You know you’re going in the right direction when…

FEATURED IMAGE: “Full Steam Ahead” by Vladimir Kush

Well, as I indicated in this earlier post there have been some major upheavals in the day job arena.  Due mainly to circumstances beyond my control things have got very, very messy, very, very quickly – to such an extent, in fact, that from the 12th February I shall be day-jobless.

I’m not going to go into much detail, for two reasons:

  1. It’s rather uninteresting for those not directly involved, so I think it’s best not to bore the pants off you, dear reader…that’s what family’s for 😉
  2. What has been (and is) taking place is now the subject of pending legal action and as such is not an appropriate discussion to have in public.

Suffice it to say, the last few weeks have been mentally and emotionally exhausting and the next couple are not looking like being a walk in the park either.  There are now 8 working days left for me and the countdown is sometimes the mantra that gets me through the day.  I never thought I’d be walking away from there in this way – it’s quite sobering to realise that a job I’ve enjoyed so much could turn sour so fast.

So where does this all leave me and the wannabe cake business?

Apart from the aforementioned day job related exhaustion, it actually leaves me in a very good space…more determined than ever to build a successful and profitable business, more positive of my ability to make that happen and to do it in a way that is legal and ethical.

The plan is to find a new day job that is part time and far less responsibility laden than the current one.  This will free up time and mental space for my cakes.

The work that is necessary to be done on the kitchen in order to pass certification inspection should commence mid-Feb; this will take some time as we will be undertaking most of the labour ourselves…the aim is to be inspection ready in April.

In the meantime there are numerous things to be done: seeking out potential funding avenues, and applying for it, passing my driving test (!!!), signing up for a business mentor, sourcing affordable equipment, getting a website up (where do you even start?!), getting decent business cards and promo leaflets/flyers designed and made up, getting public liability insurance, registering with tax office etc., getting all H&S and food hygiene assessment docs written up, finding and booking sites at appropriate local summer fêtes and shows…

This could all get overwhelming but Chef J and I have teamed up to create a trans-Atlantic Accountability Committee; in an effort to beat our twin procrastination habits we are identifying weekly/fortnightly targets and challenges, upon which we have to report (with evidence of progress!! 😉 ) at specific times.  We don’t let each other off the hook, so it works.

You’d think a soon to be day-jobless person with no definite income ahead would be at least a bit sad or freaked out, wouldn’t you?  But no.  Truth of the matter is, I feel excited – as if I’m on the cusp of some grand new adventure.  You know you’re going in the right direction when you look ahead and that’s how it feels 🙂

x

David Bowie

As for so many others, the news today about David Bowie’s death has saddened me greatly.

David Bowie

(Quite) Some time ago, a work event required that we dress up as our musical hero.  I chose David Bowie.

Through early adolescence, teenage angst, first marriage failure (and subsequent happier times too!) David Bowie’s music and lyrics have been a huge contributory factor to the soundtrack of my life.

As a person he fascinated and intrigued me over decades.

He really was my all time musical hero.

RIP David and thank you for all you gave.

x

 

 

At a crossroads and seeking some help

As the title of the post suggests, I’m looking for some input into a “What should I do next?” work/career dilemma…hopefully some of you guys might be up for a bit of tip giving/idea generating/brain storming?

(EDITED TO ADD: If it strikes you as weird that a person would publicly ask for help with a private matter, I would refer you back to the reason I started this blog…on 43Things this kind of question was utterly normal…I still miss that community and the support that was offered there 😦 )

Before going any further, I’d just like to point something out…the very fact that I’m putting this on my blog for all and sundry to read should tell you that I am in equal parts open to new ideas and utterly stumped as to what my next move should be.  So please, if you would be so kind…a minute of your time…

Want to help a desperate woman? 😉  If so, here’s the situation:

It is time to move on from the day job.  Actually, it’s long overdue but now, due to a number of fairly major matters, it really needs to happen, and quite quickly.

What I’d ideally like to do is strike out with my own cake business, but would need commercial premises in order for it to be financially viable.  This does not necessarily have to be bricks and mortar…I’m up for some lateral thinking (converted railway carriage?) but have no idea how to make that work in practice.

