Saturday, February 6, 2016

Feelings on Social Media (and a cute-ass cake)

Today, I want to talk about our relationship with social media. On social media (heh). I'll follow up with a birthday cake that I made and am itching to share, but one step at a time.

My life, and probably most people's lives, are so heavily intertwined with our lives on social media. Its hard for me to look back to a time when I didn't automatically share things that I see on Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat. Even this blog! It seems like its difficult to validate anything that I accomplish on a daily basis without sharing it with the people around me. I suppose it reminds me of the saying, "If a tree falls in the forrest, does it make a sound?". There's even the more current saying, "Pics or it didn't happen." Something about this doesn't sit right with me, but I know that every part of life has a good and bad side. I'd rather think of our access to social media in that way to. 

I remember at one point I found great comfort in reading/ looking at blogs of women I greatly admired. I liked their perseverance, their honesty, their beautiful photographs. I strived to be more like them. It was nice to have access to people across the globe that I wouldn't normally come across in my normal day to day. I used their health-focused goals as an inspiration for my own self-improvement. In many ways, I gained a lot from reading their stories, their own struggles with body image and the other struggles so common in human existence. They worked on these issues, and approached life with a positivity and vigor that seemed to escape me most of the time.
However, slowly I started to read these blogs a little too religiously. It dawned on me sometime in the last year that I was relying too much on what these women did, how they took care of their body and their life's challenges. I was using them as a way to structure my own existence, trying to fit myself into their skin (to put it in a creepy way?). Whenever I got anxious or unsure about my life, I would read their posts like stories and enjoy the temporary distraction from whatever the conundrum was. But to be honest, eventually that started making me feel extremely inadequate. I was never going to exactly mirror their life, and I didn't realize that I would be happier if I didn't try.

That being said, I find social media to be a great resource for spreading the word about things that are important to you. I love scouring the internet to connect with other mental health advocates or having access to recipes and beautiful pictures from other foodies. I like being able to read real life stories of struggles and victories, even failures. I think the real issue is learning to take what you see with a grain of salt. While there are people out there who try to remain as authentic as possible, there are those who pick and choose what they post to craft a certain image of themselves that is far from reality. This is completely within their rights, but it does give followers the difficult task  of separating what they are seeing with reality. Many of us are susceptible to feeling inferior when we see these fantastic humans, displaying a constantly happy attitude while posing with their beautifully crafted meals or perfectly stylized outfits. Its a good idea to not just accept these images at face value, and know that behind ever blog or Instagram account there is a living, breathing human being with their own set of flaws and self-deprecations. The key is just not accepting everything you see.

Also, I think that its important to realize that you have the power to be as authentic (or inauthentic) as you want. A lot of the women who I followed on social media put in a lot of effort to be truthful about their lives, but there were a fair amount who didn't. I think for me, its important to put both the good and bad stuff out there so that other people know that they are not alone. There are days that I feel on top of the world, and days where I feel like hiding under the covers and avoiding all things that produce even an inkling of anxiety. Some days where I eat healthy and some days where I eat takeout all day. Somedays where I strongly follow what I preach in this post and some days where I just want people to think that everything is good when its not. Its just the ebb and flow of existence. We are not meant to stay in one state perpetually, we are meant to experience the entire range of emotions. Its messy and raw, but its real. And sometimes we have to constantly bring ourselves back to that reality, not the one that is often portrayed on social media. I'll keep trying, and I am so appreciative when people chose to share the less-than-perfect side with me.

So, full disclosure, I hadn't been doing all that much baking at home while I was working at Dandelion. After a long 8 hours of production, I didn't have any energy or desire to create while I was home.  It sucked, it REALLY sucked. Thankfully, a lot of my friends have been having birthdays recently, which set me up with some baking projects.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO TIANA AND VERONICA!

I made two different cakes for these lovely ladies, one super simplistic (and a little weird looking) and one that I pulled out all the stops for. And just a warning, this is an oreo-palooza.

First up, the plain cheesecake with an oreo-crust. Sometimes people have very specific tastes, and I try my best to stick to them. Even when I'm like "but hey I could add 50 other tweaks to make a salted caramel cheesecake with brownie chunks and a layer of ganache on top AND the oreo cookie crust". Take it slow, Lia. Take it sllooowwwwwwww.





