Sunday, August 29, 2010

Crib notes for new bakers...

So I walked into Frutcake, the bakery where I have worked for a whole two weeks, as a 33 year old home baker who had worked in one commercial kitchen in my life, and that was at a Krogers. I hadn't had a food-related job in about 15 years. I knew how to bake my cupcakes (and a few other things) my way and I knew that other people liked them. And that was about all I knew.

In my two weeks I've learned and observed a lot. And, just in case anyone else ever is in a similar place, I thought I'd make a list of the things I've picked up.

1. Cute shoes are useless. Now cute shoes, in my eyes, covers a lot of ground. So while some shoes, like cute flats and heels and boots, would obviously be a bad idea in a kitchen, other shoes, like my dearest chucks, are also a no no. You need support, cause you're gonna be standing a LOT, and you also need traction, cause doing dishes as part of your job sucks enough without falling while you're doing them.

2. In addition to shoes, all other fashion goes out the window too. I'm starting to understand why so many chefs have tattoos an their forearms and calves. If you're working, everything else is covered by plain white or black aprons so it's pretty much the only way to add some personality (except through your food). While all your cute shirts and jeans may not be practical, if you have thin loose tees and comfy cotton pants, you're golden. Heat is a major issue in a kitchen and, while Frutcake is cooler than at least one of her sister restaurants, if you don't plan your wardrobe around this heat you'll be miserable.

3. The hair situation is no better than the clothing one. You have to wear something over your hair in the kitchen. Some people wear bandanas, which isn't really my style, so I just wear a hat. Again, this is practical, but doesn't do much for style. And my current haircut (roughly shoulder-length with bangs) is completely unpractical. It's too short to be able to put it in a ponytail and pull through the cap, plus the bangs just have to be pushed back and, after working for a bit, I have sweaty hair stuck to my neck and hat head. Not cute. Plus you can't even see whatever random color my hair may be that day. *sigh*

4. Say "behind you," not excuse me. You never know when someone's gonna go the other way so you announce your location in the kitchen. Even if it appears they're not gonna be moving. And if you're holding something hot, announce that too. No one wants to back into someone holding a boiling pot.

4. Speed is the key. While quality is obviously important in a bakery, speed is the thing everyone is aiming for. Being a person who has never been particularly speedy, that's tough. Add lack of knowledge and my ever present nerves, it gets way, way worse.

5. If you can't be speedy, at least be nice. And apologetic. I apologize a LOT. And, when needed, I'm always willing to help. And that's what has saved me so far. I know I have a lot to learn and I don't even try to pretend differently. Hopefully I'll pick everything up pretty quickly, so I can stop apologizing so much.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Today was a crappy day. It started out awesome but, at some point, flour and sugar (more likely it was baking soda and baking powder) decided to conspire against me. I got to work excited to do some baking, only to have everything I made turn out crappy. I made three dozen cupcakes and had one dozen turn out. I even made chocolate chip cookies that failed. Chocolate. Chip. Cookies. I asked the owner if I could come in for a little while tomorrow - just long enough to make another batch of cupcakes and rescue my rep.

And, as if my rotten baking luck wasn't enough, the family came home to find that Lucy the Asthmatic Demon Dog had found, and destroyed, a box that contained a lot of family pics. *sigh*

On the plus side, the evening's been a considerable improvement. There was pizza and Psych with sis and then a lot of couch time with Veronica Mars on Netflix. The theme song has been running through my mind on loop lately.
Of course that's probably because the show's been streaming on my tv almost non-stop for days. But it really is awesome.

Baking is afoot

So today is lining up to be an awesome day. It is almost 8 am and I am not knee deep in flour and dishes. Instead I am watching more Veronica Mars and trying to keep my dogs from driving the neighborhood insane.

The morning started with Not-So-Ex handling getting Hunt ready and to school. He also managed to get some cupcakes that needed delivered (and I didn't even have to remind him) and get them to their intended target. LOL

In about an hour, I'll be getting ready to head to the bakery. Today is cupcake day! And I LOVE cupcake days. It's looking like my job at the bakery is gonna simplify to me being the chick with the high sugar content. And that is totally awesome. Plus it means far less 5 ams. And that's always good!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sleepy day off...

So I have the day off. I am so psyched because, while I have a million little things to do, I may not do any of them. Cause that's just how I'm feeling right now.

I'm tired, cause days of getting up at 4 am will do that to you, but I still woke up early. I had left bread dough defrosting so that I could make pepperoni rolls for the guys for lunch. So got those done, got everyone delivered to where they need to go, and now I'm back home where it is completely calm and quiet. And it's sooooooo nice.

