True business perseverance…. Small business spotlight!

In New England we have gotten a LOT of snow.  They say this was worse than the blizzard of 78.  I heard one news reporter say Boston got over 100 inches since January 28th.

giant snowman

To say that it has been difficult to run a business is a complete understatement!  Between closing full days mid-storm, closing early, opening late,it has been a nightmare for my business and all of my small business friends.  Then when it finally stops snowing, there is the cleanup.  After the 70 inch mark, there was just no place to put the snow anymore.  The snow mounds are so high, you can barely see out of most windows.  Then there are problems that come with so much snow that you just don’t even think of, leaks that never existed suddenly appear.  Heavy snow on weak roofs have caused some roofs to cave in and collapse.  My husband had to get on our roof twice and shovel.

My deck, you can see the umbrella attached to the picnic table

My deck, you can see the umbrella attached to the picnic table

A local business in my neighborhood has had to close their business for the four weeks.  It is a dance studio called In Sync Center of the Arts.  They are one of the most well run and talented dance studios in my area.  What drew me in to this dance studio 5 years ago was how many classes they offered- not just for dance, but taekwondo, lego club, music lessons, and drama. I have four kids and I loved that all of them could take a class at once and I would get a whole hour all to myself :-). In the lobby, they have big screen tv’s that show all of the classes so you can see everyone at once.  LOVE IT!

The week before February vacation,  Insync’s next-door neighbor’s roof collapsed.  Thankfully it was empty and nobody was hurt physically.  Financially, it is devastating.  There are 5 business all in this little strip mall and they are all closed.  If I had to guess how many people were employed between the five businesses I would say hundreds.  Hundreds of people out of work because of something out of their control!  It’s heartbreaking!

The UPS store is the roof that collapsed, to the left of Insync.

The UPS store is the roof that collapsed, to the left of Insync.

Teri, the owner of Isync, was trying to unplug and relax for a few days during Feb vacation with her husband and kids.  She actually left her phone in her hotel room while out for dinner, only to return to hear about the nightmare she has now been living for weeks.  She had to cut her vacation short and rush home to make sense out of her new situation.  She was not allowed on the property. The electricity and gas is shut off and everything is roped off until it is deemed safe.

Most people would curl up into a ball and feel sorry for themselves, but not Teri.  She had her team up and running the next day seeking out temporary space for her business.  They brought their phones and laptops to a fabulous little coffee shop (mine 🙂 ) and worked as a team and didn’t stop until they found space that would work.

She ended up with two spaces, one by day and a high school for the night classes.  The high school is perfect because there are so many class rooms that it allows many dance classes to go on at the same time.

Amazing strength, creativity, and the drive to go on.  All admirable qualities that I believe most entrepreneurs have.  Teri has a crazy awesome team loaded with talent and is clearly flexible.

Awesome, talented staff!

Awesome, talented staff!

I am honored to be a customer of theirs and I love how they are handling this situation.

There is so much negativity and tragedy shown on the news and social media, I just had to share how a real life woman turned some serious sour lemons into delicious lemonade 🙂

insynlogo

A little love reminder…

Do you ever catch yourself looking at somebody you see every day, a little differently? Tonight, my husband said something that was kind of funny in a dry, sarcastic manner. I looked at him without thinking and for whatever reason I found myself gazing at him finding him extremely attractive.

I think he is attractive in general but I feel like most of the time I don’t actually see him.

I go through the motions of life, busy with four kids, a business, a dog, a few gerbils, a guinea pig, writing children books, a blog/radio show, family and friends. Most days I am blinded by getting to the next activity or “to do” thing on my list.

Then there are times like last tonight where a small glance turns into a full on, full of love moment.

 

image from Shutterstock

image from Shutterstock

We got a lot of snow these past few weeks (life in New England). My husband has been out snow blowing and shoveling our businesses most of the time (small business owners). The kids and I have barely seen him. He came home last night and taught my oldest son how to play a Beatles song on the guitar.  My heart melts when I get to enjoy moments like that.

I love that my kids love the same qualities about my husband that made me fall head over heels in love with him so long ago.

He still gives me butterflies when I see him.

It was such an unexpected treat to really see the guy I fell in love with 25 years ago.

Happy Valentines Day!

