As we settled into the den this past sweltering Friday night to have a cold cocktail and watch a movie, the phone rang. It was Julie, our downstairs neighbor.
“Hi Gail, I was wondering if I could ask you something?”
“Sure Julie, what is it?”
“Can you make a wedding cake for Sunday?”
Dumbfounded, I replied as I always do in situations like these. ”Are you crazy? I can’t possibly do that, Julie. I’m so sorry.”
Ignoring what I just sputtered, Julie went on trying to win me over.
“Let me just tell you about whose getting married”, she began. ”Two of my oldest, dearest friends who’ve been together for ages got their wedding lottery notice earlier today. The guys just got a slot in the Manhattan same sex marriage lottery for Sunday. I’ve been busy with them all day arranging their wedding…we have a friend who is a judge performing the ceremony, 20 family members and friends are coming in for the wedding and even though Aureole was already booked, they were nice enough to suggest Ai Fiori, who is happily taking care of the whole thing. All we need now is the wedding cake.”
Now, could anyone say no to this? I certainly couldn’t. Especially while listening to this shpiel while wiping the tears that were streaming down my cheeks. ”Okay, Julie, what do the guys want?”
“Well, they want a tradtional tiered cake with fondant and fresh flowers.”
[a moment of silence on my end] ”Oy. Julie, I don’t do fondant cakes. Or fresh flowers. Buttercream and cookies are what I do.”
We take a few minutes to simultaneously review the photos of my work on my website.
“Well, let me have Ken call you.”
I spoke with Ken about flavors and cookies and buttercream and heard the ‘ohmygod, I can’t believe I’m doing this’ in Ken’s voice. Planning a dinner party on the fly is one thing. But, a wedding? A wedding that’s part of a history-making day? No wonder Ken sounded like an automaton hopped up on Redbull.
I thought and I thought, I sketched, and I use that term loosely since I have the drawing skills of a 4 year old (picture big sheet of paper, drawing in one corner of the paper, rest of the page is blank. And that’s on a good day.). Finally, I had the idea in my head. I’d do the cookies and bake the cake on Saturday, make the buttercream and assemble the whole thing on Sunday. Pick up at 3:00 p.m., delivery by 4:00 p.m., ceremony begins at 5:00 p..m.
On this day, July 24, 2011, in all five boroughs of New York City 823 same sex couples will have been married by the time you read this. History will have been made as New York becomes the 6th state to change its laws to allow same sex marriage. We are all celebrating. We’re celebrating the first portion of the end of a social and legal injustice (the federal government will be obviously be the next hurdle). And, in a time when our state’s economy is pretty much in shambles, the money brought to the state in the tourism, hospitality and retail sectors will be very significant. Which, in and of itself could be the reason(s) other states might want to reconsider changing their laws.*
But, let’s get back to the mushy stuff….wedding talk.
As I measured and mixed, schmeared and smoothed, I thought all day about my own state of marriage. J and I have been together for 29 years. Waaaay back in the ’80′s, when we met and fell in love and decided to be together, a real marriage was not an option. ’Gay’ and ‘marriage’ were words that would never be written in the same sentence. But, that didn’t stop us, or other couples like us, from
needing wanting the ritual of a wedding. Reciting our vows in front of friends and J’s family (my parents refused to come; a decision they ultimately regretted) who loved us and wanted us to be happy. We wrote the vows, selected rings, got very dressed up, hired a caterer and had our ‘commitment ceremony’. That’s what pioneers like us had in 1982. A commitment ceremony.
For all intents and purposes, we’ve sailed through life as though we were happily, legally married. We built a home and a life together. Saved and invested money together, bought life insurance policies and had wills and medical powers of attorney drawn up. We behaved responsibly.
In 2008, when the New York State Assembly failed to pass the same-sex marriage amendment, we feared we might never see same-sex marriage in our state. On a particularly frigidly icy December day, we trained to Greenwich, CT (where same-sex marriage is legal) and applied for a marriage license. After waiting the requisite number of days, we trained back, once again, to Greenwich to get married.
