Saturday, August 23, 2014

Food for Thought

Oh, hey, fancy seeing you here. How ya doing?

Last post I mentioned a project that had been swirling around in my brain for awhile, and recently I decided to make a little progress on it. My ideas really boiled down to one simple yet extremely complex question: 

What does food mean to people? 

Some might think of food as necessary nourishment, and nothing more. I certainly know a fair amount of people like that. But for people across the globe, the presence of food in their existence is more than just a means to stay alive. It's a means to thrive. 
From my humble beginnings, my relationship with food has gone in so many different directions it has been hard to keep up. I think it has always been an emotional part of my life, a means to nourish my body and creativity. I know that I always found a sense of comfort in it, and a sense of calm in the creation of it.  Because of this, I began to wonder how other people related to food. How did it shape them as individuals? If they had a passion for it, where/ when was that flame lit? 

In truth, food means so many things. It can be a means to share and connect with family and friends. It can be a healing source for those who wish to learn about its beneficial qualities. It can be a creative outlet, and a never ending learning experience. It can be joy. It can be the most fun you've ever had. I really wanted to get a better understanding of the draw of food to those who decided to make it a full-fledged career. From my limited experience, working in the food industry can be so exciting, yet so frightening. It's a big leap without much of a net to catch you, especially if you're starting your own business. Yet, I've watched people try and try again, fall and then lift themselves back up to chase their dream. It's inspiring and pretty rad to witness.

I decided I would come up with a few questions to ask some of the people I've met in the SF/ Bay Area, just to get a feel for their unique stories. I'll post them here as I go, and I'm excited to learn more about these individuals!


The first person that I interviewed was Natalie of Natty Cakes,  an up-and-coming a Bay Area business I'm currently working for. Originally from Santa Rosa, Natalie moved to Berkeley a few years back and launched her business marketing treats with comforting, yet decadent air. Her specialties include her well-known cookie sandwiches, with come in both regular and gluten-free varieties,  her cupcakes, and her cinnamon rolls, but there are always new things on her agenda (especially with each coming season).


Where did you see your relationship with food beginning? For instance, was it something that was instilled in you from a young age or a passion you discovered later?
From a young age I was always in the kitchen. Whether it was with my mom, grandparent or dad, I was always trying to help. I wouldn't say those around me had a passion for food, but rather saw it as a necessity and found some enjoyment in it.  It wasn't until I took a culinary class in high school that I discovered how interesting it really was and how much I loved to cook and bake. I found love in the little things, like chopping ingredients, using a mixer, decorating and of course, eating my creations. It is definitely a passion that grew over time.


How would you describe its role in your life?

Baking and cooking have been in my life as far back as my first memory, it is something that I never questioned. My passion for baking has been the most consistent thing in my life, it frustrates me more than anything else can, and brings me more joy than anything else.  Baking is not something that comes natural to me, I am constantly making mistakes and trying to figure out where I went wrong and how I can correct it.  


What's your favorite thing about food? Why do you think it has such as impact on you? ( This could be positive or negative)
I very much enjoy the anticipation and excitement that food brings.  When baking, I love the process of mixing ingredients, forming into an edible shape, baking and decorating because it is all building up to the moment of it being consumed.  Either it will be loved or it will be something that can be improved upon, but either way there will be some excitement surrounding it.  When I wake up in the morning, I think of what my first meal will be, when I eat lunch, I plan dinner and while eating dinner I think about dessert.  The anticipation and joy that food brings is a hard thing to compete with for me.



How did you find yourself working in the food industry? Why were you drawn to that particular aspect of said industry?

After I took a couple culinary classes, one of the last lessons we had was how to decorate a cake, and from there I started to look for work doing just that.  I had a friend that was working at Oliver's in the bakery department and she took a lot of pride in what she did.  I found myself fantasizing about becoming a cake decorator there; so I got my work permit at 15.5 years old and applied for the cake prepper position. I was drawn to cake decorating because while it was a job that often received a lot of recognition, I knew it was something I would have to work really hard at, it would be something I would have to practice over and over until I finally produced something I was proud of.  It took years until it felt natural, but it never seemed monotonous, that is how I knew I could do this the rest of my life.


