Thursday, December 30, 2010


This is so not optimistic, but I'm so angry right now. I have five dozen cupcakes that need to go to Astoria tonight and my ride bails out on me, knowing the buses are still fucked up, I need to take three trains to get there, and walk 5 blocks to get to the address...with 5 dozen cupcakes!!!!!

I'm so fucked right now. =(  I'm gonna go finish off the last two dozen, box them up, and start my fucking trek out there. This is what sucks about depending on the wrong people. Dammit, I really need a car!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year; New Habits

I just booked my first cake for 2011! It's a Yo Gabba Gabba Foofa cake for a three-year-old's birthday party. It needs to feed about 50 kids. Wow!

The date? 1/1/11. Yup, I will be working when the ball drops. I know some people would feel sorry for me, but it was my choice and I really don't want to do anything this year. I don't want to get dressed and go out. I don't want to spend the money at some awesome party. I don't want to plaster on a smile on my face while I chug down champagne (something I really DON'T like) when the clock strikes twelve, pretending that I'm having a good time. Really, let's be honest. Nothing is more lonely than being single on New Years Eve, surrounded by many non-single folks.

I'd rather start the New Year with a piping bag in my hand, a ponytale in my hair, and some bad pop music blasting on my iPod.

Tis the season...

Monday, December 27, 2010

Bah Humbug!

Just a few more days till this miserable year is over! Who's ready for a fresh start? I am! I am!

Ok, so my year wasn't as horrible as the year some other people have had. I'll be realistic and look at it from that perspective. It sucked, no doubt about that, in certain areas. However, I have made more of a profit with my business than I had during the prior two years before that. I could go down a list of reasons why, but the bottom line is that I enjoyed that time outside my Dungeon thoroughly. I wouldn't have had it any other way.

When it came down to Business or Pleasure this year, I realized that with the absence of a "pleasure" source, I had no choice but to concentrate on my business. As a person trying to take it seriously, that's a sad state of mind to have when you say you want to grow your business. It can't be the logical choice by default, it needs to be the first choice always.

Knowing that my weaknesses are laziness, lack of concentration, and overall procrastination I guess common sense would dictate that I need to fight those demons when they are upon me as soon as they make their presence known. I haven't partied as much this year as I had in the past. Depression and lack of desire can take the trophy for that one. I had money in my pocket. Being single again, I realized what a HUGE hole I managed to tear at the bottom of my purses during my relationship. That's just another weakness of mine; unrealistic independence in situations where I don't have the money to spend but too proud to say anything about it; and an overly generous nature which drives me to do more than I actually can for other people. So, I guess breaking up tightened up the purse strings in more ways than one. Add the fact that I had more time to devote to cakes and pastries; that explains me not going broke this Christmas. Thank God. Last year nearly did me in!

Last year. Man, I can't believe how time flies. Things change so much in such a short amount of time. Sometimes I feel like I blink and the whole world has just turned upside down right in front of me. But, everyone keeps saying it all happens for a reason. Anyone care to clue me in on what that reason is supposed to be?

During the holiday party at my day job, I was  given an award for excellent work and a  $150 bonus. Words can't fully express my shock when I got it. First of all, there were those pesky rumors about my termination flying around. Then, there's the fact that I know I didn't do anything to deserve this award. Nothing. In fact, less than nothing. So, I did the only logical thing I could do. I took my one employee Cyrus out for our annual "Happy Hour Holiday Dinner". We went big this year and the bill came out to $75, which is not bad for Manhattan. I took the $75 I had left from that "award" and bought him an gift card. My card to him simply read; "You deserve this. Merry Chirstmas." He cried when he read it. Such a nice kid. =)

Yes, that money could have bought more boxes or more supplies or even gone into savings for a little car I can use for deliveries. To be quite frank, getting that award made my stomach hurt. The guilt of knowing I didn't earn it, and the fact that I know my employee worked a hell of a lot harder than I had all year behooved me to do the right thing. I hope what I ended up doing was the right thing. I guess my Karma will let me know sooner or later.

My future is still pretty bleak. I don't have a plan. I don't have a direction. I just know I need to go up. Christmas night, I got a surprise visit from my friend. We ended up watching a Christmas Carol at his man cave and passing out. (Too much eggnog.) He offered me his apartment again. It's a great price, it's fully furnished, and it's close to transportation. The only drawback would be the lack of a stove & oven. This means I would have to pay my parents some money to keep my Dungeon intact in their basement, and I would have to actually trek back there whenever I have cake orders.

Financially, I can't afford to move out yet, but I don't really have a choice in the matter anymore. This apartment would be cheap enough for me to afford my own place, but small enough to keep my ass in line as far as behaving myself. The fact that my friend's dad would be my landlord and that he would be living right on top of me makes me feel a little uncomfortable. Part of me wonders if this isn't a blessing in disguise, though. Isn't that how those things work?

Personally, I'm still getting over the fact that my friend will be gone for good in 7 days. I'll miss him more than I can adequately describe in words. He helped me heal when I was so frigging broken. For that, I'll always be grateful. He also helped me realize that the course my business takes is entirely up to me. Living at home in this situation only facilitates my sense of despair and inadequacy. A little separation from my folks will do me a WORLD of good.

He's going to ask and work out the details as far as me taking over his place goes. If it's a figure I can work out, then it looks like I'm getting my own place again!! No roomie! No boyfriend! No husband! No parents! No friends! Just me. Yippee!!!!

I will be even MORE broke than ever, but I know I need to do this. And like I keep telling everyone else around me~ Everything is gonna be alright. I'll be fine. It's all gonna work out. You'll see.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Coquito? ¡Sí, por favor!

I haven't had authentic Coquito (Puerto Rican eggnog) since I lived with my Puerto Rican boyfriend. He was hardcore. He grated coconuts and made his own coconut milk. He steeped cinnamon sticks in the milk to impart the flavor. He let that concoction sit for days in the fridge, and only touched it to shake it up every now and again. Hardcore, I tell ya!

I found a recipe on the internet that leaves out the raw egg that authentic eggnog calls for. There's a way to pasteurize the whole mixture and make it safe, but who has time for that? I'm at work right now, and I shouldn't even be here.

I was turned away from the blood bank today. My blood sugar was too low, my blood pressure was way too low, and so were my iron levels. They told me to come back next week when I'm healthier. Dammit. =( So, I came to work. I know, I'm nuts but whatever.

Anyway, I'm making batches of this stuff and bottling it to give to my friends with some cookies. I'm heading to AC Moore to buy some empty bottles and I think this will be a very nice gift to give my lush-tastic comrades! If you like eggnog and coconut, you're gonna love coquito!! I'm making mine tonight. Let me know how all of yours come out if you try it.

Yield: About 8-10 bottles, depending on size.

1 quart store bought eggnog
1 cans of coconut cream (Coco Lopez)
1 can condensed milk (12 – 14 ounces)
1 can evaporated milk (12 – 14 ounces)
1 can of coconut milk
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Cinnamon sticks (one for each bottle)
½ cup of Puerto Rican white rum
½ cup Coconut Rum
¼ cup Bacardi 151 proof rum
½ coconut grated or 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (optional)

Mix all the ingredients well (use a blender if you want, but it's not necessary), bottle with one cinnamon stick in each bottle and store in refrigerator.  Serve it with a bit of cinnamon sprinkled on top.  

I leave the grated coconut as "optional" because it can be a pain in the ass while you're drinking. I love the flavor of  coconut, but the texture can get annoying after a while. It's up to you.

Please note that as you are making this you will be tasting and adjusting for your own careful not to sip too much. The 151 can knock you out on your ass faster than you know it!

¡Feliz Navidad y Buen Provecho! 

Time Out for a Good Thing

Yes, people. It's that time again. I'm asking anyone who has the time and health to roll up their sleeves and please make a small contribution to your local blood bank. I had to cancel my appointment last week because of work, but there is another shortage on our hands, and if we are not willing to help each other out, what will happen when it's one of us sitting in that ER, with no available stock on hand?

It doesn't take much time. It doesn't hurt...(much). They have awesome snacks afterwards! I'm going to my usual Port Authority spot. Won't you take an hour out of your day to do the same?

Thank you!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Words Into Action

I just canceled two huge cake orders five minutes ago. One was for tomorrow. The second was for Friday. I would have had to haul ass into Manhattan to deliver these huge cakes, and since it's the holiday season and my busy time, I charged extra for the delivery and extra fondant work they requested; something I almost never do!

When they agreed to the prices two weeks ago, it was fine. Today, I got a text from one person and an email from the other, asking why my prices jumped. Well, they didn't have a problem with it when I confirmed the order two weeks ago!!! I explained it was peak season and the fondant work they are asking for takes more time and uses more materials. I'm charging what I'm supposed to, which is still cheaper than a Manhattan bakery.

They were both asking for a significant reduction on the prices I quoted. I was angry. I'm very tired. I have more orders on my plate than I can handle. These cakes threw a wrench in my gears because stopping the press to decorate cake takes a hell of a lot longer than popping cookies in and out of the oven. Even in my annoyance, I tried to compromise. I told them if I did just plain frosting with some piped decorations instead of fondant, I would lower the price a little. It was not good enough for either one of them.

