He (finally) gragiminated!

I know it’s beautiful. But still try to resist
the tears.

         My big brother, you might remember him from “Snicker Challenge” (he was the one who orchestrated the scarfing down of all my cookies as I was locked out of the house), he was also the lucky one who didn’t get a mush doughnut during my “Doughey Nuts” breakfast, he’s the reason I forgot about my grandma’s birthday “Too Easy?”, and the person behind “The Day Of Trail — Part #1andPart #2“. Remember him? Well, I’ll be darned; my big brother finally graduated.
         For the longest time, I had to stop myself from writing this blog post about it, because I was planning a surprise graduation party. (Emphasis on “surprise”.) I don’t know about you, but for me to keep something quiet for a month — is hard! I can’t keep my own secrets. The funny thing is, tell me a secret, and I’m a locked safe. But when it comes to MY secrets. Psh. I have none. So you can imagine how hard it was for me to keep my vow of silence. You can also imagine how hard it was for us to get ready for the party without him suspecting anything. But, have no fear! The queen of excuses is here! And I had one for just about anything he could throw our way, starting with the grocery shopping.

         “Why is she coming with us?” BB (big brother) asked my mom, pointing at me. You have to give him points for being observant. I was wearing shoes, had my purse, and stood in the doorway, but he was able to piece it all together to conclude that I was coming along. And he did that aaalll by himself! Aw, I’m so proud. Look what twelve years of education have done for him. (BB don’t smack me! hehe)
         “We’re going grocery shopping after we drop you off,” Mom said cooly. “We need milk.”

         It never ceased to amaze me how smooth and sneeky my mom could be. I found myself several times throughout the party planning getting wide-eyed and mouth hung open as my mom shrugged off, yet another, touchy question my brother happened to ask.
         “What are we doing Saturday?”
         I’d shoot a quick glance to mom.
         She wouldn’t so much as flinch. “You have club in the morning.”
         “That’s it?”
         “Yup.”

         (In reality, what was going to happen Saturday was that Dad would drive BB to club, while the rest of us stayed home and finished getting ready for the party. Then my dad would stall until 2:30pm, which was the time all the guest would be here.)

          Now, the fact that I was going grocery shopping with my mom that day wasn’t a big deal anyway. My brother knows I like to go out, even if it’s just to buy groceries. For added ooph, I picked up a cookbook.
         “I’m going to buy ingredients to bake something, since I haven’t been able to lately.”
         That gave me another reason to come. So BB grabbed his backpack, and we headed to the college to drop him off.

          In my “Pillsbury, Best of the Bake Off” cookbook, I bookmarked two recipes. “Easy Sugar Cookies”, and “Oatmeal Carmelita’s”. My goal was to find some desserts that were fast and easy.
         The “Easy Sugar Cookies” is made in a pan. I liked that because it meant that I didn’t have to spend time rolling little balls or having to do more than one batch. And the “Oatmeal Carmelita’s” made me swoon just by reading the ingredients: oatmeal, brown sugar, caramel, and chocolate chips. Oooh doggy! My mouth was watering as we bought the ingredients at the store. Also, for good measure, I’d be making brownies; the all-time classic. So that’d make three desserts plus the cake we ordered from Costco. Sounds good.

          My biggest worry at that point was: how am I going to bake these? If I baked them on Friday, how do I keep BB from eating them? I could make up an event I’m baking them for. That’s not a total lie. Or would I have time Saturday morning, before the guests come, to bake them? What if I run out of time or one goes bust and I don’t have time to make something else?
         Somehow, I decided that making the desserts Saturday morning was fine. Oh, yeah. It’s because we spent all Friday cleaning the house, which was weird – and funny at the same time.

         I decided to have an “attitude”, because Mom was making us clean. This kept BB from suspecting anything.
         At one point, he even whispered to me, “I think Mama is going through that everything-has-to-be-clean stage.”
         I almost laughed out loud, but I stayed “in character” and scoffed, “it’s stinkin’ annoying . . .”

