Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Frosting at Midnight

Baking cupcakes to take to school for birthdays is ordinarily quite enjoyable, but I hadn't been able to get around to it until after ten, so by the time all 36 cupcakes were cooling their heels, it was close to midnight, and I started mixing my standard goo for the top of the muffins--powdered sugar, melted butter, cream, dash of vanilla . . . all of which is great for the sated taste buds of American kids, and common to American cupcake recipes--in fact, to cupcake recipes in the English-speaking world. But these German kids take their cake medium-sweet. The afternoon custom of "coffee and cake" here means a round hunk of supermarket sponge-cake, not particularly sweet, topped by raspberries, strawberries, peaches or canned pineapple suspended in a not-too-sweet gelatin known as Tortenguss. This translates approximately as "fruit tart glaze," but it's not what you'd think of as a glaze, going by my got-enough-sugar-to-give-you-diabetes Fanny Farmer cookbook recipe for strawberry tart. I guess if you're eating "cake" as they call it here every day, you can't take the buttery, creamy, calorie-crammed stuff that Americans reserve for birthdays and special occasions, unless you live in the deep South.
The short version of this tale is that after I stayed up past midnight making sure each cupcake was cool enough to frost, frosted it, and tucked them all in portable carrying dishes, I was chagrined to hear, "Mommy, they're too sweet!" For more than around a fourth of my daughter's fifth-grade class, those cupcakes were too sweet.
But not for glazed-eyed me, licking that spoon to stay awake.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Critical Mom Writes

And nobody reads. But that's okay. I'm learning my trade here, and from time to time surprising events teach me what grabs readers. When I wrote a post about Chelsea Manning and titled it "The Unmanning of Bradley," I reached many a poor soul who was looking for something considerably more titillating. I was merely reflecting on Manning's poor timing, in my view. When Bradley announced that he was really Chelsea, she was heading to prison, where bad guys are sure to give her a tough time indeed. I hope Chelsea is protected, and I hope somebody's getting her the hormones she needs to remain herself.
Meanwhile, I've reached a milestone: I'm actually getting paid for a personal essay. An entire forty bucks. Ten more than Judas made, is what I'm thinking. I want everyone in the world except for my mom and my kids to read that essay. My kids can read it when they're old enough to understand that Mom is also human--make that forty: a nice round number (and ten more than those thirty pieces of silver that keep coming to mind: I hope the kids don't feel betrayed by Mom's confession, which is not about them, but about Mom when she was younger than they are now.)
Forty dollars would just about replace the forty euros I got fined for forgetting that the month of June had begun: here in Germany, you buy your tram card every month, and you have a grace period until the third of the month. But I'd spent the preceding two days in dress rehearsals and performances, tap dancing. There's nothing lovelier than being onstage except, perhaps, being backstage. I love peeking in from the wings and seeing my very pretty daughter's profile as a lilac fairy; the contrast of the extraordinarily hideous Carabosse waving her arms around plus the glimpse of the audience's rapt faces was lovely. It would be so much fun to go out onstage and be evil! I wish I could play Carabosse, or a vampire, or anything flagrantly outrageous. When you're onstage the lights are so blinding that you don't see the audience or anything else--you're just trying to keep your eyes open while you dance. I love standing in the hallway and jumping back so the young ballet danseur, having completed his tours jet├ęs, can vault offstage, grab his bottle of water, glug it, and vault back on. Plus the opening bars of Cinderella keep marching through my head.
But the lady who checked my May ticket was, naturally, not interested in all these explanations that came to mind . . . . I burbled away showing all my previous receipts for monthly tickets: I do regularly buy my ticket. But oh, they looked in their computer and found that I had actually failed to buy my ticket on time One Other Time, eight months ago. Who gets off on finger-wagging? People who don't get to go onstage or write personal essays, that's who. Or, as the lady said to me while taking my information (and even my kids have the sense to invent phony names and addresses when they are caught!): "You have your work, and I have mine."
You'd think somebody who likes being onstage and writing would have the presence of mind to say her name was, say, Miranda Schulz or Emma Stein. But no, I blurted mine right out.
And paid the dang forty euros.
But when my essay is published---I still can't believe that it will be--I'll post a link to the magazine and let readers guess which writer might be, in another guise, The Critical Mom.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Mom With The Serious Hobby

This mom makes everybody breakfast, cooks lunches and dinners, finds missing shirts and sports shoes (except when she doesn't) and cleans the guinea pig cage. What happens when she's gone for a day or two in dress rehearsals for a tap performance--while locating daughter's ballet tights and supervising daughter's ballet jitters for her performance?
What happens is that the middle kid gets the worst deal.  The oldest yells a lot and mostly manages to take care of meals by having them outside, with pals. But the middle kid says he knows how to cook fish sticks, and you don't want to aggravate him by telling him yet again to pre-heat the oven, but you do call home and listen to his bored voice saying, "I know, Mom! You don't have to call again at dinner time."
So you don't.  
And here's what happens: "Well, I ate the fish sticks, Mom, but they were really cold."
"But--"
"Well, Mom! I put them in the oven just like you said for twelve minutes."
"Did you pre-heat the oven?"
"Oops."

After disposing of the semi-frozen remains of the half-eaten fish sticks, I hoped that since his tummy feels okay today he won't develop hepatitis or tapeworm tomorrow.

That evening, I planned food for the next day with him (frozen pizza! Safer!) and put out an envelope of fifty-five euros to pay his piano teacher the next day--when I also wouldn't be there.

Guess what got lost.  

Moms, remind your thirteen-year-olds who have just shot up five inches in the last month, started to get gravelly voices and sprout a pimple or two to carry valuable items in bags. It never goes without saying that small envelopes of money tucked into music folders might fall out, especially if you are running with your folder under your elbow because it started to rain and since Mom isn't there yelling at you, you're wearing a T-shirt, no sweatshirt, and no jacket.

I lost money the same way as he did when I was his age. And my mother forgot to tell me, too. Well, we all know about her. But really, I should have done better.