No friends accompanied us; we told them not to bother. And, in sharp contrast to they way we entered our commitment ceremony 27 years earlier, we neither dressed up or wore makeup. The Justice of the Peace wanted to marry us in her own home, and again we said thanks, but don’t bother. We’d be fine with getting married in City Hall in a random room beneath the photo of the current head of The Department of Sanitation. It was just a formality. We got married years ago.
Wearing our warmest jackets, gloves, scarves and Uggs, we trudged into the courthouse, with a Starbucks coffee in one hand, and my Mitzi bag in the other (you didn’t think we’d leave her out, did you?). Pleasantries were exchanged with the loveliest J of P, and we were ready to begin.
We stood in front of a podium with the state seal of Connecticut painted on it. The Justice of the Peace began to read from her book.
And, I began to sob. No tears slowly welling up in my eyes, no single salt water trickle out of the side of my eye, but the kind of ugly sobbing that explodes from the bottom of your soul and makes your shoulders practically convulse. I thought I’d never get through the 3 minutes of ceremony to mumble the “I do’s”. But I did. And, in that moment when J and I faced each other and sort of heard something about being recognized as a married couple in the state of Connecticut, I fully comprehended the enormity and the importance of being equal. Married. Not a civil union, but really, honest and truly, married.
So, to Ken and Terry, and the other 822 couples who, hopefully cried a lot prettier than I did while they got married, I say “Congratulations!”
Now, who wants cake?
* Did you know that lesbian and gay couples earn roughly 45% more than their heterosexual counterparts?
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By the time I truly unwound and relaxed (and by that I mean not having hot flashes 10 or 100 times a day), it was time to pack up and go home (back to the ever-present mustache of sweat beads).
It’s been so lovely here. We relaxed. We read and listened to music all day.
We never turned the news on. Not once. I survived.
We cooked. We grilled. I baked.
We saw two of the films presented at the Film Festival.
We saw beautiful dance performances.
We almost hate to go back home.
Even Mitzi’s not exactly jumping into her bag.
Oh vacation, you were so very good to us this year!
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“When you ship an order of cookies, do you ship extras?” That was the question I posed a few nights ago to cookie business owners on my Facebook page.
Granted, this was hardly a Quinnipiac poll, but I did get a lot of answers rather quickly. In a nutshell, the preponderance of responders (or is it respondents?) said ‘yes’ to the extra cookie shipping. Isn’t that interesting?
You KNOW I have an opinion on this. And, let me preface this entire post by saying it’s ONLY MY OPINION! I’m not judging, preaching or telling you how to run your business by any stretch of the imagination. This is just a platform for discussion because, well, it’s an interesting discussion. Okay?
May I ask you another question? When ordering something fragile from Tiffany’s, Neiman Marcus, Sears, Walmart, Target, Amazon, Williams-Sonoma, or any other big retailer, do you get an extra bowl, wine glass, vase or dish? Do these merchants ship extras because they know the product is fragile and that breaks are inevitable? No, of course not.
So, why are you shipping free extras?
You told me you’re doing this in case some cookies break, like an insurance policy. But, you’re still giving away product and there’s no guarantee that they all won’t break. Want insurance? Then check off the little box on the shipping form that asks if you’d like your package insured. If there are breaks, your client can document them and you can claim the damages from Fedex, UPS, or even the Post Office, if I’m not mistaken, provided you’ve paid to have the package insured. Returning money or redoing the cookies (time permitting) shows great customer service on your part. Your clients will be grateful and are bound to use you again for another occasion.
Then there’s the ‘engendering good’ will reason. Think about it. Let’s say you charge $48 for 12 cookies. That’s $4 per cookie, right? Add two extra free cookies and you’ve just brought your cost down to $3.43 each. A difference of $.57 per cookie. Now, let’s say you have orders for 12 orders of 1 dozen cookies per month. If my math skills are correct (and notice I’m using easy numbers so I don’t get myself screwed up) you’ve given away 24 cookies and roughly $13.68. Multiply that by 12 months a year and bingo: you’re up to $165.00! And, that’s if you only make 144 cookies per month!!! I understand including a few bonus cookies to a client who orders frequently and hypes you to friends. But, new customers? I think you’re subliminally telling your clients that the price you’ve quoted isn’t the real price at all.