For now, I'm gonna finish up the last few pepperoni rolls (which, by the way, turn out perfectly if you bake them in cupcake pans) and maybe lay down for just a bit. Then I've got plenty of housework, work in the garden (if there's no rain), and lots of episodes of Veronica Mars to watch. Bliss!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Taste & Create = Sorbet!

So I signed up for this thing called Taste and Create where I was paired with a blog called Seduce your Tastebuds. The deal was that I would make a recipe from her blog and she would make one from mine.

I chose the Japanese Green Tea Sorbet, which turned out perfectly since I JUST got a Kitchenaid ice cream maker attachment. Now in her recipe, it calls for maccha powder but, since I didn't have any, I just used green tea bags and steeped them when I made the simple syrup. Then I let it cool and made the sorbet with my handy dandy ice cream maker and it was AWESOME.

It was seriously just like a nice, sweet glass of iced tea but way colder. I only wish I had this earlier in the summer!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Feet don't fail me now...

So I worked roughly 6-1 today and my feet are feeling it!

But, on the plus side, my cupcakes will be for sale tomorrow. I made Creamy Coffee and Blackberry Lemonade Cupcakes. Both turned out well despite not knowing my way around the kitchen too well and my general state of confusion (not that that's unusual).

My kids go back to school tomorrow. I'm not sure I'm ready. I will miss having them here all day.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Devil's in the details...

So I worked a normal day at the bakery yesterday. It started at 4 am since I will have to be at work by 5. Yep, I said AM. I'll admit the first day wasn't bad, but that's probably cause I was excited.

The day was a lot of fun though. They taught me so much about recipes and the kitchen itself too. I'm actually sitting here now picking out a new wardrobe of stretchy and cottony clothing so that I won't completely die in the hot kitchen. And I had to buy some boring, ugly kitchen shoes.

Of course with all this excitement there has to be a but. And it comes when trying to get the kids' school schedule together. Not-So-Ex is starting a big new job at a plant, which means early hours and probably some overtime. This is all good for the wallet, but not necessarily the schedule. And it also means that he won't have a work truck since he's in town and not running from one place to another. So we've gotta figure out how to get the kids to school once they go back on Monday.

But we have a lot of support from our family and friends so I'm sure we can work it out. But it will be tricky. Hopefully it'll work out for the best though!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I love TV

So I'm home today. I have some baking, but it shouldn't be anything serious. Just a few dozen for my work mom.

But the most important thing so far has been the fact that there's a Psych marathon on USA this morning. So my daughter and I are taking up residence on the couch. I love watching with her cause she gets so into it. If I'm out of the room, she's going "Mom! Mom! Did you hear what Shawn just said?" Man I love my teenage geek girl.
Also, last night was Rescue Me. I believe I've mentioned both my previous love for the show and my current irritation and general dissatisfaction with the show. Last night was another new low. Tommy decided to reconcile with his wife. Again. So he had to go tell Sheila he was done with her. Again. Sheila and Tommy have been off for a bit and she's seeing someone new (his cousin but, this is Rescue Me where everyone must always be screwing a Gavin). After an argument where she tells him he's been nothing but a disappointment to her, he ends up between her legs. Again. And Sheila admitted to lying about him being a disappointment just cause she knew where it would lead. Uh oh... I think I might vomit. How anyone could NOT be disappointed in Tommy is a mystery to me. But of course Sheila was just luring him in cause every woman is just desperately trying to bed Tommy Gavin. No matter how much of a douche he is. Whatever.

Of course, on the flip side, there's also a wonderful scene where Franco gives probie Damien advice on getting chicks. And Black Sean refers to Franco as the Yoda of... um... kitty cats. Yeah. Plus dumb Sean and equally dumb Mike take a dying firefighter to visit the people he's saved only to find that he'd saved a bunch of useless, horrible, ungrateful people. But such is life.

Ok... I'm missing my Psych marathon. Later!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Day One!

Today I start employment as a baker. It's way early (although good practice for my kiddos since they'll be getting up around this time for school) but I'm excited.

I was up late last night baking a couple dozen for my co-workers. I did two of my established recipes (creamy coffee and strawberry champagne) and tried two new recipes (strawberry lemonade and mimosa).

I'll post the new recipes later, but I've gotta say the strawberry lemonade, which was a flavor chosen by my new boss, were awesome. The recipe needs a little tweaking but it's a definite keeper. Mimosa's good too, although I've never had an actual mimosa. I may have to work on that.