         I was doubting myself, too. Even, I began wondering if Mom was going through a phase. She was that good. So good, that I was genuinely annoyed as I was on my hands and knees dusting the legs of the chairs, because they were apparently “filthy”.
         “But no one looks at the legs of chairs. No one cares.”
         “I do.”
         I don’t know about you, but when I lose an argument, I at least want to have the satisfaction of knowing the other person had SOME form of a challenge.
          I almost blew my cover when I asked Mom if she wanted me to do anything else. I could see BB looking at me with a surprised and confused look on his face like, “did she really just ask for more work?” Mom played it cool and made me pull weeds in the front yard, but afterwards, we all settled that that was a “doh” on my part. And the fact that I pulled almost all the weeds even after the sun went down was, not only insane, but made BB curious. Gave me a good workout, though. And an excuse to stay home from club the next morning. I slept in until BB and my dad left. Then it was time for desserts!

         I attempted to strategize with what order to make my desserts. But all of them used different temperatures. So I started with the brownies made from mix. As it was baking, I helped decorate and clean the house. See, the day before, it was the hard-core cleaning (dusting, vacuuming, weeding, cleaning the yard), but this was the guests-are-coming-so-organize-the-house type of cleaning. So I crammed all of BB’s stuff in his closet (I don’t think he minded), made a pile of little brother’s stuff for him to pick up, and put everything else on my mom and dad’s bed, closing the bedroom door behind me. “Our little secret”, I told the cat. And wouldn’t ya know it? Ta-da! Done. I even folded the blankets on the couch and made the pillows neat like BB usually does when he cleans the living room (he’s a little, um, neater than I am). The house looked pretty darn good, though.

It’s so evenly spread!

          It took a couple toothpick-tests for my brownies to be perfect, but they eventually were, and I went on to make the “Easy Sugar Cookies”. As I was making the batter, I worried because it seemed like so little compared to the pan I was supposed to spread it “evenly” in. But nevertheless, I poured it and began spreading with my spoon. Spread. Spread. Spread a little more. About half the pan was covered. Spread a little bit more. The spoon wasn’t really spreading. It was more like pulling. Pulling is not spreading, darn spoon; get with the program. I switched to a spatula, and man, you would not believe what a difference it made to actually use the right tools. It was the most evenly spread batter I had ever seen. It was gorgeous. I even took a picture.

          With that in the oven, I started with the Oatmeal Carmelitas; first, by making the oatmeal/brown sugar mixture and flattening it to the bottom of the pan. That had to bake a while, so I added flour to the caramel. Let me tell you, having the self-control to NOT taste the caramel sauce is insanity. I definitely don’t have that self-control. I tried to lick anything I could (without it being unsanitary, of course). But just watching the drizzle of caramel flow from the jar makes you want to open your mouth and have every bit of it drain down your throat. Oh. It’s just that good (I took a picture of this, too. Scroll to the top if you missed it.). When the bottom oatmeal mixture was “golden” (whatever that means. If you asked me, it looked “golden” before I put it in the oven), I sprinkled the chocolate chips, drizzled the caramel, and added the remaining oatmeal mix. In the oven it went. Wow, I was done.

          Making the “presentation” of my desserts had to be the true failure of the day. I attempted to make a cool design with the brownies. That became mush, so I quit while I was ahead and left it all in the pan for guests to scoop for themselves. The sugar cookies were more butter tasting than sugar, but who doesn’t like butter? They were yummy. And those did come out with a cool diamond design. Also, to my surprise, the Oatmeal Carmelita’s was barely touched. I was the first one to try them. They were still mushy and warm (according to the book they had to be “completely cooled”) so I was breaking the rules, and I had my penance. It was like gushy, salty, stuff with a chocolate chips thrown in the mix. I almost wanted to hide it in the microwave so no one could eat it, but it was too late. By that time, we had already announced that we had “oatmeal carmelita’s”. Everyone knew.
         Later in the day, though, they got better. But still no one was eating them. My aunt made a comment that they looked too healthy. So that could be a reason why no one wanted them. Or they got a bad reputation from being tried too soon. I have to admit, that was all right with be, because the next day they were the definition of BOMB itself. The oatmeal was crunchy with a little touch of salt, the caramel gooey, the chocolate chips added a soft crunch. It was deeeeelish. I could even see the caramel oozing out from the center. A gift from Go. You guys have to try these.
          To wrap this post up, BB came home to find his family and friends in his house, and he was more confused than surprised. But after a while, it slowly sank in, and he had fun. Success all around. The best part is that BB enjoyed it. And they told me my brownies were great. (I just didn’t tell them they were from a box. . My cat and I have more secrets than who it was who trashed my parents’ bed. Hehe. Shhh.)

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