Archive for the ‘Life in the ‘burbs’ Category
It was only a matter of time, but I finally decided to break apart Sweet Element posts and all other posts (knitting, recipes, kitty updates, etc.). All the original cake & chocolate posts will remain on this blog as well, but all future cake & chocolate related posts can be found at the Sweet Element blog.
So why did I start separating everything? This is one of the few first steps to really begin to focus on Sweet Element as an entity of it’s own and not just another jumbled thing that falls somewhere on my to-do list of a million other things. I know I’ve been kind of chicken-little in the number of times I’ve said that I’m closing the door on my corporate life and jumping into pastry, but the time is quickly coming! For real! I swear!
Am I crazy to leave a good job in the middle of uncertain economic times? Perhaps. Am I crazy to want to follow through on a goal/dream I set almost six years ago? No.
I kept adding on to the original goals I had wanted to acheive before I left corporate, and as of this July, I should have met all initial and added on goals. Basically, I wanted to be debt-free (except for our regular mortgage), and I wanted to have a substantial amount saved so we could self-finance my future bakery. As you might imagine, the ”amount saved” goal kept increasing and increasing the more research I did. I hope that I’ve picked a realistic amount!
I’ve decided that as a gift to myself for my 32nd birthday, I will set myself free. I have equal amounts of fear and relief about this gift every day.
Now the tricky part is finding a space that my future bakery can call home for the next five years. I’ve been finding that it’s near impossible to keep a job in the city and try to find a shop in the burbs while also trying to keep Sweet Element afloat and cranking out cake & chocolate. If only I could split out myself as easily I split out these two blogs!!! Of course, even though near impossible, I do have a space I am working on to see if it will be viable for a bakery. Unfortunately, on the current list of priorities, anything space-related falls to the bottom these days, since my day job, cake making and family related matters are eating up all the time I have.
On other notes … this past weekend, while procrastinating starting another cake due this Saturday, I finally finished a knitting project I started over a year ago. This particular project had a lot of sentimental meaning for me, because I started it while my beloved Jersey was still with us and every time I look at it, I’m reminded of her and how she was my knitting companion. The fact that the piece is jersey grey as she was, also pulls at my heart a little. I’ll post photos soon….
I hope to have more changes & updates to report soon. For now, I’m hoping that I can carve out a few moments a day to keep posting on both Whisking on Pens & Needles and Sweet Element blogs and keep everyone up to date with the ups and downs and roundabouts that jumping corporate ship into entrepreneurial waters brings!
I feel somewhat like a bear coming out of hibernation – it’s been a small eternity since I’ve posted anything! Between keeping the peace amongst the felines, madness at the office, stepping towards opening up a retail outlet and all the other things that make up this life of mine spattered in between, I haven’t had much time to sit down and collect my thoughts.
So let’s see … on the feline front, I am failing miserably. Bella is still terrified to leave her 2nd floor “apartment” for fear of running into Jasper, who still attacks her whenever he’s given the chance. We’ve brought her down to our bedroom a few nights here and there, and although she acclimates quickly, if we leave the bedroom door open, she freaks and rushes to hide under the bed. I can understand the fear – her 7 lbs vs. his 23 lbs … plus his complete ferociousness with bared teeth and even puffier self make one scary package.
On the other hand, Bella seems to be completely at ease with Jameson. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he’s shown his darker side to her as well, but she feels comfortable defending herself, which we have strongly encouraged. I’m guessing since Jameson’s only about 2 lbs heavier than her, she feels like she can hold her own. Most of the time though, she and Jameson can be happily co-existing in the same room without any issue whatsoever.
I’ve questioned whether or not adding our new lil’ girl into our family was a good idea many times since last November, and every time I am in doubt and she is in the room, she crawls right up on my chest and kisses me on the face. I think she’s ok with her two room palace at the moment, even though I’d like her to have our entire house to romp in.
