daidoji_gisei: (Default)
Except that I work at a co-op, so there are no big bucks.

Three non-related events have happened in the past three days that, combined, will completely wreck my daybaking schedule, to the point where not only will I need to change who-works-when, I'll be hiring at least one, and possibly two, new day bakers. ARG! This after having had to conduct two separate job searches (found a person who worked exactly one week before they had to quit) to fill hours left vacant when one of my bakers needed to reduce their hours.

All this in a month where I've also been entertained by major construction in the kitchen and the looming deadline for getting our cake-decorating program up and running. My life, I can only wish it was boring.
daidoji_gisei: (Default)
My pens arrived today, which I think is fairly impressive when you consider that the company is located in San Jose, CA. I showed them to my coworker S, who I had discovered was another fountain pen user, and we spent a few pleasant moments trying them out. My first impressions are that the Platinum Preppy really is a great cheap pen, I prefer medium nibs to extra-fine, and that italic nibs freak me out. Italic nibs may be something I can come to terms with if I use one for awhile, however. S, who has done calligraphy, didn't seem to have any problems with it. After I have given them more use I'll write up some notes in a more organized fashion.

The weather has been alternating between 'pretty nice for February' and 'freakishly warm'. I was tempted to go plant spinach and kale yesterday and if I hadn't so much writing to do I might have followed through. As it is, if the first weekend in March is at all reasonable weather-wise I'll probably try it. I have lots of seed, after all.

I finally got a new baker hired this week; I'm hoping she lasts longer than the last one. (To be fair, the last one had to quit for reasons completely out of her control, but still.) One of my current bakers is going on vacation this week so even a partially-trained person will be hugely useful next week. Also I need to start planning for March, which will have the excitement of two days were the Deli and Bakery production area will be completely shut down while new equipment gets installed. That will be weird and I need to think about how best to prepare our customers for it. ....now that I think about it, we may only lose one day of bread production. Must follow this up tomorrow!
daidoji_gisei: (Default)
This was a stressful, strenuous week at work, mostly because I had an employee quit without notice early on. This happened to be one of the rare cases in which I sympathized with the necessity that led them to that decision, but it still left me with a lot of slack to take up. I don't think I was as successful as I could want, but what is done is done. Now I have the work of finding a new employee on top of all the other things I need to get done, which has resulted in my canceling my semi-plans to go to the Chicago Kotei. (The Evansville TO has already suggested I go to his instead.)

There is a serious snowstorm heading my way. It rained early this morning and has stayed cloudy all day, and tonight it will start snowing. Accumulation predictions have been varying wildly, but I'm expecting at least 5". In preparation for being snowed in I bought a bunch of rose-scented cleaning supplies--I know I have to do a lot of housework this weekend, so why not make it as pleasant as possible? I should make a list of all the things I need to do: this will be depressing, but experience shows that I get more things done when I have some kind of plan in place.
daidoji_gisei: loaves of bread (bread)
Since I was asked:

The bakery as a two-fold obligation of making sure we have all the Thanksgiving goodies available in good quantities while not running out of any of the everyday stuff. Thus on Monday morning me and one of my staff will start making Whole Wheat and Challah dinner rolls and bread sculptures, pumpkin pies, maple nut pies, and pumpkin cranberry bread.

We are too small an operation to have one of the nifty machines that takes a batch of dough and turns it into scads of neatly-shaped rolls, so 'making dinner rolls' means taking 18 to 36 pounds of dough, cutting it into 2.5 ounce lumps, and shaping each of those lumps into a roll. As you might imagine, this takes a lot of time. Over the years I've mastered the art of shaping a roll in each hand, at the same time, which makes me twice as fast as any of my staff. I've tried to teach them how, but none of them can figure out how I do it.

In the early afternoon I'll have a another person come in; they will have the honor of making sure all of our non-Thanksgiving stuff gets made and stocked. You may not be surprised to hear that the fact everyone is going to stuff themselves with several kinds of pie on Thursday does not decrease the demand for cookies and chocolate cake the rest of the week.

