Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Decay & Diana

I'm really interested in this person's stream on flickr lately. You can read into that all you want and you'd probably be right.

Yesterday my Diana Mini came in the mail. It looks like this. Only without the flash. Which I might get someday. But don't need right now.
I've run about half a roll through it so far, mostly in the kitchen at the restaurant last night. (I'm trying to get a whole roll out that I can have one-hour developed in Missoula before we go to the hot springs Thursday.)

It's tiny and plastic (it's a toy camera) and it takes square or half-frame photos like these:

I can't wait to see what kind of things she'll produce for me. 36 or 72 shots to a roll, I have a lot of time to experiment.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Nothing less than our success depends on it

from Indexed, a great site

Oh, December. I can't wait to see the end of you. Nothing personal, 2009--just let's get our 2010 on already, yeah? Yeah.

So many things to do to get ready to change the restaurant over to Adine's. Little or no money. Little or no time. How are we going to accomplish this? Pure will. Blind luck. Toss a coin.

This last week we had an epiphany about our menu and decided that instead of offering a few we-took-the-meat-out-of-this-for-you vegetarian dishes, we're going to offer several high-quality purely vegetarian options on the menu. Then advertise in local venues that we have a real bona fide vegeterian menu. Yep.


That is not really done in rural Idaho, not 'round these parts anyway. So we hope it pays off. I think it will. For example, cous cous with roasted vegetables and various sauces, spaghetti squash with avocado and Parmesan cheese... Seasonal ingredients, of course; in the summer we can offer a fresh herbed sweet corn and tomato salad. Et cetera.

This is very exciting for me, as a vegetarian who generally has to choose between grilled cheese or a green salad when I go out to eat.

The snow is melting as we get steady rain. Everyone else is complaining about this, mostly about the resulting slush. But we're happy to think the river might be thawing and hoping for increased business from fishermen. Whatever it takes to get us through December. We have faith business will pick up in January.

Keith and I are (and have been) officially in Countdown Mode. We're leaving early Wednesday afternoon for Missoula, spending the night at a friend's house, then Thursday to Lolo Hot Springs for a gluttonous 24-hour mental vacation.

Hoping to reproduce, or exceed, the relaxation level our last experience there:

way back when, planning the future
May '05
just finished the semester, went to Lolo Hot Springs to unwind
cooked up a crazy plan to go to Mexico after graduation

Shouldn't be a problem. Probably won't be cooking up any crazy travel plans that will be executable in the near future, but it doesn't hurt to dream.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

180º pano from the driveway of the restaurant

It started snowing at about 7 a.m. and hasn't really let up. At least it's warmer!

If I was a skier/snowboarder, that's where I'd be. But my husband is sick, I've been here since 6 a.m. and my mom's coming in to relieve me, so I'm headed home. Happy Saturday!

Friday, December 11, 2009


I'm just going to state the obvious upfront: it'd g.d. cold! And not the kind of cold I was complaining about before. That was mild cold. This is 14°-in-the-house-when-you-wake-up cold. We got it up to about 75° last night with our little stove, before I fell asleep. But by 7:30 this morning, when Lazlo was whining to go out, I was completely under covers trying not to breathe in dog farts, debating whether or not it would be worth it to get dressed in something warm.

The cold is really preventing people, it seems, from going anywhere they don't need to go. Restaurants included. We're considering how to reduce some of our un-fixed costs and one way to reduce costs is to reduce payroll. Keith is basically already working for free (though he does get a paycheck), but he's taking on the line Sat-Mon nights. But only TWO WEEKS until our mini vacation. I remind him every. day.

We're running lunch and dinner specials every day for the next week.

Today's lunch special - grilled steak salad for $7

Hopefully that will draw people in and, if not, at least it gives us some distraction. Something to do other than stare out the window wishing for customers. Making it through December is going to be hard, we know. Getting on the other side of it will be a relief.

Considering what decorating changes we can make while it's slow, we're already using our new Leave a Penny, Take a Penny dish/holder/thing.

If only someone would leave a grand or two in it. Wouldn't that be awesome?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Acting like adults

Yesterday my mom and I decorated the windows and dining room at the restaurant for the holidays. And we didn't get mad at each other once! In fact, it was pretty fun!

