Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dear Dairy

I have a condition called hashimotos thyroiditis, which is basically low thyroid function.

Since deleting the dairy from my daily intake, I have noticed a few things. Mainly, that my neck is kind of tight and achy in the thyroid area. This seems to happen when my antibodies are attacking my thyroid gland, which is what an autoimmune disorder such as hashimotos does.

I started to wonder if dairy and thyroid had any common links, and I found this interesting tidbit online.

"Among the elements or ingredients which the Thyroid uses to make thyroxine is a protein known as casein. The body manufactures its own casein out of the atoms present in our food, in the same manner that the cow generates the casein in her milk from her feed. Casein is one of the important components of milk, but when cow's milk is used by humans of any age, it is not digested properly or completely under any circumstances. That is the reason why the use of milk not only creates a great amount of mucus in the system, but also has the tendency to disrupt the function of the Thyroid gland. The casein in cow's milk is 300% more concentrated than that in mother's milk. When cow's milk is pasteurized or cooked by boiling, the casein is changed still worse than in its raw state."

I am glad to have this blog to keep track of this, it will be fun and interesting to see if I can pin point a link between the two. I started to take out dairy for weight loss, but there just may be even better health consequences!

*There's also some indication and several scientific studies that wheat is linked to hashimotos as well, so I am not entirely leaving out this connection. I would, however, have to change the name of these posts if in fact, the culprit turns out not to be dairy. That would be a big bummer. Dear Wheat just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The big Green elephant in the room

Going green has been on my mind for a very long time. No, I'm not referring to my latent desires to rub myself in spinach and run through central park, I am of course referring to the Global Warming epidemic and what I can do to aid in the solution.

While searching some new songs on iTunes yesterday, I ran across a neat little podcast called More Hip than Hippie. With a name like that, I could not resist.

At first it sounded like two moms trying to create their own show, but as they got going (and perhaps as the beer and chocolate they were indulging in at 8:30 in the morning started to take effect) they became more enthralling.

In between discussions of sodium laurel sulfate and renewable energy credits, the topic came up of challenging others to list 5 things they are doing to help the environment. I hoped I had at least 5, considering how much I think I do. So, I made a list. It was a tad difficult to figure out exactly what counted, so I just listed it all in hopes that it did.

1. Using a reusable bag at the health food shoppe
2. Not buying water bottles, and using a re-usable poly bottle instead.
3. Recycling-duh!
4. All of our light bulbs are Compact Fluorescent
5. Driving less and turning the car off when I'm in pick up/drop off line for school
6. Using a CSA to support local farmers and get healthy organic produce
7. Buying natural products, mostly for the kids, for hair, bath etc.
8. Turning lights and appliance off when not in use

Is it bragging to list more than 5? oops.

But actually 8 is freaking measly and I need to step up! Here is the list of things I want to accomplish in 2008:

1. Go completely natural in our house cleaning/laundry products
2. Use organic fertilizer on our lawn (first application down, lots more to go)
3. Organic paint
4. Bamboo flooring alternatives and/or other natural building materials
5. Find packaging alternatives for DipSticks that are recycled or environmentally friendly
6. Find local sources of products used for DipSticks
7. Create green pretzel and donate funds to environmental charities
8. Composting

I know there are people out there who still question the existence, or at least the severity, of Global Warming. My thought for you is this. In 30 years what would you like to feel? Confident that you can say I told you so, or sorrowful that you hadn't done anything when you had the chance? Doing something now that might turn out to be unnecessary isn't going to hurt anyone. But, not doing something could very well end up hurting millions.

Make your list today and let me know what your top 5 (or more if you feel like bragging!) earth saving practices are.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cheaper by the dozen

When I first started DipSticks, I was going to a place called Country Kitchen to buy a good portion of my ingredients. It's a mecca for all things cake and candy related. There is row after row of colored chocolate, colored sprinkles, spatulas, candy boxes...heaven!

Until one day someone asked if I got my items at CK Products, and I said, "Sprechen sie Deutsch?" I had no idea what they were talking about, but after a few probing questions, came to the conclusion that I.must.go.there.

After some simple forms were filled out, I made my first whopping $100 purchase (their minimum) and 48 hours later came home with boxes of miscellaneous awesomeness.

Acting as though it was Christmas morning, I tore into those boxes to unveil what I already knew was in there (because I was, after all, the one who ordered them) like I was getting Christian Louboutins or something. A mad woman.

The most exciting part of opening all the boxes and seeing the things that I had bought before on numerous occasions was the delightful knowing that I got it all for HALF the cost.

