Spritzen was not one of Santa’s reindeers

Does anyone else make spritz cookies for Christmas?

Spritz cookies are a German cookie, called Spritzgebäck (the German verb spritzen means “to squirt,” which makes sense as you’ll see).

They are a delicate, somewhat dry cookie, have a rich, buttery flavor, and are full of wonderful memories of my childhood. (If you don’t get flashbacks of my childhood when you eat one, you probably made it wrong.)

These simple ingredients: butter, egg, sugar, flour, and vanilla create the dough, but after that you’re on your own.

We tried for a number of years to make Spritz cookies but they just don’t come out right. By that I mean, I remember making them with my mom all through my childhood. We’d put the cookie dough in a metal press, push the dough through the design onto the baking sheet, and yay! A little Christmas tree, or wreath, or a heart, or a Mercedes-Benz emblem, and a few others I still can’t identify.

Then my brother and I would help decorate them with red and green sprinkle sugar, jimmies, those tiny jawbreakers, some kind of gummy candy, and cinnamon red hots, which were always the last ones eaten, begging the question: why did we even use those?

And if my wife ever tells you that my brother and I decorated the cookies with weird shit like sunflowers seeds and such, don’t believe her. We only did it that one time as a experiment. I swear.

The process seemed so easy. Press. Lift. Cookie. Sure, even my mom had all few flubs where the dough wouldn’t release from the design disk, but they were few and far between.

My wife and I tried making them ourselves and I don’t know if we were doing something wrong or if something in the ingredients was changed over the years, but the whole process was one big frustration.

The cookies rarely stayed on the baking sheet when we lifted the press, forcing us to peel them off, thus distorting or totally ruining the shape. The dough was not only difficult to work with, but it destroyed a couple cookie presses. A plastic one and an metal one, both using a trigger to push the dough. Only it didn’t push the dough. Instead the dough destroyed the ratchet gear mechanism in both.

Thus, for the time being anyway, we have stopped making Spritz cookies. At least until we can figure out what we were doing wrong.

Which makes me sad, because those were my favorite cookies. They were as much anyway part of Christmas as eggnog, decorating the tree, and gift giving.

What makes me sadder is I can’t even find them in the stores. I can find Spritz-lookalikes. Some come in tins. Some are called an Italian cookie or whatever. They look like a Spritz cookie but one bite and you know its a poser. It’s a cheap imitation made of shortbread.

If I wanted shortbread, I’d have asked for shortbread! Such asked disappointment.

Do you make Spritz cookies? What’s your secret?

And can you send me a Spritz Cookie Care Package?

Happy baking. Happier eating.

Basic Spritz Cookies Recipe

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup soft butter, 1/2 lb
3/4 cup sifted sugar
3 egg yolks
1/2 tsp almond extract or 1 tsp vanilla (I believe my mother used almond)

Have baking sheets ready–do not grease. Start oven 10 min before baking; set to moderately hot (400 deg F). Sift flour and measure. Cream butter until shiny, add sugar gradually, creaming well. Beat in yolks until fluffy, then flavoring. Stir in flour in 3 or 4 portions until smooth. If dough is soft, chill an hour. Now shape dough into a cylinder and drop into cookie press, fitted with desired design plate. Press dough out onto cold baking sheet about 1-inch apart. Bake about 8 min or until a delicate brown. Remove from pans immediately to cake racks to cool. If difficult to remove from pans, return to oven a minute. Cool thoroughly. 4-1/2 dozen medium cookies.

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The Edge of Tripe

I apologize for not posting much recently, but I’ve actually been doing some real writing, fiction-type writing. 

And no, I wasn’t participating in NaNoWriMo. I don’t need an artificial challenge to write shit. I can write shit all on my own, thank you very much.

And speaking of shit, I thought I’d do a long term review on my smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. I first reviewed it here. OK, it wasn’t a review so much as I savaged it.

Well, time hasn’t improved matters. After six months of ownership, I’m chomping at the bit to replace this piece of shit. It is by far the worst smartphone I’ve ever owned and I’ve owned a few.