Tuesday and Wednesday will be much the same, except I will have my assistant manager as part of the morning crew, giving us three people. We will need every one of those six hands.

The biggest challenge in those days will be managing the ovens, by which I mean keeping track of what needs to be baked, at what temp, and for how long. The dinner rolls are yeast breads so when they are ready to bake then need to be baked NOW. On the other hand the pumpkin cranberry bread takes about an hour and a half to bake (and a batch takes an entire oven) so it is essential on all days that the p.c.b. get mixed up and baked in time for the ovens to clear for the rolls.

The second biggest challenge will be finding cooling racks for everything: by the end of the Thanksgiving production run we will have used up every bit of cooling rack we have and will start clearing off storage racks and work tables to improvise temporary cooling racks.

And that's the plan.
daidoji_gisei: loaves of bread (bread)
Last week passed in a blur for me. It was all the long, busy days--I worked 9+hours every day but Wednesday, and that was because I had to leave on time so that I could catch the bus and go deposit my paycheck. I spent the whole week going home and crashing in exhaustion. I got nothing done--dishes, laundry, writing, nothing. My kitchen was horrifying this morning.

All of this busyness is being caused by the impending arrival of Thanksgiving, which means next week will be more of the same. The good news is that it is Thanksgiving week I put my staff on battlestations rearranged my labor schedule to make sure I had extra staffing for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I'm good at what I'm do, but we have grown past the point I can handle Thanksgiving production on my own. Even more good news is that I have really good, experienced people on Team Bakery right now and I don't forsee any problem we can't take care of. (OK, so the ovens could blow up or something, but there's no point in worrying about things that are totally off-the-wall like that.)

In the meantime I am trying to do as much housework as possible. I got half of my laundry done and around a third of my dishes cleaned and put away. I haven't gotten as far as I wanted, but I did have to go into work for an hour or so to finish the process of hiring a new baker. Also I keep sitting down to rest and goof off on the internet, which I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand it's not getting any cleaning done. On the other hand, I'm tired and if I don't get some relaxation in now how am I going to make it through the next week? There is no obvious balance point to this problem.

Oh, and speaking of frivolous things, I bought myself an amaryllis bulb today. If I pot it this weekend I can look forward to flowers in December--useless, but if I don't buy myself flowers who will?
daidoji_gisei: loaves of bread (bread)
July 1 was a big day for me, work-wise, because it was the beginning of our new bread schedule.

This was much more exciting than the previous sentence might indicate. When I became the bakery manager lo those many years ago I inherited a bread schedule that stayed the same week after week as it rolled through the year. I kept to that schedule with only minor alterations because, as received wisdom, it was immune to questions. But this spring I was casting around for ideas to make the Bakery even better and I came up with the idea of adding new yeast breads to the schedule. This led to the following chain of thought: I can't add new breads, the schedule is full already. So take off some of the old ones. But that would change the schedule! And? So? Those breads are good, but people see them all the time. Change things up! But that would change the schedule! Bakery managers have that power, you know. I...I...

After I got over the shock of realizing that if continents could shift, so could breads, I started work on the project. For July I developed two new breads (Sweet Chocolate {yes, that is really a yeast bread} and Apricot Wheat Germ. I brought back a bread we used to make, dropped a few to make room, and shifted some of the breads that were staying so that they appeared at a different part of the week. Then I had to deal with all of the paperwork to support the change: putting up announcements on Facebook so our customers had some warning, getting a new bread schedule sign made, etc, etc. In addition, I had decided this was the perfect reason to kick into gear the new-bread-labels-and-shelf-sign project that has been hovering about my desk for a year or so. Which, of course, generated more paperwork. Not to mention proofreading. (I read the label proofs over carefully several times, then gave them to two bakery staffers to check, and I'm still waiting to see what mistakes got past me. I know there has to be at least one.)

