Unexpected.

Taste buds are curious things.  Sometimes they do just what you would expect.  And other times, well, they don't.

Case in point - Rosewater.

I must admit that rosewater was not one of the first ingredients that I rushed out to buy when I began this culinary adventure 16 years ago.  It wasn't even on my list of things to try.  In fact, it wasn't a blip on my radar at all.  

Then I began running in to books about Tea Time Treats.  Pages and pages of pictures depicting intricate tea cakes, and tiny tea cookies with names like madeleines and tassies and financiers, which I mistakenly envisioned as men in black suits discussing the rise and fall of the stock market.  Blintzes and maids of honor.  When did those become cookies?  And meringues.  And I'm thinking, "How is this a cookie?  It's the top of a lemon pie.  I'm so confused."

And I flip the page and there they are.  Five of the most beautiful little delicacies I have ever seen sitting on a plate surrounded by petals, just daring me to make them.  Rosewater Cream Meringues.  

For those of you who don't know, rosewater is just what its name suggests.  Rose water.  Concentrated, but rose water, nonetheless.  It involves a somewhat complicated but not impossible approximately 24 hour process to create in your own kitchen, involving a homemade still, and putting the petals in water with a brick.  That doesn't even sound sanitary.  Could be I just don't understand.  

I'm a big do-it-yourselfer, especially when it comes to food, but I decided not to start from scratch for this one.  So I went on safari for rosewater.  After several hunting parties and about the same number of months later, I discovered it at a nearby upscale grocery.   Did you catch the nearby part?  Right in my own 3.7 mile back yard.  

I know.  Nevermind.  Moving on.

Now I wait for the reason to put the pedal to the metal, and the rosewater to the cream.  It arrived in the form of a ladies morning meeting and we're off!

My primary taste tester human had his doubts.  Though he agreed that the water did smell lovely, he winced when he anticipated the "soap-like" experience in his mouth.   Childhood memories, perhaps?  This is when creativity, recipe development and taste buds meet, and sometimes crash.  But I wasn't giving up.

I whipped that cream.  I added the rosewater.  I handed him just a dab on a spoon.  And I waited.  

Wince.  Soap.  

I adjusted.  I added extract.  Raspberry extract.  His favorite flavor, next to mocha almond fudge, which was not going in this cream.  No, but raspberry might work.  

Another dab.  Another anticipated wince.  

But no, this was better.  Even good.  And this was a gent's opinion.  

I had to know.   I built one whole cookie.  Meringue.  Cream.  Berry.  Cream.  Meringue.  I took a bite.  Crunchy and smooth.  Delicate, airy, sweet, and yes, flowery.  But absolutely, positively close-my-eyes-and-savor-the-taste delightful!  So I was hopeful that the intended female audience might enjoy them, too.

I assembled them and laid them on their sides, each neatly tucked in a large candy paper cup and protectively loaded them in boxes.  They were dispatched to their destination with a warning that they were unusual, and might not be fancied by all.  Just so they knew.  

And I waited.  

And the message came back - a success, completely!  So the elegant and tasty beauties are happily added to my repetoire and menu.  

 

Beware of Innocuous Questions

Whenever I sit down with friends and family, it is nearly inevitable that My Sister's Sweets wiggles its way in to the conversation.  Yesterday, my dear, and I mean dear, Mother-In-Law asked me something that gave me pause.  She wondered if this business of mine was keeping me busy every day.  

Silence.

Quickly pilfering through information accessible to me in that steel trap (ahem) of a brain, I realize that I have had a lot of orders in the last month and therefore my answer could be, "Yes."  However, I have also had a lot of sleep in the last month.  A direct comparison could lead to the conclusion that my dreams were keeping me busier than my business.  

So then I'm back to racing through recent memories to find more appropriate and supportive data.  February.  What did I do in February?  

Uh-oh.  Cue in the ominous music.

Does this business of mine keep me busy every day? 

Mind still searching furiously for relevant information, I reason that in a sole proprietorship, such as My Sister's Sweets, as owner and sole proprietor I am advertiser, bookkeeper, CEO, and general doer of everything.    Thus the name Sole Proprietorship.  I have roped in able help from time to time, but the day to day success of this rests securely on my two little shoulders.

