Monday, March 31, 2008

My Secret Life...

Last night I watched the first episode of the new series "The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom." (it aired about 3 weeks ago, if that tells you anything about my tv watching free time)

The show was, for lack of a better expression, LAME, but it got me thinking about why I had chosen to become a stay at home mom. I remember when I had Joshua 5 weeks prematurely, and recognizing how fragile this 5 pound baby was. I knew I could never let anyone else take care of him, and I quit my job the following week. I never regretted that decision, and would love to see more moms in this role. (In fact most of my friends are stay at home moms, which I think is a good sign of changes to come.)

This particular episode featured a mom who felt like she had missed her calling in the fashion industry, so they hooked her up with an internship with a company and hid this secret from her family for dramatic effect. By the magic of television, or maybe just because she was talented, she ended up getting a job offer from this fashion design firm. What would she do!? Drum roll please....she took the job and, of course, the whole family went balistically happy for her (but not until the editing made it look like they would be very unhappy for her, you tricky, tricky editors you).

I wanted her to turn the job down though.

After all, she cried when they showed her video of her kids at home while she was away. She said it was so much more peaceful at home, than the stress of the work place. (and for you stay at home moms out know how peaceful it can be, right?!?!)

Being a stay at home mom is by far the best job I have ever had. I would make the same choices again and again with no qualms. Make no mistake, this is also the hardest, most thankless job I've had with much more contact to bodily fluids than I'd ever expected, but nothing is better than being the one person your kids know they can rely on no matter what, whenever they feel like they need it.

I started DipSticks to keep my creative juices alive, as well as to hopefully bring in some extra cash to the household to afford better things for the boys, like good schools, organic food, and a comfortable environment. I'm watching them now as I type this, and the sheer joy of seeing them laugh and play while I work can't be described.

Yes, there's always that flip side where they scream and cry, but oddly enough those memories fade away and only the good memories stay to remind you of what miracles they are.

So, no fashion job or otherwise for this stay at home mom. I'm sticking with my kids, and trying to create a company that can be scheduled around them. Hopefully I'll leave something behind that they can be proud of, but more than that I hope they always remember that feeling of mommy's arms when they needed to cuddle, or my voice when I played hide and seek with them, or the smell of fresh baked cookies on demand.

Who knows, maybe they'll bring their kids to work at DipSticks someday. Wouldn't that be cool?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Review: Archer Farms Creme Brulee

Not too long ago, I was a Creme Brulee virgin. A horrible waste of years, I know.

I was sitting at a table at the famous Heaven on Seven on Chicago's Rush Street. My husband and I were there with a company he worked for and we were being treated to dinner, with about 30 other employees and their spouses.

A plate of desserts was placed in front of the group. All of them looked to die for, but I somehow got stuck with a bowl of pudding. "Pudding?" I thought. "ugh." But, as not to be a spoiled brat in front of all these people, I ate it anyway.

With the first bite I knew immediately that it was not just pudding. The delightfully crunchy and sweet sugary topping crackled as my spoon broke through. And the vanilla custard was the richest, thickest most amazing thing I had ever eaten. The combination of the crunchy sugar layer and the creamy custard is insane. Instantly, I had a new favorite dessert.

Since then, I have tried Creme Brulee anywhere I can get it. Catablu and Biaggi's have the best here in Fort Wayne. But one day, while shopping in Target, something caught my eye. Archer Farms (Target's own house brand) had a frozen Creme Brulee. For $6.99 I decided it was worth a shot. You get two ceramic bowls full of frozen custard, and two packets of a heavy turbinado sugar.

They are easy to prepare, and take only minutes under a broiler. While these aren't as good as freshly made Creme Brulee, they are most definitely perfect for that quick fix when you don't have time, or say, three dozen eggs, to make your own.

I highly recommend giving Archer Farms Frozen Creme Brulee a try.

Friday, March 28, 2008

How to buy wholesale from Anderson Bakery.

I have been buying Anderson pretzel rods for years. I started buying them by the large jug about a year or so ago from Tractor Supply of all places. They consistently have these large bins at a much cheaper rate than most places, and one of their stores is next door to my shop.

One day, I thought, hey why am I buying 12 of these jugs at a time from Tractor Supply when I could get them directly from Anderson and save a ton of money?

So, I made one call before Christmas got sent to voicemail, no call back. 3 more calls since Christmas and still no answer. I even spoke directly to a person once, who said she'd send an email to her sales staff and cc the Regional manager to make sure I got a call....uh, still waiting.

Today, I noticed that I was getting low on pretzels again, so I called the manager at Tractor Supply and told her I was getting nowhere with Anderson, so she kindly gave me their contact information.

I placed a call to a guy in New York, meanwhile my oldest son who is not feeling well, is following me around asking about some car game that I have no knowledge of. Mike answers the phone, and I begin to tell him who I am and what I want. Joshua yells loudly that he wants to go down to the basement to find this car game. I said "shhhhh, I'm on the phone". This means, "Please yell louder" in five year old language apparently.

