Who is this woman?
I have never met anyone like Lisa, with multi-tasking super powers. She can think of a million things at once and doesn’t get stressed out. In fact, she seems to thrive in the middle of lots of different activities going on all around her. I don’t even see her keep lists. If she does, I don’t want to know. She has energy to rival my tween, whom I might even say resembles Lisa more than she resembles me, strangely enough. Maybe it’s all the enthusiasm they emit when they’re being creative. Maybe it’s that they’re both ectomorphs and look really great in skinny jeans.
Add to that Lisa’s genuine care and concern for people, all that thinking she’s doing, all the millions of tasks she’s accomplishing at the same time, it’s for OTHERS. Lisa is a vital part our women’s ministry team (among other teams!) and not only has super great ideas to contribute, she thinks through the details of each suggestion put forward completely. If there was a problem, yo, she’ll solve it (check out the hook while my DJ revolves it).
Sometimes – only sometimes – I forget to think when Lisa’s around, because I don’t need to.
Of course, Lisa thought of everything for this baking lesson. We got all those ingredients perfectly measured and blended. Next step was to refrigerate the dough for 24 hours. You’d imagine then, that our lesson would be put on pause for a day or two… but no, Lisa magically pulled out dough she had pre-made the day before to accommodate for this inconvenience. I thought that only happened on cooking shows! Yes, the woman thinks of EVERYTHING.
BUT FIRST (we can’t just do Gingerbread Men!), Lisa inserted another cool idea into the plan, a quick and easy recipe she’d printed off the internet for home-made turtles.
If you follow the above link, you will find a 700+ word article on how to make these things when all you need to know is the following 23 words.
3 ingredients: pecans, Rolos, pretzels
3 instructions: melt Rolos on pretzels (25o in oven) for four minutes, press in pecan, cool.
Now if I could only apply such brevity to all my posts…
I can’t leave out the fact that *IF* the chocolate looks like garden worms in this picture (says my honest friend, Bekah) it’s because we used generic “Rolos” in cupcake forms. Use the real deal if you don’t want the “bendy-straw effect,” as I prefer to call it.
I should also mention – maybe this will be 700+ words after all – that the orig. recipe calls for “toasting the pecans in the microwave.” A) I didn’t know microwaves could toast; B) that is totally unnecessary; C) we only know B) because we missed that step. It actually relieved me that such a detailista as Lisa, such a seasoned baker, could miss a step! This was a break-through moment for me. In the past, I have assumed that I’m not cut out for this, or I’ve thought catastrophically saying, “I’ll never learn,” because I’ve made a mistake. To see Lisa laugh it off and said, “Everybody screws up, especially me!” was strangely relieving and oddly encouraging.
“Let’s do a taste test!” she says.
Which leads me to the question, “Do you snack while you bake?”
“No, because I’m prepared to eat a lot in December. If I can practice restraint, then I will.”
I nod in agreement. We both eat our second.. and then third turtle.
It was at this point, with our mouths full, that Lisa spoke about her passion for baking – Christmas baking ONLY – in a detailed and organized manner. I actually think list influenced my list above. You guys, does this mean her super powers are contagious? Or have I stopped thinking again?
“Really,” she says, “that’s why I love to do this: A) it feels like labour of love; B) you know people will love it; C) tradition; D) I LOVE eating all this stuff. I DO! I love it ALL!”
Making Gingerbread into Men
Next, we set about the task of rolling out the dough.
I’m sure I knew this, but the information is so far back in the recesses of my brain that it becomes an epiphany all over again that you can put flour directly on your counter. You roll the dough on your counter. Like touching food with my fingers, this goes against everything I know; namely, when food is on the counter, it’s a spill to be cleaned up.
Lisa likes to stick to the traditional gingerbread man shape. She set out the different sizes on the counter to choose from: Daddy, Mommy, the girls… and baby?
In the oven for just 8-10 minutes at 375° and we have ourselves a little army!
The final breath of life for the gingerbread man is the icing. Here is Lisa’s recipe for Decorator’s Icing:
3C icing sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp vanilla
Blend all together, slowly increasing to high speed and check consistency is good for decorating – if too runny, add a bit more icing sugar (1 Tbsp?), if too firm- add a wee bit of water (1tsp?). You want to be able to easily squeeze it from the bag, but not have it dripping out! Making sure the decorator’s tip is well secured in the bag’s tip first, load up the Decorator’s bag about 1/2 full and twist at the top to secure. Have fun :) Add candy for buttons ,etc. if you like. Once icing is hardened, these fellas fare well loaded in all together, uninjured in a cookie tin, and keep well for the whole month of Christmas!
Have you ever separated yolk from the egg white? Lisa taught me the trick, free of any gadgetry. First, crack the egg shell, but not violently, so that you take half the egg shell off while you keep the egg contents in the other half. Pour out the white of the egg into a cup, while keeping the yolk in the half shell. You can use the other half of the egg shell as a strainer to keep the yolk in while the egg white pours out into the small container. (Yolk can be stored in container and used later, I understand.)
Stirring the ingredients of the icing sugar is a little bit of trial and error as Lisa’s instructions would suggest: a little bit more water, a little bit more sugar, water, sugar, water, sugar… Lisa’s got this down pat, though, and made the perfect consistency that eased out of the “decorator’s bag.”
Final steps to decorating a Gingerbread Man
Step 1: Ease out the icing onto the cookie
Step 2: Add basic human features.
Step 3: Get a kick out of how cute he is.
Step 4: Demonstrate other possible facial expressions.
Step 5: Pass the baton
Lisa says I’m a natural.
Over the course of the afternoon, besides receiving the wisdom of this pickier-than-she-thought, inspiring woman I get to call friend, it occurred to me the lengths she’d gone to FOR ME. Of her reasons listed for enjoying baking, A) it’s a labour of love and B) people will love it, were rightly listed first. I see that demonstrated throughout her multitudinous activities. Her motivation is serving others.
She would hate for me to tell anyone this – sorry, Lees! – but she also gave me that spatula I was thinking about investing in, my own cookie cutters, my own bottle of Dominican vanilla, a piping bag and tip, extra ingredients to decorate my own gingerbread men at home, and even little festive cellophane gift bags so that when I bake, I can also give it away to others.
I certainly would hate for future teachers to feel they need to gift me with things – just like I didn’t expect anyone to go the same lengths as Becky to present a clean kitchen, as my mom to label the inside of her drawers, as Kim to have a kitchen filled with evidence of friendship… It’s the uniqueness of each teacher that adds so much richness to this experience.
It is apparent that Lisa’s joy is in the giving. ‘Tis the season!