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This was a nutty week. Even with my make ahead strategies, I was down to the wire on Wednesday with a long to do list and not enough time to do it all.

Here’s the scenario:

  • Made ahead cookie dough just needs to thaw before baking.

    Made ahead cookie dough just needs to thaw before baking.

    Taught my usual Monday night fitness class, and came home to bake four dozen oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for a hockey fundraiser. The dough had been in the deep freeze, ready to thaw and bake.

  • Our last French class for the term was held at Le Bistro Le Coq – formidable! – but it meant I got home later than usual, so Tuesday night was a write off for any advance prep.
  • My parents and aunt and uncle were coming for dinner Wednesday night. My parents were also staying the night.
  • D’s sweet 16th birthday was on Thursday, and she also had a hockey game that night.
  • She needed supper before the game and it was a night I’d be teaching at the Y at suppertime. So I planned mini pizzas she could pop into the oven.
  • Baked goods were due to be delivered to that game for the fundraiser, and I wanted to add a couple of loaves of banana bread to our offerings.
  • I wanted to send surprise birthday cupcakes into the locker room after the game.
  • Other birthday surprises included a display of 16 penguins on the lawn, wrapping gifts, scanning and uploading adorably embarrassing baby pictures to Facebook, and making waffles for the birthday girl.

I was stressed from the moment I woke up Wednesday morning. I had about a two-hour window before my aunt and uncle arrived, and D got home from hockey. There was so much to do, and I didn’t know if I could make it all happen.

I turned to my trusty slowcooker to help with dinner. I love slowcooker recipes that are pretty much dump and run – toss all the ingredients in, set the heat and time, and walk away. This honey sesame chicken is one of those. You can even get away without adding the corn starch at the end, if you don’t mind the sauce being thin.

On the weekend, I’d made up bags of dry ingredients for Cooking Light’s classic banana bread and D’s traditional birthday cake – a pumpkin chocolate chip bundt cake from The Complete Harrowsmith Cookbook. Both recipes bake at 350. So my plan was to get the banana bread into the oven first as it takes about an hour. Then I’d make the pumpkin recipe as cupcakes, which shortens the cooking time, and add them into the oven. (Cupcakes are also easier to serve to a bunch of hungry hockey players.)

That’s about all I had time do in advance. I’d have felt better if I’d chopped and bagged the broccoli and carrots; measured out the rice and water; and sliced a baguette and assembled a brie baker recipe for a little pre-dinner nibblie. I’d have felt better if I’d had time to clean the cat litter and bring in some wood for the fire. I’d have felt better if I were a superhero who could leap over domestic challenges in a single bound.

Have you clued in yet that I’m not good at asking for help? I’m trying to get better at that. Progress is slow, but I’m trying. On Wednesday, I reached out.

In the morning, I sent H an email, letting him know I was feeling stressed and overwhelmed. I asked him to please respond to any urgent requests with a sense of urgency that day, even if it didn’t seem like an urgent task to him. That support would help calm me down. He got the message. He did just about everything I asked right away. He also decided to take D out for supper on her birthday, relieving me of the make ahead pizza meal.

Next, I put my parents to work. They met me at the office, we drove home, and as soon as we walked in the door, I gave my mom the dry ingredients and recipes for the baked goods and unleashed her on the kitchen. Dad helped me bring in wood then started chopping away at the broccoli and carrots while I fed four very hungry cats, got the brie ready for the oven, and cleaned the litter. Somehow, I remembered to put a cheque in the mailbox for the company that would come like thieves in the night to set up 16 penguins and a happy birthday sign on the front lawn.

With my parents’ help, everything was under control when my aunt and uncle arrived. (This would be a much funnier story if it had been bedlam, but there you go.) We had a lovely meal and conversation. It was great to catch up with my aunt and uncle, who live on the other side of this very big country. It was also nice to sit down.

And in the blink of an eye, it was back to work. D had gone off to take a shower, and if you’re familiar with teenage girls, you’ll know we had about an hour to clean up after dinner and get her cupcakes iced, sprinkled, and packaged. We just got them done and hidden in time for her reappearance. Whew!

Simple, pretty packaging for cookies and loaves.

Simple, pretty packaging for cookies and loaves.

Next, I wanted the baked goods for the fundraiser to look nice, so mom and I rolled up the cookies in parchment paper and tie off the twisted ends. It was definitely a four-hand job – and a very giggly job, too. The banana bread was easier to wrap. We made and attached little tags to identify the treats.

It was after 11 p.m. by the time I hit the home stretch, wrapping D’s birthday present and writing the card. Then I went in search of baby pictures, and scanned and edited them. H and I found ourselves in bed at midnight with the laptop, uploading her chubby baby cheeks and big blue eyes onto Facebook.

Why penguins for a birthday surprise? Why not?

Why penguins for a birthday surprise? Why not?

Asleep at 12:30 a.m. despite a cat and a husband snoring on either side of me. Then wide awake at 4:30 a.m. Could it be that the penguins were not very stealthy? I don’t know. I got up at five and grinned at the flock of them, almost glowing in the moonlight. I put the baked goods in the car so we couldn’t forget them in the morning bustle, took a shower, and made a pile of waffles bigger than your head for the birthday girl.

And with that, my to do list was done.

I can do a lot by myself. Heck, I can move mountains. But sometimes I need help. And sometimes, I actually manage to ask for it.

a

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake
The Complete Harrowsmith Cookbook (1996)
I was able to find this recipe via a Google search, so I feel it’s safe to post here with attribution to Harrowsmith.

Ingredients
3 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
3 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp salt
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 c. oil
2 c. cooked, mashed pumpkin
1/2 c. chocolate chips (we make it 1 c. chocolate chips and omit the pecans
1/2 c. chopped pecans

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350. Mix dry ingredients. Beat eggs and sugar together. Add oil and pumpkin. Blend in dry ingredients. Fold in chocolate chips and pecans. Pour in bundt pan and bake for 1 hour, or until cake tester comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes on wire rack before turning out onto rack. This is lovely with basic chocolate frosting.

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