The Underlying Wonderful.

I can’t remember quite how it came to be, but when my husband and I were in our early stages of romance, I believe it was he who said something along the lines of “No matter where life takes us, never forget the underlying wonderful.”  A lot of people ask me how we met. I think it’s a pretty amazing story in it’s own right, and one that might just give others some hope who feel lost or alone and like they might never find “the one.” Not everyone finds “the one” when they’re in their early 20’s. And that’s ok. If I could do it all again, I’d do it exactly the same. Because it has led me right here.

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photo taken by The More We See.

It was the start of the summer of 2008. I had just come out of a two year relationship with someone, and wasn’t really looking for a new someone. I was playing with a new band at the time, and was nervous for our first show, so I asked some friends to come out for support. A friend of mine agreed to come with his wife, and he said he’d bring friends. I was on stage when they arrived. I walked over after the set to say hello…and that was when I met him. And I knew it right then, although I wasn’t really sure what it was that I knew. But there was something about this “friend” of my friend that I couldn’t stop thinking about. Sadly, this “friend” was there with his girlfriend. But we all became friends because I just had to be around this guy. He and his girlfriend wound up breaking up a few months later, and he and I went out. 4 times. It just wasn’t the right time for us though, and he got back together with his girlfriend, and I found someone else. But those 4 times never left my mind. I thought about him every single day and wondered why it happened that way. I was so sure he was who I was supposed to be with. How could I be so sure that he was “the one” if I wasn’t even going to be with him? As the years went on, it seemed less and less likely that we would ever find our time. Another relationship ended for me, and I decided it was time for me to figure out what the heck I was doing.

I started practicing yoga. I started journaling. I graduated pastry school and got a new job. I hung out with friends and did the things I always wanted to do. I traveled all over the world.  I asked myself why my life was the way it was, and I found the answer: it was how it was because of me. Not because of anyone else. Everything I did in my life was my responsibility. Once I came to realize this, old unresolved relationships began to either mend or end. I was able to confidently move in the direction of my dreams. I was able to forgive myself for my past mistakes. I was able to admit them to others and to myself, and say sorry.

By now, it was early 2013. I had just returned from another trip. I was thinking about “the guy” again, since this seemed to be the only relationship left that I still hadn’t gotten any closure on. One day, on a walk with a friend, I told him the whole story. I said I thought I might always wonder what could have been. We chatted about a few other things, and somehow on that same walk, I recounted a random story about how some girl was jealous because she thought i was interested in her boyfriend and how ridiculous that was. My friend stopped in his tracks. “How is this any different from the first story?” he asked. I told him it was because I actually DID have feelings for the first guy so that made it ok, and he went on to say, “that doesn’t matter. This is the exactly the same thing.” I argued with him, but began realizing he was absolutely right. The reason it never worked out with “the guy” was not because of him or his girlfriend our our friends – it was because of me. I suddenly was sorry for how I handled things. And I felt, at that moment, that I could move on and be just fine.

A month later, out of the blue, “the guy” emailed me. He was single, I was single. We agreed to meet. Two years later, we were married. We’re both 39.

photo taken by The More We See.

photo taken by The More We See.

The point is not that everyone is worth waiting for, or that you should sit around and let love find you. The point is that once you find you, meaning once you realize your own faults, your own hopes, your own dreams – only then can you be the person you would want to be in a relationship with. And the door to the underlying wonderful opens. 🙂

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When Life Happens.

I haven’t posted anything in a while.

I’m not upset about that – I haven’t really felt like writing. Maybe it’s because things have been a little crazy. Some major events happened over the past few months:

1. I got married.

2. I went to Prague.

3. My father died.

#3 actually happened first. My father died almost exactly one month before my wedding. Being so sad and so happy at the same time is quite a challenge. And mentally exhausting. This was on top of the stress of planning a wedding in it’s final stages. I really just didn’t have time to write. At least,that was my excuse.

my dad and me, enjoying a moment.

my dad and me, enjoying a moment.

The truth is, I’ve loved to write since I was about 9 years old, when after a class assignment to write a short story about a polar bear, I discovered not only did I enjoy doing it, but I was pretty good at it, too! Every week, I looked forward to Fridays, when we got the chance to write another story. Writing was my passion. Through the years, my focus on it has ebbed and flowed – but I always come back to it. I admit I have many passions; but writing is and always will be the one ring to rule them all.

So why did I stop? Having no time was definitely a contributing factor – but not because I actually had no time for it – I just wasn’t making time for it and I believe that was intentional. When life gets too heavy, I push writing away out of fear. Writing for me, is about truth – about sharing a part of you that no one sees. Sometimes, when life becomes “too much,” I don’t really want anyone to see that.