The scariest part of this is that having begun, I must continue. For the foreseeable future I will need to come up with a few new breads each month, so that we have a growing list of breads to rotate in and out as the months go by. It's scary partly because it's something that will have to be done regardless of vacations, holiday baking demands, illness, and missing dishwashers.

But to be honest, the really scary thing is how much I am looking forward to this. I came to this job through bread-making, and yeast breads continue to be my favorite thing in the world to make. Assigning myself the task of creating new bread recipes almost seems like cheating. On the other hand, my boss, her boss, and my staff all think that new recipes are a good idea, so I'll just have to live with the joy of making bread.
daidoji_gisei: (Default)
Well, so far the new year has been mixed, mostly in a ordinary fashion, but probably more on the positive side. On New Years Day one of the local thrift stores had a sale with all clothing for 99 cents. I got six nice shirts and a really nice brown linen skirt that kind of flares out at the hem. I love sales like that, because at that price I can think of them as rentals--I can wear them until the season, or my size, changes and then just donate them back to the thrift store to sell again. Everyone wins!
On Sunday I cut my left thumb while trying to make breakfast, forcing me to attempt to spread peanut butter with my right hand while holding my left hand, thumb swathed in toilet paper, above my head. This was not at all enjoyable and I do not recommend it. Then I spent a lot of the day fruitlessly searching for my embroidery supplies. I remember exactly what tote bag I had them all in, but it defies location. It's so frustrating, because I feel like it should be so obvious where it is and if I just bend down at the correct angle or look at a corner of a room over a shoulder or move a box slightly it will just pop into view--but it never does. I could go out and buy a hoop and some floss to get started with, but all my design books were in that bag, including the Dover book of Pennsylvania Dutch iron-on transfers, which is apparently out of print.

On the positive side, on Sunday I realized that the straw-yellow cashmere sweater I had bought at a thrift store with the intent to cut it up into fabric was a men's medium, not a woman's medium. I tried it on and, sure enough, it fit. It didn't fit great--the bust was a little tight, and the sleeves were a bit too long, but I wasn't going to quibble. On Monday I paired it with the brown linen skirt and felt so sophisticated I hardly knew what to do with myself.

Monday was a lot of running around depositing paychecks, mailing rent checks, and the like. I also found two flowerpots for the geraniums I need to repot. And then I got a call from Yoon and we talked for an hour or two. Calls from friends are always good. A call from Yoon is extra-good because we can talk writing-stuff together--she's reading her way from Gold to the current story arc, and I can hardly wait for to hit my stuff, to see what she thinks of it. I mean, I know that she generally likes my writing, but I'm curious to know if she spots any persistent technical flaws I need to address.

Tuesday I was back at work, and my thumb was annoying me again. I was wearing a band-aide, a finger cot and a glove on my left hand, which was a little bit of overkill but as the store's Safety Office I feel obliged to model good behavior. If all goes as planned, I am going to hang out at my desk tomorrow and work on inventory; then I'll only need the band-aide.
daidoji_gisei: Rukia being her normal delicate self (Delicate)
I grew up with the understanding that my feelings only mattered to me, and since I was unimportant my feelings were likewise unimportant. As a result, it can take me a long time to realize that I am angry, or unhappy, or in love, because strong emotions can take a really long time for me to process.

Most of my co-workers, who are way too deep in the touchy-feelly end of the spectrum, would consider this horrible and start recommending therapy for me, but I feel the need to point out that there is an upside to this. Take this morning, for instance, when I learned that one of my fellow managers had not only unilaterally made a change of policy regarding something that affected his department tangentially but had a significant impact on two other departments (one of them being mine, as you might guess)--he didn't bother to inform anyone in the other two departments of this. We found out about it via a customer who was expecting us to follow a policy we didn't know existed. You might say I was unhappy about this.

