Spring has sprung!

Picnic weather is here!
Does spring make anyone else happy? I love the fresh cut grass, the color of the flowers and seeing all the baby animals around.

Spring is also a good time to start projects. Unfortunately for me, my neighbors are having their drive way redone. Don’t get me wrong, it looks amazing and I’m jealous, however, I could have done without the shaking of my house from the jackhammer and all of the noise pollution. Pair that with having a spring cold and I am not a super happy camper today.

I decided even though I didn’t feel great today, that my favorite springtime dessert might lift the fog. I went into the kitchen and whipped up my favorite lemon bar recipe. There’s something amazing about the texture and the cool lemon curd, topped with powdered sugar, all on a shortbread crust. The best part about this recipe? You can sub out cup for cup for a gluten free baking mix and voila! Gluten free lemon bars!

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Lemony Lemon Bars

For Base
2 cups sifted flour
1⁄2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter

For top
4 large beaten eggs
2 cups white sugar
1⁄3 cup lemon juice
1⁄4 cup flour
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon fresh lemon rind

Directions

For the base: mix the butter into the flour and sugar.
Mix with hands until it clings together.
Press into a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan.
Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.

For the filling, beat together eggs, sugar and lemon juice.
Sift together flour and baking powder.
Stir into egg mixture.
Pour over baked, cooled crust.
Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes.
Allow to cool in the refrigerator approximately 4 hours.
Once cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Cut into bars.

These can also be made into citrus bars by mixing lemon, lime and orange juices to equal the
1/3 cup. One of my favorites is also a lime version!

Until next time, Happy Baking!

Christopher

“I guess I don’t get fashion”

Welcome! Today on the blog we are discussing fashion as inspiration!

Many cake designers, myself included, look to fashion to dictate the direction we go with the designs we create. This is nothing new, i promise. A bride may be getting a cake and want the beading recreated on their cake. A girl purchasing a sweet 16 cake may want a crocodile texture. The list really is endless.

As a cake designer it is then up to us to “Make it work” in the famous words of Tim Gunn. Shoutout to my Project Runway fans!

The reason that I bring this up today is because last week was the infamous Met Gala in New York City. If you are unfamiliar, it is the fundraiser held the first Monday of May every year to fund the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. There’s a great documentary that covers the event called “The First Monday in May”. I caught it on Netflix. Its very interesting to see behind the scenes of such a large scale event.

Every year they choose a designer to honor and 2017 Honoree was Comme des Garcons, a Japanese label that has been making waves since 1969. Per Wikipedia, The label was started in Tokyo by Rei Kawakubo in 1969 and established as a company Comme des Garçons Co. Ltd in 1973. It is written in Japanese as コム・デ・ギャルソン (Komu de Gyaruson).[3] It became successful in Japan in the 1970s; a menswear line was added in 1978. The year 1981 saw Comme des Garçons’s debut show in Paris. It created a splash for its predominant use of black and distressed fabrics.[4] Throughout the 1980s, Comme des Garçons’s clothes often were associated with a ‘distressed’ and ‘punk’ oriented style.
Comme des Garçons’s designer fashion lines are designed and produced in Japan. Lines including Comme des Garçons Comme des Garçons, Comme des Garçons Noir, Comme des Garçons Homme, Comme des Garçons Plus, Comme des Garçons Man, Comme des Garçons Deux and Comme des Garçons Shirt, are all handmade. This is because Comme des Garçons adamantly values the quality of hand-made garments, reflected in the more expensive price and longevity of their products. Play, the company’s luxury casual streetwear line, is mainly produced in Japan, Spain, and Turkey, with France’s Play factory still utilizing many hand-made procedures as opposed to Japan, Spain, and Turkey’s production line factory. This is because France’s factory also produces hand-made only lines, including Tricot Comme des Garçons, Comme des Garçons Homme Plus Evergreen, and Junya Watanabe Comme Des Garçons. It is believed that all fabrics are produced in Japan, but some China and Australia sold pieces are hand-finished in France for quality control purposes (distinguishable by the hand stitched heart emblem). In an article for Business of Fashion in April 2017, Tim Blanks reported generated revenue for CDG and its affiliates as “over $280 million a year”.[5]

