I don’t know why I even have a “craft” category for the blog seeing as we seem to only accomplish 2 kinds of crafts each year – paper snowflakes and Easter egg dyeing (and if you click on crafts, that’s pretty much all you see post after post – so much so that it’s laughable). We haven’t even carved pumpkins in the last few years because the girls get too attached to their pumpkins and can’t bear the thought of stabbing them with knives and scooping out the guts. Oh! I tried to teach the girls how to make origami cranes last week, but that didn’t really go over so well because I forgot how to fold one myself and the only origami paper we had was too small for tiny hands trying to make precise folds. Hey, I tried.
After last year’s rather successful first attempt at natural egg coloring, we went back to the Paas dye tablets, mostly because Mark’s mom sent us a box in the Easter care package she sent us. We didn’t do anything fancy this year (though I thought about it for a minute, I swear). Mia did scratch a phrase in wax on one of her eggs: “Peace, love and hamburgers” (uh, whatever that means to 9 year olds), but we did try ombre-ing a few of the eggs. I think next year I might try experimenting with tape.
We took our traditional drive upstate to spend Easter with Mark’s dad and uncle. The girls get super excited about Easter because of the egg hunts (this year we drove out to a state park to hide chocolates in the woods). Nothing was Spring-like about it because the weather was still a bit chilly and the trees still so bare, but they still had a super good time. I find it funny that they are both so blinded by the fact that one of us is obviously the Easter bunny hiding the candy. I’m surprised that Mia still believes there’s a furry animal with thumbs capable of placing chocolate eggs on window sills and perched on tree branches. She knows there isn’t a tooth fairy and hasn’t really believed in Santa in awhile (though she claims to believe in him again), so why the Easter bunny? Especially when I had “mysteriously disappeared” while Mark took them to a bench to look out over the lake.
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Miss C left this box for me on my bed side table last night, instructing me to open it in the morning. I usually sleep in on Thursdays since it’s the one day of the week that Mark walks the girls to school, so she knew that she probably wasn’t going to see me in the morning. Truth is, she made this Valentine’s Day box way back in November and hid it among her things until last night. She likes to plan ahead like that, although Mark just got a note on a green post-it. When asked why he only got a post-it when I got a box of treasures, she replied that she didn’t have enough time because of all the Valentines that she had to make for all her classmates.
So when did Valentine’s Day become another Halloween? The kids came home with cards and all sorts of candy collected from their classmates and dumped them on the floor to sort and look through. I guess the good thing about it is the mandatory rule of bringing a Valentine to everyone if you plan on handing our Valentines. We didn’t have such rules when I was a kid. I still remember how dreadful Valentine’s Day was back in high school. Like many schools back then, some adult thought it’d be a good idea to give teenagers an opportunity to give out roses for their girlfriends/boyfriends/secret crushes during homeroom period. It was the one day of the year in the years of teenage angst where your relationship status or lack thereof was made public and flaunted. Yeaaaah, really great idea. All the popular kids carried around their multiple roses like a status badge that proved just how popular they were. Couples sent each other flowers; the rest of us unloved ones walked around rose-less and everyone knew it, unless you made a secret pact with your girlfriends before hand to send each other sympathy roses so you didn’t look like a complete loser sitting there empty handed during homeroom when the roses were handed out. My high school was a big school – there were about 700 kids in my graduating class so the cliques and social groups were varied and deep, but it didn’t matter if you were a jock, a cheerleader, a brainy nerd, a rocker or an arty goth freak. Valentine’s Day had a way of crossing social lines and making anyone feel awkward and annoyed. High school. It was carefree, but oh so complicated and full of angst all at once.
Valentine’s Day never was a holiday that I embraced or liked, despite the fact that I have either been in relationships or married for the past 23 Valentines. Mark and I have never really celebrated it and if you’re in the restaurant industry then you would be working that evening anyway, just as he did for pretty much every Valentine’s Day up until we started the business. But like a lot of things, it’s taken up a new meaning now that we have kids. I think Mia’s beginning to move away a little from all the lovey hearts and such, but Miss C is still all over it, although both girls kinda sighed after making their 20th Valentine with a few more to go.
When I asked Claudine why she liked Valentine’s Day so much, she replied that it’s a day where we get to love each other a little more. I told her that I loved her the same on this day, just as I did everyday.
She didn’t really care for that answer.
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Oh, 2012. I would be lying if I said I loved you. Truth is, I’m glad that in in less than 12 hours you will be gone. Still, all that happens for good and bad is part of life and we are absolutely lucky in that we have family and friends and a roof over our heads and are able to live in a city we love.