So, to BOTH these women I said, "Well, I'm sorry we couldn't come to an agreement, but it is impossible for me to make these cakes for you at the price you're asking. No hard feelings, but you're going to have to find another baker."

Was that really just me who said that?! Me? Little Miss "Oh-OKAY"? Yup! I was proud of myself. This takes a big chunk of cash out of my revenue, but it means a big chunk of time back on my clock. I may actually get to the Natural History Museum afterall!!

I just have to deliver gifts at work in the morning tomorrow, and the rest of the day is mine!! Yippee!!!! =)

All Work

Being busier than I have been in recent years this holiday season, I have not partied at all this whole month. I'm happy my business is growing, my website is generating new customers, and my new logo and materials are looking more professional, but I have to admit that I was hitting a wall the last few days.

Even gearing myself up for that party in DC took every last ounce of effort to move my ass. Pile on a big old helping of the holiday blues, and you've got yourself one unmotivated little baker.

I'm tired. Dog tired. My eyelids can barely stay open. My little 45 minute train naps are not cutting it anymore, and my body is heavy. I've gone through 10 boxes of Thermacare heat patches in the last two weeks. That's 30 back patches just to keep my lower back in a state where I can stand or walk. I wear them under the back brace that I've been sporting every day.

I've also missed a slew of parties going on everywhere. Even when I drop off my cakes or pastries, I'm invited to stay for a drink and some food, but I have to get home to bake some more. I may spend a lot of geek time at home in front of my TV when I'm feeling antisocial, but I'd be a liar if I didn't admit how much I enjoy being out partying. I really do. The drinks, the food, the music...I'm in my element!

So, since I haven't been to one fun event this month, I'm feeling left out. I'm toiling away in my Dungeon in my batter-covered sweats, broken, un-manicured nails, un-dyed hair, and stone sober. This is like no December I have known in quite some time.

Thankfully, yesterday, I had a nice lunchtime surprise in the form of my ex. It was a welcome break from my monotony and it was just nice to laugh again about stupid things that no one else seems to get. It gave me a nice shot in the arm to get back in my Dungeon and crank out 300 cookies, 100 pecan tarts, and 30 cupcakes last night.

The adrenaline has worn off, and I'm pooped. I know these sacrifices are only going to help me with the business and will pay off in the future. Deep down inside, I know this to be true. But, all work and no play does make for a lonely, cranky Kat. =( 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Women in Business

Martha Stewart is a fantastic business woman, but she is hated by the general public for her reputation as a bitch. Nevermind that she built a huge empire out of the kitchen of her CT home. Nevermind that she's as crafty with a glue gun as she is with a rolling pin, a hammer, a virtual petting zoo in her back yard, and had a green thumb the Green Giant would be envious of. She's talented. She's smart. She's ruthless. And she's hated because of it.

Donald trump is a pretty big asshole. I know this as a fact because various cooking friends of mine have been at the receiving end of his rage because his meat wasn't incinerated enough to his liking. He's rude, aggressive, cut-throat, and makes no apologies for it. He gets a tv show with some ridiculous catch phrase that America LOVES.

Why the double-standard? Why is okay for Donald to be a complete dick, but Martha has to kiss ass and smile sweetly because she lacks a Y-chromosome? This pisses me off to no end.

I admit that sometimes I take a smaller fee for my services because someone hands me a sob story, and I feel like I'm expected to be compassionate. Most of the time, I am! However, I don't think people would pull this shit if I had some balls. No one ever haggled with prices when Joel negotiated. I think people expect a certain degree of softness from me because I'm a female; nurturing, kind, and understanding.

What if I pulled a Martha and sent them packing while hurling a copper mixing bowl at them? Would I be considered cut-throat and sharp, or just a crazy bitch on the rag, going on a rampage?

I'm frustrated. Not so much at the people around me or my customers. I'm frustrated at myself for not being more aggressive and firm on my fee's. I'm angry for overloading myself with too many orders to make money because I'm not charging enough to begin with. I feel guilty for taking money from people for baked goods because I know the ingredients don't cost that much. My time does, though. That's the issues. I'm not paying myself enough, and I can't bring myself to charge more.

I know people are hurting. My friends and family have been unemployed for months (some of them years), and I know it hurts their pockets to part with a few extra bucks. That's the status quo of many people out there. How can I justify charging them more money. I have my full time job. I have my baking. I live almost rent-free. How can I take money out of their tight pockets in order to line mine?

This is when I hate being a girl. Men don't worry about it. They see it as black and white. They have a product or a service. If you want said product or service, then you will pay for it. If you can't pay the price, you don't get the product or service. The end.

But, no. I get all up in people's lives. I hear about their families, their inability to find work, their sick relatives...And I feel terrible for charging $20 for a box of carrot cake cookies that I love to make anyway.

Maybe this is why there are so few successful women in business. If someone could drill into my frontal lobe and install a switch for my empathy, perhaps I would be able to run my business better. Martha may be known as a bitch, but that bitch isn't worrying about paying her cable bill this month. What I wouldn't give for that peace of mind.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Back to Reality

For one night...I was a rock star! Well, sorta.

After a week of bickering at home with my parents about this trip they already committed to taking with me, my mom finally got my dad to make good on his promise to drive down to VA. My uncle, who lives 10 minutes away from the party site agreed to let me use his kitchen.

We were supposed to leave at 3am. We left at 4:45. My mom's truck is doing the death rattle, so we borrowed my aunt's Lexus. And my father proceeded to drive 5 hours to VA with the AC on the entire way. I was pissed. I was trying to sleep in the back. Guess what? The back seat of a Lexus is NOT the most comfortable place in the world. Combine that with a bad back, the fucking AC running in the middle of winter, and both my parents arguing over the music...No sleep for me.

If I had worked straight through once I got to VA, I may have had a chance to finish on time. However, my cousin Ryan insisted on taking us out to lunch at this awesome restaurant, and I lost an hour and a half to that and a quick grocery run. If I was left alone to just do my thing, I may have finished on time, as well. But, once my other cousins found out I was in town, they all came over and wanted to "help".

Here's the deal. I'm a control freak. I toss together recipes that I carry around in my head. I improvise when I don't have ingredients or the right tools. I taste as I go, I wash my hands a million times, and I DO NOT like other people peering over my shoulder while I'm doing this crazy dance in the kitchen. I'm all over the place. I go from here to there with no rhyme or reason except for the fact that I just remembered something and I'm rushing to get it done before it slips my mind. In that chaos, I lose time and I make myself nuts.

If someone doesn't know this about me, and they try to help, all that happens is that I get even more flustered and it makes me lose my focus even more. Maybe only two people have been able to work with me in the kitchen. Joel & sometimes my mom. Joel would assign himself a task and stick to it until he was done. He wouldn't poke into what I was doing or disrupt my flow when I was moving. If he saw I was in the weeds (running behind), he would jump in and take care of something. He never asked, he would just assess the situation and take something off my hands; probably the one thing I'm forgetting at the moment. Once he learned not to yell at me for running late, working unorganized, or getting anxious- we managed to gel pretty well together.

In the beginning it was hell. He was very robotic and structured when he worked. I sort of just made it up as I went along. He would finish early, and I was always running late. His station was spotless, and I had food all over the place. We were the epitome of Ying & Yang. In his frustration with my inability to manage my time right, he would start berating me in the middle of the task. Big mistake! The last thing you do in a forest fire is douse it with gasoline. He just made things worse. We raged at one another at 5 or 6 gigs before he realized how to handle the situation better.

I learned to be a little more organized and to write things down so I don't forget them. He learned how NOT to approach me when I start getting flustered. He knew how to recognize when I was starting to fall behind or get agitated, and he would react accordingly. I learned to let go a little of the control and let him take over certain tasks. Once I convinced myself that he was just as capable as doing as good a job as I would do, it was easier to relax and just let him do his thing.

I think this is why I haven't taken on a new partner since Joel. My control issues and anxiety about letting go of the reins prevents me from letting someone prove to me that they can do the job right. So, it's  hard working with other people in my kitchen. Sometimes, my mom will just come in to do the dishes for me while I'm working. It free's up space and put equipment back at my fingertips all cleaned up. However, she always manages to take the stuff I'm still working with, and then I'm walking around in circles looking for bowls, tools, or equipment that I "just had in my hand a minute ago."

So, that very long tangent was just to explain that more help in the kitchen is not always "help" to me. Two hours from my deadline, I realized that I was going to be late. I start going into Freak-Out mode. My hands are shaking, I'm rushing from one task to another without really finishing anything. I'm starting to unravel, and my mom see's that the fine thread holding my patience together is about to snap. Out of no where, my cousin Ryan comes into the kitchen and pulls me down into his basement apartment to talk "business". I'm trying to explain to him that this is the worst possible time to do this, but he wasn't hearing it.

After making me relax with some deep breaths (filled with mood-altering relaxation enhancers), he tells me his business plan. I really do relax this time. His idea is fantastic! It's easy! It's new! And I am very excited that he wants me to head it up. So, come this new year, I may be moving. Not as far as I would have hoped, but it's a start. Finally, I can break away from my miserable past. A couple more deep breathes, a freshly popped can of Coke, and a fully replenished stash of relaxation herbs; and he send me back up to finish up.

