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.
Posted by Jenna | 24 Comments
Merry Christmas, my friends who celebrate Christmas! We’re with family and friends and we hope you are too.
Enjoy the holidays.
Posted by Jenna | 10 Comments
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
Posted by Jenna | 12 Comments
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?
Posted by Jenna | 7 Comments
The scene is set in a Brooklyn apartment. A 7 foot tree lays on its side on the hardwood floor. A man struggles to fit the cheap metal tree stand on the 7 footer, cursing under his breath that he could have sworn that he declared last Christmas as the last year they would use this flimsy tree stand.
He tightens the screws, hoists the tree back up and the family stands back.
The tree is crooked.
The man lays the tree back down, fiddles with the screws around the trunk and hoists the tree back up. The family stands back and looks.
The man summons the woman to hold the tree as he attempts to adjust the 7 footer in a vertical position. They stand back again.
Still slightly crooked. But maybe good enough.
He flicks at the tree to make sure that it is stable and won’t fall over in the middle of the night as it did a few years back. The tree seems stable.
Satisfied, the man goes away. The woman slowly circles the tree, scratches her head, stares, and stands back. She calls for the man.
“It’s still a bit crooked”, she says, hesitantly.
The man approaches the tree and instructs the woman to stand back to make sure the tree is straight as he wrestles with the tree and the stand once again.
“Ok, it’s straight”. They both stand back and nod.
The man goes about sweeping up the needles around the tree, but in a split second, the tree tips over and falls on the man. He lays under the tree for a minute, deflated and defeated before standing back up. “That’s it”, he says as he puts on his coat, grabs some cash from the other room and storms out the front door in search of a sturdier tree stand.
The kids, who have been sitting on the couch the whole time oblivious to the scene happening before them, look up and notice that the tree is down and the man is nowhere to be seen.
“Where’s Daddy?”, asks the little one.
“I think he’s under the tree”, says the older one.
The girls shrug and go back to their game.
Posted by Jenna | 28 Comments
We had a fantastic weekend. How was yours? It always feels good to have a stellar day at a holiday market, particularly when you’ve stayed up late preparing for the show after a hard week. It makes it all worth it. Thanks to our friend Megan who took both the girls for a sleepover Friday night which enabled us to work uninterrupted through the night organizing for the market and made setup in the early morning easy at the event site. Since the girls weren’t home, I put on the first season of American Horror Story while we worked and pretty much powered through the entire season in one sitting. What a crazy show (though Breaking Bad is still my first love). After the holiday fair, we went to our neighbor’s annual holiday party where she made this (among other yummy things) and now I want to eat it every day. We don’t go to many holiday parties if at all because of the busy season so we appreciate that our neighbor Amy puts on a fantastic party every year that makes it easy for us to say yes and makes us happy that we live where we do.
And another rare thing happened on Sunday. Brunch. Can’t even tell you the last time we went to brunch as a family. I’m telling you, it is a rare thing. We decided at the last minute since we would be taking the car out anyway that we weren’t limited to places in our neighborhood and I remembered Buttermilk Channel. This restaurant is on my long list of places to eat that everyone raves about, particularly for brunch. We got dressed quickly, threw some stuff in a bag for the day and headed over to Carroll Gardens. There was a line already forming as we drove by, but we luckily found a parking spot nearby and made our way in as they were just seating people. I love a good brunch and wish we did it more often!
The big outing of the day, however, was the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden up in the Bronx. I don’t know how well known this train show is to anyone outside of NY, but this is a holiday tradition in the city and one of those things that I’ve wanted to do every year but never really had the time for. The photos here don’t do the show justice. Besides the fact that I seemed incapable of taking a decent photo all day (which was frustrating), this is something that needs to be experienced in person. All the buildings and bridges are replicas of iconic landmarks and historic townhouses, the majority from NY, and made from leaves, bark, fungi, twigs and other plant matter. The details as you can see are amazing. The show is large with 140 buildings in total and winds all around the conservatory.
Here are some tips about the show if you’re planning on going. You can buy tickets online and they’re timed in 15 minute increments because the show is so popular. Don’t be late. Once you get there you’ll still wait in line to enter because they need to wait for people to exit the show before they can let more in. But that’s not it. Once you are in the show you are still waiting in line to enter the main exhibition space. This is deceptive because the models and trains do start here in this large room and the line is “loose” since people start taking photos and the crowd is milling about, but it’s slow moving. This is when the kids start getting antsy and complain that “this is boring” and you wonder whether you’ve made a colossal mistake spending $100 for tickets for the entire family (tickets aren’t cheap), just to wait in line to be herded at a painfully slow pace. But don’t give up hope. Once you get into the main exhibition space, the crowd thins and you can leisurely take your time around the show. There is still a path and a line to follow, but at that point, it is very pleasant. For this reason I would go on the early side of the day.
Also, if you can find parking right outside the Gardens do so because parking costs an additional $15 which was sort of a shocker when we pulled up to the parking booth. Aside from that, we had a nice time at the Gardens. It’s been quite rainy the past 4 days so the weather wasn’t great which prohibited us from wandering around the gardens but there was plenty of stuff for kids to do at the Gingerbread exhibition as well.
Ok, now you know that it’s not all fun and roses when a family outing is involved, right? There’s always some sort of National Lampoon’s Vacation-type mishap that happens at some point, right? Because it was rainy and we were parked a bit away from the entrance, Mark decided he’d get the car and pick us up. I started to get suspicious when quite a bit of time passed and he didn’t show up. Turns out that he couldn’t drive to where we were and he was forced to exit the garden because he was on a one way road. So you know how when the Griswolds go to Paris in European Vacation and they get stuck in that circular road around the Arc de Triomphe and can’t find the way out so they keep driving around and around? Well, the girls and I decided to head out in the rain towards where the car was parked and when it was clear that he wasn’t anywhere in the parking strip, we walked and walked around the perimeter of the garden to look for an exit onto the street which we couldn’t find. Meanwhile, Mark was driving around the perimeter of the garden looking for us through the iron gates. Let’s just say that there was a lot of driving around and a lot of walking around and a lot of missing each other and a lot of cursing…
Posted by Jenna | 11 Comments