My Journey through Dandelion Symphony

I recently had the chance to beta read and critique a preview of Dandelion Symphony, a poetry collection by one of my closest friends, Azelyn Klein. It was such an interesting experience going back through poems I helped edit or was there for when they were written or had read a hundred times because of loving them so much over the years. But now instead of seeing them in the form of blog posts or pencil on paper or in a Google Doc, I’m seeing them in a collection of the seasons. A book. One that I’ll soon be able to hold and flaunt in front of my socially-distanced friends. And it’s all about these places I’ve heard so much about or seen. Here they are presented in a brand new way to me. And it makes me nostalgic of the times I visited these places with Azleyn. Of all the adventures we’ve had.

Most of our adventures took place during our undergraduate years in Missouri or during a summer in Italy. We took a few day trips together, called each other in different countries on a regular basis (sometimes twice weekly), vacationed with her family, and just relaxed and worked at her home. Even if it wasn’t always in person, we’ve experienced Missouri, Texas, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Slovenia, and England together. That list will be growing even more as the years continue. Whether it’s through video calls, texting, stories and poems we write, or actually living or traveling together.

Several of the poems in Dandelion Symphony were written in or inspired by Azelyn’s time in Italy. In the early spring of 2016, I decided to start studying Italian, just for the heck of it. The tiny bits of escapism I got from studying the language helped me get through some really difficult times. Then one day when Azelyn was taking an afternoon writing break house in Germany and I was eating breakfast in my apartment in Missouri, we had a call. Her family was moving to Italy in a couple months and were wondering if I’d like to come for a visit in the middle of the summer. Visiting a country I had been learning the language for and seeing my best friend? Of course, I said yes! What I didn’t realise for weeks was that they had planned a full month for me to live with them. During that month, we went on several adventures throughout Italy and Europe. And I still look back on it with such fondness and awe.

“Flour”

“Old friends, new times,
under pressure, half-hearted rhymes
of times long ago, sung in tales,
melded in dramas, and laughed in gossip
as the politics seep
into the innocence of yesterday,
no longer pale naïveté in the yellow sun,
the face of torment.”

Azelyn and I met during undergrad. We were both determined to finish our bachelor’s degrees as quickly as we could and as a result ended up having nearly every single course together for my two and a half years at that school. Out of 17-18 credit hours, we would have 15 credits together most semesters. We studied in each other’s rooms or the library constantly, we had movie nights, we had tea parties, we ran errands together, and we had critique groups. We were nearly inseparable. Although this poem was probably written while she lived in Italy after completing her first master’s degree, it reminds her more (and me) of times spent in undergrad, although neither of us did much baking in our ovenless dorm rooms.

This is when we grew close, learned each other’s desires, patterns, tells, and pet peeves. It’s when we would drive around in her car with a broken sunroof, listening to music on a glitchy USB, dancing in the creaking car seats with the wind blowing through our hair, and blowing bubbles out the passenger window. It’s when we learned every word to Les Misérables and forced our friends to watch it a few too many times. It’s when we complained about the overly ripe cantaloupe and the impossible to deshell hard-boiled eggs. It’s when we would watch our professor flight an overhead projector a dragon whilst wearing a tan trench coat and wielding a black and brown umbrella. It’s where we listened and read more poems and books than we could count. And it’s where Azelyn learned to love poetry.

“Sunrise”

“The single eye, 
lidless,
climbing, 
red from a long night,
now blinking in the dust, 
settling into the yellow haze. . .”

The first time I got to see Azelyn in nearly two years was in Venice in the mid afternoon. I had only arrived a few hours before her and had only gotten to drop my belongings off at her family’s new house and grab a light lunch before we went to pick her up at the airport. It was bizarre seeing her outside of Missouri. The next morning we woke too early, just as the sun was rising around 5:30. We sleepily opened the curtains and shutters and talked about what else was left to pack for our nine-day road trip through the southern Alps. Watching the light hit the walls in a red glow and slowly fade into yellow as we rushed to get out the door. I will never forget that first couple weeks in Europe with her. The thirteen-mile hikes, the sore legs, the snow-capped mountains, the castles, the songs, the sleepless nights, the Christmas shoppes, and the Alpine lake picnics with food from Lindl and Aldi. And the best of those memories started with the rising of the sun.