I've never moved so fast. I managed to get all my dishes done. The last thing to do was the cake. It was not the best cake I have ever decorated, but it was the fastest! Fifteen minutes to frost and flower a half sheet cake! That's record breaking for me! I just managed to shower and change before we were whisked out the door and to the party. I was only an hour late this time, instead of the two hours I was late the last time. My time management is SOO in need to improvement.

This was the first time I was bartending by myself. Let me make it perfectly clear; I am by no means a professional bartender. I can barely pour my own drinks right, let alone someone elses. However, I know I have a great smile, a friendly personality, and a fantastic way of handling certain situations. So, I wing it. And I do well. My tip jar was overflowing, and it was a successful night. I'm hoping for a couple more gigs with these people in the coming months.

Another thing that happened this weekend- I left my phone at home. I almost never go anywhere without my phone. I have two lines. One line is my Droid Incredible; my new smartphone. That's my business line. It's the number on my business cards, it's the number I give out to new customers. My old line is my personal line. I've had it forever and it's still running on an older phone; the Alias 2 (not as awesome as the original Alias). That's my old reliable. Three day battery life, never misses a text or a call, service in the subway even! It's great! And I left it on my bed. I didn't panic because I had my client's info on my Droid. However, I felt a little naked without my Alias.

When I got back home, I realized it was a good thing I left it home. My inbox that I had just emptied before I left was chock FULL of texts from friends, acquaintances, and old customers asking to party, for advice, and for last minute cake orders. If I had the added stress of people calling and texting me while I was working this gig, I would have gone postal. I suppose it was a blessing in disguise to let things be. I love that my friends always try to get me to come out and have a good time. I like that new people I meet find me interesting enough to talk to me (instead of just cyber-knowing me). I'm also greatly appreciative of the people who want my cakes on their tables for those special events. However, it all comes at once at the wrong moments. And that's where I have to put business before pleasure. I'm sure it will all pay off sooner or later.
With personal issues plaguing my every day, I will fully admit that I let my business take a few hits because I was too depressed to chase after a costumer, too tired to work on a cake, or just too miserable to try out new recipes. This catering gig alone took every ounce of strength I had within me to go out and shop, prep, and head out to DC to get it done. I knew I needed the money, I knew the menu was simple, and I knew I could do it by myself. The problem was that I didn't want to do it alone, and the more I realized that I'm going to be alone for a long time to come, I only tossed myself further down that Funky Town Gorge.

I hope my cousin can make his business plan come into fruition. I hope I can quit my day job. I hope I can start over somewhere fresh where I don't have a past and I won't run into anyone I know. I know it means that "Queenie Cakes" may have to be placed on hold while I work with him.

This is a big risk to me. One thought occurred to me earlier today, and I hope I'm wrong. Someone who was showing some interest in my company last year kept saying how great my name was. It was perfect. I'm thinking my name may not be available to copyright, and I don't have to think twice about the jerk who would do that to me right under my nose. I'm bracing myself for the worse. I know what this world and the horrible people in it are capable of for the sake of money, and it shouldn't surprise me anymore.

If that happens, the only thing I can do is move on. But, it's like saving up a lifetime for your dream home only to have some asshole millionaire come along and buy it right from under you for double anything you could ever afford just because they can. When it comes to my business, and even my un-love life, I must say the Karma gods have been good to me. I've seen people who have done me dirty get their comeuppance. And a lot of the time, I feel terrible for what has befallen them, but you reap what you sow. I know I have.

Man, that was a long, boring post today. I think I'm losing my touch. Taking the advice of a couple of people, I think I'm going back to my old blog for my personal nonsense. It's easier for me to keep thing separated that way.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cooking With My Heart

There was a time when my food sucked. I couldn't boil water without burning the tea kettle. Toast was incinerated! My family actually asked me to NOT cook dinner and just let my mom broil the frozen steak in the oven with a slathering of A1 over it.

I had just ended my 6 year live-in couplehood with Joel and was forced to move back home. I was heartbroken. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't eat. I could barely bring myself to cook, but I still had baking orders that needed to be filled and a few catering gigs that I had committed to.

Later on when my little thumper was all stitched back up and I was smiling more, I got my groove back. I could turn freezer-burned ground beef into the juiciest, tastiest five-cheese stuffed burger this side of the Old Homestead. People would wrap up whatever THEY already made for dinner if they got a last minute invite to come over and eat whatever it was I just prepared. Life was good again.

After a new relationship and a slew of breakups, my mom finally took me aside and laid it out for me.

"No offense." This means to prepare myself. She's about to be very blunt and say something hurtful with the intention of being helpful. "You can't cook when you're not in a good mood. You know I love your food, but when you force yourself to bake or cook when you're hurt- it's just not good. So, don't cook when you're sad. We can taste it in your food."

Ouch, Mom! 

Ok, so it wasn't that bad. She was right. When I'm all torn up inside, the last thing I want to do is cook. Decorating? Forget it! I always say food is love. To my most closest loved ones, I say: "Food is love, and if I could, I would feed you forever!" I adore that quote because it comes from my heart of hearts and it sums me up as a person perfectly.

I express my adoration for people with what I make for them. Yes, I am paid to make pretty cakes and burn up some grub for people who can afford my services. However, the BEST meals I've ever made have always been for free for someone I love. I take my time buying the best ingredients, prepping everything precisely, and cooking each element to perfection just so every bite is filled with as much love and emotion as I can fit in there. (Imagine an overstuffed ravioli.)

I don't even cook for someone I'm dating until I'm absolutely sure that I'm digging them on levels that go beyond superficial coupling. I just find the first meal I ever cook for someone to be extremely important, special, intimate, and something I want them to remember forever. It almost trumps the first time we lay down together as a couple! Imagine that...But we chefs do think on different wavelengths than the rest of the world.

There's this fantastic movie in Spanish called "Like Water for Chocolate". It's got Martyrdom elements and a little over the top with drama so of course I would love it, but isn't that what's fantastic about Latin cultures; the drama? It's about this woman who was born into the unfortunate position of being the youngest daughter, which dictates that she never marry and most stay at home and take care of her mother till she dies. Her love ends up marrying her older sister just to stay close to her. She is a fantastic cook and all her emotions are expressed in the love or hurt or pain she puts into her food. For example, she was forced to make the wedding cake her for her sister's wedding to her love. She cried while she did it, and everyone who ate at the wedding got the shits. hehehe...Really, my description does not do this movie justice. Just watch it. And, yes, it's a chick flick! So deal with it!

A friend of mine was fixing my Droid recently because I tried to root it in order to install an App that Verizon's OS wasn't letting me install properly. I ended up screwing up the entire OS, and I had no clue how to fix it. My friend, being a Linux genius, took it under his wing and started going at it. He was hacking away at the mess I made without even breaking a sweat.

I murmured something like, "I wish I knew how to break the code of this techie language you Code Monkey's speak. I'm so clueless when it comes to this stuff. I feel like I'm outside of the clubhouse because I don't know the password to get in."

He stopped what he was doing to look up at me. (He almost never does that. Usually when he's got his nose dug into some technical thing he's tinkering with, he talks to me absentmindedly, answering my questions, but keeping his focus on whatever it is that he's working on. It used to drive me mad because it felt like he wasn't paying any attention to our conversation, but he was. He can partition his attention like some people partition their computers to run more than one operating system. Damn, techies are sexy!) Shoot, tangent...and I forgot to yell out "Squirrel!" 

So, as I was saying, he looked up at me and said, "Are you kidding me? You take flour and sugar and fruit and chocolate and you do this thing with your hands and you give it to people and they smile. Have you EVER handed someone one of your cake boxes and NOT gotten a smile out of them? You make people happy. Not just ANYONE can do that. Do you know how powerful a gift like that is?"

Well, hell...I guess I never really looked at it that way.

I cook with my heart. You can taste how much I love you through my food. Money comes and goes. I do not measure the success of my craft by the size of my bank account. I measure it by the smiles on your faces.

Love, Katherine =)

Boss Update: I got to work 20 minutes late AGAIN this morning. My boss still hasn't had that meeting with me. I have no clue if I'm going to get chewed out, written up, or just told to pack up and go. I don't know. Someone said getting canned may be the best thing for me since my day job holds me back from going full force with Queenie Cakes. Of course, this person just lost his job, and I think his opinion may be a little biased. =P Seriously, he has a point, and I know I won't learn to swim of I don't let go of the edge of the pool. Unfortunately, the edge of the pool is keeping me from drowning in debt, so I really CAN'T let go of the edge until my 7 grand of debt mysteriously disappears. As of right now, I still have a day job. There's still tomorrow, though...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

2010 Holiday Season

I shut down this blog along with all my other personal blogs to try and get away from living in my own head. I've distanced myself from friends, family, and most other forms of social interaction because I preferred expressing my uninhibited thoughts to a faceless audience rather than live people who have a propensity to piss me off. A faceless audience can piss you off, too, though. The pitfalls of blogging, I'm told.

