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".
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. . .
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….
It's that time of year again. Snow is on the ground, but love is in the air. We are but a mere couple of weeks away from Valentine’s Day, and gents, let’s not forget that special cookier in our lives. Think of how much she has enriched YOUR life with countless stops at Hobby Lobby, Michael’s and A.C. Moore. Think of how much better a person you are for knowing every detail of every cookier she can find on the web. I know I am….
Valentine’s Day is a chance to pay her back. Get those credit cards warmed up, it’s time for some hard core gift buying. As per usual, I’m here to help you fellas out with this. Most of you don’t like to shop. Unless it’s at Lowe’s or Bass Pro Shops. And while there are no doubt things at both of these fine retail establishments that your confectionery mistress would enjoy, we need to think bigger picture. By the way, she really did find cookie cutters at Bass Pro Shop.
Ok, you there, looking on Amazon at the vacuum cleaners, stop right now. I need for you to pay special attention, and quite frankly, YOU need YOU to pay special attention. Gentlemen, for this upcoming gift giving foray, we need to be thinking of precious metals. Oh how those gals will be delighted opening the box and seeing that shining, shimmering goodness that really is a girl’s best friend. Wait, what? Jewelry? Heck no.
The metals I’m talking about are stainless steel, aluminum, copper and tin. Stop, stay with me. Don’t switch back over to ESPN.com. I’m here for you, not me.
There are A LOT of products that your cookier will squeal for made from this space-aged alloy. Kitchen-Aid mixing bowls, commercial kitchen tables, shelving units, sinks and a full assortment of appliances.
Do you only have one screwdriver? No? Didn’t think so, so you already know the value of having spares and extras of the things you use every day.
Lest we not forget PME decorating tips. These stainless steel babies are produced in England and are the crown jewels of the decorating tip world. You can't get them in the average craft store- you have to order them online, and they're not cheap. Sure, there are other brands like Wilton and Ateco, but PME is top notch Who doesn’t like a great set of tips?
From baking sheets to bun racks, it’s not just for holding your Coors Light. Aluminum dissipates heat well, is non-ferrous and is light and less expensive than many other metals. Get to know this one. And for an extra chuckle, ask someone from the UK to pronounce it. Amy's favorite baking sheets are from Sam's Club, and the full sheet rack is from The WEBstraurant Store.
Some of the most beautiful cookie cutters (and most expensive) you’ll ever see are made from copper. Copper products are typically NSF approved and frankly, are just a wonderful hue that compliments the other metals well. What? I can’t appreciate a nice set of colors? Ahem. Also, mixing bowls and copper pots can be used for many other sweet treats.
Tin is a very common metal used for cookie cutters. Foose and American Tradition are great names in the tin and tin-plated steel cookie cutter industry- and they're made right in Pennsylvania! These cookie cutters give her kitchen the shiny, blinding quality we’ve all come to expect.
Still wanting gold and silver?
Have no fear! Luster dusts, sheen airbrush colors, and even dragees come in those metallic gold and silvers you know she'll love. What's a dragee? That's fancy baker talk for those little BB looking things that bakers put on cookies and cakes. They have REAL silver in them, so don't eat them.
OK guys, you’ve done great staying with me thus far. So I’ll throw you a bone. Here is a cookie decorating gift that you can go get from Lowe’s or Home Depot. Go to the roofing area and pick your baker up a roll of aluminum flashing and a pair of snips. This material can be cut into strips and you can form this into a custom shaped cutter if you’re so inclined. Plus, you can pick up that band saw that you’ve had your eye on.
So fellas, shop early and don’t end up on the couch, again. And for once, don’t make her return what you bought her and get what she wants. You can do it. I have faith.
Which cookie gift do you think YOUR cookier would love the most?
So today’s installment will be a peek into my world. My world as a cookie widower. My darling wife may not realize that the events I’m about to portray take place, even though she is directly responsible for all of them.
My wife is an amazing cookie artist. And I’m amazed at the final product every. single. time. But the sweet reality (see what I did there, I throw the puns in for free folks) is that I see every cookie she does in at least 5 stages, sometimes more, rarely less.
Step 1: The sketch. My wife sketches almost all of her cookies out first to know what direction she is going with the design. The sketches alone are awesome. And I get to see every one. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Sometimes we pretend like she’s asking for my input, but usually it's simply a "look, here will be my _____ design". Sometimes she also has to show me the cutters that will make said cookie.
Step 2: Cookie is now baked, most likely with a flood (that’s the base layer of royal icing for you non-cookiers out there) and maybe with a few initial details. It’s important for me to see this phase (seemingly) so that I can start to envision how the final product will be. And how it’s shaping up to the sketch already examined in Step 1. Usually this step is an iPhone picture sent to me at 10:30pm while I am watching football.
