The Cooking Adventure

Sue, over at JibberJabber, has issued a mega-challenge: to use as many words as possible from the May daily prompts. So here’s my tale, using most of them:

The Cooking Adventure

Sherry, a lively, active thirteen-year-old, was late coming home from school one day. Her mom was already home from her job at the office when Sherry walked in carrying four large books.

This surprised her mother, who’d never seen Sherry do that much reading before. “Do you have a lot of studying to do this weekend,” her mother asked, eyeing the books. “Or some essay to write?” Then she took a closer look. “Cookbooks?”

“I am going to learn to cook,” Sherry announced.

Mom looked through the stack Sherry set on the counter. “Old Time Favorites. That sounds good. Baking: The Science Behind Success. Explore Mediterranean Cuisine.” Mom’s eyebrows arched. “What brought this on?”

“I got a letter from Marlys yesterday. She said…” Sherry’s tone was frosty…”I’ve never had to anything around the house. She thinks I’m so pampered because we have a housekeeper. She says I’m just like a flower in a greenhouse: if I had to keep house or cook, I wouldn’t know where to start. Well, I’m going to show her. I’m going to create some fabulous dishes and invite her over to try them.”

“I suppose your cousin has to help a lot at home and may be a bit jealous of you, but you shouldn’t let her comments grate on you. Still, it would be good for you to learn. I’ve been so busy with work all, I just haven’t had the energy to give you cooking lessons, but I’m happy that you want to learn. I’ll give you all the support I can. I see you brought A Beginner’s Guide to Cooking. That author has made a name both as a celebrated chef and as a class instructor. I think this is an excellent book to start with.”

Sherry’s first creation was a lemon soufflé. Mom showed her how to break the eggs and separate the yolks from the whites and whip the whites to stiff peaks. Sherry followed the recipe carefully and soon had the smooth batter in the pan, ready for the oven. She slid it in and turned on the timer. Mom gave her a short lesson on how to tell when the pudding was done, then went to do some laundry.

Sherry was delighted with her success thus far. She had to call her friend Heather to relate the story of her new cooking adventure. She was still on the line when the timer went and she didn’t hear it. At one point Mom rushed by and a moment later Sherry smelled something burnt.

Sherry hurried to the kitchen, but the damage was done. The soufflé had risen as it was supposed to, but now it was ruined. Sherry let out a wail of anguish

“There. You’ve just had a free cooking lesson. Distractions can spoil the best food.” Mom put an arm around her shoulder. “Don’t worry. You’ll have better luck next time. Learning to cook is a challenge, but if you stick with it and don’t give up, you may be a great chef someday.”

Prompt words used:
old, time, create, food, line, letter, relate, smooth, story
luck, free, explore, break, light, science, hurry, flower
name, short, carefully, support, book, challenge, happy

For Your Child

Here are some thoughts from 19th century American evangelist Billy Sunday. He’s speaking about the concern of a parent for his child, as well as sharing a memory from his own childhood. I believe what he says here applies to all parents.

“As a rule a man wants something better for his children than he has had for himself. My father died before I was born and I lived with my grandfather. He smoked, but he didn’t want me to. He chewed tobacco, but he didn’t want me to. He cursed, but he didn’t want me to. He made wine that would make a man fight his own mother after he had drunk it.

One day a neighbor was in and my grandfather asked him for a chew. (The neighbor bit off a chunk and) He went to hand it back and I wanted some. (Grandfather) said I couldn’t have it. I said I wanted it anyhow. He picked me up, turned me across his knee and gave me a crack that made me see stars as big as moons.

If there is a father that hits the booze, he doesn’t want his son to. If he’s keeping someone on the side, he doesn’t want his son to. In other words, you would not want your son to live like you if you are not living right.


An old general was at the bedside of his dying daughter. He didn’t believe in the Bible and his daughter said, ‘What shall I do? You don’t believe in the Bible. Mamma does. If I obey one I’m going against the other.
The old general put his arms around his daughter and said, ‘Follow your mother’s way; it is the safest.’ Man wants his children to have that which is sure.”

