3 years old – maybe time for a catch-up!

I’ve neglected this blog. For many reasons, some good, some less so. Suzzle is still on Brick Lane, holding on despite the recent introduction of new coffee shops in the area competing with us. This area doesn’t have massive footfall, so new entrants compete hard with us, but we’re holding our own, and are possibly doing better than ever in some ways.

One of those ways is a new partnership with the lovely people from In FARM We Trust. One of their co-founders, Dom, has been a customer for a while, enjoying occasional slices of brownie as a treat. But when he found out – pretty much by accident – that everything we do is gluten free, he started talking to us about the current project. The long and the short of it, though, is that they have a food-to-go concession in Tesco’s Goodge Street store, and are stocking our cakes, bacon pasties, and granola.

Suzzle cakes and pasties at Tesco

Suzzle cakes and pasties at FARM, Tesco Goodge Street

It’s early days, obviously, but we’re enjoying the opportunity to bring our products to a wider audience, and hoping that this first branch is as successful as it deserves to be, since this will mean rolling out to more branches over the next few months.

For all that this is a positive move, it’s fair to say that it took a while to sink in. Since April 2014, I’ve been in treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder, which has been taking me out of the shop and into group therapy sessions twice a week. It’s hard work, but something that has been beneficial. With just 6 months left to go, I’m happy that I’ve made some progress. I may still have BPD, but I handle events and personal interactions more easily than before, and there is now hope of recovery. There is talk of doing another DCS at some point this year, though at Boxpark, not at Suzzle, and I’m looking forward to being part of that again, but stronger, and more able to offer hope that a mental health diagnosis does not have to mean the world coming to an end.

I’ve been doing media interviews since the DCS, however. I’ve sat twice on the BBC Breakfast sofa in Manchester to offer a different image of mental illness to the world, and challenge the idea that all mental health patients are dribbling loons. Sometimes we can be articulate, intelligent… and yet mentally ill. Radio interviews, a student film on mental illness, the WI magazine. It takes me out of my comfort zone by some margin, but for as long as it helps people understand better, and challenges the stigma that still remains, I’ll keep on doing it.

But here we are. We have a range in the shop that now includes 5 flavours of savoury gluten-free pasty, as approved by Gilbert and George, more cakes, new biscuits… and there’s more to come. Our next project is to make our products available over the internet, so we’re currently working out which ones survive best in the post, and how we can package them better so non-Londoners can also enjoy them. It’s a long process, but we’re looking forward to the end results.

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Up and running

Well, it’s another first for me today: my first blog post from the new shop. 

This is our third weekend of opening and the feedback has been very positive. While we’ve obviously been meeting lots of people, what has been absolutely amazing is the repeat business, including people coming back to buy more of specific things they bought before, rather than generally browsing for baked goods.

The cakes are going down very well with people. Among the ones on offer today are some old favourites of mine like lemon drizzle and dark chocolate brownie, along with my prize-winning carrot cake that has become a Suzzle staple in record time, and my new mango passion cake, which has the most dangerous buttercream I’ve  ever tasted ūüôā …I really could just eat it out of the bowl with a spoon.

Silas, Fabiano and I have also been quite entertained by the number of people treating the cake as something to be appreciated through the window as much as the art we have on the walls. There seems to be quite a ‘cake porn’ contingent out there, many of whom stop to take photos. If I’m brutally honest, I would understand this more if the cakes were beautifully decorated, or arranged in more original fashion, but the fact is they’re simple cakes, simply presented – although lit beautifully by Silas, so perhaps that’s the key. I haven’t yet worked out how to add photos to my blog posts with the Touchpad but I’ll add some pics to this post later and you can judge for yourselves.

The real art, on the other hand, I completely get people wanting to see. Paddy from Lava Collective has managed to pull together an amazing collection of works by artists like Otto Schade, Pikto, The Krah, Ashes57, Jo Peel, Penfold, etc. Again, I shall share some photos with you later so you can get an idea for yourselves.

So there we are. Other exciting things that are happening here include a request from a journalist to supply some photos of the shop – with cakes – for an article in Elle Italia, and the forthcoming arrival of a shiny coffee machine so we can serve up Lactofree lattes. 

And there I must leave you, because I have more customers, and if I don’t hit publish now, who knows when I’ll get the chance again? This is a good problem to have ūüôā

Tweet Tweet – Twitter cakes for iCake

Run-out twitter birds

It’s Tuesday afternoon and I’m having a great time thanks to Emma – aka Miss Cakehead. I’ve been doing some very therapeutic run-out work making little tweety birds to put on cupcakes for tomorrow’s iCake Shop at the Hospital Club.

Lots of cakes, all themed around things geeky, and all profits to a good cause.  Make sure you get down there tomorrow!

Sneak preview of the twitter birds on the left ūüôā

And more details about the event here.

 

Oooooh – excited!

I love it when the future starts to take shape, and round here it most certainly has. ¬†We’ve been talking for a while about how to take things further, and it looks like we might have found a way of doing that. ¬†I’m not going to tempt fate by saying too much here, or getting my hopes too firmly pinned to it, but if this one comes off, 2012 is going to be quite a year.

However, the preparation for all of this is going to mean lots of time in the kitchen and lots less time available to blog. ¬†Will update when I can, but please keep your fingers crossed for me ūüôā

Why oh why

…do all horrible things have to come at once?

