Wednesday, February 22, 2017

That Takes the Cake



When I was in Paris a few years ago, I bought a tiny card at a paper store with an illustration of a girl carrying a big cake. I liked it because I’d always harbored a little idea of one day running a coffee and cake shop.

It made sense to me since I like to bake. And I like to drink coffee. So why shouldn't I dream big and then follow my dreams?

I’ve mastered my grandmother’s cream cheese frosting recipe — in several different flavors — that I use to frost my cakes. 

And I’ve put in years of practice by making my niece and nephew’s birthday cakes and throwing holiday parties where everyone says they love my desserts.



I've bought pans and colors for icing, pastry bags and piping tips. I have a wire cake leveler for making flat layers, a cake turntable and different sized icing spreaders.

I love looking through cake decorating books for ideas, and a few friends have even asked me to make cakes for their family celebrations. {And they paid me too!}

I even imagined my name up in lights. 



My niece’s tenth birthday was last week and her cake came from a bakery this year. I didn't make it.

She wanted a chocolate chip cookie cake {something I’ve never tried} but she wanted me to pipe a dolphin in blue frosting on the cookie cake.

As we mixed up the icing together, she talked about the past 10 years of cake-making for her birthday. 

There was the puppy cake, the pony cake, the ice skating cake, and the year she went to see Luke Bryan in concert and wanted a cake that looked like a microphone. 

From the time she could hold a piping bag, she's helped me make almost all of them. She thinks it’s great fun. 

And she makes me think too.



What if our big ideas are just as good when they stay small? 

What if instead of listening to all the voices that tell us to go out and conquer the world out there, we listen to the voice that whispers to look around us right here and do some good within our own little world?

I can't get enough of these words from the Message version of the Bible.
Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. 
Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.
Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. 
- Rom. 12:1-2 {MSG}

I know that God plants dreams in all of our hearts, a unique menu of talents and skills he’s given us that we can choose to use, develop and hone. 

But maybe we just assume because they’re dreams they should be big dreams, wide and extraordinary and remarkable. 

I've read the inspiring words written on canvases, etched into charms: Follow your passions. Never let go of your dreams. Live a great big life.

I admire and applaud those who do that, but maybe there’s also something noteworthy about living small and ordinary. 

That might only hold meaning to those around us, in our circle of friends, at our workplaces, neighborhood and churches.



Overlooked gestures like baking muffins and sharing them with my neighbor. 

Having coffee with an acquaintance who's feeling a little lonely. 

Getting out my baking pans because my niece sends me a text that she's really hungry for my vanilla cake and could we make one together?

These intentions are worth aiming for and following too, aren't they? Making them a reality is sometimes no small feat, juggling schedules, making time and expending energy. 

And they might even be worth more than we could possibly think.



So I no longer want to open a little cakery. 

The truth is, I need far more training {both culinary and business} than I have for an endeavor like that.


I think I'd much rather make fun cake-baking memories in the kitchen with my niece. Where it seems something always goes wrong, just adding to the little adventure.

The dolphin we piped on the cookie cake was messy. We had the wrong sized piping tip. 

We scraped it off and tried again. 


Even with the second effort, I thought it looked more like a blue blob than a dolphin, but my niece thought it was great.



As we all gathered around the cookie-cake to sing happy birthday to her, she asked for the dolphin to be carved out of the middle of the cookie. 

That was the piece she wanted to eat. 

Maybe your little corner of the world is like mine, where small things can loom large, what's unnoticed is noted, and what seems temporary can have a lasting effect.

Like the memory of a slice of cookie-cake that's so very sweet.



{And no, I did not make this swan but I'd like to learn! It's a culinary creation from the Swan Coach House in Atlanta.}

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart



30 comments:

  1. Dear Valerie,
    I love these thoughts! And this: "Maybe your little corner of the world is like mine, where small things can loom large, what's unnoticed is noted, and what seems temporary can have a lasting effect," I think this is following God more fully, through every moment of our days. My Grandma had a cake carrier very similar to the one in your photo--what sweet memories! She made cakes for every occasion. I think she must have known something of that small-dream-fulfilling that you speak of. Thank you for stirring my heart today, Dear Friend! xoxo

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    1. Hi Bettie,
      Do you still have your grandmother's cake carrier? What a treasure that would be! I have my grandmother's cake plate that she held on her lap in the car since she couldn't be bothered with a carrier with a lid! 😀 So glad small dreams resonate with you too! xo

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  2. This is beautiful, Valerie. This reminds me of a quote I was just thinking about yesterday - "Bloom where you're planted." It doesn't have to be a wide sphere of influence. We can make such a difference just in the little world we're placed in. We just need to rest in God and follow wherever He may lead, even in the ordinary days of life. Chances are that if you had your own cakery, you would not have had as much time to make these precious memories with your niece. That is huge for a niece to have an aunt who makes her feel special like you do. That is so priceless that she wanted to eat the part of the cookie with the dolphin. :) Thank you so much for sharing this today and encouraging my heart. Love and hugs!