My first “smartphone” was an LG something or other with a slide-out keyboard. it wasn’t an android device, it had a weird user-interface and to get online (which I rarely did because we didn’t have a data plan at the time) you clicked on the LG browser icon and were launched into an AOL-style experience. Anyway, it came out about the time the iPhone first did, before android, when Crackberry dominated the market and touchscreens were still in their infancy.

My next real smartphone was the first generation Samsung Galaxy S. I liked it at first, but quickly found it didn’t like the area where I had just started working: downtown in the mall.

Thus started my love/hate with smartphones. The building I’m in is, as I’ve mentioned, like a Faraday Cage. Reception within sucks. Although some people seem to do it, I haven’t been able to. 

That first gen Samsung Galaxy S wouldn’t connect to the Internet until I did a hard restart by yanking the battery once I stepped outside my building. 

My next phone was the iPhone 4S. Oh, yay, Seri! Personally, I don’t get the whole fad of talking to your phone (or those Google home devices where you can turn on the sprinklers to get rid of annoying people on your lawn). I don’t like to talk. Period. Not to people. Not to my devices. Seri, therefore, was a wasted accessory for me. But beyond that, and at first I was thrilled with the iPhone, I soon came to loathe it. For many reasons which I won’t get into. I’m sure I ranted about them four or five years ago. But the iPhone’s reception sucked, too. I had to do a hard reboot all the time to connect to the Internet.

At this point, I’d tried Android and the iPhone and found both lacking, so I picked up a Nokia Win7 phone. If memory serves, the hardware was pretty decent (Yay Finland!), but the disappointing part was the lack of apps for Windows phones.Basically, with that phone I could get online, but the apps sucked so bad it didn’t really matter that I’d gotten on.

My next phone was the Motorola Droid Turbo. I liked this phone, except the camera sucked. it was like time warping back to 1998. This phone suffered from severe digital lag. Snap a picture and seconds later the picture takes. Forget action shots unless you could anticipate when something would happen. “Oh, my son’s shooting a basket!” *click!* And by the time the phone reacted, all the players were already at the other end of the court. “Hey, nice shot of an empty court, dude.” Shut up.

So I traded that in for this, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Yes, it takes excellent pictures. I have a great portable camera.

But for anything else? It sucks. As I mentioned in my first look post, the receiver is THE worst. (Pronounce it like thee for full effect.) I have to restart or do a shutdown all the time so it’ll find a signal.

Wi-Fi isn’t any better. I can sit right next to my wife in our house and she’s Facebooking and Instagramming like all get out, but there I sit only a few feet away unable to get a fucking signal. It can’t find the Wi-Fi. And she owns the standard Samsung Galaxy S7! WTF?

Does hers have a better receiver? Because her phone is thicker, was Samsung able to squeeze a bigger, more powerful receiver in hers and we S7 Edge owners get stuck with inferior crap?

I don’t know. All I do know is I hate this piece of shit phone and I can’t wait until I can trade it in for something else. Maybe the new Motorola Droid Turbo 2, if they’ve improved the camera. Or possibly the latest LG (which I was looking at until the Verizon Wireless rep talked me into this POS. “Oh, the S7 is so much better!” Or maybe I’ll get the latest HTC, that one with the stereo speakers, because the speaker on the S7 Edge is horrible. No. Horrible would be a improvement. You need headphones to listen to videos because it its one weak ass tiny speaker on the bottom can’t be heard unless you’re isolated inside soundproof room.

Okay. Sorry. That really wasn’t a review so much as as rant about every smartphone I’ve ever owned, was it? This phone really has me on edge. Pun intended.

Maybe one day I’ll find a phone I can be happy with. 

What do you have? Are you happy with it? Whose your carrier? Are you satisfied with them? Feedback it’s appreciated.

Until next time.

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What was once lost is found again

​It’s been a year since I’ve written anything, and longer than that since I wrote anything I actually liked. Call it writers block or what have you. I had given up and thought I’d finally come to terms that I just wasn’t a writer. I was a reader. No shame in that. Readers are an important part of the literary circle of life.

