Bakery

More cookies, less cake

Despite all odds, the best efforts of local government, and zero marketing, Katie and I still have a cookie company. And it is truly a cookie company now, as the only things we do are custom sugar cookies and French macarons. No more cakes, no more dessert tables, no more specialty cookies. It's funny that we're selling the two things we least like to eat, but those happen to be the two things people 1) want most and 2) are most profitable. Plus they're easy to store and transport and gone are the days I drive to a venue freaking out about a cake falling over in the back of my van. 

This weekend I delivered treats to our last wedding dessert table. This bride booked her date in January, before we'd made the Final We Don't Do That Anymore Decision. And then, because I am a moron, I scheduled Jack's birthday party for the exact same time. So while Phillip was managing a pool party, I was driving to a country club in a downpour with mini cupcakes, tartlets, macarons, cookies, and cream puffs, and barely made it back to the pool for the cake cutting. Let's not do that again. 

For a while we considered expanding. And what expanding looked like was bringing on a third person as a sort of Pastry Contractor, someone who could do the things we couldn't or wouldn't do, so that we could say yes to more orders and hopefully make a little bit more money. We planned to pay the pastry contractor a percentage of the items sold. I went back and talked to our kitchen owner, I started on the licensing application, I found a handful of potential contractors... but then... nope. It was weird, because not one person thought this was a bad idea. We had enough money to try it out and how else are you supposed to get bigger and do more? But it turns out neither of us really have the bandwidth to deal with anyone but ourselves (and honestly, we are enough for each other) and also, we're actually pretty happy with how things are. I mean, what if I actually started MARKETING our business instead of just sitting around waiting for people to call us? Enough people actually do call us, that maybe a bit of marketing effort might be all we need to kick it up a notch. We could work on finding a third or fourth person to help us during the holidays, when we know for sure we'll have more than we can handle. 

So that's what's new in the baking biz. I go back and forth about what I want to do, whether it's all worth it, what we're actually doing and why, but you've caught me in a Excited Committed moment. I just uploaded some new pictures to the site and Facebook and now I shall wait for the orders to roll in. (That's how it works, right? Facebook post = twelve orders for next weekend?)

Between that wedding order, another order for 8 dozen macarons, the week of Jack's Birthday-ness, Mother's Day, and the other multiple May events (I swear, half the grandkids in our family have May birthdays), I am WORN. OUT. I took a shower this morning, but am back in jammies (just the kind I don't sleep in, don't you have that category of clothes?) and I have grand plans for vacuuming, de-grossing the bathrooms, and scrubbing the kitchen floor on my hands and knees like a proper housewife. I bet I... load the dishwasher.


In which I ramble a lot before I get to the Thumbprints part

It's Father's Day. I saw my own dad on Thursday. I gave him an unwrapped book of Churchill quotes and pictures from the Churchill War Rooms gift shop and as I was leaving I said, "Happy Father's Day!" and he said, "I don't believe in these ridiculous Hallmark holidays" and I said, "Oh, then can I have the book back?" and he said, "No." So that's my dad. 

And then Phillip got what he most wanted for Father's Day, which was a day full of shameful lazing about. The kids stayed with his parents last night so we could see The Bad Plus Joshua Redman, or should I say so Phillip could see The Bad Plus Joshua Redman and I could sit next to him and drink cocktails. I have nothing AGAINST jazz, it's just that most of it sounds like a mess (TO ME). I need my jazz to be a steady stream of Gershwin standards, preferably with a singer. But anyway, the kids stayed away and Phillip and I did a whole lot of nothing until it was time to pick them up. Then they all played a Lego Xbox game (their gift to him) and we grilled hot dogs and burgers and now Phillip is out with the big kids at a MAGIC SHOW. A big one at the fancy theater downtown - we kept seeing billboard advertisements for it and Phillip kept saying he wanted to take the kids, but when we realized this was the last night of the show, an impromptu ticket buying commenced. Emma and I are home by ourselves, reveling in the quiet and the sunshine and the advent of summer. YAY SUMMER. 

I should tell you more about my trip, but the parts of the trip I need to tell you about next require the sort of blogging I used to reserve for the Parenting Post. As in, attempt to write coherently, have a point, share actual information, etc. Tonight's more of a tipping my head to the side, knocking my temple, and seeing what spills out of my ear style of blogging. Also I don't feel well. It started last night when my friend and I had left our husbands for the second set of the jazz show while we caught up on each other's lives in the lobby of the Westin Hotel. (Pro Tip: The Westin Hotel lobby is my favorite downtown place for lounging when you don't exactly want to buy anything.) 

HOWEVER I started to feel Queasy and it turns out you can't use the Westin hotel lobby restrooms without a key. I basically stalked someone who had a key and then I felt REALLY unwell and when I came back I asked my friend to take me home. But her husband had her car keys and my husband had my house keys and while I would have LIKED to suck it up and let Phillip watch his favorite musician's second set, I DID NOT HAVE A KEY TO THE RESTROOM. Ahem. 