Monday, August 16, 2010

It's a Monday? Really?

So today is more like Sunday part 2 since Not-So-Ex is off today. After the chaos of the weekend, today is much welcomed.

As for the weekend, it consisted of Saturday (movie day) and Sunday (baking day). And it was soooooooooo busy.

Sunday's cupcaking (and baking in general since the order included cookies) was rough. Nothing would turn out right. Nothing was working. I wasn't doing anything I hadn't done before, except the results were suddenly not quite right. I started an all out freak out in the morning but, luckily, I was able to pull it together (with the help of Not-So-Ex of course) and the results were pretty damn good. And that was important, especially since they were ordered for a birthday party for the mayor of Charleston.
I must say, when those cupcakes left my house, I felt a million pounds lighter. It was wonderful. So we spent the rest of the day celebrating, at least in our own little way.

But now it's Monday and I have 2 dozen cupcakes to do for tomorrow. They're to introduce myself to everyone else working with my new employer (they own two restaurants and the bakery where I'll be working). So I've already made some creamy coffee and strawberry champagne and gonna experiment with some Strawberry Lemonade and Mimosa in a bit. Should be a fun day!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Finally, a calm day!

So today's a simple one. My main goal was to get some rest since I was up most of the night Wed night making cupcakes, and I definitely did that. We hit the bed early last night and I slept in a bit this morning. And I feel all nice and human and normal again.

Today I've mostly got to do some planning work. I'm making cupcakes for a big birthday monday and the asked to have them decorated. A decorator I am not, but I can do this. And it should be fun. They'll pick them up Sunday, which leaves me Monday to make cupcakes for the staff on my first day at work! Woo Hoo!

Not-So-Ex has also planned a nice dinner tonight at Lola's! Lola's is this awesome pizza place where I will be consuming plenty of Pan Seared Goat Cheese Salad, Spinach and Feta pizza, and at least a glass or two of Sangria! My tummy is grumbling just thinking about it!

Then of course Saturday night is when we're hitting Bluegrass Kitchen and the White movie! So we've got a very busy weekend ahead.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The anatomy of a truly excellent day

I was not expecting a good day today. After all the cupcake malfunctions, I figured I would be rushed, chaotic, and on edge today. And it started out that way.

However, once I got in the kitchen and cleared up my game plan, I found I wasn't in bad shape (although somewhat sleep deprived). I knocked out the frostings I needed to finish and even made another cupcake to replace one that I wasn't crazy about.

I got my kiddos up, fixed them breakfast, and got dressed in plenty of time for my meeting and rolled in right on time. Couldn't have planned it any better if I tried.

Once I sat down for the meeting, it went far better than I was expecting. She really liked some of my flavors (Mint Lemonade and Creamy Coffee were big hits). I will start at the bakery next week, although I get some time for training and learning my way around their kitchen.

The most interesting (and exciting) part of the meeting for me was finding out that not only would I be responsible for the cupcakes, but I will be learning their other recipes. So not only will I be paid to make my cupcakes, I'll be paid to learn from a pastry chef. Normally I'd pay for stuff like that!

AND (as if that wasn't enough) I'll start my employment attending a session about making cheesecakes, which are one of the first recipes I really cared enough to learn. I was like HELL YEAH!

To switch from all the Frutcake happiness, one of the local papers also published a particularly intelligent letter to the editor from the director of the White movie. This same paper had posted an article a few days ago where the writer trashed the film having never seen it (and, strangely enough, saying that his friend and film expert said it was a masterpiece) and Julien felt the need (and rightly so) to respond. His response was incredible and put into words so many things that I could never have actually said. I was very proud.

Anyway, as I've mentioned on Facebook, I will be going to see The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia at Park Place this Saturday so, if anyone would like to join Not-So-Ex and I, please do!

What do I do while waiting for the frosting to break and come back together again? Blog.

So I've had one of the longest and unluckiest cupcaking days/evenings/mornings ever. I have a big meeting and wanted 6 new flavors available for sampling, but it's been like pulling teeth to actually get them finished at the level I would like them.

It started with my chocolate based cupcakes. I wanted Mocha and Peanut Butter Cup, both using variations on the same base cupcake recipe. I'd had trouble with my normal recipe, tried a new one, liked it, and decided to use it for these. Well it totally failed me. Both the Mocha and PBC rose and looked gorgeous coming out of the oven. Then they cooled and fell like a brick.

