Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Making BIG Decisions

Styling of macarons by Ashley Nicole, macarons
(all except one flavour) baked by me :)
Making decisions can be tough.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the decision of where to eat, or the decision to move to another country, some things can be so hard to decide.

Generally, if I’m having a difficult time making a decision, it’s probably because I’m genuinely indifferent about what the result of the decision will be. I think part of the indifference comes from surrounding myself with people I am close with. If I were with friends I am becoming acquainted with, I would perhaps have more of a say in things—show my likes and dislikes more so we get to know each other’s preferences. However, more often than not, I’m with good people where decisions aren’t going to get crazy and I’ll be fine with any outcome. Welcome to adulthood.

While this indifference is definitely a good thing, and bestows upon me the title of being ‘easy going’ or ‘super chill’, it still has its downside moments. People can think you are someone who can’t make decisions, who doesn’t care about anything, or someone who is a pushover—especially if you’re with people you don’t know very well. Until those fleeting moments arrive where my voice in a matter needs to be heard, this girl is in chill mode.

Recently, my general indifference was met with a challenge—the necessity of making the biggest, most hard, decision I’ve ever had to make.

Upon moving back to Manitoba I had to seek out employment. While my radio past was eager to welcome me back with wide-open arms, I wanted to continue my baking adventures. I began my professional baking career in Hamilton and I was dead set on continuing. This brought it’s own challenges, the main one being that Winkler, Manitoba isn’t really a hot spot for gorgeously hand-crafted baked goods. Contrary to suggestions from friends to open my own bakery, I wanted to get a job within an already established producer of edible delights—there is so much I want to learn from many talented people before I head out into the baking world completely on my very own. If anything, my back up would be to do a bit of baking on the side and get a job somewhere fun—like Bulk Barn. Oh what I would make with that discount to ease the financial aspect of seeing my creativity come alive.

So, Winnipeg it was. Before our move back I began the job hunt. With perfect timing, my final class in school was Communications where we worked on resumes, cover letters and portfolios. After sending away emails with my elegantly presented information on why various businesses should hire me (even though none of them had posting saying they were actually looking for new employees) I was met with a few conversations of possibilities and, eventually, I was down to two offers—both labeled “an offer you can’t refuse”.

Well, I had to refuse one.
I had to accept one.
It was literally the hardest decision.

Some Strawberries and Cream Macarons!
Has this happened to you? You’re offered with two amazing things and you have to pick just one? It’s not an easy decision. Any sort of indifference you once had to things suddenly is gone and every moment is spent debating the two options and trying to make an educated decision.

I did everything I was supposed to do when faced with a potentially life (and career)-changing decision: I thought about it, prayed about it, confided in close friends about the options available to seek out wisdom, made pro and con lists, made lists of goals and where I see myself in the future with points on which would best help me reach them. Seriously, I did it all, and yet, when it came down to the crunch, I let my heart guide me. Despite what others saw as an amazing opportunity and the obvious offer to not refuse, I had to do it. Sometimes the opportunity to learn and be a supporting actor in a journey is better than being the lead—even if other people believe in you, and even knowing God is always there to help you along whatever path you decide.

Whenever I was thinking of which opportunity to take on, in my head an image would consistently come to mind and I knew I couldn’t ignore it… my heart was set on one place as my #1. When your heart is set, even when an opportunity seems too good to pass up, you need to follow your heart. Finances, jet-setting, and creative control aside, the opportunity to learn and grow with individuals who put out work you have admired for years is something no temporary workshop or experimenting on someone else’s dime can compete with.

It’s been over a month now and I am consistently happy with my decision. While it was hard, and while it seems kind of crazy to those who knew the opportunities I was faced with, I know it was the right decision. God puts dreams and passions in your heart for a reason. When my wonderful husband and I first decided to move back to Winkler, I recall my first thoughts being, since we would be living in Winkler, I would want to work in Winnipeg at Jenna Rae Cakes and start taking blogging more seriously.

Well, welcome to my life.
Having a gut reaction from the beginning can make a huge difference in how you approach any big decision making process. Even if you do all the right things, your heart can still have the ultimate say—even if it’s in more of an ‘I told you so’ kind of way. In moments like these I praise God for always having my best interest in mind, and for allowing me to feel His nudge in what I do. Without Him, I may have allowed worldly logic to win out and I wouldn’t be where I am today. And today, I’m right where I should be.