All baked, ready for eating! 


 and gerber daisies to round out the gift :)



Next up, an oreo cake with oreo buttercream, chocolate cake, and a layer of ganache. Decorated in..... OREOSWHAATTTTT. 


Simple chocolate cake recipe I use all the time. Actually, its from the Hershey's collection. No shame. 





Excess batter so I made cupcakes for my roomies. They are pretty used to this whole baked-goods-available-at-all-times thing now. 



The buttercream is essentially a standard American buttercream with crushed oreos in it. 



My pride and joy. Super happy with how it turned out, and excited for future cakes. I actually might have a legit baking gig of my very own coming up soon. There will be all kinds of coverage, you can be sure of that. 

  

With all the ups and down of social media, I'm glad I have this platform to share thoughts and food pics with. Its comforting to me, and I hope slightly entertaining for you. 

Lia <3 



                                                                                                                                                                 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Thoughts are not Actions


As much as I might not want to admit it, my brain gets the better of me from time to time. Usually its in a time of great stress and confusion, I seem to let go of all coping mechanisms I've started to gain in favor of obsessive/ control driven ones I've used in the past. Negative thoughts permeate my brain, paranoid and unrealistic ideas seem to tangle with logic and create strange versions of simple situations. Suddenly, everyday decisions take longer and longer to figure out due to a desire to make the "right" choice. Just walking through the grocery store can suck all my time away, grabbing a bag of goldfish and then putting them back on the shelf and walking away, only to return and stare at them yet again. What might happen if I get these and then realize later I didn't really want them? Did I just buy these because I'm used to that sort of snack or because I'm afraid of getting anything else? And on and on and on...
Sure, I'm aware of how ridiculous that thought process might seem to someone else. I am in the same boat. The logical part of my brain is just as puzzled by my neurosis as other people might be. However, that doesn't stop me from freezing in the face of regular day to day decisions. Not without a great deal of practice. A question that I ask myself a lot, especially in the thick of a rough patch, is how can I accept this and move on? How do I not get tangled in the tornado of OCD when it ravages my existence?
A quote that I recently read on the social media account of a public figure in the world of mental health was this:

"The moment you realize your feelings and actions don't have to match, you are free" 

I remember when I read that quote for the first time, I immediately identified with it. The issue with OCD is that you attach such intense meaning to certain thoughts, and wage a war against them. You use up all your focus, your energy and will, trying to defeat these thoughts and banish them from your mind. Of course, this is not possible. You end up defeated, and plagued more heavily by your burdens than before. However, after enough suffering and defeat, you realize the key to the struggle. And that key is, don't struggle. Allow the thoughts to exist, to enter and then leave your mind. They are only thoughts, they don't make up who you are. The real you is made up in your actions, what you choose to do with your life. I can be mad at myself all day for the negative/ terrifying thoughts that enter my subconscious. Or, I can identify them, accept them, and allow them to go on their merry way. My actions can continue to be what I want them to be, following my dreams and desires. Creating. Loving. Hugging. Working. Sweating. Eating. Enjoying. That doesn't have to change because I feel obsessions starting again. Because truthfully, when I try to cater to my obsessions, it only fuels their fire. When I don't pay them extra attention, they pass and allow me to keep on keeping on. Its a tough realization for a control junkie, but an important one nevertheless.

I decided to write this post because I enjoy being honest about the way that the brain can work sometimes, and right now my brain is going through another confusing transition. I haven't quite got the hang of a regular meditation/ mental health routine, as much as I want one. Therefore, when I get stressed out, I tend to start to fall back on old habits of reducing stress and distracting myself. But, the good news is that I still have these techniques at my finger tips. So I think sometimes, how can I use this episode to my advantage? Where can I put this energy? And that might mean writing a blog post about it. I know there are a lot of people out there who have similar style brains as I do. It can be great to have a fast moving mind, it allows you extra energy for learning and discovering. However, it also has the potential to fall off track if there's not a form of therapy in place, it moves that fast. So, I wish to have everyone out there who has been through their own suffering from negative thought patterns or obsessions, that you are not alone and there is a silver lining to our brains. They can be harnessed through our actions, which we always have a say in.

