C is for Cookie

This week, I have done (what for me is) a lot of baking. On Wednesday, I tried my hand at Wall Street Kisses. And today, I tweaked a family favorite: chocolate chip cookies from The Best Recipe cookbookThought I’d share the recipe here.

If you like your chocolate chip cookies thin, crispy AND delicious–you’ll want to write this down:

Traditional Chocolate Chip Cookies (Makes about 60 cookies)

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt (*I use coarse sea salt)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed (*I use dark)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon water
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans (*I used Heath Bar bits)

1. Adjust oven racks to upper-and-lower-middle positions and heat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk flour, salt and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Either by hand or with electric mixer, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about three minutes with mixer set at medium speed. Scrape sides of bowl with rubber spatula. Add eggs, vanilla and water. Beat until combined, about 40 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl.

3. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, 15-20 seconds. Add chocolate chips and nuts (or, as I did, Heath Bar bits) and stir until combined.

4. Drop batter by tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets, spacing pieces of dough about 1 inch apart. Bake, reversing position of cookie sheets halfway through baking (from top to bottom and front to back), until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges begin to crisp, 8-10 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets for 1 to 2 minutes before transferring to cooling racks with wide spatula.

Pass the milk, please.

Most of the Time, It Is About Who You Know

I spoke on the phone with Dr. Ruth once. The conversation was short (it was Dr. Ruth after all) and involved no sex talk. At the time, I was working on an idea I had for a photography book and Dr. Ruth was one of several celebrity-ish people I approached about participating. She turned me down, but did so over the phone and only after telling me how much she loved the concept. As rejections go, it wasn’t bad.

I also chatted about my project with Mean Joe Greene, the legendary Pittsburgh Steeler who was known for selling a Coke or two. I don’t think he ever really considered participating, but it was nice that he took the time to hear me out.

And I received the following rejection from Bil Keane, creator of the Family Circus cartoon:

I liked the late Mr. Keane’s “no” so much that I had it framed.

You might be wondering how I was able to get in touch with the above mentioned folks. The answer to that question can be found in Bil Keane’s letter. I had a name; I knew someone. Though, that connection was very limited. In 2002, I photographed former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn and his grandson. I was a portrait photographer in Atlanta and Senator Nunn’s daughter came to me via a word-of-mouth referral, which was how I generated all of my business.

I must have done a good job on those photos, because when I told Senator Nunn about my idea and asked if I could feature him in my book–he said yes. Feeling a bit emboldened, I then requested permission to use his name to secure other participants–and again–he agreed. That was the end of the connection. I had use of a name, but not use of a Rolodex. I made all the contacts myself and included a link to my website in every query letter I sent. Examples of my photography, and the concept for the book, were proof that I had ability. But, there is no denying that my entry (even in the instances where my foot never crossed the threshold) into the world of the celebrity-ish was due to the fact that:

I knew somebody.

With the economy being what it is, and the job market tighter than tight, who you know–and who they know–really does matter. The success of LinkedIn, the online site that bills itself as the world’s largest professional network, is proof of that. As is the fact that being social, both online and in person, is easier than ever. You can connect with people on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google +, YouTube–and if you want to go old school–Facebook.

Marty Ingels, husband of Shirley “Partridge Family” Jones, also rang me up. I think his call was to figure out if I was on the up and up. He was funny and his voice reminded me of my dad’s–which I told him. In the end, I must not have passed his smell test. As we neared the conclusion of our conversation, Marty said that he would: “check Shirley’s calendar” and get back to me, but he didn’t.

Had Marty been able to read my Twitter stream, or view my about.me page, I have no doubt that me and Mrs. Jones would have worked together. But alas, at the time our call took place, Zuckerberg was still working on outsmarting the twins Winklevoss. And Twitter was but a glimmer in Jack Dorsey’s eye.

With one child entering college and the other firmly established in high school, I am at a stage in life where I really want to put my creativity and business acumen (I’ve got boat loads of both) front and center. “What I know” definitely remains my strongest selling point, but I am also going to need to get some help from the connections I have made in person and online. “Who I know,” especially in 2012, remains crucially important. In the meantime, I’ll continue to extend my hand to others–because that’s “who I am.” 

Just so you know, not everyone turned me down. In addition to Senator Nunn, famed college football coach Bobby Bowden was, according to his wife, Ann, a go. As was George Clinton, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musician who among other things is known for founding P-Funk. His inclusion would have been beyond stellar.

