Hello again

Hi everybody. I had been thinking lately that maybe I was out of the blog business; writing my book had been such a monumental effort that I thought I was out of ideas. I was wrong about that. Yet I had not been able to churn one out more often than once every six weeks or so, which was not a good thing. The last one I posted was in the beginning of June, but all summer I have had quite a few ideas swirling around in my head that makes me think I should keep it going. So here I am.

Food is my passion. Those of you that have read my book “With Love and Quiches” will have read the CODA that included about twenty of my favorite recipes, including my Quiche. You all know Love and Quiches has segued into primarily a sweet goods company, but the recipes I included were from soup to nuts, literally. You will have to read the book to learn how I can roast the world’s best chicken, because from now on I will publish recipes, in between my other stories, from the rest of my repertoire.

When I learned to cook, self- taught, desserts were sweet and the rest was savory. The closest I came to mixing and matching was an Avocado Cream (really ethereal and included in the book) that I had made for a dinner party for my friends a few years before I went into business.

Now all bets are off. When I am asked to taste something in our test kitchen, there may be cayenne in my brownies, herbs that belong in salads in the frosting, Sea Salt all over the place. It is a good thing we have such talented and with-it chefs in the test kitchen, or I would be lost.

When we sold our house in the suburbs ten years ago and moved into the city, I, of course, took all my recipes in a huge folder with me, and still keep them in a drawer in our guest room. They are all hand written, and some of them I simply made copies of when I taught cooking for various charities, also before I went into business. Don’t forget this was all before the computer age, and I had never learned to type. I also had a collection of literally hundreds of Gourmet Magazines that I had collected over forty or so years (and took inspiration from) that it broke my heart but I had to give away. There is a big difference between a house with plenty of rooms, an attic, and a basement and a city apartment where every inch counts. I did take about a dozen issues with me that I admit I haven’t looked at since the day we moved in, but I may look through them during the next few months and maybe poach a few recipes to post here (giving credit of course).

The first recipe I pulled out of my treasure trove is lovely Poires Cardinale (Pears Poached in Wine with Raspberry Sauce). Here it is as originally written out…

pears-poached-in-wine-blog-159

 

And Then it’s Winter

This essay was sent to me in January, a few days after the New Year, by cousins that are very dear to me. It was sent to them by another of our cousins, all from my mother’s side of the family. My mother had three sisters, and the four of them and their husbands all courted together, married at around the same time, lived near each other, and had their children at about the same time. We all grew up together and were a very tight knit group; a lot of hours were spent around the table, with food of course. I wrote a little about all this in my book, “With Love and Quiches”, in the opening chapters to help explain that a lot about my childhood centered on the love of food.

I’ve been saving this in my inbox for all these months, toying with the idea of posting it, but hesitated because it is a dead giveaway of where I am in life, although you all know I am still active at Love and Quiches. No retirement for me.

But it is so very poignant that I, finally, can’t resist posting it. I don’t know where my cousin got it, or I would give credit. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

“AND THEN IT’S WINTER”

You know. .. . Time has a way of moving quickly and catching you unaware of the passing years.  It seems just yesterday that I was young, just married and embarking on my new life with my soul mate.  Yet in a way, it seems like eons ago, and I wonder where all the years went.  I know that I lived them all.  I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams.

But, here it is… The winter of my life and it catches me by surprise…How did I get here so fast?  Where did the years go and where did my youth go? I remember well seeing older people through the years and thinking that those older people were years away from me and that winter was so far off that I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like.

But, here it is…my friends are retired and getting gray….They move slower and I see an older person now.  Some are in better and some worse shape than me…but, I see the great change…Not like the ones that I remember who  were young and vibrant….but, like me, their age is beginning to show and we  are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we’d be.  Each day now, I find that just getting a shower is a real target for the day!  And taking a nap is not a treat anymore…it’s mandatory!  Cause if I don’t on my own free will… I just fall asleep where I sit!

And so…now I enter into this new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability to go and do things that I wish I had done but never did!!  But, at least I know, that though the  winter has come, and I’m not sure how long it will last…this I know, that  when it’s over on this earth…it’s over.  A new adventure will begin!

