Welcome to whatever is on my mind!

Some people use the term "nonsense" but I prefer to use the phrase "uncommonly sensed" because it's more reflective of creative types.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mr Hankey Christmas Cookies (How to Make)

My kids are teenagers who love Southpark, so I started making these Christmas cookies last year and they’ve been a big hit with my kids as well as with a large number of my adult friends. They’re not difficult tot make, but they do take a little time, so here’s my little tutorial on how to make them. I’m posting written instructions and I also filmed some video so that you can see how I did it.

Step 1:
Bake brownies in a 13x9 pan. I recommend using a pre-packaged mix instead of baking these from scratch because you’ll spend enough time decorating the cookies and the mix speeds up this first step. Make sure that the box is “family sized” or large enough to accommodate a 13x9 pan. If the mix is for an 8x8 pan, then use two boxes.

Step 2:
Remove the edges from the brownies. This part is a little crusty and doesn’t mold as well as the interior. Mr. Hankey’s body forms better if you don’t use this. My kids love eating the scraps.

Step 3:
Cut the brownies into 12 equal parts. Each part will make one Mr. Hankey cookie, so you’ll wind up with a dozen cookies from one batch. I usually bake 2 13x9 pans and make 24 cookies at once. They get eaten pretty quickly.

Step 4:
Shape Mr Hankey. Make sure your hands are clean and then use them to mold his body into an irregular tube shape. I also slightly pinch a little area around where his neck should be to help him take shape.

Step 5:
Make his hat. This time I used pre-rolled sheets of red fondant icing. You can find this anywhere they sell cake decorating supplies (such as Michaels or Walmart). I’ve also either used cherry fruit roll-ups or painted his hat on with red icing. The red icing tastes the best.

Step 6:
Use pretzels and white chocolate to make his arms. Lay down some wax paper and then place drops of melted white chocolate down on the sheet. Place the end of  a pretzel stick on then seal the top of his “mitten” with another drop of white chocolate.

Step 7:
Use melted white chocolate to make two white ovals close together for his eyes.

Step 8:
Glue his hat on using either melted white chocolate or white icing. Once the hat is glued on you can decorate the “fur” parts using more melted whit chocolate or white icing.

Step 9:
Add a drop of dark chocolate to each of his eyes for the pupils, and also use the dark chocolate to make his mouth.

Step 10:
Gently insert his arms into the sides of his body. I usually break off one-third to one-half of the pretzel stick to shorten it and make it look proportional to his body.

Take a picture because these cookies won’t last long. Everyone loves the novelty and these disappear in less than 48 hours.

Watch the video also, - seeing how it’s done is often helpful to understanding it better. Besides, it took me hours to edit it and I’d like my efforts to feel validated.  ;)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sandy Hook: What to Do The Day After Tragedy

We’re all devastated by what happened yesterday at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. There’s so much sadness in the loss of a child and we, as a nation, lost 20 of them all at once. When someone kills the innocent we all feel the sense of injustice. Many of us with children are mourning along with the parents who suffered loss as we realize how easily we could have been in their shoes. The 6 adults who died had dedicated their lives to teaching others. Yesterday they literally gave their lives. These teachers are heroes.

The loss is horrific. But what can we do? I have no long term answers, but I have a few suggestions on what to do right now, the day after. 

1. Mourn for those who died, even if you didn’t know them. We all lost something yesterday.

2. Pray for the families and community. The holidays will never be the same for them. Also, remember to pray for them during the next year when other holidays come around and these families have to deal with remembering their losses.

3. Remember that life is fragile. There is no guarantee that we or our loved ones will be here tomorrow.

4. Stop focusing on getting ahead in your life or career and put more time into simply spending time with the people who are most important to you. Remember that people and relationships are the most important things in this world.

5. Refrain from immediately using this incident as an opportunity to promote your political views either for or against gun control. The day after the event is a time to mourn, not a time to show which position is right or wrong. Your opinions won’t change what happened yesterday and there will be plenty of time for you to express them later.

6. Help someone else. Find a way to make the world a better place by giving your time or making a donation to a cause - or both. There are so many needs in the world and while you can’t restore these children to their parents, you can make a difference in the world that eases someone else’s pain or brings them joy. It's never a bad time to help a good cause.

7. Never stop being empathetic and don’t be afraid to cry. It’s what makes us human.

Note: If you have children who are having trouble dealing with this incident and need assistance in figuring out how to help them, try reading though these tips from the American Psychological Association.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cooking with Dexter

I loved the book Darkly Dreaming Dexter and the TV show based on the book is one of my favorites to watch. So I thought I would start a series of posts on what it would be like if Dexter were a chef. This way I can also share some of my favorite recipes.

Today we’re making a roasted chicken. You will need to purchase a whole “roasting” chicken. These look like little turkeys. Most grocery stores sell them, but if you don’t see any in the meat department you may need to check with the butcher.

Once you have your chicken we’re ready to get started.

Step One:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Step Two:
Cover the kitchen counter with sheets of plastic.

Step Three:
Strap a whole roasting chicken down using duct tape. Place a nice sized piece over the hole in the neck to symbolize sealing the bird’s mouth to stifle screams.

Step Four:
Select and sharpen an extremely large carving knife and cleaver. Set the cleaver aside.

Step Five:
Using both hands, face the chicken and raise the carving knife above your head.

Step Six:
Recite a list of all the wrongs the chicken has committed. Look the chicken in the eyes.

Step Seven:
Swiftly drive the knife into the left breast of the chicken where the heart should be.

