Pinterest, the Pandemic

What was the last thing you pinned? Are you pinning? If you’re an 18-45 year old woman, of course you are… at least according to my extremely scientific research. For those still not hip to this new-ish social media outlet, Pinterest is basically a way to create “inspiration” or idea boards, linking each pin back to the original source (although there seems to be some possible legal issues about this). I joined in August 2011 after exploring the various boards for a while and deciding that creating my boards could be rather useful. Little did I know that I would make it my third most visited site, right after Facebook and my Gmail inbox.

When I joined Pinterest, I thought it was great — don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s great, but it’s just… different now. Last summer, I was one of around 1.8 million users, which means I was cool before pinning a photo and simply captioning it “This.” was cool. The latest info I can find counts about 11 million users for the site, and that’s from January, so it’s more likely to be around 14 million now. That infographic backs up my super scientific research that most Pinterest users are women, but I was slightly off on the ages: while only6% of the Pinners are between the ages of 18-24, most users are between 25 and 54 years old… which actually surprises me a little bit… While exploring the boards and clicking around, I was introduced to products, useful tips, and design ideas I never would have come across otherwise. Unfortunately, this pandemic-style growth of Pinterest has given me a few pin-related pet peeves.

1. You have to wade through a lot of lame pins to find something cool because you can’t narrow your interests.

You just have to face it, Sam. Our group is Frodo-centric. If it were a town, it would be Frodoville. If it were an Islamic nation — Frodostan.

I cringe every time I see the pins with wedding attire featuring camouflage and hunting orange details. Same goes for the “hillbilly wineglasses” made of Mason jars and short glass candle sticks. While those are probably fantastic for some bride-to-be, that’s all just… no. No, thank you. I wish it was easier to limit the types of pins you see by your interests. I love arts and crafts/DIY, but I’m so tired of seeing crochet and quilting pins. Nice for someone else, absolutely useless to me. I think it’s fantastic that Pinterest can be such a great resource to my friends who teach elementary education, but to be quite honest, I’ve had to unfollow all of the boards with different learning or activity centers and the like. Not my thing, either.  But, being able to pick and choose particular boards of a single user instead of having to follow everything works for me.

2. Anyone can follow you, and people treat it like Facebook. 

Here are some penguins. Ladies love penguins.

I’m flattered that people are interested in what I’m pinning, or like what I’ve pinned/repinned enough that they post it on their own boards. Still, I kind of wish I could block people. Pinterest is not Facebook,  and unless you’re one of those Facebook friend padders who adds random people you see, there’s an even greater chance that you don’t actually know the people with whom you’re connected. However, I don’t feel the need to connect with every person I know across every social media outlet I utilize. You follow someone because you tend to like the things they’re posting, not because you had 7th period English together in high school. It’s not about who has the most followers, unless there is a really sad “most followers on Pinterest” contest of which I’m not aware. Then you get into the Pinterest flame wars, fights between users started about the content or image of the pin that usually stray away from the original topic within 10 comments. Has no one ever told them that when you fight about something online, no one wins?

3. Just like Facebook, there are the spammers, and then there are people who just don’t get it.

via Apartment Therapy

There’s a difference, and while they’re both just little annoyances, the second is something that can be fixed. On Facebook and Twitter, you get friend or follow requests from fake accounts all the time. Looks like those fakers have overflowed into Pinterest, since you have to have an account with one or the other site to become a Pinner. The spammers can be identified by comments that read something like this: “hey- great pin, come check out my boards” or “wow-great photo, follow my boards.” Annoying. But the second category is a two parter: those who have several (upwards of 100) boards with only one thing on each one, or those who have one or two boards, but pin everything to one of those two. Turns out that the users with tons of boards and 1-2 pins on each are spammers, too.

While I do check the boards and categories I’m interested in just about every day (mainly “Everything” and “DIY and Crafts”), I’m moving outward to the blogs, sites, and other sources that have caught my attention. I end up bringing those ideas or items into my curated collections, which all of my 160 or so followers can see. I’ve made or bought some of the cool things I’ve found or pinned on Pinterest, like these, this, and these guys. Here are a few tips for successful pinning:

  • Make sure the image you’re using goes to the original source. It sucks having to track down the directions for a project or a delicious recipe.
  • Always give your pin a relevant caption that provides a little more of a description than “awesome, doing this.” I’m guilty of it, but I’m getting better about it.
  • Categorize your boards so other pinners can have an easier time browsing for ideas.
  • Take your pinning beyond the boards! When you find something interesting on another site, pin it so others can discover it, expanding the ever-growing pool of, well, stuff that is there to look through.

This summer, take some time to do one of those DIY art projects you found while on your lunch break, or whip up some of those cookies from the recipe you found waiting for another site to load. Although it seems like I have a lot of complaints about Pinterest, the only pet peeve that really bothers me is that I don’t have the time to make all of the awesome ideas I’ve found!

