Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Book.

If you’ve ever stopped by PJP Buttonwood and just watched us working, you might have noticed that we bake completely from memory.  Neither Jeanne or I routinely use a recipe book and we’ve trained our staff to work without reference as well.  In a pinch, we do pull out the original PJP v. 1.0 recipe book for a quick look, but it hasn’t been updated in years and is known by Team PJP as the very last resort when feeling unsure of baking directions.

Our laissez-faire attitude toward the recipe book reflects our personalities perfectly.  That the recipes are covered in handwriting and smudged with pie filling from years ago is not the worst thing, right?

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Except that as PJP continues to grow and we find ourselves baking more and under more time constraints, there is nothing charming about trying to interpret if the Sour Cream Raisin pie calls for four legit cups of raisins or if it is really just one cup and an odd smudge is next to the one cup, masquerading it as a four.

Because our ineptitude started to even get on our own nerves last fall as we thumbed through the recipe book, adding “MAKE NEW RECIPE BOOK” to the 2016 goals was pretty obvious.  And today, when public schools called a snow day and sales were slow enough that I was making myself crazy, I decided to make our goal a reality.  Operation Recipe Book in full swing.  Finally.

And well, it wasn’t easy.  Both Jeanne and I bake intuitively.  Because we’ve done it enough, we know exactly how each filling should look as it goes together.  And baking has quirks…for example, making French Silk when it is really warm in our kitchen creates an entirely different end result than making it when our kitchen is cold early in the morning.  Leaving apple pie filling in the shell too long before covering it in Dutch Apple topping and putting it in the oven can make the pies too juicy because the mixture starts to break down. It is all information that we learned over doing the process hundreds of times…and translating that to pristine recipe pages was much harder than I anticipated.  It took a few hours to just finish 12 recipes.

After printing the 12 recipes, I surprised myself by deciding to laminate each page.  And this is noteworthy because I’m not really crafty enough to laminate on the regular, but I can really convince myself of a lot of things when standing in the aisle at Staples…(mainly that buying a laminating machine is justified).

By next week, the recipe book should be finished.  And I seriously can’t wait for the first Team PJP member to flip it open and find exactly what they are looking for right away.  And for all the props on my at-home laminating skills sure to come my way…

Pie Is The New Cake.

In 2015, we had dozens of brides and grooms ask PJP to be a part of their wedding celebration in some way.  And whether we did tarts or jars or full-size pies, we absolutely loved that these couples all joined in our mantra…PIE IS THE NEW CAKE.  So when the opportunity arose to participate in several wedding shows this month, we jumped at the chance.  And yesterday found us on our first PJP roadshow of 2016…to the MO Wedding Connection Winter Wedding Gala at the Parkade Plaza.  Say that three times fast.

I guess I’ll start by saying that I legit hadn’t been in the Parkade Plaza in at least 30 years.  But 1984, that place was my jam.  There was a Sunshine Pets on the lower level (and because no one knew anything about puppy mills in 1984, that place was packed with every sort of puppy you could ever want to purchase).  And on the upper level was a B. Dalton bookstore, where I religiously bought every installment of Sweet Valley High.  And then the Columbia Mall opened, ushering in the slow decline of the poor Parkade Plaza.  For years, it sat mostly empty and then someone purchased it and fixed it up, though I never had the occasion to stop by.  So yesterday, I was delightfully surprised to see that the renovated Parkade Plaza is actually darn impressive.  Even without the B. Dalton’s.

But weddings.  Look, there are worse ways to spend a cold Sunday afternoon than handing out tarts, making friends, and examining shiny new engagement rings.  This was our first roadshow where we weren’t selling any product, so we didn’t have concerns about how much to bake or worry about our plan for keeping the booth stocked.  We just decided to take 200 tarts and hand them out to brides and grooms and their families until we ran out.

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We even had our favorite person, Gillian Tracey of Gillian Tracey Design, make us a swoon-worthy one-pager that describes our stake in the wedding game.  While attracting people to our tower of tarts was super easy, having attractive and easy-to-read collateral made starting a conversation with the prospective brides and grooms even easier.

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All in all, it was a super fun afternoon and a great way to spread World Pie Domination justthatmuch further.

Making Peace.

Over the last few days, I’ve been a hot mess of anxiety for no legitimate reason – (really only for all the reasons I make up in my head).  We’ve been sufficiently busy each day and we have plenty of projects to work on, yet I find myself stewing over how much slower January is than all of the other months.

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Perhaps the only thing able to soothe my overwrought and over-imaginative brain today would have been someone calling and ordering 1,000 Jelly Jar pies due no later than 10 am tomorrow.  THAT would have turned PJP Buttonwood upside down today.  There would have been some panic, an all-night baking schedule, and a generous amount of anxiety as we lidded the last jars against the clock before 10 am tomorrow.  I know this because I’ve lived the exact scenario at least 10 times in the past year.

And all of that said, making exceptionally small lattice tops for cherry Jelly Jar pies at 2 am still sounds preferable to me over thinking “jeeesh…it feels really slow in here today.”  Which really means that I am an adrenaline junkie who thrives off pressure and anxiety.  Which really means that the problem isn’t with January, THE PROBLEM IS WITH ME.

Well, that is a sobering thought, isn’t it?

I’m sorry, January.  I’m sorry I’ve said I hated you at least eight times in the last week in various forums.  Ok, maybe it was more like 12 times.  15 at the most.

I have, at the moment, at least 18 different PJP projects that I would like to work on…or at least spend some uninterrupted time thinking about.  And while Jeanne went about tackling one of hers today – a front window display – I only focused on how I couldn’t feel productive because we were done baking for the day.  Somewhere along the way, I’ve confused leading our business with simply working for our business.  I think it is easy for all small business owners to do…it is just that few people tell you that might happen (and you ignore the ones that do because the whole thing just sounds sort of impossibly ridiculous, right?)

The very honest truth is that focusing on baking is much easier than tackling a long to-do list.  Or answering any email from our accountant with the subject line “QUESTIONS”.  Or trying to figure out a marketing budget and sticking to it.  Or doing any of the things I gave myself a pass on for the last eight weeks on the theory that we had a billion pies a day to bake.  And now I’m just complaining that we don’t have a billion pies a day to bake.  Sounds about right.

So this is my long story way of saying that I’m making peace with January.  And focusing on my 18 projects.

But if you called tomorrow and ordered 1,000 Jelly Jar pies for Saturday…you know we would say yes.  We have made that much peace just yet…