I was not going to tell you this story. It's slightly embarrassing. 

Anyway. I felt terrible because 1) Phillip and my friend traded places which was sad for both of them and 2) I FELT ACTUALLY TERRIBLE. Jack had a fever a few days ago, Emma had one today, I am wondering if I am getting something too or what. Blargh. I had grand plans for wine and perhaps a chocolate ice cream bar on my deck for when Emma goes to bed, BUT NOW WHAT.

Oh, I remember, I was going to tell you about Thumbprints. 

After what seems like our 47th Come To Jesus conversation, Katie and I made some decisions. Chiefly: Thumbprints is going to become a macaron factory. With a few custom sugar cookies thrown in. After a year of this selling cookies and cakes nonsense and a whole lot of Learning From Our Mistakes, what seems WORTH IT is selling macarons and sugar cookies. I think if you were to pick our least favorite things to eat, macarons and sugar cookies would top the list. But these are the things that appear to bring a profit. And are the things that we can easily store, easily deliver, and easily manage the details of. If we were a STORE, things would be different. But we are not a store. We can't even concentrate on this endeavor full time. Today I picked up a Seattle Magazine and read about a few different food people selling ice cream and other things - they're doing it in a shared kitchen downtown, they have pop up shops, they have dreams for a permanent location. That was me for about 4 months. But Katie moving and the reality of We Both Have Small Children have really put the brakes on Ambition. 

That said, neither of us want to QUIT and we want to do something that MAKES SENSE. Streamlining down to macarons and sugar cookies makes sense because if we just do those things, getting approved for a home baking license will not be quite as hellish as our attempt last year. SO WE HOPE. The bureaucrats of the State of Washington could still be bored and sadistic and make our application process dreadful. But getting Katie's kitchen approved is the thing that makes the most SENSE. Paying for a kitchen that is too HARD for us to use, plus insurance, is expensive and annoying. So we're going to start that process and, in the meantime, ask our old kitchen if we can go back for a weekend this summer so we can sell stuff at the street fair in August. We're still not totally legal, as our license is about to expire, but WE ARE DOING OUR BEST (@$#*$)!(#%&!!!

I do not want to be a Quitter and you all know that Failure is basically the worst thing that can ever happen to me, but DUDES. Getting a food business going is... I mean, we finally have customers. We occasionally have to turn things down, even. I do enjoy putting money in the bank account. It is FUN to do something new and grow something from nothing. I love doing this with my sister. But everything else is SUCH A FREAKING SLOG OMG. 

Okay I'm going to read my fever baby some stories and put her to bed and reconsider that chocolate ice cream bar. 

 


A few thoughts on Pants, Fit Of and the chances of losing children in the London underground

The FPC is here because we have a wedding cake tasting tonight and another tomorrow night and there are a lot of little cakes and bowls of fillings on all of the surfaces. And between this (passionfruit curd!) and the crazy meds and running errands instead of going to the gym, oh and also PLAIN TIRED, there is a lot of angsty sighing when it comes to choosing a pair of pants to wear each day. Oh, pants. PANTS. Or should I say "pants". What's really working for me these days is a nice sack on top and something soft and stretchy on the bottom. Like... pajamas.

But then this morning I saw a tall, slender, elegant looking lady in the Target underwear section, holding up a piece of shapewear and eyeing it critically. And I thought, Well. There's no hope for ANY of us, is there. 

I have probably never been in a more confident state of mind, happier with who I am and who my people are, how things are with my family, really, and my PANTS. MY PANTS have the power to take all of that confidence and happy-with-self-ness and make me want to crawl into a hole of shame and doubt. How does that even WORK? 

WHATEVER.

Katie has... (wait I have to ask, hang on...) Chocolate cake with a whipped ganache filling and chocolate sour cream frosting OHMAHGAWWWWWD. Cookies and cream filling. Passionfruit curd. Coconut frosting. Cream cheese frosting, raspberry filling, carrot cake, white cake, lemon cake... YOU WISH YOU WERE HERE DON'T YOU. EFF THE PANTS.

Europe is only going to exacerbate the pants problem, but I'm finally in the place where I can't wait to go. I need a VACATION. Right now it's a big spin of what we need to buy and what to pack and all that, but it will be SO NICE to get away from the stupid calendar for a bit. No bakery deliveries or pick ups to worry about, no back and forth to school, no homework, no piano practice, no who's working late or who has a dinnertime meeting... We've been go go go since the end of March and NOT going sounds SO NICE right now. So nice. (Except for the part where I GO to Paris sans children. Yes.) 

Thanks for the Matilda recommendation - I am totally buying those tickets ahead of time. HAVE MY HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS, WEST END! I AM COMING FOR YOU!

Oh, and Phillip told his parents the other day that if we were going to Syria, say, their level of panic over theft of both money and children would be appropriate, but since we are NOT, maybe they could dial it back a bit. Because they are wonderful wonderful people, his dad just sighed and smiled sheepishly. I shall still mentally prepare to ask my in-laws to allow my children to run free at London playgrounds and for regular anxiety attacks (THEIRS) whilst managing the kids in the underground. 

