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Ding Dong

It’s that time of year again! Yes, just as you’re ready to throw in the towel on that New Year New You resolution, here come the girls with brown and green sashes, ready to take your cookie order.

This brings up another one of Mom’s Rules: Your parents will not bring your Girl Scout cookie order form to work. If you want to win fabulous prizes, you and your sister better hoof it around the neighborhood in the fine, upstanding tradition of vacuum cleaner salesmen.

To my parents’ credit, we had a really good neighborhood full of really good people. I wish I could go back to that girl in the brown sash and tell her to go practice her skills of cute manipulation on the innocent neighbors of the North Springs community. I would have been shy for maybe two seconds, and after a day I would have earned my weight in personalized mugs and unicorn posters.

But I chose the path of the lazy shy girl. I hit up my friends’ parents and a few people I knew, and I suffered the consequences (with only a mug that said “Welcome” on it in about 47 languages).

Fast forward years later to when I worked in a cubicle at a large corporation. I always knew when Girl Scout time was, because tons of people brought their girls’ order forms to work. It made me nauseous. What made me literally want to vomit was that one of our VPs would actually send out an email, reminding everyone it was cookie time and that he had his daughter’s form in his office. He did not encourage you to buy from the other suckers-with-daughters in the office — he wanted you to buy it from him.

And, of course, everyone did. He was the VP, after all. What better way to brown nose? Ugh–the thought of it even now disgusts me. My parents made me do it the hard way (and rightfully so!) when I wore that sash, and now I was going to be strong-armed into drinking the Kool-Aid or being branded Not A Team Player? No way. Alethea doesn’t play by those rules.

I never bought a single box of cookies from that VP. It’s probably one of the reasons I don’t work there anymore.

Right now, I live in a gated apartment complex on the top of a hill in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a small strip of office buildings and a branch of George Washington University that no one visits. In front of us, magically, is acres of undeveloped land, and behind us is wildlife refuge all the way until you hit the Potomac. This is a very nice community full of very nice people. I have already purchased one item from a boy who knocked on my door with a school fundraiser order form in his hand. I know what it’s like to be on the other side of that door. I want to reward that bravery.

If any girls stop by here in the next few weeks and knock on my door (which is more than my rude mailman does), I will happily buy a box of cookies from her. But I will not be strong-armed or guilt-tripped into buying cookies I don’t really want from you or your VP, and I probably won’t hand over any cash to the gaggle that sets up a folding table in front of the local Wal-Mart.

My mom gave us rules, and I have rules too. While I did not enjoy my own time as a Brownie, I recognize the Girl Scouts as a fine organization and would encourage any young girl to join the ranks. I also realize that, at any time, I am free to make a 100% calorie-free donation to the Girl Scouts of America. You can too.

Reward hard working young people, but don’t let yourself be bullied, my friends. And if you do buy cookies — I sincerely hope you enjoy them.

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TV Fail, Cookie Win

I’ve heard some good things about this Warehouse 13 show on Syfy (I still hate typing that spelling), so I downloaded the first episode to watch it. I don’t think I made it twenty minutes. Saul Rubinek is not John Noble, the secret agent guy is not David Boreanaz, and I have no idea who the secret agent chick was trying to be, but she was failing miserably, poor dear.

There was far too much exposition and far too many questions, instead of just throwing our main characters in a box and forcing them to learn what’s going on to get out….whatever. This is not a review of the TV show (since I didn’t watch enough to warrant an educated & objective opinion). This is about what the TV show brought into our lives.

As a throwaway line to convince the agents to come inside the warehouse, Saul Rubinek offers them cookies. (To which the male agent says, “Ooh, cookies!”) Thusly lured inside, Saul begins the exposition and starts answering an endless stream of silly questions, answered equally as sillily, and once by a ferret in a magic pot. Yeeeeah. I, the writer, is still wondering when said cookies would appear, since if *I* had been the agent on the scene, I would be expecting them.

Said cookies DID appear, finally, after the female agent stomps off. “Oatmeal Scotchie?” Saul offers.

“What the heck is an oatmeal scotchie?” I exclaimed, not worried that I was distracted enough from the show to care. It sounded like an oatmeal cookie made with scotch…and I was all for it. Turns out, it’s an oatmeal cookie made with BUTTERscotch. Even better.

I am one of those folks–stop reading here now if I’m going to offend you–who doesn’t care for raisins. I’ll eat them politely, but they’re not my first choice. Putting them in an oatmeal cookie just ruins them. Who thought of that?? And who thinks it’s still a good idea? Put chocolate or something in them for gods sake, if you have to put something. Raisins just throw off the consistency.

But butterscotch? Now there‘s a plan.