Sadly, my book never came to fruition. An unforeseen opportunity (“Let’s move to California and start a business!”) got in the way. But you can bet that I am still patting myself on the back for securing George Clinton’s yes. And Dr. Ruth, if you are reading this, call me. I have a new idea I’d like to run by you.

*Punk Rock Girl

I’ve written here before about my love of documentary films. And if you are at all familiar with this blog, you also know that I am very fond of music and that I have a special affinity for the bands that populated college radio in the 1980s. In fact, one of my boards on Pinterest is primarily dedicated to artists from that time. So, I am sure you can understand the high level of giddiness I felt recently when I had the opportunity to marry these two passions.

First, I viewed the documentary Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone. I had the pleasure of seeing Fishbone in concert during their heyday. The energy of the band and charisma of lead singer, Angelo Moore, was unlike anything I’d witnessed before or since. And did I mention that Fishbone has a horn section? I am an absolute sucker for a horn section.

As much as I love Fishbone’s music, that wasn’t what made this documentary for me. It was the story of the band’s origin, struggles, and determination to keep on keeping on that had me hooked. I came away feeling a bit sad, but was also inspired. And after watching the film, I couldn’t help but think that Norwood Fisher, Fishbone’s bass player and co-founder, would be a very interesting person to interview. I’d like to do that one day.

Here’s the trailer:

The second doc I watched was: The Other F Word, a film that explores fatherhood through the sometimes bleary eyes of aging punk rockers. I have to stop here and say that I don’t think all the musicians featured in this documentary fit that bill. Who issued Blink-182 a punk rock card? Because I would like to check that person’s credentials. I realized, however, after posting about this on Facebook, that my idea of what is punk might be different from those who came of age in the 1990s and later. I guess I can accept that. But no way I will ever see Mark Hoppus and John Lydon in the same light.

Despite my above quibble, I thought The Other F Word was entertaining and quite touching. I will admit to even shedding a few tears at one point. And I found it interesting, though not surprising, that most of the men in the film had strained or non-existent relationships with their own father.

Here’s the trailer:

If you only have time to watch one of these movies, I’d recommend going with Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone. Raised on the East Coast, I didn’t really have more than a passing understanding of what life was like in L.A. during the effort to desegregate public schools. I enjoyed and appreciated the way that Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler, the filmmakers behind Everyday Sunshine, wove that information and other historical context into Fishbone’s story.

Now for my burning question: Which bands do you think best exemplify the spirit of punk rock?

And while you are thinking about your answer, here’s a photo for you to ponder. I feel almost certain that this guy, who I spotted recently in NYC, doesn’t listen to “pop-punk.”

*Disclaimer: I am not, nor have I ever been, anything close to what would be considered punk rock. Though, one Halloween when I was still in college, I combed my spiral perm over my eyes, donned a black leather jacket, black t-shirt and black skinny jeans and went out dressed as Jenny Ramone. That was fun. 

Time, You Thief!

After almost a full year of being on college admissions overdrive, I’ve come to the conclusion that Tom Petty was correct: “The Waiting” is the hardest part.

Had you asked this past October, I would have said that getting my daughter to complete her applications was the most challenging of the admissions-related tasks. A few months before that, I would have sworn that convincing her to expand the rather small list of schools she was considering was the most arduous of my jobs. And this time last year, I have no doubt I would have told you that getting my girl to focus on grades and standardized testing was impossibly exhausting.

Now that this is all behind us, I can say with absolute certainty, that the period between December 6 and December 15 (the final week and two days before decisions were released) was by far the most difficult time of all.  And that’s because all we had left to do was wait.  And wait we did. I’ve never known time to pass more slowly—and I’ve been pregnant twice! If you haven’t experienced pregnancy yourself, I am here to tell you that nine months spent walking around with another human being lodged in your gut does not pass quickly.

But this felt worse.

And then, with the click a MacBook Pro trackpad, everything was good again.

I will never forget the moment that my daughter learned that all of her hard work had paid off.  And I will always hold in my heart the memory of the two of us, her hands clasped inside of mine, jumping up and down and screaming in absolute joy. Her dream school said: yes!

And now, several months later, I find that time won’t slow the hell down. The universe is playing a sick joke on me. The days are flying by. In just a few months, my baby will be heading out.

My daughter asked me recently if I would “feel sad” when she is away at college. I responded that I would definitely miss seeing her on a daily basis and would also miss the pleasure (and that is exactly what it is) of her company. I added, making sure to stress every syllable, that as long as she is happy, I could never feel sad.