Recently I rediscovered Ray Bradbury. Last time I read him, “The Martian Chronicles,” I was far too young to appreciate the writing itself but those stories had an impact on my young psyche.

I reread “The Martian Chronicles,” Then read “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” followed by “Fahrenheit 451.” 

You don’t just read Bradbury, you become immersed in the language. There is poetry there. His sentences are like music for the eyes. His phrasing touches the soul and awakens the psyche.

It was while starting “Dandelion Wine” that I noticed it. A long dormant feeling. I tried to focus on his words, but I found myself growing more and more distracted. 

I’d read a sentence, a paragraph, but I couldn’t remember what I’d read. Instead, each word sparked a resonating echo in my mind. A reflection. 

And soon, with reluctance, I put the book down. I knew this feeling. It was like an old friend.

I wanted to write.

So I did.

The first day I write over 7,000 words. The next day I wrote some more.

I ran on my treadmill and don’t recall anything about the TV show I had on. Instead, my imagination freely flowed over the story idea I was working on, giving me more insights into the world and it’s characters. 

I was immersed in the music of my own writing and I was glad for it.

But more than that, not only does writing once again give me joy, a joy I thought I’d lost, even when I step away from writing to do everyday mundane tasks, I feel imbued with an elation, a euphoria if you will. 

It’s as though I had been stranded in the dark for years and a light has come to illuminate my path.

In other words, a part of me that I thought was lost has been found again. The childhood joy of writing has returned.

I feel whole again.

And I give thanks to Ray Bradbury.

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A Cautionary Tale

I wrote the first 400 words of this six years ago, but never could figure out what to do with it. Until now. Its a short story of a dysfunctional future. Enjoy.

The rains came, sizzling as it passed through the still burning radioactive atmosphere, creating more steam and more fog to cover the planet.

Ort stood in the mouth of the cave listening to the rains. It reminded him of the sound meat makes it’s cooked over an open fire. He made a gesture and his young son appeared next to him. Ort pointed out into the distance.

“Look, Hokins, how the falling rocks carved a new world last night. That cliff on the edge of Blu Mountain is gone, battered into a ragged pile of rock.”

“Why do the falling rocks come, father?”

“They come from Troompah, the Bringer of Fire, son.”

“Is he mad at us?”

“Mad? No. Troompah is mad at the Prahgs. That’s why he throws rocks at them.”

Ort’s son nodded. He knew that Prahgs were evil creatures that lived in the earth, were one with the earth; they protected the trees, rivers, and animals. Prahgs often attacked his people, the Ahltryts, especially preying upon unwary children. At least those are the tales his mother always told him. “Stay out of the crater fields or the Prahgs will get you.” “Don’t stay out past dark or the Prahgs will get you.”

“Think he’d learn better aim.”

“You watch your mouth, boy, or the Prahgs will get you!”

The boy stood slightly behind his father and mouthed the expression along with his father. He was sick of the Prahgs, sick and tired that they prevented him from having any fun.

“What are my two boys doing?” It was Hokins’ mother, calling from the back of the cave.

“We’re just watching the rains, hon,” Ort answered.

“Well, don’t stray from the mouth of the cave. You know the rain brings out the Prahgs. If you aren’t careful they’ll get you.”

The boy mouthed the words then found himself on the ground, his ear stinging.

“Don’t you ever mock your mother, boy!” Ort was furious and stood shaking in anger above the prone child.

Hokins picked himself up, holding back the tears, and ran to the back of the cave. “I hate the Prahgs. And I hate you, too!”

He passed his mother, who turned to give Ort a stern look. “You didn’t have to hit him, you know.”

“I’m sorry, Jyn,” Ort said.

“Don’t apologize to me.”

Ort stared into the darkness that was the back of the cave. He could hear Hokins sobbing. He should apologize; the boy was just being a boy.

“He’ll get over it,” he said, finally.

“Ort, you know he’s reaching that age where he needs ‘The Talk.’”

“I don’t want to give him ‘The Talk.’” Ort sighed. “It makes me uncomfortable.”

“Ort, if you don’t tell him, he’ll learn it from his friends. Is that what you want?”