Another big reason I stopped blogging in particular was because I had stopped baking – I really didn’t have time for that, what with  wedding crafts, family visits, vendor meetings, etc. So no baking = no blogging. That thought depressed me. Why should I have to stop writing just because I had stopped baking? Well, duh, I don’t. There are no rules in writing! That’s the beauty of the craft! So, I stripped away the limitations, and redid the blog. It’s still called Small Indulgences. It will still have recipes and baking adventures. But that’s only part of the fun. Living a life full of Small Indulgences – that’s what I want to do, and that’s what I want to write about. Having coffee with an old friend – that’s a Small Indulgence. Taking a Stand Up Paddle Boarding class with my husband (I still smile when I get to call him that) – that’s a Small Indulgence. Scratching my cat Gandalf the Gray behind the ears until he starts purring – that’s a Small Indulgence. Heck, watching the next episode of Game of Thrones is even a Small Indulgence! The little things we enjoy, that make us smile and warm our hearts – these are the things that matter. These are what life is all about. These are things worth sharing. And hence forth, they will be shared.

It’s not the size that counts; its how you live it.

So let’s get out there and live. 🙂

living it up in Prague.

living it up in Prague.

Recipe: Salted Caramel Hazelnut Cake Brownies.

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That’s a long name right there.

The recipe I started with was simply called “Nutella Cake.” But what I ended up with was so much more. It was snowing, and I really wanted to bake something, but I wasn’t about to go back out to get any missing ingredients. I found a recipe for Nutella Cake in my binder. It looked like something someone probably gave me, but it was very vague and it seemed to be missing some key details, like how to mix the ingredients together (did it matter in what order?) and what temperature to bake the thing at (when in doubt, go with 350). It also called for Nutella (obviously) which I thought I had, but it turns out all I had was this:

salted caramel hazelnut spread (not Nutella)

salted caramel hazelnut spread (not Nutella)

Although this was clearly not Nutella, I deemed it a suitable replacement, and marched onward with the cake. Upon further investigation, I realized that the recipe called for butter – a lot of it. I, alas, had only a little. Refusing to leave my house in the snow, I improvised, replacing most of the butter with shortening. The batter seemed awfully thick, more like brownies than cake, but I didn’t let that dissuade me from baking it. When it was done baking, it definitely looked more like brownies.

not nutella, not cake.

not nutella, not cake.

It smelled pretty good, and appeared to have baked properly, so I went with it, and waited for it to cool. When it finally cooled, I sliced into it, and sure it enough, it was definitely more brownie-like.

definitely brownies.

definitely brownies.

The next step was to eat one. And then another one. And then another one. They were THAT good. Two people even said they were the best brownies they ever had (wow!). Even though they were neither Nutella nor Cake like the original recipe claimed, the Salted Caramel Hazelnut Cake Brownies were definitely a major success, and will be made again. Maybe I’ll even make them for my own wedding this Spring….and now you can make them too!

wedding worthy.

wedding worthy.

Salted Caramel Hazelnut Cake Brownies.

What you’ll need:

1 box of chocolate cake mix

1 egg

4 oz of shortening

———–

1 8 oz package of cream cheese (softened)

2 oz butter (half a stick)

2 oz shortening

1 cup confectioners sugar

1 cup Jif salted caramel hazelnut spread

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, egg and shortening. The batter will be thick. Grease a 9×13 pan, and spread the batter across the bottom (using your hands makes it easier). Set aside. In a separate bowl, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and shortening until smooth. Mix in the sugar and salted caramel hazelnut spread until there are no lumps. Pour mixture evenly on top of the cake mixture in the pan. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the cake starts pulling away from the sides of the pan. Let cool completely, cut and serve.

Mummies and Spiders and Eyes, Oh My!

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I made some Halloween cupcakes today, for no real reason or purpose, other than it’s almost Halloween and I felt like being creative. I baked up two dozen apple caramel cupcakes, which, although quite tasty, kinda reminded me of that apple cinnamon oatmeal from the pouch I used to eat as a kid. In this case, the cupcakes were to serve more as a canvas anyway, so I wasn’t too concerned, and besides, I liked that oatmeal. I decided to do four different Halloween-ish designs.

Design #1: Pumpkin.

the obvious choice.

the obvious choice.

I had recently made these same cupcakes for a wedding, and I still had some of the candy corn pumpkins left over, and I wanted to put them to some good use. So I did.

Design #2: Mummies.

mummy is so yummy.

mummy is so yummy.

A friend had posted a pic of similar cupcake mummies to my facebook page, and I thought they were just so darn cute, I had to try them myself.

Design #3: Spiders.

is that a spider on your cupcake?

is that a spider on your cupcake?

