Monday, September 16, 2013

My New Skin

I could kick my own ass for not writing more regularly on this blog, but over the past year I have felt very exposed and raw and until now I have not had the ability to tactfully express what has been going on in my head.
I am in a space that is uncomfortable for me to talk about. I'm sad, frustrated, angry, stressed the list could go on. Last year we had the blessing of being granted the opportunity to open our restaurant. A very generous gift from some family members. We bought a building, started the task of putting together a team of talented individuals to help with the lengthy process of renovation and construction.
At the same time our wedding planning and catering business went crazy and we were again blessed with lots of business. So much that we decided to simultaneously open a second location so that we could cater out of it while we waited for the original building to be constructed.
Biggest mistake of my life...
Our Granite Bay location was beautiful. The food that we produced great, our reviews were amazing, we were packed every weekend, but in the end we failed to keep it open.
I take full responsibility for the failures that we had in that location. I put trust in individuals that seriously today the sound of their names make me sick. It's like fucking Voldemort from Harry Potter, you can't say their names around me. I've got five of them and I seriously can't hear their names without fanaticizing about doing some shit that would catch me 20 years in the grey bar hotel. I let individuals intimidate me about their worth in our company and let them hold me hostage with their "abilities". My ambition blinded me to the true nature of some certifiably crazy ass people.
In the end when we finally cleaned house and got back on track it was too late. Not that it was too late to continue doing what we were doing in Granite Bay, it was to late for Ian and I to stay in love with that location, with the financial toll and continued drama that we still had to face due to these assholes we hired. We had to make a decision to scratch it out for another two years in Granite Bay and possibly lose everything or cut off our dying arm and refocus our efforts, our money, our love and using "what we know now" to be more successful downtown in our original project.
American media loves to pump us women up that we can do it all and have it all and I drank that damn Kool-Aid like it was life water. Hell I was first in line with a Big Gulp cup. REALLY!? So what did I get out of being overly ambitious, over scheduled and naïvely trusting?
I lost a really pure innocent version of myself that I don't think I will ever get back. Almost two years later I am a meaner, less trusting boss. I've been humbled and embarrassed, disappointed my family members and therefore hate myself everyday for these disappointments.
All I have left is to believe that our circumstances will change, that someone will see how hard we are working now and believe in our brand. I am so tired of fighting, but it's all I know at this point. I found a term today called a "Frustrated Entrepreneur", I almost started to tear up after reading this article about a guy that went through the same hell that we did, but came out successful in the end.
The past 19 months have been an awakening for me. I'm changed. I've had to take a harsh look at myself, who I am as a business owner, mother...a wife. I'm trying to except new revelations about who N'Gina really is and it's really scaring the shit out me. Could I really be turning into the one person that I never ever wanted to be?
I don't know...
Maybe the recognition that for the past year I haven't been the nicest person to be around is enough to change it. I was extremely hurt by "friends" that I trusted. Taken advantage of by people that were in my tribe. Forced to keep hurtful secrets of others true nature, while I suffered quietly. My heart was crushed and felt so stupid for believing in these motherfuckers. So now I'm this mean shell of a bitch that just can't let anyone new in. I've sliced people out of my life all in this effort to gain some control over my personal life and business.
Tomorrow is my birthday, I'll be 37. When I put my head to my hands and really think about what I want, I can only say that I need a better year. Hopefully with our new home and new business, that we are fighting to make come to fruition, it can be a better year. I want simplicity, I don't need to be over scheduled to feel accomplished, I just want to feel secure in what I have in my life. Healthy family, strong marriage, blessed life. We'll see what the universe has left to dole my way, I just ask that the universe be gentle.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Do You Hate the Yelper or Hate the Game?

