Monday, November 12, 2012

Dear Day-cation: A Quaint Fall Baby Shower

Happy Veteran's Day, folks!
Since my days off are usually one at a time, I've decided to create a recurring theme for the posts I write about those days' happenings: Dear Day-cation.

Saturday was filled with sweet treats, hot spiced tea, and happy toddlers frolicking about. It was my sister Jennifer's baby shower so I went up to LA to spend the day with her, some lovely ladies, and their babies. Jenn is having a baby girl in a few weeks (maybe less!) and we were all excited to get a head start on welcoming the new baby girl into the world.
It was a delicious little get together and there were only about 10 of us this time, so it made for a really intimate and quaint afternoon. Jenn's first baby shower about 2 years ago had about 30 people and I catered all the food for it. It was mainly just salad, hors d'oeuvres, and canapes and I enjoyed it, but it was definitely a lot of work! This time, I decided to only make cupcakes for dessert to share with the ladies and Joan's on Third catered a lovely lunch. Jenn's boyfriend's talented and crafty sister, Edie, did all the decorating.
The cupcakes were a hit and I was so happy to see everyone enjoying them. I made two flavors: Vanilla Bean (that I garnished with edible flowers to go with the floral theme Edie had goin' on) and Pink Lemonade. They were really fun to decorate, especially the Vanilla Bean ones. I sprinkled sanding sugar on them and then added some marigold petals and dried lavender florets. I bought cute little paper cups to bake them in at Sur La Table and I think they really added a special touch. We also had some other talent add in their touch to the dessert table - there was a chocolatey Marble Bundt cake made by my mom and really delicious and chewy cookies that Edie's mom made.

It was one of the first real fall days here in So Cal. It was a beautifully clear and brisk and only about 61 degrees or so...a temperature I am all too excited to welcome -with warm boots on my feet and a scarf around my neck!

Speaking of babies, I can't get this song out of my head since I heard it on the radio while driving home from work the other night. I love early 60's music like this and hope you enjoy it too!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Natalie Karkhoff: Professionally Trained and Bona Fide Cook, but not Chef

One of the things in my life that I did and I am so grateful for is going to culinary school at a community college, and not an expensive private school. I funded my schooling completely out of pocket, didn't take out a single loan, and I'm so glad I did. The harsh reality of the restaurant industry still sends shivers down my spine...well not really, but how would you feel if you had just spent somewhere between $50,000 - $100,000 on school, graduated and got a job making somewhere between $9 - $11 an hour for the first 4 (at the very least) years of your career?
This is the harsh reality I speak of. Oh yeah, and forget any sense of a work/life balance. Work in a restaurant and you belong to it. You may as well sleep there, especially if you were like me and you were crazy enough to commute 60 miles a day to get to and from work! Most of my days were like this: Sleep til 11am, get to work around 1pm, work (hard! physically intense) til about 11pm, sometimes later, get home at about midnight, have a bite to eat and unwind in front of the TV, and then go to sleep at 2 or 3AM.
I burned out fast as most people do. This is the job that isn't for everyone, and I sure was one of those people. I'm the type of person that always wants to do my best in the jobs I am hired to do, but the amount of daily prepwork involved in my station and the stress and anxiety of not having anyone to help me really put a damper on my spirits and made me feel like I wasn't able to put out my best effort.
Enough flashbacks! The reason why I am sharing this is because I wanted to write about the difference between a cook and a chef. A lot of people finish culinary school and think that they're granted the title of chef. Or friends and family members who haven't the slightest clue about the way the food biz works refer to you as a "chef" once you finish school. Think again, my friend! The road to becoming a true chef is a long and windy one. One I couldn't finish.
I'm sure a lot of my old fellow line cooks are chefs now, running their own kitchens and writing menus and such. But for us little guys, who still take orders from those above us and are still honing our knife skills, oh yeah, and we still make somewhere between $9 and $15 and hour, we are cooks.
"Chef" isn't a title that just gets handed to you with the piece of paper when you graduate from Le Cordon Bleu. It's something you work extremely hard for, day in and day out, missing out on time with family and friends, on holidays, on weddings, on birthdays, and funerals (this is a little extreme but my Chef at The Montage said it himself). It's a title you earn and you should be humble about. I can't tell you how many kids I went to culinary school with who had this whole "I'm a badass" attitude on them. I'd like to see where they are now. I wonder if they made it past being the prep cook who gets yelled at by their chef to clean up the spill of corn chowder and marinara sauce that one of the lunch cooks tipped over from their 5-gallon buckets in the walk-in refrigerator (this didn't specifically happen).
Leaving the restaurant industry was one of the best decisions I made. It has given me a lot to be thankful for and makes me think after a hard day at my job now (manager at Peet's) that things could still be worse. It has also given me the opportunity to focus and reflect on things in my life that I really value and want for myself....Like my own food business...that doesn't involve a kitchen brigade...very soon...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

It's never to early to buy cute things for kids!

Whether you like it or not, a lot of retail stores have already put up their Christmas and/or Holiday displays. Halloween was just barely a week ago! Alas, this is the consumerist society we live in, and companies are ready to start cashing in on their most profitable time of the year (hey, you can sing that to the tune of "The most wonderful time of the year").
Well, they've got me, too. I've already got my "Holiday gifts and treats" board going on Pinterest (hey, I hate being rushed). I actually just made my first hoilday purchase, but only because it was a baby shower/holiday gift combo purchase. I wanted to share this super cute kids company I found through Real Simple, called Blabla kids. Children's toys and dolls have gotten to be so cute over the past years - it's so easy to find tasteful designs that are elegant and practical at the same time - and these products are  no different. Florence Wetterwald is the name behind the design, whose knit dolls (amongst other things) are made in Peru by Peruvian artisans, using local,high-quality natural fibers. All their stuff is so adorable and I find it inspiring (I want to make something like this!) and hard to resist (I want to collect them all!)
The top picture is the "Boogaloo" I bought for my sister's new baby girl, who is due to arrive into the world next month! My sis's baby shower is this weekend, and naturally, I will be preparing the to come!
Of course, I also couldn't resist buying a little Christmas-something for my 2-year-old nephew, Asher....Here's the video of the character doll I got for him!