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    1. Hi Trudy,
      I love that quote about blooming wherever you are -- it really is true and inspirational because it speaks to all of us! I think sometimes we get captivated by big ideas and thinking that's all we should shoot for when there's so much good to be done in front of us. You are so right that I only have so much time to enjoy my niece and nephew and I want to enjoy every minute of it! xoxo

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    2. I was just thinking earlier that if your niece is 10 already that your nephew must be nearly a teenager? Maybe in the Tweens? They grow up way too fast, don't they? They both are blessed to have such a loving aunt. :)

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    3. Yes! He just turned 13! And knocked on the door on Valentine's Day with a pink rose in his hands for his auntie! I am a lucky girl! :)

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    4. Awww... That's so sweet. Now I have tears in my eyes. Happy ones. :)

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  3. "they might even be worth more than we could possibly think."
    This is definitely true. The small things done in love are seen by God even if no one else applauds. It is the applause of Heaven that counts.
    Also, "what seems temporary can have a lasting effect" is definitely true when we do that act in obedience to God and for His glory. Your niece is blessed to have an aunt like you.
    Keep up the good work!

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    1. Hi Ruth,
      Thanks for stopping by! It's interesting to think that what we might consider insignificant might mean more than we think -- I wonder how that would change what we do? Thanks so much for reading here! :)

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    2. I guess it would be different for each person. Sometimes I think that God veils my eyes to what He is doing through me so that I will not be proud, and He just gives me enough of a glimpse from time to time to keep me from giving up.

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  4. That is so true- often we think if God has given us a dream it has to be big but God is in the little things just as much. It's important to stay open to him for how he wants us to use or passions and talents. The cookie-cake looks great and your niece looks so happy. Those special memories are so valuable.

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    1. Hi Lesley,
      You hit the nail in the head when you said we should stay open. Maybe we do things we think are important that might not matter all that much to God? Spending time thinking about those things is worthwhile!

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  5. Love that! We can certainly keep some things small for just our world. :) Your niece's smile lights up that picture. What a gem!
    The verses reminded me of the song, "Be My Everything" by Tim Hughes. Let's invite God into every part of our lives!

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    1. Sarah,
      Yes, let's! And Devon is a gem -- I'm truly blessed to be so close to her! xo

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  6. Valerie,

    I love the photos of your niece and that you've made all these cakes and beautiful memories with her. And that MSG translation: Spot on!

    What you wrote here really spoke to me. Thank you :-)
    It is such a counter-cultural act to do this: "What if instead of listening to all the voices that tell us to go out and conquer the world out there, we listen to the voice that whispers to look around us right here and do some good within our own little world?"

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    1. Hi Dolly,
      Thanks so much for your encouraging words! I really love the Message version too. Every time I read a passage it inspires me with its practical common sense style. It casts a new light on those ancient truths!

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  7. You hit the nail on the head, friend. I love you honesty, we all need to hear this I believe. I have an idea as God is showing me what I REALLY want to write about...and it seems not so fancy, but more like...simple. It has been hard to convey who I really am, across a screen..ya know? I want simple and small. This message is timely. I love your photos. You really are, oh so talented. I think I am uber hungry now though! Praying for you, Valerie. Keep sharing your heart seriously. It is like a breath of fresh air on a covered porch, sippin some lemonade!