My Thanksgiving 2010 season was fantastic. I hit my quota and made a nice chunk of change. Of course, I didn't sleep for nights, lived off energy drinks, and wrecked my back in ways that will leave me in crippling pain for most of this winter. I was excited. I was debuting my new box labels with my logo. I also had my awesome new business cards to attach. The pie boxes were decorated beautifully with ribbons and scarecrows, along with the new labels I was jonesing to show off. They were received fantastically.

My new Wordpress site has increased in traffic since I put out my Thanksgiving Menu link and I get hits from all over the world. Very exciting stuff! I'm still not totally happy with the layout, the background, and a few other minor things, but I guess I just need to be grateful it's getting the job done and making my customers happy. I don't exactly have the extra capital to hire a pro. Who does these days?

Since my Thanksgiving success, I've been booked solid almost every night with dessert gigs and small catering gigs. It's exciting and I enjoy the reactions of the people when they bite into my food, but it's hard doing this by myself. I have not slept since 4:30am Saturday morning! My body is feeling abused and destroyed. My gray matter is turning into mush within my skull. My speech is slurred, and sometimes I'll zone out with my eyes wide open while people talk to me.

To be quite frank, as satisfied as I am doing a job well and making people happy with what I make; I still find myself looking for more. I'm not truly happy and I can't decide if it's my personal life, my business life, or just my entire life in general. In the middle of the night while rolling out my 8th pie crust, I find myself muttering that I just don't think I want to do this anymore. Is that wrong?

I feel like I'm betraying my business by entertaining these thoughts. I have wonderful customers who come back time and time again, with heartwarming compliments and encouragement. I have a mother who bends over backwards to help me when I can't help myself. Still, in all this positive energy, I still feel all alone when it's time to get things done and it's starting to break me.

Mentally, emotionally, and physically my business is growing faster than I can keep up with it. I feel like a mother who had a child too old, and is now too feeble to keep up with him in the park. I feel guilty, but most of all I feel lonely. I miss the partner I had in Joel who could skillfully take the reins when I started to stumble. Put Joel aside, I just miss having someone to back me up when I falter. Maybe I just miss another voice next to my ear reminding me I can do this when the voice in my head is screaming that I can't.

I'm hitting an all-time low at a time when my orders are coming in at an all-time high. I don't know what to do. I want to run, but I know I can't.

I got a solid favor this morning from someone who gave me a ride into work with my 5 bags of baked goods and massive cake. (He was paid for his services, but it's hard finding people like that in the middle of a work week.) With the lack of sleep, the pain in my back, I nearly started bawling like a baby because the last thing I wanted to do today was come into work, sneak off into an empty conference room to finish decorating the cake, and then set up for a party I could care less about. Mentally, I had hit a wall. Emotionally, I felt completely alone in my despair. Physically, my body was ready to die.

He rubbed my back for a minute, not really saying anything. What could he say? Doubled over, with my face buried in my hands, my head towards my knees, I swallowed back my tears, terrified of letting myself breakdown in front of this person. I tried my best to plaster on a cheery disposition. I failed. But I didn't cry. (There is no crying in the kitchen!...or on the car ride from the kitchen!)

I'm trying hard to find the enthusiasm I had a few months ago. Really hard. It's a fading target though, and my sight isn't getting any the dark.

On top of that, my boss called me into a meeting that we never got to have today. No reason. Just an email that says- "See me ASAP". Why do they send notes like that? I guess this means I get to start worrying all over again tomorrow. Excuse me, I'm gonna go throw up again.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Goodbye, New York!

My mom's family from the Philippines has been staying with us the last couple of days. Because I've been busy with personal things, I haven't spent much time at home. She asked me to come home last night to cook for them. They have heard stories from other relatives about my skills and wanted to taste for themselves.

I started them with crusty Italian bread smothered in my bruschetta mix- diced vine-ripened tomatoes, minced red onion & garlic, fresh basil chiffonade and a 25 year old balsamic and imported extra virgin olive oil blend. I roast the sliced bread in the oven with a light brushing of REALLY GOOD QUALITY EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL!  I can't stress the importance of a good quality ingredient. Parmesan cheese DOES NOT come out of a green can sitting in your pantry!!!! Go buy a small chunk and grate it yourself!! You will NEVER go back to a green can again!! Anyway, good olive oil doesn't cost a whole lot either. I bought a very nice sized bottle for $6 at Trader Joes.  That's another tangent. Trader Joes has some of the BEST quality things for fantastic prices. I get a lot of my pantry staples from them. Spices, oils, vinegars, condiments- you name it. They kick Whole Foods ass any day! They reusable bags are so worth the price, too. Anyway, when the bread comes out of the oven, immediately take a clove of garlic and start rubbing the toasted bread. It infuses the garlic flavor without the lethal dragon breath. Mix that bruschetta mixture a good hour before service and let it sit so all the flavors can get to know each other in a sinful little orgy in your fridge. It's worth it!!! When you're ready to go, lay out the bread and smother it in the mix. It's a quick appetizer for your guests to snack on while you're still cooking.

Next up was a small appetizer of lobster ravioli in Vodka sauce. I didn't have time to make fresh ravioli, and to be honest with you- I really hate killing lobsters. It bothers me in a way I can't quite put into words. I got two boxes from Iavarone Brothers and called it a day. I also bought a jar of Trader Joes Vodka Sauce and improved on it a bit. I added some lump crab meat and a couple shakes of Tabasco sauce. Trader Joes to the rescue again! With two per person, it was received very well.

So, this is where I fucked up a little. I should have made a veggie dish, but I forgot to buy any veggies. Instead, I made another pasta dish. Talk about carb overload!! Tri-colored cheese tortellini with diced honey ham and petite pea in a roasted garlic alfredo sauce. I made that sauce myself. They loved it.

For the main course, I made a chicken marsala with a thick sweet, brown marsala wine reduction and wild mushrooms served over whole wheat farfalle. Chicken marsala is one of my favorite go-to dishes when I go to Italian restaurants. It's not often made very well, but I always hold out a little hope. The one I made last night kicked ass over ANY other marsala dish I have EVER made. The sauce was so thick and viscus you could see it gleaming from the serving dish. The mushrooms were a nice blend of porcinis, baby bellas, chanterelles, and regular whites. I made enough to serve 20 people. That meant a nice heaping portion for all 10 people last night, with leftovers for today in case anyone wanted more. They were clean plates and no leftovers when it was all said and done.

As a side, I made a garlic mozzarella bread- cut a loaf of Italian bread lengthwise. Blend together butter, minced garlic & Italian herbs. (Microwave for 20 seconds and mix.) Spread along the inside of the bread. Pile on heaps of mozzarella cheese. Sandwich that sucker back up, wrap in foil and bake it in the oven for 20 minutes. It was GONE!

Dessert was a lot less complicated. I was tired. VERY tired. I macerated strawberries in some sugar and brandy. I whipped some marscapone cheese with a touch of Kahlua. I had left over cupcakes from the other night. I put down a layer of diced cake. topped with a dollop of the drunk marscapone, heaped on some macerated strawberries, and then finished with some chocolate whipped cream. They were in 7th heaven. The problem was that they wanted more, but I didn't have any more. To this day, I thank my lucky stars for the FANTASTIC dessert idea that a very awesome woman taught me- Gelato and Liquor!! Chocolate Hazelnut gelato topped with white chocolate Godiva liquor and vanilla whipped cream. These people thought they died. They couldn't express how much they loved everything.

After dinner and during talks, they asked me why I haven't pursued my cooking career more aggressively. My mom answered that I keep letting personal crisis' stop me from moving forward. (Maybe she has a point.) I also mentioned that I didn't know if I wanted to stay in NY or not. That's when it came.

"Move to the Philippines with us. You'll find private chef work right away. You know your grandfather left you money and property there. You don't even have to work if you don't want to."

This was the first I was hearing of this!! Then, she added, "Or you know your aunties or uncles in Australia are always looking to open a new business. Would you ever relocate there?"

What's that? Did I hear a choir of angels come down from the Heaven I didn't believe in to serenade me as proof that miracles really do happen?!?!?!?!?!

While the draw of living like Paris Hilton in the Philippines may seem appealing, that's really not the kind of life for me. I'd love to visit and take a load off for a month or two, but I couldn't live that way, even if  I wanted to. The need to provide for myself is just too strong within me. Australia on the other hand has always been a tempting dream of mine. Even if I fail, at least I've tried and lived in a country I've always wanted to go.

They told me to think long and hard about it. All I have to say is "yes" and they will take care of the rest. I really do love cooking for people; especially when I'm NOT being paid to do it. It warms my soul like a cup of hot cocoa during a snow storm. If I can find a way to love it like that again while making a living- I guess I'd have it all, wouldn't I?

Monday, October 25, 2010


So, my cupcakes will be the special guests at 5 parties this weekend. I'm kinda excited by it, and I'm sorta scared. It's a lot in a short period of time, but how great will it be delivering these bad boys in my kick-ass costume?

I feel like my little baked goods are like seeds being planted all over the city. Maybe one will take root and lead to better things. On the other hand, I hope I can just have some fun with it.

I'll be hopping on the J train on Friday to drop off two deliveries, and it has me a bit anxious. I haven't been on that train since I lived in Woodhaven, and I have done everything I could to try and stay away. I don't have a choice, though. No car, no choice. And I'll be riding this God-forsaken train in my costume.

