Well HOLY CRAP fellas. Go sit in your Lazy Boy, crack a cold beer or pour a fresh coffee; this one is going to be a long one. Or go to your favorite place to read. . . you know what I’m talking about.
So the wife and I just got back from good ole Salt Lake City where I experienced CC 2017. I can’t even say I attended it, I have to say experienced. . . it was totally unreal. I will do the best I can to help the rest of you widowers understand it, but I’m confidant I will fall short.
The first thing you notice when you walk into the hotel is the energy. I mean a palatable excitement from these folks that can only be compared to a toddler who has eaten 4 King Sized Snickers bars, washed them down with a gallon of Mountain Dew and somehow absorbed the power of the sun. That seems close, but maybe still not quite there. And quite frankly, it may have started at the airport. These women (and yes, there are some guys mixed in there, but forgive me my lack of PC manners.) somehow find each other. It may have something to do with the Cookie Con T-shirts, but it’s hard to be sure. The seemingly unlimited supply of squealing, hugging, OMG’ing and other similar shenanigans mixed perfectly with the excitement of learning and sharing about their favorite addiction, err, I mean hobby or job, has the cookiers practically vibrating. It all gets unleashed on the hotel (and whole city really) for four crazy, exhilarating, and really loud days.
And guys I mean LOUD. Think diesel dually driving through nitro glycerin loud. These women are positively shameless in the amount of noise they make. But they don’t care; they’re having fun, darn it.
And guys, here’s something I promise you’ve never experienced before. These tireless confectioners actually bring cookies to give out, to other cookiers. Often complete strangers. Imagine going somewhere and strange guys just walk up to you and hand you wrenches. It actually doesn’t sound bad. It’s even better with cookies because you can at least eat them. But the overwhelming amount of generosity and kindness is really inspiring. They love the cookies, the process of making them, and each other. Remarkable.
This year held a special treat. A guest speaker. Now, imagine you’re at a car show and Henry Ford took the stage to speak. That would be incredible right? Yes, it would because he died 70 years ago. But in this case, the matriarch of the cookie cutter industry was there, Ann Clark! If that name doesn’t ring a bell, shame on you. It means you haven’t been listening, and all those bad things I heard about you were true. Or even worse, you have her fooled and the good things I heard weren’t true. Either way, it was a real treat to get to hear Ms. Clark speak and even get a chance to talk one on one with her. I probably could have blamed her for the whole thing, but her excitement and enthusiasm were far too captivating. She is a special lady, and meeting her was an honor.
And my brothers, who doesn’t love gadgets? Oh stop, you know you’ve bought so much crap off of the “As seen on TV’ section of your local department store you could have funded another space mission. There is wall to wall gadgets!!! Air brushes? Got ‘em. Stencils? Corner to corner!!! Cookie cutters? Covered! And stuff I still don’t understand. Sugar veil? And some sort of magic pen to dispense it? OK, I’ll bite. Those vendors had to stuff to scrape, mix, measure. . . and don’t worry guys, your wives bought pretty much all of it.
The folks that organized things had a great scavenger hunt kind of activity involving hats. Each attendee got a card that had a bunch of pictures of these incredibly stylish hats. The attendees could get the cards punched by the wearers of the aforementioned chapeaus, and if they collected them all (sounds like Pokémon) they were entered into a drawing. Now, the Widower may not be the smartest bulb in the pack, but I know this. . . one of the guys that rocked some of those hats was one fine looking specimen of a man. . . and I’ll leave it at that.
You really do run into some fun folks. . . I ran into one lady for instance. . . in the men’s room. She was quite apologetic. . . but simply explained she was at a convention with 500 other women. That’s pretty sound logic if I’ve ever heard it. And speaking of bathrooms, word on the street is you can even wash stencils and spatulas in the men’s room sinks, if you have a rag to block the motion sensor so the water runs continuously. So I’ve heard. . . ahem. . .
The Hilton hotel that housed this grandiose event was a great facility, and the only thing that hotel had more of than ugly carpet, was talented cookiers. Gents, I’m here to tell you. . . between the Sugar show, Mystery shape, the simply AMAZING presenters (ahem, did you read that my darling wife?) and the general skills-to-pay-the-bills icing work happening during open decorating, this XY Homo sapiens was left pretty much speechless. Its no wonder there are so many talentless people out there, these ladies got too much per person!!!! Simply amazing.
And finally guys. . . and there’s no joking around here. . . Mike and Karen. . . the two field generals. . . or ringmasters maybe of this creative circus did an outstanding, stupendous, just down right ridiculously awesome job of once again organizing and running this event. Thanks to their army of purple apron folks, who also worked tirelessly to ensure a good time for all, just did such a great job that no amount of praise is enough. . . no amount of hyperbole is too much. I’m in awe of everything that they have done collectively. Thank you so much.
