on finding the oreos, and a recipe: classic chocolate chip cookies

The crinkly, cellophane-wrapped bag of Golden Oreos appeared to have been pushed into its spot on the third shelf down in our pantry, almost as if someone intended the bag to not be seen on first glance. The canary yellow bag of cookies perched on top of some baking supplies – a box of graham crackers, a container of cocoa, and a clear plastic bin filled with different varieties of chocolate bars and chocolate chips. I grabbed the bag of cookies from the shelf. It was lighter than it should be, having been opened and then resealed by someone wanting a sweet snack.

I found my husband nearby, in the kitchen. I shoved the bag towards him, holding the specimen up so he could see it clearly. “What are these?” I asked him, accusingly.

“Cookies,” he said, a look of innocence on his face. “They’re for the kids’ lunch boxes. And I have one sometimes. Occasionally.”

I shook my head, disgusted and disappointed. How could he buy storebought cookies when he knows that I like to bake them. I thought of the bags filled with homemade cookie dough balls in our freezer. I had been betrayed. I had been cheated on, and with Golden Oreos, no less. Not even the original, chocolate Oreos.

After irrationally forbidding my husband to buy any more packaged cookies, ever again, not EVER, I set to work in the kitchen. My goal? To perfect a chocolate chip cookie of my own. This would be the best darn chocolate chip cookie, and it would be forever more the lunch box treat of choice. Or at least for the next week, whichever came first.

as american as apple pie

The CNN’s camera angle is wide, spanning a portion of the New Jersey coast, an area where an amusement park stood, just a few days ago. A rollercoaster rests on its side, half submerged in the waters of the Atlantic ocean. Nearby, a ferris wheel has collapsed onto itself, no longer standing tall and majestic. The remaining rides, indistinguishable mounds of colorful steel, lay in a jumbled heap, having been jostled into their resting places by the wind and waves.

The camera moves on, and now we see a neighborhood. There are houses that should be in neat, orderly rows, but that are now sitting askew on their foundations. One house, a white, stately two-story beauty, no longer faces the ocean but instead leans against its neighbor at an awkward angle. The neighborhood’s streets look eerily pale, almost as if covered with snow. But it is beach sand, not snow. During the height of the storm, floodwaters and storm surges pushed the beach up into the streets, covering grass and sidewalks and pavement, as the ocean tried to reclaim some acreage.

The devastation of Superstorm Sandy is almost mind boggling, and definitely mind- numbing. I can’t help but think of the people who lived in those houses, the ones that flooded, the ones that burned to the ground, the ones crushed by trees and blown over by wind. Other than having many good friends who live in New York and some of the surrounding areas, I have no personal connection to Sandy’s devastation. But as a human, as an American, I feel my northern neighbors’ suffering. And after Sandy, everything else this week – the upcoming election, anyone? – seems trivial and unimportant.

summer camp musings, and the all-butter pie crust dough, revisited

Madeline wanted to attend a sleep away camp this past summer, but I didn’t let her go. I couldn’t imagine having her gone for an entire week. She would miss home too much. We would miss her too much.

Back when I was a kid, probably Madeline’s age or a little older, I wanted to go to camp in the summer. I remember pouring over brochures for camps in other states, far away states like North Carolina and Maine, and I investigated attending the YMCA’s Camp McConnell here in North Florida. As I debated the merits of each camp, my thoughts were filled with images of singing songs around a campfire, roasting marshmallows for s’mores, boating in the lake, and horseback riding. And then I thought about being away from my parents for an entire two weeks. I chickened out. I never went to summer camp.

When the flyer from Camp McConnell came home in her backpack a month ago, Madeline begged us to let her go. Not wanting her to have the same regrets I did, I agreed. After all, it was just for two nights, not fourteen.

In the weeks that passed after I signed the registration and paid the fee, I offered to let her back out of going. Just in case she was getting the jitters, like I was. But she wasn’t. Unlike me, Madeline was resolute in her decision, and she wasn’t nervous about being away from home at all. And as we dropped her off early Friday evening, she radiated with excitement…and independence.