For a food business this involves the expected - recipe and product development, record keeping, emails, supply purchasing, social media posts, order fulfillment, blogs, supply purchasing, bookkeeping, photo shoots, web site updates and supply purchasing.  

Also involved is the unexpected - that stuff breaks and gets used up.  Huh.  Didn't see that coming.

In my secret dreams I see a bigger kitchen with a supply store next door.

Not lingering there, my mind hasn't forgotten her question.  Do I keep myself busy doing all those things and more every day?  Do I?  

Epiphany.  What would happen to my business if I did?

Scurrying back to the Sole Proprietorship evidence, I'm thinking, "So, who's responsible for making changes in this business, anyway?"  Hmm.  

15 milliseconds from the time of the original query, I respond.  

"It certainly could, Betty.  It certainly could."  

And I resolve to make it so.

Little Birds.

I'm not compulsive.  At all.  In fact, some of the people in my life, one in particular, probably wishes I were at least bent that direction.  But, no.  Being visually inspired, I am pulled by what's in front of me.  I need to make lists to remember things.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Free spirited, that's me.  

Except for one thing.  I hate anything sticking to my hands.  

Since I'm a baker that's a good thing, right?  Well, mostly, but not always.  

Being an artist, I love daydreaming.  Looking out our kitchen windows is one of my favorite places.  That wasn't always so.  There was a time when I couldn't stand looking out the kitchen windows.

You see, we live very, and I mean very, close to our neighbors.  So we had curtains.  Full window, cover-as-much-as-we-possibly-could curtains.  I'd have to slide them apart to see much of anything beside them.  If they were dusty, which was likely since I washed them only about twice a year, I found them disgusting to touch.  It was immediately necessary to wash my hands.  Then there was the inevitable guilt because I didn't wash the curtains more often.  Oh, and there was the added joy of air born dust from curtain adjustment, accentuated by any sunlight that happened to be streaming in.  More disgust.  So I just avoided the whole scenario by not daydreaming out the kitchen windows. 

Then, hurrah!  We were gifted, at least I thought we were, with 2' thick ice dams on the roof in January 2011.  f you've never had this experience, don't.  Water running down the walls, windows and curtains, pooling on the floor.  So, we rid ourselves of the curtains in the kitchen.  Now we have blinds.  Beautiful 2" faux wood white blinds.

You're looking at the timeline.  Yes, it took over two years to get them. There's a story there, but I'll save that for another day.

While we were making the multi-faceted decision to get blinds, then what type of blinds, then waiting for those blinds to go on sale, we left the windows bare.  Everyone could see everything.  Inside and out.  Pajamas, bad hair days and painting projects.  This was an unwrapped gift to me because I realized that we have wildlife.  In our yard.  That I could watch.  

Several years ago we redid our backyard fence.  Due to the upheaval of earth, and the new posts installed, we had openings for some new foliage.  In one corner just outside these kitchen windows, I planted an evergreen vine.  Apparently, sparrows and chickadees and house wrens love this vine.  The curtains had hid their passion.  And squirrels sat atop our new fence posts and surveyed the area for friends and enemies and dined on our ever present pine cones.  And cardinals visited with everyone who passed by.  I was completely unwitting.  They were having parties, using our yard without our knowledge, or permission.  

Well, that just had to stop.

Now I can see them easily, feasting on tidbits, having a chat with relatives, scolding each other for unfinished chores, or just taking a rest, peering at me.  No more privacy, for them or me.  We can see eye to eye.

I'll bet you're asking now, if you have gotten this far, what in the world does this have to do with baking?  Well, these windows are now my inspiration place.  They are where I take a minute to think, wait, peruse the world from within the space where all these wonderful foodly creations get their start.  Nature watching leads to White Chocolate Toffee Cheesecake and Shark's Teeth and Almond Cardamom Shortbread Sandwich Cookies and Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread Thins.  

And no more dusty curtains.  The only dusty fingers that live here come from flour. 

So next time I add something new to the menu you'll know how I got inspired.  You could say a little bird told you.