(I told my FIL this story about my brother getting "lost" in St. Mark's Square - he lost US (too busy feeding pigeons), but my dad had an eye on him and watched him feed pigeons while throwing up his head every few minutes or so to shout, "MOM!" Basically letting him get good and nervous until my dad "found" him. But my FIL did not think this was funny AT ALL. "You need to get LEASHES!")

Excuse me, I believe my tasting services are needed (PASSIONFRUIT CURD).

 

 


In which maybe the bakery doesn't have to define itself. (YET)

So I've been thinking. Maybe it's okay that the bakery doesn't have a big huge VISION or GOAL attached to it. Maybe it doesn't need that. Maybe *I* don't need that. MAAAAAAYBEEEEE?

We have done absolutely NOTHING to promote the business since Christmas. ZERO. We had a lot of business in February, next to nothing in March, and now... I have two wedding tastings on the calendar, possibly a third, a baby shower, a possible bridal shower, and over the last few weeks random birthday cake and custom sugar cookie orders. Not a ton of work, but it seems like a lot of interest for a baby business with no storefront and no marketing. 

Also, order by order, we are somehow managing to shlep the goods from where Katie bakes to where people are celebrating. 

I very much like to have PLANS and ORGANIZATION and VISION. Katie has always been pretty cool with just doing what we're doing and seeing where everything goes. I'm the one who's all NO WE HAVE TO SHOOT FOR THIS MOON AND THEN THAT ONE. Which is not bad! I think baby businesses need someone with big and near-impossible ideas! 

But maybe it's okay that we don't have that right NOW. Maybe?

I was feeling like I couldn't go on unless there was a new vision for Thumbprints, meaning a new idea or an adjustment to the previous idea to be profitable. With Katie moving away, the previous plan for getting profitable seems TOO impossible. If I scratch that, what do I have? Does this even make sense anymore? Do I still want to work on it? 

The last few days - seriously, just the last day or two - I'm starting to feel like it could be fine. It's not as if we had a business plan when we started, or even as recent as Christmastime, and we still improved and got more business and learned stuff. It was fun. And I was never about the business plan until one actually occurred to me. Would it be so hard to go back? Is it ACCEPTABLE to go back? 

I am just now getting pretty involved in a new church thing. I wonder if that's what's making me feel okay about Thumbprints not doing everything it possibly can to take over the world. I have something else to dream about? Maybe. 

But also I'm just responding to these orders for baby and bridal showers and dudes, it's fun to talk to people about cake. Everyone reaching out to me is having a party. I love parties. It's fun to be part of their parties, you know? It's fun to discuss how many macarons a group of ladies will want (never as many as I think they should want) and whether chocolate cake is better than light fruity cake (ALWAYS, THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS).

I don't know. I just thought I should mark the day when I stopped feeling Despairing. Maybe I don't have to despair. Maybe we just keep on keeping on. Maybe one day a new idea will pop up. Maybe everything is okay. Maybe Thumbprints can just keep being our little baby business where we're only doing as much as we want to do, and only when we want to do it. 


A not particularly informative Thumbprints update.

The big news around here, if you didn't catch my moping on Twitter, is that my sister Katie, aka The Other Half of Thumbprints, moved away this weekend. And like my brother-in-law said, "GEEZ you guys, it's only an hour away!" So yeah. IT'S AN HOUR AWAY. This has major implications for Thumbprints, of course, and then there's the fact that my sister MOVED AWAY and the only word I have for that feeling is BEREFT. I can't even write about it; my eyes are welling up. 

There's a lot to write and process, but I won't do that here until I've fully done it with Katie. The short answer to the "what are we doing" question is: For now, we're keeping on keeping on. (Today I booked a baby shower in a fancy Microsoft millionaire neighborhood and why yes I WILL drop my business cards over the sides of all those private gates.) The long answer starts with: I have no idea.

So it's good news the catering company canceled/postponed the event where we were supposed to give a little presentation to other catering managers and hand out giant boxes of samples. I've been looking forward to this since about February. Getting on a few more corporate menus was going to be the way we DO this thing. If there hadn't been the uncertainty about Katie moving, I might have been trying to do this on our own - I had a few contacts and I was going to suck it up and introduce ourselves and drop off cookies and see where it went. But I'm not sure how we INCREASE what we're doing when we've also increased the hard stuff about our business...

We would have done the presentation anyway (and it was going to be the Tuesday after the Blathering, omg), but (and I believe I've mentioned this before) Food People are lacking the spiritual gift of Administration. Turns out none of the other catering groups had their spring menus done and no one was ready for the spring tasting event. I have no idea if it's just postponed a week or they'll wait until the next one (they do it seasonally)... who knows. But it takes something off our plate, both for the business and me personally. I'd told EBJ it was fine if she wanted to stay Sunday night, but I'd have to put her to work on Monday.

