Gratitude

Sunday, January 30, 2011
I try to be grateful on a daily basis for the many blessings in my life.  Two wonderful children, a supportive husband, a great church community, a career doing what I love most, the ability to travel and see the world, and good health for all.  

But sometimes it’s good to reflect on the small blessings too.  You know, the little things that add grace to your day.  The person who holds the door for you when your arms are full.  The parking spot that miraculously opens up when you’ve been circling for ten minutes.

Yesterday I was grateful for good customer service.

Too often, I get the other kind.  A cashier who shrugs when I ask for help finding something.  Or two clerks who stand around discussing – honestly, you don’t even want to know – while I search the shelves a foot away.

But I’m not here to complain about them.  Yesterday I went to Crate and Barrel at Yorkdale Mall.  A woman by the name of Barb helped us.  She saw us from across the store and walked over to greet us with a friendly smile. She knew the products and graciously walked us around the floor pointing out what I needed.  Not only did she answer my questions, she anticipated questions I hadn’t even thought of.

In short, it was a delight shopping with her, and I was thrilled to give her –  and the store – my business.

(It goes without saying – but I’ll say it anyhow – this is a completely independent opinion.  Crate and Barrel hasn’t offered me anything to post about my experience.  In fact, Crate and Barrel doesn’t even know about my experience.  But they will next week when I write them a letter telling them how great Barb was.)

What little things have you been grateful for this week?


I was also grateful to find this recipe for Caramel Crumb Bars.  This is the kind of bar that you could easily overlook in favour of flashier ones, but don't do that.  It's completely wonderful and satisfying.  Nick Malgieri has said that it’s his favourite.  High praise indeed.

Caramel Crumb Bars
(adapted from The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri)

Dough
16 Tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 – 2 ¼  cups flour (first amount)
¼ cup flour (second fmount)

Filling
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp corn syrup
¼ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened, condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9 x 13 x 2” pan with parchment paper.

For the dough:
In an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter with the sugar and salt until soft and light, about 2 minutes.  Add the vanilla.

On the lowest speed, beat in the first amount of flour (2 to 2 ¼ cups), mixing just until the flour has been absorbed.

Place ¾ of the dough into the prepared pan, using the palm of your hand to press it down evenly.  Chill.  In the meantime, work the remaining ¼ cup flour into the remaining dough to form crumbs.  Set aside at room temperature.

For the filling:
In a medium saucepan, bring the butter, corn syrup, brown sugar and condensed milk to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Allow the mixture to boil gently, stirring often, until it starts to thicken and darken slightly, about 8 – 10 minutes.  Pour into a stainless steel bowl to cool for five minutes

Remove the dough-lined pan from the fridge and scrape the cooled filling onto the dough, spreading evenly.  Scatter the crumb mixture on top.

Bake until the filling is bubbling gently and the dough is baked through, about thirty minutes.

Cool in the pan until lukewarm.  Lift the dough out of the pan and onto a cutting board before it has cooled completely.  Cut into 2-inch squares.

56 comments:

Ruth said...

I'm grateful for reconnecting with old friends. :)

Brenda said...

Beth, isn't it crazy that good customer service seems to be the exception nowadays and not the norm. I'm grateful that while my daughter doesn't live at home anymore, she's only a quick 10 minute drive away and I get to see her all the time (like tonight). I love bars and these look delicious. I could eat one or two with my coffee right now. Enjoy your Sunday!

Valerie said...

You are so right, Beth. Instead of complaining about the bad things, we should dwell more on the positive. It's amazing how the helpfulness of one person can clear the slate for everyone else.
I may just have to try these bars! Who can resist sweet milk? :D

Joanne said...

sometimes, it's all about the little things. Caramel crumb bars...nice customer service...they can make or break your day.

Beth said...

Me too, Ruth. Thanks for making my day!

Beth said...

Brenda, having your daughter only 10 minutes away is something to be very grateful for. There's nothing like having family close by.
Valerie and Joanne, you would LOVE these bars. So easy, and so good!

