vacation earned

The Fanny & Jane end-0f-year madness is finally coming to a self-imposed end. I think I’d be in traction right now if I hadn’t put some boundaries on the work load. But we got it done. Kevin, James, Katie, David, Blue, Marina, Faryn, Meg, Tim, Clayton, Rebecca, Billy, Jessica, Matt, Steve and Daniel. We all worked tirelessly and got it done. I have an amazing group of friends.

Kevin made over 3000 cake bites, ran dozens and dozens of errands all over Manhattan and Brooklyn, shipped countless packages, made business decisions, designed packaging, directed troops and never faltered. Katie baked hundreds of cookies, made pounds of batter and offered to come back to do more again and again. David made SIXTEEN pans of brownies in less than eight hours. Marina did any job I put in front of her with ease and grace, including baking over 1000 cookies in less than three hours. Meg packaged sweets and assembled boxes like a pro. James saved my life on numerous occasions and was a sounding board, a work horse, and a wealth of knowledge. He also quietly rolled hundreds of cake bites in one afternoon without my even asking him to do so. Faryn made heavy batches of cookies and ran errands in the pouring rain. Tim made countless batches of cookies, packaged brownies, wrapped cake bites and filled boxes nonstop. Blue made so many red velvet cakes that I lost count, and kept Kevin and I laughing and cheerful the whole time she was here. Steve and Daniel both worked diligently with our boxes and tissue paper, and both schlepped out to Brooklyn when they probably didn’t want to. Billy carefully┬á sliced ten pans of brownies into little bite-sized pieces, which might not seem like a big job, but is actually one of the most awful parts of the process. It took him five hours and he did not stop once. (If I had done it instead, it would have taken me eight hours plus, no doubt….Hmm…I think I might need a new brownie slicing method, come to think of it.) Jessica and Matt, who’d both generously helped out with baking earlier in the week, were here the morning of one of the big shipments and were part of the most intense little assembly line this apartment has ever seen. The understanding postman basically waited at the door as we wordlessly taped and labeled too many boxes to count and got it done in a flash.

This is a messenger taking away one of the two big corporate orders we shipped. This was the smaller of the two orders, but it still filled three massive boxes.

Those huge boxes are filled with baked goods! And that was the smaller order?!

I am eternally grateful for my supportive, generous friends. And let me tell you – you really learn who your true friends are when you’re up against the wall in a situation like this. I cannot say thank you enough times to the people who saved my butt. They’re probably sick of hearing me say it – but THANK YOU, ALL OF YOU. You are wonderful friends and I hope for an opportunity to someday return the invaluable favor.

Yesterday marked exactly two months since my last day at the desk job. It feels like a lifetime. So much has changed in such a short period of time, and more interestingly, I have adapted so quickly to this new way of life. I barely remember what it was like to commute an hour to work every morning, to sit behind a desk answering phones for 9 hours a day, to leave the office when it was dark and wake up the next day and do it again.

I am a lucky young lady.

Kevin and I leave Brooklyn for Chicago this afternoon in fifteen minutes! (our afternoon flight was canceled!) and as I’ve said several times in the last couple weeks, I’m really looking forward to it. All the bakery madness meant I didn’t get out to soak up quite enough Christmas spirit this December (and Kevin vetoed the overplaying of Christmas music in the apartment…What a scrooge!), so I’ll have a lot to make up for during this next week at home. I’m excited to see my fabulous family, to spend time catching up with my cousins who are some of my best friends in the world, and to relax, eat, sleep, exercise, see movies, shop, chat, see old friends, give big hugs and be surrounded by warmth, love and home.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

the light!

It’s dim, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, you guys!! Last night, after making major headway by putting some time consuming finishing touches on a huge order that’s going out this morning, I crashed into bed and slept like a rock. I woke up at 7am on the dot and although I hadn’t slept more than six hours or so, my body was ready to get this DONE. Today is the big day. One huge order will be picked up by a messenger this morning (we’re talking 30 large cake boxes that are currently stacked in my living room), and the other, even larger order will be packaged up all day today and shipped out tomorrow morning.