What did you hope you gain from your career in food? What are your aspirations?
I hope to have a bakery that is warm and inviting, but never predictable.  While many bakeries have that "wow" factor (i.e. unimaginable concoctions, impeccable displays, etc) I have never seen my self opening a bakery with this element.  In order to survive in that industry, you have to prove that you are better than the best, and to be honest, I have never been a competitive person.  I would much rather collaborate with another bakery rather than try to beat their sales.  
With that being said, I want a bakery that has feel-good baked items that are comforting and delicious while still being up to date and excitable. I want a bakery that can withstand all the fad diets and trendy treats.  More than that I want to, in a small way, make a difference.  If there is a way for me to show younger generations how to bake simply, with great ingredients and the way grandma used to do it, I would feel accomplished.


How would you describe your experience growing up in the Western food culture? How would you say it affected you?
I think in a lot of ways, I have seen how wasteful we can be.  When you think about how much we deep fry, and cover in butter or cheese, it is pretty disgusting.  But at the same time, some of those "cooking methods" have created some of my favorite meals.  While I wish that obesity weren't such a problem, I feel that our society has to take something, such as food, to a level above and beyond where it needs to go, in order to see where that line is.  Our society tests the boundaries, and while that is often looked down upon,  I think it is a very natural thing to do, so it is hard for me to be ashamed of the Western World for doing so.  
From those boundaries being pushed,  I have learned the importance of being choosey about my recipes and ingredients.  I have also seen the importance of looking at other cultures to draw inspiration from.  While I love a twinkie as much as the next person, there is some so elegant and dainty about a french macaroon, that far surpasses my love for a cream filled cake.  This is how I came up with a cookie sandwich.  While oreos and ice cream sandwiches have been around for decades,  never before had there been a chewy chocolate chip cookie with a buttercream filling.  It essentially has the same shape and idea of a macaroon, but is much more substantial and, to me, more comforting.  It may seem over the top and excessive, but isn't that was America is all about? ;)


Would you describe food as a social aspect of your life or something to be enjoyed singularly?



Food is definitely a social affair to me.  I would have never been allowed to bake had there not been an occasion, I would have never learned to grill a steak without a planned dinner.  Cooking and baking is a passion, that is for sure but it is a realistic career because everyone needs to eat, and why not feed others with something you created and are proud of?

Check her out on Facebook or Instagram! She also sells at Manifesta on Wednesdays and the Vacaville Farmers Market on Saturdays.

Thanks to Natalie for giving me a little taste of what food means to her! 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Real Blogging?

I apologize for the lack of blog posts lately. Work has been a whirlwind, in a good way, but it definitely leaves me little time to collect my thoughts ( and shower, let's be real). I did have some cool baking experiences that I'd love to share, but first I wanted to talk about something that has been on my mind over the last few weeks.

I was thinking a lot about food culture in Western countries, as well as on blogs that I read everyday. In general, its strange to realize how negatively we perceive our bodies and how skewed out relationships with food are in the U.S. I can't go a day without hearing toxic language being used about the human body, or obsessive talk about its natural shape. And to be honest, it feels damaging to the psyche. I didn't grow up comfortable with my body or with a good view of fueling it, and that shaped a large portion of my youth. Everyday felt like a struggle, and although I've come a long way since those days, there are still days that are tough for me. 

When I started reading healthy living blogs, I felt like I had finally come across a group of women/ men who were doing things right. Eating in a balanced manner, exercising, and enjoying life. They seemed like they had it all figured out. Eventually though, I found that so many of these blogs were only showing the "put-together" side of their life. One where they had everything in control, they only thought happy thoughts, and they could accomplish anything. I loved the messages that the blogs held, but I also found that they made me feel extremely inadequate because of how much I couldn't measure up. Every one of those individuals was a marathon runner, a mother, an accomplished foodie, and a go-getter in their job field. There didn't seem to be any days that they would lie on the couch and watch episode after episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or eat two cupcakes for dinner and call it a night. Guilt would get the best of me because my idols would never "stoop" to such pathetic levels. And even when I started this blog, I thought that I should try to sugar coat ( ha) everything to make it seem that I was having a blast and had the most perfect relationship with food all the time.

