Love & Butter & Muscle: Who Needs The Gym When You Have a Bakery?

In case anyone’s wondering where I’ve been for the past few days–no, I did not zoom off on another vacation while forgetting to blog ahead. I’m back at work, ok?  For a former teacher, the idea that “work” now means playing with dough and chocolate is pretty darn delightful. But last week the delight caught up with me.

See, Holly B’s reopened last week under new ownership. I cut my road trip short to fly home to prep for the opening, and I have no regrets. It was a BLAST, being in on the ground floor of a new enterprise (or a newly-imagined, beloved old enterprise, since Holly B’s turns 40 this year).

(image courtesy Stephanie Smith)

(image courtesy Stephanie Smith)

It was also EXHAUSTING. The reason I haven’t blogged yet? I’ve been resting up.

Long story short: we’ve switched croissant recipes. Turns out this new one involves more than twice the number of steps as the old one (mix, rest, roll, encase butter, roll, chill, roll, fold, chill, roll, fold, chill…ah, darn it, I’ve lost count, but I’m pretty sure we don’t have croissants yet…). It also takes approximately 15 times the arm strength. That. Dough. Is. STIFF.

But just look at all those layers! (remaining images courtesy Ann Hoag)

But just look at all those layers! (remaining images courtesy Ann Hoag)

Now, I’ve been doing my little weenie weights and push-ups like a good girl, but I’m a distance runner, people. Let’s just say my arms are NOT responsible for my Personal Bests.

...and these...Worth the sweat. Totally.

…and these…Worth the sweat. Totally.

At one point, mid-way through the second day’s croissant dough batch, around slab number 9 or thereabouts, I started whining like a two year-old. If my younger and WAY STRONGER colleague Ann hadn’t been there to shoulder (and bicep, and tricep) the dough burden, our poor new boss would have been there finishing it herself at midnight, ’cause my arms were DONE.

The good news? The new owner is buying a “sheeter” to do our rolling for us. The bad? It won’t be here for another three weeks at least. So, I guess the better news is…I can quit with the weights and the push-ups for now. This croissant dough will be my free gym.

Oh, you look all sweet and innocent NOW, you little boogers...

Oh, you look all sweet and innocent NOW, you little boogers…

Seriously, though…I LOVE my job. I am the luckiest tired lil’ baker in the west. And if I don’t blog again for awhile…well, now you know why. C’mon, sheeter!

 

 

The Best Mothers Day Present: When Your Kid Becomes Your Colleague–and You Still Like Each Other

My Mothers Day started with a three a.m. bike ride, and it was Son Two’s idea.

He’s just been hired to work part-time this summer at Holly B’s Bakery (“Holly’s Buns Are Best”)  where I’ve been working for the past five years. He’ll mostly be working the counter and, later on during high season, baking at night. But this Mothers Day, a slot came open for assistant morning-baking. Son Two filled it.

“Can we ride in?” he asked. Now, I know your average almost 23 year-old is not his/her best self at 3 a.m., even when pulling some kind of all-nighter. Asking one to wake up then, bundle up and bike 11 miles in the dark, well…I wouldn’t have asked. But since he offered? Hell yeah! Let’s ride!

Son Two’s reward: getting to spend the next nine hours having his Head Baker mom tell him what to do. He did fantastic.

Making croissant dough: roll, butter, fold, chill, repeat.

Making croissant dough: roll, butter, fold, chill, repeat.

He messed up not once (which is more than I can say for my first disastrous pan of brownies assistant baking shift). He made beautiful food. And on our ride home, he told me he appreciated my showing him how to do things right.

Young Man With Macaroons

Young Man With Macaroons

Breakfast in bed is great. So is going out for brunch. But my best Mothers Day present EVER is the realization that my younger son is someone I would hire or sign up to work with, even if I’d never met the kid. I mean man.

Like mother, like son? I should be so lucky.

Like mother, like son? I should be so lucky.

Mothers Day stories, anyone? I love hearing from you!

Colleagues in Leagues of Our Own?

I’m looking forward to going back to work tomorrow. One of my colleagues spent the weekend at a wedding in Seattle, and I want to hear all about it.

Seattle’s not far from here: forty-minute ferry ride, ninety-minute drive. But for this colleague, spending a night in Seattle is equivalent to me flying across the country. Except that it’s maybe a bigger deal.

Teachers tend to be middle class folks. During all my years of teaching, I could generally expect to hear from my peers about their holiday trips to Hawaii or Disneyland, or to family back east. Worth photo-sharing, but hardly the trip of a lifetime.

But in my island bakery? Few as they are, my colleagues now span a startlingly large income range, from going on assistance in the winter when the bakery closes, to heading off for a college career already paid for by family money, and everything in between.

It makes for interesting conversations.

Feel like complaining because two different friends have scheduled a wedding and a memorial service on the same weekend in two different states? Want to vent about the lack of legroom on airplanes these days?

Does the term “first world problems” mean anything to you?

(orig. image courtesy Pinterest)

(orig. image courtesy Pinterest)

When I hear about people’s problems, I always want to try to help, try to brainstorm solutions. But what’s the solution to a crappy landlord? What’s the solution to lack of full-time work with benefits in a small island community, or to crippling student loans preventing further education? Those are a little beyond me.

This post isn’t intended as a complaint. It’s more of a observation: I don’t think very many of us work many hours with folks whose financial context is vastly different from our own, at either end of the scale. And a question: when we do, how is it?

