Monday, May 26, 2008

Family

Warning: disjointed and random post this morning: seems I am unable to be cohesive yet today.

Went to a family reunion this weekend. This was my Dad's family, which is actually the smallest of the clans I belong to and yet it has been the longest time since we were all together. In fact, the last time was when I got married; nearly 14 years ago. Wow. However, in our defense, we are spread out in both Ontario and BC, which does complicate things.

Some of the amazing things:

Cousins I (before this weekend) still though of as children are all adults now (I'm the oldest of the bunch) and meeting a second (or third?) cousin I didn't even know about were all wonderful surprises.

Seeing all of the similar features on each face reminds me that I'm part of something bigger. My daughter (whom everyone says looks so much like me) actually more strongly resembles both my sister and my sweet cousin Jenna (the resemblance was further enhanced when Jenna braided Kathleen's hair just like her own.)

My son had the best time playing ninja chicken something (Moms are not meant to understand these games) with both my sister and all my giant cousins who took such joy in horseplay with this small sweet boy; he had the time of his life. Most of them had never met him before, yet despite their wildly diverse facial foliage, he took to them like he'd known them all his life.

Talking with my newly discovered 2nd cousin who is only slightly older than me, and who had a serious stroke some 10 years ago. What an amazing, inspiring woman! Conversation is a bit like playing a combination of charades and some odd word association game as she is not always able to make her mouth say the all of words she is thinking. She just laughs and carries on; after a few minutes of talking with her, you forget that this isn't the usual way to communicate. Though it must be terribly frustrating at times, Jill is the most cheerful person I have met in a long time; she refuses to let the past get her down. Something to remember when I'm feeling sorry for myself.

The food. OMG... we are a bunch of fabulous cooks. Sometimes it seemed like all we did was eat and drink! One of my uncles was celebrating his 60th birthday so the last food we shared was his birthday cake (my Mom baked it ahead of time... my job was just the icing and decorating.)

The only negative about the whole weekend was the bugs. The blackflies were swarming like I have not seen in MANY years; you'll likely just see a black mass hovering around some vaguely people-shaped things in all of the outdoor photos we took. Pretty sure we all donated a pound of flesh (or blood) to feed them so I suppose it is somehow appropriate they were in the photos... some of them had more Capyk blood in them than we did.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

It's been a crazy week (as you've no doubt noticed by my conspicous absence here) and I'm just getting back to my so-called normal routines. Nothing exciting of course, just massive piles o' stuff to deal with.

This is a few days early, but as I still have more piles o' stuff, I wanted to make sure I got it posted in time.

Happy Mothers Day... to all the mothers; the almost mothers, the mothers-in waiting, and the loss-filled mothers, the grieving mothers, the forgotten mothers.

For the mothers of multiples, and of singles; of tiny babies, and of big chubby wonders.

For those who live in the NICU or the PICU; for those who are dealing with the terrifying reality of a sick child.

For those of you who have lost a child through any circumstance, whether it was moments after you found out you were pg, or whether your child was a senior citizen; whether your loss was yesterday or 50 years ago.

For those of you who desperately want to be a mother, and cannot; whether it's your first or your fifteenth that you are trying for.

For those of you who are currently expecting or cradling that new babe in your arms.

For those whose child is in the terrible twos, or the equally terrible teens.

For those of you whose children are leaving the nest, or have come back home to roost for a time.

For those of you who have adopted a child, and for those who have fostered a child and given them a safe place to be for a time. For those of you who have given up your child.

For those of you who are single Moms, and those who feel like you are.

For those of you who have made difficult decisions, and done what's best for the sake of your kids.

For the mother-in-laws who have shared their children with another person.

We are the tribe of mothers and this is our day. Some will be pampered or given gifts made by small hands... cards held together with massive amounts of glitter and glue. Some will be ignored or worse. Some will not even be acknowledged as belonging. It doesn't matter. Take this day and make it your own. Give yourself a moment and hold your children dear in your heart.


To all of you I say Namaste*





* there are several different interpretations of the word namaste; these are 2 of my favourites:

I honor the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells, I honor the place in you which is of Love, of Integrity, of Wisdom and of Peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that
place in me, we are One.


The light within me honours the light that is within you and wishes you peace.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Political Correctness

Saw this on line... no idea of the veracity of the source, but funny as hell anyhow!

The following is the 2007 winning entry from an annual contest at Texas A&M University calling for the most appropriate definition of a contemporary term. This year's term was Political Correctness.

The winner wrote,"Political Correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end."