Jess said...

I love nice customer service people! I spent enough time working in retail (during the holiday season, no less) to realize that things like basic politeness and genuine smiles are more rare than they should be. It baffles me sometimes when I get the impression that I'm "bothering" someone by asking a question about their product. Or when people don't seem to realize it's part of their job description to be friendly and provide a pleasant shopping experience. I'm so glad that you're writing a letter to Crate & Barrel about Barb! I should do that for the ladies at Williams-Sonoma (a cooking supply store)--they are incredibly nice and helpful. This week I was especially grateful to a kind worker at the grocery store who saw me struggling with produce and my two-year-old. He asked me what I needed and bagged it for me. It's truly the simple things :)


PS- those bars look delicious- you had me at "Caramel"!

Faith said...

You are absolutly right Beth! A good customer service will make a bbig difference of how your day is going. Love the Caramel. It's one of my favorite. Looks really good.

Medeia Sharif said...

Those bars look delicious.

I'm also appreciative of good customer service. I come across too many instances of bad customer service: people not saying hello or goodbye on the phone, cashiers talking amongst each other and not concentrating on what's being scanned, and employees making themselves scarce.

Belinda said...

Great reminder of things to be grateful for! It's those little things sometimes....

The Words Crafter said...

I love it when I run into helpful people somewhere. I've had to listen to personal conversations, tirades about fellow staff, and even been completely ignored while at a checkout. Hooray for the Barbs out there!

comfortablydomestic.com said...

It is truly the little things in life that make you smile. Right now, I am grateful for my sweet 5 year old snuggled up next to me.

Kimberly said...

When customer service is lacking, I usually chalk it up to someone having a bad day, at least that's what I hope the reason is and it's not their usual demeanor.

On the other hand, there are some people that are so great at it whether they are having a bad day or not, those are the truly great ones.

Those bars look so good.

Chow and Chatter said...

I am grateful for a lovely warm afternoon spend outside with my family, lovely post as ever Beth

Tracy said...

These look wonderful!!

Kimberly Franklin said...

Those look yummy! And it's always wonderful to receive great customer service. Like you said, so often it's the other way around!

Jenn from Much to My Delight said...

Very sweet post! I always make a point to tell people when I think they're doing a great job and giving good service, because they deserve to hear it. How nice that you're writing her store a letter to compliment her service--she'll be thrilled! You should wrap up a few of those bars for her; I bet she'd love them too:)

Carol Riggs said...

Yes! I love the little things, and I'm thankful for them (most of the time). Even running hot water is delightful, and a soft cozy bed at night. Aaahhh! (or maybe those are bigger things LOL)

A Canadian Foodie said...

I also take the time to be grateful, Beth. I always have. Since I was 8 years old - and even before... but I was on my own at church summer camp, walking across the field wet with morning dew in my new white Keds, wearing my cool red stretchies and the perfect matching top: at summer camp and looking very cool. I was almost bursting with thankfulness that summer morning with all that I was blessed with. I still feel that way, daily. Thank goodness people like you take the time to write a letter. I do too - but it would be an e-mail... and it is these little thank yous that take 5 minutes that really are significant in the lives of others. If a student takes 10 seconds to look up at me and say "Thank you." or something similar, it feeds my soul. I don't work for that - but oh, my - what a difference it makes.
So, today, I am thankful for the relationships I am building within my local food community and for how much I am learning from others, like you... and I am thankful I found you are a writer of children's books! BRAVO! I have always wanted to do that, too... but, clearly, not enough.
I am an Early Childhood Specialist - have taught Kindergarten to grade 12 - written, published and edited many professional pieces... and am in my 30th year of teaching school.
Ah...I still have SO much to do. Making these bars - and I can see why they would be a fav - brown sugar? Butter YUMMMMMM.
Making these bars is now on my list.
:)
Valerie

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Beth, what a lovely post! I'm so glad you had such a wonderful experience and shared it with us...and even more you are willing to take the time to let the company know how much Barb helped you.

