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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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.

Blips

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I have this theory that everything happens all at once. Maybe you’ve noticed this pattern too in your own life. Sometimes all it takes is for one thing to go wrong and suddenly other things start to come at you, one after the other, picking up speed until your life seems to have snowballed into one screw-up so giant you feel like there’s no way out.

I like to call these life moments “blips” because when you’re in the middle of one it feels like you’ve stepped into a blip in the time-space continuum; like you’re standing still and the world just keeps on moving faster around you at a pace that’s impossible to match, and you feel frozen in place because you just cannot believe that all of this is happening to you all at once.

I experienced a blip recently about six weeks before Christmas so if the above sounds familiar to you, please know you’re not alone, because I’ve been there. I won’t get personal, but a bunch of things happened in my life in such rapid succession it made me feel as if I had run face-first into a brick wall. The sensation of being stuck is difficult to handle; it’s a nightmare for control freaks like me whose self-worth rides on the amount of things that can be accomplished in one day.

As someone who blogs about trying to find balance in all the busy-ness that life throws our way, it may surprise you to read that I still quite haven’t figured it out myself. I’m not here as a teacher, and I don’t want to come across as flawless because I’ve been there before, time and again: I’ve worked too hard, stayed up too late, blew people off, flaked out on deadlines and far too frequently worked myself to the point of exhaustion, sometimes teetering on the verge of burnout.

Even so, balance is something I strive to learn more about because I think it’s a process more than it is a destination, and true balance is about finding the ability to ride the current of life while managing to keep your head above water. There will be waves, yes, but there will also be moments of calm. Sometimes we’ll be able to surf those crests with grace; other times, we lose our footing and that “blip” in time is enough to make us fall under and temporarily lose ourselves.

But somehow, somehow, we humans always seem to have the incredible knack of finding our way back to shore, no matter what life throws at us. We adjust our footing, learn from our mistakes. We try again. We ride that wave.

For me, blogging about balance is a collaborative effort. It involves sharing and learning from our struggles, encouraging each other when motivation or inspiration strikes, and showing patience and understanding when the drive isn’t there, or it all gets too much to handle. Reading and researching ways to find balance, and imparting some of the wisdom I’ve gleaned from my own experiences is a way that I hope to contribute to the ongoing conversation that’s happening now about why we’re running this rat race to begin with. It’s a conversation that I hope to continue to have with you all in the upcoming year, and I hope you lend your voice to it as well. Achieving balance means something different to every person, and sharing our stories gives us the opportunity to learn from each other and create our own definitions of a balanced life.

There will be blips. We all have them. And when you do, we’ll all be there for you, myself included.

Here’s to a happy, healthy and balanced 2017 to you all. May your year be blip-free.

KBwB-BFlower-50In case I didn’t stress it enough above, I am not perfect- I’m still learning every day new ways to treat myself better and achieve a happier, healthier lifestyles. What are some of the solutions that have helped you? I’d love if you dropped me a line or commented below and let me know. We can all benefit from each others knowledge!

I’m still catching up with all of my comments and emails, so please be patient with me as I try to get back to you. I love reading each and every one of your messages and I hope they never stop arriving!

I hope to share even more about my struggles (and successes!) in my quest to find balance in my own life. In the meantime, click here for some of my previous thoughts. Part of achieving that balance, in my belief, is trying to maintain an organized and productive lifestyle. I’ve got lots of thoughts on that too, here and here.