Monday, April 21, 2008

Missing the Obvious

Sometimes procrastination is not just procrastination. Sometimes it's your own mind trying to tell you there is a better way!

I have been wrestling with doing my book-keeping for over a month now. I have an accounting program available to me, my MIL is a book-keeper, my husband was an accountant.

Yet every time I start up that program, I just get angry and frustrated. So most days, I just feel guilty about looking at that icon on my desktop, and ignoring it.

For those of you who don't know me... new computer programs do no scare me. I usually LOVE learning stuff. I taught myself Excel, and was known as the resident guru of the office.

I'm not going to mention the name of the program, because I have realized that the problem does not lie with the program... it's all me. I simply do not WANT to learn it. And no amount of self-flagellation is going to change that.

However...

Did I mention that I'm pretty decent at Excel? That I have written entire suites of spreadsheets complete with macros and formulii that would make even a programmer dizzy? Suites that combine purchasing, scheduling, inventory management, shipping schedules and more.

And then the lights came on.

I did all that for someone else.. why not for myself? No restrictions or stupid company policies. No "that's the way it's always been"!

WHY DID I NOT THINK OF THIS BEFORE NOW????

I love making cakes. I love designing spreadsheets. How is it I missed the perfectly obvious opportunity to combine these things?

I can be so stupid sometimes. LOL

So now, I am designing my own Excel-based cake business spreadsheet suite. WOO HOO!!!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Competition...

if anyone is near Westminster, MD this weekend, you should really check out the Mid-Atlantic Cake Show & Wedding Cake Competition

Last I heard, they had nearly 100 entries for the wedding cake competition... should be incredible!!!

I had other commitments this weekend, or I would be there with my friends Karey & Lisa who are both competing!

GO CANADIANS!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Procrastination

Procrastination. We all do it (don't we?)

Personally, I figure that I just can't function without a certain level of stress and guilt. It's the only logical explanation of why I will put off until tomorrow (or the day after, or next week) a job that will take me 5 minutes today.

I get to dwell on the fact that it's not done, and feel bad about whoever is waiting for the results of my inaction. I get to wake up at 3 am with a clenched stomache and complete inability to go back to sleep until 10 minutes before the alarm goes off. I get to over-eat all sorts of junk food and gain 100 000 pounds. Ah yes... the perks of procrastination.

With cakes, I can use the excuse that I want the cake to be as fresh as possible. So I won't start baking until the day before the cake is due. Then, all the little decorative details I had in my mind have to get by-passed since I decide at 3 am that it's time to sleep instead of fussing with the cake anymore. Who knew that I'd still be up at 3am on a Friday night now that I'm in my mid-30s?

See... there's another perk!! I get to fraternise with all the drunken college kids on my way home after baking. Procrastination keeps me young! It just makes me look old.

But wait! There is a solution!!!

According to a professor at Stanford, procrastination can be a good thing... it's all about how you use it! check out his articles on Structured Procrastination and Perfectionism. If nothing else, the time you spend reading the articles will be an excellent way to avoid doing what you should be doing! He also has several other hilarious articles... just follow the "more essays" link on either of those pages.


Well I have to go... there are things I should be doing!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

what's so scary about competition?

I have heard it from so many cake artists that I'm beginning to wonder if there is something to it.

I can't enter competition X; I'm too scared!

Why?

Only the judges will know if you will be seriously out-classed, and MOST competitions have different tiers (beginner, intermediate, master) so there is something for everyone.

SO WHAT if you come in 96th out of 97 cakes? Do it anyway! You will learn, you will get better!

Of course take some time to research what did well last year, find out who the judges are (if you can), talk to people who have entered in the past, etc.

THEN, use this opportunity to stretch yourself, to make the cake you dream of making but is so hugely time consuming that nobody would ever order it! Or the idea that is so out there, that people would need to see it to know that it is stunning!

but I don't know what I'm doing!!! I've never entered a competition before

So? Everyone is a first-timer at some point! Do your research, and expect to LEARN a whole lot! NOTHING compares to being there... IN the competition. You will learn some things by just going and observing, but you'll learn EASILY twice as much by taking the plunge!

Okay, now that I have thoroughly abused my shift button, go find a competition and enter it!!!!!!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

It's a beautiful day!

I got an absolutely delightful phone call today from a new client who LOVES my cakes! It is so gratifying to have someone that excited about my art, and who gets my sense of humour! She has ordered a fun cake for me to do this weekend and didn't balk at the pricing! Gave me free reign on the design too!

To celebrate, I went out and bought a nice spring/summer dress for doing deliveries in.