Finally, Mike is done telling me that he can't help and to call another guy named Dave at some other number. Joshua has the basement door open and Jacob is heading down to the mold infested dungeon just as I hang the phone up. He has a block in his hand and tells me it belongs to the car game. This finally triggers a tiny notch in my brain known as "Random knowledge only a mom could possess."

While I'm dialing this Dave's phone number, I carry several birthday bags and two Easter baskets down to the basement and put them away. Upon getting his voice mail, I begin to leave a message while I'm carrying a large plastic car up from basement, that hasn't been used in 2 years.

"Yippee! That's it! That's the car game," exclaims Joshua, just as I'm finishing my message for Don.

Maybe that's why no one will call me back?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mayonnaise recipe and meal of the day

I just had a great candida safe lunch.

I made homemade Mayonnaise (recipe follows) as well as some sauteed squash, turkey burgers and homemade french fries.

The french fries were just thinly sliced potatoes, tossed in a little bit of avocado oil and seasoned with pepper, paprika and garlic powder. (don't salt them until after they are done baking. Salt tends to bring water out of veggies) I baked them on 425 for about 15 minutes, turning them half way.

I put my own mayo on the burger and used a special candida safe bread made with millet and flax. The boys loved the food too, which is a bonus.

My mayo recipe is as follows:

Put the following 3 items into a blender or food processor:

2 eggs
2 T of freshly squeezed lemon juice (or less depending on your taste buds)
1 t Sea Salt

Blend all this until combined, and slowly pour in 1 cup of a good Safflower Oil (important that it's not any other kind of oil, unless you want to use avocado or walnut, or grape seed, but just not olive oil because of the weird taste, and not canola or vegetable for various other reasons)

Pour this oil in a slow stream through the top of the blender/processor until it's all incorporated.

This mixture will look just like regular store bought mayo, and once it has been in the refrigerator for a few hours will set up just like real mayo too. (keep in mind that this will only last a few weeks in the refrigerator. Make 1/2 of a batch if you don't think you'll use it in that amount of time.)

The best part is that it tastes great and cleans off your plate very easily. If you notice...regular mayo takes a bit of work to get off your plate with just water. Makes you wonder what it's doing to your arteries.

Good luck, and let me know what you think of it!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cheat Day, defined

Are you trying to lose weight, or to eat a little healthier?

Have you been eating too many delicious DipSticks Gourmet Pretzels? :)

Years ago I attended, and then worked for, a nutritional counseling company called MPS Weight Loss and Wellness. It was a fascinating, new concept of eating whole foods, mostly whole grains, fresh fruit and veggies etc. No preservatives and all that good stuff. It worked big time! I lost lots of weight and kept it off for a long time. I gained a lot back with child number one, but was able to lose it once I started following the basic concepts again, and have maintained a consistent diet of these types of food until recently. (my candida battle doesn't allow many foods that were allowed on the MPS plan)

One term we used that I believe may have been one of the best things to come from that class was the notion of a "cheat day."

All too often we start a diet and end it in a few days or weeks (or in my case, hours) because we can't bare the idea of "never" being able to eat food X again.

So, with the cheat day concept it works like this:
As you crave specific foods, write them down prominently somewhere so that you can see it.

I put it on my refrigerator. I write things like Taco Bell, Lemon Meringue Pie, pizza, whatever I happen to crave at any given moment. Some weeks the list is a mile long, other weeks it's only a few items.

The act of writing this down does two things. It takes the immediate action of wanting (craving) something, and putting a time line on it. It makes you feel good knowing that you will definitely get that food again, just not until Saturday, or whatever day you have determined your cheat day to be. (it really helps to plan the cheat day around a special event like weddings, or holidays too)

And, most importantly, once you actually get to the cheat day, you will find that you only eat one or two things off of that long list. Thus, saving you tons of calories and regret. It works liked magic, and I suggest giving it a try for a few weeks.

You'll be surprised how easily you manage what you thought was too difficult to concur.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Charity + DipSticks=1 Sweet idea

Cancer and heart disease are two issues that affect myself and millions of people across the world on a daily basis.
At DipSticks, we are trying something new. I introduced the Jubilee! pretzel about two years ago in an effort to raise money and awareness for Breast Cancer.

30% of the profits of this pretzel go towards cancer research, and we are proud to be the only pretzel company to create a unique gifting option for this cause. Not only are the proceeds going towards breast cancer research, but the pretzel itself is rolled in cherries and dipped in dark chocolate (both very high in antioxidants, which have been proven cancer fighters). Each pretzel is also drizzled with a cute pink chocolate ribbon.

We don't want to stop here. Two other pretzels are in the works for charitable causes. The "Nana Jean" is a tribute to a dear friends mother who passed away from colon cancer way before her time. We're leaning towards a white chocolate pretzel with blueberries, flax seed, and a blue chocolate ribbon, indicative of colon cancer awareness.

