Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Concentrating on Chocolate Cake

I learned something new about myself last week. (Well, I learn new things about myself all the time, but this one kinda hit me right between the eyes, if you will.)

Apparently, I cannot bake AND talk at the same time.

Oh, it's true, I say. And I kind of knew this already. But not really. I mean, I'm aware of the fact that if I'm talking to my husband while I'm cooking dinner, I normally end up pausing to rehash my last few steps and make sure I did indeed add the correct spice, or boil for the proper amount of time. But with dinner, if I make a little mistake like forgetting an ingredient, I can throw the omission in, mix really well, and everything turns out fine.

Baking is totally different. TOTALLY.

I was making a chocolate cake last week for my husband's team at work (they were celebrating a birthday, and normally, along with that comes a request that I make them a cake). Chocolate was the desired delicacy, so I broke out my recipe for the 3-layer prize-winning best-chocolate-cake-in-the-world. (Did I mention that I had just been hanging on to this recipe and had not actually ever used it?)

So, I was knee-deep in baking supplies in the kitchen, and I was having a grand ol' time. Everything was blending perfectly, it was starting to smell very chocolatey and delicious, and I was thinking about just how amazing I was... (Okay, just kidding on the last part, but I was pretty happy with how everything was turning out.)

Oh, and did I mention that, due to my gluten allergy, the majority of what I create in the kitchen has to be taste-tested by my husband? He doesn't mind a bit! But that's how I cook in my kitchen - by my sense of smell and sight and my husband's sense of taste! It's worked out pretty well so far!

As I scooped the batter into my three round cake pans that I had already greased and floured, I remember thinking, "Wow! This batter is SO thick - I wonder what the consistency of this cake will be? It's definitely WAY thicker than any cake I've ever made. I hope it doesn't turn out dry..." I shrugged my shoulders and placed the pans in the preheated oven. Time to clean up.

But, before that, for some reason, I checked the recipe one last time. And then I proceeded to kick myself.

I had completely missed the part about adding 1.5 cups of boiling water to the cake batter.

Well...crap. Crap crap crap crap crap.

Out came the pans. Into the microwave went 1.5 cups of water. I scraped all of the batter out of each one (yeah...including the greasing and flouring - there was no other way to do it!). Once all the batter was back in the bowl (thank goodness I hadn't handed it over to my husband yet - he LOVES a bowl of leftover cake batter!) I washed, dried, greased and floured the pans all over again. I dumped the boiling water into the bowl along with the batter, mixed well and back into the pans it went. Then back into the oven went the pans. Again.

At that point I made a new rule: don't talk to me while I'm baking, and if I start talking while I'm baking, tell me to shut up. (I was less than amused at the way my husband's eyes lit up at the "tell me to shut up" part...I had to take a moment to clarify LOL)

The cake turned out fine, everyone loved it, blah blah blah. What disturbs me is that I am normally pretty good at multitasking, but apparently NOT when it comes to baking!

I guess my project of watching "Cake Boss" on Netflix hasn't helped me the way I thought it would. Perhaps it's time to watch "The Next Great Baker" and learn a thing or two!

Oh, and here's the cake =)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

In the Midst of a Mess

The majority of April and the entire month of May were both absolutely ridiculous, as far as how much I had to do...hence the reason I haven't posted in a while. We were able to slip in a week in the mountains of North Carolina; that was wonderful!

But it seems now things have died down, so I wanted to take some time and post a blog! The following was my article that was actually featured over at www.ducksnarow.com - what a fun experience to be a guest-blogger! But I realized I didn't share it with all of you, so here goes!

In the Midst of a Mess

I meet regularly with a particular business associate of mine, and, although the meetings are generally filled with creative ideas and inspirational conversations, I typically dread them. Why? Because it all happens in the midst of a mess.

Now, it's been said that "a messy desk is the sign of a creative mind"...and I'm inclined to agree with that...to a certain extent.  However, I don't think it's EVER been said that "a clean desk is a sign of a stale consciousness"...and I wouldn't believe that for a moment.

Here's the thing: how can you be productive and unleash all of your creativity to make a positive difference in the world, when you can't even find a pen to write yourself a reminder with? A clean sheet of paper to write the reminder on? A flat space on the desk to write without poking holds in your piece of paper?

Whether it's a small space on your kitchen counter, a cubby under your stairs, a home study or a corner office with a view of downtown, there MUST be some form of organization if you are to ever thrive in your environment.

So, here's a simple task for today.

Make stacks.

That's all! Make stacks! Three stacks, to be exact. You can make three stacks!

Stack #1: Garbage (And don't say that everything you have is important and can't be thrown away...that's a whole different post! I guarantee you that you will find at least three things to put in your Garbage stack!)

Stack #2: Action (Whether it's a bill to be paid, a paper to grade, software to return or a picture to hang on the fridge, it requires action. Don't DO it...just put it in the stack.)

Stack #3: File (In order to keep yourself from having to continually work in the mess, some things just need to be put away. Again, don't DO it right this minute...just put it in the stack.)

Hey, guess what? You've just made sense of the mess! Shred your Garbage stack, and come back tomorrow! When you return, file a few papers and take action on a few items.

If something new arises, add it to one of your stacks! Before you know it, your work area will be wide open and even more conducive to your creative genius.

Try it. It'll work. I promise!

I got a couple inspiring comments on this one!

"It sounds so simple, yet we don't do it on a regular basis... life seems to get in the way of being productive...sad, I know. Your post has motivated me to go and do this right now! Thank you :)"

"Great advice! I'm a little OCD when it comes to my desk. Everything has a place, except for papers LOL. At the end of each month, I go through everything with the goal of leaving my desk clean. I have the pleasure of enjoying the clean look of my desk for about 3 days until the clutter starts all over again =)"

So what about YOU? What does YOUR desk look like? Are you in the midst of a mess?