$280 million per year from one company. Impressive! The fashion industry drives a lot of what we do, whether we realize it or not. Per Elite Daily, FIT professor John Mincarelli tells ABC News, “In rough economic times, people shop for replacement clothes,” adding “basics” prevail during an economic downturn.
Economist George Taylor was the first to notice the correlation between fashion and the economy; he developed the “Hemline Theory” to describe his findings. In the 1920s, he noticed hemlines became shorter as a way for women to show off their silk stockings.
Once the market crashed, longer skirts became de rigueur. Why? Because longer skirts allowed women to hide that they weren’t wearing— and couldn’t afford — stockings.
Skirt length isn’t the only indicator, though. Some, like Estee Lauder chairman Leonard Lauder, believe sales of cheaper thrills best indicate the state of the economy.
Small splurges, like lipstick, increase in sales during economic downturns because more expensive indulgences become unrealistic.”

Generally when there is an awards show or a gala, Hollywood weighs in. You may even have weighed in online yourself. There’s even a show dedicated to it on the E! Network, Fashion Police, where they discuss the choices and the designers. I was perusing message boards this morning and I found a common comment: “Maybe I don’t get fashion”. Its not that you don’t understand an event like the Met Gala, its just that the person wearing the design is using art as fashion, which is not ready to wear, the term used for fashion off the rack. Below are some examples of some of the more out there items worn to the Met Gala this year:

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You would probably never wear any of these on the street but I’m hoping you can see how they are works of art. The details, the embellishments, they are all inspirational and better yet, aspirational. Thats what fashion is: Something to aspire to.

I hope I’ve been able to shed a little light onto the way designers are inspired by one another.

Until next time,

Christopher

Cinco De Mayo!!

Per timeanddate.com, Cinco de Mayo is annually observed on May 5. It celebrates the defeat of the French army during the Battle of Puebla (Batalla de Puebla) in Mexico on May 5, 1862. It is not to be confused with Mexico’s Independence Day.

Cinco de Mayo is seen as a day to celebrate the culture, achievements and experiences of people with a Mexican background, who live in the United States.

One of the largest Cinco de Mayo celebrations are in cities such as Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, San Antonio, Sacramento, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Denver and El Paso in the USA’s south-western regions. In these cities, a large proportion of the population has Mexican origins. Many people hang up banners and school districts organize lessons and special events to educate their pupils about the culture of Americans of Mexican descent. In some areas, particularly in Pueblo de Los Angeles, celebrations of regional Mexican music and dancing are held.

American restaurants take it as a day for guac, margaritas and nachos. There is definitely a celebratory aspect of the food for Cinco De Mayo. I just thought perhaps I’d give you some back story that you may not know!

One of my favorite treats with Mexican origin is the Mexican wedding cookie. The cookies that are served at most weddings and celebrations are known in Mexico as biscochitos. The basic ingredients are nearly identical to Russian teacakes or shortbread: ground nuts, flour, butter, sugar. In Mexico they are rolled into balls or formed into crescent shapes and covered with confectioner’s sugar. These are very similar to pecan sandies if you are familiar. Try out the recipe below:

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Ingredients
• 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
• ½ cup confectioner’s sugar (plus more for rolling baked cookies)
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 cup pecans
• 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Instructions
1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2 Cream together butter and sugar with electric mixer.
3 Add flour, pecans and vanilla.
4 Mix until well-combined.
5 Scoop teaspoon of dough and roll between your palms to form a ball.
6 Place on parchment lined baking pan.
7 Bake 12 minutes, until lightly golden.
8 Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
9 Roll in confectioner’s sugar.

Until next time, Happy Baking!

