Saturday, June 26, 2010

Our Signs Are Up!

Don't they look great?
Today, we spent the day building shelving and putting together chairs and moving boxes, but most of all, cleaning out the walk-in fridge (which we bought used). The fridge was $10,000 less because it was used, but man was that NasT. Really bad. Krissy Thomas touched it with her foot, which shows real love. My father-in-law and Jonathan Hart scrubbed like mad-men, for which I will be forever grateful. Heidi Partlow spent a good 8 hours helping me, for which I will give her my first child.
Thank you everyone!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

One-Week-To-Go Prayer Requests

Our house is full to the gills with citrus squeezers, waffle cone makers, neon signs, and coffee pots. New items are arriving daily! If you like mail, you should open a store.

Mike is running around like a monkey with his tail cut off to get everything ready in time. It's go-time, people--one week left until our soft open! So if you're bored or just philanthropic, you could pray for the following:
  • The space to be ready for our 9 am health inspection on Monday morning. There have been a number of last-minute issues to be figured out, like incorrect plumbing and wiring.
  • All the necessary equipment to arrive in time for our inspection. Our hardening cabinet is going to be two weeks late, but we think we have a loaner to use for two weeks.
  • All our supplies and shipments to get here. Here are just a few to keep you busy: building signs, menu signs, food supplies, cleaning supplies, tables, paper products, etc.
  • We are driving our initial supply of ice cream down from Boulder (because of the missing hardening cabinet). So you could pray all the ice cream gets made and gets here on time. We'll start making ice cream ourselves in a week!
  • The training of our employees to go well. They're all training in Boulder this week, to be ready for opening day.
  • Mike to have stamina and encouragement.
  • Me to be nice to Mike. :)
Basically, we just want to make sure there is ice cream in the tubs, cups to put the ice cream in, signs to order the ice cream from, tables to sit an eat the ice cream at, and a smile on all our faces.

Here comes the annoying gushy part where the wife brags on her husband: Mike is doing so incredible! I have not told him this, but I personally am having periodic (by which I mean every other second) panic attacks. But I know I can't control any of this, so I tell the panic to go away, pray, and give Mike a kiss on the cheek. Mike has faced so many issues and problems this week, but he just figures out how to solve it and keeps going. I know it's exhausting. But he is doing so well in so much utterly foreign and challenging territory. Go Mike!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Guide to Distinguishing Bikers from Cyclists

Now that I've been biking a little while, I have become aware of the great gulf that divides bikers from cyclists. It's important to know which you are dealing with, as cyclists may bite. Here is a basic how-to-guide to ensure you know what kind of beast you are dealing with and their proper care and feeding.

Bikers
  • Like to ride on bikes.
  • No special care or treatment required.

Cyclists

  • Can be identified by their bright, multi-colored plumage. The cyclist's garb resembles that of a Nascar racer. The more logos and sponsors on one's plumage, the more other cyclists will know how hardcore one is. In the event one doesn't have actual sponsors, loud colors and text treatments will do. The more the better. This plumage is worn on an everyday basis, not only for special occasions. Exhibit A, my team jersey for the Courage Classic. Notice the prominently displayed logo, team name, and web site (also available on back). The plumage is further garnished with colorful flags. This will make other cyclists think that maybe you are from France or Italy, which automatically qualifies for several more hardcore points.
  • Can be identified by their tight clothing. While a biker may be seen wearing loose street-clothing, such as cargo shorts or T-shirts, the true cyclist would never allow so much air between their clothing and their flesh. The cyclist will pay $130 for a pair of bike shorts whose primary purpose is to make her butt look bigger. (Upon buying my bike shorts, Mike said they made my backside look "architectural.") Never call a cyclists' shorts "tights." They'll get fussy.
  • Can be identified by their complete lack of baggage. The cyclist would not be caught dead with a bike basket. Don't even think about it. (Recently the wife of a cyclist I know told her husband she wanted a basket like mine. Her desires were swiftly crushed as the cyclist could not be seen with a woman with a basket.) Cyclists cannot carry one extra ounce on their bike, such as car keys, as it might cause them to go 0.00001 second slower. Snacks and kleenex are for wimps.
  • Can be identified by their skinny seats. Although the seat of a biker will be ample and cushy, allowing for the parts God gave, cyclists would never think of such luxury. Their seats are long and lean, or more aptly put, skinny and pointy in all the wrong places. Two of my girlfriends have these seats. Why? Because their cyclist husbands thought their wives wouldn't look cool if their reproductive organs were allowed to stay intact with a normal bike seat.
  • Look funny. See above picture.
  • Really care how they look. See first four points.
  • Can be identified by dogged perseverance. My cyclist boss was in a crash last week, flipping over his handlebars while mountain biking. He kept biking for 30 minutes before going to the emergency room where he was treated for a concussion and several scrapes and bruises. He still has no memories of that day. (I asked him if he remembered approving a trip to Italy for me, but he didn't.) He went for a 17 mile ride two days later.
If you or someone you love is a cyclist, this post is meant in good fun. Feel free to point and laugh at my basket and architectural backside.