“View from an Airplane”

“Have you ever felt the pulse of the earth?
Like waves in the ocean, a jagged storm,
tumultuous ripples in the powdered pie crust
pulsing beat after beat after beat in the monitor.”

Although this poem is about her flight from Nottingham to Vicenza, it reminds me of our flight from Venice to London towards the end of our month in Italy together. We stared out the windows the majority of the flight, admiring the mountains and valleys far below and talked about the week to come. A week full of walking through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, of eating chips and pasties, of watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Les Misérables, of getting lost in Wimbledon, of wandering Piccadilly Circus, and of reading books on the tube. It was a testing week in so many respects, but it is also one of my favourite weeks I’ve had in my entire life. And it started and ended with flights over the Alps.

“Bury Me”

“I’ve gasped at rows of books,
but never before have I been surrounded
by rows of dead authors.”

This is one of my favourite poems that Azelyn has ever written. There are just too many amazing lines. But also, it’s another of my fondest memories with her. Whilst in London, we went to Westminster Abbey, and I was so unbelievably excited. It had been a dream of mine for years to visit. I wanted to see Poet’s Corner, the memorials and graves of British abolitionists, the monuments and tombs of those I didn’t know about or had forgotten, and the Abbey in general. It was a vastly overwhelming and unexpectedly somber place to behold. The tourists and families bustling about and making quiet jokes and conversation all around us did not reduce the sudden emotional impact of all the important historical figures surrounding me, dead and buried, commemorated in marble or engravings. The fact that I had Azelyn as a guide and support was more helpful and necessary than I even realised at the time. But the depth of importance these people hold to this day and the ever-present existential reality of death and the brevity of life also gave me hope for myself and my loved ones.

“Romantic”

“I relish watching the glassblower
tug at the liquid fire and mold it”

A couple days before leaving Italy, we took a day trip to Venice. Just her brother, her, my friend Eric, and me. We wandered the streets without any set plans. We ran into some of Eric’s friends. We ate pizza, dipped our feet in the canals, peeked in the shops, stood outside more churches than I expected to find, chased pigeons, talked about the things that were changing about us when we barely even realized it, and watched the glassblowers and bead vendors. We even stumbled upon one of the most amazing book shops I have ever seen. With gondolas and bathtubs overflowing with books and all the lower shelves kept empty to protect the books from the ever-impending seasonal floods or abnormally high tides. And with a wall and staircase made of books, damaged and compacted over the years, leading to a tiny outlook over a small portion of buildings and canal. As the sun went down, we rushed confusedly to the train station, platform changing at the last minute, to catch our train back. To the reality of the last day together, the last few hours in person for the next few years.

So much has changed in our lives since we visited these places, since these poems were written. But here we are, despite and in spite of everything. Still friends. Still bookworms. Still writers. Until the bitter end.

Preorder the collection here:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

Coming Back

Last year, after moving back to Missouri from Seattle, I realised that blogging had lost its appeal for me. But I kept trying to push through, at least on occasion. Then at the beginning of last October, I decided to stop trying. It became more of a chore that I had to do than something that I enjoyed and looked forward to doing. Something that I had honestly started despising. So I decided to take a step back, not intending to ever return. 

But here I am. Back. And actually wanting to write again. I don’t think I’ll keep as strict a posting schedule as I used to, but we’ll see.

I am going to post the last two blog posts for the baking challenge that I neglected to finish writing last year. That being said, I did indeed finish the baking challenge! And only late by, like, three days!

Beyond those two posts, I plan on getting back into a bit of the old swing of things. Book reviews, writing prompts, writing advice, recipes, baking, mental health. There’s so much I could write on, and I currently feel motivated to write all of it. So we’ll see where these posts take us over the months to come.

Anyways, a lot has happened since I last posted. I may write about some of those things as time passes by, but for now, I’ll let minds wander and imaginations roam. I hope you all have been doing well. And I’m glad to be back.

