Pumpkin Cookies: The Taste of Someone Else’s Home

Pumpkin Cookies: The Taste of Someone Else’s Home

My parents don’t cook with pumpkin.

My mom only makes one cookie recipe.

That recipe is for chocolate chip cookies.

I don’t know the recipe because she memorized it, and never remembers to write it down.

I haven’t made my mom’s cookies since I lived within shouting distance of her.

So, I make other cookies. Lots of cookies. Lots of different kinds of cookies. Recently, I made these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, and a guest could not stop telling me how they were a taste of home. While his mother doesn’t bake much now, she used to make them as a treat for her kids when they were young.

So, while I can’t have a taste of home without going there, I’m glad to try someone else’s home instead. Though really, I’d rather have my mom’s chocolate chip cookies.

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Novel Approach to New York City

Novel Approach to New York City

Maybe I’d go back to New York at the end of it, maybe I wouldn’t. The thought of not having to fight so hard every day made me feel almost giddy. I had forced myself to love that place for so long. The idea that I didn’t belong there-that I couldn’t belong-had been so crippling that I’d molded myself into someone who did belong, sharpening my elbows and edges every morning before I left the house.

– from The One that Got Away* by Melissa Pimentel

 

*The blurb’s claim that this is a modern version of Jane Austen’s Persuasion is only true in the sense that if this book was written and you then put a gun to someone’s head and demanded to know which of Jane Austen’s books it was most like, your victim might say Persuasion.

Dry Cleaner: Are You My Mother?

Dry Cleaner: Are You My Mother?

Many people have thought that they are my mother. My boss tells me when to go to the doctor. The super down the block tries to send me off every day with a smile on my face. They aren’t the first, and they won’t be the last. But the only one who reminds me of my mom is the woman who runs my dry cleaner shop. A bustling and effective South Korean woman, the same size as my mom, my dry cleaner is always happy to see me and loves to chat. She clearly loves me, but if you might not know that if you heard us talk. Thankfully, I too say things with the assumption that my undying affection is a given, so we understand each other perfectly.

 

What She Says: Your coat is yellow! Like chicken feet!

Sounds Like: Your coat looks like it spends the day in the dirt.

Actual Meaning: Your coat is adorable and bright!

 

What She Says: You had your hair up last time? Looks better down.

Sounds Like: You look bad with your hair up; don’t do that.

Actual Meaning: You look cute today!

 

What She Says: You bring this in last June?

Sounds Like: You smell bad.

Actual Meaning: It’s been too long since we’ve seen you.

 

What She Says: Your buttons – too loose! Don’t want to lose.

Sounds Like: You don’t take care of your clothing.

Actual Meaning: I sewed in your buttons because they would be hard to replace, and I don’t trust my subcontractor to be as careful as I am.

 

What She Says: You have cash? Credit card has bank fee.

Sounds Like: Why are you oppressing small family-owned businesses, you out of touch plutocrat?

Actual Meaning: Help a sister out, like I know you want to.

 

And the reason I went to the dry cleaner’s? My mom took one look at my coat, and asked if I had a dry cleaner. Because, like my dry cleaner, she loves me and wants to make sure I put my best foot forward. If your mom isn’t here to do the same for you, head over to Sunrise Cleaners at 59 Nassau Street, and you’ll find someone who can help you out.

I’ll Kick Off My Heels, You Kick Up Your Heels

I’ll Kick Off My Heels, You Kick Up Your Heels

I stepped out of blaring noise of the wedding into the cool night air of the suburbs. Though presumably still in New York State, I wasn’t the one who drove, and couldn’t have sworn to my location. My ride told us to stay put while he got the car, so I was trying to spot the Big Dipper in the sky – impossible with the country club’s outdoor lighting – when I heard someone right behind me say that she had to thank me.

“I’ve been wanting to thank you for the last hour,” she gushed.

I smiled, sure she’d confused me for someone else. She picked up on my hesitation.

“You were the first to take off her shoes!” she exclaimed. “I just can’t be the first to do that, and no one else was doing that. Then I saw that you weren’t wearing shoes and could finally take mine off.”

“You’re welcome,” I said, and looked down at the topic of our discussion. The square-toed pumps may have been a little out of date, but remained a classy choice – and I complimented her on them.

“Oh, those are the problem,” she said. “They were my husband’s grandmother’s.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said.

“She’s fine!” my new friend replied. “She gave them to me last time we visited, and while they’re a nice option, they pinch my toes. And the insides are shredding.”

“In that case,” I informed her, “next time, tell me you’re waiting and I’ll take off my shoes before the first dance.”

