Dreadlocks of life…

My hair is a rat’s nest of snarls, maybe I’m embracing my inner “Rastafarian” finally and it’s the stress leaving my body through my tresses. I barely take time to squeeze out a post each day, and the posts of other’s, I long to read and comment on, pile up in my inbox.  The poor dogs are desperate for attention, the cats are clingy, bills need paying and while there are funds there is no time. Laundry piles are high and the cupboards are bare. Tonight I hit a new low when I stopped for take-out Pad Thai and Sashimi for dinner.

But I have never been more energized. Retail during the holiday season is, as our landlord says, “Drinking from a firehose.” The hours fly by and I never watch the clock. I have no idea until the windows darken that the day is over. I go in to work earlier and leave later. Every day we note a new milestone in sales. It feels so good to be part of something so exciting. Smiles and thanks and good cheer fill my day.

So if I look a little disheveled and miss a post or two over the next week, I hope my readers will forgive me. I’m going to go pat a dog and make a long over-due call to a friend…

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Peterborough Chamber of Commerce

I started this week out with a post about life at the store. It seems fitting to end the week with one; because it is where life is constantly evolving and interesting at the moment.

Business has picked up dramatically with the ‘leaf-peeper’ season which is probably in its final hurrah this weekend. Appropriately, it is also “Peak Into Peterborough” weekend with lots of hometown activities planned.

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When the Chamber of Commerce called to say they had us scheduled for a ribbon cutting ceremony AND an after-hours networking event, I fumed. Must have been a hole in the schedule because neither  Korey nor I remembered signing up for this. On the other hand, we were there and there was lots to show off.

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Deb was to cut the ribbon, flanked by Kim and Korey. First, we posed the picture facing out of the new space, as if they were ‘opening’ the room.

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Then everyone did the crowd shuffle and the ribbon was cut with them facing out of the new room as if they were letting us in the new side. All very confusing, since I was  photographing the ceremony , along with twenty or so other iPhone photographers.

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In the end, it was an interesting people watching/meeting/hiding-from-some kind of night. But I did that gig when I was the President of the Boston Chapter of NIRI just two short years ago. Giving up working for public corporations meant tightening myself deeper in to my shell of what makes me comfortable at the end of the day. Networking is not my comfort zone.

The Cheese is Gone…

Friday

There are vast quantities of food in my home at the moment. Some sits by the door in insulated coolers because the fridge is over-flowing. One whole shelf is designated for  cheese. That’s the most tempting. A rich, creamy, grass-fed cow’s milk Feta and a deeply veined blue that melts on your tongue like ice cream. These are from a local farm in Wilton, NH and are my favorite so far. The cooler arrived at the store today but had to be installed and chilled down. Korey picked up an ice chest full of cheese before work so that will go in tonight but the rest is calling to me. The other shelves hold enormous amounts of cabbage braised in Cinnamon-Pear balsamic and Potatoes Anna finished with Pumpkin Seed Oil. Hanni and Lex will be pleased to hear ‘Mummo’ cleaned out the ‘science experiments’ moldering in the back of the refrigerator such as mint jelly from 2010 and assorted pickles.

Left-overs from my dinner, a fresh Bluefish fillet marinated in French Tarragon white balsamic and California Garlic Olive Oil, is squeezed in next to the chocolate fudge sauce I plan to put on my peppermint ice cream before bed.

All sorts of wonderful new products arrived at the store today. A local woodworker brought us a selection of bowls, cutting boards and utensils. More blown glass dipping dishes arrived along with hand blown jars for the salts and herbs. Every time I turned around, someone was walking through the door with more items to fill the little store. A full larder is a good thing.

This weekend is Peterborough’s 275th anniversary. The ads are placed, the press releases written and sent. Now we sit back and wait for the craziness to begin!

Saturday

Cheese dominates my life; cheese filling my refrigerator, waiting for the cheese cooler, having cheese and cooler finally come together for the biggest day the store has seen so far in its short history.

