The Yin and the Yang of Aimee Cakes

paris cake

The weekend before we met for coffee, my friend Aimee had done a MOMAR race. For the uninformed, MOMAR stands for mind over mountain adventure race. Kayaking, running, x-country biking, more running and more biking over 50 kilometers and a ridiculous amount of elevation. Despite not feeling great the week prior to the race, Aimee was the first solo female to cross the finish line in just over 6 1/2 hours. “I got lucky”. (Somehow, I find that hard to believe.) The week before that she had created the MOST beautiful, delicate, pink Paris themed cake for my seven year old’s birthday party. (see above) I was curious to find out how a life with two boys under the age of five, adventure racing and cake decorating all came together.

I first met Aimee about three years ago when I did a 200 mile relay race in Oregon. We were in the same van and I couldn’t have asked for a better team mate. Happy, easy going and willing to sleep in a field in the middle of nowhere. Now, I’m not stereotyping cake makers (okay, maybe I am) but if you had a vision in your head of a cake decorator, it may involve an apron, flowers and tea. None of that is Aimee. She is more likely to have just come back from a trail run or bike and may even have some mud in her hair. Yet, there she is making her own fondant and creating unique and delicious cakes. “I’m a Gemini so I’ve always felt a sense of yin and yang in my life”. Over the years she has realized that she needs to balance her love of physical activity with something creative. So she started Aimee Cakes.

Her cake decorating days began at about fourteen when she would bake cakes (from boxes she admits) and decorate them with butter icing and flowers. Her cakes have certainly evolved. Looking back at the cake she decorated for her sister’s wedding she thinks it looked “pretty” but lacked a certain something. Today she whips up cakes and cupcake for birthdays, weddings and special events on a regular basis. The cakes she loves the most are the ones that tell a story. The cake pictured below was for a birthday party and includes the birthday girls love of dogs, the ocean, crab, beer and stand up paddleboarding.

deep cove cake

After competing in triathlons for a few years Aimee was looking for a change in her physical challenges. An opportunity came up for her to compete in a MOMAR race in central BC. It didn’t go that well and she finished a six hour race in ten hours. Somehow she didn’t really care and was hooked on the sport. In her early years of adventure racing she did a nine day 800 kilometer endurance race. It was during that race that she first experienced the need to push through when times got tough. Yes, I would say that sleeping for two hours in a bug infested field and then having to portage a canoe up a mountain requires a bit of mental and physical push. Maybe that’s just me.

aimee on her bike

So, similarities between adventure racing and cake decorating? You wouldn’t really think so, but surprisingly there are quite a few. For both activities there’s the challenge of not always knowing what is around the corner. The fun of having something thrown at you and having to figure out how to best tackle it. Creating a replica of the Eiffel Tower can be just as difficult as a sabotage trail half way through a race. In adventure racing, things don’t always go the way you plan. Conditions can change and throw you off course. The same is true for cakes. Something you think will look awesome suddenly doesn’t work and you have to start over again. Additionally, getting too excited can cause mistakes and time. In a race it can be the difference between winning and not finishing. In cake making it can mean a cake that stays upright or a cake that falls over. In both cases it’s not over until it’s over and Aimee knows how to push through and get to the finish line every time.

Aimee’s approach to life (which she credits her husband with) is pretty simple. Have a vision, work hard, be intense, relax when you need to and enjoy your accomplishments. Right now, her yin and her yang appear to be in perfect balance and she is enjoying life to the fullest. Down the road she would like to take Aimee Cakes to another level and there is no doubt in my mind that she will do just that. The Best Things in Life for Aimee? Playing with her amazingly cute little boys, getting out for a trail run or bike with her dog and creating stories with her cakes.

birthday cake

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I Made A New Friend Today

group of friends

“I made a new friend today.” A normal thing for a seven year old to come home and say, but what about a fifty year old? As we get a little older it isn’t as easy to meet new people and really connect. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all be as open and carefree as a seven year old? This summer I spent a week in the Okanagan with my daughter. Each day we would go to the lake and set up our chairs. She would look around, find somebody close to her size (smaller or bigger didn’t seem to matter) and go and play with them. Sometimes it worked out and the day was spent with her new best friend swimming and building sand castles. Occasionally, it didn’t work out and she would move on to the next small person. So easy and so unassuming.