So I've been debating on whether I should write this post for a while now. Since opening the restaurant two months ago, as expected, we have gotten our share of Yelp reviews. The majority have been great with strong neighborhood feedback and support. Some reviews... not so much. Let me first state that I am NEVER against a negative review. I believe in constructive criticism, I ask for it when I touch the tables of my guests. BUT what I am against is the anonymous bashing that happens on Yelp.  Guests, rather than speak with an owner or manager, go home and make salacious statements behind the protection of a made up user name and a random avatar.
My staff and friends have said, "N'Gina, don't take it personal!" "Don't justify their comments with responses." The administrators at Yelp hold the same attitude, but today after a talk with my Executive Chef Robert Birnschein, I changed my mind. He said, "N'Gina, defend yourself." He was right. Yelp gives people the platform to hit me below the belt and per Yelp's etiquette guidelines,  I am not allowed to defend myself, explain myself or simply say, "Ya know have no idea what the fuck you are talking about!"
For eight years I have worked my ass off to get where I am. Sacrificing my family's financial security, doubting if the decisions I am making are the right ones. Up in the middle of the night silently in tears because I feel that I'm failing as a mother, business woman, wife, and daughter. Being an entrepreneur will make the strongest individual one insecure ass person. Livelihoods rest on my shoulders.
Every guest that walks through my door I fight for. I want to know how we can improve; I want to know how we can make your community better through our business. I've never been afraid to have a face to face conversation and learn from those that we provide a service to on how to be better. Know that about me, but from this point forward I will not tolerate the anonymous Yelper. Your cowardly reviews, filled with bullish statements, demeaning comments and overall lack of tack is disgusting. You are the reason restaurateurs hate Yelp. If you do not like something that a company is doing have the chutzpah to talk to someone that can change it. Have confidence that the owner of that company will give you an ear and listen to you. You cheat us out of the opportunity to change and be better with your Perez Hilton-esc reviews. You benefit no one; even other Yelpers recognize that your reviews hold no merit. So why do it...? Why?
Maybe this trend of bashing is something that I should just get used too. We see it in the media and in Paparazzi magazines on the newspaper shelves. People love scandal and drama. If this is the direction that this society is going in, I have to tell you, I not down with it. I won't sit and silently let it happen. I was raised that way. I will fight for my name and my company and my staff. Simply put, that's how I roll. Boom.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hide The Plates Ian, Mama's About to Lose It!

I would love to write that the past three months have been an amazing whirlwind of entrepreneurial excitement and that everyday I wake up feeling excited for a new day, but real talk...I want to throw dishes up against the wall. I'm stressed, frustrated, overwhelmed, and irritated. That all said, I do realize how blessed I am, I do appreciate all that has happened over the past year and everyone that has helped us get there. But DAMN, my biggest gripe is that there is such a lack of understanding from people that I thought were in my tribe. You know that saying that, "True friends are the ones who never leave your heart, even if they leave your life for a while, even after time apart you pick up with them right where you left off." Well shit, there are some folks that I can't leave five minutes without freaking the hell out.
"How come you didn't call me back, answer my text, return my email, show up to my party? WHY WHY WHY?" "How could you be so rude, forgetful, inconsiderate...." and the list goes on.
Well let me answer some of those questions...I don't have a damn life folks, actually wait...I have too much life! I get woken up at 6am by a five year old, I make school lunches, clean dishes, make coffee, answer the first 20 emails in my inbox, search images for my brides, get two kids in the shower and dress them and take them to school by 9am.
Most morning I'm not even combing my hair. Once I get to work it's the next 20 emails, 20 phone calls and texts, fix the computers that have crashed, deal with invoices, vendors, payroll, brides, staff issues, marketing, graphic designers, more brides...oh shit the computers are down again...FUCK! Oh did I tell you I haven't eaten breakfast, and I usually don't eat my first meal until 2pm. My day is full of playing catch up and putting out fires, peppered in with pissed off friends that really don't get what being REALLY busy must mean.
If I don't return texts, it's because I'm putting my kids to bed or reading them a book or cooking dinner when I get home. If I don't return a phone call, it's because after talking to people all day long...I'm mentally done. If I don't go to your party it's because I HAVE TO WORK, I run FOUR businesses, am raising two kids and trying my damnedest to be a good wife, though I must admit I've been a bitch to the poor guy lately.
My father told me when I was younger that your true friends you should be able to count on one hand. Being in this industry you make a lot of "friends". It's the nature of the beast. But I am learning that Ol' Pops was spittin' some serious knowledge and maybe I need to check my inventory.
So as I sit here typing with my hairy ass legs, bushy Bert from Sesame Street eyebrows, un-combed hair (because I get no time to myself) I am realizing that I need to handle my life and family first. These dramas that keep popping up are not worth me pouring energy into. "Keep you circle small, girl!" That's what Dad would say...I am posting this link to an article from another blogger. When others make me feel like douche bag, I like to read this. Helps me remember that it's ok to say, "No." Keep your tribe small folks, keep it small. I will be taking a personal technology break for a week. No personal emails, phone calls, texts, Facebook...I need a break. I need take back to 0 and recharge. So see ya on the flip side!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

