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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Cooking/Baking (not recipes) (10/16/08)

TITLE: All The Right Stuff
By LauraLee Shaw


While unpacking the groceries on the counter, I checked the ingredients against the recipe from my new cookbook. Yup, I had all the right stuff. Daydreaming, I couldn’t help but picture the look of pure elation on Keith’s face when he would taste his favorite Christmas Eve dessert—only this time baked by me instead of his grandmother. I’d invited her to come over as well, so I would surprise ‘em both.

I can’t believe Vivian put this recipe in her cookbook. After keeping it a secret for years, she’d finally decided to pass it on to her grandchildren before she got too old or too sick to do so. What a blessing, I thought.

I preheated the oven to 350, just as the recipe said. I already had the mixing bowls and loaf pans ready to go. Even though I’d never baked anything that wasn’t from a box before, I felt prepared, thanks to Vivan’s specific and thorough instructions.

“Okay. ‘Cream the butter and sugar.’ I think I know what that means…” I put the two sticks of butter and the two cups of sugar together, mixing them until they looked creamy.

“That’ll do. Now, ‘Add eggs—one at a time.’” I continued to follow the recipe, line by line. After sifting the flour, I folded in the remaining ingredients. I spread a layer of the nut mixture on the bottom of the pan, added the dough, then the nut mixture again. It was ready to go.

My husband walked in just as I was putting the two loaf pans in the oven. “Whatcha doin’, Punkin?”

“Making you a Christmas present you’ll never forget,” I flirted, winking to add to the mystery.

Keith looked around the kitchen for clues, and I slammed the cookbook shut just in the nick of time.

“Oooooo, something from Grandmother’s cookbook, eh?” he teased back.

“Yes, Dear, now scoot before you spoil your surprise.” I chased him out of the kitchen with a wooden spoon in hand. “Shoo!”

An hour later, Keith entered the kitchen to find me sitting in the middle of the floor in tears. As he ran to comfort me, I saw him do a horrified double take at the mystery creation on the counter. “Oh sweetie, it’s okay.”

“I—was—trying—to—make—your—grandmother’s—sour—cream—coffee—cake—for—you—for—Christmas. But it’s a big meeeeeeeessss!” A basketcase, I sobbed a puddle onto Keith’s shoulders.

“Oh, Punkin, that is so sweet. That is the most loving thing you've ever done. Please don’t cry.”

When the doorbell rang, Keith helped me off of the floor as I quickly regained my composure.

“Merry Christmas!” Vivian said. “I brought my sweeties a surprise.”

My tears began again as I glared at the perfectly baked loaf of sour cream coffee cake in Vivian’s grasp. She handed it to Keith and immediately came to comfort me.

“What’s wrong, Darling? It smells wonderful in here, and your tree is so beautiful. And most of all, you look beautiful.”

I led her to the kitchen and pointed to the loaves of burned pecans on top of baked brown goo. “I wanted to surprise you both and make your recipe from the Christmas cookbook you gave me, and I messed it all up. I’m the worst cook ever!”

Vivan looked down at the open book and over at Keith, then sighed. “Sweet Leah—no, Sweetheart—your cooking is just fine, Dear.”

“No, it’s not, look at it!”

Grabbing Keith’s arm in one hand and the cookbook in the other, Vivian scolded, “Keith, Dear. Do you remember my asking you to relay a particular message to your wife about this recipe?”

“Huh?” Keith mumbled, looking dumbfounded. “A message?”

“You don’t remember the error you made when you typed this recipe for me?”

Keith’s face flushed through the shades of the candy cane—red, white, then red again. He put his hand over his face. “Oh no.”

I crossed my arms. “’Oh no’ what, Keith?”

“He forgot to tell you that he accidentally omitted the baking powder from the recipe, so where it says to mix the remaining ingredients, you didn’t know you were supposed to add it,” Vivian said, laying the open cookbook in front of her grandson.

We looked over at the perfect loaf of sour cream coffee cake in Keith’s hands. He tiptoed to me as if on eggshells, then extended the gift to me. “Um,” he gulped, “Merry Christmas…?”

The smell of Vivian’s coffee cake and echoes of laughter surrounded the room, filling this Christmas Eve with all the right stuff.

“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy…”
Psalm 126:2a

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This article has been read 781 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Tim Pickl10/25/08
Gotta have "All the Right Stuff"--in this case--all the right "white stuff"! I can feel Keith's embarrassment at the end--one of those hubby "OOPS" moments, for sure. Well done!
Joanne Sher 10/25/08
Love the way you used the title as a theme throughout - and I could definitely feel HER frustration and HIS embarrassment. I was definitely engaged. Enjoyed this!
Laury Hubrich 10/26/08
Loved this story!
Yvonne Blake 10/27/08
Uh-oh!! I could feel the poor husband's embarrassment and guilt without you actually stating it. Well done!
Patty Wysong10/27/08
I love this! I can sooo see this happening! Great job on this!
Kristen Hester10/27/08
Oh boy, can I relate to this story! (Especially sitting in the middle of the kitchen in tears. LOL) Great writing. I loved the sincerity of your sweet MC, trying so hard to please her new husband. The metaphors (Is that what they're called?) were DELIGHTFUL. I loved how the husband blushed the shades of a candy cane and how he tiptoed to her as if on egg shells. SO CLEVER. Good job!
Beth LaBuff 10/27/08
Oh…. :) I love this description, "burned pecans on top of baked brown goo" and "Keith's face flushed through the shades of the candy cane--red, white, then red again.. " :) Excellent, heartwarming… and this is making my stomach growl. :)
Angela M. Baker-Bridge10/27/08
So sincere, painfully real, sweetly funny...and all in less than 750 words! Well done (no pun intended).
Sharlyn Guthrie10/27/08
Such a real husband and wife tale! I like the candy cane colors the husband turned when he realized his mistake. Well done...just like Grandmother's coffee cake.
Verna Cole Mitchell 10/27/08
Your story had all "the right stuff." I was glad it was the husband's fault the recipe didn't turn out right!
Betty Castleberry10/27/08
I'm glad she *really* loved her husband. ;0) This was well written and entertaining.
Celeste Ammirata10/28/08
What a wonderful story! I like that she wanted to do something special for her husband and his grandmother, and the fact that she let go of her disappointment over burning it and gave into the love and heart of the day. Great writing!
Karlene Jacobsen10/28/08
Something similar happened to me once. My mom gave me a recipe for cookies. I followed them exactly. They were terrible and runny. Turns out she had me adding too much butter.
Oh well. Those make the funniest memories.

I enjoyed reading this.
Helen Dowd10/31/08
All the right stuff----except for the levening! A great lesson, eh? Often we have all the right stuff of being a Christian, but leave out a most important ingredient--the power that makes the difference, the Holy Spirit....Cute story. I am sure we all have done some pretty embarrassing things when we were young and learning to cook. I remember using salt accidentally, instead of sugar, and mustard instead of ginger, etc...Ha! Ha! We all lived through it and learned that life goes on. You had a fogiving husband and a loving grandmother-in-law...God bless you...Helen

Oh yes, and thanks for submitting my poem, "I'm Just Too Busy" to the JEWEL CHEST.
Peter Stone11/02/08
Really felt like I was there in the kitchen watching it all transpire. She certainly did give a Christmas present they'd never forget!