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God in the Business Plan

Posted on February 13, 2017 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (15202)

God in the Business Plan. God IS the Business Plan

(Or how an Estate Sale visit morphed into a cake decorator’s networking gig)

Today I had an out of body experience. Out of body, because events around me were just not of my initiating, but …………….. well, let me just tell you what happened.

I left home to go buy lunch for Michael. I remembered that I had seen an Estate Sale sign the day before, so headed in that direction. I would just stop in, see if it was worth a visit, and then return later with Michael, when he could take a break from work.

I was a little concerned that I didn’t see the sign at the major intersection, but kept pressing on. As I drove along I was worried that they had sold everything and closed up shop. This was a lovely neighborhood. Typically, these estate sales proved to be treasure troves for collectors of stuff. I’m always on the lookout for unusual and practical things for home and business. Michael focuses on items to enhance his backyard sanctuary.

I found the sale and headed in. The lady in front was eating her lunch, but greeted me with a smile and advice that today everything was 30% off the marked price. A gentleman was just leaving. He stated he’d be back the next day because it was 50% off day. He was interested in the rugs. Mental note. He looked like an antique dealer. There must be some good stuff here. Shopping instinct kicked into high gear.

I wandered in. It was a beautiful home. The lady in the next room greeted me. We struck up conversation. I kept wanting to move on, but the conversation moved easily from topic to topic. Before you know it, before I’d had a chance to explore, she was pulling up cellphone pictures of her daughter’s business output. And I reciprocated with pictures of my UK cake competition entries. She was so impressed she took my phone to show the pictures to her colleagues. In short order I handed out all my business cards. One woman’s daughter was getting married and needed a wedding cake. A customer who was just about to leave needed a birthday cake for her daughter. I scrolled through my phone portfolio to show off my work in each category. I talked about wanting to gift birthday cakes to displaced children. And on the spot received a referral to an appropriate charity. All before I saw what the house had to offer.

I was just driving out to get lunch. Business networking can happen at the most random of times, in the most unexpected places. Which is why I acknowledge God as the driver of my business. Five years ago, He provided the starter for my fledgling talent. He gave me the courage to enter an arena for which I have no formal education. He gently extricated me from a successful career for which I am eminently professionally qualified. He encouraged me through my epic baking and decorating failures. He provides the resources, opportunities. I may have the persistence and tenacity. But my vision is a combination of what I see, and what is unseen, to be revealed as God adjudges I have matured enough to take the next steps. I will write my formal business plan. That is a necessity for any entrepreneur. And God will be in the vision. And God will be in the details. I pray for the discernment to hear, and the obedience to follow.


Marci’s Masterpieces

February 11, 2017.


What's in a Name?

Posted on April 9, 2016 at 4:20 PM Comments comments (3910)

Marci's Masterpieces?  Really?  You think your cakes are masterpieces?  That is what I assume people's first reaction will be on hearing the newly minted name of my hobby bakery. It was my first reaction too after my friend suggested it.  We discussed it, I chewed on it, rejected it as too presumptuous, returned to it, chewed again and eventually accepted it as wholesome.

So this morning, as I considered writing this piece, I asked hubby "What's in a Name?"  His smart-ass response? "Am, Me, Man, Men, A, Mean..."  I shut him up and continued my ruminations.  Yes, I do consider my work masterpieces.  I throw my heart and soul into everything I bake.  I let my creative juices flow freely, even if someone else's design provides the initial inspiration. Many others consider my work masterpieces too, judging by the enthusiastic feedback I get on my creations.  Yes, I know, I know.  Many of the American Idol contestants we have to suffer through receive the same feedback from family and friends, only to be laughed off stage by a larger audience.  But the fact that someone else doesn't necessarily like your art, doesn't mean it isn't art.

I am an art collector, as evidenced by the many pieces, of mainly Jamaican art, that grace my home.  I especially love abstract art, as well as the soft hues and lines of watercolors.  Monet is one of my favorite international masters.  So, with the same eye I use to appraise art, I critically review everything I create. I can usually see flaws where others don't.  I am my own worse critic.  But I believe that is the curse every artist faces.  We throw out numerous canvases that others would be willing to collect in the name of beauty.  Our art develops as we learn new techniques, and after much diligent practice.  We look back on our earlier works and cringe.  But someone, somewhere liked what we did enough to be happy with it back then.  And that's what every artist lives for - the ooohs and aaahs of an appreciative audience.  Throw some money in there too, and that makes it even more worthwhile!

Indulge me as I invoke the the bigger picture.  Each and every one of us is God's masterpiece.  But we get so wrapped up in comparing ourselves to others, we overlook our inherent beauty.  I scour the internet and see the beautiful cakes created by others.  I review pictures of my own offerings, and they fall far short.  And so it is in life.  We perceive perfection in others, and crave what they have - better hair, more personality, riches, fame, love.  But we don't know what insecurities other people are struggling with, and how they may in fact envy us.  Each one of us in beautiful in our own way.  We each have admirers who see our inner and external beauty.  They love us through, and in spite of, our flaws.  Each of us is a walking masterpiece.  And we have the ability to create masterpieces every day, in whatever form of creativity we choose.  So Marci's Masterpieces it is. 