5 Ways to Know Your Man REALLY Loves You!

As women we sometimes challenge our husbands and test their undying love and commitment to us. Sometimes we take it too far...that said I have a little story about the day I almost gave my husband, Ian, a second bout of Bell's Palsey...
It was about 7am and I had been up since 5am cooking turkeys for an event in Folsom. Everything was running on time, kids were up and I was getting them ready for school and the sitter, coffee was brewed, dog was feed, the usual at the Kavookjian's. Ian, like always, loooooves to peak in on my cooking and in his culinary observations of my turkeys says,"Ya know you have too much liquid in this pan." I glared over at him, not in the mood to hear hear his critique. How dare he! I've been runnin' thangs since 5am, you glide down the stairs after your hot shower and get your already prepped coffee and you wanna tell ME I have too much liquid in the pan! I responded with," It's fine, go away."
He leaves. About a minute later I notice the oven smoking and I don't think much of it. It happens, drippings fall from the pan onto the hot oven bottom and smoke. I open the oven to take a peak and that's exactly what is going on. Ten more minutes pass and the amount of smoke pouring out of the oven is getting noticeably more intense. I think, "Maybe he was right, shit! I'll pour a little liquid out." I open the oven and BAM fire is pouring out of the oven like someone opened the gates of Hell. I scream," IAAAAAAAAAAAAN, FIRE!" He jumps down the stairs and pushes me out of the way and grabs the fire extinguisher. The fire alarm in our house is now blaring at an inhumane level of noise, the house is filling up with smoke, our kids are screaming, the dog is barking and like in a movie everything fades to black and all I see is the oven and my turkeys. I scream at Ian,"NO! NO fire extinguisher, you need to save my turkeys!" Ian looks at me in awe and shakes his head and proceeds to put the fire out with his hands and a large kitchen towel. Mom of the year over here, not thinking "Holy shit our house could burn down!" "Where are the kids?" "Did the dog get out"....nope save the damn turkeys.
Ian gets the fire out and burns his hand in the process. He stands up and turns to me,"What did I tell you! I told you woman, you don't listen!" He cleans up the oil and fat off the oven floor and places the turkeys back in. He turns to me and explains that the oven might smoke a little more, but it will be fine, just DON'T open the oven again until they're done. I nod my head in understandment and then he walks upstairs with the first aid kit to nurse his wounds. I can hear him telling me that he might have to go to the doctor and get this hand checked out, maybe miss work. I feel horrible, so horrible that while he is talking to me about his pain, I open the oven again to just peek at my babies, see if they are ok. BAM! Fire pouring out of the oven again. Repeat previous scenario, but this time I grabbed the kids and the dog and got them outside! (insert wry smile)
"Are you fucking insane woman! What did I just tell you!" screams firefighter Ian as he battles round two of flames. I don't know why I open that oven the second time. It was just talkin' to me. Saying "N'Gina...take a peek. It's ok, Ian won't be mad this time. Open me!"