That's saying a lot considering our styles are about as different as you could imagine. I am all about less-is-more, back-to-nature and my mom is all about blinking lights and dancing santas. She made a comment about how our lack of arguing meant we were "both growing." ha!

Friday we moved my great-grandparents' dresser into the restaurant (Keith's idea--a great one) in place of the salad bar. I had collected some things that I thought we could use for a seasonal display (craft stores and thrift stores a few months ago) and I think everyone, my parents especially, where a little anxious about how it would all come together. I think it looks awesome. They admitted it's pretty nice. And the feedback has been great.

Yesterday we went shopping for holiday tchotchkes and found a good deal on some second-hand ornaments and hit the hardware store for some garlands. It was slow after lunch, so we took the opportunity to take the fall decorations out of the windows (popcorn and pumpkins) and we ripped off an idea I saw on design*sponge, I think. Or The Kitchn? Oh, wait, it was The Kitchn.

This is actually not a good representation at all, but I didn't get a good picture during the day (dead batteries and blah blah blah). I will try to get one next week. Ornaments hanging on branches supported by gold ribbon.

Things are slowing down for us. We've expected this. People are saving their money for Christmas now. Hopefully fishing season will help us out. And we're going to start running budget-friendly specials instead of steaks, etc. Though we still have steaks every night.

It's a little stressful to have slow days (or weeks) and Keith, being in charge of the food costs, probably feels the most pressure. He keeps joking (in that not-really-joking way) about how we moved here to slow down and relax and what happened to that plan? That plan was ... put on hold? I told him I dreamt of pulling the Aloha down the coast of Mexico. He'd be on that in a second. Really.

I'm trying to brainstorm the aesthetic changes I want to make for the new restaurant and then prioritize those and factor in budget (minimal to nil)... One thing I am not sure about, maybe I should take an informal poll: chalkboard vs. whiteboard menu.

I really love the idea/look of a well-done chalkboard.
How fantastic is this?! VERY.

But my concern is that white (or colors) on black is harder to read than red/blue/black/green would be on a whiteboard. One waitress said chalkboard is definitely better, especially if you clean it with a damp rag to get rid of the ghosties. So I am leaning that way. Ideally I would be the one doing the lettering and art for these because I'm picky like that and not everyone on staff has A+ spelling and grammar skills. But that's not relevant to the chalkboard vs. whiteboard argument, I guess.

But I think a chalkboard just goes with the theme more. The theme being Family Cattle Ranch.
(Maybe a cow-shaped chalkboard?)

My grandma dug up some photos from her parents' ranch and I started scanning them to use on the website. And maybe blow up a couple on Rasterbator for dining room art?

Here's a great one where you can really see the X brand on that black cow.

I think this one said "dehorning" on the back. Eeeek. That's my great-grandpa on the right.

We're close to getting a sign for the building and possibly magnetic signs for the vehicles. I will be ordering business cards soon, with the name of the new restaurant... December's going to go by fast!

I told Keith we are taking a mandatory mini-vacation and that I was picking the location and he could pick the days. He picked Christmas eve and Christmas day (since we're closed on Christmas) and I picked Lolo Hot Springs. Cabin with satellite TV, micro/refrig/coffee pot. Hot springs and pool across the street. We'll take our own groceries. I'm very excited about hot springs in the winter. Keith is thinking about the possibility of sleeping the entire time. I told him he could---it's his vacation. Although I'm a little disturbed by the idea of a 36-48 hour vacation. Isn't that just a normal person's weekend? We'll take what we can get.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Last Supper

Tgiving decorations
tiny leaves on fishing line

I think I am rounding the bend on recovering from Thanksgiving. But I could (still) really use a nap.

It began in earnest on Wednesday with Keith and I picking up groceries from the store.
And my very nice mom brought me a double pumpkin pie latte which helped.

This was just the first load.

We closed the restaurant at 4 p.m. to prepare for Thursday. We didn't get much done before closing because there just isn't space in the prep area for more than a few people.

But after closing, everyone got to work.

Dad cooked bacon for the green beans.

Mom made sweet potato casserole.

Grandma assembled relish trays.

We celebrated my sister's 27th birthday after closing, hoping the food wouldn't slow us down too much later that night. Keith had to get up from the table to keep from falling asleep.

