Cookie Exchange Fail

Last week, I got a really cute email forward from a friend. It was entitled Cookie Exchange! Here are the rules:

I’m participating in a collective and hopefully tasty experiment. As such:

You have been invited to be part of a recipe exchange concept. I hope you will participate. I’ve picked those who I think would make this fun. Please send a recipe to the person whose name is in position 1 (even if you don’t know him/her) and it should be something quick, easy and without rare ingredients. Actually, the best one is the one you know in your head and can type out right now. Don’t agonize over it, it is one you make when you are short of time.

After you’ve sent the recipe to the person in position 1 below and only to that person, copy this letter into a new email, move my name to position 1 and put your name in position 2. Only mine and your name should show when you send your email. Send to 20 friends BCC (blind copy).

If you cannot do this within five days, let me know so it will be fair to those participating.

You should receive 36 recipes. It’s fun to see where they come from! Seldom does anyone drop out because we all need new ideas. The turnaround is fast as there are only two names on the list and you only have to do it once.

Person 1:

Person 2:

Sounds easy enough. I wasn’t sure I would know twenty people but who would know how many women I sent the email off to? It seemed fun so I quickly emailed a recipe to Person 1, to whom I was assigned. (For the record, I shared this recipe from Buns in My Oven, as I had recently made it and the cookies tasted as good as they look.)

I heard from one or two people back right away that they wouldn’t be able to participate but since it was a chain email that was sent on to me in the first place, it wasn’t bothersome. I had no idea how many recipes I could expect.

The answer came the next morning.

I had received two emails back. One was from a woman who sent me some kind of chocolate cookie ball recipe (no name for it). The other….Well, let’s just call it an altogether Fail. Here’s what she wrote:

Hi, Sorry all I can think of in my head right now is “throwing together” a mix of sugar, butter, flour, egg whites and vanilla extract, “molding them together” into little balls on a cookie tray and then putting them in the oven. Sounds like how my grandmother made her cake. So they might be good cookies. Might even try them myself. Good luck!

Uhhhhhh.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or what. This isn’t even a recipe! “They might be good cookies.” Really? The only thing I can think of is that the woman felt compelled to forward something on (out of guilt?) but in fact, she should have felt more badly about sending on something that is completely unworkable. No amounts, no instructions, and perhaps, if I’m lucky, I’ll get something that resembles cookies.

Mind = blown.

When I told another girlfriend of mine about the response, since I had also forwarded the chain on to her, she told me that someone who was a friend of a friend had re-forwarded the chain email back to her instead of sending her a recipe. Apparently people weren’t grasping the concept very well, and also? They felt overly pressured to take the instructions literally and think of something in their head, as opposed to going to The Source of All Information, the interwebs, and finding a recipe by typing in “cookie recipe” in Google. That’s literally all one has to do.

(Don’t even get me started on the misuse of quotes. I felt like Joey from Friends was lurking nearby. If you haven’t seen that episode, definitely do.)

Days have passed and that is all I have received. I didn’t put a ton of effort or sentiment behind forwarding the chain so my feelings aren’t hurt that I’m not getting a lot of recipes back. It’s more that I’m astounded that that’s the best one can do on our Internet dependent, instant gratification planet. It’s not like I asked people to make up gift baskets with four different types of handmade cookies and deliver them door-to-door in a wagon.

All this talk of cookies and it being close to lunchtime makes me hungry. I think I’ll go “find something to eat.”

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Minty the Candy Cane – Obsessed!

This is probably hitting the web in a far more professional fashion than I am posting here but a new phenomenon has taken over my household and he is called Minty the Candy Cane Who Fell on the Ground.

This comes from my beloved show Conan (because who else could come up with this?) and my boyfriend and I literally sang it in the car on the way to school and work the entire way.

If you don’t have time to watch Conan because you’re just too darn busy, the below clip is all you need to get hooked. Be forewarned: you may never get this song out of your head. Conan and Andy can’t!

Our favorite part is when Conan sings “for just a moment or two!” at the very end. That’s what I’ve been going around saying alllll daaaaay. Also, it’s like adding “in bed” to a Chinese fortune. You can tack it on to pretty much anything anybody says.

