Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bakery Madness, Bowls, Blizzard Scenes, and Foodie Gifts

Wowza.  It has been a crazy few days.
I don't know how your holidays go, but mine are usually pretty laid back, other than the drama caused by winter travel.
This year, however, was not an average year for me.  Though my shop was ready, I wasn't fully mentally prepared for the effect national exposure would have on my sales.  Things came together beautifully, and the extra push came while I was on vacation, so I got to pretend that I was a full time home baker.  Frankly, it was really fun.  Crazy busy, but fun. Of course, I was also handmaking many of my Christmas gifts at the same time, so things got a little nuts around here.
I'm going to start this post by sharing some images from my work days at Rosie's Best, and then I'll show you what I've been up to on the personal side of things, including the best food-related gifts I was given this year.
After my episode of  On Point aired, Rosie's Best received an outpouring of support and interest.  Somehow, people were able to connect with my story and product from my short time on air.  They bought tons of granola, and wrote to encourage me in my endeavor.  Some shared their own stories of starting a business and others expressed their enthusiasm for real food.   I can't say enough positive things about my customers.  I feel grateful to have been given the opportunity to do what I love.
I broke my holiday orders down into one full day of baking and another for packaging and shipping.  My whole kitchen table was covered with bags and boxes.
I tried to make them extra pretty for their future homes.

I love sending these jars out to customers.  I hope they get reused around the house instead of being discarded like most packaging.
Flat rate shipping boxes stacked to the ceiling.
After giving two full days to filling orders, a couple more came in the day before Christmas.  I gave myself three days off to be with family and have fun, and started baking again on Monday.  So, out came this big yellow bowl again.
I've been so happy to do bakery work, but I've also managed to have a heck of a lot of fun along the way.  While I live for spring flowers and summer vegetables, I relish the warm nights in of winter.  Repeating rituals each year is something I look forward to and brings consistency to the otherwise chaotic time.  One of my favorite things to do on a cold night is to pop some Tiny but Mighty and make a popcorn garland for the tree.
The squirrel liked it.  (Can you see Tim and Razi in the background?)
I love Christmas lights.
I made this little wreath last year from clearance rack glass ornaments.
We got a little champagne to celebrate a successful holiday baking season.  We used the flutes from our wedding, which you can see in the above photo by the tree.
And drank it while we watched the Swedish angel carousel spin and chime.  (We're not Swedes, but my family has always had one of these.)
This winter break has brought some of my favorite people back into town, so we've been entertaining non-stop.  One sure sign I should consider becoming a full-time baker is that I found the energy to bake some cutout cookies after my full Rosie's Best day.  I made a huge batch of frosting and made these guys dye it and decorate.  We had so much fun.
Iowa City, like much of the country, got a blizzard right before Christmas.  Fluffy snow and winter light makes for easy photography.
Giant conifer on Oakland.
Christmas brought generosity, and my reputation as a baker and home cook earned me lots of practical gifts, including this fantastic cutting board with measurements for pie crusts and rules along each edge.  This will make cutting crackers much easier!
Mom got me this great vintage glass rolling pin.  The cavity can be filled with ice water to keep pie crusts extra cool.  My father's mother was an antique dealer and had one that she filled with glass marbles.
My younger sister gave me this great set of sustainably produced wood bowls and plates.
Lastly, I got this great digital probe thermometer.  I used it earlier this week to perfectly cook some pork chops.
Finally, I'd like to share a little inspiration which came from an unexpected source.  I, like everybody, love Terry Gross, host of NPR's Fresh Air.  They have been recapping the most entertaining interviews of the year this week, and yesterday they repeated parts of her interview with John Stewart.  Thought I'd heard the interview before, for some reason I heard some completely new things this time around about choosing a creative profession.  You can listen to the interview here, but I also wanted to share these specific excerpts.
Terry asked John about feeling nervous about doing his Rally to Restore Sanity:

Mr. STEWART: What's interesting about that is people will say like, are you nervous about doing the rally? And you're like yeah. So why do it? Well, why not?
What - you know, Steve and I always talk about this, which is when you feel like you want express yourself, you need an impetus, you need a catalyst.  And that's how I got into this business, I got myself in trouble. I moved to New York. There was no reason for me to move here. I always had a very happy life bartending at the Bottom Half and working for the state of New Jersey, but I wanted to get myself in trouble because I felt like I would not accomplish anything that meant something to me unless I did.
And so moving here was a leap of faith but - you know, what if it didn't work out? Then it didn't work out. Life's not a - there is no guarantee in any way, if you go a simpler path.
She also asked him about the piece his show did about the 9/11 first responders health care bill, which had not passed at the time of the interview.  It has since passed, and John's show is credited with helping make that happen.  He describes how his work helps him process the events of the world, and I think it's a great attitude to have about politics in particular, but also setbacks in general.

Mr. STEWART: And the ability to articulate our sense of just absolute sadness, but through a prism of comedy - like, we came in, in that morning just really despairing as we watched this go down. And we walked out that night, feeling like we had yelled and felt, you know, we had a - we put it through the prism and the synthesis and the digestive process that we put it through, and we made ourselves feel better.
And we didn't make ourselves feel better by ignoring it, by dismissing it, by not dealing with it. We made ourselves feel better by expressing our utter rage at the ineptness and lack of courage from our legislators. And we walked out of there that night feeling like, you know, what, (bleep) good day's work. That was it.

I enjoyed hearing his passion, and the sentiment about taking a leap of faith is just what I needed to hear.
So, how did your holiday go?  What's inspiring you these days?

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