23 March 2010

I Always Thought That I'd See You Again....

My father passed away early yesterday morning. He had been sick for a while so it wasn't unexpected. We last saw each other this past summer and it's this time and this version of him that is freshest in my memory.

Due to some unfortunate events during my childhood, I didn't know my dad when I was growing up. It's primarily over the last 6-7 years that we had really gotten to know each other and make peace with the skeletons in the closet.

My dad was a true gourmand, and I like to think I got my appreciation for food from him. I definitely know I got my love of hot and spicy foods from him. He could spend hours recounting the menu from a dinner party he hosted for his private wine club, or reminiscing about the oysters he ate one summer in Brittany. He would often call just to tell me about the fresh vegetables and fruits he bought at his local market in California. He loved to cook and he loved to share his recipes. I have several from him for simple, sweet desserts, including a rum cake he raved about to me for years; he finally was able to finagle the recipe out of the chef at his golf club to send to me a few months ago (though I was sworn to secrecy to never share it). I have never made the rum cake but plan to later this month when I have a few moments of free time.

My father came to visit us a few years back and one afternoon discovered the eclairs at one of our local bakeries. He went back several times during his visit to buy us some (even though he was very sick with a stomach bug and lacking his usual hearty appetite). Whenever he told stories about this particular trip to Paris, inevitably the conversation would turn to these amazing eclairs and how much he enjoyed them. Eclairs have long been one of my favorite desserts and they are now intrinsically linked to him in my mind. I've been thinking a lot about those eclairs over the past 24 hours and given the beautiful weather here in Paris, I think I will stop by later and buy a couple. I'll take them to the parc where my dad and I sat and talked while we watched my kids play. I'll think of him and enjoy one of those amazing eclairs, and hope that he is now in a place where he can eat eclairs to his heart's content, happy and at peace.

Photo courtesy of yuichi.sakuraba via flickr.

21 March 2010

What You Waiting For?

Tick-tock, tick-tock, Life is short, you're capable....don't know if this post title refers to you my lovely cupcake fans or to myself. Maybe a little bit of both. I have been feeling a bit down these past few weeks. Why? Cause I have turned down way too many orders recently. I hate disappointing people and that's how I feel when someone writes to me to tell me about some fabulous birthday party they are planning, or an engagement party for a friend, and I am unable to take the order.

Now judging by the numbers of resumes I get every month, I am assuming that a lot of people are not aware that I am a one-person business. This obviously has it pluses and minuses. I also hand-make just about every decoration I put on my cupcakes which takes A LOT of time. I don't pre-bake my cupcakes and freeze them ahead of time, nor do I make my batter or buttercreams in advance and store them. I pride myself on making everything fresh from scratch the day of your order; I really think it yields the best-tasting cupcake you can find.

Did I mention by the way that I have two kids (and no nanny or au pair like so many of my friends)? My youngest is 2 and the main reason why I have not opened a boutique or sold through other retail establishments is because I am not quite ready to give up my family time. This has been a bit of a sore point for me as I see so many other bakers opening up stores here in Paris and it's something I have always dreamed of doing but I have decided it's just not my time yet. I read a really excellent blog by Kari of Retro Bakery out in Vegas - she and her husband have built a tremendous business on their skills, talent, know-how and charm. Yet I know they have made a lot of sacrifices in the process as it relates to being there for their kids. And I thank them for sharing this openly -- it has helped me to see the realities of their situation and in turn grapple with these issues myself.

So, all this to say that sadly, my time is limited. There are only so many cakes and cupcakes I can bake in a day and have my cake and eat it too (so to speak as I will refer to my family). I appreciate your understanding in the meantime and will request that you if you are interested in ordering from me, please let me as soon as possible - at least a week in advance.

Growing pains are tough and I always think about the classic marketing examples of the businesses that failed cause they just couldn't meet demand and pissed people off. I hope that is not the road I am heading down because baking truly is one of my greatest passions, and I love sharing this passion with people who order my cupcakes.