Then I decided to do them over using my old recipe and realized I was out of cocoa. First I was soooooo thankful Not-So-Ex had left me the car. Then I realized that, since I had used his car keys the last time I drove, I had locked my purse (which held my car keys) up in the car. So there would be no more chocolate cupcakes till he was home.

While I waited, I experimented with a Peach Cobbler Cupcake, which turned out delicious but ugly. But, you know what, I didn't care. I put a tiny bit of frosting on the least ugly two and put them in the box anyway. We'll just consider them a rough prototype.

But it didn't really get ugly till tonight/this morning. I'm making my Coffee Italian Meringue Buttercream, which used to give me hassle but I had gotten the hang of it. Or so I thought. I made two batches where the egg whites would NOT whip up for me. No matter how much I beat them, they would not behave (sounds like my kids... OW! I'll be here all week!).

Luckily the third attempt worked. However, it's taking a lot longer to break and come back together than normal. I think it's cause my kitchen is hotter than the inner circle of hell right now. But I'm patiently waiting. Or as close to patiently as I can get.

So here's hoping I get my act together, and make it pretty, before tomorrow morning. Cause it's kinda important and stuff.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesday Morning Randomness

So, first off, I just have to say Dear Not-So-Ex, aren't you glad we have iPhones? LOL

Anyway, to be slightly more serious, today will hold some serious baking for yours truly. I have a meeting tomorrow to establish my flavors at Frutcake so I'm taking another sample box to the owner. So today I will be making about 6 dozen cupcakes. And I'm looking forward to it!

Plus, this weekend is the opening of The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia at Park Place! Can't wait for Not-So-Ex to finally see the film.

I guess I should get to baking! Later!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mrs. Fix-It is famous...

We got soooooo much done yesterday!

The day started off with a leaky toilet, which Not-So-Ex was able to fix with only a little bit of trouble. Then we finally got started on the living room. We got it all cleaned up, then up came the carpet. The wood floors underneath, much like the dining room, aren't in great shape but I'm hopeful that, once we start sanding, we can make them work. I don't look forward to all the sanding and the cleaning and the re-sanding and the painting, but I do look forward to the beautiful, sanded, finished product and newly painted walls.

And the day ended, in a very odd juxtaposition, with me, unable to sleep (no that's not the odd part) and sitting up till all hours of the night completing an interview thingy for a magazine in England. It's a funny little life I live.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

More movie info

Check out this link for all the movie times!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Experiment #1: Mint Lemonade Cupcakes

So we have mint growing in our herb garden and one of our favorite summer drinks is Mint Lemonade. To make it, all you do is crush up some fresh mint in the syrup mixture as you boil it. It's sweet, refreshing and just seems cooler than regular lemonade.

When I was looking for a recipe to try out today, mint lemonade just kept coming to mind so I decided to give it a shot. The end result was a little weak, but good so I'll be looking for ways to intensify the flavor later.

Mint Lemonade Cupcake:
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
Pinch salt
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. vegetable oil
2 powdered egg whites reconstituted w lemonade
1/3 c. lemonade
1/4 c. buttermilk

First you want to reconstitute the powdered egg whites using lemonade. Whip them until they start thickening and then slowly add the sugar as you continue whipping. Then add the oil and lemonade. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Add half the flour mixture to the whites, then add the buttermilk, followed by the rest of the flour.

Now pour the batter into a prepared muffin pan and bake in a preheated oven at 350 for about 15 minutes.

Once they're done, let them cool, poke holes in the tops with a fork and brush them with the mint lemonade.
Mint Lemonade Italian Meringue Buttercream:
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large egg whites (I used powdered and reconstituted w/ Mint Lemonade)
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled
  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar and 1/3 cup mint lemonade to a boil. Continue boiling until syrup reaches 238 degrees.on a candy thermometer (soft-ball stage).
  • Meanwhile, place reconstituted egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on low speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and beat on medium-high speed until stiff but not dry; do not overbeat.
  • With mixer running, add syrup to whites in a stream, beating on high speed until no longer steaming, about 3 minutes. Add butter bit by bit, beating until spreadable, 3 to 5 minutes. If icing curdles, keep beating until smooth. If it doesn't taste strongly enough of the mint lemonade, you can add a little more at the end.

  • Anyway, like I said they still weren't quite strong enough for me so I'll probably fiddle with the recipe a bit more. But they were awfully good though.