What about you? Anything you particularly love about Pinterest? Anything that bugs you? If you need some “pinspiration,” feel free to check out my boards, but please, don’t feel obligated to follow me. 🙂

Cookie Table Project #2 – M&M Cookies

If you had asked me a month ago how often I’d be able to blog during the month of May, I probably would have said often. Well, it’s May 23rd and this is my first blog post for the month of May. Worse yet, I started my Cookie Table series of posts a long time ago and have only given you one recipe. Don’t worry — I promise I will be better about this. Look for several cookie-related posts in the next 2 weeks. My cousin’s wedding is just around the corner, so cookies need to be made soon. Especially be on the lookout for the Thumbprint Cookie recipe that I plan on blogging about sometime next week — it’s not to be missed!

As I discussed in my last post, things have been crazy. I finished my thesis and it was approved by my committee and by the Dean of the graduate school. Oh yeah, and I graduated on Saturday. So did Abbie! Yay for the Master’s Degree Dames!

Here’s a picture:

 

So, now that graduation is over, I have a lot of free time and I plan on blogging more.

And with that, I give you my new favorite M & M cookie recipe:

 

Red’s Ultimate M&M’s Cookies

Unlike the Lemon Burst Cake Mix Cookies I blogged about in March, I didn’t get this recipe from Pinterest. Instead, I used good old Google to find a good M&M cookie recipe. And who better to turn to than M&M’s themselves for a perfect recipe?

Even though I made them completely from scratch, these cookies were relatively simple to make and only took me about 1 hour from dough to cooling rack.

I modified the recipe slightly by using margarine instead of butter, and I have written the recipe on this blog post to reflect that change, but the link above will take you to the M&M’s website which has the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup margarine, softened (2 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed firmly
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1- 12 ounce package mini M&M’s candies

 

Directions:

1. In a large bowl or in any stand mixer (I use my awesome KitchenAid Mixer), combine the margarine, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Beat mixture until is it blended well.

2. To this mixture, add the egg and the vanilla. Beat for approximately 1 minute until the mixture is well blended and creamy.

3. Add the flour and baking soda. Add the flour one cup at a time and blend after each cup, that way the flour won’t go flying when you turn the beaters back on.

 

4. Mix the flour and baking soda into the sugar mixture well, until it looks like this:

Don’t mind my Christmas mini M&M’s — they were leftover from the holidays. Can’t let them go to waste!

5. Finally, add the 12 ounce bag of mini M&Ms to the dough and fold them in using a spoon or spatula. Do NOT use the mixer to mix in the M&Ms — you’ll end up with broken M&Ms and a mess (especially if using a traditional mixer or hand mixer with the 2 metal beaters).

6. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and grease cookie sheets with non-stick cooking spray. I use two cookie sheets at a time to make things go faster.

7. Drop approximately 2 teaspoons worth of dough for each cookie, placing each cookie 1 and 1/2 to 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. I can get 12 cookies on each cookie sheet.

8. Bake cookies for 10-13 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned around the edges. They will still be soft in the middle. As the M&M website says, be careful not to overbake them.

This recipe makes about 50 cookies and they taste really good.

Definitely by careful about how long you bake them — if you leave them in too long, they tend to flatten out and become hard and crispy.

I’m not sure if I’ll make these for my cousin’s wedding, but they were fun and delicious to make anyway. 🙂

Happy Baking!

Tackling the Cookie Table: Why Pinterest Has Made A Wedding Tradition Easier

It’s hard to believe that it’s the end of February. It seems like 2012 just started and now we’re already 2 months in. Crazy. I have a lot of things to accomplish in the next 2 months including: decide what the heck I’m doing with my life, finish my thesis, take comprehensive exams, and find something awesome to wear to 2 different weddings (one for the sister of a fellow Dame and one for my cousin).

But a smashing outfit is not the only thing I have to worry about when it comes to weddings, my cousin’s in particular. No, I have time to worry about a dress and shoes. Right now, my main concern is cookies.

Yes, cookies. Lots and lots of cookies.

You see, here in Northeast Ohio (Western Pennsylvania too), we have this tradition at weddings called the cookie table. And it is epic.

This is one example of a wedding cookie table. Cookie tables range in size and arrangement, but a traditional cookie table is laden with dozens of cookie varieties.

While the wedding cake is still a mainstay of the wedding reception, the cookie table is equally, if not more, important. A traditional part of the wedding reception in the Northeast Ohio/Western Pennsylvania region of the United States, the cookie table is truly a force to be reckoned with. No one is really sure of how it got started or where it actually began, but it’s easy to make an educated guess.

Most likely, the cookie table tradition became prevalent from a combination of the high influx of immigrants that came into this region in early twentieth century and their baking traditions, the expense of an elaborate wedding cake, and the hardships caused by the Great Depression. For a more nuanced explanation, one of my history professors (a Youngstown native) explained that the cookie table was (and still is to a certain extent) all about social power and social debt.

Mothers, aunts, grandmothers, friends, cousins, etc. spend months before a wedding baking and freezing cookies for the big day. Requests go out – “Can you make cookies for s0 and so’s wedding?” The number of cookies you display and the number of people you can get to bake them for the occasion says something about your social power, but it also puts you in debt to the person baking the cookies. They call in that debt later when they need cookies for a wedding.

