A Baker is Born

I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult. – E. B. White

In college, my academic advisor told me once that she was preparing me to take over the world. She said this, as she did most things, in a way that made me think she was serious, that she’d be disappointed if I didn’t. So I set out to do just that.

I got a Master’s Degree in Public Administration (MPA) and officially began my life as a public servant. I spend my days working with communities in West Virginia to redevelop brownfield properties – that is, properties with real or perceived environmental contamination. This allows me to work with stakeholders of all kinds, academic experts in numerous fields, and service providers in all sectors. I spend a lot of time traveling the Mountain State, seeing the many things that communities have to offer, and helping them to build their assets and tackle their challenges.

Taking on the celebrations and frustrations of multiple communities at the same time is usually exhilarating, but sometimes it’s exhausting. Long hours in the car, fielding questions about state and federal programs, begging people to return your calls and emails – these are the exciting and integral parts of life in community development. It helps to have a creative outlet, a way to turn off my work brain and focus on a single, finite, creative task that will almost instantly bring people joy.

That’s how I discovered baking.

I can remember baking cakes for Christmas with my grandmother when I was young. She had this kids’ cookbook that had belonged to my dad that she gave to me.┬áIt was falling apart and yellow from use – everything a cookbook should be. For a handful of years, I was so excited to help decide what kind of Christmas cake we would have – how it would be shaped, how we would decorate it, what flavor it would be. She seemed to have all the answers, as grandmothers often do, and cake pans in every shape (many of which I’d be thrilled to find in my adulthood).

The first Christmas after I met my husband I made snickerdoodles for his family as a gift. I am convinced that that was the point at which his dad even considered letting me stick around. For months after, any time I would come over, the first thing he’d say was, “Where are the cookies?” For 7 years, even after we got married, I made him cookies for Christmas. When I switched my baking specialty to cupcakes (more on that later), my husband and I had to consult about how to mitigate his dad’s disappointment when I showed up with cupcakes instead of snickerdoodles. I’m still not sure he’s gotten over it.

In the last couple of years, I’ve come to rely on baking as a creative outlet and stress reliever. I’ve gotten my sea legs in the kitchen, upgraded to a larger kitchen – thank goodness! – and started to make my own tweaks to recipes, to trust myself to go on instinct on occasion. This new-found confidence has inspired me to combine baking with my tried and true stress reliever: writing. Thus, Confessions of an mmmMPA was born.

Although I expect that the bulk of my posts will focus on baking or event planning, I hope that some of the MPA side will have occasion to come out. I see and experience so many great parts of West Virginia and the rest of the country through my work that it would be a shame not to share those stories along the way. After all, who says you can’t change the world and have a hell of a good time while doing it?

Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let’s get baking!