And, we're also thinking up a fun idea for Heart Disease awareness. February is Heart awareness month, and red is the color usually associated with the disease. So, we're taking that idea a step further and creating a pretzel called "The Ticker". Top heart healthy foods, such as almonds and flax seed will be mingling with our caramel, and then we plan to add some cayenne pepper in the end for that little "kick start your heart" feeling. It will be milk chocolate with a red chocolate ribbon on top.

Do you have any other ideas for charitable pretzels? Send them our way, or leave a comment.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Joshua's 5th Birthday! What a day...

Since we would be out of town on Friday, I started making the cakes on Thurdsay.

Joshua and Jacob had great fun helping me mix the batter, add the eggs, make the mess.

Jacob especially (see photo) loves to help clean the beaters. He's such a helper.

I took this picture of the Dinosaur cake to prove I had done it, just in case it came out so well you wouldn't know the difference. :)

And here is the final cake we like to call "Dino Island". I used two 9 x 13 sheet cake pans for the bottom, base part of the cake.

I foil wrapped a very large cookie sheet for the cake to be placed on, but you can also buy actual cake boards if you want something more professional.

The shiny green frosting is actually called ganache, which is a combination of chocolate (in this case, green colored white chocolate) and heavy cream. You melt these together and once it sets up, you can pour it onto any cake. It has a nice, light creamy taste to it, but is quite a bit heavier than whipped cream.

The dinosaur on top is a dinosaur mold pan that I ordered from CK Products, but you may be able to find them elsewhere. (Hobby Lobby, Walmart?)

The frosting on the dinosaur as well as the border is a buttercream that I think is a fairly traditional recipe made with butter flavored crisco, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and milk, but I do add almond extract. I think it gives it a bit of a richer taste.

A closer look...I ran into Target for some household/Easter items, and lucky for me, they had these cute little packets of dinosaurs that also came with their own fake little prehistoric looking trees.

I also purchased these chocolate rocks and pebbles from Country Kitchen, and they fit perfectly with the whole theme.

I piped three different colors onto the dinosaur, and used different tips to give him a more 3 dimensional and scaly appearance. I left the crumb coat (the white buttercream you can see) as it was, because it made the dinosaur stand out more than if I would have piped some more white into that area.

This is just another photo showing the dinosaur/rock/tree combo.

I printed out a sign that said "Happy 5th Birthday Joshua", and cut it out in the shape of a flag and glued it to a bamboo stick. We used this instead of writing his name on the cake with icing.

I really couldn't figure out where to write it anyway.

Here are the boys posing with Joshua's cake. I later asked Joshua what the best part of his birthday was and he said, "The dinosaur cake." I nearly melted.

And in non cake related news, Joshua received his first ever bike (with training wheels of course), with matching safety gear.

Now, if the snow would please melt and never come back, we'd like to test drive this thing!

Here are some of my previous attempts. I couldn't quickly find the pictures of the Aladdin or SpongeBob ones, but you aren't missing anything, believe me.

This cake for Jacob's second birthday was done in the summer at a lake cottage we rented.

I kept it very simple, but he also really loved balls at the time, so it fit.

This one was for Joshua's 4th birthday. He was (and still is) very into the Geotrax trains, and we had gotten him a big set for his birthday. So, I placed some pieces from his old set onto the cake and just piped around everything to look like grass.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Death, Birth, and Rebirth

No, I didn't get the story of Jesus out of order, that was just a brief outline of my weekend.

It was a bizarre and emotional weekend, to say the least.

It began on Friday with the funeral for my cousin's baby. I recommend to everyone--never, ever go to a funeral for a baby. It was the most heart wrenching experience at a funeral that I have ever had, and not one that I will forget any time soon.

Then, on Saturday we had the birthday party for my now 5 year old son, Joshua. He had a blast helping me with the cake, and once his cousins came for the party, he couldn't stop smiling. I will post pictures soon of the cake. I think it turned out very well, considering this is my 6th cake without any formal training. But formal training would be fun.

Then, Sunday came and it was Easter. The egg hunting and easter basket discoveries lit the boys' faces with joy, and gave me a fresh sense of, well, rebirth.

Sadness aside, we all ebb and flow with the ways of the world, and some days are spectacular, and some days leave a bit to be desired. But life is a miracle, one that should be treated carefully and fully appreciated. Don't leave any stone never know what you might find.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Hello, my name is Christy, and I'm a foodaholic

It's been four days since I started this freakishly evil Candida diet. I started with gusto, confidence and determination. Oh, how fickle I can be.

I'm a stress eater. I always suspected it. But it wasn't until about six months ago that I had no doubt left. A series of traumatic events (4 ER trips: 3 for kids, 1 for dog) happened all within weeks of each other. I preceded to gain 25 pounds in 2 months. If you would've shown me a carrot during that time, I would have beaten you with it until you were orange. I'm serious.