When I dropped off our kitchen rent for March, I told the coffee shop owner we wouldn't be using her space anymore. It was terrible. I mean, SHE is lovely and she gave me a great big hug and said encouraging things and wants us to keep in touch. But MAN. Wait. I said I wouldn't process here. Yet. I'll do that later. My eyes are welling up again. 

In the meantime, I'm BUSY. We hosted Easter and I've got something going on every day until the Blathering, and then most days after that until we leave on our trip in mid-May. Jack has his first communion coming up AND his 8th birthday. We're doing art class and I've just quasi-joined a new churchy volunteer thing which means a few nights and weekends out. We also started contacting contractors, but I think I'm going to tell Phillip he needs to manage that. I have too much with the trip right now. And Thumbprints. I'm mixing up my contractor emails with potential new kitchen emails... 

Also I'm not feeling well. I'm feeling like I sometimes do at a certain time of month, except it's so not that time, and IS MY BODY TRYING TO TELL ME SOMETHING. Possibly that it needs cake and a nap. Or graham crackers spread with passionfruit curd while watching RHOBH with Katie OH WAIT. <teary face emoticon>


Thumbprints v2.0

Or maybe 3.0 or 4.0 - remember when it was going to be a mom and baby-friendly coffee shop?! HA HA HA WHAT WAS I THINKING (Answer: CLEARLY NOT THINKING!)

We learned a lot during December, aka Macaron Madness Month. 

We both thought December was going to be this huge month for us, and I spent a ton of time setting up that stupid online store to make it easier for people (therefore making them more INCLINED) to order from us. We thought a lot about our holiday menu and what we thought people would want and how we would accomodate all our holiday cookie orders. I was very worried about managing local deliveries and mailing cookie packages on time, etc. And then... no one ordered anything. Oh, we had one or two large assorted cookie orders for a holiday party and an engagement party, but otherwise it was a cake and a few custom sugar cookie favors and that's it. I was a tiny bit embarrassed, wondered what we did wrong, felt stupid. 

When I had TIME to feel and wonder those things, that is, because OH MY GOD THE MACARONS. 

You see, thank goodness we didn't have anyone ordering anything else because for about four weeks straight, Katie was making macarons. Like, 8 hours a day. Longer. MACARONS MACARONS MACARONS. I dropped my kids at school, drove to Katie's place, picked up Temperamental Niece, and kept her until her dad picked her up in the evening. Because macarons. 

We had a very well placed connection at the company that manages the catering for a little local biz that goes by AMZN on the stock exchange. Whatever we were making, we'd send the leftovers with him to work and one day his boss wanted to know if we'd come up with some macaron flavors for their holiday menu. We chose gingerbread (gingerbread shells, vanilla buttercream filling), candy cane (red shells, peppermint buttercream filling, rolled in crushed candy cane), and clementine (orange shells, orange cream filling). Those flavors made it on the menu plus "assorted holiday cookies" which mean decorated sugar cookies. And orders started rolling in. Orders for HUUUGE numbers of cookies. And it wasn't that we didn't really anticipate huge numbers, we just hadn't ever DONE it, you know? And it was kind of nuts. SUPER nuts. 

That said, we made a [relative] buttload of money.  

It was good to take a few weeks post-Christmas to ignore the bakery and settle down and think. When we finally did the December bakery post-mortem, a few things stood out at us. 

  1. Whoa, we were way profitable in December. Way WAY profitable. 
  2. We totally want to keep this gig going.
  3. Whoa, we canNOT do that again. At least, not the way we DID it. 

And this is where I hear my dad saying, "Think about how much you're learning!" Because what we want to do next is not something I even knew existed last year when I was running around trying to get permitted and licensed. 

We're gonna get rid of most of what our website says we do. On one hand this is sad. We love taking orders from all kinds of people with all kinds of celebrations! I, personally, LOVE when an internet friend orders a box of cookies for another internet friend. We love thinking up cakes and cookies and new treats and I love thinking about ways to package them and I REALLY love thinking about branding and image and ways to get ourselves known to our local customer base. On the other hand, THAT DOES NOT MAKE US ANY MONEY. 

We haven't really LOST money on anything we've done, but those subscription boxes? For most of the boxes we do, at least a third of what we charge per month goes to postage. A THIRD. And those are a lot of work. Like SO MUCH WORK. And while starting that service drummed up a lot of capital in the summer, it's no longer worth it. (Obvs we will keep our current subscriptions! We just aren't taking more.)

I think all these assorted cookie boxes that we wanted to do make sense for a bakery that is baking those things ANYWAY. A lot of our ideas I think would work in a real bakery. And I did spend some time in the last few weeks thinking over a physical location. But our kitchen landlady was all, "Are you crazy? If you can find a way to earn money without paying RENT or getting a LOAN..." and I was all, "You are right, what am I thinking, time to LET GO." 

We probably wouldn't have changed anything, except the corporate caterers asked us, before December was over, if we wanted to be on their REGULAR menu.