The sun is shining... the temps outside are nearly the same as inside; spring is finally here! LIFE IS GOOD!



That is, until Friday when there is a possiblity of snow again. {sigh}

Monday, April 07, 2008

More tips from the land of Bridal Shows

Here are a couple of photos of my booth from 2 different shows:




Just did my last(?) bridal show for this season and I noticed a few things I thought I would share!

  • don't sit. Seriously! All the brides are standing and walking around; you need to be on the same level to catch their eye and engage them. The first big show I did actually strongly discouraged even having a chair in your booth, and that was a 2-day event!

  • get a professional sign or banner made. Yes, they are expensive. Yes, they are worth it. My sign is a bit too small... next year I will get a bigger one! Your sign should be at least 4 feet wide, and don't try to put too much on it. Your company name & tagline & logo, and possibly a cake image (if the word cake is not in your name) is plenty!! The most important part is that it be read-able from across the room! In my experience, the narrowest booth you will get is 5 feet, but they can be as much as 10 feet for a single booth. you don't want your sign looking tiny and lost in that space.


  • always have some business cards in your hand or pocket. Sometimes you'll be stuck in a corner away from your cards and someone will ask for one.


  • don't get stuck in a corner of your booth. Especially if you are claustrophobic. I find it easiest to stand just outside of my booth, then I am able to greet everyone.


  • bring at least one NEW cake to each show you do. I have 8-12 cakes I bring, but every show gets a new creation... remember you will see many of the same vendors & brides at multiple shows; make sure they have a reason to come back to your booth!


  • bring LOTS of cakes... more cakes makes for a more impressive display, and you will appeal to more people (everyone has their favourite!) When I did the large 2-day show in January I brought 12 cakes. Every one of them has a few people that said "THIS is my favourite!" If I hadn't brought that cake, they might not have found anything they liked!


  • bring different heights of risers. If you have a lot of cakes crammed into your space, you need to raise some of them up.


  • make sure the cakes you bring show the range of your skills. each cake should appeal to someone different or they are just filling space. If all your cakes show the same technique (no matter how impressive) people will think that's all you can/will do.


  • bring lots of different toppers. Make sure they suit the style of the cakes. If there are local manufacturers, they may be willing to loan you a couple of their toppers (but be careful... many shows will not allow you to hand out any printed material for a company that didn't pay for a booth) My toppers include a couple of monogram style ones, a couple of crystal cake jewellery toppers, a few different bride & groom figures, some gumpaste flowers, and a fondant bow.


  • About the bride and groom toppers; when I say different, I mean DIFFERENT! I don't have a single plastic couple with tulle & doves, because they are not my style. If they are yours, ONE couple like this is plenty! Everyone has seen those toppers; you're not going to amaze them with a Wilton plastic couple. This year, my "couples" include a gingerbread couple, an "Oscar" gold-leafed couple, a custom polymer clay couple, and the Corpse Bride & Victor. Each one is VERY different from the others, and make people think about different options.


  • TALK to the other vendors! They are your BEST source of referrals. You MUST get to know them, and let them get to know you! Encourage them to taste your samples, make up a pamplet and a set of business cards to give to everyone else. This is the EASIEST guerilla marketing you can possibly do. When else will you have all of these vendors in one easy place? The times when the fashion shows are running will be dead in your booth anyhow, so use that time well!


  • get some nice fabric to use as table skirting. Or buy pre-gathered skirting that gets mounted with velcro or clips. Even if the venue provides skirting (and many do not) you want your booth to stand out.


  • get photos of your booth!! Snapshots are fine, but you will want to a) see how your booth evolves over time and b) see any flaws or oddities that you didn't notice (so you can correct them next time.) For many of us, bridal shows is the biggest (if not only) advertising we do. You need to get the most out of it, so never stop learning!


  • get photos of other booths that look really great! Not just cakers, but any booth that looks good!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Inventory is your friend

Big ol' tip of the day here that should be painfully obvious: keep a current inventory list!!!

Actually, keep 3.
The first is your equipment... the stuff that you use over and over. Why? So that when you sell a bride on a 6/9/12" wedding cake, you actually HAVE a 6", a 9" and a 12" pan (or 2)! And when you go to your cake supply store to get a few things, you don't buy your 18th #2 tip when you REALLY needed a #1.

The second inventory is your consumables. Your cake ingredients, your colours & dusts... your boards & boxes, dowels and drums. Your business cards. Your contracts. Your office supplies. Tape. Ribbons. Pre-made gumpaste (or other) flowers and decorations. This one is the list that will save you money. Just do it! You will discover that you can stop buying 13" drums, but could really use 14" ones. You will discover that you really do go through a LOT of boxes, and it might be worth buying the big case after all.