I then, of course, had to find a recipe. A GOOD recipe. (“Good” typically means ignoring calories. Just don’t go crazy.) I searched a couple of websites that told me following the recipe on the butterscotch package was just as good as anything (hmm), and a lot of the recipes I saw had the same basic ingredients. Ultimately, I based mine on a recipe from Paula Deen — I would paste the link here, but I tried to Google it later and could not find it. I’ve never met Paula, nor do I watch her show, but her sons were rather wonderful to me once, so I have a soft spot in my heart for the Deen family.

These are some of the best “cookies” (we just spread them out in a pan and made them like brownies) I’ve ever had. I highly recommend them. Be sure you’re making them for about 20 people, or there’s a real danger of eating yourself sick on them.

Ingredients:

1 c butter (melted)
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract (vanilla flavoring is *not* the same…extract is stronger, and better)
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 c Quaker oats (or store brand, whatever)
1/2 bag butterscotch chips
1 c pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease your pan (I use butter & flour, or a little bit of olive oil.) Mix everything (start by beating the eggs really well) & dump it in the pan. Depending on your oven, this should take about 20 minutes.

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Magic in the Air

I had a very surreal moment on Sunday. It was one of those moments where you almost fall asleep, and then you open your eyes and think, “Wait…THIS is reality? Holy crap that’s AWESOME!”

Living here in this house–this house with an Awesome Porch and a Snuggle Couch and a Needy Cat, two of which have their own Twitter account–has been like attending a party I never have to leave. It’s just this constant dynamic state of motion and emotion, full of amazing and smart and beautiful people who add to the hilarity. We are all characters who enhance the plot–none of us are just along for the ride.

It’s magic–this house is full of it–and it’s better when shared.

I woke up laughing for the second day in a row this morning, remembering Kram and his faceplant into the street on Saturday night. The whole scene couldn’t have been pulled off better had it been choreographed–I honestly believe Chevy Chase Himself would have given the boy an award had he been present. It wasn’t just the fall, or that it happened in the middle of a serious conversation I was having with the Gypsy, it was that Kram tripped, fell, and just laid there in the street for what had to have been a full minute.

There was silence as we all watched him. Kelli and I by the Alien Lesbian Cow fence, his friends from the sidewalk above him, and the house & contents of Awesome Porch.  Bob slowly sauntered down the front walk, crossed the street to where Kram laid, and bent down.

“So, how’s that working out for ya?”

Kram got up, brushed himself off.

“What do we say?” the Gypsy yelled at her son from the fence.

Kram raised both hands to his audience. “It’s all good. I’m good. It’s all good.” And his adoring fans hooted and hollered as he walked off the field of play.

There was so much more than that moment, though. There always is. There were pansteaks and pigtails and nail polish. There were stripey socks and toe socks and Twister. There were Ninja Turtles and Snuggie herpes. There was ice and rain and a trip to the adult store and another funeral. There were tummy aches and belly laughs and too much cuddling and not enough sleep. On the last day, there were cookies.

That’s where the Gypsy caught the magic on camera.

Cookie time!

See the magic in the air?

Qwee’s birthday was Thursday, and her favorite cookie in the whole world is a Greek pastry called koulourakia. And as any refugee princess worth her salt never flees without her recipe box, I decided to make them for her. I also decided it would be fun to have a little help from my friends.

When Kelli took the first picture, she laughed and said, “My god, there’s so much flour in the air, the flash keeps catching it. It looks like you’re surrounded by snow. Or ghostly orbs!”

Personally, I prefer to think of it as magic. Fairy dust. Princess glitter. There’s nothing to say that’s not what it actually was.

Awesome Porch is a magic place. Things happen here that don’t just happen everywhere. We’ve all come to accept that. The fun part is, those things still continue to surprise us. Because nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. Nor do they expect bullhorns and flashing red lights at 8pm on a Sunday.

The house was quite–the first time it had been quiet for weeks. Kelli had found The Philadelphia Story on AMC, heated up a bowl of leftover potatoes, and watched the movie with her eyes closed. I got comfy with a blanket & pillow on the floor. Kram sat on the other end of the couch, playing Mario but still commenting on the film. Lilwenchi sat in the rocking chair with a laptop and headphones, content in her own little world. Until the bullhorns and flashing red lights.

“We’re surrounded!” yelled Kram, leaping to his feet.

“It’s SANTA!” yelled Lilwenchi.

“What the hell?” said the Gypsy, and we all ran out onto the porch in time for the second fire truck to pass by, this one bearing a smiling and waving Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

The bullhorn wished us a Merry Christmas. “Hi, Santa! Hi, Mrs. Claus! Merry Christmas!” The four of us jumped and yelled and waved and cheered. The fire truck paused in front of the house long enough to honk and run the siren for us, and the third truck did the same when it passed. The rest of the neighborhood stayed dark. We wondered if anyone else bothered to enjoy the impromptu parade.

Not that it matters what anyone else thinks. Because we did.

We don't need no stinkin' sleigh!

We don't need no stinkin' sleigh!

Awesome Porch = still awesome.

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