HMMM.

Thumbprints v2.0 is gonna streamline, refocus, and get flexible. We will still do large sheet cakes, smaller and fancier celebration cakes, and treats for crowds (ie: dessert bars at weddings and custom treats at parties). We'll still make lots of cookies, but we'll now sell them by the dozen or two dozen, no more individual cookie boxes for sale. We are not a boutique doing wedding cakes. We are not a local bakery where you can drop in for a cookie platter to take to Grandma's. (Unfortunately.) We are not excited about shipping and ordering. What we've seen work for us is bulk orders, lots of them, with no frills. We are going after the caterers. Next week we're doing an open house where all the AMZN event planners can sample our stuff and find out what else we do. In two to three months, we'll do a presentation for other catering managers - this group manages catering for LOTS of local companies - and see if we can get on the menu at other locations. Macarons are trendy right now, people like ours, they're profitable, and we have some good ideas for how to do it smarter. (We HAVE to do it smarter.)

This is also something we can do, with some adjustments, if Katie moves out of Seattle, which is a definite possibility. 

This is ALSO also something that, if it gets off the ground, Katie can do with minimal involvement from ME. Because I'm still in the "hey, maybe I can help make something successful! And then I'll be bored and want to do something else!" mindset. 

We feel really good about this. We've worked hard AND we've been lucky. And shopping macarons around... well, for one thing, it's nice shopping a product that everyone LIKES, you know? Like no one is going to be annoyed with me for bringing free cookies to their office or whatever. But also, I keep learning that people aren't the hoity toity intimidating professionals I expect them all to be. They're just people getting along in a business and interested in newcomers, usually happy to talk or help someone out. I have yet to talk to one single person who thinks Thumbprints is lame. (Shallow, I know, but probably my biggest fear.) If anything, they're interested and know someone who knows someone. And sometimes those someones turn into real somethings. I've seen this happen SO many times this year. Just the other day a dad at school ASKED for my card because he knows the person who plans events at the Gates Foundation. WELL, GOSH, HERE YOU GO.

I feel like, as long as SOME part of my brain is tuned into smart businesslady thinking (ie: profit-oriented, not fun-and-cute-oriented) and as long as I don't get caught up in the EVERYONE IS SMARTER THAN MEEEEEEEE trap, I can get this done. As long as we make smart changes in how we operate, Katie can get this done. 

We turned a $1200 profit for 2014. I am incredibly freaking proud of that profit. We had some stellar months and some dismal months and some anxiety-ridden months and some mysteriously busy months and we learned SO much and we still have all the money we started with PLUS $1200and HOT DAMN I am proud of us. 

AAAAAND as I wrote that last sentence we got our first regular menu order. WOO!


A Highly Capable Person Takes Premature Stock Of December

Things At Which I Am Full On BOMBING, TERRIBLY

  • sending Christmas cards
  • feeding my family healthy food and at reasonable hours
  • observing Advent
  • preparing my second grader for his First Reconciliation which happens to be TOMORROW
  • keeping the house clean
  • keeping up with laundry
  • sticking to the budget 
  • remembering important things that are upcoming in my friends' lives, and thinking of ways to help
  • calling my mother
  • bakery paperwork like, oh, I don't know, maybe RENEWING MY BUSINESS LICENSE BEFORE DECEMBER 31
  • actually let's just call that previous bullet Running A Business In General

OH YOU GUYS. I'm in that weird place where I am AWARE that things are more intense and busy and crazier than usual and I'm aware that I COULD be doing poorly, but actually I think I'm FINE? But this is the problem for people like me - we think we're doing fine until the moment when BOOM: anxiety hits or there's a massive fight with a spouse or SOMETHING, and we realize HUH! Maybe we were not doing so fine after all!

Except... I think I AM fine? 

I have had Rosie, the Temperamental Niece with me every day for two weeks. I drop the kids off at school, I go to Katie's house, I pick up my niece, and she doesn't go home until dinnertime. This is so Katie can do the many many things she must do to fulfill our corporate caterer orders. While it IS harder to take TWO toddlers to the store or the mall or the coffee shop, we all get along pretty well (minus the Threenager when she's Threenaging) and I don't particularly feel like this is a hardship. Let's just say I'd MUCH rather hang out with Rosie than do what Katie is doing. BY FAR. 

But this major upset in routine has thrown the little girls for a loop. Their moms are TIRED. Their moms are trying to figure out if all this hard work is even worth it. Their dads are a tiny bit stressed by the stressed moms. So. Things might NOT be fine, even though I feel like I am getting along Just Fine. 

Things have suffered though. Even though I feel like I clean the kitchen three times a day, it's always a disaster by the time Phillip gets home. I let the kids decorate our [very tall] tree a few days ago and I still haven't got around to moving all the ornaments (you know what I mean). I am finished buying presents, but I need to wrap them all. I can't remember the last time I vacuumed. And I told the cleaning company not to come last week because I've had them scheduled at a bad day and time which is crazy stressful and I need to rethink, but in the meantime, my house continues to fester. I managed to sweep my entry way last night and felt like I had conquered THE WORLD. 