From BILLY SUNDAY, The Man And His Message by William T Ellis L.L.D. (© 1914)

Note re: Editing
I started this post with the Description + Image block pattern, then went to Paragraph for the quote, inserting an Inline image. You can regulate the image size, but there doesn’t seem to be much control over where the image goes. This is a Superscript.

Happiness is Home

Today’s prompt at Jibber Jabber with Sue is HAPPY, which brings to mind this verse by Edgar Guest — and I think it’s suitable for Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there, to all of you who’ve borne and raised children, also to those of you who have been a home-maker and/or mother-mentor to someone in need of help.

The Joy of Getting Home

by Edgar A. Guest

The joy of getting home again
is the sweetest thrill I know.
Though travelers by ship or train
are smiling when they go,
the eye is never quite so bright,
the smile so wide and true,
as when they pass the last home light
and all their wandering’s through.

Oh, I have journeyed down to sea
and traveled far by rail,
but naught was quite so fair to me
as that last homeward trail.
Oh, nothing was in London town,
or Paris gay, or Rome
with all its splendor and renown
so good to see as home.

‘Tis good to take these lovely trips,
‘tis good to get away,
there’s pleasure found on sailing ships,
but travel as you may
you’ll learn as most of us have learned,
wherever you may roam,
you’re happiest when your face is turned
toward the lights of home.

From the book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co


The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is DISAGREEABLE

We have — on once had — an expression in English to the effect of “He already had his gloves off.” Which means that as he approached the other person, he was already expecting this was going to turn into a fight and he’d be prepared by having his gloves off, ready to throw the first punch at any sign of aggression.

My mind goes back to a mother-daughter situation of long ago, neighbours to us, who almost typified this expression. I told my own daughter, “Those two seem to be functioning on a NO level.”

Image by MoteOo — Pixabay

That is, the mother, a real go-getter, would order her more laid-back daughter to do some task. However, Her tone of voice indicated that she was anticipating resistance. The daughter obligingly resisted. This sounded something like:
“Jane! Clean up your room once.”
Jane, reply dragged out and unwilling, “I’ll do it later. I have something else I wanna do right now.”
“I said, Clean up your room. This means right now!”
“Do I have to, right this minute. Can’t it wait until…?”
“No it can’t! Now get busy.”

I’m not sure how they fell into this type of interaction, but by now it seemed like a standard between them. Had Jane always been so unwilling? Or was she simply responding to the cue given by her mom? Maybe the mom’s tone was warranted. But it was clear she expected a “No” of some sort and was prepared to argue the point.

The tones weren’t all that bad and the daughter did do what she was told. In a worst case scenario a listener will get what sounds like a whiny daughter responding to a whiny mom.

This poem, written in the old long-winded style by Canadian poet Archibald Lampman, refers to people in general, but I think it has a good message:


Blind multitudes that jar confusedly
At strife, earth’s children, will ye never rest
From toils made hateful here, and dawns distressed
With ravelling self-engendered misery?

And will ye never know, till sleep shall see
Your graves, how dreadful and how dark indeed
Are pride, self-will, and blind-voiced anger, greed,
And malice with its subtle cruelty?

How beautiful is gentleness, whose face
Like April sunshine, or the summer rain,
Swells everywhere the buds of generous thought?
So easy, and so sweet it is; its grace
Smooths out so soon the tangled knots of pain.
Can ye not learn it? Will ye not be taught?

Free Spirits At Home

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is FRAZZLED. A couple of days ago, searching for something else, I came across this story posted five years ago. Since it fit’s the topic, I’ll give it a rerun:


I’m peacefully reading my book, but glance up when I hear my youngest two arguing. They seem to be in a struggle to pull one of the Luv-U bears apart. Youngest son Accord clutches the teddy bear’s leg in one hand; his other hand is entwined in his big sister’s hair and he’s yanking hard. Simplicity’s pulling away, slapping at her brother, tugging at the Bear, and screaming blue murder.

“Peace! Peace, you two,” I say in my loudest gentle voice.

I see Simplicity grab her Precious Peace figurine; I do believe she’s about to smack her little brother on the head with it. “Simplicity, chill out!” I bellow.