The more I think about it, I realize that a lot of the guilt associated with these blogs was my own mistaken ideas that I had to be exactly like these people. They were merely living and cataloging their lives the way that they wanted to, and although it was fun to learn about their daily lives/ thoughts, it didn't mean that I had to be that way at all. Furthermore, it didn't mean that their lives were truly how they portrayed them, or really that much better than your own. However, knowing my own sensitivity to the blogs, I have decided to take a little break and refrain from reading them to make room for other things in my life. I think a big part of healthy living has nothing to do with what you eat/ how you exercise, but have everything to do with what you do each day to stimulate and treasure yourself. Sometimes, I can forget that, but I'm always glad to be reminded of it. 

Anyways, back to the bakes! 
Since I last checked in, I have a new job at Natty Cakes, located in the Berkeley/ Oakland area. I found out about Natalie's business because we happened to be from the same hometown, and all the stars aligned so that she was also looking for an assistant baker. I leaped at the chance, and have been having a great experience being involved in her business. Its small, but definitely growing, and I like being a part of that growth.

Over the past few weeks we have been baking up a storm of cookie sandwiches, shortbread, cupcakes, cakes, galettes, and cinnamon rolls. I love being able to work with the variety of baked goods, and getting to give creative input. We bake mostly in the evening, so it was a transition for the late hours, but I can also see it as a chance to sleep in!
Her website is here: http://lovenattycakes.com/, or you can find her on Facebook or through Good Eggs.
I going to be putting in my last hours at Three Babes Bakeshop over this upcoming weekend, which is a bummer but I'm glad that they allowed me to get the experience I have over the course of the summer. It was tiring, hard on the body, and one of the best learning opportunities I've had in a while, and I am truly grateful.
Here are some pastries I made with Natalie on my first week. From left to right: two cinnamon rolls, an oatmeal cookie, red velvet sandwich cookies, a lemon curd fruit tart, and a double chocolate sandwich cookie with strawberry buttercream.

                                       
                                      And here are some other pictures from the last few weeks!


At the farmers market with the coveted peach blackberry crumble pie.


Making the crumble at the bakeshop for the week's pies ( its best when eaten raw and in great quantities) 


The product of a hard days chops. Fresh strawberries for strawberry rhubarb pie. 


My bosses sent me to Facebook HQ in Menlo Park to set up a Three Babes pop-up! So fun and stole a ton of their free snacks<3



Here was my table set-up at Facebook! Including Beyonce bumping from the jam box. 


Here are Kahlua and Cream cupcakes I made when feeling fancy one night. They were delightful, and the leftover Kahlua made me one happy lady. 



There you have it! There is a food-related project I've decided to start working on, but i'll save that to talk about next time ( I am pretty excited about it though.) Thanks for stopping in, you da bomb! 

Love, Lia


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Key Lime for Quite a Guy

So Father's Day came and went, and I never even posted about it. For shame!

I'll get to his Father's Day treat, but I want to spend a little time gushing over my pops, because he is truly something special.

There he is, fez and all. I can't say I'm only a "daddy's girl", but I definitely have a special relationship to my father. He's always been there, slangin his patented puns and wielding a plastic Lord of the Rings sword that he bought himself on a wim. He's got stacks on stacks of comic books, and even action figures. Growing up, I got a lot of my sense of humor from him, and certainly my nerdiness. Needless to say, my friends loved him 

And when it came down to the more serious aspects of life, he was an amazing provider, and always took care of me when I was ever sad or in pain. I know I cried in front of him many a time, and he was always there to rub my back and raise my spirits. I remember talking to him about relationships, anxieties, any emotional topic you could think of really, and he always knew how to give advice. Plus, it doesn't hurt having two doctors as parents when sickness strikes. 

