Shelli Mader: Learning how to succeed through trial and error | TheFencePost.com

Shelli Mader: Learning how to succeed through trial and error

I finally got my daughter's 4-H membership transferred to Colorado – just in time for the 4-H county contest day. In typical Shelli 4-H fashion, my daughter and I waited until the last day (and in some cases the last second) to get everything ready for the contest. The night before, we baked cakes for the cake decorating contest and at 10 p.m. that night, decided that we would finish everything else (baking cookies, making brownies, mixing frosting) in the morning. I'm a morning person, but that is a stretch.

So we dutifully got up at 4:30 a.m. to get everything going. I mixed up the frosting for cake decorating contest, gathered supplies and preheated the oven. My 10-year-old made the brownies and then started in on the fudge cookies.

By now it was 7:15. We needed to leave by 8, but I wasn't too worried – things were going well. I was about to head upstairs to get dressed when my daughter asked for help. She'd made the cookies and needed help putting the pan in the oven. She handed me the 13X9 pan of cake and asked how we make it into cookies after it bakes.

Oh boy. She'd accidently used the fudge cake recipe instead of the fudge cookie recipe and hadn't realized it until she handed me the pan and saw the shocked look on my face.

There is something about getting up early in the morning that makes emotions run high. My daughter was in frantic, sobbing tears over her mistake. Unfortunately, she started to remind me a lot of me when she began to talk about what a failure she was. So in spite of the time crunch, we had to have one of those intense, what my sister likes to call "come to Jesus" meetings. In the matter of about 30 seconds, we had to cover the meaning of life, hope, why we mess things up and how 4-H contest day can still be good without entering cookies.

Now I was in panic mode. I was about to throw in the literal towel and skip the cookies, but I decided it would be better to see if we could repair the mistake. But, another batch of fudge cookies would take too long. So, I pulled my recipe file off the book shelf and quickly sifted through all the loose pieces of paper that I somehow never remembered to actually put in the plastic sleeves. I frantically searched for something I had ingredients for and found my forgotten gingersnap recipe. I tossed it to my daughter and grabbed ingredients out of the fridge and cupboard like I was some kind of crazy woman. Somehow Shayla got them all mixed together and put in the oven. We pulled the cookies out literally seconds before we left the house and miraculously made it to contest day on time.

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Not only did we make it to the contest, Shayla wound up winning grand champion for her cookies — and there was a lot of competition. I don't think her fudge cookies would have won.

Sometimes our mistakes can truly turn out better than what we originally planned. However, next time we are going to cook everything the day before the contest. My kitchen was in shambles after the cooking fiasco. Shayla got another life lesson she didn't want that day – how to clean a really messy kitchen. ❖

Award-Winning Gingersnaps

(thanks to my college friend Kristy Dennis)

1 ½ cups flour

¾ cup sugar

½ cup shortening

¼ tsp. ground cloves

¼ tsp. ground ginger

½ tsp. cinnamon

1 egg

3 Tbsp. molasses

¾ tsp. baking soda

A little extra sugar

Preheat oven to 360 degrees. Put all ingredients in a mixer and mix well. Form into small balls and roll in sugar. Press down to slightly flatten on cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10. Don’t over bake.