I currently don’t have commercial premises kind of money and am not what would be called an excellent bet for your regular bank type lender.

So, in order to get the money together I need to earn some big bucks and save.  And/or get funding some other (legal!) way.  Cool.  But…

My qualifications (Environmental Health) and experience (retail and food management) would easily bring the big bucks IF I was the corporate type.  But I’m really not.  I’ve tried and got chewed up by the machinery.  It was horrible for everyone concerned.  I just can’t do the corporate thing…I can fake it for a short while, but then my Renegade starts showing and ripples inevitably occur.

Anyway, to do the corporate thing I’d have to be really committed with my time to the corporation, which would mean I couldn’t even keep up the pitifully low number of cakes that I currently do, never mind build up the business.  I mean, that would be ok for, say, 6 months or so but not the longer term deal that would really be required.

Which means, what I’m really saying is, I’d like something that’s short contract/high return…I don’t necessarily want job security!

So the big question is, what should I do now?

Smaller questions include, where should I be looking – a) for ways of getting funds together for the cakery? b) for employment? c) all the other stuff?

Please feel free to chuck the seemingly craziest of ideas or most trivial of thoughts into the pot, you never know, it might be the one that sparks…

Thank you.

x

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you – I hope that 2016 brings many good things to your life.  May you shake the cobwebs of 2015 from your feet and stride forward with confidence into the untrodden pastures of promise that wait to be discovered in the coming months.  May you not burden yourself on this first new day with resolutions that are likely doomed to failure, but may you succeed with any fully intentioned pledges you make.

Yep, that is my diary

To be honest with you, I’m a little ambivalent about the whole New Year thing.  On the one hand, I love the ‘clean sheet-ness’ of it, and the potential that this could be the year that…I don’t know…I become a superhero or something.

Superhero hair
Actual hair, not a wig.

On the other hand, it can be slightly disheartening to realise that yet another year has now gone by and…  Well, certainly not a superhero yet (although I did get superhero hair this year).

On the third hand (if you’re counting the hands and you don’t have a friend assisting you at this point, you’re an alien.  Or possibly half of a bee).  Aaanyway, there is quite a lot of pressure surrounding New Year and I don’t find it pleasant.

New Year’s Resolutions are one such pressure area.  I’m sure for some people it’s a great way to kick start change in lifestyle or habit, but it really doesn’t work for me.  In a similar way that Valentine’s doesn’t really work for me.  I just don’t like being told that on this particular day I must express a certain feeling or do a certain thing, in the publicly perceived acceptable manner.  You might call it contrary, I call it individual.

Plus, of course, there’s the fact that in my sphere somewhere around 99.5% of New Year’s Resolutions are broken before February ends.  With such low odds, people are almost waiting for you to slip up; stating a resolution is tantamount to saying, “This is what I plan to fail at first in this lovely new year.”

So I actively avoid making resolutions.  Any decisions I make to change lifestyle or habits are merely ‘plans’.

Champagne Cocktail and Candles

I also find there’s quite an expectation that you do something for NYE.  I dislike being asked in the lead up what my plans will be as there’s a sense that one is somehow letting the team down when there are no envy inducing plans involving yachts and/or casinos.  Or at the very least a party down the local pub.

Over the years Barn, Petit Man and I have individually and collectively experienced a great number of ‘fun things to do on NYE’ (restaurants, nightclubs, house parties, Edinburgh, and all that jazz) but either never did, or have ceased to, find them all that much fun.

So this year Petit Man and Mme. E came round and we brought in the new year at home, with champagne cocktails, candles and board games.  I can’t think of anything else I’d rather have done.

to stand and stare

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

William Henry Davies (Leisure)

This is one of my primary plans for this coming year – to take more time away from shoulds and oughts and people who sap me, and devote more to wants and wishes and people who value me.

How about you?  What did you do this NYE?  Do you make resolutions?  Is 2016 going to be fabulous for your heart and soul?