So, on his day, I decided to make him a key lime pie After all, I've spent all this time learning how to make pies in my internship, I might as well use the skillz!

I made it with a standard graham cracker crust, crumbed using the food processor. 



I packed the grahams with butta and sugar into the pie tin. I let it get nice and toasty in the oven, it smelled so goooood. I think I have a soft spot for toasty graham cracker. 


Then I made the filling, juicing enough limes for about 5 ounces of juice. 
And damn were they gorgeous. 


I combined that with condensed milk and eggs, poured into the crust, and let it bake until it firmed. It's always kind of tough to figure out if a key lime is done, but after much internet research I felt like I was in the clear. 

I topped it with whipped cream, using old pastry tips we had lying around my parents house and a plastic bag ( the ol' stand by when you don't have a pastry bag)


There she is, in all her glory. Why I've decided its a female, I couldn't tell you. Reminds me of all those feminine nautical terms people use. 
Annywaayyysss....

My dad loved it! My mom too, judging by the three pieces she had. I think we polished off over half the pie, and then my dad decided to take it to work to save us all. I can't remember ever liking key lime pie when I was younger, but things have definitely changed :D It complimented the steak sandwiches we had rather nicely. 

It was great getting a chance to do something nice for my dad.  It never really feels like you can repay your parents for raising you, clothing you, feeding you, and putting up with your teenage bullshit. It would probably take quite a few more pies than this, but I'm willing to keep at it. 


Happy Father's Day, Ray Frey. Better start planning for your birthday, gotta top that key lime! 

<3











Monday, June 9, 2014

Just a Day in the Baker Life


Baking has become such a huge part of my life lately, I can't even begin to remember when it wasn't.
I'm not even sure when my memories and thoughts started to become so full of recipes and desserts, but continually diving further into the world of baking has only enriched my life and sparked a passion that I didn't even know I had. 
Some days I'll spend hours researching cookie possibilities, plotting my next cake expedition, or scouting out new bakeries to try in the area. I collect menus and business cards from baking businesses I come across in my day. I get excited when I think about the next time I get to sink my hands into dough. I dream about the day I have my own apartment, complete with a kitchen aid mixer. When you get a gift from me, its most likely going to be whatever dessert I oh-so-subtly asked you about a week or two before.
I am a baker.
Even when I've been baking all day, my legs are aching and my back is sore, I can look at my end product and feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride in my work. And nothing is better than watching someone taste something that you made and thoroughly enjoy themselves. To get corny on you, it fills my heart to the brim. 

As I mentioned in previous posts, I recently started as an intern for Three Babes Bakeshop, a fast-growing pie business in based in San Francisco ( which is why I haven't posted in so long). They have a huge variety of pies available through out the year, with the ingredients dependent on the seasons. I met Anna and Lenore, the amazing babes behind the bakeshop, on my hunt for a better understanding of what it truly means to own a small business. I knew that behind the beautiful fantasy of owning my own bakery, there was a whole messy, tiring, invigorating process with a lot of adventures and misadventures. They agreed to take me on and I've been learning so much after only a few weeks.


Here's what a week looks like for me so far:

Tuesday: Head to the kitchen to help with the dough! Monday and Tuesday are roll out days, so we take dough balls and make pie crusts. We use french rolling pins, which I realized are pretty hard on the hands, but I think I'm getting used to it. We trim the edges of the pies depending on if its a lattice pie or not.

Wednesday- Thursday: This day is dedicated to fruit prep and fillings. Chopping, chopping, and more chopping, then we mix up the fruits to pour into the pre-baked crusts. We also make the nut pie fillings and custard fillings.

Saturday: My personal favorite, the farmers market! I meet Lenore at the market around 8 or 9 and we sell until 2. I love customer interaction, so its always really fun for me to get to talk to them about their favorite pies and meet other foodies. We have whole pies and slices, so usually one person takes orders and the other person slices as need be. Plus, I have an obsession with farmers markets so I always have to walk around admire the other stands. And bug them about their products. And eat my weight in samples.