As a business owner I can only charge so much on the front end, but I can do lots of things to save on the back end. This was my very first experience at that, and I'll never forget it.

So, if you're a business owner struggling to make a profit, look at your inventory and ask yourself if you have a way to buy in bulk. Most companies have bulk pricing policies, and if they don't, you can always find distributors on the net.

Take my oreos for example. I buy them currently at Walmart but contacted Nabisco to see if I could buy direct. Their minimums were way too high for my measly business, but they lead me to a distributor of theirs who will fit nicely. Even with shipping I will save a bundle.

Don't be afraid to contact the companies directly because most have a customer service department who do that kind of thing regularly.

Anderson pretzels on the other hand....not so much.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Wax on, Wax off.

So that the caramel will stay on the apples and not slide down into a gooey blob at the bottom, I have to soak them in super hot water to melt off the wax that suppliers think sells more apples.

This is what's left after I dry them off. Kind of interesting, huh?

These were bought at Walmart, but I usually get them from Piazza Produce, and will buy organic ones this summer. There's nothing bad about it, in fact it's probably better that the wax is removed. It's not toxic, but who the heck wants to eat wax?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fail big or go home

I've been hearing/reading a lot lately about failure in business. It peaks my interest, because I, like many business owners, struggle with fear of failure.

Donny Deutsch, God of entrepreneurial dream making, discusses this topic frequently with his guests. Most of them agree that you have to fail. In fact, most say you can't really succeed unless you fail.

Then, I read an except from a book called Bounce by Barry J. Moltz, in my BeE magazine. He says that "business leaders and entrepreneurs must acknowledge and even value failure as a natural part of the business cycle so they can anticipate, acknowledge, and recover from blows."

Wow. This sort of ties in with my very first post about holding my nose and jumping. Sometimes you can't know what's around the corner, and that's okay. Because the alternative is KNOWING what's around the corner. If everything is laid out for you and there are no more surprises, good or bad, would that make life better? I'm not so sure.

While most people don't like bad things to happen to them, failure included, most people would agree that failure and hardships do show you what you're made of. The more you can get through, the more you feel confident in what's waiting for you around that corner.

I read a book once, Growing a Business, from the guy who started Smith and Hawken. In it, he discusses how he feared each day and what problems would come with it. Each day a situation would arise that would seem like a crisis, but by the end of each day he had solved the crisis.

Finally, it dawned on him that every day there would be something to hit head on. He went to the office saying, "What problem can we solve today!?" With this new attitude he was able to take on tasks easily without worry, and most importantly it freed his mind up to think about new positive things, since he didn't have to worry about what was to come.

Being an entrepreneur/business owner is certainly interesting and challenging and entertaining. There's never a dull moment.

Embrace failure for what it is, and do what is necessary to get your busienss to the finish line.

Most recently, while watching Meet the Robinsons with my sons, (which I believe has the best message of any kid movie with its motto of "Keep moving forward") I heard a simple, yet powerful thing. One of the older siblings in the future said, after Lewis had failed at fixing the peanut butter and jelly shooter, "That's okay. "From failure, you learn. Success, not so much."

I've had multiple business that didn't go anywhere, but they were all half hearted attempts at something I didn't have my heart in anyway. However, each of those failures taught me something that I have used in DipSticks. I have taken each lesson learned and applied as often as possible in this adventure.

Nobody knows what's around the corner, and I'm okay with that. I hope it involves producing the most unique, high quality gourmet pretzels in the world, but if it ends up being diaper duty at the retirement home, I'm cool with that. Knowing me, I'd probably figure out a way to turn that into a business, too.

Keep on failing!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The many faces of crack

These photos are about a year old, but they are priceless and still relevant, so I just had to share.
I gave Jacob the last drippings of my white mocha one day, and, well, see for yourself...

A Starbucks fan for life. I wonder what they put in those things, anyway? Hmmm.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Dear Dairy

I think I'll start posting updates about my dairy elimination progress, or lack thereof, in a post called Dear Dairy. So, if you're bored of my lactose lamentations, you can just skip right over this one!

I have gone one whole week subtracting wheat and dairy from my diet. I have snuck a few things that include dairy, and two or three cookies that had wheat in them, but most of that occurred on my "cheat day", so I don't feel too bad about it.

Speaking of my cheat day, Mark and I went out with two of our friends to a sushi place on Friday. I ate my usual california roll, which I think maybe had mayo in it, but otherwise, no dairy or wheat. Then, I had a new roll called Winter Roll that had smoked salmon, cream cheese (go figure) and avocado and some tempura batter crunchies.