I. Cannot. Wait.

Today is going to be a long one. There’s a lot to get done. There’s some final baking to do. And then there’s just so much to package up. I have spent the last several days dreading this day because of how many little things have to finally come together. And I have spent the last several days embarrassingly begging friends and friends of friends to come over here and help Kevin and me today. I hate how much help I’ve had to ask for over the course of these last couple weeks, but I remind myself that my friends are probably happy to help. (They’ve all been so adorable about it. “It was fun!” Hmm..I wonder.)

Luckily, I think I have a small army of people coming over throughout the course of the day today. Kevin and I are both beyond grateful for that. We are both exhausted, achy and our minds are spinning. We will put the last of today’s huge order in boxes, slap shipping labels on them, and they will leave this house – hopefully via a pickup from the post office – tomorrow morning. And I might cry when that happens. Our workload won’t be over, but it will be significantly reduced. I might actually lay down on the couch and watch an Oprah tomorrow and stare off into space.

Oh my God, that will be heaven.

We’ve decided, this season, to package up our Red Velvet Cake Bites in these adorable little candy wrappers. I love them, they’re cute as can be. And I think they make the sweets that much more exciting to eat. The photo doesn’t really do them justice. (But I’m not at a stage to care right now.)

This has, without question, been one of the most challenging experiences of my life. I’ve never run a marathon, but this might just be my marathon. There are moments that occurred a few days ago, when we were just drowning in lists of things to bake, that I cannot believe we pushed through. And here we are and it’s almost over. I’ve learned a ton about myself in a very short time. Thank you for allowing me to go on and on about it.

the silver lining

I can’t remember what day it is. I’m grouchy, exhausted and I have insomnia. My bones ache. There are bakery boxes stacked all over the the living room. I’m awake at 5:16am. I have been working nonstop. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

As promised and as usual, I will be honest with you on this blog about my experience first to leave my desk job, and now to continue to navigate that journey. And today, it all hurts. That’s what’s honest today. I want to snap my fingers and be anywhere else.

What’s interesting about this experience, though, is that I have no choice but to move through it. I cannot speed it up, I cannot wish it away, I cannot cancel it or get out of it by making a phone call. I have no choice but to walk through the fire, if I may be so melodramatic.

My left knee is killing me. I have no idea why. I haven’t exercised in a week. I’m going to strangle someone over it. THERE’S NO TIME TO EXERCISE. I’ve missed birthday parties, record releases and holiday parties. I’m up at 5am because I cannot effing sleep. But I just have to move through it.

I’ve started saying to Kevin, who, by the way, has been literally by my side for all of this, “Two more days. Just two more days.” Because in two days, we will have shipped out the second of our two big corporate orders. We won’t be done then, but things will slow down significantly. We won’t be spending every waking hour of every day working toward this.

I do not mean to sound ungrateful for our success. I hope everyone knows that. I am so grateful for so many of the wonderful things I have in my life, including the opportunity to have had this experience. I’m venting tonight though. I have a splitting headache tonight.

If it weren’t for Kevin, who has been just incredible, I would be lying under the kitchen table crying. Kevin is a hard worker, a thoughtful partner and he’s been invaluably committed to this journey with me. Thank you, my love. And then there are my friends. I’ve had no fewer than nine close friends come over to my apartment to help Kevin and I get these orders out the door. This is nothing short of beautiful to me. These people are amazing people. Thank you Katie, James, Marina, Blue, David, Tim, Meg, Matt and Clayton. You are generous, big-hearted people. You are the silver lining.

repetition

It’s a little painful to me that I haven’t been able to write more this week. But then I think, What would I even write about? Even though each day is different, they’ve all started to blend together. I think something that happened yesterday actually happened three days ago because I’ve lost all track of time. I don’t think I stepped foot outside yesterday. What day is it? Oh, I’m kidding. (Am I?)

We’re really in the home stretch here. Although, I suppose home stretch implies that we can see the finish line. And that’s not entirely true. I know the finish line exists somewhere – six or seven days from now – but I can’t exactly see it. In the restaurant industry, I think they call this being “in the weeds.” We’re definitely in the weeds.

It’s not the end of the world by any means. It’s a million different things, including wonderful and exciting.

Mostly, beyond being pretty tired and pretty sick of smelling chocolate, I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to build here. It’s rewarding. And I know that I will enjoy this Christmas vacation in a serious way.

Am I repeating myself? ­čśë

an update, courtesy of insomnia

It’s freezing in this apartment right now.

Or, maybe it’s not that cold, maybe I’m just cold. I’m always cold. We’re talking always. It frustrates the hell out of me.