Which brings me to the next subject: the importance of proper packing. Bridget shares her packing expertise over here. I ship alot of cookies, but I agree with Dani Fiori who wrote that she only ships certain styles. I will not ship a champagne glass cookie. Even with a piece of cardboard slipped into the bag to shore up a structurally unstable design, I won’t do it. BUT, I do use a lot of bubble wrap, foam sheets, crumpled newspaper and FRAGILE stickers in and on every box I ship. And, when faced with a cookie disaster, I file the appropriate paperwork with the shipper, and then quickly return money or credit the customer. Thankfully, this hasn’t happened often. But, it’s happened.
It’s becoming more apparent to me that this cookie business has a split personality. It’s a business/it’s cookies. You and your cookies nurture and cuddle your clients/friends. You probably have a never-ending supply of taste-testers and reject-acceptors ready and willing to ‘help’ you out day and night. It’s complimentary, I realize that. But that’s not a business where goods are sold in exchange for money. I can’t imagine saying to a banker “hey, if you have any reject 100 dollar bills, I’ll take ‘em off your hands.” You wouldn’t dream of it, right? But, that never stops anyone from making mindless remarks like that to us.
If you have a retail shop and inventory is mounting up, slashing the price at the end of the day to move product is how spent money is salvaged. Donating to a food bank is a great way to get a tax deduction and build strong community relationships. But, as owners of small, custom order businesses, we don’t have inventory waiting to ship. We create new product for each and every order that comes in. And that can make it even harder to eke out a living, especially when clients don’t realize that labor is the major component of the price structure. Add to that the skyrocketing cost of ingredients! So, to me, I might as well tape dollar bills to my boxes, sooner than including the extra cookies.
Your clients have chosen to place an order with you because you’ve enticed them with the offerings on your website, and/or prior experience with your product. Many of you said you include the extras as a ‘thank you’. Does your butcher give you an extra steak to say thank you? How about the gas station owner; is he offering up a gallon or two to be nice? I thank clients, new and old, by sending a short email after their event asking if everything went well and thanking them for choosing me to create something special for their celebration.
So many of us open our businesses with wide-eyed optimism, only to be broken by the harsh reality of 15-16 hour days and very hard physical labor involved to sustain the work we love. It takes time and patience to keep the love in the cookies. And the money in the till.
What do you think? I’ll be right here waiting for your response.
I think I’ll have a cup of tea and an extra cookie while I wait.
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Although I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Paula Kelly in person, I think it’s pretty safe to say she should be nominated for sainthood. Paula’s always there with support for a friend, a blog post and a twitpic. There’s NEVER a cross word, a snarky remark or mean-spiritedness in any of her tweets or blog posts. And, her royal icing construction projects would render me cross-eyed before I ever got the first wall up!
So, it’s not surprising that she’s devoted a year of her time and effort to galvanize food bloggers to share their own personal stories, and of course, bake for her special project called Frosting for the Cause, a site dedicated to raising money for the Canadian and American Cancer Societies. Every day there’s a new post, a new story and a new recipe. It’s a mammoth task that Paula’s undertaken with a smile on her face and love in her heart.
Scoot on over there now and get the recipe I’ve posted for Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies.
Thank you, Paula. You’re the sweetest cookie I know.
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Twitter can be a fun place to hang out and exchange witty banter, snarky remarks, and, of course, much discourse about what we’re cooking and baking.
I believe I was following an exchange between Abby and Jamie when I casually remarked that I would love to bake with them. One tweet led to another and before anyone knew it, #baketogether was born.
We turned to our undeniably fearless leader Abby to come up with the recipe we’d put our two cents into. Nothing too laborious, lest it frighten away the newbie bakers. Of course, Abby wisely selected her Chocolate Truffle Tart, a gorgeous little confection, perfect as is, but willing to welcome all kinds of changes and tweaks with open arms.
Thrilled and excited to begin, my brain then reminded me that there are only two of us in this household, and one of us doesn’t want to eat dessert. But, since we were to be whiling away Memorial Day weekend at our friend Joey’s beach house, I decided I’d make the tart there.
Other than bringing the 9 inch tart ring and chocolate with me, Joey made sure we had everything we needed, since I provided him with a detailed shopping list. And, lucky for me, another of Joey’s weekend guests LOVES to bake. Great for me, too, since we could gab while making the tart.
