Monday, June 30, 2014

That's the Way the Cookie Crumbles

I kept telling myself that Zuzu's party was going to be low-key and I wasn't going to stress about details. To some extent, that was true, but I should have just let myself get a little more type-A in the planning (as I did with her first birthday) because then I wouldn't have spent Saturday wishing that it didn't exhaust me to climb up and down the basement stairs as I looked for various baskets and party supplies in the storage closet because I would have had all that stuff lined up ages ago.

And I might have been able to avoid bursting into the tears over The Cookie Incident of 2014.

But probably not.

We didn't really have a theme for this party beyond "plish-plash-plash!" as Zuzu would say, but Zu was pretty excited about being "2" and is also a big fan of saying "ready, set, go!" (or sometimes "set, ready, go!" before jumping into the pool or sliding down the slide. So I got pretty freaking adorable invitations that said, "Ready - Set - 2!" and featured a picture of her splashing in the fountain at the park. Cute, right?

Since it was a morning splash party (9:30-11:30am), I decided that party treats would be breakfasty, but I was not going to go overboard. I had mini-yogurts, fresh fruit cups, and blueberry muffins. Juice boxes for kids, juice bottles for adults, and a nice big dispenser of lemon water. Instead of picking up cheap party favors that no one needed, I'd send the guests home with a lovely bakery-decorated cookie that had the number 2 on it.

I was envisioning something like this:

And while I've been very happy with Etsy purchases in the past, I was sure that I could get this made locally and save on the shipping costs. So two and a half weeks out, I went into a local bakery to get some cupcakes as a thank-you to Zuzu's teachers in the classroom she transitioned out of, and I asked about their cookie decorating. The girl working the counter gave me a card and told me to e-mail the owner with a picture of what I wanted in order to get a quote. So I did, and I waited to hear back from her.

Except I never heard back! So after giving her almost a week, I decided I'd better get a move on. But then we were in Nevada and then my brother was in town and I kept thinking about it and then it would slip my mind. Suddenly it was the Monday before her birthday and all the bakeries were closed (seriously, that's like a thing). So on Tuesday I started making phone calls.

The first place I called said their cookie decorator was out and wouldn't be back until Thursday or maybe Wednesday and didn't know if I could still put in an order for Saturday at that point.

The second place I called said they needed at least a week's notice and Tuesday to Saturday was not sufficient.

I was starting to feel panicky. I e-mailed some friends asking for advice and one of them suggested just buying predecorated cookies (instead of custom-made) from a local bakery. This seemed like a good idea, so I googled a couple grocery stores to see if they'd have photos online. A local chain close to my house said on their website that they do custom cookie decorating.

I crossed my fingers and called to ask if they could do sugar cookies with white frosting and pink 2's and if I could pick them up on Saturday. The lady assured me that was no problem. The cost was less than half of a fancy bakery, and I basically felt like I was super smart and The Best Mom and Problem Solver Ever.

Fast-forward to Saturday, when I decided to both paint a dresser for Rerun (a zillion details on that project later) AND to clean out / reorganize my closet (you think I'm nesting?). I had a very short list of things we still needed from the store, so I sent David to the grocery store to pick up the cookies during Zuzu's nap while I finished up my painting and sorting. When he got home, I was still hard at work upstairs. Zuzu napped late and by the time she woke up and I cleaned up, it wasn't until after 5pm that I went downstairs and saw the cookies.

Oh. My. Word.

Remember, I was expecting this:

And I got this:

Somehow they looked even worse in person.
I could not believe David paid money for these. Like seriously? How did he not take one look at them and declare them unacceptable? Or at least call me and text me a photo and make sure this was what I wanted. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? They 2's look like lower-case a's! The white frosting isn't even spread evenly! WTF???

(My best friend's husband said that he would have paid for the cookies, too. He says daddies just do it diff'rent.)

So David brings home a dozen cookies that look WORSE than they would have if I'd decorated them myself WHILE DRINKING HEAVILY.

I realize now that my expectations were far too high for a grocery store bakery. I don't know what I was thinking. I'd never ordered anything like that from the grocery store bakery before. I just assumed they were PROFESSIONALS. Who know that a 2 doesn't look like a lower case "a." And who can at LEAST spread frosting smoothly and evenly over a sugar cookie. WRONG AND WRONG.

And you know how you know that cookies don't really matter in the grand scheme of things, and at least I have a healthy, happy little girl whose birthday we are celebrating?