Friday, June 18, 2010

An Update Post

Recently, Mike posted an update on the store. I thought I'd give you a little update here as well. What to say... It's madness! Trying to open a store in two months is insane. Now we have less than two weeks before the soft open on July 1st.

When we were first deciding whether to go for this dream or not, we laid some ground rules. My primary rule was that I cannot have responsibility for this store. My already stressed out, control-freak brain could not do it. Mike agreed to this rule. And I was right, I couldn't do it. When I think of all the things that have to be done, I feel a deep pit opening in my stomach and a deep panic rising to my throat. Luckily, becuase of my rule, I tell that pit and panic to go away, because this is not my responsibility.

This frees me to help Mike how he needs help - support and encouragement and general cheerleaderiness - rather than my natural inclination, which is micro-management and nagging. (Who would you rather be married to?) Mike, meanwhile, retains his outward cool-cucumber facade, though he is working like a madman. I am so proud of him.

Each day he tells me the things he has done and they are all new and scary, but he is simply clenching his teeth and doing them. Again, I am so proud of him.

You probably wanted less emotional update and more factual update, so here it is.

All our staff are hired. Mike hired 7 part to full time general employees as scoopers. They are primarily college and high school students. Currently, we are making the last minute decisions about what T-shirts to buy for the employees. For the girls, he's going with feminine cut v-necks. Isn't he smart?

We also hired a great man to actually make our ice cream. He was a real God-send. He is older (40s, so not that old), experienced cook, has a family, and is responsible, loyal, and hardworking. He will be training 3 days in Boulder next week. Luckily, he is a fluent Spanish speaker, so he will be able to train fast, as Boulder's main ice-cream maker is a great guy, but has a hard time expressing himself quickly in English. It all worked out just perfectly.

Yesterday, we had our first major set back, and your opportunity for prayer. Our hardening cabinet (which is essential to making the ice cream), is not going to be ready on time for our health inspection on Monday, June 28th in order to open on Thursday, July 1st. All the equipment has to be in place, or they won't do the health inspection. It's hard to get the inspections set up, so if we miss this one, we will have to delay our open (and miss a huge money-making weekend). Currently, they're trying to find a loner that we can use until the other is ready. So please pray for this cabinet! We need a hardening cabinet by June 26th!

Meanwhile, each day Mike is burning through detail after detail after detail. (And boy are there a lot!) I won't bore you with them. I just pay attention to things like T-shirts and chocolates.

Thank you for praying for us! We really appreciate it. We don't know what will happen, but we know that no matter what (if the business is a success or if we go bankrupt and live in my parents' basement), God is good.