I realize that when I find different things for me to do, hobbies or pursuits that perhaps I was too distracted by anxiety to pay much attention to, I have a much more balanced energy level. Because although I have OCD, I am not OCD. I have other talents and interests, a lot of them undiscovered. And although I can become very consumed by my own mental state, I have a choice in what I actually do with my time. This being said, I do still find myself stuck in a pattern, choosing the mindless drone of the tv screen over the aches and pains of trying new things. But thats OKAY. I will keep trying, and accept that perfection is not the goal.

My thoughts will go where they may, but my actions are mine <3

Thursday, January 14, 2016

New Horizons


Hey erybody. I've got a lot of new stuff heading my way and I'd like to share.

As you may have guessed from my last post, I am changing jobs yet again. I came to realize that I really wasn't being fulfilled by my job at Dandelion, despite the fact that I wanted it to begin with. I think coming to a decision about grad school and missing the fun in baking was what tipped me over the edge (so to speak). Its a great job, but I just wasn't heading in the same direction and decided I needed to find something that fit me a little better. So.....

You're looking at a bonafide nanny! While I was trying to figure out how I felt about my job, I started putting myself out there on childcare websites and wound up getting a ton of interest from parents. It was awesome, and it set me up with a sweet family extremely close to my house. No more commuting, no more paying tons of money on food in SF because I'm too tired to pack my lunch (well.... that might still happen, but only on fun day trips). I'm pretty excited about it, and the scheduling of the job works out perfectly so that I will have plenty of free time to work on grad school ideas. WAHOO!

Also, I'll heading back to work for Natty Cakes for a few hours a week. I really missed that job, and I'm over the moon that she is allowing space for me again (I'm just killing it with all these cheesy phrases tonight.) Its located in a cool collaborative space so you get to watch/ drool over other businesses on a daily basis. And bonus, really close to my house. I love jobs being.. ding ding! close to my house. Commuting is a huge soul-sucker, I never realized until having to do it every single day. Its expensive and time-consuming, not to mention exhausting. I'm so glad that I'm able to eliminate it for now. I know eventually that I'll have to start again, but hopefully when the job is worth it.


(Me selling da cakes at the New Parkway) 


(Decorating and muggin)

A huge realization that I have had over this job struggle is that I should always listen to my gut on what is right for me. In the past, I would be upset at myself for not being able to fit with a decision I made. Now, I'm trying out a new tactic where I go with the flow of my own temperament. Set myself up for success. When something is not right for your mental health, ditch it. Know what environment you work best in and stick with that. Don't force yourself to fit into a mold you know isn't for you, especially at the expense of a balanced existence. I know that I benefit from a slower moving day-to-day, and I'm lucky that I found a way to make that a reality. I like to have extra time to meditate, exercise, and just breathe. Its so crucial for my OCD, and I intend to stay true to that part of myself as much as I can.
Big steps, and yet small steps. I'm always learning and growing, with lots of stumbles and missteps along the way.

On a last note, thanks for putting up with my puny posts. I never know how much or how little to write, and generally it just comes out like word vomit. I hope to have time for my put together posts soon, but thanks for stopping by anyways <3

Saturday, December 26, 2015

My Relationship with Baking

I have to be honest about something.
I've been identifying myself as a baker for so long now, I think its become part of my identity. For some people, its my entire identity. I've been very proud of that fact, and proud of the way my skills have developed over the years. It makes me feel special. But sometimes, you come to a point where you get a little lost behind one identity when you know that there is so much more to yourself. I love baking, I love cooking, but that is just one part of who I am. Chasing baking as a career has been its own wonderful experience, but in some ways it has kind of sucked the magic out of an interest that I hold very close to my heart. Baking for fun and baking for work are two very different games. And sometimes, when you do cross the line and start to turning your hobby into work, it can create a sense of forced production. Especially because while before you were creating when the inspiration struck, and now you have to create in mass quantities as fast as you can. I've started to look back into blogs and food photography, and I feel that spark start to ignite again. I'd forgotten how fun it is to create, to work slowly and methodically, and have time to enjoy what you have created.

