Yesterday, I helped 22 first graders make gingerbread houses out of milk cartons, graham crackers, coconut and candy. It ended up being a wonderful day. It did not start out that way.
All of the first grade parents were required to donate an ingredient for the gingerbread houses. The teacher requested that I make the frosting/mortar which holds the house together. Looking back, I think the first red flag may have been the word "mortar".
Early yesterday morning, I got out my KitchenAid mixer, put the egg whites and cream of tarter in it and started it up. I was supposed to beat the mixture until "stiff peaks form". I mixed and mixed and mixed. I realized I didn't know what a "stiff peak" looked like. I contemplated calling my elderly mother, but it was 7 am, and I knew she wouldn't be awake. I kept mixing.
Finally, the whole mixture globbed up in the whisk of the mixer, and I decided that should be stiff enough for any recipe. I took a spatula and got it out of the whisk and into the bowl. Then, I was supposed to add four cups of powdered sugar SLOWLY. And that is where it all went wrong. Did you ever try to pour powdered sugar? At the exact moment that I fired up the mixer, the whole cup of powdered sugar dumped into the bowl and exploded back onto my glasses, hair, stove and floor. I stood there looking at my reflection in the microwave door wondering what exactly my problem was when it comes to baking.
I managed to get the mortar made and poured into an airtight container before it solidified. I had to literally chisel the remainder of it out of the bowl. Nasty stuff.
I went to get ready to go to school. I toweled as much of the powdered sugar out of my hair as I could, and I fired up my hair straightener. The fact that I couldn't get all the sugar out of my hair should have been the second red flag of the morning. Some information which you may or may not find useful in the future: powdered sugar burns into tiny hard brown bits when you put it in a hair straightener.
There was no time to rewash my hair. So, I stood there with my Diana Ross - Ain't No Mountain High Enough - hair. I realized that it wouldn't be proper to drink Kahlua before visiting a first grade classroom, and I felt like dissolving into sobs. I'd have to deal with this sober.
I threw my hair into a ponytail, grabbed my mortar and headed to school. There was another mother there who also brought in a batch of mortar frosting, and she asked me, "What exactly is a stiff peak?" She had tried looking it up on the internet. Evidently, she did not mix it right because her mortar was glossy and smooth and didn't harden. She and I came to the conclusion that baking skills must skip a generation.
And in the end, the kids did a great job. Fun was had by all. I was concerned that someone's fingers were going to be superglued together by that mortar, but everyone survived unscathed.
Here's what I know for sure: KitchenAid mixer + powdered sugar + hair appliances (or any combination of these) + me = disaster.