So guys, when the Mrs. returns home, let her tell you all about it. Let her show you what she bought. And pretend to believe her when she tells you that the 2 stencils and one cutter is all there is. Its kind of an unspoken rule, if you don’t ask to see the receipts for all of the supplies she bought, she won’t ask why there are 8 different pizza boxes in the trash can.
Until next Cookie Con, keep piping ladies. . .
99.9% of my wife’s customers and the people she interacts with are a joy and easy to work with. They appreciate what she offers and the craftsmanship (or womanship) with which she completes her sets.
One woman however balked at the price, and stated that they are “just cookies”. Sigh, no my dear, they are way more than just cookies.
My wife has had the distinct pleasure to participate in the meaningful events of so many families throughout her cookie journey, including every.single.event that I described above.
No ma’am, these wonderful works of culinary divineness are many, many things.
But what they are not, is “Just Cookies".
The following is an actual (well, slightly embellished) series of conversations between an enthusiastic cookier (C) and her husband (H) about attending her first CookieCon.
C: OMG, there is an event coming up called CookieCon!!! Some of my favorite cookiers will be there! I have to go!!!
H: Really? They have a convention? That’s funny.
C: Oh I’m dead serious. This is amazing!!! There will be actual classes!!! I’ll be learning from the folks I follow on line. . . OMG OMG OMG
H: Huh. . . who knew? That’s cool. So it’s like a day thing?
C: No way, it says here it’s a 3-day event! There are classes, competitions and a banquet! OMG I have to text (insert name of cookie friend here).
H: Is it free?
C: Ummm, no. Looks like you have to buy a ticket, but its only $295! Wow, for 3 days of this, and dinner!!!! I have to do it!
H: $300?? Wow, OK. I mean it seems like a once in a lifetime thing, right?
C: Yeah, sure. Although I think this is the 4th one. . .
H: OK, sounds good. $300 isn’t too bad I guess. If it makes you this happy.
C: (no more responses as cookier is ignoring her husband and is engrossed online)
CookieCon Cost: $295.00
Two weeks later...
C: Hey babe, great news! Southwest is running a sale!!! My flight will only be $460 round trip!!!
H: Flight? Where are you going?
C: CookieCon!!! Oh I’m so excited!
H: Flight? Where is it???
C: Salt Lake City!!! Isn’t that exciting???
H: SLC??? I had no idea it was so far away…
C: Yeah, but I talked to (Cookie Friend) and she’s going too!!! SO I’ll have a roommate, which is great because then my room is half price!
H: (groaning) Airfare and a hotel. . . and I suppose you’ll want to eat while you’re there.
C: Haha. . . yeah, probably some. And of course, we’ll need wine money!!!
H: Of course, you will.
CookieCon Cost: $1160.00
A week later...
C: (staring at laptop) NO WAY!!! There are pre-classes at CookieCon!!! I’ll be able to learn from even more amazing cookiers!!! I can’t even. . .
H: I’m afraid too. . . are those included in your ticket?
C: No, I don’t think so. But it will totally be worth it.
H: Hehe. . . ok babe, if you say so.
CookieCon Cost: $1410.00
Three days later...
C: Wow, I just found out there’s going to be vendors!!!! Just like those trade shows you go to for work!
H: Oh cool, so you’ll at least get some free stuff.
C: No, I think they’re just selling their stuff. But I can buy stuff there and save on shipping! Score!!
H: I should have seen that coming.
CookieCon Cost: $1710.00
Two weeks later...
C: OK, it’s time to get serious. I have to start working on my sugar show entries. I’m going to need this new cutter, and this stencil. Oh, these will work perfect!!!
H: I’m not listening. . .
CookieCon Cost: $1730.00
Five days later...
C: Get a load of this!
H: How much???
C: No silly, there’s this supply store in SLC that’s quite a big deal. Word on the web is a must visit for bakers. It’s not within walking distance, so we’ll need to grab a cab or an uber. Oh wow, this is so cool.
H: Yeah, that’s how I’d describe it.
CookieCon Cost: $1880.00
A week later...
C: Need anything while I’m out?
H: Maybe, where are you headed?
C: The mall. I need to get some new outfits for Salt Lake City.
C: You know, CookieCon. I want a couple of new outfits!
CookieCon Cost: $2080.00
We revisit our couple at the conclusion of CookieCon, upon the cookier's return home...
C: And I had to get a CookieCon T-shirt, had to buy a gift for (cookie friend that she finally got to meet in person), a new suitcase to fit all this great giveaway stuff! We went out to some great restaurants for dinner!!! And so much more to show you!!! Come look!!!