October Bakes

Cake: Yazdi Cakes


These Persian cakes are so simple and delicious. I used this recipe that had rosewater, apple, and cardamom in them. They were like muffins in texture and were so wonderfully fluffy and satisfying. I had to make my own rosewater for the recipe, as I didn’t know where to find any to buy, but it was easy and tasted really nice. I made the leftover rosewater into a syrup for mixed drinks. But these cakes were so a pleasant addition to our dinner and a party we hosted later that evening.


The only issue I experienced during this bake was that I forgot to pick up the toppings, so they didn’t have the beautiful crust of sliced almonds and Muscovado sugar on them, which would’ve added another layer of subtle, yet complex, flavour.

Cookies: Macarons
I wanted to try making vegan macaron, and I found this recipe using aquafaba. I decided to do my own flavours though and did rosewater and chocolate. I forgot that a food processor is rather necessary for macaron recipes though, and I don’t have one. So that was the first of many problems I encountered. Sadly we lost the photos of the hilarious way this bake turned out, so I don’t have evidence of the somehow edible (and quite tasty) mess that I ended up with.
After realising the importance of the food processor, I attempted using my coffee grinder. I cleaned it thoroughly and let it dry completely, but coffee grinders are much too small and very ineffective for blending flour mixes. I also forgot to account for the added moisture from the rose water, and as a result I failed to add an extra tablespoon of flour. That might not sound like much, but trust me it takes the cookies from holding form to being giant blobs/puddles. After letting the piped cookies dry slightly, I came back to find they had all run together. I didn’t know what else to do, so I baked them like that and they came out like very thin, but very large pieces of meringue that tasted similar to macarons. And because they were the size of my baking sheets by that point, they broke and crumbled as I tried to remove them from the silicone baking mats. Eventually I flipped over one of the light pink, meringue-esque “cookie” spread some of the vanilla and rosewater buttercream. Also, the buttercream had slightly curdled from the addition of too much liquid. Then I managed to place the second giant piece on top to from the sandwich.
But it was indeed edible still, and it tasted amazing. So that’s a plus.

Pudding: Revani/Tishpishti


I was so excited to try making one of these syrup-soaked treats! I found this page that had multiple recipes on it, and I chose to use the top one so that it would be easiest to find if I accidentally closed my browser. Plus, it had rosewater and cinnamon in it, so I was sold!


My cake turned out a bit crumbly instead of just dry and fluffy. I’m not entirely sure what caused that, but it happened and made cutting the cake into diamond shapes very difficult. It also made it difficult to serve. I also didn’t have a deep dish to soak them in, so I used a slightly large spring-form pan that I have. It was very messy, as syrup seeps through the cracks. Then after all of that, I forgot to take the pieces out of the syrup to store them after we had our first tries and took the first batch of photos (also lost at the same time as the macaron ones). So when we went to take more, they were soggy and mushy piles instead of syrup-soaked cake. Apparently I’m not very good at storing baked goods lately.

Bread: Pan de Muerto


This was another bake that I had been looking forward to loads. The flaky pastry-esque texture of Central American bread? Yes, please! I used this lovely recipe. I decided to do two large Pan de Muerto instead of a lot of little ones, which was simultaneously a good and bad decision.


I didn’t know yet, but our oven now runs hot by about 25°F. This means the outside of any baked goods cooks way faster than the inside. As a result, the wet dough of our very large Pan de Muerto didn’t cook fully inside. In fact, it was literally raw at some parts. Had I done more, smaller Pan, then they would’ve probably cooked all the way through. Oh well, the parts that were cooked properly tasted amazing and had the perfect texture.

Pastry: Paris-Brest


I was still scared of choux pastry at this point, as I’ve not done it very much and have had a fair amount of struggles with each attempt thus far. But I found a great recipe and had learned from my mistakes during the profiteroles during my second bake of the #faithbakes65 challenge and a couple of other undocumented bakes along the way. This turned out beautifully!


The only part that wasn’t quite right was the fact that my piping bag that is the proper size for this kind of project is the one that busted its seem. However with a good amount of care and a touch of tape, it worked rather well. But my worry about the piping bag reopening made my piping a bit uneven, so one side of the Paris-Brest ended up a bit flatter and wider than the other. But I had a lot of fun making this one, and it turned out so well!