Egg white fun

Posted on April 2, 2016 at 3:35 PM Comments comments (6837)

I like to bake and decorate my cakes from scratch.  I try not to make anything using pre-packaged ingredients.  And this is why I was recently trying to separate egg whites from their yolks.  In the past, before I figured out what it was, I used meringue powder.  But now I was educated, and opted instead for the real deal.  I haven't yet acquired all the fancy gadgets the master bakers use, but there was a time before those gadgets existed.  

I found Alton Brown's royal icing recipe online, which came with a bonus tutorial on easily separating the eggs.  So I was good to go. I used his easy spoon method, and one by one, I was successfully separating yellow from white.  I would crack each egg into my bowl, and then use the spoon to scoop the yolk out.  You probably know where this is going.  By the time I got to the fourth egg, things didn't go so well, and the yolk broke and leaked into my three previously separated egg whites.  Try as I might, I couldn't extract that slimy yellow from all that slimy white.  Not being sure as to the impact yolk would have on my icing, I had to start over.  

Lesson learned.  Which is an obvious lesson, really.  My high school Home Economics teacher had taught us never to crack eggs into each other, in case one is rotten, and you end up with a bowl of good eggs from which you can't extricate the rotten one. So now, it's another step, but it's worth the while.  Every new egg gets cracked into a separate bowl until it can prove its worth, or I can be sure I've succeeded in the separation of church and state.  ;) 

Fondant Fail

Posted on April 2, 2016 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (11304)

I don't like fondant.  There are numerous bakers who swear by it, and it is undoubtedly a convenient medium for decorators.  I just don't think the taste can compare to a good buttercream frosting.  Buttercream is more unstable, and presents more challenges for decorating, but it's my go to, and I'm up to the challenge.

I did give fondant a try.  Once. I was working hard to complete a cake for entry into our annual cake contest at work.  As the initiator and organizer of the contest, I felt pressured to have an entry.  But the beautiful 3 layer cake I had envisioned wasn't going to happen.  It should have had a marsala colored frosting onto which I would (hopefully skillfully) pipe delicate white designs.  The contrast would have been breath-taking.  I would walk away in the top three, I was sure.  The contest was on Monday, and on Saturday evening, as I struggled to mix the required color, my buttercream was still shades away, and with each additional drop of color the buttercream became more bitter. This was back in the days when i would pull pictures from Pinterest and assume, with my limited skill set, I could replicate it.  Now I spend hours watching tutorial videos shared by wonderful bakers and baking artisans, but back then, I was arrogant and stupid.  Not only was the color elusive, I didn't know I needed to stabilize each layer of cake, so the top layers were slowly sinking into the lower layers. 

Earlier in the week, when I had shared my planned design with a colleague, she had wisely, and perhaps anticipating the challenges I would face, suggested I make a carousel cake.  So as my layers toppled into each other, I scrapped my marsala cake plans, pulled the cakes apart, and raced up to Michael's to find props for a carousel.  And some backup fondant.  

I'm not proud of the cake I submitted, but as a first fondant effort, it humbled me, as well as exposed me to the limitless opportunities fondant presents, if used skillfully.  I didn't do it justice. But someone has to to populate those seriously funny "Pinterest fail" pages! 

The Cake the Baker Rejected

Posted on April 1, 2016 at 3:50 PM Comments comments (16422)

It was supposed to be part of the third layer of the hanging Easter cake.  It was going to be clothed in delicious buttercream frosting, then embelished with colored Peeps to enthrall the children coming in for the Easter egg hunt.  Slicing into it would reveal its secret - the multicolored cake hidden within.

Disaster killed that plan when the cake broke into many pieces as I tried to separate it from the cake pan.  I'd been lazy and hadn't bothered to line the pan with parchment paper.  I was distressed for a moment, but quickly figured out a workaround.  The hanging cake would have two tiers only.  The third cake would stay home as the reject I could patch up for family consumption.

I quickly slathered the top of the broken cake with buttercream, slapped on the other cake layer, and then frosted the whole thing.  The buttercream was able to hold it all together, so the family would never know how close it came to gracing the trash bin. Actually, I'd share it at small group meeting that evening.  The members were my official tasting panel anyway. 

The cake almost missed making it to the table.  When I remembered it, the meeting participants were packing up to head to their respective homes.  Their response upon tasting the cake was unexpected.  They loved it.  It was the best I had offered thus far.  Earlier cakes had been declared pretty delicious, but the reject cake took top honors for flavor, and even for its pretty play of colors inside.

And isn't this a reflection of life itself?  How often do we walk around, feeling totally messed up inside?  Or worse, we just want to hide ourselves away from the world.  But if we give ourselves a chance, interact with others, they always see our true colors shining through (reminds me of that Phil Collins song).  And remind us of how much we are loved.