We ARE going to make money this month (even though we don't know if it's enough money to make this madness worthwhile). And I'm SO GLAD we decided to do our Christmas party this year anyway. I would be so bummed if we weren't and even though I haven't done a thing to get ready for it (NEXT WEEKEND) I am looking forward to seeing everyone. 

AND I AM NOT ANXIOUS. 

So let us now make a list of what I am Awesoming at:

  • Buying REALLY cute festive outfits for my daughters. I never do this. But I'm doing it now. IT'S FUN.
  • Playing with my new Lorac Pro 2 Palette
  • Making sure there is SOMETHING for everyone to eat
  • Keeping up with Twitter
  • Checking books out instead of instantly downloading them (I finally figured out my library app!)
  • Keeping up with Homeland
  • Boxing macarons
  • Keeping up with my bakery email
  • Wrangling a 2yo and 3yo through every store known to man
  • Chatting with school moms
  • ORDERING Christmas cards
  • THINKING about what I need to do for the Christmas party
  • Managing the schedules
  • Sitting at my desk shouting, "STOP ASKING QUESTIONS! STOP TALKING TO ME!" 

ONWARDS AND UPWARDS, INTERNET. WE SHALL OVERCOME. ONE THOUSAND MACARONS OR BUST.


December tastes like macarons

Things I Want To Write About, Maybe

  • the cancellation of Selfie
  • what it's like to go from silky smooth, fine, flat, healthy, dark brown hair to feels-like-straw, doesn't-require-hairspray-to-hold-a-curl, way damaged bleached blond hair
  • gaining weight
  • skincare routines, specifically my lack thereof
  • the dude who ordered a cake and then didn't respond to any of my follow up emails so he's not getting a cake tomorrow, sorry about that
  • signature cocktails for my Christmas party
  • planning my Europe trip and how Phillip wants to go to Paris but not to see ART or HISTORY but to see if he can catch a glimpse of Nadal at the French Open
  • relatedly: does anyone ELSE want to go to Paris with me
  • what to get Emma for Christmas
  • shoes. I want to look at shoes.
  • what to get PHILLIP for Christmas BIG FAT SIGH

And I would have written about any (all?) of these things today, but I was glued to my BAKERY EMAIL and also my BAKERY INVOICING PROGRAM and YAY? but also OMG THIS MONTH MIGHT GET US COMMITTED. And as someone who has actually for real considered COMMITTING HERSELF, this is NO JOKE.

Please note: we DO have people we can hire to help out! We just... don't want to pay anyone! I know. But when you aren't paying YOURSELVES it sort of kills to think that you're paying someone else with the money you MAYBE could have had left over for YOU. That said, if we keep getting orders for 100 decorated sugar cookies in one go, we will just HAVE to hire out. Because. I mean, FIVE decorated sugar cookies and I'm done. I have absolutely no idea how Katie is not rocking in a corner at this point (75 candy cane macs, 75 clementine macs, 75 gingerbread macs, and 80 decorated sugar cookies are headed to Big Local Company Holiday Gathering tomorrow AND THAT'S JUST THE FIRST CORPORATE CATERER ORDER ON THE CALENDAR.)

I am absolutely no help, if you are wondering. I am allowed to make three, maybe four, of our cookies. Everything else is a Katie job. And under absolutely no circumstances am I allowed anywhere NEAR anything that requires PIPING, HA HA HA. (Poor Katie.)

She doesn't know how to embed code for an online store, though. I AM USEFUL FOR SOME THINGS! (Don't tell Katie how stupid easy it is to embed code. SHHHH!)

HEY, WE HAVE AN ONLINE STORE!!!!

No seriously, soon I am going to write about the TRAVESTY that is the cancellation of Selfie ie: no more John Cho on my teevee, but now I'm going to bed. Gotta rest up for another day of Bakery Email! I CAN DO IT!

 

 


Reasons why Phillip will need therapy in January (SORRY PHILLIP)

The big fun thing that happened in the last few days was I SAW THE BAKERY NAME ON A WEBSITE THAT IS NOT ONE OF MINE. (Scroll to #7!) I only found this out from glancing at our stats and seeing a referral from the Seattle Magazine website. That was fun! I am absolutely certain that some staffers were told to compile links for an article and did a bunch of googling, but whatever, WE GOT MENTIONED. For a while now I've been noodling over doing some sort of press release, with pictures and Human Interest Angles (sisters! moms of toddlers!), but I keep balking. Part of it is the "what if no one cares!" fear, but most of it, I think, is that if we DO do that, then Thumbprints gets even MORE real and LESS of a hobby/side gig/experiment. 

Except, Thumbprints ceased to be an experiment the day the corporate caterer printed our three kinds of macarons (candy cane, gingerbread, clementine) and "assorted holiday cookies" on their menu. Since then we've received invoices for 9 orders (although I was given a heads up about two more tonight) and just those 9 orders total over 800 cookies. And this is BEFORE Thanksgiving - what happens AFTER Thanksgiving, when more people start thinking about their workplace holiday meetings and gatherings? Eeek. 