On the work front, I’ve been insanely busy, which in turn has made me turn into somewhat of a hermit. While I am definitely *not* a fan of the work I currently do by day, I will admit that I have learned a whole hell of a lot over the past few months. I like to believe that I needed this experience here at this agency to prepare me for events in the future. I stepped into this new account with hardly any knowledge of how this client’s processes worked and quickly realized that I was being looked to as a “go-to” person on the team from other capabilities on what needed to get done when. I’m hoping that the time management and stress management skills I’ve had to develop in order to survive in this world will come in handy when I open up my own shop!
On a positive note, a co-worker & friend connected me with one of her friends which led to me getting the opportunity to submit my cakes into a popular magazine in the area, and I think that one of them is going to be published!!! Of course, as exciting as that is, it propelled me to start moving on getting a real retail space of my own so I can finally put 100% into my dream of making cakes & chocolate full-time instead of trying to squeeze in as much pastry work as possible during my “off hours” when I’m not here at the office and not passed out on the couch after the sadly commonplace 14+ hour work day.
I don’t want to jinx myself, but I think I may have finally found a new home for cake & chocolate production. More details to come once things become more concrete (literally & figuratively)!
I’ll close, of course, with cake – a little late is better than never, right? This was my mom’s birthday cake this year – Chocolate devil’s food cake, filled with peanut butter mousse, frosted in buttercream & decorated in modelling chocolate and painted chocolate. And just in case you were wondering, yes, my mom’s birthday is actually on Christmas Day!
It’s amazing how quickly time flies when you least expect it. It’s prime holiday season, and I am so not ready for it. It’s odd, because I’ve always looked forward to Christmas, making cookies, getting the perfect gifts, and reconnecting with friends and family via Christmas cards. But this year, I’ve been retreating into my Cancer shell more than ever.
After taking our house off the market last month, we quickly got back into our old horrible slovenly habits, which relaxed the cats and oddly made our house feel more like home. Then, seeing as we didn’t have to save like mad for a downpayment on anything immediately, I treated myself to a PS3 and Rock Band 2 and have been mildly addicted to video gaming since then. Thus, I am behind on my knitting, haven’t experimented much with recipes, have been AWOL on this blog, and have become an overall slacker in many other areas – including running SweetElement like it really should be run.
And just as if I needed yet another distration from all the things I should be focusing on, we decided that we needed to add a little more feminine energy into our house via another feline … and now have a 7 lb 7 oz black and white bundle of loveable mush currently taking up residence in our two rooms upstairs. A few more days of meds to get rid of her kennel cold, and she’ll be ready to start turf wars with the boys … fun! She’s already put our supposedly Alpha cat, Jameson in his place …. so I can’t wait to see how the feline relationships unfold as they start to share the whole house.
We had debated getting a puppy, and I *really* did want one (or two), but I thought it would be best for us and “the boys” if we held off on having puppies until we can truly be home enough and not have to worry about how the feline & canines kids will interact, especially when we are not around. In all honesty, it would have been ideal if we had been able to sell our current home and buy a slightly bigger house so we could have a puppy room. With the way we’re currently situated, the puppy would have to take over our media room in order to allow the cats time to get acclimated, and I truly fear the wake of destruction a puppy could do in our media room, especially with us gone 12+ hours during weekdays.
Speaking of which, I was supposed to have made up my mind by now on exactly what direction I was going to forge ahead in … really opening up SweetElement as a brick and mortar, pursuing a more fulfilling career in corporate/food non-profit (FoodTv? City Harvest?), or simply taking a sabbatical from corporate and SweetElement and healing my creative spirit through art, writing & cooking. Still no decision made. I dread coming into my desk every day, but I do appreciate the security of the paycheck. Am I crazy to just jump ship in our current economy and have us be solely dependent on Jay?
After a lot of lost sleep, too many trips down to the basement, and paint fume & heat delirium … here are the staged house photos we gave to our agent today to include in our house listing. We could never have gotten these shots without the aid of the most awesome photographer & friend — for a treat take a look at his work here.
