Tuesday, October 28, 2014


On Sunday, October 26 at 7:45am, I stood in Mercer County Park in the starting chute of the CGI Perfect 10 Miler, wondering what the hell I was about to do. I mean...really, this seemed like a great idea 10 months ago, and it even seemed like a fun idea until my alarm went off that morning... But even with the doubt and nerves and adrenaline, I toed off at 8:00am  to begin a 10-mile journey across pavement and through autumn-dusted trees. The energy was out of this world as the pack was nervously chattering and laughing through miles 2 and 3, then began to thin out over miles 5 and 6 (oh, good--only one more 5K-ish to go!); by the final miles, we were chatting again in partial delirium, wondering in unison why the hell that final mile was so absurdly long.

But once I set foot in the finish chute, it was like I was starting at the very beginning on fresh legs--something deep inside me woke up and pushed me forward, smiling hard, hands in the air, dashing by my mom, my husband, and my friend who had earlier finished her 5K event. I was there--I was over the finish line before I knew it, was being handed a medal and a bottle of water. As I screeched to a halt at the very end of the chute, I leaned against the fencing they had put up and actually cried a little. I did it. I did it. I set a somewhat ridiculous goal, and I actually achieved it.

I took a few moments to be silent, to thank my body for its strength and for carrying me gracefully and bravely over 10 miles, and then I let the energy, excitement, and happiness of runner's high sweep me away and into the arms of my little knot of fans.

I am so thankful to have shared such an important milestone in my running journey with them.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Do You Ever Feel...

Ten points from Slytherin if you thought this was going to end with a Katy Perry lyric.

Does anyone out there ever feel like all the things they're good at are meaningless? I mean, as far as being able to use them to forge a living where you actually get to do what you love as your job?

I apologize if this gets all braggy, but I so seldom feel like I'm worth bragging about (aside from my assorted baking triumphs detailed here...though remember I also point out the failures!), that I think it's okay this time: I am a fairly good poet; I am a rather talented writer; I am a very good alto; I am extremely creative; I am a kickass baker. But what the hell does all of that amount to? Yup...the basic "dreamer" type. Not really the type companies are eagerly seeking.

I am not a math whiz, my scientific base is standard, though it does err toward above-average where meteorology is concerned. All of the skills that are practically and readily sought out by places that pay you money for using those skills have totally evaded me. Sure, I make a comfortable living as an administrative assistant, but saying that that is my profession is sometimes like chewing on tin foil. It hurts my teeth to have to chomp it.

I should say this: I am very good at my job. The above-listed talents mean I am also a natural people-person. I have great communication skills that somehow in the professional setting transcend my otherwise social awkwardness. So yes, in a small way, I am leveraging my "gifts" into a career, but not necessarily in the most gratifying way.

I'm not saying doing what you love for a living is a fun-fun-carpet-ride with no drawbacks. I've read enough from people who love baking and bake for a living who reach a point where they get frustrated that their passion sometimes, and often, has begun like a chore. Writers can get so caught up by deadlines or assignments that they may worry they are compromising the reasons they got into the biz in the first place.  It happens. It's real.

There are obviously ups and down on both sides of the coin. I am comforted by the fact that I can continue to write, sing, bake, and tinker as hobbies, and so those activities never feel tired or forced or tin-foily. The fact that they remain beloved hobbies tempers my discontent and frustrations in the workforce.

But some days...some days I really do close my eyes and picture opening a little tea-and-sweets shop along the Irish Atlantic coast, where I can be covered in flour all day and I can fill the walls with quotations from my favorite writers and watch patrons sip and munch while watching the Celtic weather outside... I should also point out I jump right to the part where my business is so successful I no longer have to wake up at 3am and do all the work myself. No, no...I like the bit where I can roll up to my well-oiled machine, where I have cute little Irish lassies and laddies employed to take care of the small tasks and I get to design menus and create new recipes. Hey: it's my fantasy! Don't hate.

And then when the fantasy is over, I realize I'm back where I started, feeling utterly stymied and stuck and unsure how to turn what I love into a more fulfilling career path, or how to feel less useless. Because I often feel useless. My talents are who I am--I am a poet and writer. I am a baker. I am a singer. But I feel like I have to throw a veil over all of that from 9-5 Monday-Friday cuz dem bills ain't gonna pay themselves. I also often realize I have no idea what sort of real-world work I would find appealing and fulfilling. Which is, perhaps, even more crippling.

And so, my non-existent readers, if any of you are of the artsy type (or any type--I have a hunch this is an existential and interdisciplinary crises!), and if any of you ever feel this way, too, please offer advice. How do you temper the frustrations? How have you found ways to make your talent-hobbies more of talent-livings? Am I totally crazy? (Maybe don't answer that last one...)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tea for Two, and Two for Tea. Except There Were Three of Us.

Don't be fooled--this isn't some fancy dining establishment!

Today I hosted some friends for a formal tea at the house. The initial plan was to have four lady friends over, but one is currently attending a wedding and one is unfortunately getting over a very nasty cold. So we three who were able came together for a lunchtime tea.

The initial plan was also to dine al fresco on the deck, but rainy weather had other ideas. To be honest, lugging a lot of very fragile china and servery all the way out onto the deck was probably going to be a disaster. So it all worked out and simply tucked into the dining room table, which I of course spruced up to rival that of any of the tea houses I've been to. White table cloth? Check. Mismatched collected place settings and teacups? Check, check. Teapots, sugar cubes, and milk? Well, see for yourself:

It was a potluck event, for which I provided the location and all the fixins as well as scones baked this morning and pumpkin spice cupcakes which I baked last night. Dianna brought a very yummy quinoa and spinach salad and Jeanette brought an assortment of hors d'ouerves that just needed to be popped into the oven to cook.

The party also afforded me an opportunity to work on my piping skills. I am determined to master this whole frosting thing. When lazy, I will still totally just grab my offset spatula. But sometimes I want to kick things up a notch, and I am slowly learning the intricacies of using a pastry bag and piping tips. This first attempt was with a large star tip, since I wanted to create little grooves to catch the pearl sprinkles (yeh, still patting myself on the back for that notion). While I wasn't very happy with the dismounted tips on the cupcakes, I was overall happy with the look!

It also felt good to be working with my own scone recipe again. After trying the two pumpkin varieties here, to knead the familiar dough was like slipping into my favorite jeans; I knew perfection was only a short blast with 400 degrees away. Yum.

Everything was delicious, and I would--and will!--totally host another fancy tea. We even dressed up formally. I channeled Jane Austen because really, what better muse could I have (disclaimer: I've never seen Downton Abby, if that was going to be your retort).

I crafted these little treat bags so the girls could take some goods to go.

Believe it or not, these amazing flowers are from Shop Rite's floral department!

Offering up some cupcakes in my best adaptation of Miss Jane.