Now, I have to work on putting that into practice.  And I better hurry… because time is flying.

*sigh*

I was named, in part, for the title of this poem. How appropriate it feels today:

Jenny Kissed Me

by Leigh Hunt

Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in.
Time, you thief! who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in.
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad;
Say that health and wealth have missed me;
Say I’m growing old, but add-
Jenny kissed me!

 

Who Did it Best?

I can’t remember the last time I posted something in this category… and for that reason, I am going to tweak the formula just a bit. Today, I thought it would be fun to get your thoughts on the topic of television theme songs. This is far too subjective (and broad) of a category to ask you to vote on just a couple, so I am offering the comment section as a place to share favorite(s).

Here are a some of mine:

“The Munsters Theme” was written by composer/arranger Jack Marshall. According to Wikipedia, the song originally contained lyrics but those never aired on CBS. It was nominated for a Grammy in 1965 (which makes me feel even better about this choice), but alas, did not win.

I have already admitted to having sentimental ties to this show, so probably not a huge surprise that I would select the theme song as one of my favorites. Once again (yes, my chest is puffed up with pride), I am not alone in my assessment of  theme song goodness.

Extra props to The Courtship of Eddie’s Father theme song for including the adorable father-son banter at the beginning. And also, for Bill Bixby–he was pretty awesome.

And finally, because I do feel a tiny obligation to follow the original Who Did it Best format, I have included this:

vs.

Husker Dü, in my opinion, is the victor when it comes to The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s opening track.

Okay, now it is your turn. Which TV theme songs do you think are the best?

Boxy but Safe

The mail carrier (that’s the term we use now, right?) showed up at my door the other day with a certified letter. I couldn’t make out the contents while signing for it, but I did notice that the return address was Texas and that the envelope had the words: Auto, Title and Legal Notice stamped in red ink on the front.

The purpose of the note, as it turns out, was to inform me that someone had dropped a Volvo convertible that I used to own off at a repair shop in Houston, Texas and–oops!–they forgot to return for it. The certified letter went on to say (keep in mind that I haven’t owned this car since May 2009) that the car had a mechanic’s lien attached to it and would be auctioned if I didn’t pay the almost $3,000 that was owed for replacing the transmission.

Wha?

I immediately placed a call to the service station. The woman who answered the phone told me that the mechanic wasn’t there and that he didn’t have voice mail, so I would have to call back. I don’t like having stuff hanging over my head, so I dialed the dealership that I purchased my current car from. I had traded the Volvo in as part of that transaction and was hoping I could put this off on them–and go back to enjoying my life.

Not exactly…

Josh, (the manager who had the good fortune to answer my call), did some digging and sure enough when he plugged in the VIN for that particular Volvo, my name and address showed up as the last registered owner. This meant that whoever bought the car from the auction house (the one that Josh’s dealership sold it to) never bothered registering it.

Josh told me that in all likelihood the Volvo was taken across state lines and operated *gasp!* illegally. And then, to add injury to insult, the jerk blew out the car’s transmission and abandoned it.

Who does that?

I feel bad for the Volvo. She (yes, it was a she) was a good car. And though her top malfunctioned a few times and her acceleration left a lot to be desired, she was the primary mode of transportation for me (and my kids) for almost eight years. And she served us well. I should add that I also feel sorry for the mechanic, who in what I am sure was an act of good faith, repaired my old girl. He deserves compensation.

My husband and son suggested we go to Texas and stage a rescue operation. We were after all still listed as the last registered owners, couldn’t we just pay the ransom bill and buy the Volvo’s freedom? I quickly shot that idea down (though, to their credit, a customer service agent from California’s DMV made the same suggestion a few days later).

The moral to this story (it’s my story and I want a moral, so bear with me) is that some people do bad things. Also, and this is kind of important, when you sell (or trade-in) a vehicle make sure you fill out a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability form. The first DMV rep I spoke with said I had not done this for the Volvo and could be held responsible for all tickets, liens, children birthed out-of-wedlock, etc.. The second rep, (he’s the one I like), said that I had in fact filled out the form and it was on file.

So my question for you: How connected are you to your car? Connected to the point that you assign it a name and gender? And kind of miss it once it’s gone?

This, by the way, is not the type of connection I am talking about…so don’t even go there.