I know this, too.

And I still burst into tears.

This was the only "special" detail at the party since I wasn't decorating at the park, and I enjoy and care about details! I had totally dropped the ball and screwed it up and even though Zuzu wouldn't remember, I would remember, and so basically the party was RUINED before it even began.

David immediately started trying to problem-solve. He told me to look up a frosting recipe and said that we'd buy plain sugar cookies and frost them ourselves. I cried that I didn't have the time/energy/skill for anything like that and he said that he would do it. Then he looked at some decorated cookies online and suggested we use our duck-shaped cookie cutter and he would decorate cookies that looked like little ducks. So I took a deep, shuddering breath and told him as nicely as possible that we both know he doesn't have the fine motor skills for that shit.

Then I added that I just needed to take some time to cry about this before we started brainstorming about how to fix it.

Once I managed to pull myself together, we headed for Whole Foods to follow my friend's original suggestion to just buy pre-decorated sugar cookies in whatever shape or design they already had made. Miraculously, their bakery case had exactly 8 non-broken sugar cookies, professionally decorated to look like sea horses (or "sea creatures" as one cute little party guest called them). They weren't the cutest cookies I'd ever seen (see the "sea creatures" comment above), but they were a hell of a lot cuter than the monstrosity of sloppy 2/a's David had brought home.

seahorse in a baggie
As we were checking out at Whole Foods, David caught me eye-balling a package of organic mini blueberry muffins on a table nearby. I had planned to bake my own muffins with a delicious recipe from Smitten Kitchen, and while I am not much for cooking, I can usually bake things with moderate success (I prefer baking because the instructions are usually much more specific and exact).

David looked at me, looked at the muffins, and said, "Buy them." I started to protest, "But I was going to make homemade muffins for her party--" He cut me off. "Buy them."

And he was right. Not only was I worn out from painting and organizing, but I was also emotionally drained from the cookie saga. Not to mention the unplanned family trip to Whole Foods had taken a chunk of time out of our evening. I already had all the ingredients for the muffins, but guess what? No one but me was really going to care. The people coming to the party are my friends so it's not like they're judging me. And Zuzu liked them just fine. (If you're wondering why I couldn't have the same attitude about the cookie, please keep in mind that the muffins LOOKED just as cute as ones I could have baked at home.)

So I served store-bought muffins. But I felt better knowing they were organic! (Whatever that's worth when you're talking about mass-produced bakery items). Still, I put them in cute little paper cups! And I washed and cut the berries and pineapple for the fruit cups, which were a success (meaning, I didn't slice my fingers off and people--including the birthday girl--ate them and appeared to enjoy them). And my cute little wooden spoons arrived on Saturday (thank you, Amazon prime) so I was able to serve mini yogurts with wooden spoons which pleased me because I care about details.

(But the truth is that I enjoy painting furniture and doing projects around the house--even cleaning!--far more than I enjoy spending time in the kitchen. I keep thinking this will change as I get older but so far... not so much.)

Let my birthday drama be a lesson to you: Order bakery sugar cookies WELL IN ADVANCE. And pick them up yourself, lest your husband pays for something that you would never in a million years want to serve to party guests.

Finally, I must confess: the 2 cookies sure look like hell, but they actually taste pretty damn good.


  1. Thanks for the laugh. I totally thought they looked like "a's" when I first saw the picture. But, I did also think the frosting looked delicious.

    And it's totally adorable that David would even suggest making them himself. I think it's sweet when Miles wants to help with little projects like that or when he goes to write the note on a carefully wrapped gift and I snatch it out of his hands before his ugly handwriting ruins it.

    They try though, so kudos to that.

  2. Have you never looked at the blog 'Cake Wrecks'?? Never trust the grocery store decorator. I'm sure there are good ones out there. They just work other places.

    Next time call me! (Although I do require that pesky minimum notification.)

    Was it Frances that called them sea creatures? She loved the cookie by the way, as well as the copius amounts of food she ate. And the beach water toys and all treats? You sell yourself short my dear. It was all very nice and Caroline looked like she thoroughly enjoyed herself.

  3. Birthday parties are the worst! I always tell myself afterward that I'm going to order a store-bought/bakery cake next time, and yet I'm always agonizing/crying over the cake the next time. I've started to accept that it isn't a kid's birthday party (or at least MY kid's birthday party) without some tears from mama.

    And that includes this year, when the only people having cake were our little family and my own mom.

    You need to post some party pics! It all sounds cute!