Thick, creamy, dreamy, chocolatey HOT COCOA recipe!

Who doesn’t love hot chocolate? I know I do. Living in New England, hot cocoa, hot apple cider, fabulous coffee, all necessities of life.

I see first hand how many people love good hot chocolate. I have owned a coffee shop for almost 19 years and hot and frozen cocoa have been one of our most popular drinks since we opened. We add three different types of chocolate, hand steam the milk (if hot) with our espresso machine and stir it by hand. Our cocoa is so much better than the cheap kind you get out of a machine with hot chocolatey water.

Introduce my kids with food allergies and hot cocoa is no longer so simple. Chocolate is mostly off limits for my family. Our allergist told us to avoid chocolate since most of it is made on the same equipment as tree nuts.

I always feel bad that my children can’t join other children at the skating rink to gather for hot cocoa. Same thing after sledding or at the movies or wherever hot cocoa is generally served. I give them something special when we get home, of course, but I know it’s not the same.

A few years ago, I started making my own nut safe hot cocoa and it is DELICIOUS! So good, I had to share.

Whether you can have nuts or not, this recipe is a much higher quality cocoa then just opening a packet and boiling water. It is cheaper to make too. If allergies are not an issue, you can purchase any type of cocoa powder, as long as it is decent chocolate.

I usually cook by eye, but I did measure yesterday while making hot cocoa for the kids. I have been snowed in for a few days/weeks/months, who knows at this point!

You will need:
(To serve four people)
4 cups of milk (whatever kind you like)
1.5 cups of really good cocoa powder, can vary to taste (I use Vermont Nut Free cocoa powder)

Vermont Nut Free cocoa powder

Vermont Nut Free cocoa powder

1 cup of yummy chocolate chips,chunks, chocolate bars-whatever you like. (I recommend Enjoy Life because it is yummy and nut safe)

Enjoy Life mega chunks!

Enjoy Life mega chunks!

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract ( I use Neilsen-Massey)

2 tablespoons of sugar (more or less to taste) (I recommend Sugar in the Raw pictured, it is nut safe)

Sugar in the raw!

Sugar in the raw!

Whipped cream and marshmallows are optional (kind of 😉 )

Cant get any simpler.
Put all ingredients together in a sauce pan or pot and heat up. I like to use a whisk to stir because the powder can get a little clumpy.

Cocoa powder not dissolved yet

Cocoa powder not dissolved yet

I usually keep the flame on simmer because I like the milk to heat up slowly to let the actual chocolate melt and the cocoa powder dissolve.

Love my whisk!!

Love my whisk!!

The results are thick, creamy, perfectly chocolatey hot cocoa, better than what you find in the packet!

Yummy whipped cream and hidden marshmallows!

Yummy whipped cream and hidden marshmallows!

These cups have hidden marshmallows under the whipped cream, but the kids wouldn’t let me get a better picture because they needed to get their icy cold hands on them after building snow forts for the past few hours!

Tips from a Pro: How to Get That Coffee Shop Taste at Home!

I opened my first coffee shop (Coffee Break Cafe) at the age of 25 because I was sick of bad coffee and even worse service. I had exhausted all of the coffee chain possibilities in my area and knew there had to be something better. My husband and I (boyfriend back then) worked in the restaurant industry and had access to a lot of different coffee companies. We bought whole bean coffees and brewed at home back when people still bought instant coffee in a can (wait, maybe they still do?)

We drank a lot of coffee.

By the time we had opened our first location, we were completely hooked. Coffee is like wine or cheese- at first the cheap stuff tastes pretty good but, as your palate develops, you find that you can no longer tolerate the inferior. It happens to most people who drink a lot of coffee. Once you discover the good stuff, it is REALLY hard to go back.

I am asked, all the time, why brewing coffee at home doesn’t taste as good as it does when you buy it at the coffee shop. I think there are a lot of reasons why, but I am here to explain how SIMPLE and AFFORDABLE it can be to brew really good coffee at home.

The beans:
Starting with the best quality coffee is the most important aspect of a really good brew. You want it to be freshly roasted (within the past few days is best) and if you own a grinder, you should always buy your coffee in whole bean form. If you don’t own a grinder, buy smaller quantities of pre-ground coffee more frequently. That way it will always be fresh. You will want to ask for the beans to be ground for a french press, which is coarse.

