Friday, July 7, 2017

The Top 10 Things Every Beginning Baker Should Know (Part 1)

Becoming an experienced baker myself over the course of two years I have learned a lot about baking and what it can teach any curious soul willing to try it out. Many of these lessons I've already written on in past posts but have decided to combine all those lessons in this one post to make it an easy one stop read through for any reassurances or tips fellow bakers may be interested in hearing or knowing about. From one baker to another- this is for you:

The Rules of Bake Club:

1. Do it for yourself because it is something you enjoy and want to share (not for other's approval): This could probably be considered a common lesson in many of my recipes but especially those that I've tried out for the first time on family and most recently. I've always enjoyed the process of baking- it's very therapeutic to simply follow along and come out with something delicious after trying a new recipe but somethings it can be hard not to look for that confirmation/approval from others (extra specially if you are new and still unsure of your baking abilities). However if you wait for others to approve of your baking you could be waiting a while and get stuck in a needy approval place. Hint: It's not pretty or healthy. Do it because it's something you genuinely enjoy and are open to learning how to do it. This way it will always be fun, easy going and a success.

2. The only thing under pressure should be the baking (not you): If you are forcing yourself to do it when you're not up for it or for a challenge to see how many recipes you can fit in (like I did in the beginning), quickly the fun will be out of it and you'll feel like the activity becomes a chore. That's never where baking should be. To me, it's something I do when I feel inspired or want to inspire myself to try something new. I'll find a new recipe and want to test it out. By doing so and not forcing myself to bake every weekend I've been able to find the fun in it again and continue to enjoy my favourite pastime. *I'll note: this goes nicely with the point above, of why you should do this- volunteer to bring dessert if you genuinely want to share with others (approval free). 

3. Don't expect perfection on the first or every try: Baking is one of those things that takes practice- and lots of it- especially if you are trying new recipes and techniques, or even if you are trying a recipe for the second time. There is no guarantee that it will turn out exactly the same as the first time. So it's best to accept that, and as I recently learned not make a huge fuss over it. You could have over-mixed it, under mixed it, used a different pan, the oven could be different that day. There's often so many variables to consider when trying a recipe out that impact your outcome- and each you can learn from if you are open to less than perfection the next time.

4. Don't judge a recipe by it's description: I've learned this trying recipes from many different sources (okay maybe it was only a few), but still an observation I've come into is that not all recipes are written equally, and for equal skill levels. So be sure to closely read each potential recipe to see how the steps are written, whether it's one suited for your skill level and how many ingredients are involved. Sometimes but not always more ingredients equal more steps- be sure that you have time to do each and when starting out work your way to more complex recipes. Two of my first recipes were making cookies and sugar cookies, eventually making my way up to cakes and brownies.

5. Be patient with yourself and your baking: This really is a good lesson for all of us impatient bakers who might like me always anxiously await for our baking to finish. You have to be patient while you learn how to chose recipes and follow them on your own. Baking is learning something new, which like anything you might not be perfect at right away. So don't get discouraged if it doesn't always turn out like the picture- that too takes practice. Keep at it, and you'll learn with each recipe it gets a little easier and a little more nerve wrecking for the final result. Don't stress if it's messed up or if you are uncertain. Keep calm and bake on!

The Top Ten Things Every Beginner Baker Should Know (Part 2)

This is a continuation of Part 1: The Top Ten Things Every Beginner Baker Should Know, and the final five tips of that list. Seeing how the last list got a little long, I decided to break it into two parts so it's easier to read and hopefully follow. Also these tips may be more practical and simpler when it comes to the actual application of baking:

Final Rules of Bake Club:

6. Sometimes recipes won't specific what the temperature the butter should be at when incorporating into recipes. Most will though- i.e. let butter softened at room temperature or melt butter in microwave. If it doesn't though and the recipe calls for butter in frosting the general understanding is that it's easier to mix in with the other ingredients if it is at room temperature soft before adding in other ingredients and mixing.