I have been, lately, taking two steaming hot showers a day. Not full soaping up every time, necessarily, but standing under the hot water so it will warm up my blood. I think I’d live in the bathtub if we had one. (Next apartment WILL HAVE A BATHTUB. Period.)

And when I’m not showering, I’m sitting two feet from the space heater. Wearing a sweater, socks and a blanket. I’m, like, cold from the inside. I guess I sound like I’m complaining. I guess I am. I apologize.

I’m cold.

I’m also awake. It’s 3:18am and I tried to sleep a little over an hour ago, and couldn’t. I’ll go back in soon and give it another whirl. I’m in the thick of it, you guys, with this bakery. The numbers are swirling around in my mind. Quantities of sweets so large they’re hard to commit to memory, frankly. So I rely on charts and my own page-long, handwritten descriptions of corporate orders and shopping lists and post it notes. Kevin’s running errands, friends are coming over to help me bake, I’m trying to make the very best use of all my time. I think I might have to close the holiday shop down a couple days early!

An interesting personal side affect of all this is that my hair has never consistently looked worse. There’s no time.

It’s also super rewarding, though! All this business! I can’t believe this has happened!! I have no idea what will happen after the holiday rush is over. I’m not worried that we’ll do no business at all, but I know things will slow down.

To be honest? I’m looking very much forward to that.

It will be a great chance to check in with where we are, to take a look back over this present chaos and learn more about how to make it easier, make it more efficient, and to continue to grow things – assuming that’s what we decide to do.

A year ago, I started a blog about quitting my job to go do who knows what. I had no idea at the time. A couple months later, I was playing around with the idea of selling sweets with Faryn. A few months after that, Faryn and I were meeting at the nearby Mexican restaurant to discuss our goals. We’d been plugging along with our little bakery biz for most of the spring and now it was May and we finally said – Okay. We’re in this. And I said I wanted to be trying to do it full time by December. (December seemed so far away, at the time.) I’m not entirely sure I believed I would actually achieve that goal. I think I was just hoping the goal would create momentum for us. But here we are. Here we are!

I’m going to wake up tomorrow and run through a list of computer to do’s. I’m going to fit in some exercise. And then I’m going to start baking. I have a holiday party to attend in the evening, to which I will also be delivering one of our Party Samplers. And then I’m going to come home and go to sleep early to do it all over again. And so on until I leave town on December 19.

Yikes!!!

Fun, scary, strange, frustrating, exciting, rewarding, interesting, exhausting and inspiring. All at once. This life right now.

Night.

christmas traditions

So I really want a tree for my apartment this year, just like I always really want a tree. I’m a Christmas Kid through and through, thanks in no small part to my festive Grandmother who, every year, makes Christmas into a delightful, magical, snowland of holiday surprises and delights.

The story goes that my grandparents bought the house they’ve now lived in for almost 50 years because of the giant bay window in the front room, a.k.a. “The Christmas Tree Room” and its ability to showcase the biggest tree around.

Practically speaking, there’s just no good reason to get a tree for my Brooklyn apartment this year. We had one last year, pictured above. We took great care lugging it home. (I might have bribed Kevin for this.)

And I was ridiculously happy to have her.

And I decorated her with love, while Christmas music played in the background.

One of my favorite things about having a tree during the weeks leading up to Christmas is turning off all the lights in the house, leaving just the tree and other decorative lights on, and sitting in the living room all snuggled up, enjoying the festive feelings and the pine smell.

BUT. This year. We’re busy. Really, really busy. And we’re leaving town less than two weeks from today. And we’ll be gone for 11 days. So it doesn’t make sense, now that it’s already December 7th, to get a tree this year. It’s just not practical or worth the expense. Boo. It’s okay, I know I’ll go home to Crystal Lake / Quincy (my home town and my grandparents’ home town) to an abundance of trees and decorations. And I’ve still got my own little Christmas mantle. Which is totally not the same as having a tree. But it will do. THIS year.

Christmas is big in my family. Each year, we gather at my grandparents’ big ol’ house in Quincy, Illinois, (a town five hours south of Chicago). And we eat big dinners together and have lunch at our favorite local places and try to squeeze in some exercise. We watch a lot of TV and we take trips to the mall for last minute items and tease each other about who’s finished wrapping their stuff and who isn’t. And the Christmas music is playing nonstop and the house is abuzz. Oh and some people have to sleep in the attic which is consistently 20 degrees colder than the rest of the house. And some people have to sleep on terrifically uncomfortable beds on the floor. But it’s all part of it.

