Business Buzzards


The other day I was reminded of the unlikely product that showed up at a nearby gallery only one block down the street during 2010. It didn’t take long for them to add art classes — I had been offering those since 1994. But a pretzel?! I developed my own amazing pretzel recipe. I twisted my SofTwizts completely on my own. Have you ever heard of a gallery offering pretzels? Me neither. What unmittigated gall. That “downtown” gallery included Philly Pretzels within a couple months after snoop-scouting my studio coffeehouse. Whenever mARTi came up with another innovative idea, it was quickly included in another local (or gov’t funded library) business.


The latest stab in the back was the obvious buzzard business picking by the people who became replacements in my long-standing location. After perpetrated abuse resulted in the evacuation for my safety and employees/customers, I witnessed my brains being picked publically, perhaps with the aid of customers I advertised to obtain 😦
To add a twist of the knife of this knowledge, the location where the businesses I nurtured for over 2 decades — is back on the market within 1.5 years after my forced evacuation.

One of the advantages of an internet business is the sleuth-snooping will not directly impact my wallet and survival. When we speak of Cyber Space — that terminology gives me a bit of hope. I can create and help people around the world and my ideas are not as easily duplicated (except for downloading).

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Arts or Alcohol, Books or Beer

This week in my email there was a Groupon for a Paint Nite.   It is a painting activity scheduled in a Pub:  In just about two hours, while you’re sipping on a cocktail, our performing artists will guide you through each painting so that you come up with your own unique masterpiece at the end of the night that you will be amazed YOU created…You just bring your fun loving friends and have a few cocktails to keep the spirits high and inhibitions to a minimum and we’ll make sure your inner Picasso is unleashed.

How did I manage to get through 4+ years of Art School without a drink?!  Geeze – Do you think I could have earned better than an “A” with alcohol in my system?    I know artists and musicians are considered “free-spirits” and “non-conformists”, but I realize after all these years since college (35), is that I am one of the few TRUE non-conformists in the world. I don’t do drugs.  I don’t smoke.  I don’t drink.

I founded an art studio in the early 1990s, promoted musicians, added Coffeehouse in 2006.   We were the most amazing and creative facility in the area — till an abuser became determined to destroy the joy.  I had a Drink-n-Draw activity in the studio/coffeehouse 10 years ago, so I find this new Art and Alcohol activity amusing and annoying.
I became successful because I have ALL my “faculties.”

Back in 2009, my mother and I displayed our picture book “A Box of Bears” (I’m the illustrator) at a downtown festival in a former bank along side a photographer, potter and painter.    We met many people who were gracious enough to listen and hear how the story and illustrations evolved.   We sold a handful of items.

I walked out the front of the building and noticed a long, long, line of people forming on the opposite side of the street, stretching all the way from the middle of the main street intersection down the block.   I inquired what the line-up was about from a gentleman who was also selling his illustrated book.  He informed me that there was a special wine and beer tasting event scheduled at 2 pm.  People had to sign up for it ahead of time, get the special bracelet, and wait in line to show they were of legal age to drink.

I had three thoughts:

  1. I have never or probably will never drink any alcoholic beverage.
  2. Who would ever want to wait in a line that long just to get a drink?
  3. Wasn’t the event supposed to be a community arts & crafts day?!

So, I went inside to let my mom know what all the fuss was about.   I shook my head in disbelief for the condition of the human race. We haven’t evolved socially over the centuries.  We just have technology to talk about it and take risks with the effects.

I said:  “Art or Alcohol”, Books or Beer – I could add: Music or Meth, Dance or Drugs

We have become a culture that can’t get together socially without expecting some form of alcohol in our hands.   There are signs outside of eating establishments with BYOB – as if 15 + different beverages they have aren’t enough of a choice and suitable for customers to consume.

It’s enough to “drive you to drink.”  But don’t drink and drive – difficult to do when you drove away from home to that event.

 

Spice Up Your Season: 7 Surprising Benefits of Cinnamon!

Cinnamon was a regular ingredient in weekly pastries in my original coffeehouse. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to explore it’s delights in the future.

Jules' Fuel

cinamon

Despite the fact that he likes 90%+ of what I cook, the hubby always rolls his eyes at the quantity and array of seasonings that I use when I cook.

Especially when it comes to cinnamon. I adore using it in almost everything – steel cut oats, sweet potatoes, sautéed greens, thai dishes, smoothies, fruit & yogurt parfaits, eggs…(okay, kidding on that one).

And as the defining spice of the Christmas season, there are more reasons than justtaste and holiday tradition to use enormous quantities of it.

Check out 7 surprising reasons to use more cinnamon for better health!

1. Blood Sugar Control

Get this – studies show that cinnamon can improve blood sugar, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol, all markers of metabolic disease. This study specifically shows that three separate groups taking 1, 3, or 6 g of cinnamon each day ALL had lower levels of these markers after…

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2 Seconds or Less

2 Seconds or Less

The blessings received from being a teacher continue to delight me as I learn about the avenues of study and careers my students pursued. The banner at the top of the page shows the company that a former student formed while in college.

