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Thursday, August 30, 2007

To My Early Morning Caller...

Dear 919-###-####,

Hi, I know we haven't spoken, but I feel like we're very close. You've called when I am the most vulnerable, early in the morning before I've even thought about waking up. Yesterday you called after I'd had a particularly difficult morning, my horses had escaped their pasture and had to be rounded up. All I wanted to to was go back to bed and steal a few more hours before I faced my day. Did you know that it was stressful? Did you just want to call with words of encouragement?

Obviously, the line you're calling is for business, and one would think that it might be a landline, sitting in some office, ringing away at all hours of the day and night. I can understand that. What with the advent of answering machines and voicemail, sometimes it's more convenient to call when you think no one will be there; you can leave a message and get on with your day without all of that pesky chatter. But you don't leave me a message. Are you stalking me? Do you like hearing my voice? How can I assist you with all your chocolate needs, if you don't leave me a message?

Here's the deal, 919, it's not a landline. Perhaps when my ship comes in, and I'm in a permanent space (construction continues!), I'll have a phone that stays put. As it is, my business phone is a cell phone. It's very convenient, really. No matter where I go, I can answer my phone and remain professional during business hours. Sometimes I forget to turn it off after 6pm. To be honest, at this point, it really doesn't ring a lot. I'm not bothered, I just keep plugging along, and I know it will ring soon enough. In fact, it does ring every once in a while - but it's almost always a wrong number. If I'm away from the phone, and I come back to a missed call with no voicemail, I'm going to assume that it's a wrong number. Perhaps I should call them all back, but that seems a little bit like a waste of time. It usually goes something like this:

"Hi, who is this?"..."well, you called my phone, and I didn't recognise the number, and you
didn't leave a message so..."..."oh, wrong number, ok, thanks"

In closing, 919-###-####, if you do have business to discuss with me, please, please leave a message. Don't call me at 6am, or even 8 am, I'm not going to answer. Call me after 10, and if I don't answer, it's not because I don't love you, dear, dear 919, it's because I'm making chocolates and I can't come to the phone. So leave me a message.

And if, by chance, you have been dialing the wrong number for three days, maybe just check with the person who gave you the number. Perhaps they transcribed a digit and they've been waiting by the phone at 6am, just dying to hear from you.


LØVE Chocolate

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Shameless Product Plug #1: Tom's of Maine Toothpaste

I'd like to begin by saying, I'm not a paid spokesperson for any of the products I may plug here in the coming months. That said, one of my favorite things is discovering new things that work and sharing them with others. So that's what I'm going to do, share some of the cool stuff I've tried with all (2) of you.

First up is Tom's of Maine Natural Toothpaste in Orange-Mango. As a person who depends on her sense of taste and smell (critical for a chocolatier), I have a very sensitive palate. My tastebuds get a little shirty if they're assaulted with extremes. For that reason, most of the commercial toothpastes out there are much too strong. I know it's weird, but the intensity of a lot of the mint-flavored products on the market will actually make my mouth a little panicky. There's a point after which I simply cannot stand it. Those strong detergents also have a charming ability to irritate my lips as if I'd been walking through the Arctic for a few weeks.

As I see it, I've got two options - stop using toothpaste (baking soda, anyone?) or find something more suited to my delicate kisser. Enter Tom, my new favorite man. Not only are their products made from natural ingredients, they taste fantastic. I chose the Orange Mango, and it's incredibly refreshing. My mouth has never felt so happy. The natural whitening ingredients also help keep my teeth shiny and bright, without the added sensitivity that I've found with other whitening toothpastes. I'm curious now to try some of the other flavors, although I think the Orange will be my favorite.

Funny enough, even with an orange toothpaste, it still tastes weird if I drink orange juice after brushing..oh well.

Personal Assistance

This morning, as my business line was ringing for the third time (unfortunately, all wrong numbers and all the same person), I had a fun little idea. Maybe I need a personal assistant. He/she could follow me around all day, taking down notes and letters, answering my phone and getting me water and tea. Never again would I have to needlessly scramble to find good reception only to realize that the caller wanted Lisa or Danny and not some fine chocolates.

While indulging in my grandiose fantasies is a lovely way to wake up, I do have work to do. There are new flavors coming down the line. September 14 will be the last day to get banana cream, coconut, lime and mint flavored candies. They're moving out to make room for fall flavors:

The aforementioned Orange Apricot Cream will start out the lineup. Also in the works, Pumpkin Seed Toffee (the poll winner!), Candied Apple Caramel, Ginger Spice Buttercream, and Marzipan Squares.

In the next few days, I'll have pictures and descriptions ready to go, so check back soon.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Living my own metaphors.

Last Monday, I had a very nice date with a very nice boy. He lives near Charlotte, and as there's much more to do there, I drove down to meet him. Everything was fine until I tried to go home. That's when my personal life gave me a perfect metaphor for my business life.