*Update on the Update: We just found out that the health inspection can go forward without the hardening cabinet. Hooray! Now we just have to figure out how to make ice cream for 2 weeks until it arrives...Might have to ship it down from Boulder. We also have to figure out how to get one ice cream case in the store and installed in time...The tension mounts!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Beautiful Girls, Tea Time, and Blue Shoes

Many times (once a week, in fact), I have wanted to write a book simply because I thought of a title I love so much. I'm also the woman who wants to have children solely to name them. My love for titles is ironic considering that I don't really like the titles of the books I've written. But that's OK. It would probably give me a big head.

There's something about names and titles that my little soul loves. The best titler I know is Alexander McCall Smith. I could eat his titles, I love them so much.
  • The Double Comfort Safari Club. "Double Comfort" - anything with that in the title, I like. Sign me up.
  • Tea Time for the Traditionally Built. "Traditionally built" is how he describes full-bodied women. This makes me want to go become traditionally built. (A little peanut butter ice cream should do the trick.)
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Scones. You had me at scones. But "unbearable lightness" makes me feel a clenching in my soul. It makes me want to eat scones to find what I'm missing in the universe. (Maybe with tea and some traditionally built women.)
  • Blue Shoes and Happines. I want blue shoes! I also want happiness!
  • Morality for Beautiful Girls. I'm so glad someone finally wrote a book that could address my ethical needs.
  • The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs. If I had to marry someone solely based on one book title, I'd marry him. (Sorry, Mike, but you are way cuter than he is.)

There are many more, but I won't (continue to) bore you. His books are peopled with endearing characters and settings that make me want to move to 44 Scotland Street, Edinburgh or perhaps Gaborone, Botswana. Not much of great note happens in the books, and I admit that I sometimes get a bit bored. But if I were to write fiction, I would probably write in his vein...at more of a first-grade level of course. I'm beginning to sound like Catherine de Burgh in Pride and Prejudice, "If I had ever played the piano, I would have been a great proficient," so I'd better stop here.

(And, by the way, one should never eat cereal in bed while checking email, as I do every morning. This morning, the inevitable occurred, and a cup of cold milk washed over the motherboard. The computer won't start. With it is lost my manuscript of what would have, no doubt, been the great American novel. I'll go eat peanut butter ice cream instead.)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Why I Don't Write Fiction

Most of my life, I've wanted to be a writer. When I was 8, I wrote a very bad story about a turkey who didn't want to be Thanksgiving dinner. My grandmother read it at the holiday table and said in her Texan lilt, "Amber, you should be a writer," and a writer was born. I'm glad she didn't say, "Amber, you should be a Walmart greeter," so impressionable was I.

In middle school, my desire to write wandered into the realm of dreamy and melancholy poetry, involving leafy meadows and a lot of pre-teen angst. In college, my writing wandered into the realm of "stark," "true" writing, en vogue in universities, which really means pretentious, depressing crap. Post college it wandered into "Christian" writing - Bible studies and deep thoughts and whatnot. Now it meanders all over in the nebulous and scattered world of blogging.

Throughout all, the deep desire to write something has driven me. But a common thread is that I have never had any desire to write fiction. I've made a few half-hearted attempts to see if I'm "good" at it. Which were always answered: "No."

Thus, in the past I've always said that I don't write fiction because I'm bad at it. Or because I can't come up with plots. But I'm discovering (as I read Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft) that I don't write fiction because I don't want bad things to happen.

All story necessarily involves conflict. There's no story with no conflict. Whether it's a psychopath in a Stephen King novel, or a petty gossiper in a Mitford book, bad has to happen. In my own writing, I can come up with place and characters, but I prefer them to stay in misty blissfulness. I don't want to hurt them. I want the world to be a nice place. There is enough bad in the world without me writing more into it. This is my own immaturity as a person, my desire for niceness.

Many times, I think I shouldn't push it. Just write non-fiction. But it saddens me that my own Pollyanna-ishness denies me the richness of story. I will never write a book about a psychopath torturing others. And I'm annoyed by the petty conflicts of gossips in the Anne and Father Tim series. But reading King's book, I'm once again beckoned by the finger of fiction. That tease. The desire to create stirs. I ask myself, "What is the point?" But in writing, it never begins with a "point." It begins because I simply must do it.

