Cookie Decorating

I don’t bake. I don’t even like to bake, but I do like eating, especially baked treats that are so pretty. One of my favorite new obsessions is the Great British Baking Show, where amateur bakers whip up these beautiful look treats like they have been doing this all their lives. I love how much patience and artistry can go into decorating baked goods, as if they are all artists, so I decided to learn how to make great-looking cookies. 

To start, I needed to get some tools, including cookies. As I mentioned before, I do not like baking, but luckily most groceries sell undecorated sugar cookies for relatively cheap that I could practice on my own. I did need to make my own frosting, but for this I enlisted my wife’s help, and as long as I promised her a treat afterward, she was willing to help. I also bought some disposable icing bags and ties, tip couplers, candy melt squeeze bottles and couplers, chopsticks, a variety of icing tips, food gels, toothpicks, needle tools, and a set of food markers.  

Then, I went to YouTube. The internet is FULL of videos that make cookie decorating look like, well, a piece of cake. I decided to do a few cookies with specific patterns as well as a drawing of cat, specifically my cat Henry.  

The patterned cookies were really fun because I could be abstract and obscure with the designs. I mixed and matched colors and shapes until I got something I liked. It was fun to use the needles and toothpicks to make shapes and dictate the design. The Henry cookie, though, was a bit harder. My squeeze bottles had a wider tip than I originally thought so lines turned out think and messy. When I was finished, my wife could not tell what it was.  

While I wasn’t great at it, cookie decorating turned out to be really fun and a great way to enjoy an afternoon. 

Painting

When I was a kid, I used to tape episodes of Bob Ross with the idea that one day I would watch them and recreate the beautiful nature paintings he so kindly showed his viewers how to paint. I am sure you can guess this, but I never got to watching them.  

That was until a few months ago when I was helping my parents clean out some old boxes, and I found that old episodes of Bob Ross! For whatever reason, they had kept them all these years, so I decided to watch a couple of them and try to paint like Bob Ross. It took a while to find a VCR that would play the tapes, but I eventually did, and spent a long Saturday afternoon with Bob.  

My paintings looked nothing like his, and I ended up ditching them after a week, but I still enjoyed the process of putting paints to the canvas. Eventually, I would like to take a class and learn more about the craft of painting and how to create an original!

Creative Writing

They say that everyone has a book in them, it’s just whether or not that person has the patience and the will to bring it to life.  

Like a lot of people, I’ve dreamed about being a writer – sitting in French cafes with a stack of pages, attending fancy parties in apartments full of books, walking into a bookstore and seeing my name in print. I’ve never been great at writing and dreaming seemed easier than doing. This arts project of mine, though, was a great excuse to actually give writing a shot and see if I had it in me.  

At first, I started by committing myself to writing at least an hour a day. That went well, for about a day. As it turns out, writing is hard, like really hard. I initially tried writing after work, but most nights I was so tired from a long day at the office, that I couldn’t bother to bring myself to turn off Netflix. I switched to morning writing, getting up an hour earlier to work on the next great American novel, but I often stared at the blinking curser for 45 minutes before I typed anything. When I did, it usually wasn’t any good.  

It was clear that I needed some kind of structure, so I decided to try taking a creative writing class. This turned out to be much more conducive for my work methods. Each week, the instructor gave us reading assignments, which were really fun because I was exposed to writing I probably wouldn’t have read on my own.  

Our main project of the class was to bring in seven to 10 pages of something for the class to read and critique. I decided to bring in a short story about an American spy (I know, original), and it was not super fun to finish. I thought 10 pages would be easy, but I slogged for hours at coffee shops to get that much, and I wasn’t that proud of it. My classmates were kind, although they didn’t need to be. Most of them were reassuring that we all write bad first drafts, and they gave me some excellent advice on how to make the piece better. However, when I got home, I put the piece in a drawer and haven’t had the courage to look at it since.  

I guess I won’t be a writer after all. Oh well. 

Piano

I always wanted to learn the piano. I envied my friends who had to go to piano classes after school, even if they hated it. I loved watching their fingers skate across the keys with such confidence and deliberation. It seemed so magical, how those beautiful sounds came out of their taps. However, piano lessons, and a piano, cost money my parents didn’t have, so I settled on learning the saxophone in fifth grade but ditched it the next year.  

Now, as an adult with the means, I decided to finally learn to play the piano. I was nervous about finding an instructor who only taught 8-year-olds and wouldn’t know what to do with a student in his 30s, so I convinced a good friend and colleague of mine, who has played the piano for nearly three decades, to teach me.  

Our first class was just introducing me to the instrument and helping me become more comfortable with the keys. I thought I would be playing Heart and Soul by the end of the first session, but that was far from the case. It actually took me at least three sessions before I could put a string of notes together, but I eventually got there.  

Then, my friend fell very ill and was no longer able to help me, so I had to figure something out on my own, and that’s when I found Piano in 21 Days. This instruction was extremely helpful, and actually gave me motivation to practice every day, rather than once a week with my friend.  

At the end of 21 days, not only could I play Heart and Soul but I could also play a few other tunes. With other arts to discover, I haven’t played my piano as much lately, but sometimes after a really rough day at work, I come home and mess around with the keys. It’s soothing, and something I hope to do more someday. 

Dance

For my first part of the arts project, I decided to take a ballet class. It seemed a bit weird for an older guy to learn ballet of all dances, but I found a great adult class that markets itself to people of all kind.  

The class was taught by a woman named Monique, who had studied dance for 30 years. Even as a middle-aged woman, she moved with the grace of a trained ballerina. Although I feared that she would be tough and unforgiveable as I moved like a dump truck through the moves, she was kind and encouraging. She made me feel like all of my movements were exactly how they should be.  

Through the class, we learned a simple routine to a piece of classical music. It was probably at the skill level of four years old, but it was still very enjoyable. At times, I felt like I was floating through the air like a real dancer.  

I really enjoyed the dance class, and I hope to take another sometime soon!