H: (cracks open a beer)
Final cost of CookieCon: $1,254,093.47
C: Hey babe! I just found out there’s a Cookie Cruise coming up!!!
Over the past few years on our cookie journey, three letters have become a very recurring, very important part of our lives. PME you assume, well yeah, those are important. But I am talking about U, P, and S.
Aside from our Amazon Prime shopping addiction, my wife receives a lot of deliveries from our friendly neighborhood UPS driver. Cookie cutters, vanilla, BRP boxes, airbrush colors. . . the list is seemingly endless. The distinctive beep of the large brown truck coming up our driveway is, to the adults in this house, the equivalent of the ice cream truck jingle. The Pied Piper has nothing on big brown. . .
Let us not forget what happens when you double up on the S. USPS, our beloved Postal Service. Now while we do get some fun treats mailed to us, typically this flow is in the other direction. My bride has 2 different locations that are her typical launching points for shipping cookies. And not surprising that she is on a first name basis with the folks in these locations, but she has picked up several repeat customers as well. To the point, when she says she has to go to the post office, I ask if its to mail something or deliver.
So through rain, and sleet and snow and high meringue powder and vanilla prices, my wife and her cookies continue on with the U, the P and the S companies. FedEX, you need to step up your game to get in the mix. . .
My wife is a cookier, not a person who makes cookies. Nor a baker who also makes cookies. She is a cookier. I had not realized this distinction until I thought about as it pertains to my passion, coaching.
We are rapidly approaching the end of wrestling season. And believe me when I tell you, there is a difference between a wrestler and a kid that wrestles, or a kid on the wrestling team. While ability plays into it, it’s not the only thing. Effort, passion and desire are more of what separates the two groups.
For the next paragraph or two, feel free to substitute wrestler for cookier, or visa versa. Wrestlers are always thinking about wrestling, 365. That’s not to say they can’t play other sports or be involved in other activities, but in their hearts, they know what comes first. They study others and learn. They put in extra work to improve on weaknesses in their own game. They make the necessary sacrifices to be the best they can be.
Kids/bakers who simply wrestle/bake cookies give it their all for a brief period. For the time required, they’re all in. But once practice/order is done, they move on to whatever else is there. And that’s where it ends until the next practice/order. And you know what? That’s ok. Its not for everyone. Its important to know where the line is drawn.
For my wife that line is drawn with royal icing. She is a cookier. When she’s not baking or decorating she is immersed in the online community seeing what everyone else is doing. She’s talking with the friends she’s made over the past few years that share the passion. She’s sketching, shopping, and self-critiquing…if she’s awake, she’s most likely doing something pertaining to cookies.
Sure, she’s won a little hardware along the way. And while she has never stood on top of a podium, she prepares daily as if the state title is on the line. And that is why she is amazing at what she does.
Social Media. A wonderful way for us to stay connected to friends and family, stay on top of current events, and watch cat videos. While I’ve dabbled with them all it seems, being a Gen-Xer, I typically just use Facebook and Instagram. There was a time that my timeline and feeds would have been filled with football references, weight training articles, wrestling videos and general dude hijinks.
But now, if someone were to check out my timeline, it's shared cookie pic after cookie pic from my unfairly talented wife. My own timeline is filled with other cookiers that I follow. There is more than one instance where I’ll say to her, "Hey, did you see the (insert well done cookie here) that (insert talented cookier) put on FB/IG"…and I’ve seen it before her!
I know you cookiers by your cookie names, your real names . . . what state you live. . . what technique you prefer. . . I know who’s presented at CookieCon, and what you presented on. I’m sure all of my college teammates just love seeing pictures of intricately piped flowers and cutsie little baby shower cookies.
I still manage to sneak in a football post every now and again, but these confections are a huge part of my life now. As much as football, weightlifting, wrestling. . . and cat videos. . .
Ahhh, Cookie Con. The joyous occasion when hundreds upon hundreds of enthusiastic cookiers descend upon Salt Lake City to reconnect on friendships, meet new artists and refine their craft. The hustle and bustle of getting to the hotel from the airport. Getting show pieces carefully unpacked and turned in. Eagerly speculating about the swag bag!!!
And what a wonderful boon to the local economy. Between the restaurants, liquor stores, grocery stores, liquor stores, shops, bars, pizza joints, liquor stores . . . What a joyous occasion. Yes, the local shop owners certainly know when Amy is out of town and stock up. Wait, what? Oh . . . you thought I meant
Salt Lake. Ha! No, I meant MY local economy. Are you kidding me? DO you know how difficult it is to care for three children all by yourself? Especially when you, yourself, is the largest of the three????
