Friday, March 30, 2012

Meet Anna Alvarez from Sweet Anna Cakes and Confections

Starting this week, I am going to post as many articles as I can about the contributors to our prizes for the Great Cloth Diaper Change.  The Locals that is, and the work at home moms....I am always amazed at all the moms with small kids that keep a business going... so without more from me, meet Anna:
What is your name and tell me about yourself ?
My name is Anna Rainbow Alvarez.  As you can tell by my middle name I am the child of hippy parents, for which I am very thankful.  I grew up living in farm houses, growing vegetables in our organic garden, raising chickens and goats.  We even lived in a school bus with a rainbow painted on the back for a while when I was a kid.  From my parents I learned that it is best to walk to the beat of your own drum, but it took a long time to really decide to live that way once I became an adult.  I sort of fell into the cubicle life working in the medical financial industry in my twenties.  The pay was good, but the systems I worked with were very corrupt (insurance companies, specifically) and the longer I worked within that system, the more burned out and cynical I became.  After my daughter was born in 2008 I started realizing that I had had enough of life in a soul-sucking job.  I felt like I was losing my creativity.  
At about the same time, my husband bought me my first cake decorating course at a local crafting store.  I immediately fell in love with cake decorating.  It felt fulfilling.  I had always been an excellent cook and baker, and I used to be a prolific artist - and cake decorating combined BOTH of these passions.  In 2011 after losing four hours of my life to (yet another) face melting in a meeting with a millionaire doctor who was upset he hadn't collected $900.00 for removing a splinter from a 96 year old homeless man's toe, I had had enough.  I put in my notice and shortly thereafter opened my business. 

What is your shop and how does it work?
My shop is Sweet Anna's Cakes and Confections.   As of Saturday April 7, 2012 I will be selling baked goods at the Lee's Summit Farmers' Market at the corner of 2nd and Douglas.  My website is:  The not fragile items in my store (cookies, brownies, unfrosted cakes) can be ordered and shipped anywhere in the world.  My pies are available for order as well through Etsy, but due to the fragile nature of pastry crust, they are only available for sale to patrons in the Kansas City area.  I deliver to homes and businesses, generally on the Friday after the pie is ordered. For wedding and other special occassion cakes, I set up a consultation with the client and then meet for a tasting of whatever flavors of cake and icing they would like.  

At that consultation, basic design for the cake is discussed (colors, flavors, size, flowers, budget, etc.).  I take this information and then sketch several designs for the client to choose from.  Once all the details are in order, I write up a contract for the client to sign with the final price of the cake and all of the details involved.  If the client would like to pay in installments, I will list the installments on Etsy in a reserved listing for the client. 

How did you get the idea for your shop?
The idea for my shop came from my sister-in-law, Elizabeth McDonald (a fanstastic and amazing painter - you can see her work at  She emailed me shortly after I had decided I needed a change in careers with the suggestion that I take the first step by selling on Etsy.  She shops a lot on Etsy and turned me on to it as well. 

Scariest cake you ever had to move?
There were two scary cakes.  The first wedding cake I ever made for a paying client was terrifying.  I had very little time to set up the cake, so I had to bring it completely assembled to the reception site - this is not the way I prefer to do it.  I would much rather bring the tiers separately and then stack the cake at the site.  I was relatively new to the Kansas City area and I asked my mother-in-law what the least curvy route would be to the reception site.  She told me, but I neglected to ask for the flattest route.  I was going up and down hills with a fully assembled and stacked cake in the back of my van.  And then when I got to the reception site, someone had taken all of the signs down that I was supposed to follow to the reception room.  In the end, the cake got there safely and looked great. The second scary cake was a cake I drove all the way to Jefferson City as a favor to a friend.  I thought I had the whole thing in the bag because I had driven the route so many times previously for my job.  But when I turned off the main highway to get to the house the reception was at I was immediately confronted with a huge 45 degree incline of a hill (at least it seemed that steep!)  I said a really long, loud string of profanity as soon as I saw the hill.  But the cake arrived safely, and the reception site was one of the most beautiful I have seen. 

How did you decide on your name?
My company's name was decided upon kind of by accident while my husband was taking a web design class.  He had to design a pretend website, and decided to make one for my dream business.  He needed a name, and so we came up with Sweet Anna's.  People have always said I am a sweet person, and since I make sweet things, it seemed to fit. 

What is your favorite of the things you bake?
That is a hard question to answer.  I don't make anything that I don't like to eat, and I am fickle.  Right now I love my peach mango pie - it has a coconut crumble topping on it that really gives it a nice texture when combined with the silky fruit and the flakiness of the crust.  But before that it was cream cheese brownies and gingerbread cookies.  

