Getting Perspective in Napa


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So, something big happened while I was preparing Valentine’s Day orders a couple weekends ago. I got overwhelmed. I had to make a lot of a new type of bar in addition to my more familiar bars and marshmallows… It was 80 degrees in LA that weekend (too hot for chocolate!)… I got maybe 3 hours of sleep the whole weekend… One seemingly simple recipe was being incredibly difficult and time-consuming… I managed to get everything out and I hope that everyone enjoyed their treats, but that weekend left me shell-shocked. I felt like a convalescent afterwards. I didn’t know what normal felt like anymore. I’d been generally tired for a while and even helpful suggestions from people just seemed like yet more work to do.

Plus, I’m leaving my current rented commercial kitchen at the end of this month. I’ve found a temperature-controlled kitchen that seems suited to my needs year-round, but it requires a hefty initial payment. So, it’s a relief, but a whole new, expensive ticket for commitment to continue…

Suddenly, this company of mine seemed at once like way too much and yet way too small. Chaos and uncertainty. I knew I had a choice to take a nap, plow through it, and hope to get over it by putting everything in order right away… or take a breather.

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I opted for the breather. Last Saturday morning, I booked the least expensive hotel room that I could find in Napa to arrive Monday night and leave Thursday. I just wanted to relax. Maybe sit overlooking a vineyard with some wine and read a book about something not-chocolate and not worry about the temperature. I’m naturally very comfortable being by myself, especially when I need to relax, so I was a little conflicted about even contacting friends up there. I did a little, but mostly left time free for myself to find my way in the wide open countryside.

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This post is kind of difficult to write now, but not because I’m still stressed out… I feel great now. Better than I’ve felt in a long time.

I went up to Napa to get perspective, and it just felt right. Not only do I always feel freer as a traveler, but I’m happy that I did reach out a bit… To visit with friends in a different location, and to see and hear what they’re up to. When you’re in such a sensitive state, it can be a simply amazing thing to be with friends you haven’t seen in a while to hear about what they’ve been doing… and what they plan on doing… and to learn new things about them. To witness how people’s lives are unfolding… and to wonder what they’ll get up to next… and be so proud of them and excited for them… and feel so lucky to know them and hear them speak so freely. And also to verbalize your own life… and to think about it, and what can make it better. Email and phone calls are nice, but there’s nothing like being with someone… or having a friend start running up the sidewalk at the sight of you.

I don’t plan on making huge changes. It’s really more like the end of City Slickers, when Billy Crystal’s character equanimously resolves to just do things better. My sales are good, and I’ve had excellent feedback from customers; I like the “Testimonials” page on the BonBonBar site — I think of it like yearbook signatures that never end and I find myself quoting lengthier passages each time.

I just need to make sure that I’m attending to the business’s needs so that it can grow well. I didn’t actually read any random books in Napa… only part of a business magazine. I did a lot of thinking and planning in a relaxed environment. I also drove around a lot, and walked a lot, and just considered whatever I came across. And well…. while in my hotel room one morning, I also got a call from a New Yorker who’d heard Anthony Dias Blue rave about BonBonBars on February 20th on WCBS Newsradio 880 that morning (my first radio mention–I just listened to it myself a few minutes ago) and did a phone interview with an AP business writer (hopefully more on that later).

I knew from the beginning that success depends a lot on organization. I didn’t know fully what to expect, though, so my systems of organizations weren’t equipped to deal with everything, and once things started to pick up it was easy to run with the flow without keeping organized or having a clear direction to go in. Now I know need to make a schedule so that constant tasks will be done at the same time each week — from entering accounting data to taking time off. I’ll have less of a feeling of needing to do everything all the time as I think it needs to get done, and more consistency so that everything can be tracked neatly. It’s all about quantifying, while adapting. And to make an effort to look for sources of inspirations. I went to the Bay Area because I like it and know it a bit, but Los Angeles is a fantastic city for food and I want to learn more from others here who have a passion for it. There are a lot of wonderful people here, too.

So, I’m re-organizing with a level head, and genuine enthusiasm. I should also mention that when I went into the kitchen the weekend after Valentine’s Day orders, I did start having fun again. I wrote a post a few weeks ago about what motivates me, and I don’t think I gave enough attention to the fun aspect. Of course… I have to have fun! Or else what’s the point? I think I knew everything was going to be ok once I started shimmying to my iPod again last Sunday night in my kitchen… but going to Napa completed the treatment.

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I wasn’t even planning on exploring all that much to do with food while I was up there so that I could have a true vacation… but like friends, I caught up with some old favorites, and also made some wonderful new discoveries. I had no appetite during my first 24 hours in Napa, but by the time I left, I was full and happy… with goodies stashed away in my car to share with Chad and friends in LA… and with my blog readers. 🙂

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5 Responses to “Getting Perspective in Napa”

  1. dreamsicle Says:

    It’s great to hear that you got some time off to relax and recharge a bit – you definitely deserve it after all this hard work! Besides, all your friends and readers would want the best for you. 😀

  2. May Ka. Says:

    Glad you took the time to do that. 🙂

  3. Nina Says:

    Verena – Thanks! I didn’t realize how much I needed a break! I feel totally better now.

    May Ka. – Thanks. Yeah, it was a good kind of contemplative time. 🙂

  4. Bek Says:

    Just to let you know that my boyfriend enjoyed the results of your efforts for Valentines Day! It was evident by the fact that he ate everything except for the extras that I had ordered for myself, which he made me share!

  5. Nina Says:

    Bek – Thank you so much for ordering and letting me know!!! I was a little concerned about your order — your boyfriend must be used to delicious treats from you, and I was hoping that mine would measure up well enough. Anyone who has the brilliant habit of infusing grapefruit juice with a vanilla bean must have good taste and skills… 🙂

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