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Wednesday, October 31, 2007


It's been a busy week, preceded by a wonderfully relaxing week. I spent last Tuesday through Friday in the cool and beautifully rainy mountains. It was a nice little break before the holiday rush begins (hopefully it will be one heck of a rush!). This week I've been Michelangelo's untalented cousin - priming, spackling and painting my ceiling a lovely shade of light aquamarine called Spaqua. The muscles in my neck and shoulders are threatening a walkout, so I'm lucky that I've finished with the overhead work for now. I'll post some photos tomorrow.

In other updates - I'll be handing out samples at the Weaver Street Market next weekend (Friday the 9th and Saturday the 10th). I'll be at the Southern Village location from 4:30-7pm on Friday, and at the Carrboro location from 11am - 2pm on Saturday. I haven't decided on the flavors yet - one will be Sea Salt Caramel, but the other one will be decided in the next couple of days, and I'll post it. I'm probably going to do the Sea Salt on both days, and a different flavor for Friday and Saturday.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ellen Degeneres and Iggy

*image courtesy of AP, Reed/Saxon
This post has absolutely nothing to do with chocolate. I thought I'd tell you that straight away. Instead, this is just one more blogger, venting about something in the news. I turned on the Ellen show this morning, expecting the usual funny monologue and morning dancing. Instead, Ellen was sitting in her chair, sobbing and distraught about a recent event in her life. You can read the full Associated Press story at the preceding link. Here's the gist of the story:

Ellen adopted a dog, spent lots of money having it vetted (including neutering) and trained. As much as she loved the puppy, it didn't get along with the other animals in her house, so she found it a home with her hairdresser. The hairdresser and her family (including two young girls) loved the puppy, and were giving it a loving home. So far so good, right? Well, Mutts and Moms (email them here[] or mail them at PO Box 50393, Pasadena, CA 91115) gave Ellen a call to check on little Iggy's progress. She was honest, and explained the situation. Mutts and Moms has a clause in their contract that stipulates that dogs cannot be placed in other homes once they've been adopted, they've got to go back to the agency if an adopter feels they can no longer take care of it. [As a side note, the M&M website states that most of their dogs are boarded in kennels, at a cost of $300/month, the average cost of care for one dog is $1000 from street to home. At those rates, you'd think they'd be thrilled to place a dog with someone with the spending power of Ellen Degeneres.] Because Ellen didn't send the dog back to the agency, but instead found it a loving and happy home with someone she knows well, the good folks at Mutts and Moms decided the obvious solution was to uproot the dog. They sent a representative to the hairdresser's home and removed the puppy.

If we remove all emotion from this situation, what's left is utter stupidity. Puppies are designed to make us love them, they're cute and squeaky and fuzzy. It's hard to remove the emotion, but when you do, you see that a struggling non-profit had an opportunity to receive an injection of star power and publicity and, instead, decided to commit business suicide. I have no idea how many dogs they've successfully placed over the years, or if their business was making a difference to the animals of Los Angeles. What I do know is that now, instead of a happy family and a happy dog, they've made millions of enemies all around the country. I imagine that won't do very much to encourage people to adopt dogs from rescues, and that isn't going to help anyone. Way to go, Mutts and Moms.

Monday, October 8, 2007

A brief discussion of self-control.

It's been an eventful week. I took a brief vacation to visit a dear friend who's living in Florida. The drive down was long and tiring, but beautiful. I've never driven that far south, and it's really something to see. I imagine that if I had a more intimate knowledge of the back roads, there would be an even more stunning view of the South Carolina low country and Georgia. There's something about the wetlands just off I-95, it's something you'd never see from the oval window of a plane. There are long expanses of low grasslands, punctuated by bony trees, black and reaching out of the ground like something from a graveyard horror film. It just looks quiet there.

All that quiet gives one time to think, and I did a lot of thinking in the 14 hours I was on the road. In some ways, I think it prepared me for a rather upsetting interaction with a potential new friend (there is no potential left, now). I think a lot of people would benefit from a good long stretch of highway and time to figure it all out.

I used my highway to think about the way we interact with people. There are so many things that we've convinced ourselves we can control, even with the most superstitious of methods. The one thing we can definitely control is ourselves. I think if we focused more on our own actions, and less on trying to fruitlessly control other people's, we'd find that elusive patch of sanity and zen that everyone seems to be seeking.

I won't share the details of my upsetting interaction, they've got nothing to do with chocolate. But when immediately confronted with a situation where many people would use any number of ways to attempt to exercise control over someone else, I decided to put my thoughts into action. I realized that lowering myself, even incrementally, would be a futile attempt to manipulate the situation in my favor. So I didn't. I saw the truth for what it was, and thanked the messenger.

And then I erased his phone number.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Perseverance, or The Merits of Hard Work

The biggest difference I've found between owning a business and working for someone else is this: you cannot afford to slack off. There have been days, in my pre-business life, when I know I wasn't bringing my full ability to the stainless steel table. Most often, those days came the Sunday after a particularly hard Saturday night.

Saturday was the worst day at the Inn. The maximum number of guests were booked in the hotel, and dinner was always heavy. My least favorite part of the whole day was one hour - the hour between 4 and 5 pm. Afternoon tea began at four and ended at five. If tea was busy, which it almost always was on a Saturday, all other essential work would stop while we loaded up trays with scones, cakes and little pots of clotted cream and lemon curd. I imagine the most frustrating part of it was not the loading up, or even tediously filling those pots with uncooperative condiments. The most frustrating part was walking into the dishwashing area and seeing the very same tea trays, still full, perhaps with a brownie missing, maybe a bite or two out of the scone, and those damned pots, still full.

It's not that the tea treats weren't tasty, quite the contrary, everything we made was really good, and it was hard not to eat it all ourselves. No, the problem was that in addition to 1 scone, 1 brownie, 1 cookie, 1 tartlet, and 1 piece of fruitcake, each guest also received a tray of sandwiches, each about 4 inches long and an inch wide. So add 1 egg salad, 1 roast beef, 1 salmon and dill, 1 cucumber, and 1 tomato and cheese sandwich to that list of food. Now serve it 1-2 hours before a big, expensive dinner that most of the guests had already paid for, and I probably wouldn't be too hungry either!

Picture a busy Saturday, a rushed tea service - mostly an exercise in futility as you now see, followed by a rush to complete all the production needs before service - most importantly bread, another story for another day - and you begin to understand why a Sunday was a great day for slacking off. More importantly, I think it may be a little more clear why it felt ok to slack off every now and again.

I've never been averse to hard work. And I think I've always tried to give the most I could to my employers. When you begin to realize that the work you're doing is mostly going directly into the trash, that's when it's hard to put your back into it so heartily. But just as I did then, the only thing to do (in my mind, at least) is to keep going, one foot in front of the other until the work is done.

The difference now is that I know everything I do has a reason, and isn't superfluous or wasteful. And that is indeed a big difference.