She pauses, looks up at me and begins to wail. “Accord keeps grabbing my teddy bear! Make him let go.”

“It doesn’t matter if he takes it, sweetheart. Just find another toy to play with. You need to keep a calm spirit. And, Accord, you stop pulling your sister’s hair. You are causing her stress.”

Suddenly I hear another screech as if something’s being slaughtered in the kitchen. I set my book aside and see Softness, our cat, come tearing through the room, fur all on end. Our oldest son, age five, tears into the living room in hot pursuit.

I managed to grab him as he runs past. “Cool it, Solace. All this stress is bad for Softness. She might run away from home.”

“I might, too, if you don’t let me be a free spirit and do what I want.” How has that boy gotten so sassy lately?

He tugs and twists, trying to wriggle out of my grip, but I plop him on the couch beside me and order him to take five. When he continues to writhe around I tell him as serenely as possible, “If you try to get off that couch I’ll sit on you.”

Oh, now Simplicity’s wailing again. Her poor Luv-U Bear obviously needs an trip to the toy hospital to have a leg sewed on. With a very “stirred” spirit she chases Accord across the room and pushes him hard. He falls right on top of one of the pails I’ve set out to collect the drips from our leaking roof.

“Hey, you two! You’re really sweating the small stuff.” Water run into the cracks between the floor boards. “Look! Now it’s going to be dripping in the basement. Will everybody please just take deep breaths and relax.” I demonstrate.

Solace pipes up, “Sure, Feather Brain.”

I glare at him. Feather-brain! Where do my kid learn these things? I’m about to upend him and smack his bottom when I realize this would really be sweating the small stuff. After all, these are only words, right? I can’t allow my spirit to get worked up over a child’s hurtful words or I’ll be setting a bad example.

Still, for one moment I wondered if the writer of that note really knew what he was talking about. Had that person ever been a parent?

You see, back when I was twenty I was walking down the sidewalk and I found this note. Of course I was curious, so I picked it up and read: “The Key to True Happiness in Life.”

Oh, wonderful! I was a frazzled worry-wart at the time. As I read that title I was thrilled to know that I would finally learn the secret of having a happy life.

Below the title were these instructions:
If you want to be truly happy in this life, you need to seek serenity.
Learn to relax, to keep calm amidst all the hustle and bustle around you.
Take time to marvel at the beauty in small things, to smell the roses.
Count to one hundred when you feel your spirit is stirred.
Release all your anger and hostility into the Universe.
Don’t let yourself be disturbed by rumors or strife.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Smile. Let yourself be happy.

I was totally blown away. How different from my life at that point! I mean, here I was in college to become a teacher, and working a part-time job to pay for my education. Talk about pressure! In fact, at the moment I found this note I was actually hurrying to get to my job on time.

But this little writing changed everything. Why should I rush through life? So what if I got to work ten minutes late? My boss shouldn’t be stressed out over such a minor thing. So I not only slowed down, I actually stopped to smell the flowers in some of the planters en route.

My high-pressure boss was in a bad mood when I arrived, though, and complained about me getting to work late. I showed her the note and said, “Isn’t this a beautiful philosophy of life?” But she just grumbled and told me to get busy. Talk about stressed! A week later she fired me.

Before I spied this note I was trying so hard to keep my grades up, but from then on I didn’t let small things like numbers get me worked up anymore. “So what if my marks are poor,” I told myself. “I’m a very smart person. I don’t need a number on a piece of paper to reassure me of that.”

Sad to say, my teachers weren’t into Serenity. A couple of them took me aside and told me if I didn’t pull up my socks I wasn’t got to make it. Well, that was stressful, right? So I just dropped out. If they couldn’t accept me the way I was, tough!

In time I met this really great guy who also subscribed to the whole Serenity lifestyle. We started living together — no names on a piece of paper to shackle us. We thought it would be neat to change our names to reflect our beliefs, though: he called me Songbird; I called him Harmony. And life was bliss for our first nine months together.

He’s tried several jobs since and so have I, but as you know our whole Western society is built around making money — which leads to pressure and anxiety galore. What a hassle! We decided to go on Welfare so we could concentrate on tranquility.

