On baking

Baking has been a very defining part of the previous decade. Culling through hundreds and probably thousands of photos, it evokes a spirit that I carry daily: patience.

It’s not been easy to be away from the kitchen, Photos are not always what they seem and my posts rarely coincide with what is happening at the moment. Baking and cooking have taken me places I never thought I’d go. It’s where I’ve found humans that I will call friends, forever. It’s where I’ve met my most humbling moments and deepest failures. It’s where I fall into a meditative state. It’s when my most attractive and/or natural look is having flour in my hair and on my face.



I belong in a space where an apron is sometimes an appropriate tool.

Sweet Liberty Bake Sale x PAIR

Two Sundays ago (4/30), a group of women came together and created a really special moment. Special because it created a feeling, an environment that I and probably all of us don’t get to experience often enough. The vibrations of this higher energy moved within me for many days after. I am only now getting a chance to fully process the experience.

Kelly Helgesen started the first Sweet Liberty Bake Sale. In her words: I have a very hard time keeping my mouth shut when I see things going wrong or people being mistreated. But usually, yelling and being mad doesn’t solve problems or make changes. I had to stand up and say, ‘I think this is wrong’ with the hopes that I could get like-minded people to join me and help people that really need it right now.

In this Sweet Liberty Bake Sale, hosted at Axelrad, proceeds benefited Refugee Services of Texas. Kelly asked a number of Oxheart alumn (Willet Feng, Sam Chang, Jason White, and I) to help. We, happily and warmly, baked our way to a donation of $1,800.

Kelly inspired me to continue the bake sale idea. I chose to partner with PAIR, Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees. PAIR’s mission is “to empower refugee youth to navigate American society, reach their academic potential, and become community leaders.” I first learned of PAIR at a film screening at River Oaks Theater a year or so ago.

Realizing how special it is to have places like Axelrad to host events like this, I thought, why not host one at Oxheart while it’s laying dormant until its next iteration? Sure, there was some missing furniture and everything was in the center of the dining room, but the kitchen was fully functional and had a new work table island. Jillian Bartolome and Kelly helped me in the kitchen. Justin Vann brought over every folding table and chair from Public Services.

While I didn’t thoroughly think through the details of a brunch bake sale, and it didn’t go as smoothly as it could have, I knew having Diana, Ceci, Brittany, and Justine helping in the FOH would make the moment what it needed to be. Marianne (and later my sister, Angela) jumped in to help on dishes because I somehow thought I could wing it without one. I looked at Marianne when she asked how I could help, and as my heart sank to tell her the help was in the pile of dishes quickly piling into a Dr. Seuss disorder, the fullness in her eyes said it was okay. Washing dishes is the least glamourous job, especially because everything is done by hand at Ox. I soon realized that it literally takes an army to coordinate a pop-up. I also quickly learned that my skill set does not lie in looking at a line of orders coming in and properly communicating what needs to come out of the kitchen next. Thank goodness for Jillian to calmly accept the lead. A friend and amazing home cook, J.Jop made gravy for the biscuits, set up the front and helped us get food out. When her supporting half, Peter, arrived to eat, he looked at us and without asking, decided we needed help instead. The ladies of PAIR were even bussing tables to help out. It truly was a team effort, as are most things in life.

Greenway has always been a happy participant in events like this, and after we ran out of coffee quickly, came in with backups of iced coffee and more beans to brew. Tejas Heritage Farm donated all 10 dozen duck eggs that we pickled and served with toasted breadcrumbs and herbs. We found garnishes to the dishes from farms like Plant it Forward, Animal Farm, and Dos Brisas.

Here is a menu in case you missed the event: PopUpMenu_Sweet Liberty2.

The amount of gratitude I have for each of these women that helped make this event successful in spirit and in an amazing $2700 donated to PAIR settles quite deep into a fullness of my heart. The next one around, I will ask for more help beforehand, plan a little better, and continue to exhale loads of gratitude for all the amazing humans that make our world a much more inspirational place to live.

Look for this image in the future and share in the fullness that living on and with Mother Earth can bring.

SweetLiberty_color(designed by Dave Hess)

The Art of Baking: Oxheart

Some of you know that I’ve been working on a project that’s near and dear to me for quite some time now. Well, I’m excited to finally share it. Here’s a first look at The Art of Baking: Oxheart—my book!

As my time at Oxheart comes to an end, I wanted to put my thoughts and memories on paper. I turned them into paintings, drawings, and collages. There is color. There are stories. There are recipes. There is more color. My good friend Sarah Belfort helped me capture the things that float inside my head. Marcella Arreaga, Ceci Norman, Siobhan Battye, and Melissa Kwan added a few splashes of their creativity. There’s a whole lot of love and reflection. The experience of opening Oxheart started me down a path of creativity. It’s helped me flourish as a person and as an artist.

I hope you grab a copy (for I’m only printing 300) and relive some of the memories of Oxheart we’ve made together. I want this book to inspire you, to spark your own creative path. Pre-order a copy at https://bread.blog.

If you’re wanting to follow other projects I’m working on, check in on karenman.org from time to time.

With much love and gratitude,