As I pulled away from the movie theater, going back the way I came, I was certain that I knew how to get home. After all, I've been to that area many times, and I'm pretty good with direction. So, you can imagine my surprise when I somehow found myself going in the direction I came from. How? I have no idea. Somewhere along the way, I'd made a turn that put me back on the road to the theater. The business metaphor that this mirrors? Sometimes you think you're going in the right direction, only to end up where you started.

Luckily, I knew that the interstate was nearby. Driving on I-85 isn't my favorite thing in the world, but it was a safe bet to get back home. I spent about 10 minutes on the road before being overtaken by 10 big tractor-trailers. I probably haven't mentioned it before, but I drive a MINI. Normally the big trucks don't intimidate me too much, but when they're swarming your car, going about 80, they get scary. I thought I'd found my exit, so I got off the road quickly. Metaphor? If you feel like you're in over your head, try to find an alternate solution.

Not so luckily, I wasn't on the road I thought. Instead, I ended up driving through the business district of several small towns before finally (finally!) getting back on the road that would lead me home. There were a few moments when I thought I should turn around, and a few when I just wanted to give up (and do what? sleep in the car?), but I kept driving, and eventually found my highway. Of course, I did have the advantage of knowing where I was going, however vaguely. But the living metaphor for me was: Believe that you know where you're going. It may take longer than you think, but don't give up when you know you're right.

It was all a little hokey, and I apologize for getting all inspirational greeting card on y'all, but it was a message that rang true for me. This business is all a big adventure for me, and I'm sure if any of you are starting businesses of your own, you'll know that sometimes you just need a little reassurance.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Carrboro Banshee

Continuing in our series of local phenomena, I bring you, The Carrboro Banshee...

In all my travels, I've never encountered anything like the Carrboro Banshee. I hope to never encounter her or anything like her again. Short in stature, the Banshee is no less bold. She will strike without warning, and the intensity always varies. If you're lucky, you may only bear the brunt of a snide comment, usually a passive aggressive remark intended to darken your day. Be careful! DO NOT, under any circumstance, engage her OR ignore her. You must tread a careful line between the two. Thank her if you have to. Engaging her will result in more comments, escalating in severity until you have no choice but feel defeated. Ignoring her will ignite her sickly yellow eyes and result in piercing insults and babble, delivered in loud wails and screams that can be heard all through the kitchen and into the dining room.

These attacks can happen at any time. Her true nature may lie dormant for several days or even weeks until some unknown trigger tickles her ire. Much of her bitterness stems from her perception of powerlessness and mental torment at the hands of her superiors. This is no excuse for her behavior, the Banshee is advanced in years, despite her low position, and were she a normal woman, she would have more decorum. Her targets are more often women, although men are also susceptible. At present her whereabouts are unknown. She has been underground for more than a year, after a particularly nasty screaming match that resulted in her termination.

Locals should be on the lookout - her usual form is that of a short, middle aged woman with yellow-green eyes, a sallow complexion, and unruly, thinning red hair. Her voice is most easily compared with a sick and dying alley cat - whiny, high pitched and grating. As with the Monkey Man of Chapel Hill, caution should be taken not to engage her, lest you come away scarred for life. Sightings may be posted in the comments section, as we all should be aware of her location.

Monday, August 13, 2007

More Progress, Odd Happenings

The electrician has finished, and the rough-in has been approved! Amazingly, the whole operation only took one day. Last Thursday, my very helpful electrician came about 10 am. He installed a few extra outlets, put up the meter box, and by 3pm, the last of the rough-in work was done. As luck would have it, the building inspector had a break in his schedule, and so he came by, and approved everything the same day.

Next up is insulation. I have to say, I'm not looking forward to that. Originally, I planned to do the work myself, but the inspector suggested hiring a contractor. He told me that for the retail cost of insulation, I might be able to hire someone to do it all. This has some advantages, clearly, I don't relish the idea of wrestling with miles of fiberglass. I'm also interested in blown-cellulose insulation, which is something best left to the professionals. I'll be getting a quote for each.

While I was running around on Thursday, trying to get the electrician updated on the new changes to the outlet layout, my business line rang. I'd love to tell you that my business line is always ringing, that I'm considering hiring a secretary, but that is not yet my reality. In fact, most of my business line calls are wrong numbers. It's ok, I consider that one more little stab at word of mouth. Perhaps the next time, those wrong number people will call back with chocolate orders! So I answered the phone in the usual manner, but half expecting a wrong number. Instead of a caller looking for Theresa, I found myself on the phone with a fellow chocolate maker who runs a business out of Raleigh. I think he was scoping out the competition!

He had some supportive words about my website, and suggested that I join him and a few other local chocolate makers in a well known specialty foods store. (when I get in there, I'll tell you which one!). I really don't know how to take it. On the one hand, I can't help but be a little suspicious, after all, who is this strange man calling me up and asking all sorts of questions? On the other hand, I'd like to think that he really just wants to help out a fellow business person, and make the market more interesting by adding competition. I suppose time will tell.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

What I wanted to be when I grew up.