Ian re-burns his hand and I say to him," Well at least you get to stay home with me today. (insert another wry smile)" His response,"Hell no I'm not staying home with your crazy ass today!" I give him the baby kitty eyes and he's done...he's staying home.
We clean everything up, go over a fire safety plan with the kids, send them to school and the sitter and Ian helps me load everything up for the drop off in Folsom. As we are driving down there, I am apologizing profusely. Making jokes that he is the only man that can literally and figuratively put out my fires. He's warming up. He starting to laugh again...and then...
"Oh Shit!"
"What N'Gina!?"
"I forgot the gravy!"
He's not smiling anymore. We get to the dropoff and explain that we need to go back and get the gravy. Ian tells me to tell them that it will take at least an hour, I nod my head and tell the host it will take 30 minutes. Ian looks at me with pure shock and awe in his face. He runs to the car, jumps in and speeds off. I set up the food and in my head I'm thinking could this day get any worse, and then it does. I remember that we've forgotten one last thing. Ian has my cellphone so I can't call him and let him know. My stomach feels like it has a skyscraper collapsing one floor at a time inside, I am a wreck with nerves. Ian's gonna be pissed.
After setting the land speed record at 120 miles an hour (not joking), Ian returns about 40 minutes later. I rush out the doors to greet and him and nervously whisper, "Um baby, we forgot the rolls too, but they forgot that we were bringing them."
I watched as Ian's pupils dilated out like a crack head hopped up on Meth. The blue was completely gone, just icy black globes staring at me. The veins in his neck started pulse out like a juiced up UFC fighter. This is what a man looks like right before he chokes his wife to death. I was staring it right in the face. His right eye twitched, and I was like," and here's round two of Ian's stress related Bell's Palsey coming back." But Ian's a good man, he relaxed, took a deep Ujjayi breath and grabbed my arms and forcefully whispered, "We ain't sayin' shit!"
After we dropped off the gravy and said our goodbyes, we drove next door to our favorite Mexican joint Casa Ramos. We walked inside and bellied up to the bar. The bartender came over and asked, "Hello can I get you started with something to drink?" Ian responded, "We'll take two shots of tequila and two Dos Equis Amber." The bartender asked, "And what can I get you for lunch?" Ian retorted pointing at the bartender," Oh I just gave you our lunch order Buddy!" We all laughed. As the shots went down and the beer began to wash the adrenaline off of us, I turned to Ian and cooed," We make a good team, thanks for putting up with my shit." He smiled and said, "I love you N'Gina, but you make it hard."
So in short, if after you set the house on fire twice, burn your man's hand, make him speed through Citrus Heights to retrieve forgotten items, and then drop a bomb that you forgot something else that he might have to go retrieve, if you're still alive and he's still talking to you, your good! He loves you, you've got him on lock down for the rest of your lives. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Change is in the Air