Have you ever tried any of these bakes? How did you like them? Let me know in the comments!

September Bakes

One treat I’d never heard of before, one that’s an old-time favourite of mine, and two that I had been longing to try for a few years. These bakes were fun and delicious, and they were relatively simple to make and in their flavours, which would make them some of the perfect things for you to try baking as well!

Cookies: Biscoitos


So the Portuguese biscoitos translates to cookies/biscuits in English, but I found a recipe for some traditional Biscoitos and was so intrigued that I had to make them. The recipe had been passed on through the generations and was so simple in taste and make that I fell in love with them very quickly. The slightly lemon-scented Biscoitos were a hit among our family and friends.


Initially, my dough came out a little too wet, so I had to add some flour. But that was my only struggle! They were fun and easy to make, and the shape was a fun change from the cookies and biscuits I’ve been making throughout this challenge.

Pudding: Jaffa Cakes


I used to be obsessed with Jaffa Cakes. I still like the flavour, but I’m far more particular with when I have them and what I have them with. So when this bake came up in the challenge, I decided to find a recipe that would go best with my current mood in how the flavours were combined and had an orange jelly recipe included in it.


I loved making these. The jellies and the cakes come out so well! But then I struggled a lot with the chocolate seizing when I added the orange zest and juice and remained in a constant struggle through the end. I just couldn’t get all the lumps out no matter what I did, so I just went with it after a while. By then I had run out of time to let the chocolate set before I took the photos. Letting the chocolate set didn’t make much of a difference anyway, as when I took them on out trip, they all melted and stuck together because of the heat in the car. But boy did they taste scrummy!

Bread: Melon Pan/Meronpan


I had been wanting to try Melon Pan since I first heard of it a couple of years ago, but I had never been anywhere that served them and was a bit intimidated by the idea of making them. Now I think they’re a breeze because of how much baking I’ve done in the last year and a half, but the recipe I found was wonderfully detailed and easy to follow as well.


I really want to try making these in all sorts of flavours and flavour combinations. They are relatively easy to make and just taste so good! The soft sweet roll topped with a crispy cookie is definitely a pleasant, slightly indulgent treat. My only struggle was in brushing the rolls evenly with the egg wash, as I’ve never been very good at that.

Pastry: Butter Tarts


I had had some tarts similar to these before, but never the Canadian Butter Tarts that always sounded so tempting when I read about them. Using this recipe, I finally got to taste this not-so-humble sweet and am so impatient to make some more for various holidays and fall festivities in the future.


I did have a couple struggles with making them though. I don’t have a way to press the dough into the tins other than by hand, which causes the dough to melt and not be as flaky as well as just more difficult to work with. As a result, the crusts ended up being very uneven, and some even had little holes in their sides that I hadn’t noticed before filling them, so there was some leakage. The other issue is not from the baking itself but more on how to store them if they aren’t all eaten at once. I popped them in an airtight container and put them in the fridge, but the filling melted/liquified the longer they were stored (even just over a few hours). How do you stop this from happening to these delicious little things?

Have you ever tried or baked these treats before? What’re your thoughts on them? Let me know in the comments!

August Bakes

I’m a bit behind with the baking blogs…
But I’m not behind on the challenge!
Life at ours has been quite interesting and exciting, but not in the way one would hope. After not knowing if it was safe to plug in our computers and not having internet for a month and a half, we can finally get back to it! Though I did still put writing and all off for another couple of weeks.
August was a very successful and delicious challenge month. Even if some of the fun was drowned out by lack of sleep before a fun trip to the lake. The treats were thoroughly enjoyed though!

Pudding: Mini Victoria Sponge


This was such a fun bake! I used Mary Berry’s recipe, but I did a half batch. I made two, and we shared them with Turner’s parents. I didn’t have any lining paste made yet, so I buttered the ramekins and then dusted them with flour. They came out rather well, thankfully.


My only complaint was that I used just a touch too much baking powder for the two tiny cakes, and they ended up just a touch salty in flavour. In everything else, I loved the very simple taste of raspberry jam with vanilla sponge. I do think I would’ve liked it a touch more with some whipped cream, but I still really enjoyed it.

