Readjusting to being alone again in the house took some time. But I had plenty to keep me busy, and focused on the week ahead. I was hoping that the lull from the weekend was just an aberration, and geared up for what I hoped was a return to busy days and lots of sales.
I wanted to install a separate internet connection for the bakery, primarily so there could be a dedicated system for the customers that wouldn’t interfere (or allow access to) my personal one. In addition, due to the thick (often concrete) walls used here in construction, the current signal barely – if at all – reached the bakery. So, my local internet provider sent out some contractors to set up an extension of my system. They recommended a set-up based on transferring the signal through the electrical system, and not running additional cable. I liked this idea and thought it was very cool…but then they quoted me the price for the equipment and installation. It was quite steep.
So, as they continued to work and test the system, I took snapshots of the packaging they had brought with them and looked up everything on Amazon. With friends coming down in a week, I realized I could cut the price in half by taking care of the purchase myself. As for setting up a new wifi network on the router, I could easily do that on my own. I thanked the two guys for showing me the set-up, and told them that the price was too high. And off they went.
WEEK SEVENDuring the crazy-busy week that my mom was here, one of the highlights was the woman who came in to try a few items. She mostly purchased bread but decided to also get a peanut butter oatmeal cookie. About 90 seconds after she walked out of the shop, she re-entered and exclaimed that it was the best cookie she’d ever had. And that she’d like to buy a dozen for herself and a half-dozen for her friend (who was waiting in the car). Wow!
The new week started off fine, with Wednesday alone coming in close to the combined sales from the previous Saturday and Sunday. Thursday perked up a bit, helped out – as always – by my trip to Impact Hub.
As the week unfolded, however, the flurry of activity which had been typical for a lot of the previous two weeks didn’t re-emerge. While not a bad week by any stretch, it was my lowest sales volume since week three, although the week did beat out the sales from any of the first three weeks the bakery was open. I had been told that this is a slow season here in Antigua, and perhaps it just took a little while for that to hit my shop.
After a relaxing Monday, in which I did absolutely nothing, I was up early on Tuesday morning to start Wednesday’s bread. I needed to finish by late morning, so that I could head into the city with Raul. I had one critical task to complete in the city – getting my picture taken at the SAT office as a requirement for my business tax file. Then I had other errands I wanted to run before we headed to the airport to pick up my friends Cary and Mike, arriving from Chicago.Fortunately, getting my picture taken meant I could head straight to the ventanilla ágil, or “fast window.” And while I still waited for about an hour as the eighth or ninth person in line, I fortunately wasn’t stuck in the long, twisting snake for the regular windows.
With my photo taken and paperwork stamped, it was off to shop. After ducking into one PriceSmart on the way to SAT, just to see if they had walnuts (they didn’t), we planned to check out another PriceSmart on the outer fringes of the city. But first, it was House & Green. You may remember my joy during my first visit here back in March with Mindy and Carlos. It is a kitchen and restaurant supply store bursting with everything someone like me would need or want! I had only one official item on my list, but ended up walking out of there with a ton of stuff. It was too good an opportunity to pass up on the rare trip into the city.One thing I did NOT get at House & Green was the panini press above. Not spending that much money on it (the equivalent of about $800). At the Super PriceSmart in Condado Concepción, Raul and I had lunch in the food court before I went inside to shop. I didn’t get the panini press above, either, due to the poor reviews. Plus, at about $30, I seemed too cheap. But while still there were still no walnuts, I did find the disposable coffee cups that I’d been looking for. The hunt for the panini press took us to a mall on the way to the airport, where I looked inside the department store Siman (some better options there) before finding the winner at Cemaco. It ended up being a well-reviewed, extra-large George Foreman grill. I’d had a small Foreman for years back in Chicago and loved it. I thought this would be perfect. Meanwhile, as I walked from one side of the mall to the other, to get to Cemaco, I refueled at the gelato stand. It was a good call.
With all my errands completed, Raul dropped me off at the airport to wait for Cary and Mike, while he went to park and hang out somewhere. I had about ninety minutes to kill. From the SAT visit, I had my passport with me, which allowed me to enter the departures level of the airport and relax at the pre-security food court with my Kindle. I had a dinner of Pollo Campero and was much happier than I would have been waiting downstairs in the cramped coffee shops abutting the arrivals area.