Me–I like it. Even when I can’t solve my colleagues’ problems. I still get a lot out of listening. And we work harder to come up with topics we can all share in, like family, or movies, or books. Or our customers. 🙂

How about you? Unless you work from home, are your co-workers more of less in your economic sphere, or not? How does that feel?

 

 

Happy “Independence” Day to All You Small Business Owners…Bless Your Hearts!

When I left teaching to become a baker, some of my former students were confused. “How’s your bakery?” I would sometimes see on Facebook.

Well, they were half right. I do feel like it’s MY bakery, especially when I unlock the doors at oh-dark-thirty and turn our oven on. But in truth, Holly B’s Bakery (“Holly’s Buns Are Best”) is not MINE…for which I thank my lucky stars. Especially at this time of year.

For a little bakery in a town with a tourist-dependent economy, July Fourth is Black Friday and the post-Christmas sales all wrapped up in one buttery croissant. Or make that 250 croissants.

Our kitchen is TINY. Three bakers have to squeeze past each other. We have only one oven. But the food must be baked! Here, I’ll try to give you some visuals:

#1

cinn rolls

dough

full racks

overflow 1

overflow 2

Can you imagine the planning all this bounty requires? The ordering, the scheduling, the storage? What if you get it wrong? What if you run out of chocolate chips? What if you bake too many pesto baguettes and not enough of the olive tapenade? What if you make too much? What if you don’t make enough?

How does Holly ever sleep in late June (let alone continue to be the World’s Nicest Boss)???

baguettes

Holly’s oldest son, Ty, is now co-owner (and the World’s Second Nicest Boss). Maybe it eases the stress to have someone to plan with. I sure hope so!

bread rack

I LOVE my job. I love “my” bakery. But around Independence Day, I am extra-super grateful that I’m fairly “independent” of the stress of being in charge, and I take my hat off to all those brave souls who carry that load.

last

Happy Independence Day, business owners! Now go get some sleep.

Danish

How ’bout you? Do you own your own business? ARE you your own business? Or do you have that in your family? How do people COPE????

Commuting: Let’s See If We Can Spice That Boring Word Up, Shall We?

I’ve been thinking about the word “commute.” Could there BE a less descriptive word? 

My friend Iris just posted a very moving piece about her morning commute, which happens to include a ferry ride that most folks would pay to take. (Congrats again, Iris, on the latest step in your retirement from a long nursing career!)

I used to have a 25 minute commute to my school, mostly ugly interstate, which I blanked out by listening to the news. Gotta admit, I hear less news now. Somehow the world manages to turn anyway.

(orig. image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

(orig. image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

My former principal and his wife used to commute an hour and a half each way to their jobs in Tacoma…jobs which started at 6:45 am! Those are practically baker’s hours.

I know about baker’s hours now. I’ve noticed that folks gasp and shake their heads when I tell them I get up at 3:45 for a regular shift, or 3:15 if I’m head-baking and want to get a head-start. (Next week, as the bakery gears up for July Fourth, which is like Black Friday for retailers, some of us bakers will be getting up at 2, and on the Fourth itself, starting work at 2.)

(orig. image courtesy Wikimedia)

(orig. image courtesy Wikimedia)

Thing is, though, this is only a part-time job for me. Getting up before sunrise on the daily? No thanks. But three times a week…turns out it’s kinda cool.

So I’ve been experimenting with biking to work.

I used to do that only when I worked up front at the counter–i.e., during daylight hours. People would admiringly ask if I did that when I baked and I would respond, politely, “No, I need more sleep than that,” all the while thinking, “Are you NUTS? Bike at 3:30 in the morning??”

Guess what? I AM nuts. I LOVE biking at 3:30 in the morning.

3:20, to be exact. If I leave then, I arrive @ 4:15 (taking the most direct route, which I usually avoid due to traffic, but at 3:20, it’s just me and the deer). That gives me enough time to change clothes and slurp down a bowl of yogurt before diving into the dough.

I have great bike lights, rear and front (except when I forget to charge my headlamp and it goes out on me–but that’s another story). When it’s starry, I have stars to gaze at, though I really do need to keep my eyes on the road because our deer are legendarily STUPID. I do NOT fancy hitting a deer in the dark. Last month I had a big, fat, lopsided pumpkin of a moon off to the west. Hints of sunrise beckon in the direction of my ride. And now, at midsummer, the sun’s doing more than hinting, it’s coloring the bay pink and purple as I speed down the hill toward the village.

Am I more tired at the end of a baking shift if I’ve biked in? Sure–but I’m infinitely more satisfied. And, once I get myself home–okay, I’ll admit, biking home is the hard part, when fatigue is riding along with me–I don’t have to worry about waking myself up later for a workout. I am DONE. Best. Nap. Ever.

Don’t get me wrong: I won’t be doing this every day. Biking takes 40 more minutes than driving, and those 40 minutes would pack a cumulative wallop of sleep deprivation if I missed ’em too often.

But those days when I do bike in? I’ll be baking with a big, smug smile.

(orig. image courtesy Wikimedia)

(orig. image courtesy Wikimedia)

What does “commuting” mean to you? Is there any opportunity to be gleaned from it? Favorite radio show, music, digital books? Kid time? What’s the coolest commute you know of? How do YOU make that boring word a little more descriptive?