So when I got a phone call yesterday informing me that my cousin's infant daughter had passed away suddenly, it wasn't a shock that I almost immediately thought of food. (right after i bawled my eyes out, hugged my own kids a trillion times until they screamed for me to stop, and mourned for my cousin and his family, of course.)

I couldn't stop thinking of food of any kind. Starbucks...those damn cupcakes I made...frickin' organic Bunny Grahams for god's sake.

But how do you process this kind of grief? When another cousin of mine died almost a year ago today, I knew immediately how to feel. But this is on a different level. A level I'm not sure I want to process yet.

It sort of came to me that I think the reason I'm thinking (obsessing) about food so much, is because if I don't think about IT, I think about the loss my cousin is going through. I think about what I would do/feel if I lost a child so young, or at any age for that matter.

I'd rather stick my head in the sand and not feel anything, thank you very much. I'll have plenty of emotions on Friday at the funeral.

Life doesn't wait for you to get your stress-eating plan ready. Moments like this happen when they happen, and I can't stop them.

I don't know if I'm strong enough to get through this, but no matter my struggle with food, it's nothing compared to what my cousin and his family will struggle with for years.

So what if I eat a non candida friendly food while I'm dealing with this emotional overload?
I'll get over it and move on. That's more than I can say for my cousin.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dinosaur Birthday cupcakes

Joshua turns 5 on Saturday and I cannot believe it. The time has just flown by, and it seems like earlier today he was a newborn.

But, nevertheless, he is growing up and wants a Dinosaur cake for his birthday. To keep in the theme, I am also making dino cupcakes for him to take to school this week.

I made a white cake mix, and placed some colored chocolate circles in the center.

While they were baking I made dinosaurs
out of chocolate and a dinosaur mold.

Once the cupcakes cooled I frosted them and then placed the matching chocolate dinosaur shapes on top.
They turned out pretty cute I think, but the true test is when I drop them off at school tomorrow. The teachers may think they're a little messy though...oops. Oh well. If you don't want a mess, don't tell me to bring cupcakes, right?

I was hoping the chocolate pieces would melt in the center, and make a cute blob of color for the kids to get excited about. But, instead, the chocolate didn't melt, and now there's a cute blob of not melted chocolate for the kids to get excited about.

I can't eat one until Saturday because that's my cheat day (i'm on a diet, okay!) But my husband and the boys thought they were yummm-ola.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A season for change

This warmer weather has me very excited for summer. We are going to rent a lake cottage on Big Long again, and we'll be venturing to Emerald Isle, NC with Mark's family again for our soon to be annual Beach House trip.

So, I need to get my butt in gear. I am huge and tired and SO not bikini ready. I am probably about 45-50 pounds over weight right now and I feel like I'm 60 years old.

I am very tired and feel quite cumbersome. I can't really bend over effortlessly or go upstairs very easily, and with my family history of severe obesity, it's an issue that needs nipped in the bud (butt) now.

This isn't exactly a diet, as much as it is going to have to be a lifestyle. But, I am going to begin a candida diet that I've done in the past with great success.

I've lost weight with other healthy food programs, but have never felt as energetic and healthy (even my skin and hair was glowing!) than when I'm eating the candida way.

Unfortunately, this diet ain't an easy one. Pretty much anything I use to eat is a no no. No white flour or sugar, no sweeteners of any kind actually, including natural sweeteners like honey and agave, and of course artificial sweeteners are off the list. I can have stevia and do use an english toffee version that seems to help in emergencies. I can't have vinegar (which makes ketchup, mayo and mustard out) and no wheat, or other grains for the first 4 weeks and most fruit is limited for a few weeks too (candida feeds on sugar, so all sugars are a risk), also, no alcohol, no dairy, no peanuts, no caffeine, no mushrooms and no smoked meats.

Gone are my cheetos and lemon meringue pies/cheesecakes, and no more taco bell or starbucks for me for awhile. But, if all goes well, I'll be exchanging these fatty foods and my fatty butt for better health and tons more energy to keep up with these active kids and my fast growing business.

I'll try to post menu ideas and recipes as well as my progress as often as I can.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comment section, or email me directly!

M & M pretzel gets a makeover.

Now that we are switching to hang tags, we can really show off our pretzels.

Case in point...I've added some new color drizzles to the M&M pretzel to make it look even more festive! I may even change the name to Funfetti!

Here ya go...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Joshua and Jacob enjoy a day of play doh in their Lucky Green shirts!

New hang tags make their debut!

First let me say that I don't really like that photo of all the items to the left. It looks like a big crazy mess...we're still learning how to set up shots, but hopefully this will give you an idea of what our hang tags are going to accomplish.

If you click on the picture, it will take you to a larger image. You should be able to see that each item has it's own color coded hang tag. Caramel apples are a green, to indicate the green from the Granny Smith's we use.