Times change, situations change, in fact tomorrow night I will be stepping down as VP PR for the parents' association, MESSAGE, after a 4 year run. This role has felt like a full-time job in and of itself for much of that time. I hope I will now have more free time to focus on cupcakes. There is so much I want to do and learn and I just haven't had the time. The months ahead are going to bring a lot of reflection on where this goes next. I feel that I am nearing a crossroads and some hard decisions will have to be made. In the meantime, please be patient and if I can't take your order cause my book is full (or because you waited til the last minute), I hope you will try me again.

The cupcakes featured here today are some of the orders I worked on this past week: Baby Einstein for a 1st birthday, diamond and sapphires minis for a private event, engagement party and Baptism minis, Disney princesses for another birthday, iPhone apps for an 80 year-old's birthday...and this is just the half of them! Okay, gotta go I have some kids to run out to the playground before I start working on next week's decorations!

14 March 2010

I Need a Hero, I'm Holding Out for Hero 'til the End of the Night

I don't know about you all but 2010 is off to a bumpy start in my neck of the woods. My family has been plagued by serious health problems, a number of friends are having some major employment stress and worst of all, a few of my closest friends have split up with their partners. It's been a bit of a dismal winter here in Paris and every day seems to bring a fresh wave of bad news.

When I was little I loved to pretend that I was a superhero with all sorts of kick-ass superhero powers! Between my superhuman strength, 6 Million Dollar Man Speed, bionic hearing, elasti-girl flexibility and Wonder Woman invisible jet, I was sure to have the bad guys on the run and make my Metropolis safe for all its law-abiding citizens!

At times like this, I just wish that I could have a magic healing power -- I would close my eyes, concentrate and then focus my gaze on the other person's heart or lungs or whatever ails them and in a flash, they would jump out of bed 100% recovered. Or a magic love dust that would materialize in my palms when I rubbed my hands together. I would blow it in the direction of any two people. It would wrap them in a nice, shimmering glow and before you know it, all problems, stresses and conflicts in their couple would be shrugged off as they gazed lovingly into each other's eyes and set off hand-in-hand towards the sunset. Or the power of persuasion to plant thoughts in the minds of the heads of corporations and factory bosses -- to convince them that every employee was good, and needed, and should be rewarded for a job well-done. Not to be made redundant or cheated out of the raise or bonus they had worked so hard for. Etc.

To all my friends and family who are going through some difficult times right now, I say courage, this too shall pass. And while I may not wear a cape or have the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound, I do have some special gifts I can offer -- like a yummy cupcake when your heart is heavy or you are feeling down, an open door and a cup of tea when it feels like the world has shut you out, and the capacity to listen without judgement and provide comfort when needed. No need to shine a symbol up into the night's sky. All you got to do is call, and I'll be there....

07 March 2010

Ice Ice Baby (Too Cold, Too Cold)

My oldest goes back to school tomorrow after a 2 week break. I'm noticing a lot of friends reappear on Facebook just back in town following vacations in such far-off places as Miami, Thailand or the Alps. We stayed in town, though my son attended swim camp this week which thankfully he loved (& now he can swim! Or at least get to the side of the pool and hang on should he inadvertantly fall in).

The first week of vacation seems to have passed in a big blur. It was one rainy, grey day after another - typical for Paris at this time of year. Plus, we had a tempest! I love how the French call it that - so Shakespearean. This past week, we had many sunny days which was fortunate since my daughter and I were stuck outside in Boulogne for 3 hours every afternoon waiting for my boy while he swam. It was starting to get warmer and I was feeling confident that Spring was just around the corner.

In fact, I started thinking ahead to the several weddings I have on my books and some of the cupcakes coming out of my kitchen this week were definitely inspired by the balmy days: Lemon Tart cupcakes decorated with daisies, Orange Mignon with cute little Spring flowers, a sample wedding cupcake made with lavender and decorated in pale purple and white tones, a warm mauve colored Storm cupcake, and others made with fresh bananas, strawberries, and blackberries. Even, my new March flavor: I Want (Cotton) Candy (pictured below) is a light, airy, sugary surprise of vanilla and cotton candy decked out in sparkly Spring pinks.

And then nature reared its ugly head. Back to the freezing temps we go. I'm talking arctic here - time to pull the cashmere sweaters and the Uggs back out. :( Oh, I know it won't be long before the mercury starts rising again. Until then, guess we just have to keep on hibernating and dreaming about the coming thaw.