Practical jokes — May 31, 2023

Practical jokes

You might have heard some jokes or seen some memes that expose the truth about adulting.

My favorites go something like this… “you know you’re an adult if you have a favorite stovetop burner” and “no one ever talks about how much time you’ll debate keeping a cardboard box.”

It’s not so much that I have a favorite burner as it is that I have a least favorite – the one in the top right-hand corner. It’s one of the smaller burners and it seems so far away. To keep it from feeling left out, I heat the water for cocoa on that burner.

As for boxes…I recycle cardboard, so I keep boxes around for a while, but I don’t break them down until it’s time to go to the recycling receptacle. Why? Because one doesn’t just rid one’s life of a good cardboard box. I might need to store or transport important items like rocks in that box. And it never fails. As soon as I break down a box, I need one.

Anyway, I could create my own “you know you’re an adult…” jokes. For example, I also have a favorite spatula. One of my besties also has a favorite spatula. Well, she did until her husband accidentally destroyed it during a freak stand mixer accident. When she explained to him that he had ruined, albeit accidentally, her favorite spatula, he asked, “Who has a favorite spatula?”

Her answer: Everyone who bakes!

Whilst I haven’t polled every human in the galaxy who bakes, I’d say there’s a good chance that most bakers have a favorite spatula. My favorite has a nick in the silicone. Ever since my friend lost her favorite, I have feared that my spatula will be involved in some sort of tragic, baking-related accident.

Just as with the burner, I feel bad for my other spatulas. It’s as if they’re like the machines in Terminator 2: Judgment Day and have achieved self-awareness. Occasionally I’ll use one or more of them, so they’ll feel like they’re part of the team.

A few weeks ago, I added to the adulting jokes. Erroneously thinking I was out of toilet bowl cleaner, I picked up a brand I had never before used. Dear readers, the scent is so strong from said cleaner that your nose probably twitches every time I clean the commode. Maybe the power comes from the scent or from the bright blue color. All I know is that I don’t even have to use my toilet-cleaning brush. The cleaner works on its own to leave the bowl sparkling clean.

You know you’re an adult when you get so excited about toilet bowl cleaner that you tell random people about the product and mention it in this-here column.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Baking power — February 22, 2023

Baking power

A character in Fredrik Backman’s The Winners (the last book in Backman’s Bear Town trilogy) bakes a lot of bread. Indeed, he makes so much bread that I suspected a loaf of bread would play a pivotal role in the story.

Whilst I won’t tell you if that happens, I will tell you that it turns out the character bakes bread because he needs to create something. After all, he’s unfulfilled and unhappy.

When Backman dropped that introspective bombshell, I looked up from my device and stared into the void. Why? Because when I’m feeling exceptionally unfulfilled and unhappy, I bake.

I’d never realized that baking was a form of therapy. Instead, I characterized it as a hobby. Looking back, though, I recall specific times when I felt especially stressed or depressed. During those times, I instinctively went to the kitchen and made good use of my fancy mixer.

Once Backman rocked my world, I needed to know more, so I entered the search terms “baking mental health” into the Internets. As it turns out, baking can improve your mood. The step-by-step process requires concentration, which makes you more mindful. That, in turn, reduces your stress levels and makes you calmer. The entire process also gives you a sense of control.

Of course, all this hinges on baking for pleasure and having time to do so. If I am rushed or feel that I have to bake, it worsens my mood. So, if you’re reading this and recalling the time you learned at the last minute that you had to bake 120 cupcakes for that bake sale, I’m developing secondary stress on your behalf.

The same can be said for the daily trudge of cooking for sustenance. But if you cook for pleasure, then you can derive the same mental health benefits others get from baking.

According to my research, part of these mental health benefits come from sharing the baked goods. I have also found this to be true. Although I sometimes bake just for myself, I feel best when I’m baking for others.