So That’s What They Teach at Finishing School

So That’s What They Teach at Finishing School

Mrs. McKinnon’s classes were supposed to cover such essential topics as ridding your surfaces properly of bacteria and devising delicious dinner-party menus for a Muslin, a vegan, a lactose-intolerant, and a pregnant woman; however, with a bit of prompting, she usually diverted into more arcane waters, such as how to eat lobsters without licking your fingers, or how best to decline a marriage proposal on a pheasant shoot.

from The Little Lady Agency by Hester Brown

Recipe Revolt & Neiman Marcus Cookies

Recipe Revolt & Neiman Marcus Cookies

Recipes are meant as inspiration. You don’t like almond extract? Skip it. It calls for margarine? Halve it. You ran out of rosemary? Use oregano. At least, that’s how I interpret recipes. Except, sometimes, I want to make sure that the cookies I’m making are guaranteed to turn someone’s day around. At those desperate times, I need to make sure that the Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookies – because those are the one thing that we can all agree make the world a better place – turn out the way that the general public thinks they should. So, I follow the actual recipe. And each time I follow a recipe, I am shocked by how well it turns out. It turns out that I’m not the only one. I recently learned that there’s a small but strident group that don’t follow recipes except for the rare occasion – rare occasions on which they’re inordinately pleased by the recipe-following results. However, while I simply can’t be bothered to follow a recipe, other people are taking a stand by refusing to be dictated to by a list of ingredients and instructions. So this recipe goes out to those who believe:

I have enough people telling me what to do. I’ll put as much baking soda in these as I want to, thank you very much.

Hear their rallying cry, and fear their wanton disregarding for your baking soda beliefs. But don’t worry about how the cookies will turn out; these ones are nearly error-proof.

 

Neiman Marcus Cookies

1/2 cup unsalted margarine
1 cup brown sugar
3 tsp granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
1 3/4 cups flour
8 oz chocolate chips

Cream the margarine and sugars to a consistency of wet sand, then beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine all other dry ingredients, then add slowly to the creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Shape/drop cookies on to cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or oiled foil. Bake at 375 F for 7-10 minutes.

Women in the Workplace: Negotiations – Not Just for Hostages Anymore

Women in the Workplace: Negotiations – Not Just for Hostages Anymore

There’s trade-craft to salary negotiation. The key? Being willing to ask. That’s where many of people, including my sisters in the workplace, get stuck. When I have negotiated raises on someone else’s behalf, I start by pointing out all the ways in which that individual has improved our overall productivity, difficult projects in which they’ve been involved, and the number of cases they’ve closed. Having that information at my fingertips – having written my own evaluation – is great ammunition. So, start there for yourself. By the time you’re done, you’ll be convinced that this negotiation is best for you, and your employer. And if that helps you do a better job on your own behalf, all the more reason to negotiate.

 

Before you begin, review what you have, what you want, and why they should give it to you. You need to know: your current salary, and the median – not average – salary for professionals in your field in your city. What do you want? That’s up to you. But ask for more than you think they’ll be willing to give, and know what your acceptable range looks like. Most importantly, know why you and your employer will want to work on this together: they love you. They may not love you the way they love their grandma – or Lauren from HR with the candy bowl – but they love that you work there and they don’t currently need to train someone new to take your place. Before you begin any negotiation, remind yourself – so that you’re ready to remind your management – why they love employing you. For instance: your current workload, length or duration or flexibility of your work day, years of experience you bring, your adaptability – be it with different populations or subject matter -, ways in which you exceed expectations, and your reputation of excellence. They pay you; clearly you have made your expertise, abilities, and hard-working attitude clear. Don’t forget to also enumerate the reasons they don’t want to lose you: they’ve trained you, you know the drill, and they don’t need to continue training you. FYI: on average it takes 6 months to get a new employee functioning at full speed. They don’t need to do that with you.
In most cases, if the negotiation doesn’t go well, nothing happens. You asked, and they said no. But you’re still employed – go you! Meanwhile, it rarely hurts to remind your employer of how much they want to keep you and what they should be doing to make you happy.
Or, as a former New York Times editor says;

[Jill] Abramson was the first woman to hold the executive editor spot—arguably the pinnacle of American journalism. Sulzberger had offered it to her over the phone in 2011, and she didn’t think to ask at the time what her predecessors’ compensation had been. “My advice to younger women now is don’t do what I did,” she tells me. “Just be very straightforward and ask those questions. I was stupid not to.”

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Novel Approach to Money in Politics

“Are you sorry you bet on me?” you ask. “I did warn you.”

“Never! I bet on people, and I particularly bet on smart women. This was your starter election – get your scandal out of the way. Now they know what happened, and they’re used to you. If we lose this one, we’ll run again. We’ll run for something bigger.”

“You’re crazy,” you say.

“Maybe I am. But I’ve got a bigger checkbook than anyone in this town. And the biggest checkbook wins.”

“This isn’t always true,” you say.

“Fine, but the biggest checkbook can always go the most rounds.”

from Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

Old School Gifting

Old School Gifting

Three weddings in one month and it hit me: I’ve been going about wedding gift-giving all wrong. Why did I not learn from my great aunts and uncles? Go to the function, and the first person you spot who is related to the bride or groom – be it a 5 year-old niece, great uncle, or the bride herself – gets handed a check for the happy couple. Better yet, hand off cold hard cash in an envelope. If it’s good enough for afekomen presents, it’s good enough for a wedding.

Is this something people do more as they age? Is this a boat I’ve been missing all along? Or does handing off envelopes of cash a move reserved for people who send people swimming with the fishes and/or have a cache of silver dollars?