Bread: Baguette


I loved this! I used this recipe. The only things I changed was how many loaves I was making and how long I was making the loaves, as I only have two half-sized baking sheets. I was sad that I couldn’t use a proper sourdough baguette recipe, but I had to work with what I had. The quick yeast recipe still turned out well, though, and had a short time to ferment. I also don’t have a lame and used a dull paring knife to score the loaves, which took out some of the air pockets that had developed.


Golly, have I missed this flavour!! Fresh baguette from Aux Délices or Boulangerie Emilie et Nicolas in Merville-Franceville-Plage early on Sunday mornings for our sandwiches. This wasn’t exactly the same, but it sure did come close! I couldn’t have been happier with the result beyond wishing I had a more airy structure. But it turned out so well for my first try.

Pastry: Tarte au Citron


This bake scared me, as I hadn’t made a properly set custard in quite a long time. So the idea of making a custard for a prefect French tart was terrifying to me. But this recipe was detailed enough that it seemed to take all the stress away. But then I had to worry about my sleep-deprived brain and shaky hands. I don’t know how, but I ended up not having any major struggles. I ended up using a cheesecloth to strain the custard instead of a fine mesh sieve. But other than making my hands a bit messy, it worked rather well.


I was also scared that I would burn the crust really badly, but it only slightly browned. I was terrified that I would end up with a curdled or unset custard, but it came out so smooth and pretty! And the flavour was just as I remembered having whilst in France. Well, minus the slightly browned crust and the lack of “citron” piped in tempered chocolate anyway.

Cake: Toscakaka


This Swedish treat was one of the most delicious desserts I’ve had in a long time. I made it from this recipe, and absolutely adored it. I wasn’t entirely sure how to handle everything as a whole, but I’d made a praline and several types of sponge before, so I was pretty sure I could do it. But my exhaustion at this point was pretty severe after cooking all day as a personal chef and having finished baking the Tarte au Citron only minutes before.


I finished the praline a little earlier than I was supposed to, so it had thickened a bit by the time I poured it over the cake. That made it difficult to spread evenly and take a bit longer in the oven to melt and bubble like described in the recipe. I had to sit on the floor, staring into the oven after putting it back in covered with caramel and almonds, to ensure that it wouldn’t burn. It turned out beyond my expectations in deliciousness, and they were high to begin with.


Have you ever tried any of these before? Let me know in the comments!

Anxiety and Preparing for the Holidays

Little reindeer hiding among the green branches and twinkling lights concealing chocolate kisses in their mouths. Sitting on the floor whilst listening to my Grandpatta read. Buying or making gifts for friends and family. Snow lightly covering the ground, though never on the right days.

I grew up celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. I never really celebrated Halloween and am mostly unfamiliar with Ramadan, Hanukkah, and the other major holidays and celebrations that take place this time of the year. One of my goals over the next few years/over my lifetime is to learn more about the various holidays and the cultures that celebrate them.

Just that desire is one sign of just how much I’ve changed over the last few years, and I’m excited about who I’ve become and who I’m becoming. As a result of these changes, I’ve started celebrating Halloween, stopped liking traditional Thanksgiving, and become even more obsessed with Christmas.

Traditions can change over the years. Turner and I spend Thanksgiving eating traditional Native American recipes (or as close as we can get to making them traditional) and learning about different Native tribes. Being pescatarian makes eating some of their tradition food nearly impossible to eat, but we’re learning how to make substitutes that make sense for the cultures as well as occasionally just swapping in meat substitutes, like seitan or tofu. But we’re trying to stay as close to the recipes as we can.

Everything from planning the food and decorating to buying gifts and deciding who to spend the holidays with can cause extreme amounts of anxiety. Planning fancier meals and ensuring that it fits into your budget is stressful enough, but if you’re having people over or celebrating multiple times it can be worse because of needing to take into account dietary restrictions, food preferences, and numbers of people.

I find decorating stressful because of wishing I had more supplies and festive decor, but I don’t have money in my budget for getting any more. I’ve also witnessed people get overwhelmed because of wanting everything to be perfect for guests.

