Social networking is a little bit like Easy*Baking

Right around my birthday last year, I let myself get coerced into signing up for this thing called Facebook. It may have been the onset of old age; or maybe it was just time, at 38, to check in. You know, to see what some old friends were up to, and in turn – to let people know what I have been doing.

I had been generally resistant to joining the social networking wave. I mean, with a 3- and 5-year old, and not much on my mind other than potty training, children’s television, and, well, home improvement, what did I have to offer this world?

But . . . I played with it for a bit. I liked it; fb is fun. And my statuses changed each day from one cryptic nothing to the next. JB Bartkowiak is JB Bartkowiak. AND JB Bartkowiak is redacting (or is that redacted). AND so on. . . . I’ll admit it; I wasn’t usually doing anything – so I simply put up whatever quirky little thing I found in my head.

Then, on December 26, 2008 – I still remember the day, I changed my status. It read, JB Bartkowiak just spent 2 hours making 2 cupcakes – 9 more hours of Easy Baking to go. With that, I was officially a user.

And the day after Christmas is a little bit like Easy*Baking

True story — that status from above: the day after Christmas. I would keep the girls busy that day – they were very excited to try out their new bake ware. My wife would take an obligatory day for shopping and returns.

my daughter and the easy bake oven
Evyn brown-nosing:: from a recent easy bake session

And let’s get this straight: the girls didn’t just haul in the Easy-Bake Oven (you know the classic from Hasbro); they also scored the Girl Gourmet Cupcake Maker and various other frosting applicators. Good times, much to try for sure. And I was looking forward to spending the quality time with them as they broke in this new arsenal.

So . . . the day after Christmas, I easy*baked.

Designing a business is a little bit like Easy*Baking

If you have taken the time to look at the side bar over here, you may have noticed that this BlogSpot is of one of three total. Life, Jobs, Home; part of a larger business plan. That’s right – I am starting a business, but I also have a home, and at times – I try to have a life.

And while I don’t speak specifically about my wife, my kids, or even my house in the pages of my business plan – they are written in there. In between every idea and every line of projected income is exactly how I am going to make this thing happen within the framework of my current dynamic.

I ask myself every day: how am I going to execute a service-focused venture without loosing the one and only full-time day job that our family has? It has been at forefront of my mind for several weeks now. A source of what seems to be extremely high levels of (yet hopefully short-term) stress.

And Cooking is a little bit like Easy*Baking

That Easy*Bake Oven hasn’t seen much action since the day after Christmas. We haven’t easy*baked, but we have cooked.

making easter eggs with my daughters in an unfinished kitchen
Easter eggs — the process is very similar

You should know: Evyn loves to cook. And Eva, well, she loves to do anything that her big sister loves to do. So when I get called upon to make dinner (every now and then), it seems always that I have an assistant or two. And it is a good thing; it is fun. I especially appreciate the distraction that they offer.

You see, I will be honest; cooking kinda stresses me out. I don’t know if it is simply because I don’t do it much. Or maybe it’s all the multi-tasking — the figurative several irons in the fire. But inevitably, I almost always feel flustered, confused, rushed, or simply one step behind at some point in preparation process.

We cooked together the last two weekends, and I had been hearing it pretty consistently throughout. Dad, can we easy*bake? Evyn asked. My response, No, not now; it takes too much time. Cooking is one thing, easy*baking is a whole ‘nother thing. Or is it? You must set aside time for it.

Home Improvement *is* a little bit like Easy*Baking

Our home, maybe you have read — is a project. It needs a lot of work. And in this market, and with not much of a working budget, it is me – part time – all the time. And I will admit it; when I am confronted with a task that I haven’t performed, I feel some level of stress.

Reality is – how can one man be master of all things? Sure, I know how to lay out a project. Sure, I can cut and install wood. I can even lay some tile. I do all of this; I work and I help raise two beautiful daughters.

And Easy*Baking is a little bit like home improvement

I finally broke down and we easy*baked the other day.

There are my girls

If it has been awhile since you have easy*baked yourself, let me refresh your memory. The Easy*Bake Oven is a stand alone contraption, plastic knobs and stickers on the front, two slots one on each end of it (yeah – like the one you’d find at Quiznos).

Items are baked individually by a 100-watt light bulb (not soft white or long life – to this, not super easy to find these days). Two not highly engineered metal doors close down around the heating chamber. There is a yellow tool then that can be used for inserting and retrieving baking pans – it actually works.

Our Easy*Bake project: flower-shaped sugar cookies

We pulled out the oven, cleared the kitchen table, put on their aprons, and opened the package. Along with 2 packets of cookie mix, 2 packets of frosting, and some nonpareils, a four-page instructional booklet slipped out. So I read – working as we went.

We have two pans, but the recipe for a single cookie mix packet is laid out for three cookies, and only one pan fits in the oven at any given time. In this process – easy*baking — it works: mix, prepare, bake, cool; mix, prepare, bake, cool. (Kinda like a round in singing class.)

Eva enjoys the yummy goodness

And we mixed, according to the instructions, adding the precise amount of water. While I usually let Evyn mix – I intermittently get my hands dirty too. We added the exact amount of water, I swear – yet our mix didn’t quite look like dough. So as I would with any cementitious home improvement product – I added just a drop, didn’t want to over-hydrate and ruin the mixture. This time with a delicate hand, I nailed it.

We then took our dough and kneaded it in some flour (wow, what a mess). We now had to take it and split it into 3 equal parts. What the instructions didn’t count on was that the girls had been hitting it up for minutes. They systematically licked everything clean, the bowl, the utensils, while simultaneously consuming any piece of dough not firmly attached to our mound lying there.

We didn’t have enough to make three cookies, despite what the instruction said. But two would do; just the number we needed. The cookies went into the oven, came out and cooled. (Evyn had enough self-restraint to wait for her sister’s to complete.) They iced them, and they consumed them, gorgeously decorated and personalized.

. . . Blogging is a little bit like Easy*Baking

I will be honest – some of these words, as with many you will find on this blog, may be intended for no one other than me. My point, and I try to be transparent, is at times when you have a job, an idea for a business, a home to work on, and a family to help operate, i.e. several things going on — things may spill into each other somewhat.

It can be a very good thing, if you are of right mind. For me, I often find that I must look to seemingly unrelated aspects of my life to find inspiration I may need in others. It helps, too, for me to have a place to dump my thoughts . . . read or not.

You just trust yourself (whether you are designing a business, cooking, doing home improvement, blogging, or easy*baking) to lay it out, knead it and make it into something good.

* my apologies — should have taken some pictures of us easy*baking, but hopefully Easter Egg pictures from Facebook are close enough.

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