Keith and I stayed because Keith tends to obsess about things (Understatement of The Year) and we both know that food prep takes about 3-4x as long as you think it will and there was still a lot of work to do.

A little after 11p I was peeling the first 50 eggs for deviled eggs. I felt a little like Cool Hand Luke, only peeling not eating.

This smiley egg, in the second batch of 50 (closer to 3a on Thursday), made me laugh. We didn't serve it, though.

Standing at the prep sink, wondering if I would ever finish the mountain of eggs, Keith came up behind me and kissed me on the neck. He said, You smell like eggs. I said, You smell like turkey.

4 of the 8 turkeys

We'd both worked a full day on Wednesday (and Keith's actually reduced his average to 16-hour days!), so early into Thursday morning we were really struggling.

Keith took a catnap at table 3 after we'd been outside, hoping the cold would snap us awake.

We both swore, literally SWORE, this would be the LAST Thanksgiving we'd ever do.

We were just finishing up with the morning cook came in at 5a.
Home to sleep for a couple of hours and back at the restaurant at about 8:30a. Ugh.

Altogether we cooked 8 turkeys, 4 hams, a plethora of casseroles and salads, dressing... we had enough food to feed a small militia.

We made it through Thanksgiving day like zombies. We weren't incredibly busy, much less busy than we had planned for (a good thing, always good to have more food than you need as opposed to not enough)---a steady trickle most of the day.

But the best part of the day was seeing all of the older people who came in. People who probably wouldn't have had a Thanksgiving dinner otherwise. I mean, this isn't charity; we're running a business and they paid for the meal, but they were all very happy with dinner, said it was delicious, and almost everyone had leftovers to take home with them.

We also had quite a few to-go orders, including one for a woman whose husband had just had surgery. I'm glad we could provide good food for people like that on a day when food is so central.

I don't think Thanksgiving was a big money-maker for us, but over the long run it will pay off. We saw a lot of people we'd never seen before and heard nothing but excellent things about the food. I explained to one woman, who told me this was their first time in since "the new management", that we were focusing on fresh ingredients and fresh preparation and cooking from scratch and she said, I can tell. I can taste it.

And by the time next year rolls around we may have forgotten the pain of pulling an all-nighter. I don't know. We learned a lot about how to do it more efficiently next time. If there is a next time. Right now I am just thankful it's over.

Sometime Thursday mid-afternoon Keith and I rolled ourselves home and started to wind down for a long sleep. We went to the store and bought a pizza in case we woke up and wanted something (not turkey-related) to eat. We were asleep by 5p and woke up after 8a the next morning, the dogs staying in bed with us for that 15-hour sleep, just glad we were home.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I ♥ my pit bulls!

If you're not a dog person you might want to skip this one altogether.

Mrs. Mia Wallace got some Chuckit time today while the sun was out (brief as that was). She goes crazy for a tennis ball. And such a good fetcher! Must have had some good training at ARNO after she was rescued.

I wondered why Lazlo wasn't trying to horn in on the Chuckit action (like he usually does--he can smell a tennis ball from 3 miles away) and then my dad tells me Lazlo's out in the field with a bone.

So I walk out to the field and find Lazlo...
not dead (like it looks), but trying to gnaw a delicious tendon off of a hip bone. Mmmm, just like mom used to make.

It's hunting season and so the dogs are in heaven with all the spare bones to be gleaned from the neighbors. I think this is their favorite time of year. You can tell Lazlo is definitely an autumn.

Yesterday Lazlo and I met our friends in the very same field for some Chuckit action and I ran that fat bastard as much as I could without giving him a heart attack. He pretends he doesn't know what DROP means until I get my stern voice on. He's much rather rip the ball into 30 little pieces.

Finally, just a quick bit of unrelated business. Let's take a minute and talk about packaging fail. I went on a little online shopping spree last week (or whenever that was, I can't keep track of what day it is) for clothes at both American Apparel and Old Navy. My package from AA was delivered quickly, but most importantly EFFICIENTLY. About 20 different items crammed into a plastic mail bag. It was perfect. It was an exploding-snake-in-a-can-of-peanuts gag when I opened it. That's what I like. My order from Old Navy, however, not so much.

Every individual item came in its own plastic bag!!