But I didn't do anything then, because I was still processing. I finished bathing the lemon-cake-to-be in lemon syrup and then went up to my desk and sent out a carefully worded email to Mr Unilateral, the other affected manager, and the level of management above us. I expect that there will be discussion on this on Monday (and if there is not there will be another, even more carefully worded email), but by then my rage will have peaked and I will be able to discuss things without battling the urge to lace my sentences with profanity. So you see this disconnect does have a certain utility.

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE--I tested two cake recipes today and they were great. The first was a spice cake with applesauce that was beautiful: richly spiced, tender, and so so moist. I might have to tweak the spice level down a bit, because sometimes the flavor grows as it ages, but everything else was perfect. It's now undergoing the fridge test, so we can see what kind of a shelf life it has. If that works out I'm going to put it into production.

The second was lemon cake, which I'm building as a variation of the Gateau au Yaourt we are already doing. I used lemon oil instead of vanilla extract, bathed the baked cake in a lemon-sugar syrup, and frosted it with a white frosting I had lemoned up a bit. It was...lovely. I could not keep my hands off of it. Which was ok, because no one else could either. Sampling cake makes you pretty popular with the staff, let me tell you. It is also going through the fridge test this weekend, and it it works out I might put it into production Monday because I have dreamed about having a lemon cake for years and now it is almost within my reach. A Sith Lord might wait patiently for years, waiting for the perfect moment to introduce a cake flavor, but when that moment comes they strike with absolute power and ruthlessness.

....yeah, it's been that kind of week. I think I'll go work on my dinner. Bacon and tomato sandwiches, made with a Cherokee Purple tomato from my garden. And a slice of lemon cake for dessert.
daidoji_gisei: (Default)
One of the Produce people named Mike (yes, we have more than one) wandered though the Bakery and announced, "Don't be too proud of this pastry terror you've constructed." I, of course, replied with "This chocolate cake is now the ultimate dessert in the galaxy." Because I could. I should look into getting a copy of the movie on DVD: I haven't seen it since the summer it first came out.

Meanwhile, someone finally noticed my glasses! I was standing in front of the bakery shelves with our bookkeeper, discussing which muffin she wanted to buy for breakfast, when she suddenly said "Oh! Those are so cute!" and pointed to my glasses. I was gratified.
daidoji_gisei: (Default)
Short form: My radio interview had a TN of 20, and I rolled really high.

Somewhat lengthier form: The event went pretty smoothly. I had been a little worried when I woke up yesterday, as I found myself with a slightly sore throat and some nasal congestion. A pot of hot tea and my antihistimine took care of that well enough. I was somewhat nervous when I got there and learned that we would also be accepting call-in questions from listeners, but that did not result in any disasters. In fact, by sheer chance I managed to answer a caller's question before she was even put on the air to ask it. ("It's the ultimate in customer service", I commented.)

Our general manager had had the foresight to bring a radio to the store, so that my staff (and anyone else with a free moment) could listen. The general opinion seems to be that I did a good job--apparently I have a good radio voice and I'm good at explaining things. (The last at least does not surprise me, given that I spent a number of years as a TA in physics. Practice, as they say, makes perfect.)

I'd followed through on my intention to call my parents to let them know, and as a result my mom called me last night to tell me she'd heard me on the radio. She also said I had done a good job, but really what does one expect to hear from one's mother? I don't know yet if Dad heard it--his work may have kept him away from a radio. But we are supposed to get a tape of the show, so if he is interested I can find a way to get him a copy of the tape.

On the down side, my slightly sore throat and congestion of yesterday has blown into heavy congestion and a low fever today. So I am at home, fretting. My staff is really good, but we are still in Grand Opening mode and as a result of the interview I'm now expecting a heavy run on our lemon bars. *fret* At least the lemon bars are easy to make. I really need to get well soon, though. November is a horrible month to get sick in.
daidoji_gisei: (Default)
I keep forgetting to post this, though I'm not sure why anyone would care--

I'm going to be on a live radio interview program tomorrow. The show is called Judy A La Carte, and it originates on KFOR, a local radio station. I'm even listed on the show's official website, though for some reason they only have my first name. (That might have been a result of our advertising person's mistaken efforts to keep my name off the internet. That ship sailed a long, long time ago.)

