Monthly Archives: December 2013

Two Days Without Incident

You know how factories have those signs that proclaim how many days they have worked without an accident?

dayswithoutaccident

 

I just spent thirty minutes digging through the Internet looking for a sign that would allow us to proudly boast how many days we have been without emotional breakdown.  We think it would be good to take note of the days where neither of us cry while using our apple peeler.  I couldn’t even find a sign, though you would be surprised what you find if you Google “days without emotional breakdown sign.”

If only I had a storefront, I would place mine proudly in the window right next to the Open/Closed sign.  Hi – We are open and we have been 14 days without emotional incident.  (I kid – I doubt we ever go 14 days in a row). 

That said, if we could find a fancy commercial apple peeler, we might NOT even need the sign.  This is what we use currently to peel apples:

apple peeler

 

It works perfectly if your apple is perfect.  For less than perfect apples, this contraption will cause the apple to either a) fall apart, b) leave huge chunks of peel still on the apple, or c) both a and b.

And then look what I just found on Google:  http://www.charliesmachineandsupply.com/catalog/applemachine.shtml.  This machine will peel, core, and slice up to 12 apples a minute!  They even have a YouTube video demonstration that I watched with rapt attention usually reserved for Mad Men and Downton Abbey http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5Ke6iAvZsU).  I was MESMERIZED.  I immediately emailed the company and basically sounded as desperate as anyone sending an email at 11:15 pm on the day after Christmas might sound.  I may or may not have lead with “HI.  I NEED THIS MACHINE.  I WILL DRIVE THERE TOMORROW IF YOU HAVE ONE.”

Ok, so I wasn’t that bad.  I didn’t actually volunteer to drive there, but I might if I can save on shipping.  What worries me is that the website doesn’t list a price and that is never good.  Now that I’ve watched the video and fantasized about 12 apples a minute, I’ll probably get an email back that directs me send a cashier’s check for $35,012.66 and my employees (meaning, me and Jeanne) need to attend a 40 training course and then present that information to the City of Columbia for some sort of special use apple peeling permit.  And if I do all that, it could be mine in 8 to 12 weeks. Plus permit processing time.

This machine gives me hope.  That is possibly the most pathetic – and most true – statement I’ve ever typed.  Let’s hope they email me back and I’m not the subject of some cruel apple peeling Internet hoax…

The Thing Is…

The thing about baking is that you start your day full of optimism and vigor and then suddenly, it is 10 hours later and you feel like Ed Rooney when he gets on the bus after a furtive day-long search for Ferris Bueller.

Ed Rooney

 

When I started this blog in September, part of what I really wanted to explore was the truth about opening a business…the good AND the bad and whatever else came between.  Today was one of our most challenging days yet…which is just a really tactful way to say that today was EXHAUSTING and felt at times like an epic fail.  Truth, people.

We were on a roll at an early start and we were blind baking pie shells like we just couldn’t be stopped.  I even said that aloud in our kitchen and then just a few short moments later, all the lights started to flicker.  And then we were in the dark.  Our ingredients were in the dark, our pies were in dark, non-operating convection ovens, and our mixers stopped mid-mix.  (Oddly enough, the commercial dishwasher still worked.)  The building manager did an investigation and we learned that we weren’t the only ones without power and that Boone Electric was working on it.  About an hour later, we could see again – and that is really helpful when you are trying to figure out whether you are measuring out cloves or nutmeg.  But the whole thing threw our groove off…pies had to be started again from scratch and we sort of lost our rhythm and our pattern.

Our second problem?  Apple peeling.  Have you ever peeled 200 apples and then found out that you actually needed another 40?  I hope not, because it is truly a miserable feeling.  I have a big to-do list for the days after the holiday, but number one is essentially finding some sort of machine that you just throw the apples in and then they come out cored, peeled, and sliced.  I mean, that has to exist right?  If not, then I hereby lay claims to the intellectual property of the idea because it would REVOLUTIONIZE the baking industry.  I don’t even want to think about another apple right now.  It will probably be spring before I can consider eating one that I have to peel.  Even thinking about it now gives me some sort of apple related post traumatic stress disorder.  It was JUST SO MUCH PEELING.  And it felt like the Twilight Zone.  I was working on Coconut Cream on the other side of the kitchen and Jeanne was peeling and screamed that she felt abandoned.  And honestly, she probably had.  There is love, and then there is apple peeling.