I had a few bites of Mark's shrimp tempura and chicken teryaki, and some plum wine.

In about 2 hours my stomach was so cramped and painful I could barely sit. I think my stomach bloated to about 3 times its normal size.

All I can figure is that it was either the cream cheese, or maybe the wheat in the tempura batter. I used the lite soy sauce, but unless there was MSG somewhere, I'm not sure exactly what caused my issues.

I probably will have to do an experiment and just eat only wheat one day, and then one day only dairy, to see what happens.

It won't stop me from getting the winter roll again, though, that was worth the pain!

The cutest squash in the world

The bad news is that I love food. I love cooking food and eating food and reading about food and talking about food and watching shows about get the idea.

Some people have an interesting palate with a need to eat the most bizarre of foods. I like to consider myself adventurous, but unlike some people I know, I have no desire to eat chicken feet.

The good news is that I really like all food, which is not limited to junk food. Vegetables are a main staple in our house and I enjoy cooking with them.

For proof, check out this freakishly adorable baby squash I picked up at the Fresh Market. They are baby zucchini and baby yellow squash which they call Sunburst Squash, or Patty Pan Squash.

I wasn't quite sure what to do with them when I bought them, but I decided at the last minute to chunk some leeks with the squash, and some chopped garlic, and then marinated them in some oils (I used avocado, walnut and olive for this), garlic powder, pepper, and a dash of Herbs de Provence.

I grilled them in the pan shown instead of foil wrapping them, because I wanted them to have that grilled taste, and the charred look, instead of being mostly steamed.

I think I made the right choice because these babies were awesomely delish.

Of course I paired them with my other two favorite healthy meal options, burgers and fries. I used actual organic beef, instead of the usual ground turkey, and mixed in some garlic, pepper, salt and onion. On my burger I put red onion and avocado, with a touch of homemade mayo, and the bread is a wonderful millet flax that I get at the co-op.

And these fries have become a much requested staple in our house. I've discovered that russet potatoes make the best fries and I just toss them in avocado oil, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Bake at 425 for about 15 -20 minutes depending on the thickness of the potatoes. (I always salt vegetables after they are cooked, if necessary, so as not to draw out too much moisture.)

Even though I've been hyping up the squash, I'm about to anticlimactically announce that the best part of the dinner was the french fry dip.

Seriously, you have got to try this. I take mayo, and blend in just a touch of avocado oil, paprika, pepper and garlic powder (the same stuff found in the french fries themselves) and dip the fries into it. Say goodbye to ketchup, because this will be your main staple on fry day.

Healthy eating!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bark! Bark!

I thought I'd post some photos of the new pretzel bark that we'll be adding to the line soon.

I melt chocolate and stir in various ingredients, and then pour it onto a large metal pan. Once that is set, I can pour other flavors and colors of chocolate on top of that to create different varieties and looks.

This one is Butterscotch chocolate with toffee pieces on the bottom layer, and white chocolate with corn flakes in the top layer. I forgot to mix in the pretzel pieces, so I just sprinkled them on top of this one.

And this one is called S'more, because it has a white chocolate layer with graham crackers and the pretzels I didn't forget this time, and a milk chocolate layer with mini dehydrated marshmallows. I tried using real mini marshmallows (the jet puff kind) but I didn't really like the gooeyness of it when I tried to break it up. Plus, these little dry ones look so cute once the bark is broken. And, best of all, it's an awesome way to use leftover dehydrated marshmallows that I use in my hot cocoa pretzel, when the cold season is over. Reduce, reuse, recycle, right?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Review: Moscato D'Asti

First thing to know is that I'm really not a drinker. I wish I was, though, believe me. I loved the movie Sideways and how the characters knew their Pinot better than I know my husband. (just a little exaggeration honey, don't get too worked up!)

My friend Julianne however, is the smartest wino I know! She gets paid to write about wines and is even a beginner Sommelier, which basically means she knows her grapes.

I stumbled upon what is now my favorite wine, at my favorite restaurant, Biaggi's. It's called Moscato D'Asti and is slightly bubbly and definitely on the sweet side, which explains why I like it. There are fruity notes to it that I believe are peach or apricot.

I've tried several brands of Moscato, but have narrowed it down to three that I like best.

Bricco Riella is the one from Biaggis and it is my favorite of the three. It is made in Italy. It runs close to $11, but is so fresh and tasty, and I've had it last up to three days without getting flat or strong tasting.

Second would be Two Hands Brilliant Disguise which is made in Australia. I'm not entirely sure where to buy this, other than at Joseph Decuis. I'm lucky that my sister-in-law works there and can get it for me. This one has a bit less sweetness to it, but perhaps a little stronger apricot flavor, which is nice.

