Musings + Essays

Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 221: Lessons in Baking.

By: Jen Shoop

My Latest Snag: Fresh Body Lotion.

Sephora is currently offering 25% off and free shipping on all Fresh products, and I managed to stock up on my favorite body lotion of all time — Fresh Life scent (I also love Hesperides) — which is sadly now sold out. However, you can still snag their classic lip balm, which I always have a few tubes of. It wears more like a balm-meets-lip-gloss and imparts a beautiful, soft color. You can also still score their bath/shower gel in refreshing Citron de Vigne or my favorite Life scent.

If you want to try the lotion at full price — it is worth it, and you can get it at Nordstrom with free shipping. It is the most heavenly scent, and the most lovely consistency. I’ve been using this body lotion for years and years and years.

You’re Soooo Popular: Le Strapless Dress.

The most popular items on le blog this week:

+This block print strapless dress.

+Cutest baseball sweatshirt for a little man. (Part of the Nordstrom sale.)

+$20 Target slides — go for the blue!

+Gorgeous blockprint scalloped dinner napkins from a cute Etsy shop.

+Eyelet-trim toddler top.

+Most cheerful party dress.

+Sweet bracelets to give out to little classmates.

+Wet/dry bags for the littles. A summer staple IMO!

+My new dress! So gorgeous and a couple more sizes were restocked.

+Cutest $30 H&M dress.

+The chicest desk chair ever, and $300! (Many of you have already bought this and rave about it!)

Weekend Musings: Lessons in Cake Baking.

Last weekend, I made Hill a proper birthday cake, from scratch. It was highly involved and frankly a bit above my talent level (and strength level — it is hard to whisk egg whites over simmering water for 12 minutes straight!), but I pulled it off and have to say that it might be the best thing I’ve ever made, with the exception of some heart-shaped raspberry-filled linzer cookies I made a decade ago that Mr. Magpie still talks about. I followed Stella Parks’ Devil’s Food Cake recipe and then blended the swiss buttercream recipes from Stella Parks and Sally’s Baking Addiction, because Mr. Magpie had given me a heads up that he thought Stella Parks’ buttercream recipe was off in the listed temperature that you are meant to heat the sugar/egg mixture to prior to whipping. I don’t bake as often as I used to — before children, there was nearly always something homemade in our cake dome — and this time around, I was struck by how much more tolerant I was of getting the set-up and mise en place organized well before actually mixing any ingredients. One of my biggest baking pitfalls for years and years was my habit of vaguely skimming a recipe and then jumping in, preparing the ingredients along the way. This always led to a harried, mildly-stressful environment — not to mention more mishaps than I care to admit. This time, I took nearly 15 minutes (!) just lining the round 8″ pans with parchment paper. (I followed this guide — had never fully understood how to line the sides properly without a gap between the base circle and sides — and it worked brilliantly!) I made sure all of the ingredients were at the proper temperature. I pre-cracked the eggs and set them in a ramekin in the fridge. I chopped the chocolate. I measured everything out by weight using our beloved kitchen scale in individual measuring cups. There was a point at which I started to get itchy because I’d been in the kitchen for a good hour and hadn’t actually done any baking per se — but I had to shrug that “old me” voice off and ask myself why I was so jumpy about getting it done anyway? It’s lovely to bake. It’s the perfect focused-but-not activity to preoccupy myself when I am digesting bigger things, like a move back to D.C. and my regret at leaving my sister behind, and I was already ceding my “afternoon free time” (when micro naps and mini has iPad time) to the baking of the cake anyway. Why is it, in other words, that I still find myself nipping at my own heels, propelling myself from one task to the next as if there is some previously-agreed-upon schedule I must follow? Is this a Type A thing? A rule follower thing? A mom thing? I’m not sure, but my consciousness of the fact that I was expediting my own work seems to be a step in the right direction. “Just — relax,” I told myself, and I leaned back against the kitchen counter and sipped my iced coffee and took a little thirty second break to appreciate the fact that I was alone, listening to Taylor Swift, baking my baby boy a birthday cake in my New York City apartment, and there was nowhere else I needed to be and nothing else I needed to be doing.

I think I will remember that moment, and the cake that resulted from it, for awhile. I am getting better at grounding myself in the present versus hours later, when I regret not appreciating what was in front of me.

It helps that the cake was spectacular — an exclamation point on a couple hours well spent on a quiet and rainy Saturday on the eve of my baby’s second birthday. So maybe give that a whirl and see if it stops your world, too.

Post-Scripts: Tanks, Bath Toys, and Girly Birks.

+This tank!

+The best bath toy container. There is a removable bottom part that the toys drain into so they aren’t just sitting in water!

+Birks, but make it girly.

+Cutest little scalloped stand!

+The Castaner look for less.

+Taper candles that come in great colors.