Anyway, I'm supposed to talk with Judy about the bakery and baking in general. I'm not too worried because although I am horrifically shy in personal matters I can talk forever if I have a role to play--and Bakery Manager is a role I am very comfortable with.

I suppose I should call my parents tonight and let them know. Parents like knowing things like this.
daidoji_gisei: (Default)
I ended up working late again yesterday.

As part of our grand opening media blitz we had someone from a local radio station doing broadcasts from our store from 4 to 6 pm. I'm normally gone by 3ish (bakers hours, yo!), but I'd decided that someone needed to be there during the radio thing to make sure the sample trays got put out and to give a brief spiel about the bakery on air. As is usual in these cases, 'someone' was me.

My original plan was to put out the sample trays, make sure the shelves looked tidy, talk to the radio person, and take off. As they say, no plan survives contact with the customer base. We were swamped! The lemon bar samples we'd prepped didn't last more than a half-hour so I started chopping up some of the peanut butter cookies we'd baked that afternoon and sampling them. Then I kept circling the grab-and-go case where the cake and lemon bars were stocked. Whenever I saw a customer eyeing the lemon bars (this week's bakery special!) I'd ask if they'd like to try a sample, popped open a container, and offered them one. Then I'd take the remainder back to the kitchen, cut them up into bits and wander the aisles offering them to customers. It was kind of fun, really.

Between my guerrilla sampling efforts, making sure the shelves stayed stocked and orderly, and showing customers where the stevia now was, I was there the whole two hours. I was tired, so tired, but at least I got stuff done. I'm now wondering if I shouldn't switch my hours around a bit so that some days I'm at work later in the day. Sample stands don't fill themselves, and you can't always rely on the manager-on-duty to check them. *ponder*
daidoji_gisei: (Default)
Tomorrow at nine a.m. we will have the ribbon-cutting ceremony that will officially open our new, expanded, remodeled store.

It feels a little unreal to me. We've been talking about expansion for years. We've been planning this one for months. We've been overrun with construction workers since July. But the walls are up and painted, all the new display cases and storage areas are in and the floors have been cleaned and waxed shiny. Today I was going back and forth between the bakery and my display area and there were no construction workers anywhere. It was an odd non-sight.

My bakery is ready. At least, it's as ready as it can be given that one of my day people was sick this week and I have no way of knowing how much bread we are going to sell over the weekend.

As I was leaving this afternoon I stopped to ask our assistant general manager something. Before I left she said, "I think your department is the only one in the store where the staff isn't panicking," she said. That made me feel good, because they shouldn't be panicking. That's a manager responsibility. Also, there is no reason for them to. They know what needs to be done--bake lots of stuff--and they know how to do it. Everything else has been taken care of: our shelves are in place, we have almost enough whole wheat flour to last out the month, and I even got the sign with our bread-baking schedule posted where customers can see it.

At the end of her shift today, Katy asked if there was anything more I needed her to do. "I need you to get a really good night's sleep tonight", I said. Now it's my turn to take that advice.
daidoji_gisei: (Default)
The grand reopening of our newly expanded-and-remodeled store will be on October 16.

I am feeling relatively calm about this, though I'm not sure if that means that I have everything reasonably under control or that I am horrifically miscalculating what my department needs. I don't feel as if I am horrifically miscalculating; I picked up many useful skills while getting my physics degrees and building mental models of systems was one of them. I know how much my bakery staff can produce in a given period of time, I've just hired and started to train an extra day person, and we've started to store work in the freezer for the weeks ahead. (No, really. We already have a day of labor tucked away in the forms of cookie doughs, scone dough, and fruit crumble toppings. My plan is to have at least three days in the freezer before Day Zero.) But really, there's an upper limit to what you can do when your department's claim to glory is freshness. I'll order extra cocoa powder, schedule as many people as I can fit into the bakery, and cope.