We sat together for a 45-minute a week oboe lesson while she studied music — and life.  Ally was an advanced student and enjoyed music so much that her parents invested in an upgrade Rigoutat oboe to improve her playing. Her family was from Texas and found me through their teacher and the internet.

Ally moved with her mother, father, 2 younger sisters. The entire family relocated for her father’s job at the nearby nuclear power plant. Within a short time after their move, her father was killed in car accident just miles from her home on one of the curvy back roads of Pennsylvania. I only had the chance to meet her father one time before he passed away.

Ally barely became acclimated to the new state, town, school, friends —  she became fatherless! Those were dark days for Ally. The next year she had the opportunity to meet my kind, considerate father. Ally was hired to operate the coffeehouse while my mother and I worked on a new picture book project. My father would talk about tuba and marching band with her. I was happy to share my father. Ally was a great team member and fit so well into the roll of barista. She lightened up the room with her smile and bubbly personality.

Eventually Ally stopped taking lessons but continued to work in the coffeehouse. Within one year after Ally met my father, he died from complications from hip surgery. The following week, Ally took the time to comfort me as we were cleaning the coffeehouse at the end of the evening.

An absentee spouse had already been calculating an exit plan. He had acquired all my earned income as well as the benefits of my generous family in order to raise “your-mother-in-law”  as he referred to HIS mother who died 2007.  I wasn’t needed anymore . . . my paternal protection passed away. I was alone though my mother visited monthly. If it weren’t for my sensitive students and coffeehouse Phamily, I would never had made it through the next 2 years.

Ally’s new company: 2 Seconds or Less says it all.  Life IS short. We can make the most of our life selfishly pursuing our own pleasures — OR we can create an environment of joy and hope for the people we meet along the way — because they could be gone in 2 Seconds or Less.

If you are searching for a cause to support, perhaps you will consider helping with Ally’s new organization.  “. . . we hate that people all over the world are needlessly dying for lack of food. We want to change that, and so we live to make a difference in the lives of the hungry.”

Renew the Recipe

I learned to bake in my late 40’s.   I discovered a creative area that was probably lingering inside since childhood.  I would spend a week at my paternal grandmother’s house for a week and would watch intently how she would measure and handle ingredients and tools.   Gram would always plan to bake plenty of cookies and pastries and was kind enough (and patient) to let me get my hands into the process.

When I first started baking for real, I was intimidated by the process not sure I could learn or handle yet another activity at work (already was operating 5 others).  Yet after a couple times reading recipes, I found the process fit my personality well.   Being a mindful student growing up, I follow directions well and worked till I had the best possible answer.   Baking required measurements, following sequential steps and there is an end result to test out at the completion of the process.

My prediciment was that I had to bake for OTHER people and they would have to be inspired to buy my baking.  Nearly everyone likes to eat sweets, but that doesn’t mean they’ll pay for them.   Well, within a short time, I had perfected one item after another that customers were buying, enjoying — waiting till the next batch was available — then requesting items.     It was an honor for me to make pans of apple crisp, oatmeal, quiche, brownies, cookies, cinnamon rolls.  I even perfected a pretzel that was touted as the best around — quite a praise coming from a people who had an abundance of soft pretzels at their fingertips everywhere in my state of PA.    My baked items became comfort food for many that entered the door of my coffeehouse.   My young employees were assigned items to make — and did so with pride.

I determined early on that recipes were only part of the process to create a great dessert.   Other factors were the tools, pan, ingredients, temperature — even the time alloted to complete the desert during a shift of work.   What I started to do early on, is recreate the recipes that I researched, altered them to be unique for my establishment AND typed detailed instructions for completing the process.

The recipe shown above is a typical copy of vintage recipe.  It goes on a “recipe card” size card.  There’s not much there to work with for instructions.    There is allot of assumed training and skill for how to actually make the pie.   I decided to make more detailed instructions, both to be sure I was consistent when baking and to be certain my employees had enough information to bake the item assigned to them properly.

Here’s an example of one of my more detailed recipes.  You are welcome to test it out and alter anything you’d like.


CONEWAGO CHERRY CRUMBLE

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Crisco
  • 1 1/2 can cherry pie filling

Directions

1.      Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

2.      Mix flour, oats, brown sugar, and salt in large bowl

3.      Cut in Crisco with spatula until a dry, crumbly dough forms

4.      Press about 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of pan, making a firm even layer

5.       Bake bottom crumb layer for 5 minutes

6.      Carefully spread cherry pie filling in the crust without disturbing it

7.      Gently spread remaining crumb mixture on top of cherry filling with spatula

8.      Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, until top is lightly browned

9.      Let cool and cut into 12 pieces

10.  Heat lightly and offer with whipped cream if desired