Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bakery Cats and Too Many Cinnamon Rolls

When Fuzz and Cami opened their bakery they were sure that their prize-winning cinnamon rolls were just what they needed. Their friends loved the cinnamon rolls and bought dozens of them when they had their grand opening last week.  Their family also loved the rolls with the fish flavored glaze. It was an old recipe from Great Grandma Gladys.
Yes, their first week at Slurp Bakery had gone by fast. It was Friday and the cats were looking forward to the weekend. Fuzz put the last batch of rolls in front of Cami so she could put the icing on. The sweet smell of butter and cinnamon filled the air.

It was a lovely morning in Pawston.  Fuzz and Cami watched the sun slowly rising from their storefront window.  Their business, Slurp Bakery, had been open for only one week. Fuzz was in charge of baking the delicious cinnamon rolls and keeping track of how much money they were making. Cami was in charge of decorating, cleaning, and making sure the customers were happy and kept coming back.

They decided that each Friday they would meet and talk about how things with their new shop were going.  "I'm disappointed." said Fuzz.  We have not made enough money from the cinnamon rolls to keep our shop open.  "These things take time Fuzz. Please put your report away now. It's our first customer of the day." replied Cami.  The store bell rang. Fuzz became an orange blur as he lurched for the kitchen. His tail knocked pages from his report onto the floor.

Melanie, a Doberman in a striking power suit, walked in.  She had come to Slurp Bakery once before. Hi Cami! I was wondering if you had anything other than cinnamon rolls today. My workers said they like doughnuts."
"Well, we don't have anything other than these rolls, but they have two different kinds of icing, creamy and fish flavored."
Melanie peered at the glass cases. "I see. Do you have rolls with chicken icing?" 
"No, sorry. This is all we have. Can I get you some fish rolls?" 
"No thank you. Do you know where I can get doughnuts on this side of Pawston. I don't want to go across town." 
"No. I'm sorry, I don't."  Cami's face reddened. Melanie left empty-handed with no wag to her tail.

"Okay Fuzz, she's gone." Fuzz sneaked out from his favorite hiding spot by the oven.  Cami continued. "I think I know what we need to do to help us to stay at this bakery." 
"Oh, what is that?" he asked.
"Melanie told me she works across the street and that they like doughnuts."
"But, we only have cinnamon rolls." said Fuzz.
"Right, do you think we could figure out a good doughnut recipe?"
"My Great Grandma Gladys doesn't make doughnuts." 
"Maybe we can make a new glaze for our rolls then." Cami offered.
"Why would we want a new glaze?" 
"Fuzz, there are a lot of dogs in Pawston and they want a chicken glaze."
"That is impossible Cami! We don't know how and we don't have the ingredients. It's true Melanie works across the street but that doesn't mean everyone will want doughnuts and chicken glaze.  Look, another customer is coming. We can talk about this later." Fuzz scampered back to his warm spot by the oven.
It was a shy, grey kitten with amber eyes. He pointed to a fish roll. "One, please." "Certainly" said Cami who was ready with her spatula. She scooped a gooey roll onto a paper plate. "Would you like this in a bag?" The kitten nodded. He looked in awe at the brown paper bag and smiled. "Thank you." "You're welcome." The kitten pounced out of their store.  Fuzz shouted from the kitchen, "See, I told you. Our customers want our rolls!"

Before Cami got the chance to argue with him, the store bell rang a large Boxer dog entered. "Hello Sir. What can I help you with today?" "Do you have any doughnuts?" "No I'm sorry Sir." Cami was getting frustrated. The dog was nice enough, but left Slurp without buying a thing.

Next, a fluffy white cat came in. It was one of Cami's friends who worked across the street. "Hi Pearl! What can I get for you?"
"Do you have any sandwiches? I'm really hungry and forgot to bring my lunch."
"No, sorry, we just have cinnamon rolls."
"Okay. I thought I'd check. I still like your rolls! Pearl waved and left without a bag.

Cami sulked. Fuzz felt sorry for his friend behind the register. "It's alright Cami. We'll do better next week." Fuzz scooped out one cream and one fish roll and began quickly eating his lunch. "Ugh, that's so gross to have for lunch Fuzz. Those are treats, not a meal!" She got out a brown paper bag and ate her tuna sandwich next to him. They didn't talk for the rest of their lunch.

They waited for the bell on the door to ring but all was silent. They watched workers walk by the storefront window on their lunch breaks. Fuzz opened the glass case again and served himself another two rolls. Cami shut the case and cleaned his hand print off the glass.

Her ears tilted back as she scrubbed. "Look at all these rolls! I am so mad! More people have asked for doughnuts than rolls. What can I say? No, get a roll. What's that Pearl, you want a sandwich? Too bad, get a roll! There are so many cinnamon rolls! ROLLS, ROLLS, ROLLS!"