For example, a few weeks ago, I had leftover carrots that I didn’t cook. (Yes, on occasion I eat my veggies.) I asked my niece if she wanted a carrot cake. Except for the batter, I don’t eat carrot cake. So it was a win-win for me. I got to bake and eat batter. Of course, as I shredded the carrots, I whined to myself, “Self, why did you offer to do this? You nicked a knuckle.” But those nicked knuckles were worthwhile because I enjoyed the process of baking the cake even if transporting it did cause me stress. (That’s another story for another day.)

Sometimes, I even listen to music and dance whilst baking. That’s what I did last week whilst making a red velvet cake. For the record I also do not eat RVC, as it’s known in my circle. But I do eat the batter.

Hmm. Maybe consuming batter also improves my mental health.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Less is more — October 5, 2022

Less is more

In case you haven’t noticed, the portions of certain foods have been drastically reduced. Indeed, have you seen a Mallo Cup recently? It’s the size of a nickel. But there’s one portion I’m glad the powers that be decided to reduce – the size of a box of the Supercenter’s assorted cookies.

As the name suggests, you can expect to find an assortment in a box of said cookies including chocolate chip and shortbread. I particularly enjoy the shortbread as well as one we’ll call a spice cookie.

The cookies are packaged in festive boxes that celebrate that month or season’s approaching holiday. For example, the orange fall box features a pumpkin-shaped spice cookie sprinkled with orange sugar.

A coworker introduced me to the cookies approximately nine years ago and I’ve been enjoying them ever since. I eat my aforementioned favorites and then share the others with friends and family. What can I say? I’m a giver.

In fact, during my short-lived experiment with the Supercenter’s grocery pickup, they once substituted sugar cookies for the assorted cookies without my permission. (This represents one reason the experiment with grocery pickup was short-lived.) I do not eat sugar cookies, so I gave them to my neighbors. I should add I had never met these neighbors until that day, so they might have wondered why this strange woman showed up in their yard bearing a box of cookies.

Anyway, at one point, I thought the assorted box contained butter cookies. Thus, I tried to make butter cookies. They didn’t taste as bad as sugar cookies, but they certainly didn’t taste as yummy as my favorite cookies in those festive boxes. So, I decided I needed a cookie press to whip up a delicious batch of butter cookies. When I shared this plan with my sisters and nieces, they told me the cookies I had identified as butter were actually shortbread.

This perplexed me because the shortbread cookies in those festive boxes, whilst yummy, taste nothing like the shortbread cookies we prepare for the holidays. Nevertheless, I decided my sisters and nieces were right. I didn’t need a cookie press. When I take a hankering for those cookies, I can buy a box of assorted cookies.

That’s what I’ve continued to do. But I found that even with help from others and my love affair with carbs, I have trouble making an entire box of assorted cookies disappear. So, on a trip to the Supercenter, I was happy to see they are now selling somewhat smaller boxes of assorted cookies. After I empty the box of the shortbread and spice cookies, that leaves fewer cookies to share with others.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Dough girl — December 18, 2019

Dough girl

76781467_10221205068818778_3035515819174920192_oWhen I was a wee lass, my mom, aunts, and grandmothers occasionally treated us to homemade crackers. They made the crackers by frying leftover pie dough in lard or bacon grease. The former came out of a huge plastic bucket while the later was poured from a metal canister that rested on the stove. The canister was labeled “GREASE.” I assume so that no one would forget the nature of its contents.

While the crackers weren’t exactly heart healthy, they sure were tasty, especially if you ate them while they were warm. The crackers of our youth came up in conversation as my siblings and I gathered the day before Thanksgiving to bake pies and other goodies.

Of course, no crackers were made that day, but I wouldn’t say the extra dough went to waste.

After placing the bottom layer of dough, the filling (either apple or cherry), and then the top layer of dough in the pie plate, my mom gently trimmed the excess dough from the pie. And as soon as the excess dough dropped onto the table, her helper, my great-niece, scooped up said dough.

The world’s most adorable kindergartner then played with the dough, squishing it between her fingers and rolling it onto the table. Or, as we say where I come from, she gommed in it. Indeed, she even whipped off her socks, placed the dough in the chair, and kneaded it with her feet.