Oh..note to self: never ask anyone what their mix-in of choice might be. Because if you ask four people, you’ll get six answers ranging from ‘don’t make anything special for me, because you know I won’t eat it’ to ‘ewww, that doesn’t sound good’. Just make whatever you’re going to make and even the picky ones will eat it. Like the one in this household who doesn’t eat dessert. Ahem.
So, what did I do? Not too much, since I was gun shy with this group. I added hazelnuts and cinnamon to the crust and replaced the recipe’s rum with Frangelico (I have a heavy hand) to the ganache and the mascarpone topping. I toyed with the idea of adding a layer of caramel between the crust and the ganache. I vocalized a desire to make a hazelnut brittle to break into shards for adorning and extra crunch. Neither came to be, since lounging on the chaise by the pool seemed to have a bigger hold on me than I thought.
Hazelnuts gave the crust a lovely mild nutty, crunch while the cinnamon added an additional savory sweetness, not to mention a delightful perfume in the kitchen while the crust baked. Even the buff-est guys hanging out in the house couldn’t resist following the baking crust’s scent into the kitchen to take a peek.
The Frangelico gave the ganache the wonderful gianduja flavor I love so much. More Frangelico in the topping? Why not?
The results? Well, Joey decided his understated cake knife and cake pedestal were the perfect accompaniments to this lovely dessert.
Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle Tart
Makes 1 tart or 12 servings
For the crust:
- 1 cup or 4.5 oz graham cracker crumbs
- 1/3 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts
- 1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
- 4.5 Tbsps melted butter
For the filling:
- 12 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 oz. (4 Tbsps) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 2 Tbsps Frangelico
- 1 cup half and half
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Pinch fine sea salt
For the topping:
- 1 package (8 ounces) mascarpone cheese
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 Tbsps Frangelico
- (Optional) Chopped Hazelnuts
To make the crust:
Heat the oven to 375°F and have ready a 9-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom.
1. In a small bowl, stir together the cookie crumbs, chopped hazelnuts and brown sugar until well blended. Drizzle the melted butter over the crumbs and mix and smear the crumbs and butter until well blended and evenly moist. Dump the mixture into the prepared pan and press evenly onto the bottom with a straight-sided, flat-based metal measuring cup to create an even 90º angle straight side. Bake until fragrant and slightly darker brown, 10 to12 minutes and set on a rack to cool.
To make the filling:
1. In a heatproof medium bowl, melt the chocolate, half and half, and butter in a microwave or over simmering water. Remove from the heat and add the Frangelico, vanilla and salt. Whisk the mixture until well blended. Set aside, whisking occasionally, until room temperature and slightly thickened, about 1 hour. (For faster cooling, refrigerate the filling until thickened to a pudding consistency, about 30 minutes, whisking and scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula every 5 minutes.)
2. With a rubber spatula, scrape the mixture into the crust and spread evenly. Let cool completely, cover, and refrigerate until the filling is set, about 4 hours and up to 1 day before proceeding with the recipe.
To make the topping:
1. In a medium bowl, combine the mascarpone, heavy cream, sugar and Frangelico. Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat on low speed until smooth. Increase speed to medium high and beat until cream is thick and holds firm peaks.
2. Using a small metal spatula, spread the whipped cream over the chocolate filling leaving lots of swirls and peaks. Cover loosely and refrigerate up to 8 hours. If you have chopped hazelnuts, sprinkle them on the topping just before serving.
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Last weekend I didn’t attend either of the two different food blogger conferences in Atlanta and Washington, DC. Clearly, that was a BIG mistake on my part, since I’ve been working for days on this one little post. Sure, I skimmed the live tweets during the sessions, glanced over the live blogs for any key tidbits of never-fail blogging how-to secrets that would catapult me into the big leagues in one easy step. And, while I did read some terrific post-mortem summaries from bloggers I adore, I’m sitting here typing and deleting, typing and deleting. Typing. Deleting.
