One thing people often guess about me is that I grew up as an innocent goody-two-shoes. I am uncomfortable breaking the rules, even though I believe some rules are really, really dumb. I am convinced that if I step out of line, someone will catch me. Not to mention the guilt or embarrassment I feel when I think I’ve done something wrong – soooooo not worth it. Because of this, there were only two times that I was grounded as a kid. They were both for lying about practicing my violin/singing.

Had I been more compelled to practice when I was growing up, I do wonder where I would be today. It isn’t one of those wistful “if only” thoughts, it was what it was. I was a happy kid, exploring my passions with the steady support of my parents. If ever there was the opportunity, I had it. I just merely did not have the desire at the time to put work into those areas, so my life went a different route. Interestingly, now that I am settled into the adult life, that desire has emerged.

But that means practicing. Bleh.

The dreaded bar chords – your finger becomes the capo.

Why Practicing Sucks

OK, this is where you may start rolling your eyes. This is not a gloat-session, I swear. But I have a theory about myself that is important when talking about practicing. That theory is that I’m spoiled.

I am generally good at a lot of things just naturally. (Unless it’s sports. I have poor depth perception – like as in tested by eye doctors/physicians. So…yeah, not my thing.) I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty great being able to pick things up quickly. However, the drawback is a tendency toward relying too much on natural ability. It results in impatience and trouble tolerating the process that is important for growth and development of additional skills over time.

I often wonder if those who have more natural talent may be at a disadvantage, namely of not having a good ability to grow in a skill. The equation in my mind is this: artistic prowess = talent + the ability to grow it. And I think that the equation comes out the strongest when the two parts are well-balanced. We often believe raw talent is what counts, but if you can’t harness it, then what?

Here’s my problem. I just want to be good at something. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind putting in the time and energy, and I love learning new things. But for me, practicing feels like a shift from learning to sheer repetition. It goes from the excited energy of something new and innovative to the humdrum of a broken record, doing something over and over and over and over and over again until it improves.

Because of this, I have a bad habit of seeing practice as a means to an end. When the bad news (for me) is that it’s ALL meant to be a process. No beginning, no end, just continual learning and evolution. Even when you are crafting/creating a specific item like a scarf or a candle, technically you can always find something to refine – it is a conscious choice to find an end point where you are willing to step away and call it “complete”. UGH.

Trial batches of cookies to test.

Why Practicing is Awesome

In the words of Mike Myers, now let’s put the emPHAsis on the other sylLAble.

Practicing is where the magic happens. Putting in the rote time, trying and trialing over and over, zeroing in on the techniques behind the art. These seemingly mundane tasks allow your brain to process and to click in ways it wouldn’t if you had just focused on creating your end product. There is this cool point where the motor memory and the creative flow finally click and you finally go from repetition to elevation. It’s awesome.

Also think about this. When you are practicing, it’s all process. In other words, there is no such thing as ‘messing up’. EVERYTHING is fair game. How cool is that?? It is one of the only areas of life where there is no pressure to get it right. When you trial something out, you can toy around and not worry if the chords clash or the colors murk. They say that brainstorming in its purest form is when there is no such thing as a bad idea – you are just riffing and coming up with any possibility. Practice is where that happens.

Not convinced? Sigh, me neither – not 100% anyway. But whether it’s psychology or art, performance or creation, the theme holds steady. We have to allow the time and the space to practice, to try, to flub, to refine, to start again.

  1. I made pasties!

They. Are. Delicious. I mean, they better be given all the butter – but whatever, you only live once. (I’m a Millennial and no longer young and hip, so I’ll assume that YOLO is no longer a thing. But…YOLO!)

I made sourdough pasties, because, duh, it’s me. Sourdough all the way. I’m looking forward to using the crust recipe for some larger pies once my blackberries and strawberries hopefully produce this year. Stay tuned for that!

Hand pies / pasties are something that the Michiganders know a lot about, but I first learned about them from The Great British Baking Show. With the use of a food processor, these turned out to be VERY easy to make despite looking super fancy. In addition to being easy and delicious, they are also easy to handle without utensils (hence being called hand pies).


I found this very detailed and wouldn’t change a thing about the directions EXCEPT to note that you can, of course, change the size of the cut for your pasty if you want to make them bigger – just use a large bowl. For desserts I found this the perfect size. For a main course of a meal I liked making the pasty pastry (say that 5 times fast) a little bigger to allow for more filling.

