How to Fail at Mixing Two (or More) Groups of Friends

I believe I’ve underestimated the number of goodbye luncheons, farewell parties, and going-away shindigs that I would be doing in my last few days in the Cincinnati area. A week and half ago, I went out for dinner with some coworkers. A week later (last Thursday) I had a farewell lunch with even more coworkers: about 20 in total!

Then, yesterday I had a grill-out with about 30 friends from three different social circles: coworkers, Yelpers, and runners.

I was immediately reminded of a Jim Gaffigan bit about mixing up groups of friends…

You ever mix two different groups of friends? That can be stressful. You always feel like you have to prep ’em. You’re like, “These people over here, uh, they don’t think I drink. And don’t be thrown by my British accent.”

My coworkers were the most prevalent at the event and immediately all started chatting away. The funny thing is, not all of them knew each other (some I work with daily, others I know through the rotational program I was in, others are friends of friends who work at my job, etc.) but they still had that commonality between them that made it less awkward to sit at a table together.

The next largest group were the Yelpers, some of which are in the photo above. I know them through, of course, Yelp, where I am part of the “Elite” group (oh, how I hate that term, despite it being a compliment, I suppose). We all go to the same parties in Cincinnati, and I even attended a Yelper’s wedding a few months ago. They’re a fun, eclectic group who always keep things interesting. (I think I am attached to them because they remind me of my bestest buddies from home, with their potty mouths and inappropriate comments galore.)

Three of my DB’s friends arrived, and they stayed together at their own little table. I don’t know them very well, but I know DB was happy that he had some companions with which to converse!

The tiny group of two runner friends of mine rounded out the bunch. Not only were they the only attendees from that social circle, but they are engaged so one would think they’d only really talk to themselves or myself and DB; however, the both of them are extremely social people: one played a comingled volleyball game and one was talking with my coworkers who also run.

It became really apparent that everyone was clique-ing off: Yelpers with Yelpers, coworkers with coworkers… so I made the futile attempt to mix things up by inviting people to play volleyball. A coworker and good friend of mine is also a Yelp Elite, so I enlisted his help in this. Eventually the game began…

…and consisted of 8 coworkers, 1 Yelper, and my aforementioned friend who [I had hoped] could bridge the gap.

Fail.

Throughout the afternoon I tried and tried to integrate the groups, but aside from the two super-social runners, myself, DB, and my unsuccessful volleyball game instigator, it didn’t work out as well as I’d wanted it to. We did have a decent volleyball game later on that was comprised of myself, DB, his three friends, one runner, and two coworkers. I consider that my success of the day!

Sure, I could have done some kind of corny ice-breaker (remember the “everybody line up from youngest to oldest without talking” game?) but I think that could have made the day pretty awkward and ultimately a complete failure.

In the end, I learned this: as much as you want your groups of friends to naturally come together, it may not happen… and that’s not a bad thing! Everyone at my grill-out apparently had a great time despite the fact I considered myself a pretty terrible host for not achieving my “big happy family” ideal.

If everyone’s happy, I’m happy.

Thoughts on Labor Day Dessert

Labor Day weekend is a mere day away (or, if you’re lucky, you’re taking today off from work or school and are already enjoying your vacation!) which means one thing for me: figure out what to bring to my friend’s barbecue.

My friends know me for my desserts. The interesting thing is that I’ve always preferred cooking over baking. The reasons?

  • With cooking you can adjust as you go along. This is perfect for screw-ups those like me who do trial-and-error more often than not. If you add too much cayenne pepper to chili, just add sugar. But if you add too much cinnamon in your oatmeal cookies, you have to scrap it and start from scratch.
  • You eat more savory things than sweet things on a daily basis… or at least you should…!
  • So much waiting is involved when baking! You have about 10 minutes of excitement when mixing everything together… then you just wait… and wait… and wait. Then you take it out of the oven and wait, wait, wait for it to cool. No fun!
  • People are more willing to eat and comfortable in indulging in an extra helping of stir-fry over an extra slice of cake. The former makes you seem like you’re hungry, while the latter makes you look a bit gluttonous!

Cooking is more of an art while baking is more of a science. But, science is fun! I soon learned that despite the fact that I’ve failed at baking more than anything else, I have fun with it because I want to fix the errors and learn from them. (You will continue to see how I can make anything dorky.) I decided to learn some new baking recipes to get involved in the kitchen in a new way.

Now I love baking! I still hate waiting the 15, 30, 60 minutes for things to bake and then wait [again!] for things to cool before I can frost them. I still hate when I have to scrap an entire batch of cookie dough because I grabbed mint extract instead of vanilla extract. But, there are so many good things about baking!

  • People love sweet stuff. Period.
  • Some desserts are used to celebrate things like birthdays, births, anniversaries, housewarmings, St. Patty’s Day, or my favorite “holiday” — Just Because!
  • Desserts generally look prettier and can be decorated in ways savory meals can’t. (I mean, you could make some mashed potato roses to top your meat loaf, I guess!) Tell me that looking at these cookies I made last summer doesn’t make you excited and happy…

Well, not only is this weekend Labor Day weekend, but I recently discovered tomorrow is also a friend’s birthday. What was originally going to be a simple dessert will now be transformed into a delicious and awesome-looking (I hope!) birthday treat for the man of the day.

Anytime I make desserts, I usually make two: one that is somewhat decadent, and one that won’t give you a heart attack or diabetes. This weekend, I think I’m going to take a stab at this (for the latter):


Broken Glass Jell-o

I’ve never made this in my life, nor have I even eaten it! I’m excited to give it a go because if it comes out right, it’ll look absolutely awesome and probably confuse the hell out of my friends.

For the decadent treat, I definitely want to make something I know the birthday boy will like. Originally I wanted to make cheesecake because it is a cool desert perfect for a hot day (it’s supposed to be around 97 degrees the day of the bbq!) but I don’t know if the birthday boy likes cheesecake! He’s not much of an eater in general… in fact, I wish I had his appetite! Hopefully his fiance will text me back and let me know what desserts he actually enjoys.

If he likes cheesecake, I’ll go with my original idea of making a strawberry-lime cheesecake… possibly making mini-cheesecakes so we don’t have to cut them or even use forks, for that matter!

Be prepared for posts about what the final decisions were! Any suggestions are welcome, too, of course!

Have a safe long weekend my US and Canadian friends!