The marshmallow color is sort of a smooth yellow, orange cream color. The pretzel bark will be a warm caramel brown, and all the pretzels (the 4", the 8", and the dippity do dahs) will be a lighter shade of our logo red.

We have switched to the brown raffia and ribbon as well, which really gives the items a higher end appeal.

You also can now see clearly what is in the package. We will be delivering a small sample of these to Dupont and Apple Glen Hallmark stores this week, to see how they do. I'm hoping they increase impulse buys, but you just never know what consumers will do.

What do you think of the new look? Is it an improvement? Make suggestions in the comment section, I'd love to hear from you.

New items popping up at DipSticks!

We're blooming with ideas here at DipSticks Gourmet Pretzels!

We introduced you to the Caramel Apple (see new photos on the left), and then the Dippity Do Dahs, now we're launching a few new ideas.

Chocolate covered caramel marshmallows! We take jumbo marshmallows-the freshest we can find-drench them with our

trademark caramel
(sometimes the caramel is even fave is the buttered rum!), place this in a bed of finely crushed pretzels, then we drench all of this in chocolate, and sprinkle with love.

We're going to offer two kinds of caramel chocolate marshmallows. One will be 4 marshmallows on a stick, it weighs about 6 ounces!

The other option will be 3 marsmallows in one cellophane bag.

Also, around Christmas time we started making some fantastic gourmet chocolate pretzel bark, too. We've taken traditional bark up a notch and added some DipStick touches to it.

My favorite flavor is one layer of butterscotch chocolate that has bits of pretzel pieces and toffee, with a second layer of white chocolate that has corn flakes in it. Yummm-ola.

We also have the traditional milk chocolate with toffee, white chocolate with peppermint, and dark chocolate with mint oreos and andes mints. Each of our barks though have a unique, salty twist (pardon the pun) with the addition of crunched up pretzels.

It's very exciting to now have a whole "line" of products. And with the addition of the new color coded hang tags, we hope to make ourselves a little more competitive, which should get us in the door of some larger chain stores.

It's time to have fun with pretzels!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A conversation with my mom...

mom: Maybe you should try to get a full time supervisor position at the post office.

me: THIS is my full time job. (pointing to the massive trays of pretzels I've been laboring over all weekend)

mom: They have a great pension.

me: Yeah. I'd hate my life and kill myself, but at least I'd have a great pension.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A place for my popcorn

My brain has been described as popcorn. Random thoughts just poppin' around with no consistent pattern to speak of. So, I have declared my blog a place for my popcorn brain to roost. Somewhere to randomly toss about ideas that may or may not make any sense in the slightest.

I apologize in advance...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Motivation, not so much.

So today I had big plans. I was going to spend the entire day mixing up concoctions and finalizing packaging details, to prepare for tomorrow's big picture taking day. (my husband takes the photos for the website, and he was going to get them all done tomorrow)

But, as is typical in this house when the words "plan" or "think" are uttered, my children laugh in my face.

I woke up this morning at 5:00 a.m. to Joshua complaining of a stomach ache. He tossed and turned for about thirty minutes, and then said he had to go to the doctor. Well, since the last two times he said this we ended up in the ER, I took this very seriously. So, we went downstairs and I gave him something for his upset tummy. Luckily he felt better in about ten minutes...I on the other hand, was tired. He was jumping around like it was a snow day. I was tired.

Once kid number 2 woke up, it was all down hill from there. Trying to rest while the kids are awake is like trying something really hard, that's not possible even remotely. (see, i'm too tired to even think up analogies)

I did get some color samples printed. I think I've narrowed down those, which will then be utilized in the hang tags, as well as any other print material and the website, once I get around to revamping those.

I got the laundry started and this blog post typed. A shower may be in the future, but I won't hold my breath.

Sometimes self-motivation is hard. Almost as hard as trying to nap while the kids are awake.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

DipSticks available on multiple sites

DipSticks Gourmet Pretzels are now being offered on two different ecommerce sites, as well as our own home site.

This will hopefully widen our customer base and attract people we normally wouldn't have access to.

Check out and

A sign of Spring...ish

I saw the first sign of spring today. I had to dig through the snow a bit to find it, but I was certain it would be there...a tiny budding crocus. A faint smile and slight remembrance of what it's like to feel warmth flickered into my frigid brain, if only so briefly.

I'm confident I speak for the entire Midwest when I say that this winter can Bite Me.

We've had enough drastic weather changes and snowfall to choke 100 T-Rex's, three times over.

Those of us who believe in Global Warming, are saying, "See, I told you so." And those who don't believe in Global Warming are saying, "See, I told you so."