BTW, the bars look divine!

Lydia K said...

Yes, those little things can seep their way into a bad day and just make it so much better again.
Great post, and those caramel bars look to die for!

tenaciouslyyours.com said...

Those caramel crumb bars just look so COZY! I'm pretty much in love with any dessert that feels decadent but not over-done.


There's nothing better than great customer service - when you interact with people like Barb, I think everyone leaves the situation feeling a little bit better.

Carol said...

Great looking bars! Delicious! And how nice of you to write a letter about what a good experience you had, so often people write when they are angry, I'll bet they'll be thrilled to hear how nice Barb is! I write the letters, too! Feels good!

Julie Musil said...

Each day I give thanks for the many blessings in my life. Healthy children, a loving husband, a warm home. I'm already so grateful, and any type of writing success I achieve will only be icing on an already delicious cake.

sweetpeaskitchen.com said...

Mmmm...these caramel crumb bars are calling my name! I bet they are delicious! :)

Les rêves d'une boulangère (Brittany) said...

Great post Beth! I think it's important to be grateful in life too. Firstly, I think these bars are worthy of that high praise. They look delicoius! I'm going to save and test out that recipe. As for things I'm grateful for...
I'm grateful for my family and our blessings.
I'm grateful for my friends (including my blogging friends, of course!)

Barbara Bakes said...

What a kind post. It's so easy to take those who help us for granted. I wish I would take one of your bars off the plate for a late night snack! I love anything with caramel.

Amie Kaufman said...

I'm grateful for having a dog who's so pleased to see me when I come home that his tail wags his whole body. I'm grateful for friends who notice when I'm tired, and come to check on me.

Is there anything we could use other than corn syrup? It's a really uncommon ingredient here, so can be quite difficult to find. I'm not sure what it would be similar to?

Beth said...

Amie, I did a bit of research on substitutes for you. Although I found that honey, agave or Lyle's Golden Syrup could be substituted, David Lebowitz suggests that for bars and cookies no substitute is needed. He uses it to keep the caramel smooth, and suggests that the recipe would work fine without it. Here's the link: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2009/01/why-and-when-to-use-or-not-use-c/
Thanks for asking. I learned something new today!

Sweet and Savory said...

I have the book. Why haven't I made such a good recipe? You sell the recipe, making it sound so delicious.

Katerina said...

I think people like Barb should be appraised for their professionalism and it is a great idea to write to her bosses. They should also know about the good employees they have and reward them accordingly. Your bars look also very sweet and attractive!

Domestic Goddess Wannabe said...

Your Caramel Crumb bars look yummy.

I think a smile goes such a long, long way. It is not difficult either.

MT said...

Wow, that looks delicious. I copied and pasted it to my recipe file. :)

I'm grateful to have my husband home after 7 long months in VA. He is finally able to tellecomute. I now appreciate what it's like for military families, or single parents.

Have a great week!

Monet said...

I think these look just delightful. I love all things caramel, and one of these bars would be perfect with an afternoon cup of tea. I also loved hearing your story about Barb. We need to celebrate those people in our daily lives! I'm thankful that my sweet husband started my pot of coffee this morning before leaving for work.

Claudia said...

I wake up every day reminding myself to practice gratitude - for the obvious and the little things. How lovely to write to Crate and barrel about Barb - perfect! And now I must revisit The Modern Baker. What luscious bars.

Sue said...

That's so nice that you are taking the time to write a letter about your good service! It will mean a lot to Barb, I'm sure! Your post is s great reminder to pay attention to the positive, and be grateful for it, everyday!
I'm grateful for this caramel crumb bar recipe!

sarah said...

I'm grateful for time to read and others to learn from. And a hot cup of tea. Thanks for the reminder to be mindful of our blessings, small and large. :)

Patty said...

Thank you for reminding me to be grateful everyday! Currently, I am most grateful for having a healthy and happy family...the healthy part is a little so-so at the moment as my husband, but the fact he is sick is what makes me grateful for his general health. Thank you!

