That’s got to be why

So my seven year old nephew Hank came over yesterday, and we did some stuff.

We did a little of this.


Then a little of this…


and then, because Hank had been so very, very good, demonstrating good listening and good manners, real helpfulness and even some small measure of caution around danger…Hank was allowed to do a little of his most favourite thing at my house…


Using the ball winder. We determined, Hank and I, that his ball winding skills (you can see the focus there) are almost such that we may introduce the use of the swift soon. This would allow Hank to wind hanks into balls, instead of just winding balls into balls, and Hank winding hanks? That’s something which little dude thinks is pretty funny, and you would too, if your name were Hank and you were seven.

He wound that ball into a ball about seventeen times, and was finally coerced away from the ball winder by Sam, who offered to bake cookies with him. Hank thought that baking cookies was a pretty pale substitute for playing with yarn (which is something I agree with entirely) but conceded to help Sam, mostly out of politeness.

They went into the kitchen and chose a cookbook off the shelf. Now, if I had not been playing with wool myself right then I might have steered them in another direction, because they plucked a Martha Stewart off the shelf. Now, I’ve got nothing against Martha, and if I want to make a watercress soup, she’s the first lady I’m looking up, but I’ve noticed over the years that her baked goods don’t always work out. They require a certain finesse or something, and it seems to me that any recipe that requires that you have your eggs at a certain temperature or that you blend things with any sort of precision can end ever so badly for anyone who isn’t Martha, and combined with the talents of a seven and thirteen year old simply reeks of vanilla extract and impending doom.

I was playing with wool though, so I didn’t come on the scene until the two of them already had butter in the mixmaster. I supervised enough to know that they had put everything in, and followed the directions with a remarkable amount of responsibility…but even with my suspicions about Martha’s cookies being what they are…

Even I was surprised by what happened next.

Sam and Hank measured out the very ordinary looking dough into the two tablespoon lumps that Martha proposed. (Precision is everything.) They placed them as far apart as directed, and they put the cookie sheet into the (pre-heated) oven and set the timer. Then they hung out round the oven door and watched in horror as the cookies spread like a lava flow that ran right off the sheet in places.


They cooked it for as long as they could, but even at it’s most cooked, the whole thing was beyond inedible.

Poor Sam tried to cut it into cookies and rescue it….


but it was hopeless. She scraped the whole thing bitterly into the compost bin while Hank watched with sadness.

I stepped in at this point and suggested that maybe it needed a little more flour? Sam stirred in another half cup and a second batch went into the oven.


This batch only fared a little better, and were dubbed “cookie chips” by Hank, who agreed that these had to hit the bin too. This time Sam was more than disappointed. This time she was mad. She’d spent all this time, not to mention all of those ingredients and she felt ripped off. She blamed Martha, and thought there was no way that Martha didn’t know that her recipe was either impossible or wrong. I suggested that perhaps there was a typo in the book (it happens to the best of us) and that we add more flour again.

We added another cup and a half of flour (thus bringing the amount we used to 5 1/2 cups, a big difference from Martha’s suggested 3 1/2 cups) stirred it in and tried again.


This time…


they got cookies.

As Sam surveyed the disaster of amorphous, blobby cookies that had wound up in the bin, and calculated how far off the recipe had been and boggled that half of them had wound up in the garbage…I could see her getting really mad. Sam carries McPhee genes after all, and if we are as a clan, nothing if not frugal. It was infuriating to her to have money, time and food wasted. Her mouth was set in a firm line of seething resentment as she tried to scrape various disgusting warmish butter-goo-cookie-dough slurries off of pans. I could literally see her thinking.

“You know what?” she said to me, as she morosely chipped off bits of cemented cookie-lava

“I bet this is why Martha went to prison.”