“That’s fine. That’s where I learned it.”

Jyn made a wry smile and shook her head. “Exactly my point on why he needs ‘The Talk.’”

“Why don’t you give it to him then?”

“Now, Ort. You know it’s always been like this. Fathers give ‘The Talk’ to their sons; mothers give it to their daughters. Now just go and get it over with.”

“Fine.” Ort looked like he had eaten a glow frog from down by the killing waters.

Slowly he strode to the back of the cave.

“Hokins? Can I talk to you?”

“It’s a free country.”

“That’s what I want to talk to you about.”

“What?”

“Our past, as it’s been handed down father to son for generations beyond knowing.”

“Is it about how we got the sacred words?”

“Yes. It’s about how the sacred words came to be.”

Father and son both glanced at the cave wall where a faded blue sign rested in a carved-out depression to hold it. The sign showed signs of age, and an attempt to destroy it at one time; it’s edges were blackened and ragged.

They both came to attention, arms raised in a palm down salute, and recited, “Troompah Maikee Aimrisa Grehaht Agaheen.”

Then Ort began his story.

“There was a time, ages agone, when there was but one people, united in thought and deed. Those people achieved great things, created a glorious, shining kingdom. And the people were happy.

“But gradually there came the grumblings. Some of the people weren’t happy. They wanted more. They felt not everything was fair for all. And they felt many of the old ways were wrong, even hurtful to many people, and this started the divide. The Prahgs wanted change, wanted new ways of doing things, of thinking about things, while the Ahltryts believed the old ways worked best, that the changes proposed by the Prahgs would destroy the very way of life that had made the kingdom great.

“As the Prahgs grew in strength and number, they began to instill their ideas and the Ahltryts watched as the kingdom changed, becoming unrecognizable to them.

“And soon there grew intolerance. And hatred. And the Kingdom grew divided. The Ahltryts believed the Prahgs were weak when it came to outsiders, allowing these others to enter the kingdom at will.

“Soon, hostilities between the two came to a head. The violence between the two grew and soon the uprising began as many gods of the Ahltryts fought for dominance, for the chance to lead their people back to greatness. But one stood above the others. He embodied all the primal energy of the people. Within him raged all the suppressed hatred and anger his followers had been forced to suppress for so long. His name was…”

“Troompah?” his son interrupted excitedly.

Ort nodded. “Yes. When the dust cleared, our great God Troompah was triumphant, ready to lead the way, but first he had to defeat the champion of the Prahgs.

“While the Ahltryts gods fought, so too did the Prahgs champions. Kings and a Queen fought for dominance, but whereas the Ahltryts stood united and powerful, no longer hiding, joined as one behind Troompah, the Prahgs were very much divided and unhappy with their choice. Many chose not to fight, and because of their inaction, Troompah and his followers were triumphant. For how can a mere queen stand before the angry wrath of a god?

“And the Ahltryts celebrated and now it was their turn to send the Prahgs into hiding.

“But Troompah wasn’t satisfied with just sending his enemies into exile. He wanted to also destroy the outsides. He taught us that the outsiders were to be fears and they wanted to destroy our way of life.  And he launched an attack against them. But our outsiders had power as well, and launched a counterattack. The skies and waters were on fire. And the Kingdom burned.

“And that is why we and the Prahgs live as enemies. They could have joined us, but Troompah taught us their ways are evil, they are sinful while we live in his glory.

“And that is why Troompah still punishes them with his blazing rocks that he hurls from the sky.

“One day, we’ll again live in the glory of the kingdom. Maybe you or your children will see the dawning of that bright new day.”

Ort wiped a tear from his eye. “The Talk” always left parents emotionally drained.

“OK, you two, dinner time.”

The pair rushed from the back of the cave. Mother was carving the great bald fire bird.

“Uh, uh, uh,” Jyn said, wagging a finger. “You know what day it is. Put on the dye.”

Father and son exchanged glances and shrugged.

“Oh, for the love of . . . You just gave him ‘The Talk!’ It’s the Day of the Ascendency when Troompah won the kingdom.”

“Oh.”