Regardless of your stance on that oh so controversial topic, it's darn cold. I'm tired of it. NO, really, I'm tired. I'm fatigued from gathering snow boots and winter jackets and mittens and hats and scarves, and putting them all on, taking them off, putting them back on, taking them back off, putting them away, getting them back out...endlessly.
I'm tired of scraping my car of ice, and almost getting stuck in snow with my husband's sporty, not made for winter acura integra that I have to drive now since my beautiful, blizzard equipped Santa Fe is in the shop from "the accident." (see blog post titled "Big Guys 1:Little ol' me 0")

I'm tired of the grey, lifeless scenery that I witness day in and day out. It's exhausting and depressing, and I can only save myself by thinking spring.

Here are a few photos to warm you up. Drink some hot cocoa, and hope to god this Global Warming/Absolutely nothing to do with Global Warming thing will equally bless us with a long, hot summer too.

Pictures from our family trip to Emerald Isle, North Carolina. August 2007.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

OMG! (Oh! Marshmallows Good!)

Wow! I've been playing around with these new product ideas, and I definitely got a doozey with this one.

I dipped some jumbo marshmallows into caramel, and then sat them on some crunched up pretzels, and dipped them in milk, dark and white chocolates. I just ate a white one, and yum.

I think these will be a big hit! They look ridiculously cute in their bag, and the new hang tags/ribbon combo is coming along smashingly.

I can't wait to post a photo of them...

I've got gas...

I don't want to get too serious on your A double S's, but what the bejeesus is going on with the gas prices?

I totally understand that perhaps costs are up, and the oil industry is suffering and whatever else they want the media to report, but someone PLEASE tell me why Exxon then reports a $40 Billion profit? That's billion with a B.

I'm pretty sure I didn't report a profit of any kind last year thanks to these gas prices.

As a business owner, I am affected greatly by this increase. My UPS prices go up, the price of all my grocery items, especially anything with sugar (and HELLO! all my stuff has sugar in it) has gone way up.

I don't want to increase my product, so I'm absorbing a lot of this increase. I'm driving less, and not warming my car up as long. But it seems the less we use gas, the higher the prices get.

I just hope I can afford the gas to get me to the polls in November.

Monday, March 10, 2008

You Name it!

I've been coming up with crazy inventions all week, but the name for one in particular is eluding me.

Here's what the item is: I usually have tons of random food particles in my chocolate after a long day of dipping. Nuts, m&ms, corn flakes...lots of things will fall off the pretzels and make their way into the bowl. I always strain each batch of chocolate and dump the miscellaneous findings onto waxed paper. Once this sets up, I either eat it or throw it out...usually the former.

These little blobs of goodness, are so tasty, why not share them with the world! But what fun name can we call them?

Kitchen Sink
Trailer Trash
Fool's Gold

I put a poll on the right side column...can you vote on these names and help me develop this fun goodie? Thanks a bunch!!! (free samples to anyone who votes!)

Birthday Gifts...a DipSticks specialty!

Just a reminder that if you have clients or special people in your life who you want to acknowledge with a special treat...DipSticks Delivers!

For two years we have been accommodating local companies by handling their client birthday gifts. Give us your birthday list, and we'll make sure a fresh batch of DipSticks are delivered to their door (office or home) on or as near as possible to their birthday.

Eliminate the stress of remembering a birthday, while sending them a truly one of a kind gift.

Our pretzels come in several gift box sizes to fit all your needs.

Custom orders and quantity discounts available...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Politics of Pricing

Deciding how to price my products has probably been the hardest thing to do. The age old battle of underpricing to get huge orders or pricing high so you can make money on small orders is a constant issue with DipSticks.

The pretzels themselves don't necessarily have expensive ingredients in them, so why do I charge $3.50 for the small 2 ounce pretzel, and $7.00 for the 4 ouncer? Well, time is money. And I spend a great deal of time on these.

Most people don't realize that the 50 cent candy bar, or the chocolate covered pretzels that are 3 for $1 that they're buying in the store are mass produced. They churn out millions of these per hour on a huge, ridiculously expensive conveyer belt based machine. In a lot of cases, no hands ever touch these candy items. No personal attention is ever given to them, they are just products to be manufactured for the masses, in turn for huge profits.

DipSticks, however, is very hands on. We hand apply every label (or hopefully soon, every hang tag), we hand dip the pretzels into caramel, hand dip said pretzels into random tasty ingredients, and saw this coming....hand dip them into chocolate, sprinkle cute toppings on by hand, and drizzle adorable, artsy fartsy little chocolate swirls on each one. Then, once these hand dipped pretzels have set, we place each one in a cellophane bag, by hand. Then, each bag is sealed and trimmed by a machine....that we use our hands to operate (you thought you had me on that one didn't you?). And finally, each one of these babies are hand tied with raffia.

So, you see, lots and lots of time, and personal attention are given to each and every one of our items. We don't want to scare people off with our pricing, but we also don't want to make these for free. We hope people appreciate the very hand made nature of our products, and that we put love and care into each one. A trend does seem to be appearing that indicates consumers are appreciating, not only hand made items, but local items as well. I hope that trend remains, because I for one love a unique hand made item and would pick it before any mass produced candy bar any day.