There were quarter-hearted attempts to make her stop gomming in the dough, but none of these entreaties came from Aunt Cookie (that’s me). Instead, I praised her for making use of her imagination and for showing an interest in baking. What’s more, she made sweet memories with her great-grandmother. So what if she also made a mess?

She was, however, a tad possessive of the dough. When my brother reached over for a little of that freshly-trimmed dough, she demonstrated Ninja-like speed as she grabbed most of it from his grasp. I think I heard her giggle. I’m sure I saw an extra twinkle in her eyes.

When the pie-making concluded, she shaped the dough into a mound that could have been a troll or a volcano or a Shar-Pei’s face. She then stuck two small whisks into either side of the mound. They could have represented horns, but I like to think they represented flags and that she was staking her claim.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Mutual fund — October 9, 2019

Mutual fund

One morning in the not-so-distant past, a friend shared her daughter’s fundraising packet with me. Recognizing my fondness for baked goods, said friend pointed out that the merchandise included cookie dough.

With smugness dripping from my words, I said, “I don’t buy cookie dough. I make my own.”

Fast forward seven hours. That’s when my niece shared her daughter’s, my great-niece’s, fundraising packet. With excitement radiating from my words, I said, “She’s selling cookie dough? Great! I’ll take one of each!”

To my defense, I didn’t take one of each. I ordered only chocolate chip dough. What’s more, I also placed an order for treat boxes with my friend’s daughter.

I share this with you to demonstrate that we’ll do the darndest things for the kids in our lives and to show that I’m not troubled at all when parents or students try to sell me something.

For some reason, however, when parents make their sales pitches, they also add the disclaimer that I shouldn’t feel I have to make a purchase. No worries there. My great-niece also sold mums this year, but she didn’t sell one to Antie Cookie. I don’t like mums and, as far as I know, she neither attends high school nor plays football.

Anyway, just last week, a coworker brought a fundraising packet to the office. At first, thinking the merchandise comprised only popcorn, I was prepared to decline the request. But when I saw that it also included those little peanut butter bears my nieces enjoy, I said, “Great! I’ll buy a box!” (It seems we will also do the darndest things for the adult kids in our lives.)

I also ordered Crazy Bread from yet another friend who, I should add, tried her best to talk me out of making the purchase. But as I explained to her, how could I pass up the opportunity to make authentic Crazy Bread in my kitchen. It’s similar to why I ordered the cookie dough, which I can keep refrigerated for months whilst making a few cookies here and there. It’s a win-win-win for the school, the student, and me.

Of course, I don’t want you to think I’m easy. For example, unless I’m buying one to bestow as a gift, I’m probably not going to purchase a candle. Or cutlery. Or bowls. Or wrapping paper. Or makeup. Or jewelry. Or knickknacks. Or, well, you get the picture.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Short and sweet — January 2, 2019

Short and sweet

A couple weeks before Christmas, I set about to whip up some holiday goodies. I started by making a batch of peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies. They tasted delicious, and I should know because I sampled oodles of them.

Next, I made Christmas Chex Party Mix. I’d been hankering to do so for years. Every holiday season – after hearing my nieces rave about Chex Mix for the entire expletive year – I’d share my plans to stir together Chex Mix, only for them to inform me they don’t like Chex.

This year, though, I decided to make Chex Mix, whether they wanted it or not. I’m glad I did, because it tasted delicious and I’ve received rave reviews. By the way, making the mix wasn’t a difficult task. You wouldn’t know that from a commercial that used to air on the TV. It featured a grown woman reminiscing about holidays of yore when her mom toiled in the kitchen to make Chex Mix for her family. From the way she carried on, one would think the chore took several days to complete and left her mom so exhausted she passed out on the floor.

That was not the case for me. Indeed, it was so quick and easy to complete that I then made a half batch of shortbread cookies. I know what you’re thinking. Multiplying and/or dividing a recipe is fraught with danger because it involves math. But math didn’t cause a problem.

Instead, shortening caused a problem.

Specifically, old shortening caused a problem.

I rarely use shortening in recipes, so I wasn’t surprised that the shortening in my cupboards was older than my 17-month-old great-nephew. I was, however, surprised by the smell that filled my nostrils and my kitchen when I removed the lid to the shortening.