My-Strange-Addiction-A-Man-In-Love-With-His-Car-517267555

Take Me to The River (but don’t drop me in the water)

A very good friend of mine, who lives on Coronado Island, asked recently if I would like to have lunch with her there. If you’ve never been to Coronado, it is a lovely place. Coronado is  home to the famous Hotel Del, unique shops and some very good restaurants. Despite all of that, I declined my friend’s invitation. You see, I just couldn’t force myself to go. Yes, force myself. The reason I won’t visit my friend?

(*whispered*) It’s the bridge. I don’t like the Coronado Bridge. To be fair, I don’t like any bridges–but the thought of this one in particular makes me break out in a cold sweat.

As is often the case with irrational fears, this one dates back to childhood. When I was a pre-teen, my family often spent weekends in the summer sailing on Virginia’s Rappahannock River. Most of the time, I enjoyed these excursions. But, there was one part of the trip (two if you count the fact that I had to encounter it coming and going) that made the barely there hair on my arms stand at attention:

 Rappahannock River Bridge. (source)

I absolutely dreaded, hated, despised–and was terrified of–the Rappahannock River Bridge. Why, you may wonder would a little girl have a bridge phobia? I am not 100 percent certain, but I think it has something to do with overhearing a conversation (an adult conversation) about a nurse who had driven off the side of the bridge during a storm. A story like that, I am sure we all can agree, will freak a child out.

I didn’t have a choice back then about bridge crossing, so I made a deal with myself: if I could hold my breath the entire drive over the bridge, nothing bad would happen. Problem solved.

According to Wikipedia, the Rappahannock River Bridge is 9,985 feet long, which equals 1.89109 miles. I find it very hard to believe that even as a child I could hold my breath that long, but we always made it across safely– so I must have (wink, wink).

For most of my adult life I have lived in landlocked areas, so avoiding bridges has been fairly easy. That was until we moved to San Diego and I started hanging out with my Coronado-based friend. And had to face this:

Coronado Bridge (source)

The first trip I made over the Coronado Bridge was with my husband. I was driving (natch) and made sure our car hugged the inside lane.  That excursion went pretty well. I kept my eyes focused on what was directly in front of me, not daring to take even a peek to my left or right. And I think I might have held my breath… just a little.

A few months later, I starting hearing about “delays” and “incidents” that were occurring on the bridge. These weren’t ordinary, run-of-the-mill, traffic-related happenings, noooooo… these delays were due to jumpers. The idea is incomprehensible and very sad, but there are actually people (many of them) who want to end it all by leaping from the bridge.

My Coronado buddy, (not knowing at this point about my phobia), told me that on multiple occasions she had been stuck on the bridge while negotiators tried to coax people down. I find the fact that someone would be so desperate or despondent that they’d even consider suicide, awful.  But… the thought that I could be trapped on the bridge while they receive help? Uh… no.

I finally confided to my friend that I didn’t really enjoy being on the bridge. I told her about the nurse, and about holding my breath, and about my sweaty palms–I confessed it all. And how did she respond? She told me a story about a truck driver who drove over the side of the Coronado Bridge! Yes. She. Did.

Even knowing all that, I still managed to eek out three or four more visits. And then, some time passed, and I realized that my friend didn’t seem to mind if we got together in La Jolla, or Hillcrest, or somewhere between.  And just like that I decided I wasn’t going to cross the bridge again unless I absolutely had to. I told my friend that if there were an emergency, (or a really great party), I’d be there, but otherwise, I wasn’t visiting Coronado, at least not via that damn bridge.

I always encourage my children to not only look fear in the face, but to sneer at it. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve done (and do) that myself. Yet, I have decided that at this stage of my life I am allowed to have a couple of untreated phobias–and I am putting unnecessary bridge crossing near the top of the list.

How about you? Anything you fear/dread/hate so much you would classify it as being a phobia?

Takin’ it to the Streets

After decades of driving, and practically a lifetime of being a pedestrian, I have decided that you can tell more about a person by the things they do when they are in a street than you can by the words they use to your face.

For example, the way someone reacts to being let into traffic speaks volumes about them. If they wave, or in some other way acknowledge the act with gratitude, I’d classify them as being good. You want to marry or go into business with people like that.

Those who look you in the eye, take the spot you’ve opened for them, and do not offer thanks? They are self-entitled. Spoiled. Rude. Or maybe they are just really distracted. Regardless, you want to avoid those people at all costs.

