That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles

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I’ve been helping my mother in the kitchen ever since I can remember; I made my first recipe with her when I was seven, and most of my baking skills come from experience rather than instruction.

I think I got a reputation as a good baker mostly because I’m a prolific one, and I’m not afraid to try a new recipe or develop one myself. Just because I enjoy a baking challenge doesn’t mean that I haven’t had my baking ups-and-downs.

I’ve committed the usual rookie mistakes such as over-mixing, or not bringing my eggs to room temperature ahead of time. But to be honest, the majority of my mistakes have usually been oven-related. Cooking times in any recipe can always vary depending on the oven. Investing in an oven thermometer was a revelation. (Thanks, Anna Olsen!)

I’m also kind of a klutz so I’ve been known to spill all manner of ingredients, bend spoons, stain clothes, and yes- drop an entire carton of eggs on the floor.

People who know me personally will remember why I’m wary of microwaves because they’ve heard the story of how I lit a stick of butter on fire because I stuck it in the microwave to melt without removing the foil first. (Please remove the foil.)

My favorite baking mishap, though, happened during university when I served on the editorial board of an arts magazine. We were trying to organize a bake sale to raise more funds to make our publication super pretty. No problem for an experienced baker like me, right? I even went so far as to commandeer a friend’s kitchen for the day and organized a baking assembly line to get things done faster.

What I didn’t bargain for, though, was the fact that we were using cake mixes from a box.

Now I’m not above using cake mixes (see here or here for some ideas on how to fancy them up) but at the time I was a D.I.Y. kind of gal that had been taught by a pretty traditional baker. I had honestly never baked anything from a box before. But again, no problem! Right?

Well.

I don’t know if I messed up the ingredients, or something went wrong with the mixing, or if I had merely been distracted and done a bad job of supervising. What I do know was that my team was in charge of muffins and what came out of the oven did not resemble muffins at all. Well, they were shaped like muffins- kind of- except much, much smaller.

One of the girls turned to me, “I thought you said you knew how to bake?”

“I do! I swear!” I cried. “These are just…pocket muffins.”

“What?”

“Pocket muffins. You know, muffins that you can just grab, stuff in your pocket and go. Perfect for a small snack.” (See? I was into marketing even then.)

She frowned. “I thought we were making the regular size?”

I need to cover. Fast. “Yeah but think of how many more of these we can sell because they’re smaller! They’ll make us more money!”

They did not. The “pocket muffins” sat on the table a day later at the bake sale, untouched, surrounded by more human-sized baked goods. It dawned on us that maybe we should have tried one of them.

We shouldn’t have. They were hard, and kind of chewy like a granola bar, and the dehydrated blueberries included in the mix had somehow liquefied and hardened again into these nasty little lumps.

The squirrels in the quad, on the other hand, loved them.

It wasn’t one of the highlights of my baking career, that’s for sure, and I’m sorry to say that I didn’t glean much baking knowledge from the experience. I did learn, however, that there is room for error in any baking endeavor, no matter how much experience or training you have. The most important thing is having the ability to roll with the punches and have a good sense of humor.

But I am happy to report that I’ve never been able to duplicate that pocket muffin recipe.

KBwB-BFlower-50Ok I shared mine, now you share yours! What was your biggest baking or cooking disaster? Bare it all below, or email me and we can keep it between us.

Wanna see some of the recipes that have worked out for me? I’ve archived them all here, plus I have a whole roster of ideas waiting to be made on Pinterest. You can find where I get my cooking inspiration here and here, and if you’re new to this blog you may want to check out my philosophy on coping with stress here. (Spoiler alert: it’s baking.)

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The Busy Girl’s Guide to Managing Your Health

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Working at a doctor’s office gives people the impression that you’ve received medical training the same as any nurse. I have to remind people over and over that I’m not a doctor, and I cannot give medical advice. But I have picked up a couple of useful tips that I wish more people knew about managing their own healthcare.

The biggest complaint I receive from patients is that they don’t know how to communicate with their doctor, and they often come away from their appointments with only a vague understanding of their problem. Even though you may feel like you’re being rushed, you need to speak up! You have a right to know and understand what’s going on with you.

You’re also allowed to do your own research although I urge you to proceed with caution- there’s a lot of misinformation out there, so take what you read on the Internet with a grain of salt. I don’t advise trying to diagnose yourself, but I do encourage gathering more background information so you can ask the right questions during your appointment. Your doctor might also be able to provide with a starting point in your research, or have access to resources that may be able to provide you with more information and/or support.