TIP: Watch your food processor. I got overly confident the second time making the dough and turned away for 10 seconds while it processed, and the crust went from crumbled bits (perfect!) to a more solid mass (too much processing!). HOWEVER, it still turned out delicious. There was probably less flake and a little more butter leakage during the bake, but not enough for me to care.

As suggested in the recipe, one time I froze dough in large disks and defrosted it at a later date to use. It worked out great! Next time I hope to make the filling at the same time so I can freeze the hand pies whole and have them ready to go for days when I’m not feeling up to cooking. After all, a freezer full of my husband’s mandu (Korean dumplings) and my pasties sounds like heaven.

Other than that, I may try to reduce the butter by small increments to see if I can manage getting the same yummy effect without feeling so guilty about the butter content, but we’ll see.


I’ve done two versions of filling for pasties so far and I’d recommend both.

One filling was some leftover homemade cranberry sauce (the chunky version so it wouldn’t seep out). And – yum.

For the more meal-style version I made the following filling. It’s a great way to use those root vegetables where you’re like, “WTF are you…?”

All ingredients are cubed/chopped into small pieces so they will cook thoroughly. These are ESTIMATES for the amount of each veggie and starch – I aimed for them to be fairly equal amounts in the mixture.

Cooking time will vary based on the size of the pasties. I cooked at 350 F using the convection setting (375 F if your oven doesn’t do convection) for about 27 minutes based on the size from the crust recipe above. If you get some butter leaking out it may burn, but I wouldn’t stress too much about that.

  • ½ onion
  • 2-3 turnips / root vegetable
  • 1-2 potatoes / sweet potatoes
  • ½ lb ground beef
  • ¼ cup broth
  • Seasonings to taste (these are estimates of what I used)
    • ½ Tablespoon salt
    • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
    • ¾ teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
    • Fresh oregano, thyme, and sage

This is actually halved from a recipe I based this on to try to prevent leftover filling. But honestly, I consider leftover filling a happy accident, because then my hubby makes us a nice stir fry and rice dish with it. (Drool.)


Fall is coming to an end. By that, of course, I mean emotionally, not seasonally. If you know me, you know I expect everyone to respect fall in full. But once I have a belly full of turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, we can talk winter/Christmas (or your selected holiday). With fall whizzing past at the speed of light, I have a few more chances to focus on fall before shifting to pretending like winter exists in Central Texas.

I wouldn’t call myself a pumpkin spice-obsessed person, but I do miss living where I could rock a Han Solo style vest-jean-boot combo. And the mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove is magical. And I will step on every leaf on the sidewalk to hear that wonderful crunch under my heel. Otherwise, I’m a totally normal person, I promise.

Sadly, I had trouble figuring out any fall projects that I could feel super jazzed about, unless it involved food. It’s not the worst problem to have. But I’d like to keep some semblance of health. Ah well, such is life. Here are my food explorations that got me in the mood for crisp, fall weather.

Let Them Eat Cake


This cake is really a chocolate cake made moist by pumpkin. But the cinnamon-y icing was very yummy and added a fun fall flavor. While I really add pumpkin to…taste pumpkin…I was not disappointed in the cake.

You know what I was disappointed in? Myself. Granted it was only me and the hubby eating this cake, but I actually got to a point where I almost didn’t finish it. Alas, childhood is far behind me. This chocoholic just couldn’t believe the struggle to eat the last few pieces despite its deliciousness.

The Best Part of the Pie


Confession: pie crust is mainly just a means of transporting yummy filling into my mouth.

Pumpkin pie custard in ramekins is a genius idea. It makes perfect little serving sizes and lets me skip the part I personally don’t need (the crust). Either this recipe was for gargantuan ramekins or mine are smaller than the standard size, because it definitely made more than 6 – NOT that I’m complaining.

Side Note: Both me and my husband preferred it cold rather than warm from the oven.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

(See Header picture.)

Most breads and cakes you put pumpkin in aren’t actually going to taste like pumpkin. I always find this incredibly disappointing. It makes whatever you are baking incredibly moist and a fun orange color, but that’s about it. If you want a little flavor with your pumpkin when making a bread, this may be worth a try.

These cinnamon rolls having pumpkin in the filling, so you actually get some of the flavor which is awesome. It’s still more subtle, but it’s there. Also, this cinnamon roll dough was WAY easier to manipulate than my usual recipe. For once they came out with clean swirls – hooray!

Side Note: I did not have cream cheese, so I just made a confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, almond milk icing – quick and easy.


Happy fall baking/cooking, everyone!