Oh, the other fun bakery thing is that I finally put up an online order system. THAT was a giant pain. But my own fault, as per usual. I spent weeks upon weeks creating graphics and writing copy for Storenvy, but when the Storenvy platform proved less than efficient for various reasons, I had to chuck it all and start over. I ended up using the Square Marketplace platform (we already use Square to take credit cards in person) because Lisa (@pixelatedmama, God bless her) sent me a link with directions for embedding a store "menu" into your OWN WEBSITE. Which is IDEAL, yes?! I honestly thought I could only do something like that if I bought a shopping cart dealie and paid someone much smarter than me to code it all up. 

Sorry to anyone bored to tears over this stuff, but it's really all I do anymore. That and freak out about how I don't know anything about accounting. (Neighbor Ursula, who also finds herself in the throes of small business woe, has given me contact info for A Lady Who Comes To Your House And Sets Up Your QuickBooks For You and guess what I am doing as soon as the Christmas rush is over.) 

SPEAKING OF URSULA. Okay. So (giant subject change here) I recently created massive Family Upheaval by telling my folks we (as in me, Phillip, and our kids) were going to do our own Christmas this year. HORRIBLE! My family celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve, which is the proper way of doing things. We get together in the late afternoon and then it's snacky food and prosecco and presents and Christmas carols and loudness until everyone drags themselves to bed. Then on Christmas Day we (me, Phillip, and the kids) wake up, open our own family presents, go to church, come home, and host a brunch for Phillip's [much smaller] side of the family. Because my parents live about 50 minutes away, it's kind of a Thing to get down there and back on Christmas Eve, and then do all the Christmas Day stuff. It also means we can't go to the Christmas Eve Mass at our church (which is BETTER than going to Mass on Christmas Day IT JUST IS) and last year it meant my kids couldn't be in the Christmas pageant. Which was VERY SAD [for me] and I just felt like it was Time, you know? Time to start doing our own thing in our own house. 

However! Because my family is awesome and we WANT to have our Christmas Eve party with the 14 grandchildren together all at once, my parents and siblings generously decided we could do our big family Christmas on the 23rd and everyone could have their own family Christmas (or go to my parents' house, whatever floats their boats) on the 24th. I was very much looking forward to Christmas at my parents' house on the 23rd, doing the Christmas pageant and Mass on the 24th and coming home to open our own family presents and start our own Christmas Eve snacky traditions, and then put on the Cheung family brunch the next day, without rushing around. YAY!

Then Ursula came over and I was asking her when the Christmas pageant is this year (she goes to my church) and she was all, "There is no Christmas pageant." 

HA HA HA

Also, it turns out there wasn't a pageant last year either! It was just a children's CHOIR! But the guy who usually puts that on has a different job this year and no one has stepped up to take over and NOTHING IS HAPPENING. AND I CHANGED MY WHOLE FAMILY'S CHRISTMAS PLANS FOR NOTHING! 

And then Ursula said, "WE should do it!" And I said, "Yeah!" And that is how I find myself 1) up to my ears in macarons and sugar cookies, running a brand new business during its craziest time of year AND 2) hosting a Christmas party AND 3) creating a Christmas pageant from scratch at my church, where I don't know anyone. This is either going to be the most awesome December on record, or my husband is going to leave me by December 26th. Shall we take bets? 

Other things I need to do: 

Christmas cards? I didn't do these last year. I hate that. I need to do them this year.

Buy Christmas presents for P's side of the family. (My side? DONE. I am TAKING NAMES, people.)

Decorate. (We're doing this tomorrow.)

I almost never do Christmas stuff before Thanksgiving (besides send out our party invites), but this year? I mean, Katie's been warning me since JULY that I should get my other stuff done so the baking doesn't kill me. I started buying presents in October. And we're decorating tomorrow (sans the tree) because we'll be at my parents' house for Thanksgiving and then spending the rest of the weekend in Canada with Phillip's family. When we get home it will be SO NICE to have all our Christmas stuff up! I'm excited. I'll also be able to make a Stuff I Need For The Party list nice and early. 

As for Thanksgiving.... MEH. I was going to make something NEW to bring to my family Thanksgiving this year, but of course I had no ideas and then my mom called this morning and asked me to be in charge of the wine. THAT I CAN DO. I feel bad that Thanksgiving is just a bump in the road to Christmas [FOR ME], but whatever, one has one's favorite holidays, yes? 

OKAY I HAVE TO GO NOW. THINGS TO DOOOOOOO


Macarons and fat pants

Got an email today that made me panic for a second. It contained this sentence:

You must complete the permit process prior to operating a cottage food operation. 