I’m trying for the life of me to figure out how to share one of my favorite brownie recipes with you. A double decker espresso-infused fudgey brownie sandwiching a silky smooth ganache making it even more outrageous. It’s not writing the recipe that has me stymied. It’s the the fact that this crave-worthy treat may never see the internet light of day because of three little dirty words.
Search. Engine. Optimization. It might as well be called the shackles of cyberspace thanks to the new Google recipe search algorithm that’s systematically ranking recipes based on a ranking system fueled by some kind of undemocratic system that gives preferential treatment to recipes you might not ever want from sources you might not know and trust.
Feeling like Charlie Brown, doomed before I even push publish, I’m sure this little recipe won’t reach more than 12 people. Let’s not kid ourselves…google the words ‘brownie recipe’ and see how many gazillions you get. This one will be on the last page of ‘search’. That is, IF there’s a last page of ‘search’.
And, then there’s the photography. I’ll just leave that one alone.* I can feel my numbers plummeting and I haven’t even posted the recipe!!!! For this reason alone, I’m not going to compose a casual lineup of the usual brownie ingredients that you’ve seen countless times before, We all know there’s nothing I can do to a photo of butter, chocolate, white and brown sugar, eggs, instant espresso and flour except make you avert your eyes.
In a giant leap of faith, I’m going to post this recipe for the 12 people who might have the tenacity of Diogenes to search and search and search. I promise if you try it, you’ll see why it’s ranked number 1 in my own overflowing brownie file.
And, I’ll go to a blogger conference and work hard to up my game.
Here’s how I flip the brownies out of the pan.
*Say a prayer for Penny De Los Santos, who’ll be a guest speaker at Big Summer PotLuck 2.
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Long ago, before streaming Netflix, before YouTube and UStream, before thousands of cable channels and even Betamax, we had plain old TV. Three major networks, plus, what my brother and I called the ‘foreign channels’ (local Baltimore affiliates) and a couple of PBS or, ‘educational channels’.
No muss, no fuss, just black and white TV shows on a small screen. When I was very small, we only had one set, too, for a while. We survived. There wasn’t much choice, either, considering there wasn’t enough programming to fill, in many cases, 12 hours of the day, much less 24. But it was marvelous. News anchors read from written scripts, not teleprompters. Meteorologists scribbled smiling suns and angry rain clouds on erasable maps! I would take a roll of Life Saver candies, push the foil wrapped candies up from their multi-colored paper cover and pretend it was my microphone, while imitating what I thought I heard coming through the airwaves: ”President Eisenhower had a heart attack on the golf course today”. Funny what a four year old picks up, isn’t it?
The point is, I’m pretty sure the television is the 20th century invention that has had the most profound effect on my life.
While glued to my beloved Miss Frances on Ding Dong School, I learned how to make noodles. In gradeschool, we anxiously watched astronauts like Alan Sheppard and John Glenn catapulted into space for short trips around the earth. History was made before our eyes in 1963 when an already shocked nation watched JFK’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, get shot to death during what was supposed to be a routine prison transfer. In the 1970′s, The Louds gave us permission to watch “An American Family” as we saw a marriage and a family fall apart in real time on the first and best reality show. David Susskind was an innovative benchmark of talk show hosts, interviewing anyone and everyone from Nikita Khrushchev to Andy Warhol and his Factory’s Superstars. The list goes on.
A lot of years have passed since then, and countless hours of great, good and awful TV. Some of manufactured, much of it real. The only thing that’s changed is the film quality and the speed at which we demand and receive this stimuli.
In the past seven days, we gathered before this invaluable, magical machine and watched two polar opposite, but history changing events occur within roughly 72 hours of each other: the Royal Wedding and the announcement that US Special Ops killed Public Enemy #1, Osama Bin Laden. These events knocked me in the head and reminded me how spoiled I am by this technology. How I take for granted that at any time, day or night, I can flick the switch and am entertained, educated or exasperated, depending on what channel I’m passing by.
There’s something oddly poetic about the fact that this was the week I had an order of TV sets to do for a young anchorman in Texas celebrating his 25th birthday. Timing is everything, isn’t it?
Television, I personally want to take this time to say thank you. Your influence has helped me become the person I am today…whatever that means.
TV, I made you your own cookie. It’s my way of saying thanks.