I haven't always dreamed of a life fully immersed in butter, sugar, and chocolate. I haven't even always dreamed of a life fully immersed in hanger steaks, olive oil, and sea scallops. Before all of those dreams, I wanted to be a forensic pathologist.(image courtesy of

Before CSI:Akron became the standard CBS weekly lineup, Scully was cutting up aliens and chupacabra victims and making it look cool. I wanted to be just like her. There was just one tiny snag. I am ridiculously weak-stomached when it comes to gore. It takes very little blood/needles/exposed insides to make me drop.

I was reminded of that fact this morning. I took my dad to the hospital for some orthopedic surgery. I was being quite cautious, I even left the room while they inserted his IV. Apparently, it doesn't matter. The mere suggestion of needles into skin was enough to make me feel a little light headed. I left for the waiting room to get something to drink. As I was counting out quarters, I felt it. The familiar sensation of blood rushing out of my brain crept in, and I looked for a chair. It's a funny feeling, the sense that you're about to faint. It's actually not completely unpleasant. The nausea is, of course, not great. But there's this other feeling, an opiate haze descending on your brain. All you want to do is sleep. And if you do close your eyes, it's got to be one of the best sleeps ever. The problem with closing your eyes and giving in to that sweet sleep, is that others find it a cause for alarm. I suppose there's something about a person just sliding off their chair and onto the floor of the waiting room that sends them running for the nurses.

Anyway, I didn't pass out, just came close. I asked for assistance, and a little water, and after a few minutes, everything was fine.

Monday, August 6, 2007

New Flavor, New Construction

It's not on the website yet, but I've created a new flavor that I absolutely love. It's Orange Apricot Cream, and it's better than any creamsicle you've ever had. I realized that's a big gauntlet to throw down for all the creamsicle lovers, but it's true. It's orange buttercream with bits of candied apricot folded in, all in a milk chocolate shell (still not sure if it's going to stay milk or go to dark).

In other news, the kitchen construction continues...the new stairs and deck are in place. After the electrician finishes later this week, it will be time for insulation and drywall! Personally, I'm thrilled and repulsed by the drywall idea. Thrilled because it means that I'm much closer to being ready to move in, and repulsed because I've been studying up on the process, and it sounds like a pain in the ass.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

As promised, the Monkey Man of Chapel Hill.

So I'm feeling a touch gloomy tonight, and I thought I'd cheer myself up and entertain my vast readership at the same time. I promised to tell the story of the monkey man, and I've yet to break a promise, so here goes...

The Monkey Man of Chapel Hill first appeared in late summer 2005, wearing rainbow sneakers and carrying a purse. After much ridicule and speculations about his still-suspect sexual orientation, he adapted to the local style of dress. Hulking and quick to anger, he stands at least 75 inches tall, but often hunches over to appear shorter. His arms are quite long, and they tend to dangle uselessly by his side when not engaged in taunting passers-by or stuffing his mouth with food. His hair has appeared shaved or wispy and long, and many variations in between - take note of the round bald spot directly on the crown, this is his main identifying mark.

Generally brooding, he is quick with a snide remark or poorly phrased or misinformed joke. Observers will note that failure to laugh at these jokes will result in confusion, followed by more brooding - approach with caution, the monkey man has been known to retaliate. Also, be advised that food in a 3 foot radius of the monkey man will be nibbled or eaten whole. Depending on the mood of the monkey man, the food will then be spit out, preceded by a face-contorting grimace of pain - or - consumed in larger quantities; therefore, adjust your recipes accordingly. One final note on the monkey man's eating habits - most foods deemed unsuitable will be classified as "split" or "hygroscopic". Please take note of these criticisms and disregard them after he has resumed a safe, 20 foot distance.

The monkey man has spent extensive time in captivity, and has learned many of the everyday tasks of humans. As such, he considers himself an expert in most matters and will attempt to correct you if he finds you doing one of the aforementioned tasks. Again, use caution, allow the monkey man to demonstrate his learned abilities from a safe distance, and then proceed with your work unharmed. Failure to do so may result in tantrums, ruined food, and lost time. He has also developed an extensive vocabulary, mostly gleaned from Richard Pryor videos and compendiums of curse words. Do not be surprised to hear multiple curses strung together in seemingly coherent sentences. Mirroring his behavior will only cause it to worsen, as will ignoring it. Try to keep an even temper, and again resume your safe distance of 20 feet.

All attempts to breed the monkey man in captivity for further research have failed. His animosity towards females of all species has been well documented. Scientists are currently searching for another male companion, preferably one who displays some of the same characteristics, in order to observe the monkey man's mating habits. All attempts thus far have been unsuccessful - the monkey man finds these attempts insulting, even as he secretly pines for a successful pairing.

In closing, please avoid the monkey man if at all possible. He is volatile, dangerous to your career, and generally unpleasant. Should you find yourself in close quarters, remember to stay calm, make no sudden movements, and agree with whatever he says until you are again out of the "danger zone" (20 feet).

*image is not an actual photo of the monkey man, cameras anger and fascinate him, which means you may take a photo, only to have your camera snatched away forever; the above image is of a close relative, Bigfoot (photo courtesy of