Finally, the third choice would be Lazurro, which is also made in Italy. It leans a bit more to the sweet side than the others do. This was okay for the first night, but after that it lost it's zest. This might be good for a party, because it's quite a bit cheaper than the Bricco Riella, and is best finished soon after opening.

If you're in the mood for something different, that's a bit sweet, but not quite champagne, then Moscato D'Asti is just what the doctor ordered.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A basket for Vera

Last year, I donated some pretzels to the Vera Bradley Classic Tennis Tournament. It was a great feeling knowing I was donating not only to a cancer benefit, but to a local company who represents a lot of what I'd like DipSticks to become.

So, this year when they called to see if I'd donate to the golf tournament in an effort to gain more exposure for DipSticks, I said "Sign me up!"

This time around I'll be doing a gift basket with all the goodies in it, including some of our logo t-shirts, mugs, coasters, etc. I will definitely include some of the breast cancer awareness pretzels too.

The basket, a value of $250, will be listed in their silent auction, and my business cards will be placed in front of it too. I want people to know that DipSticks is a goodhearted company, and by donating to charities and creating charitable pretzels, I think we can accomplish that.

It should be a fun task, and I'll post the pictures when it's all done.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dairy did it

So, as many of you know, I've been struggling with a candida program/diet for a few months now. I finally talked myself into a very, very modified version of the candida program, just to get myself on something.

I started on Monday and managed just fine with absolutely no wheat or dairy. I ate lots of grapefruit and almonds, and drank tons of water. I ate protein and veggies, and fruit when I felt like it. I probably ate 6 times on Monday, but that's actually a good thing. I had been getting into the ugly habit of not eating until noon, and then not again until dinner time. But somehow filling in the gaps with loads of Easter candy, skittles, cookies, nachos...

Monday went well, except for a nagging headache, and Tuesday started out great too. However, about mid day I noticed I had another headache. Then on Wednesday I had another headache. Hmmm, I think this may have something to do with withdrawal from dairy.

The reason I'm leaning towards dairy more so than wheat is because I have yet to crave a piece of wheat bread, or a cookie. What I've been craving is loaded mashed potatoes with cream cheese, sour cream and/or cheddar cheese. I have been drooling over my stupid cheesecake that's waiting for me in the freezer. So, that makes me think that since I am craving dairy, it must be that which is causing my withdrawal symptoms.

I did a quick google search for dairy withdrawal, and sure enough...people were experiencing the same things that I was. Headaches, moodiness, and other unpleasantness I won't go into here.

On Monday and Tuesday I was very tired and moody, which my husband can attest to as being fairly common around here, but Wednesday I woke up with so much energy that I had the dishes washed, the kids clothed, the wallpaper border in the second bedroom completely removed, the laundry room wall scraped and primed for repair (small rain leak), and the floor vacuumed. I even sat down a few times to play with the play doh with Jacob and the Nintendo ds with Joshua. AND, I ate a nice healthy salad for lunch....all of this before 11!!!

Also, this morning I noticed that the little bumps on my forehead were gone. GONE! I had started noticing them a few weeks ago and no amount of creams or ointments was working. Could this be another benefit of no dairy? This could save me lots of money.

I am onto something big here, I can feel it. But, since I caved in and ate a piece of that $@#! cheesecake yesterday, it will be like starting over, but now I know the common link, and am looking forward to more energy and hopefully more consistently positive moods. yippee! Just say dairy!

(disclaimer: I am in no way saying to boycott the cow industry. please do not sue me, nice farmers.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Our Photo Studio

So, you may be wondering what hi-tech equipment we're using to take such great photos of our product. Or maybe you'd like to see what professional photo studio we take our stuff to?

Well, today we are taking you behind the scenes for a very special look at our professional set-up.

Yep, that's right. We do all the photography out of our own home. This is what you do when you're a small business trying to save a buck or two. I don't think the photos turn out too bad though. We're still tweaking some things and reading the manual, but so far I'm happy with them.

Our camera is a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18. My dream camera is a Canon EF 24-70mm L USM 2, but it's like $4000, so I need to sell a few more pretzels before I can justify that!

For the record, I don't even know how to take pictures with this camera yet. Mark takes all the pictures and I just make sure he gets the shot I'm looking for, but mostly he does all the hard work. I guess that college degree in theater/telecommunications is paying off, honey!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Lucky me...

Some days, I'll admit it, are harder than others to get motivated. Some days I don't feel like even looking at a pretzel, let alone making 100 of them.