I like the mix of getting the kitchen experience and the selling experience. Both allow me to really feel immersed in the business, and understand the time commitments.

Here's a few lessons I've learned while babin' it up:

Maintaining Your Vision 

One of the most important lessons I've learned is that having a clear vision for your business is infinitely important. It's this core idea that you carry with you as your business grows, and you when you have to make difficult decisions along the way. I recently started this business class that also talks about creating your vision, and it has you come up with descriptive words that you want to apply to your business ( fun, reliable, compassionate, charity, clean, etc.) Once you have this vision fully formed, you can use it it as your guidepost in presenting your business/ products to the public, as well as to your employees so they can keep your ideas alive!

Putting in the Hours 

Bakery hours are no joke. Most bakers start their day at around 3-5 AM in order to get the products ready before they open. At Three Babes Bakeshop, because there isn't a store front, the head bakers get there at around 7 AM and work their butts off until around 5-6 PM. When your business is small and just starting off, sometimes its just you in charge of the baked goods for the day, meaning you don't get many breaks. Its all part of the process, knowing that you're putting in the hours now for payoff later. But damn, you gotta be ready to feel exhaustion like you've never know.

Taking Care of Yourself 

A HUGE lesson I've been learning over the past two weeks is that you've got to take care of yourself if you want to keep up the energy you need for your business. That means early bedtimes, meal prep, and drinking lots of water ( and coffee riiiighhttt? ). I can be kind of spacey when it comes to planning, so I usually don't get my meals together before I head out for work for the day and don't go to bed early enough. To be honest, I've been paying for it. I planning some good changes for the coming weeks that will hopefully give me more energy in my internship/life. Lets hope I can stick with them! And, I think it takes a little time for your body to get accustomed to the physical labor involved with production baking, so with more practice hopefully my body will get in fighting shape:D

Relationships with Your Customers 

Without support from your customers, you've pretty much got nothing. So, as you can imagine, slowly building your customer base is extremely important. That means telling everyone and their mother about your business, and making promises that you can keep when it comes to production. That means treating your customers with respect, and showing appreciation for their business. Sometimes you have to give a lot to get alot, including giving out a lot of free product to get your name out into the food world. I think its great when business owners remember their customers names, especially repeat customers, because they contribute so much to the existence of your livelihood and that should be acknowledged. Even if your business does get bigger, you shouldn't forget all the people who helped in its success.


Relationships with Your Suppliers 

If you want your baked goods to have the freshest ingredients, you've got to find yourself some great suppliers. You'll want to know exactly where your fruit, sugar, flour, and spices come from, if nothing else than to be able to communicate these facts to your customers. Furthermore, I think we all like to know that our food is locally sourced and sustainably- farmed.
Okay, maybe some of us don't give a shit, but I know that I do.
Its just good to know that the ingredients of baked goods that you are contributing to the world are honest and real.

Have Fun 

At the end of the day, when stress and exhaustion get to you, you have to remember to have a little fun. This is you living out your dream, and even when that calls for a lot of sacrifices, that doesn't mean you can't get enjoyment out of the process. I think it can be easy to get bogged down by the negatives in any situation. You have to work a little harder to remember the positives, like how much you enjoy baking and sharing your creations with those you love. Plus, entering the foodie community and meeting people who share the same passions that you do it awesome! There's so much to learn.
And personally, I enjoy being able to say I contributed to the delectable baked good that someone is eating.

Little Touches 

One last thing I noticed about business owners, both at my internship and past jobs, is that they can be very particular about little aspects of their business that they have cultivated. It can be a particular way to talk to the customers, a special design on their cupcakes, or a way of styling their booth at the farmers market. Its these slight touches, these specifics that have contributed to their success. I think that attention to detail, making mental notes about all the things that have worked and not worked, is extremely important to one's business. People appreciate the little things, and they notice when particular things don't create the experience they were hoping for.