As for cake, I love carrot cake.  Since I am so fickle, and also because I like to bake with what is in season at the moment, the menu I offer at the Farmers' Market will change each month, and you can be sure that whatever I am selling that month will be my favorite at the time. 

Anything else you want to say?
I have never felt more fulfilled and happy in my life since I started my business.  I am healthier, happier, and more content.  Follow your dreams...  there is a reason you have them.  My mom said this the other day on her facebook page:  "Y'know all those ideas in your head ... big important projects ... plans to save the planet ... stuff you've been putting off, because it's too huge or too hairy? Well, today is the day! Just start it. Just give it 30 minutes. Just plant a couple of seeds, or make one difficult phone call, or organize one drawer. 

Yay! Today, the world is gonna change!" That is exactly what it took for me to start this business.  Each day I did something small.  Every day when something bad happened at work I would tell myself, "Self, if you want to get out of this, you need to make the change happen.  You want to bake for a living?  Then find out what it takes to set yourself up as a corporation...  See if you can afford to rent a kitchen...  Make a call to the Health Department...  DO ONE THING NOW."  Because doing something is so much better than being miserable and waiting for something better to happen to you.  You have to be your own change. And I am not there yet...  Still have several steps in the business plan to go.  This year it is to sell at the Farmers' Market...  Next year I have another goal.  And the final goal will be to open a permanent storefront somewhere in Kansas City where I can promote other local artists' work.  I'll get there eventually, but at the moment I am just incredibly thankful that I have been able to get to the place I am.  Thankful for a family who supports me, thankful for a husband who is willing to work and make enough to pay the bills while I pursue this dream, and thankful that I finally, almost at the age of 40, I have made the changes in my life to be who I am. 

Anna will be donating a dozen cupcakes to one lucky winner in our Great Cloth Diaper Change Raffle!  Thanks Anna and it was good to get to know you!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Rosemary

Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Rosemary

I have not posted a recipe for a long time, so here is a quick and easy one.  With Spring bursting fourth everywhere in the midwest, bar-b-ques get pulled out of the barn, the garden that has been asleep all winter starts to get worked, and I personally look for something that is quick and easy to cook, so that we can spend more time outside doing all those fun springy things after being cooped up all Winter.  We actually had it pretty mild this Winter, which is why I was able to make this recipe so early in the Spring.  My rosemary plants usually don't survive the winter, but this winter they just kept on and I was able to go pluck some leaves even durring the winter months.  Nothing tastes better on sweet potato fries than rosemary and some course sea salt.  You can make these in the oven or on the bar-b-que; it is a fast and easy recipe that is also good for you, as sweet potatoes are a super food.  According to Eating Well, here is what you get in a serving of sweet potato: A 4-ounce serving of sweet potato (about 1/2 cup) provides 390% daily value (DV) of vitamin A, 40% DV of vitamin C, 18% DV of fiber and 13% DV of potassium, plus vitamin E, iron, magnesium and phytochemicals like beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.

Sweet Potato Fries
Serves 4

4 Medium to small sweet potatoes
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
1 or 2 good size sprigs of rosemary
Corse Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 375.  Pour the olive oil on a baking sheet with sides.  Slice the sweet potatoes in half and then cut into wedges 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.  We leave the skin on to get all the nutrients and fiber.  Toss the cut sweet potatoes in the olive oil on the baking sheet to lightly coat them with olive oil.  Pluck the rosemary leaves from the stem and sprinkle over the sweet potatoes.  Toss to mix in the leaves.  Bake in 375 degree oven 30 to 45 minutes until slightly browned and potatoes are tender.  Top with a sprinkling of corse sea salt before serving.  To make these on the bar-b-que substitute heavy duty foil for the baking sheet, loosely wrap the potatoes in foil to make a packet that can be placed on the grill and cook the same way.  Sweet potatoes may need to be moved up to top rack of grill to finish cooking and avoid burning...and to make room for your burgers!  Enjoy

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sewing Diapers

The other day I started chatting with some moms about sewing, and then we kind of decided to have an impromptu sewing class.  I have a diaper AIO that I sew and said I would show them how.  So we all got together the other night and had a nice time talking sewing, sewing my diaper, and visiting.  There is quite a large cloth community in our area, so t was really nice to get to know some of the moms.  Also I love to sew and sharing that was fun.

Here is a picture of an experimental cover on my favorite model.  Not great pictures but she is a moving target.  I just downloaded a new app called fast camera.  It takes about 80 shots in a few seconds.  Tomorrow I am going to experiment and see if I can capture a good smile on my moving target!

I digress though.  The cover worked pretty good, I think I stretched the FOE a little too much in the areas where it didn't need to be stretched.  So take my advice and ease it around those areas where you are not looking for a lot of elasticity.  This cover by the way was a cotton print on the outside and PUL on the inside, edged with the foe and I used snaps on the  front.

Thanks for sewing with me!