Fuzz didn't know what to do. Whenever he didn't know what to do, he took a nap. He napped and napped. When he finally woke up, he felt refreshed. Now, he knew what to do. "Cami I'm going to take my afternoon break." "Fine." She thought the nap should have counted as his break but was too upset to argue.
When he came back, the doorbell jarred Cami awake from her own nap. Fuzz brought in bags and bags of groceries.  "What is all of this?" She asked. Fuzz held up some bread, cheese, and meats. "We can try a few changes to the menu and if they work...we can keep them. I got doughnut and sandwich ingredients. This is on one condition."  "What's that?"  "You have to let me eat whatever I want from the bakery."
"I promise, you can eat whatever you want. We can have doughnuts and sandwiches?"
"There are items to make chicken glaze too." He added.
Cami helped him unpack. "Thanks Fuzz. This will make our customers happy."
"It's only if it works! Our customers have to like the new items, you know?"
"I know." She was so happy she pranced around as she put the goods in a cupboard.
On Monday, Fuzz and Cami came in early and made rolls, doughnuts, and sandwiches. Cami spread the chicken glaze icing on a few of the rolls. They seemed to be selling a few more items day by day. By the time Friday came they were already much happier. They began their meeting. "Things are looking up." said Fuzz The doorbell surprised them. They baked so many items that morning, they almost lost track of time. "It's our first customer of the day." Cami announced.
"Hi Melanie." "Hi Cami. I'll have a cream roll. Wait, you have doughnuts?" "Yep." "I'll have one, make that two, dozen."
"Fuzz, I need your help."  They packed two bags full of doughnuts . "My workers will love these. Thanks." They thanked her. Melanie left with her tail wagging.
Then the shy little grey kitten with amber eyes came in. "I would like a fish roll."  "We now carry doughnuts and cheese or beef sandwiches. We also have chicken glaze." "Just the fish roll." said the crouching kitten. He batted at the bag a few times and then pounced out of the store.  Fuzz stayed in his warm spot next to the oven. He was half asleep, exhausted from all the baking he had done that morning.
The store bell rang again and in walked the large Boxer dog. He put his puffy cheeks up to the glass and sniffed around. "I smell doughnuts!" "Yep. Would you like one Sir?" "I'll have two." Cami put the two doughnuts in the bag. The dog's bobbed tail waved wildly back and forth.

Fuzz came out and helped himself to a fish roll snack. They had another cat customer. Next, Pearl came in and purchased a cheese sandwich for her lunch. She stayed and ate with Fuzz and Cami before heading back to work. 
"These new cheese sandwiches are wonderful!"  "Well, you baked them! They are better for you too. So, Fuzz, things are looking up?" "Yep, the new items are helping our bakery. We should be fine if we keep paying attention to what everyone wants. Just do me a favor." "What's that?" "Don't tell my Great Grandma Gladys!" They laughed.

The store bell kept ringing that afternoon.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What Gardens Teach Us about Life

I have learned a lot in the short time I've been gardening. In over a decade of apartment life; I had to find other outlets for tinkering with herbs, flowering bushes, plants, and trees. Now that I own a home and a yard there are plenty of places for my experiments. Gardens are a celebration. In a non-deliberate and often gentle way, they reflect their owner's personality. What do gardens teach us? I'll share a few of their lessons.

Life is beautiful:  I'm guessing blood pressure drops with exposure to fresh air or when entering a garden environment in general. Even if there weren't health benefits; gardens feed us in every way. If they weren't beautiful, we wouldn't need gardens around hospitals for patients, or recreational gardens with walking paths, and rose gardens.

Don't miss an opportunity:  An empty lawn is like a blank canvas. Before I became a novice lawn decorator, I saw a friend's empty backyard and our planning began. We framed her fence and edges all around with an array of perennials like roses, Russian sage, and lamb's ear. We loved to move plants to new spots to see how they would look aesthetically and how the plants would prosper or fill-out by the corner of the house, along and through the fence, or bordering the garage. Beginning with a few flowers, it spiraled into a full garden. It is a lot like moving furniture when you move plants- in that you can never quite tell how it will work until you try it in the new spot. When you get a garden thriving, the negative space becomes precious in both a utilitarian and ornamental fashion. The unused portions of the garden can guide the onlooker's eyes along the edges and back into the lush landscape.

Survival is fragile, even fickle:  Over 80% of gardeners attempt to plant tomatoes, which are native to the United States. Tomatoes are sturdy but not fool-proof. They need full sun and the right amount of water.  It isn't a plant you can entirely ignore.  Still, tomatoes are manageable. There are plenty of other plants that are finicky or strange or do not adapt well to other climate zones. I suppose people are not all that different from plants. Some are hardy, while others are delicate. Some are dependable while others are flighty; some are invasive while others keep to themselves. There are many varieties to choose from.

A little effort goes a long way:  Delicate plants can be fragile, while others are hard to pare down. If you've ever planted hostas, you know they'll just sit there as promised and come back ever year like clockwork. Daffodils, tulips, bleeding hearts, are similarly predictable. Lily of the valley and mint are both aromatic and love to spread. They need uprooting and restriction methods.

Nature relaxes us, even a little of it:  Bright colors are good for your brain and so is fresh air. By gardening you are going outside more. You're even burning more calories toting those pots, bags, and watering cans around. Besides these stress relievers, gardens teach us to plant and let go to a certain extent.  Not every plant is perfect or exact. 

Patience is a virtue:  When you aren't thinking about it your plants are outside growing. You find one day, your plants are changing how you wanted them to. For example, we have a newly-planted baby Magnolia tree adorning the front yard. It was planted at a tilted angle by the store's delivery service. With a tiny bit of staking and tying to guide it straight, it was a pleasant surprise when it was no longer leaning. Gardens are full of gifts and unexpected ongoings.

Your patience pays off:  In a garden, things are happening with or without you. Nothing is happening in a garden to a non-gardener. Maybe a butterfly passes by. The understanding that you encouraged the butterfly to live there goes missing. This year's new experiment is adding vegetables. I have never eaten anything from my own garden yet. Fresh food should not be a disappointment.

You have some control over your life:  There are about a million metaphors for planting, gardening, and watching life grow. As a gardener, you have the freedom to take what you are given and put it in this earth. You can swap and trade plants out with friends. You can gift tomatoes or rhubarb if you have a good yield. You can pick bouquets for your dining room table. Most importantly, you can do, or plant, precisely whatever you want.

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