Wednesday, February 8, 2012

OMG, like seriously

Sometimes, silly and ridiculous things happen in your life and you just have to blog them. This is one of those times.

So I'm in a book group. A great book group. It was started by three friends of mine, Amy, Kate, and Jessica. Prior to book club, Amy and Kate had never met Jessica, nor did they have any idea that Jessica was a friend of mine, and had been for several years. Kate (I think) put an ad for a book group on Craig's list or something, and Jessica responded. After a few meetings, my name somehow came up and Jessica was shocked and delighted to find that I was also good friends with Amy and Kate. This kind of proves my friend Pam's theory that all roads lead back to me, but moving on.

I eventually joined this book group, and other members came and went. It's been meeting for three or four years at this point. (I came in around year 2.5.) There are seven members currently.

We were supposed to meet last Friday, but the host cancelled a few hours before the even because her husband was sick.

This was irritating. To me and to others as well, and for a couple of reasons. One is that the hostess (not one of the women I named above) has cancelled on book group last minutes multiple times, and once before when she was supposed to be hosting. In fact, she had cancelled on the prior two meetings (maybe more?) This is what we call a pattern. It's also irritating because it's just plain inconsiderate of everyone else's time.

Because I knew there was frustration in the group surrounding this issue, I decided to email the hostess and let her know that I was upset with the situation and that I though she handled it poorly. I emailed her apart from the rest of the group so she would not feel like everyone was ganging up on her.

Here's my email:

Hi, Emily. In the interest of being transparent and honest, I wanted to let you know how frustrated and annoyed I was that you cancelled book group last week. I felt like it was really inconsiderate of everyone else's time and the effort we'd put into arranging our schedules and reading the book. I understand that you cannot help if your husband is sick and sometimes things come up, but out of respect for the other six people in the group who had set aside last Friday on their schedules, you could have asked someone else if they could take over hosting duties before you just cancelled, or you could have suggested an alternate location at a coffee shop or restaurant. 

Personally, it is not at all easy for me to plan an evening out with two small children, a husband that works long hours, and my own irregular freelance schedule. Nights out with friends (and without my little people) are a big deal to me and take weeks of planning in advance, so a last minute cancellation is really devastating to me. I don't mean to speak for others, but it's kind of a big deal for seven people to coordinate their schedules and I'm sure they were frustrated as well. If you volunteer to host in the future, I hope that you will keep the rest of us in mind should you need to cancel, and maybe put more effort into finding an alternate solution so we are not all left high and dry. 

Take care,

So, I know I'm being really direct here, but I also think I'm being fair and addressing the situation up front, like an adult.

Well. WELL. You would have though I threw a slushie in her face or something, because she quit book group! Not only did she quit book group, but she emailed everyone in book group BUT ME to tell them she was quitting. Have I somehow gotten lost in some Sweet Valley High time warp? Don't grown ups just tell each other when they are angry and discuss the situation? Or perhaps I should post passive aggressive Facebook status updates about all of this? And. AND.  She did not even read the book! OMG, right?

I'm slightly shocked by this childish behavior, although mostly I am just laughing at the ridiculousness.  It is just too much. Too much!

I would love to hear a tidbit about your ridiculousness as of late. Please tell me I'm not the only one dealing with this kind of silliness.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Baking cookies

I'm a pretty good cook, and a darn fine baker. This wasn't always the case, but I think that cooking is one of those things that anyone can be good at with enough practice.

There was certainly a time when my husband and my cooking skills were on par, but these days, when he cooks dinner it's nice to have the break but taste-wise...let's just say my skills have far exceeded his in this area.  And that's okay because his grass-cutting skills are like hand over fist better than my own. Ahem.

I enjoy cooking.  And I really enjoy baking. My three favorite things to bake are cookies, brownies, and breads. I make a mean cookie, as many of my readers can attest. I'm going to tell you a few of my secrets right here, right now, to baking a mean chocolate chip.

So, I'm not going to give you a specific recipe here because, well, I make lots of different recipes. Some with nuts, some without; some double chocolate; some with oatmeal and peanut butter; some with dried fruit; some with whole wheat flour. It just depends on what you're in the mood for. We love chocolate chip cookies of all kinds in our home.  We do not discriminate.

Today, I made these.  They're a pretty classic flat, chewy cookies, if that's your thing. They do not disappoint.

Tips, okay. Let's start with butter.  Any chocolate chip cookie recipe worth it's salt (heh) has butter, and probably a lot of it. The most important thing here, is that you follow the instructions regarding the butter.  Different recipes will call for different temperatures of butter. If the instructions say to use cold butter, you should use cold butter. If they tell you to melt the butter, melt it.  If they tell you to you room temperature butter, use room temperature. If they tell you to use softened butter, use softened butter. This matters. A lot. It will affect the amount your cookies spread on the sheet, and the texture, and the puffiness.

TAKE CARE WITH THE BUTTER.  This is all I'm saying.

My next tip would be to always use parchment paper.  Never again should you grease a cookie sheet.  No. Do not do that. Parchment paper. You cookies will cook perfectly on the bottom and they won't spread too much on the pan, and the parchment will lift a little of the excess grease from the three sticks of butter you just used to bake your cookies.

Try to make your cookies as uniform in size as possible.  I'm not being OCD here - it really helps to make sure they cook at the same rate and you don't wind up with some burnt tiny ones and doughy large ones. I have been known to weigh my balls of dough (tee hee), I will admit that, but it is not necessary. You can just eyeball it.

And on that same vein, you should rotate the cookie sheets half way through baking. This important for two reasons. 1) It ensures that your cookies will cook evenly. Most ovens have "hot spots" or are slightly uneven, so rotating the sheets can be really important. 2) It also lets you have a look at how quickly your cookies are cooking. A recipe will tell you how long to bake your cookies, but depending on the size of your cookies, they make take longer, or they may need less time. A burnt cookie is a sad cookie.

Do not over bake your cookies.  Please. When the edges begin to brown, TAKE THEM OUT. Seriously. They are done. This goes for pretty much every cookie ever.

Let them cool on the sheet for a few minutes, and then cool completely on a rack, or eat them warm. You should put them away eventually though, or your kids will eat like a dozen of them and proceed to act like sugar-crazed lunatics. Not that I'd know anything about that.

Now, off with you! Go bake some cookies.