BCAE Guest Post: Janelle Suckley of Queen Beans and Wannabes

Posted by Kim Wieczner on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

We decided to change it up a little this time, and we asked one of our most frequent class-takers here at the BCAE to share her experience. Janelle Suckley, of Queen Beans and Wannabes:Life of a Boston Wannabe, brings you...

A Year in the Life at the BCAE

Janelle Suckley

Well, it’s been a year since my first class at the BCAE and I can honestly say, I think I’ve become addicted to learning...and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. What started off as taking a quick 3 hour introductory course, has become hours upon hours of learning; from new recipes to drawing body shapes to learning the ins and outs of everything Google has to offer, the BCAE has a class for everyone to learn and try something new. Within this past year, I’ve taken over 20 classes and I wanted to share the top 5 classes/teachers that I found to be my favorite/most valuable.

How It All Began:

New Year’s 2013 came, and one of my goals, (I don’t like the word resolution, goal sounds more positive) for the year was to begin to write a blog about different events and places I attend and visit throughout Boston. I had been reading blogs for a while and even had begun to write one myself, only to stop writing and to forget about it 3 months later, so I wanted to attend a class on how to start and maintain your own blog. After doing some Google research, I found the site for the Boston Center for Adult Education, and there I found classes called “Starting a Blog” & “Promoting your Blog”. 

Now, I’ll be the first to admit, the idea of going to some ‘center for adult education’ didn’t sound very appealing, especially the way I thought. In my mind, I was picturing a school-type atmosphere with chalkboards and those really uncomfortable chair desks you had to sit in back in high school. I decide to give it a shot anyways and signed up for the blogging classes. Besides, the price was very right, and the class time was about 2 hours, so I didn’t have that much to lose.

As soon as I found the BCAE, my mind took back everything it had once thought; this place definitely wasn’t your grandmother’s learning annex. The second I walked in, I was pleasantly surprised by the look and feel and the atmosphere. Everything was nicely taken care of and new and after being greeted by a friendly front desk worker who showed me to my class, I was even more surprised to see 2 state-of-the-art kitchens, an area that looked like dance/exercise floor, and even a music room. This was definitely a great first impression of a place that I would soon be spending a lot of my time at and learning things I probably never would have, had it not been for my first class at the BCAE.

1. Starting Your Blog & Promoting Your Blog:

The first classes I took at the BCAE really helped me not only get a sense of what the BCAE was all about, but also help me get my idea of writing a blog off the ground. Taught by Sue and Chelsea of We Are Not Martha, a cooking blog, (another good tip, the teachers are not just people off the street, they are actual professionals who really know what they’re talking about), the class went over what a blog actually is, where to write and host your blog, and what to write on your first blog post. The second class, ‘Promoting Your Blog,’ focused more on where you should be promoting your blog, online and otherwise. I’m very happy to say, that although it’s not perfect, I’ve been keeping up with my blogging for almost a year!

We are not Martha

 2. Cooking with Diane Manteca

There are some things that are harder in life than others, and for me, one of those things is cooking/baking/anything that is done in the kitchen. It’s not that I hate cooking, I just have no idea what I’m doing or what half the ingredients/instructions even mean on a recipe. Enter Diane Manteca, cook extraordinaire. Diane has been teaching at the BCAE for 20 years, and I’m sure that every dish she’s made there has been nothing but unbelievably delicious. I’ve taken a few cooking different cooking classes with her, but her specialty is Italian cooking. (Tip: everything tastes and cooks better with wine!). In 3 hours, you’ll go from hungry and not knowing the difference between a tomato and a pepper, to being completely stuffed with delicious food and knowing what every spice actually is and tastes like in your spice rack. P.S- when taking Diane’s class…always bring Tupperware, you’ll have leftovers for a few days.

3. How to Figure Out Your Digital Camera/Digital Photography Classes

Another key to having a good blog is having good pictures. I got a beautiful camera for Christmas a while back but besides taking it out of the box once or twice, I really didn’t know how to use it to its fullest potential, so when I saw “How to Figure Out Your Digital Camera,” I immediately signed right up. Chris Padgett was the instructor for not only this class but just about all the other digital photography classes at the BCAE, and there is a very good reason why- he’s absolutely gifted at what he does. He was extremely helpful in leading the class on how to use each of our different digital cameras, including mine (Nikon 1, not you ‘professional’ camera but still digital), as well as how to use the focus lens and which ISO (light sensitivity) to use for which shots. He also showed us how to take better photos by choosing one focus point and using your camera in different angles. Recently, Chris created a photo project called “Bled for Boston,” that documented people who got tattoos after the Boston Marathon Tragedy. A number of the photos are on display at the BCAE through April 30th.

Bled for Boston at the BCAESome of Janelle's photos at the Bled for Boston exhibit, currently on display at the BCAE

4. Baking with the “Bad Boy” himself, Dustin Rennells

My first class with Dustin was rather interesting to say the least. Called ‘Harvest Cupcakes,’ it was a delectably delicious take on baking cupcakes with all the ingredients of autumn. With dozens of cupcakes baked, I took about 10 cupcakes with me, but the only problem was, I wasn’t going home, I was going to the ALCS Game 1. Squished on the T, I made it to Fenway Park to meet my friend, cupcakes still in tow, and we made it to our cheap seats for the game. During the game, we spotted a few seats right behind 3rd base up for grabs, so we went down to snag them. On our way down, however, people started noticing my cupcakes and asking to purchase them. Finally, I gave in and started to give away my cupcakes. The sad news of the story is that I sold all my cupcakes before I could even try one, but the good news? I made $10. Moral of the story, Dustin knows baking, and he knows cupcakes. His cupcake classes are some of the most popular of the baking series, especially his ‘Cupcakes & Cocktails’ classes, 3 hours of cocktails and cupcakes…and more cocktails and cupcakes. If you can’t make his class, then check out his bakery Bad Boy Bake Shop in Charlestown.

Janelle Suckley Cupcakes & Cocktails

Some of Janelle's "Cocktails & Cupcakes" photos

5. Ingenious Solutions Series

Like I mentioned earlier, the BCAE offers many different types of classes from cooking to dancing to music and everything else in between, which is great because it gives you the excuse to try everything at least once and learn something new. That’s where the Ingenious Solutions Series comes in, a 3-session course focusing on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Content Marketing Systems (CMS), and the free services that Google offers (other than Gmail). I wanted to take this series to better understand SEO and CMS for my career, as well as my blogging. Ben Vivante was a great instructor, going through each subject slowly and in a way that everyone could understand. He taught how to promote a product/service/company on Google, creating a first time website using Joomla or WordPress, and shared his knowledge of Google Analytics, Drives, Calendar, and Google +. This class really got me interested in learning more about SEO and creating a better site for my blog, and now I feel confident that I can create a more successful and searchable website.

6. What’s Next on the List?

So, those were just a few of the classes I’ve taken at the BCAE, and that doesn’t include their special events, like lunch with Big Papi and the Local Love Pop-up Market. Now, my only question to myself is, “what’s next on the list”? With new classes being offered every term, I’m always excited to see what’s available. If I had to choose a couple of classes to try out, I think I would like to try a basic sewing class or more photography classes, but above all, the classes I’d really like to attend are wine tastings of course!

Local Love Market 2014Some of Janelle's photos from Local Love 2014


Check out Janelle's blog for more on the BCAE and beyond! Interested in guest blogging for us?  Email us at kwieczner@bcae.org.

Topics: BCAE, blog, Janelle Suckley, Boston blogger, Boston Center for Adult Education, cooking classes, Queen Beans and Wannabes