And the best part? Ohhh this is the very best part. You will think it’s weird, I’m sure, but it’s the greatest. Santa Claus brings our Christmas Tree. Which means it doesn’t go up until Christmas Eve, after all the little kids have gone to bed. So that when they wake up on Christmas morning, there’s a tree there that wasn’t there before. The rest of the house is already fully decorated with holiday landscapes and lights and wreaths and nutcrackers. But the tree itself doesn’t make its debut until Santa pulls it through the chimney.

The adults stay up late on Christmas Eve eating snacks, drinking wine and bickering about tree related tasks. My grandmother tests strands of lights at the nearest outlet, replacing burnt out bulbs with new ones, while the members of my generation risk their lives on a huge, rickety ladder, stringing the tested lights onto the massive tree. By the time it’s all done we’re exhausted and ready for bed, but we still have to put (the millions of) presents under the tree so that when the kids wake up in the morning, and my grandfather slides back the huge wooden parlor door that separates the Christmas Tree Room from the rest of the house, and the tree is revealed in all its glory for the very first time, the kids will squeal and sprint into the room, diving headfirst into a pile of gifts.

The gift extravaganza is a wild display of over-purchasing, in my opinion. And everyone vows to “buy less this year.” Every year. But still, it’s fun to watch the little kids experience the kind of Christmas that we all had when we were their age. I speak from experience when I say that staring up at that massive tree as a six-year-old, for instance, is one of the most thrilling things ever. And the moment the big wooden door opens is still, without a doubt, one of my favorite moments of each year. With the exception of one year, I have experienced Christmas in this same room every year of my entire life.

My grandparents always tell us stories about when it was just the two of them preparing Christmas for their kids. Once everyone went to bed on Christmas Eve, it was Tom and Rose, all alone, putting up the tree, assembling presents, preparing stockings. They’d stay up until three and four in the morning some years, just to be woken up 90 minutes later by eager kids who probably hadn’t slept a wink anyway.

It’s an invaluable gift my grandparents have given us by creating such a special, unique, and mystical experience surrounding this holiday. It’s not about the presents. It’s about the family time, the traditions, the shared experience. And it’s about believing in magic.

cats and humans

These two are so precious lately. I think they’re really loving having us home all the time. (Kevin and I both work from home right now.)

The little girl, Kaia, the fluffy one, is technically my cat. And it’s almost like she knows it too. We both feed them regularly, we both pet them regularly, but Kaia seems to prefer me to Kevin. I don’t mind this one bit, since I’ve almost never been a cat’s preferred human. (I semi-tortured our cat when I was a kid. Let’s just say, I tried to dress her up one too many times. And my mother is convinced that it traumatized her for life, which is why she spent her last years never coming up from the basement and hissing at anyone new.)

When I wake up in the morning, Kaia has usually been laying next to me snuggling for the last little while. She eventually runs into the other room before I’m out of bed. But the moment she hears the covers rustle – the very moment – she comes DARTING back into the bedroom, jumps up onto my side of the bed, and mews and demands more cuddles. It’s the best! She never does this with Kevin. She tolerates him, but he just doesn’t get it DAD.

Chawser, on the other hand, adores his Dad and I will never compete. He literally climbs into Kevin’s lap on a regular basis – this is something I’ve almost never seen a cat do in my years with cats – and wants to be held, pet, smooched and generally tended to. It’s precious. He does it several times a day and he also loves for Kevin to pick him up and carry him around the house.

He wasn’t always this way. When Kevin first got him, he was terribly skittish, really nervous and rarely liked to be touched by anyone. Now he will even tolerate plenty of smooches from his annoying Mom.

Kaia was also much jumpier when we first got her. In fact, she hated us for weeks. The fact that she’s come around as much as she has – even if it’s just for me, even if she still hides in our bedroom whenever there’s anyone new in the house and does not come out until they leave, even if she spent an entire 12 hour period hiding in the window when I had some girl friends sleep over one night – the fact that she’s come around is pretty amazing.

Cats seem to be resilient and constantly changing in that way. A cat’s personality one year may very likely be totally different the next year. I suppose people are like that too, it just takes more time for their changes to be apparent.