I hadn’t told Mike and Cary that I would be meeting them at the airport; I had only said I would send my driver. So they were excited and surprised to see me waiting for them! On my last two visits to Chicago, I hadn’t been able to see them, due to conflicts on their end. So, it had been more than a year-and-a-half since I’d seen Cary. In the near-twenty years I’d known her, it was by far our longest dry spell.
We chatted happily in the car on the way back to Antigua. I made sure they were all properly checked in to their hotel, then returned to Raul’s car so that he could drop me and my plentiful purchases off at the house.
I was excited to have Stefani back in the kitchen with me, after her two weeks in Chicago. We jumped right back into things, and I brought her up to speed on all the excitement she missed. The week kicked off with a very good Wednesday! Mike and Cary came in during the morning, and got to see some of the activity before going on a food tour. I showed them the whole place, they ate a bit and then went on their way.In what became the perfect plan for the week, Mike and Cary would do their own thing during the day (although they always found time to stop into the bakery for a snack, wifi, bathroom break or just a brief hello) and then we’d meet up in the evening. On Wednesday, we walked through some of the museums at the hotel they were staying in, before going to dinner at Alex’s restaurant, Sobremesa. We had a lovely and delicious first dinner together, and it was a sign of things to come! On Thursday night, we walked down to Caoba Farms for their once-a-week evening festivities. We were there on the early side, so the live music hadn’t started yet. However, it was still a great evening. Delicious food, consumed outdoors, with plenty of exciting activity happening all around us. It was fun to see some of the people I used to interact with during my Saturdays at the market, and we even got into a discussion about carrying my cookies in the bakery case at the cafe!
Friday was a better day than Thursday, which had fallen off quite a bit from the busy Wednesday. On Wednesday, the bread was sold out by 10:30. On Thursday, I still had four loaves left to bring to Impact Hub (where they also didn’t sell). Retail is so quirky that way. Friday night, we had an awesome dinner at one of my favorite places here, and Cary and Mike were especially excited to see bright red plumes of lava shooting into the air from Fuego. The terrace views at Tartines are like few others in town, and the combination of great food and beautiful vistas (with great friends) is hard to beat.
Saturday and Sunday were both about average days in the bakery. Some of my regular Saturday customers were out of town, which put a little bit of a dent in the sales. But overall, things were fine and it allowed us the ability to do a bit of catch-up in the kitchen.Saturday night, after nicer/fancier outings, the three of us went to Rincon Tipico for some local food. Only two options that night – chicken stew and pork adobado. Mike and I went pork, while Cary went chicken. It was a relaxing meal and we capped off the night by walking around town a bit, getting some ice cream and then returning to my house to play cards (Phase Ten!). After first making pizza babka in LA, last spring, for my “welcome back open house,” I finally was ready to make it here. With the panini press now purchased, I thought it would be a good way to have an additional savory item as a small lunch or snack option.
Sunday, after closing up the shop, we walked around town for a little while. Cary was able to stop back into Doña Maria Gordillo, a well-known shop featuring local candies and sweets, and load up for the trip home. Then we went to my local pupusa place for our final dinner together, followed by more Phase Ten at the house. Then, I packed up babka and cookies for Cary and Mike to take with them and we called it a night. On Monday, my beautiful day of rest, the three of us headed to Mama JoJo’s for an early breakfast before Raul took them to the airport. The meal was delicious, as always, and then we relaxed at their hotel and waited for the car to show up. Finally, it was time for them to go. It was so wonderful having friends here, and I think we all felt it was the perfect balance of them getting their own free time (exploring, touring, reading by the hotel pool) and spending time with me. The week went by way too fast, but I take solace in the fact that they’re already planning a return with their two sons (who were away at camp) and have a long list of things that they passed up to “save for next time with the boys.”
For the rest of Monday, I shopped at the mercado and then never left the couch. That’s my idea of a perfect day. And then I went to bed, thinking ahead of the week to come and all I hoped it would bring!