I often feel guilty about it, because I love the business so much, it doesn't make sense that I'd ever feel burned out.

But, while watching my favorite TV show, The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, I was once again inspired by something a guest said.

There was a woman on there who had started a business and she said that she would never go back to working for someone else again. She said that she was the luckiest person because she gets to wake up and do what she wants to do.

Now, that should have been a "duh!" moment for me...and it was. I was all, "Duh! I can't believe I ever hesitated at making pretzels. This is the best job ever!"

So, armed with that new inspiration, I have started to branch out and seek new shops to get DipSticks into and to keep forging ahead towards the bigger goal. I am creating new brochures as well as new web site design ideas, that will hopefully be done in the next few weeks.

You may be wondering why I need so much motivation. Well, when you're a stay at home mom and your choices are a.) stay in your pjs all day and play hide and seek with your cute kids, or b.) actually'd probably choose option A every chance you could get too. Am I right, or am I right?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Just call me monkey girl

So, I've had this dream for pretty much my whole live in Borneo and study the wild orangutan. Call me crazy, but I have loved primates of all kinds since I can remember.

Stuffed monkeys hung from every corner of my youthful teenage room, and now adorn our second bedroom previously decorated as a jungle for our nursery.

My favorite book is Reflections of Eden, by Birute Galdikas. It's her fascintating story of studying the orangutans. I've read Jane Goodall's and Dian Fossey's, but something about Birute's writing style, or maybe just her muse, fascinated me.

In my opinion, the best part of the Fort Wayne Zoo is the orangutan exhibit. I can stay for hours if you let me. Even though they pretty much just sit there and stare at the walls, or occasionally play with a blankie, I'm enthralled by their cuddly hair covered bodies and those endearing faces. I often wonder what they're thinking, if anything at all.

I recently decided to start donating to primate research, and purchased a shirt from the Jane Goodall Institute. I am thinking of volunteering at the zoo in my "free" time, hopefully in the Indonesian Rain Forest where the orangutan exhibit is. When I retire, I hope to take more of an active role in giving back to animals too, and more than likely the human variety as well. Something to look forward to other than chocolate pudding at the old folk's home, I guess.

As my hero Oprah says, giving is truly receiving. So, no matter if it's an orangutan or a charity walk, anything you do that isn't based on what you get in return is a good thing.

I wish everyone could find something to put their heart into that isn't materialistic or based on ego in any way. It's truly a gift to find out how full the heart can get by giving it away.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A beef with Napoleon

I guess the beef should really be with The Fresh Market actually, since they are the ones peddling this dessert disguised as Napoleons.

For a nice dinner my husband and I stopped at The Fresh Market to gather ingredients for Frogmore Stew that I'll be making tomorrow, and while there we couldn't pass up the desserts that all looked to die for.

He got the Tiramisu, and I opted for the Napoleon, which I had never had before.

One bite and I was less than thrilled. The fillo dough layers were like eating post it notes. The heavy white icing-ish layer and the thick creapy cream layer just didn't gel with my tastebuds.

So, I read the ingredients...are you ready? Here ya go:

Corn syrup, hydrogenated palm kernel oil, water, soy protein concentrate, artificial flavor, polysorbate 60, sugar, hydropropyl methoylcellulose, salt, polyglycerol, esters of fatty acids, lecithin, potassium sorbate, xanthan gum, BHA, TBHQ, modified corn starch, partially hydrogenated soybean, cottonseed and palm oils, titanium dioxide, sodium propanoate, sorbic acid, phosphoric acid, artificial flavor, mono & diglycerides, agar, and artificial colors yellow 5 & 6.

Now, want to know what should've been in it?

A quick search on the internet yielded these traditional ingredients:
Puff Pastry
Whole Milk
Granulated Sugar
Vanilla Beans
Egg Yolks

Now, this wouldn't be such a big deal if I had bought the Napoleons from the freezer section, or if it came in a box, but this came from the bakery section in a "fresh" grocery store. This bakery section with actual bakers milling around behind the counter, pushing carts and carrying trays.

Wouldn't you expect something actually made from scratch then? Arg. I'm upset about this, and won't be buying desserts from there anytime soon. I may still get their black and white cookie, but that's it. That black and white cookie is worth whatever artificial junk is in it.

Just my two cents...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Just put your coat on!

Okay. Some background....I have always done everything for my sons. I never thought twice about it, just did it. I dressed them. I brushed their teeth. I put their coats and gloves on. I put Joshua's backpack on. Underwear, socks, shoes...yes, it's my fault, I did it all.