    Big Yawn

    So I realized yesterday that every morning I sit here and try to make a game plan for the day... try to map out exactly what I wanna get done... and then completely change my mind. And yesterday is a great example. I started out with a list of things and then I did some housework, washed some dishes, and then it got all stormy so I spent the rest of the day cooking a big meal.

    Today is supposed to be a baking day. I have two flavors I wanna play with and see what kind of cupcakes I can get. But first I have to conquer the kitchen, which is pretty daunting right now since there's a mess from yesterday's big meal. But I'm sure I'll get to it eventually (eventually is the key word there). But, even if I don't bake today, there will be a pretty good amount of baking the beginning of next week so I'll get my fix.

    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    A grassy morning

    I was woken up this morning by two doggers freaking out cause they were mowing our grass. And that's never the best way to get going.

    I'm not sure what all today will hold. I have some baking I may do. Some mopping to do on our newly uncovered stairs. Some sanding to do on furniture I'm gonna refinish. And some more sanding to do just about everywhere in my house. Ooh, and there's still some trim work to do in the dining room.

    But anyway, that's what I have ahead of me in my boring little corner of the world!

    Wednesday, August 4, 2010


    So yesterday was quite a day. In one day I found out my movie will be opening in town (which was greeted with incredible support on facebook) and that Not-So-Ex would be going back to work.

    While I mentioned my response to the first part yesterday, my response to the work situation even surprised me. When he got the call, he told me and the only thing I could think was NOOOOOOOOOOO. I seriously didn't want him to go back yet, despite my panic. I was really enjoying us all being here. I blamed it on the house situation (we've pulled up carpet in the dining room, refinished the floors and repainted and we just started on the stairs so we still have the living room to do), but really I just liked him being here.

    But, of course, it could never be a permanent thing and we all knew that. But I am really glad that we enjoyed the time we had. I'm glad that there were just moments of panic rather than total panic mode.

    But here I am talking like it's a done deal. But it's not. The job he got called out for is short term. They think another big job will be starting soon after, but there are no definites. So maybe we'll get some more time later.

    What I do know is how incredibly blessed I am to be exactly where I am at this exact moment. Right now, my kids still like me and want me near. With a daughter that is 13, we may not be in the same position next year. And I can be here 100%. I also have a husband who loves me, first of all, tolerates me, second of all (hey...I know I can be tough), and loves our family too. He gives his 100% every day.

    Sorry. Just realized I'm all gushy and crap. If it helps, my dogs totally need to step up their game! They're not giving their 100%. ( maybe I'm just really just looking at you Lucy the Asthmatic Demon Dog who really likes pretzel M&Ms and decided last night was the best time to indulge) I guess every family has their weak links though. LOL

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    I can barely believe it!!!!!

    Starting 8/13, you can catch The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia at Park Place Cinema here in Charleston, WV. I don't know times or anything, but it will be playing for about a week.

    Words are kinda failing me at this point. When it debuted at Tribeca, I was stunned but it was so far away that it wasn't real. When I saw it with an audience in Kentucky, it was awesome, but they were industry and film folks, so it didn't seem quite real. When it was showing in Morgantown, I began to feel it. When it started showing in Huntington, it became a bit more real. Now that it's showing at the theater I used to walk to after hanging at the mall as a teen, it's real.

    I was a producer on a real film. I was part of something special. I have a real, good, solid film credit to my name. And, while I may have cut some portions cause I'm a weenie, I'm very proud of what ended up on film. And I'm proud to have it show in my home town.

    Monday, August 2, 2010

    I almost forgot what deadlines were like!

    So I just finished revising my thesis proposal for my masters. I had put it off over and over again thinking it was going to be a simpler process since it was just a revision.

    But it wasn't. It was tougher in some ways.

    But it's done now. And emailed to my director. We'll see how many changes need made and then hopefully get it submitted before the semester starts, as requested.

    I'm heading to an early movie tomorrow with my kids and cousin so it'll be an early and busy morning. But it should be fun too!

    So much to do...

    ...and so little interest in actually doing it. LOL

    We've basically finished the dining room. There's still a little bit of trim work and touch ups to do, but it's basically done. We need to move on to the living room, but that's such a big project that it is overwhelming us all right now.

    So we procrastinate.

    On the plus side, we now have access to the kitchen again. And that's a huge, huge plus! It's tough to save money when you can't do any cooking so we're in much better shape now. We hit the credit union this morning so our bills for the month will basically be paid today, which is a wonderful feeling.

    But anyway, here's hoping I can stumble across some motivation somewhere.