WOW: Finalist in Dallas News Cookie Contest!

I thought I had told y’all this already, but what with everything that has been going on . . . and because my mother said, “You talk about it all the time and that’s what got your husband so excited about it that he burned the pizza stone and made the house stink and gave me an asthma attack,” I guess I didn’t mention it.

I’m a finalist in the Dallas News Christmas Cookie Contest!

(I am one of ten finalists in the “easy” cookie category. Upon hearing of this triumph, Hubby only said, “Why don’t you enter a contest with a prize that I want?!” Because I can’t win those, that’s why. He didn’t want New York, either–he wanted Vegas or California. Ungrateful wretch. Wait until I’m famous for inventing “The Devil Eats Chockies,” my special super sekrit chocolate mint cookies. He says he suspects that they chose me in part because of that name I made up. Hee!)

The finals are Thursday morning at Central Market. I have to have two dozen perfect cookies and a few extras for samples by then. Several attempts to bake so far have ended in disaster, so I’m getting a bit worried. I don’t expect to WIN win, but it should be a lot of fun to see the cookies judged.

I started trying to bake a couple of test batches last week. Our cookie sheets are dented old black things that are thin and wimpy, and I’ve burned the bottoms of cookies with those in the past. Parchment paper might or might not help with this. So I went out and got a couple of “air-layered” cookie sheets. But by the time I got home with them, I had been advised by a couple of ‘net correspondents that I should get a pizza stone! That sounded logical: the parchment paper would keep the cookies from sticking, while the stone would let them get crisp on the bottom and on the outside but still be good inside. So we took those sheets back and exchanged them for a pizza stone.

Then hubby read about how you must season the stone first. “With grease,” it said. Mama had a small can of Crisco (Loretta Lynn’s chicken-cookin’ fave!) in the back of the fridge that is at least six years old; I thought it could be rancid, but the other two household members pooh-poohed this and smeared it lightly on. Hubby slapped the stone into a warm oven.

And the stink began.

At first, only Mama was bothered. He opened the kitchen windows. But soon the odor of melting Plastigoop mixed with industrial toxins filled the house. Smoke filled that end of the house. Asthma was had. Screaming ensued. He finally consented to take the stone out of the oven and put it into the garage, still burning hot. (He may have had it too hot.) The house could be aired out, thank goodness, because it was around 75 degrees. However, everyone got a terrible headache and stomach ache.

The oven itself seemed to be stinking. I feared anything baked in it would reek . . . and I was right. I had to give up the endeavor for the day. We didn’t eat the raw dough, though.

I planned to try again the following morning, but he had brought in the pizza stone early when he left for work, and so I was awakened by shrieks about how “the stink is suffocating me” and had to go put the stone back into the garage. It doesn’t stink AS MUCH now, but it still is scorched around the edges. I think I’ll stick to the old cookie sheets.

The afternoon was consumed by doctor’s appointments and housecleaning. The weekend was consumed by Halloween decorating and adventures, in addition to mundane tasks such as grocery shopping and dog-walking. Fresh ingredients for cookies were obtained.

So this morning I *was* REALLY going to bake a test batch. You see, I tweaked the recipe before sending it in, and I need to see what it tastes like with the changes. I mean, they sound good . . . must’ve sounded good to the people who chose the finalists. But when they said on the phone, “We’re looking forward to seeing what these taste like,” I could have said, “Me, too,” because I never have baked them with just exactly THESE ingredients. (Idiot.) I MUST do a test batch. And then, since we have diabetes, I need to take the test cookies to my doctor’s office staff and to hubby’s co-workers and to some neighbors to see if they are too sweet, just right, or what.

**BUT!!** Hubby called around 9 AM to say, “I’m going to Longview. Don’t y’all want to ride along?”

“A trip through the Piney Woods! That sounds like fun!”


Only you can prevent forest fires

Threatening wall of clouds–but it never rained

His company sent him to do five installations of his software on the systems they’re building. The systems were to ship late last night, so he had to go immediately. Problem was, his boss didn’t mention this until 9 in the morning, so by the time he had copied the files he needed and created the cable, it was nearly 11 AM. Fortunately, we leapt to the challenge and packed a few things. “It’s a two-hour drive, and it takes five hours to install one system,” I explained. “We need to pack for overnight, just in case.”