I’m happy working from home. I love being here all day long to spend time with Kevin and our cats, who obviously bring us a lot of joy. It can sometimes be frustrating for both of us humans who live here to be trying to work together in one relatively small space, but we do okay. We get to eat breakfast and lunch together, we get to advise each other on aspects of our businesses and careers when we need help and it’s nice to see each other more often.

As much as I’m working hard to get this little bakery of ours through the holiday season, as much as it sometimes feels unfair that my friends get to go to parties and dinners and spend time with each other when I have to work an event or bake a cake, I’m still glad I made this choice. I’m having a lot of fun, and I’m learning so quickly, more than I ever imagined I could, about what it means to own your own business. I feel like an adult. And I’m really proud of what I’ve created.

thankful

I wish I had more time to blog today, but it’s just not happening. I’ve gotten smart about how I’m actually going to get all these Fanny & Jane orders out the door before we leave town in less than three weeks. I learned from the Thanksgiving rush that if I don’t plan way ahead of time, organize myself in a major way AND ask for help from some volunteer Fanny & Jane elves (a.k.a. My darling friends who are generous and kind and are going to save my life this month.) it will never get done. So I’m planning to do those things this time around. Get organized, ask for help and use my time wisely.

I had a great therapy session yesterday where I talked about how stressful the Thanksgiving rush of sweet-selling was, and she kept saying to me, “It’s really hard,” over and over. She’s right. It’s not impossible, but certainly challenging.

Again! I’m not complaining! Just observing. This is hard work. And if I don’t, for example, wake up every day and exercise, exercising is not going to get done. And if I don’t sit down every day and have lunch, it’s not going to get eaten. And I’m going to have to cancel plans with friends when I don’t want to, and buy frozen meals to have for dinner when I don’t want to. Because that’s just the situation I’ve put myself in. I’m not sorry I’m in this situation at all. I’m learning a ton. And it’s an adjustment.

I apologize if I sound like a broken record.

I got up early again today, in the 8 o’clock hour – that’s two days in a row! – and I did an hour of yoga. And now, I’m going to finish up some computer work and get to baking. We have an event tonight, another one tomorrow, a bazillion orders to get out the door by the weekend (Thanks for your orders, all!! I love seeing them roll in…). We also have a holiday party to cater, and then one, maybe two, large corporate orders to get out the door next week. Yikes. And that’s just what I already know about. I’m sure things will come up that I don’t expect. So I’ll be in the kitchen this afternoon. And I’ll be in bed at a reasonable hour tonight. So that I’m ready to get up early tomorrow and do it all over again.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some choice photos from our Thanksgiving weekend. Because that’s all I got.

Fanny & Jane – a ONE DAY SALE!

Faryn and I invented a shopping day: Sweet Tuesday. It’s kinda like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but it tastes better.

And guess what?! It’s TODAY!

We’re having a ONE DAY SALE over at Fanny & Jane. You can snag a box of our delicious, decadent, sought-after Red Velvet Cake Bites for 50% off today! WHAT?!

Yup, a box of one dozen Cake Bites will only run you $5.50 today. It’s an absolute steal.

Here are a few ideas of people in your life to whom you could thoughtfully gift a box of Red Velvet Cake Bites from Fanny & Jane:

  • Your boss! Delicious, affordable, she can share them with the office or take them home to her family.
  • A party host! She can set them out after dinner is over, or nestle them on an end table for guests to sample while they sip their cocktails. Cake Bites go perfectly with red wine and I know this for reasons I’ll let you imagine.
  • Your parents, in-laws, or grandparents! They hate when you overspend on them, but they love when you come up with a thoughtful and unique way to say Happy Holidays without breaking your checkbook.
  • Your boyfriend or girlfriend! Mine eats these like they’re popcorn. Yours will love them too.
  • Dogsitter
  • Doorman
  • Postal Carrier
  • Hairdresser
  • Neighbor
  • Catsitter
  • Babysitter
  • Teacher
  • Secret Santa
  • Deli Man
  • Improv Teammates
  • Fantasy Football League Teammates

The list is endless.

Grab a box today, and send someone on your list a gift like nothing they’ve ever received before. And TODAY ONLY receive 50% off a box of a dozen!!!

www.fannyandjane.com