And then there is the kitchen clean up.  The downside of baking is that it has to be cleaned up…the dishes, the counters, the worktables, the mixers, the microwave, and the floor.  Oh, the floor,  I couldn’t even guess at the amount of apple peels and flour that came off that floor.  And while that is going on, the boxes all have to be assembled and the counts double-checked.  I may or may not had a small meltdown worthy of my own Bravo television show at this point.

And I get it – these are all first-world problems.  Oh the woes of pursuing your own business in a democracy…how trying to face apple peeling issues and a short electrical outage.  I GET IT.  And now that I’ve showered off all the sugar crystals and bourbon splashes and I’m writing away on my laptop in my cozy bed, I GET IT.  But at the moment, it all felt insurmountable and I looked at Jeanne around 4 pm and said ‘WHAT HAVE WE DONE????”

Isn’t that part of starting any business, regardless of the industry?  Having that first “WHAT HAVE WE DONE????” moment and then trying to figure out what that means?  Today is really the first time I have thought it in this PJP V 2.0 journey, but when it hit me, it hit pretty hard.   And if you think mustering up some tears while your hands are covered in the leftovers of separating 60 eggs is hard, rest assured…it is pretty easy.  Now is the time to say that Jeanne fared much better than I…she didn’t cry a tear (she got a little grouchy, though).  She’s been here before and she talked me down a bit.  She also ignored me when I was shouty and yelled back at me when I was indignant…precisely what I needed.   It is the unexpected benefit of starting a business with someone that knows all your games before you play them.

So, the pies for tomorrow are all cooling in their boxes at the Elks Lodge.  And we’ve showered and washed the dried cocoa from our elbows.  And we have some perspective on this experience that I didn’t have yesterday.  We have some ideas about what works in mass baking and what doesn’t, which is really invaluable.  And we have each other and we know what we want out of this adventure and we know today didn’t change any of that.  We needed to know that and if it took 150 pies and an electrical outage to figure it out, then we are glad we accepted the challenge.

We will see all of you Tuesday picker-uppers tomorrow between 9 and 1.  And I bet we feel like new women after 8 hours of sleep:

 

Elk Of The Month

So, today I was at the Conley Road Hyvee and Jeanne was at the Sam’s and we were on our phones with each other and cost comparing ingredients.  It was an easy call on the shredded coconut because Sam’s didn’t even have any (I know, right?) and so I was on my hands and knees on the floor of Aisle 6 and digging to the very back of the bottom of the shelf for 12 bags of coconut while talking away to Jeanne and…

Someone leaned over me and asked me if I was on a game show.

Yeah.  No.

But, while we are on the subject, I totally should be a game show contestant!  It is known far and wide that my inner carnival barker is never off by more than a dollar, a pound, or a minute, and thus I would be an excellent “Price Is Right” candidate.  And if shredded coconut ever showed up as one of those random items in Plinko, well then, I’m headed straight to the Showcase Showdown.

But I digress.

We baked today.  A LOT.  Did you know that outside of the Elks Club they have a parking lot designated for the “Elk of the Month”?  Well, they do.  And I’m not sure if the Elks are aware, but it is me.  I am the Elk of the Month…and I’m not even an Elk.  But once you peel 200 individual apples in the Elk’s kitchen, I’m pretty sure that makes you in the inner Elk circle somehow.

After our cost comparison shopping extravaganza, we started baking in the early afternoon and kept on until the Elks kicked us out at 9 pm.  We used 200 apples, 15 dozen eggs, 18 bags of chocolate chips, and 22 pounds of butter this afternoon.  And an entire bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon.  And a partridge in a pear tree.

We have 40 or so orders on schedule for tomorrow and another 100 or so for Tuesday, so we have much more to do tomorrow – baking AND pie pickup…I’m not sure how that will work out, but we feel encouraged.  For whatever reason, we were more organized and more efficient today than either of our baking days for Thanksgiving and we are thankful for that.

We are starting early and with a lot of coffee.  If you are a pie pickup for tomorrow, we can’t wait to see you!  And if you have any tips for estimating the cost of random things like two bikes, a carton of dishwashing detergent, and a 2015 Ford Escape, then drop by and share them with me for my “Price Is Right” recognizance mission.