There is nothing less professional or more frustrating that not having something you should have, or spending money on something you already have. If you know what you have on hand, you can "sell" someone on a cake that uses some of those decor bits that you have had sitting around forever, or a piece of equipment that you haven't used in a while.

Then there is the insurance aspect. You DO have insurance for your cake stuff... RIGHT???? If anything were to happen, a detailed inventory will make sure you are adequately covered. You might be surprised just how much cake crap you have.

An inventory is also an excellent way to help you prune back when you run out of space! Knowing that you have 3 different (but similar) petal veiners means you can chose to get rid of one or two. Even remembering that you have that <> 1982 staircase & fountain set (yes, I know... you blocked it from your mind as a self-defense mechanism) may encourage you to find a new home for it! (Yard sale anyone?)
If you're anything like me and desperately need to get organized, an inventory will also help you plan your space! Knowing that you have 43,000 dust pots tells you that you will have to allow a bigger spot for them. Knowing that you don't have a 9" round pan means you don't need to allow a spot for it at all. Unless of course you NEED a 9" round pan. Then you can allow a spot for it when you get to order one!


The third inventory is something very different. I touched on it ages ago in a post. Keep an idea inventory! Notebook, folder, envelope full of scraps of paper... doesn't matter! Get an idea for a cake... sketch it! Write notes! WHATEVER!! But once you forget (and you WILL forget)... it's gone. Then, when you need an idea... you have nothing.
Keep an inventory, and you're set! If you are really organized, you could have full sketches made for cakes you want to do. Next time you have a bride in, start by showing her those sketches! She might just order it!!!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Bakery Showcase

For anyone who has a cake or baking business of any sort in or near Ontario... you should check out the Bakery Showcase 2008 in Toronto May 4-6:

http://www.baking.ca/bakeryshowcase/bakeryshowcase.html

Meet a ton of great suppliers, get to sample some of their wares, ask questions about their products, etc. It's invaluable to keep up to date with what is available out there!

Also note, this is run every 2 years, so don't plan to go next year!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

wallpaper ranting

WARNING: Wandering off topic here to rant. Feel free to come back tomorrow for more cakey goodness!








WHY do people use wallpaper? And if they must use such devil-spawned ugliness as this:

WHY must they be cheap-asses and not prime the walls?

We've been in this house 8 years now and I have to look at this nastiness daily. However lack if time/money/energy for such a monstrous job as removing it from a 14'x14' room has thus far prevented me from doing anything about it (we did remove the wall paper from another room... we probably should have just ripped out the walls and put in fresh drywall... it would have been faster & easier!)

And while I am ranting... why do people buy a lovely 100+ year old house and put nasty-assed cheap-o ceiling tiles in to cover the ceiling???

Apparently this working from home has made me much more aware of just how ugly this house is. It almost feels like spring outside today... guess it's time for change!

Friday, March 28, 2008

A small kindness...

Becky over at Mommy Wants Vodka is trying to restore our faith in humanity this week with her "do something nice" week. Well once I got done tearing up about the little ones remembered, I had to think about my own way of "paying it forward"

It's simple really. It's doing the little things that mean nothing to you, but are priceless to someone else.

I helped a friend do some editing of something she wrote. It took me all of 10 minutes to do, but would have taken her much longer. I told a silly joke to someone who is stressed out and at wits end. Wrote a kind word on someone's photo on Flickr. Listened to my sister when she needed to talk. Hugged my daughter and reminded her that this too shall pass.

I donated a small amount of money to a group who were helping a friend get a new computer when her old one crapped out. She'd been going through a rough time, and her on-line friends (most of whom have never meet IRL) knew she needed to keep in touch.
Not only did we get her back on-line, but the combined kindness of a bunch of strangers helped lift her out of a funk we didn't even know she was in.

We all do these things now and again... but make a conscious effort to do a small kindness every day of your life! Trust me... you are the one who will be richer for it!

Cookie Sutra... the naughty chocolate cookies


I couldn't resist posting these... busy cookies for my SIL's stag and doe tomorrow!

As an added bonus...

LOOK!!! 2 posts in one day!

Ok, not really... I just forgot to mention that I've added a little poll (over there on the right --->) to see what you think of the new look!

Vote away, and feel free to comment at will!!!

Keep in mind... **I** love green. In case you couldn't tell.

Paperwork... AKA the Bane of my Existance

So today is quiet... finishing up the naughty cake & cookies for tomorrow's events, meeting with one bride to finalize her cake, then it's back to doing my paperwork.

