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.)

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.

How to Create the Inspiration Binder of Your Dreams

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The ball-room at IKEA was for amateurs. Or at least, that’s what my sister and I always used to think. The real thrill of accompanying our parents to the flat-packed, furniture store lay in exploring the faux living spaces that were set up throughout the store. Playing in all of those little apartments and lofts fostered a love of home decor in us at an early age. The smaller and more efficient the space was, the more interesting it became. For me, these spaces represented freedom and independence and I longed to have one of my own. (My parents sometimes joke about how I was ready to leave the nest even before I had reached high school.)

Fast forward years and years later, through dorm rooms and crumbling student housing shared with too many roommates, to a few years ago when I was ready to take the plunge and get my own big-girl apartment. (Which was like, the only thing I had been waiting for my whole life.) Being the organized person I am, however, I needed a place to keep track of all of my projects so I created my very own inspiration binder for the project.

If you’ve never made an inspiration binder, I suggest you take a look at your calendar, make yourself a date, grab yourself a binder, and start planning. It’s never too early to start. I created one of my dream apartment, but you can make one for your dream cottage, your dream vacation, your dream wardrobe- your dream whatever. My personal organizing system relies on a series of binders, but you can use whatever works best for you- whether it be a notebook, a scrapbook, a folder or a duo-tang. Anything goes as long as it can hold all of the information that you need.

However, if you decide to follow my lead and use a binder, I highly recommend making the best of the format and getting creative- use dividers, sticky tabs and folders to organize to track information and keep it separate; and use sticky notes, highlighters and colored pens to highlight important information. I use page protectors to house important documents and flimsy materials like paint chips and magazine tears. Depending on the size of your binder and how organized you are, you may want to invest in binder supplies such as three-hole punches, pencil cases with grommets, and specialized sleeves to house additional material you may to keep close by.

Once the binder itself is assembled, gather all of the necessary materials you might need to include to work on your project. (Click here for more info on how I organize projects.) This list may include things like magazine tears, paint chips, sketches, budgets, spreadsheets, checklists, mind maps, correspondence or legal documents. Similar to the command central binder, your inspiration binder should be a one-stop shop for all of the required resources to make your dream project a reality.

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I found assembling an inspiration binder for my dream apartment an incredibly valuable process in organizing the massive project that was moving into my own place, but your inspiration binder definitely doesn’t have to be as technical as mine. In fact, it doesn’t have to be technical at all. Over the years, I’ve had inspiration binders devoted to recipes I wanted to try, gardens I admired, and organized spaces I wanted to emulate. Yes, their practical uses were limited but the enjoyment they provided me was endless and still remains to this day one of my favorite ways that I’ve organized my clippings and tear sheets. It was literally like having my own magazine.

Needless to say, my parents weren’t too surprised when I showed them my inspiration binder, nor were they shocked when I borrowed and subsequently returned their respective copies of the IKEA catalogue with pages missing. I think they knew exactly where those clippings had ended up.

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What have you been dreaming lately? Comment below or let’s keep it between us when you write me at keepingbusywithb@gmail.com.

If you liked this article and want to learn more about organizing projects and binders, I highly recommend taking a look at how to assemble your own Command Central binder here, and the best way to define your projects here. For more ideas on getting organized and keeping busy, click here.