Another reliable personality indicator? The manner in which someone crosses the street. You will get more insight into who a person is (at their core) by watching them cross the street than you would from a swab of their DNA. Really, it’s true.

People who are cocky enough to wander into the middle of the street (with a phone or other device affixed to their ear) and expect traffic to just immediately stop?

They are jerks.

Also jerks, but not quite as bad, are the people who practically crawl across the crosswalk. Yes, we get that you have the right of way, but would it kill you to speed up the process? You know, just a bit?

Conversely, those who hustle through the crosswalk, all the while smiling and thanking drivers for stopping? Those folks are destined for a long life filled with good things.

And what about people who take up extra space in the road by riding their bikes side by side, rather than single file, the way the law requires? There is a name for them and it is: Lout.

And last, but definitely not least, individuals who scrape the paint from the rear of your car (the one you have babied since you drove it off of the showroom lot) and don’t leave a note?  They are the worst of the worst. Really, really bad people. The type of people that deserve to have chronic halitosis… and a plague on their homes.

Needed to get this off of my chest. Anything you need to vent today?

I’m (not) with the Band

I photographed my first concert this week. The headliner was Fitz and the Tantrums, a Los Angeles based band known for their hit single “MoneyGrabber.” Fitz and the Tantrums are quite animated on stage. Being animated is good. Except, as I learned on this particular night, when it leads to eyes being closed, tongues that appear (accidentally, and not Gene Simmons’ style) outside of the mouth, and excessive sweating. Other than that? Concert photography is a piece of cake.  A piece of cake with an ingredient list that includes: funky, and unpredictable, lighting; 700 music fans, who paid for their ticket and don’t really want someone poking them in the back of the head with a telephoto lens; and a bunch of mic stands and amplifiers that have a way of blocking crucial parts of the band’s anatomy.

This was not an easy assignment, yet, I had a blast! I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and am looking forward to shooting another concert next month.

I don’t know about you, but I get bored pretty quickly when I look at concert photography that only includes photos of the band. Even if it is a band that love. I prefer shots that include, or feature, the audience. As I learned this week, it is not always easy to capture the crowd and band in the same photo. I was part of the audience for this show, and I took photos the entire time.  In the future, I’ll stand in a photo pit and will shoot only the first three songs of the band’s set, standard protocol when it comes to concert photography. It will be interesting to compare the two experiences.

You can see my photos and read a bit about the Fitz and the Tantrums show here.

As is always the case, some of the photos I took didn’t get posted. I try hard to tell a story with my images and as I shared in this post, editing is key. Here are a few of my favorites that did not (was trying to avoid redundancy) make the cut.

Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick is the lead singer for Fitz and the Tantrums. I wound up using a few other shots of Fitzpatrick in the photo essay I posted on Patch, but I really liked this one too. 

I liked this shot of Noelle Scaggs, Fitz and the Tantrums vocalist and tambourine player, quite a bit. But, in the end, I decided to use a slightly different shot of her shaking her tambourine in my published story. 

Yup, I liked, but didn’t post, this shot too. 

What do you think makes concert photography interesting? Do you prefer shots that capture the energy of the crowd? Or images that show band members interacting with each other? Or, are you all about the instruments? I’d love to hear, even if your answer is that you don’t like, or have any interest in, this type of photography.

30 Years Ago: I Want My MTV

Regular readers of The World According to Jennifer are probably aware that I spent a lot of time watching MTV when I was a kid. If you are new to the blog, or somehow missed those posts, or forgot that I wrote them, or pretended to read them, but really didn’t… you can check them out here, here and here.

I was in front of my TV on August 1st, 1981 at the exact moment the moon man first appeared with the MTV emblazoned flag. When it came to Music Television, I was, as we like to say now, an early adopter.  So… is it any surprise that I would acknowledege the network’s 30th anniversary? Well, maybe a bit of a surprise since along with posts professing my love, I also wrote about how ticked I was to be kicked to the curb now that I am no longer a member of MTV’s desired demographic.

Admittedly, I wasn’t thinking about being shunned when I tweeted the following:

Which led to this:

and…

And… a Billy Squier reference! Unfortunately, I can’t share that tweet because the person who tweeted it has their Twitter account set to private.

Anyway, all of this got me thinking that I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could come up with one bit of #MTVturnsthirty trivia every day between now and August 1st.

I’ll probably tweet the trivia relatively early in the day– here. That is of course unless I am struggling to come up with something, in which case it could be midnight or… (not at all).