But then I saw that it was addressed to a "Michael McKinsey" and it was from a guy purporting to be from the Fresno County Department of Public Health. So. I'm guessing it's kind of spammy? But still? Weird? There was an attachment that obvs I am not clicking on, but now I'm like even the spammers now how to give me anxiety attacks. Of course I am all ready to hit back with, "THIS IS WHY WE RENT SPACE IN A LICENSED KITCHEN, [INSERT FAMILY UNFRIENDLY TERM]", but I think I'll just ignore for now. Or furiously google the guy who supposedly sent it. 

It did make me remember the cottage food process we DID undergo and how I was going to write a Sternly Worded Letter to send to allll my representatives.... yeah. I AM still frustrated and irritated and a tiny bit super angry defensive about that, but I don't have TIME to take that on. I AM VERY BUSY BLOGGING OKAY? And other things. 

Tonight the "other things" began to take on a distinctively egg whitey glow... MACARONS. So Katie's husband is a manager for a catering company with a big time corporate client. And because 1) we have a connection and 2) Katie makes awesome treats, we ended up on the official Holiday Menu that all the corporate clients (who pay for things with corporate credit cards, ahem) see when they are choosing their Holiday Soirees. Or Holiday-Themed Meetings. Or what-have-you. Although it was kind of a bumpy start (FOOD BUSINESS PEOPLE. ALL NUTJOBS.) (DOES THIS NOW INCLUDE ME?) we already have 6 orders for December. Kind of a big deal for a teeny tiny upstart baking company who celebrates 6 orders in a month. Except, it's only mid-November. And these are for a Major Local Corporate Behemoth. And now we are freaked out about HOW ARE WE GOING TO MAKE ALL THE MACARONS OMGGGGGG. 

(Do you like how I always say "we"? Like I have ANYTHING to do with making macarons? I WILL, for your information, be making a bunch of things for the "assorted cookie platters" which are also on the official menu, but macarons? HA HA HA NO.)

On the other hand! WE MIGHT MAKE MONEY IN DECEMBER! THAT WOULD BE SO NOVEL! (No really, that would be... amazing.) 

The only thing I don't like about this deal is that they aren't advertised as THUMBPRINTS macarons/assorted cookie platters, we're just contracted through BIL's Catering Company and so no single person is going to look us up later and order her own macarons. But whatever. I'm not COMPLAINING or anything. 

I've also finished all the listings for our online store AND figured out the shipping questions. I'm not sure I answered those questions WELL, but I did my best, and we will see how it goes. IF anyone buys anything through our online store. Which I haven't put up yet. Because Katie still has to go through it and say things like, "Um, no, I'm not doing that." But soon! (I hope. All I really feel like doing is sleeping. But. Sigh.)

The sleeping? I am just going to hope that this is because I have not been religiously taking my iron pills. Back in August when my mental health had gone seriously south and I was Distraught and Desperate and DONE, when I started the new SSRI I stopped taking all the [expensive] [gigantic] vitamins and supplements my naturopath had me taking. I mean, they obviously weren't HELPING, right? And no medical insurance was paying for THOSE pills [lots and lots and lots of them] so I just stopped. I WAS ANGRY, OKAY? But I also stopped taking the iron (I wasn't in the best head space, you understand) and now I'm wondering if the iron actually WAS helping me or I'm in an especially tired place right now or WHAT IS WRONG JEEZ. I wake up exhausted. I spend my whole day wondering when I can sit down and conk out for a minute. And Sunday morning at the retreat I went to last weekend I woke up with this super weird back pain thing and now I'm Fatigued AND Falling Apart. IT'S TERRIBLE. 

And it's just making me aware (as opposed to deliberately choosing NOT to be aware) of how poorly I am treating my body these days. After not eating + nervous tummy during the Worst Week Ever (August 2014), I'd 1) lost quite a bit of weight (silver lining!) and then 2) began to SERIOUSLY make up for it. I mean, after that I was all, "You eat whatevvvvver you want, Body. You just do what feels good." And I did! I don't think I was eating my feelings so much as eating was something I COULD enjoy. So I was gonna ENJOY IT. Bring on the Nutella! 

But now... hrrmmm. My fat pants are too tight. You see? And while I am in a much better headspace this year re: How I Look, I have enough sense to know that I am not taking care of myself. I am not eating ANYTHING that's good for me. I am not getting outside. I am not getting any exercise. I am sleeping terribly. And even though I KNOW that the longer I keep up this "lifestyle", the harder it is to change, I'm finding it hard to care. My anxiety stuff is not totally figured out. My work/parenting balance is not at all figured out. I sort of feel like... well not that I'm doing the best I can, but that any sort of check on what I eat or how much I move is alREADY setting myself up for failure. You all know how much I love to fail!

When I mentioned how much I despair over pants, a good friend said, "I don't feel like you should be worrying about that right now." Which is so nice! But the rest of the world says, "If you don't start NOW, you never will!" I feel like the rest of the world is right, and also totally has me nailed. I'm waving at them while I eat another leftover toffee bar from the subscription boxes we sent this weekend. HEY THERE, WORLD!