Person 1: I have to get some sleep.

Person 2: [singing] ….for just a moment or two!

It’s still up in the air whether the lyrics are “covered in poo” or “covered in goo,” but either way, it fits. It’s the new Christmas hit! Won’t you sing along with me?

for just a moment or two!

An Exception to Every Rule

Some time ago, I realized that despite my usual cheerful demeanor, I do possess one grinchy part of my persona.

I really hate it when people whistle.

There is just something about the loud, piercing sound of it, even when someone is really, really good at it, that I cannot abide. I discovered that the cacophony sound made me want to stamp my feet and scream, “STOP IT!” at the top of my lungs; I made said discovery when I was in college and there was a guy in my class who was an excellent whistler. He could probably whistle Beethoven’s symphonies and make a decent living from the proceeds of an album.

My senior year, I lived in a series of dorms that were over a foot bridge and so were removed from the majority of the rest of campus. Apparently he lived there, also, as I could hear his whistling through my open window on many a day or night. I would seriously grind my teeth until he stopped or I could no longer hear him. Thank God I didn’t have to room with someone who did that all the time. There might have been a murder at my university.

This seething rage against the sound of anybody whistling shrilly and loudly has stuck with me. I have forbade my dearest other half from doing it. Thankfully he didn’t protest much, although he does like to tease me about it.

And yet.

As with all rules, there is at least one exception. Let me preface it by saying that there is a Christmas album that exists that is one of my all-time favorites. We had it on an actual record album when I was a kid. It’s called A Music Box Christmas. You can sample and even buy all of the songs from it on Amazon. It is seriously not Christmas until I listen to every song, start to finish, in their entirety. Generally I decorate my tree to it.

I have met all of two people in my life who don’t like the music. While I do my best to withhold judgment, it completely baffles me. If you like instrumental music and you like old-fashioned Christmas music/hymns, you will enjoy – and even rave about – A Music Box Christmas. It is an imperative staple for me during the holidays.

Back to the exception. My father has always, and still does, managed to whistle in harmony with the carols of this album. I find it endearing and actually miss it when I don’t spend the holidays with him. He is one of those people who can whistle through his teeth, which is a skill I definitely did not inherit from him. For whatever reason on this earth, that whistling is lovely, in tune, and the only time throughout the year or in my life that I welcome the sound.

Aren’t people strange creatures?

I don’t have an explanation but I know that unless you are my father,  it is Christmastime, and A Music Box Christmas is on, you are not welcome to come within any physical distance of me and be whistling. Or there will be consequences.

Do you hate whistling? What drives you absolutely crazy?

Elmer’s Glue Cookies (What NOT to Bake for the Holidays)

This weekend, my little neck of the woods was hit with a gorgeous snowfall – about eight inches worth.

Staying cozy inside for the most part as the temperatures dropped today, I decided to bake some cookies. (My batch from Jenni’s Cookies was gone so what is a girl to do?)

I was deciding between spritz and cut-out sugar cookies. I ended up going with the sugar cookies because I had yet to use my cookie cutters that I’d received for Christmas last year. I researched a recipe on some reputable food blogs and went with an easy recipe for Buttermilk Sugar Cookies. (Side note: this recipe had no reviews/ratings. I learned my lesson!) I actually had buttermilk in the fridge so I thought, “It’s meant to be!” Plus, buttermilk usually adds that je ne sais quoi to cooking and baking.

I really don’t know how these things could have turned out so badly. As you can see from the photos below, they came together nicely, rolled out fine, the shapes were oh-so-cute, and they even smelled good whilst baking.

And yet…

It’s almost as if my subconscious needed to prove my point that “not anybody can bake a sugar cookie and frost it.”

The results were SO BLAH! Essentially, I had just wasted a number of ingredients from my pantry – namely the flour – which is now completely gone. One of my favorite things in the world is taking a warm cookie from the cookie tray or cooling rack and tasting it right away, with its warmth hitting my tummy and giving me a hug on the inside.