I’ve posted these shots in the order I’m assuming prospective buyers would experience the house in a walk-through.
The front … no flowers, but still fairly well kept up shrubbery & brand new driveway!
The Living Room … much more sparse than before, and with added greenery.
The Heart of our Home … the Kitchen — much too bare bones for me, but the room & counters do seem bigger with no clutter.
Our one and only bathroom … & one of the most difficult rooms to keep clutterfree – especially when you only have ONE!
My library (and Jasper’s sanctuary). I’ll miss this room, my 2nd custom-built by Jay … but I’m sure the books will find homes quickly in our new place
Our bedroom … and my favorite shot. Why we didn’t always have it set up like this boggles my mind! The side tables, lamps, picture above the bed, curtains and bedding are all new. I was aiming for a modern hotel feel …
Our media room … video game room, and guest room. It took an entire day to clean out the closet and the storage shelves in this room, but I think it was worth it …
Jay’s office. For the first time in four years … there’s no mess ANYWHERE on the floor — and art on the walls!!! The infamous desk … three years in the making, will most DEFINITELY be coming with us to our new place
Our deck – complete with natural gas grill (staying with the house), my old kitchen island (stainless steel table) and teak patio set (both coming to the new place).
The giant backyard … too giant for us, but a big selling point since not a lot of homes around here are on a double lot like us.
As you can see … no photos. I fell asleep. We ended up going out to dinner, I ate too much, and when I laid down to “rest” … well … somehow I just never got up until this morning. On a bright note … Jay finished his desk! Yup, while I was passed out, he worked on finally getting it all together and now just has to get it all set up and move the desk he hates down to the basement. Yeah! I think I may tackle the upstairs TV room first tonight since it’s one of the easier rooms to get ready. I’ll just need to go and get some more bins when I get home …
I have one week to get our little cape photo-ready. To many, that may seem like a fairly simple task. For me, it involves a giant list and has me feeling incredibly daunted. All those last minute projects need to be addressed, and the cleaning…
I spent some time today reading about house staging, and realized I will also have to clean out closets, cabinets and shelves so that potential buyers can envision their own belongings filling the empty space. What freaked me out a bit was reading how it’s also important to have a clutterfree basement, especially if it has the possibility of becoming a finished basement. Let’s just see how magical those “space bags” really are. I wish they made them for non-squishy objects too. I shall have to invest in some more plastic bins and labels and just see how good my tetris-like packing skills are to store the most possible in the least amount of bins.
After this is all said and done and we have our house photos taken and have our first open house, I am praying that we will have a bidding war over our place fast. Hey, a girl can dream right? The longer I have to keep a meticulous house while my life is in boxes, the higher the chance is that I may need to be moved into a psych ward instead our new house.
I’m hoping photoblogging the “process” will help me feel somewhat less stressed. On that note … I will end this entry here and post tonight’s progress before my head hits the pillow. Let the staging begin!
I know I’ve been a complete slacker here on this blog … posting only cakes and little else these days. I keep meaning to post restaurant reviews, updates on the bakery space hunt (I just might have one!) and a slew of other stuff, but I’ve been so super busy that blogging tends to get placed at the bottom of the to-do list which amazingly I never seem to get to!
But this … this was just too good NOT to post.
For anyone that commutes to work on public transportation, I’m sure you will relate to this post.
This past weekend, I checked the mail and saw that we had received another quarterly newsletter from the town. I usually scan through it before I pin it to the fridge to keep for the recycling calendar, and I am sooooo glad that I did. On the first page … I saw … “North End Shuttle Service to Bloomfield train station is now available.” OMG. When I showed Jay the article – you would have thought that I just told him we won the lottery. His scream of joy was deafening. Before I could even finish reading the article he was emailing the email listed for a schedule. And yesterday, around noon, the schedule was emailed to him — it was actually real.