Saturday, March 7, 2015


Well, there’s a word you don’t hear every day.
Maybe it’s a word you’ve never heard before.
If you’re actively part of any movement for seeing justice win out, you may have a bad taste in your mouth after reading the word. Regardless, it’s time to have a chat about what it is, the good vs the bad, and how to drop the ‘sl’ from slactivist and become what the world needs more of—passionate activists.

I didn’t know what slactivism was until I did a stint with Not For Sale. It was one of those generic buzzwords (along with ‘innovation’ and phrases like ‘out of the weeds’) which came up in numerous conversations—more so in my realm as I was working with the grass roots initiatives of NFS. While it was thrown around from time to time without real explanation, it was easy to piece together what it meant—an easy representation of caring about something without really having to do anything at all.

Here is an official definition of slactivism from the Oxford dictionary:
Actions performed via the internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement. Eg: signing an online petition or joining a campaign group on a social media website.
Now, here’s a hilarious definition of slactivism, with a great example from Urban Dictionary:
The act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem. Eg: signing an email petition to stop rampant crime is slacktivism. Want to really make your community safer? Get off your ass and start a neighborhood watch!

As we can see, especially from the Urban Dictionary example, slactivism isn’t really viewed highly. It comes across as what it sounds like; you’re being a slacker. You sort of care about an issue, but not enough to do something that requires more work than the minimal required to show you care.

Let’s cut to the chase…
The reason I am choosing to speak on this topic is that recently, many people (myself included), put a red X on our hand to show we are standing in solidarity with, and hoping to bring awareness to, the over 27 million individuals in slavery today. There are more people in slavery today than at any other point in history… and today we have documents to say slavery has been abolished! To be especially clear, I am not speaking badly about the End It Movement. I took part in this campaign. I put a red X on my hand, took a photograph, and posted it to Instagram to spread awareness. But, like with most campaigns, awareness amazing but it is not enough. A conversation must begin and actions must be taken. It’s time we take awareness to the next level.

From my Instagram
On February 27th my Instagram feed was flooded with individuals making a stand, putting that red X on their hand for a flashy photograph that shows they care. And while posting the picture to social media isn’t inherently bad, it’s what happens after which provokes questions as to why people do it in the first place. Have you ever, after posting a flashy statement or picture to social media, done anything to actively pursue being involved in trying to end slavery? Have you researched where your clothes come from? Have you looked to see if the chocolate you purchased is from a company who uses child and forced labour in their supply chains? Have you donated any money to an organization fighting sex trafficking or started reading the many books available on the topic? Have you prayed for the captives to be set free and for God to reveal to you what you should do next to help? For every like your Instagram photo received, you should have been doing something real to help end injustice.

So, what’s good about Slactivism? I think a campaign created with enough simplicity for the average individual to put in minimal effort while still being part of a movement is wonderful. Slactivism means the average Joe and Jane can engage with an awareness campaign, and feel like part of a larger group of individuals rallying together with one common goal, and that's pretty great. Imagine if every single person who has ever Tweeted about a cause, Instagramed an image of themselves supporting an organization with the use of a hashtag, or shared a pre-fabricated status on Facebook, influenced someone else to do the same. We would have a wildfire of awareness spreading, and the seeds of education being scattered across the world. We would suddenly see awareness soar about so many justice issues—enough issues that each individual could find what spoke to them so loudly they would want to become involved! Well, that’s the hope, after all—that awareness being raised inspires activists.

In this sense we can see how slactivism can have an impact. Awareness is a great first step to really seeing justice win out.

Since we’ve highlighted the positive, it’s important for us to take a look at why slactivism isn’t ideal. It’s almost self-explanatory—slactivism does not mean someone will actually start making a difference. Just because I posted a picture on Instagram, doesn’t mean I actually have to do anything else. Life can go on as normal. The ego boost from the ‘likes’ and the perception of being someone who ‘cares’ my Instagram followers see, could easily be enough to make me pursue nothing more than the selfish interest of posting the picture. No conversations actually sparked, no education shared, no further moments where I reflect on what it means to really try to end slavery. Let’s be honest, and this may come across pretty harsh, what do you think those currently caught up in sex trafficking think about you putting an X on your hand and posting a photo on Instagram? Will they see help from that one single thing you did? This is where slactivism finds it problem. It’s awareness, not effective action to end the injustice.

Pin this graphic, share it on Facebook, Twitter and
Instagram and share how to make a difference!
So what do we do now? We have all taken part in slactivism, and many of us have probably already been an activist for something we are passionate about without even realizing it. How can we ensure we are living life as an activist, not a slactivist, in how we approach new issues being brought to our attention?
Awareness is Step 1.
Education is Step 2.
Activism is Step 3.