Its hard for me to admit that baking as a career, or perhaps in the particular avenues that i've been exploring, is not fulfilling me in a way that feels sustainable. Sometimes, subconsciously, it feels nice to have one thing to define yourself by. But I think its important that that you acknowledge your brain as a constantly changing entity, and work with it rather than fighting the change.

Lost story short, I miss the times that I would just wake up and be able to bake/ cook whatever was intriguing to me at the time. Now, its true that I don't have the resources now to just wake and bake (ha) at will. I was living in a co-op with a food delivery service when I started writing this blog, and GOD DAMN was that convenient. But hey, that just leaves room for me to find creative options that are cheap, as well as stimulating. As I've been scouring the internet lately, some thing have caught my eye that look particularly enticing:

SWEET


Vikalinka's Spiced Pumpkin and Chocolate Cake 

Holy balls, this is a beautiful melding of some great flavors. I love pumpkin, I am one of those people. Pumpkin and chocolate together is always a plus. And marscapone frosting??
I am hooked. It is done.
Plus to tell you the truth, I've been missing cakes so much recently. There's not always an opportunity to make a cake and not have it just sitting in your fridge/ on your counter for weeks, staring at you. I need someone to have a birthday soon.

Call Me Cupcake

This blog is just amazing in general. The photography is on-point, and her creations are simple yet elegant. I love the use of light and shadow.


SAVORY

Real Food by Dad's Ultimate Breakfast Burrito

Sometimes I just get extremely excited by dishes that I would never be able to actually eat. Sadly enough, I have a bit of a sensitive stomach which inhibits me from enjoying a lot of salty, greasy dishes. But I would brave the stomach pain for this baby. I decided in the recent past that breakfast burritos are my favorite food, and this is just so....ultimate.



How Sweet It Is Roasted Chicken Ramen 

I literally just found this like...five minutes ago and its already got me smitten. I've been really into going out for ramen lately, and I hadn't even considered making it at home! Salty, soupy, noodley, all the good stuff.

annndddd...

Minestrone Pot Pie with Whole Wheat Parmesan Biscuits 

She's got the soup dishes on lock. I found this gem a long time ago and have never gotten around to making it. Hopefully that will be remedied soon, especially for those parm biscuits. I love anything squishy and carb-filled.

Happy Holidays everybody! I hope you spent some well-earned relaxation time with the great people in your life. <3 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Acceptance

This will be a short post, but important for me to share none-the-less.

As I get older, I think one of the hardest things for me to deal with is acceptance. Acceptance of all the negatives in the world around me, of flaws in myself, in other people. I tend to get worked up over things I can't change, and it distracts me from all the good things in my life. I think we all know how crazy the outside world can be, what with the violence and fighting, political skirmishes and natural disasters. And the worst part, perhaps for me, is the lack of control we have over it all. I think back to my youth and ache for the days when I was blissfully ignorant of the seemingly endless tragedies that occur. They make me feel so weak and helpless, and even guilty that I can't give up more of my own life to help others who are struggling. I notice that my symptoms come back much stronger when I expose myself to these tragedies and try to become too involved. For me, it feels as if the weight of other people's problems sits entirely on me. I can't explain why, but I tend to drop my own health and happiness if I think I should change suffering that is actually not mine to change.
But the truth of the matter is, I am not in charge of other people's lives. I can offer support, advice if they want it, but I can't stop bad things from happening. None of us have that ability, even though we want it desperately. It's heart-wrenching, but acceptance of this fact is key to enjoying what we do have control over in this life.

I think its important for me to acknowledge acceptance as a constant goal, as I recently decided I would look into grad school! (OOOO AAAAAHH) I realize that I have a great interest in psychology and contributing to the growing mental health revolution. Don't get me wrong, I still love to bake, but I miss doing it on my own terms. When you bake for a career, a lot of time you're just mass producing the same things over and over. There are changes, but depending on your work place you don't necessarily get to provide a lot of input. Or maybe not the amount you were picturing. I think when it really comes down to it, my passion really lies in helping people. It's a drive, one that might take me down an amazing path (I hope). That being said, its going to be a major struggle for me to allow others to suffer through their own challenges. I can be there to help, to support, but not to take the hurdles for everyone else. Its going to be hard, but I know I'll keep trying and keep making progress.