All in all, I'm learning a lot and pushing myself beyond what I thought possible. Is it a bakers life for me? I'm not sure yet, but I don't plan on stopping anytime soon. I can't imagine life any other way.

Thanks for reading, I'm enjoying a few days off before its back to the Bakeshop. Be back soon!
Love,
Lia







Saturday, May 17, 2014

What Now?

That's it. The last paper turned in, the last scantron filled out, and the last hot hour spent in a stuffy classroom. The semester is over. Its never that I don't appreciate the knowledge gained over the semester, especially where it pertains to psychology, but eventually you just need a long summer to breathe and ease your mind from the residual stress.

Currently, I'm lying in bed trying to think about how to kick-start my summer...and have been most of the day. I figure one day of complete and utter laziness is definitely needed after two weeks of studying until your brain turns to squishy marshmallow fluff. That being said, I know I want to get to work on some projects and exploration while I've got all this time off. Liiikkeeee:

BAKING/DECORATING

First off, let get crafty. I've found some recipes for fondant online that look really simple to make, and I'm excited to see how they would look on a finished cake or cupcakes. I've only had a tiny bit of experience with fondant at my old job, but it really contributes to the polished look of a cake and its ridiculously fun to play with. I'll definitely post about that process when I get a chance, hopefully over the weekend:)

And I'll just leave this here for your viewing pleasure. 
I found this on Pinterest! Once I realized the fondant possibilities, I was sold. 

Also, I really want to learn more about the use of frosting tips and get more experience with cupcake/cake art, so I'm looking into buying another set of tips. I've bought the Ateco brand but I think I want to upgrade to a larger size. I'm open to suggestions! My plan so far is to bake a shitload of cupcakes, make a vat of buttercream frosting, and practice. Too stoked, and I'll definitely be giving them away on the regular so get ready. 

And last, I want to start experimenting with my own recipes. Now that all the studying is out of the way, I'll finally have time to get in the kitchen and really get creative with my own ideas. I'm excited to try out tastes, textures, and work through lots of delicious accidents. I'm sure there will be disasters aplenty, but that can sometimes be the best part right? 

PAINTING

Okay, so over the course of the whole semester I would walk past an art store on Shattuck every Wednesday and covet their supplies. Most days I would walk through the store and make a mental note of all the things that I wanted, but never get up the courage to purchase anything. I think there was a little voice in my head that kept telling me I wasn't an artist, that it would be silly for me to buy anything because I didn't have talent. But hell, you have to start somewhere right? So I'm ready to dive in and get some supplies for my budding career as a world famous artist ( or just to mess around with, I'll take either) Who knows where it will take me, but if anything at least I'll have some pretty stick figures to hang on the wall. 

FINDING MOVEMENT

One of the things that I'm really looking forward to is all the extra time to exercise! I'm not really one for the gym (it kind of depresses me), and I mostly like to get outside or take classes to get my sweat on. This semester I have been able to fit in some exercise here and there, but school can sometimes be so draining that all you want to do by the time you finish is curl up with your stuffed anteater and pass out. I miss consistent exercise, and I always remember it having tremendous affects on my anxiety and overall mood. I'm definitely going to hit up more yoga, walks, jogs, climbing, and hiking. And hopefully swimming because it's gotten so damn hot. I'm not going to be too strict about it, just a little something most days to get my heart pumping and make me feel alive! 

Yoga to the People, I'm coming for ya! 

TRAVELING

Of course, huge trips won't be in the cards this summer. But that doesn't mean I can't explore places surrounding Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and maybe even Oregon. Who knows? And there might be a trip to Guatemala in my future....but I won't spoil anything yet. All I know is I love to experience new places and summer is the best time to do it, when you've got the time and the energy to really throw yourself into it. 

INTERNSHIPS

So right now I've got two endeavors in my plans, one with Three Babes Bakeshop, which is already underway, and the other volunteering for a counseling service. I really hope that I can get involved with both, because they both make me feel fulfilled and light with energy.