I thought it was awesome, because I was not one of those parents who were constantly screaming at their kids to "Put your coat on!" "Get your shoes, now!" I didn't have to yell because I did it for them.

Except I forgot one thing...they are supposed to learn that at some point they have to do it themselves. On Tuesday, Joshua's preschool teacher said to me in the softest, most condescending way, "We are working with Joshua on how to put his coat on."

My first thought was, "Thanks, that saves me some time." Then, it dawned on me, that what she really meant was "You stupid parent. This is something we shouldn't have to worry about. You are a horrible mom for coddling your child like this, and now we actually have to teach him something."

So, this morning I dutifully tell my child to put his coat on now, damnit! Why can't you put your coat on? You're 5 now, your teacher thinks you should be able to do this already. Crocodile tears streaming down his face. I feel awesome.

Meanwhile, Jacob is crying because the dog is within inches of his cereal and it's devastating for him, don't I understand and why can't I move right now to stop this vile creature from drooling on his cereal?!

Then, I put on Jacob's socks (sorry, it's a habit I can't break all at once apparently) and then horror of all horrors I put his shoes on too. but, this is not a good answer for him. he wants to throw them across the room and cry some more about how horrible I am for putting shoes on him and can't i see that he's busy eating cereal with dog drool in it, and that shoes are not the priority right now woman!

So, I turn my attention to the boy with crocodile tears that are pooling around his feet at this point. Face Red, Eyes Bloodshot. I am on top of the world! Damn preschool teachers and their helpful look at what you made me do. my kid is crying, and I feel like a horrible mom for trying to get him to put his own coat on. He's only 5, it's not like he'll be in high school and need help with his outerwear, or underwear for that matter. What's the big deal?

He puts his coat on, sort of. Then, I sort of help a little tiny bit, then I teach him how to zip, and then he starts crying again because that's just too much information and the teacher only said to know how to put my coat on mom, so why are you filling my brain with all this useless information before you're told to, you crazy crazy over achiever you!

Okay. Coat on. Now I can move my attention to Jacob who does at least still have his socks on, but I can't find his shoes that he threw across the room, so I begin looking for them only to remember that I had actually picked them up and put them on the table already thinking that would be a good idea, so I could find them easier.

This time he's ready for his shoes, and things go smoothly, until I mention that I'm going grocery shopping and Joshua decides that he wants to go too. But he wants to go now, not after school, no school today mom, i don't want to go to schoooooolll!!!

At this point I'm threatening home school to him like he should wish he came out of someone else's womb because I am so over this fighting and I just want these kids to want to do what I say and not argue ever because don't they know that it's hard being a mom and I just want them to be happy and not cry all the time. I should be crying all the time, not them! That's the rules, right?

I pick Joshua up from school in one hour, and I am breathlessly waiting for what we'll all be crying about then. Ahhh, parenting. Who wouldn't want to do this all day?

I wouldn't trade it for all the peanut butter and chocolate in the world.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Good Reviews

The new hang tags have officially begun their entrance into the retail marketplace!

We dropped several turtle pretzels with the new hang tags at a few select Hallmark stores a few weeks ago, and the reviews have been great!

Customers are commenting on the nice, upscale look, as are the mangers of the stores. What a compliment, and very encouraging. It's not much fun to go to the trouble to create something new only for it to be received poorly. So, it's nice indeed to get such a positive response.

Next I will be sending some samples of our marshmallows and pretzel bark to the owner of the 6 Hallmark stores we are in in hopes of them picking up the whole line for mothers day!

I've also been including sample marshmallows in my shipments lately, and have been getting very encouraging feedback on those as well!

Looking forward to what comes next!!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

I love to bake, and cheesecakes have become one of my favorite ways of impressing people with my "skills." Cheesecakes are notorious for how difficult they are to perfect, so they have been a nice challenge for me.

My favorite cheesecake is the White Chocolate Raspberry, and quickly became so after having my first bite of one at The Cheesecake Factory in Chicago. It was delicious, but at over $40 for a whole cheesecake, I'm glad I learned how to make my own!

The recipe I started with got very high reviews on, but I have tweaked it a little, and added some white chocolate mousse swirls on top to more closely match the Cheesecake Factory look.

The process for this recipe specificially is very labor intensive and has several stages.

The Top left bowl is the cheesecake batter, the top right bowl is a ganache made with white chocolate and heavy cream that is folded into the cheesecake batter. The bottom left bowl is the pulverized oreos that I use for the crust (I don't think graham crackers would do it justice) and finally, but most importantly, the bottom right bowl contains the red raspberry sauce that gives this cheesecake it's flavor.