7. If the recipe specifics both systems of measurement (i.e. grams and teaspoons) chose one and stick with it for all ingredients because the conversions may not be exact and it's less confusing not to go back and forth between the measurements using the math.

8. If the recipe calls for eggs at room temperature and you'd like an easy fix, put them in a bowl of tepid water for a while to help them come to room temperature quicker.

9. Referring back to cooking cookies: When it comes to the stir and drop/stir and mix type recipes where directed to measure out a certain amount of dough for cookie size, consistency is important in making sure all the cookies bake evenly and that you get the accurate quantity. I learned this doing Cherry Chocolate Chunk cookies (recipe called for 32, I got 25 of it). Still pretty good, but had to figure out how to ensure all the cookies baked evenly after checking them the first time. Some were bigger than others. So this a heads up from me to you- double check cookie size on each before putting them in the oven to ensure each is properly baked through.

10. It's easy to measure out the proper ingredients when shopping if the recipe specifies them in the system of measurement suited to where you live. i.e. the difference between using metric and imperial. I use imperial measures such as cups, teaspoons, tablespoons etc. So by only looking out for recipes in the unit it's way easier than having to worry about converting and getting the math right.

I hope you enjoy this tips and find them helpful.
The Messy Baker,

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Further Lessons in Creativity and Experimenting in Pastels

An Update into What I've Been Doing and Notes on a Fresh Start! (P.S. This is mainly for myself) 

It feels good to be back after not posting in a while. There is lots to catch-up on and that I want to write about even for my own self that seems worth noting.

First off I intentionally chose to take it easy in May as far as any new or big projects. There was a lot I had to deal with and survive during that time that putting the extra pressure on myself won't and just didn't make sense. It wasn't easy, with creativity always being a great outlet for myself and the ability to express or want to express my experiences having to say "you know what this isn't the time to worry about this" but it was the best thing for me to do at the time. Doing so allowed me to recuperate and get the added rest I needed after the month's rough start and made moving forward easier.

Now occasionally I was able to do a bit of creating during that time, for instance I learned a valuable lesson about what measures to use and how weight measures vary from cup, tsp, and tbsp measures in making a chocolate Mother's Day cake (pictured below), I also was able to fit in one attempt at my pastels trying my hand at yet another a sunrise (also below and to the left) but that was about it. No pressure, no worries and no more stress was exactly what I need to get back through and back into it in June.

The not quite right Mother's Day cake, May 14 2017

And an earnest attempt at a sunrise, May 24 2017,

Since then  it's been full speed ahead in bold new ways- one being this creative has attempted to change things up herself. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes I'm moving forward with a new even more determined spirit and inspiration from my new do. This though, may be a completely different blog post for later. To sum up I also have a new added inspiration to try new conquests in creativity.  I am no longer who once was, now I'm Me 2.0- still some of the original but better and more determined to continue learning and creating.

Here's Proof!

Later attempt at another sunrise, June 3rd
And latest "masterpiece" we'll call it Fairy Lake, June 11
I have been diligently learning and working up the courage to continue learning pastels, a early birthday gift from my Grandma was learn how pastel books which are a great inspiration and help in developing my hand at the medium. There is so much to be gained through looking at books, and helpful to know you can go back and re-read on the techniques that may take some practice. For example how to do the right type of blending when creating a sunrise or sunset, and figuring out the right colours to use. Such as this interesting fact that when doing sunsets go for more warm colours such as oranges, yellows, pinks and reds but when doing a sunrise try cooler colours. I haven't quite got this skill down pat but I'm learning and getting there. Here's my attempt at a pastel sunrise (pictured right) and my latest "masterpiece" of a favourite exploring spot near where I live this I've employed cross hatching, a amateur attempt at doing reflections and of course more blending, but despite all that I'm quite pleased with!

With the first few weeks of June, off to a great start I'm hopeful to continue this creative momentum going forward- trying new pastel techniques and exploring some fresh new summer recipes!  Wish me luck!

