Friday, November 21, 2014

#cookiequest: Research

Yes, I made even making a chocolate chip cookie, nerdy!

I mean I cant just jump off into the abyss of chocolate chip cookieness without some education.

1.  The Google Search

So, I searched and researched a few topics and kept coming back to the same answers (which frankly is a really good way to get a solid answer as far as I'm concerned!)

-most popular chocolate chip cookie
-most searched chocolate chip cookie recipe
-perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe
-top chocolate chip cookie recipes

And every time I went to Google, my preferred search tool, I was led back to the same top 3 recipes with a few that rotated in and out of 4th and 5th place.

2.  Crowd sourcing
last week, I put out on my blog Facebook page and twitter to ask for input on "what makes the perfect chocolate chip cookie" I got some really good advice - someone else making them, chilling the dough, browning the butter and butter flavored shortening.  All items I'll consider as I move forward.

Crowd Sourcing round #2 consisted of asking for the "perfect" recipe.  I wanted to see if there was a consistent go to.  I got some good input.  One very specific set of instructions and I'll be keeping those in mind for sure...especially since they came from a cookie queen!

3. The NPR article and research of the "science"
First, I love when you put something on someone's radar because when people see anything about cookies, they have been sending it my way, and I LOVE it.  Last week an article circulated, "trended" if you will, on Facebook - it was the NPR article about the science behind your chocolate chip cookie and it was exactly what I needed to begin to understand all the "whys" associated with cookies.  Flour, sugar, butter, chocolate, powder, soda.....  I loved it.  I even found this little gem, an infographic about the science behind the ingredients.  There is so much stuff out there...It got overwhelming so I kept it to these two basics and will use them a reference when I jump into round 2 of baking.

4.  Asking the question
So, I did a little Sunday lunch survey.  I don't get to eat lunch with my family on Sundays very often so last week when I "called in" and they were all sitting at the table, I went around the room and gathered the answers to "What makes a perfect chocolate chip cookie?"

Dad- stands up, buttery taste, not flat, Janna Beall's recipe
Mom - crisp edges, chewy inside
Zak- no chips, ice cream on top
Maresa - lots of chocolate chips, that are not melted yet and still have their shape, thick and chewy

so, with those things in mind, I made a decision - I picked 4 recipes to start with and I made a prediction...

 (For the record, finding 4 basic cookie recipes to try was very overwhelming.  Everyone thinks their recipe is "the one".  I've got to work on a name besides "perfect", "ultimate", "best".  Any thoughts?!?!)

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

#cookiequest: Perfect

So, since we are looking for the "perfect" chocolate chip cookie.  (and by we, I mean the voices in my belly) I thought I would jump off into a little rant about the specifics of "perfect". 

Perfect is subjective. 

Not just when it comes to cookies, but always.

Think about it.  My "ideal" or perfection is simply that, mine!  I get to decide what's best.  I get to decide what I want over something else.  I get to decide what makes something better than another.  My perfect is perfect for me.

Yes, I'm talking about more than chocolate chip cookies here!

We all find ourselves trying to find perfection.  The perfect hair cut.  The perfect car.  The perfect job.  Being the perfect girlfriend, daughter, husband, wife, mom, friend..... Being or finding perfection is something we are all obsessed with, but frankly never achieve.  I think it comes back to that comparison thing.  Obviously something has to have another thing to be perfect.  But, my version of perfect may not be yours.  Its why you can order your steak differently.

I never understood why my Papa always prefers to have his anything (biscuit, toast, cookie) be a little on the hockey puck side.  I remember eating breakfast at his house growing up and he would make toast on a charred black cookie sheet.  He would smear butter on the bread and then put it under the broiler.  He made it "perfect" for me.  But, it was his perfect.  I loved it and would love to sit down with him right now and have a piece of toast (maybe I'll do that on his birthday tomorrow).

But, his perfect doesn't satisfy me.  It doesn't even please me outside of the fact that its him and when you are 95, you know how you like a perfect piece of toast. 

So, for the sake of my experiment, I'm going for my perfect.  What's perfect for me may not be your preference or tantalize your taste buds.  We can work on that.  I'll try to share my reasons for why and why not.  But, let me challenge you. 

Discover your perfect.  Not someone else perfect.  Or being perfect because that's what someone will think is perfect.  Discover your perfect.

And, be comfortable with what you choose.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My Quest - #cookiequest

So, I shared yesterday that I'm jumping in to a quest.  My #cookiequest.

Since its 2014, I felt like this journey needed its own hashtag.  I mean if people can make up a hashtag for their wedding or 30th birthday party, then I could have one for my cookie discovery process!  I did a little research and found that my journey is not unique.  Other's are on the same journey, whether they call it a quest or not and whether they are documenting it officially or not, #perfectcookie, #chocolatechipcookie, #cookiequest all already existed.  When I looked at what others were writing about, it seemed the #cookiequest fit - so I'm just jumping in on the conversations.

My Quest: Find the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie (imagine a really cool typewriter font and each letter being penned as it is said)

But, that's what I'm up to these days.  And, because I'm such a freak (self-proclaimed) who has to have order and process to every thing, there is a process and a spreadsheet.  I know, I know you are laughing, but some crazy thing happened to me when I was young (I need a therapist to pin point the specifics!) I have to make a plan so I can at least have order to the chaos of the 1 billion opinions about cookies and the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.

So, my new few weeks will look a little something like this:
  1. Research
  2. Predict
  3. Plan
  4. Bake
  5. Decide (may have to bake some more)
  6. Present my findings to the world!

