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.

Monday, November 2, 2009

This is how it is now.

We had a great first day at the restaurant and beat their Sunday sales average for the past month by about 30%. Sure, a lot of that is people coming in out of curiosity--and the special (ham, scalloped potatoes, steamed broccoli, chocolate cake), but we're hoping once they get used to what we're doing the volume will stay high.

Oy. Keith and I each put in a 20-hour day yesterday. Though it feels like 4 days ago. (I feel lucky that I got about 7 hours of sleep last night; Keith's going on 3 or less.) After closing we changed out the old flat-top grill with the new range. Of course we ran into obstacles, what did we expect. This is how it is now.

The feedback has been mostly, like 99%, positive. Although there are some people with their panties in a wad over the demise of the salad bar. "That's one of the main reasons we always came out here." Though I wanted to to say (esprit d'escalier), "What we're going to be serving will make you forget what a salad bar is" (not to mention the sanitation concerns, tons of labor for the waitresses, and huge amounts of waste), I just smiled. Salad bar, schmalad bar. Come on, people, we're talking about fresh food made from scratch, not Sizzler.

Online support has been really surprising. I have been making Facebook updates about the new venture, but today I created a page just for Jilinda's where we I will post the weekly specials and any other info that comes up. People can also leave reviews there. I'm putting a widget on the sidebar, but the page is also here.