I hope so.

x

 

 

To Marcus

It probably wouldn’t have been your first choice to spend your 17th birthday with your mum, your Grandma and your Auntie, it’s highly unlikely that flowers would have been top of your gift list, and you may well have preferred pizzas with your mates to a home cooked birthday meal with family.  However, relations, blossoms and chicken cannelloni are how today panned out, and I am glad.

I’m glad we continue to come together, just as we did on the day you refused this world – to hold you, to hold each other, to remember, to grieve and to laugh.  Yes, to laugh.

Because, you see, although there is dreadful sadness within the few memories we have of you, there is also much joy.  Your tiny life was so pure, and bizarrely, so complete.   From the moment we knew of you there was a change in all of us, and when you left, you brought us together in a way that had never been before. Of course we’re not glad or happy to take flowers to your grave, to wonder what might have been, but it would be dishonest and a disservice to your memory if we allowed the ending of your life to negate everything else.

It’s impossible to explain the depth of the changes you wrought – you were a catalyst for so many remarkable things, and for so many members of your family.  What I can tell you is that I write this today as a far more complete, confident, secure and loving person than I would have been had you never existed.

I’ve always baulked when people talk about you with words like ‘tragedy’ – your existence was not a tragedy, it was a gift.  I know that for some people (a lot of people) our ability to recall humorous incidents and moments from that time is incongruous with their own expectations of grief.   C’mon though, it’s funny that your Auntie suddenly realised the item slapped into her hand by a nurse, and with which she had mopped my face throughout my labour with you, was in fact a wet sanitary towel.  Needs must in an urgent situation I guess!

It’s not like we all fell about laughing there and then, but her recollection caused a twinkle of a smile in later days and was a welcome lightness in the dark.  People find it odd that we can talk of you with joy and without crumbling, but there was a perfectness to you that would be diminished if we only dwelt upon the pain.

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The food week that was – 09/03/15

A slightly strange week, filled with carbohydrates and see-saw emotions…Baked spud and sausagesMonday: Exhausted from our day jobs, and suffering severe Monday-itis, we slung potatoes into the oven, defrosted leftover veg chilli, grilled sausages, chucked cheese all over it and ate.  There was a definite correlation between the decline in grumpy silence and the progression of food consumption 😉

Savoury bread puddingTuesday: Savoury bread pudding made using left over olive bread and an onion bagel, layered with more olives and crumbled Stilton, then saturated with a savoury egg custard, topped with cherry tomatoes and grated parmesan, baked ’til golden brown.

Spag BolWednesday: Rich, meaty, wine steeped, mushroom studded, slowly simmered, Bolognese sauce served with Fusilli lunghi bucati (aka Rasta Pasta), with plenty of black pepper and freshly grated Parmesan to finish.

Soup ingredients

Thursday: Having been variously chopped, sautéed, simmered, blended and seasoned, these ingredients (plus some veg stock and cream) became…

Soup…this delicious soup.  A stack of door-stop style roast beef sandwiches rounded things off nicely.  Petit Man has been suffering with a harsh cough and cold (a real one, not a Man one), so this worked well to soothe and comfort.

Shortbread

Thursday snacking: Gluten free shortbread – probably the quickest and easiest sweet baked snack you will ever make!

Here’s how to make them:  You require three ingredients – butter, caster sugar and gluten free flour – in the weight ratio 2:1:3.  I also use a small amount of baking powder (about 1 teaspoon per 300g of flour) as I prefer the more open texture this gives, but it’s not necessary.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Sift in flour (and baking powder, if using).  Using your hands gently fold and knead the mixture until it comes together into a firm ball.  Press into an appropriately sized, greased baking tin then chill in the fridge for about 10 minutes.  Bake at gas mark 5/190°C until golden brown.  Cut while still warm, cool on a rack and dredge with caster sugar before serving.