Once all four steps are done, the cheesecake comes together fairly quickly.

After you put the oreos in the pan, pour half the cheesecake batter, and then drizzle with raspberry sauce.

After the raspberry layer is done, finish pouring the rest of the batter, and pour more raspberry sauce on top. You can get creative on this step, and I've seen some really cute designs done, but I like to just swirl a knife around like crazy with no rhyme or reason. It mostly gets covered up in the end anyway.
After baking for almost 70 minutes, the cheesecake should cool (I prefer letting it cool completely in the oven after it is turned off. You get less cracks that way. And it usually gives a much more creamy texture too. Once it has cooled, and just before serving, I like to pipe the white chocolate mousse on top. You can shave white chocolate too, which would be very tasty, but not necessary.

And here is what a piece looks like once the cheesecake has been cut.

Here is the full recipe, I hope you enjoy!

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

3 cups of finely crushed oreos (use the whole cookie, and pulse in food processor)
2 T. Sugar
½ cup butter, melted

1 pkg frozen raspberries (10 oz)
5 T. white sugar, more or less to taste
2 t. corn starch
½ c. water.

2 cups white chocolate chips
½ cup heavy cream, (get a pint though, you’ll use the rest for the mousse topping)

3 (8 oz) pkgs. of cream cheese, softened
½ cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 t. vanilla

1 box instant pudding (I like white chocolate or cheesecake flavor)

1. In a medium bowl, mix together cookie crumbs, sugar and the melted butter. Press mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9” spring form pan. Tip: I add melted butter into crumb/sugar mixture just until it sticks together. You may use less than ½ cup.

2. In a saucepan, combine raspberries, sugar, cornstarch, and water. Bring to boil, and continue boiling 5 minutes, or until sauce is thick. Strain sauce through a mesh strainer to remove seeds.

3. Fill shallow glass pan with water and place in oven, on lowest rack. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a metal bowl over a pan of simmering water, melt white chocolate chips with heavy cream, stirring occasionally until smooth.

4. In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese and ½ cup sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time. Blend in vanilla and melted white chocolate. Pour half of batter over crust. Spoon 3 T. raspberry sauce over batter. Pour remaining cheesecake batter into pan, and again spoon 3 T raspberry sauce over the top. Swirl batter with the tip of a knife to create a marbled effect.

5. Cover the bottom of pan with aluminum foil to prevent dripping from the butter and oreo cookie filling. Bake for 55 or 60 minutes (or until set, I bake mine for about 70 minutes). Cool, cover with plastic wrap being sure to press wrap onto surface of cheesecake to prevent condensation drips, and refrigerate for 8 hours before removing from pan. Serve with remaining raspberry sauce. I prefer room temperature, but that's a personal preference.

6. Once cheesecake is ready to serve, whip remaining heavy cream with ½ package of instant pudding and 2 T sugar until stiff, but not firm. Pipe mixture using a pastry bag onto cheesecake in desired design.

Monday, April 7, 2008


As a business owner I feel the need to network. Oftentimes this involves joining an actual networking business group. I've attended many of these meetings as a guest, but never joined.

I can't really put my finger on why I don't like the typical network groups, and I'm not saying I'll never like them. I just haven't found one that I fit with yet.

I'd like to find something that is more of a social group that also has mentor capabilities. Most networking groups that I've been involved with are just a bunch of random business owners or employees that are there to get leads for themselves. I never had the feeling that anyone was there to help other businesses succeed. Maybe I never gave them enough chances. Maybe the fact that they're called "Leads" clubs should have been my first clue. It's not like they're called "Help other businesses succeed" clubs.

Occasionally these groups will have a guest speaker, but it just always felt so forced to me. It's like they were going through the motions of a business networking organization, and said, "Oh yeah, we should actually do some business stuff other than get leads for each other."

Now don't get me wrong, I know leads are very important, and for some whose business is already established, that may be all they need from a networking group.

But, I'd like to find a networking group, or maybe start one myself, where we not only give each other leads, but we also give each other ideas on how to get even more leads on our own time.

Share advertising space and dollars to get more bang for our buck. Maybe sponsor a charity event together, or do a multiple listing on a shopping bag or newspaper ad.

Maybe have a day each month to focus on just one business for the entire meeting. Really fine tune what that business needs to grow and brainstorm for an entire hour just for that one business.

I don't think I have it in me to start a group just yet, but I'll keep it in the back of my mind. In the meantime I will try to network and get leads without the help of a group.