We arrived in the middle of nowhere around 2:45 PM and dropped him off. “Sightseeing” was on the agenda, but as it turned out, there was NOTHING to see. I mean NOTHING. We did see one block of restored old downtown, but mostly we went to a drive-in Dairy Stoppe and sat under the awning sipping a diet soda and letting the dog walk on his “string” a little bit while we waited. Six hours of this can get old. I did have a couple of magazines, and we DID explore some “country roads,” but lemme tell you, those are Country Roads. The area’s industry is logging and trucking, and the manufacturing plants there have not been doing well. Lots of places have gone out of business. It was mostly depressing.

As it turned out, he got there and found two eager beavers who wanted to see how he did things. So he showed them each step, and that only took one hour per “install,” because they were willing to watch it run instead of having him sit there and watch as messages scrolled past. He was finished by 5:45 PM.

We zoomed over to pick him up. Of course the drive back was INTO THE SUN (to the west) and in the traffic, but because we knew the route this time, it wasn’t too bad. This was a good test of the van to see whether any messages would pop up to indicate that the chips they replaced ($$$) were OK. Halfway through the trip the “check tires” indicator came on, but I’m not sure that is the one they were worried about. I will have to have it checked and will hope that it doesn’t mean another $900 chip replacement. (Aaack)

Cookies today FOR SURE, though. And I need two “disposable” trays. And fifty copies of my recipe printed out in color and prettied up for handing out. (Wouldn’t that be a great advertising tool? “Recipe provided by Shalanna Collins, Famous Author. Get her books on Amazon.com!” But a turn-off, so no.) Anyone got any purty cooking graphics? (*ha*)

I expect the finals of the contest to be amusing and fun. I hope we don’t have any more crises! Let’s see something go right for a change.

Of course, given the choice, if I only get ONE “yay” for the month, let it be that the agent who’s got my YA novel takes the novel on and consents to represent me. THAT would be the life’s ambition right there. (Oh please PLEASE. Just this once?) If the book got a fightin’ chance and I had an agent (even if only for a brief shining moment or two) . . . I would be satisfied that I got a fair shake. *shake* If anyone feels so inclined, I always appreciate your prayers and positive thoughts towards this end. Or the other end! Either end needs help, I tell you what.

Still, getting a ribbon for your cookies ain’t a kick in the head.

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Author: shalanna

Shalanna: rhymes with "Madonna" and "I wanna," and is not a soundalike with "Hosanna" or "Sha-Na-Na." Aging hippie with long hair, husband, elderly mother, and yappy Pomeranian. I've been writing since I could hold a crayon. I started with fiction, which Mama said was "lying." “Don’t tell stories,” she would admonish, in Southern vernacular. “That's all in your imagination!” When grownups said this, they were not approving. So, shamed, I stopped telling stories for a few years--rather, I stopped letting anyone read them. I'm married to a fellow computer nerd who doesn't really like hearing about writing, but who reads sf/fantasy and understands the creative drive. I'm actually a nonconformist/hippie still wearing bluejeans and drop earrings and the Alice-in-Wonderland hair with headbands and sandals. Favorite flavor is chocolate/orange, favorite color is either Dreamsicle orange (cantaloupe) or bubble-gum pink, favorite musical is either Bye Bye Birdie, Rocky Horror, or The Producers . . . wait, I also love The Music Man. Is this getting way too specific and irrelevant yet? Obvious why I don't sell a ton of flash fiction, isn't it? To define oneself, I always say, it is good to make a list. How about a booklist? Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth, Cheaper by the Dozen C.S.Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (all the Narnia books) J.R.R.Tolkien,The Hobbit/LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy Gail Godwin, The Odd Woman F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby J. D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye (before dismissing it, actually read it) George Orwell, 1984 Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle Donna Tartt, The Secret History Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn James Allen, As A Man Thinketh Mark Winegardner, Elvis Presley Boulevard James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum Winnie-the-Pooh/House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie The KJV and NIV Bible (each translation has its glories)

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