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dreaming and Listing

So, as I read, I dreamed.  I keep telling myself its perfectly normal to read any book with a pen and highlighter in your hand.  That most people write in the margins and when asked a question, they answer them (right there in the book).

So, as I read our little book, I made a list in the front, things I might consider a quest...or questing for:
  • take pictures in the same spot of all 4 season (a place or moment that's special to me)
  • 12 month quilt - square/month - represent where I am, mood or holiday - defining moment, hand crazy quilt, learn new stitches, words
  • outline/begin working on a book I've been putting off
  • photograph the alphabet
  • a photo a day - everyday at the same time  - journal through a separate instagam account with 1 word descriptions
  • write a letter to a person you don't know who's birthday is today - read about them- send them a message - introduce yourself and your quest - ask them to send something back, do something with the collection of items
  • try a different drink at Starbucks until you've tasted everything - even those weird "not on the menu" items
  • cook a series of somethings on Pinterest - actually try the recipes
  • find the perfect red lipstick
  • find my signature nail polish for each season
  • determine my "walk up song"
  • perfect the chocolate chip cookie
Yep, those are the things I came up with. 

As we talked and as I read, I really began struggling with the difference between a goal and quest. 

Honestly, I'm still not sure, but I've also discussed some of my obsessive nature for the details and I realized that I just had to give myself the grace and the space to just be and discover.  For me, that's the quest. 

Chris, the author, defines a "quest" by a few things - a quest:
  • clear goal and a specific end point
  • presents a clear challenge
  • requires a sacrifice of some kind
  • often driven by a calling or sense of mission
  • requires a series of small steps and incremental progress toward a goal
  • Summary: a quest is a journey toward something specific, with a number of challenges throughout (pg 16)
He also makes a clear, bold statement on the facing page - "you must become a better person than you were before you started".

I like(d) the thought of questing and I like the thought of having a journey.  I just know my heart even has heavy palpitations as I type these words. 

So, for now.  I chose the last idea on the list.  It seemed heavy enough a task for me to jump on.  Its timely to this part of the year.  It felt substantial enough to really be something I could jump in to and frankly the biggest consequence at the moment will be my waist line. 

So, I'm jumping in.  With both feet.  I'm going to probably over think it.  I'll get way too nerdy and maybe I'll be serving or taking cookies to every party this holiday season.  But, I'm curious.  Is it possible to make the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie? 

Follow along with me #cookiequest!

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Questing

Oh to something new!

So, sometime last month.  Or maybe even the end of the month before that, I was pulled into a group who was jumping in to a book.  Now, I've always wanted to be a grown up who was part of a book club!  And, when I heard the opportunity was presenting itself, I jumped.  I wasn't completely sure what I was jumping in to, but I jumped. 

Part of the new freedoms that life has brought is the freedom to have some down time to do a little reading.  So, I hacked my dad's Amazon Prime account and had me a book in a few short days!

The NWA Questers, as we are called, jumped in to The Happiness of Pursuit.  Chris Guillebeau jumps into his second book with a challenge, so self-discovery conversation and a shared the story of some fellow questers while trying to prove several points.

I'll admit, the book got a little redundant.  But, I found plenty to underline, several things worth tweeting and lots to discuss. 

Unlike normal, I didn't realize there were appendices and extra recaps in the back.  They might have made reading the book much quicker (I was the Cliff Notes girl!).  I didn't get through all of it, but I had half under my belt, enough to feel confident to present myself at the book discussion night.

We had a fantastic time and of course as a dreamer would do, I started thinking...thinking about what I could quest on.

Frankly, the thought of a real quest, like the ones in the book just stressed me out.  I was in the middle of planning a fundraising event.  I'm trying to read through a book with a group of gals and I'm still trying to manage the everyday of a new job.  Not asking for sympathy, just realizing that I can't do or be everything.

Oh, but I can dream! 

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Friday, November 14, 2014

OVERCOMER: reflections

So, we went there.

We dug deep.  We hurt.  We healed.

We looked at the struggle with security and insecurity.  We looked at infertility and the struggle with too much. 

In all of the moments, we thought about ourselves.  We thought and wondered if we've struggled with the same thing.  We were curious to find that someone has "overcome" something that we are struggling with. 

I struggled myself to figure out what to write.  I had many prompts in my head but part way through I realized that I hadn't really "overcome" them.  Maybe I'm in the process of "overcoming" but I've not yet arrived.

One of my contributors in the process mentioned that we all struggle with "heart pains".  Things we get up every day and put aside.  Things that we will struggle with for the rest of our lives.  But, as I've journeyed through this, I've been reminded that overcoming is a daily decision.

There are plenty of things in our life that we will feel like we have never overcome - many of them were mentioned this month and many were kept in our heart.

Use the lessons these friends have shared.  Their mantras and their quotes.  Adopt the ones that will determine your heart to push through.

Going back to the song that inspired this series.  Overcomer - For the Billboard charting week of September 14, 2013, Overcomer was the No. 29 album sold in all of the United States via the Billboard 200, and it was the No. 1 Top Christian Album as well with over 12.000 copies sold in its first week. The album has sold 140,000 copies in the US as of July 2014.  (according to Wikipedia)

Its clear that being an overcomer is something we all relate to. 

Live.  Love.  And be bigger than your demons.

Life is WAY too short to restrict yourself by your own personal feelings on what's holding you back.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

OVERCOMER: recap

Missed one of the entries....well, I just think that's a shame!  So, here's a full list of all the #overcomer stories from the series this month:

It has been a beautiful journey.  If you want to share an #overcomer journey either tag it in the comments or email it to me and I'll share it with our #overcomer crew!