About a dozen items total.
Really, Old Navy? Really??
You could take some pointers from your Social Responsibility spiel by cutting down on the amount of plastic you send to customers placing online orders. I mean, really.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fall colors everywhere

Going out to the restaurant yesterday afternoon;
Jilinda's is hidden behind the trees on the left.

Last night it frosted hard again. And after a19-hour day Keith didn't want to try to overcome the cold in the tiny house by building a fire so we slept in my parents' house. Toasty.

frost on the tiny house's doors! eeek.

I'm not sure how this is going to work for the winter. We need a cabin boy (or girl) to start a fire for us around 7 or 8 so it's nice and warm when we get home and are ready for bed. Volunteers?

The Siberian Stone Pines we bought from NativesWest a few weeks ago are right at home in this kind of weather. If they do make it (and if someone ever re-pots them or plants them) we'll have pine nuts someday. How cool is that?!

Friday I took Mia Pia to the Heart of the Monster for a playdate. She wasn't all that excited to see another dog like I thought she would be. She basically alternated ignoring the dog and growling at her. Not exactly a success. But she did get to run around a new place and fetch some sticks. Oh well, Lazlo's happy to have another playmate and now we have a standing date every Friday for doggie play time.

(in the dog chair afterwards)

The restaurant is still crazy busy. Last night was our best night so far, sales-wise. We're struggling a little bit to educate the customers on the difference in waiting for things frozen and dropped in the fryer vs. things freshly prepared. But having the waitstaff address that with the customers will help alleviate any frustration, we hope.

Keith made a killer cheesecake with huckleberry sauce last night to go with the steak and shrimp specials and I was happy to snag a piece at the end of the night. Makes it easier to get through the night knowing that's at the end.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I only have time to do this because I'm waiting on laundry.

Remember when Sunday used to be about sleeping in until your bladder or husband forced you out of bed and maybe, just maybe, you'd get out of your PJs at some point? It's all a vague memory now.

One week into the restaurant business and it's increasingly clear just how much work it is. You won't hear me complaining outright. I mean, that would be pretty ridiculous. A) It won't change anything. B) We're lucky to be busy. Two other local restaurants have shut down in the past couple of months and Idaho County has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. C) This is what we signed up for. Buy the ticket, take the ride as Hunter liked to say.

Click here for Google Maps StreetView

dining room panorama

So what's the point? The point is we're busting our asses. We want to succeed at this. And so far, we are. We're only one week in, but we're still busting their old sales averages all over the place. My mom and I are quickly getting the hang of waiting tables, necessity is the mother of invention and all that, and a new prep person started today so Keith doesn't go insane with OCD.

Friday night we fed a visiting HS football team, about 45 people, on top of the other customers we had to seat in the back room. Last night I had a nightmare they came back and ordered 45 taco salads to go!! These are the kinds of nightmares I expect to have from now on.

(The Facebook page has been really helpful for posting specials and getting feedback -- and my dad about fell over the other night after someone came in for the special after they saw it on Facebook. Especially since those people were middle-aged. Gotta love the internets!)

I think Keith has about 150 hours in this last week and we all have to nag him into going home to get some sleep whenever possible. Everything else is getting neglected to some degree and the thing I feel worst about is the dogs. They really have no idea what's going on, despite my flow chart and P&L presentations to them it's just not. sinking. in.

So I took Lazlo on a playdate Friday to the Heart of the Monster.

The weather was fantastic---is this November?!--- and he even went swimming in the river.

It's Mia's turn next. I don't think taking them both is a good option because they fall into this strange power dynamic when they're together around a new dog, but now Lazlo has played with Maggie twice and Mia needs a turn. I mean, look at this face!!

We had planned on making weekly trips to Lewiston-Clarkston for supplies, especially to get meat from Costco since FSA and Sysco don't carry fresh, quality meat, but we're striking up a deal with the local grocery store to make twice-a-week orders from them for a VERY reasonable cost and so we'll not only be keeping our money in the local community, we'll hopefully get into an ordering routine. No more rushed trips down Highway 12, although it is beautiful this time of year. See:

"The Pink House" is for sale---AGAIN.
Only $310,000.00!

I'm off to chop some firewood (it's COLD at night!) and clean the tiny house to some degree before heading out to the restaurant for another crazy day at the office.