I have a friend I’d like you to meet. She can be an acquired taste. Sometimes a bit messy. To be honest, she can smell a little off if you don’t feed her. Despite all of that, she has become really popular. 

Meet Audrey II, my sourdough starter! (Any Little Shop of Horrors fans out there?) 

Before COVID19, us diehard sourdough baking enthusiasts were already out there. Funnily enough, it seemed that I found a small grouping of sourdough people at every party I went to. Once I got into it, people started coming out of the woodwork. 

I’ve made many different things, but some of the highlights have been varying breads including hot dog buns and pita breadfocaccia, biscuits, pancakes, bread pudding, cinnamon rolls, pasta 

Now I’m hungry. 

Where to Start

There are a number of bakeries helping people with starter kits – now that this is an option, I definitely recommend it. So many people have asked my trick for sourdough starters because some of their homemade ones have gone funky after some time. Easy – get it from someone else. I went to a great pasta and cider tasting at Texas Keeper Cidery where the chef handed out starters in a to-go bag. It’s been over a year now and my starter keeps chugging along. 

If you want added information on baking with sourdough and Google isn’t cutting it, I started with this and thought it was great at explaining the process without getting too much in the weeds: 

Artisan Sourdough Made Simple by Emilie Raffa  

A really cool exploration into sourdough baking as a lifestyle (yes, this sounds over the top; yes, you should want this for yourself) comes from another book. Warning – this one requires more brain power from you to put the recipe details together, but it does a great job of tempting you into this slower paced way of life. I now use this book for the base of my mainstay bread recipe. 

Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson  

If you have a starter and it is growing out of control, make sourdough crackers (you’re welcome) – I use fresh herbs from the garden. These crackers are so yummy and don’t require the time to bake that breads doAlso, don’t ask me how but, they last way longer than you’d think before getting stale. 

Sourdough Crackers Recipe

Sourdough as a Lifestyle

Sourdough as a lifestyle, you say? 

Sounds a bit much, don’t you think? 

Not at all. I am a firm believer that we should all be living the sourdough bread baker life. 

am a sucker for what I refer to as Depression Era hobbies. This is my way of saying that I enjoy doing things that remove the middlemen and allow me to fully appreciate a product from start to finish. 

Sourdough is a great example. Take bread, something that is nearly instantaneously accessible in our modern world due to retail companies. Sourdough baking takes it back to its roots. (Or if that’s too rich for your blood, find yourself a local bakery to frequent!) 

Sourdough forces you to pay attention to the fundamental mechanics of bakingIt’s about spacing your bake out into smaller amounts of time across 1-3 days, adapting your actions based on what you see happening to the starter and dough. Sure, that can sound really intimidating off the bat, but most books and/or recipes will help you chart this out while you get used to the processIt does not take much longer or more focus than ‘instant’ baking, it just spans a longer swatch of time. Personally, I find it relaxing and enjoy weaving the process throughout my other activities.  

The usual process looks something like this: 

  • Feed sourdough starter every 1-2 days (it is a yeast that you feed water and flour) 
  • Once it has risen the starter can be used in recipes OR wait until it has fallen if the recipe calls for unfed starter – there should be at least a little starter leftover 
  • Feed the leftover starter  
  • Feed every 1-2 days OR put in refrigerator until a few days before next bake 

If it hadn’t been for that fateful day when a chef literally handed me a starter, I may have never tried sourdough baking. It seemed like more work than it was worth. But now that I have my starter, it is a nice ritual that I enjoy incorporating into everyday life. 

Consistently, the message with sourdough is to slow down. Don’t get too distracted. Don’t forget to pay attention and track your progress. Rather than a specific timeframe for each step, you have to watch and adaptAs someone who loves being given crisp, clear directions, I hated this part initially. But eventually you start being able to gauge how long you should wait for the next step based on the temperature in your house and the look of your starter or dough. There’s an odd peace that comes with cultivating that skillset. 

Anyone out there trying to use mindfulness more in your day-to-day practices? This is one of the yummiest ways you can accomplish that. 

One Last Tip

I couldn’t talk about Audrey II without mentioning one important thing. Do yourself a favor, bread bakers or whole loaf purchasers. Buy. A. Real. Bread. Knife. 



Do it now. 

Your bread can slice like butter. It can be cut without smooshing the loaf underneath the weight of your overbearing hand. You don’t have to eat the giant heel of bread all at onceTrust me, this one simple change is pure magic. 

Whelp, time to go bake.