+Just love this monogrammed notepad.

+These personalized coloring pads would be a cute gift for a nephew or niece along with some new markers and crayons.

+Would use this a cover-up!

+Pretty bowood pillow for a girl’s room.

+Adore these double pearl earrings.

+Organic toothpaste for your littles.

+A great staple for pairing with pants and skirts.

+Fluffy new towels! Who doesn’t love them? (More bathroom refresh inspo here.)

+A chic and affordable rug for a big space.

+Adore this kimono jacket!

+This popular $25 woven bowl is still available!

+I think I might order a pair of these for my new house. They look like a dream.

+These socks are so cute!

+If you’re going somewhere cool for the FOJ…

+OMG woven food covers! More great finds for patio and al fresco dining here.

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14 thoughts on “Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 221: Lessons in Baking.

  1. The cake sounds absolutely delicious, and I love how it prompted you to be fully in the present — goals! I would like to be better at baking, and it’s something I have marked as a long-term goal since our current oven is TERRIBLE at temperature regulation. It’s fine for cooking (once you know how to handle it), but not so much for baking. Hopefully we’ll have a more stable setup when we move!

    Also .. love those Birk-esque slides! So cute.


    1. Oh yes, having appliances that work for you / with you is huge. There’s always a learning curve — a lot of ovens have cool spots that you just have to figure out by trial and error. One of our ovens ran super hot, the other super cold…temperature truly is an ingredient!!


  2. This is such a good perspective! I’m going to just let it marinate until my next baking project…which is tomorrow (ha!) for my husband’s birthday cheesecake. I was recently saying that I lost my baking mojo after a few minor recipe fails. All edible and in fact tasty, but not how they were meant to be. I love baking but I think I’m suffering from a combination of rushing, like you said, my mind being in a million places at once, occasionally having a mini helper (“I’ll crack the eggs, mama!” ), etc. This is a great reminder to enjoy the whole process…planning and prep included! Also, can’t wait to try that recipe for my next cake baking occasion, sounds devine!

    1. Hope the cheesecake baking was a leisurely as you intended it to be 🙂 I also have gone through the same thing after recipe fails — hopefully slowing down and just enjoying the process (rather than focusing on the result) will be just what the doctor ordered.


    2. Hi! The process was thoroughly enjoyable, but I thought the finished product was a bit meh. The birthday boy liked it, though, and that’s what matters! I got to listen to Greenlights by Matthew Mcconaughey while I baked and it was a fun ride. Definitely recommend on audio…some of the “self-help” sections are a bit kooky but the stories are worth it! Would be interested in hearing your thoughts on his poetry, as someone who has actually studied poetry.

      1. Thank you so much for the rec! Love a celebrity memoir and am in need of a new audiobook.


  3. Oh Jen! Once again, you put into words exactly what I have been thinking. I used to bake something weekly pre-baby and loved getting into more “involved” projects, like croissants. Baking is so sensory and I felt fully present while doing it. Post-baby, I once told my husband how I feel so rusty now as a baker, and it’s exactly because of what you wrote — not taking the time to prep everything properly, due to the perceived need to do something else/be somewhere else or being attuned to everything else going on in the house. Any baking time I have now though feels like a luxury!

    PS That cake sounds divine!

    1. Yes, exactly — the “being attuned to everything else going on in the house” makes it so tricky!!!


  4. So funny you like Fresh’s Hesperides. It’s my favorite!

    Also, I wanted to mention the blog Katie Considers to you if you don’t already know it. She recently purchased a home in Greensboro, South Carolina. Here taste is British traditional with fun twists.

    Anyway, thanks for you blog and have a lovely weekend.

    1. Hi Karyn! Oh I love Katie Considers!! She is so chic and I have enjoying following her along for maybe a decade now? She was one of the “OG” lifestyle bloggers!

      Love Fresh’s scents!


  5. I love to bake, and considered it one of my ways to “unwind” pre-kids. I still love it, but know the exact feeling you’re describing. Hurrying through and not enjoying the process, which I SO enjoy. I will take this as my cue to select an elaborate recipe and carve out some time to bake sometime soon.

    One of my most precious motherhood memories also involves baking a cake. While I was waiting to go into labor with my son, I made him a “birthday cake.” My mom brought it to the hospital after I delivered and we sang Happy Birthday, and I still remember how the cake tasted with my brand new baby boy on my chest.

    1. M, what a beautiful memory that is! I can almost visualize that scene as you describe it. Wow. And such a sweet idea too, to bake a birthday cake for his birth!

      It reminds me of how I was baking pumpkin pie the day before I went into labor. I was due Thanksgiving Day!

    2. Oh my gosh, I love this — I can totally imagine this “golden moment” enjoying your cake with your baby on you. What a treasure!

      Yes, please do take this post as a cue to enjoy the baking process the next go around 🙂


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