Having enjoyed our pork pie lunch Рno, not forgotten, and pics are waiting to be downloaded from the camera the minute I can get the lead back from my husband РI had a call from Mum telling me Granny had fallen and knocked herself for six.  Actually, from the sounds of it, she managed to knock herself clear over the grandstand and into the streets beyond.

So, one hurried day trip to Gloucestershire yesterday to see her, and now we wait and pray to see how things develop.

After the emotions of the day, I was rather looking forward to getting into the kitchen and putting together the week’s starting order for Kash – baking therapy – but it was not to be. ¬†Somewhere near the end of the brownies’ cooking time, the heating element in my oven died, and further baking became impossible. ¬†Cue frantic phone calls to every supplier in London this morning to find a replacement, only to be forced to admit defeat and have to order one on an overnight to get here tomorrow.

I feel bad for Kash, and I feel doubly bad for Granny, for whom I was going to bake some flapjacks and stick them in the post along with a picture Harvey drew to cheer her up.

My friend, however, did find a silver lining, cheering me with the thought that the heating element could have given up, instead, the day I needed to bake Harvey’s birthday cake. ¬†She’s right, of course, but I apparently went a funny shade of green at the prospect.

So here, in so many ways, is to a quiet and uneventful week.

No more migraines?

Suddenly, last summer… I decided to stop quoting The The lyrics. ¬†No. ¬†I still reserve the right to do that because Matt Johnson is a genius who has thought and written many things that make excellent sense to me.

What actually happened was that I started passing out, suffering bradycardia, low blood pressure, massive exhaustion, terrible short term memory loss and all that fun.  The cardiologists thought I was probably a neuro problem, the neuro team certainly hoped for a while I might be a cardio problem, but in the end the cardiologists won and I have been under a neurological consultant since last autumn.

In fairness, the team in question is excellent, and they have been very thorough in ensuring there are no more sinister causes to my problems. ¬†So we can be sure that my cortisol levels are mostly fine, that there is nothing wrong with my endocrine system a little vitamin D wouldn’t cure, and that I really don’t have a heart condition and am simply lucky to have lower blood pressure than might seem fair for someone my size. ¬†Hooray!

Which begs the question, what the hell is wrong with me?

With my history of depression, it seems nobody is going to diagnose CFS – which to a couple or three doctors along the way seemed to be a slam dunk – as that is considered merely to be a subset of the same condition. ¬†Fair enough. ¬†I wouldn’t say I was currently suffering from depression, but my neuro consultant says the body can suffer physical symptoms for some time after the psychological ones have burnt themselves out, and that this might well explain things in my case. ¬†So all we need now is a psychiatrist who is prepared to use more than his prescription pad to treat me and I should start to recover. ¬†In this Borough? ¬†We shall see.

Fortunately, there is one area in which my neuro consultant has decided he can help me, and that is with the migraines I’ve suffered for so many years. ¬†They may be at the root of my fainting, for one thing, and there’s no disputing that they’re both painful and unpleasant, no matter which way you look at it, so I’m not about to turn him down.

So today I start a prescription of Topiramate. ¬†It’s an anti-convulsant drug and it can apparently prevent migraines. ¬†If you’ve ever been afflicted with these, you’ll know just what a wonderful thing such a drug would prove to be. ¬†I still have my Maxalt to help while we get the dosage to the right level – I wouldn’t have agreed to try it without – but this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Think this is good? ¬†It gets better. ¬†Yes, really. ¬†In clinical trials, people taking Topiramate lost weight. ¬†I’m in awe of the possibilities here – migraine-free and slimmer? ¬†Fingers crossed…

And this is why…

…I’m so passionate about gluten-free food and clarity. ¬†Went to lunch at a friend’s house yesterday. ¬†She knows I can’t eat gluten, lactose or soy and very thoughtfully provided me with some delicious pumpkin seed crackers from Waitrose instead of bread for our starter.

Within an hour or so I knew there was a problem, but I wasn’t sure whether it had been a couple of crumbs falling onto my plate from someone passing bread around or whether there was a bigger issue.

Having meant to ask whether I could see the packet from the crackers so I could buy them myself in future – because they were very tasty – the thought got lost somewhere between the Sauternes and the coffee, and so it was only on returning home that I was able to check out the crackers on the Waitrose web site.

Oops. ¬†They were – bleeurgh! – spelt crackers. ¬†I have nothing against spelt per se, but it is not, as many people seem to think, gluten-free. ¬†And having eaten 3 of the darn things I was looking about 8 months pregnant before nightfall with the bloating, while today has been a cola and imodium diet just to get me through the day without having to think about eating. ¬†From past experience, I’ve got another 24-48 hours of feeling rough, and there’s not a food in the world worth feeling this bad. ¬†Sorry.

So I feel awful, and I have no doubt my friend would feel bad about making me ill. ¬†Certainly, I know more than a few people with wheat intolerance who can cope with spelt quite happily, but I also know a few people who think spelt is safe for coeliacs because it’s some ancient, unsullied and non-overbred grain. ¬†Er, no. ¬†Where are people getting this idea?

Of course, if you read the ingredients box on the packet it will have an allergy notification stating that it contains gluten, but that’s on the back of the pack in small print. ¬†If I had one plea, just one, to the food industry at large, it would be to put the allergens in a nice, big box on the front of the packaging so that anyone can see, next to the name of the product, whether it is safe for them or not, without even having to lift the packet from the shelf. ¬†This is such a simple thing to do, and it could improve life for so many people. ¬†Please?