Managing your healthcare is really a collaborative effort between you and your healthcare provider (see here for more reasons on why this is important). They have the knowledge and experience to diagnose and treat ailments, and you have the working knowledge of your own body and mind to help decide what treatment is best for you. Should you take your doctor’s advice? Probably. But they don’t always have time and funding to do the legwork to seek out second opinions, treatment opinions, alternative therapies, or insurance resources you may need or want. Sometimes it’s up to you to take the reins.

Being an active and engaged patient also helps improve your relationship with your doctor. Be honest. Share things about your life. These are all important methods of communicating what’s going on with you, and it actually might make a big difference in the long run.

It’s also the nurses, pharmacists, therapists, counselors and support staff like myself that are assisting the doctors behind the scenes. The more they know you the better they understand what your healthcare needs are, and these relationships in turn might help give you insight into the inner workings of your particular healthcare system.

Going to a doctor’s office can be scary and intimidating- believe me, just because I work for a doctor doesn’t mean I feel any better when I see my own- but knowing what to anticipate, understanding more about the system, and building a working relationship with your doctor can hopefully lead you to a clean bill of health, as well as a sense of empowerment.

And that’s the kind of thing that in my job that keeps me satisfied.

KBwB-BFlower-50I firmly believe that the key to staying healthy is leading a balanced lifestyle. It’s something I’m constantly trying to achieve in my own life, and from time to time I like to share my trials and tribulations here.

Good Health for Busy People

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There’s this belief based on an old saying that if you want a task to be done, just give it to a busy person. I find this to be true. People who like to keep busy (and are good at keeping busy) tend to be pretty capable at managing all aspects of their lives and adapt quickly to accommodate change. It’s a wonder that with so much on their plates that busy people never seem to get overwhelmed, make mistakes, or even get sick. (Ok, maybe they do once in awhile.)

Years of careful observation on my part has lead me to believe that the busiest, most productive people I have met are the ones that take the best care of themselves. Here’s a few of the secrets I’ve gleaned:

Healthy, busy people make time for physical activity. Ideally, you should be getting 30-60 minutes daily. It sounds like a lot but that doesn’t mean you have to go running out to the gym tomorrow. Even incorporating small changes into your routine can make a big difference, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, getting off the bus a couple of stops early, or doing an extra lap around the park with your dog.

Healthy, busy people make sleep a priority. Even Ariana Huffington does it. For more reasons to snooze (as if you need any) click here.

Healthy, busy people maintain a balanced diet. I’m talking regular meals made with real food. I don’t think it matters whether you’re gluten-intolerant or vegetable intolerant or whatever- putting good food in your body is going to make you feel stronger, more energized and more capable of dealing with whatever the world throws at you. Bingeing, abstaining or trying to stick an unforgiving menu will not only make you unhappy, but it can mess with your health. (If this strikes a chord with you, please check out this post.)

Healthy, busy people collaborate with their healthcare professionals. I’ve seen (and experienced first-hand) the benefits of asking questions, doing your own research and being honest with your healthcare provider about your specific needs. It’s your body so you’re in charge of the decisions; they’ve got the education and the resources to help keep you informed. (Working at clinic has given me lots of experience working with doctors and patients. Stay tuned for more of my thoughts on how to manage your health care.)

Healthy, busy people leave their work at the office. Just because technology makes it easy for us to stay connected all the time doesn’t mean we should. Sometimes logging some extra time working on a project at home is unavoidable, but trading in your personal time for more professional time can be bad for your relationships, bad for your physical and mental health and can actually have the opposite effect on your job.

Healthy, busy people know when to take advantage of downtime. By the way, your life isn’t separated into work and downtime- that means downtime includes even mundane tasks such as sleeping, chores, and bathing. Sorry folks, those things don’t count. Relaxing with family and friends, engaging in hobbies or simply just daydreaming are all things that do. It’s important to make the time to do the things you want to do so that when it is time to focus, you feel refreshed, confident and alert.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where we’re connected all the time. We’re trained to work ourselves to the bone. We’re raised not to question the status quo, and we’re made to feel guilty or selfish for saying no, or for taking time to ourselves.

The key is that busy people are already aware of this, and they’ve taken measures to set boundaries, accommodate others, and anticipate their own needs so that they don’t get overwhelmed. Getting things done still requires a certain amount of discipline and prioritization- busy people just make sure that self-care is included on that list of priorities.

And if it isn’t on your list, get on it already! I guarantee it’s the first step to becoming a happier, healthier, more productive you.

KBwB-BFlower-50Have you incorporated any of these practices in your life? How has making these changes made a difference? Share your tips with us by commenting below or emailing me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com and I’ll try to include them in an upcoming post.

I’m always looking for more ways to be productive and organized, but I find the key is try to and keep things in perspective and balanced. I’ve collected more thoughts on how to achieve this here.