We went through a lot of cheese today. A couple of times during the crush I heard Korey call out to the crowds of shoppers, “anyone in an orange cap can fill a bottle or help you out!” and there was a happy smile under each cap. Our cobbled-together cooking demo was hugely successful and I don’t mind saying the food was really good. The weather could have been better for the tourists but for us it meant they were seeking shelter, warm food, and entertainment. We do well at the entertaining part…

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I have the best bosses in the world! Kim manned the food table for our cooking demo at the front door.   She and I managed to pull off Chef Joe’s menu of Braised Pork Roast in Red Apple balsamic, and my cabbage and potatoes; all but the Pineapple Cream Pie. Luckily, Deb came through with homemade apple crisp.

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Deb, keeping bottles filled and customers happy!

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The new Salt and Herb Tasting room finally has its cheese. We served up three varieties to sample until those ran out – literally every crumb. I grabbed several more out of the case to use as tasters and those flew off the shelves as well.

We were so lucky to have Melissa Spencer from Attar Herbs for the début of the salt and herb tasting bar.  Filling, weighing and stocking these delectables was an education the first time through. Listening to Melissa talk recipes and uses with folks was fascinating.

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Her eye for organizing and her help at filling all the tasting jars brought the concept together. It’s so much fun working with smart, creative people.

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Say “Cheese!”

 

 

Cooking up some fun

I have savored the recipes all week. Last Saturday, Chef Elizabeth Skipper, from The Everyday Epicure, came to the shop for our fifth drop-in cooking demo. I’m fascinated by the range of ability each guest chef has to offer. Elizabeth concentrated on appetizers and the results were stunning!

The day began with a bit of a struggle. Deb and I had agreed to meet at 8:45 to prep the shop before opening. She was picking up balloons and it never occurred to either of us that the Dollar Store wouldn’t open until 9:30. I became panicked when she didn’t arrive until 9:45 but with the help of our landlords, the tent went up, the tables were set and everything came together.

As to the food? Chef Skipper cooked up Sicilian Chicken tidbits with mint sauce, Bruschetta, and fried Sage Leaves.

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The weather was perfect; cool but sunny. Customers, old and new, flocked to the shop and with the help of Deb and Kelly, we pulled off another successful day!

Recipes are up on the shop web site if you are interested.

(Photos courtesy LandSPhotography)

Superfoods with Super Taste!

Peterborough was bustling. There were sidewalk sales and rubber duck races on the river for the annual Depot Square Days and one of the best Saturday’s, weather-wise, in weeks. By the time we had the tent for the cooking demo set up, curious folks were lining the doorway and filling the shop.

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Chef Jim’s début at Monadnock Oil and Vinegar (MOV) was a smashing success with fabulous food and fun conversations about cooking. The menu centered around healthy recipes using MOV’s oils and vinegars as well as spices from Attar Herbs. Jim is a consummate cooking contest award winner and has many great recipes under his belt. We set up outside and as soon as his Cajun Lightning Chicken hit the grill, mouths were watering and the air was full of delicious smells.

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A salad of kale, quinoa, almonds, raisins and crasins was dressed with champagne vinegar and blood orange infused olive oil.

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There was a glorious fruit salad with an array of flavored balsamic vinegars; chocolate, blueberry, lemongrass-mint and cranberry-pear. The Superfoods Snack Bars were a big hit for dessert. Guessing from the number of sales inside the store, he served about 150 samples to hungry folks in the three hours he was cooking.

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More importantly, we introduced a lot of new folks to the idea of cooking with healthy ingredients and trying new ways to “dress up” favorites. We had printed up recipe cards to hand out and people flowed from the food into the store to buy the oils and vinegars recommended in the recipes.  I have to say, the cooking demos are one of my favorite events for meeting new folks, catching up with regulars and just enjoying a day in the store.

 

The Drop Out

Though I have completely dropped out of the life I lead my email still cheerfully delivers missives I used to live by. LinkedIn, NASDAQ reports, NIRI surveys and other sundry notices that tell me the life I left goes on without me. Occasionally I open one and read the daily market report, what company is reporting stellar earnings, who is making their mark in the world of investor relations or what the latest trend is for dealing with activist investors. The endorsements on LinkedIn are interesting, considering I haven’t been in touch with most of those kind folks in almost two years. It all seems so foreign and far away from my little corner of the world. Today my biggest news items were when the bottle shipment will arrive and did the ads go in the Peterborough Players program looking like I expected. My world is full of a different minutia, but full nonetheless.