  4. This is exactly the thing I would be crying over because it's not REALLY about the damn cookies. I'm so glad the party was a success and no matter what you will never forget the cookie incident of 2014. Most important, Zuzu turned two and you were able to order cookies for her. That's a win. Xoxo

  5. Yay for a happy party! Yay for Zuzu being two! Yes, even Kirk laughed and said a chimp could have decorated those cookies better. Ha.
    A close friend had a grocery store wedding cake and the delivery person dropped it! And then ran! The officiant saw it all happen, chased him down and called the store who sent someone else to fix it. Half still looked good so we were able to position the crushed part on the back and hide it from the bride and groom until cake cutting time. Apparently fancy bakeries are worth it sometimes. :)

  6. You had me laughing nonstop with this one Brooke. LOL.

    I care about details too...I totally get your wooden spoon satisfaction. And I was thinking all throughout the end of the post, "I wonder if she ate the cookies anyway..?" Lol!

    I burst into "oh my god!" type laughter when I saw the 2/a cookies. Hilarious.

    I'm requesting birthday party pix too. :)

  7. I have tears running down my eye at the fact the damn cookie professional did a shite job on writing the number 2. TWO! It's easy not to make 2s look like as… EXCEPT they tried to get all fancy-like with the script.


    I think the sea creatures are adorable. Good problem solving and David is sweet to try at fixing it.

    Hope Zuzu loved the cookies.

  8. I'm also laughing at caroline snatching away the pen from Miles so his chicken scratch doesn't go on the pretty package. I feel the same way when Scott writes ANYTHING- because it looks the way I imagine a murder would write. In that it looks terrifying.

  9. Those "2" cookies are pretty pathetic! I'm glad you were able to come up with plan B! Sounds like a great party!

  10. I spent over $350 on a super hero cake for Harry's 4th birthday that looked dead. It was AWFUL. It was supposed to be flying in mid air, but it looked like it had smashed into the cement-- a weird squishy face turned sideways-- horrifying. I did not cry because I was laughing too hard, but Ben cried a little when he saw the receipt :)

    (your last line cracked me up, BTW)

  11. I'm going to have to finish the rest of this post later but I'm seriously cracking up over here and almost drooling because of it. Hahaha.

    That's all. hahahahahahaha

  12. Oh god my own Type A tendencies just adore this post. Because 1) I would respond just the same way and 2) it reinforces my whole approach that being Type-A for a period of time prior to a target event will more often than not save everyone around me from exactly the kind of trauma and drama you describe. Self-imposed and unnecessary in the big picture as it may be.

    David just slid into the Top Husband slot with his offer to make duck cookies himself, but I was laughing aloud with no "fine motor skills for that shit." And kudos to him for recognizing that organic blueberry muffins were the ticket and knowing you well enough to make the call.

    But sweet jesus those cookies…can't help but bite your lips to keep from laughing at their atrocity! Holy crap. It's astonishing anyone has the audacity to expect someone to pay for those. Eight year olds can do better! Classic.
    It'll be a story that'll stick, for sure. :)

    Thanks for the laugh - and glad it worked out. The sea horse ones are sweet.

  13. Ok lmao--the "2s" do look like shit but I do love some grocery store cookies, esp with grocery icing! And don't kill me, but are you sure those are "sea creatures" and not a bird of sme sort? Lol!

  14. Your honesty and self effacing nature to just say it like it is... oh Brooke, this is one of the reasons I love you. Hilarious, genuine and just such heart. Happy Birthday Zuzu!!

  15. Okay, I'm more composed. The seahorses DO look a lot better and I'm sure the Whole Foods muffins were delicious.

    Yes, your original cookies were a definite better idea all around, but hooray for WF for coming to the rescue.

    I cannot believe those cookies. E was telling me he probably would've paid for them, too and totally sided with David. Hahaha.

    I have been in tears multiple times over this post. It's just so freaking hilarious. Please save the photo of those cookies to share with Zuzu when she is older.

  16. And p.s.

    Those fancy cookies NEVER taste as good as grocery store cookies. Admit it. I'm with Molly on that one.

    E has a co-worker who totally keeps her local bakery in business and gives us those super fancy decorated sugar cookies for every freaking holiday. He brings them home (I'm sure a buck or two a piece!) and I immediately throw them in the trash. They taste terrible. Sure, they may be works of art, but it's kind of like fondant. Totally cool to look at, but a total waste of delicious calories.