Slactivism goes hand in hand with Step 1, Awareness. But it’s a three-step process that is designed to continue once you make it to Step 1. You have to move through Steps 2 and 3 to see a real change and impact the world.

This is why I want to challenge you, the average Joe and Jane out there who commonly take part in the basics of slactivism we can all easily become involved in, to take away the ‘sl’ and pursue the next steps to becoming an activist.

- What is the most recent campaign you mentioned on social media? This is your "Step 1: Awareness"
For myself, it was how that ridiculous #TheDress hashtag and ‘controversy’ took over the world. To change this from something meaningless to meaningful, The Salvation Army in South Africa has made a campaign addressing violence against women. They took a woman covered in bruises and cuts and put her in the gold and white version of the dress with the tag line ‘why is it so hard to see black and blue?’.

- Research! Find out statistics about the cause and how it pertains to you (geographical location, statistics specific to your area, etc). This is your "Step 2: Education"

From here, if you find yourself passionate about the cause, it's time to move forward!
- Get involved! Take part in a campaign, donate money, sign up to volunteer, do whatever it takes to ensure you are becoming involved in ending the injustice! This is your "Step 3: Activism"

I’m not picking on awareness campaigns—if people didn't became aware of what was happening around the world, they wouldn't have the incredible opportunity to become educated and stand up to injustice! I want to bring light to how awareness is not enough. Following through is imperative to seeing justice win out. Don’t be a slactivist—do something! You can, and you will, be amazed at how big of an impact you can have on seeing injustice come to an end.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Chase Your White Rabbit

We all have interests. Things we find enough worth in spending our time doing that they acquire the title of something we are ‘interested’ in. Interests are a little…well… interesting, when you really take the time to think about them (which I obviously have, hence, this post!). I’ve discovered, from the time you become interested in something, it can go a couple of different ways…

1) You can find it interesting—but not interesting enough that you want to pursue it further. It’s a fleeting interest which will soon be replaced by something else on Pinterest, Facebook, or Instagram.

2) You take action! You explore this interest further, actually investing some time into research.

If you find yourself in the second point, it can then go two different ways…

1) You find it’s not actually as interesting as you originally thought. 

2) (And this is where it gets good) You find yourself genuinely captivated by your interest… You venture down the rabbit hole of continued intrigue set before you and you end up with a hobby and perhaps, even a new passion. 

Lately I found myself as Alice with my head poking down the rabbit hole into a wonderland of Food Styling.

Instagram post from 2 years ago!
It’s been a natural progression—so much so that I didn’t really realize it was a real thing to be interested in until a teacher mentioned it to me. As someone who has enjoyed the art of baking for a number of years now, I have documented the various baked goods I’ve made and posted a good handful onto Instagram for my friends to see. Generally unintentionally posted as a teaser of what my friends would soon get to tantalize their taste buds with, these images allowed me to follow through with the creative energy that was already flowing through the baking process. It was fun to use whatever I could find at home to try to take a fun picture—from wooden stumps to jars, and anything laying around the apartment.

As I moved into professional baking I found myself following bakers and bakeries more closely on social media. I became captivated by how gorgeously a baked good can be presented. Showing a beautifully hand crafted baked good was one thing, showcasing a baked good with perfect lighting and interesting composition with raw ingredients and tools included as supporting actors in the shot made an incredible difference in how enticing the item became. Seeing these images literally captivated me—I could look at them for hours. I began exploring with these same techniques. I had to take pictures for my employers Instagram feed which provided me the perfect opportunity to play around with literally every tool needed at my fingertips.

More recent food styling from Christmas 2014! Mmmm
Egg Nog Donuts *drool*
During the explanation of an assignment at school one day, a teacher said the words ‘food styling’ and it all just clicked. That’s what I have been so intrigued with the past few months! This is the topic I can now type into Pinterest to then spend hours upon hours staring at the images, all while being fully engaged by what is being presented!

I had to complete a project in school where we reached out to someone in the industry, preferably in a specific job we would like to see ourselves in one day or something that intrigues us, and ask them a few questions about their job as well as what they look for in an apprentice and what professionalism means to them. I realized this was my opportunity to learn more about food styling from someone who actually does it! I began to research stylists and found that most of the people I found whose images really spoke to me were of those who were actual chefs in their past. They were the folks creating food for so long and documenting it, that the transition to becoming a stylist was a natural progression.

Even though those I emailed said they would get back to me, and never did, it was still an amazing opportunity to research and gain knowledge on this little piece of the industry I had uncovered. There are food styling workshops you can attend, food styling books, online courses and more.