I feel such a sense of relief when I look at the simplicity of life. There is an apartment complex across the road from the store. It’s an attractive red shingled, two-story, L-shaped affaire. My mom rented a one bedroom flat there before she left Peterborough for Arizona. I think of her when I look out at it though she didn’t live in the part I see from my window. What I do see a tenant whose simple routines are integral to the fabric of the day. She is probably in her late sixties, smokes but mostly outside the screen door if the weather cooperates. Her cat is a luxuriously large, marshmallow and butterscotch tabby. She sets up a special table for him/her in front of the screen door; I hear the garbled sound of a television and sometimes see the flickering screen.

The woman is probably on disability and ambles with a definite list to the right. The first warm day, she emerged with a bucket and fishing pole. I watched as she walked slowly to the river that cuts through the heart of town. The leg from the MacDowell Dam has two falls that break the rush of water to the Contoocook River. I’m sure she sat on a bench in the little park and tossed in a line. And I’m going to guess she’s a good fisherman who knows exactly what she’s doing.

I sit out on the deck, surrounded by bird songs at the end of a long day, iced tea in hand and a piano solo drifting down from the loft. The breeze is chilly on my bare skin as the light fades in the sky. I tell myself that I know what I’m doing too…

Sales 101…or “I hate salesmen and will never, ever be one!”

What I am doing right now in life is a combination of QVC and the best feeling of really connecting with people. I’m not selling them a company or a stock, (that I wished with all my heart was on a good path and didn’t have a bleak future.) I’m having an incredible time, sharing food, thoughts and health. A customer today called to ask about a recipe I had spouted without much thought the other day. I am – VINEGAR LADY!

As we wound down toward Easter, the business was steady. Being next to a candy store has definite advantages around the holidays and Ava Marie Handmade Chocolates is one of the top stores in the state. We have two crates of “sample-sized” oils and vinegars near the door with a sign suggesting “Easter Basket fillers for the Chef!” They flew out the door which is bittersweet. On the plus side, the samples are too small for much more than a salad or two, so I know everyone who gets one will be back for more. One the negative side, they are a screaming pain in the butt to keep labeled, filled and capped. The running joke is, “Veronica said we would grow to hate the little bottles.” I have a love/hate relationship with them at the moment.

There are the ironic encounters with people I just had pegged wrong from the start. The other day I watched as three scruffy folks walked up to the store front. One guy tied his dog to the post and came bounding into the store. He was loud, skinny and had tangled long hair. The earring he was sporting wasn’t the kind that causes permanent dangly ear lobes, signifying he was an aging hippie. He stopped mid-sentence to answer his cell phone, dashing for the door. “No sorry, the reception is terrible, I’m in a friend’s bathroom in Vermont. Can I call you back?”  I was a bit baffled by this exchange.

I explained the concept of the store,  the tasting routine and he gazed at me as if I was speaking latin. He stuck his hand out and said, “I’m Pete, you must be the olive oil lady.” I was a bit dumbstruck but managed to smile and introduce myself. A woman wandered in with two young girls. I fled Pete’s intensity to give them a quick hello and intro.

Pete wanted four bottles, two for himself and two for gift. We settled on basic olive oil and traditional balsamic. As I packed up his purchases, he chattered on about how, at 62 years old, he was finally taking care of his health, while he scratched a message on the gift bag with a dull pen, spouting quotes from Hemingway. I rang up his total, just shy of $60 worth of oil and vinegar. He paid in cash, leaving his change, his receipt and two $2 bill “for luck!”  OK, didn’t see that one coming.

The woman had just enough cash for the two bottles she chose. Her youngest daughter was pleading for a cake pop at the register. I swept up the $2 bills and said, “I think that kind gentleman would be happy to buy your girls a pop each.” She looked carefully into my face and said, “He was a bit scary strange wasn’t he?”

Never judge a book by its cover and never a salesman I will be…