Now, for those of you who don’t know us, or know little about our commute … I suppose I should explain why this jitney service is like a godsend. We were actually seriously considering moving to a town where we could ride the train instead of a bus everyday. Move just to take the train? Oh yes. You’ll understand why. Just keep reading.
Initially, when I first moved out to NJ, we were living in Weehawken and we had the option of taking a gypsy bus (at your own risk), where the drivers spoke no English, drove like they were escaping Immigration officers, put in “ghetto” seats (aka stepstools) in the aisles and on the stairs (completely illegal), and posted signs like “No Penis Please” (when they meant “No Pennies Please”). There was also the somewhat nicer, safer option of the NJ Transit buses, which we opted to take more often than not. It’s amazing, the difference shocks can make – even in a half hour commute.
When we finally bought a house and moved out to the suburbs, we were nervous about how much longer our commute in would take and were up at the crack of dawn to catch the bus. At first, we felt like we had reached commuter heaven, as our new busline, DeCamp, had far nicer buses than the NJ Transit line or the gypsy buses we used to take. It didn’t take long for our initial impression to fade … fast. There are so many reasons why, I think it’s best if I just list them out:
-DeCamp is a private bus line, so they don’t have any bus shelters at the stops. Waiting up to 1.5 hours in the sweltering heat, pouring rain, or freezing cold without shelter … rots. Also, because they are a private line, they don’t have to report their on-time arrivals or departures.
-Schedule? What schedule?
-Train problems on the Montclair line? Don’t even dream about getting a seat – especially at our stop (one of the last on the line into NYC).
-You actually expect a seat for your $6 at rush hour? I often wonder if the DeCamp drivers have a deal with the chiropractors and massage therapists in town … because lord knows you’ll need em if you stand on a ride into NYC.
-Buses that blow right by the stop … filled … without even stopping to see if you wanted to stand.
-Port Authority. If you’ve ever had to wait on the 4th floor for any extended period of time packed in like cattle and breathing in exhaust, you won’t need any more of an explanation.
-Monthly DeCamp Tickets = $215 / Monthly NJ Transit Bus Pass = $135 (Shuttle is free)
-NO COFFEE. NO CELL PHONES. (Although the no cell phone thing was kind of nice … when you’re running late and need to call work or home it can be extremely frustrating.)
I’m sure there’s more I’m missing … but in short, those are the big offenders. The countless hours we’ve waited for these buses is just incredibly sad.
So now … we have our wonderful shuttle – right across the street from our old bus stop. Friendly shuttle driver, 15 minute ride to the train station with a CVS, Dunkin Donuts & a Dry Cleaner right next to the station and a reliable 40 minute train ride and short 15 minute walk to work. Still an hour and 10 minute commute for me – a straight 55 minute commute for Jay (he works right across the street from Penn Station) - but we’re not complaining a bit. We plan on sharing the news with all our fellow commuters & DeCamp haters in the area. Maybe DeCamp will get the hint as their ridership goes down …. ;p
I got a letter in the mail yesterday announcing a special sale to the inner circle of customers and friends, so I did what any respectable knitter would do … immediately headed over!
The store was already picked over, but here’s a few photos of the stash I grabbed:
A slew of Debbie Bliss cashmerino aran in silver gray and navy, enough Berocco Ultra Alpaca in red to make a sweater for me, a few more skeins of Berocco Ultra Alpaca in Black and white (to make a secret new awesome project), a few skeins of Berocco Hip Hop, a few worsted weight wool in brown (to make some christmas monkeys), and some cotton skeins in brown, blue and creme.
Last night, under the Harvest Moon, we harvested our first crop … PUMPKINS!
Ok, ok … I know, you must be wondering … her? Grow things? The girl with the black thumb? Yup. I did – accidentally.