While our pretzel pricing is pretty much set, our Caramel Apple pricing is still a little up in the air.

In comparison, DeBrands charges $20-$25 for their caramel apples. Mrs. Prindable charges $20-$26 per apple, while Amy's Candy Kitchen sells her apples in the range of $12 for a simple apple up to $16 for more decadent ones. Each of these apples weigh the same as ours, some are more decorative, some are less.

We are thinking of charging $12-$15 for our Caramel Apples. They weigh 1 pound, 2 ounces, are completely rolled in ingredients, and completely drenched in chocolate. (some of the above mentioned apples aren't completely covered in chocolate).

Does this price seem fair? We can make 200 pretzels in the same amount of time it takes to make 30 apples, just to give you a reference. (with that calculation, technically the apples should be $20)

Our Dippity Do Dahs are sold 4 to a package. We're leaning towards charging $2.50 for this, even though the total weight is 2 ounces, which is what the $3.50 single pretzel weighs. These take less time though, and are using leftover pretzels, so we can justify the lower price.

Keep in mind, too, that when selling these items wholesale, our clients want to charge double. So, when deciding the price for our items, we also have to take into account that we'll get half that for wholesale orders. We make far less per pretzel, but it is usually made up in the quantity.

Pricing isn't easy. You don't want to overprice, but you obviously have to make some kind of profit, or you'll never grow. We don't want to price ourselves out of business, especially since we're still very unknown and have lots of opportunity to grow.

A delicate job, but a necessary one that hopefully we will succeed at, without alienating ourselves.

What do you think? How does the quality of a hand made item rank in your buying lifestyle? Do you have recommendations or other pricing strategies? Let me know in the comment section!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Me Time

Ahhh. The elusive "me time." As a stay at home mom with a business to run, not to mention a great husband to hang out with, I very rarely get me time. I'm not complaining, don't get me wrong.

I have chosen to be a stay at home mom. I've chosen to run a business from home. So, any lack of me time, is therefore, chosen by me.

But on the flip side, I can also choose to have me time anytime I want. That said, I am now going to put all the millions of tiny little things, plus a few big things, aside so that I can read this great book "A New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle before the library comes to my home personally and asks for it back.

Brewing my tea as I type this, I am anticipating this moment and hope it lasts longer than 5 minutes. But even if it doesn't, it will be 5 minutes that I chose to stop and smell the flowers...or in this case, an old book used by hundreds of people before me. Doesn't have quite the same ring, but you get the idea...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Dippity Do Dahs

This idea has been ruminating in my head for a year or more. A tiny pretzel that can be offered at much lower cost, but still represent the look and quality of our regular sized pretzels.

I struggled with what to use as the small pretzel. Most pretzels readily available are either skinny sticks, or tiny logs. Neither would be a good option. So, I decided to just use the broken bits and pieces of the pretzels I already use. I'd throw these out anyway, so it's kind of like recycling, which is always a good goal to attempt.

Once I have determined the type of pretzel, and experiment with the caramel/chocolate situation, I have to move on to packaging. Do I sell these by the pound? Should I sell 4 to a package? I already offer a few things by the pound, so I decide that these would be cute 4 to a package.

One of my favorite vendors (the one who asked about caramel apples) also wants to sell these in holiday colors. My first experiment with them is for Easter, and I think they turned out quite adorably. They would look great in an Easter basket, or attached to a card.

I can't wait until Christmas to do some red and white striped ones to put into stockings. Oh the ideas...they just keep coming.

And, if you can't tell by the title of this post, these new concoctions will be called "Dippity Do Dahs"

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Mommy, watch me!

Running a business and being a stay at home mom is quite possibly the most challenging (read self destructing) thing I have ever done!

I started this business thinking that I'd be able to have my children around while I make pretzels and do the other fifteen million things that go along with owning a business.

The lovely image of my kids playing quietly nearby, perhaps even in their own little room still lingers in my memory. Joshua was about 1 year old when I realized that image was less attainable for me than an original Monet.

My reality is more like this:

Wake up, get the cartoons on for the boys. Find sippy cups and food so they don't starve. (what? I'm a good mom!) Oh, and the dog needs food too, as I can tell by the death stare that I'm getting.

Check my email. Attempt to sit down to actually reply to one, get interrupted for more juice.

Realize we have to get ready for Joshua's preschool, start frantically clothing children and wiping faces, gathering book bags and usually screaming about something like "Joshua, you have to put your coat on it's snowing outside," or "Jacob stop spitting the milk on the table!"

Get Joshua to school, and while waiting in the drop off line I check my iPhone for new email messages, read for the most important celebrity news in the world, search the weather in San Diego so I know if I need to add ice packs to my shipment today, kiss Joshua goodbye and drive back home. (alternatives to this are going to my wholesale distributor to pick up product, or going to WalMart for groceries, or delivering pretzels for a client, and on occasion getting my crack on at Starbucks)

Once home, Jacob is usually content for at least 2 minutes with his choo-choo. I get out of my pajamas and try to look halfway decent for the day, and start working on the new label/brochure/website idea/whatever else creatively has popped into my head the night before.