So when I bit into the first cookie, I thought, “Oh, these definitely need icing.” There simply wasn’t enough sugar to make these taste good and the vanilla I’d added to the batch was non-existent. Come to think of it, this recipe was one of the only ones that didn’t call for almond or lemon extract (some of the distinct tastes of Christmas in cookies). But I had taken a leap of faith. Bad move on my part.

I checked the icing recipe, which is literally powdered sugar and milk (and food coloring, which I did not have), stirred it up, stared at it quizzically, then drizzled it over the finished cookies.

To say the finished product was underwhelming is an outrageous understatement. I grimaced.

Then I frosted a fresh cookie and handed it to my friend who is staying the weekend with us. He ate it just fine and actually thought it tasted quite good. Or so he said.

I returned to the kitchen to try another one. Nada. I went to the last batch and pulled an unfrosted one from the tray. If I had been 9, I would have spit it out.

I became quite agitated and called out to my friend, “These look and taste like Elmer’s Glue cookies!” He laughed. But it is all too true.

This, friends, is NOT the way to make sugar cookies with “icing” that is made from powdered sugar, milk, and nothing else. Make sure your cookies have ratings and reviews. Question any lack of extract. If it’s too easy, be suspicious. Anything worth doing is going to take some time.

Sigh. At least they looked pretty. And they will look lovely sitting in my trash can.

Epilogue: my dear, sweet man came home, went to the kitchen, tried a frosted cookie and called out, “Tastes like Christmas!” I still think they suck.

Jenni’s Cookies – A Review

That empty bag up there represents all that is left of the cookies I ordered just a mere few days ago. My gosh, they were good. They make people say things like, “My gosh.”

Let me start over.

When I got my box of Jenni’s Cookies in the mail, you’d think it was already Christmas morning. I elected to receive them at work so they wouldn’t sit on my cold porch all day. Also, I really wanted to try one right away.

Get to know and love one Ms. Jenni of Jenni’s Cookies. The sister of a good friend of mine, she transitioned from hobby cookie-maker and decorator into her own full-time business this year. And may I say, she has found her calling.

Since I had it on good word that the cookies taste as incredible as they are adorable, I bided my time and placed an order. I was thrilled to be able to order my box right at the height of the holiday season, as well. Her holiday shapes are absolutely adorable and scream, “Eat me!”  But in a good way.

You might be thinking, can’t anybody frost and decorate a sugar cookie?

NOPE. I could never, and I mean never, do something this painstaking for a living. I just plain don’t have the decorating skills or the patience. Thus, I am grateful for people like Jenni.

Jenni rolls out each batch with loving care from a family recipe and takes great care to personalize your order. (If you haven’t clicked on the link to see the staggering array of things she is capable of, here it is one more time: www.jenniscookies.com.)

She will make just about anything for anyone, whether it is a corporate marketing event or one big party, but rest assured she owns or will possess the perfect cookie cutter shape, rendering the final product into a miniature work of art.

I chose the holiday cookies because this is my favorite time of year and, let’s face it, it’s cookie eatin’ season, but I know I will go back to her the next time I want to impress some folks with the perfect accompaniment for the occasion.

The cookies:

I had to have mine shipped to me since I no longer reside in the greater city of New York. They arrive in a very carefully and tightly packed box to prevent damage to your precious treats within. It was comforting to see the extra care she takes for those batches she sends out. On top of that, each cookie is placed in its own protective bag with a ribbon for easy distribution.

The cookies have a slightly crisp but chewy texture; this seems like an oxymoron but you’ll just have to try one to see for yourself. One can taste the vanilla (and the TLC!) in every bite. Because they are not overly sweet, the icing on top adds just the right amount of extra sweetness. No artificial flavors here, folks.

In summation: After taking yourself to the website, customizing and placing your order, and receiving your delicious bundles of joy, get yourself a tall, icy glass of milk and give your tastebuds the delight that they have been waiting for, ever since your eyes told your brain that you must try these handmade confections. I promise they are worth every penny and the wait, if there is one. (Even having placed an out of state order, they arrived very quickly for her having made me a customized, fresh batch.)