Who Do You Want to Be?

Of late, Mike and I seem to be making big life decisions all over the place. The big decisions in life are easy to spot: Should I buy this house or that house; should I take this job or that one; should I start this business or not. But I also think that every single day of our lives we are making life choices, small ones, that add up to big ones.

The decision I make each day to either go for a bike ride or watch TV determines ultimately whether I am a biker or a coucher. The decision I make each day to either speak up when I feel wronged ultimately decides if I am a passive victim or an active fighter. Each day, we are controlling our life and ultimately deciding who we are. There are many things we cannot control. But there are perhaps even more that we can.

I find this idea comforting. It also helps me as I have to make choices. When deciding whether to open the ice cream store, Mike and I asked ourselves, who do we want to be? Do we want to be people that dare to start a small business? Do we want to be people who take the safe route? We decided the former, as ultimately it is who we really are as people.

This approach is freeing as it dismisses fear, which can guide so many decisions. If you ignore the fear and ask, "What do I want to see when I look back on my life in 20 years?", it is very clarifying.

I love those commercials of children saying things like, "When I grow up, I want to be in middle management" or "When I grow up, I want to be a yes man" because it's absurd in the voice of a child. But sometimes fear or misguided ambition can guide us to things we would have never wanted. Not that there is anything wrong with middle management. But there is something wrong with it if it's not who you are.

When talking to many of my Christian friends about life choices, I feel like we are speaking a different language. So many talk about "God's will," but our conceptions are so different about what this is, that our words are like two planes passing in the sky.

Sometimes I believe God does have specific "callings" on our lives. But other times, I believe he has equipped us with a brain and opportunities and asks us to choose which is best, using the guiding principles in the Bible. This is why for Mike opening an ice cream store wasn't a matter of believing he had a mystical calling to sell frozen milk and sugar. Rather, he had a guiding biblical principal to provide for his family; he knows that it is God's will for him to try to make money and provide in the best way he can. We don't need to complicate it any more than that.

Living in a time and country where there are so many choices, it makes this kind of deliberating seem righteous. But picture a father in Tanzania. He doesn't have a job. His baby is hungry and crying. He's sitting outside his mud home saying, "Hmm Haw, I'm not really sure if it's God's will for me to sell milk. I haven't heard God's voice on this." I would say, "Get off yo' hiney and go make some money." God's will in an absolute situation like this is clear: Provide for your family. Why do we muddle it so in the "developed" world?

Not believing that there's only one right path or will to each life choice is empowering. I'm not worried that my life is going to melt into degeneracy because I heard "God's voice" wrong or read the signs wrong. We could either fail or succeed at this business, but I don't think either will be an indication that we turned toward or away from God's will.

Robbed of the mystical will card, one has to use good sense to make decisions. And one of the most valuable ways for me is to say, "Who do I want to be?" I made the dubious choice to move to Amsterdam, but looking back, I see that it utterly reflects who I am and who I want to be. I made the dubious choice to study English rather than something "practical" like business, but looking back, this has clearly allowed me to be who I am rather than a fakey business pretender that everyone would hate because she was miserable.

I don't believe in some wishy-washy "follow your heart" philosophy of life. But I do believe that we are each unique creatures that thrive when acting as we were created to act and not annoying everyone else by being miserable trying to be someone or something else. With this business beginning, I'm having to make my own decisions about where I am going - where do I want to put my energy? I thank God that he has put me in a situation where I have choice and can be who he best made me to be.

Forgive me for this muddle of a post of colliding ideas. Just thinking out loud.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Blank But Excited

Usually, I have a lot to say. I'm kind of opinionated. But lately, I don't. I feel blank. This makes me feel bad that I'm boring my readers with pictures of chairs, rather than my brilliant witticisms and cultural commentary.