Christopher

Don’t Feel Good Enough? You’re Not Alone

Why it’s okay not to feel good enough

Hey readers! Thanks for dropping in today. We are going to discuss a topic today that is very personal and important to me: Not feeling good enough.

My confidence was shaken in January when I lost my job. The place I worked constantly told me (and fellow workers) that I was useless, didn’t work hard enough and wasn’t producing what they wanted, even though they couldn’t tell me what they DID want. This kind of constant negativity can undermine your confidence and bleeds into every aspect of your life. It sure did mine.

My experience was tough but I’m going to open up to you all so that you get a better idea of where I’m coming from and also what i’ve been going through personally.

I started for this company in the fall of 2015, after a turbulent year in my personal life. I closed my business due to divorce, lost my mother to cancer and was trying to make peace with the fact that I was once again working for someone else executing their vision, not mine. Thats a tough pill to swallow. I needed to step up and provide for my family, now just two instead of three of us. Going from two incomes to one income is a huge adjustment. Couple this with the rapid sickness of a loved one, it made for a tough year mentally. So when i was perusing the classified ads on craiglist, i stumbled across a posting for a job at a local hotel. It was full time, pastry chef work. Literally sounded like a dream come true. It would have been, had the hiring company been honest when going through the interview process about how big of a mess their environment was. Although it would be hard for them to admit to that since they refused to see it themselves.

Upon acceptance of the position, I had a solid 3 weeks before it started to go south. I had a lot of work to do in gaining the trust of my direct reports, which actually turned out to be the easiest part of the transition. Dealing with the executives, not so much.

Within a month I had been compared to the previous pastry chef about 10 times. The sales department loved her and I quickly found out why: She was a yes person, which is a 180 from what I am. I prefer to research and make sure I can make things happen within a budget and on time. She would automatically say yes and “figure it out”. When I took over the budget she destroyed, i realized her way of figuring things out was to ignore that there is a reality to food production. The cost of food and labor were never factored into her pricing. Ever. Do you know how hard it is to balance a budget when you don’t pay attention to cost? Its nearly impossible.

I spent months trying to blaze my own trail, including trying to reign in a control freak assistant that thought it was her kitchen. That was probably the biggest challenge. HR stood in my way every step of the way of the discipline process. Its extremely hard to manage people when they know there are zero consequences. Eventually, i just relinquished control, which was an error in my judgement. I should have established my authority but managing a 24 year old woman who has never been told no in her professional life is also difficult. When you have an executive chef that also doesn’t back you and will throw you under the bus at any given moment, its basically everyone for themselves.

This continued for almost 18 months. At the end of my tenure at the job, i had a class of 3 students. Two were middle of the road and one was just not committed to being a student and didn’t like being held accountable. Fast forward to the end of the semester grades and when that student was made aware they were not passing, had their parents call the dean on their behalf. This resulted in multiple conversations between them and myself and ultimately ended up in my termination. I don’t regret standing up for my beliefs. I don’t give grades, you earn them. Period.

There was an ugly fight over unemployment which resulted in my having to listen to 5 executives sit in a room on a conference call and say anything and everything bad i could ever believe about myself to an employee of the state, regardless of the fact that a large bit of it was fabricated.

It sent me into a tailspin. I have dealt with severe anxiety since 2009 and having my livelihood ripped from underneath me AND listening to all the vile things that were said about me really took its toll. I am generally a pretty strong person but this was like torture. I wont say it was post traumatic stress disorder but it was pretty close. I couldn’t have that cloud of negativity over me anymore so i walked away and gave up the fight.

Couple this with a pretty abysmal job market and it wasn’t a great time for my mental health. In fact, i’m still recovering and trying to get back to the “old Chris”. There are plenty of days when I still feel not good enough. I have taken a job as a barista. Its definitely a change. The money is about half of what i was making previously. The positive? Its 95% less stress than what I was doing before.