Yes, I have regrets.  There are things I wish I hadn’t done…things I should have done, but indeed, there are many things I’m happy to have done.  It’s all in a lifetime.

So, if you’re not in your winter yet…let me remind you, that it will be here faster than you think.  So, whatever you would like to accomplish in your life please do it quickly!  Don’t put things off too long!! Life goes by quickly.  So, do what you can today, as you can never be sure whether this is your winter or not!  You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life…so, live for today and say all the things that you want your loved ones to remember…and hope that they appreciate and love you for all the things that you have done for them in all the years past!!

“Life” is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after.  Make it a fantastic one.

LIVE IT WELL!  ENJOY TODAY!  DO SOMETHING FUN! BE HAPPY!  HAVE A GREAT DAY!

Remember “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.”

LIVE HAPPY!  LASTLY, CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING: TODAY IS THE OLDEST YOU’VE EVER BEEN, YET THE YOUNGEST YOU’LL EVER BE SO – ENJOY THIS DAY WHILE IT LASTS.

FURTHER THOUGHT

  • Your kids are becoming you…….but your grandchildren are perfect!
  • Going out is good.. Coming home is better!
  • You forget names…. But it’s OK because other people forgot they even knew you!!!
  • You realize you’re never going to be really good at anything…. Especially golf.
  • The things you used to care to do, you no longer care to do, but you really do care that you don’t care to do them anymore.
  • You sleep better on a lounge chair with the TV blaring than in bed. It’s called “pre-sleep”.
  • You miss the days when everything worked with just an “ON” and “OFF” switch
  • You tend to use more 4 letter words  …”what?”…”when?”… ???
  • Now that you can afford expensive jewelry, it’s not safe to wear it anywhere. • You notice everything they sell in stores is “sleeveless”?!!!
  • What used to be freckles are now liver spots.
  • Everybody whispers.
  • You have 3 sizes of clothes in your closet…. 2 of which you will never wear.
  • But Old is good in some things:  Old Songs, Old movies, and best of all, OLD FRIENDS!!

Stay well, “OLD FRIEND!”  Send this on to other “Old Friends!” and let them laugh in AGREEMENT!!! It’s Not What You Gather, But What You Scatter That Tells What Kind Of Life You Have Lived.

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On the Road Again – The Amazon

It has been three years since our last major trip, to Morocco, not for any reason other than it was time to take a break. It has been my habit to blog about each trip we have taken, and I devoted a chapter in my business memoir, “With Love and Quiches”, describing what we were able to bring back to our bakery business from our travels in which we sought out every bakery we could find to visit.

This trip was a little different. We needed a rest and, though the Amazon sounds exotic and invokes visions of deep jungles, rain forests, and snakes, we were actually luxuriating on a beautiful (and mercifully small) cruise ship.THE AMAZON 2016 164 susan and irwin During some of the stops, we were treated up close and personal to exquisite birds, foliage and giant water lily pads while paddling in tiny canoes, but the Amazon is a very wide river and most of the time, during the thousand miles we traveled on it, we viewed the scenery from afar on deck chairs while sipping champagne. For this trip, this suited us fine! We have certainly paid our dues, walking (and/or driving) hundreds of miles, in and out of small side streets,  all over Europe, India, Egypt, Russia, South America, Morocco and so many other places we have visited. I had already ridden my last camel and my last elephant when we planned this trip.

The Amazon was at the tail end of the rainy season, and we were warned to always carry rain gear for just in case, but we had nothing but lovely weather except for one day when we opted to stay close to the ship. More importantly, Brazil is at the epicenter of the Zika epidemic, and we agonized over that; but we really needed to get away and, actually, never saw even one mosquito the whole time, maybe because we were slathered from head to toe with Deet.

Actually, what stood out most were the jaw dropping private yachts we saw once we exited the Amazon and continued on to visit some islands in the Caribbean. These were boats as big as cruise ships and worth billions.  I’ll tell you more about them later.