Getting presents is much the same as planning the meals. The budgeting, the personal preferences, the number of people. It all adds up so quickly. And if you’re like me, just getting one person a gift can be difficult, let alone friends, family, in-laws, and potentially coworkers.

The most stressful part for everyone is probably deciding who to spend the holidays with and where. This stress can be for a myriad of reasons, including the physical distances between you and your loved ones, religious differences, current and/or past circumstances and situations, finances, work, personal preferences, expectations, or physical or mental illness. And there are many other things that can play roles in it as well.

Turner and I have difficult visiting family and friends for special occasions and holidays because of the finances involved as well as the distances. We have family spread across Florida, North Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, Michigan, Wisconsin, Mexico, and Germany. The closest people are several hours away. Everything involved in traveling isn’t usually possible, from asking off work to paying for all the expenses.

But even beyond that, we now hold so many religious and political beliefs that are different from some of our loved ones that it can be draining to visit them when we need to be more careful about the things more say and topics we discuss. Nothing will change our love for these people, but we acknowledge that difficulties arise when spending time with them.

For some of you though, visiting family can be a detriment to your mental and/or physical health. You may experience anxiety or guilt over not wanting to visit or see them during the holidays. I know the emotions will probably come no matter what; however, I hope you understand that your health and safety are more important than fulfilling any “obligations” to your family. You have the right to say no and to protect yourself from stressful, uncomfortable, harmful, or dangerous situations.

Your feelings are real and valid. If something goes wrong or comes up while you’re at a celebration (even if it’s one you were excited about), you are allowed to leave. If you agree to an event and someone does/says something that raises anxiety, depression, fear, or uncomfortableness, you are allowed to back out. If you are hosting and someone you invited does or says something that raises red flags, you are allowed to uninvite them or tell them to leave.

I know I’ve only touched on a few things that can cause or raise anxiety during this time of the year, and I know other mental illnesses and disorders can be greatly affected as well. But basically, I want all of you to stay safe and healthy, feel loved and cared for, and enjoy the holidays and celebrations that you take part in.

Happy Holidays, whatever ones they may be.

Butter

This poem is still a bit of a work in progress and will be a part of a presentation I’m doing at a local artist event in a few weeks. As you might have noticed, I’m a baker. But I’ve only been baking the last couple of years. I used to be envious of though who baked, but I would also refuse to bake if given the chance. I never really knew why. I just said I wasn’t good at it. Now that I’m more practiced, I love having the opportunity to bake. But nine times out of ten, I have a panic attack when something goes poorly in the kitchen. About a month ago, this memory popped very vividly into my mind when I was struggling with a bake in my #faithbakes65 challenge. It’s a memory I’ve never forgotten, but I hadn’t realised the connection to my panic attacks until that moment. Since that day, it’s been plaguing me, so I though I would write a poem about it.

Butter

I used to grimace, say no, and walk away when presented with a baking tray.

It all  started in second grade with a lack of ingredients, my father going to the store and saying I could grease the pan whilst he was away.

“Grease with butter, just like the recipe says.”
1 ½ cups butter
So with the softened butter oozing between my fingers on my little right hand, I rubbed it all over the tins. All nice and thick, drawing patterns with my fingertips and then wiping them away to make the layers of light yellow cream as even as I may.

After washing my hands with a puddle of blue dish soap, I returned to my seat by the sheets and flour atop the deep chest freezer in the corner of our dining room bay.

I swung my legs as I admired my work, gently pushing and pulling the corner of the left tray.

I heard the squeaking of the brown aluminium screen door, the scrape of keys in the deadbolt of our yellow and white door, and my heart flutter as my muscles tensed before I remembered I should be proud of what next to me laid.

He came in with the baking powder and vanilla in a white and green plastic bag from Edward’s.
I smiled. “I buttered the trays!”

“Good!” he said in his baritone voice, walking over. I watch his face fall, and his voice goes even deeper. “Faith!”

My wide eyes went from still to trembling.
He shouted about butter and money and paint-stirring sticks. He slowly quieted to a stern voice.
“I’m disappointed in you.”

Coming Back from Hiatus

I knew I would have a summer full of packing boxes, moving across the country, catching up with loved ones, house hunting and job searching. But I didn’t expect it to lead to a hiatus lasting longer than a month. Three months later, the only things I’ve written are baking blogs that I’ve posted later in the month than I usually would. Once I realised that it had been two months, I decided to start blogging and writing again.

