Be Your Own Boss – Cupcake Kids!

When I was in college, I had a friend, Jessi Walter, who was a few years older than me, that I looked up to like a sister. She was one of the nicest people I had ever met, extremely smart, and would give me advice whenever I asked for it (which was probably too often!) I loved hanging around her room – it was clean and organized and she had the most amazing hand-painted furniture.  I always felt like I was in a real house, as opposed to a dorm room when I went over there. Whenever I was there, I just felt happy.

I am so glad that we have reminded friends over the years. She is still one of the nicest people I have ever met, extremely smart, and she still gives me advice on life. Now, instead of hanging out in her dorm room,  we hang out in the Cupcake Kids! kitchen.  Every time I walk into the space, I feel that same sense of happiness, that I felt when I walked into her dorm room many years ago.

The idea for Cupcake Kids! was born when Jessi Walter decided to combine her love of kids and food in a practical way. Jessi set out to create a company that would provide students with hands-on cooking experiences designed to provide them with the opportunity to have fun in the kitchen while learning about food and nutrition. Jessi believes that creativity and education in the kitchen play an important role in a child’s development and help kids to build self-confidence and independence. For 4 years, she has been giving this experience to the kids of NYC.

Formerly a Vice President on Wall Street, Jessi’s passion for kids and food and her entrepreneurial spirit have taken her on a new adventure. Jessi graduated from Harvard in 2003, where she earned an economics degree and was a member of the Women’s Swim Team. As one of the oldest of 23 cousins, she has a passion for kids and their development. In her previous life as a swimmer, Jessi started a company offering technique lessons for young swimmers and brought the same enthusiasm and fundamentals to the pool as she brings to the kitchen today.

What sets Jessi and Cupcake Kids! apart from other child-centered companies is the pride that Jessi takes in her work and ultimately in her company. I’ve had the pleasure of helping out with Cupcake Kids! for the past 2 years. Jessi’s focus is on coming up with lessons that entertain, as well as educate, the “budding chefs” who visit her kitchen. She wants them to walk out of the kitchen with a smile on their face and a new appreciation for food and a sense of accomplishment. They gain confidence through measuring, mixing and baking. By combining ingredients to make a delicious treat, these children are able to see their successes right before their eyes, and taste them too! The excitement that Jessi, and her teachers, have for cooking and food is passed on to the children.

 I am so proud of Jessi for all that she has accomplished. I am also honored to have been a part of it  and I can not wait to see what the future holds for Cupcake Kids!

Please visit the Cupcake Kids! website to learn more about classes and birthday parties and, visit Facebook to become a fan of Cupcake Kids!

OCD: Some call it a disorder, I call it a way of life!

As a child, I found comfort in order and structure. This is not something that is unusual in children. While schools have started using more progressive  curriculum, specifically using lessons from real word experiences rather than text books, many schools remain structured in their daily schedule and teaching style. While many adults grow out of this need for order, I seem to have only gotten worse.

As a child, I had a neat room, especially compared to my sister who didn’t share the same sense of passion for cleaning. Not only did I enjoy having a clean space, but I also found pleasure in the actual act of organizing. The problem is, once an organized person gets something the way they want it, it will very rarely get messy again. So, in order to fulfill my need to organize I was constantly rearranging my furniture, pulling everything out my closet and then putting it back in again and refolding and sorting my clothes. I would spend an afternoon in my room, where my parents assumed that I was playing with Barbie or Fisher Price Little People. When they came up to check on me, much to their surprise, I would have my room rearranged with everything put away and organized to my liking. My room was small in size with 3 windows so it limited the number of ways the furniture could be reconfigured, but I would constantly rotate through the 3-4 different set-ups.

Occasionally I would take my obsession into other areas in the house. I worked to clean out our “junk drawers” and went through countless “organizational tools” in an attempt to help my family keep these areas organized. One Mother’s Day I gave my mom the gift of “cabinet organization.” This involved pulling all of the food out of the cupboards and putting it back in a way that made more sense, complete with handwritten labels on each shelf. Unfortunately, through the chaos of life, the cupboards managed to get themselves back to their previous state.

Now in my own apartment, I have enjoyed setting things up “just right.” I am very lucky to have found a 27-year-old boy who also enjoys a clean apartment. I owe this to his parents who take “clean” to a whole new definition (you can eat off their garage floor – literally!). Since moving in a year ago, I have color coded the closet, reorganized the books on our shelves according the genre (although I want to organize them according to spine color), rearranged the furniture in our living room about 4 times and sorted my Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living and Wedding Magazines according to issue date. I am happy to report that I can add kitchen cabinet organization to that list. I am confident in saying that they are now perfectly set up (or at least until I get that organizing itch again!)

For Christmas this year I created a “wish list” that had bout 6-8 things on it. One of these items was a label maker. At my first job out of college, we had a label maker that I used basically every day. I would label folders, drawers, my co-workers head – basically anything that I thought could use a label, got one. I even used the label maker to create labels for things at my house (shhh, don’t tell Dwight Schrute that I was using company supplies for personal use). When I left that job, I felt a gaping hole in my heart – it was the missing label maker. Hence, its addition to my Christmas list.

Unfortunately on christmas morning, as I made my way through the presents under the tree, it soon became clear that I was not going to get the label maker that I had hoped for. Afterwards when I asked my parents why they didn’t buy it for me (I know, I am a brat) my mom responded by telling me that they didn’t want to support my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I guess she had a point, but I went out and bought myself a label maker two weeks after the new year. Since that time I have found all sorts of things to label, especially with the creation of the craft nook!

I recently combine the power of the label maker with the sheer awesomeness of The Container Store. After multiple trips to the store and an entire role of label tape, I am now satisfied with the state of my kitchen cabinets.

So now the cabinets are set… that is until I make a trip to Fairway and actually get food other than rice, one lone potato and baking ingredients.