Then I remember why I started blogging: Because I wanted to. Not to educate or inspire or challenge. But for me. Many others do have noble causes for their blogging. I'm just not that noble. I enjoy blogging because I write about whatever I feel like whenever I feel like. It's a personal outlet for me.

I just had to get that off my chest so that I won't continue feeling guilty for not meeting supposed expectations. And now I won't feel guilty at all for telling you this...

I JUST BOOKED TICKETS TO BEIJING! I'm adding a two-day trip after I do training in Yangshuo. So here's my deal: I'll get to Yangshuo and rest for one day before training. Then we'll have several days of training. For one of the days of photography training, I'll go with two photographers to shoot peasant farmers harvesting rice.

I think this sounds incredible. Mike is making fun of me for being excited about watching peasants harvest rice. I think it's the coolest thing ever. We'll have a half-day fun day, so we'll go biking down the Dragon River and come back on rafts on the river. Here's a video I found of it.

After training is over, I'm staying an extra day and a half in Yangshuo to wander the mountains. Then I'm flying to Beijing with my supervisor. We'll be there two days and will go to the Great Wall, Tiannaman Square and the Forbidden City.
I'm so excited, I'm not going to sleep for 3 months.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Best Commute On Earth

For the past 3 or 4 weeks, I've been biking to work, as the cold spring has finally shoved off. Good riddance! I loooooooove biking to work. I have such a beautiful commute that most mornings I can't quite believe I'm on my way to work.
Today and tomorrow, I have a department retreat in Palmer Lake, so I'm biking all the way there! It was a 30 mile ride, all on the Santa Fe Trail. It was long. And hard. And windy. At one point, I shouted at the wind. It didn't heed me.

But, temper tantrums at the wind and all, I'm on my way to getting in shape for the Courage Classic.

Which brings me to my next point: Always read the fine print. I guess some part of me knew this, but I was in denial: I have to raise $300 in order to participate in the Courage Classic. Eek! I dread raising money. I read the web site more thoroughly, and I do indeed have to hand over a $300 donation on the day of the race.

Which brings me to my next point: Children are really important. You should care about them. You should care about them getting good treatment at places like Children's Hospital. You should translate this care into a donation in my name. :)

In all earnestness, I do believe the Children's Hospital is a wonderful entity to donate to. I've heard so many stories of children with cancer or other serious health problems who were able to get the treatment they needed, some whose parents wouldn't have been able to afford it.

So if you are interested, please go here to donate to my ride and the kiddos!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Store Shopping

Today, we did all kinds of shopping for the ice cream store. There are ever so many things you have to buy to open a store. Mike has been doing the yucky shopping (office supplies and freezers), but this weekend, we did a lot of the fun shopping.

We don't have a huge decorating budget, so we headed to Walmart (whose design has vastly improved in the past 10 years; thank you Better Homes and Gardens). The bathrooms are going to be painted a pistachio-ish green, so we bought two of these paintings, one for the men's and one for the women's. They are about 24'x24' for $30 each. Score!
At Walmart, we also found pillows for the chairs that will be in front of the fireplace. They're a fun green with turquoise dots, which I think will make the fireplace cozy but still kid friendly. We also bought these chairs from AFW for the fireplace. Look familiar?
At AFW we also bought two bistro sets to go outside in front of the coffee section of the store, which will hopefully add some cafe ambience.

Above the fireplace, there will be book shelves, for which Mike bought a billion books. At least it looked like a billion books when they were in the box, but when I took them all out, it looks like so much fewer than you would expect $150 to pay for. But there are fun books like all the Little Golden versions of Pixar movies, the classic Hobbit, the Narnia series, a bunch of Donald Duck comic books, The Swiss Family Robinson, Peter Pan, etc. etc. If I was a mom, I'd totally bring my kid here, get them ice cream, then read to them. Mike also bought that fun pirate ship to go on the bookshelves, and I'm donating that clock.
We're also thinking of getting this fun bicycle to go on the bookshelves. What do you think? Or maybe this airplane to hang from the ceiling? We're trying to find decor that is library-esque with a fun, kid-like, adventurous feel.