I attempt to sit down to get a better angle, when choo-choo man has other ideas. "Momma, help!" I ignore him for a bit because I recognize this cry for help. It is not life threatening.

"MOOOOMMMMA. HELPPP!" Screeching now, I move quickly only because it's annoying, not because I think he's hurt. And I'm right. His choo-choo is stuck. I unstick it and go back to the computer. I'm like a moth to the flame with that thing...can't keep away from it.

Two hours of this back and forth scenario and it's time to go get Joshua. Now the fun starts.

"Mommy, watch me!" Okay, Joshua, just one second. "Mommy WATCH me!" I look. He's standing on his head. "Wow Joshua that's awesome! Good job."

I look away. "Mommy watch me!" What Joshua? I look immediately this time because I know there's no winning. He runs across the room, jumps and spins, and then acts like he's falling to the ground in a daze. "Ha ha ha. that's funny. You're funny, Joshua." I look away.

"Mommy, watch me!" Okay, I see how this day is going. I shut my computer down and sit on the floor to be with the two most important reasons I started this business in the first place. My children need me, and my business can wait. For now anyway. Sooner or later they eventually get into a groove that allows me a good 15 minutes of uninterrupted work time.

Someday they'll be all grown up and won't want me at all, and that's what I remind myself of when I feel frustration while trying to juggle. The day will come when I will long for someone to say "Mommy, watch me."

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Chicago Mart

The Chicago Gift and Home Mart is the Midwestern mecca for anyone with a product to sell.

Only buyers are invited to attend, and thousands show up to see what's new and exciting that they just have to order for their store or business.

For about two years I've been on the fence about being an exhibitor. It's not cheap. To rent a booth is expensive enough, but then you have decorations and travel costs, not to mention lodging and food for two days.

I was uncomfortable about spending that much, but more than that, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to handle all the orders. (such a horrible problem to have, I know)

To take some of the enigma out of this event, my husband/business partner and I traveled to Chicago on the coldest day of the year in January to see what all the fuss was about.

We spent a few hours just rambling around isles. We took some photos of booth decor ideas, and talked with a few business owners. After it was all said and done, we felt ready to tackle this.

So, for my next "hold your nose and jump" moment we are gathering ideas and moxie and headin' for the Chicago Mart in July. The very worst that could happen is I come back empty handed with a big chunk of change missing from my bank account, but the best thing is that I leave with tons of orders, a bunch of new clients, hopefully some friends or mentors, and most importantly the feeling of knowing I did it.

I'll keep you posted on the details involved with getting prepared for this event. Should be a fun ride...

Monday, March 3, 2008

Caramel Apples

With DipSticks, I have dedicated myself to the pretzel. I don't want to veer from the pretzel. People. Like. Pretzels.

I was fine with that fact until one of my customers asked if I made caramel apples. Uhh. Ummm. Wellll. I just don't know? Do I? Can I? But, what about the pretzel?

So, into the kitchen I went with my trusty chocolate, caramel, bowls and spoons. All familiar to me by now, but what's this? An apple? How can I work this into my line of pretzels and not feel like I'm cheating on them?

I started the caramel dipping process similarly to how I dip my pretzels, then rolled the apple into some pecans and shortbread, just like I'd do with my pretzels. Then it dawned on me, "Why can't I put pretzels on the apple?" So, I crunched up some pretzels, and plopped that big gooey caramel apple down in a pile of them and hoped for the best.

Top Photo: For Valentine's Day a dark chocolate with dried cherries called Sweet Valentine
Bottom Photo: This is the packaging for the caramel apples, for now. I'm thinking of using a clear box with a hole on top too. And maybe switching to a red ribbon with gold.

The result? A big hit! The apples looked beautiful, and you get just a hint of that salty taste from the pretzels on the bottom. They work great to keep the apple flat too, and keep the pretzel component a main part of my product line. Now what else can I fit pretzels into?

Note: My caramel apples are currently available at Plumtickled Junction in Dunfee (on the whitley/allen county line road between Bass Road and 14)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

DipSticks are multi-talented!

I know it's not possible to be bored of eating a DipStick Gourmet Pretzel, but if you're longing for a new, more refreshing way of enjoying them, then look no further...have I got a recipe for you!

Take any of our pretzels (I prefer Mint Cookie) and mix it with any ice cream flavor (I prefer cookies and cream) and add a bit of milk, blend and VOILA! You have a yummy, chunky, one of a kind DipStick Milkshake.

The texture is unique, with bits of salty pretzels, but that's what I liked about it. It was more filling than a typical milkshake, and the combinations are endless.

Try our Gone Bananas with Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey or an English Toffee pretzel with Starbucks Java Chip.

Be creative and let me know what you end up with...