By: Marlene Oxender
Years ago, I managed to burn a pan of brownies. So badly did I burn these brownies that the image of smoke rolling from the dish will always remain a clear memory. Like a scene from a movie. Or cartoon.
Black smoke rolling from a pan that was being carried from the oven to the out-of-doors.
It happened on a quiet Friday night. Our daughters weren’t home. My husband was outside doing yardwork. I put a pan of brownies in the oven and went to the other part of the house to fold some clothes.
I had never used the convection oven within the microwave we once owned. I thought I had pushed the correct buttons on the panel before walking away.
I didn’t know the brownies were being microwaved. I thought they were being baked. So when I finished my work in the other end of the house, I was surprised to return to the kitchen to find smoke rolling from the oven.
The next moments were moments that involved moving rather quickly to open the microwave door and kitchen window. With oven mitts at the end of my extended arms, I carried the pan of burnt brownies out the back door.
There in the backyard was my husband who stopped working in order to watch his wife carry a pan with smoke billowing from it.
He watched as I set the pan on an old sidewalk in the back yard. He slowly walked over, stood above the dish, and examined the contents of the pan. The brownies were not edible – at least not by humans.
That said, you may be able to guess where the brownies disappeared. I had left the dish outside overnight. The next morning, the brownies were gone. The dish was spectacularly clean. Not a crumb anywhere. Who could have eaten the brownies? Who cleaned the glass pan so well?
“The Saga of the Burnt Brownies” is a keeper of a story. It causes laughter and suggestions for an appropriate name for the brownies. Things like Smokey Brownies. Flaming Brownies. Jalapeno Pepper Brownies.
An online search for cayenne pepper brownies brought up a recipe for Cayenne Truffle Brownies. And Red Fire Brownies. I was chuckling at the choices of appropriate names for brownies with a smoky flavor.
At the end of each day, we tend to take a look at our accomplishments. It’s a good feeling to cross off tasks from our to-do list. But what if we decide to judge our day by how many successes we lived through? I could count the smoky brownie incident as a success rather than a failure.
Carrying a pan of burnt brownies from the house to the back yard was not on my to-do list. Yet I got it done.
Moments that make our pulse go from 60 to 120 in three seconds or less – do they count? Shouldn’t we write these things on our list and then cross them off? Lesson learned. Check.
And what about the relaxing moments? Things like reading one more chapter, or sitting beside a campfire, ought to find their proper place on our to-do list and then be checked off.
Going out for ice cream. Check. Taking a call from a friend. Check. Playing a board game. Check. What if finding joy in life is simply about spontaneity? What if we count the moments we sat in the sun?
Or the time we spent on the porch swing and watched a katydid who was not afraid to crawl on us? What if it’s about the fun times? The relaxing times? What if we decide there’s only one thing on our list? Perfect day. Check.
Often one idea leads to more. The things we want to do and experience can be endless. A friend suggested I write a children’s fire prevention book centered around a pan of brownies-gone-wrong.
It made me realize a great gift for children would be a little stack of books about firemen, fire trucks, and fire prevention.
And a coloring book to go along with it. A subject as serious as fire safety ought to be something we talk about and review often.
While recently shopping at the dollar store, I noticed a 64 pack of crayons. The fact that it was priced at $3.00 helped me make the decision to purchase the big box of crayons I had never owned as a child.
Sorting through all those colors as an adult made me realize what I’d been missing out on. Did I really make it through life without the periwinkle blue?
Within the 64 pack of crayons were only two in shades of grey but many of brown and blue which would make it easy for children to color some realistic overcooked food.
If we were to keep a coloring book journal of the happenings of our day, we’d see our skies are often blue. The grass is green. We’d use red to color the flowers in bloom. And yellow is typically found in the upper corner of the picture.
We’d draw our friends with smiles on their faces and ice cream cones in their hands. We’d know which color would best depict their favorite flavor of ice cream. Yellow for lemon and brown for chocolate.
Pictures of fun things we saw that day – like katydids, rainbows, and butterflies – would certainly find their way into our journal.
My personal coloring book would include a picture of a lady carrying a plate of flaming brownies. The next day there’d be a picture of the clean-up crew.
As we enter this holiday season, may we discover the 24 pack of the Colors of the World Skin Tone Crayons by Crayola. Whether we choose a shade that shows how fair or how dark a person’s complexion may be, everyone has a skin color.
And everyone’s to-do list is fairly universal: to give, to laugh, to learn, and to grow in our love for the people of the world.
Marlene Oxender is a writer, speaker, and author. She writes about growing up in the small town of Edgerton, her ten siblings, the memorabilia in her parents’ estate, and her younger brother, Stevie Kimpel, who was born with Down syndrome. Her two recently published books, Picket Fences and Stevie, are available on Amazon.