But let me now run through the trip. We started out in Manaus, Brazil, where we spent a few days before the start of the cruise. Manaus is the capital of the state of Amazonas, founded in the late 1600s, and is located in the middle of the Amazon rainforest and jungle, and access to the city is either by plane or by boat. There are no roads out. It is urban, but the culture of Native Brazilian tribes is preserved. Hardly anybody speaks a word of English, especially the cab drivers, as we learned the hard way. Ditto the supposed tour agents that the cruise ship arranged to be stationed in the lobby of the hotel to suggest a few things to do in the days before we boarded the ship.

Our hotel had no money exchange, no city tours to offer, no phone, no coffee maker, but was lovely anyway. We found our way armed with a street map in merciful English. What the city does have is an exquisite and historic Opera House (the Teatro Amazonas which had hosted world famous artists at the height of the rubber boom), a fantastic Central Market, and a great restaurant, Braziero, which a hotel clerk recommended and where we were the only tourists (always our preference).

Once on board, the first excursion we chose was on a local river boat where we saw how the Rio Negro merged with the Rio Solimes, the Meeting of the Waters, where the two rivers flow side by side for miles without their differently colored waters mixing: an amazing phenomenon. Here we also saw floating markets and the river people living in small houses built on stilts in the water with no plumbing, but with an internet dish on every roof!THE AMAZON 2016 speed boat

We made stops in a few more towns along the river, small and fairly isolated, always with a small but beautiful church, always a great and interesting market with local produce, meat, fish (and no refrigeration whatever) as well as vendors displaying local crafts. These towns are all steeped in Indian culture, and Parentins hosts a Boi Bumba Festival (with dance, music and all the rest) in June each year visited by tens of thousands of people from all over Brazil. We were treated to a fabulous performance by the local talent to give us a taste of the coming festival.

As we crossed the Equator, cruise guests who had never crossed before were called Pollywogs and had to gather outside on the deck and gamely submit to kissing a huge raw fish and a soaking splash from buckets of water thrown by some of the crew members. Good sports, fun to watch, and I am happy to report that we were not among them, having crossed the Equator before. Once initiated, they are called Shellbacks, and this assures a safe passage across the Equator.

Once we entered to Atlantic Ocean, we made a stop at the notorious penal colony, Devil’s Island, in French Guiana, formed by Napoleon’s government in 1852, home to France’s worst criminals. There were only two escapes from this brutal place, one of them depicted in the great movie, Papillion, with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman (rent it, if you can). Alfred Drefus, the French Army captain wrongly accused of treason, also served ten brutal years there. The prison wasn’t closed until the 1960’s.

After that we moved on to the Caribbean with stops in Barbados, St. Lucia, and Guadeloupe, each with their own local flavor, always a fabulous open market, magnificent beaches, and plenty of tourist resorts.

Our favorite stop in the Caribbean was St. Barts’. Irwin and I used to go there for a winter getaway quite often, but not for at least 20 years, once we started our globe hopping. We could not recognize the place. When we used to go there, there were hardly any cars and no traffic. We used to rent a jeep and tool around to a different beach every day. We would stop for lunch at a beach shack on St. Jean Beach, in bathing suit and bare feet. All gone! Replaced by upscale hotels and designer boutiques. We had a delicious lunch in one of them, still on the lovely beach, and still treated to everybody walking around topless as they did twenty years ago. This place is a playground for the rich and famous.

Best of all, as I mentioned as I began this blog, were the spectacular private yachts anchored all over the place, some at 500 feet or maybe larger, some of them 4 or 5 decks high. Hard to imagine such wealth. Even the captain of our boat, Andrew Pedder, could not resist coming onto the loudspeaker and exclaiming his awe, while pointing out various boats and their statistics. I couldn’t stop snapping pictures of these behemoths.THE AMAZON 2016 180 yacht

Our last stop was Jost Van Dyck in the British Virgin Islands where we swam in the beautiful blue water.