Coffee should be purchased whole bean and roasted very recently.

Coffee should be purchased whole bean and roasted very recently.

Nice course grind for the French press.

Nice coarse grind for the French press.

 

One misconception I hear frequently is people think that darkly roasted coffee is “stronger”. Darkly roasted coffee actually has less caffiene than a bean that is roasted light or medium. It might taste “stronger” but it is not.

I am slightly biased, but we do have the best beans around!  Check them out here!

Equipment:

Let’s briefly discuss grinders.…. You always want a burr grinder. Blade grinders shred the beans with inconsistent results, while burr grinders make even particles that allow the water to steep evenly through out. You can get a decent, inexpensive burr grinder just about anywhere. Depending on how much you grind you might want to spend a little more, your choice. This is a decent inexpensive one here…   Higher end, more expensive, the one we use at home is here.

Rancilio is the one we use at home but there are many others out there.

Rancilio is the one we use at home but there are many others out there.

Our grinder with freshly roasted beans.

Our grinder with freshly roasted beans.

Our Rancilio burr grinder!

Our Rancilio burr grinder!

Up next is a French Press. You can get them for as little as $10.00 or as much as a couple of hundred dollars. The one we have at home was about $40.00 and is perfect, check it out here.

Water:
Since water is the main ingredient in coffee, it needs to be clean, and free from any foul odor or taste. A good filter goes a long way. If you are using a french press you have to get the water to a boil. If you are making iced coffee, your ice cubes should also be made with filtered water.

How to:

While waiting for the water to boil (just fill a pot, no need to measure) put the beans in the grinder. We add the grinds right to the french press. The ratio of coffee to water is typically one tablespoon of coffee to a cup of water. You can adjust to your taste of course.

I don't measure the water, just fill the pot and let it boil.

I don’t measure the water, just fill the pot and let it boil.

At home we usually don’t measure. At work, we don’t brew without measuring. (Consistency is the key to success in business!) At-home brewing can be a bit more flexible; you can brew to what you like best. Add a little more coffee beans if you like it a little stronger and a little less if you like it a little weaker.

When it’s just off the boil for a minute, pour the water right on top of the grinds in the French Press and let sit for about a minute and a half. You will see the top looks like foam. (This is called bloom.) This means the grinds are starting to release some of their aroma. The water is becoming infused with delicious flavor, and did I mention the smell? Your house will smell so good!

Coffee foam!

Coffee foam!

After about a minute and a half, agitate with a wooden stirrer. Wood is best because metal may accidentally tap the sides and break the glass. I usually use chopsticks.

Chopsticks make great stirrers!

Chopsticks make great stirrers!

stirring the coffee!

Let sit for another minute and a half or so.

Next, press the top plunger stick down, using just the weight of your hand. You don’t want to press too hard or fast, or the grinds will escape into the coffee you are about to drink. You want to push all of the grinds to the bottom.

pressing down, coffee french press

You are ready to drink. OMG, nothing better than freshly brewed, high quality coffee.

Hot, freshly brewed coffee!

Hot, freshly brewed coffee!

I almost always drink my coffee iced. So, I let my coffee sit until it reaches room temperature and then pour over ice…. YUM.

Feel free to post questions in the comments below- I love talking coffee, business and mommy business.

**Affiliate links are included in this post. The products are actual products that I use and recommend. Amazon is an easy, reliable place to order them. If you choose to purchase through these links, Mommy Business will receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you.

Join Us- An Easy, Fun Way to Spread Cheer!

Jenn and I decided to give back this holiday season by delivering baskets of cheer to people who need or deserve and extra hug or smile. Our businesses, Coffee Break Cafe and Healthy Homes Cleaning have invited other local businesses to contribute their goods or services to the basket. (Those who do not have goods or services can make a contribution to The Joshua Kaye Foundation to be included. We will deliver baskets every Saturday through the end of January. If you are in the Boston or South Shore areas, contact us to join. If you’re not local- start something in your neck of the woods and post about it on FB and Twitter using ‪#‎MommyBizGive‬. Be sure to tag Mommy Business so we can see all of the holiday cheer you’re spreading!

Week 1 Basket of Holiday Cheer!

Week 1 Basket of Holiday Cheer!