Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Saving the World - With Some Help from ServiceMasters and a Chocolate Chip Cookie

For those of you that follow more than the adventures (OK, dog and wading pool, probably doesn't qualify as an "adventure") and recipes on the Range but what is going on with my family out West, here's an update.  If you don't, come back tomorrow, there will be a recipe involving pork.  It's that kind of blog.

The kitchen fire damage from Dad's home is all cleaned up. He had fired his home health nurse without telling me to "save some money" and got someone sweet, but not very bright that would just do his light housekeeping and such for cash.  She  started something cooking one day (melting chocolate actually) then walked outside for a while. The soot damage was incredible.

But seriously, if you ever have damage from fire, water, etc., call ServiceMaster's. Those people were amazing, and I was coordinating everything from 1500 miles away through most of it.  They had the entire house cleaned, (every single item in the house, including  stuff in the closets) and repainted but for my bedroom and Dads (doors were closed and they are in the far back of the house).  They worked around Dad, so he didn't have to move out and were very attentive to him and considerate of his age and recent losses.  He didn't stress out, though I took a little time off during the worst of it to help organize, and the place looks wonderful!  The team lead was a young woman,and she not only coordinated everything with military precision, she was mindful to my Dad's concerns while ensuring I got a call every day I couldn't be there to keep me up to date.

On another note - Big Bro's cemetery marker is up and the family took Dad to see it over Memorial Day. I have pictures that is now  my screensaver at work, just a daily reminder of what he was, and will always be to us.
Dad has had some really tough moments, his health declining now at 94, but still not wanting to leave his house where he's outlived two wives and two children. But we got him away for a bit, while one of the grand kids, who is between pipefitting jobs, stays and watches his place.

Besides my niece, there is another female in the family, my cousin L. She's very much like me in personality and we've always been not just cousins, but friends. She has worked in construction and ranching and currently does something involving making queen bees and shipping the queen and their subject bees all over the place (seriously L, how do you measure a pound of bees) while doing dog grooming off season, while she tends to her land and multiple dogs and horses.

 I will never forget one conversation with her after I had been on the phone with squirrel stuff while she was within listening range and she just looked up and said "gee here I am, playing with bees and dog butts while all over the world everything is imploding and you're trying to save it".   Well, not quite,  I usually just save the extra bacon.
She has a beautiful log home she built from the remnants of an old abandoned homestead on some acreage high up in the Sierras between California and Reno, backed up against National Forest (yes, we find bears in the yard).  My Dad has been a father to her, as her own Father, my Dad's baby brother, died too young in a fishing boat accident.  After my Mom and Step Mom died, he'd spend the whole Thanksgiving and Christmas season with her up there and he and Big Bro both, were frequent guests, taking the train up through the mountains.  I would reserve my vacation to take care of Dad at home when everyone else was busy and he was alone so I missed those holidays (just not enough days off to do both) but I shared via email, phone calls and photos, all of  the fun.

L. and I coordinated "Operation Dad Gets Out of Dodge for some R and R", starting a few weeks ago, with Big Bro's son-in-law (also a former  submariner)  driving him in a big vehicle he can get in and out of  to the halfway point for an overnight visit with family there.  L. and her boyfriend then picked up Dad up there, after a good night's rest and drove  him the rest of the way up to her place where he would stay for a few weeks.  I've got medical care lined up if he needs it at her place, extra catheter stuff and his meds ordered, organized and packed, and extra keys lined up for the house sitter.  And there is a major surprise party planned for his 94th birthday, with the friends he has made over the years in that little mountain town.
Then he can settle down and chill for a bit of summer, sitting out on a home built deck in cool air with a beer, watching the sun set over the wilderness while his house back home  is tended and the yard is mowed.   I am out of vacation and sick leave, tending to him and Big Bro this last year in addition to my Step Mom's last days with Alzheimer's.  But in a couple of months L. and I are going to take him to the Oregon Coast for a week with just the three of us, or perhaps one of her friends, before taking him back home.  Alcohol will be involved. And our friend Nurse Nancy's amazing chocolate chip cookies. And really bad cribbage. Which will involve more alcohol.
We say hello every night and he is having SUCH a great time.  He was as excited as a school kid that Friday night on the phone before he left.   L is cooking him three great meals a day while they play cribbage and reminisce and watch the wildness up close..  The days are pleasant and the nights are cool with the mountain air.  After that, a great trip to the beach, with his "two girls" before he comes home for what we hope, is another winter.

Our goal - to give him something to look forward to on each and every night from which he may not awaken.  There's some hope and joy in his voice after a long time without that. We know he won't be with us long, but we want him to go home to his Glory, to his two children and the two women he loved and married and outlived, with a smile on his face.  For that, it is worth all of the efforts, the time and the miles.  And I'll eat some of Nurse Nancy's cookies.  Just to be polite.