Recent shot from this week!
Putting the book to use at a shoot you'll see more of soon!
See some sneak peaks on Instagram!
Ar Christmas, my Secret Santa at my previous place of employment was someone I worked closely with. She saw my interest develop and got me a book called Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography and Styling. I just had a week off where I committed myself to reading the book and implementing the techniques with the foods I love to create—cakes and cupcakes!

It’s so wonderful to find encouragement and learning opportunities—these opportunities become more evident the more you explore your passions and allow others to come along on the journey with you. Exploring this book more depth will only guide me to other paths to journey along. They will lead me to new teachers to share ideas and learn from, new worlds, and hopefully a helpful array of Cheshire cats to keep me in line and inspire me while I chase this new interest across Wonderland. Who knows, when I find myself peaking up into reality I could take this new interest and apply it in ways I never before thought I could!

I challenge you to allow yourself to get pulled away by an interest to see where it takes you! Baking used to be a random hobby and now it’s my career. Anything can happen and it can lead you to unimaginable places. Be Alice. Chase your White Rabbit. Explore Wonderland. You can do it. It will be worth it. 

Pinterest-- always good for finding any image ever.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Home Is Where...

Finish the following sentence; Home is where...

Here are some of the more common responses (according to the cleverly designed images on Pinterest):
Home is where…
… the heart is.
… your husband is.
… your cat is.
… the pants aren’t.
… the wine is.
… the wifi connects automatically.

My husband and I had lived in Winkler, Manitoba for about three years. It made sense to live there—my husband is the owner of an amazing café, which was founded and still stands in Winkler. After a while we decided Winkler just wasn’t the place for us. We decided to try our hand at not only a different city, but also a difference province. A year and a half ago we took the plunge, packed up our car with anything and everything that would fit, and hit the road for the journey to Hamilton, Ontario. Leaving behind family, friends, and a business was an interesting decision to make, but we felt it was time to get away and explore.

Hamilton, often referred to as ‘the armpit of Canada’, is where we hung our hats, with frequent trips to Toronto in our regular routines. I wanted to leave behind my radio past and pursue a career baking sweet things for even sweeter folks. My wonderful husband wanted to go to school and explore interests he had. It was a time for growth, for change, for adventure—we thrive on adventure.

A year a half of adventure in Hamilton came and went, and just over a week ago, we hopped into a loaded up U-Haul, cat in cab, and drove the over 2,000 km journey back to Manitoba.

Manitoba is where my husbands business is, it’s where both of our families are, where long lasting bonds were formed and still exist, and where we would generally refer to as ‘home’ for the sake of easy reference to where we originated from before our cross-province move. As we journeyed through snowstorms and hours passed in a vehicle that wasn’t our own, I had very mixed feelings about returning to Manitoba—returning ‘home’. It doesn’t feel exciting, it doesn’t feel like returning somewhere filled with epic memories of even more epic past-times, a specific place, specific time, specific smell or taste that ‘takes me back’. It leads me to wonder, what really defines a place as ‘home’?

Insert generic cheesy dictionary definition of home here:

As we can see from the definition above, 'home' is really just a place we reside. To contrast the definition, the saying ‘home is where…’ evokes in us a sense of warmth, love, comfort and acceptance. The idea is home is one permanent places where all the good things are—where life is what you want it to be. Where life is simple and friendly and perfect. It’s a sentiment in the most sentimental of ways involving both imagery and feelings. As time has flown by, and as we have travelled to unknown places, we realized we don’t really plan to remain stationary in life. Never wanting to ‘settle down’ somewhere can greatly affect the anchored ideals of ‘home’.

Pinterest-- thanks for the perfect image.

When I ponder the ideals we expect to find in one place alone, I can find the attributes defining the feeling of home in each place I’ve been—welcoming faces, hugs, delicious homemade food, late night conversations, gatherings... These attributes aren't confined to the places I have resided. They are found in every place I've ever been—even Dominican Republic and especially Thailand.

The more I think about home the more I appreciate finding the feelings of home in all the places I visit. Whether I am visiting my parents at their house, my in-laws at theirs, friends in Winnipeg, or acquaintances across the ocean, I can more easily feel the sentiments of ‘home’ in smiles, warm welcomes, and saddened goodbyes, then in physical spaces and places. 
This makes sense. 
This is what home is meant to be. 
Home is where... you feel welcome and special, you are challenged to grow, encouraged to be who you are meant to be, and leave with well wishes at your back and reassurance to pursue the new adventures at your feet.

Oh... and in my world, let's be honest... Home is where the baking happens.