 

But things are never that easy are they?

 

I spent days feeling guilty when I thought about writing without making the time for it. Then I started allotting time and would sit down to stare at a blank page without any thought of what to write. Tapping my fingers on the tv tray, pressing random letters on my keyboard until several lines were covered, and scrolling up and down to see the white emptiness awaiting my words quickly became my hobbies.

 

How does one go back to writing at all, let alone on a regular basis, after not writing at all for three months?

 

I decided to start small. Blog post ideas. Blogs. Poems. Over time (hopefully not too long), I’ll be back to writing my book. It’ll take a lot of effort to get back in the habit of making time for this, but it’s been one of my passions for years. It’ll be beyond worth it. It’ll be a time of learning, sacrificing, and growing as a writer. But is there ever a time when that isn’t the case?

 

I’m going to work on finding a new writing routine and am curious as to what habits and rituals other’s may have. Do you have specific drinks, snacks, goals, times, settings, etc that you have for writing? Let me know in the comments!

July Bakes

This month was a wonderful blend of bakes from different cultures, and they were absolutely delicious.
Pudding: Sandesh


This Bengali treat is phenomenal! I used this recipe after a failed attempt of making a vegan version. I didn’t keep the recipe that I attempted for the vegan, but I would like to try again. I have a lot more research on how to make vegan cheeses before attempting anything similar to this again.


The process of making the chena is simple and fun, but very time consuming and a tad bit messy. The rest of the treat is just as simple, though it is easy to make a mistake. Thankfully, I didn’t encounter one. It is difficult to consider this a bake though, as it was a mixture of cheese, powdered sugar, and cardamom topped with pistachios. But no matter. I made it, and it tasted wonderful.

Bread: Semlor


A winter treat in Sweden, this dessert is something I definitely plan on making again. I used this recipe. Besides making it vegan, the only thing I would’ve changed (and did) was the amount of almond flavour in the marzipan. I love the sweet nutty flavour, but apparently the creator of this recipe didn’t, so I added a touch of almond extract to the marzipan to bring the flavour back to my preferences. I also really loved the traditional way of serving it in warm milk.


The only difficulty I faced was a mechanical issue. The mixer I borrowed was broken, so I ended up vegan whipped cream from a can. (Thank you for picking it up for me, Sherri!) Otherwise the bake went smoothly and tasted wonderful. The simple, yet elegant flavours were perfect for me.

Pastry: Samosas


This is one of my favourite Indian dishes, so I was incredibly excited to make it. I used this recipe and made a few modifications by replacing the ingredients I couldn’t find fresh with dry ingredients. The flavours were great and the pastry was crispy.


I had a few issues with frying again, as I still don’t have a deep fryer or a frying thermometer. But my biggest issue came from my stacking the uncooked pastries on a plate as I formed them while waiting for the oil to heat up. When I went to fry a couple, they had nearly all stuck together and ripped open when I went to separate them. There were a few samosas that lost all their filling because of the holes not being closed properly. Despite that, the ones with filling tasted great and ended up being served with rice and curry for dinner over the next couple of days.

Cake: Tarte Tropézienne


I’ve been so impatient to try another yeasted cake, so I was happy to see this French dessert come up this month. I used this recipe. I didn’t even attempt making this one vegan because of how difficult it can be to make a vegan custard. But I would like to learn how soon.


I ended up encountering a few issues with this bake, however. I accidentally baked the cake at the wrong temperature after misreading the recipe, so it was rather dry and a good deal darker than it should’ve been. Then it was so hot inside and outside that, when I assembled the cake and went to take photos, the custard and whipped cream melted. It just oozed out everywhere. Even still, it tasted nice and was fun to eat.

Cookies: Tahini Cookies


These Israeli cookies were so delicious! I used this recipe. I really enjoyed the flavour and the simplicity of this bake. The tahini (or sesame paste) has a taste similar to peanut butter, and many of the people who tried these after I made them thought they were peanut butter cookies.