So today I started my first round of interviewing interns to assist me in this wedding planning thang. Unfortunately for me, I forgot that when you decide to start a detox a week before, when you get hot and start to sweat that you smell like "The Whole Earth Festival" in Davis. Ugh!!! Five interviews, three hours, and the whole time I'm thinking, "Damn I'm earthy?" If I was at Burning Man I would have got hella numbers. With my birthday looming 17 days away, I'm trying to bring balance to my life and that means asking for help and getting it; as well as eating healthier, exercising and getting some alone time to reflect on what is going on. I hope that I will find a great candidate to help me with the future of our growing company and I hope that tomorrow the 15 swipes of deodorant that I put on holds up to round two of interviews. For now, here is the recipe for the smoothie I have for lunch everyday that gives me that wonderful Height Ashbury aroma. I'd give it up, but I have lost 6 pounds in a week and my skin looks fuckin' awesome! So I'll keep drinkin'!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Drowning on Dry Land

I feel like a super scumbag that I have not given this blog more attention. Life has completely gotten out of control for me and finding the time to write a blog has, again, been shoved in the back of the closet to collect dust. I asked for this life, so I really can't complain. Our catering business has grown into an all inclusive wedding planning business that is booming, new business projects are coming together that will launch in the next two months and in late 2012. I am making efforts to honor the requests to spend more time with friends and family and also try squeeze in four gym sessions a week for my health that my mother nags me about. My calendar looks like class notes, with everyday filled with two to three meetings or projects or whatever! Then add the daily "shit-to-do" cook two meals, take care of the kids, grocery shop,'s exhausting...and I'm tired...
So all this ambition and what I am left with at the end of the day is an overweight, pissed off, slightly buzzed woman that just wants to be left alone. How do I find some peace and balance. I can't even take a yoga class without worrying how bad my daughter is crying at the daycare center. Real talk there are days that I just want to walk away...from it all. I see how weaker people do that. In the end I never would, but I need some help and I need help my way.
A friend of mine suggested hiring an intern, and you know what...that is a fucking great idea. I need someone who's not my friend, who wants to learn this industry and when I say "jump" his or her feet are in the air. I'm not the stereotypical "bitchy" boss. I have strong business standards and a stronger work ethic and I expect the same from those that work for me and with me. You don't own two businesses and about to start a third without having your shit together.
So I'll try this intern thang and see how it unfolds, maybe this is the catalyst that helps me find balance, or allows me to grow my business even more. I've said this for months,"I'm not trying to be Wonder Woman, I'd rather be part of the Justice League." I promise that the food based posts are on their way and will be more often. I just gotta play a little catch up. Thanks for hanging in there while I find my life preserver. image via "we heart it"

Friday, April 15, 2011

Ruling the World is Harder Than I Thought


The past couple of weeks have been a crash course in time management and multi tasking. Our catering business has picked up so much that we are going through the process of expanding the company and renaming and seperating the catering portion of the company from the part that will be the restaurant one day. Happily to say by the end of this month Eight American Bistro will branch off into Private Events by Eight. It will be a full service event and wedding planning company, that specializes in wedding cakes, florals, decor and vintage furniture rentals. It's a big jump, but it's what we have been pushed into by request of our clients. My motto has always been that we will "come from a place of yes" and by coming from a place of yes we have reaped the rewards of growth and recognition.
Now my husband can't stand that that has been our motto because there have been times that I have taken on crazy request, such as booking a catering on the same day that I was to give birth to our daughter. But I have a superwoman complex, what can I say! Inevitably I always pull it off, but I suffer when at the end of the day I am a wreck of exhaustion and stress. Juggling kids, husband, family, friends and business has left no room for me and last night I crashed.
The whole week I have been juggling meetings with brides, trips to the flower wholesaler with kid in tow and preparing for our photo shoot this weekend for our new website and advertisement with The and The Wedding and add into that planning a "Mother Daughter Day" with my family and Isabella's Welcome to World Party next month. So I cracked yesterday afternoon. Both kids were crying, screaming, refusing to do what I said. I was consuming sugar like it was water to stay awake. I called my mother and begged to come over to her house for some help.
Once she got home, I rolled over and she took the baby, gave her to my father, looked at my hair (which was in Celie from the Color Purple mode) and said, "You want me to braid your hair right quick?" With a deep exhale I said, "Yes, please."
Later that night on my way home, I had the car radio quietly playing jazz and was thinking to myself how wonderful it was to have my mother in my life. It brought me back to one my favorite memories of her. When I was kid on Sunday's she would clean our room, wash the bed sheets and braid our hair. So that night we would be snuggled up in clean, warm, fresh out of the dryer sheets and hair that was tight and smelled of Sulfur 8 hair moisturizer. She would kneel next to us and say our prayers with us. I just remember feeling amazingly safe and secure and that things were taken care of. Crazy that sometimes what you need to reboot isn't a trip to the spa, but maybe just to be taken care of by somebody that knows you best and has been doing it for years. When I got home, the house was clean (thank you Ian), Isaac was snuggled in our bed with my husband, and the world was alright again.