Three Babes Bakeshop has already been such a great experience for me, and its barely even started. I'm amazed at how much I can learn and keep learning about owning a small business, making connections, being creative and on your toes, and making smart financial decisions. Next week, I'll have my first day in the kitchen and I can't wait to get my hands in some pie dough! 

Here are some pie pictures, my words will not do them justice. 

Here is the Classic Apple with a lattice topping.

New spring pie! Strawberries and Cream Custard.

And here were all the slices offered at the farmers market today.
 From the bottom: Apple Rhubarb, Bourbon Pecan, Key Lime, Classic Apple, Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble, Apricot Peach, And Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan.
I tasted more than a few of these, and...holy fuck. The end. 

So that's my big snazzy plans for the three months of freedom. Chances are I won't get to all of these things ( I like to think big but sometimes its slightly outside of reality, whatever reality is), but I'm okay with that. I'm just excited for the possibilities. It's my first summer in Berkeley and I want to live it up! 

Excuse me while I take a nap. 

I'll leave you with a few pictures of bakes from the week. 


Chocolate peanut butter swirl cake. Made with love for a friend's birthday. 

Here it is all frosted. He's into cats, crosses, and baseball, obviously. 

And last, but not least, raspberry and cookie butter thumbprint cookies! They were really easy and really buttery, nuff said. 

Next stop: my foray into fondant. 

Love, 
Lia











Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Weekend of Cakes and Bakes

Can I tell you something amazing? This was my last week of classes for the semester. It really didn't hit me until I got home on Friday, threw myself on my bed, and realized that I won't have to go to another lecture for 3 1/2 months. 3 1/2 months of blissful laziness, aside from all the adventures I plan on having. Good god, it's going to be grand. I'm thinking cocktails, backpacking, live music, baking up a storm, maybe making a quick trip to Guatemala ( ya know, just a quickie).

Another amazing part of this week was the incredible amount of baking I got to do, mostly in celebration of all the people I love. First up was two of my guy friends' combined birthday celebration, and my friend Grace and I decided to make them a peanut butter chocolate layered explosion cake.  We'd been scouring Pinterest all week in preparation for the epic baking in store, and then.....time just flew by and wine needed our attention. Needless to say, we thought we might make something a little easier.

Like this double chocolate cookie cake with reese's pieces and peanut butter cups inside and out! 
Plus, it was smothered in a peanut butter buttercream. Fuck. I can die now.
I only have pictures of the finished product, it was so rich we could only finish half. Though I'm sure the other half won't be neglected too long ( too bad fate left it all the way in Santa Rosa).

And of course, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO BRIAN AND GABRIEL!




I also whipped up a few other cakes to celebrate the co-op graduation and my friend Ellen's birthday (She's feeling very 22 today). The Berkeley Student Cooperative, which houses and feeds over 1300 students, hosts a celebration for the all the members who are graduating and moving out of the co-op system. It also created a small competition called BSC Iron Chef, where members of different houses make dishes/ desserts to contribute (all of which will be showcased at the graduation). I decided to jump on the bandwagon and make cakes with the Castro house ( where I eat some of my meals). 
                                              My friend Vania crafted his signature marble cake. 



Here it is in all it's puffy glory. I heard good things about the frosting too, so I'll have to taste test today. 

For myself, I went with an apple spice cake with cream cheese frosting and candied walnuts. I'd never tried making candied walnuts before, and now that I know how easy it is I see great decorating possibilities in the future:) 



Being the impatient person that I am, I messed up on the first cake attempt by not mixing the batter enough. It came out riddled with flour lumps. Once I got over the disappointment, I geared up for a second try.  
The next attempt was much better. 

I decorated with melted chocolate to create the nature scene. This is one of my favorite patterns. I found myself doodling this in class ever since high school, pretty much on whatever paper ( or skin) I could get my hands on. It usually comes up in my cake designs when I'm freestyling it. 

And here's Ellen's cake! I made her a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. We're planning other surprises for her as well, hopefully I play it cool and don't blow it before the whole thing can get going. 


