Maraschino Cherries

PastedGraphic-1I made cookies over the weekend – vanilla chip cherry cookies. The recipe called for a full jar of maraschino cherries – which I love. I think maraschino cherries are the best part of an ice cream sundae. And I’m so glad that no one else in the family likes them because that means when we do go for ice creams sundaes, everyone hands their maraschino cherries over to me. It works.

Anyway, as I was de-stemming and snipping the cherries for the recipe, I got to thinking about an ice cream social we had in sixth grade. Each student signed up to bring a topping, and I signed up for – you guessed it – maraschino cherries. My mother went out and bought a full jar for me to take in and then handed it over to me the night before.

Big mistake.

I have a vivid memory of sitting on the carpet in my bedroom eating maraschino cherries right out of that jar. I must have eaten a third of them. Then, cool as anything, I closed the lid and took that jar to school the next day and turned it in alongside everyone else’s toppings.

What was I thinking? Did I honestly believe someone would think that was a brand new jar of maraschino cherries? I don’t know. I never thought much about it – which is concerning in itself. And, which I should also remember when dealing with my children. I forget from time to time how kids think (or more to the point, fail to think).

So, now, looking back on that incident, I suspect my teacher knew. She had to have known. Either that or she decided my mom was the type of mom who was okay with sending a slightly used jar of maraschino cherries to the class party. In which case I say now, publicly, to my mother, “I’m sorry, Mom.” Because my mom is definitely not that type of mom.

But back to the cookies.

Are you wondering why I made cookies with maraschino cherries for a family that doesn’t even like maraschino cherries? More for me, baby! More for me.

Actually, that’s not true.

I just forgot.


P.S. That’s Captain America’s picture of the cookies. He won’t eat them, but he’ll photograph them.

P.P.S. I think the glass in that photo looks cloudy. Does that glass look cloudy to you? Maybe it’s time for some rinse aid.

19th Century cookies

I tried to make cookies the other day using a recipe for gingersnaps I picked up at Old Sturbridge Village last month. (Old Sturbridge Village is a living history museum about an hour down the road from us.) The recipe (or receipt as it was called back then) came from an 1843 edition of Mrs. Ellis’s Housekeeping Made Easy. It included things like “lard” and “saleratus” (baking soda to you and me.) I was intrigued. “If Mrs. Ellis could do it in front of an open fire using lard instead of butter,” I thought, “well, by gum, I could do it too.”


But I couldn’t. And it didn’t matter that I had a Kitchenaid and a well-regulated oven. The dough I produced was tacky and tasteless. It sat on the baking sheets in sticky, unappetizing blobs. I began to grow suspicious of Mrs. Ellis. Really, could a cookie that only called for “two table-spoonsful of brown sugar” be trusted?

But I soldiered on. I popped the cookies into the oven and anticipated the nice gingery smell. It was a rainy afternoon and ginger goes a long way to making a kitchen feel cozy. But there was no gingery smell. There was no smell at all. My suspicion grew.

Eight minutes later I pulled out a baking sheet of puffy, bland “gingersnaps.” They deflated a bit when I poked them. I called the family in for a taste test.

Pepper ate one out of sympathy and pronounced it “not that bad.” Captain America was more direct and, after chewing thoughfully for a moment, gave what remained of his to the dog. The dog loved it.

I didn’t bother baking any more of the cookies. I just shoveled what remained of the dough into the trashcan. So much for Mrs. Ellis.

But, if you’re interested, and think you might fare better, I’d be happy to pass along the recipe. Except, now I’m calling it an authentic 21st century recipe for dog biscuits.


That dog


CPT America had to go save the world early today. He tried to be quiet about it. He even put his phone on the mattress, so the alarm/vibrate app would be muffled. I know this because I distinctly heard and felt the alarm/vibrate app when it went off. And the dog heard it too.

That dog!

That dog began whining the minute he left the house did not stop until after lunch.

“Oh, that dog just loves and misses her master,” you say.

And that’s true. But what she really loves – even more than Captain America – is the idea of Family Togetherness. She got a huge dose of this last fall when she accompanied us on our three-week cross-country camping trip. For Ursa, that was heaven. Every person in the family neatly contained in a little rolling box – every person where she could watch over them day in, day out. It is only when we Smythes scatter that she becomes anxious.

This behavior extends to her daily walks. I’ve tried to take Ursa along with me in the morning or on a sunshiny Saturday afternoon, but if the rest of the family is hanging out at home, she drags her paws and looks over her shoulder and flat out refuses to go more than a few blocks with me. When this happens, I take her home, hand her over to CPT America with a disgusted look, and return to my walk, only to hear later that she pined for me the entire time I was gone.

If one of the girls is outside and the rest of us are inside watching a movie (which happened recently because Pepper thought Ben Hur was silly), Ursa will whine and pace back and forth between the back door and the TV. In Ursa’s mind, all Smythes need to be together all the time. It must be the shepherd in her.

Today, though, her whining was worse than ever, because, not only did CPT America leave, he disrupted The Schedule. Ursa is very aware of The Schedule. She knows that he leaves sometime after the smell of coffee and before the sounds of children stirring. But today, there was no coffee smell – just the aroma of toasted bread.  Captain America didn’t have time for anything else. And not only that – he placed a chair at the bottom of the stairs to prevent Ursa from returning to the bedroom to wake us.

So there was Ursa at the bottom of the stairs, confused and isolated and not at all pleased. CPT America left and her whining took on the tones of whale song.

And so, we Smythes will just have to figure out a way to stay together all day, every day. It’s either that or kill the dog.

(Of course I would never actually kill the dog. But, you know what I mean.)




We don’t have TV here in the Smythe house. But we do have ways to view TV. We have a flat screen and a DVD player and computers. At any given moment, we can watch a movie or stream a TV special no problem. And we like this set up because it gives us a feeling of control and limits the number of ads the children see. We can be deliberate about what they watch.

Recently, we’d been letting the kids log on to Amazon because it spares us trips to giant toy stores. It gives the kids a bigger selection of toys to blow their allowances on, and it allows them to read buyer reviews of the toys they are considering. We thought this seemed like good training for them. And it had been working pretty well. Why, just last week Ginger confessed she had changed her mind about the Polly Pocket Ice Cream Water Park because a reviewer had written that the set was hard to assemble, didn’t stay joined, and the little plastic drinks got lost (they had slid down this particular reviewer’s bathtub drain.) Ginger appreciated these details and promptly switched her attention to the Polly Pocket Pet Adoption Set which had received much better reviews.

So I was feeling pretty good about the Amazon thing…until I heard the girls singing this jingle:

Barbie Potty Training Pups!

Bottle feeding puppies

Potty training puppies

What will he do?

Number one or number two?

Oh, what will it be?

A puppy poo or puppy pee?

Barbie potty training pups!

Barbie girl!

“Are they singing what I think they’re singing?” CPT America asked as the girls dissolved into giggles.

They were. It seems many of the toys on Amazon have commercials posted with them on their pages. The girls enjoy watching these as much as they enjoy browsing for toys. So now, instead of watching children’s shows with a sprinkling of ads – which is what they would be doing if we had TV – my kids are watching ads. Straight ads. Over and over again.

That feeling of control I had? It’s slipping away. I wonder if it’s too late to get TV.

One more string ball

My little sister has accused me of being a “show off” with my string balls, so I thought – in the interest of total honesty – I should include a photo of one of my earlier string balls. This string ball was made using liquid starch, which was recommended on several of the string ball web sites I visited.

I cannot, in good conscience, recommend the use of liquid starch for string balls.