I had done these a few years ago, but with mini Oreos. All I had were a bunch of regular Oreos in the cabinet, so I opted to try these using those this time, instead. Plus, I had a tub of cookies and cream frosting leftover from that same wedding a couple weeks ago (I made Oreo cupcakes for it as well), so I busted it out,slathered it on, and slapped a giant killer Oreo Spider on top.

Design #4: Eyeballs.

Eat with your eyes...

eat with your eyes…

I was thinking of these the other day when I was telling a friend I made eyeball cupcakes like 6 years ago, using a green lifesaver for the retina. I had no lifesavers, but I did have a ton of light purple icing…so that happened.

All in all, I think they turned out pretty cute, and I think I’ll bring them in to work to share with my coworkers on Halloween. Let’s just hope they all liked that cinnamon oatmeal in the pouch as much as I did growing up….

taste like...oatmeal?

tastes like…oatmeal?

The Cupcakes of Summer.

I love summer. I always have. It’s my favorite season. Knowing this, I’m not sure why I remain in the Northeast, where there’s that season-that-shall-not-be-named, full of snow, ice and misery. I believe my love of summer stems from my love of being outdoors. So for the majority of summer, I’m out there more than in here. Thus the reason I have posted anything in over a month.

biker chic.

biker chic.

I have, however been doing a lot of baking recently. so I figured the time has come to share it with the universe. Last week, I made two different kinds of cupcakes for a post-wedding celebration. The first of the two was Cookies and Cream. I made up the batter and mixed in crushed fake oreos (faux-reos).

batter up.

batter up.

Next, I baked them (obviously).

coolin'.

coolin’.

Then, I decorated them with cookies and cream frosting, and half a faux-reo on top.

topped off.

topped off.

The other type of cupcake was Chocolate with Cream Cheese Frosting.

I baked those as well (duh). They rose rather nicely.

on the rise.

on the rise.

Next, I topped them with a large dollop of cream cheese frosting.

like snow capped cupcake mountains.

like snow capped cupcake mountains.

Finally, I sprinkled them with shaved chocolate.

after shave.

after shave.

I took super close up shots of them both, because I’m obsessed with super close up shots of food.

cookies and cream super close up.

cookies and cream super close up.

and…

Chocolate and Cream Cheese super close up.

chocolate and cream cheese super close up.

It was fun making these. It made me want to make more cupcakes again. So I think I just might. But first, an oreo coffee cheesecake for National Cheesecake Day. It’s cooling RIGHT NOW!  Stay tuned for more details…. 🙂

 

Two Cookie Cakes, One Recipe.

I’m all about saving time and reducing waste. So last week, when I realized I had to make not one, but two cakes for two entirely separate events, I started thinking of ways I could somehow lessen the work and the waste, while still pleasing both cake recipients. Event #1 was my anniversary; the recipient of this cake being my boyfriend. Now at first I thought maybe I would just make him a batch of cookies – he absolutely adores my chocolate chip cookies. Event #2 was my dad’s birthday; the recipient of this cake being (obviously) my dad. My dad is not a dessert fan, but he does have a few things he enjoys – gingerbread, lady fingers, cookies.. COOKIES! There was the common thread. But I had really wanted to make my dad an actual cake that I could write on….COOKIE CAKES! And so it was written.

My standard chocolate chip cookie recipe made two cookie cakes – one 10″  and one 8″. As they cooled, I started mixing up some colors for the decorating portion of tonight’s show.

the colors of the wind (or icing).

the colors of the wind (or icing).

I decided to use the larger cake for the anniversary, for two reasons: 1. like I said, my dad doesn’t eat too many sweets, and 2. I wanted to eat some too. I went with the blue theme for this one.

i guess that's why they call it the blues.

i guess that’s why they call it the blues.

I went with a complimentary dark purple for accents and writing.

complimentary.

complimentary.

Don’t for a second think that I wasn’t thinking ahead here. For my dad’s cake, I chose light yellow.

they call me mellow yellow.

they call me mellow yellow.

Which also looks great with a dark purple.

purple planning.

purple planning.

Both cakes were a hit! My boyfriend liked his so much, he ate a piece for breakfast.

the breakfast of champions.

the breakfast of champions.

And then asked me to marry him. 🙂

must've been something in the cake...

must’ve been something in the cake…

I guess it’s true what the say about the way to a man’s heart. 😉

 

Symphony in Cinnamon Maple.

My friend’s birthday was the other day, and I wanted to make a cinnamon maple cake with maple buttercream, since he was a big fan of the last one I made. That one included banana and was in cupcake form, and this time I wanted to try it minus the banana, and as a small cake — 6″, to be exact. I also got to thinking that I really hadn’t done much in the realm of cake decorating over the past few months, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to bring something fancy to the table. I always wanted to try my hand at a rosette cake, so I went for it.

a white icing waltz.

a white icing waltz.