Patt@zomppa.com

haze said...

The little things that make me smile are also the little simple things that makes you smile. . .
♥a kind, friendly sales lady
♥humble smile from a stranger
and oh!
♥that CARAMEL CRUMB BAR!!!

always love your posts! thanks! ♥

Emma said...

You know I can really relate to this post and I think (regrettably) it's because customer service has gone downhill (in aust anyway). Any time I phone a company and have a friendly person really go out of their way for me or in a store it just makes my day. I also love the camaraderie from other drivers when I'm on the road (people waving and/or smiling when you let them drive in front of you etc). Good post.

Oh, and lovely bars! I really should be all sugared out by now but sadly, no ;)

allieksmith said...

I love those simple moments in life where someone really helps out! You are right that we should be thankful for big AND small blessings :)

Peggy said...

I'm definitely grateful for many things! My family, my friends, and my health, to name a few! These crumble bars sound absolutely delicious!

Mimi said...

Nothing beats a smile and good customer service.
Mimi

Angie's Recipes said...

Beth, I can't agree more! We should be more grateful indeed.
Those caramel bars look absolutely gorgeous. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful post.
Angie

Barbara said...

I'm grateful the new washing machine and dryer were installed yesterday with no problems. There are almost ALWAYS problems! Small things are the important things. I'm glad you had a good Crate and Barrel experience; I think it's a super store.

Love your bars, but of course I would because it has condensed milk in it! Natch!

Julie said...

Thanks for the reminder of those things we should be grateful for. Far too often we forget in the haste of daily life. These bars looks delicious. I could eat way too many.

Heather said...

I can think of quite a few things that I feel grateful for:just this evening I was poised helplessly in a snow pile, trying to cross the street - a kind gentleman came up and gave me a hand. Then there were the two ladies who (at different times)swiped their subway cards for me; the first time I had my cat in a carrier and couldn't get through the turnstile; another time I was running for a train and my card wouldn't work. New York is often so harsh but there are many, many acts of human kindness here to be grateful for.

I am a great fan of Nick Malgieri - those squares look super!

Pacheco Patty said...

I love these bars and even have the Modern Baker so I will bookmark this recipe, thanks for sharing.
My husband made me coffee this morning and I spent time with my grandson Noah after I picked him up from school so two great loving things happened today, that brightens up my day;-)

lapetitepancake said...

It's amazing how far a little bit of costumer service can go. I walked into a store the other day, planning on spending zero dollars (just wanted a peek at the new products). The clerk was so helpful and knowledgeable that I ended up buying $30 worth of bath products that I don't even need!

Mary said...

These really do sound delicious. I've bookmarked them to try when things are a little quieter around here. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Kristen said...

I am thankful for this post. What a lovely recipe and gentle reminder to look for the bright side!

Rita said...

Lovely post. I am thankful I discovered blogging and met so many new friends. I was kind of in a rut; dear daughter in law suggested this and and changed my life.
At 70 there are many things to be thankful for;all you have to do is look around.
Great post Beth,
Rita

Heavenly Housewife said...

Its always good to count your blessings rather than to compare yourself with those who have more. Life is good, if only we stop to smell the roses!
*kisses* HH

Sweet And Crumby said...

What a nice post, a great reminder and a lip-smacking good recipe. I am so grateful my husband came home with takeout after several days of me taking care of a sick child at home. That was a small, gracious act that literally made my whole evening! Have a great Wednesday Beth!

Raina said...

Oh this bar looks really good!

I sometimes forget to be grateful for the little things in life. It really is nice when someone takes the time to be kind. I try to always be kind to everyone I meet. I just cannot imagine being any other way. Thanks for the very nice post:)

Catherine said...

What a wonderful post Beth. I try to count my blessings too. I remind my kids to do the same things. It's those little wonders in life that give us faith.
These bars sound and looks delicious by the way!
Blessings~

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