In the meantime, we broke another sales record last week--that is, we broke the record we had set two weeks ago. I'm very proud of my staff over this, because they did it short-handed: I was home nursing my sinuses on Friday. (I've been having sinus headaches on and off for about ten days now. It's been very wearing.) I got permission to have a pizza party for my staff after they broke the first record, now I really have to get moving and organize it! Maybe now we will have ice cream afterward. :)
daidoji_gisei: (Default)
I arrived at work this morning to find out that last week the Bakery had set a new record for weekly sales!

This is remarkable for several reasons. We were only open half a day on Labor Day, and so didn't do the normal amount of business. It wasn't the week of a major holiday, like Thanksgiving. And finally, parts of my department are still moving around, which makes it hard for customers to find what they want to buy. And even with all that--RECORD SALES WEEK! :-)

By the end of this week the new bakery shelves will be installed. I am going to tell all my staff that I think we should break last week's record. We can do it! I'm sure we can!
daidoji_gisei: (Default)
This was not a good week for me even by my current standards, which are pretty low. I ramble like a rose. )
daidoji_gisei: (Default)
It is quite possible that some of my readers have Facebook accounts, and this may (or may not) interest them: The natural foods grocery that I work for is now on Facebook. This development is the brainchild of our mechandising czarina, Kelsi, who decided this would be a good thing for the store. (I myself have no opinions on the matter, as I am not cool enough for Facebook.)

I am informed that Kelsi intends to put up a bunch of information on the store, but for now it just has a bunch of pictures of various members of the staff. Including me. I happen to be wearing the shirt that caused one of my co-workers to dub me 'the Goth Betty Crocker', a phrase that amuses me because, well, how could it not amuse me? I had forgotten that until Kelsi showed me the photo. More importantly, it will soon have some photos of the results of my assistant manager's recent granola-bar-packaging marathon, and you'll be able to see little bits of the bakery in the background. I seem to spend a lot of time talking about my work on my journal, so I thought I'd point out a source for visuals.
daidoji_gisei: (Default)
I haven't posted in awhile. Mostly this is because I have been coming home too tired to write a post about how tired I am. Also, I've been spending a lot of time contemplating how much I suck as a human being, and my friends get annoyed with me when I comment on this so that's another reason not to post. Still, I suspect that at some time in the unguessed-at future I'm going to be going back over my journal and wondering, "why in the world wasn't I writing anything in Jan 09?" So. I ramble like a thorny rose. )
daidoji_gisei: (Default)
Today I finally staggered into work mid-morning. I had wanted to show up earlier, but with my sleep cycle in its current state of disarray I was happy to get there before noon.

However, that isn't the good news part.

The good news was that an ex-night baker showed up this morning and said, "I've just moved back into town and am looking for a job. I heard you needed a night baker, so I want to apply." "!!!!!!!" is a good summary of my reaction to this. When he worked for me he was reliable and made great bread and when he quit he gave lots of notice. And he won't need training, because I've already trained him. I'm not seeing any downsides here.

I didn't hire him on the spot because I never hire people on the spot, ever. But I plan to call him up tomorrow and arrange an interview at his earliest convenience. I'm hard put to imagine what would make me not rehire him but you never know. Having him back on staff would reduce my Night Baker Crisis back to the level of Annoying Issue That Needs To Be Solved Quickly, and I am completely in favor of this.
daidoji_gisei: (Default)
I've finished my shift for the night and today's breads are sitting downstairs on the cooling racks. I'm very tired and desperately need to go home and sleep, but my tiredness is working against me--it is so very nice just to sit here, as opposed to getting on all of my warm layers and walking home. After I post this, I hope, I will have gathered the needed strength.

In the meantime--my breads are lovely: well-shaped and large, noticably larger than most of the loaves my night baking staff have been turning out. This is somewhat bad, because at this point in my career my main task is to create great bread-bakers, not bread. And yet, it is nice sometimes to demonstrate that I still have what it takes to knock it out of the park.

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