We headed to Pier 1, my favorite store in the world, and I bought these adorable tag holders. There are various things we'll label, such as the featured truffle of the week, so these will hold the little cards with the names. Aren't they cute? Wouldn't you buy whatever that little birdy told you to? Mike thought they were superfluous, so I bought them myself so he wouldn't have to justify a little glass birdy to his investors.
Speaking of featured truffles, we also bought a cute little plate set to display chocolates or candies. We don't display what I have below, but it was what I had. :) This might be where we display wrapped candies from Patsy's, such as caramels and cherry cordials and french mints.
Last of all, we bought some cup sets to serve espresso and tea in. So, if you order a shot of espresso, you'll get it in this little cup/saucer (that you can then pour over your gelato. Yum.). We are also hoping to serve our tea in it. When you order tea to stay, you'll get this sweet little teapot to steep the tea in. We decided to go with a tea company out of Aspen, Two Leaves and a Bud, as they had interesting teas and many organic and fair trade options.
So, question of the day is, what do you think of the cups? Do you think they're cute? Or do you think brown isn't tea-like enough? (I can only find a white set for over twice the cost.) The benefit of these are that they store easily and compact, they're a great price, we can serve both espresso and tea in them, and I think they have a warm feel. What do you think?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Colorado Columbine

Despite neglect and rough treatment, the columbines Mike's mother gave us last year have burst into color. And there are three red columbine buds just waiting for their turn. I love seeing flowers spring from rocks.

Perhaps I am twisted, but when I visit tropical or warm, moist climes, the plants' ease of life offends me. I feel as though they should have to strive more. Yes, they are beautiful, but do they really deserve to flourish so? With no toiling? No adversity? But a columbine in the rocks or a bristlecone pine on a summit, now that's a plant I can respect.

No doubt this tells far more about my inner psyche than is complimentary, or maybe it just comes from being made up of solid, pioneer stock. But because of this penchant for "deserving" plants, I love my hardy Colorado surroundings where, now that the spring has finally taken her throne, hummingbirds are buzzing and bumblebees are toiling; aspen leaves are fluttering and columbines are blooming.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Grateful Gelato Commandress in Chief

Mike and I sit at our banquette, side-by-side computers, tippity typing away at highly important ice cream business. Mike is designing "Buy 10, get one pint free" cards. I'm...Oh, wait, I'm blogging. Nevermind.

Recently Mike was interviewed by the Colorado Springs Independent, who wrote this teaser article. The interviewer must have misunderstood Mike, hence our mythical children in this article. Still, fun stuff.

We've been receiving the various items Mike has ordered necessary to run a gelato shop, and thus our 2nd bedroom is crammed with sundry items such as laminators and waffle cone makers. The most fun part is the books. We will have book shelves above our built-in fireplace, so Mike has ordered a delightful assortment of adventure and children's books for our library. All the books we would want to own and read and read to our children, like Huckleberry Finn and The Secret Garden and The Tales of King Arthur. I believe I'm going to want to quit my job and curl up under the fireplace and read every last one.

Mike has written a couple of other updates on his blog. Construction is on target, and everything seems to be going swimmingly, despite the occasional panic attack.

Tonight I sit here swimming through job applicants. Note to self, when posting a job listing on Craigslist, do NOT include your phone number. You will get roughly 3 gabillion phone calls.

I was put in charge of sorting through resumes ("Commandress in Chief," as Mike puts it), as we thought I could be more heartless, and therefore quicker, than Mike in weeding people out. But now reading through these resumes, I wish I could give them all a chance. It's hard to read through so many resumes of people who need jobs. It makes me so grateful for the one I have.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

God in the Form of Bread


Why, hello there. Today I was perusing the web and saw Relevant had posted this little article I wrote for them. Enjoy!