A few years ago I was having dinner with a group of old friends. Our conversation turned to a women we had all met at a party a few weeks before. She seemed nice and one of us suggested we invite her to our next dinner. At this point one of my girlfriends said “Sure invite her, but I’m not interviewing for any new friends right now”. I didn’t think much of it at the time and we all laughed at her, but it has sort of stuck with me over the years. When you make a statement like that, don’t you close yourself off to so many new experiences, opinions and well, joys? Who’s to say that the person you met at the event you went to last night isn’t going to be your best friend in the next few years and bring a new perspective to your life. New ideas, fresh outlooks and perhaps even another new friend. Sure, they could be a total nut job, but wouldn’t it be better to find out first before you block them on Facebook?

I feel that the best thing to do at this stage in my life when starting a new friendship is to not have too high of an expectation. I know that may sound a bit cynical, but hear me out. I do not expect to have coffee with you every week. I do not expect to chat with you on the phone every day. I do not expect birthdays present or even a card. I don’t expect any of those things from friends I have known for years, or are particularly close to, so why would I expect them of some body I just met? I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to friendships. My friends have pissed me off many times over the years and I’m pretty sure I’ve done the same, but you get over it. In a solid friendship there is no judgment and there is no “Did I offend you”? Of course you did, but that’s okay, we’ll move on.

I met two great women this summer. In my opinion, both are strong, independent women with big hearts. I could see being friends with both of them; for completely different reasons. I also got to know some women who I didn’t know very well, a little better. All of this happened very naturally and easily. Again, there is no expectation that we will swap spit or have slumber parties anytime soon, but could I call them if I needed a friendly chat or some support? Absolutely. How do you know if the person you meet is potential friend material? It’s one thing to be able to carry on a conversation with somebody, but to feel like you could spend the day just hanging out and talking means that you have shared values and interests.

Maybe that’s why it is so easy for our kids to make new friends. They are without judgement. They see only a person who likes what they like and can build a mean sandcastle. The Best Thing in Life would be to open ourselves up like a seven year old and make some new friends. At any age.

The Fall

fall leaves

I came across this piece I wrote last year. I’ve updated it a bit but the message will always be the same to me.

There’s something about the Fall that makes most of us want to, well, turn over a new leaf so to speak. For me, there’s nothing like the change of season to bring on the challenge of reorganizing a closet or room. Spring cleaning is all well and good but September seems to be my time to get rid of the old and bring in the new. Although my husband and son do not get the same gleam in their eye when I say that we need to clean out the closets, I’m happy to say that my daughter has inherited my organizing gene. She will spend hours up in her room “organizing” her stuff and loves nothing more than making a trip to Micheals to buy trays, holders and sorting containers. I’m so proud.

When it comes to cleaning up a messy desk or closet or room, for that matter, three basics apply. Throw it away, give it away or put it away. And this goes for almost every room of the house. The best way is to just dive in. Make three piles and most importantly be honest with yourself about which pile you put stuff in. Haven’t worn that shirt in two years? Get rid of it. Have a dozen magazines all about decorating the babies room and your baby” is now 7. Recycle it. Can’t decide? Put it aside until the end and deal with it then. But do deal with it.

messy closet

Now before you all get you knickers in a knot; throw away doesn’t necessarily mean increase the size of the GVRD landfill. Old school assignments/art, as much as you may want to reminisce, can be put in the recycle box. Magazines that you had every intention of re-reading (three years ago) can be recycled. I used to keep magazines in the hopes that one day I would have an occasion to serve 18 different varieties of cookies.  I have since realized that all magazines have excellent websites complete with archives. Ikea comes out with a new catalogue every year…just sayin’. Having said that; if you can’t remember where you got something or what it means to you and there is no recycling option…..chuck it!

