Sunday, July 23, 2006

Magnolia blossom

Magnolia blossom
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
I'm taking the next two weeks off! We're on vacation.

We've delivered all the cakes, sold all the sweets, and closed up shop for a hard earned break. Two weeks on the road visiting friends and family!

Check Cooper Chronicles for updates.

Thanks for reading!

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The best news today

Today began with little excitement. My oldest daughter had been to the emergency room Sunday, checked out and sent home. She then went to the doctor yesterday with the same ailment and scheduled for surgery this morning. I was waiting for the call from her sister, who would be there with her, to call and report how things had gone.

Instead, an hour and a half past the time I expected to hear something, anything, the phone rang. Interestingly enough it was my eldest daughter on the other end of the line. Surprised I asked why she was calling? Did the surgery go so well that you're out of recovery and feeling wonderful? Her response: "Well, they didn't do the surgery." I was confused to say the least. I asked why? and then came the response never expected:

Mom, they didn't do the surgery for a good reason. I'm pregnant! Well, needless to say there were cheers heard round the world. This daughter, and her husband, could have been knocked over with a feather. You see, they were told last year, they would most likely never have children.

A miracle has taken place. We are all so excited. Except, of course, the soon to be parents. They are quite confused and will need a bit of time to adjust. Not that they aren't happy. Just very, very, surprised.

So I will add, evidently, the baker's daughter has a bun in the oven!

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Another great cake

wedding cake drama.JPG
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
This was the best cake of the weekend. S'mee came down to do this one. We had others to do and this cake was to resemble the bride's dress. So S'mee to the rescue!

I love the blue ribbon. Perfect color. The detail is amazing and matched the lace on the gown perfectly.

amazing detail.JPG

The cake was all one flavor. Our Pralines and Cream cake. It has become the most popular cake we make for weddings. We even had another baker in the area insist we give our recipe to her. Heh. Not happening!

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Can we get a little dirt over here?

Moving rocks.JPG
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
This week was a slow week at the bakery. It has been so hot that no one is thinking sweets. We've sold sweets all week but not the usual volume of cakes and cookies and brownies etc.

So we took some time with a few cakes and really did them well. This cake was a collaborative effort. We all had a say in how the trucks and signes would be used. You see the cake was to be done by the owner. She is very prim and proper and everything has a place and should not be deviated from the plan. Her cake started out very simple and not very "full". S'mee was visiting and as always she gave me the courage to speak up to effect changes.

So in came the rock, the dump truck bed filled with "sand" and the fondant rock filled truck. It really became a little boys dream cake:


Bob oh boy.JPG

You should see the wedding cake S'mee did! I'll post it in a bit.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What was the cost of that?

I actually went to the grocery store the other day. We were planning a dinner with a group and had to get some basics, so off to my least favorite grocer in town because they are the only ones here. Stater Bros. The have been a huge gripe with me forever.I worked for the competition for ten years and grew to loathe the thought of bix box stores. I would rather trade at local farmer's markets and the neighborhood meat market that I've traded at for years. But on occasion you just have to go to Stater's.

My big gripe with them is the loss of customer service. They have been so bent on getting us the cheapest prices it didn't matter to them that they didn't offer a broad range of items. I remember one time asking if they could order a special product for me. Special "because I liked it, and possibly others would too" and not "special because it comes in a pretty jar and only I would ever think of using this stuff". The response was swift and sure: We'll order it but you'll have to buy the whole case. We wouldn't think of offering it to other customers. Ugh!

Then there's the other LARGE, and I mean LARGE gripe. The clerks completely ignoring you in the checkout lane while they talk to each other. This is such a common practice at Stater's you begin to wonder if you're invisible. It makes me crazy. Now they have begin allowing the baggers to say thank you for your business. The clerk can't even be bothered with that simple statement. Bigger Ugh.

Those little gripes out of the way...

I ran into a friend. A friend I have know forever. It was good to see him. His dad farmed in this small community many years ago. Had acres and acres of apricot trees. My friend learned to farm and drive a tractor and a backhoe. He's been a laborer all his life. His hard earned money is spent very carefully. He noticed I had a watermelon in the cart and began to complain to me that "he had given up on their (Stater's) produce years ago. Can't get a decent melon from them. I bought two last year and they were both horrible." The nbegan his gripe session: "You know, I've been to Walmart and shopped. I can't believe how these guys have ripped us off all these years. Once the new Walmart opens, I'm never trading with Stater's again". He is a worker bee, I could see that he felt his hard earned dollar had been taken advantage of by the store. We said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.

Then I began to think. Have they been ripping us off all those years? They somehow managed to drive every other store in town out of business because no one else could compete with their pricing. So they must have been low. So just how did we get ripped off? I haven't shopped at Walmart for quite a while. I don't like their attitude on customer service even more than Stater's so I avoid going there. So I decided to take a walk through the Wally-world to check prices.

Oh yes. The prices are quite a bit lower. Wow. On some items, a whole lot lower. But then you look at the produce counter. Yuck. The produce is just awful. 2nd tier at the very best. So at what cost did Stater's rip us off?

Well here are a few I could think of just off the top of my head:

1. They are a union shop. All of their employees have to be a member of the union. While I am not a lover of the union, I can throw stones because I have a union withdrawl card in a drawer somewhere with my name on it.