Something specific that I try to work on everyday is to focus on listening rather than immediately offering advice. Sometimes when someone begins talking about an issue that is troubling them, I respond too quickly and end up overtaking their words with my own. Unfortunately, this causes me to miss what they are really saying and doesn't allow them to vent. Most of the time, while people do appreciate advice, they are looking for a space to share and unload some of their troubles. If you are too busy planning your response, you might miss an important factor or part of what they are sharing (not just words, but movements and facial expressions as well).

Acceptance and listening, both seem passive but can require a lot of active effort. A LOT. I'll keep you updated on the grad school front. As of now, I have made zero progress, besides the all important task of deciding to go.

Lia


Monday, November 9, 2015

Life at Dandelion Chocolate

Remember when I said that I was going to update you about my new job and then promptly forgot? Yeah, I do to. I offer my most humble apologies and will get right to it.

When I first started writing this post, I was going to give you a full play-by-play of what I do every hour of a day at Dandelion. But to tell you the truth, that just seems like as much of a pain to write as it is to read. So, I think I'll just give a summary and include some snazzy pictures.

I started working in mid-September, so its been almost two months in the land of high-end chocolate. When I began the work, I noticed that as nervous as I was the start a new job and make the unavoidable mistakes of such as undertaking, I already had enough experience in the kitchen atmosphere to feel semi-comfortable. I met all the people on the pastry team, (4 total, other than myself) and they were(are) all wonderful people with the usual sass of the foodie crowd. Over the past two months, I've been learning the entire menu, pastries and drinks, as well as the specifics of how are department works.
I'm under the wing of pastry chef Lisa Vega, who is the creative mind behind all the pastries you enjoy at the Dandelion cafe. Its been really awesome to try out a way of baking that I hadn't been introduced to, one fueled by a pastry education. Its all about the specifics: weighing out ingredients, proper technique and execution, and attention to creative detail. I hadn't exactly learned to bake that way over the years, and I took this job partially so I could get a closer look at the process. There are both pros and cons to this world, but I'm appreciating the experience.
Here's a few photos to catch you up!

Rolling up our Nib-buns (roll filled with chocolate custard, brown sugar, and nibs). These are part of our morning bake-off, alongside some buttery fig scones. 


Starting the Euro, or European drinking chocolate. We make a thick ganache with Camino Verde chocolate, which is then combined with whole milk to make a super rich hot chocolate. Seriously, this  drink is not for the faint of heart. 


Here I am tempering chocolate. In short, you heat and cool chocolate to specific temperatures to change the chemical structure. This is what gives it the creamy texture we all have come to know and love. Its a pretty crazy process!   


Freshly made toffee. Simple recipe, but tough execution. I've never met such a fickle dessert in my life (and yes I know that this is truly only the beginning) 

Key lime tarts. This has a graham crust, coconut ganache on the bottom and a lime filling. Garnished with a dab of coconut cremeux (love this shit), a candied lime peel, and nibs


Sinful dulce de leche bars, I actually just made these today! You're looking at a feuilletine crust, handmade dulce de leche, and a layer of caramel ganache. On the top are some maldon salt flakes (casual). 

 If you want to see the full menu of treats and drinks, visit the Dandelion website.

I've actually started working at a very special time for the company. They are in the midst of opening two new locations, not to mention we're entering the holiday season. Its going to be a crazy whirlwind of changes coming our way, I'll try to keep you updated on everything thats going on.

Speaking of changes, as part of a brainstorming exercise we each worked on a pumpkin jar to present to each other a few weeks ago. We were given a time limit, a size limit (it had to fit in a jar, obviously), but everything else was up to us! I chose a no-bake pumpkin cheesecake with a chocolate-toffee crust and a caramel ganache. The three others: a pumpkin cremeux with a chocolate ganache, a maple meringue, crushed speculous cookies and candied cranberries, a pumpkin semi-freddo with honey comb folded in and topped with pureed persimmon, and a pear hazelnut chocolate cake layered with pumpkin custard and topped with candied pear peel and hazelnuts.
Don't worry, I have pictures.


