My joy for baking sprouted in my teens in my mom’s kitchen. It started with baking simple things like butter biscuits and vanilla fudge that still feature in our baking tins today.

In the heyday two brothers who share an insatiable sweet tooth could never wait for the treats to cool down. They’d hover near the kitchen, waiting for just the right moment to sneak a biscuit from the baking sheet. This happened just as I was pulling the hot tray from the oven. My brothers didn’t seem too fussy as they casually grinned at my disdain and ran away while scoffing down every crumb. I’d get in a huff because I barely got a chance to gauge the answer to a question that would follow me for half of my life. Is it good enough?

God tells the rain to just pour down. He tells the snow to simply fall. What are the things that he’s asking you to do, the things he made you to do, the things you do effortlessly and easily?


My Joy for Baking Started in My Mom’s Kitchen

My childhood memories are inextricably linked to my mom’s kitchen where I first sowed the seeds of of my joy for baking. I also enjoyed watching my mom meticulously prepare simple family meals. She always followed the same ritual. Dice onion and garlic, add these to cooking oil in a hot skillet, and brown the meat. Then peel and cut potatoes into bite-size cubes. Wait for the meat to tenderize, add the potatoes, veggies, and seasoning, and let the ingredients simmer together. Every so often she lifted the lid to peer inside the pot, adding a splash of water. This released a cloud of steam mixed with the enticing aroma of onions, garlic, meat, and spices. As a last step, she stirred in flour and water paste to thicken the sauce.

When done, she’d heap ladles of fluffy white rice and thick, steamy comfort stews onto our plates. She’d measure just enough to share among our family of seven.

Some days it was cabbage- or a simple brown vegetable stew. On other days it was a beef curry, tomato- or string bean stew. In Winter, the aroma of thick piping hot vegetable and beef soup and home-baked bread wafted from the kitchen. She had a knack for transforming simple sparse ingredients and turning these into mouthwatering meals.

Memories of my childhood and colourful culture were weaved through the dishes my mom prepared. Years later, in my own home, I started cooking and baking for my family. I repeated many of the cooking rituals I’d observed my mom doing. In some way, it offered consistency and comfort in our lives.

The Comparison Trap

Somewhere between the time my father passed, and my siblings and I left home, something shifted. One by one we started our own families, my mom slowly tapered down cooking. Eventually, the cooking and baking baton transferred to my older sister. She’d skillfully evolved the basic cooking skills we’d learned in childhood. She added new recipes to our family favourites. Desserts like peppermint chocolate pudding, banana caramel tart, aromatic lamb curry, and flaky chicken mushroom pie became holiday favourites.

Next to her culinary delights, anything the rest of us did seemed to pale in comparison.  Without realising it, the simple joy for baking weaved into my ‘not good enough’ story. Later, in the busy world of motherhood, school runs, managing a busy family and home that followed, cooking became a burden. Whatever was quick and easy became the yardstick I used for family meal prep.

This went on for years until one day, amid the global pandemic while exploring new ways to embrace midlife to the fullest, something shifted.

The Impact of the Pandemic on My Joy for Baking

It was just before the Spring of 2021. All around us families and loved ones were isolated in grief and loss that overshadowed the world.  Each week news flooded in of one more person we knew of, succumbing to the merciless grip of death. Because of lockdown and social distancing, I couldn’t attend funerals, or visit anyone. The option to run to the store to pick up flowers and a card and drop them off was gone.  I felt helpless to soothe the heartbreak echoing through our communities.

What can I do to help? What can I do to lift the spirit of people all around me? There has to be something!

The Nudge to Bake

An idea slowly formed to go into my kitchen and start… baking. Nothing fancy. Just simple baking the way I did in my teens. I started with the butter biscuits and then added chocolate chips, shredded coconut, and nuts. Next, I tried Anna Olson’s Almond and Cranberry biscotti as well as Fatima Sydow’s Hertzoggies (coconut and jam tarts). Family and friends sent an assortment of banana bread recipes. I experimented with each. Eventually, a dear friend, sent a recipe that contained all the elements I was looking for. Specifically, a deliciously flavourful and moist banana bread. My daughters’ mini round baking tins came in handy. I filled these with the sweet sticky, banana-infused dough that produced lovely dome cakes, perfect for breakfast or afternoon treats for two.

The Joy of Baking Returned

As I immersed myself in baking, thoughts of comparing my skills to anyone else faded. Standing at the kitchen counter, I measured and sifted flour, beat butter and sugar, and added eggs and vanilla extract. While doing so, I whispered quiet prayers for the people who’d receive the baked treats. I crushed almonds and pecans and diced dried cranberries. As I folded chocolate chips into slathers of cookie dough, I prayed. That people would know they were not alone in their grief and sorrow. I started to bake once again, from the heart. And there, in my kitchen among the flour, sugar, butter, and eggs, my joy for baking and cooking returned.

Right there, in the middle of the pandemic, social isolation and lockdown, the kitchen became a refuge and place of comfort. With time suddenly slowing down and the rush to get through meal preparation easing, I started enjoying cooking again.