Giving stuff away is one of my passions. I have a friend with a daughter a year younger than mine and for the past three or four years I have passed on my daughters gently (sometimes) worn clothes to her. It’s a great feeling to know that you are making space in your house and helping somebody out at the same time. I am also a regular customer on the Big Brother and Canadian Diabetes pick up list. They come and TAKE STUFF AWAY! For free! But best of all is a fairly regular clothing swap party that I attend with a group of other moms. We are all of various ages and sizes but somehow everybody leaves these parties with some new item to add to their wardrobe. Best of all, what’s left over goes to charity. As I write this I am wearing a shirt that I got at one of the parties. I love it and it was free.

tidy closet

I have to admit that putting away is not my favorite part of this exercise, but it is necessary. I have learnt (thanks to my husband) that keeping stuff can be good and occasionally throwing stuff away can be bad. So get a really big chest and start keeping those baby shoes, first soccer team t-shirts and countless works of art. Who knows, they may be worth something one day. When my son was about five I started keeping his shirts from sports teams, trips and special events. Last year I gave them all to my mom, the quilter, and she made them into a quilt for him. She did the same thing for my daughter with all of her receiving blankets. It’s a beautiful way to keep memories around but make them useful.

The Best Thing in Life is being organized. Okay, so maybe that’s just me and my daughter. Anybody got a closet they need organizing? One of the other perks of cleaning up and getting rid of stuff is that it gives you a clear inventory of what you really do have. And what you don’t have. And that, my friends, is a clear invitation to go shopping.

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

parkinsons shirt

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about my mom’s battle with Parkinson’s. I ended the post with a promise to myself to get more involved. Last Sunday I took my first step towards that goal and participated in the Parkinson’s Superwalk 10km run. The event included a 2km, 7km and 10km routes in Stanley Park. I chose the 10km run, signed up and paid my registration fee. There wasn’t a lot of info on the web site so I didn’t really know what to expect. I didn’t know how big it would be or, well anything. Early Sunday morning I drove to Ceperely Park and looked for the registration area. My first impression was that everybody was very friendly and welcoming. It wasn’t a huge group but lots of families and groups supporting friends. The group registration line up was twice the length of the individual line up. I think this says a lot about the event. People weren’t just here to do a run and get a t-shirt without knowing what it was really about. People were here to support a specific individual and were happy to be doing it.

parkinsons siwash rock

The run itself was stunning. A gorgeous sunny Fall day in Vancouver never disappoints for runners. It was hot though, especially the first half around the east side of the seawall. The Coho festival was in full swing over at Ambleside and the annual pet fundraiser Paws for a Cause was rocking at Lumberman’s Arch. Inspiring to see so many great causes being supported. I did feel a bit envious though as Paws for a Cause provided their participants (by that I mean dogs) way more water breaks than my run. Seriously considered scooping up that water bowl for some much needed refreshment. I ran for a short time with another lady who was also running for her mom. It was nice to know that somebody else was thinking the same way I was. She mentioned that she had, at first, thought she would just do the 7km but pushed herself to do the 10km. “It puts what they endure every day into perspective”.

parkinsons seawall

I don’t typically run with my phone but I knew that I would want to document this experienced as the views would be outstanding. As you can see they didn’t disappoint. Aside from enjoying the scenery, the run gave me some time alone to think about how I can continue to support Parkinson’s over the next year. I know for sure that I will do the run next year but this time will register earlier and do some fundraising on my own. At the start of the race I ran into a lady who I have met before in my area. She works for the BC Parkinson’s Society and I plan on contacting her to talk about volunteer opportunities during the next few month. This run was just dipping my toe into the waters of the Parkinson’s society.