Step 3: This will vary on the cookie. In some cases it’s the “still in progress” cookie further on down the line, or for my example here, it’s the completed cookie. Once again, shot with her iPhone, and sent to me while I am working. It’s done being decorated, but the journey is not over, far from it.
Step 4: The packaged, ready-for-delivery cookie. Here I get to admire either my wife’s ability to place said cookie into a cellophane bag or revel in her plastic wrap skills as they are plattered. Breathtaking.
Step 5: Now I get to see the photos of the cookies that my wife just took. And since she upgraded cameras, now every cookie gets no less than 5,000 pictures. On a plate, off a plate, different lighting, flash and no flash, table cloth or SwankyPrint. Imagine my delight in seeing the cookie at least the 4th time now on the 2” LCD screen of a camera that cost more than my first car. (The camera is a mid-line camera, I got my first car pretty cheap).
So, that is my life. I get to share with her enthusiasm for her craft at literally every step of the way. Every. step. of. the. way. But it makes her happy, so I look at all 5,000 pictures.
Next time, you’ll hear about how I’m involved in every cookie cutter purchased. Every. . . single. . . one. . .
My question is, do any of you other cookiers subject the lucky significant other in your life to this?
Note from Amy: Mike writes the post in a word doc, and I transpose it into this blog. And yes, I reviewed every picture and every word, before it went live.
So, you all thought it was funny when I was calling out the men-folk, eh? Well ladies (specifically cookie ladies) let see how you like it when you’re in my cross-hairs. I’m curious if this interest in our partner’s obsession is mutual? Let’s take a bit of a pop-quiz, shall we? For the sake of this experiment, I shall be used to represent my fellow widowers, and you shall be used to represent you, the cookiers.
I know the difference between icing and glaze. Do you know the difference between cover 1 and cover 2 defenses? If you think this is a math problem, just give up now. I think your KitchenAid is calling.
I know that when my wife refers to a 1, 0, and 00 she isn’t talking about clothing sizes, but PME tips. When I complain that we have too many turnovers, do you assume someone has a weakness for puff pastry?
If I mention Sam, Will and Mike. . . are you thinking Linebackers? Or did you think Sam’s Club, "Wil-ton" and Mike from Semi Sweet?
I don’t giggle when I hear “baker’s rack” “wet on wet” or “I need to wash my tips”. Do you sigh when I try to explain why the zone blocking scheme isn’t effective against that defense?
I know of every store that carries CK Meringue powder within 100 square miles. Do you know the difference between the shotgun and the pistol? (Yes, they’re both guns. Yes, I’m still talking about football. You know you’re just proving my point here, right?)
Ok gals, how did you do? I’m sure some of you scored quite well. Others stopped reading this and jumped to Sugarbelle’s blog.
Amy scored a 0.
That’s ok. We love you anyway.
Note from Amy: I think my score should be a .5, not a zero. I do know what a turnover is in football. But when I explained my answer to Mike, he was getting all technical on me and I stopped listening.
(This is satire, but I’m serious)
On behalf of my wife and my children, I sincerely thank you for supporting our family business. My wife enjoys creating these wonderful cookies and while the financial side of the business is certainly necessary, the emotional reaction is equally important. The ooh’s and ahh’s, the declaration of brilliance and wonderment. Shrieks of excitement, mutterings of awe…these are all like emotional currency to my wife. These are direct deposits to her soul. I think some positive emotional feedback is important to any artist. And almost to a woman, every female customer gives this currency out and spares non-figurative expense. While there are varying degrees, it’s almost always there.
This is where I turn the tone of my letter. There is almost an anti-climactic aura to a customer delivery if I know in advance that “Her husband is picking them up”. So in other words some guy, who would likely rather be doing something else, is going to spend money out of his pocket, likely to purchase cookies for a party he either doesn’t want to attend, or isn’t allowed to. So, you can imagine that there will be no squeals of delight when the goods are unveiled. No pomp and circumstance. No praise, no hands over the mouth/excited clap reactions.
Gentlemen, I need you to step up your game. If your wives’ reacted with an “Oh, that’s nice” to you in the bedroom, it wouldn’t go over so well, would it? So, at your next cookie pickup, if you have to imagine that my wife is handing you a 12-pack, or a pizza or whatever spins your dials, please do. And ladies, we’ll work with you on your schedule to make sure you are taking delivery, not him. Perhaps we’ll investigate an “Enthusiasm Surcharge” for when husbands pick up. $10 maybe.
So in closing, again, I thank you. We hope you enjoy the confectionary art work you are receiving. And we hope you order again. But remember ladies, if you’re sending your husband to take delivery, have them perk up some. We’ll all have a better day for it.
The Cookie Widower