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    1. Hi Meg,
      I've been reading your posts about writing topics and I concur about simplicity -- it's underrated, isn't it? Thank you for your sweet, encouraging words and always stopping by here! xoxo

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  8. This was all so lovely Valerie!! And my heart was just whispering YES! the whole time. I was just thinking today that all the big dreams and goals we're prompted to lay out in the first of the year always intimidate me. Maybe we're just made for small... Made to reveal the ordinary blessings of the everyday....and there's not a thing wrong with that- it takes all kinds. The message translation-- spot on-- and the way this phrase was worded, "Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. " is right in line with what our pastor's been preaching on lately. I love your cake infatuation and I am hungry now too! My youth SS teaching teammate (another culinary queen!) and I hosted our girls for pipe and flow cookie decorating 2 weeks ago and it was such a blast I wanted to open a cookie shop! LOL! Don't worry, I reigned myself in! xoxo

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    1. Hi Heather,
      Yes, we might be made for small -- which in some ways, is really living large, don't you think? How fun to host a group of girls for a baking party! And I think opening a cookie shop might just be the ticket for you! :) xo

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  9. Oh, what a beautiful thought! Perhaps the life God has already gifted each of us with really IS a big life. I loved reading of your adventures with your little niece. How precious! She will never forget the time you took with her and the way you drop all else to make her dreams come true. I think you would do an amazing job at owning your own cakery, and I must say I hold out hope that one day you get to do that in addition to the other wonderful things in your life. God bless you, my dear, encouraging, sweet friend. It always warms my heart to visit with you here.

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    1. Hi Cheryl,
      I agree! Our lives are already full of big things, I think sometimes we just don't see them that way. Thanks for your sweet words and encouraging me on every time you stop by here, friend! xo

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  10. Hi Valerie! so beautiful and yummy and refreshing! Thank you so much for reminding me that the small is important too- ( maybe even better that bigger?) I feel this speaks right to my heart tonight. I get exhausted wondering and wishing my life to be bigger when it feels so small and everyday. Although when I stop and think about it, there is no where else I would rather be than home doing the loving through everyday things. I guess there is this thinking that someday we will find our one thing - that thing we were made for- and I am learning it is simple to walk with Jesus- go with him where he leads and be content there because he is there. This is what we were made for- i think- Anyway that cherry cake looks amazing!! and I just love the picture of your niece! such a cutie- so fun- Thank you for lifting my spirits tonight and giving me these good thoughts to hang onto! sending love and hugs your way! xo

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    1. Hi Susie!
      I never heard how the Valentine's Day scones turned out? I do think our hearts yearn for something we can't quite put our thoughts on -- but maybe that is a yearning for God that's inborn in us? Loving your words that we can be content anywhere because he is there! xoxo

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  11. Do your talents ever end, Valerie? And what a great activity to do with your niece. You are making unforgettable and sweet (pun intended) good memories with her. Your message is one I seem to be coming to up a lot lately--to be content and to be and serve those that are right in front of me. I've had a dream to open a bookstore/giftshop/coffee place with a customized meeting room. It's called The Meeting Room and so detailed in my imagination! So far I have only written it in a couple of stories and maybe that is where it is suppose to be?! There is no activity too small when we have God in the centre of our lives is there?

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    1. Oh Lynn, you make a girl feel so good! :) I LOVE your idea of a book/gift/coffee shop and I love it when big ideas do come true -- I hope you explore it! And it's just as you shared here, that there is no activity too small or overlooked when we are doing our work for others as we would for God. I think that is the beauty of the small things! xo

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  12. I love this on so many levels, Valerie. Cake is my absolute favorite, first of all, but the whole idea of being OK with "living small and ordinary" really resonates with me too. It's such a refreshing idea in this day and age when platform size and social media numbers seem like the only thing that matters sometimes. Your blue-blob dolphin story made me smile ... it reminds me of a cake my husband decorated for one of my girls once (I can't remember which one). She requested a princess, but it turned out looking more like a clown. He's really honed his cake-decorating skills since then, but we still laugh about that one.

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    1. Lois,
      I know you've written about your cake-baking husband and I think that is sensational for your girls to have such a creative pastry chef for a dad! :) I've been thinking a lot about small lately and how easy it is to jump on the bandwagon of those whose work is so publicly evident but I think there's a lot escaping our notice sometimes . . . And I'm laughing about a princess looking like a clown! :) xo

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  13. I love this, Valerie! I have been thinking about the same topic. In the busy seasons, it feels like there is no time to dream big or act accordingly -- but I can always reach out with the small and simple things right here, right now. Thinking of you baking a cake with your niece sounds just about the perfect image of seeing God's love in the seemingly small things that are the moments that matter the most. Blessings to your week, Valerie!

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    1. Ronja,
      It's so good to see you here! I always love it when you pop in to say hello! Praying for you and think of you often! xoxo

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