Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Super Mum

There are days when I shrug off my mild-mannered alter-ego to become a human beacon of awesomeness. Okay, so I know you read that last sentence and said to yourself, "Pfft! You? Mild mannered? Whatever." and - of course - you're right. But let's pretend, shall we? I slough off the bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived persona of other days and become an Olympian in the world of parenting. Ethan is dressed, changed, (these days medicated), and enjoys so much fun playtime both on his own and interacting with an insane Children's TV caricature of Yours Truly that he settles down to his daily naps, not only on time, but without much cajoling from his mother.

I run errands, I go for runs or walks, I clean my house like the Pope's going to show up with white Armani gloves on and inspect every surface. Sometimes I even bake. Oh yeah.

The last two days have felt like Super Mum days. I've made pumpkin pie and Swedish Heirloom cookies, taken E to the doctor's and to get his passport photos taken, we've gone on two 2+-mile walks around the neighbourhood, and I've done a fair share of cleaning around the apartment. Show me those white gloves, Benny.

Today in particular was a great day for a walk. I decided to do things properly and put on my trainers before heading out the door with a sleeping baby, so I could run a good 1/3 to 1/2 of the distance I wanted to cover. And I have to say, English neighbourhoods are brilliant for randomly picturesque least where we live. There's a canal with some willow trees planted beside it, a thatched roof pub just down the street, old narrow bridges for the train tracks, and - my latest discovery - a crenelated Catholic church, complete with atmospheric graveyard! That may make me weird, but I really enjoyed walking through that graveyard with E's stroller.

Anyway, to share some of the Super Mum love, I figured I'd talk a bit more about those Swedish Heirloom cookies. These are one of the Holy Trinity of Christmas cookies I grew up with. When I was little, it wasn't Christmas without my mom baking these, Speculaas, and shortbread jammies. Now, of course, I'm the mom, and so the cookie-baking duties fall to my lot. Good thing I actually managed to learn how to cook through osmosis. (I'm not joking, people: I hated cooking and baking as a kid. I ran and hid. And yet, I'm pretty darn good now, if I do say so myself. It's a miracle that astounds science.)

In the interests of having some cookies to take to lunch with some girlfriends of mine tomorrow, I hit up my buddy Google to look for the recipe. After spot-checking the ingredients of about 4 different recipes, I decided that this link right hurr was accurate enough for my purposes.

Nicely turned out cookie dough
After creaming the butter and adding the icing sugar, you stir in the flour and unceremoniously dump in the almonds, vanilla, and water. Unless, of course, you'd like to add some ceremony to the whole affair; then you can wear a crown and a cape and stir your dough with a royal sceptre.

I admit, I hadn't left my butter/shortening out for long enough, so I resorted to the awkward trick of putting on a small pot of boiling water and jerry-rigging a double boiler to soften everything up enough while I attacked it with our hand mixer. Incidentally, I don't recommend this: until the cookies went in the oven the faint undertones of warm rubber from the bottom of my mixing bowl lingered in the air.

little squished balls of goodness
Dough balls rolled and flattened with the business end of a spoon, I popped them onto the ungreased baking sheet and into the oven for about 16 minutes. I know the instructions I linked to say 12-15, but I think really, 15 is the magic number here...unless you own Satan's oven, that is, and it's powered by the red-hot fires of Hades. Then, maybe, 12 minutes will do just fine.

Of course, for the second half of this whole process, I did have the help of my capable sous chef...

the next batch is ready, chef!
Mostly I just keep him around for decoration. He's just so darn nice to look at!

In the end, the cookies turned out beautifully. I especially enjoyed the thoroughly nostalgic smell of sweet almond baking in the oven. It made me feel about eight years old again, asking to lick the spoon and help with only those steps that allowed me to sneak some cookie dough to tide me over until everything else was ready to eat. I like the idea that my little E and any subsequent rugrats will have similar memories where the smell of these cookies is - to them - one of the harbingers of the Christmas season. I mean, as a historian I'm all about gives me something to study!

ready to knock their socks off with sugary almondy bites of joy.
In the meantime, I'll tighten my belt another notch (soon, precious...) and go on imagining that sparkly cape billowing behind me in the breeze. Because...say it with me: I'm Super Mum.

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