My folks gripe because we can’t afford a car, but hey! We have all the time in the world; we can walk. At this minute Harmony is probably walking back from the Food Bank with this week’s groceries. It’s actually more of a hassle for me that the roof leaks, but we have buckets, if the kids don’t knock them over.

As I’m sitting here reflecting on the note that changed my life, Softness the cat dares to come padding back into the room. Solace sends one glance in my direction, then jumps off the couch to give Softness’s tail a hard yank. There’s a yowl and she squeezes herself behind the couch just out of reach of little hands.

Now Simplicity and Accord leap off their chairs and join Solace in the effort to pull Softness out from her hiding place. Screeching and scrapping, they ignore all my calming words. If they don’t stop this, I might end up frazzled, and that’s never good. I take another calming breath, grab Solace’s arm and pull him away from the couch.

“I’m not a free spirit now,” he screams, trying hard to distance himself from me. “You’re preventing my freedom.”

Accord grabs Simplicity’s Luv-U bear and dashes off to his bedroom, slamming the door. Her siren-like wails are about to pierce my eardrums.

I hang on to Solace and pray for the restoration of serenity. It mystifies me how Harmony and I, so committed to maintaining tranquility in our home, have produced such stressed-out, resistant children. I’m looking forward to the day when they’re all in school and I can have some peace and quiet.


The Always-Never Syndrome

The Ragtag Daily Prompt is IMPECCABLE
The Word of the Day Prompt is KNIFE
and the Discovery Prompt is TEACH

When I saw these three prompts, the first few lines of my story fell into place naturally, but then I needed the rest of the story to deal with…

The Dreaded Always-Never Syndrome

Her kitchen counter was impeccable, except for a jammy knife and a scattering of bread crumbs on the counter. The sight made her furious.

When she screeched Nick came running, toast in hand. “Mom. What happened?”

“What’s this doing here?” She pointed to the knife. “Didn’t we teach you to put dishes in the dishwasher and wipe the counter when you’re done making food?” She glared at him.

“Is that all? I thought somebody stepped on Nero’s tail again. You sound just like him when you screech like that.”

“You never clean up after yourself. You always leave a mess that I have to clean up!”

“I’ll get it. You don’t always need make such a huge thing of such a small mess. Anyway, you never squawk like that when Uncle James leaves a mess on your precious pristine counter.”

“It’s not my job to teach Uncle James. He’s a temporary fixture here until he gets work again.”

“He’s been here four months now. He’ll never find work. Especially when the food’s free and you always wait on him hand and foot.”

“I DO NOT wait on him hand and foot! I never…”

“Whoa, people,” Dad said as he walked into the kitchen. “It sounds like the Always-Never Syndrome has attacked again. Break away. Let’s get back to reality.”

“Nick left this grubby knife on the counter.” Mom pointed. “And crumbs. Again.”

Dad nodded at Nick. “Clean it up.”

Under Mom’s scowl Nick grabbed the knife and stuck it in the dishwasher. He wiped the crumbs off the counter, then quickly left the room to avoid further rehearsal of his faults.

Dad put his arm around Mom. “He does clean up most of the time, doesn’t he?”

“Well…I guess…”

“He’s trying. I don’t always remember to do things I should, either. And maybe you don’t, either?”

Mom was still irritated. “He said James will never find a job. That I wait on him hand and foot.”

Dad sighed. “Once always and never start flying, truth hides in a closet somewhere. It’s okay to help James now while he needs it. He’s sill job-hunting, maybe gets a little discouraged, but he’s persistent and will find one. He will move out — I promise — and when he does we’ll all breathe a sigh of relief. Someday we may even talk about ‘the good times we had while Uncle James stayed with us’.”

“I suppose…”

“Nick will remember to clean up most of the time. And someday he’ll get a job, too, and make his own messes in his own place. Then we’ll be on our own and you’ll have only me to pick up after. Who knows? I may have even caught on by then, too.” He gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “And I’ll always love you.”

She threw her arms around him. “Now I remember why I married you.”