And then also feast your eyes on me and my dude savoring (and eventually devouring) these delectable things. Then get you some.

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What’s Cheap and Tastes Like Liquid Crack?

For any of you who have read this other post by me, you won’t be surprised by the answer. Check out the photos first and then the actual review below them.

 

Where could it be from?

Aha! No real surprise here.

 

Holly jolly holiday cup o’ joe.

Normally I stick with my tried-and-true regular coffee from McDonald’s when I go during breakfast time. Small cup, four cream, three Splenda. (I used to get it black and take it into work where I’d doctor it with real half ‘n half. Ah, the corporate days when someone stocked the fridge with free half ‘n half.)

Today, I made the choice to try their new Caramel Mocha. I don’t really know how this works, seeing as a mocha drink is already awesome as it is. I mean, hello –  espresso, chocolate, steamed milk, and whipped cream. But the caramel edition intrigued me.

But when I tasted it, the first thought that popped into my head was, “Whoa. That’s too bad.” It was so sugary that it pretty much tasted like liquid crack. From the caffeine in the espresso, the “chocolate”, plus the sugary caramel flavor mixed in, I prayed I wouldn’t bounce off the walls at work.

They didn’t put whipped cream on it.

I didn’t even finish it.

Sorry, Mickey D’s. Not this time. Please try again. I wasn’t “sipping the joy.”

Oh Yes She Did.

In keeping with the tradition of decorating/preparing for Christmas as soon as the Thanksgiving dishes were whisked into the dishwasher, I surprised my boyfriend with an early Christmas present.

Those of you who follow my posts regularly will know that I seem to have inadvertently made it my mission to mention Charlie Brown Christmas/Peanuts throughout this holiday season.

Since pictures can speak for themselves, I bid you a lovely rest of your weekend and will let you see for yourself what I surprised the guy in my life with.

(He loved it.)

(I’m a great gift giver. One of my skillz.)

(Click on each photo for the enlarged version.)


From Sprigs to Colossal Displays

I wonder if the Pagans from hundreds of years ago could have ever anticipated the extreme lengths to which people in the future would go to celebrate the Winter Solstice, now incorporated into the massive holiday we now know as Christmas.

Certainly there would have been feasting and music, which are more than prevalent today. I personally have an extensive Christmas music collection and I have asked for a multitude of new albums this year. (Julie Andrews singing Christmas carols? Yes, please.)

This is sprigs + lights. And it's stunning!

Since I am not even going into the consumerism aspect of Christmas (i.e., gift giving and shopping), I’m mainly focusing on the lights and decorations aspect.

Obviously there are people for whom Christmas is just another day (I do not refer to the religions that do not celebrate Christmas) and they could care less about decorations or being jolly or any kind of “spirit” associated with the season, unless of course they prefer the alcoholic kind. (And many do.)

But for some decorating is a custom, nay a compulsion, that must be carried out each year and it must beat out last year’s effort. Remember all the episodes of Home Improvement where Tim had to outdo his neighbor for the holiday lights/display contest? (Remember how torn up Charlie Brown is about Snoopy going for the lights and display contest? Ha, managed to get in a Peanuts reference.)

Take this guy, for example (this is in Boston):

Clark Griswold, do you see this?

I have no idea how this guy’s neighbors sleep. It sure is pretty, though.

Then there’s the unveiling of the tree at Rockefeller Center. It’s a huge event that draws the millions in NYC plus the tourists who are there to see….an enormous tree strewn with lights. The concept seems simple but what it all boils down to is that we’re all attracted to pretty, shiny, sparkly things like moths to a flame.

Having grown up in St. Louis, I was fortunate to experience the Winter Wonderland display at Tilles Park. Since words can not accurately describe how elaborate this scene is, I’m going to link you to the video they have about what it takes to put this show together. This year is the 25th anniversary of young and old alike flocking to stare at the pretty lights in celebration of our nation’s biggest holiday.

Do you decorate for the holidays? Have you put up your tree yet? (We have…) What are your annual holiday traditions that you can’t live without?