- Brigid
Since you're going to ask.  Here is the recipe.  I begged for it when I first tried the big bag of these she made for my Dad.  She chuckled and said "it's the recipe on the back of the bag of Costco Chocolate Chips."   I figured I'd better include it.
I changed the shortening in her recipe to bacon fat which gives them a nice depth (and NO transfat) and added an extra pinch of baking powder and a tiny pinch of cinnamon, then dusted the top with Vanilla Sugar from Penzey's.  Like hers, the texture was perfect, not too soft, not hard as nails after cooking,, like some cookies get. I also added a few more chocolate chips to the top before baking

I made a double batch so Partner had some to take to his coworkers as well as a plate to my crash pad neighbors, the young police officer who keeps an eye on my place while I am gone and has two little boys I knew would like a cookie.  They were a hit with everyone.

Recipe below makes about 20 cookies.

1 stick butter, left out at room temperature an hour (1/2 cup)
2 Tbsp. bacon grease
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp.  baking soda
a pinch of baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1-2/3 cup all-purpose flour (I use King Arthurs Flour)
small pinch cinnamon  (optional)
1 and 1/4  cup chocolate chips (1 cup for the mix and 1/4 cup to put on top of each dough ball)

Cream softened butter, bacon fat and sugars until creamy, with hand mixer.  Mix in salt, baking soda, the little pinch of baking powder, cinnamon and vanilla.  Stir in flour by hand until thoroughly mixed.  Stir in 3/4 cup chips. Save 1/4 cups to place on the tops.
Chill dough for an hour.  Form into 1 to 2 inch balls,  placing a few extra chips on the top of each one.  Slightly flatten the top with a glass or your hand
Bake on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet at least 3 inches apart at 350 F. for 9-12 minutes (golden around edges, center no longer looks wet).  Cool on wire rack and store in air tight container.  (if you do not use parchment paper and cook on non stick surface reduce cooking time by a minute as they may brown up quicker.


  1. Servicemaster came through for us at work when a high pressure chilled water service line in a rooftop AC unit gave way and flooded 3 floors of our building. It literally rained on our UPS, water poured into our tape silo, and we were on diesel generator for 8 days.

    Servicemaster cleaned up the soaked carpet, dried up the linoleum and were great to work with.

    As Dr. Pournelle writes, highly recommended.

  2. I just KNOW that you gotta be like I am......eating raw cookie dough between batches.



  3. Good info on Servicemaster. I hope I never need their services, but it is good to know they provide quality.

    I am glad you were able to get your dad away for a bit of R&R. We are going up to my Mom's to celebrate her 84th later this summer--just a spur of the moment long weekend up there. We will see her again later in the year, for our regular vacation.

  4. Ms B
    Wow! That answers my question, "How's Dad?" rather completely and wonderfully. You and yours have his future covered quite nicely. You can adopt us all here anytime you want.

    Rich in NC
    (and family)

  5. Back in Florida, ServiceMaster cleaned up and rebuilt the flashing around our chimney correctly after a botched re-roofing job sprung serious leaks when Thunderstorm season started in Tampa.

    Take this movie out to your father's place in a few weeks. All of the Redbox machines have it around the area.


  6. Since I was in the Fire Business, I can say Service Master is the best when it comes to fire restoration. We couldn't believe how they cleaned up some of the messes we made. Glad your Dad is Ok!

  7. Eric - I'd rather we not have to go through that again, but the house looks wonderful.

    idahobob - when I was a kid I'd do that and think to when I could be a grown up and make a batch and eat the whole thing myself :-)

    Monkeywrangler - He's enjoying it. She's offered to have him life with her full time but he wants to be back in that house full of memories before too long.

    Rich in NC - and I have another home nurse lined up that he likes, and this one he can't fire as I am the one who hired her and makes sure the bills are paid

    Roscoe - Dad doesn't have a tape player any longer, but we could watch it on partner's laptop some night. Thanks for the suggestion

  8. Good to here Dad is doing better and enjoying his time in the Sierras!
    I find it much more energy efficient to eat the cookie dough raw.

  9. Your Dad is amazing, too. Good to hear he's doing so well and has so many interesting things to do and look forward to. You get your solid toughness from him :)

    And I too have all praise for Servicemaster. Every year back in the burbs of Chicago my parent's home would flood. They fixed it every time. Until French drains fixed that for good.

    May your Dad have many more smiles to enjoy.

  10. Ok- I think chocolate chip cookies just made the menu for Kier's VBS potluck Sunday! They look amazing! It sounds like you have an amazing visit set up for your dad at your cousins. Cousins really are the best, aren't they?

  11. Thanks for the update and my regards to your Dad.

  12. Dad is having a great time. He was playing cribbage with one of L's friends and got a "24" hand and was still enjoying that. L. says he has a tan on his face from being out in the mountain air and he's stronger than he has been in the last year. I know he misses home and is anxious in some ways to be back but he's enjoying the weeks he has down there immensely.

  13. oh, sure Brigid--lure us in with cookies, but make us cry first!

    seriously, those tender and happy moments your family has made time for with your Father are the REAL things life is made of, just as he always made time for your family. and i think there is a Heaven, or a Hell, here and now as well, but is of our choosing, and our doing. i see you get that, too, and probably more acutely than many who drop in...

    bless L. for sharing this time, but i can imagine she sees it the other way around. : )


I started this blog so the child I gave up for adoption could get to know me, and in turn, her children, as well as share stories for a family that lives too far away. So please keep it friendly and kid safe. Posts that are only a link or include an ad for an unknown business automatically to to SPAM..