This should be interesting.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ball and Chain

I think age 31 has so far been the absolute worse year of my entire life. Besides just personal failures, I feel like I've lost a lot of my identity in my business, as well. I have all these fantastic ideas that I want to get off the ground, but I know I fall short in execution. Rather than do something half-assed, I'd rather not do it at all. Then, again, I also believe that in-action is even more pathetic than failure.

So, I'm at this fork, wondering which road to take. In a way, birthing a business is much like marrying someone or popping out a kid. It's a strong commitment that will anchor you to one place for a very long time.

The problem is that I don't want to be anchored. Being perfectly honest with myself, maybe the idea of having a family and marriage was more of a theoretical wish rather than a realistic one. I'm a runner. When I'm stressed. When I'm worried. When I'm scared. When I'm uncomfortable. When I'm unsure---I run.

I'm not saying it's a gift. It's a very cowardly trait to have. The problem is that I can't run away from a husband or my kids. I also can't run away from a functional business.

I have doubts now. I don't know if it's because I'm stuck here spinning my wheels or if it's because I really don't have confidence that I'll be successful. I just have a lot more thinking to do.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Call Me!

Well, these are my new business cards. I'm no good at making things look all marketable and pretty, but these are a million times better than my original cards. Like I said, I have the graphics to thank for that. Without them, they would suck. So far, they've worked out great and people have responded very positively to them.The only thing I don't like is that only the front is glossy, but I can live with it. My next big expense will be labels for my boxes.

With my new idea being fleshed out, I'm hoping it will generate enough of a buzz to pay for all these out of pocket pains, but in the end, I'm sure it will be all worth it. I, for one, am very happy with my cards. I'm sure they can be tweaked and I'm sure I probably used the wrong font and positioning, but I'm a baker, not an artist, and I can only work with what I've got.

Props to the artist who designed my graphics and logo! Without a doubt, I am very much grateful for the hook up.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Make Lemonade

It came to me last night while I was mixing up my fifth batch of cannoli cream. I have a GREAT idea for a new line of baked goods. They will be themed and they have to be just right. I thought about a lot of things last night. While I was whipping up the cream for the tiramisu and dusting the top of the tray with cocoa powder, I thought about how much fun I have when I put together a party. Not a huge party; just a small intimate get together.

Lucky for me, my ex let me throw two get-togethers at his apartment last year. The first was a Super Bowl party, which I loved because all the food was stuff I would eat while sitting out in front of the TV- empanadas, nachos and cheese, chili, and quesadillas. The second was a Lost Series Finale wrap party. We didn't get too many rsvp's for that one, but it was  their loss. I had a menu with things like: "Not Penny's Potato Boats", "Kate's Bucket O'Tears-tini w/ Jack's Lychee Balls", and a bunch of other food I made up awesome "Lost"-themed named for.

If it's one thing I'm good at, it's coming up with a great menu, and thinking of a great little name to go with whatever theme I'm working with. Yes, I'm utterly fantastic at that.

So, in light of everything that's been going on in my life and my struggle to get back on top of my baking world, it suddenly struck me. Why not combine the two? Take all the fucked up stuff and turn it into something very NOT fucked up.

I'm so excited about this plan. I've been writing all morning, outlining the initial test batch. I even have a great idea of marketing this thing and getting every one's attention. With the holidays coming up, my busy season will start in a couple of weeks. I'm hoping to get my new idea up and running by Valentine's Day, but I want a soft opening before Thanksgiving to see how the market will receive it.

I can't begin to describe how incredibly alive I feel again. I'm finding myself underneath the mountains of emotional crap I've been buried under. I have a very positive hunch that my idea is going to take off. I have to make sure I execute it right. I need to find people who can give me the help I need, and I need to be able to pay them for their services so that I won't owe anyone anything. That's the worst of it; being in debt to anyone.

So, after I have my thoughts all penned out and some initial diagrams sketched, I will need to find myself a new artist and probably someone who can advice me on proper business practices. I've been skating along on the fringe of actually legalizing my business and making it official. I know I don't have the money to hire an accountant right now, but I'm sure there's a way to do this in the cheap. I just want to make sure I don't fuck it up, and that I do it right.

That's another thing I learned; if you want something to work out and last, you have to start off on the right foot. That's the foundation. Your foundation always has to be solid. Or it all falls down.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Till Death Do Us Part

Even though he was my partner, Joel never asked me to put Queenie Cakes under both our names. He insisted that this company was mine and mine alone. If our catering half kept going as well as it was, then we may have opened up another division and I would have made him my partner in that, or me his partner. Whomever wanted to be the head of the catering part wasn't important to me, but Queenie Cakes was.

Over the years, people have tried to hand me money to invest. Some only wanted to be silent investors who wanted to see me succeed and probably see a return on their money in a year or two. I've had one or two people actually want to buy into a piece of my business as a partner.

Here's the tricky part. PARTNER means EQUAL. It doesn't not mean you get to hand someone part of the work; it means HALF has to be divided; each person being in charge of their strong suits. This always frightened the hell out of me. Once someone elses name is on the corporate papers you both (or all of you, depending how many people are involved) now own a piece of the pie. Legally, everything is divided among all the partners, depending what is written out in the contracts.

It was never my intention to ever have a partner for Queenie Cakes. Like I said, I don't see my business as just a money making operation. This business is the child I never had and the family I gave up on in order to pursue my dreams. Losing this business to poor management, or worse- someone taking advantage of me and taking it away is like watching someone shoot my child in the head right in front of me. It would be devastating and I don't even know if I could recover from something like that.

I've toyed with the idea of a partner when it seemed as if I had another creative soul I may have spent the rest of my life with. It would have made sense to consider this person as a partner in my business if he was going to be my life partner. My business is such a huge part of my life, I can't imagine not integrating the two relationships together. However, like some people have doubts with their relationships, those doubts are magnified when it comes to your business.

Trust is a huge issue. Taking on someone to incorporate into your business means that you need to trust them with your life. They will know your trade secrets, your suppliers, your recipes, your customer base, your financial situation (personally and corporately), and all the in's and out's that make your business tick. How many people could you trust with that sort of information?

I think that making someone your partner in your business is actually more risky than marrying them. When a marriage dissolves it can get tricky depending on the emotional mess created and the financial ties both people had with one another. Assets and kids also play a big part. Sometimes one person walks away with more than the other. When two partners splint in a business, it's legally ugly. Sometimes one person needs to come up with a ton of money to buy the other person out. If there are debts, it's a nightmare. The worse part is when neither party wants to relinquish the rights to the business. You could very well find yourself out on your ass without a penny to your name while your old partner is now the sole proprietor on your dream. Battles like this could go on and on for years in a courtroom, and often the business falls apart before an agreement can even be made.

That's why I have always been so careful about whom I speak to about my business, whom I ask for advice, and whom I allow in. I nearly made a huge mistake not too long ago. The results could have been catastrophic to my baby, and I could have found myself pushed out of this thing that I've been building for the last eight years.

Liars are never good partners. A white lie may get you a few bucks off on supplies or extend your credit by several thousand dollars, but keep in mind that someone who can easily lie to others can very well turn around and lie to you. Is that someone you would trust with the inner workings of your business? Before I ever consider letting an outsider near my baby again, I have to be 1,000,000% confident that this is a person I would trust with my life. I need to know that they will tell me the truth about everything; even if that truth will hurt my feelings or make me cry. The truth hurts sometimes, but it's always better than a lie.

If someone can call me their friend and then lie to my face, that same person can call me their partner and potentially pilfer my business and livelihood right from under me. Scratch a liar, find a thief. That means if someone can lie about something, stealing is not too far behind.

You have to protect your business the way you would protect your child. You wouldn't just leave your child with anyone you barely know, unattended. You can't just let anyone into you business without knowing everything there is to know about them. Being careless and too eager to jump into a fruitful partnership can have devastating consequences. And those consequences can't be undone.

Always be careful about who you let in. You may not be able to get them out.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What's in a Name?

I love my new business cards. I've received nothing but positive feedback since I've been handing them out. I should really attribute that to the beautiful graphics that were set up for me beforehand. I'm truly very proud of the cards and I feel like they represent me and my company exactly the way that I want to be represented.

The problem? My name. My mother and several relatives (surprise, surprise) have asked why I haven't gone back to my maiden name. They want to know why I've attached my ghastly married name to my growing company.

Why would I attach my ghastly maiden name to my growing company?

I've always hated my maiden name. It sounded funny. I got teased growing up. That didn't phase me as much as the fact that it represents the side of my that belongs to my father. I am grateful for a handful of life lesson's my dad has handed me over the years. I work hard. I have a high sense of pride in my work and myself. I hold myself to the highest standards. Just enough will never be good enough for me. However, let's be honest. My dad and I will never exist on a level that most daughters float on with their respective fathers. We won't be best buds. He won't be walking me down any aisle. If I ever popped out kids, I know he would love them and be great with them, but he will never look at me or my siblings with any form of loving sentiment or pride. We failed him. I failed him.