Not only did this cake wind up looking rather pretty, but it tasted pretty darn good, based on the feedback I received from those who dared to sample it, in all it’s rich, billowy, sweetness.

a maple concerto.

a maple concerto.

Something about this cake reminded me of music – classical music, to be exact. Possibly the way each rosette just flowed seamlessly into the next, like a melody or a symphony by Strauss. Maybe it was the way the cake and icing complimented each other so well, like an operatic soloist who sings with the music, yet creates a unique and beautiful melody in her/his own right. So yeah, this cake was kinda like that. 🙂

Everybody’s Baking for the Weekend.

So this past weekend was an extra busy one in the kitchen! Not only did I have many things to bake, but I’m getting ready to go on my big European Vacation, so I was cleaning and putting everything away. There’s nothing  worse than coming home from a trip to a messy house – I’ve done it, and it just makes life a lot more stressful. When I come home, I just want to unpack, and relax – not clean up the mess I left for myself before I left for the trip.

Anyway, back to baking. So, this weekend, I started off with Chocolate Pixie Cakes. These were chocolate cake, with buttercream, covered in white chocolate, and drizzled with milk chocolate.

extreme makeover – chocolate edition.

Next up, were Red Velvet Pixie Cakes. These were red velvet cake, with buttercream, covered in white chocolate, and drizzled with pink chocolate.

wedding day perfect.

And last, but not even close to least – cinnamon chip cookies. I used my top secret chocolate chip cookie recipe (which you can find on the blog, here), but replaced the chocolate chips with cinnamon chips.

cookie confidential.

And now, I’m off to another continent, to visit castles, eat pastries, and ponder what I’m going to with my life. 🙂

Au revoir!

One day more.

So this is it. By this time tomorrow, I will officially be a pastry school graduate. I remember my very first day of class, and how nervous I was, even as an adult. Am I dressed right? What if I get lost? What if I make no friends? What if I’m incapable of learning anything because my brain is already full? (I know, I have some issues). I was dressed just fine. I did not get lost. I made a ton of amazing friends, and I learned more than I could have ever imagined – not only about baking and pastries, but about myself and what I’m truly capable of: which is ultimately whatever I decide to do. We’re all amazing beyond our own understanding of ourselves. We’re capable of so much, if we only let go of our fears. Not only do I remember my first day of class, but I remember with great clarity the day I decided to go to pastry school. Sometimes, you know what you want, but it takes someone else telling you what that is to make you think, “hmmm….maybe that’s not such a far-fetched idea. Maybe, just maybe, I could go back to school and study my passion. And just maybe, I’ll actually do well. And, who knows, maybe I’ll even actually make and decorate a full-blown wedding cake.”

 

i did it.

We all shine on. Don’t be afraid to do what you love. Will you get hurt? Absolutely. But you’re gonna get hurt at some point no matter what you do, so you might as well jump in with both feet and reach for the stars with both arms, and live with your eyes open. So let go, jump in.  It’s so amazing here. 

“Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us”. – Marianne Williamson  

Thank you for your encouragement. I’ll never forget that.

Cake art.

I never fancied myself a cake artist. I mean, I made cakes with pictures and writing and stuff like that. But I never really thought that was my strength – I would describe myself as more of a baker than a cake decorator. But often the two go hand-in-hand, so I have learned a few cake decorating tips and tricks in my time.

However, I never really thought I was awesome at it. I was decent. I could decorate a cake that looked better then something an untrained or unpracticed individual could make, but I’m certainly no Cake Boss. The taste of the cake itself was always my game, with decorating coming second.

Then, one day I was forced to take a wedding cakes class. I was not pumped – in fact, I even complained to my mom that I didn’t even like wedding cakes and didn’t know why the school was making my learn this..grumble, grumble. However if I planned on graduating, I had to take the class. So, I did.

And I was wrong. The reason I didn’t like cake decorating was not because I didn’t like doing it or didn’t think it was worthwhile – it was solely based on fear – fear that I just couldn’t do it, so instead of trying I wrote it off as something not worth my time. How mature. But we all do it – fear makes us act in funny ways – ways we’d never imagine we’d act, especially as adults. I should have known better – as a kid, I loved play-doh. As a young adult, I loved polymer clay. Fondant and gum paste are so similar to those mediums, yet they’re even better because you can eat them after you sculpt them! And I had completely forgotten about my clay sculpting past.

sculpts like clay. tastes like sugar.

Secondly, I love fashion – I even took a handful of fashion design courses. How does this relate to cake decorating? Well, decorating a cake is like dressing it – choosing the right color combinations, the right placement of various accessories, how much to cover (or let show). So fashion + clay + baking = no more fear. 

I have created cake art. And it’s quite tasty. 🙂

eat your heart out, Roy Lichtenstein.