I'm glad I got this weekend to bake and enjoy time with friends before the week of death and studying begins. It hasn't really registered with me that so many of my loves are graduating and moving out into the real world. I still have a year of school left, so I can't really say that I feel that nostalgia quite yet. But, this next year is definitely going to be different, in more ways than one. All hail the changing tides of life. 

Here are the recipes I used for this baking frenzy. I recommend them all, but the apple spice cake smells fucking amazing coming out of the oven. Just saying. 

Smitten Kitchen's Spiced Applesauce Cake  and Carrot Cake 

Life Love and Sugar's Chocolate Cookie Cake ( with a few adaptations) 

I'll most likely descend into hermit state for these next two weeks. Finals, man. I'll post some pictures from the festivities this weekend, but other than that I'll be slightly incognito.  
I'll catch you on the other side! 

Love, 
Lia







Monday, April 28, 2014

Chasing Creativity


In the past few days, while in times of boredom, I was realizing a lot about creativity. I think we all have the capability to be creative beings, to reach deep inside of ourselves and channel our passions into whatever form of art we choose. Maybe it's painting, writing, drawing, baking/ cooking, taking pictures, or making music. It could be sculpting, singing, dancing, or making clothing. The list goes on and on.

I have always been in awe of people who could do these things, who had an ingrained ability to reach their emotions and let them be the power that produces such amazing artwork. I often lamented that I never that creative, even though deep down I knew that wasn't true. I think the truth of the matter was that I never tried to access it, because letting my creativity flow would mean letting my emotions flow, and I just wasn't ready to face that. I came to realize that anytime I was feeling bored or lonely, I would use something that stifled these emotions and distracted me, like television shows, computer games, or various forms. It was a seemingly easier way to deal with things, even though in the end it left me feeling empty. 

Now, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with watching t.v. (I definitely still do! All hail Netflix), but I'm just realizing there's a lot more for me to express than I thought. It started with baking, and I'm blessed to have such a beautiful outlet, especially one that allows me to share treats with those that I love. It's a way to deal with my emotions, to let go of stress and worry, to soothe my brain ( hence the name). And the great thing about it is, there is always so much to learn and try. So many people to connect with who also love baking, like the ladies in my co-op and other more established bakers in the Bay Area. Also, baking has shown me that I can do something, start from scratch and make something beautiful to be proud of. I can't say how much that means to me. 

That being said, I'm starting to realize that I enjoy so many other forms of art as well. As you can see, I love taking photographs of all my treats, and I love the idea of food styling. Its a great inspiration to me to follow many other blogs that have such amazing photography skills and then learn the techniques to get to that point. My father has always had a passion for photography, and has honed his skills to produce some incredible pictures of the world around him ( some of his pictures below).




Coming to Berkeley has been such a good experience for me, but I know first hand how hard it can be to keep pursuing art when you've got so much pressure from grades, tests, on-campus activities, part-time jobs, etc. It really saddens me when some of my friends express that they haven't been able to do any of the things that they love anymore because of how much they've got on their plate. And honestly, I never want to feel that way. Doing things that you love, things that make you feel whole, is what life is all about. 

That being said, this last Sunday I was gifted with a full day with nothing to do. After lounging about for a few hours, I decided to walk around the Berkeley hills with my camera and capture anything that caught my eye. I love walking around there because of the unbelievable, funky architecture and the immense amount of nature. Turning any corner is kind of a surprise. 
















All the houses, all the greenery, it was kinda insane. In the best way of course. 
In the end, I just realized how healing it can be to indulge that creative side to yourself. After all, why do we get up in the morning if not for the things that we truly love?
I want to use this blog to help me document all the things that I love, all the things that have benefited my mental health, and connect with people who are also on that pursuit. 
And for the baking of course! But what is baking if not the most perfect form of stress-release? 

I want to thank all the blogs that I read to get inspired, and all the people who support me in pursuit of creativity. You all are beautiful! 

Hope you had a fabulous monday, I know I did. See you for the next baking adventure. 

Love, 
Lia