Doing some reflection earlier this year led me to a revelation: I don’t want to be a pastry chef anymore. I know it may seem strange to be done with a career that I’ve spent 17 years in, but its not making me happy anymore. Frankly, it hasn’t in a long time.

A passion of mine is architecture. I decided to enroll in school and get a degree in construction management with a focus on sustainable design. My ultimate goal is to bring affordable “cottage” style housing to people while utilizing sustainable methods. In recent years I have become much more conscious about the state of our environment. I use non harmful cleaning products, i recycle a lot more, I don’t litter. These are small things that I can add into my everyday routine that may not make a huge difference, but every little bit helps.

Embarking on a new career at 34 years old is scary. There is the fear that there is someone out there that is younger, better, smarter. Guess what? They will be out there whether or not you choose to make a change. I am taking control of my future and my family’s future. And about all those years of experience? Thats why I started the blog. Thats why I opened my etsy shop. This way I can still be an expert and have a foot in the culinary world, but not be committing every waking moment and every WORKING moment to a career that no longer serves my family and me.

Thank you all for letting me share my story with you. I know it was a little longwinded but I appreciate your readership. This is just a little insight into who I am. I look forward to getting to share more with you in the future!

Until next time,

Christopher

Happy May Day!

May Day

The earliest May Day celebrations appeared in pre-Christian times, with the Floralia, festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, held on April 27 during the Roman Republic era, and with the Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries. It is also associated with the Gaelic Beltane, most commonly held on April 30. The day was a traditional summer holiday in many pre-Christian European pagan cultures. While February 1 was the first day of spring, May 1 was the first day of summer; hence, the summer solstice on June 25 (now June 21) was Midsummer.[citation needed]
As Europe became Christianised, the pagan holidays lost their religious character and May Day changed into a popular secular celebration. A significant celebration of May Day occurs in Germany where it is one of several days on which St. Walburga, credited with bringing Christianity to Germany, is celebrated. The secular versions of May Day, observed in Europe and America, may be best known for their traditions of dancing around the maypole and crowning the Queen of May. Fading in popularity since the late 20th century is the giving of “May baskets,” small baskets of sweets or flowers, usually left anonymously on neighbours’ doorsteps.[2]
Since the 18th century, many Roman Catholics have observed May – and May Day – with various May devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary[3] In works of art, school skits, and so forth, Mary’s head will often be adorned with flowers in a May crowning. May 1 is also one of two feast days of the Catholic patron saint of workers St Joseph the Worker, a carpenter, husband to Mother Mary, and surrogate father of Jesus.[4] Replacing another feast to St. Joseph, this date was chosen by Pope Pius XII in 1955 as a counterpoint to the communist International Workers Day celebrations on May Day.[4]
In the late 20th century, many neopagans began reconstructing traditions and celebrating May Day as a pagan religious festival.

So much history for one day! The best known way to celebrate in the United States is leaving a May Basket on your friend’s and neighbor’s doors. The basket is filled with little sweet and trinkets to remind your loved ones you are thinking of them.

Another way people across the world celebrate is the dance of the maypole. Watch the video below to see what this is all about:

Until next time,

Christopher

Color Scheme of the Month

Glad to see you back again! Today I thought we would start a new series for those of us who LOVE to look at Instagram and Pinterest all day. I’m bringing you Color Scheme of the Month! Each and every month, I will pick and share a color grouping that is making the rounds. Some may be super popular, others may be decidedly different but they will all inspire!

April’s Color scheme is Cranberry Orange and Ivory. You may be thinking to yourself, aren’t these better suited for a fall wedding? I say to you, we are both right! The bright and vibrant orange would be great for a spring and summer wedding too! If you were to create a palette of mostly orange with accents of the ivory and cranberry, it would definitely be bold and fun. If you let cranberry take the lead, you will have a more sophisticated color palette and a more formal feel. We will discuss color theory at length in an upcoming blog post! Below are some examples of our color scheme of the month for April. I can’t wait for May’s color scheme as it’s a personal favorite!

Christopher

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