The above was all off the boat. Our favorite days were spent on our ship, especially during sea days. We met so many interesting people from all over the world, the food was wonderful, as was the very low key entertainment (this was not Las Vegas), and all throughout the day there were interesting lectures to attend if you could manage to drag yourself away from the pool. I had the pleasure of a private tour of the kitchen with the executive chef, Andreas Lang,  where he described that everything was prepared to order, nothing ahead of time except the stock, bread baked fresh three times a day.THE AMAZON 2016 chef

 

The tour ended in Ft. Lauderdale where we went right to the airport and were home a few hours later, instead of facing an 18 hour plane trip from G-d knows where as is usually the case. We travelled 3372 nautical miles. This was a great trip!

 

On Political Feminism: My Rant

KITCHEN-2-BOARDROOMFirst of all, I was appalled to realize I haven’t written a blog in just over 8 weeks. I apologize to those of you who follow me. No excuse; my desk is piled high with notes and idea jottings. I just haven’t done it.
Maybe I just needed a break, but I have been jolted out of lethargy by what’s been going on lately in the very ugly and un-presidential race for the nomination for the next President of our country. This will be a first for me; I have never uttered a political opinion anywhere in my almost two hundred blog posts, nor in my book, “With Love and Quiches”. I usually write about business, travel, books (including my own), employee relations, personal courage, and all the other things I know about so well.
But I find myself jumping out of my skin by what is going on lately; both parties. The Republican candidates screaming and attacking each other like petulant children are an embarrassment, and an amusement to the rest of the world looking at us with dropped jaws. As a fairly conservative person, except for social issues, I am dismayed and don’t even know what to think.
Even crazier is the race for the Democratic nomination. In my opinion, the very last thing this country needs is Socialism. It hasn’t worked so well in Cuba or anyplace else as far as I can see. I believe in the American dream; if you can build something big (but never hurt anybody while doing it), then good for you, go for it. Building value is what we need; good for us, and good for the country. I built a bakery business recognized and respected within my industry by believing in that dream. Love and Quiches Gourmet is a place of diversity, and each and every employee has an equal chance of moving up in the organization.
Now to Hillary and the heart of today’ blog. Hillary is doing a splendid job of shooting herself in the foot and sending droves of young women into her opponent’s camp. With Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem speaking for her, it turns out she doesn’t need any more enemies. What were they thinking? Ms. Albright damning any women who doesn’t back Hillary Clinton just because she is a woman to “a special place in hell” sent every thinking woman running in the opposite direction. How about backing a candidate for their agenda, not their gender? This is the same Albright who defended President Clinton during his appalling affair with Monica Lewinsky.
Even crazier is Gloria Steinem’s misstep, calling on every female to get with the program, and accusing all women in Sander’s camp of being there just to meet men, to score a date. She shortly after issued a retraction, in response to a veritable fire storm of re-action. She, too, had defended President Clinton by slamming his accusers as liars and, worse, sluts. She was Hillary’s friend and trying to defend her friend in her humiliation. But it set the agenda way back at the time, in the 90’s.
The young women of today are living in a world that no longer restricts or defines their choices; a world where they can be anything they want (within some limits and in line with their resources). Ms. Steinem does deserve some of the credit for working tirelessly for decades to help bring this all about. She first published Ms. Magazine in the early 70’s, the same year I started my business. But she certainly hasn’t done Hillary any favors in the last week or so.
True Feminism advocates independence and choices, and that is how it should be. I am not a Feminist; I never used being a woman, nor allowed being a woman to stand in my way. I fought each obstacle thrown in my path, and there were hundreds, one at a time; as a business person and an entrepreneur.

The First Time Entrepreneur: Part 2

KITCHEN-2-BOARDROOM

 

I am going to try to take you past just what you see in front of you. Decide what you want to accomplish; a small business, a big one? Is this a hobby? That’s OK, just recognize it. You need to plan forward to next year, and then the year after that, and then the long run.

 

Take your time. Gather any resources available to get you through the first year or so until a positive cash flow can be established, and you can establish a bit of credit. Friends and family are a start because no bank will lend you money that is not completely collateralized, and probably not even then. Bank loans for small business are very hard to come by; it is all formula driven, and if you don’t fit into the box, it isn’t happening. Access to capital remains the most significant barrier preventing growth of small business, especially those owned by women. If you can manage to raise some funding, it will give you some breathing room to better allow you to create new products and navigate the inevitable tough times. A word of caution: make sure you have a concrete and achievable plan, however small, before putting friends and family money at risk.