So, why in hell would I put him name back at the end of mine? My ex-husband doesn't really deserve to have him name tacked on there, either, but legally that's what it is, and it's more trouble than it's worth to go about looking for a new name to trump his.

I know people take a lot of pride in their names. I know it means something to them. I know it ties them to their roots and makes them feel like they belong to something older and greater than themselves. Well, I don't feel any of that.

I may never change my name because I don't think I'm ever going to be married again. If fate decides to shake things up for me and I'm headed to everlasting bliss with someone else, then I would probably take on their last name. It's just a show of my commitment to them. It's just a label. And labels fall off all the time.

Seriously, what's in a name?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mixing Family and Business

Blood is thicker than water, right? So, you can see how blood can get in there and back everything up. It's a mess. It's tricky. It should be avoided at all costs.

When I first started my cake business, my extended family didn't take it too seriously. It was something like, "Oh, you make cakes! How cute! You know your cousin cooks, too!" This cousin they are speaking of is not the Black Sheep of the family, but the mangy, crooked coyote who swoops in to disturb the peace. My cousin Jennifer.

Just a little background on this girl. She's one year younger than me. Her father is a higher up Hungarian representative in the World Bank. Her mother is the eldest sister of 12 siblings on my dad's side. She was born with not just the silver spoon, but the entire service set in her mouth. Spoiled rotten. Placed high on a pedestal since birth, this girl has walked around with a sense of entitlement before she even knew what the hell that word meant.

She went to Boston University to study medicine, but flunked out of med school. She spent several years living at home with her mother, jobless. Why did she need to work? Her dying father was funding her life. But what kind of life was it? She poured over cookbooks and made extravagant meals for herself and her mother. Since she had no friends and none of the cousins wanted to have anything to do with her (because she's a bitch), she really didn't have anyone to sample her cooking. So, my aunts were her guinea pigs, and according to them, she was a decent cook.

When my catering gigs started getting serious and I was traveling back and forth from Washington DC and NY, the hinted that it would be great if I took Jennifer on as a partner at some point; you know- because we both love to cook. I nearly seared them with the laser beams that exploded out of my eyes. Surely, they were kidding. They were not. I politely explained that I would sooner run my business into the ground, douse it in Kirsch and set it all on fire before I let that harpy near my baby. That was the end of that.

My uncle has been great generating business for me through his friends in the World Bank. I've done many private parties in HUGE houses, that they don't call mansions. They only had an 8 car garage, and two guest houses out back. That wasn't a mansion, I was told. My uncle let me use his home in MD to prep and he even helped me deliver on many occasions. I can say that Jowl and I pulled in over 30 grand in gross sales doing those parties over two years. Without Joel, I did three parties, charging 5 grand a piece. It wasn't easy, and I turned down any future gigs after that. It was too hard getting out to MD without him, and it was harder getting all the cooking done by myself, even with the extra help I hired part time. It just wasn't something I wanted to do anymore without him.

Since my family realized my business was legit and that I was actually very good at what I do, I've had tentative requests for cake and food. I felt weird charging my family, so I've either worked for free or just charged them cost. Over the years, as their parties have gotten bigger and more extravagant, the cheap relatives have suddenly taken an interest in hiring me for my food services.

I have family who have paid me well for my work, and I have family who I have lost money on. It's easier to just turn them down. Sometimes, though, I run out of excuses and I don't have a choice but to take the job.

Why would anyone turn down a paid gig? The people. My family is the sort of people I hate dealing with. They want it all. The best. A lot of it. And they want it cheap. The problem is that nothing is ever good enough, the quantity is never enough, and the price is never low enough. Nothing is EVER good enough. There is always a critique hanging in the air; a complaint ready at the tips of their tongues. And no matter how hard I bust my ass, there is always someone else they know or someone else in the family that could have done it just a little bit better.

As much as I would love to accommodate my family and work myself to death just for a fleeting ounce of their pompous approval; I've sort of outgrown the need for approval. I didn't realize how detrimental it was until I spent a significant amount of time with someone who wouldn't take a step without the approving nod of his loved ones. His decisions, opinions, actions, and emotions were all controlled by what he perceived what was expected of him by those he was surrounded by. It's one thing to defer to the wiser when you're in a bind, but when your every decision is ruled by the favor of your audience, what part of your life is really yours anymore?

While I would like my family to be proud of me, I have to remember that this life is mine and mine alone. I have to do what's best for me, and not what I think everyone else thinks is best for me. I'm the one in the driver's seat, with or without a valid licence. Whether or not I pass the checkered flag or crash into a tree, it's all up to me. And I'm proud of that, even if I stand alone in that decision.

Do favors for my family? Sure. If I have the time, the patience, and the resources. As far as taking on a partner, taking them on as customers, or any other direct facet of my business- I'll keep them at a respectable arm's length. I love them, but if they get any closer to my baby of a business, I will tear them apart. I can't get any more honest than that.

My uncle is still adamant that I meet with his relatives to get something started over sea's. Australia. I know it's been a distant dream, but it's almost within reach, but the whole "family" aspect creeps me out. Like anything else that's come at my business; I'll see how solid this lead may be. Then, I'll proceed with caution. If they try to screw me over or take my business from me; I'll tear them apart. How else would anyone respond?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Shut It Down

When my partner and I split from one another the business came to a grinding halt. I think I worked three huge catering gigs by myself in MD because there was no way for me to get out of them, but I canceled all the booked events we had and a handful of cakes that I had agreed to make.

I went into hiding after that. I didn't pick up my cell phone. I didn't return calls. I didn't answer emails. Nothing. People thought we shut things down for good in order to relocate to Chicago, where Joel ended up moving to. No. I just shut myself down.

I traveled a lot that year within the states. I visited friends. I spent weekends away. I partied. I drank. I danced. I did everything I ever wanted to do plus more. I just didn't cook. My friend Melissa was getting married that year. I had agreed to do her wedding cake before the big split. She wondered if I would still be able to do it. I assured her I would be fine.

I did a baby shower cake for my brother's friend. This was the time of MySpace. I blogged about how my hands shook as I cut and decorated. I wrote about my anxiety, and how much sadness I had doing this cake decorating thing without Joel at my side. I wrote about how I had to stop several times during the process because I broke down crying. I wrote about my pain.

That cake still came out fantastically, though. Despite all the pain I went through, forcing myself back into the kitchen after my horrific split, my product was still solid. I even did Melissa's bridal shower cake. It's one of my favorites: Ivy and Roses. I even went as far as making Melissa's fiance's birthday cake: the WWE Ring.

Melissa got a lot of free cakes and desserts from me that year. A couple of months before her wedding, she sent me an email, telling me that she understood that I was going through a lot so she wouldn't dream of burdening me with the huge task of making her wedding cake for her. She was going to pay a real professional to do it. Anyway, with the horrible year I was having; she didn't want to add the wedding cake to the top of the pile of things for me to stress over.

Being a bridesmaid in her wedding, I did feel relieved of the burden as far as getting there on time. I would just have to concentrate on getting ready for the wedding. However, she wasn't straight with me, and I later found out that she didn't think I could make her cake as good as a "professional", and she was worried I would flake out on her because of the funk I was in over my split with Joel.

I learned a hard lesson that year. A friend is an eager friend when they can get free stuff out of you. She didn't pay for one ounce of cake that entire year from me. She was quick to send pictures of cakes she wanted me to replicate; cakes that cost well over a thousand dollars. What was she going to pay for her wedding cake from me? Nothing. I was doing it for free. Well, at least I wasn't going to have to foot the bill out of pocket anymore.

I was very hurt by the way Melissa handled the situation. I wish she just told me that my demeanor scared the crap out of her that I wouldn't be able to make this cake she wanted. When I saw the amateur cake she paid nearly $700 for, I wanted to smack her! She paid a "professional" $700 to produce a cake that some housewife could make in their own kitchen? And she was worried about what I was going to do!

I learned that I had to be more careful with what I disclosed to people. Even though I expected one of my oldest friend in the world to understand that I would not let my depression ruin her wedding cake; she couldn't see past the personal issues I was having. And throughout the year, I kept gracing her with cake after cake- ALL FREE to prove that I still had skills, but it still wasn't good enough.

I had to learn that a customer is a customer, no matter how much friendship was behind the initial cake order. Personal demons had no place in the kitchen. Whatever crap I was going through, however bad my day was, no matter how much I was crying- It did not belong in my kitchen.

It was good that I shut it down.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Business Card update

My business cards arrived yesterday. All 2000 of them. For the most part, I love how they came out, but the backside is not glossy. I know it's just a minor thing, but it's seriously bugging me and I want to return them and have them do it all over again.

Yeah, it's a very insignificant detail, but it's still a detail.

Kids or Cookies?

Business or Pleasure? : Pleasure...No, Business....Pleasure....I think.

There was never any doubt in my mind that I had always wanted a family. Husband, kids, pets- the whole 9 yards. When I was younger and married, I knew it wasn't the right time. Financial and personal circumstances were not ideal and I would not bring a child into this world if I could not do it in the perfect environment.