Did I mention I HATE paperwork? I am an artist, people! A Free Spirit! However... the government has other ideas. And they actually want to know how much tax they can charge me (HA!! I have to be making money to pay you... so THERE!) and I have to be able to prove it. So... I learn book-keeping. Egads it is dull. I mean, I knew it would be... but still. I haven't even finished entering my suppliers list and I want to either take a nap or remove my eyeballs with a dull screwdriver just to make things interesting.

I guess this is just more incentive to get REALLY busy and successful so I can hire someone ELSE to do this stuff for me!

It's been a pretty successful week... not financially necessarily, but in other ways.
  • I established a friendly relationship with one of my competitors, with a nice agreement to refer to one another any of our overflow as well as some information sharing. That feels really good.
  • One of my on-line cake friends has promised to nag me like she was my mother if she doesn't see a regular post from me here... so now I have to write or face the wrath of the smileys! (thanks Nancy... just the push I need!)
  • I met with 6 brides this week and had 6 great consultations. I have one more this weekend for a fun suitcase wedding cake.
  • I quoted a nice order of mini cakes... they are so labour intensive, but a lot of fun!
  • I met with an advertising rep and a potential supplier.
  • I get to decorate naughty cookies (does it get any better??? LOL)

I'm also preparing for my 3rd (and probably final for this season) bridal show display in a couple of weeks. I find these shows nerve wracking, but exhilarating too. It terrifies me to be in front of a crowd, yet I love nothing more that to talk cake all day with a bunch of happy brides.
I have learned a few things about bridal shows though:
  1. bring back up: make sure SOMEONE will be around to be at your booth when you have to pee or eat. It really sucks to stand around all day, faint from hunger and crossing your legs while doing a dance. Just not a professional look.
  2. bring water and lots of it. Talking is thirsty work, and if your booth is at all successful, you will be doing a LOT of talking.
  3. wear comfortable shoes. yes the sexy stilettos look better, but the brides really don't want their grooms paying too much attention to the cake lady, and besides... you will be on your feet for the next 8 hours, smiling and looking friendly, dammit! Painful shoes will not help your smile.
  4. Bring samples. People LOVE free food. get used to it. bring chocolate... the grooms will love you.
  5. the cakes you bring are not necessarily the cakes you will sell. This sounds very strange so let me elaborate (go ahead... try to stop me! It's my blog and I warned you that there would be blathering!) Any display cakes you bring should be in the style that you want to be doing, but they are like stage makeup; overly dramatic and there to draw attention. Most brides will order something traditional and pretty; but if all you show them is traditional and pretty, you are not memorable, and you will not get their order.

well enough blathering for one day... Happy Caking!!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Who are you and why are you posting?

YES... I am back! Complete with a brand new look, and a new focus. Or no focus at all as you will soon see! Welcome to my new blog... where my train of thought is routinely de-railed, and when the spelling gets a little creative.


I cannot believe it's been over a year since I posted... but it's been quite a year.


So what's new you ask??





I'm now baking full time (no more pesky bill-paying day job!) and trying to make use of some of this advice I keep spewing! I don't have a storefront (yet!) but I am renting a kitchen for all my baking and decorating. Got a new business name (Wild Cakes) and a new appreciation for just how tough this business really is.

I'm working with a dear friend and fellow caker to start up a cake club and school. We'll be featuring all the classes that nobody offers, but you really wish they would! (at least I hope you wish that... they're the classes that **I** wish someone would offer anyhow!) And yes... I will be teaching a few such gems as custom cake toppers and cake carving 101.

What else....


The kids are growing up at the speed of light... my daughter is now 12 (AARRRGGHHH!!!) and so I had to make an appropriately "grown up" birthday cake for her...


My little "monster-man" is 4 and when asked why he must ask so many questions, simply declares "because there's a lot of things I don't know Daddy!" That'll teach him to ask a 4yo a rhetorical question!


This weekend I have to come up with a clever cake for my SIL's stag and doe.... I've already started on the cookie-sutra gingerbreads, but the final theme of the cake still eludes me. Sometimes carte blanche can be so hard!


"But what about the book?" you cry! Well that's been shelved for now (sorry). Eventually when things slow down again I'll probably pick it back up again, but for now you'll have to content yourselves with just reading my blather here.

And blather it will be! Getting into the business of cake will affect your whole life... not just what you do during the day. So my blog will start to encompass whatever I feel like talking about that day... not strictly cake stuff. Because it's ALL about the cake in the end.