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In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined the conversation this little rant o’ mine caused recently. If anything, I truly expected an avalanche of negative comments, and I braced myself for that onslaught. But, it didn’t happen. It struck quite a chord with you all, and I thank you for all positivity!
So I thought to myself, I COULD write a post for you now about the nuances of ten different royal icing consistencies. But, it seems that these fine cookie makers (and many more) have that covered. You don’t need me for that right now.
You’re different. You like to dare me to talk about these forbidden subjects. And I fall for it.
That said, the next runaway circus elephant that has showed up in my living room is tattooed with the word discount.
Here’s a sample of that scenario:
A potential client phones and wants to place an order for, say, 100 cookies. That’s a tidy little order, you think to yourself. Before you can say “vanilla or chocolate cookies?”, the question is asked: ”Can I get a discount on this because I’m doing volume?” Which do you do:
- Become paralyzed from head to toe.
- Cave instantly by saying ‘of course’ and fumble over your words because you don’t want to lose this order, no way no how, even though you’re livid with rage.
- Calmly and sweetly tell the client that these cookies are being created expressly for them and the largest portion of the cookie costing formula is labor, and you can’t possibly discount labor, much as you might like to.
If you said ‘C’ unequivocally, then shut this thing down and go do something productive with your time.
WHY O WHY would you give a discount? Because you’re getting Trump wealthy on all these cookies you’re making? It doesn’t make much sense, does it? If you’re creating cookies especially for this client, then there’s no real reason to give a discount. It’s not like you have a big inventory of baked and decorated cookies that are sitting in your cookie warehouse, and you just have to make room for all the other cookies that need storage. No-siree. You’re making these cookies expressly for this client. And, as we went over in the last post that made my blood boil, you and I both know you’re not getting rich doing it.
What happens if you do give in and provide a discount? It could be a percentage, a few cents, maybe even a few dollars off each cookie because you believe this client is IMPORTANT! You begin the work. And, low and behold another person wants to order cookies. No mention of a discount. Hhmmm….take the order and give up overrated showers and sleep? Now you start to really get steamed because you’re working your decorating digits to the bone for less money than ever, AND turning away business.
Do not fall into this trap. Re-read #3 and repeat after me: my labor is what fuels these cookies. It is my work that you admired and made you come to me for my product. Without my labor, these cookies mean nothing. Chances are, if you explain honestly (like you’re letting them into your world) that the labor really is the biggest expense of the cookie, the client will understand, especially if that client is a small business owner, too.
It’s okay to say no and not feel guilty. You are the master of your cookie domain. But remember, once you give a particular client a discount, they will always ask for a discount. The precedent will have been set.
Ultimately, you have to answer this question: is it better to take a huge order at a discounted price that may or may not cover your costs, time and labor, or is it better to take smaller orders with a larger mark-up for the week? And have time to shower?
No matter what you decide, I have a feeling that you’re going to be answering these queries with a lot more confidence now. Reward yourself with a cookie. And send this elephant back to the circus.
Or this cake.
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I feel a little guilty. This year, I’ve barely glanced at a bunny, a chick, an egg or a basket. I’ve been too busy thinking about what’s happening during the week that follows Easter.
THE ROYAL WEDDING!!!!
I’m just gaga over the royals, as I’m sure I’ve told you. And, the media’s attention to this event is fueling my royal giddiness! Royal wedding spectator parties will be abounding here in the states. You can get the cutest invitations to those weddings here! And, what’s a party without a themed cookie, I ask? That’s why I did these:
Word got out and the next thing I knew, on Friday morning I was delivering a group of these babies over to MSNBC’s Alex Witt for her Saturday morning segment on the Royal Wedding!!! Alex couldn’t have been friendlier, sweeter or more down-to-earth as we chatted in the lobby of 30 Rock. I practically wanted to hug and kiss her goodbye after we schmoozed about politics, news and, cookies, of course!
Early Saturday morning, this aired:
My phone started ringing at 8:00 a.m.! Crazy kindred royal wedding spirits all over the country were phoning! It was so exciting answering the calls and tweeting with my dear twitter friends while seeing this mind-blowing image across the screen:
It was a total out of body experience, I tell you. I still don’t think I’ve really took it all in. Even when Alex was touching the cookies, I still was in a state of disbelief:
Are you planning a party? Having guests over in their jammies to watch the telly? Tell me what your own plans are for this glorious day.
