My daughter is an amazing chef, and especially a pastry chef. Amongst our friends and acquaintances, her cupcakes are legendary. Not just because they’re delicious, but because her creativity in flavors, fillings and design show no bounds. She’s also mastered the challenge of creating delicious gluten-free cupcakes and cakes that even the most hardened gluten-free resisters have embraced.
I’ve had the pleasure of countless hours of brain-storming with her on flavors, designs, colors and presentation. In fact, I even gave her the idea for a couple, most notably, her incredible Brandy Alexander cupcakes.
A couple of years ago, she entered her cupcakes along with a number of her other specialties in the Ventura County Fair and won several categories. In fact, some of her gluten-free offerings beat out the competition made with standard flour. This year, she’s taken her talents which, by virtue of 2 years of culinary arts studies have grown considerably, to the San Diego County Fair.
So far, she’s won First Place and Best in Division for her pickled pineapple, Second Place for her butter-flake rolls (standard), First Place for her Gouda Cheese and Third Place for her Feta Cheese (she’s nothing if not versatile!). But today is the real challenge as she’s entering three of her cupcake varieties
(also standard). This is where her highly competitive perfectionism really hits its stride.
This is the daughter I’ve seen knock out 6 or 8 dozen cupcakes, filled, decorated and frosted in what seems like a mere couple of hours. Yet, the 2 dozen she has filled and waiting in plastic trays for transportation await only frosting and decoration. And she is stressing out over that same 2 hours she has to do them. In fact, her groans of frustration are making their way up the stairs to her guest room where I sit typing out my pride in the work ethic which carries over into everything she does.
She has been baking and cooking since she was old enough to hold a spoon, and two years of study have really honed her inherent talent. But it’s also made her extremely critical of her own work. That being said, here are a few things I’ve learned to avoid while she’s in the throes of creativity (and staying out of her way goes without saying!)
1. Don’t worry. Nobody will notice that little goof.
When it comes to her own mistakes, Heather has eyes like a hawk. The slightest imperfection becomes, to her as hard to miss as Mount Rushmore. I’ve seen her pull the frosting off a cupcake repeatedly until it lays just right.
2. Relax. You have plenty of time.
No matter how much time she’s allotted herself and how many times shes done the same thing, she always thinks she’s running of of time. Needless to say, she typically finishes with time to spare, but that doesn’t mean she’s not stressing out the entire time she’s working.
3. That looks just fine.
Every woman on earth knows that “fine” is never a good thing, but even more so when discussing the appearance of something or someone. When used in reference to her baking, it is guaranteed to raise her stress level and have her reaching for the spatula to remove the offending bit which warranted a mere “fine”. “Fine” is the patronizing, “Bless her heart” of the English language, and should never be uttered around a woman perilously close to combustion. If she utters it herself, I’d recommend a bomb shelter…NOW! (“OK” or “good” are also words to avoid here. “Good” is in the same category as “average” and will never be tolerated!)
4. Stop and take a break. It’ll be fine.
First of all, when she’s already freaking out over time, telling her to stop working is like throwing gas on one of our infamous California brush fires. Second, see above for the perils of the word “fine”. The truth is, she works best under pressure anyway, doing her best work when she’s stirred herself up into a state of what most of us would consider insane stress. It doesn’t suck up her resources; it throws everything she has into high gear. In a weird way, it energizes her physically and creatively. Just stand back and be ready with coffee, water or an energy drink when she finally releases the energy that drives her. Mt. St. Helens is a child’s pop gun in comparison.
5. Stop and eat something. You need your energy.
She’s likely been working for hours, having gotten up well before the break of dawn. If she’d wanted to eat something by now, she would have. Hunger doesn’t even cross her mind while she’s creating. Think of the writer who subsists on coffee and snack food while pounding away at the keyboard for hours (something I, of course, know nothing about.) The nicest thing she’ll tell you if you persist is Go away! I won’t shock you with some of her more colorful expletives.
Above all, do not go into the kitchen or try to help while she’s running from mixer to stove to table. She has, however, trained her wonderful husband to be in there with her and stay out of her way. He likes to help by cleaning up after her, and frankly, what chef, baker or cook would turn that down? Having a personal dishwasher to clear away your messes as quickly as you make them is nothing short of a perfect world.
Creating Together, Separately
I’m just grateful that our worlds and talents keep us in different parts of the house. I can happily bang away at my keyboard (and even more right now with several writing projects clamoring for attention), close enough to offer an opinion on flavor, decoration or presentation, but far enough away to avoid flying elbows or setting off her temper by saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. (and she comes by that temper naturally, I’m afraid)
I’m looking forward to running all over town for two more days with my funny, creative, talented daughter. Life with her, since the day of her birth has been, and will continue to be an adventure I embrace with my heart and soul. She pulls me out of my comfort zone and encourages me to follow my own passion more than anyone else. She does it with words, but more, by example. The student truly has become the teacher.
My Heart Overflows With Gratitude
My gratitudes today are:
1. I am grateful for my daughter. She’s my child, my friend, my cheerleader, my butt-kicker and a shining example of living life to the fullest.
2. I am grateful for the overabundance of writing projects I have on my plate as it’s kicking my own creativity into overdrive. More words have come out of these fingers in the last couple of weeks than I’ve typed in a couple of months, and the flow continues.
3. I am grateful for weekends with my daughter to explore her new home town or try new things or just hang out on her front porch with a book and some mutual quiet time. Reading in close proximity has always been a source of contentment for us.
4. I am grateful for my friends, family and acquaintances who have been encouraging my daughter for the last few years. I know their praise, suggestions and enjoyment of her wares has helped her get past the frustrating times and makes her continue to strive for perfection and grander creations.
5. I am grateful for abundance: love, life, energy, humor, joy, inspiration, motivation, health, peace, harmony, philanthropy and prosperity.