A Baker’s Dozen: Reflections

by Dianne Boate

  1. How Do You Find the Time?

This is a loaded question, don’t you think? We do not “find” time, we make time for the things we care about.

Some of you know I am a proponent of “The 15-Minute Method,” in which you work 15 minutes a day on something you are trying to finish, to accomplish, to get rid of, or dying to start, and so forth. You can think, “15 minutes out of 24 hours is not going to kill me.” You can exercise for 15 minutes, study something for 15 minutes—not a big deal. This works.

As I write, one of my kitchens is being torn apart. Preparation for this event threw a big monkey wrench into my daily routine, and of course, frustrations set in, because my time was consumed by packing up, cleaning and throwing out (not a bad idea). The rest of my ongoing activities were sliding by, undone, unpracticed, unfinished.

I rethought my 15-Minute Method, considering the current circumstances by choosing activities that are important to me and assigning 30 minutes a day to each one. A grid was made of blocks to fill in, as I completed each 30 minutes.


The activities are all important to my daily life, my sense of well being, my sense of self: Piano; French; Writing; Drawing; Exercise. You can see that there is nothing about cleaning house or making money or using Facebook. This first week was a revelation. I found the time. Your turn.

  1. Dinner Out: A Difficult Reunion

Her husband whispered that the lady drinks four bottles of wine a day, and it has to be purchased every day, not ahead, because she would drink it, if it were there. I heard her say, after she took a sip, “It’s good for the pain.”


I hardly recognized her—just the faintest vestige of the once striking and vibrant woman, now blowsy, with watery eyes that spent the night studying me. (I was reminded of M.F.K. Fisher’s personal portrait of “Sister Age” that was the inspiration for her book of same name.) It was hard to look at her as I was nattering on with stories about piano playing—the childhood of lessons, concerts with six pianos playing pieces together, and practicing 27 pages of Haydn Sonatas every day as an adult. I tried to keep the kindest smile for her on my face to hide my distress.

In the end, she was carted away from the restaurant by her husband at 10:00 p.m., with all of us still waiting for our dinner orders to be taken. He left with her, muttering about hunger, looking definitely downtrodden.

As for myself: a good lesson in paying attention to the inner voice that told me to stay home in the first place.


  1. Why I Am Rich


—don’t need to spend money every day.

—have many additions with few subtractions in friends.

—sign all incoming and outgoing checks with “Thank You” after my name.

—rarely use a credit card.

—let go of what I did yesterday.

—air bed-pillows in morning sunshine.

—use my good sterling silver every day.

—don’t organize my life according to news reports.

—cook purchased perishables before they spoil.

—don’t watch daytime television.

—don’t go to malls.

—earn a year’s free movies by baking a big cake once a year.

—know how to make all of my own clothes, and do.

—make good soup from scraps.

—walk to all my neighborhood destinations.

—love a lot of good people.

—can make a fine lunch almost every day from the contents of my refrigerator.

—gave up smoking 30 years ago.

—buy very little for myself.

—practice listening.

—list magazine subscription preferences for my Christmas gift wishes.

—think through gift items I can make.

—keep a year-round birthday book.

—keep other people’s secrets.

—keep some secrets of my own.

—photograph everything I do.

—surprise someone every day.

—keep a list of what I have not tried yet.

—try to improve what I already know how to do.

—periodically go back to unfinished projects and finish them.

—save dimes; they grow into fat packages that buy quarters for the laundry.

—write in a daily journal to sort out difficulties.

—eat half a restaurant meal; the other half goes home.

—use a marker pen to date staples and any expensive items such as skin care products.

—have a thankful heart.

—practice discerning the differences between “very good” and excellent.

—have an attitude, in Charles Fillmore’s words, of “Alive, alert, awake, joyous and enthusiastic about life,” in spite of losing my only two sons to AIDS, in 1986 and 1992, respectively.

—believe, absolutely, what Browning had to say: “The best is yet to be, the last for which the first was made.”



Horizontal Rule

DianneBoateDianne Boate, a former staff member of the original  Dating Game television show, and later,  The Renaissance Pleasure Faire, is The Hat Lady, maker of custom millinery, and The Cake Lady, a special events baker for 30 years in the Bay Area.  Between cake assignments, she has had several one-woman photography shows, and participated as a botanical illustrator in group shows benefiting the Conservatory of Flowers, National AIDS Memorial Grove, Marin Cancer Institute, and University of California Alumni Association. Her website can be found at www.boatecollection.com.

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