Kreative Kylie

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Adventures in Gardening

Lessons in Creativity and Gardening; and the Connection between the Two!

I hadn't realized this until taking a good look at my struggling plants desperately in need of water and my squelched recent creativity that there is a connection between the two, and that is both need to be cultivated. I've learned through taking care of the greenery that by doing this it's not just one type of care for all plants- each has it's own type of care instructions and therefore needs to be tended to differently. For some plants- such as succulents, they don't take as much care or water- whereas others like flowering plants need a little more TLC and sunshine. Both in the end need these three things from you: love, a certain level of commitment to keep happy, and most importantly patience.

I've learned through the years that being creative takes similar efforts and considerations to grow our gardens as it does to cultivate a creative life. When first starting out it can take quite a lot of patience in gaining confidence in yourself as a creative and finding your voice- this is an ongoing process that like a plant growing from seed takes time to sprout up and flower. It won't grow any faster by being rushed or pressured like the old adage goes "nature cannot be rushed." Even more so while we are waiting for inspiration after our "creative roots" have run dry and bare.

 So must we know that in time and at the right moments those bursts of inspiration will come to us if we just wait and are patient. It can be frustrating (I know) to wait for the time to be right or to feel uninspired. I've experienced it for myself recently in not being able to do as much creatively. My spirits were down and I became hard on myself as the result. Instead of being compassionate when I needed it most on myself and allowing a rest period to take place I was trying to force it, which never works. Until I looked at my plants and realized "we're not so different my plants and I" in fact they've become pretty good teachers of compassion and patience in many regards. Every day I tend to them I am taught a lesson in being patient, and am also reminded to take it easy on myself. Gardening is a delicate process for most and for this gardener creative has proven an important in inspiring her own lessons in creativity and individual growth. So shine brightly towards the light, only take on what you can and continuously cultivate creativity and growth!

For now, creatively inspired and ready for new growth:

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Quote to Help Inspire Creative Journeys

"The Creative Mind Plays with Objects it Loves"~ Carl Jung

Given the fun and light-hearted experience of this year I thought this would be a great quote to pass onto any intrepid and curious creatives out there to inspire your own adventures and endeavours in creativity as it has inspired me. What I like best is that it hints that being creative is best as a "fun" "light-hearted" experience or exploration because the creative mind plays with what it loves; not studies, perfects, or beats oneself up over but rather plays with those things. It has served as a good reminder to me that my project (the Creative Challenge) is a fun thing, and therefore something not to take too seriously or beat myself up if things don't go exactly as planned because it's supposed to be fun and playful thing.

Although it can be hard to remember in the midst of trying to figure things out, plan, fit everything in, get everything in on schedule and make it a huge success which is not entirely what starting creative projects is all about. It's about the fun and enjoyment of doing something new and creative which can get lost in all the nitty gritty details of diving into something new but doesn't have to. That's why it's important to find ways/words that help remind us to relax and realize once more the fun, playfulness of being creative. Whatever it is/whatever works must help set us back along the light-hearted way of being creative instead of frantically stressing over it, getting frustrated then wanting to give it all up, throwing in the towel over a mishap or when things don't go our way.  Much like my quote that has served as a reminder to slow down and savour the experiences I've started in a playful way. Also that our creative minds are like little curious children who don't like working too hard, or stressing out over things going as planned it simply wants to play and do what it loves, acting as a reminder if we are taking our work too seriously then maybe it's time to take a break and invite play back into our creative lives.

I hope that the quote "the creative mind plays with objects it loves" helps positively inspire your creative journey as it did mine. Or perhaps, there's another quote/mantra/reminder to have fun in our creative journey when we start to beat ourselves up or things don't go exactly as planned. I'd be interested to find out what inspires you to be creative, so please feel free to comment below. 