There has been a lot of publicity and hype over the ALS ice bucket challenge this summer. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great way to spread awareness and raise money for a great cause. However, when my son did it and then challenged me I told him I wouldn’t do it. “What? Why?” He couldn’t believe I would be so lame. (His words, not mine.) The reason I didn’t want to do it was simple. I have chosen my charity and want to be able to support it. We are not lacking in money at this point in time but there have been times in the past when giving to charity just wasn’t an option. I made a decision at that time to be selective in my donation dollars. There are so many amazing causes to give to. Cancer research, AIDS, MS, ALS and the list goes on. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to support them all? Perhaps we could redirect some professional sports players salaries to cover what we can’t?  The Best Thing in Life would be to have enough money to support everybody who needs it but for now the Parkinson’s Society of BC has my full support.

parkinsons finish

Puttering

School has been out for two months. Add to that the two weeks of teachers strike and you have 75 joyous days my daughter and I have spent together this summer. Don’t get me wrong, she has been in some awesome summer camps that have given me the time to enjoy the incredible summer we have had in Vancouver this year and her some great experiences. When the weather is good I can not stand to be inside and as a result my house tends to get a little out of order (and dirty) during the summer months. So here it is September 2 and it’s raining. My husband and daughter are at the hardware store and I have a couple of hours in the house alone. Will I nap? Watch some tennis? No, I will putter.

Putter (verb) To be active, but not excessively busy, at a task or a series of tasks.

That sum it up for me. I am a putterer. Not sure that is a real word but it works for now. My husband also calls it busy work. Given a Sunday morning (or afternoon for that matter) with nothing really pressing to do, he will chose the sofa, football and, eventually, a nap. I will find something to do. There’s always something to do isn’t there? Dust, sort the art supplies, go through my kids clothes and put away what doesn’t fit them anymore, make a list (this is my favorite), search for a recipe, send an email about having coffee with somebody next week. The list is endless. Laundry is the ultimate task for a putterer because it can be done anytime. There always seems to be laundry to do. And it’s a process, which I love. I am starting to sound a tad crazy aren’t I? Sort, wash, dry, fold and put away. Is there a term for what I have?

There has always been a certain comfort for me being in my home and being able to sort or tidy things up with no deadline or end game. Perhaps tackle something I’ve been putting off. There’s no hurry to do it, but it keeps my mind busy and somewhere down the road I will appreciate the fact that it is done. Even if I do sit down to watch TV I rarely sit through a whole show without getting up to do something else. I have noticed this in my daughter as well. As a child, my son could, and still can, sit motionless for hours watching TV. I have often thought that the house could burn down around him and he still would not move. My daughter, like me, has to be doing something else while she is watching TV. Sorting her beads, making a bracelet, coloring or perhaps dancing.

But I have come to realize over the past thirteen years of living with my husband, that there is a lot to be said for stopping and smelling the roses, so to speak. It really is okay to just let some stuff slide. In fact, it can be quite therapeutic. I think that is why this blog has been good for me. It has forced me to stop “puttering” occasionally and focus on something. Wait, that’s not totally true. If I’m being honest I will admit that I often stop writing and do some small task that really could wait. It’s just not in me to let it go. Since starting this post I have emailed a friend to make plans for a day trip next week, called my husband to see if my darling daughter wants to go for a hike when they get home from the store and unloaded the dishwasher.

A I sit writing this I glance around the room and see half a dozen things I could be doing. I see that the sun is out and think “we should go for a hike”. But after a long hot summer I should be quite happy to just be writing again. And really, as I finish a post I do get a similar feeling as to when I finish a task around the house. Like a nice little present has had the bow stuck on top of it. I am very fortunate that I CAN do this. Having a home to putter in and a kitchen table to write at makes me very happy. Having the still developing ability to just “be” makes me even happier. The Best Things in Life is being a work in progress.