If you like a flavoured biscuit you can add lemon/lime/orange zest to the flour, or chuck in some vanilla, or drizzle with melted chocolate when cooled, or…whatever else you like.  There are no strict rules 😉Baked spuds and tuna

Friday: Baked potatoes stuffed with tuna, sweetcorn and sliced black olives, served with beer battered onion rings and rather over baked cherry tomatoes.  About as simple as it gets – I think the only way less effort could have been put into this meal is if it had been made into a sandwich. – nonetheless, satisfying.  Sometimes simple is just what you need.

Cheese, olives & crackers

Saturday: We like cheese.  We amass cheeses like a weird, hoarding, mischief of mice.  We currently have 11 different cheese varieties in our fridge.  For the dairy-curious amongst you, they are : Stilton, Gorgonzola, Parmesan, extra mature Cheddar, oak smoked Cheddar, farmhouse Cheddar, grated Mozzarella, Edam, Camembert, Cambozola and Halloumi.

It’s somewhat inevitable then, that some meals are nothing but cheese.  And so it was on Saturday evening.  With crackers, olives and a glass of wine, I’d call this a very well balanced meal 😀

Cornish sardines and Staffordshire oatcakes

Sunday Brunch: Fresh Cornish sardines, topped with a little crushed garlic and a good squeeze of lemon juice, then grilled until the skins were crispy.  Served with lemon wedges and Staffordshire oatcakes.

Sunday Dinner: It was Mothers’ Day here in the UK – those of the family who were able to gathered at Mum’s house where Medieval, despite being in much pain with an injured foot, cooked an incredible roast chicken dinner for us all.  He presented us with rosemary and lemon chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, roast squash and parsnips, broccoli, carrots, Spring cabbage and gravy – the only fault to be found was that it was so delicious and tempting, it was gobbled up before I remembered about taking a photo!

Just Something I Wanted to Say: Whether you feel that Mothers’ Day is just another commercially driven construct, or see it as a wonderful chance to express love and gratitude, it can, like any other celebration, be a difficult, sadness triggering time for many.  Within my own small sphere there are people whose mothers have died, ones who have troubled relationships with emotionally distant mothers, ones who were brought up in care and who don’t know their mothers, ones who are estranged from their mothers, ones who cannot have children, those whose children have died…many, many reasons why a little extra love, thought and tenderness might be due to them on the day that is all about celebrating motherhood.  So I send extra special thoughts and hugs to anyone who felt that tug of sorrow yesterday, whoever you are and wherever you are.

x

Ghosts of Christmas past

Merry Christmas!

Like a small child I’ve woken unnecessarily early and am sitting here, in the peaceful hush of a sleeping house, taking a wee meander through Christmases past, having some moments of appreciation for Christmas present, and vaguely flirting with a few ideas for Christmases yet to come (yes, tis true…I’m already germinating plans for next year!)

As you know, this year the Renegade household has been in the wonderful and very fortunate position of being able to afford to purchase special Christmas gift items for our loved ones.  However, as discussed in an earlier post, this has not always been the case and over recent years we’ve made a lot of our Christmas gifts in the form of food hampers, so I thought I’d show you a few…

Christmas Gifts 2009These were from several years ago, when we had a real white Christmas and even a city suburb like mine managed to look magical.  I particularly liked the edible gingerbread gift tags on the hampers, but am less keen on the hand written labels for the jars.  The labels really should be printed, unless I learn calligraphy, or at least seriously improve my handwriting.

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A peek through the window

If you were to peep through my living room window right now (which I sincerely hope you don’t, because that would be creepy), you might deduce that I quite like Christmas. IMG_0028Our tree went up yesterday and underneath it are bags full of wrapped and beribboned presents.  Every time I see it, it fair makes my heart sing with pleasure.

Now, I’m going to get a bit navel gaze-y for a minute here, so you might want to skip forward a bit…

I was told quite recently, by someone once close to me, that the things that are important to me are “just materialistic crap” (another story, not to be told here).   This is the kind of barb that can leave a sore; more than once during my Christmas preparations I’ve paused to question the ‘rightness’ of the degree of pleasure that I’m getting from buying things for people and spending money on non-essentials to make my home feel cosy and pretty.

I find myself to be absolutely ok with it!

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