really cool song by the Weber Brothers!  They feature the children singing from Widmeyer Elementary.  Both Isaac and Levi are students there!  I can't wait to play this for them!

Friday, December 24, 2010

I Bring You Good News!

But It’s A Secret!

Dan and our daughter’s boyfriend, Brian, have this “thing”! Brian and Caity have been dating, or “going steady” (Do people still say that?”) since 2007 OR on the very FIRST day Caity went away to college. Now listen: Our daughter is a knock-out. Back in high school, we almost had to move to another church due to the turmoil she created among the boys in Youth Group. Seriously! She still till this day does not realize how gorgeous she is. Although there was a line of eager young men always at our door, Caity was always disinterested and completely unaffected.

Until Brian.

So, how is it this blue eyed boy from Elkins managed to keep coming home with our Caity? Ever since that first semester of college she has been bringing him on the 3 and ½ hour trip from Wesleyan College to Berkeley Springs. At times her brothers, then 2 and 3 years old, raced past Caity on the porch upon arrival to greet, not her, but her boyfriend, Brian in the driveway! Famous for the original pout, she wasn’t too happy about that.

Wellllllllllllllll… this year, Brian came again, again, for Thanksgiving. He and Dan will spend hours either watching college football or out in our garage. For the life of me, I just can’t figure out why a couple of guys like to stand around a freezing cold, dirty garage with three cats and two stinking dogs!

Maybe it’s the Becks and cigars. Who knows?! But Dan and Brian can talk out there into the wee hours of the morning about only God knows what.

Until Thanksgiving. I never ask. Normally, I go to bed or fall asleep with one of the boys. Well… the Saturday after Thanksgiving last, I got up AGAIN at around 12:30 a.m. from sleeping with Levi and came down to clean up the kitchen. (Thanks for leaving me the dishes, Caity!) Brian and Dan were just coming in from the freezing cold. Again! Dan said to me, “Brian has something to tell you!”

“Oh reeeeeealy?!” Hummmmm, I’m thinking! I’m much too young to be a Grandma – Hahaha! LOL! Wonder what this could be about? So, I busy myself, as ususal, cleaning up the dishes that Caity didn’t do… and wait. Brian’s not saying anything. Hummmm….

Finally, he said to me (and by now, I can tell he is nervous! Or, it must be one too many Becks), “I am planning to get Caity a ring for Christmas!” Oh… he’s going to propose!

“WHAT!?????” By now, he had followed me over to the Christmas tree where I was turning out the lights for the day. “WHAT!” I turned around and slapped him, HARD, on the chest! (Oh no, I thought, should I have done that? I may be only five feet tall; but believe me, I can carry a very hard punch. Good thing that wasn’t Dan. Every time I do that to him, he tells me that I’m going set his defibrillator off to give him a good shock in the chest!)

A “shock”! After I chest slapped Brian, I yelled “Get Out!” Maybe that wasn’t a good thing to do either! But it wasn’t one of those “get out of here” phrases; rather, it was a “Holy Cow! My baby girl will soon be a fiancĂ©!”

So, after I got the rundown on college graduations, grad schools, and well, getting married,… it was nearly 2:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. Then I realized, “Oh no. I can’t tell anyone. And Christmas is a month away!”

Now it’s only four days until we will celebrate the birth of Jesus AND our daughter’s engagement. I’ll have to admit it to you all. “I CAN’T KEEP A SECRET!” So please don’t tell anyone or I am in serious trouble.

Secrets! Or, just having some amazing good news that is so beyond cool; or carrying around good news with you for days which could literally make you explode at the seams! That is what the past month has been like. You can ask my husband, it is really hard for me to keep this good news quiet!

Then, on Saturday, Brian showed me the… (drum roll)… ring! You can see it all over his face. He is so excited about this.

And the ring! It is a precious symbol of his love for my baby girl.

So, as a 45 year old, gray haired, mother of four here in West Virginia on this December 21st, Winter Solstice, and Lunar Eclipse, it is 4:30 a.m. and my house is sleeping....  except for me.  Although it will only be quiet for a few hours, I am here thinking about my little girl.  I also ponder God’s love for us on a quiet Christmas morning when He broke the silence of 400 plus years with the cry of a little boy, Jesus.