So in order to survive, we had to have basic Bear Grylls level supplies. Boxes of cereal, delivery pizza, cold sodas, and copious amount of alcohol. Once the magical amount of Fireball is mixed with Domino’s, then the local dry cleaners gets an economic spike as well. It’s probably best that we skip the Q&A on that one.
Our local carpet cleaner guy knows that Sunday morning when I have to go to get Amy from the airport he only has a few hours to make sure what happened in the living room, doesn’t stay in the living room. This year the ER doctor is not getting his bonus as we did manage to escape a trip for stitches or casts.
But the cat is still missing . . . so, in some ways I’m glad I have 18 months to prepare for the next one…
Until next time….
This of course won’t come as a surprise to any of you ladies, as you know you’re always right. But I have a few examples of proof:
1. Rita’s Italian Ice – There was a time when I would try to figure out my own magical combination of custard and ice to make my taste buds sing. And I would always be envious of what Amy ordered. So now I don’t even want to be consulted, whatever she is getting, we order two. Its much easier for everyone this way.
2. Husbands – obviously. She picked me.
3. Professions – It is a running rebuttal anytime I would complain about not having my summers off and not being able to stop working at 3pm that “we all picked out majors”. And that is true.
I am a territory salesman for a plumbing and HVAC component manufacturer. Yup, that is every bit as boring as it sounds. I spend all day in my car, hoping to see people that don’t want to see me. If I do get in front of someone, I’m begging them to consider using my product in lieu of the industry leader. So my job could be summed up that I drive and beg for a living.
A few key differences in what my wife and I do:
A. No one asks me if I’m available. No one begs, hopes, pleads for my services. No one offers to change their party date in order to have my product be a part of it.
B. No one ever squeals with delight when I show up at a job site. You will never hear, “OMG, Fred, get out of the truck and come look at this fitting!!! This guy’s a friggin genius”.
C. I never, ever get tipped. Ever. Not even a little bit. In fact, it is not uncommon for if I do manage to sell some material, they’ll want hats, pens….hubcaps….whatever….
D. There is never a declaration of love for my job. I never beam with delight over our newest catalog or get excited because I’ve come up with a great idea. I just plug along…driving….and begging…
So, once again, she was right. She is the lucky one that gets to get the squeals, the tips, the attention and the total enjoyment of her day to day work.
But I’ve got her….so in that instance, I got it right…
So this is the second year that we had to prepare taxes for the cookie business. My lovely, talented, and naïve wife has no concept of the business world. Apparently a bachelors in Biology and a Masters in Education never covered P&L (Profit and Losses for you other non-business folks). This forced education has been not without some laughs, some ibuprofen, and having to explain the same concept 3 different ways at times until we were all on the same page.
We had some enjoyable conversation, winners like:
“You spent how much on butter?”
“You spent how much on stencils???”
Many a rousting conversation about whether shipping should be included in expenses. Really riveting stuff.
So after hearing her rejoice at entering her entire year’s worth of invoices and receipts (since keeping up with them as the year went is just silly). After hearing her lament about the difference in her income from being a 15-year teacher to a one-woman bake shop. After explaining that shipping should, in fact, be listed as an expense…it all reminded me of how wonderful the whole experience has been.
She is so happy making cookies, talking about cookies, reading about cookies and just everything...cookies- I will happily use my MBA to be her private financial advisor to ensure that her creations can continue. After all, who knows how much she’ll spend on stencils next year…
So, my life is amazingly different over the past year, to say the least. I’m not a baker, cookier…or even creative for that matter. But I know the cookie names of hundreds of cookie artists, and the real names in about 100 cases. I know the location of every Sam’s Club, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, AC Moore and Mom-n-Pop baking supply store in a 3-hour radius from home.
I’ve purchased more butter in the last year than the entire state of Delaware. I have so many bags of white powder in my car I get nervous every time I pass a cop. I’m programmed to check in anytime I find a store selling cookie cutters. I wait while iphone pictures are taken of completely random items since they could be used to inspire a cookie design later.
Saturday mornings often involve a cookie delivery before heading off to whatever else is planned. Late nights and dirty aprons. But you know what? It’s all great. Amy is doing what she absolutely loves for a living. She sets her own hours, she sets her own terms. Customers love what she does. Here's a sample of the comments from some of her cookie pictures:
My wife even created a baked goods table for my son’s Pop Warner football team. She made a variety of goods- not her decorated sugar cookies, but brownies, rice crispy treats. She was able to take what she loves and help the team. It’s probably not a coincidence that every time my son’s bring home a request for an upcoming event, Amy always picks baked goods. Even though a bag of chips or juice boxes would be SO much easier.
So things are different, but different isn’t always bad. Sometimes, it’s very sweet…