Step Eight:
Using the cleaver, cut the chicken into pieces, slicing through bones, as needed. If you happen to have a bone saw on hand, use that instead of the cleaver.

Step Nine:
Place the segments of chicken into little trash bags and seal them with twist ties. Make sure that the body is evenly dispersed between all the trash bags and squeeze out any excess air so that the bags don’t float.

Step Ten:
Haul the bags out to sea in your boat and drop them into the ocean.

Step Eleven:
Turn the oven off and go out for dinner.

I feel a sense of release after cooking like this. Now I can go out and buy donuts for everyone, smile and act normal until I feel the urge to cook again.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Darrell A. Harris on Skinny Dipping

About a month ago I reviewed the book Skinny Dipping in Daylight by Cory Basil. I then passed the book along to my friend Darrell A. Harris, who I thought would really enjoy it. He did. Darrell wrote such a wonderful review that I thought I would share it with you here.  If you're not familiar with Darrell and his work, please read his short biography at the end of the review. He's no stranger to the arts and maybe that's one of the reasons we get along so well.

A Review of Skinny Dipping in Daylight
Darrell A. Harris

Poet Cory Basil tells us in his introduction to his fine volume Skinny Dipping in Daylight “the seasons of the soul and spirit do not follow those of the solstice and equinox.” How fortunate I am to have read this vulnerable and elegant work by one who minded and kept the seasons of the soul and spirit. 

He observes late in the book “Poetry does not pay. But I need it and so do you.” Brother Basil is spot-on about the second two observations. And while I understand what he’s saying in the first, I would definitely take issue with him on it. His poetry has already yielded him the soul equilibrium that eludes so many. Rare coinage indeed. And now his willingness to share it with others allows us to be enriched by it too.

This racehorse of a poet comes out of the chute full throttle. The poem Blue Manifesto sets the tone of the journey with world-weary yet whimsical wisdom: “I know what I need needs me not, I know what I want wants me not.” And shortly thereafter in Abandoned Drifter he boldly petitions: “Spit me out of the whale. Part me a Red Sea then show me dry land.” 

And with the mention of a whale, I should interrupt myself right here and say this volume is a whale of a bargain. I’m used to paying a small fortune for slim volumes of poetry I care about. These poems make me care deeply. And there are nearly 500 pages of deep and moving reflection. (I probably should quickly add I am not being paid to tell you that, lest you think I am wrongly motivated.) O.K. Back to business.

In the poem These Strange Days Mr. Basil chronicles the hollowness in the aftermath of the holocaust of personal loss. Then Hiding the Hyde confides the stewing bewilderment of the perplexed Jekyll in everyman. With Scrapbook and Tape reveals reverie about “how one’s deadly imagination fills the blanks between the frames.” We are so dishonest with ourselves. And so irresolute. In Jet Black Hair our confessor writes: You held tightly, and I let go far too soon.” These ruminations on the how and the why of lost love bring illumination rather than despair, peace rather than angst.

The soundtrack of young love (all loves have a soundtrack) is contemplated in The Year Oasis Owned my Discman. Already Stranger lets us observe the poet’s euphoria of new love, followed by the pointless pain of ensuing freefall ala Gotye’s Someone That I Used to Know.

We also get perceptive insight into the therapeutic nature of writing. Brenda Euland says in her 1930s classic If You Want to Write that everyone can and should write. In Basil's book he says, “I can always go back to my writing; it never rejects – It looks at me fearfully and wonders if I will abandon it. But I won’t – It’s too easy. It’s cheating the noise, a free pass to sanity, an excuse to live.”

This world would be a kinder, gentler place if we all took the time and effort to process our loves and losses, vitriol and victories on the page before moving on to the next thing. That’s what is so engaging and even hopeful about Mr. Basil’s generous contribution of Skinny Dipping in Daylight.

I should also add that I just gotta love a poet who listens to Vanessa Paradis and reads Thomas Merton. His thoughtfully chosen influences doubtless spur him on to the elegance of this work . . . Neruda fueling his “lust for love” and Bukowski helping him “keep it honest, simple and straight.” Would to God that more of our contemporary artists had such refined, eclectic and exceptional taste.

In the latter part of Skinny Dipping in Daylight we are treated to a number of journal entries. These are like coveted bonus tracks on a deluxe collector’s edition CD box. They help us put these slices of the poet’s soul in the context of life as we all live it. And he says so sweetly: “Somewhere in my soul I pray it” (his writing) “touches another – I find the loneliness of poetry to be a comfort.” And comforting as well as illuminating, it truly is. 

May I also add that Cory Basil’s provocative title does not portend an ill- advised burst of emotional and psychological exhibitionism? Rather, this book is a confident and trusting confession after much pain and loss. He probably has earned the right to rant. But he limits himself to only a couple brief flashes. They seem well deserved. And they end up seeming like essential peppery seasonings in a deliciously savory and nutritious dish.

About Darrell
Dr. Darrell A. Harris co-founded Star Song Records in 1976. He was its President for twenty years, serving as Executive Producer for multiple recordings by Newsboys, Twila Paris, Gaithers, Petra and many others.

In the early ‘90s Dr. Harris was Executive Editor of The Complete Library of Christian Worship (Robert E. Webber, ed.) He now serves as Dean of the Chapel to the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies, and as a Trustee of the Gospel Music Trust Fund.

Harris resides with Janet, his wife of forty-three years in Franklin, Tennessee. They have two daughters and six grandchildren.

Additional note: Skinny Dipping in Daylight releases today. You can order autographed copies through Cory's website at hereliescorybasil.com