When my business started to grow, and Joel started to ask when we would start laying down our roots, my excuse was that I didn't have a ring from him and what kind of message would that send to our children? I love your mom enough to knock her up, but not enough to marry her. Well, he produced a ring. Because of legalities (such as his first wife refusing to sign his divorce papers), I never had a wedding planned. Why start something that I may not be able to finish, right?

Business was picking up year after year. Unexpectedly, I was thrown a curve ball when there were two lines on that damn pregnancy test instead of one. I was not a happy camper. I wasn't ready. I wasn't married. My business was booming. How the heck was a child going to fit into all this chaos?

The two months Joel and I dealt with my bun in the oven were no walk in the park. We fought. I left. I came back. I didn't want to continue the pregnancy. He insisted we try to make this work. He promised to have a physical bakery open for me before the baby's first birthday. That way, we could both work and bring the baby with us everyday. No nannies or babysitters. I could still work on my business and we would raise our child together.

In the grand scheme of things, this would have been an ideal situation for me. I could have my business, my baby, and my husband with me all day and night. Awesome!

That was a very naive and clueless girl who believed things would be as easy as that. Fate interceded and my pregnancy terminated itself. Honestly, a brand new business is not the place a newborn should be. Throwing a cradle in the corner of some kitchen is not how to take care of your own. With how lost I get in my work and how much running around Joel would have to do, who would really be there to make sure my child had every bit of attention a newborn demands every single second of the day?

Needless to say, there were never any more "oops" moments after that.

My relationship with Joel survived our personal struggles because we loved working with each other. There was a mutual respect in our kitchen that just could not transfer over to our own partnership. We had each other's back countless times, and I would still love to have him back as a business partner. Unfortunately, all the personal history between the two of us would definitely be a problematic sticking point.

Other people that I know who run their own business have succeeded because they married a partner who was not only a partner in life, but an active partner in their business. Working together provides a level of understanding that someone from the outside just never gets. People think that setting up a cupcake tree or a huge cake for a wedding is simple. But there are so many other factors that go into it, and you need to be able to handle anything unexpected; even if it means you're setting up 200 cupcakes in three feet of space in the backroom of a hall, sandwiched between DJ equipment.

Joel saw everything I went through putting together some of these orders. He knew what kind of people I had to deal with, how it sucked when someone didn't have my money, and how I had to handle unsatisfied customers. So, he cut me a little slack when I wasn't in the best mood, when I was too tired to go to his sister's birthday dinner, or when I had some massive meltdown in the middle of a baptism cake disaster.

Treating my business like my child has it advantages, but it also has huge disadvantages. I am protective like an overbearing parent. I am careful who I let in. I am cautious who I speak to about my operations. I am very selective with whom I work with. I've had many investment offers in the past; people who wanted to hand me a load of money to grow the business. It always made me nervous and I never went through with any of it. I was scared someone was going to pull my baby out of my arms and steal it. I was worried that it would fail and then would owe some big time money that I had no way of paying back.

Like an overprotective single parent, I won't just jump into a partnership blindly with anyone. While the allure of "free money" and overnight growth seems as appealing as a handsome, rich, and suave suitor coming to ask for my hand in marriage; I know better than to believe the hype. After all, what good is marrying the handsome, rich, suave suitor if he turns out to be a huge pain in the ass?

It's good to have many dreams, because if one of them doesn't pan out, you have plenty more to fall back on. It doesn't seem like I'm going to have that family I dreamed about. I admit that realization is heartbreaking to me, but I can't spend the rest of my life mourning it. I just have to refocus my efforts towards my business; my baby.

Who knows? Maybe the satisfaction of opening up my first bakery will feel as proud as watching my kid graduate from kindergarten. I thought that making the choice between Business or Pleasure would be the hardest decision I would ever have to make; concentrate on a family or concentrate on my business? I think my procrastination caused the decision to be made for me. No more family. Just work on the Business.

Monday, September 27, 2010

New Cards

Business or Pleasure? : Business

With the soft-opening of my Wordpress blog-site, I've had a place to refer clients to when they want to see my work. Unfortunately, I have not had any business cards to carry around with me to hand out. It's embarrassing when people ask for my card, because I never had any. The first 3,000 cards I ever had was something I created by tweaking some clipart, and paying a printer with two carrot cakes in order to print the very bland designs on some colored card stock for me. They did the trick by giving out my info, but it was nothing to be proud of, nor did it represent who I was as a pastry chef or my company as a fun, young, exciting product.

I was told that it made me look unprofessional and not serious about my work.

Once upon a time, I had a graphic artist working on a business card for me, but things didn't work out. It did light a fire under my ass to get it done, though. With the logo he created and a Christmas gift illustration that was sent to me, I came up with a card that's fun and functional. I guess it represents me in a way that I would be proud of. It's been delivered today and I cannot wait to see them!

I'm grateful to have known people who have helped me along the way with my business. My mom got me started. My ex-fiance Joel raised Queenie Cakes with me when it was a baby. I've hit some bumps along the road during it's tween years, but I was lucky enough to have people around me who gave me great advice, handed down some logos and beautiful marketable graphics, and dispensed valuable tech advice to bring me up to speed on the way things are done now.

A cynic would be bitter and jaded at the people who promised them the world but delivered nothing. I say; be grateful for the knowledge you attained by meeting these kinds of people. The best knowledge is often free. I've learned to be a little less trusting, to work a little harder, to stop relying on others to help me get the job I need to do done, and to still be sincerely appreciative for any little helping hand that I shake along the way.

Spiritualists say that every person you encounter in life has a purpose. Some are good and others are there to teach you a valuable lesson. My business is still young and growing. As a first time "parent", I tried many different methods and have found successes and stumbling points along the way. I want my business to succeed so I will adopt the philosophy that I will work hard to attain the goals that I set, accept and learn from failures as they come, and to be truly grateful for all the fantastic people that I meet along the way.

It is my personal belief that you will only get what you give out of Life. Maybe some would call it Karma. Many people have been there for me and my business throughout the years. I will help as many people as I can on my own journey. That way, all the good things will come around again full circle.

This business expense took a large chunk out of my bank account. Honestly, money has not been good lately for personal reasons, but I know I need to invest more in my business if I really want it to grow. In this case, I really had to re-evaluate what expenses I had that were 'pleasure' and cut those out so that I could afford this 'business'. Concerts were missed, movies were un-seen, dinners out where not eaten...But I have some beautiful new business cards waiting for me at home!

Burn Out

Business or Pleasure? : Business, Dammit! Okay?! It's Business?!

In 2007, Queenie Cakes was booming! I had a steady stream of regular customers that sold my cupcakes and cakes in their diners and restaurants on a weekly basis. I had special cake orders that totaled at least 15 a week, not to mention big events like baptism, huge house parties, some weddings and engagement parties. Joel did his part. I never lacked anything I needed to run my business. Business cards, labels, boxes, equipment, ingredients, and customers. He brought in more business than I could handle sometimes.

Food orders we worked together. Events that required me being there usually were negotiated in way that Joel was paid to be there, too. The cakes were all my doing, but he got me to the delivery point time and time again. He motivated me when I was losing focus. He kept me awake when  was on my 3rd night with no sleep and still more than half of my Thanksgiving Pie orders to finish. He rubbed my aching back, ran a hot bath for me, and kept my fridge well stocked with my fuel of choice- Coke. (The soft drink!)

It got to the point where I was taking days off from my regular job in order to complete orders for my night jobs. I was sleeping a lot less. I was irritable all the time. I was constantly tired and in danger of just collapsing. Despite all the work we were being given, Joel and I were fighting constantly. I begged for a break; a real vacation.

Our lease was coming up for renewal, and Joel made it clear he did not want to spend another year at that apartment. His mother had passed away a year before that and we no longer needed to live in that building to take care of her. (She used to live in an apartment right above us.) He promised a bigger apartment in a better neighborhood. I told him it was time to start looking to buy.

Besides working, we spent that year looking at co-ops and small houses. The houses were out of our price range, and the co-ops that I liked were in buildings that were very strict. Joel worried that someone would rat on us for running out business out of the apartment and we could lose our security deposit if we got kicked out. We bickered over things like that constantly. I finally conceded to rent for another year to save more money. He found a three bedroom apartment with a 3-room kitchen-dining room area and a huge living room. It was a little more than we wanted to pay, but it was in Maspeth, which I suppose would be slightly better than where we were situated in Woodhaven. We were set to move in three months.

That summer was busier than anything I can remember before that. Every single weekend was booked full of cooking and cake gigs. My regular customers were increasing their weekly orders. This meant more work and less sleep for me. Our joint account / house-fund was growing bigger with each paid gig. I should have been happy. I should have been excited. I was so damn tired, though. I was always so tired.

I managed to get off a night once a month to meet up with my old high school girl friends. That was an issue for Joel. Was I going back to my alcoholic ways, he would ask me. If I slept in an hour later on a Saturday morning, that was an issue for Joel, too. He insisted I stick to a schedule. If I put off baking my cakes until the day before an event, that was an issue. Every deviation from our lives the last five years was disastrous to Joel. He wanted structure, routine, and predictability. Anything less was going to "ruin everything".