2. Stater's sign's a "sweetheart deal" with the unions. That means that when a contract is up for renewal, the employees of Stater's don't need to worry about a strike vote. They won't walk out. Stater's has signed the agreement to adhere to the new contract without argument and so their people don't walk. They keep on working without suffering through the trauma of strikes (like I did with my company). I can see how this has ripped off the community.

3. Their employees who work more than 20 hours a week have had medical benefits. Yes, this is a diminshing benefit, but it is still in existence, and thier employees are better families because the benefit is there for them. Back in the late 70s and early 80s I had three children by C-section for three dollars a piece. This must be another one of those rip-offs my friend was talking about.

4. Everyone one of their employees participates in a retirement plan. Wow. That is almost a thin gof the past. I even have a small retirement coming from my former grocer (it actually comes from the union I'm sure). Retirement benefits certainly rip off a community.

5. Their employees are paid a living wage. When I was working my part time job for the grocer I worked for, I earned as much in 20 hours that my friends earned in forty. It allowed me to work and be with my family more than the average american working mom. That must be part of the rip-off program desigend by the stores too.

I think you are getting my drift. I hope you are. While our local stores may infuriate us because of their lack of customer service (which I do not condone EVER), and the fact that thier prices are higher, I am not sure we could honestly say that they have ripped us off.

Walmart does not pay a living wage. Walmart does not pay medical benefits for most of their employees or they are just to costly to participate in for them. I don't know anything about their retirement plans. I do know they have a stock option plan for certain employees. It could be for all employees, possibly. However, if you don't earn a living wage how can you inest even 2% of your salary every month? And have you ever wondered why you can't find a clerk when you need a question answered? They don't hire enough people. Thier employees are stretched to the limit.

So the next time you think your local grocer has ripped you off for years and years look around in the store at the employees. Their making ends meet, more or less. They have health benefits and they have a small retirement building for them. I don't mind paying a little extra to help a member of my community have a better life.

Oh and just for the record, the watermelon was awful! My friend was right about that!

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Tiny Pineapple cupcakes

Pineapple cupcakes
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
Here you go Grettir!

The finished product all boxed and ready to be delivered this afternoon. The cupcakes are coconut cakes and they are iced with pineapple buttercream. I could smell the pineapple as I was prepping them this afternoon. Oh I wished I could grab one and scarf it down!

They also accompany the palm tree lemon cupcakes, pictured below:
Palm tree cupcakes

They're lemon cakes with lemon buttercream. What a great party! I wish I was invited. But alas I don't even know the birthday boy. Happy birthday big guy.

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Tiny Pineapples

Tiny Pineapples
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
I have had a request for some custom cupcakes this week. The customer asked if we could put pineapples and palm trees on the cupcakes. I told her we probably could do something to that effect. So yesterday I spent a few minutes cutting out tiny pineapples.

I also posted this photo for a blogger I enjoy reading. This one's for you Grettir! He has made me smile and laugh and cry from his gentle words and wit. His site has been bookmarked by me for a couple of years now. Go visit.

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

I am off to learn again!

A few years ago I stumbled upon a very interesting set of classes. You see, we had started a chocolate dipping program at the plant I managed and I needed to learn to temper and dip chocolates quickly. So where did I turn? The internet. Oh, and Peter's Chocolate.

Dennis at Peter's was the guy. He came and showed me how to get the job done and what to watch for in temperature. It was mostly trial and error and sometimes all I got was a bunch of bloomed chocolate. Most of the time it turned out well and we had a new line to present to our customers. It was well received and we hired a young lady to dip full time.

However, I still remembered seeing a class offered at UC Davis. It was run by Richardson Research. I read all about it, checked the prices and showed my boss. He scoffed at the idea of paying for me to attend a series of three - week long - courses for about $6000. He didn't know what the plant would do with out me for the time to begin with, and then there was the 'we're not chocolate purveyors' problem. Even though we had a chocolate line, it didn't provide a very large income stream and he just could not see how it was all that important to the business. Rats! the classes looked like they would really have been good.

Then a few months ago I started thinking. You know that can be dangerous! Thinking about going to those classes. After much discussion and wieghing the classes against other chocolate programs out there, like the CIA's and an online do it yourself program, I've decided to take the classes. I've sent my deposit and got my confirmation and now all I have to do is wait for next April to roll around. I am taking the Gourmet Continental Chocolates class first. Then I will follow with the others.

I now can hardly wait for April 2007.

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Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
This was the big cake of the week. We had all kinds of other things going on and prepping for a short week next week. When on Thursday, a couple cam ein and asked if there was any way we could do a cake for Saturday. Of course, the answer is always for how many? They gave the right answer, 8 to 10.

You see a cake for 8 to 10 is simple. I already had four half sheets and two fourteens for that day. The half sheets we all for weddings and they had to be smooth smooth smooth. So I would only do a cake in a hurry if it was for a small cake.

We decided on a flavor and filling and then asked if it was possible to do a monster turck. No can do, we don't have a moster truck on hand. However, we did happen to have a cars theme thingy and did they want that instead? Yes! So I quickly got it figured out and decided to go with the checkered flag theme. It turn out pretty good if I do say so myself.

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