 

Register your business and protect your chosen name. And remember, there will always be some human interaction; print business cards, print some point of sale material, and be prepared to dress the part. Be prepared to communicate one on one; networking, trade shows, chance meetings.

 

Any business starts with one customer. Pick your most likely target and make that first phone call. Once you have your first few customers and are on your way, do not forget to balance your customer’s needs with those of your own business. After all, the purpose of any business is to make a profit. Customers fight price increases tooth and nail, so a good rule is not to allow any customer to account for more than 5% of total sales.

 

Once I bought my original partner out, I thought of myself as a real business, with all the same parts as the big guys. And I always paid my taxes, booked all my revenue, every penny.  With my just out of school accountant, I prepared a business plan and a budget. We made sure I knew all my costs, everything, including waste and labor. Do not forget there is a cost to transporting your product to the customer. And you are actually financing any unsold inventory because it is not providing any revenue,  so be very careful how much you produce.

 

You can contact the SBA; there are programs to help if you seek them out. Seek minority status as ethnic or women owned if that applies to you. Join organizations in your field, find a mentor, rent a mentor (Google it), never stop learning. Go on to the free Smartbriefs website.  There are daily Smartbriefs on Leadership, Social Media, Entrepreneurship, Small Business, Marketing, and a host of other subjects, many industry related, to choose from with great articles, solid resources, and solid advice.

 

Use social media as much as you can. Keep yourself out there; put yourself where people can find you. At Love and Quiches we use social media, big time, to expand our reach world-wide. For you, it may be smaller, but it works; it can help you sell your products farther afield as you grow. Through our website, email blasts, twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the like, we can reach thousands all over the world with just a push of the mouse. Some of our largest new opportunities have come through Internet inquiries. It is amazing; our employees have the whole world at their fingertips. Now we must all learn how to exploit this brave new world. The obvious implications for export are mindboggling. But the internet can be a dangerous place, and must be navigated carefully and with eyes wide open.

 

There are always crossroads in business. The events of 9/11 were our crossroads. It was both devastating and, ultimately, transformational; we reinvented ourselves.  It was our “Aha” moment.  Before then, of course, there was a lot of history – but it was still L&Q light.

 

Post 9/11 effects informed how our organization exists today. We got clobbered by 9/11 as did so many other businesses, but for us primarily because our business fell over 25% in the airline segment—hundreds of thousands of $s in cancelled orders and now obsolete and irrelevant inventory. Then —we picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and moved on. We had no choice, and we are still here.

 

Businesses can be built even during difficult economic conditions. Today’s economy remains extremely difficult but we are holding our own. The trend toward upscale, high quality desserts is growing across all channels–even fast food-and that is helping to fuel our growth. We are lucky to be in the food business. People always have to eat—and that is a good thing. So we keep reaching higher. We accept that there will always be obstacles, that we can never achieve all of our goals. But we do get our fair share, and we are appreciative of that.

 

The short answer to the inevitable work-life balance question is to accept that you cannot have it all. Something will always suffer; you make constant choices and sacrifices every day; sometimes personal, sometimes business. I have been working almost 24/7 for over four decades. It is what I do, who I am. Just remember that at the end of the day, as in my case, it is so important to be doing what you want to do, and love to do. You need to want it with every fiber within you.

 

And this is why I wrote my business memoir, “With Love and Quiches: A Long Island Housewife’s Surprising Journey from Kitchen to Boardroom”. I had been asked to speak at industry events, to share my story hundreds of times. My marketing department convinced me to start a blog to share these stories with a larger audience, and so I did. Then came the book by natural progression. My book describes my journey, and the lessons learned along the way. I realized that by sharing my story, both the pain and the glory, I could perhaps inspire and provide encouragement to the next one in line who has a good idea, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a dream. It took a thousand baby steps to get here.

 

Remember that and keep the faith. I look forward to many of you telling your own stories someday.