Spring – A Season of New Beginnings

I sourced packaging materials online – simple paper boxes with lids, natural twine, and gift tags. Also, clear cellophane bags with seals to preserve the baked goods as long as possible. And picked sprigs of lavender and other fresh cuttings from the garden to attach to a handwritten card.

When Spring arrived – the season of fresh starts and new beginnings, I sent out the boxes.

In all the thank you messages that drifted in no one said the baking was good but not as good as xyz. It reminded me once again that so often our self-criticism is far different from how we think others see us. Sometimes, the thing that holds you back from living wholeheartedly is not what others may or may not think of you but how you view yoursef.

Food Connects Us

In the months, seasons, and occasions that followed, I’ve made those treats dozens of times for family and friends. Post-pandemic with lockdown restrictions dissolved, I regularly baked for my weekly visit with my mom and some of her neighbours stopping by for a coffee and chat.

We enjoyed warm slices of butter slathered banana bread, crispy biscotti, or crunchy chocolate chip biscuits with steaming cups of coffee. We relished being able to connect face-to-face once again and share bits of our lives with one another. And, I got to look into their faces and see their smiles and eyes light up at the simple baked treats. A little gift of imperfection.

I no longer wrack my brain for gift ideas for birthdays, Christmas, and other celebrations anymore. Instead, I tap into my joy for baking instead. I decorate boxes with lemon leaves or sprigs of fragrant lavender and greenery from the garden. I fill the boxes with fresh home-baked treats to express love, appreciation, and support to those around me.

No More Comparison

In The Way of Integrity, Martha Beck maintains that our true selves, she says, are ‘pure nature and don’t give an iota who does it better‘.

Ultimately, it’s not about being the best but doing my best and enjoying every moment engaging in things that bring me joy. It’s not about comparison anymore. Not for me. Never again – not with baking or any passion that flows from the heart.

Instead, I started cultivating pure joy for a hobby that started in my teens but somewhere along the way fell prey to social comparison. It got me wondering: where else in my life had I fallen prey to this same comparison scourge that blocked me from my innate joys?

It’s worthwhile identifying the things that keep us stuck, because it can result in instant freedom or realigning with your true self again.. Martha Beck phrases it this way:

But even we grown-ups, lost in the dark wood of error, feel at one with our true selves again every time we brush away a cobweb of false belief and perceive something real‘.

The Secret to Uncovering Your Passion

We all have something to offer. It’s innate. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, and Big Magic suggests the secret to uncovering and developing your passions is in being willing to follow your curiosity and niggling interests in things that bring you pleasure. Because, she says, this practice can lead to unexpected surprises. I agree.

You have treasures hidden within you − extraordinary treasures − and so do I, and so does everyone around us. And bringing those treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small.


The Covid pandemic brought Elizabeth’s message home for me, and I believe, for many others, globally. Life is fragile and unpredictable. In midlife, time takes on new meaning and urgency to truly live!

In the opening quote of this post, Shauna Niequist writes that God tells the rain to just pour down. He tells the snow to simply fall. She then asks, what are the things that he’s asking you to do, and that he equipped you to do effortlessly and easily? She concludes that there’s tremendous value in travelling back to our essential selves, the loves and skills, and passions that God planted inside us long ago.

Circling back to when I stopped baking from a place of joy. I faced a choice. I could continue to live the second half of my life in fear, insecurity, and comparison. Doing so would hold me back from knowing what it feels like to live to the fullest and lead to a life of regret. Or I could heed the call of my heart to develop the tiniest seeds of potential residing inside me and see where it may lead.

So, I started with a simple task such as baking. Then, moved onto something bigger.

I developed this blog, the Midlife Hours, to write about how I untangled the distorted stories that held me back for far too long. And how now, in midlife I’m shifting and re-aligning back to my truest self. It’s helped me embrace life in a whole new way. I hope that telling my truth will spark curiosity and openness in others to see what undiscovered treasures their lives hold.

Let Stillness Be Your Guide

If you’re unsure what your passions are, sit still for a little while and let your mind wander back in time. Allow it to find your earliest interests or activities that brought you pure joy and fulfilment. What were the kinds of things you did that felt like time stood still. You could do that thing all day and never get bored?

Is there something you’ve put off wanting to try – a gentle, persistent nudge from somewhere inside you, prompting you to try something new and simply see how it feels and where it leads? The outcome doesn’t have to be as good as, or better than, anyone else. It’s simply being willing to gently expand the edges of your comfort zone with one tiny step and see what unfolds.

‘You were only meant, created, and commanded to be who you are, weird and wonderful, imperfect and messy and lovely’ – Shauna Niequist

We’re not expected to do anything perfect or the same as someone else.  Imagine what it would feel like to simply show up as you are with the skills you have and let the unexpected unfold. Exploring your natural interests and passions may well lead to a new job or career shift. Or, it may simply become a treasured hobby that deepens your joy for living. Whatever that looks like for you, it may just be the start of something beautifully new to enjoy and share with those around you. Beautiful gifts of imperfection.

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