Well I guess by pictures, I meant picture... But hopefully you can still get the magnificence of these desserts from this slightly burry one. It was a really fun event for us, especially because we got to taste everything!

Please stop by and visit me if you can. I tend to be toiling away in the back all day so its great to have visitors. Plus....its a chocolate factory. Enough said.

Lia <3









Monday, October 5, 2015

Body Love



I've recently made some changes to how I relate to my body, changes that I'd love to share with you. But first, I should give a little background to my relationship to my body. It's been a long time coming , and its not something I generally fully share with people. But I'd like that to change
I don't know exactly when it started for me, but as far back as I can remember, I had "body issues". I learned early on that there was a standard and that I wasn't measuring up to it. In elementary school, I was chubby. I was starting to show the first signs of a irregular relationship with food, but I couldn't decipher that at the time. All I knew was that next to my thinner friends, I felt uncomfortable. I felt like I couldn't match their delicate femininity and I would never get that attention that I desperately craved. I didn't know the beautiful soul that fluttered just beneath the surface.
As time wore on, I continued traveling down the same path, struggling to make my body fit the mold that society had made for it and always coming up short. I remember throughout junior high and high school there was a war raging internally, constantly questioning why everyone seemed to be comfortable with their body and food, and yet I could never let myself get to that place. Of course, much later I learned how common it was for people to struggle with their body image, yet no one ever discussed the true core to those struggles. I think that past the obvious desire to fit in, I wanted control. There seemed to be so many things in life that I didn't understand, so many hurtful and disastrous things in the world, so many people who I couldn't quite connect with though I wanted to. Deep down, I think forcing myself to focus on food and my shape shielded me from other confusing aspects of existence. It was my own little bubble that I never let others penetrate.
In high school, I dealt with a form of bulimia. It was a terrifying binge/ purge cycle that lasted up until junior college. At that point, after breaking up with my first boyfriend, I started struggling with anorexia. I had never let anyone as close as I had let him, and when that blew up in my face, I burrowed even further into myself. I restricted my food intake, and drank to numb any emotional extremes that were taking place. I specifically remember one time I was standing in the kitchen of my apartment, and I thought to myself, "I wish I could disappear. I want to grow fainter and fainter until I don't exist." That was my low point. When my mom finally mentioned to me that I looked extremely skinny, it kind of shocked me out of my state of denial. I needed help, and I decided that it was finally time to reach out for it.
Its been about 4 years since that point, 4 years of intensive therapy and a diagnosis that made everything a little more clear. I've worked very hard, and I think I have made an immense amount of progress. I still have ups and downs (definitely) but I try my best to listen to my body and give it what it desires even if that scares me. There is no perfection with that process, and I believe that I will always have some form of that same fear lingering beneath the surface. But I have finally learned how to refocus my energy on things that really nourish me, body and soul.
As I said, I've made a change recently. I've decided to forgo any substances for about a month. No alcohol, no weed, and very minimal amounts of coffee (making some allowances on that one heh). I decided that I wanted to fully face my anxiety, and as well as take it easier on my body. I actually have a relatively sensitive stomach, so alcohol and caffeine don't fare very well when consumed in mass quantities (or even pretty small ones). I've only gone about two weeks at this point, and I have to say its been...interesting. It definitely makes my stomach feel better, but I notice an increase in anxiety. I suspect that is because I don't have that small buffer of substances, as well as the idea of restricting myself. I don't really enjoy giving myself restrictions, though I understand they can be helpful sometimes. Overall, I think the experience will be good for me, and help me function a little better without a reliance on alcohol or drugs. And I'm proud of myself for trying it out, not shying away from the possibility of increased anxiety. Its evidence of huge progression on my part.
Its not easy to be good to your body, both physically and mentally. But its worth it <3

P.S. I actually didn't even know Sober October was a thing. Coincidence, but stoked that I'm not the only one doing it!