Gyn shook her head, but wore a smile. She watched the two dip their fingers into the dye and apply it to their faces in preparation of the feast.

When they finished, all three turned their now orange faces toward the cubbyhole. All three saluted and spoke the sacred words.

“Troompah Maikee Aimrisa Grehaht Agaheen.”

Before sitting down to the feast, they took a moment to silently reflect upon the sign in the cubbyhole.

The fading blue sign with white words, written in a language they could no longer read or understand, stared mutely back:

Trump: Make America Great Again.

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The landing debate continues

The more I hear about how runners should midfoot strike (not heel strike), the more I’m inclined to ask the question: What the hell is the midfoot?

Physically the midfoot is the middle part of your foot made up of the bones that  form your  arch and connect the heel to the forefoot.

So technically, since it’s your arch and the side of your foot, you can’t actually strike there because there is nothing there to strike.

You can land on your heel. You can land on your forefoot. But when you land “midfoot,” what you’re actually doing is landing on your heel and forefoot simultaneously; this is known in the parlance as landing flat-footed.

Or landing on the whole foot, or the foot.

But if those “midfoot” runners  just said, “I’m landing on my foot,” we’d all go, Yeah, OK. So you’re running?

And they’d lose all the coolness they think saying “midfoot” brings  because that’s what it’s all about, these fads, the coolness factor.

And without coolness, they can’t feel superior to us heel strikers. And they can’t say things like, “When you heel strike, you stop” or “Heel striking shocks your frame and causes injuries.”

Neither of which is true. I heel strike, even after I adjusted my stride length. My feet land just slightly ahead of me, just like midfoot strikers, but my heel touches down first. It’s just the way it is.

So the next time someone smugly says, “I land midfoot,” say, “Oh, so you land on your foot? How satisfying that must be for you.”

Because sarcasm beats smugness everytime.

Run. Land on your foot. Enjoy.

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Ain’t myth-behaving

I recently read an article purporting to debunk several running myths. That article is here

Now I don’t know how evidence-based the debunking truly is, and by that I mean if the sampling size was large enough to realistically support their conclusions, but since they agree with my own beliefs I’ll accept them, and really, isn’t that how Americans operate? Look at the current election: People gravitate toward news sources that reinforce their own opinions, right or wrong, instead of challenging those beliefs in an effort to find the truth.

Whatever.

In this instance, I’m more than happy to point at the myth of heel striking and say, “Nanny nanny boo boo. I told you so!” Because it isn’t landing on your heel that causes the injuries, it’s about where your heel is when it does land. In other words, as the article says, it’s about overstriding, how far in front of you your leg is stretched when you do land on your heel. 

The myth is that landing on your heel shocks your body and actually stops you for an instant. And I’ve maintained that it doesn’t, because no one lands with their leg hyperextended and their knee locked. We land with our knee bent, just like midfoot or forefoot runners do. We just touch down  on our heel first  before the rest of the foot strikes.

I’ve been trying to run landing on my midfoot or forefoot, but that just seems like I’m running tippy-toed. Not natural and I tire much more easily.

Starting out or running a sprint, I’ll be on my toes, but once I hit cruising speed, then I start to heel strike. 

Whereas the current fad says ideally your foot should be under you as you land, mine is slightly forward. Not by much. Certainly not in the sense of overstriding. And I’m certainly not striking at the back edge of the heel the way they often illustrate it; I land flat on the heel.

So there. Take your silly fad and shove it. And that goes double for those barefoot runners who say you can’t heel strike barefoot. Bullshit. Again it has to do with the length of your stride and where on the heel you’re lamding.

The other myth they talk about that I found interesting was about running in the wrong shoes and how there is no evidence to show that buying running shoes based on over- or under-pronation or good or flat arches helps prevent injuries.

Which to me, is good news. I have been told I have fairly flat arches and over-pronate (my foot rolls inward) and that I should get a shoe with a lot of stability to prevent my foot from rolling. So I have bought motion control shoes based solely on that advice.  The Brooks Beast that I only ran in a couple times and used mostly for walking and most recently the Brooks Adrenaline GTS16. 