Best of Luck,

Image courtesy of Google:

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Revisiting the McMichael Art Gallery

A Trip Down Memory Lane, Experiencing the Group of Seven first hand, and an aspiring artist's reward

Written for: Wednesday March 29

With March being a great month of exploring the world of using pastels and experimenting I found it about time for a reward and burst of inspiration to help further explore this form of creativity and what better place to visit than the McMichael Art Gallery- home to the Group of Seven's artwork and much more. So with that decided I put the plan in motion to head back to there and revisit the gallery a second time. I looked forward to this trip after it being so long since the first time a second visit I'd hope would give me a greater chance to appreciate the artwork and doing it myself to appreciate the artist's styles and efforts.  

Group of Seven

The feeling of familiarity came almost instantly as we drove down the long driveway into the art gallery as if it were almost yesterday I was there. Now it wasn't just the building itself as familiar but so many of the landscapes as well. Having learned about them through books, my grandmother talking about them and a documentary about a couple who retraced the Group of Seven's steps made returning a little less intimidating and new. I found knowing more also encouraged me to look more closely at the pieces and have a better understanding of what the artists' was getting at in this visit. It was as if I was observing the art with a new set of eyes and perspective, now coming as an aspiring artist myself.

Aside from the Group of Seven there are many other exhibits to check out at the gallery, some just as or more spectacular than the group's style while others were totally different. Being a girl who likes familiarity and having learned some about the Group of Seven and Lawren Harris' transition into abstract style fascinated me the most.  In particular it was learning about his decision to transition into abstract and away from the Group of Seven that I found inspiring. How brave and courageous he must have been to explore something totally different from the group and on his own. I could admire his curiosity and openness to explore other forms as someone testing that out herself knows that there is a certain amount of faith and trust involved in starting something new. Even more impressive was how he later formed the Transcendental Painting Group to help bring again similar artists together and explore the abstract style more in depth.
My interpretation of Inspiration, February 15/17, Kylie Original

All in all, it was a great experience filled with much inspiration and encouragement making a better artist and art fan out of me.

It also is great inspiration as I enter into April further exploring technique and style in the medium of pastels to try more landscapes and techniques in my path to become a better artist.

For now,
Pleased Pastelist Kylie

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Learning Pastels- Lesson #2

Introducing Dabbing and Creating Clouds

Well as intended I finally got the chance to learn a new technique for the month of learning pastels. This time it was experimenting making clouds and applying a dabbling technique to make them look light and fluffy (that same interesting term used in baking, now appears a part of clouds I wonder which came first...). Having it be a while since I first took a lesson in between experimenting on my own and learning techniques I was nervous about returning but decided that since growing as a pastel artist means being open to improving and taking on techniques it was time to learn more on how to expand on my own style. Feeling more comfortable using them on my own and less intimidated by the pastels it made sense to transition into another technique. My pastel hands were ready to take on another experience. 

Morning sun, created March 22/2017, first attempt
using dabbing effect to create clouds.
An intimidating second-err-third step, the first two would be deciding to do this, picking up the pastels and learning blending.  I seemed to gain just enough confidence to return and learn more, still a little unsure of my skill this was a big step to take returning back with some personal experience and pieces at hand to be admired or critiqued. 

The Technique/Lesson:

It actually wasn't as challenging as I thought, although it is different from blending. In blending you use a swiping motion with your hand and wrist going from one direction to the other. For dabbing on the other hand, you simply dab or plod gently at the centre of the shape using an up and down motion to keep it all contained within rather than blending it outward together. If you're interested this technique appears to work best with clouds, especially in creating the wispy type clouds in many outdoor scenes, or fields, beaches, etc. you get the picture.  For my first attempt (as seen above) I was given 20 minutes to work on the clouds and add anything else I felt would make the scene, so seeing as the orientation of this piece was portrait style I decided that what works best is adding the sun because sometimes it's nice to see the sun out amongst the clouds. You can also use clouds when making pretty much any outdoor scene in creating a sky. Homework from this lesson: look up at the sky and observe different types of clouds for inspiration.