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby,
keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them,
"Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Luke 2:8–14
So, if God can keep quiet for 400 years, I guess I can keep a secret for just four more days; but, like Gabriel, I feel like blowing a horn and spilling the “good news”!

By now, if you are reading this post, I have been permitted to publish the story and make public the news of Brian and Caity's engagement.  Guess what?  She said YES!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Finale Celebration at First Church!

Video 18 [HD]

Thanks to Amy Hatcher for posting this adorable link on her facebook page!  Click above to see the finale in the 2010 Christmas Program at First Church in Berkeley Springs, WV.  Check out the guys up front.  This is priceless.

Look for Violet (to the far right) rocking out with her shepherd staff; Isaac (to the left) intent on playing air guitar, and Levi as Joseph-especially when Mary loses her head wrap!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

School Runs and Baby Jesus!

When Babies Grow Up...
Please check out a new feature posted today on Moms of Faith!  I am pasting a picture of the "smiling teachers" here... it will make sense when you read the story.  The online magazine does not accept photos, so I am sending you guys a bonus feature!  I hope you like it... please let me know what you think by commenting (the editor likes that!) and sharing with your friends and family! 
And... thanks for reading!  Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Post About Posting!

... and God heard an "Amen!"

This post is a little embarrassing... really!  Well, actually, it is a LOT embarrassing to tell you the truth.  However, I just want to share this story because it is important and it is a witness to how God answers prayer.  Moms of Faith ( posted this on their magazine today.

Also, I personally want to thank each of you.  Please share this with your friends and family.  Many from First Church in Berkeley Springs heard what happened (thanks to Pastor Andrew who rocks!)!  You guys were really praying and look what happened:

Thank you, from the bottom of my Hott little heart, and post God an "AMEN" in the comment and tell me what you think!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Writing Christmas Cards

A Post Thanksgiving Post
Just this past Sunday evening, the Hott House was starting to settle in after our memorable Thanksgiving holiday where we celebrated roasting our first ever fresh (wink, wink) 27.14 pound turkey!   We enjoyed the company of grandparents, aunt, uncles, and cousins by the dozens for a Thanksgiving celebration that began on Tuesday and concluded with Caity and Brian heading back to college on Sunday afternoon.

Later that night, the wee Hotts; Violet, Isaac, and Levi, were engrossed in the movie Elf.  (Don't you just love the part when she sings in the shower?)  Although there were plenty of towels, sheets, and laundry to do, I decided to plant myself in the middle of the madness and begin filling out Christmas Cards.

I am really excited about these cards!  For those recipients, I'll try not to give away the surprise; but, we did an awesome picture this summer in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where each of our kids dressed up like pilgrims.  I intended to get them out last week since they were festive for both Thanksgiving and Christmas; but well...  you know how that goes.

Each year, I really do enjoy going through the list and remembering individuals as we stuff the Christmas cards.  Violet normally helps me stamp and sticker!  I attempt to get out around 70 cards that include family and friends old and new! 

A smile came to my face as I addressed Mrs. Margaret Schlimme.  At 98 years old, Great Great Aunt Margaret was the crazy fun sister of my grandmother.  She was tiny, like me, always with a sparkle in her eye.  As I addressed her card, I felt a giggle as I remembered her laughing with my grandmother Edith and all her sisters gathered around the table at her house in Smithsburg, Md:  Aunts Sally, Ester, Grace, Bunny... and Uncle Clifton (the only boy and with a funny name too!)!   They were so noisy! 

And noisy too was the Hott House for our holiday.  When I saw Great Aunt Margaret's card, I thought that of all my millions of Aunts, I wanted to be like her.  It is her smile and sparkle I hope to emulate for my many nieces and nephews when they come to visit me, and for my first ever great-nephew Nathaniel.  I'll have to give credit to Great Aunt Margaret for the fun I have in now calling myself "Aunt Angie the GREAT"!

After placing Mrs. Margaret Schlimme's card on the pile for Violet to stamp, my phone rings... again!  This time it is mom, who by the way is named after Great Aunt Margaret and Great Grandmama Mary Margaret.  She was calling with the usual "hey".   And, to let me know that her cousin Betty Jo just called.  She wanted to tell us that Great Aunt Margaret passed away,... just earlier Sunday morning.

Merry Christmas Aunt Margaret "the Great"!  I hope you enjoy your card!
Margaret Elizabeth Wear Schlimme, 98