That was it. One HUGE fight and it was all over. Our life together. The joint business. Our home. Everything was over. In the space of a few minutes, our entire foundation was demolished and our business and lives crashed down. It only took a few minutes to destroy what we spent 5 years building.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Business or Pleasure? : Business

The first year Joel and I lived together was nothing short of chaotic. I was coming from an abusive marriage and was probably an official alcoholic. He was coming from a failed marriage, looking for peace of mind and order in his life. I was puking in the bathroom every night, stumbling home drunk from one bar after another after to work. He was home, ironing his jeans and color coordinating his shirts in his closet.

We clashed hard. Shouting. Fighting. Objects flying across the apartment. Again, my food business took a nose dive. I was never available to take orders on the fly because I was drunk or hungover. I was more concerned about going to one party after another from school than I was booking future cake orders. Even my once a month customers seemed to stop ordering from me.

As Joel and I sorted out our personal lives; he gave me a choice. He would get me anything I would ever need, take me anywhere I would ever need to go, come up with any money I fell short of, and provide his assistance every single step of the way....for my Business. I had to sort out my priorities. I needed to make a decision and make it swift.

Would it be partying and living in the moment or would it be the business? One chance to make this decision and that would be it.

I gave up drinking that day. I stopped hanging out with my trouble-maker stagier friends. I did not see the inside of a bar again for many years. My body went into withdrawal from the sudden disappearance of alcohol in my system. As I found my equilibrium and nursed my body back to health; Joel nursed my ailing business back to health, as he promised he would.

Instead of huge entertainment centers or extra seating or fluffy couches; work benches, rolling racks, and an extra freezer took up most of the space in our apartment. My fiction and horror books were given to charity and only cookbooks lined our 7 book cases. I didn't have cable for 5 years because it was too much money wasted. Shopping meant buying cake boxes, wholesale ingredients, more vintage cookbooks, out of commission cake pans, or antique cooking tools. Money from cooking or baking jobs that didn't go directly into the joint account was spent on buying more equipment or ingredients. Vacations were working vacations. If we were not traveling somewhere to work, we were not going there for vacation.

Parties, socializing, and get-togethers stopped. We had kept in touch with a couple of people from school and would see them every other month. That all stopped during our second year together. Our business was keeping us so busy, we didn't have time for birthdays, anniversaries or baby showers. I lost touch with my friends, I stopped going out with the crew after work, and if I was not at my apartment working; I was probably visiting my family.

Six years is a long time to stop being young. However, my reputation, my cakes, and my business prospered. We had more money in our joint account than either one of us ever had in our checking accounts. We started looking at co-ops and small houses. My debt was being elimated several thousand dollars a year. Life was finally starting to work out.

This was it. I was going to be a small business owner. All my hard work and sacrifice was going to come to something tangible that I could hold and say, "Look at what I did!"

I can't say it was easy giving up the Pleasure. I eventually started to drink again; a glass of wine on a special occassion. Sociallizing meant date night with Joel once a week; usually dinner and a movie--IF we didn't have a gig that week. It was rare when we didn't.

Nights partying meant I had on a chef coat, dishing out cake at someone else's party. During those years, the Business was my Pleasure. It would all pay off eventually, right?

Your Kitchen or Mine?

Business or Pleasure : Too Much Pleasure, Back to Business

I met my partner Joel about the time I was going back to school. He was friends with my father, worked down the block from the dry cleaning facility, and a two-month veteran of the work study program I was attending. In fact, it was because of him that I got in ahead of the waiting list in the first place.

I didn't like Joel, at first. Being 16 years older than me, we didn't have much in common. I tried to strike up conversation as we headed to school together twice a week. He was married, two grown sons who were not much younger than me, at the time, and he was a Born Again Christian. Most of our early conversations consisted of me ripping up his backwards, racist, and sexist beliefs.

In the year and a half I was working at the school with Joel, he had separated from his wife. I was in the middle of my own messy separation, as well. I would leave my husband, he would come find me - begging and crying for me to come home, and I would go back. I did this again and again over the course the my work study program. I started drinking heavily with other stagiers. I was stumbling to my new bank job half drunk in the morning and then running to school to work quickly so that me and my cohorts could disappear and get drunk on the rooftop again and again. We stumbled into Limerick's across the street to drink some more until the sun came up. We passed out on the trains, to get home, shower, dress and then head out to our day jobs. I killed many brain cells that year.

My little side business stopped moving. I was too drunk, tired, and hungover during the week to make cakes that were needed on the weekdays. I was sleeping, fighting with the soon-to-be ex-husband, or doing mountains of laundry during the weekends to really push for more food orders. Still, I had a small trickle of clients who ordered odds and ends from me every month. For one reason or another, my little business was still breathing.

Joel and I hooked up during this time. I wouldn't say I loved him. I was attached to him, though. He protected me at school. He had my back. He pulled me out of trouble time and time again. He covered for me when I was in no shape to work the classes. He cleaned me up when I was a hot mess. He was the anchor I needed so badly. Over time; I fell in love with him.

Before work study was over, I had left the husband for good, and gotten a better day job. Joel had left his wife for good, but not before getting her knocked up...long story. We moved in together. My parents had no idea. My soon-to-be-ex had no idea where I was living. All they knew was that suddenly, I was making all kinds of new food and showing up at the house. I was bringing new things to parties, getting bigger orders from some of the guests and networking like mad.

My little secret living arrangements meant I had more space. I had a professional kitchen. I had equipment. I also had a partner who was willing to help me get anything I needed, drive me anywhere I needed to go, and work with me all day or night on recipes and new concepts. I finally had it; someone who loved to work as hard as I did (actually he worked a million times harder) and loved all aspects of food, too.

Things were finally starting to gel together.

My Baby

Business or Pleasure : Pleasure

Eight years ago, in the middle of a Big Mistake of a marriage, my family pleaded with me to find something I really wanted to do, and go back to school to do it. I was spending more time at my parents home, trying to stay away from my own home as much as possible. My mother started taking an amateur cake decorating class at a local craft store. She tried to talk me into signing up with her. It was $25 for the two of us, and a 20% coupon off anything in the store we needed for the class. Because of work, I declined.

Well, she loved this class. Every week, she learned something new. She insisted I read her instruction books, look at the tools, and see if I could do what she was doing. Out of sheer boredom, I went ahead and made my first decorated, layered cake. It was a hot mess; lopsided, colors too bold, icing too thick, and just a sheer disaster.

I'm not one to take failure well. I was determined to make a cake as pretty as the one's in the books. I tried again and again and again. I finally got it.

That got the ball rolling. Through luck of knowing the right people, I got a rare work study opportunity at a Manhattan culinary school. I would work for 1,300 hours, and in return, I would get a $30,000 education for free. Uniform, knives, and various other expensive kitchen tools would be free, as well.

That 1,300 hours was hard. I was still working full time at my day job. I had just been laid off my fashion sales job, the money-maker of my work career thus far. I was in about $50,000 worth of debt- give or take a few thousand. I was working at the family's wholesale drycleaning business, doing the books, payroll, collections, and invoicing. I was barely making enough to pay the rent and none of the credit cards were being paid at all. My worthless husband brought home just enough to cover utilities and some food. My mom was sending me home with groceries from her pantry, even though I tried to pretend I didn't need them.

Life was bad. But, work study was fantastic! I was working in the prep kitchens, tasting, learning, and handling food and ingredients I had never seen or tasted before in my life. I was meeting people from all walks of life. I was around people my age and a little older. I was working with magazine editors; washing up pots and pans with them, and taking out the trash with investment bankers from Wall Street. Yes, some of these people could afford to pay the full tuition many times over, but they loved the backroom education- as someone had put it. You just don't learn about receiving or rejecting orders when you're sitting in a prepped classroom.

My love of all things food blossomed on those nights when it was 12am, and I needed to be up for my day job in 6 hours, and I still had 2 hours worth of cleaning to do in that school. I took home the most expensive cuts of meat, the most rare bottles of wine, and the most beautiful pastries you could ever drool at in some fine Parisian bakeshop window. Tired as all hell, but the luckiest girl in the world.

This food thing was great. I was experimenting with recipes at home with my family. My cakes were getting tastier and prettier. Out of the blue, people started paying me a little money here and there for a cake or a tray of Pad Thai or to cook for someone's birthday.

Not a culinary school grad or some Le Cordon Bleu student; I was just a stagier - a kitchen assistant who mopped floors, hauled up bins of food, and scrubbed pots and pans. This is what I wanted to do. Food. I wanted to live it, breathe it, and earn my fortune with it. This was my baby.

The Birth
The name of my company; Queenie Cakes was almost handed to me. When I first started working at CVS when I turned 17, I kept to myself. I didn't hang out with the gang after work because I wasn't allowed to. I dressed up in tights and skirts and always looked impeccable; even if I was just a cashier at a drug store. Some of the girls started teasing me. They said I was stuck up. They started calling me Miss Queenie, after one of them misheard my mom calling me my nickname- Kareen. They thought she said Queen. That was my first email address: . I still have that email address. I get coupons there now.

I wasn't much different going from job to job. I had the same air of haughtiness, but once people got to know me; it was clear that I was not stuck up or conceited. I was just quiet and shy. The name stuck though- Miss Queenie.

And now- Chef Queenie. The owner of Queenie Cakes; my baby.