I usually spend the last few days of the year obsessively cleaning, purging closets, filing away paper and receipts and cleaning out junk drawers. It’s part OCD and part superstition, tying loose ends and preparing for a clean slate and a clean house for the new year. The house is tidy, but the paperwork is still piled high and junk drawers remain an unorganized mess filled with forgotten trinkets from the old year. It’s ok though. One thing that I have learned this year is to let go of the pursuit of perfection. Life doesn’t really operate that way. It is full of mistakes and surprises and unexpected turns. Honestly? I’m disappointed in myself this year for many reasons I won’t share, but I’m letting that go. Messy drawers and piles of paperwork aside, that’s one thing I won’t carry over to the new year.
Happy new year, friends.
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Merry Christmas, my friends who celebrate Christmas! We’re with family and friends and we hope you are too.
Enjoy the holidays.
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If you know anything about mass baking then you know that it’s full of repetitive tasks. Scooping the dough and flattening them out onto baking trays. Cutting shapes of rolled dough with a cookie cutter, each and every cookie pressed down from cold sheets of dough by hand. It’s like home baking x 100. Then you have to package it all. I think it takes a certain type of person and a certain type of mindset to be able to do this day in and day out. Mark is like a machine in that sense; he can crank out thousands of cookies in a day and if he has a little help like he did this month from our friend Annie who came into the kitchen 2-3 times a week, then the quantities can multiply. This is how you get through the busiest time of year.
I rarely make an appearance in the kitchen, but I did come in to pack marshmallows this week (I’m useless in the baking department), but that too requires hours upon hours of putting one and a half inch cubes into little bags. I think everyone has a different methodology to get through tedious tasks. Maybe you turn on music and zone out, your movements pretty much on automatic. Or maybe you play mind games and challenge yourself. I tend to do the latter, imagining that I’m playing Tetris while trying to stack 2 rows of 6 marshmallow cubes as perfectly as I can in each bag. With brownies, I challenge myself to see how fast I can wrap each one. So far I can consistently wrap a brownie in 7 seconds. That’s about 8 brownies a minute. I’ve cut my brownie wrapping time in half over the last few years.
One thing that might get overlooked is how organized you have to be to run this business. Quite honestly? I don’t know how Mark does it. All I know is that he keeps track of how many cookies he needs to bake in random sheets of scrap paper with tick marks next to each item. With about 30 products in our shop, it’s a lot to keep track of. You have to be highly organized and on top of everything to know what orders need to go out when. At holiday time it can be killer, but in the 5 years we’ve been in business, we have only sent out wrong orders equal to the number of fingers we can count on one hand – and each mistake feels devastating. But human errors do happen occasionally and we try to make up each and every one.
Mark has wrapped up his holiday baking for the year. He’s at the Brooklyn Flea at One Hanson in downtown Brooklyn Saturday and Sunday for one more holiday fling and then a few days off. He’s looking forward to an evening of just sitting on the couch. Right now, however, he’s thrilled that he doesn’t have to bake anything for a whole week.
photo by Matt Feddersen for Brooklyn Magazine
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I avoided the news over the weekend, partly because we were so busy, but mostly because I didn’t want to feel anything. I don’t think I was ready. But while the kids were in school yesterday I did turn on the news. It’s too much. I don’t really want to say anything more because there’s so much that’s been already said – about guns and politics and mental health and religion – and I don’t want to personalize the tragedy. I did, however, discuss it with Mia and I’m glad I did even though it made her sad and worried because she told me that everyone in her class was talking about it at school on Monday. I don’t know how much of it she grasps (do any of us understand any of it?), but it was probably the first time her innocent world was chipped away.
Honestly, I was glad for the distraction of work these past few days. I remember wondering what the holiday season might be like while we on Thanksgiving break. It didn’t seem like it was going to be as busy as years past, but I reveled in the possibility that it would be ok actually, to have some sanity for the month of December. Last holiday season, to put it mildly, was just too crazy. So as a business owner you weigh both sides: is it better to have sanity or more sales during the holiday season? Can you have both?
December started out like any normal busy month, but it wasn’t the usual crazy like it’s always been. It even felt a little strange not to be running around in an adrenaline induced panic. Mark and I would look at each other at times and think, well…this is a little weird. We even had a leisurely family Sunday a few weekends ago, something that has never happened in December in all the years that we’ve been in business. But then it all changed last week and suddenly it felt like the holidays as we have known it for the last 5 years.
I’m not really sure how it happened considering how it started, but this might be our biggest holiday season yet.
We have to thank all of you for the sales and support of our business. It’s been a tough year on so many fronts, but I feel like we’re ending the year with a bit of momentum, a bit more security and some much needed positivity. We have 5 more days to go before we can put this holiday season to bed. We’ve been working 18 hour days for the past few weeks, but the holidays wouldn’t be the holidays without a bit of sleep deprivation, now would it?
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