How to Grow a Pumpkin the Accidental Jen & Jay Way
1. Take old pumpkin from Halloween and throw it on the compost pile
2. Continue to mow lawn and throw clippings on compost pile
3. Do nothing
4. Go to dump lawn clippings on compost pile in early fall and discover MONSTER plant growing all over the pile
5. Discover baby pumpkins growing
6. Wait 2 months – and HARVEST!!
And from one ol’ pumpkin last year … we grew these three we harvested last night …
And this baby one we harvested a few weeks ago … (the pumpkin … the boy was harvested many many moons ago :p)
Exactly a month ago, I was shocked to discover that my husband just quit his job on the spot. No two week notice, no notice period, nada. At the time, I was very much in shock, as I am sure he was as well. He had talked about doing it, but since he had talked about leaving his previous job where he stayed on for seven years, I never really thought he would actually do it. Surprise! Yup. Surprise.
Being the good wife that I am, I was wholly supportive of him leaving a soul-draining job working for a bi-polar bitch, but hell … I had put up with months of that myself before I found the job that I’m happily in now. As miserable as I’ve been in some of my other positions, the option of leaving before I found something else was fairly non-existant. I think I instantly went on freak out mode money-wise, since quitting right before August was probably one of the worst times he could have picked. All our most expensive bills were due – taxes, car insurance, post-bday-party amex, ugh. We managed to get everything paid on time, but are no longer on the path that I had planned. No extra mortgage payments … no extra savings for my future bakery … no more shopping trips … no more trips to the organic grocery store – we were on super frugal mode. Buy what was neccessary and nothing else.
I honestly never thought that at 30 I would be put in the position that my mother has always been in as the sole money-maker in the household. Growing up, my mother was always the stable one, while my father had more jobs that I can count. For the past seven years, I don’t think my father’s had a job longer than 3 months anywhere. For the most part, my parents just skate by on my mom’s salary. She, like me, makes enough to live on, but really not enough to justify her spouse sitting home not bringing in another income. Savings for retirement – HA!
So needless to say, things were pretty tense.
Luckily, (yes, there is good news!), I was so busy with SweetElement orders, that I didn’t have time to dwell on our financial situation all too much. The extra cash was a nice boost too. But as you can imagine … between commuting, work and baking every night … I was pretty much running myself into the ground. Throughout August I created some great portfolio building pieces and also had some excellent exposure in my friend Derek’s show in the Fringe Festival. It’s almost as if the pastry gnomes were taking care of me – “As long as she’s got her hands in the flour, sugar and chocolate … she’ll hang on.”
I’ve was also extremely fortunate to be insanely busy at my day job and surrounded by some truly awesome friends there too. It was difficult though when I caught a free moment and started to think about eveyrthing on the home front. I felt at times like I was teetering on the edge. It was stay strong or completely melt down. There were no tears at work – although it was close. I couldn’t bear to actually put down my feelings into words because I knew that would just put me over the edge … thus, my disappearing act.
I am happy to report that Jay is employed again as an IT consultant at NYU, we received our fairly hefty Homestead rebate check, and our finances are slowly getting back in order. I am still working through SweetElement orders as they come in, but nowhere near the level on insanity I was working through in August making petit fours. I had a brief stint last week where I thought I might have actually found my commercial bakery space … but that didn’t pan out – the timing just wasn’t right … so I am still at my day job and banking all that I can so when the time is right I can make the switch – all on my own dollars and cents.
In the meantime, I’ve been knitting up a storm – lots of FO to post soon … and experimenting with recipes both savory and sweet with mixed success. I won’t even go into the family drama that has been brewing in the CT horizon, but let’s just say that it ain’t pretty and it’s a big ol’ storm.
I’m hoping that now that things are back to “normal” – whatever the hell that is – I’ll be able to be back to my own swing o’ things and will be able to post again often on all the various aspects of the life that makes me, Me.
I shall leave you with the following image o’ the day …
Jasper Q., the stripey who always knows how to make me smile,
on what was supposed to be my first striped felted BAG,
but has ended up being my first felted cat lounging pad