Networking is valuable if it's not wasting your time. Being in a networking group just to say you're networking isn't exactly the solution to all your problems. Make sure you feel like you're getting what your business needs from the group. Sometimes, leads aren't as important as they seem if other parts of your business aren't equipped to handle that increased business.

On the other hand, you never know who you'll meet at these networking groups. I have found that if you talk about your business and the needs of your business enough, eventually you find someone who knows someone, who knows someone else, that has just the right information for you.

So, I'm not disregarding networking or leads clubs, I'm just trying to find one that is a good fit for me. This could take some time...

Friday, April 4, 2008

Adopt a Golden

I may adopt one myself if I can talk my husband into it, but just in are two beautiful male puppies up for adoption through GRRACE, a non profit golden retriever rescue organization located here in Indiana...Do you have a nice warm home for one of these little guys?
If so, click here for more information.


GRRACE is in need of donations in order to continue rescuing these loving animals.

Please contact them directly or mail your donation to: GRRACE, P.O. Box 513, Plainfield, IN 46168.

Thank you!

Going with the flow

I have a tendency to just go with the flow when it comes to my moods and this business. If I wake up and feel a little gloomy due to the lack of sun, I usually don't seek out any new leads for that day, and more than likely stay in my pajamas until well past noon.

Or maybe I'll wake up in a good mood, but the kids will get me cranky early on, then I'll probably just end up eating chocolate chip cookies and reading lots of random blogs to pass the time. Sometimes I think I like reading about other people's lives more than I like living my own!

But, sometimes I wake up motivated and feeling like nothing can stop me. Those are the days when I even surprise myself what I can accomplish. I knock out a "to do" list like nobody's business.

I've done a lot with DipSticks, considering 90% of it has been single handedly done by me while raising these two kids. I've had wonderful help, and I've had inspiration and motivation come from some crazy places and people, but mostly, it's just me trying to stay afloat.

Going with the flow works temporarily, but somehow I need to get into a different frame of mind. I need to wake up and say to myself "You're in a bad mood? Tough shit. You have a business to grow." But, I haven't quite figured out how to talk to myself like that yet. I can talk to others like that with no problems, but myself? I apparently speak a different language.

I know to grow my business to the size I want, and as quickly as I want, I need to be more aggressive. But how do you call a new business lead and convince them of your product, when all you feel capable of doing is playing mario brothers with your 5 year old?

How do you design a new, more appealing website when your hair looks like Don King's on a bad day? And, how do you prioritize your balance sheet when you have two beautiful faces looking up at you wanting nothing more than to be held?

I can go with the flow for now, I just hope I don't get washed away and lose what little grasp on the business world I already have.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Is it Kosher?

I got a phone call today from a nice lady in Atlanta (Hi Roz!) And she brought up an interesting

Are my products Kosher? Well, no they are not, but I started looking into it, and it seems fairly simple to get Kosher certified.

I may offer one item as Kosher, because I know that I can't offer all of them, since I use lots of various foods that are beyond my control.

Is there interest in Kosher, would it be worth my while? I don't know. I have seen this label on many new products and would love to contribute to that mindset in some form.

I will keep looking into it and let you know what happens. Please send me feedback if you feel strongly one way or the other.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Crying in my sippy cup.

My son Jacob is 2 1/2 and is going through a least that's what I'm telling myself.

It seems lately I spend most of my time looking for his "Jew" (his non anti-Semitic term for juice), which is inevitably rotting away somewhere in a sippy cup that is determined to never be found again.

If I don't find it immediately, he resorts to standing on the coffee table and fake crying, for, like, ever.

I don't know if he thinks this will bring his sippy cup out miraculously, or if he's testing the theory that mommy is a time bomb. Either way, it's not working/working respectively.

**Please note: we have 4 sippy cups in rotation, all of which go missing at the exact same time, or are all falling out of the cupboard at the exact same time? What's that about?

Sippy cups have been the bane of my existence since the first one I purchased in 2003. It either leaks, is hard to put together, leaks, breaks, or leaks. I've never found a non leaker that won't leak. If you know of one, I'd be happy to try it, but I won't believe you. For me, it will leak.

For now, I endlessly search under every cabinet, every chair, sofa, and table, for this freakin' sippy cup that is leaking it's contents to spite me.

He doesn't understand that I can't find it. To him, it should just appear because he's asking for it. I've got better things to do than look for sippy cups all day long.

But, guess what? I've got to go now, so that I can find a sippy cup...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Seriously though...

The sun. It's round....kind of on fire....usually found somewhere near the planet Mercury.

Could someone please go get it, and place just slightly up and to the left of my house? I'd appreciate it...thanks.