As for where the cookie table exactly originated, both residents of Youngstown, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania both claim their city to be the birthplace of the cookie table. We’ll probably never really know, but I’m betting on Youngstown.

Today, cookie tables are different at every wedding. It depends on the bride and groom’s preference, the number of cookies people have time to make in this busy world, the size of the wedding, ethnic and religious traditions, and your family’s past usage/experience with the cookie table. My family definitely adheres to the cookie table tradition, but we don’t have anywhere near as elaborate a cookie table as some others do.

That doesn’t mean the cookies are in short supply though. Recipes won’t just be doubled or tripled. Some will be octupled. (Yeah, I know this might not really be a word. But for my cousin’s wedding 5 years ago, my Mum made 8 times the normal recipe for one cookie alone.) Needless to say, I didn’t eat any of those cookies at the wedding, nor do I have an easy time even looking at them now, 5 years later.

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So, it’s full speed ahead with the cookie baking. And, all I have to say is: Thank God for Pinterest!

Over the next few months, I’m going to be using Pinterest to seek out some new (to me at least) cookie recipes to make for my cousin’s wedding in June.

I’m going to catalog my cookie baking progress on here where I’ll share the recipes and my take on the cookies I try.

First up is Lemon Burst Cake Mix Cookies.

Here’s a picture of what they’re supposed to look like:

I hope to make them this weekend, so check back soon to see whether they are cookie table appropriate.

🙂

The Best DIY Makeover You Can Give Your Wardrobe This Winter

This could have easily become another non-buyer’s regret post, and it almost did. That is, until I got a little crafty. I wanted to do at least one more awesome craft project before the semester started. Actually, today is my last “first day of school” for probably a few years. Considering I’ve been in school for 21 years straight, pre-school to grad school, adjusting to life outside of the classroom will probably be a challenge for me. But I digress.

I found these ahhh-maazing shoes at Old Navy, and instantly fell head over heels, if you’ll pardon the bad pun. They were perfect. Except they don’t carry half sizes in stores (just like their short-inseam jeans… I can never win in stores). I debated back and forth about just going ahead and ordering them, since I’d tried on a pair of 8s and a pair of 9s in the stores, finding that 8.5 would be the right fit. The only thing was, Christmas was quickly approaching, and I couldn’t justify plopping down $35 (+ $7 in S&H) for these shoes. I would take Brian into the store to find jeans and ended up looking at the shoes for a few minutes. Finally, just before Christmas, he offered to buy them for me. After having seen all the presents he had wrapped up for me, I couldn’t ask him for more. I told him that I didn’t really need them right now and I’d just wait for the price to drop and buy them on sale.

It never happened. So, there I was, minus these awesome glitter shoes and starting to feel non-buyer’s regret yet again. Having seen a few tutorials on Pinterest, I decided that whipping up my own DIY version would be a cinch for a seasoned craft pro like myself. With a Jo-Ann Fabrics gift card in hand, I set out to find my glitter. I had originally planned to use a very fine grain glitter by Martha Stewart, but after looking at the cost/benefit analysis (I’d have to buy probably three or four small tubes of it and end up wasting at least one), I settled on Jo-Ann Craft Essentials Glitter Glue in Silver, which was only $4 a bottle. (The link shows the variety pack, which is also $4, but I don’t think one bottle would hold enough to cover a pair of shoes in the same color.) The next step was finding a pair of heels I already owned to carry out my makeover plans. Having earned a bachelor’s degree in a field where one frequently needs to dress up a bit, I had no trouble finding a pair of black heels that would suit this project.

Nothing special. Actually, closer to Civil War widow than super cute.

I started by using masking tape to cover up the patent-esque edge and to tape the bow up so it wouldn’t be in the way. Then I started painting on the glitter glue in a thin to moderate layer, covering the entire outside of the shoe. I didn’t do the inside of the heel. It takes a while to dry, so give yourself a few days to work on this. Give them at least overnight before you start to handle them.

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Getting there. Brian now has a "no glitter products in the apartment" rule...

This is with one coat of glitter glue. It looks more interesting, but they still don’t have the “wow” factor I was going for. Be sure to clean your brush out frequently, since it’ll make it easier for you to paint on more glitter glue. For the second coat, you can be more generous with your layers. I made sure I didn’t have any large lumps of glitter anywhere by turning the shoe sideways to look at the different angles and make sure everything was still generally flat. After two coats of glitter glue (and a healthy coat of Modge Podge, every crafter’s best friend), I wound up with these babies…

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Ta da! Something special and totally awesome. Now to dress up that box. Pretty shoes deserve pretty packaging.

How much were they, you ask? Well, since I had the shoes already, it came out to $4! Four whole American dollars, which I paid with a gift card, so they were technically free. Plus, since the glitter was already mixed in glue, and I covered it with Modge Podge, it’s not coming off. I walked around all morning in them for a student leadership summit, and it didn’t look like following my trail would lead you to a pot of gold. I’m starting to wonder what else can be reasonably glitter-ized, although I think it would be best to leave it to one nice statement piece like these shoes. I plan on wearing them to my graduation, since no one will see whatever killer dress I come up with under that tent-like gown.

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What girl doesn't love a little sparkle in her life?