Still, I persevered, mixing together the ingredients, including the aged shortening. When mixed together, the cookie dough looked like it was supposed to, so I sampled it.

It tasted like failure.

As regular readers should know, I’m on the cheap side. I abhor waste. But there’s no way I was going to serve cookies that tasted like lard smells. That would have ruined my reputation as a baker of some acclaim. So, I dumped the dough, as well as the old shortening, and started over. Consulting the Internets, I found the ratio for replacing shortening with butter, did more math, and made the dough.

With my nerves frayed, I sampled the second batch of dough and it tasted fine. Of course, the butter rendered the dough more difficult to roll, but I was up to the task. I worried, though, even after tasting the delicious cookies. I said to myself, “Self, what if it’s like muscle memory? What if your taste buds only remember how the cookies should taste? What if this batch also tastes like failure?”

Nonetheless, I shared the cookies with families and friends. The next day, I received a message from a friend advising that the shortbread cookies didn’t have the right taste or texture.

My heart sank, but I quickly recovered and formulated a plan. I would track down every cookie that remained and erase the memory of said cookies from the unfortunate folks who had endured eating them.

But then I read the rest of the message. She was joking. She went on to give the cookies five out of five stars.


I learned three important lessons from that batch of cookies – don’t use old shortening, always consider using butter, and math can be tasty.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Seize the day — April 29, 2018

Seize the day

I enjoy baking. One of the desserts, pronounced as zerts by my late father, I most enjoy baking – and eating – is white cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting.

A couple years ago, however, I decided to mix it up and make chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate buttercream frosting.

The cupcakes turned out splendidly and, in the end, so did the frosting. It’s just that it never became white chocolate frosting.

Indeed, as I mixed together the frosting, I multitasked by melting the white chocolate baking bars. But the bars didn’t actually melt. Instead, they appeared to scorch and form into puffs.

Assuming I had made a mistake, I expressed gratitude that I hadn’t mentioned the white chocolate aspect of the frosting to my family. Frankly, I feared they would accuse me of using outdated baking goods. And we all know what a ludicrous accusation that would be.

So, my pet army and I made a vow to never again speak of the incident and I scraped the brownish-looking white chocolate into the trash.

Flash forward to last December. As we gathered at my mom’s to prepare Christmas goodies, my sister tried to melt white chocolate chips. Although she frequently stirred them and added copious amounts of oil, the chips turned into scorched puffs. She noted that white chocolate is dern-near impossible to melt and lamented our lack of almond bark.

She might have felt forlorn, but I became so giddy I dern-near skipped down the road.  (I also once again questioned the origin of almond bark. Is it literally the bark of an almond tree? And how does bark come in more than one flavor?)

Anyway, my happiness stemmed from the realization that I hadn’t goofed. It wasn’t me. It was the white chocolate. Flash forward to last week. After I purchased half a flat of strawberries, I decided chocolate-dipped strawberries would improve my quality of life.

As it turned out, I had some white chocolate baking bars in the cabinet. Where did they come from? How long had they been in said cabinet?

None of that matters. All that matters is that I said to myself, “Self, you’ve got nothing to lose. You might as well melt them and see what happens.”

I guess you know what happened. The bars turned into scorched puffs. I’m sure I didn’t help matters by adding milk instead of oil, but I think they were already beyond salvaging.

Fortunately, I had some chocolate baking bars, which I melted. In case you’re wondering, chocolate-dipped strawberries did improve my quality of life.

Yet, due to my thirst for knowledge, I had to know more about melting white chocolate. Was it simply something we Goff sisters struggled to accomplish? Is there an easy remedy?

There’s not.

In fact, based on everything I read, my sister followed the standard operating procedure vis-a-vis melting white chocolate.

My research also resulted in the discovery of a new term – seized chocolate. Surprisingly, this does not refer to confiscation of a bakery’s assets. It’s the term for the scorched puffs created when one unsuccessfully melts white chocolate.

Maybe someday I’ll learn the term for what happens when one successfully melts white chocolate.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.