well, not "mine," i suppose. just until mid-june. regardless, i've still got a bit of a city-mouse-in-the-country thing going on, and i'm in total awe of my surroundings; i don't get as much time to enjoy them as i'd like, but i get one blessed day off a week, and i spent my late afternoon yesterday wandering around my neighborhood with my camera and a gin and tonic.
and, not to welcome the comparison, but i thought i'd include an outfit photo, for old time's sake. my day-to-day garb has taken a decidedly utilitarian turn, what with the doing-nothing-but-working and all; still, i try to have as much fun with it as i can.
i feel like an apology is at the same time necessary, long overdue, and implied in this post; i haven't established the best record as a steady-updater, but this last hiatus is by far my longest. what can i say? i moved and started a business. it isn't that i haven't had any free time, but that the precious little i've had is usually between the hours of nine and eleven pm, and i've been spending it watching friends re-runs and eating an entire bag of homestyle popcorn. i've been hiding from this blog, i suppose. i've excused myself because it's true that i am working pretty much all the time, and that the time i do spend at home on my computer is also time i'm exhausted. it's also partly, though, that starting a business is incredibly difficult, and draining, and i've been really pleased that it's brought out the best of me - my good work ethic, my skills as a baker, my patience as a teacher - but also the worst parts of myself, that were easier to hide and forget about working for someone else - stubbornness, crankiness, and a healthy dose of knowing-it-all (at least when it comes to pastries.)
so, i haven't written. i think it's a common problem for many bloggers, and certainly one for myself - i highlight the good and push the not-so-good stuff into the shadows. it's not that i'm being dishonest - putting something on the internet feels so public and permanent to me, and i don't want to use this space to complain, or document my shortcomings or arguments - this is a place where everything can be great. and while life is undoubtably great - i love what we're doing up here, i love where we're living and i love spending my days with my husband - not everything is sunshine and daisies. we're in a part of the country that is considered a "vacation destination" - that means winters are slooow. we moved up here, knowing no one - that means making friends has taken longer than i'm used to. and we are young and have limited funds - that means i can't have everything just the way i want it.
taking over an already-existing business is hard. i mean, i'm sure opening a brand-new business is just as hard, if not harder; it's part of the reason we bought one someone already did the hard work of, you know, making. but the other side of just-take-the-keys-it's-yours, start-making-money-the-first-day! is that you have a lot of customers who have expectations, and those expectations are what they've been getting for the last eight years - not what you want to do. when we took over the bakery, i hated the look of it; chipping white walls, dirty linoleum floors, faux-americana splattered across the walls. when we took it over, i thought to myself, "i'll just take all this down, paint the place, do some embroidery for this wall, get some cool vintage maps over here - quick fix." it's easy to have ideas - what you don't realize, before you move and start doing the work, is just how much work there is. there's no time to paint a bakery (and it takes a lot of time, skill and at least a little money to paint a 2500 square foot bakery) when you are trying to completely revamp the pastry, breakfast and lunch menus. when we took over, every thing in the pastry case was pre-made, one way or another - completely frozen, baked off and put on a melamine tray into a case that looked like it belonged in a cafeteria. now i'm making everything from scratch (with the help of a fantastic assistant i couldn't survive without) from the apple filling in the turnovers to the pate a choux for the eclairs. (okay, i don't make the bagels. which breaks my heart. i love bagels! but with a 5-foot cold case and 8-foot pastry case to fill every day, i just had to let the bagels go.)
i don't mean to say that before it was WRONG and now i'm doing it RIGHT. i have an immense amount of admiration and respect for the owners before us; what i've been fumbling through, trying to figure out for seven months, they ran smoothly for eight years. people loved the place before we ever showed up, and i owe them everything for that. but i had a very specific idea of what i wanted to do when we came here, and it's been a whole lot harder than i ever imagined it would, and it feels really, really good to start to get close.
we finally painted last week, and i've re-designed the pastry cases, re-written menus, and re-upholstered 40-something odd chairs with the help of my resourceful and determined friend ashlee. the menu is now written on a chalkboard wall; my collection of bundt pans graces another, and a friend built us a custom coffee nook to replace the giant plastic one that we inherited. to be honest, i didn't take many sweeping photos of the place before because i was a little embarrassed - it was just so far from what i wanted it to be. i regret that now, as i'm finally happy with the appearance and "after" photos are so much less dramatic without "before"s.
photos were taken after close on a sunday (today, in fact,) so the case isn't as robust and full as usual (nor is the restaurant, for that matter) and i have a fixed lens on my camera right now, which is unfortunate for interior shots, and now that i think about it, i'm not much of an interiors photographer, so used to shooting close-ups of food (or look-aways of outfits. . .) but i told myself it's time to stop making excuses and just write something. anything. it will make continuing to do so that much easier. in that spirit, i hope (but make no promises) to keep posting, sporadically, but not as rarely as this. there is so much to say, and show - i'm learning so much and making so much every day. life is challenging, exciting, and great. it is full of things that i love. and i consider myself very, very lucky for that.
greetings, from the land of falling leaves, open fields and free-range cows. as usual, this is a post long overdue, but this is a rare evening when i find myself home before bedtime, so i'll take my best stab at it.
before we moved up here, when i told people we'd bought a bakery and were leaving the city, a flattering number of people asked me if i'd keep up blogging. my answer was some variation of, "absolutely! probably more often!"
oh, young audrey. you were so innocent. so naive. that was when i thought working eleven hours and coming home to cook dinner was a long day. these days it's pretty much all i can do to get 8 hours of sleep between getting to work at 6 am and leaving at 8 or 9.
there's lots of good news. i'm so proud of the pastry case - when we came in, most everything was at least partially, if not entirely, pre-made. i've been able to switch over to not only making 'most everything entirely from scratch, but i've added a laundry list of things to the menu - jars of cookies line the top of the case, new flavors of french macarons sit beneath a glass cloche every day, and despite the ridiculous headache it's been, i make sourdough from scratch just about daily. we've even been able to start to make some changes to the café side of things - between sam and i, we've got two housemade soups on the menu every day, and have started testing out specials that we'll hopefully add to a new menu before long. somehow in there, we've started some little design changes - ball jars for glasses, taking down the awful curtains, hanging my collection of bundt pans. our plan is to give the place a final re-vamping in january or february - change the name, change the menu and do a few big face-lifty things like painting the walls and changing the display case.
there are hard days, too, of course. working 15+ hours a day can make anyone snippy, and i think sam and i have each said things to each other that we wish we hadn't; and as much as selling out of things is exhilarating, there is a moment some saturday afternoons when i take a look in the quickly-emptying pastry case and my heart sinks because i know i won't be going home for a loooong time. these are good problems. sam is a man of endless patience and quick apologies, and i truly think any squabbles we've had have only left us stronger; and of course, selling out of pastries is a very good problem for a bakery owner to have. we are so fortunate to have our place to come home to - the coziest of cottages, right on one of the most beautiful lakes in the northeast, warmed by a pellet stove and furnished with little but a giant bed and extremely comfy couch. even stepping outside every morning before light breaks, i'm treated to the most amazing view of the stars - i feel incredibly blessed to be here.
so - here we are. the tired cliché says that a picture is worth a thousand words, and this tired lady is hoping that's true - here are more than you could ask for, of the bakery, the food, and our little house.
this is the view standing at our driveway and looking across the street.
and the backyard. . .
. . . which has a bunny infestation.
and of course, the food.
all right - ttfn, and more from me as for as i can manage it. thanks so much to all of you for your kind words, here and elsewhere, and for sticking with me through all this!