However, the dough seemed a little too dry. The cookies were a little difficult to form, but I could still shape them and place them on the sheets. When I transferred them to the cooling racks after baking though, they fell apart. Some into crumbs, others into large chunks. So I would like to either find a different recipe to use or add a touch more liquid to this bake.

What have you baked recently? Have you tried any of these baked goods before? Let me know in the comments!

June Bakes

June was a busy month, filled with work, vacation, and moving. We also discovered at the end of the month that our oven was broken again. This time it wasn’t heating up enough. So I grabbed out handy oven thermometer and put it to use during the last bake. Nevertheless, even the undercooked bakes turned out delicious.

Bread: Roasted Garlic and Herb Bread


I used to make a lot of bread, and garlic and herb bread was one of my favourites. However, I had never done roasted garlic for it before. I used this recipe as the base again. It never fails unless my oven goes wonky or my added ingredients are too wet or too dry. The biggest issue I dealt with during this bake was that it was taking nearly twice as long to bake all the way through as it should have. This was because of the oven, but we didn’t discover that for a few more weeks.


I added a mixture of the dried herbs I had in the pantry and some home-roasted garlic. It definitely would’ve been better with fresh herbs, but the dried ones rehydrate slightly during the proving times. I made the roasted garlic in the oven, and it ended up burnt because I forgot to set a timer. It didn’t really affect the flavour of the loaves negatively though, as it lent a slightly smokey flavour to it which Turner and I rather liked.

Pastry: Koeksister


This South African treat tasted amazing, even with dough that didn’t turn out quite right. I used this recipe. I think my flour proportions were just a little off because my pastry dough ended up a good deal more dry than it was supposed to, but as I needed to hurry, I went with what I had. The syrup, on the other hand, was absolutely scrummy and was easily made.

I learned that braiding this for frying is a good deal more difficult than for baking. The vast majority of the koeksister I made came unraveled and fell apart whilst in the oil. I also discovered yet again how bad I am at frying things. I definitely prefer using an oven. Granted, that wasn’t going well either.

Cake: Palsternackskaka


This recipe was so much fun to make! But I had several issues. We were moving in a few days, so we were doing our best to empty our pantry/fridge. As a result, I had to use a combination of coconut oil, olive oil, and vegetable oil, and I forgot that coconut oil tends to only be half portions when baking, so I ended up with too much oil in the batter. I also had some difficulties with translating the recipe, but I think I had everything figured out for that in the end. Our oven was even more broken than it had been when I made the bread at the beginning of the month. I baked it for twice as long as I was supposed to because after the first 50 minutes of baking, it still looked like I had just mixed the batter and poured it in the tin. I thought I had just forgotten to turn on the oven, but found evidence that I had it on the whole time. I also forgot to whip the cream separately from the cream cheese part of the frosting.


Because of all these things, this tasty Swedish treat turned out soaked in oil, weirdly crispy on the outside edges, collapsed in the center, and drowned in a kind of grainy and rather liquidy frosting. I was frustrated and a little heartbroken since it was the third “failed” bake of the month. But when we tasted it, we were astounded at the beautiful flavour of the parsnip and cardamom in the cake and the lemon zest in the frosting. The pistachios on top were just a nice little treat of subtle flavour and fun crunchy texture.

Cookie: Sugar Cookies


I made these the same day as the Palsternackskaka and finally realised that my oven was super messed up. So I fiddled with the temperatures and my oven thermometer until the correct temperature was reached before I even started this bake. I followed this wonderfully simple and tasty recipe. It was so nice to have such a simple bake after the first three bakes of the month went so awry. Not to mention that essentially all of my kitchen was packed up at this point, as was the majority of mine and Turner’s life together.


I had no issues with this bake. My only complaint was that we didn’t have anyone to share them with really, and we already had so many sweets that we needed to eat. Several of the cookies ended up going stale because of traveling for a week as Turner and his dad road tripped with our belongings from Washington to Missouri. But the half that I took with me ended up shared with Turner’s mum and at the airport with a wonderful Indian woman who was on the same flight as me. I definitely recommend this simple, fluffy sugar cookie recipe, especially with how easily it can be made vegan.

What did you bake in June? Let me know in the comments!

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