The problem I found with these shoes is they are not comfortable to run in. There is no flex because it’s made to prevent flex. Plus, they feel heavy. And even after taking out the arch support insert the store also sold me, I still wasn’t happy with them. It is like running in wooden shoes: No give.

Then I switched to a pair of neutral Saucony Grid Cohesion 9 and immediately suffered a thigh injury which I wrongly attributed to the shoe.

But it wasn’t the shoe’s fault. I didn’t overpronate myself into an injury, I had overtrained and simply ran too hard, causing the flare-up in my thigh/IT band. The injury had been in the making and switching to the Saucony was mere coicidence.

In fact, my last few runs, on the treadmill and outside, have been on a newly purchased completely neutral shoe not designed for “heel strikers,” and to be honest, they’ve felt great. 

So yes, the advice from the article is to buy shoes that feel good, that are comfortable on the run, because there is no evidence supportive shoes help prevent injury.

And lastly, (I won’t bother addressing pre- and post-run stretching since I know it benefits me personally and here we go back to the “‘murica! I’ll believe what fits my world view and dismiss the rest”), they address the myth of 180 steps per minute

Basically, it reiterates what I had questioned and that is 180 spm only works at a certain  pace. It only applies to a certain speed  (which for me is about 8 mph) and is pretty silly to attempt it at much slower speeds. So why even bother counting? Your step per minute pace is whatever you are comfortable with. It naturally increases as you run faster and decreases as you go slower.

So there. These myths show us one thing. Don’t analyze things too much because what they tell you to do today, isn’t what they told you yesterday, and wont be what they tell you tomorrow.

Run. Enjoy. Live for today.

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Addicted to Puma

My very first pair of running shoes, and probably my first name pair of athletics shoes of any sort, was a pair of Pumas. Prior to that, I think I mostly had things like PF Flyers or Keds.

The Pumas were from way back in the day when the top maker of such shoes was Adidas. Puma, Reebok, Nike, New Balance, Converse, were also popular.

Anyway, I’m a sentimental type for my firsts. I’ve finally purchased the very first pair of audiophile loudspeakers I ever owned, the Polk Audio Monitor 7. And they still sound as magnificent as I remembered them. I still have fond memories of the first car I ever drove, the 1971 VW Superbeatle. And thus, my first pair of running shoes, Puma, also give me fond memories.

But Puma seemed to disappear from stores for many years. I tried looking for them, but most regular shoe stores or department stores didn’t carry them. For a while there, I thought they’d gone out of business. And I have never seen them in any specialty running shoe store I’ve been to.

Then I found a Puma store in Gurney Illinois. I didn’t purchase a pair because they seemed a little pricey and I didn’t feel like paying Illinois sales taxes. But this showed me that Puma either never went away or was making a comeback. So I kept looking.

Then I found a local store, Rogan’s, sells them. And I bought a pair. Then, like Lay’s potato chips, “you can’t eat just one,” I bought another pair. Then another. And another.

But none of them were running shoes. Not real running shoes. Sure, they looked like running shoes, but that’s all. They didn’t have any of the features top running shoes had. You couldn’t even pull out the insole. It was glued in.

Even the one pair that seemed like running shoes, and the one that received some fairly positive reviews, the Bioweb, was a poor running shoe compared to many others (and I reviewed it in my last blog).

So here’s a picture of my addiction:

2016-10-08-19-35-15

…so far.

These are all are “running shoes,” except only one of these shoes I would consider a real running shoe. That’s the one on the furthest right.The one on the left is a Puma Roma Rugged running shoe, that really seems more like a cross-training sneaker. The next is the Puma Cell Surin Engineered2. The next is the Puma Tazon, followed by the Bioweb.

I just acquired the Mobium Elite through Amazon. They are the Puma Mobium Elite V2 and I’ll put up a review of them in a few days after I’ve had a chance to run in them a few times.

The other shoes I use for walking and wearing to work. I like their looks and they are comfy as all get out.

It’s funny. I used to make fun of my wife’s collection of shoes. I never thought I’d become a shoeholic, but I guess I have.

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