We’ll be having scones and clotted cream, coffee and, cookies, of course!
Note: special royal thanks to Katherine O’Hara for the extra special royal screenshots.
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Two separate conversations with two different groups of people about one subject can only lead to one thing: a blog post.
The subject of today’s burning discussion? That elephant in the cookie room: money.
This post is particularly for those of you who might be just starting a home-based business; testing the waters to see if your idea is viable enough to take to the next level. And, if you are anything like I was, you’re more than a little scared.
You see, it’s one thing to have friends and family say “You’re THE BEST cookie maker! You need to go into business and sell these! People would just line up to get them.”
Friends and family love you for the special cookies you create for their birthdays, their graduations, their weddings. They want to see you share your talent and be paid for what you love to do. And, they mean well, they really do. They’re your cheerleaders, your taste testers, your waste management team*. Do not, however, depend on them to be your customer base. No business was ever built on friends and family.
Depending on your personality, hawking your own wares can be the hardest part of starting your own business. You almost think you sound conceited, rather than confident. Opt for believing you are confident. You’re passionate about what you do so let the confidence shine through. And please, remember that confidence when potential clients tell you they can only afford to pay you a smidgeon of what you’re asking. Summon your inner strength and politely say no. Calmly and nicely, explain that you run an artisanal business with an emphasis on individual handcrafted edible art.
So, you’ve established a price for your cookies. You’ve come up with what sounds like a nice low-ball price for cookies because you don’t want customers to say no and you want orders. Maybe you’re pricing by the cookie, maybe the dozen. Whatever it is, you might very well be shooting yourself in your own foot just a little bit. Before you quote your next job, see if you’ve considered the following criteria before coming up with that random number:
1. If you have a standard price for a cookie, be it a single cookie or a set, are all your cookies roughly the same amount of work? The same size? If so, then fine. But, if they differ widely in size and detail, then you’re cheating the clients who get the simplest of designs, and giving the work away to those who ordered an intricate cookie.
2. How much time do you spend researching images? And, do you make your own cutters/templates for these images? That’s time you’ve put in on the project, too. It needs to be considered. The same thing goes for making your own cutters/templates.
3. Are there 3 colors in this cookie design or 6 colors? Again, that shouldn’t be the same price.
4. Are your cookies bagged and bowed? That takes time, too, part of your labor & materials cost. Packing them in a box? Don’t forget to factor that in.
5. Utilities. Electricity, gas, water. That’s your overhead, you know. You’re using more of those services than you would if you weren’t home ‘working’.
6. Multiple cookies making up one particular cookie, like Martha Stewart’s stacked wedding cake cookie? You know that’s 8 cookies making up one cookie favor. Price needs to reflect that AND the labor it takes to make it Martha-perfect.
7. Hand-piped message or name? Cha-ching. Add more labor to that order!
7. Delivery. That’s gas, AND wear and tear on your vehicle, not to mention your time. Again.
I’m not just lecturing from my ivory cake pedestal, I promise you that. I’ve made every single mistake. How do you think I got the material for this post? From my vivid imagination? Mistakes are the best teachable moments in the universe. You don’t even have to go out of your way to make them. They just happen. Experience them and move on.
Fast forward a bit. Your business is catching on. You’re making a name for yourself. Clients are recommending you to their friends. Do you know what this means? It means it’s time to re-evaluate your prices. Not ridiculously, but within reason. You’ve earned it. But, how do you know when it’s time to raise your prices?
1. Have you been written up on blogs, local newspapers? That’s press, you know. You’re being looked at as a professional.
2. Cost of supplies like butter and sugar go up. Are your cookie prices doing the same?
3. You’re getting better and better at what you do. Experience at your craft elevates your worth again.
Please know I’m not telling you to be the most expensive game in town. Far from it. I just want you to be able to run your business successfully, so you can grow and prosper. And, at the end of day, if your cookies can bring in a little more of this
to put in here
then I’ve cleaned up a little after those elephants, haven’t I?
*lucky recipients of reject cookies
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